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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Translating Arwenese

Translating Arwenese:
Arwen runs up to me, sits at my feet, and stares up intently.
Translation: MAMA MAMA MAMA or FOOD LADY FOOD LADY FOOD LADY or HEY YOU WITH THE THUMBS, depending on whether she wants to be cuddled or fed or otherwise catered to.
J: What is it, sweetie?
Arwen runs around the kitchen, ending at my feet, and stares again.
J: Oh, you want a toy! Where are the other 30 [no exaggeration, folks] ping-pong balls?
Arwen stares reproachfully at me, then glances toward the basket where the few balls that can be found are kept.
J: OK, OK! Here's one! *tosses it*
Arwen takes off after it and starts batting and chasing it.
Translation: YAAAAAAAAY!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Last flowers of the year

Because I was gone for weeks in the spring and then hurt during the summer, the garden has been a tangled mess and things haven't been cut down and cleaned out.

It turns out beauty has come of that.

I went outside for a second despite my cough, and ended up stealing a few minutes to catch these images.

Aster with liatris and iris leaves

Jupiter's beard with liatris seedpods and foliage and aster seedpods

It's rare for me to stage a photo, but I broke this poppy while getting into position over the sedum, and it looked so right there.
Pink veronica leaves, seedpod, and stubborn blossom

Aster amid the wreckage

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Arwen really loves her plush kitty

I have been trying to catch this shot for a week, but she usually leaps up and demands hugs right away. This time she was really comfortable and sleepy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Arwen snuggling with her toys. She has a bed, but she loves this spot, so we put a towel down for her and put her toys there. She lies there purring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A new life around the house

Last September, as you know, Buddy died 24 hours after a previously unknown brain tumor took over. Gracie, the shy cat, died of lymphoma in February, kitty dementia took Simon in July.
Today some ranchers we know brought kittens to farmers' market. Seven gorgeous long-haired cats: three red tabbies, three dark tortoiseshells, and one very light dilute tortie who's mostly gray with a wheaten blaze.
The dilute tortie caught my eye, then Matt's. We held her. She snuggled.
We hashed it over half the morning. Money. The pets we have. The need to see a new life around the house--which won out. Then we gave in and brought Arwen home. (Because if you've got an Eowyn, the next female in the door pretty much has to be an Arwen.)
So far, Rufus is OK, Eowyn and Daisy are quite pleased, and Sophie is having a massive sulk.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Couldn't figure out how a birch leaf had gotten stuck to the side of the house. Then I looked again.
A little over an inch long, with a two-inch wingspan. Can't find anything like it in an image search. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Time to explain the blog title

There are so many blogs out there that feature beautiful, expensive houses, fabulous DIY projects that aren't Pinterest fails, and flawless organizational schemes, and that's great. This is not one of those blogs. You will never find this one featured in glossy magazines with titles not quite like "Truly (Expensively) Uncomplicated."

I am simply not in that class. Literally. My socio-economic status is "hanging on like a barnacle to the bottom of the fading lower middle class." I'm semi-abled at best, with chronic fatigue and chronic pain, and I don't always get much done in a day.

My camera is ten years old, has 5 megapixels and a fading battery, and no longer does timestamps. We can't afford a better one. I don't have Photoshop, though I occasionally resort to the free features on Picmonkey to correct exposures or to crop. Sometimes the pictures show chomped hollyhock leaves because I'm not into insecticides.

 My garden is lovely, and it's small. On one side of the house, it's up against is a barbed-wire fence and a horse pasture. On the other there's chain-link and a yard that doesn't get mowed or watered. That's my neighborhood. We all do what we can. I do close-ups not because I'm a follower of Georgia O'Keefe, but because that's how I deal with sightlines. Maybe I'll get braver now you know that.

Inside our manufactured, non-tiny home, decor is Early Poverty/High Clutter, despite a few nice pieces of furniture. I've got old sheets hung from panel nails over my windows because there's so much to do before I can make the curtains from the curtain fabric that's been sitting in the fabric stash for two years, and I have to barter with someone to get the holes drilled for the curtain rods because neither of us can be trusted with power tools.

I make beautiful things, and I make messes. Sometimes the messes take a while to clear up. In geological time.

There's a sign hanging on the living-room wall. It's slightly crooked no matter how carefully we straighten it, and it hangs just below the wall cracks that appeared when a neighbor drilled a well. It's a quotation from Annette Funicello: "Life does not have to be perfect to be beautiful."

My life is not simple, and I won't pretend it is. It's not glossy. It's not keeping up with the Joneses, or anyone else. It has moments of beauty, and I share them.

The North American Windowsill Hound in its natural habitat

This magnificent creature is often found peering out at its surroundings in the juncture of the Couch and Windowsill ecological zones. Despite competition (sometimes fierce) from the more common Solar-Powered Windowsill Cat, the Windowsill Hound persists and, judging by its well-fed appearance, thrives. It can be identified visually, though auditory identification is also possible. While its bark is not heard often, the cries of the local apes to "Get offa there!" are confirmation of its presence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RIP Simon, 8/2001-7/13/2016

Clockwise from upper left: Simon, Rufus, Sophie
Simon and Daisy in happier days

Simon had been getting bizarrely aggressive for several days. He wouldn't let the other cats near him. He began stalking and attacking Daisy whenever they were in the same room. Last Tuesday he bit Matt's hand (fortunately it did not get infected). The diagnosis was kitty dementia, and we had the choice of sedatives, which might not have worked, or euthanasia. We chose the latter. His behavior had been worsening since March, and I had suspected dementia before.
Our vet, Dr. Colleen at JDRVC, did a wonderful thing. I was having a hard time because I hadn’t given Simon wet food for his last meal, even though I was pretty sure we were at the end. She brought him a can of chunks in gravy and gave him a big bowl of food, then came back with the syringes. We had to refill the bowl before she gave him the first sedative shot, which he didn’t even notice because the food was so good. He chowed down happily while I petted him and sang him the Little Brown Tabby Chant for the last time. When he began to have trouble chewing, I got the rest of the gravy out of the can and put in front of him, and he lapped at it until he went to sleep with his face in the dish and his tongue out in the gravy, peaceful at last. Then she gave him the last shot, and he was gone in less than a minute.
It was an enviable death, a good way to end of a long and adventurous life. The other animals are beginning to come out of their grief and relax; it's clear in retrospect how much he had everyone on edge. But everywhere we look, everything we do, there is no Simon underfoot with his Siamese-sounding yowl and his demands for ALL THE ATTENTION. Farewell Simon, bandit, pirate, furboy.

Late July garden

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Himself, content

Memory foam pillow of his very own? Spurned.
Quilted fabric? Used intermittently.
Bulky wool scarf? Went wherever it was and slept on it.
So I put it in his favorite spot, because after two surgeries in two months, 
it's good to see him really happy.
Bonus shot of little spotty paw.

Morning update: Tried to swap him for a very similar scarf that I don't like as much.
Substitute scarf was spurned.
I'll just have to make myself another one. 

Monday, February 1, 2016


Her story will come later, but here are a couple of pictures. She's not all black--she has white toes (not feet, just toes), a few white whiskers, and a little white spot on her neck, like a clerical collar.

That thing better not make lightning at me.

You made lightning. You may go now.
Should have named her Garbo.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Post-op boy, recovering nicely

Simon the purrito, curled up in Matt's blankets. He can shove his face into things now.

Simon ensuring the accuracy of his biographical blog posts.
You must see his white cravat and little pink nose.

Simon's story, part 1

Simon’s story, part 1
(Sorry I haven’t got the photos for this—we don’t have a scanner.)

We moved into an apartment in the Willamette Valley with our three black cats, Esmerelda, Velvet, and Gracie, in 2000. Soon after we arrived, a feral tabby with a white chin and paws showed up at the back patio door. There were plenty of feral cats around, but she was different. She would sit in the container garden on our back patio, watching us through the sliding glass door. We never saw her arrive; we would sense someone looking at us and she’d be there. We would go out and talk to her, but she would never let us touch her. No matter how long we sat still, no matter what treats we were holding, no matter how contentedly she sat just out of reach and gave us the slow blink of affection, no matter how consistently we fed her, she would not come within arm’s reach. We checked around: she was not anyone’s cat. She had been pregnant but had never been seen with kittens. Probably the raccoons got them, people said. One day, for no reason at all, I called her Tibbs, and the name stuck.

She showed up increasingly pregnant for awhile, disappeared for a couple of weeks, and came back thin and alone. We decided to work on taming her enough to get her trapped and neutered; we put out a cat carrier under a patio chair, leaving her food in it, but she would not go in when we were there and she would not rest there.

In the late summer of 2001, she was pregnant once more. She disappeared for some days in early September and came back without kittens again. We thought she had lost another litter.

One Monday morning in early October, I was heading out to work when I heard a strange rustling in the bushes by the sidewalk. I tiptoed over and looked down. Tibbs was there, nursing a kitten, a heavily striped tabby a few weeks old. She looked up at me.

I said, “Tibbs! Look at you being a good mama. What a beautiful kitten you have. Good kitty.”

I backed off slowly for a few feet and ran back into the apartment. I grabbed Matt, blurting, “Tibbs has the most beautiful kitten I’ve ever seen!” and dragged him out to look. Tibbs never moved. The kitten stopped nursing and blinked up at us. He slung a little white paw over his mother’s neck: MY mama. I saw that the nictitating membrane on his right eye had a little tear in it and didn’t pull down all the way.

I went off to work, a little late. We left some extra food out for the nursing mother.

The next morning, I looked out the sliding door and there she was, dropping the kitten on the doormat. I went to the door and opened it very slowly. Tibbs retreated behind the plant pots. The kitten did not. I picked him up. He mewed in surprise, but didn’t scratch. He snuggled against us. We held him and petted him, then put him back and closed the door softly. Tibbs collected him and went away.

She showed up at the same time every morning that week. She dropped him off, we picked him up, he squalled in alarm at being lifted through the air. I called him Simon Peter because he reminded me of Peter, insisting on walking on water and then panicking. He was still nursing, so we gave him back, hoping to take him in when he was weaned.

On Saturday, I picked tiny Simon up and realized his eyes were gunky, his nose was running, and he was breathing hard. Tibbs looked worse.  We were startled at how quickly they had gone from being slightly unhealthy strays to being very sick. I put food in the carrier, and she walked into it, right in front of me. I put Simon in and closed the door. We called the vet and took her in. A friend went along.

Then everything went wrong. The Saturday substitute vet, whom we had told the cats were feral, opened the carrier and let Tibbs walk out into the room. When Tibbs saw all the people, she panicked. The vet said to let her be. Our friend grabbed Tibbs, who put several deep gashes in her hand (we ended up paying part of her medical bill for the subsequent infection).  The cat tore around the room, screaming and smashing things, clearing shelves, tearing a diploma off the wall. Finally, a burly vet tech wearing leather gloves waded through the broken glass, cornered Tibbs, and scruffed her, tucking her into his elbow. She was panting, a horrible rasping sound. The tech carried her out and the vet followed.

I reached into the carrier. Simon was a wide-eyed handful of fur in the back corner. He was utterly alone and so very small. I pulled him out and held him against my heart, hoping the sound of a heartbeat would comfort him. He clung to me, silent and unmoving.

The vet said Tibbs had pneumonia and was too sick and wild to save. We agreed to euthanize her. I still feel like a traitor for that: she trusted us, and that was how it ended.

We said we wanted to try to save Simon. The vet examined him and took blood for FIV and FLV tests, warning us we might still have to put him down. I took him back and put him over my heart again. They gave us antibiotics. I held him as we paid the bill, as we lugged the empty carrier back to the car, as we drove to Bi-Mart for kitten milk replacer and eyedroppers, as we drove to church. I wore him like a brooch into the confessional. The priest raised an eyebrow and I said, “This is necessary. I’ll explain afterward.” When the priest had absolved me, he said, “Now may I hold the baby?” He got a few minutes to snuggle the kitten against his alb and stole: then I put Simon back on my heart, and he dug into my shirt with his miniscule (but oh so sharp) claws again. 

We took the tiny scrap of fur home and kept him quarantined from the other cats, who were not thrilled about his arrival. We bottle-fed him. He washed me with his tongue. He started to play a little, then more. He decided I was his ape and Matt was his backup ape.

Late in October, I took him back for a recheck and the test results. No FIV, no FLV, just a kitten who was fully recovered from the infection that had killed his mother. The vet (not the sub) smiled when I leaned against the examining table and whispered, “Oh, thank God.”

“Yes, I’ve heard how much you love him,” she said. I picked him up and held him against my heart.