Thursday, December 3, 2015

I'll miss this place, though

I headed to a local Agway store that's closing, as after 40-some odd years, the owner's retiring. I have two other places that are closer to me where I usually go when I need something in the hardware or gardening line, and they can usually provide me with what I need. For the times they can't, I've gone to the Agway.

When I first went there several years ago, they had two black kittens. Rescues from someplace, and they posted a sign asking customers to be careful not to let the kittens out. The kittens were cute, black, and fuzzy.

They're quite handsome lads now, fully grown, long black fur. Zack and Jack. They clearly own the store and like being pet. There's also a yellow lab who's often in attendance, whose name I don't know, and who is also welcoming.

I've gone there two other times since the retirement sale started and found a couple things that I can use now or will use next spring and summer in the garden. At my last visit, a teenaged boy was my cashier, and I quipped, "You look a little young to retire."

He smiled and said, "I work four jobs, so when this one's done, I'll pick up hours at one of the others." Then he paused and said in a wistful tone, "I'll miss this place, though."

A pregnant pause ensued. The owner was saying hello to everyone who walked in, and knew nearly everyone's names. Other employees were helping customers by opening the door, helping to carry heavy items to their cars, or checking in back for an extra whatsit as only one was on the shelf, and the customer needed two.

I looked at the cashier, and his eyes nearly watered. Mine nearly did, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Technically advanced, i'm not, but i do what i can

I see the picture I posted in my last entry did not publish. I saw it on Facebook and thought it worth sharing, but they might have some special something or other that prohibits me from sharing it. It was a picture of the Statue of Liberty sitting at the base of the Eiffel Tower, tears flowing down her face while she lay some roses on the ground.

Many states here in the US have decided to close their borders to the Syrian refugees. It's been a pivotal discussion point for many, and there is no middle of the road on this topic, apparently. Otherwise logical, maybe even somewhat mild mannered folks are speaking up with vehemence, both for and against.

We've seen this before in the US, where we say give us your tired, your poor, and then in the next breath, we say the borders aren't open.

I don't think most of us really understand just how desperate one is when one has had to flee one's country with very close to nothing. Where we've seen friends, family members, communities slaughtered in front of our faces.

I just found out Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, is once again opening itself up to welcome those who need a place to land. For those of you who haven't ever heard of this community, I urge you to read, The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede. You may want to have a hanky or two close by as you read it.

In a nutshell, after the attacks on 9/11, the US decided to close all airspace. Some folks were midair when it happened, and could not land in the US as originally planned. Thousands arrived in Gander, and the book chronicles some the events and some of the people who lived there and some who arrived with no place to go.

I live in one of those states where the Governor has decided NOT to allow Syrian refugees. Four generations ago, my people made their way across the Atlantic in hopes of a better life. They weren't refugees in a war-torn area, but they weren't anyone special, either. Just ordinary people looking for a new place to call home. I never knew why they emigrated, only that they did.

At my last location, a friend of mine who worked for the Department of Labor had a young man in her office one day. He couldn't speak much English; he could speak French and an African tongue that was unknown to my friend. She did know about ten words in French, and she worked out that this young man had seen the word "Labor," and figured he could get a job there.

Turns out this young man fled for his life, arrived in the US, in New York City, had a phone number he needed to call as that person would help him. This was back when there were pay phones and very few people had cell phones. The young man dialed the number, but it was disconnected.

He ended up making his way a couple hundred miles south and was staying at a homeless men's shelter. He wanted to find a job, and here he was in front of my friend.

This story really deserves an entry all to itself, but let me just say here that everyone who met this young man wanted to help him. And we helped as we could.

I've worked with new immigrants and refugees in various jobs I've had. Some of these people were living lives not unlike my own, when the political climate changed quickly, and they found themselves running for their lives. Some of these people who were now clearing away dishes or mopping floors had had servants to do such menial tasks in their old life. Others had always worked hard and what little they had was blown up or taken away.

Yes, I understand the risk that there can be posers in a group of refugees, who want to infiltrate and set up a terrorist network. Yes, we already have enough crazy people here, and we read about them in the news every day. But I think it's a risk worth taking. If it were my family, my friends, the refugees with whom I've worked, i'd want someone to help them if they could. So, who am I to do less?

What to do? Why this weighs so heavy on my heart, I cannot say. Perhaps it's because of the young man I met who was fleeing for his life and ended up in my friend's office. Perhaps it's because I lived in Paris for a school year and love her fiercely. Perhaps it's because it's my turn to pay it forward or back.

So, when I heard that Gander was welcoming the Syrian refugees, and because I live in a state where we probably won't have any arrive, I decided that if I can't welcome them to my state, I can help others who are. I googled Gander and found out the phone number for their municipal offices and called. I explained that I lived in the US in a state that was not far from Canada and was NOT welcoming the Syrian refugees. I heard that Gander was, and because of what they did after 9/11–and here my voice broke–I wanted to help in some way. I could send a check (or cheque, since we're talking Canada). Did they have a process set up for that yet? The woman said she wasn't sure, she'd check with the mayor's office (I had dialed a different department), and she'd get back to me. I gave her my phone number and email address, in case one way was more convenient for her than the other.

For those people whose people have been there for millennia, it probably doesn't make sense. For those of us where it's either been a personal experience or recent history, it perhaps strikes a different chord. I feel we must do what we can.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Late but heartfelt all the same

I was away at a conference this past weekend, with no access to my electronic devices, although the sentiment is no less heartfelt.

Très desolée.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The shit hit the wall rather than the fan

JoJo is one of those good natured tabbies who take things as they come along. She still allows Phoebe to be top cat, even though with the swipe of her paw, she could knock Phoebe into next week, and believe you me, there are times where I want to knock Phoebe into next week, so I tip my hat to Jo on that.

She was born feral most likely, and found in a bale of hay when the truck driver who was pulling the bale off at one of his delivery stops, noticed a litter of kittens in the one bale. All were dead except one grey one, and he took the kitten over to his mother who worked at the same place I did. He told his mother she needed to do something, they couldn't just let this kitten die, and he had to get back to work. He had stopped at several farms to pick up the hay bales and had help loading them on at each place, so he wasn't sure which farm this particular hay bale had come from. Even if he did finding the mother cat was likely impossible, as the litter was most likely feral.

So, when I first saw her, she could fit in may hand and weighed about 4 ounces/120 g. Something pulled at my heart immediately, and I was in love with her.

Six weeks later, after we had found a foster for her who said she'd take care of her for six weeks, no longer, she came home with me. The old woman who fostered her had an older dog, and they lived with her son and his family who had a younger dog. I don't know what they made of this kitten who stayed with them for a while, but when Jo came to us, she didn't meow. She barked. Grace and Phoebe were none too pleased with the newest addition, and in time, Jo learned to meow and fell in love with Grace.

JoJo can be very sweet, but she is also very headstrong. We found this out, when at four months old, she jumped through the screen so she could be outside with Grace and Phoebe. She is not a fan of the word no.

Phoebe has always been a diva, and with her recent kidney disease diagnosis, I've been catering to her a bit more than usual. Yet, I still wanted to give time to JoJo and let her know that I loved her, too. And so, the day before yesterday was like many that have gone before: after I put the kettle on, Jo jumped on my lap, and I sat on the stool in the kitchen petting her, combing her, and talking to her. She was loathe to get off my lap when the water had boiled, so I waited a few more minutes. She went outside to have a sniff round and relieve herself, again like always. She uses a litter box only when it's late at night or if there's lots and lots of snow on the ground.

I settled down to work, she came in the house and it wasn't until supper time that I realized she hadn't moved from the bed in the guest room. I took her supper in to her, and she didn't show much interest. She also didn't look right, as if she didn't feel well. I decided to see how she was in the morning before taking any action.

I awoke before the alarm went off this morning and made my way downstairs. Phoebe was glad to see that I was up at my usual time, as she's still not reconciled to our being back on standard time and meowed for breakfast.

I went into the guest room and saw Jo hadn't moved. She looked miserable, and she smelled different. She smelled sick. After doing my usual morning routine, I called the vet's office to let them know I was bringing JoJo in. They open at 8:00 a.m., and I was there just after they  had unlocked the doors.

They took Jo in, telling me they would do what they could as soon as possible. The vets were booked for early appointments, although there was one at 9:00. They might be able to take a quick look before the first appointments or at least take vitals.

I know some people get hysterical over trifling things, and that I've done that once or twice myself. I thought about the time I had brought Jo in and ended up having to wait nearly an hour past my appointment time because they'd had an emergency. While I wasn't happy about the wait, I understood that bringing my healthy cat to get a vaccine was not an emergency. And maybe this didn't qualify as a capital E Emergency, but a cat who doesn't eat or drink and stays lethargic for 18 hours does need to be looked at, and in my book preferably sooner rather than later.

At my last location, the cats' vet had a farm. Dr. D was very laid back and usually gave our cats 3-year rabies shots. This worked well for us, as our cats rarely saw the vet for any other reason, and it's always hard to catch them. The vets at the office here don't like to give 3-year rabies shots, they prefer the 1-year because they don't like the mercury load the 3-year shots carry. I did ask if I could get them at least for Jo, as I have a much harder time wrangling her. No, they were adamantly opposed to the 3-year shots.

I thought on this as I waited. I heard JoJo's loud meow of protestation through the closed doors. So did everyone else in the waiting room. I wasn't happy Jo wasn't happy, but that loud meow was music to my ears. She had a lot of fight left. Dr. L came out to the waiting room to talk to me. They determined that Jo had a fever, they couldn't find an abscess, they didn't see bite marks anywhere, and he went on to explain that it could be a "fever of unknown origin." In those cases, they usually give a broad antibiotic and see if that fixes things. He also wanted to know what I could tell him. I couldn't tell him much, the day before she was fine in the morning, although this morning, she didn't smell right. He looked at me quizzically. I explained that she didn't smell like herself, she smelled sick. I then returned to the recent history: I didn't see or hear any animal fights, felt no abscesses when she sat on my lap, felt no wounds. I did ask that since she was here could she at least get her rabies shot, as she was overdue. I felt guilty about that because she does spend a lot of time outside, and I do want to keep her as safe as I can. There's been a fox snooping around, as I told the vet, and he looked a bit mangy. I saw some scat by the clothesline that I think was his, and the two days ago, I saw stools that look like Jo's but they were on the path to the back door, and that isn't a usual place for her to leave anything. So I don't know if she was marking territory or if something else was.

He said he doesn't normally give vaccines when animals are unwell, but if the fever came down enough, he'd consider it. I said I know he's not a fan of the 3-year rabies shots, but it would make things easier for me if he'd consider it in her case.

And then he asked about bowel movements. I said I didn't think she had moved at all from the bed until I tried to put her in the carrier, and that took me several tries. When I was finally successful I looked at the wall to see wet diarrhoea stuck to it. So the shit had hit the wall rather than the fan.

He said that she'd released a large puddle of urine when she was being examined, so they were able to get a good urine sample. They were testing now, and it would be best if I could leave her there for the day. They hoped her fever would break, and I could pick her up at the end of the day.

I thanked him, they confirmed my phone number, and I came home.

He called an hour later to confirm everything was normal. He talked about giving her injections of antibiotics as that seemed a better course than oral antibiotics, so with two injections---
and here I cut him off.

"Wait--i'll have to give her injections?"

"No. We'll do it here. My original thought was to give her oral antibiotics twice a day, but I see that's not going to work, so we went with the injections. I think giving her oral antibiotics twice a day would be nearly impossible."

Was this his way of realizing when I said she was headstrong, I wasn't exaggerating?

"I haven't had to do it often, but the few times I've had to do it, it's been quite challenging."

"If her temperature drops enough, I can give her a 3-year rabies shot. We don't normally do 3-year shots..."
"Yes, I know, and you explained why you don't like to do them. I appreciate that you are thinking of considering it in this case. She was born feral, and while she's domesticated and can be quite sweet and loving, there's a part of her that's always stayed wild." I didn't want to belabor the point, so I changed the subject a bit. "So, if the fever breaks, I can pick her up this afternoon. What if it doesn't break? Does she need to stay overnight?"

That could be an option, yes. Or I could take her home and bring her back for more observation as needed. And before he could quite finish his sentence he said, "I'm guessing she'll be hard to catch."

"And you'd be guessing right. This was the easiest time I've ever had catching her, and even so it took four tries."

"Then overnight would be best. We are set up for that and can do it if need be."

I told him I know Jo's a hard patient, and i'm sorry about that. And again I so much appreciated all he and his staff were doing for her.

I arrived promptly at 4:00 p.m. to collect her. Her fever had gone down a couple degrees, and if they were successful in measuring her temperature once more, they might be able to give her a rabies shot. He looked harried. She's not an easy patient, and my guess was that as her temperature went down, she was more adamant about expressing her disdain. He explained she refused to eat, which didn't surprise me. At her last visit to the vet, she was good and angry afterwards. I had opened the carrier to let her out in the yard, and she refused to come in the house for a while. She sulked and stormed off, to return within the hour, killing two mice and a rat. That's my girl.

I was to monitor her, to see if she ate or drank anything. Also, probably best to keep her inside until tomorrow morning if at all possible. I nodded thinking that might be possible.

She was quiet in her carrier. Her eyes looked brighter and she looked to be in less pain. She was quiet on the ride home, and slowly emerged from the carrier when I opened it inside the house.

Phoebe was curious, caught the vet office smell, and smelled the carrier. She gave Jo space.

It had been much quieter without Jo in the house. I was glad she was back home, and she looked to be, too. She sat and groomed herself in the dining room. She wasn't interested in supper, but it was so soon after our return. She made her way slowly to the rocking chair in the living room and jumped up on it. I gave her a pat on the head, told her I was glad she was home, and she didn't seem to bear me any ill will. She's now sleeping comfortably, and I think I shall soon be there myself.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Should she or shouldn't she?

A friend and hockey teammate posted a link to a workshop where, if one attends, one can learn the steps to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." The idea is simple: they want 40 people to dress up as zombies and be part of a flash mob on Halloween in the town next door to mine.

Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, and while a part of me would like to do this, another part of me knows i'm probably too cack-handed to learn so many steps in only one workshop. I was reminded of this when I saw this on more than one friend's facebook wall:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Too cold

Over this past weekend, Himself and I did a bit of yardwork. Saturday's weather was a bit unsettled, so we did mostly inside tasks and picked up items we'd need like paint and planking for the deck. Saturday afternoon was a bit clearer, and Himself taught me how to replace the deck planks. Two of them had me especially concerned, and one of them broke apart rather easily when Himself was sawing them into shorter pieces, so i'm glad we changed them out when we did.

Sunday, while Himself painted the trim on the back of the house, I downrigged the boat. He got the painting done and helped me take off the mast. I had planned on doing it first thing that morning, but a heavy frost was slow to leave the boat as it was parked on the shady side of the driveway, and was quite slippery.

While I was up on the boat ready to lift the mast and lower down to Himself, I noticed some bits of white dust hitting me. It took me a moment to realize it was snow.

I am not ready for snow yet. It didn't stick, thank goodness, and the flurry was brief, but still, we've only just got autumn well and truly underway.

The thermometer outside registers 40°F (just under 4.5°C), but it feels much colder than that. While the painting will most likely need to be done next year as it didn't have time to cure before the cold, it'll at least offer some protection from winter, which seems to be knocking early this year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Autumn harvest

We've had a drier than usual summer, which has made it perfect for apples. There are any number of apple trees about, and I saw a woman scrumping the day I was taking my boat out of the water for the season.

There were three apples trees in the back yard when I first arrived. One has since fallen down due to advanced age and my neglect, and the youngest of the three trees didn't fruit until this year. I think I should scrump in my own back yard. One of the women in my knitting group has an old pear tree on her property and while she doesn't like the texture of pears, she did say the ones she sampled this year from the tree are quite marvellous. We had oodles of rain about 2 weeks ago (we had just short of 7 inches/18 cm in 24 hours, farther north just shy of 10 inches/25 cm), which brought down most of the pears, but I can pick some if I like.

Over the weekend, I decided I needed to put my sorry effort of a garden to bed. I pulled up the dried tomato plants easily enough and stowed their cages, but as I watched a bumble bee collecting nectar from the marigolds that are still busily blooming, I found myself unable to pull everything out. I have one small pumpkin that seems to have cured all right, so I plucked it and the shriveled vine. I have two very small squash that will likely not grow very much more, but we may not get frost for another week yet, so I've left them as they enjoy the last hurrah.

I've also clearly marked where the asparagus came up this year so if I decide to interplant among the asparagus next year, I know where I need to steer clear.

I ordered witch hazel twigs very late in the season at an online place when local places didn't have the variety I wanted. I ordered the bundle of five, hoping at least three would make it. They sent me seven, two of which were quite small. I planted all with great hopes; three leafed out, Himself whacked one of the twigs, the other went missing a few days later, and a third leafless twig went missing a few weeks ago. I doubt the only leafless one is still alive, and yet I don't want to pull it out. Silly, I know.

An herbalist who has a lovely shop nearby has expressed interest in taking the two young slippery elms growing quite close to the mother tree. I espied a third a bit farther away when I was doing yard work this past weekend, and shall offer that one to her as well.

I didn't have enough tomatoes to put any up, although I enjoyed the small harvest fresh. I ate the raspberries as they ripened, and while they are putting out fruits for the second blooming (they are the everbearing kind that bloom once in July and a second time in October), I doubt they'll ripen before frost.

There's one remaining sunflower whose stalk is still green; all of them volunteers from seed spilt by birds at the feeder. The finches enjoyed feasting on the sunflowers, and Jo often hunted below.

There are several late blooms on the roses as well as the phlox, and a lazy susan has bloomed this week as well. There's something about the late bloomers that make me smile, and I somehow appreciate them more.

I've also left the kale in the garden. Despite the slugs eating them a couple times, they are sprouting leaves and once the frost kills the slugs, I may just get to enjoy some of the leafy goodness myself.

The leaves are nearing their peak colour this week. I took a photo of the back yard, but it didn't come out very well, so i'll post this picture a friend took in the next town over.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mercury is retrograde

A former colleague of mine would often say Mercury was retrograde when things went pear shaped. Astrologers suggest making sure things are in order before these retrograde periods, as breakdowns are apt to occur.

Winter is coming soon, and this time of year, I usually check to make sure I have enough on hand to see me through the weather. It's easier, for instance, to get the coal and unload it now than it is when the snow drifts are 6 feet high, and realizing I needed at least one pallet if not two, I decided to borrow my neighbour's trailer and pick up some coal.

Neighbour Bob's trailer is rated for 2000 lbs (1 ton or tonne if you're across the Pond). A pallet of coal is 2400 lbs, so most times when I've done this, I unload a number of bags from the pallet and put them in the bed of the truck. One time I didn't and everything was all right, but I don't like to make a practice of overloading trailers.

He wasn't home when I went to borrow the trailer--everyone on the street's allowed to use it, but still, I do like to give word that i'm taking it for a little while. His next door neighbour saw me, waved, and glimpsed only for a moment as I hooked it onto my truck's hitch.

The hasp and lock were hard to open and close, so I sprayed them with some PB Blaster to loosen them. I noticed the trailer seemed a bit noisier than usual as I pulled it. Not a scary noise noisier, just that it rattled more.

I got to the hardware store, nearly 20 miles away, and after consulting with the loading man, he was able to get the pallet on the trailer. He looked a bit nervous, mentioned that the tires were nearly flat, and I thanked him for letting me know. Neighbour Bob is meticulous about maintenance, and i'd not given a thought to check the tire pressure. I probably tow the heaviest loads with his trailer. He usually tows brush or hedge clippings. I didn't see anything in the hardware store to help me get air in the tires, so I drove off, going slowly and decided i'd get air at the first gas station on the way home.

The first gas station was on the left side of the road, about 2 miles down. I noticed it seemed harder to pull the load than before, so getting air in those tires was clearly the right thing to do. The air pump was in front of the parking spaces, and I took up four of those spaces as I got out and then needed to check if the air hose would reach all right. It reached the left tire, but the right was iffy. As I made my way around to the right tire to check, I saw the tire had torn away, leaving the rim. Oh, my. No wonder why it pulled funny.

I hadn't a clue what to do. Neighbour Bob wasn't home, so I couldn't call him. There was no spare on the trailer. I wasn't sure where I could get a new tire, or even if the rim could still be used. I walked into the convenience store, and when the woman behind the counter asked if she could help me, I opened my mouth and "I don't know what to do" came out.

I related my story; she thought she should call her husband. I didn't see what help he could provide, but then my brain started working. I had Triple A, maybe they could help with this tire. I let her know, thanked her for listening, and dialled. The Triple A woman informed me that while Triple A could help with the car or truck I was driving, trailers weren't covered. She gave me the name of a local towing company and phone number. I dialled and the man who answered sounded as if he'd been napping. I knew he wouldn't be helpful, so I thanked him for his time and hung up. I called Neighbour Bob to see if he were home yet, if he had a spare, and to let him know what was happening. He answered the phone, no, he didn't have a spare, did he need me to have him come to where I was. I didn't see that solving anything so told him no.

The owner of the convenience store had come out, and helped me to take some of the load off the trailer and put into the bed of the truck. His barely teenaged son helped, too. He asked if there was a spare, mentioned a place where I might be able to get a tire, although I wasn't sure where that place was. I was thinking Plan B would be to load the truck as heavily as I could, take the first load of coal home, unload, pick up a tire for the trailer, and drive back. The owner went back inside to wait on people and another man showed up. He wanted to jack up the trailer and see about getting a tire.

I asked if he were the man I spoke to on the phone, although this man sounded a lot more awake. No, he hadn't spoken to me, his wife worked here and had called. And he made quick work of noting the tire size, extricating the jack, lifting up the trailer, and looking at the rim. He told me he'd run up to the tire place as he knew right where it was and upon his return, he'd take the rim and put the tire on at his house, since he had a tire changer there. I wondered if he were a mechanic, as he had on a dark green work shirt, typical of one a mechanic would wear.

I thanked him, and while waiting, I went in and ordered a sandwich. I felt bad for taking up four of the parking spaces, but it didn't make sense to move anything. The owner was nice about it, made small talk with me, and I thanked him for his kindness. I also asked him the name of the man who was helping me, and he gave me his name and phone number. He also said I was welcome to use the rest room if I needed it and I could wash my hands at the sink, and he motioned to the sink on his left. I did make use of both and thanked him once again.

The Angel man returned. They had one tire that size left in the store, and it would take him a few minutes to get the rim off, go home, and put the tire on.

He returned within 15 minutes and put it back on the trailer for me. The owner was watching, told me not to forget to fill the other tire with air, and I nodded. I hadn't forgotten and while some may have thought him a bit patronizing, I know he meant it kindly.

Their generosity and kindness deeply touched me. I asked Angel Man how much I owed him. He looked away a moment, took a breath, and said, "Seventy-five dollars."

The way he said it led me to believe he thought it was a lot of money. There've been times in my life where having to fork over an unexpected $75 would have been a great financial hardship. Thankfully, it wasn't on that day. It was easily worth double that to me. He saved me a lot of hassle. I thanked him, told him it was worth more and I was going to include a tip, which I did as I wrote out the check. I had tried using the ATM in the store to get out cash, but it wouldn't work. I rarely take out cash with my card so i'm unsure if my PIN had changed when they sent me a new card or if it was just Mercury being retrograde.

On the way home, I was grateful for so many things. For the man at the hardware store noting that the tires were really low. For being able to get the trailer safely off the road. For people i'd never seen before willing to help me. The rim could be reused. I had enough financial resources to pay for everything. I found the convenience store had a great sandwich shop I didn't realize was there, and although I was wildly unprepared, everything worked out okay.

I got home without any complications, backed up the trailer the easiest I've ever done (it's usually quite amusing for onlookers to watch), unloaded the coal, and returned the trailer to Neighbour Bob's house. He was glad to see I was all right and wanted to reimburse me for my out-of-pocket tire expense. I told him he needn't do that, I've borrowed his trailer numerous times, and this happened on my watch. He insisted on repaying me, and as I looked into his eyes, I realized he was thinking of me as a daughter. My dad's been dead many years, and it's been a long time since I've seen that look. I told him the amount Angel Man told me.

Mercury may be retrograde, but kindness transcends that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Phoebe update

Phoebe had her one-month follow-up vet visit today. I captured her quite easily as she had been napping, and noted on the 10-minute drive to the vet, she meowed very loudly, in a way I haven't heard for some time. So, clearly, she feels better.

She's better with her litter box usage (less peeing outside the box), the contents in the box look more normal, she's vomiting less (four times in the last two weeks, and "normal" cat vomit like hairballs and undigested food), and she's more active.

They took another blood draw to see what the numbers showed from last month and weighed her again. She's down 3 ounces (~90 g) which is a bit troubling, one out-of-range parameter went down although is still high, and the other rose at a faster rate than the vet expected.

I did ask some of the harder questions. What's the prognosis? Are we looking at one or two months?

The meds are obviously doing something favourable, as she's more active, her coat is shinier, she's vomiting less. The higher creatinine level indicates that she needs to eat the low-protein food more often. I'd been working it in once every three days, but once a day at least may really be needed.

And what if she doesn't like the low-protein food once a day? If she doesn't like something, she WON'T eat it, and she can't afford to lose more weight. What's the best course for me to take? Food she'll eat that's harder on her kidneys but will stave off weight loss or food she doesn't want to eat that's easier on her system but results in weight loss while she's turning up her nose? And she likes variety and is used to that. The vet mentioned there are different kinds. Yes. Two. She's used to getting about 12 different kinds and i purposely mix them up so they don't get bored eating the same thing.

There is no easy answer. We can try and see how things go. Similarly, there's no clear answer on prognosis. While this jump seems a lot in a month, it could be that it now stabilises for a bit, or things could go into a quick decline. Clearly, she's feeling better, so if she's logy all of a sudden, that'll be a better indication than anything.

I did say first and foremost, i want quality of life for her. As she loves the pocket pill treats, it's not hardship to give her meds, she and JoJo both love getting the fish oil everyday, so again, that's not a problem. But, i don't see her being willing to sit still while i give her a needle for subcutaneous fluids (something the vet said could be available) or how successful i'll be chasing her about the house to give her a phosphorus binder if her phosphorus levels go out of whack (currently they are okay).

He did say her genetics may be programmed to say, "Once you hit 15, your kidneys will start to fail, and there's not much we can do about that." He did chuckle as she scratched on each door in the examination room, hoping someone would open up the door and let her out. She also meowed quite loudly when her door scratchings did not give her the desired outcome. I told the vet as noisome as that was, this was in a way music to my ears because she had this much energy to complain, just like before. She complained most of the way home, too, but within an hour of being back home, she looked quite pleased with herself and welcomed the head rubs i gave her.

I have a plan in place, which i know is subject to change. I shall endeavour to juggle what's best for her with what she wants and to let go when it's time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

lost and found

When last I mentioned Twig, my missing dinghy that was basely stolen, I mentioned that I got another dinghy to take her place. And, as sad as I was to do it, a stout lock to deter thieves looking for an easy-to-take-and-use-or-sell item.

I was slated to go on a week long sailing trip with friends: it's a trip I take most years, and Himself decided to stay behind, feed the cats, and work on a few house projects.

On Saturday evening, he mentioned wanting to walk the breakwater Sunday morning. Should he wake me, or let me sleep? It's been ages since I walked the breakwater, and I agreed that he should wake me. Himself is a naturally early riser; I am not.

So, he awoke me gently on Sunday morning, and seeing that he had already tended to the cats, we set off for an early morning walk. There weren't a lot of people walking the breakwater at that time, and the day was brilliantly sunny.

About a third of the way out, there's a small floating dock, and as I glanced at it, I thought of a photo I had seen recently on Facebook that the local historical society had posted, showing this dock or more likely its earlier relative from a photo circa 1910. Like the photo, the dock that morning was empty and waiting.

We got to the end of the breakwater, took a moment to enjoy the view, and started back. Himself and I were having easy conversations about everything and nothing, when he stopped suddenly.

"Look left," he said. I did and saw nothing on the water as I gazed straight out.

"Look at the end of my walking stick," he said, after he noticed my gaze staring straight out. Like an obedient dog, I started at the end of his stick. Looked the same to me as it always had. Then again, i'm not a morning person and didn't have a cup of tea before we had gone on this walk. Realizing he needed to be Captain Obvious he said, "No, look beyond my stick."

We were just past that little floating dock, and I looked over. There was Twig.  She was tied off along the cleat, and the only difference I could see since i'd seen her last was that three of the small fenders I had on her port side were off. The three on the beam of her starboard side were still there, as was the two on either side of the bow. There was a pair of shoes with socks stuffed in them on the dock. I also noticed a single oar in Twig. I blinked a few times, but she was not a mirage.

Himself had his cell phone, so I used it to call the police. I couldn't remember the non-emergency number so called the emergency one, explaining it wasn't an emergency, but I needed to notify the police. The dispatcher was very kind, took down the phone number and told me someone would call back.

Meantime there was a young man fishing on the other side of the breakwater opposite the floating dock. I noticed him looking over, but didn't think much about it. We had taken Himself's car, and he was telling me his car wasn't wide enough for Twig, I ought to go back, take his car home, and come back with the truck. I ought to have my cell phone with me, too, in case he needed to call. We usually call it good if only one of us has a cell phone between the two of us if we go somewhere, and I hadn't bothered checking for mine. The last I recalled, it was in my purse, which was at home.

On the ride home, which seemed to be fraught with slow drivers, I needed a tissue and reached into my pocket. My cell phone was in there. So, I called Himself to let him know I was nearly home.  He had heard back from the police. They said we had the right to re-appropriate our stolen property, and that I needed to bring some extra line.

Once home, I grabbed my purse so i'd have my driver's licence. I was thankful I hadn't gotten pulled over for anything silly. I also grabbed the oarlocks, my pfd (life preserver), and a set of oars so I could row her to shore. It was low tide, so we'd  have to drag her a bit and I wondered if the path from the shore to the start of the breakwater was wide enough. If so, it would be just barely.

I was still in a bit of shock, and I was hoping Himself didn't have any run-ins with the person who'd rowed it there. After I parked the truck and made my way towards the breakwater, I broke out in full run. The first honest-to-goodness run I've done in over 10 years since breaking my leg. It wasn't until I ran up to Himself on shore that I realised I had run without nerve pain, and I mean without even a twinge. Perhaps it was endorphins. At any rate, I was glad of it.

Himself managed to walk Twig along the edge of the breakwater to shore, so I didn't need the oars or pfd. Two men who saw us carrying her came down to the beach and offered to help us carry her. We were glad for the help, and in no time had her by the truck.

Himself relayed the story to them as he had to nearly everyone who had passed by on the breakwater while he was waiting for the police to call him back. Our dinghy had been stolen, and today, voilà, there she was. We waited for the police to call us back, and they said it was fine for us to take it.

On the way home, after we had strapped Twig in for the ride, Himself mentioned the young man fishing. How he seemed really uncomfortable and suspected that he was the one who stole it. I said that might be true, or he may have bought it from the thief, and was now wondering how he'd get back to wherever without a dinghy. Neither of us checked to see if he had the missing oar in his possession, and frankly, I didn't care. I just wanted my dinghy back. I didn't want any kind of showdown incidents or posturing. Himself said I was too generous with my thinking. Perhaps I am. I just didn't see the point of making a Big Scene. Finding that which was lost and taking it home was plenty for me.

Twig is currently safely stowed for the rest of the sailing season. The new-to-me replacement dinghy will finish out the sailing season, and I'll decide whether it be best to keep her as well or sell her. As each dinghy only seats two, it may be nice to have a second dinghy on hand for the times we sail with four people on Retrouvé. Certainly not the worst problem to have.

Twig does have some bright yellow paint that wasn't there before and few new scratches. Other than the missing fenders, everything else was I left it. I did notice a lobster boat near Retrouve sporting three small fenders that were exactly the kind of Twig, and on the side of the boat, I saw some bright yellow trap markers. Now, these small fenders are as common as grains of sand, but seeing them along with the bright yellow paint did make me look twice and feel funny.

Before I shoved off on my sailing trip the next day, I managed to talk to Tug and let him know my dinghy had been found and reclaimed. He immediately started reeling off names to the lobstermen with him after I mentioned the fisherman who seemed fishing for ?? bait maybe? Or mackerel? I also quietly told him about the three small fenders I noticed that seemed new and the same yellow paint, pointing over to the boat's mooring, the boat itself now gone out to work. I acknowledged that it could be coincidence and didn't wish to implicate anyone. But, it does give one pause for thought.

I thanked Tug once again for looking at the security tapes. He was looking at the mooring, and I could see his mind working. He thanked me for letting him know, told me if I needed a skiff I was welcome to use his any time. I thanked him yet again, said my new-to-me dinghy was still on the float around the corner and I hoped I never had to take him up on his generous offer.

I am still amazed. Happily so.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Home, a poem by Warshan Shire


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border...
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs

or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

—Warshan Shire

The poet Warshan Shire was born in Kenya in 1988 and raised in London to Somali parents. She has read her work extensively as an internationally touring poet.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Every blog post I've tried writing the past month or so is shite or depressing, so I haven't posted any of them. I do think there's enough dreariness in the world without banging on about it. And sometimes, through no fault of our own, the black cloud hangs over us and seemingly stalls. Then, equally as random, it moves along.

Summer is galloping along at an alarming rate here. It's been quite dry, which should mean that I've had lots of time for sailing. But, no. Work stuff has been galloping along, too, and my idea of going for a quick sail after work has been dashed because i'm so mentally tired by the end of the work day, that I don't feel all that safe going boating.

My neighbour up the street, M, who's been a marine electrician for years and who rewired Retrouvé for me finally had some time to go sailing. He had started a seasonal business about three years ago, but it didn't take off as he had hoped, so he's called that a day and found a part-time job doing something else. He's a new grandpa, and his granddaughter thinks he's the most wonderful thing ever, so he has been babysitting and visiting a goodly bit. Finally, we had a Saturday where we could go sailing, and the weather co-operated. We got down to the shipyard, and only when he asked me which dinghy was mine did I realise that the last time he went sailing with me was quite a while ago indeed, since this is my third summer with my dinghy Twig. I know, not nautical sounding in the least, but that's the name that came to me when I got her and asked what her name should be. Some things you just don't question.

I walked over to the edge and looked down at the floats. Twig was missing. I blinked and looked again. She was still gone.

I went over to the shipyard's office to notify them, but the door was locked. Next, I went into the dock house where my friend has her schooner. SFB was there with the office manager for the schooner, and I blurted out that Twig was stolen. I felt sick to my stomach. The first mate offered me use of one of the schooner's skiffs, and I took it. He also said I should talk to Tug, the guy whose business shares the other half of the dock house. SFB said I should notify the Harbor Master. He was right, of course, and once M and I were out on the water, I decided to radio the Harbor Master. Only my radio didn't seem to be sending out a signal. When it rains, it pours.

I had my cell phone and got a signal so called him on his phone and let him know. He said no one had reported finding a missing dinghy, and I gave him the particulars. He said I ought to call the police and file a report.

M and I turned around a bit early when we heard thunder. Well, actually, we heard thunder, M's wife called M and said that it was thundering at the house, were we still on the water? M would have stayed out longer, but about five minutes after the phone call, I thought it best if we turned around.

About two minutes from the house, six raindrops splashed on the windshield, so we beat the rain.

I talked to the police. Sadly, they've had a number of reports like mine and in most cases, by the time the owner sees the item's been stolen, it's already been resold. Twig is a really nice dinghy and could be resold in about five minutes.

When I was able to talk to one of the owners of the shipyard the next day (the office manager would be in the day after), he told me I should talk to Tug and see if he has anything on his security camera. Tug works pretty much Monday through Friday.

I was busy all day at work on Monday, but found some time Tuesday to talk to Tug. He kindly agreed to look at the tapes to see if he could see anything, and would put the word out about my missing dinghy. He related that a number of times, items that suddenly sprouted legs and walked away, suddenly walked back. He also mentioned that the last time he caught a thief red-handed, the thief was taken off the premises via ambulance. Tug is not someone i'd want to have as an enemy.

In the meantime, I wanted a dinghy on hand. If I singlehand, I can take my kayak, if there's one other person, then that person can use Himself's kayak if Himself is not going, or we could have the other person wait on the dock and I can sail over from the mooring and pick that person up. But there are a few people who like to help at the beginning and end of the sail who would not be able to pull themselves out of the kayak easily and onto Retrouvé. Some balance and upper body strength is required, and two sailing chums, who are more portly wouldn't be able to do it at all.

I decided to search Craig's List and I found a used dinghy, same brand as Twig. The poster had a picture and said that boat was that model. Same model as Twig. Naturally, I was suspicious and hated that I was. But, I had to know. So I emailed, asking if he could send a picture of the actual boat. He did, and it wasn't Twig, so I was quite relieved. The asking price was less than the deductible on my boat insurance and I figured it was probably in my best interest to get this one. Should Twig magically reappear, having two dinghies wouldn't be so bad. I could sell one, of course, or keep two in case four of us go sailing on Retrouvé as both dinghies carry two adults.

I picked up the new-to-me dinghy on Saturday. She's been well maintained, but she is used and looks it. She has seen a lot of water. She's well balanced, easy to row, and is less tippy than Twig. She is at the float in the same spot Twig had been, and she's got a sturdy lock and chain.

I've mostly moved past it, and there's a part of me that never wants to find out who did this. If I see that person or group of people in public someplace, i'm not so sure that i'll behave with decorum. I may have a bad day and decide to slap the shit out of them; yet I know they're not worth the jail time.

In other news, Phoebe decided to pee outside the litter box. Repeatedly. Even when I made sure I scooped regularly, and even when she was quite near the box, so I called the vet. I don't want this to be a battle of wills, and I don't want to be held hostage by cat urine. But, just in case there was something physically wrong, and besides it was time for her yearly rabies shot.

So, I took her. She was very good at the vet's. He listened as I told him about her new behaviour, but otherwise everything else was pretty much the same, except she was sleeping more. But, I figured, she's 15 and I have to remind myself that's middle geriatric age for a cat. She provided urine and blood samples. Urinalysis looked good, except it was a bit watery. The blood test results would come in a few days.

The data show that she has kidney disease. The vet was surprised at how high her numbers were given what I told him about her activity level. He said there was a slight chance that she had an infection and suggested an antibiotic as a prophylactic, and then talked about kidney meds. A pill given twice a day. Special food that was low protein and rather bland. I wrote down what he was saying but went numb.

Pills twice a day? He's got to be joking, and I've told him before how when I tried feeding the cats "better" food (READ: healthier), they looked at me as if to say, "What IS this swill?"

Of course, once I made the vet appointment, Phoebe stopped peeing outside the box. That suited me just fine because i'm okay with not having to clean it up off floors and carpet.

I went to the office to pick up the antibiotic--one full syringe once a day for a week, the pills, which need to be split into two and one-half given twice a day, three cans of the special food available only at the vet's--two of these are the "less boring" kind and one of the "boring" ones, and I also picked up "pill pockets" which are treats with holes in them where you can put the meds in and give it to the kitty.

They told me that if Phoebe did not eat the food to bring back the unopened cans, and they'd refund my money. The vet said that if she absolutely refuses it, then to give her the food I have been all along. After all, he said, it's quality of life. He didn't add, "Giving her the food she likes will give her less quantity," but I'm certain he was thinking that.

I got home and cried. Cried because of stupid people who take things that don't belong to them. Cried because i'm sure Phoebe tried telling me again and again she wasn't well, but I'm apparently as thick as mince.

I have tried giving her the antibiotic. I have been unsuccessful. She runs away at a pace that qualifies for the Olympics. Even my one-dimensional nose can smell the antibiotic, so it's little wonder she's off to the races when i'm within ten paces. For a bit, she was running away from me any time I approached. This was not how I wanted our last months to be, so I gave her a day where I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. No weird food, no syringes, no pills (hadn't tried those at all). And once she settled down, I tried giving her the pocket pill treat. She was having none of it. I decided to put it in her dish. Still nothing. After a bit, I took four of the crunchy treats she likes and studded this pocket pill treat, put it back in her dish and walked away. Success.

Subsequent pocket pill treats have been gobbled eagerly. I could kiss the person who made those. Yes, they're spendy, but they make giving pills unbelievably easier.

The vet said that Phoebe should also have fish oil. They had some at the surgery that was likely eye-wateringly expensive. He said if I liked, I could get the gel capsules and break one open as that's the perfect dose. JoJo could have one, too, and I was glad he understood the "I want what she's having," thing that goes on in multiple pet households.

On the day I got my new-to-me dinghy, I knew I might get back later than their usual lunchtime, so I tried one of the little cans of the special food for Phoebe and a can of regular stuff for Jo. Phoebe has taken to eating either upstairs or in the kitchen, and Jo likes eating outside when the weather's nice. So each had enough food and happily ate it. Phoebe looked a bit at the new food after a bite or two, sniffing around it, i'm sure to see if I had hidden anything in it. 

I returned a bit after their usual lunch time, and both were eating up the last bits of their larger than usual breakfast. So, all was well.

I've decided to work the special food in on rotation. As time goes on, I may have to give Phoebe only that and nothing else.

The vet wants to take another blood sample in a month's time to see if the meds appear to be doing any good. They won't reverse the kidney damage she has sustained but ideally, the medication will retard its advance.

I hate to take any sort of pills, even vitamins, and I figured i'd need to give myself this month to get used to the new routine for I need time to adjust as much as Phoebe does. If all goes well, then we'll see if we can keep to this. If she doesn't show improvement, then we need to have a different conversation. I did tell the vet that first and foremost, I want Phoebe to have good quality of life. Although she's sleeping more than before, she doesn't appear to be in pain, she's still interested in what's going on and doesn't seem ready to go. Winters are long here even for a mostly indoor cat who loves basking by the coal stove.

For the moment, although she still stares at my hands to see if i'm hiding anything (I show her they're both empty to put her mind at ease), she has forgiven me for taking her to the vet and for being thick as mince. She approves of the treats and thinks the fish oil a treat. And i'm holding on to every one of these days, knowing that they may be the last of the good days and end all too quickly.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The First Days of Spring

Today, a really nice thank you note arrived from the latest houseguest. I can only hope that as he works through his grief, he can start feeling those first days of spring in his heart. I cried as I read the note, and was so thankful that I listened to that inner prompt that told me to call to see how he was and to extend an invitation to visit.

Why do i bother?

A few years back, I bought some asparagus crowns, dug up the old asparagus bed that had been started years before but now lay fallow, and planted the crowns. I did it a tad too early, seduced by a warmish, early spring day, and the crowns struggled to survive.

Then, when the boat was being transferred from the jack stands to the trailer, a sailing friend was helping me and when the truck driver with the lift asked if he could back up a bit, sailing friend said, "Sure, there's plenty of room," and ignored me saying no, as he backed up right on the asparagus bed. A few came up next year, but most decided to abandon the attempt, and I bought more crowns and waited.

Last year should have been the year that I could collect a small supply of asparagus safely, but the spears that came up were still quite spindly.

This year, disgusted with my patient waiting being fruitless, I decided to plant in the rows between where the asparagus should have been, just a few vegs.

I got some tomato, pepper, musk melon, watermelon, pumpkin, and squash plants. Also six kale plants. Added a couple of scarlet emperor runner beans, which were seeds I had and wasn't sure how viable they were. Planted some radishes and beets.

And the asparagus grew. Not thick enough to really collect, but I guess word on the street had reached them that it was now or never.

After I planted everything, we had a bit of a cold snap, and the pepper plants have been pouty ever since, except the cayenne pepper plant.

Slugs decided to come and nosh, so I sprayed an organic spray and outlined the plants in diatomaceous earth. The slugs denuded a few of the marigolds, which I had planted around the plants as protection.


The squash and pumpkin plants have flowered, but then the flowers drop off and there's nothing. Unsure if it's because nothing decided to pollinate it. The beans are climbing the trellis. The lone cucumber plant I got so I could make some pickles flowered and the teeny cornichons were coming along nicely. A bright spot in an unpromising bit of ground.

The tomatoes flowered and some plants have green tomatoes that look good.

The kale had gotten to a pretty good size. I planted them a bit too close together and thought today would be a good day to cut some of the leaves for a meal.

So, I awoke to brilliant sunshine, and after hanging a load of wash on the line before starting my work day, I took a walk over to the garden.

I noticed some of the volunteer violet plants had their leaves shorn clean off. The tomatoes were untouched. And I went down the line. The tops of most pepper plants chewed, more violet volunteers neatly trimmed, beets dug up, with one small one left. The cucumber plant is half its size and sports three small cukes. The kale was the hardest hit: among the six plants, there might be ten leaves left.

Two more new sprouts of asparagus waved in the light breeze as I surveyed everything.

I consoled myself by picking raspberries and eating about half as many as I picked.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Another day, another house guest

Several months back, a woman I know from my last location died. Her death wasn't entirely unexpected, but her departure left a gaping hole for many people, especially her husband. She'd been his bride for nearly 42 years.

About two months after she died, I called him because I had been thinking of him, and though I sent a card immediately after I heard about her death, I had done little else. My experience is that when someone close to me dies, i'm usually quite busy immediately following the death but a few months after, when most of the Things that Need Doing are done, I find myself really starting to ache. So, after a few days of pushing away the desire to dial the phone, I caved.

He was glad to hear from me, and we talked for nearly two hours. We laughed, we cried, and he did most of the talking whilst I did most of the listening. Towards the end of the phone call, I told him if he needed a geographic change for a few days, he was welcome to visit; we've got a big guest room. I went on to say I knew it wouldn't fix anything, but sometimes a change of scenery is welcome, and as he likes hotter temperatures, he should wait until summer was in full swing here and even then to bring long sleeves and trousers because it often gets chilly at night.

He thanked me for the offer, and I wondered if I sounded too much the way some people do when they want to supply comfort. They say stuff, and mean it, but there's no follow through.

I also told him he could call at any time. Which he could. Again, I knew although I really and truly meant it, and although he knew that, he most likely wouldn't. He's always been a very private person and, like me, prefers to work things out by himself.

So it was with some surprise when I found him on the other end of the phone when I picked it up about two weeks back. He was quite chatty and told me he was going to take me up on the invite offer.

JoJo is a bit put out since this is the third person to be sleeping in "her" bed this summer (she claims the guestroom bed as her own). I couldn't get a lot of time off work, but I did supply him with area maps and goings-on so he can explore a bit on his own. Phoebe has deemed him worthy of allowing him to be her doorman, even if he doesn't understand she needs to be pet as well and complimented, but he shows promise that he can be trained.

He's been a wonderful houseguest. He cleans up after himself, selected a wonderful wine to go with last night's dinner, and we've laughed and talked a lot.

He didn't come with when I had my piano lesson. I didn't expect him to want to sit there while I was murdering something on the keys, the way I do when first learning a new-to-me piece, but I thought he might want to walk around the town during my lesson, as it's in a different one from where I live.
I returned from my lesson to find his eyes a bit red. He started reading an anthology of poetry I had and the page fell to the Thomas Hardy section. Many of the Hardy poems in that anthology concern themselves with loss and death. He read aloud "I Look into my Glass," and I could feel tears well up in eyes.

"I should have gone with you," he said.

I nodded in agreement, but sometimes, a piece of poetry can remind us that we are not the first or only ones in a place of hurt, and comfort us in a way that nothing else can.

Sometimes, the best thing we can do when friends are hurting, is to provide a loving space where they can simply be as they process their pain. Years ago, when my grandmother was dying, this friend had done that for me. And, while i'm sorry he's in a place now where the roles are reversed, i'm only too glad to repay my debt of gratitude as much as I can.

I Look into My Glass

I look into my glass,
  And view my wasting skin,
And say, “Would God it came to pass
  My heart had shrunk as thin!”
For then, I, undistrest     
  By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
  With equanimity.
But Time, to make me grieve,
  Part steals, lets part abide;    
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
  With throbbings of noontide.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I may scream like a girl

A week or so ago, a former neighbor, K, stayed chez moi for a few days. She had a family reunion not too far away from where I live now and decided she'd take a week or so and visit friends, staying a day or two at each place and catching up.

I was working during her stay, so she'd find things she'd want to see or do during the daytime, and we'd meet up at suppertime to catch up. Sometimes we went out to eat, sometimes we ate at home.

I don't know that the cats remembered her, per se, because she wasn't often inside our house. K has a couple dogs, a horse, a donkey, some chickens, and her latest foray into the animal world has her keeping bees as well. She arrived in the rain, giving me a jar of honey and four bags (!) of my favourite potato chips that cannot be found here, at least not regularly.

We talked and laughed as if only a few days have passed since we last saw each other, and it was a fun visit. Her plan was to leave Wednesday morning and stop at a friend's south of me, stay there a day or so, and then head home. On Tuesday morning, she regaled me with how there was a bat in the house, how she had felt the rhythmic puff of air on her face that caused her to wake up. Phoebe was sitting in the middle of the room, watching it circle. K felt the bat was flying too close to her for comfort, and switched on the light. It flew out of the room, and K left the light on while she tried getting back to sleep. She thought of waking me but didn't know what good that would do. I was on the other side of the house and upstairs, oblivious to any drama going on in the guest room. I am a sound sleeper, and K is, too. She said it was the rhythmic puff of air that seemed to stir her enough so that she woke up. We looked around the house and didn't see anything; so, perhaps the bat found its way out.

On Tuesday evening, the cinema the next town over was showing a rebroadcast of "The Audience" with Helen Mirren. I had seen it when it arrived earlier in the year and very much wanted to see it again. K hadn't seen it and thought it'd be grand to go. We went to one of  her favourite restaurants beforehand to get a local dish then off to the cinema we went. This encore presentation was a bit longer than the first one because they had a question and answer segment at the end where the small audience were theatregoers who had seen the play performed both in London and New York, so they gave their opinions and also asked Helen Mirren some questions.

We ended up getting home around 10:30 pm, which was a bit later than planned. We also discussed the possibility of the bat's still being in the house and what should we do? Fervently hoping he had found a way out wasn't quite enough to allay our fears, and I suggested that we open the sliding glass door. That way, in case he awoke and wanted to go out, he'd have an easy way out.

We looked around the house, again seeing nothing, hearing nothing. The cats did not indicate that they saw him anyplace. I was walking behind K as we came into the living room a second time, when she stopped suddenly, and I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck.

"I found him. Look left. In the curtain."

And there, to our left, I made out a smaller, brown blob behind the lacy curtain. The little fellow appeared sound asleep.

Now, I live in an old house, which I've mentioned before. K also lives in an old house, about the same vintage as mine, so she's had experiences of wildlife finding its way in. We discussed the best way of getting this bit of wildlife out. It was too late to call anyone to ask for help. It would make the most sense were we to capture the bat and unhook the curtain rod, carry the whole shebang outside and let the bat fly free. Sounds easy enough. Except...

The curtain rod hooks into its attachment so a simple lift and separate wasn't going to happen. It would be turn, click, lift up, and away for both sides. In order for me to reach that, i'd need help since i'm short. So, maybe using the boat hook would help? I got the boat hook and tried on the dining room window that has the same setup. No, even harder to do with the boat hook. I'd have to get a step stool if I wanted to reach easily. I could just about reach the one side, but the other would be lopsided and if K were to be cupping the bat...

K is enough taller that she could reach him. I had gauntlets I use for the woodstove. Like most protective gear, they're sized for the average sized man, so my hands swim in them. K's hands aren't any bigger than mine or marginally so at best, so they swum on hers, too.

We talked about other ways to do this. I had no butterfly net available. I couldn't think of anything I had that would allow us to capture the bat easily because even if we opted to use a container with a lid, he was on the inside part of the lace curtain, so we'd still need a way to take the rod off the wall. We could cut the curtain, which seemed rather drastic.

We could just close our bedroom doors. Only Phoebe hates when a door is closed, and if I left the sliding glass door open, hopeful that the bat would make its way out, who knows what would make its way in? And I doubted i'd be able to sleep, really. Still, there was some sense in closing the doors we could so that we could limit where it went, at least somewhat.

So, we closed doors. Phoebe walked with me, and promptly complained as her litter box is upstairs in the other upstairs bedroom. She doesn't need her box all the time, but she wanted that access that an open door provides.

It was getting near 11 pm, and we agreed that we ought to try something. K suggested that she'd put the gauntlets on, approach the bat, and cup her hands around it. My job was to free the curtain rod so we could carry everything outside. I'd need to stand on tiptoe to do this, as that was easier than dealing with moving around a stepstool. K could cup the bat because she was taller and could reach.

We both looked at each other for a moment, perhaps to draw strength or courage from each other. I felt pretty tapped out of both at that moment and felt it was obvious to anyone who looked. K's face was working on being resolute. "I have to tell you," she said slowly, "I may scream like a girl."

"Oh, sister, i'll be screaming right there with you," I replied.

We each took a deep breath, and she approached the sleeping bat. She paused, squared her shoulders, focussed her gaze, and calmly reached her hands to cup the bat. I could scarcely look. The anticipation was palpable. I'd often heard the little "cheep-cheep" sound bats made outside and did what I could to prepare my ears to hear that once the bat was startled. But this one didn't go "cheep-cheep." Rather, he made a buzzing noise like a bee, which was completely unexpected. K screamed, throwing up her hands, and ran towards the guest room, which is off the LR, through a teeny hallway and stage left. I screamed and ran into the DR, stage right. The bat meanwhile flew in circles in the LR.

"Go outside, OUTSIDE, please God, direct the bat to go outside," I said, first to the bat as if it understood what I meant and next to God to interpret for me. K and I called to one another, each having a different vantage point. We decided keeping lights on in the guest room and DR would contain the bat more or less in the LR, which was the darkest of the three places, and the darkest spot of all was the open slider door.

After several minutes which felt interminably longer, the bat stopped flying. Had he made his way out? We hesitantly crept into the LR.

"I see it," said K, and here she pointed to the other LR window. He was perched on the wooden frame at the top, hanging upside down, peering at us.

We discussed options. It would be hard to put a container over him, and we had furniture to contend with by this window. We were too revved up to consider going to bed and just seeing what happened. If only we could guide him in some way to the door. I recalled a neighbour boy who lived next door to my grandmother. He liked catching bats, and would string a sheet across a line. The bats would fly into it, and he could close the sheet, scooping them up in it, and then releasing them. But how could we do that?

K agreed we couldn't, but what about a towel? Maybe snap a towel, stun the bat, and then take him outside?

I got a beach towel, which was longer than the bath towels I have, and I got the biggest jar I could that had a wide mouth and lid. K swallowed a few gulps of white wine for courage, and she went back into the LR. She snapped the towel, touching the bat. It dropped to the floor, and she scooped him into the jar, screwed the lid on enough so that he couldn't get out while in the house, and walked outside. She may have made little yells. I know i did. I closed the screen door as she unscrewed the lid, and opened the door as she hurriedly made her way back inside.

Phoebe had watched with great interest but kept her distance. Jo had been outside, not wanting to let such a beautiful summer night go to waste, and now, she thought it might be time to come in. She wanted to come in via the LR sliding door, of course, and the bat emerged from the jar, sitting quietly beside it. Jo cast her eye over to it, and I begged Jo to come in. She feinted a step or two towards me, but the lure of Something Interesting on the edge of the deck won out, and I closed the door, watching desperately as she wended her way slowly towards the brown blob. I prayed fervently that she'd lose interest or...

and just like that, the bat flew off.

Jo watched it fly, made her way over to where it had been, and sniffed. After two or three inhalations, she determined there wasn't anything interesting enough to make her stay there, and came inside.

Meantime, K and I were ecstatic. The bat not only was outside, but it flew away. We hoped it would let other neighbourhood bats know about the Screaming Mimis who lived there and best not to visit. We hugged each other, I picked up the towel to add it to the clothes in the hamper, and felt my stomach do flip-flops. As the adrenaline ran out, I felt suddenly very tired and overwhelmed. K decided she'd have a glass of wine and wind down by checking her i-Pad for news and emails. We both also thought taking a shower was a good idea, and i went to the upstairs bathroom to take mine. The guestroom has its own bathroom, which K would use.

And yes, in the shower, i cried. They were tears of relief as well as frustration and gratitude. Relief that the invader was gone, gratitude that i didn't have to face that alone, that someone was tall enough to reach, that we didn't have to kill anything, and frustration that i felt so damn useless. I would have liked to have been braver than i was.

I screamed like a girl and did nothing. K screamed like a girl and took action. The bat, realizing it needed to move along, wanted to and couldn't see the huge way out we had left for it to find, wanted it to find.

I wondered how many times we've been in situations where well-meaning people have done what they could to point us to the next step where we need to go, but all we do is go in circles, not understanding their screams or gesticulations, nor realizing just how close we are to where we need to be for this chapter to end and the next to start. And i wondered about the times that we seem paralyzed by the situation and all we can do is scream. Why is it sometimes that happens and other times, we have that extra something to make us take action as well?

I need to get a butterfly net. I'm thinking of it as my insurance policy that if i have it, i'll never need to use it.

Oh, and i also found out that bats need a space that's 1/16th of an inch to get in someplace. That's 1.5875 mm, metric folks. Which means in nearly every house, there's at least one way in, and in an older house, probably many more.

K made it home safely and has gotten a lot of mileage out of the bat story. She's eager to visit again, and i was very happy to tell her that I've been bat-free since. I hope it stays that way.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I have only slipped away into the next room.

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak to me in the same easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the shadow of a ghost upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.

Henry Scott Holland, (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford
Perhaps there'll be a time where I can read this without shedding a tear. But like many others in Blogland, the tears flow freely as I think upon a sweet Welsh terrier I never met and her pack who must now learn to live without her running with them on the beach or up the Gop or demanding the copilot seat in a certain Berlingo. RIP, Meg.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage equality

The Supreme Court has declared that same sex marriages are legal across the US. In my state, it's been that way for awhile. In states where they bitterly oppose this, things could get interesting.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Scotch Eggs-round two coming up

I posted last year about making Scotch eggs, although I never attached the pictures. I think I need to try making them again, as they are yummy, but there is no Tesco's nearby here where I can pick them up whenever I feel like getting one.

The pictures below were from my first effort:
this was when they were cooking

I took a peek and saw the sausage coating had slid off one. It was helpful, as it showed me when the sausage was fully cooked (~20 minutes since I didn't deep fry).
I plated them when they were done. Not very artistic, but they were yummy.

Here's where I cut into one to see what it looked like. Next time around, I'm going to do what I can to avoid the ring around the yolk.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I've been thinking of times where I've needed help and how often it comes in a manner so different from how i imagined. The kind word from someone with scruffy looks and gruff exterior, the silliness of a playful cat jumping into my arms to be held, as if that were the MOST important item on my list, the belly laugh of a young child. Sometimes we're not even aware we need the help until it comes.

I've had many such moments and wonder how many i missed. On occasion, I've been the helpful one, sometimes unwittingly.

One remembrance got me to laughing. It was before i moved here full-time. I had come for a few days to spend time looking at some real estate here and a friend who lives here and myself were in my car. My car is a first generation Honda Insight. They don't make them anymore, sad to say, as it really is my dream car. It's a two seater hatchback, meant to be a commuter car, transporting only an adult and some gear or two adults and not much more given that its maximum payload is 365 lbs
(26 stone, 1 lb/ ~166 kg).

My friend J and i were discussing dinner plans as i passed by a large man on a bike. J had been training for a multi-day charity ride and as a result, took a keen in interest in any cyclist, looking at the kind of bike he was riding, and since we were in a small town, to see if it were someone she knew.

"We have to stop," she said matter-of-factly. "That's Rich, and it looks as though one of his wheels isn't right."

I pulled off on the shoulder just a bit beyond Rich. He didn't recognize my car, and why would he? I wasn't living here at the time, and i had out-of-state plates. He stared with a look of puzzlement, and J got out from the passenger's side. He greeted her warmly, and she asked what was going on with his bike.

Well,  he had been on training ride, going about 26 miles (41.5 km) when he popped a couple spokes. He thought he'd ride slowly the rest of the way home, nursing it along.

"Where's your cell phone, Rich?" J asked. "Why didn't you call your wife?"

He had left his cell phone at home, as he didn't think he needed it. And the wife was busy with errands and possibly visiting a friend, so calling her wasn't going to be much help. We used my cell phone to try Rich's wife just in case, but the home line was engaged. He couldn't remember his cell phone number to call that, and even if he did, he wasn't sure it was turned on. If his wife was yakking to one of her friends, it'd take a while for us to reach her.

As he was speaking, another spoke twanged off the tire. J told him he couldn't ride home safely. He nodded a bit slowly. It was a bit over 3 miles (5 km) to his house and he didn't feel like walking the bike the rest of the way home. He'd just be careful—

No, that was being silly. We could take him home. J said this in earnestness, and he looked at her as if she had three heads. I was the smallest of the three of us, and while i'm not tall (nearly 5'2"/157.5cm), i am chunky. J is a bit taller and rounder than i am. Rich is tall and broad; easily 6'2" (188 cm) and 275 lbs (19 stone 9 lbs / 125 kg), and i'm sure he was wondering how we were all going to fit in my little car. Plus the bike. Fortunately, we were going downhill, so we wouldn't strain the car all that much, and we were close to the downtown area, so we didn't need to drive fast.

He took off the front wheel and put it and the rest of the bike in the hatchback. I was going to squish in with the bike, but there wasn't enough room for that. J thought we could make it work if she drove and i sat on Rich's lap. We couldn't get the seat belt around the both of us, so i held it across and as close to the snap-in part as i could.

J started up the car and eased it slowly back into the traffic lane. As we went down the hill, Rich said, "J, where are you going?"

"To your house."

"And are you aware that by going this way to my house, we'll pass right by the police station? Do you think that's such a good idea?"

A grin came to all of our faces. We laughed about clowns in Volkwagens, i said we could explain that i was from away and didn't realize this was a problem, and here i tried again in vain to buckle the seat belt. Well sometimes, it's the thought that counts.

We got to Rich's house by a circuitous route that took us around and away from the police station. His wife heard the sound of my car in the drive and peered out the window while on the phone. She plainly gawked as i climbed off Rich's lap, Rich unfolded himself, and then we got the bike out of the back. J got out of the driver's side, waved to Rich's wife, who waved back slowly, and then she finished up her phone call and came outside.

By this point, J, Rich, and i were laughing at how we crammed ourselves in, did he have all the spokes, how this might have been something we'd have done as teenagers not as 50-somethings or nearly so (i was the baby of the three and in my late 40s).

His wife wanted to hear the whole story, which we quickly relayed. She was amazed we all fit in there and the bike, too. Rich was amazed that an out-of-state car would pull over to offer help and more surprised when someone he knew alighted from it.

While i nearly always appreciate help, i think the times it pops up and volunteers tend to be most memorable, don't you?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I wish people would listen...

I must admit, I've always been hardheaded, stubborn, obstinate, whatever you want to call it. And yes, I've often made things difficult for myself. I can think of countless situations where there was the easier, softer, way and the Megan way.

I also learned that when someone was as passionate about something as I was, that other person could dig his heels in just as firmly as I could, and in the end, there'd be lots of energy spent, but neither person convinced one iota more than they were before the discussion that their viewpoint needed adjusting.

My best examples came not from people exhorting, but from those who'd simply state their position and have their actions illustrate their words. Something along the lines of getting more flies with honey rather than vinegar combined with someone walking the walk.

I remember reading an article years ago, sometime in the late 1970s, about a woman who had cancer. What I remembered most from that article was that she wanted to go for the cure and not just treat symptoms. At the time the article was published, she had finished chemotherapy and was declared in remission. I hope that held true.

What I saw was that going for the cure versus treating symptoms could be demonstrated in any number of situations. I saw it when I was in banking, for instance, and consolidation loans were being touted as the answer to everything (unless you're a sci-fi fan, because, of course, the answer to everything is 42. But I digress.)

As bank employees, we were coached to talk up these loans and how wonderful they could be. Now, this is akin to two different patients seeing the doctor, and both complaining of a headache. If he encourages each to take two aspirin, it's highly likely that their headache symptoms will abate, but there may be two completely different reasons why the headaches occurred. In one case, it might have been the person skipped a meal; in the other, it might have been from stress. So, while the aspirin will take away or reduce the pain, that addresses only the symptom. The cure in the first case would be to eat some food, and in the second to find a way to deal with the stress a bit better.

I thought of that article when I was in banking in the 1990s, hearing this "push the consolidation loans" message. Wouldn't you want to know why people needed the consolidation loan? If they simply were not living within their means, then the consolidation loan would not be the cure; it would only address a symptom. If they had some huge event occur, like a long-term illness where the major wage earner was unable to work and the money coming in was insufficient to cover necessary expenses, but said person had since recovered and was back to earning, then the consolidation loan could help them to repay the debt more easily.

What I came to see was that the bank didn't care why people were in that situation, they simply saw a way to make money and offered the product.

I saw easily a hundred of these loans closed at my branch office, and in nearly every instance, a few years out, the people were back for another consolidation loan because they had run back up credit cards. It seems that even though in some cases they were required to close some credit lines in order to be approved and did so, they found that after a while, they wanted some gee-gaw or other, didn't have the money, and if they didn't have sufficient credit on the card they had, they opened another one. So, when they returned for the second consolidation loan, the amount of their outstanding debt was more than it had been at the closing of the first loan. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Most of these people were well-intentioned, any number of them held down responsible, high-paying jobs, but they didn't seem to understand they had created their own misery by not living within their means. The thinking had to change in order to ensure success. Most often, it did not.

I took that as a warning, and rarely acquire debt. When I do, it's for big-ticket items, and even then, it's not done willy-nilly, and I do what I can to pay it off completely or as quickly as I can.

Twenty years out from banking, and bariatric surgery is booming. I see this fraught with the same problems that I saw with the consolidation loan scenario. The surgery is NOT a magic bullet. It can be a tool in the toolbox, but it's not the cure. It addresses only one symptom.

I've not known that many people who've had the surgery, so from a scientific viewpoint, my n is not  large enough from a statistical standpoint, but what I've seen is depressing. Nearly every person I've known who's had this surgery said they yes, they were ready to make a change, and do whatever it took. Yes, they jumped through the medical hoops, yes they were excited to make this change, yes it was going to be a lifestyle thing. blah, blah, blah.

In every long-term case, i.e., over 12 months out, save one, they've either gained back at least half the weight they lost, or they've stayed stuck at a weight that still has them in an obese category. Except for the one case, they all reverted to a number of their old eating habits. Eating foods that are nutritionally empty but taste good to them. Eating foods that allow them to gain weight easily. Like the consolidation loan candidates, these people were utterly sincere when they promised they would do all the steps. Well, they did do them, they just didn't continue to do them; at some point, they all stopped.

Except the one. She found herself gaining some weight and wondered why, so wrote down everything she ate to see. She determined that she was eating a lot of nuts. Nuts are nutritionally sound food, but the amounts she ate were too much for her, so she cut back on how often she ate them, and the pounds she had gained fell away.

I did not distinguish between lap band surgeries and the more invasive stomach stapling, and again my n is small.

One of my acquaintances has decided this surgery is for him. He's as pigheaded and stubborn as I am, and my concerns have fallen on deaf ears. I would love to see him succeed and prove me wrong, but I don't think it'll happen. sigh.