Goodbye Bart

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Ah Bart.  Remember him?  He was my attempt to prove to myself that I am not the cat grim reaper (or cat hospice provider as so many of you sweetly suggested.)  I think it is time for me to write his final chapter.

For those of you who missed the early story Bart was a foster cat our family took in back in November when our local shelter became overcrowded with rescue animals from other states.  Our mission was to get him healthy, so he could go to the pet cardiologist to have his level 2 heart murmur evaluated.  (Heart murmurs for cats are graded from 1-6 with the 1-2 range usually not being a big deal.)  Bart was kind of a mess when he came to us, but oh, he was a lover and had a purr that vibrated his whole body.  Over the month we cared for Bart he recovered from a wound on his leg, a multiweek long respiratory infection, a perpetual bloody nose from the aforementioned respiratory infection, and being neutered.  Just when everything was all better and he was healthy enough to go to the cardiologist a surprise gross abscess burst under his chin leaving bloody puss all over his fur and the floor.

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The shelter people told me to bring him in, that they would evaluate this new wound then check with the specialist.  Even with his new ailment, he was cleared to see the cardiologist, so Mr. Bart went for a field trip to the animal hospital, and I agreed to take him back and get his abscess cleared up before he went up for adoption.  Five more days of antibiotics for Bart at the Afthead house, but he’d get to spend Christmas with us!

December 23rd the shelter called with the results of Bart’s cardiology scan.  He had two defective ventricles.  The shelter vets and specialists conferred and had decided that Bart was going to be euthanized.  His condition gave him only 3 -18 months to live, so he wasn’t eligible for adoption.  Two days before Christmas I got this news, and the extra present was that the shelter said that they would allow me, and only me, to adopt him, but I would have to take him back to the cardiologist and be responsible for his heart medication and quarterly/monthly cardiac checkups.  The single thing that could save Bart was my willingness to take on the time and expense to care for a cat who probably wouldn’t live two years.  I pondered all this while sitting in my study stroking what appeared to be a healthy Bart.

The only person I told was my husband, who doesn’t really care about animals the same way I do, and we agreed that no one else needed this news right before Christmas.  We also agreed that I needed time to decide what we were going to do.  (Mr. Afthead leaves such decisions to me, since I am the one with a breakable heart.)  So I put on my happy face and celebrated the holidays with my family, my own pets, and Bart.

In the back of my head thoughts were churning.  How could this happen again?  Why would life be so unfair to give this sweet cat a defective heart?  Could he continue to live with us?  My cats hated having Bart in the house.  They had stopped entering the basement, which is where their litterboxes are, and had resorted to pooping and peeing on my bed until I put a litterbox in my bedroom.  Could I live with that situation?  Bart was sweet, but a destructive cat and had shredded the chair in my study, his domain, and clawed other furniture when given the chance to explore.  Unquestionably I could have trained him, but maybe not before he died or had a stroke: either likely situations given his condition.  And while we really liked Bart no one in the family felt that he was our cat.  We were doing this so that some other family could adopt this beautiful, big purring cat, not so he would be ours.

There were so many ethical considerations.  Should we tell our daughter about what the shelter had decided?  Should she get to help make the decision about what our family was going to do?  Was it wrong for me to keep the news from my extended family over the holidays?  Was it my responsibility to care for Bart until the end of his life regardless of the cost or quality of his life?  Because I believe in science and medicine I didn’t think the diagnosis was wrong.  If I adopted him he would die.  What should I do?

I searched my heart and my brain but in the end I came to the same place I’d come before.  This was too much.  Without telling my daughter anything except that Bart was going back I took him to the shelter and said goodbye.

For two days I held my sadness in and pretended that Bart might be going up for adoption, or Bart might come and live with us to be fostered again.  Eventually I started to tell my friends and family what had happened.  Because secrets and lies have a way of worming their way to the surface eventually one of my friends told her daughter – a friend of my daughter’s – what happened.  When I found out I knew I had to tell my daughter because kid friends talk.  I didn’t want my child’s trust and faith in her mother to be dependent on the ability of a 9 year old to keep her mouth shut.  I got home from work and said, “I’ve got some sad news.”

“Don’t tell me Bart is dead.”

All I could do was nod.  We cried together about the 8 dead cats she’s known in her 8 years.  She listed each one and the way they died.  Three pets and five fosters all gone.  When we were done with the immediate mourning she told me what I had known all along, “Mommy, we are never, ever doing that again.”  We won’t.  We won’t foster.  We won’t keep big secrets from each other.  We won’t do that ever again.

I love the community at the shelter, and the foster parents.  My foster mentor was so caring when I told her what happened with Bart, and she promised me that my situation “just never happens.”  No one loses 5 out of six foster cats in their first two attempts.  She shared her own sad stories, and even offered to give me a her healthiest foster litter this spring to ensure I have a success.  Behind the scenes I’m sure she raised heck – contrary to the evidence she really thinks I have the potential to be a great foster parent – and a few weeks after Bart died a sympathy card came from the shelter.  It made me cry, but it did not make me change my mind.  This is not my way of helping make the world a better place.  I can’t take any more dead cats.

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Last time this happened I was able to come up with some silver linings, but not this time.  I’m sad for me, sad for my family, sad for Bart, and sad for the shelter and the folks who work there.  Nothing about this was fair or good or worthwhile.  Everyone poured their heart into this experience and the only glint of silver is that Bart was able to live in a warm house with a family for a month, but that seems so pitiful.

In the end, as always, children are the wisest.  This weekend my kiddo told me, “Mom, I think that all our cats that died are part of Adventure now.”  (Adventure is our only foster that lived, and she’s our pet now.)  She started listing out traits of each dead cat and how she saw them reflected in our pet.  At the end of her speech she looked to me for approval and I told her, “Yep kiddo, I think you are right,” because really I don’t have any better resolution.

Goodbye Bart.  We were all pulling for a happy ending, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Tiny Knit Pirates 

Hi Bloggy friends!  I have missed you, but enjoyed my time away basking in the sun and catching beads in New Orleans.  Our Mardi Gras trip started and ended in Houston, saving us thousands of dollars in flights and allowing us to visit friends and their new baby in Houston.  But what was a person to do with 10 hours of driving?

Knit tiny pirates!

Grandma Afthead has been hinting for a bit that her and Afthead Junior’s “pirate game” would be greatly enhanced by some tiny Mochimochi Land pirates, and I am not one to ignore knitting requests.  Thus, I broke out my newly created tiny-knit-kit during the drive back to Houston from New Orleans and started knitting.  What’s a tiny-knit-kit?  I’m glad you asked!

Before the trip I wound many colors of tiny knit yarn onto embroidery floss spools – I use Knit Picks Palette yarn because it is cheap and comes in a bazillion colors.  Then I raided the few Mochimochi Land kits I’ve purchased for tiny bags of fiberfill.  Finally, I found my favorite needles for making tiny creatures, size 1 Lantern Moon Sox Stix, and threw everything into a small plastic pencil box.  Voila!  Tiny-Knit-Kit: perfect for tiny travel knitting!  My patterns were slipped into sheet protectors and clipped into a plastic two-pocket folder.  The whole thing fit nicely on my lap as we drove/flew along.

See!  It even worked on the airplane after I finished the pirates and started on a tiny knit chicken, because that’s what pirates wear on their shoulders, right?  No?  Oh….  Guess I know what my NEXT tiny project will be.

Let me introduce you to my newest tiny knit friends!  We have Orleans Tinypants and his golden jelly bean.  Orleans is knit from the base Mochimochi land pattern with no modifications.

Then we have Captain Penn Tinypants, who may also moonlight as a gangsta rapper when he’s on shore.  Captain Penn is a modification of the Mochimochi Land Tiny Pirate pattern, and details are on his Ravelry page.  Basically he’s a row taller than the base pattern, has a wicked gold belt buckle and chain, has a debonair white shirt open to the waist, and his glowing blue eyes make the tiny ladies swoon and strike fear into his crew.  He’s also meticulous about his sunscreen use, which is why he’s such an oddly pale pirate.  Way to be skin cancer conscious Captain Penn!

The pirates were thrilled when we got home and they discovered the piles of dubloons and beads from Mardi Gras.  The two of them have relocated with their booty to Grandma’s house and are having a great time.  Grandma has mentioned that she thinks she’s heard the quiet sounds of pirate rap on still nights, but she might be imagining things.


Ravelry Links for Tiny Pirates:

Orleans Tinypants – Base Pattern

Captain Penn Tinypants – Modified Pattern

As always, thanks to Anna Hrachovec and her amazing Mochimochi Land patterns!

Carnaval Fingerless Mitts

You detail oriented readers might have perused yesterday’s post and left wondering, “Johanna, if you knit those tiny pirates on the way BACK from New Orleans what did you do on the way to Mardi Gras?”  (No one wondered about that, did they?)  Well readers, I have an answer for you.  The first leg was spent completing fingerless mitts for Afthead Junior in the perfectly named “Carnaval” colorway.

Afthead Junior has always been a lover of fingerless hand garments.  Her allowance has been spent on an array of neither practical or comfortable colored Party City fishnet glovelike creations ranging from wristlets to full arm length wonders.

Thus when one of my knitting friends knit her daughter fingerless gloves my daughter begged for a matching pair of her own.

I finished the knitting as we battled traffic heading into New Orleans.  I wanted to her to have them in case it was cold at a night parade.  They would be perfect for catching – fingers free – and the bold colors would attract the attention of the krewe on the floats.  However, the weather in New Orleans was beautiful, so I was able to weave in loose ends before my daughter wore them for our not-cold-at-all five hour drive to Houston.  Aren’t they adorable with her Mardi Gras hat?  Thankfully we still have plenty of winterish weather to come at home, so they will get used.

For the knitters, here are some details about the project.

Pattern:  Little Girl Wristlets by Janice MacDaniels

Yarn:  Manos del Uruguay Allegria, colorway Carnaval.

Needles: Random bamboo size 3

This is a great pattern, and a wonderful yarn.  Afthead Junior is really sensitive to itchy yarns, and she loves these mitts.  Super bonus for parents, the end product is machine washable.  The colorway is beautiful, bright and eye catching.  I recommend these for anyone looking for a quick functional knit for kids.  Plus, I’ve got enough yarn left that I’m casting on a pair of socks for myself out of the same skein.

Let’s end with a totally unrelated picture of Adventure the cat snuggling on a draft of my short story next to the Carnaval yarn, shall we?  This was taken moments after I pulled a good 8 inches of ingested yarn out of the tiny kitty’s gullet.  Yuck.  At a year and a half I hoped she would be farther along the “respect the yarn” continuum.  (Note, I cut off and threw away the kitty chewed yarn.  It’s not included in the final product.)

Wonky Love

Love is not always a humped crimson orb tapering to a perfect point.  Sometimes it’s a little asymmetrical, dirty and rounded. 

Or life has taken a big hunk out of it.  

Occasionally it’s cracked, misshapen, and poorly sprinkled – yet still delectable.  

Sometimes it’s fuzzy and a bit standoffish.

Unexpectedly its feathery alien aspects will push you to new limits.  

Yet pure glimpses into its soft irregular perfection will overwhelm you.

Whatever the shape, size, or consistency of your love today embrace it.  Happy Valentine’s Day from my afthead (and forehead) to yours.img_1238

Make your Blog Beautiful

I’m waiting for my first ever guest blogger to wrap up her first ever blog post, but while she dawdles with things like school and birthday parties and spelling tests I wanted to share an amazing photo resource I just found.  Occasionally my day job helps my early morning, late night and weekend avocation, and last week a 5-8:00 p.m. “day job” meeting led me to a remarkable site.  Blogging friends you have to check out Unsplash.

Personally, I love using my own photos in my blog, but sometimes I want to write about something and I don’t have an appropriate photo.  Oftentimes I end up with a blog post that has no picture because I get tired of trying to negotiate all the license terms and general ethics of using pictures I find on the Internet.  I find blog posts with no pictures less interesting, less read, and less liked on Twitter.  Well now there is a replacement for those boring posts: adding images from Unsplash.

Let’s say you have a blog post about how every February you yearn for spring, or even summer’s heat and flowers.  You may not have a recent picture of summer flowers, but Unsplash does.

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Let’s say you are full of angst about politics. You want an image to convey how you feel inside, but you aren’t a professional photographer, so you don’t have a good storm picture.  That’s okay.  Unsplash has you covered.

jh2ktqhlmje-jeremy-thomashttps://unsplash.com/collections/341590/dark-and-stormy?photo=jh2KTqHLMjE

Let’s say one of your favorite bloggers just shared an awesome photo site with you.  One that provides “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos” under a Creative Commons Zero license.  You might want a picture that shows how you feel about your blogging friend, this new resource, and life in general. Oh yeah, you guessed it, Unsplash has you covered.

yimy3erbc3o-josh-felise https://unsplash.com/search/happy-book?photo=yIMy3ERBc3o

So go forth my friends.  Write whatever blog post you want about any topic that interests you.  Then head over to Unsplash, and add an image or two.  Make your blogs a little more beautiful, and please, if you use Unsplash I’d love to check out your post, so leave me a comment or pingback.

tznbaktucti-tran-mau-tri-tamhttps://unsplash.com/search/write?photo=tZnbakTUcTI

Oh yeah, check that out.  A picture of a woman working on her WordPress site.  Unsplash has something for every occasion!


Thanks to Unsplash for the amazing resource, the artists on Unsplash for the images above, and to the Daily Prompt for the theme: Replacement

Knew Year Knitting

Ah the holidays!  Unless you are desperately knitting some gift for someone, which I was, there is not a ton of time for handcraft in December.  My unexpected trip to Washington, DC meant I needed a travel friendly project, and the gift I was knitting and my cowl I will never finish were both too bulky to take.  I needed another option.

I’ve had this Zealana Rimu yarn for awhile now, and have been looking for the right project to make with it.  Zealana uses brushtail possum fiber and combines it with merino wool to make a machine washable yarn.  Yes, I have possum yarn.  Also, the more I read about brushtail possum and the impacts the non-native animal has had on New Zealand’s ecosystem the more I’m pretty sure that I have dead possum fur in my yarn.  I think that’s okay, even though one of the things I love most about yarn is that it’s made from renewable fibers from animals that aren’t killed.  However, I’m helping New Zealand’s ecosystem by providing a market for dead possum, right?  Regardless of the ethical implications of my yarn, the stitch definition is great, but the final fabric also has a really nice halo, thanks to the dead possum’s fur.  The stuff’s not cheap either, so I hope I’m also financially helping out the New Zealand’s ecosystem.

My search led to a hat pattern I was dying to try – not literally dying like the possum – that matched up with the Rima yarn.  The Bath Abbey Hat is adorable, and looked like the right level of challenge to take on a trip.  I needed a cable needle – annoying – but I love knits that I look at and think, “how did they do that?!?!”  Into my bag went two contrasting skeins of Rimu and the pattern.

I started the hat on my flight out to DC and by the time I got home had my first repeat of the dunes done (those are the rounded shapes that make up the majority of the hat.) Non-knitters can skip the next sentence.  There is no fair-isle knitting here: the color work is all done with slipped stitches and cables.  Welcome back non-knitters!  Even through the holiday I managed to knit on it here and there.  As I rang in 2017 on New Year’s Eve I finished the dunes then left my knitting beside the bed.  Bad idea Afthead.  New Year’s morning I found my bamboo needles thoroughly chewed by the tiny cat.  While she has learned to respect the yarn and the knitting, the cat does not respect the knitting needles yet.  This is the third set she’s ruined.  She and I are going to have needle lessons soon.  I continued stitching on a nice sturdy pair of metal needles, and finished the crown shaping today.  I love this hat!  I even snapped a couple pictures of my forehead to show off the loveliness.

The Ravelry details are posted, but my biggest modification is that I only did 5 rows of dunes, not 6.  I just can’t get into the super slouchy hat trend, but if you do love slouchy the hat would be great with another repeat.

One final picture of me in my new hat with the obnoxious needle chewing kitty.  Happy knew year!


Update:  Additional pictures provided that show the full hat, unblocked, and the inside of the hat, so you can get a sense of the construction.

Afthead at the White House

Dear readers.  The weeks before Christmas are chaotic and filled with high expectations, high demands, and fun…fun…fun.  So when a work trip pops up the answer is inevitably no, unless the request comes from the White House.  Yes, my friends, you read that right.  I was invited to the White House.  Now let me get a couple of questions out of the way:

  • Yes, I went on the work trip two weeks before Christmas.
  • No, I did not get to meet the President or the First Lady.
  • No, I did not get to hug Joe Biden, even though that was Afthead Junior’s number one request.
  • No, I did not sit in the Oval Office.  In fact, I didn’t even make it to the White House building.  My meeting was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building or EEOB seen on the right, behind the many fences, in the image below.  It is very close to the White House, and still pretty darn impressive, as you will see.

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After checking in with security, being sniffed by a dog, x-rayed, and being checked by security again I was presented with my official credentials, that I had to return, and the badge I still wear everywhere except to sleep because it is pokey.

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Do you see that?  It says “The White House.”  Then it says “Johanna Levene.”  That’s me!  The weird part about being in the EEOB – I am so official using the acronym – is that once you get through all of the security you just get to wander around this insanely cool old building.  All the important rooms are locked with a badge reader – like the Vice President’s office, so one couldn’t just wander in for a hug – but you can just walk into many of the historic rooms if there isn’t a meeting going on.

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The ceilings are impressive.

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The stairwells are impressive.

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The library is impressive.

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The conference rooms are impressive.  This is part of the Secretary of War Suite.

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The wallpaper is impressive.

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I am impressive (and very smiley, because my badge says White House.)  I cannot believe my Christmas cards were made before I got this picture.  Maybe next year….

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But the computers are archaic.  Just kidding.  Oddly there were flat screen TVs in all the conference rooms, and they looked completely out of place.  However, in the Secretary of War Suite there was also this little set up in case you brought your typing skills, or some ink and parchment and wanted to pen a founding document real quick.

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After my meeting – yes I actually participated in a four hour meeting in addition to taking all these pictures – I ate lunch in the coffee shop (lunch at the White House); tried to get into the Truman bowling alley (locked); and bought a bunch of Christmas presents at the White House gift shop.  As I left I came the closest to the actual White House itself, so of course I took a picture.  Yeah, that’s the West Wing there on the other side of the parking lot.  Wave to President Obama.  Then I turned around and snapped a picture of the EEOB one last time, because you can’t get this angle unless you are a White House visitor.

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This was my first White House invitation in my thirteen year career, and the best part about the meeting is that it was actually important I was there.  This was no gratuitous White House invite.  I briefed my boss’s, boss’s, boss’s….on and on… boss before the meeting, and he used my talking points in his presentation.  I got to speak. I made a call to action.  It was pretty darn cool.  I think I deserve a congratulatory pat on the afthead.


In case you are interested in learning more of the history of the EEOB or White House check out these great sites:

West Wing Tour: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house/west-wing-tour

Eisenhower Executive Office Building Tour: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house/eeob-tour

 

 

 

Afthead Holiday Party

I’ve just finished cleaning up from my third annual holiday party.  Yep, me, the introverted Afthead throws a holiday party every year, but it’s my kind of party.  I pick up five of my daughters friends after school and we craft for four hours.  I am their hostess, their coach and their mentor as they learn new skills making gift for themselves, their friends, and their families.

Every year I have a plan.  I buy supplies: yarn, pipe cleaners, beads, and Popsicle sticks.  In the days before the party my daughter and I make sample projects and test out what is too hard, what doesn’t really come together, and what we can reuse from last year.  The event begins with an after school snack while I casually lay out the demo items we’ve created, showing what they could make for their mom, sister, dad, or grandpa.  Some things grab their attention, and some things don’t, but ten minutes into the party it isn’t about me anymore: it becomes all about them.  I hand them each a gift bag to store their loot and they start crafting.

It is a marvel to behold, an experiment in personalities.  We hand select friends who can sit and craft for four hours with breaks only for food and to find the scissors.  Learning from our past mistakes girls who want to be the center of attention or who can’t sit still aren’t invited back, because there are lots of parties where you can dance on the table, chase friends or wear pretty dresses.  This party is different; I and the girls love it.

This year we hit the perfect mix of guests.  There were two new girls on the invite list.  I taught one to finger knit and she was a prodigy.  Four hours she stood in her snow boots looping yarn over her tiny fingers.  She went home with three scarves.  The second new girl sat on the floor cross-legged making pom-pom after pom-pom: methodically winding the yarn around one arm of the puffball maker, closing it; winding the other arm, closing it; finding the good scissors, cutting the loops; and tying the yarn around the middle.  She’d wiggle the contraption apart and out would pop another pom pom.  Then she’d find another yarn and do the whole process again.

The evening’s transition is magical.  They start the day calling for my help.  Every one of them needs me, my hands, and my expertise.  Impatiently they wait calling out Coach Johanna, Jo Jo, Mom, Mrs. Johanna, but by the end they are helping each other and I am forgotten.  Today, with an hour left in the party, I was unexpectedly called.  They explained that a timer needed so the girls could prepare for a rendezvous.  Having no idea what they were talking about they explained, with the condescension of children, what they are learning about Colorado history right now.  In case you are also ignorant:

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous (in trapper jargon) was an annual gathering (1825–1840) at various locations held by a fur trading company at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies.

The timer rang, and the girls set up shop to trade their precious crafts with each other.  There were no fights, no arguments, lots of compliments, and it was all their idea.  I contributed cookies to the event, which they appreciated, while letting me know my presence was not needed.

I learn so much from them.  Beyond expanding my knowledge of western history, I learn perspective about  my daughter’s own strengths and weaknesses in the light of her friends.  I learn more about the challenges and struggles they each have and they have together.  I learn how each of them has grown and changed since I last had concentrated time with them.  But I get to teach too.  I teach them that it is important to be kind to each other.  I teach them that we don’t have and Elf on the Shelf, because our family thinks the elves are creepy, but we don’t judge their family for having one.   I teach about our joint Christmas and Hanukkah celebration.  I teach them the wonder of making something with your own two hands and using your brain to take an idea and make it your own.  I hope I teach them that even as a grown up there are lots of different ways of having fun with your friends.

This is the one party every year when I don’t worry about what to wear, I don’t need a drink to loosen me up, and I don’t want to hide in my basement to recover.  Cleaning up from the event I love the dustpan full of yarn bits and googly eyes.  My daughter, having helped and chatted with her friends, starts her projects in earnest when everyone leaves.  She’s watched her friends and picked her favorite ideas to make over and over.  My extroverted daughter and her introverted momma are both energized when the evening comes to a close.

You can have your cocktail dresses, your high heeled shoes, your signature drinks, and your white elephant gifts.  Me?  I’ll take a group of kids and some glue for as long as they will have me.

If at First you Fail Spectacularly

Fostering cats.  It’s the one thing in life that I can look back on and say, “Well, I sucked at that.”  Last year five tiny baby kittens were taken into my care and four died three different ways.  I broke when the fourth one had to be euthanized and kept the last one to heal my heart.  She has since become a beloved member of our household.


For the past year I’ve held onto this failure.  I have to admit that I have dubbed myself the Cat Grim Reaper.  I’ve lurked on the foster parent group on Facebook and watched litter after litter of healthy kittens grow and thrive under other foster parents care.  I’ve watched sick and hurt cats become sleek and healthy.  Quietly I’ve kept my training up to date in anticipation that I was going to try again.  Once and for all I was going to cement my definition of the kitten event:  bad luck or killer.

Our local shelter just had an influx of animals and needed foster parents to take sick, but not dying, animals home to make room for the new really sick animals.  With little input from my family or friends, I volunteered to take one of the cats.  He has an upper respiratory infection, his leg is bandaged hip to foot, he just got neutered, and he has a heart murmur that needs to be evaluated once he gets over the other ailments.  His name is Bart and he’s a beautiful long haired light grey cat.  He loves my daughter and has a purr that vibrates his whole body when she pets him.


As Bart snores away on the other side of the bathroom door – he is quarantined because of his infection – I’m not confident that he’ll make it.  He hasn’t gotten better in the five days in my care.  We’ve had to change antibiotics, and he’s not eating.  The plan was to take him back to the shelter Tuesday to have his heart murmur evaluated, but already they are saying I might have to keep him longer because he’s not improving.  He is living in a mist of water vapor as I try to keep his nasal tissues from bleeding each time he sneezes.  

Thursday I dreamed Bart was playing with my parent’s cats, and woke with one thought in my head, “This is too much.”  Fostering is just too much for me, for my family, and for my other cats.  I hate saying that.  I feel like some aristocrat looking down her nose at hard work and saying, “Oh no, I can’t do that.  It’s hard and messy and time consuming and inconvenient.”  No part of me doesn’t feel like a failure.  But I’ve had to put a litter box in my bedroom to stop our cats from peeing and pooping on my bed, because the presence of the foster cat near their normal boxes makes them nervous.  My daughter sits stroking his soft fur with tears running down her face. “I’m going to miss Bart,” she says.  I drive back and forth to the shelter to drop him off and pick him up so his bandage can be changed.  I wipe bloody snot off our walls, off of my daughter, and off his fur.  The truth of the situation is that this is not our path, and not our way to help.  Bart will be our last foster and if he dies I will take the mantle of Cat Grim Reaper and wear it, but I will not partake in a third foster experience.  I will find other ways to make the world a better place.

It isn’t all terrible, don’t let me mislead you.  There are moments like this. I hope that Bart recovers and some amazing family gets to enjoy this giant  purr for years to come.

For all those who care for shelter animals, either at the shelter or in their homes, I applaud you. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I wish you all the strength and courage to keep doing what you do.

 

Help Me Out of my Writing Closet

I write in a closet.  It’s a cozy place with everything I need to create my stories.  There is a Microsoft Surface with a blue keyboard and a mouse, because I can’t figure out how to use the trackpad on that thing.  There’s a meandering path to get there and inevitably I find myself distracted by work, husband, child, and friends when I’m on my way to write.  Even when I carve out time to visit my writing closet the way is often blocked by obligations.

The thing I like about my closet is that I decide who visits me there.  Hand selected friends, family members, and other bloggers get to see what I produce in my closet.  If I take a risk and show my work to new people and they don’t like it my closet is off the beaten path so they won’t stumble upon it again.

In my dreams my closet is huge.  It’s an auditorium filled with adoring readers and harsh critics who can’t help but love me.  I sit onstage and read my work with tears coursing down my face and tissues are handed around as emotions fill every nook and cranny of the audience.  There is magic in that space and time stops for my stories.

But, growing out of a closet is scary.  What if when I get to the auditorium it’s empty except for me and my mom?  (Of course  my mom will come, she’s awesome like that.  She will even be there early.)  What if it’s filled with haters and they throw rotten vegetables at me?  What if it’s rundown, rat infested and stinky, and not the space I was dreaming of?  It’s so cozy in my closet, and I’m not sure I want to leave except that dream is so alluring…


I had an enlightening meeting with my family therapist on Friday and she told me I have to stop hiding my writing.  She said I had to go home and post about my writing on my personal Facebook account, but that terrifies me.  Right now my writing world and the real world are very separate, and I’m scared of merging the two.   That said, I’m also tired of living this dual life: one where I live out my hopes and dreams through my stories and another where I look down my engineer’s nose and scoff, “Isn’t writing for 23 year old English majors who can’t find a real job?”  I even have two separate Twitter profiles.  This schizophrenia runs deep.

So blogger friends, as people I trust to hang out in my writing closet all the time, what do you do?  Is your writing life and your real life the same?  Did you ever hide your writing life from your real life?  What happened if you merged the two?  Any advice for how to embrace my writer persona?  Have you put your writing on your personal Facebook account, and if so what happened?


Oh, and I totally don’t write in a literal closet.  I write in a beautiful basement study that was recently remodeled.

In fact, there’s even a real closet in there.  It’s filled with games and craft supplies, and anyone is welcome to see it.  Even you, my blogging friends.

 I’m looking forward to some help!  Thanks friends!