Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You

A new cat showed up in the back yard.  The feral cats who already live in the yard gave this new cat wide berth.  He was very skittish at first, but that is no longer the case.

He's an "intact" male, and I think the other cats are afraid of him.  He started showing up at meal time, and the other cats made feeble attempts to claim the food before he did, but backed off once this newcomer growled at them.  He's very skinny, and I noticed that he has a huge wound on the side of his neck.  

I felt sorry for him.  Normally, I would have tried to trap him to get him tested for feline aids and feline leukemia, and then have him neutered, but he's so skinny, and I wanted to try to treat his wound first. 

Gradually, he stopped being so skittish, and he actually became bold.  He'd come running when I went outside with a can of cat food on the paper plate.  He ate the whole can by himself, so I had to start bringing out two cans in two different plates. I'd put one plate up on the cedar chest for him, and then I'd put the other plate on the patio a few feet away for the other cats to eat.  Some days, he'd eat his food, and then he'd start on the other plate of food.  And those cats didn't argue with him...

We'd resisted naming him in case he tested positive for feline aids or leukemia and had to be put down, but he started looking less skinny and lethargic.  I came up with the name, "Griffin," but Wayne said he looked more like a "Duncan," so that's what we started calling him.  That's in deference to the Outlander books we're reading.

Duncan even let me pat him on the head.  Once he did that, I decided to try and treat his wound.  I put on a latex glove and got a glob of Neosporin antibiotic ointment and placed the glob directly on the wound.  Anyone who knows me knows that I do not have a strong stomach for "blood and guts," but it had to be done, so I did this twice a day.  I could see the wound getting smaller each day.

Two days ago, I put the Neosporin on the wound while he was laying down on the chaise lounge on the patio.  After I finished, I patted him on his side.  He did not like that, and he bit me!  That did not endear him to me....

Wayne freaked out.  It was only a tiny spot on my finger, but Wayne said, "Debra, he could have gotten rabies today!"  Normally, I wouldn't have thought twice about it, but because Wayne was so alarmed, it made me decide to at least look up rabies on Google.  Everything I read said that rabies was extremely rare, but it also said that once neurologic symptoms were in evidence, rabies was fatal.  

I called for a doctor's appointment the next day.  That doctor did the same thing I did, and she googled rabies, too.  She didn't think there was any chance I had rabies, but she got me a tetanus shot, wrote a prescription for a topical antiseptic cream, and another for an oral antibiotic if it looked like the bite was getting infected.

I'd also called the local animal shelter and was told that the animal would be in quarantine for ten days  so it could be observed.  We've been trying to catch Duncan in the have-a-heart trap, but as hungry as he is, he will not eat the food in the trap.  So I'm observing him in the backyard....

The bite looks OK so far, and Duncan is still lounging on the chair on the patio in the backyard, getting his meals before all the other cats.  Our dog, Walter, doesn't even bother him.  He just looks at Walter and hisses, and Walter backs off.  I think Duncan knows he's landed in a good place.  He just doesn't know that I'm planning to have him neutered....

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I read somewhere that cats sleep 16 hours a day.  Here are some examples:

 And here's Walter guarding the sleeping cats:

Harry's New Trick

Here's a picture of Harry:
He's started something new just recently.  He wakes me up by biting me on the head and pulling my hair out of its braid with his teeth.  I don't know why, after eight years, he's started doing this.  It's not a fun way to wake up!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Weekend Project

We collect vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags to use in our compost bin in the backyard.  The event that preceded this weekend project was my stepping in Walter's "Easter eggs" on my way to the compost bin.  Ugh!  So I asked my husband if he would make a stepping stone path to the compost bin - that way, I could see where I was stepping and not be surprised.

Wayne asked me where I wanted the path, and I showed him.  Then he asked me to walk to the compost bin.  I did, and he counted the steps it took me to reach it.  That's how he knew how many stepping stones to buy.  Something so easy, but I wouldn't have thought of that!

Here's a picture of the finished product:
 No more stepping in poop - yay!

New Birdfeeder

We have lots of birds that grace us with their presence, and it's been entertaining for us as well as providing "kitty TV" for our four inside cats.
I found a new bird feeder that's ideal for the smaller birds.  We left the other birdfeeder up, so the larger birds can still use that one.
The other thing that's cool about the new birdfeeder is that we don't have to fill it every day. It holds about a week's worth of birdseed.

A Shave & a Haircut, Two Bits

Here is Walter's "before" picture:
Then I went to a DIY Grooming workshop sponsored by the SPCA.  I was really more interested in the "One Picture Saves a Life" portion of the workshop, but the speaker, Jorge Bendersky, was first on the agenda.  Jorge suggested Wahl products were inexpensive, but good, and could be found in Wal-Mart.  Lo and behold, I found a grooming kit as well, and so began my adventures in do-it-yourself animal grooming....

Here are Walter's "after" pictures:

It's not that big of a difference - but I trimmed his "mohawk," eyebrows, and beard.  When Wayne saw him, he commiserated with Walter, and said, 
"Poor Walter!  I told you to run!"

On the other hand, there is a huge difference in Violet's before and after pictures, however, it's not evident until she turns around.  Violet is my long-haired cat who gets "dingleberries" - for those of you who don't know what those are, you are so lucky!  When she uses the litter box, sometimes bits of kitty litter and other things (ahem) stick to to the fur on the back of her legs.  I decided to give her a modified Brazilian...just kidding - no wax was used.  But she wasn't going to be easy to convince for this procedure.  First, here's Violet's "before" picture: 

And here is her "after" picture 
(without being too graphic):
Voila!  No more dingleberry potential!

As I said, it took some maneuvering to pull this off  - I had to put her food in the corner and shave the back of her legs while she was occupied with eating, as illustrated in the following picture:
Yes, all that fur came from the back of her legs!

Hirsute people, beware!

The End of My Life

I've been reading a book called, Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden.  I read The Orenda, and liked it so much, that I searched for what other books he'd written.  He is an excellent writer, and he tells a story in a way I wish I could write.

Anyway, there's a story about how the main character is in a canoe when he spots a moose.  He slowly takes out his rifle to shoot the moose, which he needs to be able to survive the winter.

Strangely, that got me thinking about the moose.  Here she is, in the middle of the woods, maybe never having seen a human being in her entire two years of moose life, and with two bullets, her life is ended.  I made a connection to the moose with my own life.  We don't know how our own lives will end.  We may never see the end of our lives coming.  And then it happens.  

When I was younger, I don't think I had many thoughts about the end of my life.  Now that I'm 60, and after having experienced the deaths of so many family members and friends, I can't say I think of it constantly, but I'm aware of it almost every day.  We don't get to choose, any more than we get to choose what illnesses afflict our bodies.  

In my early teens, I used to think to myself, "I'm never getting cramps."  But then in my 20's, I had pretty miserable cramps.  In my 20's, I used to say to myself, "I'm never having back problems."  Ah, the arrogance and ignorance of youth.  I've had back problems galore, especially for the last 30 years.  

Last year, I had some blood work done, and it showed that I had metabolic syndrome, which is the precursor to diabetes.  I had always thought, "I'm never going to have diabetes," as if it were something I could will away from myself.  My doctor told me that I could prevent it from happening if I lost weight and exercised more.  That pronouncement was the only thing that made me determined to lose weight, something I hadn't even tried to do seriously since 2008.  

I've never enjoyed cooking very much.  In fact, for most of my married life, my husband has done the greater part of the cooking in our home.  Then I retired, and although I had never been a fan of cooking shows, I started watching The Chew.  I'd print out those recipes from their website, go shopping for all the ingredients, and cook up a storm.  I wasn't worried about my weight.  I figured, "Hey, life is short, and I'm going to enjoy myself!"  

My cardiologist had a fit when he saw my cholesterol numbers.  I told him I was retired and cooking a lot now, and he said, "I bet you're watching those cooking shows and using butter."  I emphatically said, "Yes!"

Even with two surgeries to repair the torn meniscus in each knee, I didn't lose weight.  Even when the doctor grabbed at the area above my knee and said, "That's fat!" I wasn't motivated to lose weight.

But when my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic, that did it for me, so in the past three months, I've lost 35 pounds.  And yet, I still think about the end of my life.  

The point is, I guess, it doesn't do a lot of good to wonder what it will be that takes us out of this life.    We live our lives the best we can.  I like the saying by John Wesley, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."  That doesn't mean I live my life as a Pollyanna, without any character flaws.  I have many flaws, I assure you.  And I've grown very cautious in my older age.  But I still hope to have adventures.

Yesterday, I spent about five hours weeding the herb garden in my back yard.  My knees don't work as well as they used to, and and so I sat on my little rolling garden caddy, to be closer to the ground.  I pulled and hacked and cut until I could barely move.  I didn't realize how long I'd been at the task until I came inside and saw the clock.  I was so enervated, I could hardly make it through my shower without collapsing.  

That got me thinking, as it usually does after these marathon gardening sessions, about how long I'd be able to keep up my gardens.  Would I still be able to do this in five years, ten years, or even next year?  I have no clue, but I will keep on going as long as I'm able, and try not to think about the end of my life too much...

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I've been going through boxes of old letters, cards, and photographs.  Why?  Because my husband wants more room in the garage.  So I have found myself sitting for hours, looking through all these things, reminiscing about the past.  

The boxes were up in the attic, but it was my husband's idea to try to clear out clutter, so he brought some of the boxes down from the attic and put them in the garage.  They sat there for several months.  Finally, on the Fourth of July, he prodded me to get started going through them.

I don't have any children, and I don't think any of my nieces or nephews would  be interested in going through this stuff.  I figure, I'm making it easier on Wayne or whoever has the job of cleaning out the house after I die, so I'm throwing stuff out.  

I've given away all my work clothes.  It's been almost three years since I've retired, and I haven't worn one of my "work outfits" once in all that time, so if I don't need them, I want to give them to someone else who can use them.  It's been very cathartic.  I've been giving stuff away since my 50's.  I gave my niece and nephew so much stuff, they asked me, "Aunt Debbie, are you dying?"  

My mom started giving stuff away in her 60's.  It's funny.  You don't have much when you first start out on your own, and then you accumulate things along the way.  Finally, you get to the point that you realize you don't need all this stuff.  

I think Hurricane Katrina emphasized that point to me.  I had friends who lost everything in the storm.  Afterwards, I didn't want to buy anything.  "What's the point?" I thought.  It's just going to be taken away in the storm.

At this stage of my life, I'm streamlining.  If I have something and I'm not using it, I want to give it away to someone who can.

Which brings me back to the boxes of cards, letters, and photographs....I can't just throw out the letters and cards without reading them.  So that's what I've been doing for the past few days.  I'm touched by all the sentiments expressed in the letters and cards.  I cannot bring myself to throw the photographs away.  When I die, someone is going to find all these pictures and wonder who these people are, and who are all the babies.  I've written on the back of the photos, but still, whoever is going to be looking at these pictures will wonder.....

At times, I've wanted to bust out crying as I'm reading the letters.  So many emotions...
My mom was so funny, and it all comes back to me as I read her letters.  She loved jokes, and she passed on her sense of humor to me.  I used to give my students extra points if they got up in front of the class and told jokes.  I did that to give them confidence and to prepare them for having to speak in public.  I told them, "The jokes have to be clean - I'm sharing them with my mom."  My mom loved all those jokes.  She'd enclose cartoons when she wrote to me, along with pictures she thought I'd like.  

It was sad reading through the letters, how many of the letter writers have died: my mom, my dad, Wayne's mom, Auntie Lil, my cousin, Richie,  Auntie Esther, my friend from work, James Miller, my friend, Cormel, who showed me how to turn on the computer(!), Jimmy McGeehee, the Youth for Christ leader...  I've lost touch with some of the people, and I don't even know if some of them are still alive.  

I have lots of letter from students I taught at college.  They were full of praise and make me think I wasn't as good as they thought I was, but it's nice to read anyway.  Some of my students wrote to let me know what jobs they had, when they got married, when they had babies, what graduate schools they were attending.  There were letters from fellow professors/colleagues, telling me the latest news in the department and in their lives.  

I have thank you letters from nieces and nephews - accompanied by pictures they drew for me.  So many of the letters were from my cousins, one in particular with whom I've been corresponding since I was about 7 years old.  We used to say that we were cousins who were separated at birth because we were so much on the same wavelength.  

There were Christmas letters from friends and family accompanied by pictures, and I could see their children growing before my eyes.  I don't know why I've lost touch with so many of them.  I even kept the cards marked, "Return to Sender" because they'd moved without leaving a forwarding address.  When I opened those cards, I could read the first Christmas letter I'd ever composed.  

There were condolence cards from friends who wrote consoling words when my "autistic" cat, Minimax, died.  There were thank you notes of all sorts.  There were letters from my friends I corresponded with on a regular basis.

And then there were the cards Wayne and I sent each other through the years: Valentine's Day cards, Christmas cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, just because cards....

All those cards, letters, and photographs mean something to me, but I will not be here forever, so I am keeping the memories, and throwing out the material...except for the pictures.  Let whoever comes upon them wonder.....

Friday, May 30, 2014


When I got out of bed this morning, I noticed a few small streaks of blood on the pillowcase.  And then it all came back to me.  My head got caught in the middle of a skirmish between two of my cats.  I remember getting bonked in the forehead and feeling a quick scratch across my face.  I woke up with a start, saying, "Owwwww!"  I don't know who threw the first paw, but I must have gone back to sleep immediately because it wasn't until I saw blood on the pillowcase, that I remembered where it came from.  Crazy cats....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It Isn't Easy Being Menopausal

I have hot flashes.  I have been having hot flashes... for the past ten years.  Yes, I've heard them called "power surges," or "my private summer," but whenever I'm in the midst of one and I NEED a fan, I just say, "I'm having a hot flash, and I need some paper to make a fan," and no one misinterprets what I mean.

A few years ago, I was in Sears, and I was buying an elliptical machine when I got a hot flash.  I know I was turning red and desperately looking for some paper to make into a fan just to have a breeze in my face.  The salesman looked panicky, and he asked me, "Is there someone I can call for you?"  I told him, "It's just a hot flash."  He looked so alarmed.  I wonder if he thought I was having a stroke or something.  

One of my husband's friends said, "How long have you been having those?  It seems like you've had them a long time now."  Wayne immediately said, "Ten years!"  He knows, I guess, because he lives with me.  He goes around the house in a hoodie, so that when we're sitting at the kitchen table and I reach up to turn on the fan, he can flip the hood up over his head.  I even put the fan pull on an extra long cord so that I can reach it easier.  

Unless you've had hot flashes, you have no idea how they feel.  My husband once made the mistake of saying he knows how it feels to have a hot flash because ONCE he got a radioactive dye injection for a CT scan, and he understood how it felt.  I looked at him and gaped, "ONCE?  Try 20 times a day and night for ten years!!!!"  I don't think he ever said that again, at least, not in my presence.

I'm reading an article in this month's AARP magazine.  The title is "It's My Menopause, Darn It!" by Sandra Tsing Loh.  I loved the statement by one woman who said, "If anyone tells you menopause is easy, punch them in the mouth!"

I have tried hormones, St. John's wort, evening primrose oil, soy, yoga, macrobiotics, low carb, etc.  Nothing has alleviated the hot flashes.  So now I just carry this nifty fan that my friend gave me.  I carry that fan EVERYWHERE.  Otherwise, I will be scrambling for a piece of paper to fan myself.  Someone offered to fold the paper into a nice, little fan - I grabbed that piece of paper so fast - there just isn't time to wait when you're in the middle of a hot flash.  Give me that paper NOW!  As I'm sitting at my computer typing this, I have the fan overhead blowing at maximum speed.  This fan also has an extra long cord, so I don't even have to stand up to pull the cord.  I don't know why I didn't think of that years ago....

Post Traumatic Growth

I'd never heard of the term, "post traumatic growth," until this month while I was reading AARP's magazine, and I came across the article, "Surviving the Jolt," written by Mark Miller.  According to the author, the term has been around since 1995, when University of North Carolina at Charlotte professor, Lawrence Calhoun, coined the phenomenon of PTG.  "Resilience is when you get punched, stagger and then jump right back up.  Post-traumatic growth is different - when you stand back up, you are transformed."

I love the idea of growth and transformation stemming from the jolts life gives us.  Instead of PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), there can be PTG.  It's a whole new way of looking at trauma.  I'm reminded of the the following verses:

Psalm 30:11-12

New Living Translation (NLT)
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Oh, It's a Beautiful Morning!

You never know what a day will bring....
This morning, I got up, and three cats were in bed with me.  I started making the bed, and when I got to the left side, I saw cat vomit in the bed.  How did that happen, and I didn't wake up when one of the cats was upchucking?????

There was a hairball on the floor beside the bed, or as I describe it, a hair log...  I found the enzyme cleaner, a must for anyone with pets, and scraped as much of the vomit off the sheets and carpet as I could, and then I sprayed the enzyme cleaner.  Oy vey.  What a way to wake up!

See?  Here's another benefit of being retired:  I have time to clean up the cat vomit and wash the sheets instead of having to rush off to work!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Leap of Faith

Yesterday, I thought I saw two doves in the bird feeder.  Then I looked again, and I saw it was a big squirrel.  My husband said, "How did he get in there?"  The bird feeder is hanging from under the eaves.  

Well, I saw how he did it:  the squirrel was in the gutter, and he leapt into the bird feeder.  Score!!!  I sat near the window with camera in hand, waiting for him to attempt the leap again, but no luck.  Will be on the lookout....

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Is Not a Vegetable

I had the weirdest dream - I woke up this morning with the idea that I was going to cook five.  I thought to myself, "Five of what?  Five is not a vegetable!"

Friday, April 11, 2014


For the past week, I've set the Have-a-Heart trap to catch whatever cat is beating up the feral cats I take care of, and I haven't caught him yet.  I have caught raccoons twice and two of the feral cats.  I thought the feral cats would remember that trap because that's how I caught them and had them tested, given rabies shots, and had them fixed.  But they didn't remember.

This morning, I uncovered the trap, and lo and behold, there was a possum in the trap.  I was opening the door to the trap, and the possum hissed.  I heard them do that before, but the next thing that happened scared me.  The possum growled!  I've never heard a possum growl before.  

Very carefully, I eased open the door to the trap.  I walked away.  The possum was frozen.  Eventually, he ran out of the trap.  That was my adventure for the day....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Blooms

The flowers are beautiful this time of year.  Each time I go walking, I appreciate the colors of the blossoms. 

Bottle Brush Tree

Yellow Irises


Lorapetalum (Chinese Fringe Flower) 

Japanese Magnolia


The Light in Early Evening

I love going for walks in the early evening, right before it gets dark.  I love the way the light looks. Everything seems magical:

And then the sun starts to set:

Drawing Class

I'm taking a drawing class through the community education program.  One of the exercises we had to do for homework was to complete a drawing upside down.  The point of the exercise was for us to focus on shapes and spaces, not actual objects.

Our teacher gave us a very detailed drawing of a knight on a horse:

It took me 2 1/2 hours to do my drawing:

I was amazed when I turned it right side up:

Hail in April!

Today it hailed!  It's April 8th in metropolitan New Orleans!  

Here is a picture, if you don't believe me:

Two Who Made It and One Who Didn't

Every spring, I see baby turtles on the road where I walk.  They're the same size of the ones we used to be able to buy at the T,G, & Y store for a quarter.

I'm so happy when I see them walking and so sad when I see them squished.  Here are two who made it:

and one who didn't:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Swiss Chard & the Big, Hairy Spider

I went out to my garden to cut down some Swiss chard.  It was beautiful.  I brought it in the house and washed it, laid it on the cutting board to slice it, and what did I see, but a big, hairy spider!  I screamed so loud that I think the spider heard it, and I don't even know if they have ears!  It may have shuddered when I screamed.  I haven't seen one of these types of spiders before - it was like a small tarantula.  Normally, I don't scream for spiders, but it was so unexpected to see this hairy spider, that the scream was involuntary.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gifts from the Cats

Today, the one of the housecats left me a present on the floor: a huge hairball.  And one of the feral cats left me a present on the welcome mat: a gecko body (the head and tail were bitten off).  Weren't they thoughtful?

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I just went online to a site called Modcloth, that I learned about from Facebook.  I clicked on the tab for vintage clothing, and lo and behold, they had clothes just like I used to wear in my teens and 20's!

Who knew that those clothes were vintage?  There were long "granny dresses," fringed vests, Indian style tunics, tiered skirts, ponchos, floppy hats, and bell bottom jeans.  I was shocked!

My mom always said, "Just wait 20 years, and it will be in style again."

I always wanted one of those jackets with the long fringe.  Never had one, but I admired them from afar when I saw them on other people.

I remember wearing my first pair of bell bottom jeans to a baby sitting job, and the father asked me, "Do you know someone in the navy?"  Sailors used to wear pants that flared at the bottom.  I don't know what the uniform looks like now.

I had a collection of vests, and I wore them with BVD t-shirts we used to get from my uncle's store in Hoboken.  We wore the shirts outside of our jeans, not tucked in.  Hair was long and parted in the middle.  To complete the outfit, we had love beads, long strands of tiny beads - I still have one of those necklaces.  The quintessential hippie look...

Another favorite look was wearing blue overalls with the t-shirts.  I'd wear platform sandals with overalls - don't know how I didn't break my ankles!  I loved those shoes because they made me about four inches taller!

I had one granny dress that I'd gotten for my 19th birthday.  It was a pale green Indian print with a smocked bodice and long sleeves.  I wore that dress so much that my mother wanted to throw it away.

It was funny how people related to you based on your appearance.  I remember walking in the city dressed like a hippie and how easy it was to talk to similarly dressed people.  Then I was dressed professionally for a job interview, and when I walked in the city like that, I was almost shunned by hippies.

I used to go out dancing in my mother's dresses that were 40 years old.  The dresses were gorgeous and unlike anything that was the style at that time.  I've since given them to my nieces, but I loved those dresses.  I wonder if my mom felt surprised to know that her dresses were vintage...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hot Flashes

One of my friends, who knows me very well, gave me this journal for Christmas:
I laughed so hard when I tore off the wrapping paper.  That's exactly how I feel when I'm having a hot flash!

The Dog and the Raccoon

                       Here's Walter:

Here's Walter looking outside:

Here's the raccoon that comes to the backyard to eat leftover cat food every single night:

This is why Walter goes into alert and starts barking to let us know there is an interloper in his backyard.


I love all the birds that visit our backyard.  Here are two finches:

Kitty TV!

Dead Possum in the Middle of the Tree

I was in the backyard weeding and pulling up plants that had died during the recent freeze.  It was in the midst of pulling dead vines from the fence, when something caught my attention.  I got closer to the trunk of the oak tree and saw something furry.  I couldn't figure out what it was.  And then I saw the tail and screamed - it was a dead possum!

It was stuck in the tree, and I have no idea how it died.  Briefly, I considered using a plastic bag to throw it away, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  It looks like it's been there a while.

When I asked my husband what we should do, he said, "Just leave it."  So every time I go out in the backyard, I see this sight.

Where's Zoe?

I was organizing my sock drawer and had left the drawer open.  When I came back to finish the task, I was surprised to find Zoe:

This reminded me of the movie, E.T., when the alien was hiding among all the stuffed animals.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I finished it.

I saw some yarn I liked, more the feel of it rather than the colors, and I just decided I would make something out of it.

I cast on about 20 stitches and knitted for a few days.  Here's the final product:
 It could be a doll blanket.  I could give it to one of my great nieces.

Or I could use it for a cat blanket:
I don't think the cat appreciated this particular fashion statement.

But I thought he might like it because it would be so much warmer for him.  He's always sitting in front of the fireplace.