House-iversary 2

IMG_4636

Jude is playing in a box.

Baseball legend Ted Williams was born on August 30, 1918. As one of the longest tenured players in the sport, “the kid” wore number 9 for the Boston Red Sox. His number has since been retired by the team.

On what would have been Ted’s 100th birthday on August 30, 2018, I hit my own home run and purchased my first house. It is also coincidence that my house number is 9, the same as Ted’s baseball number. I say it was meant to be. 

There are other reasons why I think this house was meant to be mine. But today, the cats and I are celebrating our 2 year House-iversary. We have found our furever home.

Jolene has now been in this house longer than she spent in the shelter. I am unaware of her life before that. From what I do know about her, I think she was either an outdoor cat or genuinely homeless prior to her being dumped at the shelter in a box with her kittens. Jolene also celebrated her 6th birthday last week. To my knowledge, Jolene has lived in this house longer than she has lived in any other house.

Simon has definitely been in this house longer than he has been anywhere else. He has lived here longer than we were in the apartment. He has lived here longer than he was in the shelter. For Simon, this house is definitely home. You can tell too. Simon is the only cat who does not try to escape to either the basement or the outdoors. Simon stays in the first and second floor living spaces. He knows its home and where he is supposed to be. He has truly come into his own in this house.

As the oldest, Jude and I have quite a few more years to go before this house is the longest place we have ever lived and it truly feels like home. I was in the apartment for 14 years. 

Jude was in the apartment for 4 and a half years. So, Jude is halfway there for this house to be home for him. There are times when I can tell that Jude does miss the apartment. Jude used to go out on the porch at the apartment. He cannot do that safely here at the house without being in a cage. I can tell it irks him. He misses the apartment porch where he could roam more freely (with supervision, of course). Yet I know Jude is happy in this house. He plays more. 

Being a first time homeowner has certainly been a challenge. I am so grateful for all of the people who have helped me along the way and continue to help and support me. 

This morning, as I type this, the temperatures have finally cooled into the 60s. All of the windows are open. The cats are happily sitting in front of open windows bird watching. I am sitting in front of our beautiful kitchen windows that open to the backyard. 

It was the kitchen that made me fall in love with this house. As soon as I walked into the kitchen, I said “this is it.” The kitchen is the first room you walk into when you open the door. Viewing the rest of the house was simply a formality. With multiple food allergies, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When I was in the apartment, my kitchen was also “command central” for all of my degrees. The kitchen is truly the heart of the home in my house. 

I had been told that the first year in a new house is an adjustment period and that you should not look to do any major changes or updates in that first year as you come to know the house. I followed this advice. It was easy to follow. I have been too overwhelmed as a new homeowner to do anything other than react to any issue that happened to arise. 

That said, I do have a home maintenance list, as I’m sure everyone does. It is a never ending list that is constantly changing and always updating. Last year, I painted the front of the garage, and an area of the house near the dryer vent. My goal for this year was to finish painting the garage. Since I am in quarantine and cannot get more paint right now, that is not happening. Not to mention, I learned that painting the garage is not as easy as it sounds. I will need help to reach the topmost areas and the detail work to make it look nice.

My goals for the house going forward is to save and complete one home project per year. I think that this is reasonable, and it is also advice I received from a friend who is also a single female and first time homeowner. I just have to prioritize the projects. 

This fall, I hope to do some outside painting with the can of white paint I had bought last year and never used. That is a small project that I do not consider to be on the list of “one home project per year.” I consider projects on the List to be large projects for which I have to hire and pay someone else to do or that require a significant amount of savings. I may not be good at painting, but I get it done. 

This year, the cats and I are very happy to be celebrating our House-iversary 2 together. This house has stood through World War One, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War Two, and everything that has come since. We will live through the coronavirus pandemic and the Great Depression 2 as well. 

I am so grateful that the cats and I have this house to be in safe together in the pandemic. Home is where the cats are. They seem happy here. This house is our home base.

Isolation Log: Covid Date 4.a.20

IMG_1104

Medal # 18 from the Shamrock Run.

My spring race was canceled in the middle of all this mess. My entire 2020 race season has been canceled. With my spring race gone, I ended up doing it virtually.

I was about a minute slow for a 5K, but I did get it done and received medal # 18 for my efforts. This medal is anti-climatic. It lacked the excitement of being awarded right after the race. I typically wear the medal for a week after the race for everyone to see. This medal came in the mail after I posted my results from the Garmin for the 5K.

My cats have seen the medal, so everyone has seen it. They are not impressed.

I am pretty much sticking to 3 miles a few times per week while we are being isolated. Every day I am on the road and able to run is a good day.

I am very happy to be home and am doing well in isolation. In fact, this experience has me seriously re-thinking my routines in everyday life. I am enjoying not having to go out a whole lot. I am pretty sure that when this is all over, I am going to continue many of the things I am doing now and limit my social interactions with other people. 

My greatest challenge is when I do have to go out. After the discussion the primary doctor had with me a few weeks ago about not going to the grocery or pharmacy, I am terrified to go any place where there are other people. 

Jolene had an appointment this past Saturday to have her mouth looked at again from her January dental surgery. She has healed from the surgery. The challenge is that when the shelter did the surgery in January, they did not do the best job. There are roots and bone left in her mouth that should not be there and have caused infection.

Jolene had an antibiotic shot on Saturday to help and will be going in for another dental surgery tomorrow to correct the surgery from January. This one I will have to pay for. Hopefully when it is done tomorrow, her mouth will be fine from here on out. We have been with this vet office for about 15 years now and they are excellent. 

The staff at the vet clinic was great. Only one pet owner is allowed inside the clinic at a time. We all wore masks. They came out and took her in her carrier for her appointment. I spoke with the technicians and the vet on the phone. They had Jolene in there for the exam and I stayed in the car. Then they brought her back out to me. I did not even go outside. My only “interaction” with a human was transferring her carrier. 

Tomorrow Jolene will be at the vet office for the day for her dental surgery. I drop her off in the morning and pick her up in the late afternoon. I just hope that everything goes well so that her mouth is no longer in pain for her. She is the sweetest cat. Everyone loved her Saturday. They said she was so playful for her appointment. Honestly, this dental surgery is the last thing I need right now with everything else going on, but I have to keep her safe. She needs to have her mouth fixed.

The biggest take-away I am getting from isolation right now is a change in routine. I do have a daily routine. How is my routine going to change when we are no longer isolated? Will I go back to the way things were? I doubt it. What aspects of my isolation routine will I keep? I am thinking a lot of them. Time will tell.

The best news is that isolation is great for my food allergies. All of my allergy spots from skin reactions I have from coming into contact with allergens in the environment, like almond oil, are healing. If all of these allergy spots heal, it will be the first time in almost a decade that I am not having an active allergic reaction. Nut oils are the bane of my existence.  

People have said they are worried about me right now and I do not understand why. I am fine in my house with my cats. This is where I want to be. My greatest challenge right now is when I have to leave the house to do something like taking the cat to the vet. That is a necessity and I have to do it. If my cats need medical care, I have to take them.

The county in which I live does not have the ability to test people for the coronavirus. Therefore, our numbers are really low. The numbers are deceiving. In order to get tested, people have to go to one of two neighboring counties, which is about an hour drive away. Transportation is non-existent in my rural county. There are many people here who have coronavirus and it is not reflected in the numbers because there is no testing in my county.

Only those who are very fortunate and have access to a vehicle and the ability to drive an hour away can be tested. People in this area have a false sense of security when the reported numbers are so low.

This is one of the challenges of living in a rural area that lacks transportation. I just hope they will figure this out and test in our county before they lift the stay at home ban. Otherwise, we are going to have a very large outbreak here. However, I do not think that people in my area are taking this virus seriously.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. We have not yet seen the worst of it.

Stay strong out there. #NYTough

 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 3.a.20

IMG_1080

Simon sitting on the rollator to bird watch when the rollator is not in use.

It has now been 10 days since I have had human contact. Now I know what my cats must feel like when I go on my 3-day marathon or camping trips. At least when I am gone, they have each other. I am thankful to be home with them. I am able to go out into the world (generally – pre Covid), but for my cats, the house is the only world they have. Now it is mine.

Good news, is that since I am surrounded by three adorable felines, I can say with confidence that there is intelligent life here. 

A good friend dropped off feminine hygiene supplies to my door the other day. They were much needed. Even though I ordered supplies online, delivery times are slow. That is even if items are in stock. Many items I am looking for are out of stock online. I have enough supplies and do not need help for now – but I will. Some items say that they are only available for purchase in stores. The problem is, my primary doctor told me I should not go to the grocery store or pharmacy because those are high-risk areas for me.

I have been getting creative with food. I now know four different ways to cook carrots. No, I am not hoarding carrots. They were on sale 2 / $3 the last time I was able to go to a grocery store, so I ended up with four pounds of them in the house. Today I will be making allergy-friendly carrot raisin muffins that will be my breakfast for the next few days. 

I am re-learning the difference between wants and needs. I have enough supplies. I have food. I have things I need. I want zucchini. Do I need zucchini? No, I can live without it. I am thankful for what I have. There are a few things that when this is all over will certainly be a real treat to have again. I did need those feminine hygiene products though, so I am grateful someone dropped them off for me. That was a need. 

I took the car out for a drive this weekend. I know from when I was in the hospital a few years ago, that the car needs to be driven once a week to keep it going. It was so weird to just drive for no purpose. I have not done that in a long time. I really need to get the snow tires off the car. We are supposed to get more snow this week, so I guess it’s fine for now. Nothing I can do about it anyways.

Sunday I had a great 3-mile run in between raindrops. We had a violent thunderstorm last night and almost lost power. In the past week, we have gone from snowstorm to thunderstorm back to snow. It’s central New York. If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes and it will change.  

For minimalism, I worked upstairs this weekend. I have a few boxes of things ready to be donated or leave the house in some way when this is all over. They are in an empty room upstairs. I was able to create an empty room and an empty closet this weekend. I’m one person. I only need to use one closet. I was finally able to achieve this. 

I have been using my rollator (4-wheeled walker you can sit on) more. This is definitely not the time to be falling down and hurting myself. Yes, I am still running, but I am having more bad moments than good moments. I have only taken my rollator out in public with me once, but it is going to have to happen more often.

People think it’s weird seeing a marathon runner with a rollator. One day I will be running, then the next day I will be rolling. That’s just it, though. 

On good days, I run. On bad days, I roll.

The next time I have a bad day, I am going to take my rollator with me for my daily outside time. I went out the other day without it. I was having a bad day. It was not good. I avoided a fall, but did not get very far before I had to come back. 

To be honest, I’m worried about being judged for using it. The very reason is that one day I may be running and the next day I may be rolling. I know how people think about things like that. 

One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that I no longer control my own body. Any day I am on the road, it’s a good day.

On good days, I run. On bad days, I roll. Every day with my cats is a little piece of heaven.

Stay strong out there. #NYTough

Isolation Log: Covid Date 2.a.20

IMG_0999

Jolene playing in the empty laundry basket

Welcome to Upstate New York where we have coronavirus in a snowstorm!

That’s right, folks. We are under a winter weather advisory for 6 inches of snow with sleet and freezing rain. I bet all the kids were hoping for a snow day … oh, that’s right, they already get to stay home. Except they still have to go to school – online! 

Muahahaha.

I have been working from home today. I work in my kitchen, where I have the best lighting and electrical outlets. I also have the best windows to sit here and watch the snow while the cats like to bird watch. The snow is coming down fast. 

Today it was announced that New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. New York State has 20x more cases than any other state in the country.

New York is Ground Zero. Again. That’s ok, we are used to being Ground Zero. Our Governor is doing a stellar job right now. 

In positive news …

I am feeling okay. I have decided that it is in the best interest of my mental health to stop listening to the radio. My sources of news are primarily radio and newspaper. For now, I am reading my newspaper and watching the Governor’s daily briefing. Watching the Governor makes me feel better in this scary time. I like that he gives daily updates. He makes me feel safe. No matter your politics, you have to agree that our Governor has really stepped up to the plate in dealing with this crisis.

I am using my CD player more since I am no longer listening to the radio. I cannot stand for the house to be silent. I have to have music. I am having a great time revisiting some CDs that I have not had the chance to listen to in awhile. Music makes me happy.

The cats are completely oblivious to what is going on. I’m sure they think I am just on a 3-day weekend or Christmas break or something. I am so thankful for every single day I get to be home with them. I’m glad they are oblivious. It’s my job as mom to take care of them. I don’t want them to know what is going on or how bad it is. 

I had a great 3 mile run outdoors yesterday. I am holding steady at 3 miles. I am pretty sure that my entire 2020 running season is going to be forfeited to the coronavirus. Right now it’s all about survival. I need those 3 miles to keep my sanity.

I am hoping that it will warm up and rain or something in the next few days here so that I can continue running outside. I went to the mailbox today, and not only was there quite a few inches of snow, but it is very slippery. I can’t run in this. 

If worst come to worst, I may start running laps around the first floor of my home with my Garmin. Any guesses on how many laps will make a mile? I’m guessing 1,378 laps. I’ll let you know if I get desperate and do that. 

I do have a daily schedule so that I still have a routine. I have a designated time each day for outside time. Sunshine is good for the soul.

This weekend, I may be working on some of my minimalist home projects. I am still trying to empty a room upstairs. While I am not physically able to remove items from my home right now, I can at least box items that are ready to leave when I can get rid of them.

In my Bible, I am currently reading the book of Psalms and the book of Revelation. They make me feel better.

Last fall, my book club read a novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. One of the characters talked about how they had to burn books for warmth during WWII. She said that she left her Bible for last, and that when she did have to burn the Bible for warmth, the two books that she decided to burn were Job and Revelation.

I do not think that we are going to be that desperate where we have to burn books for warmth. We may have to use them for toilet paper … come on people, SHARE! 

I doubt we will have to use books for toilet paper, but if it does get to that point and my Bible is the “last book standing,” I can tell you right now, that I will not be using the book of Revelation. I will be using the book of Numbers. I still don’t get that one.

Be warm, safe and well. 

 

Introducing Jolene

IMG_0726

Jude, Simon and I are happy to announce the arrival of Jolene! In over 20 years of being a cat mom, Jolene is my first girl, so she got my baby name. Jude has my boy name.

I have been wanting a dog for the past 3-4 years, but was not able to have a dog in my apartment. Since moving into the house, I started visiting the shelter about once a month to try to connect with a dog to adopt. I have been on the approved adopter list for about 6 months. As we know by my experience last spring in Dog Gone Down, I definitely can not handle a larger dog. Yet I was still visiting the shelter hoping to find either a smaller dog, or an older, more calm one. 

Each time I visit the shelter, I spend a few hours visiting all of the animals. I have been reading to and playing with cats to help socialize them. If they are more friendly, they are more likely to be adopted. In over 20 years as a cat mom, I have never wanted a third cat. I have been fine with two.

This month, I went to the shelter specifically to visit a 15 pound dog that I thought I could handle. I really liked him. He was hesitant about me, which is completely understandable in a shelter situation. There was another person there to visit the same dog. As soon as the other person came into the room, the dog got all excited and jumped into the person’s lap. That dog chose his family. It was not me, and that was okay. I was just glad to see that he would be adopted and have a happy ending.

I then proceeded to visit with the cats, as I usually do. There are three rooms of cats. After the first room, I went into the second room. Way in the corner was this little orange cat begging for attention. I typically avoid orange cats. Kip was orange, and I was so upset after he died, that I have difficulty sometimes interacting with other orange cats without getting upset. They just remind me of Kip.

Well, this little 6 pound wonder was a girl, which in some ways made it different. I am able to mentally separate her from Kip because even though she is orange, she is a girl. It is extremely rare for an orange cat to be female. Over 80% of orange cats are male, which has something to do with the genetics for orange fur.

As soon as I took this little girl out of the cage for some attention, she immediately crawled up my shoulder, hugged me, and would not let go. She chose me.

This 5 year old wonder had been dumped last summer with a box full of kittens. She was a wonderful mother. Of course, kittens get adopted because they are cute and fluffy. The moms are often left in the shelters un-adopted, as they are typically older. 

This girl loved me and reacted to me in a way that cats rarely do. Keep in mind, I have made numerous visits to the shelter to socialize cats. None of them reacted to me the way she did.

I never wanted a third cat, but you know, I was looking at getting a dog, which would have been a third pet. Did it matter if it was a dog or a cat? She had chosen me.

Jolene came home a few weeks ago and has been fitting right in. She is the Queen of the castle, Jude is the man of the house, and Simon will always be my baby. Jolene is so tiny – she is 6 pounds, whereas the boys are 10 pounds each.

Jolene has of course been spayed and also had dental work done. I found out that she has some genetic disorder that causes all of her teeth to rot from the inside out. Apparently, when she was dumped with her kittens last summer, she was already missing half of her teeth. She had to have 8 infected teeth extracted right before adoption. She currently has 5 teeth left. She will probably be a toothless cat and is special needs in that she needs to be soft food only. But, hey, that’s genetics. She is the most loving and precious cat ever.

She gets along well with the boys and is so smart. She is constantly learning from them and is already getting used to our home routine. I still have to keep her separate when I am not home for her own safety. She is still healing from her surgeries and needs time to heal. 

I am definitely not getting a dog now. There is no way I can handle a fourth pet. Having three right now, is a little juggling act, but definitely do-able. Jolene is the perfect addition to our little family. I just could not say no when she chose me.

Sometimes love just finds you – and it is wonderful.

Friday Nights & Saturday Mornings

WP_20190612_12_47_16_Pro

We have all done things that we were not necessarily proud of. Luckily for me, I am of a generation when the vast majority of the stupid things I’ve done were pre-internet and undocumented. We have all had those moments of stupidity. They typically happen in our younger years, but even as we get older, there is a moment now and then.

If anything, I’m always honest and one thing I’m not proud of is how I used to spend Friday nights in my 20s. This was a point in life when I was still struggling through school, working on degrees one and two, and working 2-3 jobs at a time.

Even though I worked nights for well over a decade, I typically had Friday nights off because I worked a day shift on Saturday. Thus, I had Saturday nights off too. Saturday nights are easy to explain and I have no shame. Saturday nights were my writing nights. This was when I would sit down and pull out the twenty page papers required in undergrad or spent writing one of my two thesis.

Friday nights were the only night I got to be at home and wasn’t trying to pull a big project together. Friday nights became my “drink and clean the house night.” It sounds more wild than what it was.

Yes, it did involve some dancing around the living room, but it’s not like I had to drink much to be happy. Plus, I had to work the next morning. I got the house clean, listened to some tunes, and it was my one opportunity each week to try to relax. Even if at that time relaxation meant taking out my frustrations in life on the shower with a scrub brush.

At that time in my life, every single day was highly scheduled. I was juggling so many things that being OCD over my daily schedule was the only way I could balance it all without dropping something.

This Friday night drink and clean the house thing worked for a bit. Then, when I started throwing marathon training into the mix, Friday became one of my run days. I don’t drink when I’m in training (unless there is an extenuating circumstance like a birthday party or wedding, I may have a glass of wine – which is pretty much my MO year round anyway), and my cleaning day had to move. I honestly don’t remember what day became my cleaning day once I started using Fridays as one of my training days.

Due to the pace of my life at that time, some things are a blur.

When I’m running, I take out all my frustrations on the pavement. I do a lot of thinking. All of my best ideas come to me while I am running.

What I have noticed in life in the past few years now that I am working a day job is that it is a lot harder for me to get things done. When I worked nights, I would get a lot done in the mornings before heading into work at 12:30pm. When I got home at 10pm, I would have some time to relax before sleep. It was a great schedule.

Now that I am working days, mornings are hard. Mornings are typically my lowest point of functioning in the day. I’m falling down, dropping things, can’t see well, don’t balance. It takes a bit for my symptoms to dissipate and for me to feel functional.

For the record, the past few years with my new health problem, I have no need to drink anymore even for birthdays and weddings. My body feels like it’s drunk when I’m completely sober. It’s really annoying. It’s not fun and often unexpected.

But now that I work days, by the time I get home from work at night, I am exhausted. Nothing gets done. When I was working nights, I would get things done in the morning. Now that I am working days, I can only get things done on weekends.

Then, sometimes I have weekends I’m exhausted too.

So now my weekends are taken up with cleaning and house maintenance and I feel as though I’ve lost my time to relax, even though I’m doing less now than I was in my 20s.

Last night, it was raining, so I postponed my run to sometime today. I had some energy, for some reason, and decided to jump start the weekend.

I cleaned the upstairs on Friday night.

I plugged the radio in and started scrubbing. It was great. I had not had a Friday night cleaning night in a long time.

The upstairs is easier to clean than the downstairs because I do not spend a lot of time upstairs and that is where the empty rooms are. So I cleaned the upstairs last night. Shortly after that, I went to bed. I was way too exhausted to even think about cleaning the downstairs too.

I will be doing my run today and probably cleaning the downstairs too. Although, I have to admit, I’m still exhausted today. It’s been one of those weeks.

Now instead of having a “drink and clean the house” Friday night routine, I have a new routine and this one involves Saturday mornings.

Even though I am absolutely exhausted, I am still up early on a Saturday morning. I kind of have to be to take my medication. I can’t just take my medication and go back to bed. This particular medication has a strict warning on it that I cannot lay down for at least 30 minutes after taking it.

So I’m up early on a Saturday morning not only for my medication, but also for my new Saturday morning routine.

One of my Top 3 favorite radio programs is NPR’s “Only A Game” from Boston station WBUR. The program airs on my local station on Saturday mornings from 7:00 – 8:00 am.

I actually didn’t even know my local station aired this program until recently. I was ecstatic to find it. I used to listen to this radio program every week while I was in graduate school in Boston. I really missed it.

Every Saturday, I listen to this program, and it brings back so many happy memories of grad school. It brings up thoughts of Boston and commuting and trying for a life better and new. That is a whole other story, but I’m happy to have found one of my favorite radio programs again.

I may not have a Friday night routine anymore, but now I have a Saturday morning routine. My weekend doesn’t start until “Only A Game” is over. I relax here with my coffee, Simon in my lap, Jude by my side watching the birds starting their day outside. The sun is coming through the leaves of the east facing kitchen window.

Saturday mornings are a routine of which I can be proud. Unlike the Friday drink and clean the house nights, my Saturday morning radio time relaxes me in another way. Yes, I did clean the upstairs last night, but it was minus the wine. I’m pretty sure cleaning the upstairs Friday night will not become a thing.

Saturday mornings are a thing, and I love them.

 

How to Escape the Neighbors

WP_20190421_12_00_51_Pro

The horses of the apocalypse thundered through the heavens as if millions were stampeding across the sky. It started as a low rumble that gradually grew to overtake you, steamrolling you until your body quivered with the force of their power.

Then, total silence.

No birds.

No rain.

Suddenly, a crack as if the Devil himself snapped a whip so sharp that lightning turned dark into day.

One drop.

Two drops.

A light pitter patter.

The heavens opened as if all the angels were wailing tears upon the earth. Rain so hard and so fast that flash flooding was instant. It went on for hours. A storm so passionate, it was as if you were fighting for your very soul.

Meanwhile, I’m laying in the backseat of the car wrapped in a fleece blanket waiting for a break in the storm so I can run out and pee. I’m wondering if the same storm is happening at home and if the cats are okay. Simon is terrified of thunder.

Through the haze and above the noise, pierces a heavily accented French voice “the weather for the rest of the day …”

The French was coming from the radio, as I was about 20 miles from the Canadian border.

It sounds like a weird dream, but this is, in fact, real life. It is one of the top 3 worst thunderstorms I have been through while on a camping trip over the past 20 years.

This past weekend, I had an ADK intermezzo. It’s been about 8 years since I have had an intermezzo. Hopefully, this will be followed at some point by the real mccoy, but that concept is highly doubtful this year.

While the goal is to create a life you don’t need to escape, I had not had a vacation in almost two years, and I was ready to slap someone. Typically my annual August/Labor Day camping trip has served as a sort of reset button for me – a refreshing change of perspective for 3 days that helps me to successfully power through another year. Since I am running a half marathon over Labor Day weekend this year, I decided to go camping over Memorial Day weekend so I could have a break.

I have successfully minimized and slowed my life down to the point where I was able to navigate the many challenges that have come into my life over the past 2 years without completely losing my mind. That is a definite win.

In the time span between my last vacation and this past weekend, I lived through these changes: my dream job decided to close the New York location, so I had to take a new job (one of the worst I’ve had with a $7,000 pay cut), Kitty passed away, we adopted Simon, I went through my housing crisis from hell and bought a house, and I have been having yet to be determined neurological issues.

I’m not sure how I’ve been able to make it this long and through all that still intact. I credit it to my minimalist lifestyle philosophy.

Still, there comes a breaking point for every person, and I have pretty much reached mine. This past weekend I had an Adirondack (ADK) Intermezzo, to put a pause button on life and to take a breather.

Thus, the tale that started this post of the epic thunderstorm on night one of my camping trip. I was reserved, paid for, and scheduled for a typical two night camping trip. I ended up coming home after one.

There was nothing wrong with the trip itself. Epic thunderstorm aside, I was having a great time, and felt immensely safe. Therein lies the problem.

Since I purchased my new house last fall and have moved in, I have to admit that I do not feel safe in my own house.

I moved from a rural, isolated apartment community comprised primarily of senior citizens. I was the longest tenant in the building. I knew all of my neighbors. No one was a problem. I felt safe there. I never had an issue with leaving the cats for a camping trip over a 3 day weekend. Someone always had a key to my apartment to check on the cats just in case. I would just go off in the woods with absolutely no problem.

With this camping trip, I was apprehensive to leave the cats. No one has my spare house key. All the people who were helping me will no longer visit me. The house is 7 miles father away from most of my friends than my apartment was, and I now “live too far away” for them. It was my first time leaving the cats alone in the house overnight.

I set them up with the automated cat feeder, so they would still be fed at their usual times while I was gone. I left 12 bowls of water. Both cat pans were clean.

I went camping and had a great time. Epic thunderstorm aside, I slept better camping that I sleep in the house.

That’s when it hit me.

I feel more safe sleeping in a tent outside in the middle of nowhere alone than I do inside my own house.

Then I panicked because my cats were alone in the unsafe house without me there to protect them. No one has a key if something goes wrong because either people are too far away to know something is wrong, or they straight up don’t care.

I could not in good conscious stay the second night knowing that I was in a completely safe situation and my cats were not. If something happened to them while I was gone, I would never forgive myself.

So I cut my trip short and came home a day early.

This sucks epic-ly, because I never fully got the chance to completely relax on my trip. I did not have enough time away.

I came home and the cats were fine. For the moment. Things were not fine yesterday when I was home and someone decided to break one of my rain gutters and remove the door to my crawl space.

I have a problem with the neighbors where my house is located. To be exact, I have a problem with the neighborhood children. I am not anti-child. I taught pre-school for over a decade. I like children in general. I just loathe the children in my neighborhood.

To make matters more complicated, I don’t know their names or what house they all belong to, but I’m sick of things being broken, my space being violated, and having them scare the shit out of me literally.

As scary as I made out the thunderstorm at the beginning of this post, the neighborhood children are more scary. They are creepy.

I came home from work last week and one of them was standing about 5 feet away from me staring at me as I put my key in the door to let myself in the house. He didn’t say anything. He just ran away when I looked at him.

The kids are constantly on my property without asking. They move things. They play on the fire pit after I yelled at them not to, they go in my garage. They hide just outside my house windows and stare at me or scare me when I am sitting on the couch reading a book.

Who does this? Who goes on someone’s property and does this?

Don’t tell me to close the curtains. It’s my property. People should not walk up to someone else’s house and stand in front of their window staring inside at them. It’s not right.

Who goes into someone else’s garage, their fire pit, moves things in their yard, and breaks pieces off their house intentionally because they think it is fun? It’s not just me.

There are older neighbors in their 70s on the one side of me. I have stood at my kitchen window and watched a group of these neighborhood children purposefully remove the lattice from the bottom of my older neighbor’s porch so that they can go under the porch to play. Then the 70-some year old gentleman will notice the lattice is removed and affix it. I watch this happen. He thinks it’s the wind, when it’s really the children destroying his property.

By the way, the average age range of these free roaming neighborhood children is kindergarten through second grade.

I would talk to the parents of the children if I knew which houses the children came from. I don’t know who to talk to. And what type of interaction will that be? Um, your child is destroying my property, can you please supervise them more closely? I’m sure I would piss people off.

Bottom line, I do not feel safe living in this house. I never know who is going to be staring at me through my own windows, I don’t know who is lurking around on my property, and I never know what I am going to find broken.

I feel chained to this house.

I’m not happy.

I can’t even take a two day camping trip anymore to relax because I don’t know what I am going to come home to or if the cats will be okay if I leave them alone with these fiends.

These children don’t talk to me. They don’t tell me their names. Never has anyone knocked on my door and asked if they could play in my yard.

If they knocked on the door, told me their names, and asked to play in the yard, I would probably say yes as long as they stay in the grass and not near the fire pit.

Some of these kids are out late. They don’t appear to have a curfew. When I was growing up, you came in when the street lights turn on. I have had moments when one of these kids was staring at me through my own window at 9:00 pm. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a school night or a weekend.

I’m thankful that I was able to go camping for at least one night to escape this situation. I wish I had stayed for the full two nights. This has not felt like a vacation at all.

I don’t know how to deal with bad neighbors because I have never had bad neighbors. Even times when I was homeless and living on the streets, people were more respectful than this. Yes, there were times we were sleeping out in the open, but there is like an unspoken thing with homeless people that you respect people’s personal space when they have claimed a spot. Personal space was pretty much the only thing we had.

I have no idea how to deal with these neighbors and their evil, unruly children. All I know is that I do not feel safe in my own house.

Any suggestions?

 

That Crazy Cat Lady

WP_20190509_12_21_03_Pro.jpg

Clarence survived the winter. Big Tom is fearless and domineering. Lucy looks bedraggled. Dot is shy and easily bullied. Who are these people? These are the stories of the 9 Lives Gang. It sounds like a soap opera, but really its just that crazy cat lady.

I may not know all my human neighbors, but I know all of the cats and dogs in the neighborhood. It all started with Clarence last fall. The weather dipped down below zero, and he was still outside. What sort of evil person purposefully leaves their pet outside when it is that cold? I understand if the pet will not come inside or ran off, but who would let a pet outside in that knowingly?

Most cats, like Lucy and Dot, are neighborhood cats. I know where they live. I did not see them at all over the winter, because they stayed inside their houses, as it should be. Clarence is the only cat I saw outside consistently all winter. I am 95% certain that Clarence is homeless. He also acts way different than all the other neighborhood cats.

Then, there’s Big Tom, or Old Tom, as I call him sometimes. I’m not sure what his story is or if he has a home. Based on what I have seen of him and how he acts, I am 80% certain that Big Tom is homeless.

Yes, I am that crazy cat lady who names all the homeless cats. I leave out water bowls and food and made an outdoor cat shelter with insulation for winter.

Now, my main purpose in this was Clarence. It just was not right for him to be out in below zero temperatures this winter, so I started by making him an insulated outdoor cat shelter that sits on top of a wood pallet in my garage. I know that he used it because I found paw prints and bits of black hair inside. I like to think that I was a big part of how Clarence was actually able to survive the winter.

Now that the weather has cleared, I do not see Clarence as often. I’m sure he has expanded the geographic area he roams. Although, I got to know his patterns over the winter. Even when Clarence was using the outdoor cat shelter, he typically leaves early in the morning, shortly after first light. Clarence then typically reappears in the mid to late afternoon for a snack. He would go into the cat shelter after dark.

It’s possible he is keeping the same schedule. I see him sometimes. There is a lot going on outside this time of year. Jude and Simon and I have been having great fun bird watching.

So, yes, I am that crazy cat lady. Even though the neighborhood cats have homes, I am not sure what sort of care they get in their homes. Every animal needs food, water, shelter and LOVE. I always leave out bowls of water for all the cats, as I have heard that strays are often dehydrated. I still leave the cat shelter out even though it only gets down to 30 at night now just so that the cats have a safe place to go if they need it.

I watch Big Tom chase off Dot. I feel sorry that he chases her away, but she comes back when he is gone. Dot is very shy, but if she needs a drink of water, she should be able to access a bowl of fresh, clean water.

Lucy looked a little bedraggled the other day. She looked wet and muddy. It’s been raining a lot, but still, she can always go inside my garage or the cat shelter to stay dry if she is stuck outside in the rain and cannot get back into her house. She at least has the option of a dry, safe place even if she chooses not to use it.

Lucy is super friendly. She lives a few houses down and we joke that she is Jude’s girlfriend. He gets so excited when he sees her outside and she comes much closer to the house and the windows than any of the other outdoor cats. We also joke that Dot is Simon’s girlfriend. He gets all excited when he sees her. We don’t see her much because she is shy. I’m pretty sure she is also new. I don’t remember seeing her last fall.

Ever wonder what your outdoor cat does during the day? I’m sure if you have a crazy cat lady in your neighborhood, that she could tell you.

Lucy likes to lay in the flower bed in front of my garage and watch the birds visit the bird feeder. Dot likes to hide behind the bush in front of my house. When Clarence gets scared, he hides on top of the garage door (that is open – between the garage door and the ceiling). Big Tom sleeps on top of the extra house siding that is stored on the second floor of the garage. He won’t go in the cat shelter.

I’m sure they each have their own daily routine and that it differs depending on which property they are visiting at the moment.

My two cats are indoor only. They have a huge house to play in and I know they are safe. Not all cats are indoor only. For those that are outside, I try to make their lives a little bit easier. I can’t control what happens to them, but I can at least provide them with a dry, safe place to rest that has fresh water if they choose to visit.  I’m happy that Clarence at least made it through the winter. I figure that anything beyond that is out of my hands.

The stereotype of that crazy cat lady is always someone older in a robe and curlers going out with a pan of food for 15 cats. Ever think that the reason why she is doing that is because no one else will step up to care for these animals? Truthfully, if people were responsible pet owners they would spay/neuter and keep their animals indoors or at least bring them in at night. Every pet deserves love and attention. No one deserves to be constantly caged or left outside without human interaction.

Pet ownership is a life long commitment. It’s like having a human child. Some people don’t seem to get this. Dogs can live 10-15 years; indoor cats can live 15-20 years. When you adopt an animal, you adopt for life. That is a long commitment. It is not just about the adorable puppy or kitten phase. You cannot just push your pet over to the side and completely neglect their care when you are having a personal crisis in your life.

Pets are living, caring beings who depend on people for much of their survival. You can’t just leave a pet outside to fend for itself when it is used to depending on you. The only thing that they ask for is love and we all know that they give so much love in return. Being loved by a pet is the greatest honor I have ever known in life.

So, yes, I am that crazy cat lady. I hope that you all love your pets, and even if your cat is indoor/outdoor that you are showing them affection when they come inside for the night. If you’re ever curious about what they get up to when they are out and about, ask your local crazy cat lady. We tend to watch out for them when they are on our property. I call my bunch the 9 Lives Gang.

How to Train Your Cat: A Guide for Humans

WP_20190503_17_17_15_Pro

Jude and Simon have this system down for the past year where they have been manipulating me to feed them extra food. I know that they were doing it, but I could not figure out how to make it stop and was too tired to care.

The cats eat breakfast and dinner. Their food is measured according to the veterinarian specifications so that they stay at optimal weight and health. Jude will beg for food, but he is easily ignored. What is more challenging is that Simon acts out to try to get food. I have not been able to get him to behave. The only way I can get Simon to stop destroying whatever he is destroying is to feed him.

So when we went to the vet office for Jude’s well visit this spring, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Jude and Simon have been manipulating me ever since we moved into the house. I was literally at my wit’s end on what to do and how to make it stop.

Simon was chewing stereo cords. I literally thought of taking the stereo upstairs and putting it in an empty room to get him to stop. This would completely screw up my mojo. The stereo is my longest possession – I’ve had it over 20 years. I play radio or CDs all the time. I have trouble with the stairs, so to put the stereo on the second floor would be torture to me. I could not get Simon to leave the stereo alone unless I fed him.

So, yes, Jude had gained 2 pounds since we have been in the house which is totally not good for his health. When I explained the entire situation to the vet, she laughed saying that the cats have trained me. I guess they have. The cats are better at training me than I am at training them.

Have you ever tried to train a cat? It’s like nailing jello to a tree. They say dogs have owners and cats have staff. There’s some truth to that. Thank goodness we don’t have a dog. I don’t think I could train one.

I told the vet everything I had done to get Simon and Jude to stop.

The vet said that I should be able to train them within a week. She gave me some tips and said that the vet office would follow up in a few weeks to see how it was going.

I can train a cat within a week? I know people who own dogs who have to take them to obedience classes and it takes months to train a dog. You think I can train two cats within a week?

Try 4 days.

Yes, I did train them. It took four days.

I followed my vet recommendations. I put a handful of quarters in an empty pineapple can. Whenever Simon got anywhere near the stereo, I shook the can without looking at him, talking to him, or acknowledging him. I shook that can and continued reading/cooking/doing whatever I was doing.

Simon is completely fearless. Simon is not afraid of anything except thunderstorms. This cat is brave beyond belief with absolutely everything on planet earth except thunderstorms. And apparently, quarters in a pineapple can. Those are terrifying too.

Do you know how hard it is to train a cat like this without laughing hysterically? It’s like when you are trying to have a “teachable moment” with your child when they have done something absolutely hilarious, yet you have to keep a straight face so they will learn why even though what they did was funny, it was not a good idea.

So, if you want to train your cat, put a handful of quarters in a pineapple can and shake it when they misbehave.

I did that four days in a row before we finally got to the point where Simon does not dare go anywhere near the stereo.

Quarters in a pineapple can will train your cat in 4 days. Who knew?

We have the best veterinarian EVER!

How to Train Your Human: A Guide for Cats

 

WP_20190203_13_15_31_Pro (1)Disclaimer: If you lack a sense of humor, you should stop reading now.

Double Disclaimer: If you lack creativity, you should probably stop reading now too. This will be either the most brilliant or the most stupid thing you have read. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Today’s Guest Post is provided by Jude Anderson AKA one of the cats with whom I live AKA the man of the house that is really in charge here.

Hi, my name is Jude Anderson. After 7 years, I have finally figured out how to train my human and wanted to share it with you today for all the other felines who want to take more control over their household than they already have. After all, the purpose in human staff is to get them to meet our needs.

We all know how to manipulate our humans. Lay on the computer/newspaper/book when they are using it. Look cute and bat things. Chase sunbeams. This past year, I finally figured out how to train my human to overfeed me.

Last year, the veterinarian was concerned about my weight. Something called obesity and diabetes. We all know those things can be fixed with treats, right? Well, somehow, my human thought that this vet person was in charge and started actually measuring my food for both breakfast and dinner.

Can you imagine it? My human was measuring my food.

Sure, I tried all the typical tricks to get extra food. I meowed. I batted my eyelashes. I purred and rubbed up against my human. The food cupboard is impossible to open because it has a magnet on it, so I started pawing at the food cupboard. I made my human feel guilty by giving her pitiful looks while she was cooking dinner. I even stole pieces of my human’s food.

I ate a piece of raw hot dog! Can you believe it! If you want to get your human’s attention, run as fast as you can, grab a piece of hot dog as they are cutting it up, and take that piece of hot dog into hiding. That really gets you attention! I also ate a brussel sprout, but that did not get as much attention as stealing a piece of hot dog.

The typical tricks worked a little. My human started giving me treats. I love treats. It was great. I continued to beg for food even after I had eaten my dinner.

The key to this whole process is begging after dinner. Humans are really busy in the mornings after breakfast. Then they leave to go to this place called “work.” My human says its to pay for cat food, so I guess the whole work thing is okay. I still don’t like it. So, the optimal time for food begging is after dinner.

After dinner is when your human is most vulnerable. Apparently, this thing called “work” makes them tired. Who knew humans needed naps? Cats are the superior ones here. I nap all the time. Anyways, after dinner is when humans are easy to train.

I had this pretty great routine down that was getting me extra treats. Except when my human gave me treats, she also played with me. All this running around works up an appetite!

I decided I needed a partner in crime. I can’t believe my human was measuring my food because the veterinarian told her to do that. Who is in charge of this house? I am!

I have this annoying little brother named Simon. I mean, really, aren’t all little brothers annoying? Well, my little brother is really annoying. My human likes to say his name a lot. Although, I think Simon might be a nickname. Sometimes my human calls him “Simon! I should have named you Alvin.” That’s probably his real name and we use Simon for short.

I got Simon to help me amp up the begging so we could train my human. If you have an annoying little brother, then you can implement the same routine to train your human too.

First, I would start with my begging routine after dinner. The slave – I mean human – always feeds us first, as it should be. Then, the human prepares its own dinner. As the human is preparing dinner, I started my begging to make the human feel guilty like I was being left out. Even though I already ate, it was not fair for the human to be eating and me to not be. Am I right?

I would annoy the human while cooking. You should specifically rub up against your human when they are cooking. They will start screeching about something “hot” and give you treats. It works really well.

Then, after the human ate (and we got treats), I called on Simon to wear my human down.

Simon likes to chew things. I like to chew things too. I chew my toys. We have these stuffed mice that are fun to bite. But anyways, Simon likes to chew things like cords. This makes humans angry – something about being electrocuted – whatever that means. So anyways, get your annoying little brother to chew cords. Your human will stand up to shoo him away so he doesn’t get electrocuted.

Simon would chew cords repeatedly. If you do this often enough, the humans wear down and will do absolutely anything to get you to stop. This means that you will be fed.

Now, this process is not automatic. Training your human takes time. Keep in mind that the human may act out, no matter how well you plan this. When Simon and I first started to train our human, the human would try to do things to counteract Simon.

First, the human put tin foil on the cords for Simon. Boy, was that fun! We ripped the tin foil off and batted it around! Then, the human tried to cover the cords with plastic. That was fun too! The human even started rearranging furniture to try to hide the cords. This was absolutely great because the human made us an amazing obstacle course!

Finally after all these different responses to Simon chewing cords, we wore out our human, and she fed us more food! Our human even made it fun by having us chase kibble!

This was a great game and the best outcome ever! We trained our human to give us a second dinner and play a game of catch with us at the same time!

Keep in mind that it took us quite a few months to train our human. You have to be really persistent to get your human to do what you want. Well, we can’t expect them all to be easily trained, can we?

To summarize how to train your human:

  1. Beg. Use all your typical tricks to get your human to pay attention to you. As cats, we are the center of the universe after all.
  2. If your human does not respond to begging, wait until after dinner when the human is tired.
  3. Enlist your little brother to wear the human down.
  4. Your little brother should come up with a trick that makes your human say his name repeatedly. Getting your human to say your name repeatedly is key to training them.
  5. Be patient. Depending on the human, they can take months to train.
  6. If it’s food you are looking for, be sure to paw at the food cupboard to clearly show the human that they should be feeding you.
  7. Once you get a routine down to train your human, stick with it!

Next, Simon and I are working on getting our human to take us outside. Our human keeps saying things like “leash” and “indoor only.” Once we figure out how to get around these phrases, I’ll let you know how we are doing with training our human.

Until then, happy eating and training!