Merry Christmas To Me

It turns out that if you call the webhosting service where you’ve had your blog for many years and you tell them you are leaving because it has gotten too expensive, they will find a way to help you stay.

The great news is that Buds has done a big back up of the blog so it’s completely safe in an undisclosed location, just in case anything happens to our webhost.

And, I learned some new ways to use google drive.

In case any of you missed it, here’s this year’s Christmas Card:

Bast Christmas Ever!

To explain: Buster doesn’t care for posed picture-taking at this particular point in his life. We respect that. And since we firmly believe that laughter and fun are essential to a joyful life, we brainstormed our way to this year’s Christmas card.

In case you don’t know, Bast(et) is the Egyptian Goddess of home and domesticity (and cats.) And since Buster loves home, this is a delicious head nod to him.

The cat featured is Monkey’s cat Waffles. Buds had a fun time figuring out how to give the picture of Waffles a neck and shoulders that would work with Buster’s shirt. The ear bracelets are my favorite part.

We wish you laughter and love and peace this holiday season. And we pray our world finds its way there, too.

Merry Christmas.

For the complete photo album of our year, check this out.

New Doggie Great-Nephew Alert!

Jeremy and I have been colluding on Jeremy and Teresa getting a dog since they moved to Nash. I assured them that we would be puppy’s second home, ready, willing, and able.

And today the family expanded. T & J showed up this afternoon with a furry surprise for us.

Such sweet kisses.

We’re missing a flag to make this picture scream “AMERICA!”

Such a handsome boy.

I agree Duke, Buds does have delicious smelling breath.

He had very important secrets to tell me.

The new family.

Can’t wait to have decades of fun with this sweet boy.

Happy Catversary

Long time no write, folks.

Lots going on here at The Shoebox, and at some point I’m sure there will be a flurry of posts to tell you all about it.

But for MLK Jr. Day, as the children and I prepare to march in a celebration parade with hopes for a better world for all people, I decided to share pictures of cats.

Because that’s fun.

One year ago yesterday Waffles and MoonStar joined the family.

“Wow. It’s gone so quickly.” said Monkey.

Doesn’t time have that way about it.

MoonStar used to just sit nearby while we sewed.

MoonStar used to just sit nearby while we sewed.

Then she decided Monkey's new blanket was the best place in the world to rest.

Then she decided Monkey’s new blanket was the best place in the world to rest.

Then she wanted a better perspective.

Then she wanted a better perspective.

Then she decided she wanted to learn to sew.

Then she decided she wanted to learn to sew.

Their preferred resting places.

Their preferred resting places.

Moonie has selected a random styrofoam castoff as her preferred resting place. And the above photo shows the difficulties of taking pictures of an all black cat.

Waffles is curled up on the cat bed on the right…his snuggle spot.

A better shot of Waffles.

A better shot of Waffles.

MoonStar is the talkative one and Waffles is the squeaky one and they have both brought a tremendous amount of laughter and joy to our lives.

Oh, and worms, they have also brought worms, but let’s not focus on that today.

Happy Catversary.

Jake Becomes An Earl

It finally happened: Jake was adopted.

The children and I have been away, so it was up to Buds to do the final handoff as Jake went to his new family last weekend.

They have two goldies, they were missing having a cat, and Jake’s description appealed to them.

Their dogs are named Emma and Ella, so Jake has become “Earl.”

Jake/Earl’s new matriarch and I have been emailing photos back and forth, and she has kept us updated on the progress of familial relations. Emma, Ella, and Jake/Earl can now be in the same room together with no freak-outs.

And he loves sleeping on their guest bedroom bed.

img_4746

We’re so glad Jake found us and we got to be part of his young life.

Buddie’s parents got to meet Jake when they visited last week, and Poppi captured this splendid photo of the Jake.

Such a sweet face.

Such a sweet face.

May you always have a warm, loving lap and a spot of sunlight to recharge in, dear Jake.

A “Junkless” Jake

Totally inappropriate title, but it cracks me up. Thanks for the idea, April. 😉

Jake got back home on Monday afternoon, having gone through his surgery with no problems. When Buds and I let him out of the cat carrier back in our bedroom, he staggered around for a bit like a drunken cat, but quickly got his balance back.

We’re supposed to keep him quiet with no play for a week.

I’m not sure what sort of magicians they think we are, but getting a twelve-week old cat to not play is like putting marshmallows and sticks out by the bonfire and telling people not to roast them.

Jake waits by the door in our bedroom like an Olympic sprinter waiting for the gun to go off, then he streaks down the hallway. I swear he’s yelling, “Catch me, you fools!” as he zips through your legs.

We’ve agreed to keep him locked in the prison of our bedroom until Saturday, and then we’ll give him a taste of greater freedom.

Eventually his information and picture will be posted here, but for now we’ll keep enjoying his loud purr and two-step-escape tango.

Cat-ch me, you fools.

Your silly games bore me.

Your silly games bore me.

A Joyful First!

Buds and I were in the midst of a workout in the garage when I looked out the windows toward the front garden, and there, fluttering around the butterfly bush with 10 blue butterflies, was…A MONARCH!

Blurry, but beautiful.

Blurry, but beautiful.

I planted milkweed three years ago in the hopes of this moment.

The whole family came to look in response to my excited shouts.

And as the children were clustered in front of me, watching the flutterby (As Monkey used to say.), I said to their backs, “Let’s kill this one and pin it in a glass frame to commemorate this moment.”

That got a shout of laughter from the Buster after he turned to look at me in shock and saw the twinkle in my eye.

I knew he’d appreciate the humor.

Fingers crossed for more orange beauties in the future!

Jake The Snake Update

He’s still here. He’s still impossibly cute. He still wags his tail like a puppy. And he’s getting ornerier each day. The big cats both indulge him, and MoonStar treats him like her kitten.

IMG_20160826_185432013

IMG_20160828_124232106_HDR

IMG_20160901_184606148

Next Monday he goes to be “snipped,” then he really is going up for adoption. It’s going to be very difficult to send him off to live in someone else’s home furrever, but it’s the best choice for our family.

We’ll keep on enjoying his funny self until then.

King of the mountain.

King of the mountain.

Making himself at home on our bed.

Making himself at home on our bed.

Morning snuggles.

Morning snuggles.

So majestic.

So majestic.

With All Its Sham and Drudgery…

I was bustling around the yard in that way I do; A list of goals embedded in my mind. As I trotted across the back yard toward the garden shed to gather more bricks, I remembered the message from the visiting minister at church today.

The visitor, a United Methodist Minister on sabbatical for a year to work on climate change action across members of various faiths, talked about the need to care for the Earth, but also the need to find joy and peace in it. Not only to fret about what needs to change, but to renew in the beauty that surrounds us.

As I bustled along, I walked past the hammock swing hanging from the large tree in our yard.

It was not on fire, but I lay down on it. And, oh, friends, it was good.

At first I felt the fear of leaving work undone while I lazed.

Then I felt the nausea of a zooming swing.

Then I felt the fear of staring at the big branch from which the swing hangs and thinking about if it fell.

Then I reassured myself that the arborist examined the tree not too many years ago, and the tree stands straight and strong, ready to hold me and my kin.

Then I relaxed…

And as I relaxed, I looked past the big branch, up into the branches of the tree.

This tree is the late bloomer in our yard. It has budded, but from a distance, it looks sparse and old. The other trees are in full leaf. This one seems to be waiting.

Then, I realized, this tree isn’t sparse. This tree is a nursery.

I was seeing baby leaves. Tiny, tiny, baby leaves. I don’t remember ever noticing or really seeing baby leaves before. Then I noticed the toddler leaves, and the adolescents, the whole childhood of leafdom, spread out above my head.

And then I wept, for Nutmeg who won’t see this new spring, and for the many springs I never noticed the baby leaves, and for our Earth that needs us so badly and yet still holds us so lovingly.

With all its sham and drudgery, it is still such a beautiful world.

Nutmeg’s Final Chapter

Buddie’s eulogy is a beautiful tribute to Nutmeg. I’d like to round out the memories of her final chapter.

Nutmeg had been on thyroid medicine for a long time, and when we moved to Nash, the new vet we found suggested subcutaneous fluids to help support her kidney function. I’d stick her with a needle a couple times a week to get her extra fluid.

We’d take her in every few months for blood work to see if the thyroid medicine was helping. The vet would increase it because her weight continued to fall. She kept eating well, and we pampered her with any food we could find that had “gravy” in the title.

Then, in mid-February, the inkling of concerns I had came to the fore. Her weight had fallen to under 5 pounds. She was still walking around, but seemed…fragile…to me.

Extensive emailing back and forth with the vet ensued. He suggested a steroid shot. I asked what the hope was for that, and what the potential outcomes were. We were discussing a twenty year-old cat, who has always been in excellent health, overall.

The vet and I finally reached comfortable agreement. He would prescribe a pain medicine, because that was my biggest fear; that she was in pain, and it wasn’t being handled. We would stop all the other meds.

In essence, Nutmeg was on home hospice care. She continued to have the choicest food money could buy. There were bed options on pillows wherever she chose to lie. She drank from whatever faucet she could get to, and we had a cat “water fountain” to give her the opportunity for flowing water.

The pain medicine made a big difference. She began to move around much more, talk to us again, and she even carried some of her toys, which she hadn’t done for awhile.

This new level of comfort lasted until the very end. When the children and I were in Vermont last week, Buds was tickled to tell me that he had been awakened early on Sunday morning by Nutmeg standing on his back, informing him it was time to get up and feed her.

It had been weeks since she’d climbed onto our bed, so that felt like a pleasant sign.

When we returned home, her appetite was unabated. Several times a day she would mosey out to the kitchen, sit in the spot where the cats are fed, and look at me. When I’d look back, she’d meow. Then I’d feed her.

Our system was very simple. She instructed me to feed her, and I was glad to comply.

On Wednesday night, as I prepared for bed, I stooped to pet her as she lay on the floor in our bedroom. The last few days she’d taken to sleeping right by her water fountain. In the morning we’d awaken to find her in her bed, so she was still moving fine, just seemed to prefer this particular spot.

I gave her some loving good nights, then snuggled in to sleep around 9 p.m.

Buds awakened me at 10:30 to let me know she was gone. She was laying in the same spot on the floor, just stretched out, looking peaceful and comfortable. We petted her for awhile. Monkey, Yessa, and my visiting mother all had some time to say good byes

The house seems very quiet now. The new kittens are generally quiet. They haven’t shown any extraordinary talents yet that compete with a fetching cat, but they are loving, and that goes a long way.

One final thing: The vet told me more than once that we had reached a point where euthanasia was a very appropriate option. Buds and I even talked about it several times. He was always sure that she wasn’t quite ready to go, and I was very comfortable that she wasn’t in pain, so we were able to convince ourselves that she would make it through our two recent trips…and she did.

This death, at home, free of pain, was exactly what I hoped for her. It’s what I hope for all beloveds.

Trying out a new bed option.

Trying out a new bed option.

Snuggled in a new spot.

Snuggled in a new spot.

Teaching the next generation the joys of faucet drinking.

Teaching the next generation the joys of faucet drinking.

Sharing food space.

Sharing food space.

Having a Yessa snuggle.

Having a Yessa snuggle.

Sunlight feels good on old bones.

Sunlight feels good on old bones.

My perspective about death has been shaped by many events, and my views continue to evolve. This video, which was part of my End Of Life Doula training, is how I will remember Nutmeg’s death. When death came, it was as a loving friend, who had seen the beautiful life she had lived.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg, our oldest cat, queen of our house, died last night in her sleep. She was almost 21 years old and had seen and passed judgement on many things.

One of the first things Jennie and I did together was adopt this pair of rambunctious siblings, Nutmeg and Chance, to join our small hungry cocker spaniel Brandie. They came home in a cardboard box striking the lid with excitement like tiny sharks.

Chance was sweet and Nutmeg was confident. She would fetch crumpled paper balls that we threw; not with the throw it, throw it now! intensity of a dog, but with a sleek grace. She would pad back to us and return the missing prey.

In later years, fetching involved selecting random things from a far corner of the house (a sock, a toy, a slipper) and bringing them to the top of the stairs or the hallway. Why these things? Oh human, it is not for you to know such things.

I see echoes of Nutmeg and Chance in our two new adoptee cats. Waffles, male, black, clueless, prone to fits where he NEEDS love and your human touch. He will get that touch; you can not stop him. Moonstar: the huntress, aloof, aware and graceful.

A link to our past is broken; all the pets of our early years have lived, loved, and passed on.

Nutmeg in Virginia

Nutmeg in Virginia

She loved running water and would stare pointedly at faucets until she got some

She loved running water and would stare pointedly at faucets until she got some

Snuggled

Snuggled

More Nashville days

More Nashville days

Looking at you, kid.

Looking at you, kid.

Enjoying the sunshine in Nashville

Enjoying the sunshine in Nashville

Siblings snuggled

Siblings snuggled

Young Nutmeg fights off a furrocious Brandie

Young Nutmeg fights off a furrocious Brandie