Ragdoll Cat (Temporarily)

“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.

Note the elegant tilt of the head.



Monkey Mind

I am a distractible adult. I suffer from Monkey Mind.*

I wasn’t a distractible child. I listened in class, turned my assignments in on time, and made the honor roll. It’s true that I didn’t practice the piano or the clarinet as I should have, but there were extenuating circumstances.

Regarding the piano, my mother encouraged me and saw that a certain miminum standard was observed. But she also said she wanted me to learn to play well enough for the piano to be a pleasure rather than a burden.

The piano was a pleasure. I amused myself for hours playing pieces I wanted to play.

Pieces I wanted to play included anything my teacher hadn’t assigned. Scales, arpeggios, Czerny exercises–all those repetitive activities designed to develop skill–fell into the didn’t-want-to column.

As a result, the piano is now a major frustration, and I wish Mother had declared all-out war on her musical slacker.

The clarinet situation was more complex. As a fifth- and sixth-grader, I played daily for my own amusement, and for the amusement of my white-faced Hereford, Marie, who stood on her side of the fence while I entertained from a lawn chair on mine.

But when the euphoria triggered by receipt of my very own Boosey and Hawkes in its very own case had worn off, I realized that, in the hands of a novice, the clarinet is at best a noisemaker. And in concert, the trumpet gets all the good parts, like the melody. Practice was all tootle-tootle-tootle-rest-ooh-ooh-ooh-rest-tootle-tootle-tootle-rest-tootle-rest-rest-rest-repeat.

I loved music, so listening to myself was misery. My mother loved music as well, so being part of a captive audience must have been worse. Consequently, I believe my mother, realizing the clarinet would never be a pleasure to me or to anyone else in the family, except Marie, made certain accommodations. Possibly something like, The less tootling I have to listen to, the less I’ll nag her about the piano.

(No. That’s unfair, even in jest. Music was in my mother’s DNA. She’d have gladly put up with all the tootling I thought necessary.)

(For his part, my father was a saint. He used to joke that when he didn’t want to listen to something–or someone–he turned off his hearing aid. But he kept it on through all my noise. I know because twenty years later, Mother told me that during one evening’s tootling, “Polly Wolly Doodle,” to be exact, he looked up and said, “She’s playing a song.”)


Well. Having concluded that digression, whose connection to the rest of this post isn’t clear to me either, I’ll return to the original topic, and say that, aside from a talent for locking myself out of my car, the tendency to ditsiness lay dormant until a sudden surge six years ago this month. That’s when I left my position as a paralegal (and the structure it provided) to stay home and write. Or, to be more specific, when I bought a laptop and discovered wireless connectivity.

It’s strange how a device that should aid writers can be such a hindrance. Even when good intentions coincide with opportunity, there’s that tempting little Firefox icon lurking at the bottom of the screen. Throw in a tinge of curiosity about anything at all–the current state of your email inbox, the definition of a particular word, the spelling of distractibility, a peek at who’s doing what on Facebook, how old Peter Vaughn is and what Billie Whitelaw, who married him in 1952, looks like, since you know you’ve seen her but you can’t for the life of you remember her face . . . and you have to know now, and then one click leads to another . . .

It’s a slippery slope.

Anyway, I chose to write about Monkey Mind because after sitting in this coffee shop, staring at a blank LibreWriter screen and watching my mentor across the table just typing away, I grew restless, both physically and mentally. After a time, I gave up and in, opened Firefox, and surrendered to the lure of the Web.

Then a funny thing happened. Surfing usually stops the jiggliness I feel when staring at a blank page. Instead, the feeling increased. My mind scattered. My hands shook. To make things worse, an intense irritability set in. I was not in good shape.

Finally, just as I was ready to slam my laptop closed and stalk out, a word unrelated to icons and mice floated through my brain: hunger. Breakfast was only a distant memory. I wobbled to the counter. One orange juice and one banana later, jiggliness abated and writing began.

End of story.


Now for the Moral, which I direct to all those people–and they know who they are–who claim Monkey Mind is completely psychological, a self-indulgence created by literary Camilles, would-be writers who like to talk the talk but don’t want to walk the walk:

The Moral

Monkey Mind can’t always be cured by meditation, relaxation, Artist Dates, discipline, yoga, warm showers, outlining, daily affirmations, or a good swift kick.

Sometimes the only cure for Monkey Mind is lunch.


 * a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable” ~ Wikipedia

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