Friday Nights & Saturday Mornings

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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

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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

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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

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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!

 

Dog Gone Down

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April is turning out to be an eventful month. Did you know that when people turn 40, that automatically means you are depressed? According to my primary physician it does.

There was an article out of the UK recently that concludes the age at which people are the most unhappy in life is 44. Must be that mid-life crisis setting in. This is a follow-up to the study that was done a few years ago about the happiest age. I’ve written about it before somewhere on this blog… The happiness study concludes that the happiest age is 33. I definitely agree with that. Some pretty awesome things happened in my life when I was 33.

I do not think that just because a person turns 40 automatically means you are depressed. I was so ecstatic (honestly) to turn 40 last month. I have now officially outlived over half of the females in my family. Each decade I keep getting better. Plus, I am able to change age group for running.

My primary physician spent the bulk of my appointment a few weeks ago talking to me about mood disorders, specifically depression. They gave me the depression screening twice – once at the beginning of my appointment and once at the end. I was negative both times. I am not depressed.

This is a great time in my life. Life is not perfect. I’m lacking my dream job. But I’ve already ridden that unicorn, so things right now are pretty awesome. What do I have to be depressed about? I gave it some serious thought. I could not come up with anything.

I figured if my doctor is lecturing me about depression and I don’t feel depressed, that there must be something wrong with me. I’m 40 now, apparently I’m supposed to be depressed. What is up with all the happiness? I should be feeling down.

That lead me to create me own crisis. I’m 40 now, so, according to my doctor, it’s not normal for everything to be good.

Is it just me, or does this entire situation sound messed up?

This leads to Dog Gone Down.

I called one of my therapist friends from when I was in social work and explained the entire situation to her. I said, well, my doctor seems to think I have a mood disorder all of a sudden since I turned 40, so maybe I need therapy. She laughed. Once the laughter subsided, she screened me for depression again. Again, I scored completely negative with no symptoms. Then she asked me what I would talk about in therapy.

Well, Simon’s new trick is knocking the phone off the hook so that it rings busy. I’m trying to get money back in my savings account for house maintenance. I’m planning a half marathon for the fall. Nothing deep. My friend kept giggling and suggested maybe I need a new primary care physician, not a therapist. But to be honest, I’m pretty sure this 40 equals depression thing is pretty pervasive in the medical community here.

This weekend I took a box of towels and blankets to the animal shelter to donate. There are about three animal shelters in a 30 mile radius of me, so I try to rotate which shelter I am donating to so that I am not showing love to just one of the area animal shelters.

I dropped off the box, and, as usual when I make a donation, I walked around the shelter visiting with the animals. I have absolutely no desire to adopt another cat. I already live with two. Jude and Simon run this household, and there is no way I can handle a third boss in charge of my life. But, I enjoy showing the shelter cats some love for an hour or so when I drop something off.

Then, I walked into the dog room. I immediately turned around to walk out because it was just too LOUD. When six or seven dogs are barking at once, it is loud. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move up high. There was a dog on the end who was jumping to see who was there. It was the only dog not barking.

So, I went down to visit him. He looked really lonely. He is one of the longest dogs there. People don’t visit with him because he is so shy. He lays in the cage and just looks at people. I have spent close to 3 hours with this dog and never heard him bark once. When people visit animal shelters to adopt, it is quite common that shy or elderly animals get overlooked. This one is very shy.

And then I thought. This is it! Maybe the doctor was right. Maybe I’m depressed and I NEED A DOG!

Or, rather, a dog would be the perfect crisis to inject into my life right now to totally screw up the little utopia I have going on with my family life at home. Totally acceptable. I can tell the doctor I’m stressed because I have a dog, it will confirm her idea of mood disorder and I’ll be good to go.

This dog really did tug at my heart strings. I have been wanting a dog. If I had the house a year earlier, Simon would have been a dog and not a cat. However, since buying the house, I just figured I would wait until both Jude & Simon pass away and then get a dog. I was not thinking of getting a dog right now. But this dog was so polite. He is trained and has manners. I just fell in love.

The shelter rule is that you have to fill out an adoption application to visit with a dog. I filled one out so I could visit with him and pet him. He was so well behaved and trained that I was seriously considering adoption, but needed more time and visits. I let the shelter know I was interested.

This morning they called and said my adoption application had been approved and wanted to know when I was picking him up?

What?

I am not sure if I am ready for a dog. I need more visits and to see what he is like outside and on a leash. I have never even walked a dog on a leash before. I have walked cats on a leash plenty of times, but never a dog.

The dog is scheduled to be neutered tomorrow and will need time to recover from surgery, so I took the afternoon off to visit him again so I could see him outside and try him on the leash.

That was the worst experience of my life. I am never getting a dog. I grew up with dogs, but I have been living with cats for the past 20 years. Apparently, with a dog, the human has to be in charge. I don’t have the personality for it. In my house, my cat is in charge.

Walking a dog on a leash was the worst experience of my life. I may possibly be injured.

The shelter does not allow people to walk dogs on their own, so he was doubled leashed. I am so thankful for this rule.

I was dragged.

I think I blew out my knee again. No exaggeration. My leg from my ankle up through my hip and back hurt. My arm hurts from my wrist to my shoulder. I am really worried about my knee. It’s also the knee that had a serious injury a few years ago.

The shelter told me that this dog is the easiest one to walk in the kennel. They have an 80 year old volunteer who loves walking this dog because he is so easy to walk. Well, that’s great, but I was still dragged. If I cannot handle this dog with a shelter staff helping me, there is no way I will be able to handle him on my own.

The shelter staff tried explaining “well, he can be trained …” I get that, but at the same time, I will not be able to train him. I will be injured and none of us will be going anywhere. Plus, I was really worried about how Jude and Simon would take the sudden appearance of a dog in our lives.

So, lesson learned. The dog is gone. Well, not really. I never had the dog to begin with. He is still in the shelter. My heart still breaks for him because he is the sweetest dog. No one looks at him because he is so shy. I’m sure if an experienced dog owner could overlook the shyness, they would be able to handle him on a leash and he would be an amazing companion. For EXPERIENCED dog walkers, he is great on a leash. As a 100-pound person who has never walked a dog before, I cannot handle being dragged by a 50 pound dog.

When Kip was alive, he walked on a leash quite frequently. He loved it. Sometimes, he would take off and chase a leaf or something. Being dragged by a 14 pound cat is way different. I can handle that. I would like to leash train Jude and Simon, but they want nothing to do with it.

Don’t tell me to try for a smaller dog. I don’t want a smaller dog. I would just have a cat. I don’t think I’m meant to have a dog. It was just this one that stole my heart.

So, maybe I can be down because the dog is gone. It is very sad that such a great pet is in a shelter. Or, maybe I will continue to argue with my primary care physician that not only am I not depressed, but I am very happy because my life is pretty good right now.

When I go to sleep tonight, I have two amazing cats who love me and snuggle me in bed every night. Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I could tell her how stressful it is living in the house because it is so LOUD here. I miss my apartment because it was quiet. But, I don’t think that makes me depressed. I am more annoyed at the noise and unruliness of the neighborhood where the house is compared to the apartment.

Bottom line, I’ve tried dog gone down, and it just doesn’t work.

This 40-year old lives with two cats and is happy.

My Best Decade

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Today is my 40th birthday. Birthdays are my favorite holiday. They are proof I’m still here and survived another year of what life threw at me. 40 is great because I get to move up another age group in running. 40 is significant because I have now outlived my paternal grandmother, who passed away from a stroke at age 39. Each decade I’m alive keeps getting better, so here’s hoping that 40 is awesome.

Looking back on my 30s, they were pretty amazing. My 30s were definitely better than my 20s.

The three major challenges I had in my 30s were the heartache of Kip’s death, the heartache of Kitty’s death, and my stroke at age 37. There were other really bad things too, but these three were the worst.

With those notable exceptions, my 30s were (so far) my best decade.

In random, but somewhat chronological order, here are 10 things that made my 30s the best decade ever:

  1. I completed my bachelor’s degree.

It took 15 years to do so. In those 15 years, I did get an associate’s degree, live in at least 4 different states, battle homelessness, and work 3 jobs 60-70 hours per week, but I got it done. My bachelor’s degree was the only degree for which I was not valedictorian, and it was the only graduation ceremony I attended. Out of all my degrees, finishing my bachelor’s was definitely not only the most challenging, but also the most fun.

  1. I ran marathons.

More than one. I’ve ran in Philly, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Scranton, and a few other cities. Each one is precious. I ran a marathon down the longest street in the world (true story). I ran my first point-to-point (city-to-city) marathon. I represented Team USA internationally. I had the opportunity to run into an Olympic Stadium (not during an actual Olympics). I’ve gotten a high five at the finish line from the Mayor of a major American city.  I’ve had limo service to my pre-race dinner as a “visiting athlete.” My medals actually mean more than my degrees.

  1. I got to see my MLB team play on home turf.

Every baseball fan should have this experience at least once in their life. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it is completely magical to be at the stadium on game day, to watch the maintenance people prep the lawn, and then finally see your heroes take the field to play the best game on Earth. If you have not yet had this experience, it should definitely be on your bucket list. Pro sports tickets are extremely expensive, but try to save to go just once. It’s one of my favorite memories of all time.

  1. I got to see my MLB team win the World Series (on TV, not in person).

This is another experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. I’ve seen road wins and I’ve seen home wins. The home win is just something everyone should be able to experience once. No one should have to die without having seen their team win the World Series.

  1. I fell in love.

You hear this all the time. In my 20s, the remark was almost flippant. In my 30s, this phrase took on meaning. I don’t mean the lightning strike love-at-first-sight moment that is a complete whirlwind and then all of a sudden fizzles. I’m talking about the kind of love where you have known a person for decades through good and bad and are 100% supportive of that person, even when they are doing things that are not necessarily great. I’m not talking about being a door mat. I’m talking about actually being someone’s partner and having the ability to love a person so much that you are always there for them even if their life choices take them away from you. The kind of love that you know that is your person and there is no one else you click with like that, who knows you so well.

  1. I finished my Master’s degree.

If my bachelor’s degree seemed an impossibility, then grad school was a pipe dream. I actually think I was in the final year of my bachelor’s when I started asking people to explain grad school to me. No one in my family had ever even gone to college and the only people I knew with graduate degrees were my professors. It was like some hidden Holy Grail that I was finally able to unlock. I am now a Jill of all trades and master of ONE!

  1. I rode the unicorn into extinction.

By this I mean that I had that elusive experience of all adulthood – I had my dream job. I had a job I loved so much that it didn’t feel like work. I just showed up to do what I wanted to do – what I had spent 20 years of my life preparing to do – and happened to get paid to do that every day. I would have been so happy to do that every single day until I died or retired. How many people in this country have the privilege of being able to say “I love what I do” and actually mean it? Or should I say, how many people can actually say “I love what I do” and are getting paid to do it at a level that meets all their living expenses. All dreams must come to an end, and the company I worked for decided to pull out of New York State. So I rode the unicorn to the end of the rainbow not to find a pot of gold like I had expected, but just an empty void that I still have not figured out how to fill. Once you’ve had your dream job, nothing else will ever live up to that experience. Especially when the job you find to replace the dream doesn’t even respect you. Now, this is extinction.

  1. I bought a house.

If my masters degree was a pipe dream, well, I’ll tell you right now that buying a home was never on my radar. At all. I have never lived in a house. I have spent a chunk of my life being homeless. I never figured a “person like me” would even own a home. I never entertained the idea or even saved for one. Owning a home was a joke. My back-up plan for housing was – well, if things go bad, I’ll just move back to Massachusetts or buy a house, insert excessive laughter literally rolling on the floor laughing here. Buying a house is one of the scariest things I have ever done in life. So far, it’s also been one of the best choices I have ever made. I kept my family together and the cats are so much happier here than they were in the apartment. Funny, I never thought they were unhappy in the apartment, it’s just a contrast to see how well they are doing in the house.

  1. Anything less than 110% is … okay?

I spent almost 25 years of my life burning the candle at both ends. I slept 4 hours a day. I worked 3 jobs to make ends meet because really, who can survive on minimum wage? I worked 60-70 hours per week while going to school full-time working on my degrees. I excelled in school. Some call me an overachiever. So, when my stroke completely knocked me down a few years ago, it is quite a shock to only operate at abut 86%. Which, by the way, is considered my “level of functioning.” I am also considered “fully recovered.” Even though the doctors consider me fully functional, it is hard for me to accept that this is all I can do now. I’m used to doing so much more. What my stroke has taught me, is that it is okay to slow down. I can rest and still get things done. I’m pretty grateful to have learned this lesson now and be at 86% than to have just worked myself into the ground – it could have been worse. Listen to your body is the greatest lesson I have learned in my 30s.

  1. Family First

Family first has been carrying me through life since Kitty, as a 4-month old kitten, first climbed up onto my shoulders at the animal shelter and would not get down when I was 19. He picked me out. I took him home. We were together until he passed away from cancer just before his 19th birthday. Every major life choice I have made has centered around keeping my family together. Through everything that has happened with work, school, running, and health, at the end of the day, I come home to my furkids. They are always here, happy to see me with unconditional love. Family first is the tenant that will carry me into my 40s. As long as we are all together, everything is okay. My primary job is keeping us all together, loving my cats and being loved by them.

Of course, none of this would be possible without God. That’s the bottom line. God has done great things in my life through my 30s. I can’t wait to see what’s next for 40. Thanks for making my 30s my best decade so far.

My life verses:

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT)

Two Little Birds

Earlier this week at church, we had a “paint and sip” fundraiser for an upcoming missions trip. It was my first time participating in a paint and sip (the sipping was sparkling cider and hot cocoa). The attraction to the event was that it was a fundraiser and the painting was two birds in a tree.

As I have been gradually settling into the house, it has been fun for each room to have a theme. In the apartment, the only room that really had a theme was the kitchen. The theme was fruit. In the house, the fruit theme does not seem to really go anymore. The kitchen theme is now birds.

The bird theme simply fits. The cats and I both love all of the windows in the kitchen because they are optimal for bird viewing. Since I live with two indoor only cats, bird watching is their primary form of “outdoor” entertainment.

The kitchen windows are original to the house and an unusual size for modern day window treatments. I purchased fabric and have hand sewn curtains not only for the kitchen but also for most of the downstairs of the house. The kitchen curtains are red cardinals on a blue background.

The kitchen walls are blue and I have exposed red brick in half of my kitchen. Red and blue come naturally to the room.

Our new Fiesta dishware are solid colors that will go with any theme. So the key decor elements to the new kitchen theme of “birds” are the curtains, the wall calendar, and the tea bag holder. I am also looking for bird place mats. I may make them myself – we will see.

With the paint and sip at the church this week, I have added my painting to the kitchen to complement the bird theme. In addition to being my first paint and sip, the painting was significant to me for another reason.

The example painting showed two black birds sitting in a tree looking up at a red heart. I was the only one in a room of about 20 who painted my birds something other than black. For me, it was very important to specifically paint a blue bird on the left and a red bird on the right. I made my heart pink so that I would not have both a red bird and a red heart.

Why was I so specific on this painting?

For me, the painting signifies a way to include Kip and Kitty (both deceased) in the new house. Yes, I brought their urns to the house when we moved. However, I hold some guilt over the fact that when they were both alive, life was very difficult for us.

Kip and Kitty had both experienced homelessness with me. I’m pretty sure that months on end of living in the car may have been a contributing factor to Kitty’s anxiety disorder. When I bought the house, it was a huge relief to have permanent housing – something I have struggled to obtain my entire life. I first remember being homeless at age 4, and it occurred on and off for many years after.

Kip and Kitty did not live long enough to see the house. They never experienced “permanent” housing, although the 14 years I spent in the apartment was the most stable housing experience in my life up until the last 6 months I was in the apartment.

So, the blue bird on the left in the painting is for Kip. The red bird on the right in the painting is for Kitty. Blue was Kip’s color, and it seemed to fit his personality. Kip was very happy-go-lucky, and blue makes me think of a blue bird of happiness. Kip was also left hand dominant. I did a red bird for Kitty, because red was always his color. His favorite blanket was red and Kitty was primarily right handed.

I’m also drawn to the old legend surrounding red cardinals. There is a saying that a red cardinal is like a loved one in Heaven saying Hello. In the few months we have been in the house, we have seen both blue birds and red cardinals outside.

It’s probably really corny, but for me, this painting of two little birds helps me feel like Kip and Kitty are included in the house even though neither of them lived long enough to see it. Kitty had been with me almost 19 years before he succumbed to cancer. Kitty was with me longer than any human being in my life. Kitty was with me through every major struggle.

Jude and Simon are here now and are benefiting from the stability that has finally been achieved in my life. I’ve never seen Jude as happy as he is being in this house. His attitude since being in the house is like night and day from being in the apartment.

The three of us are very happy in the house. The painting of the two little birds in the kitchen makes me fee like Kip and Kitty are in Heaven looking down on us. I’m sorry they aren’t here to see the house, but I know that Heaven is a much better place to be. And who knows? Maybe in Heaven, Kip and Kitty are in a house just like this one waiting for me, Jude and Simon to join them.

 

Home is Where the Cats Are

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Jude in the new house Christmas 2018

Many people get upset and emotional when they move from a place where they lived for a long time. It’s understandable. There was a lot of living done and may memories created when we stay in one place for a long time.

You would think that I would have had an emotional reaction when I moved out of the apartment I had lived in for 14 years. It was the longest I had ever lived in one place and the only place I lived that ever truly felt like home.

The second day I was in the house, I had a single moment of meltdown. I remember sitting on the bed in the new house, tired, dirty, drained, and stressed, crying because I wanted to go home and didn’t know where that was. Ten minutes later the moment passed, and I continued with unpacking boxes and getting settled into the house. That was the only “moment” I’ve had.

When some people move to a new location after living someplace for a long time, they will have a moment of confusion when driving and accidentally drive towards the “old house” before realizing that they have to take a new way home now. I’ve heard of this happening, but have never experienced it myself. From day one of when I moved, it was pretty clear to me where I was supposed to be.

I always return to where ever my cats are. I knew exactly where my cats were, so that’s where I go, no question. Home is where the cats are.

Within two hours of closing on my house, I moved the cats. The cats moved first before anything else.

I know that when moving with pets, this is counter intuitive. You are not supposed to move the pets first. You are supposed to move them last so that they do not get lost. In my case, I had to move them first before I even gave notice to the landlord that I was leaving. I had to be sure that the cats were safe and stably housed, since they were part of the “problem” for a landlord who was going pet-free.

Once the cats were in the house, this is just where I return. Every day. Every time I go out.

I think this is part of why I am NOT emotional over the whole move. Other than my one “moment,” which I think was mostly exhaustion and frustration from the move (who wouldn’t be exhausted and frustrated when moving?), I haven’t had any other break downs over the move.

I moved and did not look back. Yes, the situation was unfortunate. I am mostly mad at the circumstances of the move – that it was a forced move and not something of my own volition. However, the goal in that hellish situation was always to keep my family together. By purchasing a home, I have been able to keep the three of us together. That’s all that really matters.

People ask me if I like the house. I like it well enough. It is taking some time to get used to. It does not feel like “home” yet. That will come in time. I hate the stairs – I never wanted a two story house. I love my kitchen. It’s my favorite kitchen I’ve ever had anyplace I have lived or ever seen anywhere.

What is most important, is that the cats are happy here. They each have their favorite window for optimal bird viewing. I am so happy there are birds here for them to watch, as that was one of their favorite activities in the apartment. They seem to be happy. They both cuddle with me.

Jude has been spending a lot of time rolling around and on his back. He did that a little bit in the apartment, especially when I first adopted him. Jude likes to roll. However, I noticed on Christmas that he was so happy over one of his presents that he laid on his back with all his legs in the air. I’ve seen him do that a few times in the new house. He never did that in the apartment. I’m thinking he must like the new house if he is that comfortable here to expose himself like that.

Over the past 4 months we have been in the house, Jude spends less and less time hiding in the kitchen cupboard. In fact, the only time I see him go in there now is when someone comes to visit. Sometimes, he doesn’t even go in the cupboard, he finds other places to hide. The fact that Jude is so comfortable in the house that he no longer hides in the cupboard on a regular basis speaks volumes.

Simon is happy every place. This is the cat that even purrs at the vet office when getting his rabies vaccine. Nothing seems to phase Simon. Except thunderstorms. We discovered this summer that Simon is terrified of thunderstorms.

We are still getting settled into the house. We are getting into new routines and moving things around. We are all together, and that is what is most important.

I literally could have lived anywhere. Given the situation when the new landlord took over the apartment building last spring, I was fully prepared to be homeless again and was trying to figure out how to live in my car or an RV or someplace with both cats. I’m really glad that it did not come to that, but I was literally prepared to live anywhere with them. We are a family and we have to stay together.

So while it doesn’t really matter where we live as long as we are all together, this house is by far the nicest place we have ever lived. It’s home because this is where my cats are located. I come home to them every night.

As long as Jude and Simon like the house, then I’m happy.

Home is where the cats are.

Ferals in the Neighborhood

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Jude and Simon love looking out windows. They are avid bird watchers. One of the things I knew we would miss when moving from the apartment to the house was the sliding glass door that was on the second floor apartment. The cats loved looking out this and watching all the birds in the trees.

Even though there is no sliding glass door in the house, the cats are enjoying all of the windows just the same. We have finally settled into a routine and I have identified Simon’s favorite window and Jude’s favorite window. When I identified Jude’s favorite window, I took the cat tree and put it in front of it. The cat tree was in front of the sliding glass door in the apartment, so now it is in front of Jude’s favorite window in the house. Simon’s favorite window in the house already has an ample perch for him to bird watch. (He sits on a chair.)

Something new that we have all noticed outside since moving to the neighborhood are outdoor cats. The apartment was on a very busy highway and all cats were indoor only. We never saw any outdoor cats at the apartment. There are many outdoor cats in the neighborhood at our new house.

I have pretty much been able to figure out which cat goes to which house. I may not know all the human neighbors, but I know all the neighborhood cats and roughly where they belong.

There is one cat that I jokingly call Jude’s girlfriend. We will call her “Lucy.” When Jude sees Lucy out the window, he gets really still and intent. He watches her closely. If she is walking down the sidewalk and leaves his frame of view, he will race to the next window just to see her. He does not seem agitated or aggressive, just very, very interested. Lucy seems interested in Jude too. The closest she has come to looking at him through the window is our front steps.

There are other cats Jude sees out the window, who must be male. Jude puffs all up and growls. Sometimes he even turns around and growls at Simon because he cannot take out his aggression on the outdoor cat.

There is one cat in particular that upsets Jude and he continuously takes it out on Simon. Simon is black and white. He is pretty much equally black and white. The outside cat in question is also black and white, except this cat is almost all black with just a little white on his chest. I think Jude gets confused because the outside cat looks so much like Simon and then takes out his aggression on his brother. We will have to work on that.

We have already had well over a foot of snow and days below zero. As winter has progressed, I have noticed that I do not see the outdoor cats anymore. They are being kept inside their houses, which is great. They should be inside when it is negative 12 out.

The one exception is this black cat with the little bit of white on him who absolutely pisses Jude off when he sees him outside. Since I have gotten sick of just referring to him as the outside cat, I am calling him “Clarence.”

I am pretty sure Clarence is homeless. Like genuinely homeless.

He is the only cat in the neighborhood I still see outside in bad weather. He is outside all the time. I see his footprints in the snow all over.

As the temperature has plummeted, I am concerned. I see him huddled in places.

My garage door is open year round. There isn’t really anything in the garage except garden rakes, snow shovels and the garbage can. I firmly believe that a garage is for parking my car inside not for storing stuff. I refuse to be one of those Americans who has a garage so full of stuff that you can’t fit the vehicle inside. I have a hard time putting the garage door up and down, so I just leave it up. Apparently the prior homeowner did the same.

The point is, my garage door is up, and I noticed that Clarence would dash inside to hide from the elements. It makes sense. It’s probably one of the easiest shelters for him to find.

I probably shouldn’t have done this – I’m either a sucker or just a soft heart, but I went online and read about feral cat shelters. I strongly dislike the idea of Clarence being outside in such frigid weather. I’ve been homeless myself and I know how much winter sucks without permanent shelter.

I made a feral cat shelter out of a storage tote, some styrofoam, and one of my old space blankets from a marathon. These are the blankets they drape on us after a race to retain heat. They work. The website said to use straw, but I couldn’t find any. It said not to use blankets or towels because they retain moisture, but I did put a fleece blanket inside in lieu of the straw.

I put the cat shelter up on a pallet in the garage to keep it off the cold concrete floor. I have no idea if Clarence actually goes inside for warmth or not, but I feel better knowing it is there as an option for him.

On the days the thermometer has dipped below zero, I took one of my microwaveable rice bags, heated it and put it inside the shelter twice a day.

People have been saying that I will now never get rid of him. Some people say I should just let him in the house. My thought is that I don’t want him in the house. I am okay with him outside. I already have two cats and they are all I can deal with as far as family members. Ideally, I would like to either trap, neuter, release (TNR) or trap and take him to a shelter. We will see.

Part of the reason why I think he is truly homeless is that he is very skittish. He runs away. The only time I see him is through the window. If I am outside or open the door, he runs away. He is either not used to humans period or was/is abused. All of the other neighborhood cats are friendly. They will at least walk past you on the sidewalk and some will even rub up on your legs if you let them. Clarence is not friendly. At all. He is also the only neighborhood cat still outside in all weather and temperatures.

The other thing I noticed was Clarence licking my front steps for water. I felt bad. So, sucker again, I set out a water bowl. I just don’t think any human or animal should have to go without water. That’s not right.

I figured that if I am wrong about Clarence being a boy, that I would just call the girl Clare. Clarence is the name of the angel in the Wonderful Life movie. However, I am pretty certain Clarence really is a boy. His footprints are rather large, plus Jude strongly dislikes him.

The other reason why I am pretty sure Clarence is a boy is that someone sprayed (peed on) one of the snow shovels outside. I am pretty sure it was Clarence. I don’t think he has been fixed. While I am not sure if he is actually using the cat shelter or not, it is pretty clear that he is marking that space as his “territory.”

This whole experience of outdoor cats is new to me. My cats are indoor only because they are beloved family members and I would be too worried if they went outside. Various people tell me not to feed them or whatever because then you won’t get rid of them. But if they are truly homeless, shouldn’t we try to help somehow? Trap, neuter, release (TNR) to reduce the homeless cat population or trap and take to an animal shelter to be adopted. I cannot take strays into my home, but I can at least help support the homeless population. I can’t just leave them outside to dehydrate and freeze.

Right now the only homeless cat in question is Clarence. I have read about feral colonies on the internet. There is not currently a colony here. All the other outside neighborhood cats appear to have houses. Except this one.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Trying to change the life or make a difference in the life of one person? I’m just trying to offer resources to a homeless cat to survive the winter. I am pretty sure that he would survive without my help, but as someone who has experienced homelessness in my own life, I just can’t stand by and watch.

Do you have feral cats in your neighborhood? Any experience with building outside cat shelters? How do you interact with homeless cats?