Happy 6th Birthday, Simon!

Simon wearing his rose scarf made for us by our friend Petunia.

Happy 6th Birthday, Simon! Simon is the baby of the family age-wise. He is the “middle child” when it comes to adoption order and length of time with our family.

Simon has the sweetest disposition. He bonded quickly with Jude after adoption. He keeps me entertained with his antics. Simon plays frequently with Jolene. Simon is known as our Chief Cuddler. Everyone loves Simon. He is the glue that holds our family together.

All three cats are very well bonded. However, Jolene and Jude are both extremely bonded with Simon. Jude and Jolene have a bond as well. However, I do not think the bond Jude and Jolene has is as strong as the bond that Jude has with Simon nor as strong as the bond Jolene has with Simon.

Simon is terrified of thunderstorms and vacuum cleaners. He is the only cat I have ever had that is completely scared of thunderstorms. He is a very brave hunter when it comes to bugs in the house. He is gentle, even pointing at and playing with ladybugs as opposed to squishing them.

A phrase frequently heard in our home is “Simon is a good baby.” Even when Simon is being “naughty,” he is adorable. Simon likes to steal marshmallows. He does not eat them. He carries them off and plays with them. Whenever I have marshmallows in the house, I have to be sure to hide them in the microwave so that Simon does not take off with them.

Of the three cats, Simon is the quietest. He does not often meow or make any noises. It is always a surprise when he does make noise. On the few times Simon has vomited (it happened with a change in food in the pandemic), he cries / yowls right before vomiting. Typically, a noise from Simon means something is wrong. Jude and Jolene meow and talk all the time when they want food or want to play. Simon only meows when there is something wrong.

Simon waits patiently for his breakfast and dinner, as opposed to Jude and Jolene who run around prancing and begging. Simon is truly very sweet. He is tolerant about being dressed in bandanas and scarves. 

Simon loves sleeping under the covers with me. I am so blessed that he sleeps with me every night. Simon is also typically the first to wake me up in the morning to feed them all breakfast. 

He enjoys his banana phone toys and the cat tents. Simon is truly an indoor cat. He loves watching outside. However, when offered the opportunity for outside time in the dog cage, he makes it clear he wants nothing to do with being outside. He loves being indoors where he is safe.

Jude, Jolene and I all love Simon and are so glad he is part of our family. He is such a precious soul. Simon was quick to welcome Jolene to the family when we adopted her, and was gentle in his interactions with her after her surgeries. 

As the baby of the family, Simon is rarely in the office as a coworker for the work from home. I’m sure as the youngest, he doesn’t think he needs to “work!” Simon is definitely a loveable homebody who enjoys peace and quiet and time on the human bed.

We are so blessed to have Simon as part of our family. He is definitely the baby, as he is the youngest and these three are the last cats I will have. Happy 6th Birthday, Simon. We love you. 

My Forever Valentine

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Today is Jude’s 10 birthday and also his gotcha day. I adopted him on Valentine’s Day when he was two years old. Jude was seized by the humane society from a hoarding situation. He was found crammed into a tiny trailer with over 30 other cats.

When I adopted Jude, I had been searching for a month for a suitable companion for Kitty. Kitty was distraught about being alone after Kip passed away. Kitty would get so upset about being home alone while I was at work that I would come home to multiple puddles of vomit because he was so upset. Kitty needed a companion.

Kitty was declawed (please don’t judge – it was the 90s when he was declawed and I have not declawed a cat since). Being that Kitty was declawed, he needed a companion who would be gentle with him, as I did not plan on declawing a cat ever again. This meant that Kitty did not have claws to defed himself, but his companion would have claws to potentially harm him. We needed someone with a gentle disposition who would not take that advantage.

A friend of mine had heard about Jude at the shelter. He was friendly with all other cats and was very gentle. He was good about playing with his claws in. He was also quite shy and they were looking for a rather quiet home for him. 

Jude’s name in the shelter was Raymond. Given his story and his shelter name, I knew he was meant to be. Raymond was my grandfather’s name. I had Jude picked out as my baby name for a boy. I always use their shelter names as a middle name. Jude Raymond could not have been more perfect.

I brought Jude home and did the slow introduction process with Kitty. They bonded immediately. It was love at first sight. Jude was indeed very gentle with Kitty. In addition to being declawed, Kitty was a lot older than Jude and was a senior. Jude played with Kitty, but seemed to sense when Kitty was tired and would stop playing. Then they would cuddle.

Even though Kitty was declawed, he taught Jude how to use the cardboard scratcher for his claws. I had bought scratching posts and cardboard scratchers for Jude to use. Kitty would “use” them first and then Jude would mimic him. Jude was a fast learner. Kitty taught him many things.

After Kitty died from cancer, Jude was alone for 6 months. It was just the two of us. I could tell Jude was sad from losing Kitty. We played all the time. Jude was ready for a companion, but it took me longer to be ready to adopt again. 

Then came Simon. Jolene came later. There was supposed to be 2 cats and a dog, not 3 cats, but that is a story for another day. This is Jude’s story.

Jude is an amazing older brother to Simon and Jolene. Jude is the oldest. Now he teaches them everything, just like how Kitty taught him. 

Jude has really come out of his shell since we moved from the apartment to the house. He plays a lot more in the house than he did in the apartment. He still rolls around on the floor. I never knew a cat to just roll around as much as Jude does!

He truly is happy. I’m so lucky to be able to see the wonderful relationship he has with Simon and Jolene. Jude still has some shy tendencies from his days as a stray. He is gentle when he needs to be. Sometimes he does play rough with Simon. 

Jude will always be my Valentine. He was meant to come into my life at the perfect time. He indeed took asad song and made it better.

Happy 10th Birthday, Jude. Happy 8th Gotcha Day. Thank you for being my Forever Valentine.

Wonderful Year 2021

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The past two years have been hard for everyone. I’ve lost so many people to COVID that I don’t bother to keep count anymore. It’s more than 10. Last year was especially difficult. Despite the challenges, I have to say that 2021 was a wonderful year.

One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. It’s about the lowest point in a person’s life and how a community came together to help them. It sounds cheerful, but the ending is only happy in contrast to the dark depths of despair that led to the conclusion.

This year was one of my most challenging. I lost my job for the first time ever. In over 25 years of working, I have never been unemployed before. On top of that, someone stole my identity and committed fraud on my social security number so I was not able to access unemployment. To add insult to injury, my former employer knew about the fraud – at least 5 months before they terminated me – and never told me about it or did anything to respond to the Department of Labor’s inquiry about suspicious activity, 

I was absolutely terrified last spring that I was going to end up homeless, separated from the cats, dead from COVID, or some combination of the three. I’ve lived through some pretty tough times, but last spring was the worst.

One friend from childhood stepped up and organized a GoFundMe for me. People I’ve never met donated. It took a community, but that community and those donations paid our monthly bills while I was unemployed and searching for work. It took me two months to find a new job.

Thankfully in the middle of this mess, internet service and improved cell phone service finally reached my rural little area. I was able to find a permanent remote job. I am able to pay the bills and keep us all together.

Much like Bedford Falls came together to help George, the pets and humans of Cats of Twitter (and also just kind humans), came together to help me. I cannot express how thankful I am and always will be for the kindness and generosity that helped us through that trying time. Unemployment is not something I ever want to experience again.

It truly has been a wonderful year.

I am thankful that I am able to work from home. I can be home with the cats. They are my favorite coworkers. I will always treasure this time I am getting to be at home with them. 

I am thankful that 2021 was the best year of my running career in nearly a decade. This was my highest mileage year since 2015. In 2016, I was in the hospital with a bad MS epsiode. It’s been a long, hard road to get back to this point. Not only was this my highest mileage year, but I successfully completed two half marathons within a week of each other. 

I typically have to space my races 5-6 months apart. I have never had races this close on the calendar before. I was able to achieve medals 19 and 20. It’s hard to believe that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and I currently have 20 marathon medals. 

Sometimes I do get sad and lonely about all of the people I have lost in the pandemic. I can list on my fingers the number of people I know from before the pandemic who are still alive. The people I lost cannot be replaced. However, this past year, I have made new friends. I think I have more friends right now than I have ever had in my life. I am so grateful for each one. I treasure every one.

All of the friends I have made, I have not met in person. I have met them online through the amazing Cats of Twitter community. Yes, we are on Twitter. My cats are very popular on the internet and they don’t even know it.

I treasure the friends I have made. Some talk to me daily. It’s nice to have people to talk to again about my day and to hear about how their day went. I love learning about new people, new places, new cultures. In a world of pandemic cruelty, there are still good and kind people in this world.

We sent more Christmas photo cards this year than we have ever sent. (I do still have some left, so if we missed you, let me know,) I do Chrsitmas photo cards so people can see the cats. The past few years in the pandemic, they have become the only way people get to see me too.

I have a friend in England who sent me a package of the most beautiful Chrismtas presents I have ever received. We have never met in real life, but I feel like she knows me. Each gift was useful, meaningful, and precious. The artwork above was done by her daughter of the three cats for me.

Another package arrived the week before Christmas unlabeled. I had to figure out who sent it (I did). It was from another online friend I have never met and was filled with presents. It’s not the presents themselves that mattered. It’s the kindness and the thoughtfulness in them. Again, this person has never met me in person, and yet every item seemed like it was chosen just for me. Every present was perfect.

I was in foster care when younger. I remember getting Christmas presents and feeling like a third wheel. I was one of those kids you “adopt” for the holidays – the ones where you pick a tag off a charity tree to shop for a 15 year old girl. Yes, I received lovely, age appropriate gifts. Yes, I was thankful to receive the gifts and to be remembered on Christmas. Yet, the gifts were not personal. It was just a tag on a tree where some stranger bought presents for a child they never met.

Even though I have not met my online friends in-person, the gifts they sent me were all personal. I feel so special and so loved. For the first time in my life, I am not just a tag on a charity tree. People cared enough to do something nice for me.

Of course, the best gift this Christmas is the fact that the cats and I are still together. We are together thanks to the kindness and generosity of strangers who stepped up and helped us during our time of need last spring. I will be forever grateful to all the people who donated to keep us all together this year. I am in awe and amazement of your kindness. It is humbling.

As challenging as 2021 may have been, it really has been a wonderful year. 
Thank you to everyone for loving us and supporting us through these challenging times. I am amazed and delighted that there is still kindness in the world. I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with the cats helping them live their best lives. 

My Second Favorite Holiday

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Birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Birthdays are a celebration of life. You only stop having birthdays when you are dead, and that’s a problem.

Many people like Christmas. I like Christmas too, but it’s not my favorite holiday. I like the peaceful feeling of Christmas. Christmas is something we should try to replicate year round. We should aim to be kind and generous to others. While I enjoy Christmas, it is my third favorite holiday.

My second favorite holiday after birthdays is Labor Day and Labor Day weekend.

I spent over 20 years working 2-3 jobs for 40-60 hours per week. We do not have paid sick time in the United States. We do not have paid vacation time in the United States. The only time I would be able to get time off from all of my jobs was holidays.

Labor Day weekend is my favorite because it is a celebration of the worker. We should have the day off. American workers are treated the most poorly of any industrialized country. We can be fired at will, do not have to be offered health insurance, vacation pay, or sick pay. We work long hours for low wages.

The sad part is that for the United States of America, Labor Day is just another day. For many it signals the end of summer and return to school. We have forgotten that Labor Day is about the worker. Workers deserve much, much better than we receive in the United States.

Labor Day weekend has typically been my camping weekend. I like to get away to relax. It’s the only weekend of the year when I truly have a break. For one weekend a year, I can take a vacation and pretend I am just like any worker in any European or other industrialized country.

The saddest part of Labor Day weekend is that although we get the day off, we do not get paid to have the day off. You get the weekend whether you like it or not.

We need to have a revival of the worker’s rights movement in this country. We deserve better wages, shorter hours, healthcare, paid sick time, paid vacation time, and much more. I know that we will never get any of this in my lifetime, but I can dream.

I also dream of moving to a European country that has all those benefits.

Labor Day weekend is my second favorite holiday because it is the only time of year I am truly at peace. When I go camping to a remote area in the Adirondacks, I am typically surround by ducks and other wildlife and not many people. It is the only time I get to slow down and be peaceful. That peacefulness is something I wish I could bottle and have for the entire year.

The past three years or so, Labor Day weekend has not been very restful or peaceful. When I bought my house, my employer at the time only gave me 3 hours off work to complete the closing to purchase the house. I was not allowed to take any time off for moving. Moving was done haphaxardly after work and on Labor Day weekend. 

Now, in the pandemic, I have not been able to travel to go camping for Labor Day weekend. The last time I was able to go camping was October 2019.

This year, we are camping. It will not be the Adirondacks. It will be on our own property. I’m not sure if I will put the tent up inside or outside, but we will camp. We will pretend it is just like any other year in the Adirondacks. The exception will be the obnoxious, threatening neighbors, but hey, we do what we can.

Happy Labor Day weekend. May you find peace. And then after a peaceful weekend, let’s do something to ensure hard working Americans are treated better. We deserve to be treated as humans, at least. 

Happy Birthday, Jolene

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Today is Jolene’s 7th birthday. I never thought I would get a girl. Kip and Kitty (both OTRB) were both boys. Jude and Simon are both boys. In fact, I had been going to the shelter in search of a dog that I thought would get along with Jude and Simon. 

After Kip passed away, I did not think I would be able to handle another orange cat. In fact, when visiting the shelter, I kind of avoided orange cats just because my heart still ached for Kip. Jolene was in a cage at the far end of the room, at the bottom. No one would have noticed her if she had not started throwing an absolute fit in her cage when I walked in. She kept pawing and pawing and wanted to come out. 

Who can say no to that?

I took her out of the cage and was going to set her down to play with her. Except when I picked her up, she hugged me. She would not let go. Jolene picked me out.

Two years ago today, a 5-year old Jolene was dumped in a parking lot with a box of her kittens. Half of her teeth were missing due to a genetic disorder she has that causes them to go bad. She spent 5 months in the shelter watching all of her kittens be adopted before I walked into the room.

Jolene only has 4 teeth left now due to her genetic condition. However, she received the health care she needed to remove the dying and painful teeth and infected roots that had caused her great pain for who knows how long.

Jolene is definitely the Queen of our home. She is in charge. She brings so much life to our home. Both Jude and Simon have come out of their shells more and are more playful since Jolene entered our lives.

I adopted Jolene in January 2020, before the lockdowns, so she is not a “pandemic pet.” However, pretty much her entire time with us has been in this isolation situation. As we celebrate her birthday today, both of her birthdays have been in lockdown. 

For indoor cats, every day is lockdown. It’s just that now I join them as I am home all the time. I am so grateful that I get to spend every day with my three fur balls.

Jolene has my baby name for a girl since I cannot have human children. Jude has my boy name. I honestly never imagined I would have a girl and get to use the name. The name definitely fits Jolene. She knows her name and will respond to it. 

Jolene is my constant companion and follows me all over the house. She has to know where I am at all times. She constantly brings me gifts – her favorite mouse toy. I often find her favorite mouse toy near me as she brings it to where I am and leaves it. 

When I return to the house after being gone, her favorite mouse toy is near the door. She puts it there because she knows I am out. That way it is there for me when I return. 

Jolene loves both her brothers Simon and Jude. They both love her back. She plays with them and grooms them. Jolene is definitely in charge of the house.

Jolene sleeps with me every single night. In that way, she reminds me a little of Kitty. Kitty slept with me every single night for 19 years. Jude and Simon will sleep with me probably 90% of the time. Jolene sleeps with me all the time. 

I am so grateful that Jolene chose me to be her mom. I only hope that I can survive the pandemic and outlive the cats so that I can keep them all together and be their true forever home, just as I was for Kip and Kitty.

Happy 7th birthday to my daughter, Jolene. Thank you for bringing so much joy, love, and light into our lives.

Life and Everything

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Birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of what life threw at me. This past year has definitely been a doozy. I am so thankful to be alive. 

I am hoping that this year will be as great as my new number – 42. If you are a fan of Douglas Adams, you will know that 42 is the answer. It is also a great number for baseball. Well before it was International Women’s Day, March 8 was my birthday. 

Right now, my goal is to live long enough to see another birthday. I am really hoping that I get to see 43 with all three cats as well. Another significance of 42 is that my paternal grandmother passed away at age 42, well before I was born or even thought about. If I can make it to age 43, that will be huge.

Living in the middle of a pandemic definitely makes you take stock of life. I know that my priority is being able to outlive the cats so that I can take care of them and keep them all together. My second priority is to stay covid free. I am more scared of getting covid and “living” than I am of getting covid and dying. 

I am a marathon runner. Running is the most important thing to me, after the cats. If I get covid and survive, I won’t be able to run anymore. That’s not life. That’s just a jail waiting to die.

So I look at the cats, and my goal is to outlive them. Once they are taken care of, then it doesn’t matter what happens to me. These three are going to be my last. I’m not going to adopt anymore pets and then have to worry about what would happen to them when something happens to me.

Simon is the youngest of the three. He will be turning 5 in May. So, right now, my goal is to live about another 15 years so that I can outlive the three of them. To make it a nice round number that is easy to remember, I am hoping to be able to live to age 60. 

Given the decreasing life expectancy in the USA right now, I think that age 60 is a reasonable number. I just wish I could retire so that I could enjoy the last 15 years of my life. Unfortunately, that is not economically possible. I will be working until I die.

As difficult as things are, I am so grateful for this time I have had at home with the cats. We are all safe and get to spend quality time together. My only goal is to be able to continue this so I can take care of them. 

At age 42, I certainly do not have the answer to life, the universe and everything. All I know is my goal is to remain covid free and to be able to take care of my cats. At the end of the day, the only things that matter are the cats and running. 

So here is to another trip around the sun. Let’s hope I get the full ride. 

My Valentine

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Jude with his birthday banner. He turned 9 on February 14, 2021

Last Sunday was February 14, 2021. It was Jude’s 9th birthday. It was also his Gotcha Day. Jude has been with me for 7 years. He will always be my valentine. He did indeed come into my life at a time when he “took a sad song and made it better.”

Birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it is a celebration that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Birthdays in the pandemic are an even bigger deal. 

Jude received birthday cards from the vet office and from chewy, where we get our cat supplies. We also got a birthday box from Chewy that had an assortment of toys and treats. It was a fun day for all of us. 

My goal in this pandemic is to survive for the next 15 or so years so that I outlive the cats. I am worried about what would happen to them if something happens to me. I am their home and their forever family. I don’t want them to have to go back to a shelter and I don’t want them to be separated. 

We had a great time celebrating Jude last weekend and playing. We listened to music and had some quality family time. I plan on celebrating all of our birthdays this year in much the same fashion. Life is much too short to not celebrate a birthday. 

Jude will always be my valentine. 

My Best Thanksgiving

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Growing up primarily homeless with divorced parents means I was bounced around a lot as a child. My grandparents were the most stabilizing presence in my life. On the occasion that I happened to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents, I remember it being a big production.

My grandmother would get up at 3 am to put the turkey in the oven and start the preparations. My grandparents lived on a farm when I was growing up. Just because it was Thanksgiving, did not mean it was a day off. The animals still needed to be tended and the chores still needed to be done, even if it was Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving meal was always served mid-day at my grandparent’s house. That way, it was in between morning and afternoon chores so my grandfather and uncles had time to sit down to enjoy the meal. Hence, my grandmother getting up at 3 am to start cooking. The Thanksgiving meal would be served sometime between 11 am and 1 pm. Closer to 11 am was preferable, closer to 1 pm was only if there was some unexpected delay.

When not at my grandparent’s house, I was tossed around between different relatives. In addition to having divorced parents, my mom was a nurse and nurses don’t always get holidays off either. My dad lived in another state, so there was always travel involved.

As an adult, I have always said I do not want to travel on holidays. I just want to stay in my house with my cats and celebrate the holiday. My cats are my family. By staying home with them, I am celebrating the holiday with family. 

There was one year where I did go somewhere to celebrate a holiday. I remember it was New Year’s Eve. I was completely miserable at this New Year’s Eve party I attended. I would have been happier at home with my cats. The entire time I was at the party, I felt guilty for not spending the holiday with my family. I have since renewed my vow to spend holidays with my family.

So for the past 20 years or so, I have spent every single holiday home alone with my cats. I am completely okay with that. I get plenty of phone calls, text messages and letters in the mail from humans. Holidays are family time and the cats are my family.

So spending Thanksgiving home alone with the cats during a pandemic was no big deal for me. It was just like any other Thanksgiving. While most of America completely ignored CDC recommendations and chose to risk their lives and the lives of other people to travel on Thanksgiving, I stayed home like I always do. I was perfectly happy.

Twenty years ago I cooked a big turkey Thanksgiving and had friends over. Even though I do not want to go anywhere on holidays, I don’t mind if people visit me. Cooking Thanksgiving was a lot of work. I did it once. I said I would not do it again. I haven’t.

In Thanksgivings since, I have been way too tired to do anything special for Thanksgiving. I spent 15 years working 2 or 3 jobs often 7 days a week trying to make ends meet. Holidays were the only times I ever got a day off. So instead of cooking anything special for Thanksgiving, I would often just put a frozen pizza in the oven and sleep. I was exhausted. I was just happy to have the day off to be home with the cats.

When I finished my master’s degree 5 years ago, I decided to cook Thanksgiving to see what it would be like to be a “normal,” non-student adult. However, instead of cooking any sort of poultry, I made a lentil loaf. I remember being in the kitchen almost all day. If you have ever cooked a lentil loaf from scratch, you know it takes about 3 hours to do so, provided you have soaked the lentils overnight ahead of time.

I got up early to cook so that my meal was ready about noontime, same as when I was a child. Cooking Thanksgiving that year was a lot of work. I even went out of my way to make an allergy-friendly pumpkin pie. That was another endeavor that took hours to make. Of course the allergy friendly pie crust was made and rolled out by hand too. 

Again, after that Thanksgiving, I said never again. I was not going to get up early and spend the entire day cooking just for one meal. It’s not worth it. For the record, the lentil loaf was excellent. I have made it many times since then. However, I do not spend hours making mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and all the other things to do with it. It is much more manageable to make the lentil loaf by itself on a long weekend.

This year, being in quarantine, I am home all the time. I really wanted to do something to make the holidays extra special this year to break up the monotony and to feel like I was really getting a break and having a special treat. 

I decided to cook Thanksgiving this year. However, I told myself that based on my past experience watching my grandmother toil in the kitchen at 3 am, that I was not going to do that. However I chose to cook Thanksgiving this year, I would rather have my meal later than get up that early just to cook a meal.

Plus, as a single person, a turkey is a bit much. Yes, you can always have leftovers, but I just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking an entire turkey. When looking in my cupboards, I do not even have any pans or cookware that is big enough or adequate to cook a turkey.

So while I decided I would cook Thanksgiving this year, I came up with a completely different plan and it worked perfectly. In fact, Thanksgiving 2020, in the middle of being quarantined in a global pandemic, was the best Thanksgiving of my entire life. Here is how it happened.

The cats actually let me sleep in for an extra hour on Thanksgiving morning. I was surprised. They usually don’t let me over sleep for too long before they start fussing around me wanting their breakfast. But on Thanksgiving morning, I had an extra hour of sleep. Thank you, furballs.

My morning went as usual. I even had time to sit on the couch with my coffee and relaxed listening to a CD. After my relaxing morning routine, I went to the kitchen to set up the crockpot.

I cooked my entire Thanksgiving meal in the crockpot. It resulted in less dishes, less mess, and less work on my part.

I sliced open a sweet potato and put the two halves on the bottom of the crockpot. When the crockpot was done later in the day, I essentially had a baked sweet potato. On top of the sweet potato, I put a Cornish game hen. The Cornish game hen I had gotten on an Instacart order back in September. It had been in my freezer waiting for Thanksgiving. The biggest prep I had to do was remembering to pull the Cornish game hen out of the freezer to thaw in the refrigerator a few days before Thanksgiving.

The Cornish game hen went in the crock pot on top of the sweet potato. I then opened a can of cranberry sauce and a can of mandarin oranges and out those in. This way, the Cornish game hen would have a cranberry-orange glaze, and the sweet potato would too. 

Now, there is a saying that “nobody likes it from the can” when it comes to cranberry sauce. I have to agree. I have made fresh cranberry sauce before from a bag of cranberries. However, I did not want to go to the hassle of making cranberry sauce from scratch. Not to mention, that when you put canned cranberry sauce in the crockpot, it makes it indistinguishable. By the time the crockpot is done, both the Cornish game hen and the sweet potato are cranberry flavored. There is no way to tell the difference between if fresh cranberries or canned cranberries were used, so I just used canned. Less work for me.

I set the crockpot up and went about my day until my Thanksgiving dinner was done. Thanksgiving dinner ended up being ready at about 5:30 pm, which was in line with my normal meal time and medication schedule. Another challenge with special holiday meals is trying to coordinate your food schedule with your medication schedule when you happen to be on a medication that requires you take it with food. I planned Thanksgiving dinner to replace my normal evening meal. I also had a bottle of sparkling white grape juice ($3), which was easier to obtain and way more affordable than if I had wine ($25).

For the record, the cats had Thanksgiving too. I wanted to make the day special for them also so that they would know it was Thanksgiving and not just another day. I do not ever feed the cats anything other than their prescribed cat food, but on Thanksgiving, I split a packet of tuna fish between the 3 of them. If they only get tuna fish on Thanksgiving, then they know that is a special day. This year was Jolene’s first Thanksgiving with us, so that made it even more special.

While Thanksgiving was cooking in the crockpot, I was able to get a lot done around the house. I watched two Thanksgiving movies. I pulled out my Christmas CDs and put them on.  I put up the Christmas tree and decorations. I wrapped all the Christmas presents.

It was a very relaxing day.

After my Thanksgiving meal in the evening, I watched a Christmas movie with the Christmas tree lights on. The cats and I had a great day. 

This was the best Thanksgiving I have ever had in my life. I was home with my family, the ones I love. I had a special meal that came out great and took little fuss to make. I think a cranberry-orange Cornish game hen with sweet potatoes sounds like Thanksgiving to me. It took a lot less work than a if I had done a traditional turkey.

Although, while the meal was great, I think next year I may try a boneless turkey breast or do boneless chicken breasts instead of a Cornish game hen to be honest with you. 

Many Americans this year were in uproar over COVID and Thanksgiving. Many people risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to see their family. They just could not give up their traditional Thanksgiving to save their lives. 

I’m not judging. I just don’t understand it. The cats and I are “alone” every year. I was not lonely. People do call to wish my Happy Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with my cats – my family and the ones I love. Thanksgiving could not have been better for me. I don’t understand why people have to put so much pressure on one day to tell people we love them. You should be telling people you love them every day. Life is short.

This year we are thankful to be alive. We are thankful to be together. The future is not promised.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone. The cats and I are having the best Thanksgiving of our lives.

Minimalist Holidays in a Pandemic

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Jolene sleeping hard wrapped in a blanket.

The snow is falling outside and it is absolutely stunning. There are about 3 inches currently on the ground. It is early morning, the sun is up. We just went through Daylight Savings and are now on the sense of time I enjoy the most. It is November 2 and this is our first snowfall of the season. 

What makes it even better is that I don’t have to drive in it. The car is in the garage in case the man who does the snow plow comes. I have the day off, but even if I didn’t, I would be working from home.

I am inside the house with the cats nice and warm enjoying some Sinatra and coffee watching birds and snow. Life is good. 

It’s holiday time. I will tell you that due to the food shortages, I already started holiday planning back in September. This year is going to be the first time I have cooked something special for Thanksgiving in 5 years, since 2015.  In 2015, as I finished my Master’s degree, I decided to cook a lentil loaf for Thanksgiving to celebrate my retirement from being a college student. The lentil loaf was so good it has become a staple food item in winter that I make about once a month or so.

This year will be the first time in almost 20 years that I have bothered to cook any type of poultry for Thanksgiving. I have a Cornish game hen in my freezer that has been there since the end of September. There is no point in cooking an entire turkey for just me. I am going to put the Cornish game hen in the crockpot with cranberry and orange. It is the perfect size for one person while still being a “full” poultry. 

I am also hoping to make sweet potatoes with it, if I can get them. If not, I have plenty of yellow potatoes in my house right now. But sweet potatoes would be a special treat. 

I am just happy that the cats and I are all in the house together and safe. That is definitely something to celebrate in this hellish year. The way things are going with the virus and the economy, we may be dead next year, or we may not be in the house. But for now, things are good, and we are going to celebrate the holidays. The cats and I are truly home. This is the highlight of my life.

For Christmas, I am going to keep everything the same as every other year. The goal is for the cats to think everything is normal. I don’t want them to know we are living in a global pandemic and the world is in crisis. I’m trying to shield them from that and give them a good life.

This will be Jolene’s first Christmas with us. I adopted her in January last year, right after the holidays. It will be her first time with a stocking, a Christmas tree and presents.

Since I only had two little stockings, I went and hand-sewed brand-new stockings this year, so that all three cats have a stocking and they all match. Jolene needed a stocking. I did not want her stocking to be any different from the boys because I work hard to treat them all the same. So I took some Christmas theme fabric I have and made them all a stocking.

In our house, Santa fills the stocking. He comes down the chimney, fills the stocking, and goes. Presents under the tree come from mom and each cat typically gets 1 to 3 presents each. 

Since being in the house, Christmas is especially exciting because we have a fireplace with a real chimney so Santa does not have to use a “special key.” Santa usually fills the stockings with a few small toys and treats.

I added one Christmas present for each cat onto the October Chewy order to be sure I have their presents. The next Chewy food order does not arrive until sometime in December, and I didn’t want to put the presents on that order that close to Chrismtas in case it didn’t arrive on time. 

So each cat has one present from mom this year. Santa will fill their stockings with small toys (I have some left over from a package of toys from last year that I kept for this year). I will add cat treats for the stockings to my Instacart order.

Christmas for humans is another story. Again, I typically do 1 to 3 presents for each person I buy a present for. Usually everyone gets one present, so that won’t change too much this year. I honestly don’t have money for Christmas.

The only change will be in type of gift. While I usually do a gift bag of various coffees, teas, and cocoa for people, this year the gift bag will be one coffee and potentially one other item.

The formula for this year for gifts is going to be: coffee, hat, or socks.

These are all items I can get, and they are all “essential” items. I am not going to have someone risk their life in a pandemic for a Christmas present. That’s cruel and inhumane. 

Fancy coffee I can add to my Instacart order and get rather easily with my normal grocery order. It’s nice at Christmas to be able to splurge on the expensive or fancy coffee to enjoy as you watch snow falling out the window.

A hat or socks is something you can wear and keeps you warm. Therefore, they are essential. I have been focusing on hats and socks this year mostly because I am cold. If you have a hat and warm socks, then you will be warmer. A lot of us are having financial difficulty in the pandemic and can’t afford the heating bills. If you have to turn your heat down to try to keep the bill down, then a hat and warm socks are going to be needed to stay warm. 

Socks are one of the most requested items by homeless people. Take it from a former homeless person, a warm pair of socks is like Christmas. So this year, a warm pair of socks may just be Christmas.

Back in the First Great Depression in the 1930s, Christmas gifts were often something to eat or something to wear. Children would often find an orange or some other citrus in their stocking because citrus was hard to come by. There might be a yo-yo or small hand carved toy.

In this line, the cats get some treats and some small toys in their stocking.

During the First Great Depression a Christmas present might be a scarf or gloves that someone hand crocheted or knit. I don’t have that kind of talent. But I can order warm hats and warm socks. 

Another Christmas throwback this year will be method of delivery. I’ve seen old home movies from back in the 1950s. A beloved family member comes home for the holidays. They pull in the drive way and pop open the trunk of the car to display a pile of wrapped presents inside. There is one for each family member. 

In the event I cannot figure out any other way to safely deliver presents this year, that is what I will be doing. Open my trunk and grab your present. Safe and socially distant.

Another tradition in which I have been engaging for a long time that I am hoping gains widespread adoption this year is card writing. 

I always take time to write personalized messages in cards for that person. Someone told me recently that the only thing they want from me for Christmas this year is a card because I write great cards. In this socially distanced pandemic, I am hoping that card writing like that catches on.

We cannot be together this year. We still need to be sure that people hear things they need to hear. We need to be sure that people know how we feel abut them, especially with so many dying. May your Christmas cards this year give you the opportunity to send heartfelt messages to people you are unable to see.

I am not sure if we will be doing photo cards for Christmas this year or not. I will decide that next week. It mostly depends on if I can afford them. I want to do them, for the cats. I have great photos of all of them for this year’s Christmas card. The only one I do not have a great photo of for this year is me. But it’s not about me. It’s about the cats. We will see if we do a photo card this year or not in addition to the traditional hand-written cards.

Luckily, I have enough Christmas items so I do not have to worry about buying gift bags, wrapping paper, etc. Most people do. I’m sure if you look around the house you will realize you have enough Christmas stuff too and don’t need to buy anything.

I will admit that when I buy gift bags, etc I try to get them in neutral red and green colors. This way I can use them for birthdays and other holidays, not just Christmas. I have some Christmas theme tissue paper to make them festive. That way I get a lot of mileage over any packaging I may buy.

There is also the old stand-bys of using newspaper and paper bags as wrapping paper too. You can even draw and color on them to make it more special.

The only differences the pandemic is making in my minimalist holidays is that people are strictly getting one present, where some years there may have been 2 or 3. Also, less people will be getting presents this year than usual. I just don’t have the money. But people will still be getting cards with heartfelt messages. Sometimes the present is just that I am happy you are alive.

How will you be spending the holidays in a pandemic?

Goals of Life and Good Death

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With everything that has happened the past few years, I am a little behind on goals. I finally completed a New Year’s resolution that I had back in 2016. I have read the Bible in it’s entirety this year. It had been awhile since I have read the Bible completely.

Following the Our Daily Bread plan, I read a passage from the Old Testament and from the New Testament each day. Breaking it up into chunks with passages from both Old and New made it much more manageable, especially when going through books such as Numbers. Numbers basically consists of long lists of incomprehensible names. 

I have yet to meet a person whose favorite book of the Bible is Numbers. However, if your favorite book is Numbers, let me know. I would like to know why and to hear your viewpoint so that I can learn something. 

Reading through the Bible in its entirety again was calming yet challenging. We all have our favorite books to which we gravitate and return to again and again. Some books like Numbers were more challenging. 

For the record, I would say that Nehemiah is my favorite book of the Bible. Although, my favorite verses, that are my life verses and will be read at my funeral,  are 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT). 

In 2020, I am hoping to accomplish a goal that I had set for myself last year and did not yet achieve. Since buying the house and turning 40, I decided I need to be a responsible adult and plan my funeral. Well, I should at least have a Will. I now have a significant asset, so decisions should be made. Yes, I know it sounds morbid, but hear me out. 

First, I have no family. This means that when I die, my body and possessions would become a ward of the state. Since I spent about half of my childhood as a ward of the state, I have no desire for my dead body to become one as well. I know someone else who died with no family and saw what that looks like. It is the most undignified and disrespectful way to die. I am appalled at what happens to dead bodies that are wards of the state in New York State. 

Given that I have no family, there is no one to carry the burden to make arrangements and decisions when I am gone. There are no friends close enough that I would ask to bear the burden that should be carried by a spouse or child. If I pre-plan everything, then the only thing that would need to be asked of a friend would be final signing of paperwork to carry out my pre-planned wishes.

Second, I have discovered that a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral is exempt from both asset calculations and from all legal proceedings that may take something from you. As an example, if I end up in need of Medicaid in the future, a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would not be considered an asset for Medicaid determination purposes. Also, when I die, all my assets would currently be seized by the federal government to be put towards my student loan debt. Nothing would be able to be sold or saved to put towards my funeral; it would all go to student loans. A pre-planned and pre-paid funeral would be exempt from seizure to satisfy my student loan debt.

This is in marked contrast to a life insurance policy. One of my friends suggested just getting a life insurance policy that would pay for everything. Well, a life insurance policy is considered an asset and would disqualify me from receiving Medicaid if I should need that in the future. A life insurance policy would also be seized to fulfill my student loan requirement in the event of my death, with none of the money going to my funeral or anything else. My house would be seized for student loans also.

You know, I keep saying student loans in America are a form of indentured servitude. Student loans are a rant for another day. Or, you can check out my slam poetry piece from #Occupy to jog your memory on student loans. I digress.

It is my goal in 2020 to pre-plan and pre-pay my funeral, so that when I die, I just need a person to sign off on all my arrangements. For example, I want to be cremated. You cannot sign the paperwork to be cremated until you have a dead body. If you are dead, you cannot sign for yourself, so someone will have to sign for me.

As gloom and doom as this may sound, the planning I have started has actually been quite fun and exciting. For some reason, I attended a few funerals in 2019, and while each was beautiful in its own way and befitting the deceased, none of them are what I want. 

In the words of Monty Python, I want “one mother of a blowout.”

I am planning a 2 hour celebration of life party. Instead of everyone singing church hymns and sitting through a service that may have meaning to me, but not to them, I am designing a play list. I have chosen 26.2 songs that have multiple meanings in my life. 26.2 is the length of a marathon. There are 26 songs, one by a different artist. The point 2 portion are my two favorite Christmas songs. 

It has been so much fun working on my funeral play list. I am going through songs and very carefully choosing ones that have had significant meaning for my life for decades. 

There is the play list of songs in the key of life, then there is the annotated play list. The annotated play list is basically the Celebration of Life program. In the annotation, I have 2-3 sentences that explain why the chosen song was so significant in my life. 

This way, people can listen to the play list and maybe learn things about me in death that they did not know in life. They can also listen to songs from the play list whenever they miss me and want to remember me after I’m gone (if there is anyone who misses me like that). 

Some people have asked what is the purpose in pre-planning one’s funeral ? You will be dead, who cares? For me, the purpose in pre-planning my own funeral is so that hopefully I can have in death what I never got in life.

And that there is another story entirely.

But I think even without giving you the back story, simply stating that I want to pre-plan my funeral so that I can have in death what I do not have in life to be impactful and meaningful enough. 

Given that I am now a home owner, creating a Will, doing legal paperwork and all of this pre-planning is the “responsible adult” thing to do. With my disability, I want to be sure that I put these provisions in place now while I am of sound mind and body. No one knows the course this disability takes. I have good days and bad days. I may be with it today, and completely gone tomorrow. I want to make my own choices while I have the ability to make them.

With 2020 coming, the year is going to be about life and the good death. On a less morbid note, I am in the process of planning my 2020 running season and am looking forward to my next race and to achieving medal #18 in 2020. Every step I run is a celebration of the beauty of life and makes me so grateful to be on the planet. Running = Life.