good kitty.

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This picture came up in my “one year ago today” feature in Facebook and it was timely because Emmett just got a brand-new Kitty Holster and can (hopefully) enjoy going outside a bit more, with safe supervision. He’s always loved going outside – he’s the type of indoor cat that, if I make a move to the front door, will rush for it with crazy yowls and be out on the front porch in a flash. He doesn’t go far (because we’re always there to grab him) but he does love to chew on a stick or two. (Sarge could care less – he likes his nice comfy house and will watch, nonplussed, from the front hall as Emmett rolls around ecstatically on the brick walk.) Unfortunately, although his pet-store harness was cute – it had a little skull & crossbones on it – it was also no match for him. He quickly learned how to sunfish out of it and lead us on a merry dash (once into the neighbor’s garage).

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I bought the Kitty Holster from Amazon and although we’ve only used it a couple of times, I see a big difference. It’s much more substantial – more like a wrap. It firmly fastens with wide Velcro strips around his tummy and chest, and although he doesn’t like being so contained, I can tell he won’t be able to wriggle out of it very easily.

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We have to be very careful with his outings, as the neighbor has a dog and there are two horrible neighbor cats who frequent our yard, but I am hoping that at some point Emmett can enjoy being out with us on the front porch or back patio, maybe with a long leash. We shall see.
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the simple, the plain, the ordinary life

So I was one of the 800,000+ people who lost power in Southeast Michigan’s windstorms last week. I was, however, lucky from the word ‘go’ that despite the gale force winds, ALL of my old trees stayed firmly planted, as did my roof and siding, as many of my friends and neighbors were not so lucky.

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My neighbor, who has frequently throughout my tenure living in this house, berated me for the tall pine trees that border my property (because they “make her yard too shady” – never mind that they are thirty years old if they are a day, and have been here long before either of us bought our houses, and which I shall NEVER EVER CUT DOWN) was unfortunately the recipient of a downed pine tree. Not one of mine. No damage to her house or any of her property, but dare I say, karma?

I was out for just about 72 hours. The timing on Mother Nature’s side couldn’t have been worse, because despite the unnaturally warm winter we’ve mostly experienced, the power outage was concurrent with an extreme drop in temperature, into the teens F. for 2 of the 3 nights I was out. Fortunately, Miss L’s dad and stepmom had power, and immediately took her, so I didn’t have to worry about her safety and comfort (can I say again how lucky I am?)¬† I had many offers of shelter, showers, charging places, wood, etc. but I had nowhere to take the cats. Plus, I stubbornly wanted to be in my house to make sure the pipes weren’t freezing and bursting. I was ready to go down with the ship, like Royal Tenenbaum’s ideal epitaph.

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I have a woodstove that kept the house in the ’40’s during the outage, which was sufficient to sustain life and keep the pipes from freezing. I also have a gas range so I could boil water, and do a little cooking. But all in all it was a miserable and dehumanizing experience. The cats crouched and stared at me accusingly, and the three of us burrowed into sleeping bags and fleece blankets on a pad in front of the fire at night. Dirty, stressed, sleep deprived from feeding the glowing-sided baby chunks of wood throughout the night, refrigerator full of rotting food with no way to effectively clean it. Where I once loved the smell of woodsmoke, I began to thoroughly detest it on my clothes and greasy hair.

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I read at night by flashlight, made coffee in the mornings in the French press, and rigged the garage door so I could manually open and close it. At night, I pulled Finn in; in the mornings, I pulled him out so I could sit in the driveway with the engine running to charge my phone and check the DTE outage map. It never seemed to change. I didn’t receive any estimate on when my power would go back on, no responses to my emails. When I called to check my status, I was informed by a robotic voice that they could not match my phone number with my account even though I was looking right at my account with that phone number on my mobile app. I know that they had linemen working around the clock to bring people back up, and they brought in many crews from other states to assist – I don’t blame them for the outage. But it would have been nice to have a bit of an idea as to when I could expect power back. For a few bad moments, I was pretty sure I was going to run out of wood.

I did pretty well for the first 48 hours or so but the last night & day, it really took its toll on me. I realized how quickly the situation brought me down. I imagined I was living in “Dr. Zhivago”. I’d wake at night and see the moon hanging in the branches of the willow tree and feel entirely alone, with no connection to the outside world (except for regular messages from my brother, who has bottomless loyalty and empathy, and never failed to make me laugh). It made me think of the poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree”:

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.

I probably could have made it another 24 hours, getting down to the last of my woodpile; I was at Home Depot buying batteries and Envirocare logs, which my brother had suggested, when I got the notification that my power was back on. I didn’t believe it; the app had told me the same thing several times while I was actually sitting in the freezing house, staring at it as it cycled back towards “OOOOPS OUR BAD, YOUR POWER IS NOT ACTUALLY RESTORED!! LOL”. I drove home quickly; the dentist next door was still running his generator. I ran up the steps, greeted Emmett in the foyer with a head scratch, and flicked the light switch. Nothing. I sagged with disappointment and then girded myself for another dark, cold night. Then I heard a beep from the kitchen and the grinding noise of the furnace waking up in the depths of the basement. I flicked the switch again and stared at the miracle of modern electricity.

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I guess the upside to a few days of inconvenience is the realization of how blessed I am to live the life I do. It humbled me and made me ashamed at how many people live without the daily blessings that I take for granted; power. Heat. Water. The knowledge that I have safety and a roof and the ability to take care of myself, my child, my pets.

I cleaned the house, vacuumed, ran the washer and dryer, took a blistering hot bath perfumed with lots of scented bubbles; slept ten hours in my own bed, with the humidifier and the heated mattress pad cranked up to the max, and woke in the morning stretching and sighing in utter bliss. I had coffee while catching up on my Internet tasks. I picked a Sarah Blondin meditation before going to fetch Miss L (and take her dad and stepmom a dozen donuts to say thank you) – and the meditation was perfect:

“to the wealth that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it; to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live, I would like to say thank you; I would like to share my most sincere gratitude and love and appreciation to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live. I would like to say a most sincere thank you for all of the glory that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it. I thank you. I love you. I thank you.”

murder, malpractice, arson, harassment, and thin mints.

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This weekend didn’t feel much like a weekend, except for the relaxing evening I spent binge-watching old episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix. I think I’ve spoken about my love of true crime before, and my addiction to a variety of true crime podcasts. What can I say? It started young. I had a biography of Ed Gein on my bookshelves in high school. I’m sure the woman behind the counter at our town bookshop (“The Printed Word”) thought I was ’round the bend when I slapped that baby down on the old-timey glass topped counter (probably along with the current rolled-up paper horoscope and the latest “Seventeen” magazine). So anyway. My brother & I were DM’ing and I sent him a pic of a screenshot and then of course Facebook did that thing where it puts together a slideshow of your photos with a suggested title in case you want to share it and no lie, it was a picture of my cats and this screenshot of the creepy Forensic Files mad bomber that I’d sent to my brother and the suggested title, in purple neon, was “Big Friday Night!” I had to laugh. Fuck you Zuckerberg.

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Yesterday I was asked back to “role play” at a workshop for prospective mediators-in-training. I took this course two years ago and really enjoyed it (and actually it’s not only where I learned to mediate, it’s where I was exposed to meditation, seriously, for the first time). The past two years I’ve been asked back to role play during 4 test mediations and I really enjoy it, even if it means giving up a Saturday. I was a grieving widow, the amputee victim of medical malpractice, a young female victim of sexual harassment and retaliation, and an insurance adjuster investigating an arson claim. I prepare for all my roles and really get into it.

Miss L is in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season so this morning it was up and at ’em to another cookie booth. It was the last one this year and hopefully by the grace of God I can someday shake the nickname of the “Pusher” around Widget Central. (Pronounced “POOOOSHER”. As in – “you want cookies? Go see the POOOOOOSHER in Legal. She’ll hook you up.” *sniff* *furtive glance* *wipe nose* *slink off*) And if you haven’t already, try Breyer’s line of Girl Scout cookie ice cream. The Thin Mint ice cream goes right to the vein.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend of whatever it is you like to do. xo

we are hope, despite the times

These are unprecedented times – the combination of a very controversial and highly charged political atmosphere and instantaneous information via social media. It feels like there’s no way to step away and if I do step away, I’m failing in my duty to remain alert, informed, and supportive of the political causes that I support.

But I also believe that no one can win arguments online and there is a hysteria / mob mentality online that ratchets everything up to panic mode. I don’t have any answers about how to deal with this situation and I don’t have any answers about how we mend the divisiveness in the country right now. I’m forced to step back every so often, take 24-hour Facebook & Twitter detoxes, and do other things. (I also really want to try to understand why people feel the way they feel, but you can’t ask anyone their opinion on Facebook or Twitter without getting into an argument; this week I read articles like this and this.) I don’t want to fight anyone or hate anyone but I also don’t want to see anyone else discriminated against or hassled on the basis of their skin color, ethnic background, religion or gender. It seems simple to me, live and let live, but it’s just not.

I knew I needed to take a breather when I had an intense dream that Donald Trump was our new boss at work and coming to each of our offices to grill us. It was especially vivid and I woke up startled. So this week I got some new books piled up on my bedside table (“At Home in the World by Thich Nhat Hanh, “Jerusalem Book 1” by Alan Moore – which is quite bizarre – and “The Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha – I’m trying to read more nonfiction books this year on a variety of topics). And I hung out with my faves. Miss L was “Leader of the Week” at school so I left work (where, contrary to my subconscious musings, Donald Trump was NOT) to bring her a special Panera lunch and eat with her in her cafeteria. And last night we went back to my alma mater to check out the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s win over Nebraska!

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Tickets are really inexpensive and the meet was fun – great music, constant activity, and Miss L – whose attention span can be short if she’s not constantly engaged in the proceedings, or well equipped with snacks – was entranced. She got her poster signed by a few members of the team after the meet and you know I don’t usually share pics of her in this forum but you can take my word that she was on Cloud 9. Afterwards, we had a girls’ dinner at Casey’s in Ann Arbor, across from the Amtrak train station – it was hopping! We had burgers and root beer and it was a welcome refuge from a week of angst.

The boys are doing really well, their Prozac has taken effect and although I keep them separated when I’m gone for longish periods of time – when I’m at work, or at Jax’s – when I’m home or just running errands they’re out together and there haven’t been any incidents of violence.

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This week I was watching a documentary on Netflix about trappers who live in the Russian Taiga and Sarge was dead asleep in one of his favorite places.

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On the documentary, the trapper’s dog began barking and snarling and digging at a hollow log to dislodge a sable. The sable burst forth hissing and chattering and Sarge came bolt upright, his eyes wild. The dog and the sable began an epic battle and Sarge jumped down off his chair and rushed to the TV. He was riveted to the scene even after the dog subdued the sable (it was actually kind of gross) and sat there for the longest time.

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I’ve only had one other cat that watched television and it was crazy tiger striped Salem who loved the leopard in “Bringing Up Baby” with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

I hope wherever you are this Sunday you are enjoying yourselves and your loved ones and staying sane in this crazy time, no matter which side of the fence you are on.

xoxo

christmas + obligatory cat pictures

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Happy Boxing Day! I hope everyone out in Readerland had a relaxing and peaceful holiday, whichever one you personally celebrate. For us, it’s Christmas. Lily and I drove home from the beautiful North on Christmas Eve. As I’ve alluded to in the past, I am blessed to have an amazing relationship with Lil’s dad and his partner Miss K. They are celebrating their Christmas later this week with his family, so they had no problems letting me take Lily on both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I won’t see her for over a week now, but I know she will be having an amazing time with her grandparents and with her dad and Miss K. I could not be luckier or more appreciative when it comes to all the loving and generous people in Lily’s life on both sides of her family. I don’t know how it all happened, how we forgave each other and moved into a new phase, but I know that Miss K has a huge heart and has been instrumental in it, too.

Jax and his family are traveling this week, so I am essentially on my own. I’ll work a few days – the office is extremely quiet during this time, so it’s a “wear jeans and come and go as you please” kind of atmosphere, with all of the Executive Shirts out. I plan on doing a lot of knitting this week and finishing up the Karl Pilkington oeuvre on Netflix, as well as the American Horror Story: Coven that I started. I plan on making a couple of warming dishes – white bean and ham soup, and a One-Pan Mexican Quinoa which I’ve made before, and I just love. I will hit up the gym and stock the fridge and freezer and get a jump start on my January detox with some smoothies and supplements. I have a special night out planned later this week, and then Jax and the kiddos and Izzy the Dog will be back for a cozy New Year’s Eve with pajamas, lasagna, and snacks. (Maybe some wine for me before aforementioned January detox…)

Enjoy your week! xoxo

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loose ends

The house has been empty and quiet this week with Miss L spending time with her dad & his fam, so I’ve been a bit at loose ends. Weeks like this can be tough for me as it’s easy to fall into a morass of missing her / hoping I’m a good mum / feeling guilty for having alone time / feeling guilty about spending time with Jax & his kids without her / hoping she’s having a good time with people she really loves and who really love her but also hoping with a small selfish part of me that she misses ME too = a lot of conflicting feelings that I’m sure single mums will relate to. Suffice it to say, although I really couldn’t be luckier / happier / more blessed about our blended family situation – in which all adults are incredibly mature and genuinely kind and loving – I still have a LOT of personal issues of my own to work through. No surprise, as I know I am still a work in progress, but I am committed to trying to put my own feelings to one side to do the best I can for Miss L in every stage of her life. Roots and wings, as my own mom told me, roots and wings.

So, as I mentioned, I spent some time at Jax’s house, made dinner for his crew and got some major loving from Izzy.

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I did some running and have some more to do this weekend. I’m at the point in my training where I am seeing and feeling results – both good and bad. My times and endurance are better, but my legs feel crummy – “sprung”, as I call it. My calves, ankles, and shins are full of tight, red-hot wires that pull and twitch. Everything south of my knees aches. 8 miles tomorrow.

I finished “Wolf Lake”, a gloomy wintery mystery by John Verdon, and just started “Ink and Bone” by Lisa Unger. I have so many books going that I don’t know where I am at any given moment. “Ink and Bone” is my actual physical library book – for bedtime and “serious” reading. I’m listing to “Her Fearful Symmetry” on an audio disc borrowed from our paralegal, and “The Likeness” by Tana French on Audible while I run. In between – for cross training on the elliptical or sitting around unexpectedly waiting for someone – I have “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton on my old Kindle.

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At work, there is a kerfuffle over whether the town hall doors (where we keep the office supplies, refrigerators, microwaves, trash, etc) should remain open or closed. I actually heard a heated meeting about this in a conference room on the other side of my office wall. “We’ve been doing it this way for FOURTEEN YEARS!!!” “It’s a black and white issue to me.” “WHAT IF SOMEONE IS CARRYING HOT SOUP AND CAN’T OPEN THE DOOR?!”

I’m starting to get heirloom tomatoes and I’m watching “I Am Not Your Guru” about Tony Robbins. Tomorrow I get to pick up Miss L and we head directly to my brother’s house for our annual trip to the carnival. I love the creepy small town carnival. I always think I might see a ghost.

horrible timing 

Is it normal that the prospect of a weeklong beach vacation is currently filling me with sick anxiety? 

Mild agoraphobia runs in my family and although Jax & I and our combined kiddos have a great trip planned, the few days before leaving are filled with errands, long days at work, last minute scrambles, emails, and scribbled lists. The thought of being displaced for a week is difficult and I know most people would think it is crazy to feel like this. And believe me, I completely understand what a first world problem it is to feel anxious about taking a lovely long relaxing vacation and I know many people would love to have this to worry about. I get it and am as exasperated about it as any of you, dear readers.

Once, in my twenties, I had to take a work trip from Atlanta to South Carolina. It was a bad time in my life and working from my apartment made my tendencies more pronounced. I had a tiny, closed off little world that I felt completely safe and protected in, every day, and when I had to leave it, I got off-kilter. I got on the road and was assaulted by horrible anxiety about my cats and whether I’d locked my door, turned off the coffee pot, etc. Over an hour into the trip, I turned around and drove back to Atlanta. Yes, the only way I could combat that anxiety was to lose all of that time and go back to check. After that, if I had to leave for any period of time, I would lock my door and then scratch myself with the door key. If my anxiety started, I would look at the scratch on my wrist and know I had locked up.

Being on an antidepressant has changed me for the better in a myriad of ways, but some things are still a struggle and right now I’m there. 

The major trigger, currently, is that my cats have lapsed back into redirected aggression behavior. The timing couldn’t be worse.


They went from the above pictured calm, peaceful behavior, sleeping contentedly together, to violent, uncontrollable fighting over July 4. I don’t know if it is the result of fireworks and firecrackers, or a neighborhood cat or other animal in the yard. All I know is that Miss L & I came home to Emmett barricaded in my closet, too afraid to come downstairs to eat or use the box, and sporting a new cut on his nose to match the scar from the past serious bout of redirected aggression. He was hoarse from growling and hissing.


Who would have thought that this big gentle fluffbutt could be the aggressor?

They have been on Prozac since the last bout, which took place last winter, and I really thought we’d kicked it. This new setback is devastating. The timing is horrible, for one. They will have to be locked in separate rooms during my trip, and my ex will be checking on them. Thank God for friendly relations with my ex, I don’t think I could trust anyone else in close proximity to help while I’m gone. 

It’s also devastating because I feel like we’ve tried everything. Separations, pet behavior specialist, meds, and there is no long term solution. Keeping them separate and on meds is no life for them and creates immense stress for me. But I can’t imagine rehoming one of them. 


So I’m making my vacation plans with a heavy heart and if I didn’t have Miss L eagerly looking forward to fun in the sun with us, and Jax, who has done so much work to have this be a great trip, and has issues of his own that he has to overcome to go, I would consider canceling. Feeling anxious and out of control is not a good thing for me, but I will just have to get through it and figure things out when we get back.