Etc.


Hooterville Morning

I took this at the Hooterville post office this morning. I generally go to the post office on my way to work, long before it actually opens. For some reason, going to the post office after work feels like going out of my way. I retrieved my package from the parcel locker, and when I got back to the car, I was delighted by the dawn breaking over the Hooterville hills. That dot in the sky is a guest appearance by my friend the moon.

You can’t tell from this dawnscape, but it’s been really windy lately. I’m still wearing my coat and having the heat on in the car in the morning. Yesterday evening, the wind blew a tree down in a strategic spot and took out the power in the Big Town and environs, all the way to the Village. Fortunately (she said selfishly), my power stayed on, and it was restored to the temporarily powerless by 7:30 pm, so it was only out for about three hours. This morning, the Ridge was covered with fallen twigs and leaves, which looked odd on the dry road.

*****

A guy tried to pick me up at the gas station this morning, while I was in the midst of spending $61 on gas for Wednesday. My lipstick must be even more fabulous than I thought. He was a really nice guy named Lucio. As my 60th birthday approaches, I have to wonder if it’s the last time this will happen. It sent me on my way to work with a smile.

*****

Little Dodge has hurt his front right paw. He was fine when I left for work yesterday morning, but he was not putting weight on it when I came home that evening. He is still eating and drinking normally, and he is also jumping on and off the bed, table, and the heater where he likes to lounge:

He likes the warmth of the pilot light, pretty much year-round.

I checked the problem paw, and couldn’t see any wounds or foreign objects. I wonder if he sprained it jumping off furniture or playing with Clyde. I hope he recovers soon, and that I can avoid another gigantic vet bill. Fingers (and paws) crossed!

A YEAR AGO: The joys of spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous evening with family and friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: A really fun weekend.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A rainy start to the day.

Rescue

A couple of weeks ago, John spotted a young cat who looked a lot like my boyfriend, Frank:

We called her Baby Frank, even though Frank is (thankfully) neutered, until John managed to capture her and named her Milou, the French name for Tintin’s faithful sidekick (the English version is Snowy). He contacted a nearby rescue, who were happy to take Milou, and in fact they had found a guy who wanted to adopt her before John could even bring Milou to the rescue.

The vet who examined Milou noted that she was near the end of lactation, so that meant she had kittens somewhere. Here’s John’s account of what happened next:

When I was feeding the colony the next day, the kittens tucked away in one area of the bushes went nuts when they heard my voice. I wasn’t really sure what to do but then I started thinking I can’t possibly leave them there another night because they sounded so damn hungry. So I was texting back-and-forth with the ladies in Mountain View asking should I grab them and they said yes.

As we’re all texting back-and-forth we suddenly realized that Milou had been discovered to be still lactating when she was taken to the vet after she left my house. Not only that, but this litter had two little white cats that were all white except for the faintest touch of color on their heads. I’ve never seen any all white cats at that colony in the years I’ve been feeding there. Milou was the very first one like that, so I scooped them all up and brought them home.

I got three of them easily because they were loud and very strong, and I was going to leave when I thought there had to be one more. Last year the three litters I pulled out of there were all four kittens each, and Willow had four kittens, even if two were stillborn.

I waited for a while for a lull in the traffic, because the freeway is right there, and then I started calling, and I heard the tiniest voice way back in the bushes. I climbed so far into those goddamn bushes that I literally couldn’t crawl out with just one hand, so when I grabbed the last kitten — I couldn’t see her so I was feeling around under the bushes and using my ears to guide me, and I grabbed her — I held her in my mouth just like a mom cat and then backed out on all fours. It was fucking ridiculous, but it worked.

While Barb, the elderly lady — why is it always older ladies doing this shit! — was driving here from Mountain View, I used cotton balls to stimulate the kittens to pee. They all had to pee really bad so I’m glad I did that. I also got between one and two syringes of formula into them, and once again thank God I always have a can of formula in the cupboard. Anyhow here are a few pictures. First is one of the kittens:

second is the kittens:

and last is a screenshot of a video showing how the evening ended:

All’s well that ends well!

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in baking.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A flat tire turned into a life-affirming experience.

TEN YEARS AGO: A trip to the DMV. Not as bad as you’d think.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Haha! This seems to be the season for getting a new computer!

Patterns

The kitties’ birthdays are coming up. They go in inverse age order: Dodge on May 11, Clyde on June 8, and Audrey on July 2. Dodge will be around 6*, Clyde is turning 12, and Audrey is turning 15.

I would say that Dodge has become his ultimate self. His latest enthusiasm is going outside, which is only allowed during daylight hours. Oddly, he started his outdoor fanaticism when it was still raining and chilly, though this did not deter him. Like the late, lamented Roscoe, he loves being toweled off, purring loudly.

He has retained his adorable habit of jumping up while simultaneously rubbing up against my legs, as well as his sunny attitude. He is a happy ray of sunshine, and everything he does, he does 150%. It’s the Dodge way. He plays outside for hours, and will only come in when he’s ready, not a second before. He is his own man. Once he’s in for the night, he curls up and sleeps happily, either on a dining room chair in front of the heater, or between the pillows on the bed. He sleeps with the same enthusiasm with which he does everything. And though he may be from the mean streets of Fort Bragg, he will only eat treats from the table, like a gentleman. He always hops up on the table for his treats, even if he was relaxing on the heater just moments before.

He is quite the character. I’m so glad he decided to follow my colleague home that summer day.

Clyde would second that emotion. Dodge wasted no time in winning Clyde over, after taking one look at him and deciding that he was the coolest. Now Clyde seems to think that Dodge is the coolest, copying him in sleeping near the heater on the dining room chairs, sleeping in the coveted between the pillows spot when Dodge isn’t there, and using the opportunity of my being in the bathroom to rub up against me and ask for pets. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach an old cat new tricks.

They enjoy playing together inside and out, sometimes just surveying their domain:

They often sleep together and give each other baths, which is so cute to see. Dodge has definitely made Clyde a happier and more relaxed cat. I know he still misses Roscoe, but Dodge’s happy, loving friendship has gone a long way toward making Clyde feel more secure and happy, and that makes me happy, too.

Audrey, on the other hand, includes the boys in her general disdain for everyone and everything. Being an old lady has not made her sweeter or kinder. She retains her resting bitchface and her svelte figure, and she still sits atop Mount Crumpet (aka the bathroom windowsill) hating the Whos (aka the boys). She will swat and growl if they dare to approach her majesty.

Yet she generally sits on me when I read in bed at night, and when I sit in bed on the weekends answering my fan mail and working on Wordle, she sits beside me, purring loudly. So she’s not all grump, all the time. Just most of it.

Here she is, getting her beauty sleep and dreaming of destruction:

She has also developed an interest in going outside now that spring is here, though she insists on going out of the front door, as befits an empress of her stature.

It’s so fun to see how the cats interact and their patterns of behavior. I feel lucky to share my life with them.

*The shelter guessed Dodge’s age when he was admitted there, and I gave him my American grandfather’s birthday, because they are so much alike and HoHo loved cats. Also Dodge just seems like a spring kitty.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering a long-ago trip to Amsterdam.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The pleasures of a day off.

TEN YEARS AGO: A fun sister day.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I managed to avoid jury duty, though my computer was under the weather.

Con


Frank

Faithful readers may remember how I fell in love from afar with a gorgeous, if pugnacious, flame point Siamese cat named Frank. Frank started hanging around John’s place, looking adorable and acting hungry, and of course John started taking care of him, as he does all the strays who cross his path.

I have enjoyed the Frank news, videos, and photos John sent me. Frank often showed up with scars and wounds, as befits a tough guy who is a street fighting man. John tended to the wounds, and eventually Frank warmed up enough to be petted. His territorial and fighty nature made it impossible for him to join John’s cat family, but as it turned out, John told me a couple of days ago that:

Frank is a goddamned con artist!

He eats an average of two cans of Fancy Feast every day. Those dinky little cans of fancy feast are the most expensive cat food I buy.

Frank’s real name is Olaf. His owner is a dude named Leo, who lives a few streets over. I just spent about 45 minutes chatting with the guy. He’s my age, lives in a mobile home with his daughter.

Frank — who will always be Frank to me — is inside safe and sound every single night. Leo said that Frank has some kind of a heart issue and he probably won’t live very long, but I’m not too sure about that because Frank is so robust. During a conversation I must’ve mentioned 20 different ways that he could create a really rich environment in his house to keep Frank indoors. And I specifically mentioned the times that I’ve been putting Neosporin on fight wounds that Frank has had.

Anyhow, I look forward to more visits from Frank and I will always feed him, but it is an unbelievable relief to know that he is microchipped, gets his annual shots, and is safe and warm at night.

Here’s Frank from yesterday, with my expensive food on his nose. (That’s the photo above)

He’ll always be Frank to me, too. Olaf is a pretty bad name. Knowing that Frank is a con artist only makes me love him more. It’s a total relief knowing he has a home and is cared for. I wonder how many other people are feeding him and thinking he’s a homeless waif?

Never change, Frank.

A YEAR AGO: A magical encounter with a deer. I told a friend about it, and she said it was Dad checking in on me. I love that thought.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horrors of the annual fundraiser.

TEN YEARS AGO: Storms, and some great dump scores.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Snow days, San Francisco style.

Out


Who, Me?

Dodge got a jump on celebrating New Year’s Eve. Why stay up all night on December 31 when you can stay up all night on December 30?

When I went downstairs on last day of the year, I was happy to see the light and sparkle of the Christmas tree, but surprised not to see Dodge. He is always interested in getting his spoonful of wet cat food, whereas Clyde, careless of the drought, is interested in drinking from the tap and Audrey, who disdains us all, doesn’t bother to come downstairs, knowing that she will get room service. She has trained me well.

I didn’t see him anywhere. I peeked into the Closet of Doom, where, terrible cat parent that I am, I have accidentally shut in the cats from time to time, and he was conspicuous by his absence. I finally opened the door to the back porch, and Dodge shot into the house like he had been shot from a cannon. He was up the stairs before I was really sure what had happened. He was a cartoon-esque blur.

Somehow, he had sneaked past me at some point and then spent the whole night outside in the dark with the monsters. He is aptly named, our Artful Dodger*, dodging past me even when I’m looking for him to do it. He is a habitual sneakyboots. Lately he has had an insatiable lust for going outside, even though the weather could hardly be less appealing. I have no idea why this is, but in the battle of wills between me and this small Siamese cat, I am rarely the winner. I only let him out in the daytime when I’m home, or at least that’s the only time I knowingly let him out.

I have already begun to try and steel myself against the possibility of his not coming home, like the beloved Roscoe. But I think, if I could tell Dodge or Roscoe that if they stayed in the house, they would be safe, but going outside is fraught with dangers up to and including death, they would still choose to go out. They are both Adventure Boys. Sometimes I think that Roscoe died doing what he loved, and that he loved his time in the woods. I just hope the end was swift and merciful**. I still miss him every day.

Dodge eventually came downstairs for his breakfast, though he kept doing that bobblehead thing he did when I first adopted him and which he does when he is nervous, He kept looking at the back door. I expected him to stay home and sleep all day, but in his resilient, Dodge-like way, he was his old happy self before noon, and, yes, asking to go out again. Request denied.

*The same day I wrote this, I watched an episode of Perry Mason called “The Case of the Artful Dodger”.

**When I moved, I felt really sad about leaving him there alone, even though I had no idea where he was. I’m not known for my logic.

A YEAR AGO: My morning drive.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The saddest day of the year.

TEN YEARS AGO: Propane problems.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Shopping in the neighborhood.

2021

This was a year of milestones. Jessica turned 18; Jarrett turned 40; my blog turned 20; Megan turned 50; she and Rob celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and we mourned the 20th anniversary of our father’s death.

We also mourned the devastating loss of Megan and Rob’s beloved dog, Star. We knew she was sick, but the end was sudden. She has left a huge hole in their household, and we still miss her. But a new dog, Millie, brought joy to our lives in late summer, especially to Stella, who was missing Star much more than we expected. Stella and Millie love playing together, and it’s heart-warming to see how happy they are together.

I read 110 books this year, an improvement over last year’s paltry 86 (assuming my record-keeping was accurate that year), but falling short of the record high of 118 in 2010. I seem to have developed a love for Canadian graphic novels. I devoured all of “Clyde Fans” and every Michel Rabagliati book I could get my hands on.

This was also a year of successful culinary experimentation, in which I learned how to make my own Canelés de Bordeaux, Chinese BBQ pork, lemon chicken, har gao (shrimp dumplings), and pork and chive crystal dumplings.

Here’s all the news I saw fit to print this year:

January: The New Year begins. Come along on my commute. It’s a pretty one. I stepped down from my high office (or possibly my high horse) as the library board Chair, though I remain on the Board. High office is not for the likes of me. Also, it was completely perk-free, as far as I could see. I might be persuaded to try it again if a tiara and a limo were involved. Getting to work was an adventure. Swooning over Frank from afar, and remembering the inimitable Buddy, my first cat love. Frank is still doing well and is his fighty and adorable self. A magical encounter on my way to work. A friend told me that she thinks it was Dad checking in with me. I hope she’s right. And I hope he’s wrong and I see him again one day.

February: John’s rescued kittens. My proudest achievement. Thinking about love. Such an unusual thing to do around Valentine’s Day! A fun trip to the South Coast. I always love it there.

March: The heart-breaking news of our beloved Star’s terminal illness. Jonathan and Rio were off having adventures. When I heard how long they were going to be gone, I knew they would not be here to say goodbye to Star. Unfortunately, I was correct in this. Despite knowing she was ill, her death was sudden, merciful for our darling Star, but hard for those she left behind, including Stella. I still miss our beautiful Star. Megan’s place is not the same without her. I had not realized that she was the heart of their household until she was gone. Dad’s 90th birthday came on the heels of Star’s death.

April: Kitty updates. Getting my hair done and getting an Easter basket cheered me up. My blog turned 20! Can you believe it? And Jessica turned 18! Can you believe that, too? Remembering a wonderful visit with my beloved friend A at her home in Amsterdam in 1994. This month’s theme seems to be the swift passage of time and what we lose along the way.

May: Things were a little too exciting for Dodge. But it didn’t stop him from enjoying his 5th birthday. Making Tourtière from a friend’s family recipe. The joys of a beautiful spring. Megan turned 50, a reason to celebrate! A lot of milestones this year.

June: Enjoying some time off. An excellent birthday, including getting my hair cut and colored and a little trip to the beautiful South Coast. I looked around the small, but scenic, cemetery while I was in Anchor Bay. Summer crowds were out in force in the Village. An expensive flat tire. A lovely, but hot, trip to the beautiful Valley.

July: Orange is the new pink at my house. I love my house. The always amazing Flynn Creek Circus. Another milestone on this milestone-studded year: Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary! A visit to the Valley, where you can taste cider under the very trees the cider apples grew on. A trip to Bodega Bay, to scope out locations from “The Birds” and remember family Christmases there with Dad. A glamorous stay at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa. The joy of a concert at the Music Festival.

August: My first attempt at making Canelés de Bordeaux was surprisingly successful. I fell i love with a giant ceramic apple (yes, you read that right!) and bought it for the garden. I love it. Some extreme (and extreemly delicious) take-out. Conventional wisdom seems to be wrong when it comes to my unconventional cats. A new deck and a new dog at Megan and Rob’s place! Remembering our much-loved father 20 years after his sudden and untimely death. I will never stop loving and missing him. Ever. Getting contact lenses again. Checking out some beautiful artwork around town.

September: Another successful cooking experiment: Chinese BBQ pork. Meet Millie, Megan and Rob’s new dog! She and Stella are so happy together! I seem to have been out of control with the make your own delicacies. This time: dim sum! A really fun family dinner in the garden. A horrifying (and horrifying expensive) root canal. Just one little thing can make a big difference in a room.

October: I admit it. I’m a scented candle addict. Rainy day baking. Some mid-week sparkles with a friend, and end of week Eggs Benedict at the amazing Queenie’s. Some small-town crimes, a little too close to home for comfort. And in the miscellaneous department…

November: John stepped up his rescue activities with caring for a batch of abandoned, newborn kittens. He had to get up every two hours to feed them for weeks. I am pleased to say they all made it and were safely given to a local rescue for adoption. Yay, John! He’s my hero. Redbeard was finally caught! And Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace was open for business. Yet another crown for my collection, and not the fun, sparkly kind, either. A drink with a side of view. A quietly thankful Thanksgiving.

December: A quiet, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The incredible sparkly beauty of the Festival of Lights. In which I learn to make my own lemon chicken while the Chinese restaurant is closed, and enjoy a drink or two with my sister at our local bar. Finally tackling the Closet of Doom. Putting up the Christmas tree. An unnerving earthquake on Solstice Eve. A pretty Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day. Having fun watching Emily in Paris with my sister.

I have no idea what next year will bring, but as this year ends, I am grateful for my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my lovely house, my meaningful work, the beautiful place I live, and the small, special moments in life that are there every day.

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The last day of the last year of my father’s life.

Tree

I didn’t wait for the first Saturday in December to put up my Christmas tree. I did it the first Friday in December as soon as I got home. I didn’t remove any of the faux adult armor or anything first. I excavated the tree and the lone box of ornaments and got to work.

I was sorry to discover that the colored lights no longer worked and were destined for the dump, where they are undoubtedly being entertained by the comic stylings of the attendant there. My Plan B was a string of clear lights, which work well with the glass icicles and clear plastic snowflakes. Not to mention the glittery white glass birds in honor of Dad:

and the mercury glass acorns, including the giant one displayed in the middle of the tree:

and a beautiful apple:

I also have sparkly glass mushrooms clipped to the ersatz branches, and a glittery star at the top of the tree:

It looks really pretty:

Somewhat surprisingly, the cats, who never agree on anything else other than the fact that feeding times are too late too far between, and there is a distressingly permanent treat drought, are united in ignoring the tree so far. The only post-tree change in their behavior is that Dodge has taken up his winter position on the dining room chair in front of the heater:

In this location, he’s in the direct line of any warmth coming out of the heater. He certainly looks cozy. The rest of the year, he lounges on top of the heater, where he can enjoy the warmth of the pilot light. He’s not just handsome, he’s smart, too.

A YEAR AGO: How Dodge won Clyde’s heart. They are still the best of friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Decorating for the season at the old house.

TEN YEARS AGO: You guessed it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A little less than jolly.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The pros and cons of buying a carport. Fun fact: the carport I bought then is still in use over at the family estate, where it houses a mechanic’s pit, the washer and dryer, the body freezer, and other essentials of life. It turned out to be a good investment.

Thanksgiving

I woke up to the sun peeking coyly through the redwoods outside my bedroom window on Thanksgiving morning, the sunlight missing its usual PJs of fog and mist. I love waking up when it’s light out, instead of in night-like darkness, as I do for the majority of the year.

I don’t love being woken by Clyde walking all over me and patting my face with his paw, though. Like many of us, Clyde seems to be under the illusion that he is much smaller and lighter than he actually is, though fortunately for him, he is even more beautiful and adorable than he thinks. He is not, however, a tiny kitten.

I accepted the inevitable and got up, enjoying the feel of bare feet on the smooth wood floors and the soft rug in the bathroom. I reminded myself that I was lucky that all three of my cats are happy and healthy, and that one day, I would be missing them and wish they were here, waking me up and annoying me. My boss lost her beloved kitten Peanut a couple of weeks ago, to something horrible called FIP, which I had never heard of before and wish I never had. Peanut was only 10 months old, and she was devastated to lose him so young. It reminded me to be thankful for having three cats, ages 14, 11, and 5, all safe and healthy.

After feeding and caring for the cats, which is the first thing I do every day – before coffee, my friends – I went downstairs to make coffee and text my siblings, who are working, to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I hope we can have dinner soon.

While I waited for the coffee to be ready in the stainless steel – Suzy proof! – French press, I tossed the stalenizing bread for stuffing, or dressing, as my Southern friends call it, which I cut up after work on Tuesday to start it drying out. Even when you aren’t having company, there’s a certain amount of labor involved in a Thanksgiving dinner.

I had ordered a turkey breast two weeks earlier, in preparation for my modest celebration, and went to pick it up after work on Thanksgiving Eve. Imagine my surprise when none of the three Susans on the list at the butcher counter were this particular Susan. Fortunately, the kindly butcher was able to find a turkey breast for this great-granddaughter of a butcher, and dinner was saved.

A YEAR AGO: My alter ego?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving aftermath.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving wrap up.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some chaos in my life.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Picking up my repaired diamond watch. I still love it. I still have the raw opal studs and I still wear them.

Growing

The kittens John rescued earlier this month are continuing to grow and thrive. He is still being like their mom, feeding them every few hours, and stimulating them to poop and pee, and then tidying that up. I don’t know how he has done this for the last few weeks. He is so dedicated! He did say, “It’s going to be hard to let them go, because caring for them is bonding, and I need them used to people, so it’s lots of contact all the time.”

They recently started walking, a big milestone. Hopefully soon John can start getting a little rest. I am so proud of him for all his hard work with these little guys. Not too many people would be willing to do this for weeks while working a full-time job. Glad he is working at home and can do this. I bet the kittens take up more time than the actual job does.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful that John is making a difference and helping the cats in his neighborhood. I am thankful that we are still a part of each other’s lives and that we always will be. I am thankful for my family and friends and to be breathing and walking on this beautiful planet we call home.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Thanksgiving.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving prep.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving in New York.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Surviving our first Thanksgiving without Dad.

Glue


The Bathmat Boys

Here you see Clyde (left) and Dodge, watching me get ready to go to work. Not pictured: Audrey sitting on the windowsill, giving the Bathmat Boys the Laser Glare of Death, which they are calmly ignoring. I think Audrey dreams of a boy-free life.

Later that morning, with the cats fed and treated and my faux adult armor dutifully applied, I set off on the long drive to work. It’s like driving through a horror movie, and it seems pretty long these days. I am driving more slowly than my speedy nature enjoys on the dark, foggy roads, fearing the appearance of unexpected deer in the headlights. I managed to avoid hitting two of them on this particular morning, and I was also completely charmed by the sight of a frog leaping gracefully across the Ridge in the pool of light from my high beams. This time of year, the frogs are singing joyfully to welcome the annual rains. I love sitting in my bed on a weekend morning and listening to their song. It’s like the winter version of summer crickets.

My plans for weekend cooking went awry, and I am blaming Amazon for it.

I wanted to make more har gao and chive dumplings, so I ordered the necessary starches from Amazon. They were due to arrive on Friday, and I had them sent to the house instead of the post office box, so I could get cooking on Saturday morning. The box was waiting when I got home from work on Friday night, and I thought all cooking systems were go.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up the box and discovered…a tube of epoxy glue.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Even inexperienced cooks can see that glue is not an effective substitute for wheat starch or tapioca starch, or any kind of starch, really. Nor is glue a helpful ingredient in dim sum. I took a dim view of this.

I ventured to the Village the next day to see if I could locate the necessary ingredients, without much hope, and in this, I was sorry for once to be right. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I reordered from Amazon after getting a refund for the original order. I tried to shop local!

I picked up a pizza for dinner instead, and hopefully I will be making deferred dim sum next weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Food is love, even at work.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Have a seat.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Selecting Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving.

Tiny

John and I never had kids, for which we are both eternally grateful, but lately he has been conducting his very own experiment in sleep deprivation. Because of babies. Baby cats, that is. Because you know that’s how John rolls.

For some reason, the Home Depot in Hayward, where John lives, is also Cat Depot. People seem to think this is the perfect place to drop off cats and kittens, and left to their own devices, they have been merrily (in)breeding ever since. John has valiantly trapped, neutered and released many of these cats, and has also fostered and adopted out more than a dozen kittens. Faithful readers may recall how he rescued pregnant Willow and saved her life, along with the two live kittens, Daisy and Peach (two other kittens did not survive and had to be surgically removed). All of them would have certainly died if John had not taken them in.

He feeds and waters the colony cats daily, and has set up shelters for them as well. He recently came across some kittens that were barely days old. A consultation with his local vet established that the kittens would not survive on their own, and that it was unlikely that their mother was going to come back for them, assuming she was around and it wasn’t just some fiend in human form that abandoned the babies to their fate.

So John took them in, and has been feeding them with special kitten food in a dropper ever since:

He also has to stimulate them to poop and pee, since they don’t know how and this is something their mother would do. Apparently cotton balls are needed for this process. They also need to be burped, much like human babies.

Despite their bad beginning in life, these little kittens are fighters, so John named them all after characters in “Rocky”. This is Rocky:

This is Apollo:

This is Adrian:

and this is Pauly:

Note teeniness of kittens next to John’s hand and the feeding syringe.

They have a fighting chance at a good life since being rescued by a good man. I hope they make it, and I hope they find the loving homes they deserve.

Bonus: Here’s my boyfriend Frank, looking happy after dinner the other night:

Frank is still his lovably fighty, tough guy self, showing up with scratches occasionally, but lately sleeping in a cozy bed on John’s porch:

His fighty nature (note healing wound on his handsome forehead) makes it impossible for him to live inside, but at least he’s getting fed and has a safe and warm place to sleep. I am so thankful to John for helping the cats in his neighborhood.

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day in the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A visit to the South Coast.

TEN YEARS AGO: A swimming snag.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Having fun in Detroit.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Weight loss can be a problem.

Birthday

I got an email from John the other day, telling me that Peach and Daisy were now a year old. I can’t believe that it was a whole year ago that he rescued the pregnant and nervous Willow, who would certainly have died, since Peach and Daisy’s littermates died before they could be born and had to be surgically removed.

But Peach and Daisy are alive and well and happy. They still cuddle up together, and John sent me two delightful movies, which I will share with you here. I can’t improve on his descriptions:

In the first video, first-born Peach is already nursing, and Daisy is squeaking loudly for food. She still does that today. She’s never missed a meal in her life and she’s always crying like she’s starving. She’s a complete drama queen.

The second Video_1 is breakfast this morning. Note that Willow is still wary of what I might do to her.

It makes me happy to see the rescued cats so happy. John mentioned lately that he has rescued and rehomed around 35 cats so far, including 13 kittens that he has fostered and (amazingly) gotten adopted (instead of keeping them). He’s really making a difference.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The joys of the County Fair.

TEN YEARS AGO: Clyde was recovering from his chin abscess, despite my benign neglect. I guess the parenting apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Allergies are not a beauty treatment.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Trying to focus on the positive.

Cattitude

People say cats are aloof, but mine aren’t.

Even Audrey, who is rightfully known for her general grumposity and imperious cattitude, cuddles up to me when I read in bed at night or lounge around reading my fan mail on the weekends. She sits right next to me, purring. Sometimes she butts her head against me, which is Audrey for “Pet me, silly human”. She also supervises me when I get ready for work in the morning. After all, her eyeliner is always perfect.

Lately, Dodge has decided that I need supervision in the morning, too. Unfortunately, his version of helping is not all that helpful. He plants himself firmly in front of the Rob-made ceramic tray which holds all my potions and elixirs which need to be applied to my face before the make-up goes on:

It makes it hard to reach them, and sometimes Dodge bats at me as I reach over him or into the bathroom cabinet behind him.

Thanks for the assist, Dodge.

He makes up for this with his endearing habit of jumping while simultaneously rubbing against me, which is as cute as it sounds. He also requires a minimum daily amount of petting.

As for my Clyde, he always greets me at the door when I come home. It makes my heart leap to see his little face peering through the glass when I finally get home from work. Around 7:00 every evening, he comes downstairs and sits next to me on the couch, even if what I’m watching on TV is not appropriate for baby boys.

Clyde has continued his recent quirk of patting my face with his paw if he needs attention, and of course he still climbs up onto my left shoulder (always the left) to be cuddled as needed. All three of them sleep on the bed with me every night, and it makes me happy to spend the weekend mornings in bed together. They are such good company. And while they may be many things – cute, naughty, annoying, soft, curious – they are never aloof.

A YEAR AGO: A lot of sadness for one little town.

FIVE YEARS AGO A lot of sadness on one day.

TEN YEARS AGO A wake up call from Audrey.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A cat rescue.

Five


Birthday Boy

Dodge turns five today!

Or five-ish, at least. The vet estimated that he was around two years old when I adopted him three summers ago. I gave him my much-loved American grandfather HoHo’s birthday, May 11, since HoHo loved cats, and he and Dodge are both mischievous, loving rascals who brought love and laughter to me and are eternally happy and optimistic. I think HoHo would be crazy about beautiful, happy little Dodge* and would enjoy his antics.

Lately, I’ve been wondering why Dodge chose that particular day to follow my co-worker home. The employees at the eponymous car dealership had seen him around for weeks (yet they did not see fit to give him food or water, or even call the Humane Society), and he was homeless long enough to be starved, flea-ridden, and partly bald from exposure, even though it was summer. So he was out there for quite a while. What made him decide to follow Susan home that sunny summer day?

I’ll never know, but I do know that he bounced back from life on the streets remarkably quickly. When I first brought him home, I thought he’d hide for days and be skittish, but instead, he napped for a few hours and then joined the family like he had always been there. He took one look at Clyde and decided that he was his new best friend. It didn’t take long to win Clyde over, and now they are inseparable.

Dodge has retained his sunny optimism, his adorable quirk of jumping and rubbing against my legs, his love of being petted, cuddling with Clyde, and basking in the sun. Clyde has adopted Dodge’s habit of pushing his head against me when being petted, and also of rubbing up against me when I’m in the bathroom. It’s fun to see them picking up each other’s little characteristics like that.

Happy birthday, little Dodge! You are a ray of sunshine and happiness. I’m so glad you followed my colleague home that day, just the beginning of our journey together. May it be a long and happy one.

*HoHo’s last car was a red Dodge Dart. He told me that he had always wanted a red car, and it was about time. So I think he would like Dodge’s name, too.

A YEAR AGO: Mother’s Day is a complicated thing for me.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The mystery of the cat in the night.

TEN YEARS AGO: The bumpkinization of Suzy.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A delightful day with a delightful friend.

Adventure


Recovering

Dodge, the formerly stray cat from the mean streets of the Big Town, is a little sneakyboots. If he wants to go outside, he will lurk and plan and plot and find a way to escape from the Big House.

Usually, he makes a break for it during the daytime, when I am preoccupied with importing groceries or exporting compost. I have learned that there is absolutely no point in calling him or trying to catch him. He will come in when he’s good and ready, and not a second before. And when he does, he just strolls in casually, like he’s coming home from work or something.

Clyde is never casual about Dodge’s illicit excursions into the Wide World. He always sniffs Dodge all over carefully to ascertain where he has been and what he’s been doing, but Clyde himself is no longer interested in exploring the Unknown. Losing his brother Roscoe affected him profoundly, more than the near-death encounter with the Slobber Monster. I think Clyde either saw it happen or knows what happened to Roscoe. He definitely stays close to home.

One night, Dodge sneaked out into the darkness. I could not see him or stay awake, so I turned on all the outside lights and hoped for the best. I was rewarded by the sight of my wayward youngest cat sitting on the back porch in the early morning darkness the next day. He came inside and it was immediately clear that he was not his usual self.

Far from being the insouciant boulevardier he used to be, he was quiet and slow moving. He did not eat, and he sat like an uncomfortable loaf of bread instead of curling up on the heater or basking in the sun. I checked him all over for wounds or sore spots, but found none. I was beginning to fear that he had eaten something bad or even poisonous outside, especially when he started hiding under the bed.

I tried not to panic or worry, and my uncharacteristic patience was rewarded by Dodge slowly beginning to seem more like his old self, though, like Clyde, I don’t think he will ever be quite the same. Also like Clyde, I don’t know what happened out there, but it was enough to scare Dodge pretty badly. I noticed that some of the fur on top of his head had gone pure white, like Marie Antoinette’s hair was said to have gone white overnight, and the place where the Slobber Monster grabbed Clyde is pure white against his black fur. I guess it’s a reaction to trauma.

Whatever happened that night, Dodge has, at least temporarily, been unbounced. I’m just glad he’s safe.

A YEAR AGO: The beauty of spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A beautiful day in the Village.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting contacts.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My street must have had some interesting zoning laws. I imagine it is pretty much wall to wall condos now.

Animals

John’s kittens have been growing by leaps and bounds. They are now 6 months old, and were recently spayed. As might be expected, shy little Daisy was more horrified by the entire process than bold and brave Peach, but they both went running to Mom for comfort when they came home from the vet wearing mini cones of shame.

I have never had the experience of having a mother cat and her children in the same household. I think in the wild, the kids would be independent of Mom and possibly each other. But all living inside in the same house, they have stayed close and still cuddle. Willow still keeps a watchful eye on her progeny:

It must be so fun to see that dynamic. I hope it stays that way.

John and I disagree about whether they are still kittens. I say yes, and he says no. I think they are kittens until their first birthday. They are definitely looking more like cats than kittens these days, though.

As for my boyfriend Frank, he visits John daily. Their relationship has grown as fast as the kittens. At first, it was just for food, but now Frank lets John pet him. And gives him head butts, a sure sign of affection. He used to have sore eyes, which John has treated and improved, though he seems to get into fights occasionally, based on various wounds that have appeared from time to time. I think it’s all part of his rakish charm.

We don’t know where he sleeps, but even when it rains, he is dry when he turns up chez John for pets and food (now in that order). A happy Frank makes me happy, too.

Stella, on the other hand, is not happy. She misses Star so much. We all do. Stella did have a happy moment last week when a friend of Megan’s brought her dog Cooper over to play. Stella seemed like her old self again. It was really nice to see.

Megan is beginning to think that she needs to find a companion for Stella sooner rather than later, even though the humans in the house may not necessarily be ready. Megan has a line on a male foster dog who might be right for their household. You know how Stella loves the boys. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: A well-traveled clock.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like having dinner made for you by someone else, I always say.

TEN YEARS AGO: A was recovering from her 3 month long hospital ordeal. She has never been the same, but I am still thankful that she is still with us. We email nearly every day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: I still love this vase, made by the talented and handsome Aaron Oussoren. You can see more of his work here. As for the vase, it’s currently residing next to my TV, giving a welcome pop of color to the room.

Kittens


Peach and Willow

John’s kittens are growing by leaps and bounds and purrs, as kittens do. Their personalities are still emerging, but it seems that “my” kitten, Daisy (I named her and secretly feel like she is mine in some way) is, like me, a little nervous about life in general, preferring to stay on the safe side, whereas her sister, Peach, is bold and adventurous. As John puts it, Peach is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Given time I’m pretty sure she could escape from Alcatraz.

John described this photo as follows: Here’s Peach trying to break out of the big house once again this morning, with a dirty screw watching her every move:

As most girls eventually do, Peach and Daisy have a crush on an older guy. In their case, it’s Ash, who is not just handsome, but tolerant of their affections. He may even enjoy it, while being too cool to admit that he does. Here’s Ash tolerating Daisy’s hero worship:

John also says, When the kittens wake up now (either in the morning or after a nap) they go utterly bananas, running and playing and making huge messes. It’s hard to believe when you see how cute they look like this:

I’ll let John have the last word. A final note – Peach smells like Pez candy.

A YEAR AGO: Surprise! A new phone!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the beauty of the fine woodworking show.

TEN YEARS AGO: My beloved friend A was finally (more or less) out of the woods. And I was starting work at the jobette!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Shopping at the 99 cent store. Not even the dollar store.

Frank

They always say that no one is as zealous as a convert, and I think in my ex-husband’s case, that is true.

When we first met, he told me that he did not like cats. My view was that he would have to get used to my cat, Buddy, who was already the man in my life. I happened to be there when Buddy was born, and I fell hopelessly in love with him from his first breath, despite his then somewhat alarming appearance. He later became majestic and regal:

Basically, it was love me, love my cat.

So John, being the nice guy he still is, decided to he would have to endure Buddy’s presence. Little did he suspect that Buddy would become the gateway cat. The first one’s free!

It didn’t take long before John’s disdain for cats turned to love for Buddy in particular, and eventually, to all cat-kind in general. Our opinions diverged on this road at about the 4 cat mark. Despite currently having three cats, I still believe two is the right number. John believes it’s more like a dozen. Since he’s on his own and can please himself, I suspect the number of felines currently residing with him is higher than I would like. He also looks after neighborhood strays.

The most recent stray to cross his path is this charmer, seen here with a grain of rice on his adorable nose after John fed him:

It was pretty much love at first sight for me when John sent me Frank’s photo. John calls him Frank, “because he’s old and has blue eyes”, and despite my earlier stated opinion, I would love to have him join my cat family. Perhaps it’s best for all concerned that this is not possible, but I would dearly love to cuddle Frank and kiss his beautiful scarred ears and head. I have to settle for loving him from afar, but John sends me photos and videos so I can see his progress.

Much like Henry, he seems to have had a tough life and is slow to trust. But I am hopeful that food and affection will make him at least trust John and make his life a little happier.

A YEAR AGO: Good times with good friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Salon adventures

TEN YEARS AGO: A happy day, with a cameo from Miss Jessica. I miss her!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Excuses for my absence.

Visitor

Lately Danielle’s cat Kiki has been around more, often in the early morning darkness, which does a creditable job of impersonating midnight. Her white fur shows up against the darkness as she slinks around from the front door to the side deck off the kitchen to the back door.

I’m not sure if her visits are because Danielle is in Hawaii and she is lonely, but I always wish I could pet her. I don’t want to encourage her visits, since I’m always afraid that one of my cats will get into a fight with Kiki. After persuading Danielle to let me keep my cats, it might be hard to get her forgiveness if one of my cats scratched her cat. The time that Audrey escaped, I narrowly averted a catfight by removing Audrey from the scene. My next-door neighbor (and Danielle’s son) Alex told me that Dodge had wandered over the last time he got out and Alex shooed him away to avoid a fight.

I think Dodge is still interested in the fight, though. Whenever Kiki appears, he is the first to run to the door where she is. This morning, they were growling and at each other and basically fighting through the glass. They fought through the kitchen window screen so much that the screen was destroyed (Rob just hauled the sad remains to the dump last weekend). At some point, I will have to replace it. I am hoping that Rob’s Robness will come up with window screens that are Dodge and Kiki proof. It would be great if so. I’d love to be able to open the bedroom windows on summer nights once things have cooled down, knowing that Dodge could not tear the screen out and jump down. It may be a lot to ask, even for Rob.

I wonder if Dodge is just more territorial from living on the mean streets of the Big Town. Or maybe it’s just his youth and nature? I’ll never know, but I will have to be extra careful to keep him as far away from Kiki as possible, even when she stops by for a visit.

A YEAR AGO: Assuming office is not without its challenges.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lots of travel for Megan and Rob. So far, he has managed to avoid more surgery.

TEN YEARS AGO: There’s always something blooming in and around Hooterville.

2020

Looking back on the year with 2020 vision…or 2020 hindsight.

I made a decision to keep this space free of politics and other unpleasantness. As usual, with any decision I have ever made, I am not sure I made the right one. I work at a medical clinic and could have written about what it was/is like to work in a medical clinic during a pandemic, but I don’t want to write about work and I am too frivolous for such serious topics. Also, I like keeping everything ugly at bay. This is my safe (and sparkly) space, for better or for worse, for shallower or shallower.

Despite enjoying escapist fare such as children’s books (the wonderful E.L. Konigsberg and E. Nesbit) and Agatha Christies, as well as re-reading classics like The Catcher in the Rye and the works of the divine Jane when there was no library access, the total of books read by the local library chairperson was a paltry 86, not much of an improvement over the embarrassing 82 recorded in 2019. I greatly enjoyed Elton John’s memoir, Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders, Ruth Ware’s One by One, Connie Schultz’s The Daughters of Erietown, and Alex North’s The Whisper Man. As usual, Stephen King with If It Bleeds and Michael Connelly with Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence did not disappoint.

In addition to comfort viewing (The Rockford Files and Columbo), there were some amazing TV shows brightening my screen on these dark days: City on a Hill, Succession, Escape at Dannemora, Russian Doll, Unbelievable, Perry Mason (the new one; not the classic, which is also wonderful, but very different), The Morning Show, Dead to Me, Dash & Lily, Ozark, Bad Blood, Little Fires Everywhere, Better Call Saul, Emily in Paris, and Get Shorty. If you haven’t seen any of these, check them out. You’ll thank me later.

Other than that, here’s all the news I saw fit to print:

January: A quiet beginning to the new year, with no hangover and no particular plans. My beautiful commute. It still amazes me and reveals new joys. A seemingly endless supply of meetings.

February: The gift of a new cell phone from my sister, who was tired of not being able to text me at home. It took three visits to the Verizon Store to sort of get my data transferred. The nightmare of the kitties. A long story which was entirely my fault, and you know how much I love that. The kitchen sink was full of sewage again, and the power was out. Good times. Sunny days outside and pretty inside. A lovely day. And a lovely dinner.

March: An update on my bosses, the cats. Ignoring the ignominious time change with a look around the family garden. Close encounters with wildlife. In my case, the hare (thankfully) won the race. Remembering my beloved father on his birthday. A night in town. Of tires and take-out. Michelin-starred, no less. the take-out, not the tires (though they could have been Michelins). I was shocked and saddened to hear of my former brother-in-law Mike’s death, but thankful it was a peaceful one at home. Rest in peace, dear Mike. You were a wonderful man and will always be loved and remembered with joy.

April: Michelin starred take-out 2.0. Is it conceited that I prefer my own cooking? Maybe the starriness doesn’t translate well to the take-out genre. Mom? Is that you? The tale of the grandfather clock, more than 250 years and counting (the hours and minutes). Beauty is all around me. My blog turned 19! The differences between my weekday and weekend routines. Adventures in cooking.

May: Welcoming spring. I really enjoyed spring this year. It was so beautiful. The beauty of the season was darkened by the sudden and shocking death of a dear and long-time friend. Randy, I will never forget you or your smile that lit up a room. Some reflections on Mother’s Day from someone who will never be one and who had a complicated relationship with her own. There may be a connection here. Celebrating Dodge’s fourth (or so) birthday. He is such a beautiful, affectionate little guy. Never a dull moment for Megan, at work in the ER. The month ended with the end of the Beautiful Harriet, Megan and Rob’s much-loved 19 year old cat, just two days after Megan’s birthday. Harriet (then called Olivia) made her first appearance on my blog in December, 2001. She was part of our family for a long time and will always be missed.

June: Things were flourishing in the family garden. Of haircuts and hardware stores. A happy birthday for me…and for my beloved Clyde, who turned 10. A nice addition to the bedroom. Remembering the unforgettable Ginger, our childhood dog.

July: Celebrating the Fourth of July and both sides of my heritage. Also Megan and Rob’s 29th anniversary. Here’s to the next 29! Things were shady over at the family estate. Adjusting to a Kindle. I’m still a paper book girl at heart. Rob’s beautiful garden art. A delightful breakfast at the delightful Queenie’s. Some kitty adventures.

August: Things were rocking and rolling in the family garden. I think I did a better job of using produce this year. An unexpected operation for Stella. I’m glad to report she is fine. A lot of sadness in a short period of time in our little town. Time to start cooking with all that produce. The Evil Eighteenth rolled around for the nineteenth time. I was angry this year. I will never get over losing Dad like that. A heatwave, and remembering past summers. Trying to cool down with some icy adult beverages beside the ocean. Hello, darkness, my old enemy.

September: Rearranging the kitchen after my microwave gave up the ghost, as my appliances tend to do. Audrey being Audrey. Rob: always there to make my life better. Happy birthday to my amazing brother, Jonathan. The horror of wildfires. Getting my MacBook fixed, with all the fun that entails. And getting Wednesday repaired. Attacking the Closet of Doom, with Rob’s help.

October: Rob was working hard on the Closet of Doom. It’s still a work in progress. Summer seemed to be endless. A delightful visit with a friend. I hope we can do that again soon. Yet another crown for our princess. My ex John adopted a pregnant stray cat. Meet Willow, Peach, and Daisy (I named Daisy)! Doing some project cooking.

November: A road trip to beautiful Anderson Valley. Problems with the heater. Megan started an exciting new side gig at prestigious Stanford University! An update on Willow and her kittens. Getting my third crown was about as fun as you’d expect. I hope it’s the last one, but fear it won’t be. What would I be like if I had a different name? Trying to find the right blanket was harder than you’d expect.

December: The Christmas tree went up a little early this year. And the kitchen sink needed a minor procedure. Some lights in the darkness. Best friends. Memories of Christmas past. A quiet Christmas.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey for another year, or staying with me for another year. Here’s to a brighter New Year for all of us!