Le Chat Noir

Chat NoirThere is no easy way to say this, but once a much loved pet has gone onto Pet Heaven, you are left with all the belongings to deal with.

I called the local cat shelter and asked if they’d take donations.  Gladly. 

So I gathered up the bed BlackJack refused to use, and litter and food and dishes and carrier and catnip and brushes and toys and loaded them into the car, certain that I would never again have a pet.

uh huh.

My rationale goes along the lines of a new cat would probably outlive me, or, if I got a senior one, I’d be going through another death and I don’t think I could manage losing another animal.

So, off to Sammie’s Place, the local cat and dog shelter.  I walked in and was immediately greeted by the lead volunteer, who wanted to first show me around and explain their program.  Then, we could unload the car.

I probably should have bolted right then and there. But I didn’t.

They are short on Volunteer Cat Cuddlers and, in the neighboring building, Dog Walkers. The cats were now vying for my attention and cuddling. I needed at least two or three more arms.

I have to admit, the cats were very well behaved and no doubt wanted to be adopted.

Three or four rooms later of cute kitties, of all ages and colors, and I was getting sucked in.  Then the volunteer dropped the other shoe.

It seems they also have a Foster Program…take a kitten to socialize, no thanks, past that stage of life, or a senior cat and provide loving home. They would cover all costs — food, vet, litter — and all the foster parent has to do is provide the home.  They would even take fostered cat back for visits if the foster parent wanted to travel, had guests, needed a break or was done fostering.

Such a deal, as my dad used to say.

It was about that time that we walked into the last Kitty Room, the one with the more skittish and/or feral cats.  And, there, in the middle of the room, sat Le Chat Noir.  He was very skinny with unruly black fur and wild gold eyes.

He stared at me.  I smiled at him. The volunteer said Be careful, no one can get near him. He’s really skittish and he fights. 

The cat was now rubbing up against my legs and loudly purring. He wanted to be petted.

I reached down, petted him for a bit, purr, purr, purr. 

Be careful, warned the volunteer.

Put, purr, pure, answered the cat.

I finally told Le Chat Noir Look it, I’m old. Bad back.  If you want to be petted, I have to stand up and hold you.

Damn cat jumped into my arms. I stood up and cuddled him.  Purr, purr, purr.

The volunteer just watched.

After a while, I said This cat needs brushing. The volunteer said something about no one being able to get near him, was I certain I wanted to try?

Hand me the brush.  The cat loved getting groomed.  He even tolerated me working through some of the matted fur.  Purr, purr, purr.

Volunteer was sure she had closed the deal and Le Chat Noir had a new foster mom.

ah, not so fast.  I said he is so skittish that I’d worry about him bolting outside with the friends and family who wander in and out of my home. And he was too old to survive outdoors.

So we settled on me returning to cuddle cat(s), maybe walk a dog or two, and not making any donations quite yet.

I drove back home and unpacked the car.  Sigh.

Hot, Hotter, Hottest

It’s about the heat.  Oppressive heat.  Unbearable Heat.

I know the Sierra foothills are toasty.  Some, like me, might even call it hot. When I moved here, I was mentally prepared for hot.

Not this.

Even my friends in the cooler, temperate San Francisco Bay Area are complaining about the heat.  They should try here.

The local weathermen and women have been struggling to come up with different adjectives to describe what’s in store for the upcoming days.

Scorching, searing, blistering, burning, roasting, sweltering. Hot. Very Hot.

Day after day of unrelenting 100 plus weather has been challenging, not just in surviving, but in keeping any semblance of normal daily activities.

Household chores? Too hot.

Golf?  Are you kidding?

Quilting?  ah geez.

Even the lake activities are minimal.  It’s simply too hot.

So I read. And read some more.  Mediocre books, good books, almost great books. Books re-read. I feel like I’m back in the classroom as a student of English Lit,  except, to be honest, more often than not these are brain-candy books.

It’s just too hot to read anything else.

My neighbors, longtime lake residents, escaped last week to the northern California coast. They kept extending their stay, enjoying the warm, clear, sunny weather — typically the north coast is cool and foggy all summer, which in turn, keeps all of California tolerable. We’re all wondering if this, like other things, is going to become the New Normal. 

I want to know how to contact the  clowns that deny global warming.  I’d like to invite them here for a prolonged stay. And pay my electric bill.

In the midst of this relentless heat wave, I am searching for ways to keep the house relatively cool without breaking the bank over air conditioning. Windows open at night; closed before the morning sun intensifies. Shades drawn and lifted. Fans on.  A bit monotonous, but it helps mitigate things.

IMG_0758This morning I eyed the two large skylights which are fantastic for letting in the winter sun, not so great in the midst of a never-ending heat wave.  What to do?  While I had a couple ideas, I thought it best to at least venture onto Pinterest to see what others had done.

Quite a bit, evidently.  Everything from old blankets — functional, but not the most attractive — to high end blinds with remote controls.

I settled on re-purposing some old Ikea full length curtains, first used for screening a covered deck from the late afternoon summer sun, then reinvented as curtains to cover garage windows from the morning sun and help keep my previous home cool, and now, well, a new life beckons.

A little measuring, cutting, sewing and three curtain tension rods later, voilá!  A new skylight covering.  Not the sexiest, but not the tackiest either. 

The easiest one is done; the other, in the vaulted ceiling over the gas range, is going to have to wait until one of my tall, taller, tallest grandsons shows up. 

In the meantime, let the sun shine in…I’ve begun viewing the heat as just another excuse not to cook or do housework…now, where did I put my book?











Today I said goodbye to my longtime feline companion, BlackJack, who slipped quietly into his next adventure. Needless to say, I will miss his energy, loving nature and friendly personality. As everyone who met him knew, BlackJack was a character who, at a muscular eighteen pounds, looked and moved as gracefully as a panther, acted and cuddled like a dog, but at the end of the day, he was a cat and he owned me. Especially my heart.

YouTube, CoolTube

IMG_0736A few months back, I finally joined the Lady 9ers, as in golf and not the 49er football team.  It took me a while to figure out that probably half, if not more, of the ladies are neither very good golfers nor especially athletic, and are out there for a good time.  Admittedly, we all do have a good time, laughing at our shots and scores, enjoying each other’s company and the lunches that follow our Tuesday morning games.

I’m still working on getting a handicap as I am a fair weather golfer, which means I don’t play if it’s too hot or too cold.  Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the weather has to be just right, which is asking a lot of the Sierra foothills.  It may be years before I actually accumulate ten completed scorecards within a twelve month period so I am truly legitimate.  I keep telling the powers-that-be to just give me a handicap in the neighborhood of 2,358, but evidently the highest I can get is 36.  Like that will help.

I don’t feel especially bad about my lack of golfing skills as I am passably good at a couple other things, so when an email came out asking for support for an upcoming Team Play, I volunteered for table decorations.  I have my mother’s gene; I decorate in my dreams.  A dear friend once told me You are the only person I know who can grab a old scorched pot out of a cabinet, toss a few twigs into it and have a stunning table centerpiece.  If I tried that, it’d look like a burnt pot with dead branches. In all fairness to the pot, it was a scorched antique copper pot.

Regardless, the 9ers’ team leader grabbed me and a fellow-creative-golfer-volunteer, and took us to the decorations shed that held — well, being very kind — dusty, bug infested decorations that had seen better days.  And those days were no doubt decades ago.  Then she announced, No budget and we don’t know how many attendees so we don’t know how many tables.  Co-decorator and I looked at one another and in unison said No problem.  We are both retired teachers.

Any educator will understand that dark humor.  Most years, we had no clue which classes we were going to teach, much less how many students might show up or if we’d have sufficient desks for said students. 

I remember one year when our department chair announced we actually had a budget, a real live budget.  Holy mackerel!  Then we found out each of us were getting $50.  That was fifty dollars for 150 students for the entire year.  Sigh. 

Given that background, no budget for decorations?  No sweat…a little of this, a little of that, a little hot glue, and the decorations turned out cheery and colorful.  So good in fact, that one of the officers called me shortly thereafter.

Do you sew?

I quilt. 

In my mind, there’s a world of difference. A seamstress intuitively knows how to mend a torn hem.  I reach for the duct tape.

But I do have a sewing machine and I do know how to turn it on, which meant I was qualified to be drafted for a new 9er project:  Cool Tubes to wrap around our necks and keep us cool while playing at golf.  uh huh.

She sent me a link to a YouTube demonstration.  Not so difficult. 

I called her back. 

I can handle this.

Do you have fabric?  We have no budget.

Yep, I have tons of fabric. No problem there.  um, how many do you need?

Fifty two.


Fifty-two tubes, 4 1/2 inches by 43 inches, right sides stitched together and then turned right-side out.  If you ever want to keep younger ones busy and frustrated, give them a few long skinny tubes and have them figure out how to turn the suckers right side out.  (if anyone is really desperate to know, I’ll share). 

Each tube then gets stitched into four segments, with each of those getting a quarter teaspoon of water absorbing polymer crystals, many of which evidently did not want to end up hanging around someone’s neck in a cool tube.  They are all over my quilting room carpet, just waiting for a bit of water so they can plump up and keep my toes cool.

At any rate, the 52 Cool Tubes are now completed and look pretty good for a non-seamstress.

Just don’t say anything, because she’s using these to surprise the members at some event or another down the road…

Regardless, I can get back to the fun stuff.  Like quilting. Bridge. And maybe a little golf if the weather cooperates.



The Cat with Nine Lives

IMG_0050 (2)I’ve always had dogs until I inherited my daughter’s cat and that cat got cancer so it was an obvious call when to end things.

Then there is BlackJack.  By my count, even at nineteen years old, he still has five or six lives left in him and  apparently he is determined to use as many as possible before going on to Kitty Heaven.

When he was a youngster, BlackJack was either abandoned or an abused runaway in Berkeley California.  A young couple figured out he was hungry and took him in.

They said the cat was so well behaved.  He never jumped on furniture, was polite to their two other cats and ate whatever they gave him.  But, they soon realized that three cats was one too many.

He came to me and it didn’t take long for the two of us to bond. BlackJack quickly abandoned all pretense of enjoying life on the floor and took up residence on beds, couches or laps.

From tangling with a large bobcat and surviving to getting locked in his nemesis Buster’s basement for a few days, BlackJack has had his share of adventures and used up a few of his nine lives.

A couple weeks ago, we began the new Adventure of Are We Dying or Are We Not?  It has been an emotional roller-coaster, not only for me but for my friends who have cried along with me over the losses of their cats and dogs.

This morning, at my wit’s end and not sure of which way to turn, I took him to a vet who had been recommended by a friend.

Both the vet and I had a list of questions, most of which were unanswerable.

Q:  I don’t know cats, other than BlackJack.  How old do cats live?

A:  oh, hard to tell….most live to 13.  The oldest I’ve seen in here, until today, was 18 and she was in really bad shape. Hello BlackJack, what a beautiful silky coat…

And, so it went, back and forth, with lots of guesswork and I don’t knows.  The only obvious concern was to get him re-hydrated and that was an easy fix. The vet and I finally opted to go over a list of tests, select the ones for which there were easy remedies, and then decide on a course of action once we had some information.  BlackJack was far more interested in checking out the nooks and crannies in the room.

The vet called a bit later.  The cat is perfectly healthy. He’s healthier than I am. 

So, for the time being, things are going to return to more or less normal.  The only Rx is to keep him hydrated and take him for a couple of car rides every week.



The American Way of Dying, Part II

Back in ancient times, the early 1960’s, a woman named Jessica Mitford wrote a stinging exposé of the funeral industry, The American Way of Dying.  The book outed the high cost of unnecessary funeral expenses and created quite an uproar,  to say the least.

Mitford found that directors preyed on grieving family members, using unscrupulous business practices to charge far more than necessary for services and caskets.  In other words, beyond dying, death had become overly commercialized and extremely expensive.

That was long before the advent of Pet Funeral Homes.  Mitford must be turning over in her grave.

In anticipation of BlackJack’s hopefully not too imminent demise, I made a few phone calls to local, ahem, Pet Funeral Homes.

Good grief.

I still remember my first funeral.  I was a young child, in the backyard kneeling with my younger brother by a small hole in the ground that our dad had dug.  Mom had prepared the casket and Dad carefully placed the small matchbox holding our dead goldfish into the hole. We all said our goodbyes and then my brother and I ran off to play.  I suspect Dad later retreived Goldie and flushed her down the toilet before we kids had any thoughts of resurrecting her. 

The last time I had to have a pet put down, admittedly a few years back, the vet handled everything while I wiped my tears and wrote a check.  The amount, as I recall, was around $40 and took care of the cremation and ash scattering at a rural pet cemetery.  It was well worth the cost.

Fast forward, and now the price hovers around $200 for cremation of a pet under 20 lbs., including a rosewood box, urn or scattering.  Funeral service, flowers, casket, interment and headstone are all additional costs.  

Really???  I don’t even want this for myself.

I have to admit that upon hearing the solemn recitation of the options and prices, I blurted out, Good Lord, when my mother died a few years ago, it was half that price for her cremation. 

I’m not always the most politically correct person in the room.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that I do not love BlackJack.  Or my mother.  I do.  I say BlackJack’s been my longest relationship, which is not true, but he’s probably among my most successful ones. That says a lot about the two of us. I am already heartbroken.

But when I think of the options, given the high cost of American Pet Death, I’d rather bury BlackJack under his favorite napping place out back, in an area that is protected by large spreading oaks. He could have fun haunting any golfers we don’t know who venture off the course and into the yard in search of their errant golf balls. 

But, it’s summer with temps around 100 and the ground is rock solid. Chances are that son, son-in-law, and/or grandsons will not be here when the time comes to handle the grave digging duties. 

And I know my limitations, so his ashes will be scattered…all of which means I better have my checkbook ready. 

But, please, please someone intervene if I start talking about where to send flowers, the date and time of a funeral service or if you find a small copper urn on my nightstand.






Moral Licensing

GladwellEvery once in a while I find an author — a story teller, usually — who can weave a plot in the best possible way.   I never quite know where I’ll end up, and I seldom care, because the journey is always such a delight.

Malcolm Gladwell is one of those writers.  He is a Canadian journalist, author and speaker.  I read his books — The Outliers, David and Goliath, The Tipping Point, as examples — arrive at his conclusions and wonder why didn’t I even consider that?

Probably because my mind doesn’t work in the same way his mind does.

And that’s what makes Gladwell so exceptionally unique.  It’s the Well, of course that inevitably comes at the end of his stories.

Gladwell launched a podcast series a year ago.  I have not embraced the whole podcast “thing” probably because of my background as an English teacher.  I read.  I don’t even like Kindle.  I like holding a book in my hands, turning the pages, and getting lost in the imagery and story line.

But, I made an exception this time.  I like Gladwell and, having heard his voice, knew it is an easy one to listen to.  His voice perfectly complements his story telling.

Revisionist History is both fascinating and thought provoking.  I’m going through them in no particular order and yesterday listened to the first one,  The Lady Vanishes, which was especially well done.  According to some critics, Gladwell may have missed a political mark with an Australian Prime Minister, but I think he hit the bulls eye with his conclusions.

His theory explains a lot, at least to me, about what many of us have been observing, both in this country and worldwide.

I invite you to listen to the podcast (it’s about 40 minutes) and see what you think…

The Lady Vanishes