Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.
I didn’t want to work anyway.
Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.
I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.
The goalI stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.
At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000 words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.
On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.
In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.
Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretches—was never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened.
A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.
Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.
Ernest arrived at the veterinarian’sunder the influence–that calming spray is magic–and was immediately ushered into the cat lounge, a small room with four comfortable chairs for humans and just enough space in the middle for a carrier.
Wall pheremones were plugged into an electrical socket, and music filled the air: the albumMusic for Cats.David Teies, a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, worked with animal scientists to develop music designed to help cats de-stress.
Eleanor Stanford, reviewing Teies’ CD for the New York Times, describes it as, “a series of whirring, lilting and at times squeaky musical tracks designed for cats’ brains and ears.”
In some tracks, sounds similar to the chirps of birds are overlaid with hurried streams of staccato for an energizing effect; in others, crescendos of purring and suckling sounds are designed to relax.
“To a human ear,” she says, “the sounds are otherworldly and at times soporific.”
Regarding cats,Charles Snowden, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who worked on the project, reports,
My cat, Pocket, could do with some music-induced relaxation. She was found wandering the streets of the Bronx, and when we took her from the New York City Animal Care and Control shelter to her new home in Brooklyn, she developed a nervous habit of running full speed down the hallway, smacking her head against doors along the way.
Listening to the track “Cozmo’s Air,” built upon soothing vibrato sounds, she sat still. By the end of the four and a half minutes, she had curled herself around the speakers, purring.
A link to one of the tracks, “Katey Moss Catwalk,” appears on Youtube. A link is below.
Ernest huddled in his carrier the entire time we were in the lounge, and I didn’t have a good view of him, so I couldn’t gauge his response, but he remained calm, even, the technician reported, during some unpleasant tests. So who knows?
Anyway, if he didn’t care for “Music for Cats,” I did. It is truly soporific.
Having recently been plagued by insomnia, I may buy a copy for myself.
For anyone who hasn’t run across the word before–and I mean no disrespect, since the first time I heard it, I had to look it up, and I was working on a master’s degree in English at the time–soporificmeans, “causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull awareness or alertness.”
It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”
I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.
They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!
From this we may infer than young children can learn big words and will learn them if they’re used and explained in the proper context. It is wrong to underestimate the abilities of children. They don’t have to be graduate students to add grown-up words to their personal lexicons.
On impulse, I include Rossini’s “Cat Duet,” sung by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, also on Youtube.
One comment: “The perfect response to everyone who thinks classical music is dead serious, dull and boring.”
Another: “My cat just left the room.”
And a third: “Dear God I cannot believe two grown women actually did this.”
Ernest listened and appreciated it.
(Note: The comments above refer to a performance by Kiri Te Kanawa and Norma Burrows. But this one is funnier.)
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts; . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet
The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.
I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.
This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.
Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.
She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.
We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.
This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.
So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”
We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.
We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.
I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.
Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.
The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.
With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.
So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.
Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.
“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. — Herman Melville
When it’s November, I give thanks summer is over and 100-degree weather temporarily behind us.
This November I gave thanks for the veterinarian.
While was in Dallas at a writing conference, David noticed symptoms of diabetes and took Ernest in for confirmation and treatment. I asked how he got the cat into the carrier. “With great difficulty,” he said.
After I returned home, we took him back to the doctor for gastric problems related to his new dietary regimen. The next day, he seemed to be in worse shape, so we took him back. Because he doesn’t like injections any more than he likes the carrier, we hadn’t been able to give him insulin, so that afternoon, before releasing him, the vet gave him a shot.
That night about midnight, in the dark, I stepped on a furry mass beside the bed and turned on the light. Guess who. Ernest. That was a surprise, since he usually sleeps under the bed. When I picked him up, another miracle occurred—he tolerated it. He doesn’t like to be picked up and held either. He felt like a rag doll. David rubbed honey on his gums, and we headed for the animal ER/hospital (where he went several years ago after eating thread).
By the time we arrived, his blood sugar was 25, so he stayed for an IV and monitoring. At dawn–6:00 a.m., but it felt like dawn—we took him back to our vet for further monitoring. At 5:00 p.m, on the vet’s advice, we delivered him to the hospital for 24 to 36 hours of monitoring. The vet who had given him the insulin was amazed his glucose plummeted like that. The next afternoon, we picked him up.
Over the next two days, I functioned as a lap.
He’s doing well now. We hoped his diabetes could be controlled by diet, but he’s taking injections from David as if they’re no big deal. We watch him for hypoglycemia.
I don’t know whether I could inject him. He and David have always been buds. David is calm, so in David’s sphere, Ernest is calm. I energize him, so he marches around on me and sits on the arm of the chair and pulls on my sleeve. To give him his due, he’s learned to “liiiiiieeeeeeee dowwwwwwwwwwwn” after hearing me plead not too many times. But he has no intention of learning, “Stop pulling on my sleeve.”
On the topic of energy, since retiring, I’ve realized I energized my students, too, more’s the pity. They didn’t need energizing.
Anyway, November, to me, will always be The Month of the Hypoglycemic Cat.
And on a less alarming note, the The Month It Is Cooler, and in 2019, Damp and Drizzly, and Sometimes Even Rainy, Which is Nice.
I shouldn’t say this, lest it embarrass him, but in the hospital, Ernest’s legs were shaved so veins could be accessed, and now he looks like a 1950s lady wearing a fur coat with three-quarter sleeves and gauntlet gloves.
When we tried to medicate William last night, a pill fell into the pit between the seat of my recliner and the arm, and we weren’t able to locate it. It’s in there somewhere, or it fell through onto the floor under the chair. After a cursory look, we gave up. We feel safe leaving it there because it’s a sure thing neither cat will gobble it up. If it were one of my pills, they would vacuum it up in a nanosecond.
The pill fell because I was careless and William got his tongue in gear and spat it out. We got another pill. Which means he’ll get only twenty-nine pills instead of thirty. William thinks that’s okay.
William is being dosed for pancreatitis. David is the cat holder. Due to my vast experience, I am the pill poker. It took a week for me to remember that coating the pill with butter makes the job easier. William doesn’t resist as enthusiastically and once in his mouth, the pill slides down more easily. He also doesn’t run upstairs after the ordeal, just jumps down and licks the inside of his mouth with vigor but no expression of distaste. Hurrah for butter. We have about two more weeks to go.
Ernest is probably unpillable. We haven’t tried, and I don’t want to.
I use a piller now. I had a piller in years past, but Chloe didn’t take to it, and I didn’t take to Chloe’s offer to use her fangs on my fingers while they were nearby. Every time she had to be pilled, I left her with the vet and let the experts handle her. Same with Christabel. Chloe was wiry and muscular and if she didn’t bite me, she wriggled out of my grasp. Christabel was big and built like Jello and rolled out of every half Nelson I applied.
At the end of this post, there’s a link to a video tutorial on pilling cats. I include it so you can see the piller. The starring vet says the process is easy peasy. Take that with a grain of salt. He’s a vet. He’s had practice. The cat knows resistance if futile. I suspect he’s a clinic cat. Those animals tolerate many outrages with aplomb. I suspect they have no reflexes at all.
My old neighbor, Steve Dauchy, a big orange tom, was a retired clinic cat. One cold winter day, his family smelled something burning and found Steve sleeping on a propane space heater in the kitchen with his tail hanging down beside the vent. His hair was singeing. He woke up when they pulled him off.
One winter night, I woke, reached out my hand, and touched fur I recognized as not my cat. Scared me half to death. I turned the light on, and there was Steve, snoozing away, the third cat on the bed. He’d sneaked into the house when I opened the door, hidden somewhere, and emerged at lights out, I guess. He was very astute. On cold nights, he slept on the seat of the riding lawnmower in his humans’ garden shed, a nice, tight bedroom, but when he saw a chance of a mattress, he jumped at it. The next morning, while Steve breakfasted in my kitchen, I called next door and told the worried humans about the slumber party he’d engineered, and later, when it warmed up, put him outside.
Tonight’s dose went down in record time. David wanted to medicate him before he went to the grocery store, but we waited for him to come downstairs under his own steam. Between four and five-thirty every day, awakened by his circadian rhythms, he waltzes downstairs for insulin and dinner. Mainly dinner. He hardly notices the insulin.
When I was a teen, I read a book about caring for cats. There was a chapter about medicating them. The authors, a married couple, used the terms cat holder and pill poker.
When I pilled my Siamese, Ms., I was both cat holder and pill poker, but after the first few confrontations, she cooperated. I didn’t have a piller, but she didn’t Didn’t open her mouth on command, but I didn’t have to use much force, and she sat still. She was highly intelligent and behaved more like a dog than a cat, except for pilling. Dogs never cooperated.
The Siamese’s first name was Mademoiselle–for some ridiculous reason–until I realized she was liberated, the Gloria Steinem of cats, good looks and all–and I changed it to Ms. That was ridiculous, too, because I called her Kitty. And Puddy. And Puddy-Wuddy. And Feetie-Pie. All the usual cat names.
She produced kittens when she was eleven months old. Her idea, not mine. Wonder of wonders, they were Siamese kittens. Praise goodness for the gentleman Siamese down the street. The kittens would probably have been just as easy to give away as if they’d been generic, but people seemed extra pleased to have purebreds. No official papers, of course. Ms. was not an aristocrat, and considering the kittens were conceived under dubious circumstances, they would never have been accepted into High Society.
My one disastrous encounter with a sick cat occurred at the veterinarian’s. The tech was attending to one end of William and I was holding the other end, the one with teeth. He’d buried his head as far back between my body and my forearm as he could go, considering I had my arm clamped to my side. After suffering indignity for longer than I thought he would, he rebelled. I think he tried to bite me, but he managed only to rub his fang against my arm, hard enough to scrape the skin slightly. Within minutes, I had a budding case of cellulitis–I recognized it as such because I’d had it before from an encounter with cat teeth–and I had to go to the urgent care clinic for pills of my own plus shot of antibiotic. It turned out that William wasn’t sick. That night I wrote a verse about the experience and posted it on my blog, here:
William bit me at the vet,
Didn’t like the aide’s assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I’m teary, say I’m mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm’s inflamed, and add,
William bit me.
It’s patterned after one of my favorite poems, Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me”:
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
If Hunt and Jane (Jenny) Carlyle were around to read the parody, they might not approve, but if I didn’t like the original, I wouldn’t have used it. I don’t consider my version an homage, exactly, but I’m fond of it. I’m a rotten poet, but I do pretty well at parody, if I do say so myself. I wish I could write them for a living.
I’m can’t write anything for a living. I don’t write fast enough, and as yet I haven’t hit upon the Great American Novel. I haven’t hit upon any novels at all, just short stories. A couple have brought in a few dollars from contests, and those that have been anthologized bring in a few cents in royalties (which are divided with the other authors), but the cents are donated to charity every year (supplemented, of course). The truth is–like many lightly published authors, I would be tempted to pay to get my stories in print or online. But I wouldn’t do that. My efforts are worth at least $0.00.
I didn’t plan to say anything about my literary efforts, but in a stream-of-consciousness post, things just happen, so I’ll happen to add that my stories appear in the three anthologies pictured in the sidebar–MURDER ON WHEELS, LONE STAR LAWLESS, and DAY OF THE DARK. My best stories, two of them, are in Murder on Wheels, which has an unimpressive cover but good stuff inside, so if you buy one, please buy that one. They’re all available in paperback and ebook formats. They might be available from your local public library–if they’re not, I’d appreciate your requesting the library acquire copies.
Royalties from Murder on Wheels go to Meals on Wheels in Austin, Texas. Royalties from Lone Star Lawless go to the Port Aransas Public Library, which lost its collection and everything else to Hurricane Harvey in 2018. Royalties from Day of the Dark go to Earth & Sky, which through its website presents information about science and nature. The radio program Earth & Sky (EarthSky) used to air on commercial, NPR, and other public radio stations, but since June 2013 has concentrated on its website and social media.
So there it is, a disjointed post. I went to bed too late last night and woke up too early this morning, so I can’t work on my novella-in-progress, because the characters are too tired to do or say anything interesting. They’ve already said and done one hundred + pages, but they need to do and say it better. Anyway, since they’re not cooperating, and since I’m tired, too, I abandoned them for this post.
The novella will be out this fall. I won’t mention the title or anything else, because it’s a secret, but you can be sure more Blatant Self Promotion will appear in a future post. Not a disjointed one, I hope.
Now I’ll go back to those characters and try to rev them up. They produced pretty well yesterday, when they were rested, so I know they can do it. With the deadline they’re working under, they need to get on a stick.
This turned out less disjointed than I expected it to. Half about cats, my default topic, and the rest about books and writing. All about me, my perpetual topic. The experts say not to write about yourself, but except for Helen Hunt Jackson’s nineteenth-century novel RAMONA, I’m about all I know.
I’m putting what I know about Ramona on a separate blog, but doing so requires typing a lot of footnotes, and that’s a slow and sleep-inducing procedure. The text is interesting, though, if I do say so myself.
We’re pleased to announce that “Invisible Men Invade Earth” was named audience favorite at the Central Arts Short Film Battle in Hurst last night. It competed with “Don’t Die” by Cody Lovorn from San Antonio.
As winner, “Invisible Men” will compete with other 2019 audience favorites later in the year.
After the Battle, a 90-minute feature film, The Monster of Phantom Lake, produced by Film Battle organizer Christopher Mihm, was shown. The Creative Spotlight terms Mihm a “retro-styled director.” Of the film, it says,
“Made on a nearly non-existent budget, this B-movie went on to garner much critical acclaim, appear in many genre-based film festivals, win multiple awards, and continues to screen across the world.”
Without further ado, here are pictures of writer-director-producer-camera man-sound engineer-casting director-key grip-best boy-etc. David Davis, stars William the Cat and Ernest the Cat, and one wall of the theatre.
Photos of David Davis by Kathy Waller
Photo of wall by David Davis
Photos of William and Ernest by Charla, our vet tech cat minder, for whom William and Ernest always pose nicely, because they like her more than they like David and me
Some consequences you can predict. Some you can’t predict. Some you should predict but don’t.
It’s the last of the three that’ll get you.
I had just read a brief bio in my memoir class and turned to leave the lectern, when something in my left hip went pop. Not an audible pop, but a pop nonetheless. I limped back to my chair.
With David (poor thing) half carrying me, I staggered across the parking lot, groaning every time my left foot touched the ground. At home, neighbors had the pleasure of hearing me ascend the steps and walk to the door. Yelp, yelp, yelp.
Getting into and out of the car was worse. I couldn’t climb in as usual.
Get into a car like Audrey Hepburn does, my mother said. Sit sideways, then swing both legs in. The Emily post method.
Phooey on Audrey and Emily.
Until hip day. That’s when I learned Audrey had an advantage. She had leather seats she could slide on. I have fabric that grabs your breeches and holds on. Entering and exiting, I didn’t yelp. I shrieked.
The pain wasn’t exactly excruciating, I guess, but it was close.
At home I fell into a chair, texted my massage therapist, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year, and begged for an appointment. That’s how panicky I was. I hate texting.
Anyway, the next day, David hauled me (shriek) to her office. She mashed my spine back into place, then laid her hands lightly around me just below the waist, and said, “How do you sit when you use your laptop? Is it right in front of you?”
And I said, “Noooooooooooooo.” And thought, Well, d’oh.
This is the way I sit when I use my laptop:
Ernest incorrectly positioned
Controlling enter key
Ernest correctly positioned
“Uh-huh,” she said, “I can tell you’ve been sitting crooked.”
So what’s girl to do?
A girl’s going to do whatever it takes to stop the pain.
But the guilt was excruciating. Ernest has only recently learned to liiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee downnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, sometimes without being begged, or even ordered, as if it’s his own idea.
He’s the only cat I’ve ever had who followed instructions. Or, more likely, said to himself, She’s been a good and faithful servant. If this is so important to her, I’ll cooperate. I taught him to sit that way. It prevented him from laying his head on the keyboard and typing. (Once he sent an email.) I didn’t realize my hip would suffer.
And he’s a Velcro cat. He can’t help that I have to move the laptop waaaaay over to the left and stretch sideways to reach the keyboard. He needs almost constant physical contact. Denying him my lap could crush his spirit. He’s sensitive.
But for the most part, he’s done well. I gave the I-wuv-oo-oodles-but-we-can’t-go-on-sitting-like-this speech, and he gave up and moved down to lean on my leg.
Mostly. We’ve had wrestling matches. Occasionally I catch him sitting in a straight-backed chair across the room, his lips set in a grim line, staring at me. But over all, we sit in peaceful companionship.
I saw the massage therapist a second time.
My hip has improved.
And the best news is that, with practice, I’ve learned to get into a car like Audrey Hepburn.
Audrey’s legs aren’t visible in this clip, but you can get the drift. She does the swing-around about 1:35. That might not be leather upholstery, but she’s had more practice than I have.
Posted on Whiskertips, December 24, 2009, when William and Ernest were still young adults.
If you read my earlier post, our Christmas tree has been the subject of intense, but not unexpected, conflict.
As soon as the tree lit up, so did William and Ernest. William had to be physically restrained from chewing on the lights.
The next morning Kathy found the tree lying on its side and the cats out of sight. The tree spent the day endeshabille, as it were.
After lengthy trilateral negotiations, a compromise was reached.
Ornaments and tree skirt are, of course, out of the question.
Gifts will appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.
Christmas Compromise, 2013
After Ernest began eating everything he found interesting– thread, twine, string, ribbon, “elongated things,” the veterinarian said– and his health care became repeatedly expensive, David and Kathy decided Christmas tree needles shouldn’t be allowed in the house.
David bought a small artificial tree complete with lights and set it on a chair.
William supervised setup and checked for stability.
A certain instability was discovered, but William said Ernest was at fault.
Ernest said, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Since then, however, nothing untoward has occurred.
William continues to keep watch.
In 2018, gifts still appear Christmas morning immediately before they’re to be opened.
Note: The black thing William is lying on started as my bearfoot slipper but soon became a soft, squishy thing for William to make biscuits on.
Another note: I don’t think my cats are cuter than other people’s children and grandchildren, but I don’t have children or grandchildren, so William and Ernest get their pictures broadcast worldwide.