Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Goodbye my sweet girl

For a week I have rattled around the house, feeling somewhat lost; I’m almost afraid to look at the floor, the window sill, pillows on the couch, my quilts... A profound sadness floats around like an invisible specter, void of the joy that once was but is no more. A week ago I had to say goodbye to my beautiful Ryan.

Ryan was more than a cat, more than just a pet. Ryan was a part of my soul. She understood my moods; she shared in every part of my life. She brought me so much pleasure. She made me laugh. And now I cry.

Ryan was born, along with her four litter mates on July 11, 2007. I will never forget the day her mother, Timi, summoned me for help as I sat at my computer. She climbed the window screen next to my desk, her belly bulging. I knew it was time and I was ready. I had read all about cats giving birth. Timi was young, so I was ready to help her if needed.

Timi came to us as a stray. We resisted the urge to feed her and bring her inside, but one day I’d had enough of her peeking into the windows at us, so I decided it was time to bring her in the house. Shortly thereafter, she pushed out the screen and jumped onto the ground through an open window. She came home pregnant. I was elated.

I had already made her a birthing box on the front porch. She was eager to hop into the box and set out to deliver her kittens. When the first kitten was born, Timi knew just what to do. Like a good feline mom, she licked the baby until she was clean and dry. When Timi turned her attention to give birth to the second kitten, I picked up that first baby, who I had already named Ryan after my favorite NASCAR driver, Ryan Newman. I had a second box lined with newspapers and baby afghans from my own kids on the porch as well, but I just couldn’t let go of this perfect little bundle of gray and white fluff. Her eyes were closed; her ears lay flat on her head. She had the cutest little pink nose and tiniest little paws. She was magnificent. I fell completely in love with her.

Five babies were born that day almost 15 years ago. Only two remain along with their mother.  

Rusty, the runt of the litter, and probably the prettiest one who resembled her mother’s muted Calico colors, lived only 11 days.

Boo died three years ago. She succumbed to a respiratory infection, which she had often. Boo, a.k.a. Junior was our three-legged cat, born with a deficiency on her entire right side, including her front paw which she could not use. She was very small, and often sickly, but feisty and the toughest one of the bunch.

As the kittens grew, it became clear that Ryan, pictured in the kitty condo in the top left, was my favorite. She and I were together all the time. She joined me at the computer, often times walking on the keys or climbing into a file drawer. She helped me fold laundry, often times jumping into the dryer and trying to make a nest in the clean, warm clothes. I couldn’t make a bed without Ryan hiding under the sheets. When I took a bath, she was intrigued by the bubbles. She walked back and forth on the side of the tub as if pacing. Sometimes she put her paw on my shoulder. It appeared as though she wanted to jump in, though she never did. She was light on her feet and very agile; she only fell in once. What a surprise that was!

Ryan enjoyed my favorite pastime, quilting. When I hand-quilted, she sat beneath the folds of fabric on my lap or on top of my work, so as if to say, “stop quilting Mom, time for me.” When I worked at my machine, I had to take lots of breaks as she insisted on my paying attention to her. Often times, she curled up in a pile of fabric in a basket just to be nearby. Our favorite time was when I sat in my recliner to watch TV. I never had an empty lap.  And when I finished a quilt, she always showed her appreciation
for my handiwork. I think she figured I made quilts just for her.

About four years ago, Ryan got very sick. No one really knew what was wrong with her. She was diagnosed with Bobcat Fever, but I don’t think that was what ailed her. She started losing weight and ran a fever, but she recovered, though never completely. In the next couple years she had good days and bad days until one day she got very sick again. A new vet diagnosed her with possible lymphoma. She continued to lose weight, but on medication, she remained active and seemingly recovered again. This roller coaster went on for some time. She no longer used her litter box. She became a very finicky eater. She was no longer anxious to be cuddled. And, she enjoyed time by herself. Then a couple weeks ago, I knew. Normally a small cat, Ryan weighed only three pounds. I knew her time had to come to an end. She stopped eating and no longer enjoyed her life, so there was no longer a choice. I had to say goodbye to her.

A piece of my heart went with her. I’m grateful to Dr. Sarah Shedenhelm of Baxter County Animal Clinic for her kindness and understanding.

The house and all the places Ryan frequented is empty now, despite her two remaining sisters Kasey and Kenni as well as her mom Timi. As much as I love the others, they are not my Ryan. The bond between us will never be broken as she will live in my heart forever. She will always be my best girl.


Friday, February 11, 2022

Plants are my joy

CHMusings: Christmas cactus
Today is Feb. 11th. Tell it to my Christmas Cactus that only recently has decided to bloom. Actually, this used to be a Thanksgiving Cactus, blooming on time for years in late November. A couple of times it has bloomed at Christmas time, but I guess now it is a Valentine’s Day Cactus. Oh well, fine with me. 

CHMusings: Poinsettia

Speaking of Christmas, there is this Poinsettia—last year’s plant--that made it through the summer, fall, winter, spring, and now another winter. This is the only “red” it has produced, but I’m grateful for its effort. Not only that, but she is still alive, which is a feat all its own.

CHMusings: Shamrock1
Finally, these are the plants that have made me happy throughout the dreary winter, and too-numerous Covid months. I just love their whimsical growing habit and those adorable little flowers.



Sunday, February 6, 2022

Conquering even little things makes me feel like a rock star

CHMusings: Drain pic

Since my husband suffered a stroke several years ago, he has had to face many challenges in trying to cope with simply living every day. But as his caregiver and wife of 45 years, I’ve had to face a few challenges myself. I like to say that I am now in essence, the man of the house.

It is a good thing my liberal beliefs have blurred gender lines and haven’t saddled me with the, “I cannot do this because it is man’s work” mantra. I have to say, I have tried to tell myself that when I’m faced with such things as the car won’t start, the garbage cans are so heavy,  the water softener needs more salt, or a gazillion other things that John used to take care of. Still, some of these challenges seem to smack me right between the eyes.

Truth is I never had a desire to do those kinds of things. I never even thought about it. Well, desire or not, it has to be done and my number is up. Managing a household and property does not leave much time for me to wimp out. Truthfully, I’d prefer to succumb to my upbringing where I believed in girls playing with Barbie dolls, believing that there really is a Prince Charming, and all the other silly notions from my day that have little consequence in today’s world. Personally, I’d like to just quilt all day, read great books and maybe write one, or tend to my house plants—what I like to call—girl stuff.

I admit that most boy chores and maintenance functions aggravate the hell out of me. But, when I accomplish something I never did before or master a new skill, I feel like a rock star. I should just go with that instead of feeling put upon when something needs to be done.

My latest issue, and the inspiration for this rant reveal, occurred at about midnight last night when after a hot, comforting bath to soothe a very long day, I went to brush my teeth before bed. I was contemplating that all-important moment when I can place my head on the pillow and maneuver my body into the ultimate comfort place so as to ensure a restful sleep. This has always been my favorite time of day.

I prepared to quickly drain the sink; it still had a little water left in it as I allow Ryan, my spoiled brat, best friend, aged kitty to drink water there. For some reason she likes that better than her perpetual, as-long-as-I-fill it, water fountain in the kitchen. And I prefer the sink option over seeing her drink out of the toilet bowl.

But, as I pushed the plunger to raise the drain plug, nothing happened. It was stuck. I tried pulling it out and realized it wasn’t going anywhere. I went to the kitchen to get a sharp knife, which used to have a sharp tip but no longer does, and my favorite tool, a Craftsman Robo Grip.   I gave it my best shot, but finally realized this would take more effort than I was willing to expend at this late hour. So, I gave up and decided to tackle it in the morning.

Success! Thanks to technology, I was able to take care of this. First, I checked You Tube videos because that is always my first step. Google has heard it all before apparently, and always leads me to where I need to go. 

A quick search revealed once again that there is always someone keen on instruction videos for myriad tasks. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a problem where there isn’t a video solution to follow.

So once I gained an understanding of how this all worked, and how to go about freeing the stuck plug, I was able to point my cell phone to the offending rod and arm under the sink to see how to disassemble it.

I soon realized how simple it was to disconnect the thing, which allowed me to finally unplug the drain.
My only dilemma now, is to figure out if I want to bother putting it back together or if I want to just get a little rubber one to manually fill the sink. I think I’m going to opt for the latter. Who needs this in their life?


Thursday, February 3, 2022

Then and now, not so different

CHMusings: Heart of snow
I was born and spent my early childhood in Chicago. I now live in Arkansas, in a little house in the woods.

While these two places may seem like polar opposites, there are similarities. And one place definitely reminds me of the other.

When I lived in Chicago, on the south side of the city, it was a very long time ago. My family lived in a neighborhood that was not unlike a small town. Yes, neighbors’ houses were a little closer together, but that was OK back then. We had close friendships with our neighbors.

There were vacant lots sprinkled throughout the vicinity where we kids used to play. I remember birds butterflies, and wildflowers, the likes of which I hadn’t seen until moving to Arkansas. I remember the first time I saw a bluebird here. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a bluebird since those days so long ago. The colorful birds and the sounds emanating from the trees filled with them brought me back to another time. But that was a summertime memory.

Contrarily, I awoke this morning to the sight of huge snowflakes alternating between drifting randomly and falling steadily from the sky. The snow began slowly, but soon began to add up to a blanket across the landscape. It is a scene that always makes me smile. It reminds me so much of my life at five- or-six years old when I woke up to a snowy scene. It always meant a day full of fun.

We don’t get much snow in Arkansas, so when we do, it is an event. The view out my window was one of complete serenity, so different than what was expected. This was to be a horror—with predictions of ice so thick it would compromise electric lines and snap tree limbs. We have been through that here already. An ice storm of 2009 was one to remember, when our electric power in our all-electric house was out for five days. Everyone who lives in these parts remembers, fears, and dreads a repeat event. This thankfully was not that.

I certainly remember what it was like to go outside to play. Snow meant sledding, snowballs, building snowmen, and shoveling. But as an aging adult, I had to settle for a quick trek to fill the bird feeders. While my time outside in the snow paled in comparison to the time I spent outdoors back then, I remember what 19 degrees felt like. I recalled being so cold I could hardly feel my hands and feet. Socks and mittens were drenched. Back then we put them on the oil stove to dry. I’ll never forget the feeling of my feet; when they warmed up they were as itchy as an infestation of chigger bites—well almost.

CHMusings: snowy tree
In the city, our family lived next to the railroad tracks where a huge hill made the best sledding spot. And, it was right in our own backyard. Winter was so much fun.

While I’m not so enamored with the coldest season these days, admittedly I do enjoy when it snows. That old oil stove is just a memory. Today, the house is partially warmed by a fire blazing in a wood stove. It smells much better.

While life as an adult is very different from those innocent, carefree, happy times as a child; and Arkansas’ life is far from the hustle and bustle of the city, there really are similarities. I suppose my life and penchant for nature illustrate the connection between these two opposing times and places.

Like enjoying bluebirds, I also delight in the beauty of snow.