Sunday, December 26, 2010


My dad retired to spend his time keeping honeybees. He was absolutely intrigued by them, and loved working with them.

In honor of dad, I bring you a link to Talk of the Nation Science Friday's video showing the activity in a beehive.


Unless you are mortally afraid of honeybees, you are going to love watching the man poke his finger into the mass of bees. HE IS NOT STUNG. Bees are basically all about the love.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a Good Time of Year to Read Something

Pat Conroy is a really good writer.

That kind of generic praise will not win me a job as book reviewer, but it's true.

I'm listening to his South of Broad in audio book form and it's really, really good. It's the librarian in me that compels me to give you some advice. Although I'm not an actual librarian, I can parlay my love of books into a bossy post for this website.

Does his name sound familiar? He is the author of "Prince of Tides" which was made into a movie. Barbra Streisand starred, for those of you who know who Barbra Streisand is.

I should say I really enjoyed the first half of the book when it told the story of the protagonist's childhood. The next section is allright, but now it's dragging.

Anyway. It's dark and wintry out there, so why not cuddle up with a good mystery? Agatha Christie is the old standby, and for good reason. You could branch out with a new author, like Dorothy Sayers. She's not new, but an English author from early in the past century who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. My mother-in-law told me about Mary Roberts Rinehart, an American who published her first book, The Circular Staircase, in 1908. Back to English people with Arthur Conan Doyle. Who doesn't love Sherlock Holmes and his funny little hat?

I love the phrase "hard-boiled detective stories". I finished The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler earlier this year. All I could think about as I read were hard-boiled eggs.

The library abounds with lists of mysteries, and book stores have staff recommendations so you are sure to enjoy a good read without having to spend too much time searching it out. Don't forget about the internets! It is full of websites with more than enough information to get you on the path to a good whodunnit.

There's always the classic The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, credited with starting the thriller genre. (Mom, you're totally going to love this story! I hope you find the box it's in this year!)

What is it about England that is synonymous with murder mysteries? Is it the fog on the moors? The tea? Crumpets? The notoriety for bad teeth? I don't know the answer to this, but to say that plenty of great stories come from the isle. Even if you're not into mysteries, you have to be intrigued by the foggy moors in Wuthering Heights.

Turn off the tv, build up the fire, brew some tea, send the kids to bed early (with a good book of their own to read before turning out the lights), and get down with litrahtyur. Off you go.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pedagogical Over Digital Surprisingly Liberating Idea

The article below asks, what do the best classrooms in the world look like? First, we must ask what is meant by best. Second, what DO they look like?

Brilliance in the Classroom, by Amanda Ripley from

"Classrooms in countries with the highest-performing students contain very little tech wizardry, generally speaking. They look, in fact, a lot like American ones—circa 1989 or 1959. Children sit at rows of desks, staring up at a teacher who stands in front of a well-worn chalkboard.

'In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms,' says Andreas Schleicher, a veteran education analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development who spends much of his time visiting schools around the world to find out what they are doing right (or wrong). 'I have no explanation why that is the case, but it does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.'

And yet, when politicians and bureaucrats imagine the classroom of the future, they often talk about a schoolhouse that looks like an Apple store, a utopia studded with computers, bathed in Wi-Fi, and wallpapered with interactive whiteboards (essentially giant touch screens used in place of chalkboards in more and more classrooms nationwide)."

It's a fascinating question although who wouldn't be disappointed in Mr. Schleicher's lack for an answer for why it is the case when it is stated that he spends his time visiting classrooms all over the world. He should have some idea, or at least be able to speak more assuredly about hypotheses, as to why this might be the case.

But anyhoo.

The article looks at Singapore, Korea, Finland, and the United States in order to compare what they find insights into what works and what doesn't.

This is the coolest idea: "In Southeast D.C., Lisa Suben teaches fifth-grade math at KIPP DC: AIM Academy, one of 99 Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools around the country. When her students come into her classroom, they perform about two years behind, on average. By the time Suben has had nine months with them, they are mastering grade-level work."

I want to be that kind of teacher. That's the kind of outcome I want to see more of in this country. There is NO REASON why American kids should be behind grade level. There are more than enough people with knowledge and skills to share who can be in the classroom as volunteer tutors, available during the day and afterschool to every child who needs extra help. NO REASON! Not poverty, not lack of gadgetry, not due to chalkboards vs. whiteboards. It's a ridiculous notion to think that education is better when the classroom contains more electronics than a Best Buy. It doesn't take money to get a book from the library and read it, but it does take time and effort to teach a child to read, to encourage them to do so. Could it be that our education system ranks so poorly not for lack of money, but lack of effort? This is a multilayered cake without a single answer, but one of those layers might be easily changed. If it is the case, the good news is that there is something we can do about it at no cost.

Read the article and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


A flash mob surprised a food court one day last month. I forget where, but it's great. The crowd is smiling, whipping out their cameras to get it on video.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Where in the World...

This is the forecast.

Not for Bemidji, Minnesota.

Not for Moose River, Maine.

And not for Fairbanks, Alaska.

The forecast for Bemidji, Minnesota is actually pretty cold. High of 15, low of 11.

If you were in Moose River, Maine, it's not a whole lot better. They'll get snow and then freezing rain later this week. Ice is the worst.

Fairbanks is actually the warmest of the three places, with their high temperatures getting into the 30s during the day.

No wonder people spend their time ice fishing. It's too dangerous to cross-country ski, but at least this gets you out of the house for a while. Not that I want to get out of the house this week...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flying is No Vacation

Now that we get to submit to full-body scans and along with it, a dose of radiation, traveling is becoming more of a chore with each new security threat. Oh, I'm sorry, there is the option to be felt up by a TSA agent. That used to be called date rape, now it's the scanning of millions of travelers for the sake of a few nasty jerks.

This is bad enough, but then there is the part when you're on the plane.

Some thoughts:

1. If you’re traveling with a small child and you keep hearing bells, bells, and more bells, please look to see if it’s your child playing with the flight attendant call button.

2. An all-too-common scenario: Flight attendant hands you a cup of coffee and says, ‘Cream and sugar?’ You say, ‘What?’ She/he says, ‘Cream and sugar?’ You say, ‘What?’ Come on, people. What do you think we’re going to ask after we’ve handed you coffee? Your favorite color?

3. The lavatory door is not rocket science. Just push.

4. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, there are other people on the airplane besides you. So don’t clip your toenails, snore with wild abandon, or do any type of personal business under a blanket!

Yikes. Who wants a 17-hour flight to Australia?

From Yahoo's website.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thirty Seven

The cake was chocolate, the candle was misleading.

Why does the candle say 8? It was the only candle in the house. Work with what you've got, that's our motto.

There is nothing misleading about chilled champagne.

Opening champagne is serious. You CANNOT SMILE or else the bottle will burst! People will be hurt! Champagne might be spilled!

This is SERIOUS, people.

I see your point: this IS serious. May your pour be true, my good man!

I have an idea. Wait, I need to eat this bite of cake...

...and, well, mommy needs a cocktail...

My idea: observe the effect of 3-D glasses upon the man of the house. The hypothesis? He will be disturbed.

(In all fairness, who wouldn't be? I'm no Elvis Costello. These things do not fly under the radar.)

It's as though you can read his thoughts...

tee hee hee!

After cake and champagne, the natural progression for us is....DANCE.

The song is "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun".

It was his idea.

I am not kidding.

Who looks like they're having the most fun?

This is competition!

It's Brittany v. Justin dance-off all over again.

Cake + endorphins + love =

A good night. Kind of takes my mind off of getting older.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tastes Like Chicken

It isn't clear where one body ends and the other begins!*

Not from the same litter, but brothers, nonetheless.

*Yes, I will be posting a lot of kitten pictures. It's just who I am.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Budget News

Taxpayers are always complaining about the overblown budget of the Federal government, and how Federal spending is NUTS. The new plan to cut spending has been released. For you engineer-types, it's full of specifics. People are making fun of those specifics, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Check it out.

Did you know $90 million a year is spent to restore beaches? And it isn't for oil spill cleanup, but to replace the sand that gets washed away naturally. NINETY MILLION. That's almost enough to give one person health insurance for a whole year.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's the Economy, Stupid

Not you! You're not stupid. The title of today's post is the catchphrase that Bill Clinton used to remind himself to STAY ON MESSAGE. (Remember when Democrats had a message, and worked together? The balanced budget of the 1990s seems so long ago...)

Anyway, how about a little story about a toxic asset? Hopefully, your investment portfolio does not include one of these little buggers.

From Planet Money, and This American Life. Check out the graphs on the Planet Money pages. You can look at a map to see where the mortgages contained in Toxie were located, and how they did by state.

A sad but catchy tune is, "Bet Against the American Dream....."

Bet Against The American Dream from Planet Money on Vimeo.

If you want to hear the story about Magnetar referenced in the song, here it is.

Friday, November 05, 2010

What We Did Last Summer

At the very end of the summer, we went camping. Not so remarkable. The part that is worth noting is, we took kittens.

I know, who DOES that?

Catching trout in the lake meant DINNER! for poopooheads. They loved it.

Wat iz dat?

We spent a few cold nights at Delintment Lake, in the Malheur National Forest. People saw the kittens and were like, hmmm, as they walked past. It was weird, but yet, it worked. They stayed at the campsite without much wandering, mostly because that was where the FISH and the WARMTH were. They were barely 6 weeks old at the time.

Nom nom nom nom nom...

It's good to get out and do something new....

...makes you more appreciative of the comforts of home.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

One of the More Stressful Colon Cleansings

One afternoon this week, we arrived home from class and had just put down our bags before a flash of movement out the window caught my attention, followed closely by sounds of furious clucking. In a flash I was out the door, chasing down a black and white dog that was engaged in a game of Hunting after one of our chickens. It literally scared the crap out of her. The dog stopped as soon as I yelled a single word (NO) and he beat a hasty retreat. My voice, infused with adrenaline-charged authority was all I needed. If only I had the same affect on bratty little kittens.

The chicken kept running from me after the dog was gone, not caring what was chasing her. Poor thing. She made for some bushes and hid, while I gave her a minute to realize that it was only me, the crazy woman who tortures the girls with singing and affectionate kisses.*

Isabella (the chicken) escapes from the chicken enclosure on a daily basis because she is a wanderer by nature. I'm guessing here. There's no roof on the chicken area, which is getting to be a problem now that we have a chicken that knows how to get out. The others look at her like she's a magician. "How did you do that?" they seem to cluck, even though they have watched her do it. I haven't seen her in the act, but I imagine it has something to do with jumping or flying to the top of things until she can get over the fence.

The grass is greener, except when a predator comes along.

This is from the spring when they were babies. One of these turds is Isabella, named after the Queen of Spain, circa 1474.(The other is Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess.)

* Yes, I kiss my chickens. But not on the lips.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Halloween 2010

The costume this year came from the kingdom animalia, phylum chordata, class mammalia, order carnivora, family felidae, genus acinonyx, species acinonyx jubatus.

In English, she is a cheetah.

The process this year included nail polish in special "cheetah" effects...

...and makeup....

The cats were kind of freaked out by her ears. Milo kept staring at them, probably in order to attack them if they moved.

This isn't Milo. It's Dewey. He doesn't care about ears, he cares about food.

It was a big weekend. First a Girl Scout party, then trick or treating.

She's got the routine down by now. The way the candy is distributed as such: one for OC, one for mommy. One for daddy, one for OC.

Having kids is fun!

Living together in perfect harmony are acinonyx jubilata and feline domesticus.

Happy All Hallow's Eve!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Childhood, Illustrated

Beverly Cleary gave kids a voice in her Ramona books. Finally! An adult who could articulate the frustrations of being little, and SO MISUNDERSTOOD.

Now, we have an illustrated version. Enjoy some cake, by Allie Brosh.

Happy Monday.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Appropos of the Season

The fall is a wonderful time to begin a new mystery. Dracula, if you have not yet read the novel, it is a particularly good choice.

Bram Stoker was born in 1847 in Clontarf, Ireland. Dracula was published in 1897 while he was manager of a London theater. While he wrote the novel, the trial of fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde took place, to great scandal. This is high Victorian era, remember. Stoker reveals in the novel many of the anxieties that characterized the age, such as the repercussions of scientific advancement, the consequences of abandoning traditional beliefs, and the dangers of female sexuality. To this day, Dracula remains a fascinating study of popular attitudes at the end of the nineteenth century.

Wilkie Collins' superb mystery which is generally accepted as beginning the genre, The Woman in White.

"Collins composed his masterworks during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of English literature. England's cities and industries were booming, poverty and crime filled the news, melodrama ruled the theaters, and newfound wealth made class barriers increasingly permeable. Dickens had just started his periodical All the Year Round, which helped to bring literature to a mass audience and blur the boundaries between highbrow and middlebrow culture. The new audience demanded a new type of novel, a novel as compelling as the scandalous headlines it competed with at the newsstands, able to keep readers in suspense from month to month and eager to buy the next issue."

----- Penguin Reading Guides

I have on my short list some novels by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep), and Dorothy Sayers.

And, why not, even some Poe...

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'....


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

M.S. Degree From the TeeVee

I was at a friend's house dropping off our nut sales (no, I'm not selling my family members, it's for Girl Scouts) when she showed us part of an episode of "Hoarding: Buried Alive." Seeing the piles of junk lit a fire in me. When we returned home I began to attack my paper piles.

My mom might say I save too many things. My husband thinks it's too cluttered around our house. What do I see?

I see some clutter. It constitutes the things that I don't necessarily have a place for and don't know what to do with, so they sit out or get pushed into piles and forgotten. I also see changes that I've made to make it less cluttered. There is the huge basket that sits in the living room and looks nice, but it holds a bunch of yarn. The yarn is hidden, and it looks neat. I see the end tables I bought that have drawers and shelves so that books can sit in them. More examples abound. What I see are the accomplishments I've made in order to advance in the direction of an organized person, in addition to what I have yet to do. Seeing the things that don't have a place doesn't bother me so much probably because I know I will take care of it. I know it needs to be done, it just hasn't been done yet.

That sounds like an excuse. It would be, if I sat on the couch eating bonbons all day, but I don't. I do other things. What I need is to incorporate (better) the habit of organizing the oddball items that don't get into my daily routine of putting s#it away. Specifically, my problem is paper. There is my work from the most recent term of school, OC's school things, some random old mail, and other weird stuff that has no place. I have a big basket for the things I feel I need to keep for a month or so, then they can go away. The problem is that a month goes by and I don't revisit the pile. The piles multiply into hairy monsters that look too scary to go anywhere near.

The other problem I had was in dealing with things that were too painful. There are boxes filled with sad things like funeral notices, or pictures that I haven't been ready to come across. It is better now, because time has gone by since the sad events. And, I've recently reorganized and cleaned out one side of our attic area, including dealing with several boxes filled with emotional napalm, organizing what I'll keep and tossing others.

After OC saw the show, and when she looked at her room she told, "At least my room isn't as bad as those!"

She's right. There is no black mold in there. There are no pathways (although sometimes there is a crunching sound when one walks across her floor....) and she manages to keep up with most of the daily tidying up.

What is surprising to learn is that the hoarders tend to be perfectionists. It seems counterintuitive, but, they usually have some type of compulsion or depression. The stuff is there to either fill an emotional hole, or because they know it needs to go but they need to deal with each individual piece first, or there is a shopping compulsion, etc.

Myself, I'm no perfectionist. While I like a clean house, I don't like to clean the house. I like to have everything in its place, but I don't always know where that place is for some things. Where do I stash a flier for the High Desert Museum's programs that I might want to look at to schedule a field trip? Possibly that should be recycled and I could use the internet to look up the information. See? THAT'S PROGRESS RIGHT THERE.

I've come a long way from the days when I had emotional attachments to objects, especially those that were given to me. It would have constituted a personal insult to get rid of a gift until one day I realized that the person who gave me that thing would not want me to feel burdened by it. The idea clicked, and gave me what I needed to break that habit.

The decision-making process is what gets me. Where to put it once I know I actually do need it? I don't have a problem getting rid of things or organizing, but I get stuck when I feel overwhelmed by too many decisions. When that happens, I don't want to deal with it at all. The piles go untended and grow facial hair but I sometimes ignore that. This can go on until their voices change, then I figure it's time to do something.

I don't know if I have a problem, or am experiencing a normal amount of overwhelming indecisiveness? I don't think I'm alone in this. TheYarn Harlot posted recently about an unusual room in her house with an organization problem.

Me? I've got clutter but I'm also working to find places to put it all away. The reward is knowing what I have and where it is located. Perhaps a steady dose of the revolting visuals on "Hoarders" will propel action to become a good habit. It's not a bad way to feel better about one's self, anyway.

I'd like to think I'm normal, but I'm not asking for your opinion. Thanks, anyway. I'll deal with it before my piles ask for the keys to the car.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

She Bakes

Sometime in early September the weather turned cooler and OC decided to bake. And wear a hat.

Perhaps I encouraged her relentlessly, but for whatever reason, she made this fantastic batch of chocolate chip cookies.

You can never have too many chocolate chip cookies, nor persons in your house who will bake them. She really knows how to get on our good sides.

Not only are we suckers for kittens, we love us some fresh-baked cookies.

Now, if we could only find an enthusiastic dish washer. As much as I've tried to enlist their help, the kittens do not like water and are against the idea.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Sister Wendy

Fridays are art and music days. Oh, did I mention, I'm homeschooling this year?

Cart before horse. Reverse that. Now you're all caught up.

One of the programs I remember seeing in college was part of a series by Sister Wendy. She's a fascinating art lover with a wonderful perspective on the pieces she presents. Orthodontically challenged yet wildly perceptive, the idea of a nun presenting art seems somewhat antithetical. Most stories about nuns include rulers and the rapping of the knuckles of little children. Sister Wendy is nothing like that. She exudes warmth and intelligence, attracting the viewer with her obvious passion and understanding.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has an authentic copy of "The Thinker" from Rodin's studio. In the 1960s as some sort of display, explosives were placed at the sculpture's base (it sits outside the museum building) and the explosion ruined the lower half of the sculpture. The museum decided not to fix it. Sister Wendy thoughtfully considers this:

"If one can draw any benefit from such an act of senseless vandalism, it's this. That here "The Thinker" isn't perched aloft, above human conflict, he's been plunged into it. He's exposed as vulnerable, as subject to the chaos of the world as we are, and that makes him peculiarly and tragically accessible."

-----Sister Wendy

I like this analysis because of the connections she makes between the reality of the world at the time, and the history of the sculpture and its time. Rodin's figure is pulsing with muscles that are tensed, as if thinking with his whole body (Sister Wendy's words). The piece was designed at about 27 inches tall and to sit above the viewer, as part of a large work that was never finished. In Cleveland it is much larger and perches outside the building on a kind of pedestal. Instead of contemplating those curled feet and toes, there is nothing. One must move up the leg and then the sculpture begins. But it isn't as it was meant to be, and that is her point. Isn't that fabulously astute?

Last week, we watched Sister Wendy at the Art Institute of Chicago where Grant Wood's "American Gothic" resides. Yesterday, I bought OC a Chai tea at a coffee shop that uses AG as their stylized logo. Instead of holding a pitchfork the man holds a coffee cup. She recognized it right away, remembering the painting's title and painter's name. A+!

Usually, one is at a loss to teach for lack of examples. Not so with art. It is a subject with an overwhelming plethora of styles, traditions, artists, symbols, elements, modes of expression, meanings, disciplines, forms, genres, and theories.

Still Life with Two Lemons, Pieter Claesz, 1629.

Queen Isabella of Spain's illuminated prayerbook, Ghent, c. 1497.

Standing Bodhisattva, 1st - 2nd century AD, or CE, Pakistan.

"[Still life] was considered the lowest form, the foot soldiers of the army of art, mean of spirit, who only painted things instead of people and events. And yet what hypocrisy, because everybody loved it, and we still love it."

----- Sister Wendy

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Taking Ownership

The thing about a cedar fence is that, unlike trees, it doesn't just sit there and look pretty for decades. In a few short years, the fence is going to need maintenance.

I went to Home Depot to find out what I needed to take care of my fence. We had just moved and extended the fence in order to incorporate part of the front yard with the back yard. Now, the big old elm tree was enclosed, and we were oh, so proud of our work. Look at all of the space we have! And, privacy!

So, back to Home Depot, port where the reality of home ownership smacks you upside the head. A helpful salesperson told me all that I needed to know, which was that I could look forward to applying a cleanser to the surface in order to open up the pores. After it dried sufficiently, I could apply my chosen oil-based sealant.

It almost sounds like a facial.

I bought a small bottle of cleaner, a brush, and a 5-gallon bucket of wood preservative and stain. $144 later, I was stocked and ready to get to work.

A project such as this is the kind of moment where the idea of teenage children is appealing. I do not yet possess one of these indentured servants, and the kittens are absolutely worthless at do-it-yourself. Unless you require a piece of furniture reduced to shreds.

The cleanser is serious. It requires watering your landscaping before use in order to avoid killing it, but after this process you can apply and hose it down without a worry. I watered, watered, watered.

My fence is getting better care than my face.

While washing sections of fence it is recommended that one keep these areas damp for the 10 - 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. I suppose this is what really gets the wood to open up its pores. What's weird is that after I rinsed, I could tell the boards were clean. The pores were open and ready to receive a protective coating to keep out the damaging rays of the sun and effects of harsh weather.

Not so much with my face.

Half the fence, both sides, were washed in one afternoon one and a half weeks ago. I finished the rest of it just the other day.

I do not like this, Sam I am.

The staining is going well. I'm almost one quarter of the way to halfway point. The threat of rain halted my specifically charted progress. It makes me feel like I'm getting a lot done when I count to the hundredths place.

Now that I think of it, 1,600 square feet of cedar fence is looking more and more like a decision made while drinking margaritas one summer night. It was like someone shouted, "Hey! You know what we need? A million board feet of cedar that needs to be washed and restained every couple of years!" And we were all, "brilliant!" and thought it was the most amazing idea, ever.

And you thought pot made you stupid.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This is What One Pound Looks Like

The adults in this house are suckers. Give us a warm fuzzball that poops in a box inside our house, and we pay for the privilege.

When the Humane Society has a two-for-one kitten adoption sale, we think it's better than a free ice cream cone. Ice cream melts. Cats eat and poop and live for years and years.

Meet Dewey. This is OC's kitty.

She had the name all ready, was calling him by name before we arrived home.

Myself, on the other hand, had to think a while before Milo came to mind.

More cats. Just what we need!

"O hai. U have box for poop?"

In fact, it is EXACTLY what we needed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Nature of Words

The following is a visual representation of the various meanings of words.

How many things can the word "run" mean? It can mean the action verb, to run; it can describe what happens to your nose when you have a cold, or describe what happens to a stocking.

With that in mind, what words go through your mind when you watch this? The most interesting part is to see how they change slightly when the pictures change, yet are all linked back together. You'll see.

First viewed on the blog Educating Alice.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Moth Lady

My day filled with wild animals concluded last evening with a moth that was practically stuck to my t-shirt. I was in the bathroom getting ready to brush my teeth when I noticed something fluttering. I pulled on my shirt and a moth fluttered for a second before settling back onto my shirt as though it were attached with a string. I pulled again, it fluttered again, then settled. Pull, flutter, settle. Finally I dramatically pulled and swished the fabric of my shirt and the moth flew off to settle onto the floor. As I brushed my teeth, I kept one eye on that crazy insect in case it decided to attack from behind. You never know, those things can be sneaky.

It feels like late summer. I put on a fleece jacket this morning, even though it's going to be near 80 degrees later on. I love that.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too Much Life

As a cat lover I'm also an animal lover in general. This morning's run-in with wildlife was a bit much, even for me.

2 a.m. Cat (Rum) is racing around bedroom playing. Crunching whatever plastic is in here, pouncing hard, obviously attacking something....uh oh. It has to be an animal. Please don't let it be a mouse. Doze....

4:12 a.m. Get up and deal with situation. It's a mouse. Rum is chasing it, but she's not killing it. Kill, Rum, kill the mouse! I hate suffering. I'd rather the mouse was either running free in some field, or dead. No in between.

4:15 a.m. Mouse has gotten the house. I yelled at Rum to GET THE MOUSE and she lost it. Great.

6:30 a.m. Up and at 'em. There's no more sleep for me. But there is a freshly killed bird in the living room. W...T...F....???

6:32 a.m. Bird is gone, but I wonder where the mouse is? Either it's found its way outdoors, or there is going to be a nasty smell in a couple of days.


8:15 a.m. Chickens escaped into the garden. They must like the tall grass around the garden beds. Stupid birds.

I miss Sable and Dakota.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day One

I can't help it. Every time I walk into the kitchen, my gaze drifts to the kitty area. This is where the heater, their beds, food and water dishes are. It wasn't that long ago that they would have looked back at me, their eyes squeezing shut in contentment. Or, they would sleep through it. Sable, with his head curled under his paw while Dakota usually liked to rest his head on the side of the bed.

Yesterday, I avoided the kitchen as much as possible, but this isn't practical. I have to go in there. I have to see it.

It's just amazing that I still expect to see them there. After 16 years, a person gets used to these things.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Sometime after 3:30 this morning, Dakota died. This house feels empty and sad with his goneness. Where is he? I just want to hold his furry little body.

There is nothing malicious in his look, only love and want of petting.

A car alarm woke me at 2 am. Something told me to go and be with Dakota, so I did. I scratched his cheeks, I pet his head, I told him it was okay. I told him I was crying because I was really going to miss him. I carried his little weak self wrapped in a towel around the kitchen for a while. He cried. I realized he needed to go to the bathroom. I got a clean towel and wrapped him up again.

More crying. Bathroom again. No problem, got a fresh towel and we were snuggling again.

His eyes were open, he was alert. He knew. I knew. We were together.

Finally, I put him back in his fuzzy bed and covered him with a towel, the heater close to his head. He fell asleep. When I found him a few hours later, he was gone. Still warm.

I told him it was okay, and it is okay. He had his life and I was lucky to be a part of it. I just miss him terribly.

My heart is broken. There are no words. Unconditional love, warm and fuzzy love with four legs....

What a cat.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Space-Time Continuum

Objects traveling at some rate of speed experience time at a slower rate than objects not moving, according to science and people smarter than myself.

I just saw "The Jane Austen Book Club". I have the book, tried to read it several years ago but didn't finish it. After watching the movie, I told my daughter that I had the book but I didn't finish it. She asked me when that was, and I told her that it had been a few years. She said that I should try it again, because sometimes you just need to pick up a book again to see if you're in the mood for it now, or not.

I felt like I was traveling at the speed of light the way time slowed down when she said that. Surprising, the way kids grow up on you.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Dakota is back to his squeezy-eyed, purry, geriatric self. He's a fragile elderly kitty, but he's still here.

I began working on new socks.

The yarn is Three Irish Girls. Socks are comfortable, but homemade socks feel AMAZING. Hard to describe. Like a hug for your feet.

I'm actually farther along than this, but don't have pictures of the progress. I think the yarn is pretty. Like a smoothie.

The pattern is your basic rib-stitch and whatnot.

Went to a local nursery today. I recommend Plants-N-More on Canal, north of town (Redmond). They have only plants that actually grow in Central Oregon, unlike Lowe's, Fred Meyer, and some other nurseries. The couple that own the nursery are very, very nice. Also, lonely. I'm guessing they are lonely because they do an awful lot of talking while you are trying to browse and think about what to get.

I tried to give subtle hints that I just wanted some quiet: I looked downward in what I assumed was a thoughtful stance, I muttered to myself as if considering, and moved the plants around in the wagon. All the while, the nice lady watched me and then chattered on. She told me random facts about the plants I had in my wagon, or a funny anecdote about her grandson, or how often she has to water. Gah! I put a few things back because I couldn't think about what I needed for the spaces in my garden AND take in the chitchat. It was like shopping with a highly verbal toddler. They don't give a fat frog's fanny about your visual clues or your need for quiet, either.

OC knows to let mommy have a bit of time to think or else she (me) will go cuckoo. I can do a lot of things at once (walk and chew gum, drive and drink coffee, mow the lawn and make a grocery list) but thinking and listening at the same time just does not work.

I want to go back because their prices are reasonable and they look like they could use the business. It's just off the highway but I don't think people think about going there. They really are nice people. What can I do? I don't want to have an anxiety-ridden experience.

I have heard that people sometimes politely explain what they need, and so if I told her I wanted to look for a while, and needed to plan my purchase, that might work? Direct communication can be clear and effective. The problem is, it feels harsh to me. I worry a lot about being too harsh.

On the other hand, perhaps this woman thinks I've been rude. I've been looking at the plants in the wagon and talking to myself while she has been so attentive and helpful...

Option Two would be to never, ever go back to that place. Avoid! Problem solved.

Say, did you know that Larkspurs are one of the only true blue flowers? Most of the others that are blue are really more purple. Oi.

I'll be a grown-up and go back. But not today.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Hits Keep Coming

Dakota needed to see the vet this week. While OC and I were holding him and watching the vet insert a catheter for i.v. fluid therapy, OC fainted. I should have known better than to let her watch.

She was standing behind me, and so I didn't see it begin. She fell against me, rolled off and hit the cabinets and then the floor. It happened in a flash.

The vets and techs were quick. They brought towels, water, and crackers. One gave instructions to lie down and relax while elevating her knees, another brought crackers and water, and everyone reassured her that it was okay. OC wanted to sit up, but the vet spoke to her gently and said it was best to relax for several minutes. When she looked up at me I was a crying mess. So much for being strong for your kid. I told her she was going to be fine and that it just surprised me. I said it was going to be okay. And it is.

She's allright. We went home and made brownies, because no matter how bad it gets, desserts are always there for you.

Iced tea and odd French cartoon characters in English translation are there for you, too.

She might have been embarrassed, but so many people told her it had happened to them and so that made it much better.

All of us, including Dakota, are doing much better today.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The day that Sable died, the peonies were in bloom. Pink and sweet, the pleasant scent mixed with the warm summer air.

Sable was my kitty. He was a silver-tip Himalayan with green eyes. Despite being petite he was filled to the tips of his beautiful white ears with love.

In the rare event that he became angry, such as, for combing him too long or pulling at a fur mat, he expressed his anger with a short growly meow, and immediately began purring again.

He had a particular way to place his front feet while he sat. It was as if they had to be just so in order to optimize his handsomeness.

He did not mouse, bird, or guard the house, but he provided an important function. His death is hitting me harder than I thought it would because I realized that he gave something that is more rare than his purebred bloodlines: unconditional love.

I was 20 when I realized I wanted a cat of my own. Dakota came home with me in early May of 1994, but it seemed lonely to have only one. He needed a buddy. He is a cream-colored Persian and such a cute kitten, settling in with me the moment I held him. I still wanted a silver-tip. My family had had one when I was a kid - Toby - and he was such a great, funny cat. I located a litter of silver tip kitties, and drove to pick one out. I thought I wanted the biggest and the whitest kitten, but when I looked at them, I chose Sable. He was medium-sized, with a lovely bit of grey on his back. His skin was dark, especially around the paws, eyes, and mouth. So adorable! He was exactly eight weeks old when I brought him home that day in late May, sixteen years ago.

He was a normal kitten, especially enjoying smelling fresh outside air and chasing cotton balls. All was fine and dandy for six years, until I brought home the baby. Dakota didn't seem to concern himself, but Sable did NOT like her! That unpredictable screaming thing was not his cup of tea, but he wasn't hostile in the least. He simply avoided her. He practiced the notion of live and let live.

When he was ten, he began to throw up blood. I found out he likely had Irritable Bowel Syndrome caused from a food allergy. I changed his food and all was well for a few years. He began to throw up blood again, or have bloody stool, so I experimented with various wet and dry foods that he would tolerate, while he tolerated the numerous car trips to the vet with their accompanying temperature taking and stomach-probing.

Keeping weight on him was a challenge. Dakota didn't have the type of sensitivity that Sable did, and because they shared the same food area, they had to eat the same kind of food. Believe me, I tried to feed them separately, but Sable and his amazing sniffer always found the dish I tried to sequester away for Dakota. When he knew I was feeding Dakota some tasty food, he looked hurt. It was awful, so I stopped doing it. Dakota was going to have to get with Sable's diet plan.

He couldn't eat any kind of grain, so I had to read every label. Vet-office cat food had corn. Grocery store cat food had corn or soy or rice. I cooked chicken thighs for him. I went through every possible combination of meat and vegetable I could think of. For a time, he ate baby food. This was the beginning of the newly-enlightened pet food industry that finally realized that pet food ought to contain only the kinds of food pets would eat naturally. The prices reflected this new revelation, and so the choices were more expensive than grocery store brands, but at least there were choices.

As the years passed, he became sensitive to foods much more quickly. The last few years have been particularly difficult. In the past six months, I had fed every type of grain-free wet cat food available and was currently serving the last option: turkey. If he grew intolerant of that, and every indication from past experience told me he would, there weren't any options left. I was worried, but I tried not to think about it. After all, just because a solution didn't present itself doesn't mean that it wouldn't at the right time.

Sable liked to eat. He was a relatively healthy, hungry cat who was interested in life and even a little bit of play. When I put the canned food out for them, he was there to shove his face in it and move it onto the floor before licking it into submission. He would end up with wet cat food on the sides of his face, and sometimes the top of his head. He had quite a bit of personality in old age, too. There were more than a few times when I went into the kitchen after hearing what I thought may have been a cat having a seizure, but it wasn't that at all. Sable would be playing with something on the floor. Paper, a bit of dust, or something. He would look up at me when I surprised him, immediately ready to abandon play for scratches and pets. He loved and loved and loved.

His last two days were obviously the end. He lay flat as a pancake on the floor, refusing food and drink. I even gave him a cheese puff to lick, to satisfy his craving for salt and processed cheese flavor, but he ignored it completely. That was when I knew it was the end.

I called the vet, but I was reluctant to take him in. I didn't want him to endure another trip to the vet's office, full of strange smells and scary noises. He was a nervous cat, and he was sick, so he didn't need anything else to worry about. As it turned out, the vet didn't call back until the afternoon and I missed the call. She left a message saying she had some ideas, but I knew it was not going to happen.

Yesterday, his last day, I was calm. I pet him, I combed him, and trimmed the fur mats I could see while he purred. I had given him a bath last week to wash the litter that stuck to his feet. He was having diarrhea, and throwing up bile, so I had to wash his face and his bottom again, too. I did that while disturbing him as little as possible. That last day, there was nothing left in his system. He was so thin.

After his bath, I wrapped him in a towel and held in over my shoulder, like a baby. He liked that. He rested his head on my shoulder and purred. He spent the day laying flat in the grass while I sat with him and alternately worked on nearby flower beds. It was a warm day, and the sun probably felt good. He would move a foot or so, then settle down again and sleep with his little face planted into the ground. He seemed okay. I felt okay, glad to be with him. I pet him, I talked to him. He purred.

Early this morning, he died in his sleep on the kitchen floor. He was still warm when I got up and found him. I pet him, told him I was so grateful that he was my kitty. I took a bit of fur to save. That fur was the most gorgeous fur in the whole world, attached to the body of the most loving being one can find in the animal world.

I wish I could have taken away all his pain, fed him until his stomach was as full as his heart. I wish I could hold him one more time, over my shoulder like a baby, rub my face against his head and hear his sweet purr.

I know he's out there somewhere, saying that it's okay; he's okay now. He is eating all that he wants and he feels no pain anymore. I want to tell him that I did the best I could, but that I know it wasn't good enough for him. I wish I had done more.

The bucket that I used for his last bath is still out in the yard, drying. I miss him more than words can say.

I gave him many nicknames, including Sableson plum, sugary little angel boy, pumpkinhead, bell-bells, bellie, Sabellie-bellie-bellie-bellie, ma cherie amour, and many more goofy things that I liked to say to him. He understood French. At least, it seemed like he did from the way he looked at me and blinked whenever I said French words to him. Perhaps he was humoring me. That would have been just like him to be so thoughtful.

3/19/1994 - 6/23/2010