Goals For The New Year

I decided not to make resolutions this year, mostly because it’s too hard to spell. I made goals instead. It’s a tip I picked up from a co-worker. She is so wise!  A resolution can die a sad death within seconds of the clock striking midnight on January 1. A goal is a year-long kind of thing. I like the idea of something I can’t screw up the first day.  Win! I have all these grandiose grand schemes, and mama needs to get these bad boys off the ground.

In 2016 my goal is to:

  • Hatch more of these:
  • Take up a new creative hobby. I’m thinking of knitting or crochet. Anyone want to teach me?
  • Drink more water. 20 ounces when I first wake up.
  • Pee more. Also counts as a hobby, so double win!
  • Eat better quality food. No more eating chocolate that I found on the floor. Unless it has been there for under five seconds because there’s no sense in being wasteful.
  • Be more organized. No more storing shopping lists in the sock drawer.
  • Bring home fewer of these:

    resolutions, writing, new years, cats

    But… so cute…

  • And fewer of these:

    Hillary and Humperdink. My new Nelson's Milksnakes. They are tiny and perfect and so sassy!

    Hillary and Humperdink. My new Nelson’s Milk snakes. They are tiny and perfect and so sassy!

  • Quit referring to husband as “Grouchy kill-joy who doesn’t want me to have lots of cool pets or be happy”
  • Spend less money on frivolous things. Everyone knows that Funko figures are a necessity. I’ll cut out some of the extravagances like heat. My kids are so spoiled on warmth. We have five cats. They can use those as personal warming devices.

    Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

    Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

  • Eat less fast food. One  fewer Sonic burger is less.  I’m perfectly happy to cross one off on a technicality.
  • Read more. With all that water I’m drinking, I’ll be spending more time staring at the walls in public restrooms.
  • Write more. See above. Also counts as creative new hobby if I use a sharpie and sign my name to my work. I’ll be the Banksy of public toilets.
  • Make my mark on the world. Again, sharpie.
  • Take the boys on another vacation. And remember this time to apply the sunscreen at effective intervals.

    humor, writing, zoo

    They’re not sunburned. They’re doing an impersonation of flamingos. And look at that balance!

  • Learn a new skill. Maybe peeing standing up? Or finally learning to program the VCR.
  • Find constructive ways to deal with my anxiety. Hitting bricks with a frying pan sounds kind of awesome.
  • Take Christmas tree down before Easter. Eh, who am I kidding?

Did you make any goals or resolutions this year? Or break any? I’m not here to judge.

Advertisements

Unlocking Bellatrix: A Rescue Story

I have two disclaimers here. The first: I don’t recommend getting a pet at Christmas under most circumstances, especially a rescue pet who can carry some emotional baggage. It’s such a nutty time of year. A new pet needs time, peace, quiet to adapt to their new surroundings. I made the decision to bring Bellatrix home the day after Christmas because I was off of work for nine days, and my kids were leaving home for most of that time.

My second disclaimer: this post is sponsored through a partnership with Nakturnal. Wag.com has info and deals on the  best cat litter boxes for odor control on their website. Click on through. They also offer for sale tons of other goodies for cats (I’m getting the kitty girls a giant cat tree from them after Christmas -Shhh! Don’t tell!)  and other critters.

And let me catch you up! Two years ago in August, we adopted Pixel.She is strange and wonderful, and I can’t imagine life without her. Shortly after adopting her, I sent a note to the rescue group we got her from. thanking them for our furry little weirdo. I received a note back telling me that her sister was still available. Which led to this post.

So I brought Bellatrix home the day after Christmas. She was about eight months old and roughly the size of a cross town bus. She hid under the bed for a few hours once she was released from her carrier.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Bellatrix was out of sorts the day she came home. New cats, new people, new smells and noises.

I knew that Bellatrix, formerly “Cocoa,” had been returned to the rescue program because she was the wrong fit. The family had gotten her “for the kids,” all of whom were under the age of 6. They brought her back to Happy Paws because she ran from the children and wouldn’t let them pick her up. I don’t necessarily think they were bad people, but animals aren’t toys. What I didn’t know was how long it would take to earn her trust.

Bellatrix and Pixel fell into step immediately, like they had never been separated. Pixel’s favorite thing was to wrap Bella’s head with her paws and give her a good ear washing. Bella was cool with it.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Bella says this is the life. Pixel says “Don’t you ever wash your ears, cat?”

Bellatrix was also very happy lying beside me in bed, especially by my feet. She adored being petted, but make a sudden move, and she’d vanish into thin air. And we could forget about picking her up.  She simply couldn’t tolerate it.

But as sad and damaged as she was, there was still a little kitten hidden deep inside, just waiting to be let out, a playful little kitten full of mischief and silliness. Every now and again, I’d get a glimpse of that baby kitten when Bella dragged a bow out of the cat toy basket and batted it around the living room. She’d play with joyful abandon for a moment or two, and then she’d run off like she was afraid she was in trouble. And if she thought she had displeased us, she would hide.

My kids encouraged her to play, with shoe laces, with a feather cat toy, in boxes. And gradually, she let them join in her games, chasing yarn balls and playing with string. Over time, she started letting them pet her, too. But hugs and kisses were still too threatening. Try to give her a gentle squeeze, and she’d bolt.

I began sharing my breakfast with her, spooning a wee bit of milk onto the table. She climbed up in a chair to get it. While she drank, I would sneak in a few head scratches. Yeah, I fed my cat on the table. But my goal was to make her as entitled as a cat has a right to be.

Then one day I was sitting in the kitchen minding my own business when this happened:

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Look! She’s letting me HOLD HER! It only took 8 months to get to this point.

And from there, my Bella began to unfold. She still doesn’t let me pick her up, but she wants me to love her. It just has to be on her terms. She yells at me when she thinks my idle hands could be put to good use petting her. She hides under our bed at night now, but not because she is afraid. She hides so that the Padawan won’t find her when it’s time to put the cats downstairs in the family room for the night. She wants to spend the night in the big bed with her people.

She’s more playful than ever and rather a genius. At night there is no one to throw a toy for her, so she has problem-solved her own game. She found a Nerf ball from the Padawan’s Nerf Reactor blaster. She carries it to the top of the stairs and lets it go. It bounces down the stairs with a Jelly-Bella in hot pursuit. Then she runs up the stairs with it and lets it go again. For hours. On wooden stairs. In the middle of the night. But she’s playing! And happy! So happy that the kids want to get her an entire pack of Reactor balls for Christmas.What is loss of sleep compared to a rescue cat who is finally beginning to enjoy herself? She makes me smile.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

So many teeth marks in that ball! Does anyone know where I can get more of these things?

And is she entitled yet? You tell me.

Bellatrix is a wonder and a joy, the gift that keeps on giving. Tell me your favorite rescue pet story. I want to hear it!

 

The Confession That Will Make People Hate Me

It’s been a while since I made a confession here. People like confessions. That might be why my most popular post ever was this one. So here it is.

I am not a cat person. What is that I hear? It is the sound of thousands of people running screaming to the “unfollow”button. It might be my neighbor actually screaming. She has a problem.. But there you have it. I’m not a cat person. I am a dog person. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are bred with an actual purpose in life. Golden Retrievers hunt, Rottweilers drove cattle to market, Schnauzers were ratters. Cats all look relatively the same, and they have the work ethic of a salted slug. Cats are fine, but I am not a cat person. Because reasons.

Cats are self-absorbed.

They never let you forget that they are number one in their book.

She sleeps hugging herself. No one loves Pixel like Pixel.

She sleeps hugging herself. No one loves Pixel like Pixel.

Cats are entitled.

They take what they want, even if it’s yours. Food, furniture, the good spot on the bed. It’s all theirs.

Cats are lazy.

They will rub your nose in it every chance they get that you have to earn a living, and they do not.

Cats are destructive.

They will tear your heart into tiny pieces when it’s time for them to leave you.

It's been over two years, and not a day goes by that I don't miss you, Piper. I love you, old lady.

It’s been over two years, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss you, Piper. I love you, old lady.

What I Learn From My Cat

You’ve met Pixel. She’s an adorable, evil genius. This is the cat that can open the oven to get to the pizza. Be afraid.

She looks ready, doesn't she?

She looks ready, doesn’t she?

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

This is Mousie. All felt and innocence, with maybe a touch of catnip.

Meet Mousie. Seven-year-old Squish picked Mousie as a toy for Pixel. I didn’t think the cat would touch it with a 10-foot pole, but what do I know? Clearly nothing, because Pixel has a slight obsession with this toy. The cat with the work ethic of a salted slug is all about playing fetch with the mouse.  Or is she?

One day I watched Pixel flip and flop while she played with her toy, and I noticed something really odd. Let’s see if you notice it, too.  Click the first image to create a slideshow and read the captions. They’re the crux of this whole thing.

I couldn’t figure out what she was doing at first. She pawed and scratched at the glass like she was trying to tell me that Timmy fell down the well again. But Lassie she ain’t. You and I BOTH know she would leave Timmy in that well in a skinny minute if saving the kid  meant a long run up the hill to fetch Pa. I watched a little longer, and finally it dawned on me that what she was after was Mousie’s reflection in the back of the china cabinet.

Pixel spent a solid 10 minutes trying to get that imaginary mouse, to the point of kicking the real Mousie out of her way so she could put her best effort into getting to the one in the mirror. The one that isn’t real. The one that she will never be able to have, like Narcissus withering away longing for that beauty he can never possess.

I’ve said for a long time that this cat is almost human, and this incident kind of proves it. How often have we chased after imaginary greatness, ignoring the treasure we already possess?

This story has a happy ending. We discussed Pixel’s work ethic. 10 minutes of effort was all she had in her. She didn’t wither and die. She eventually forgot about reflection Mousie and went off to do what she does best – sleep.

So what imaginary mice are hiding in your mirror? And how do you let them go?

 

 

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Pixel Gets a Job and a Winner

A couple of months ago I announced a giveaway for a remarkable debut novel. And then I took an unannounced break from blogging due to carpal tunnel. My bad. And then we adopted Pixel’s sister, Bellatrix, which brings the cat-count up to four. Cat food is expensive, so I decided it was time for Pixel to get a job. She decided she’d like to be a life-coach because she likes telling people what to do, so I said to myself “Self, why don’t you combine the giveaway with Pixel’s career aspirations and let HER pick the winner?” Good enough!

Now, Rafflecopter did its little job and picked three names for us. They are:

Very Bangled

Beth B.

Linda G.

Pixel’s assignment was to choose the grand prize winner. The name of each winner was written on the bottom of a different color Christmas bow – her favorite toy of all time. All she had to do was pick one up.

 

She looks ready, doesn't she?

She looks psychotic  ready, doesn’t she?

Sometimes I forget she has the work ethic if a cat.

Taking a break. Is it time for lunch?

Taking a break. Is it time for lunch?

 

10 minutes, a quart of catnip,  and endless attempts later, nothing doing. Pixel was summarily released from her contract. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t care. But wait! Who is that in the wings, ready to pounce? It’s BLOSSOM! 15 years old and ready to do the job! (click to enlarge)

Very Bangled and Linda, you guys win e-copies of Mixed Feelings. Beth, you win the grand prize pack! Congratulations!

Kate from Candlemark & Gleam will be in touch via the email address you guys used to enter the drawing. Thanks for playing! And worry about Pixel. She still gets to tell me what to do.

 

What Pixel Wanted For Christmas

Dear Santa,

I have been very good this year. I am very sorry that I pooped in Mommy’s lap when she trimmed my nails. Nobody’s perfect. I was just as surprised as she was. And I’m sorry for climbing the Christmas tree. It didn’t fall over, so it’s all good, right? And I’m sorry I ate your MoonPie on Christmas eve.  I didn’t know it was for you. It was good, though, so this family must really like you. I did leave you the milk. I might have sneezed in it. I don’t remember.

I made a wish for Christmas, Santa. I believe in magic.

Love, Pixel

Pixel

Not up to no good. Not at all. Nothing naughty to see here.

Dearest Pixel,

You’ve been a good kitten this year. As you said, nobody’s perfect. Your wish is a big one. Let me make some phone calls and see what I can do.

Love, Santa

 

Dear Santa,

Thank you. Thank you.

Love, Pixel

Welcome home, Bellatrix

Welcome home, Bellatrix

 

So Here’s How It Happened

I must apologize for my last post. It left people hanging. It’s my fault. I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, and the new editor from WordPress was a little harder to use than I expected. I refused to switch back to the “classic” (read: “for those too old to adapt to the changing times”) editor, the post went live prematurely, and some of the changes I thought I had made weren’t saved. The post was a little confusing and incomplete. Let me fill in the blanks.

Go back in time with me 19 years, when times were simpler. Gas cost a mere $1 a gallon***, and only rich people had cell phones. My husband of two months and I went out to Carter caves in eastern KY to spend some time together before I began my last semester of college. We were early for our tour, so we took of to explore the woods. We had wandered probably a mile down the trail when we heard screaming.  It took us a moment to realize it was a cat, and probably a small one. I dug through the underbrush to try to find the source of the sound. The volume of the cries were in keeping with those of an animal with a limb caught in a trap. I found the little critter, all giant belly and eyeballs. She was not injured in any way. Her calls were a terrified version of “Marco Polo,” and once she clapped those luminous eyes on us, she wasn’t about to let us go. She followed us out of the woods, crying the whole way, begging to be carried. It was when we turned and saw this tiny kitten braving a running stream to keep up that we relented and picked her up.

Eight months ago, we said goodbye to that waif, having shared lives and home for over eighteen years. Eighteen years sometimes just aren’t enough.

My old friend

My old friend

I never thought I’d have another kitten. They’re troublesome little creatures. I can’t count the number of times I had to leave the bathtub to pull Piper off the living room drapes, and if I had a quarter for every plant our cats knocked off/turned over/peed in, I’d be a rich woman indeed. And there are plenty of adult cats who need homes.

So imagine my surprise when I felt a sudden urge to look at kittens on Craigslist. Two clicks later, I found myself looking at the most arresting face. Within minutes, I fired off an email to the rescue group’s contact person. She responded almost immediately. I asked a few more questions, and my heart sank when I got the response. The kitten was slated to make an appearance at an adoption event the following day, during hours I had to work.

There are other kittens in the world, I said to myself. And besides, it’s not a decision for me alone. I emailed my husband and included a photo of the kitten. Piper’s death hit him just as hard as it hit me, and to bring home another tiny tuxedo without consent would be wrong. I hit “send” and waited. And waited. I saw him check his email. And he was quiet for a long time. Finally, he closed the computer and left to go run some errands. I had to go to bed early, and he was still asleep when I left for work.  We never got to talk about it. Oh, well. It was never my cat. Never mine.

I thought about the kitten at work all the next day. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Not my cat. Not mine. Never was. I tried to put the whole notion out of my head. Not my cat.

I came home that evening. She was sitting on my bed like she owned the place. My husband had gone to the adoption event just about as soon as they opened to pick her up. She’s my cat now. Always will be. She’s mine. She’s my Pixel.

Pixel. Forever mine.

Pixel. Forever Mine.

 

 

*** I can’t vouch for the veracity of that statement. I just know that when old people tell me stories, they usually reference the price of gas somewhere.

Of Cats and Bags and Accountability

So, like everybody else on the planet, I made a few goals. Goals are nothing without action, and action comes only with accountability. Or something supercilious like that. Basically, I have happy things to share, so bear with me.

One of these goals was to be more intentional about my eating. The Christmas season was a culinary free-for-all, and I’m paid for it in the end. My giant back end. There that is. Christmas technically lasts until January 6th, so I had a whole bunch of days before dealing with that one. But I have. I am eating a good breakfast every morning. And I must tell you that Belgian waffles with chocolate chips and whipped cream is a good breakfast. I would venture so far as to say it’s a great breakfast. What? Don’t look at me like that. There were strawberries, too. And some powdered sugar, and… I digress. Anyway, intentional eating has been a success.

I’m being very conscious about my to-be-read list. It grows smaller daily. Mostly because I refuse to add anything else to it for a while. I am making a little headway. It’s hard to divide time between crazily devouring pages and crazily creating words of my own. But I have not brought anything home that I didn’t add to my TBR list. In fact, I have taken very little out of the free bin at my favorite used bookstore. And that, my friends, is progress. The bin is bigger than a coffin and has been stuffed to the brim with free books. FREE BOOKS! I have come to understand that free isn’t actually free, since it costs me bookshelf space to store. If I don’t have a reasonable intention to read the book in the next couple of months, back it goes. It’s almost like I’m growing up. I said almost. Don’t be afraid.

And here’s my most exciting top secret news. I had planned/hoped/dreamed/wished  to finish my current manuscript within the first couple of months of the new year. And  (drumroll, please) now (Helloooo? Where’s my drumroll? Desk, head, keyboard. I’m not picky. That’s better. Thanks!) it’s done. The first draft, of course. It’s warty and ugly and not fit for human consumption (yet), but it’s finished. I’ll be moving into rewrites and beta-reading over the next few weeks, which is more exciting than I thought it would be.

But am I content? No. I’m so ready to start another project! My husband thinks I should blog for a little while instead, but I think that’s mostly because he knows if I get involved in another book project immediately, we will never finish Downton Abbey. He’s probably right.

I have a new goal, too. I want to rework my blog page and add some drop down menus and categories. This one will take me a while because I’m not sure I can make that happen on this theme. Changes are coming. It’ll be fun!

So how is your list coming along?

Oh, yeah. The title promised a cat. I meant it figuratively, as in letting out a secret , but when I looked at my latest upload of photos, there were 107 new ones, mostly of my cats. It seems I am missing Piper more than I thought, and my way of dealing with it is to take a blue-million snaps of the two cats we have left. Meet Kisses. Until I work through losing Piper, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of her.

This is me every morning in winter. Every, single one.

This is me every morning in winter. Every, single one.

Christmas Wishes

Christmas magic makes wishes come true.

I wished for some pillows. Husband and I like to prop up in bed to read, write, study. We each have a propping pillow,  giant, king-sized cuddly monsters that make life so cozy. When I was away for the weekend, husband discovered that two pillows are better than one. He was right. And life became a competition to see who could hit the hay first. The first one in bed got them both. You snooze, you lose, right? In order to maintain marital harmony, I wished for pillows, and I got them.

They are glorious. A new one for each of us. Now we both have two. Of course, when my husband went away for the weekend, I discovered the ideal number of propping pillows is four. Don’t tell him. He’ll find out soon enough.

And do you know what big pillows arrive in? Big boxes!

 

But the best Christmas wish?

Toots

My girl. She turned 18 back in June.

I wished that Piper would still be with me at Christmas. We had a scare at Halloween, and I wasn’t sure she would make it, but she did. We celebrated our 19th Christmas with her this year.

There’s a thing about wishes, though. Sometimes you get what you ask for and no more. I did it all wrong. I should have asked for another birthday, another Valentine’s, another Spring. We let her go on New Year’s Eve.

Logically, we’ve known the time was coming to say goodbye. No one lives forever; even that ninth life will run its course. But the heart isn’t logical. It felt like she’d always be here. I couldn’t imagine life without her. couldn’t picture a day when she wouldn’t be here laying on my feet while I wrote. I’ve lost my muse.

I want a do-over on my wish. I’d do it better this time.