Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Memories of Jon

Art Card

I slept in late this morning.  It's the first time I have done that since I started feeding the Ferals.  It rained last night and they were very hungry besides being wet.   But the flagstones were dry enough that I could leave the food on them without watering it down.

As I finished, I stood up and looked out at the cats, greedily falling to, eating as fast as they could, just in case it might disappear if they waited.  As I watched, I thought how much my brother Jon would have enjoyed seeing them.

That was when I remembered just why I had slept in late this morning.  I didn't want to end a lovely dream I was having.  I dreamed about my brother, Jon

I have two brothers, both of which I adore.  They are both so much older than I that I have no memory of living in the same house with them.  They were gone, leading their lives by the time I was making memories.  It was as if I was an only child, but I had two extra uncles.

When I was in my early 30s, my life had gone bad and I needed to start over.    I needed to move, but where to move to?  It occurred to me at that point that I had very little family left and I would like to get to know my brothers better.  So I moved to NYC, where my brother Jon lived, in hopes of getting to know him.

And Jon was a delight.  He was warm and caring, without trying to rescue me.   And I like to think I was good for him.  I gave him his first cat, whom he adored.  And he got his second & third cat from me too.  Jon was endlessly amused by watching the cats interact with one another.  He  made up games for them and bought them cat toys and cat trees for them to climb on.  

We spent a lot of time together.  As it turned out, we both shared a love of movies.  Our favorites were old black and white movies from the 30s & 40s & 50s.     Oh, and Mysteries.  We both dearly loved mysteries.

One beautiful day I noticed that a new movie had just come out, called "Evil Under the Sun".  It was an Agatha Christie mystery with Peter Ustinov.  I knew Jon would love it.  So later the next day, we went to the theater where it was playing.  

The line for the movie was around the block three times and most folks seemed to be in a good mood.  We joined them and spent a pleasant time talking with other folks in the line, joking about movies we had seen.  

It was a big theater, with escalators leading up and down to the various screens.  We got a good seat and really enjoyed the movie.  On the way out of the theater while we were still on the escalator, right next to the other escalators that were carrying the next batch of folk up to see the movie, Jon turned to me and said in a Loud voice, "Well, it was a good movie, but I knew right from the beginning that the Butler did it."  Everyone on the surrounding escalators Glared at him, furious that he had given away the ending!  What they did not know was:  There was NO butler in the movie.

Jon was working on the 82nd floor of the World Trade Center on 2001.  But that day, in Sept., he had decided to work at home, so he missed the whole terror.  

I was living elsewhere by then, but I was frantic to know if he was OK.  I finally got a hold of him around 2 o'clock in the morning (The phone lines had been too busy to get through before that).  Jon had no TV and had not turned on the radio.  Instead he had been listening his CD player as he worked on the computer and was lost to what was going on around him.   That was not uncommon for him, he liked to isolate himself as he worked.   

But when I told him what had happened, he didn't believe me.  He must have been the only person in NYC who didn't know the World Trade Centers had fallen.  He told me "Oh, honestly! You must be exaggerating!".

Those were his last words to me.  He died shortly thereafter of a heart attack.  It was quick, the way he would have wanted.

But this morning, I dreamed of Jon.   I dreamed we were having a picnic in Central Park, sharing jokes and memories.   It was a lovely dream, full of laughter and sunshine.  There was no heavy message, just love.

I don't know if it was a True Dream, whether or not my brother really did come back to visit me.  But it doesn't matter.  What matters is that I was reminded that I had this wonderful, caring, funny human being as a brother -- and I was lucky enough to have known him.

He would have loved seeing the Ferals eat this morning.  He would have made some remark about how loudly they crunched the food.  And we would have laughed together.

So I laughed for him.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fred's Doghouse

Fred on the porch

Fred is in the doghouse.  For those of you who are reading this blog in a language other than English, that is a phrase we use to say that someone is in disgrace.  And Fred is definitely in disgrace.

You would think that, as a blind dog, Fred would be careful, cautious about where he goes.  Nope.  Fred got out of the fenced in yard yesterday.  I'm not sure how.  Probably when my roommate opened the gate to leave.  He is sneaky like that.  But in any case, he was outside for just about the entire day.
When the mail carrier came to drop off our mail, Fred was there, acting as if he would come right into her truck and get her, barking his fool head off.
When a friend came by with some books for me, he pretended he was going to not let her get near the gate.
And worst of all, he kept on finding Ferals and chasing them.  I have no idea why he does that.  It would not do him a bit of good even if he caught one of them.  He's blind.  And they have claws.

Fred thinks this is all some sort of wonderful game.  When Fred is inside, he comes when he called.  When Fred is outside, calling him just makes him dash away.    There is no catching Fred when he is outside.  He is fast and even though he can't see, he can still run.  And he listens very carefully to human footsteps so that he can stay well out of reach if you try to go after him.

Fred is a carefree dog.  Going blind only slowed him down for a little while.  Before, when he could see, he used to get out and bring me presents.  He would go around to the neighbors and gather together all sorts of wonderful treasures.  He would collect used pizza boxes, chicken bones, wrappers of any sort of unhealthy foods and best of all, clothing.  He would steal into other peoples homes (I assume through doggie doors) and gather clothing --especially  underwear -- and bring it back to decorate my lawn.  I swear that dog was laughing the entire time.

But when he finally decides it is time to come home, you can't punish him, because then he will associate coming home with being punished. It is a very frustrating situation for humans.  Or at least it is for me. (I want to be a good neighbor)

Fred does not get outside of the gate very often these days.  My roommate and I have learned how to slip out without Fred getting by us.  But once in a while he is still too fast for us and makes a mad dash for freedom.  Yesterday was one such day.

But finally, as the sun was setting, he smiled his doggie smile, quite aware that I was angry with him, but also knowing that he was loved and that he would be welcomed.  He came in the gate and sniffed the Ferals on the porch in a friendly manner.  Then he came up to me and sat down in front of me, as if to announce that he had returned.  He ignored my frown and scolding.  He just wagged his tail in an unconvincing apology and ducked his head slightly.

We walked together into the house and Fred went to check and see if there was anything interesting in the food bowl.

He's lucky he's cute.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Feral Cats and the Meaning of Life.

Another Art Card

It is now official:  at least two of the Ferals are now coming and going into my house as they please. I am happy about that, but also a little concerned.  Noddy and Blinken are the brave ones.  As I watched last night, They pushed their way into the cat door and headed straight for the food bowl.

You have to understand, I have one doggie door down on the floor level which opens into my room and one cat door up higher, through a window.  The cat door is right over a high table where I feed my indoor cats.

Last night I fed all the Ferals and then put fresh dry cat food into the bowl on the indoor cat feeding area. This morning, that bowl was picked clean.  That has never happened before.  The indoor cats don't eat that much that fast.  But this morning, Noddy looked very well fed.  He still ate a good breakfast, though.

As of now, all but 6 of the Ferals let me pet them.  Several of them let me pick them up and move them to another pile of food (sometimes they get a tad irritable with each other.  I like to prevent fights when I can).  And I am not sure at this point just how many Ferals I feed.  It varies, from 18 to 27.   Eighteen I can afford to feed, twenty-seven I cannot.  And I still have not been able to catch Lil'Mama.  I am concerned that she may have another litter so I'll be spending a good part of today calling various authorities to see if anyone can help me catch her to get her spayed.

Warning:  Cat stuff is done, Philosophy follows.  If you are not interested, just skip it.  There will be more stories in the future, so do come back.

I have to admit, most of my friends think I am crazy to be taking on this responsibility.  I am very poor by American standards and feeding the cats comes out of my personal food allowance.  But there are measures of wealth other than money.

My human family is gone and because of my illness, I don't have many friends (except for the internet and phone friends).   I think it is important that we have connections.  Humans are not meant to live totally alone or isolated.  We need someone to love, and hopefully, someone to love us back.   We need to feel that our lives matter, that we make a difference.

For a long time when I first became ill, it was hard.  I could go for weeks without seeing another live human face.  Sadly that is not uncommon.  On the internet I have made connections with several groups of folks that are in this position.  Chronic illness scares people and they stay away in droves.  

But then I decided to change the way I think about things.

In the past I worked with others to try to make a difference in the world.  I worked for Peace and Civil Rights.  I had Foster Children.  I taught Art as a volunteer in several places.  I had so many people to love, it was wonderful.  I even taught a couple of collage courses -- which was more fun than I care to admit.
But then I became ill and the world changed for me.  I now have to spend most of my time in bed and there is no one who visits.   Like I said, for along time, this was difficult and I felt very sorry for myself.

But what is life for?  Why are we here?

Obviously I could no longer do the work I was doing.   So where was my reason for being?  What meaning could I have in my life?  I don't want to be a drag on society.  I need a purpose.   Even being mostly bed-bound, I need to contribute.

So I thought long and hard.  What can I do?  How can I make a difference?  I have no money to give to causes I support.  I cannot go out and do work anymore.   What can I contribute?

I thought about what I would say to someone who came to me with this problem, what would I tell them?

I would ask them, "What do you love?  And what do you love to do?  What do you want out of Life?"  

As for me, well, I want to take Delight in Life.  There is too much sorrow in the world.  It needs to be balanced out with people who take joy in life whenever they can.

So I  choose to be happy,  choose to see the beauty around me, choose to laugh and appreciate joy, choose to make connections.  This is why I feed the Ferals.  This is why I do art, even though no one may ever see most of it until after I am gone.  This is why I blog.  I do these things because it makes me happy and hopefully, makes connections.

You see, I believe in Connections.  I believe that humans need each other and that is a Good Thing.  I believe that it is wonderful that we have so many different cultures, so many different and interesting ways of Being Human.  I am so grateful for the Internet which allows so many of us to make connections in other parts of the world.  I wish it were there for even more folks, folks in war-torn countries, folks in difficult situations, folks who may long for a better, healthier life where all are cherished and encouraged to foster their gifts.  I wish the world was a safer place for all of us.  I think it would be -- if more of us could connect with each other

But that valid and healthy connection needs to extend into all forms of life, not just human. We need to connect with all of life, and these connections are Healing, more than medicine, more than money, more than politics.  And it heals the planet as well as healing us.
We all need to make what connections we can, wherever we are.

As I blog, I do wonder about you, out there.  I wonder who reads these posts.  What is your life comprised of?  What makes you happy?  What connections have you chosen to make?  (I hope that some of you will choose to reach out connect with me.)

I have three things which bring Great Joy to my life:  Art, the Internet and Animals.  That is what I have to share with you.

Oh, and  when I go outside, there are all these bright, beautiful faces that look up at me. Trusting, wonderful cats, each with their own personality and ways of being.

I am fortunate to have so much to love.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Two Good Things

This is one of my Art Cards (2 1/2 in. by 3 1/2 in.).  It doesn't mean anything and has nothing to do with the subject of my blog.  I just included it so you would have something to look at.
Besides, I like to show off once in a while.

It's only Eight O'clock in the morning (my time) and already two very Nice Things have happened.

The first thing is:  I found a Place for something!!!
Now you have to understand that my home is always on the verge of being a candidate for an episode on" Horders".  The main reason for this?   I blame my Mother.  She always told me "A place for everything and everything in it's place." -- which sounds great.  I admit that.  But see, she was rather vague on the finding-a-place-for-everything part.
Truth to tell, I don't have a place for everything.  There are lots and lots of things that live in my house but do not have a place.  They just come in and sit around, usually in the most public place they can find, like the middle of the couch, or right in front of the door.
The other option is that they will have three or four places and I don't use any of them.  Sometimes this is because I can't remember where those places are, or they are hard to reach, or I can't make up my mind which place to use, or --- I forgot that it has a place.

This is somewhat troubling to me as an artist, because I have a ton of art supplies that do need a home of their own.  And then there are the art pieces themselves.  Some of them are in a half-finished stage.  What to do with them?  Will I ever get around to finishing them?  Will I ever Wish I would finish them?  DO I care at all about them?  And what to do with it all in the meantime?  (see?  No place for it/them)
And finished work.  What to do with that?  As of right now it is mostly stuck in boxes or in the closet. Most of it I don't even bother to show to anyone.  (yawn)  
In my will, I have left it all to my local Humane Society in hopes that they can have a big art sale and raise lots of money for the animals. This is probably wishful thinking on my part.

Oh, and the thing I found a place for?  It was a small drawing that I began to color in.  I now am the proud owner of three boxes of small drawings.  They are even labeled:
Blank Drawing  
Partly Finished    and

Mother would be proud.

The Second Good Thing that happened was that my cat threw up his entire breakfast on my new quilt.  No, that isn't the Good Part.  The Good Part is that my thoughtful Min Pin dog  investigated and then re - ate the whole breakfast.  Really cleaned the quilt right up.

I'm gonna wash it anyway.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Ferals are getting bolder.  At least 12 of them now live on my porch.  And at least one of them (Midge) comes and goes as she pleases through the cat door.

But Noddy and Scamp are the most frequent visitors.  They come in almost every day.  Scamp likes to sleep with me, but he doesn't quite make it all the way through the night.  He curls up next to me, purring madly if I'm petting him.  He falls asleep on the quilt until half-way through the night. Then he gets up and uses his whiskers on my face to wake me up to let him out.

The other day I had to bug-bomb the place.  Now for any of you who have ever had to do this, you know that you have to grab all the animals and get them outside before you set the bombs off.  You wait for four hours, then you have to air out the place for a half an hour or so before re-entering.  And you have to take all your dishes, pots and pans outside, along with all your food that is not in metal cans or the fridge.

That is the battle plan, anyway.  I tried to do just that, but the animals did not get the message of how important it was that they not be poisoned by the bombs.  the night before I put all the dishes and most of the food outside.  then that morning, I barricaded all the dog and cat doors.  Or at least I tried to do so.  Sadly, as I was putting things in front of the cat door, one of the dogs was figuring out how to open the dog door.  When I fixed the dog door, the cats had pushed everything away from the cat door.  After about 45 minutes, I finally got all the doors secured.  The dogs were relatively ease to corral and take outside, but the cats were not. Ben kept on hiding.  Just as I would figure out where he was, he would quickly run off into another room and hide again. It was very frustrating.  But at long last, everyone was outside.  I set off the bombs and left to spend some time at a friends home.

When I returned, the dogs and half of the cats were sitting on the porch, waiting for me.  They were not happy.  Some of them even seemed a little resentful at being locked out of their home.

I apologized and unlocked the french doors which opened up onto the porch.  But before I could open the doors, there was a rush of dogs and cats, pushing to get back in.  This was not a good idea.  Everything had to air out, get the poison cleared off before they could safely enter.  I tried to explain that to them, but they were not listening.

I managed to slide in sideways to run through the house and open the windows and the back door before my breath gave out.  I took a huge breath and went back to turn on the fans to help clear out the air.  Then I went out to the porch to open up the french doors and sit down in between them, to catch all the critters who were trying to get in the house.

It was a challenge.  The dogs could pretty much be kept back, but the cats!  oh, they were sneaky!  Noddy was the worst.  This supposedly wild kitten was absolutely determined to get into the house.  I grabbed him as he tried to slip past me.  then I stopped Scamp from doing the same thing.  Meanwhile Noddy tried to go further than my arm could reach and slip underneath the open door.  I blocked him, but by doing do, I had to lean over, which offered Pearl a perfect chance to jump over my knee on the way in.

And so it went for talmost a half  an hour.

I managed to keep them out for 25 minutes, but at last they over-powered me and rushed in en mass.  At that point it was useless to try anything further.  I went inside and took all the covers off the furniture and replaced them with clean covers that had been taken outside before the bombing.  I brought the water dishes back inside and refilled them and put food in the cat bowls.  Scamp ran to the bed and curled up on it, belly up for rubbing.  Noddy batted poor Fred's nose, then made himself at home behind the recliner.   Winken ran into the art room and knocked over a shelf and Charming sauntered into the kitchen to see if there was anything of interest.  The 3 dogs all went to their favorite places (bed, bed, recliner) and the housecats ran to stake out their baskets.

That was three days ago and I still haven't put back all the foodstuffs that were taken out.  But there are markedly fewer cockroaches now, and the Ferals have staked out this house as their own.  Midge is still the only Feral to use the cat doors, but Noddy, Scamp, Blaze and most of the others come in whenever I leave the door open.

They think they live here,  I guess they do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Feral Portrait: Scamp and the Triplets

Scamp in the foreground

Scamp is a relative newcomer to the group.  He magically showed up when he was about 9 weeks old.  Scared and terrified of the world, he was also starving.  He approached the food so very cautiously, but he was also very determined.  He ate a few bites, then ran.  came back ate a few more bites -- and ran again.  It was heartbreaking.  He would not let anyone, human or feline, come near him.

But after about a month, he stopped running away and began to trust.  It wasn't slow, it was all of a sudden.  He decided that I was OK and could be trusted.  The same for the other kitties.   It just happened, overnight with no particular happening to warn anyone of his impending trust.  

Right now, he is by far the tamest of all the kitties.  He loves to be petted, often rolls over on his back for belly-rubs!  he comes into the house often and has spent the night on a couple of occasions.  He can easily be picked up and even is OK with the Flea-comb.  He even comes when called --sometimes.  He is dangerously close to being a non-feral kitty.

Scamp likes other cats.  He can often be found sleeping in a pile of three or four kitties.  His favorites are any/all of the Triplets, but Charming and Midge are often in the pile as well.  He is sweet-tempered and curious.  He loves to explore the house (yes, he comes inside) and all the plants, both indoors and out.  He was the first cat to discover how to take the lid off the plastic bin containing the cat food. When he comes in the door, he promptly rolls over on the floor, waiting for a belly-rub.  He head-butts Fred (the blind dog) and then rubs up against him, purring loudly.  Sadly, Scamp cannot seem to get the hang of the cat door or the doggie door.  He has to have the human door left open a crack for him.  Once he masters the cat door, I think it will be official that he lives here and is no longer a feral.

Noddy in the foreground, Sir Greyling in the background

Noddy is one of the Triplets.  All three are from the same mother (Lil'Mama) and their brother is Prince Charming and Midge is their sister.  For the longest time I could not tell them apart.  Their coloring is boldly grey striped bulls-eyes with tiny touches of white in appropriate places.  I asked for ideas for names, but no one came up with anything good for the longest time, so they became the Triplets.  You would see a Triplet basking in the sunlight on the cat stand, another Triplet would be exploring the potted trees, the third would be playing with someone.  They tend to stick together but not necessarily doing the same thing (unless it's sleeping).  They are good-natured and became rather friendly fairly quickly.  Two of them asked to be petted before I had ever tried to pet them.  All of them feel quite free to rub my legs and ask for food.

Luckily, a few weeks ago, someone finally did come up with names for them.  (I say that, because without names, it's difficult to tell them apart and almost impossible to start seeing their individual personalities)  I had refused the obvious 'Curly, Larry and Mo'  and also rejected' Enny, Meany and Miney'.  (I just couldn't see calling a sweet cat 'Meany')  But  friend who saw them happily sleeping in a pile suggested Winken, Blinken and Nod.  It Fit!  Nod, however, fast became Noddy.

All three of them come into the house, but Noddy is by far the boldest of the group.  Noddy and Scamp hang out together a lot and learn from one another.  Scamp came into the house, but Noddy was right behind him.  And Noddy HAS learned how to use the cat door -- at least to leave the house.  Not sure if he has figured out the he can get inside the same way.  Both Noddy and Scamp can be picked up and moved away when I am trying to access the food bin.

This is Winken with Sir Greyling . Blicken has her white spot on the other side of her nose.  Noddy doesn't have a white spot on his nose.   I am still in the process of learning about Winken and Blinken, what they like and what their individual preferences and habits are.

Scamp, inspecting some food

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tiny Piece of the Puzzle, maybe

Art Card - cut paper

I've been working on learning how to be more happy. ( That sounds odd, perhaps it should be 'happier' rather than 'more happy', but I trying to learn how to be more-so, so maybe that's OK.)

Anyway, I've tried to put away some of my negative thinking and I am making a conscious effort to try to learn from joy and positive experiences rather than through pain.  Because pain is no fun.

What the hey?  Right?

The hard part sometimes comes when Reality IS negative.  I don't want to live in denial all the time, I just want to be able to see things in a better light.  I believe in Facing Reality.  Isn't there some sort of balance that would work?  Facing Reality but not living in the Dark Hole of Despair?

I woke up today again, thinking "It's gonna be a good one."  Then I logged on to the net and read a post by a dear friend who is going through a rough time.  I answered her post by commiserating and adding my two cents.

But Before I hit the  send button, I re-read what I had just said.  It didn't feel good. And I was starting to not feel good.   So I erased it and thought about it and re-wrote my reply.

I care, I do care and I really understand her feelings and I do NOT want to dis-honor her in any way. So I let her know that I do care, and that her feelings are valid and her situation is real (I am Not about to deny her reality!  It is Very Real and she has every right to understand her reality in negative terms!).  But instead of crawling into the Black Hole with her by sharing a negative experience of my own, I told her something positive and true about herself.

I feel much better.

Can it sometimes be just that simple?  I mean, not all the time, but sometimes?