Humor

The Story of Topaz

We let our sweet girl go this week.

Topaz, our Abyssinian cat, was one month shy of 17. Despite seeming to be one of the healthiest cats ever throughout her life, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer just before Christmas and we were told it was just a matter of months.

At first it was only a rough day here or there, where she didn’t want to eat and couldn’t settle into restful sleep. Then it was a day or two a week, and then it was the good days that were the less common ones and we knew it was near her time.

Knowing that if we took her to her vet we wouldn’t be allowed to be with her at the end, we made contact with a mobile vet who was ready when we decided it was time.

And we decided it was time this past week. She had a rough weekend, unable to eat, folded into a loaf but never quite sleeping. The vet had said that he was only able to make it out where we are on weekends, and we were worried that another week would be too long. With the tumor pressing under her eye, she was at risk for seizures or an infection, and that she seemed hungry but couldn’t eat easily made every day a worry. So we decided we’d make the call and have the vet come the following weekend.

Then he said that he could only come on Thursday, and losing those last couple days was a small hurt.

Then, of course, on Wednesday she was bright and energetic – she curled into a ball and slept deeply, she ate and drank easily, and walked all over us to demand cuddles and ear-munches. I wondered if that meant it wasn’t time… but decided I was too afraid for her for what might come.

The vet was coming early, so we woke up at six to have that last hour with her before he arrived. We held her and munched on her ears. She purred and cuddled.

And then the vet was here. She was given a sedative first, and quickly – she was so little – fell deeply asleep, her tongue poking just a bit out of her mouth. We each took a turn holding her while she drifted off, and then in just minutes it was time for the second injection. We set her down so the vet could give the shot safely, then I bundled her into a towel and held her while slipped away. I couldn’t tell exactly when it happened, she was so deeply asleep when I picked her back up. Aidan and I both took off our masks to give her furry face one last kiss and we sang a song we wrote about her when she was a kitten. The vet came back inside, listened to her chest, and told us she was gone. We held her just another few moments, then Michael picked her up and took her to the waiting vet to take her little body away.

I don’t really know how to do grief with a pet. I’ve never had a pet die. I’ve had very few pets in my life, and all of them before now needed to be re-homed because of a major life change that made it impossible to keep them. And while that was sad, I knew that my pets went to loving homes and happy lives. They continued beyond my time with them, and that is an easy loss to bear.

Topaz was with me for 17 years. I adopted her when she was 12 weeks old. I’d met an Abby a few years before and fell in love with the breed. My new boyfriend (now husband) was a passionate cat lover, I was living alone in an apartment with my son only with me half time. I decided I wanted a pet, decided it would be an Abyssinian cat, and found a local breeder. She was nine or so weeks old when I picked her out, then brought her home a few weeks later.

She was the best cat ever. She was already litter box trained when I brought her home, ate dry kibble so I avoided smelly wet foot. She was active and playful, cuddly and sweet natured. She and Aidan bonded quickly, playing tag throughout the apartment and sleeping on him when they’d played her into exhaustion.

She’d run to the door whenever I came home, eager for affection and play. Life changed forever once she grew big enough to leap onto the counters, and thus began a 17 year war (that I lost, soundly) to keep her off surfaces where we did not want her. Despite bolting off the counter the instant I yelled or got up to chase her – communicating clearly that she knew she wasn’t supposed to be there – I’d still come home to avocados knocked to the floor and kitchen sponges abandoned in the living room. Once, in the rental Michael and I moved our families into together, she waited , watching me not only until I left the kitchen but until I sat down before walking casually back into the kitchen to jump onto the counter and attack the sponge. The deterrent we tried at the time was jailing her under a laundry basket for a few minutes every time we caught up there. This was only the most recent in a long line of punishments that never, ever worked. She was so fast that I almost never actually got her with the spray bottle. Adding vinegar just caused a never-ending craving for fish and chips. Putting foil on the counters was a far greater pain in the ass for us than it was deterrent for her. Laundry basket incarceration was one of the few things that she actually disliked, but I don’t know if her kitty brain ever made the connection that it was some sort of consequence as it didn’t seem to change her behavior one bit.

The only dark spot in her otherwise idyllic kitty existence was when we adopted Nimbus. We thought she was lonely. We were wrong. Or, if she was, Nimbus was not the answer. There was a brief period before Nimbus grew larger than she where there was the occasional cuddle or group play. But once he was bigger than she was their relationship dwindled, deteriorating from a spat once or twice a week to daily aggression when we moved into the little Bay Area apartment full time after the fire. A permanent solution was necessary then and Nimbus – as the more social, loves-everyone-but-Topaz cat – was adopted by a young man who’d lost his own beloved cats the year before.

So her last few years were peaceful and stress free. And her last minutes – while gut-wrenching for us – were completely calm and painless.

I think it is normal in the first hours and days of loss to reduce the world down to the last few moments, the last contact, the last glimpse and all the never-agains. And I think part of moving past that is to try and remember the totality of the life lived. So this is why I wanted to write her history down. To bring my mind to the wonderful, play and cuddle filled years and not just the pain of the goodbye and the not-yet-finished re-writing of our life and home to one that does not have Topaz in it.

So here are some more memories.

Once, in the rental, she escaped to the crawl space under the house and we tried to lure her back with warm sushi.

She would find small, soft things (her fake mice toys, a felted rock, a tiny stuffed animal) and bring them to you, meowing while they were still in her mouth to demand praise and gratitude for her impressive hunting-of-inanimate object skills.

She broke so many things – testing gravity on a daily basis to make sure it was still on.

In the last four or five years of her life should would only drink from dripping faucets.

She would meow at me when I sang. I don’t know if she thought she was participating or if it simple editorializing. But it was definitely annoying.

She hated when we were outside without her.

She didn’t like offerings of salmon or chicken, but would happily steal grapes or cherries out of a bowl (although I think that was to play hockey with).

Once, while entertaining a friend and her date at Michael’s townhouse, she made off with multiple slices of salami from the hors d’oeuvres platter while we were distracted.

Sometimes she’d meow at you and what she wanted was for you to pick her up and carry her around. So one of our jobs was clearly kitty-palanquin.

I’m sure we will have pets again – Michael would be heartbroken if we didn’t. But the Topaz-shaped hole we feel right now will never quite be filled. She was an amazing cat, and a wonderful pet. Our lives were better because she was in it, even if right now all we can feel are the sharp edges of losing her.

I think there will be more as I process more. But for now I just want to remember her good and happy life.

Euclid Can Kiss My Ass

I’ve mentioned, I believe, that we live in the woods.

And by “the woods,” I mean we have three arc degrees of sky at best because of the canopy, that’s how dense the trees are.

They are stunning. Lush, beautiful redwoods.

You may not be aware, if you are not the rugged mountaineering sort like me – and let’s face it, we can’t all be – that trees drop leaves.

And evergreen trees, like the lovely sequoia sempervirons, drop needles. Redwoods don’t drop individual needles, the drop a few inches of branch. This is known as redwood duff.

In a normal summer, tips of branches die and fall. In a dry summer, lots of tips of branches die and fall.

Lots and lots…and lots.

We have drifts of redwood duff abutting the walkways and retaining walls.

We have inches of it on the roof.

We have enough covering the patio that we could consider cultivating crops.

The best way to deal with the redwood duff on the roof and patio is to use the blower.

Yay, leaf blower!

FWOOOSH! Bye bye duff!

Except…

Have you ever used a leaf blower in a tight space?

Like, with angles?

Or corners?

There’s a place where physics and geometry and a leaf blower meet that is a really dark, menacing place. A place where you can smell chalkboards and sadness and gym socks and home owners insurance policies.

The vector of air that blows leaves (or redwood duff) is changed when it hits a wall. Or a step. Or patio furniture. Specifically, it is changed into a chaotic, rebounding, upward shooting column of dirt and eye-seeking particles.

And one of the unique features of redwood duff is that it is…stickery. I’m not actually sure what word I need there to describe the quality of having sharp, snaggy edges that enables a thing to cling – like an uncle at Christmas who wants to tell you that it’s Obama’s fault that his favorite cable channel was cancelled – to anything it can get ahold of.

So imagine Aristotle, Euclid and whoever invented the portable electric motor in a cage match trying their best to kick each others’ asses and then someone tosses in a rabid squirrel.

That is what using a leaf blower on a multilevel patio covered in redwood duff is like.

When you start blowing the patio with the leaf blower you are infused with power. You turn the thing on, point it at a heap of dry, brown, redwood droppings and…BWUHAHAHAHAH!!! WATCH THEM SCATTER BEFORE ME! LOOK AT THE CLEANNESS I LEAVE IN MY WAKE! I AM THE HOME AND GARDEN MODERN-DAY OZYMANDIAS!

That lasts for a few seconds until the debris gets caught in the first corner.

OK, I will just send the air into the corner then and…ACK! PHHHHBT!

Spit out some bark. Swear.

Fine, I will take a different angle and get it that way. Yay!

You rejoice temporarily because you are not very bright.

Because you look behind you and see the scattered duff that you just blew out of the corner covering the formerly pristine patio.

Swear again. Re-blow the patio you just blew clean and move to the steps.

FWOOMP! OWWWWWW!

Cry.

Partly because you have a fistful of crap in your eyes and partly because you were stupid enough to think you were smarter than Aristotle.

Change the angle of the leaf blower, try again, clear the steps. Smile smugly.

Look behind you.

Cry some more. Let the rage take you.

Then scream BONNNNZZZZAAAIIII at the top of your lungs as you pirouette around the patio, nailing every angle and forcing the duff from every surface and every angle with your mighty blast of air.

Then fall over in a heap because you have become tangled in the power cord.

Cry.

Or swear.

Your choice.

Always Buy Oxnard

We are driving in Southern California. There is rampant flatness. In the distance I can see a single, large building rising from the landscape. It’s huge. It’s hazy it’s so far away, but large enough that I can tell that it’s a building and that it’s enormous.

I point out the immense building in the distance. I can’t wait to see what it is. It must be terribly, terribly important.

The building gets nearer, I point it out again, waiting…closer…waiting. We pass a city limits sign. We’re in Oxnard. What is this incredibly important building that requires such a presence on Oxnard?

What is it??

We finally drive by it and I look up to see the name across the upper edge of the immense structure.

Merrill Lynch.

What the hell?

Me: Merrill Lynch? Merrill Lynch? Why does Merrill Lynch rate a skyscraper in Oxnard?

Himself: I don’t know. You seem disappointed.

Me: Of course I’m disappointed! This isn’t the kind of building that you put a Merrill Lynch in. Merrill Lynch doesn’t rate this kind of significance.

Himself: What should it be then?

Me: Something special. You know…like the National Unicorn Headquarters.

Himself: The National Unicorn Headquarters should be in Oxnard?

Me: Duh. Everyone knows if you want quality unicorns you go to Oxnard.

Himself: I was not aware.

Me: That’s because you don’t pay attention to these sorts of things like I do. You go to Kansas City for barbecue and Oxnard for unicorns.

Himself: And they require a big building?

Me: The biggest. Merrill Lynch doesn’t belong in that building at all.

Himself: I guess. Hey, there’s a Boot Barn. I could use some new boots.

Me: At least they have the barns.

Himself: Barns?

Me: For the unicorns.

Himself: You put unicorns in barns?

Me: Sure. As long as there are a few virgins around.

Himself: Virgins?

Me: Yep, you have to have virgins for unicorns.

Himself: Why?

Me: It’s some sort of fetish.

Himself: Are the virgins still virgins after they’ve been locked in a barn with the unicorns?

Me: Not sure. You’re not supposed to ask too many questions.

Himself: [Deleted joke that was far too obvious and far too crass about the arousal status of unicorns. Frankly I’m embarrassed that I married the man.]

Me: [Dorothy Parker-esque joke that rights the universe after the lame-ass randy unicorn joke made by husband.]

Himself: So when we get a unicorn it has to be an Oxnard unicorn?

Me: Without question. If it’s not Oxnard it’s not a unicorn.

Himself: Do you think they ship?

Me: I’m sure they do. But we should probably order a barn.

Himself: And a virgin.

Me: Shipping’s extra for the virgin. Plus I think there’s insurance.

Himself: No doubt.

The Ghost of Halloween Past

It was a dark time.

A time of…darkness.

And…not much brightness.

(This is known as “setting the mood.” It’s a literary term. Look it up.)

It was a time of garment-rending and booze-drinking.

Which, most of time, is a damned fun evening.

But not so here. Tragedy. Like when the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on.

So let me take you back.

It was five years ago. A beautiful fall fall.

And the beautiful fall fallness was shattered by…by…her.

A villain of George R. R. Martin proportions.

The Pumpkin Tramp.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Pumpkin Tramp, well, who the hell are you and how did you get here?

Ok..ok…for those of you unfamiliar with The Pumpkin Tramp, let’s just say that she’s Maleficent, Smaug, Voldemort and Candice Olsen all rolled into one Lori-Tormenting Hell-Neighbor.

You may be wondering, if you’re not familiar with history, what she did to earn these invectives?

Did she steal from me?

Did she shave obscenities into one of the cats?

Did she turn the ’96 Camry into a carbeque?

No, my friends, none of those things. It was worse. Much, much worse.

The bitch out-decorated me.

She destroyed my mental stability by annually installing a Halloween tableau of such charm that I couldn’t sleep, and that caused me to devolve into a plot-wielding, vandalism-imagining shade of my former self.

She put pumpkins on her roof.

DID YOU HEAR ME??

SHE PUT PUMPKINS. ON HER ROOF.

And as you can see here in the historical record, she was able to do this by virtue of her flat, perfect for pumpkin displaying roofline.

house 2

I, in contrast, had a house with a pitched roofline and my home-value-obsessed, wife-hating husband would not let me engineer a solution because, as he put it, “Drilling holes into the roof to hold pumpkins is irrational.”

Leaving me no choice but to seethe and plot revenge.

Ultimately, I refrained from putting any of those plans into action because we had a pretty active neighborhood watch program and I don’t look good in orange jumpsuits.

So I bided.

And bided.

And then, three short years later, was the proud owner of a house with a FLAT ROOFLINE.

This was a major consideration not really a factor when purchasing the house.

So one day last month, while on a drive, I said to Himself, “Hypothetically speaking…If one wanted, hypothetically, to mount a line of pumpkins onto a hypothetical roof…How would one hypothetically do that?”

“Hypothetically?” He asked.

“Totally,” I replied.

And it appears that Himself maybe really does love me as much as he says he does because he figured out a way to install the 13 Roof-Dwelling pumpkins on to a decidedly non-hypothetical roof.

And so now, after playing the long long long game, I have my revenge.

Would you like to see?

image

image

image

Is that not the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen?

It’s so so so much better than the Pumpkin Tramp’s.

Can you tell why?

BECAUSE IT’S MINE.

So now I can definitively say, despite being the only one playing the game…

I WIN.

Happy Halloween, my pretties.

We Ain’t Talking Zodiac

We live in the woods now. People ask how many trees we have on the property and the answer is, “We have no damn idea.”

Lots.

There was what is now referred to as “The Incident” where a branch broke off and wreaked some havoc and so we had to follow up with tree work to the tune of one nice vacation. Because who wouldn’t want to trade a trip across Europe for a dozen tree stumps and a pile of wood chips the size of Mount Rushmore?

And the impact of that radical tree maintenance? YOU COULDN’T EVEN TELL WE’D HAD THE WORK DONE.

That’s how many trees we have.

Now, this may be news to some of you, but…..things live in the woods. 

Things that we simply did not have to contend with when we were suburban-dwelling, water-and-sewer-hooked town-folk.

For instance, I never once – not a single time in all of my urban living days – had to get a bat out of my bedroom.

And never before have I had a neighbor tell me that a bear wandered through his back yard. And no, I don’t think it was his consumption of herbal refreshment that led to this pronouncement. There were witnesses.

Yet it is not the bat nor the bear that screw with my sleep.

It’s a critter about the size of a quarter.

Scorpions.

You heard me.

Black, scaly, upward-tail-pointing, pincer wielding scorpions.

What the honest fuck, people??

There is something about the shape of a scorpion that is inherently freaky. The shape is unmistakable. You can’t look at a scorpion and think you’re looking at anything else.

Here is a conversation that never happens:

“Ethel, honey, is that a ring-tailed lemur?”

“No, George, that is a scorpion. And you are an ignorant, knuckle-dragging waste of a toupee.”

And they are menacing. They’re seriously like the organized crime enforcement brigade of the insect kingdom. You know just by looking at them they’re ready to mess you up. Just seeing them makes you want to relinquish your PIN number and rat out the neighbors.

To those who would say to me, “It’s not any worse than a bee sting (true of this species of scorpion) and they’re very shy and they’d rather be anywhere you aren’t (also true),” I say, “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” while running away and waving my arms violently.

We’ve found a couple in the house. They were all dead. We don’t know why. We suspect the cats (good kitty! have a tuna!) but we’ve never witnessed the actual demise, so we don’t for sure.

But then…one night…one fateful, horrible night…

I found one in the upstairs bathroom.

In a feat of cognitive dissonance that would rival Russian gymnasts for flexibility, I decided that scorpions didn’t go upstairs.  Because gravity. And stairs. And death-cats. And clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive. And bats.

Seriously, I have no sane reason to have decided that this was true. I just did.

So imagine my hysterical-window-shattering-screams surprise when I turned the corner of the bathroom and spotted the forest-dwelling-Loch-Ness-Monster wee buggie on a towel.

For scale, this is the size of scorpion compared to the size of the room I found it in: scorpion 1 Here is how it looked to me: scorpion 2 I know what you’re thinking. “Lori,” you say, in what you think is a calm but is really an annoyingly patronizing tone of voice, “Scorpions can’t fly.”

They could totally fly.

I’m sure they can also pick locks, hot-wire cars, get your kids busted for drug possession and ruin your credit rating.

You don’t know.

So after waking Himself with a rousing chorus of “Scream Like You’ve Been Stabbed With an Ice-Pick,” I allowed him to dispose of the insect by flushing it down the toilet.

Then I made him check the bathroom for accomplices.

And then check again.

And then check again before I would use the bathroom in the morning.

And then twice a day for the next three weeks.

But it’s fiiiiiiiine.

Because I’m totally okay with being a 47-year-old woman who sleeps with the light on.

I am way okay with that.

I Wonder if the Key Still Works?

Well I suppose this is all my fault.

Cobwebs on the browser.

Rust on the Facebook page.

And don’t even get me started on Twitter. Is it supposed to make that noise???

It’s ok though, because I don’t really need those things.

Wow.

I really, really, missed this place. I missed the bubbles. I missed the illustrations. And I so, so, so missed the words.

It’s been an intense couple years. Three kids have launched to college. I have a new job with my company. We moved out to a glorious house in the woods.

But some things never change. The cats are still evil. And Himself still brings me coffee every morning.

I’ve been thinking about coming back here for a little while now. I’ve read through some older posts and missed the writing so much. But I hesitated, in part because I worry about time and commitment, and in part because I remember getting so caught up in being a blogger.

I don’t want that now, I just want a place. A space. A room.

I love this room. I always did. So I think I’ll spend some time in it again. Even if it’s only for myself and Himself and my mom now. (Hi, Mom!)

But if you’re here reading, or reading again….welcome.

I’m happy to see you.

Oh….and Happy New Year!

 

Blogging Babes with Babies

When you have a group of women

Who have a wacky hobby in common….

Give them access to an incredible hostess

And put a couple pitchers of sangria in front of them….

There’s going to be a really good time had.

They will speak in a language that normal people couldn’t possible understand.

They will make inside jokes that no one else gets.

They will still ooh and ahh over a bundle of cuteness.

They will drink wine in completely inappropriate quantities.

They will share love as if they’ve known each other for many decades.

Even when they’ve only met once or twice (or never) before.

They will understand the essential need to capture a picture of a cat in a baby basket.

And they will laugh.

And the fact that 99.9% of their relationship exists in the pixels of a computer screen will not matter one, teeny, tiny, eensy, weensy little bit.

The Ups and Downs

The first house I ever owned was a little tract home with a yard the size of a piece of lunchmeat.

The long hallway was lit by two absolutely uninteresting overhead lights.

There was a light switch.

In the living room was pair of track-lights.

There was a light switch.

In between them was a light switch with two switches, one that controlled the hall lights and one that controlled the track lights.

Here is a schemata. (This is the technical term for silly drawings that want to seem more important than they are.)

Isn’t that impressive.

So there are two switches that control each sets of lights. Convenient, yes?

Switches A and B controlled the hall lights, from either switch. If light A was up, you could turn the hall lights off from switch B.

Switches C and D controlled the track lights, from either switch. If switch C was down, you could turn the lights on from switch D.

So convenient. Yes! Yay for modern wiring!

Until one of the light switches broke and needed to be replaced.

This should not be a big deal. It’s not like we were rewiring the switchboard for AT&T’s customer service line.

A light switch. One. Simple. Light switch.

We replaced the light switch. We turned off the breaker and followed the instructions.

Something went wrong. Horribly wrong.

Turning one switch up and the next switch down stopped turning off and on the light. A up B down no longer meant a light going on or off. C down D up no longer had anything to do with illumination in the living room.

Instead we ended up with this:

A up B down C up D down meant one light on and the other blinking morse code.

A down B up C down D up  caused the garage door to open.

A up B up C down D up launched the space shuttle.

A down B down C up D down caused Donald Trump’s hair to eat the nearest journalist from Mother Jones.

A up B down C down D up made blue chips stocks on the Dow Jones dance the polka.

A down B up C up D down meant six more weeks of winter.

A down B down C down D up caused guacamole to turn black.

A up B up C up D down made 80’s pop groups to go on reunion tours.

A down B down C up D down caused a flock of migrating Canadian geese to become disoriented and poop all over our yard.

People would walk down the hallways and we would fling ourselves at them to keep them from flipping a light switch and potentially reversing the earth’s polarity, or, equally bad, causing reruns of “Who’s the Boss” to air on all available cable stations.

Having influence over the earth this way was just not as much fun as you’d think.

Nor, I must say, was walking down the hallway in the dark for fear of turning on a light switch.

I had lots of stubbed toes during that period of my life. But, it was for the best. I really hate black guacamole.

I’d Be a Wicked Good Nature Show Host

This weekend I took my life in my hands.

Armed only with a cup of coffee (a disaster in its own right- we ran out of coffee creamer and tried to buy a carton at Whole Paycheck Foods, which meant we ended up with a soy product that while labelled “hazelnut” would have more appropriately been marketed as “Wooden Spoon”) I embarked on one of the most hazardous of all house-taming missions: dealing with accumulated mail.

I had no tranquilizer gun. I had no net.

I had no smooth-tongued narrator.

I did not have Jim to wrestle the beasts to the ground.

I had only the crappy tasting coffee and my wits, which, frankly, have been listed recently on the endangered species list.

Step One: Identification and Tagging.

Mail taxonomy is often tricker than it seems. For while the major species  junkus prolificus and correspondus personalis are easy enough to identify, others can be more difficult. For instance, some very crafty species of junkus mimickus can actually resemble legitimate strains of mortgage ginormica, in hopes of tricking the unwary home-owner into forking over muchas dineros. And in the sorting phase it’s not at all uncommon to discover a violent species of HOLY  %$#&ICUS that needed to be identified, processed and transported several weeks ago. Specimen growth and the discovery of penalty offspring often accompany the identification of HOLY %$#&ICUS.

Step Two: Processing and Habitat Re-Introduction

Once you’ve identified your various mail species, you must move to the crucial processing and habitat re-introduction phases. Some species can be immediately relocated into the circular-shaped habitat receptacle of your choosing. Some require return to their habitat of origin along with a donation to ensure the continued reproduction of the species. Some cannot be properly handled without additional research, most typically the “Didn’t I already pay that?” or “Why the hell do they need the serial number from the refrigerator?” academic inquiries. And then, there’s my personal favorite, that particular species of mystery mail that if left alone, dies a quiet death. Also known as, ignoritandit goesawayicus. In this case, the proper course of action is to put the creature into a NEW pile, and forget about it for at least one mail life-cycle (about 30 days).

So despite not being filmed or featured on a nature program (although would that NOT be a killer episode?) Himself and I did manage to tame most of the wild mail-life in the house. Although there was a brief altercation over who was meant to take custody of certain specimens, no tranquilizer guns were fired, and the creatures were ultimately handled without injury.

But I’m still bummed that nothing got wrestled to the ground.