Monday, May 22, 2017

And then there were four

Garden girl
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been through this, it always hurts. And there’s always a surprisingly big hole in the house from the loss of a small cat.

We lost Alice on Saturday. It was completely unexpected. We came home from an afternoon errand, and when I went upstairs, I saw her on the bed and went to pet her. Alice was always skittish; she didn’t come in until she was at least 3, and she had that female-cat-on-the-street wariness that never wore off, even when she wanted to relax.

She let me pet her head for a bit, then rolled over, put her leg in the air and began to wash. I started to turn away, and my eye was caught by something red. There was a large, red, fleshy thing under her tail that hadn’t been there the day before.

Tired mama cat, still outside
Side note: why is it that pets never get sick except for nights, weekends and holidays when your regular vet isn’t available? 

We took her down to Penn Vet Hospital, which is only about 8 blocks away (and which I have taken advantage of more times than I can count in the 17 years I’ve lived in my house). They were pretty busy, but she was seen quickly and after about 1.5 hours a resident came out to talk to me and get a history.

I gave her Alice’s background, including the fact that she reacted badly to anesthesia and that I generally let her issues ride, in the hopes that they would heal on their own (a cut paw and an eye infection healed; she had to be vetted for her bad teeth). Because the thing on her rear looked so odd – red, but not bloody, and recent – I asked if it could be possible that Alice had actually pooped out some of her insides.

Thinking about life indoors (with Max)
The resident said that a prolapse was possible, though usually it was a dog thing, not a cat thing. She said that would be a good thing because they could just give her a light sedative, reinsert it and put in a few stitches. Fingers were crossed. About a half hour later, the real vet came out with the news. 

It wasn’t a prolapse, it was a mass; but yes, she had actually strained so hard that she pooped out the mass. It had probably been growing for a while, giving her some trouble in the litterbox, but not enough to actually cause the kind of discomfort that would make her alert me to a problem. He said that she was sitting calmly in her cage, alternating between snacking and cleaning this newly-found piece of her anatomy without a seeming care in the world.

Which, to me, at least meant that she wasn’t in pain yet. I already knew that mass = not a good thing = either remove or euthanize. I said to the vet that I didn’t really want to put her through sedation and surgery at the age of 15, and asked his thoughts. He said that he agreed (which was surprising, because Penn is generally very eager to part you from your money) and said that the surgery wouldn’t be as complicated as the recovery, due to where the mass was. It would be difficult to keep clean, and she obviously wouldn’t be able to use the area for a while. I didn’t even ask if he was talking about a bowel resection or something traumatic like that, I just told him that I would wait in the exam room until he brought Alice in so I could spend a little time with her.

Which he did, and we had a nice, un-Alice-like cuddle. Which to me feels almost like she knew what was coming and could finally relax. After about 15 minutes, he came back and gave her the first shot, which would relax her and eventually make her go to sleep. While that was kicking in, I rubbed both her always-itchy ears and could feel her feet moving in the blanket. Then, slowly, they stopped and her purring quieted. He gave her the second shot, and later I walked home with the empty carrier.

I’ve been here before. It’s never easy, but this was easier than some. There are worse things than going before you realize you’re sick, before you’re in pain. There are worse things than making the decision to let a loved kitty go before you’re ready, but she is.

We had her for 12 years after she invited herself in on Valentine’s Day 2005 by climbing onto my porch roof and scratching at my bedroom window. She was at least 15, and probably felt older sometimes after spending her early years on the street and having at least 3 litters of kittens. She wouldn’t have made it 12 years out there.

Alice. Alice Marie. Little Alice Roundhead. A-Bomb. Alley Rabbit. Rabbit Cat. Bunny Cat. Bunniqua. Owlis.  Little Mama.

She was all those cats and more. Mom to Nicky and Harriet, both still around (one oblivious, one looking for her). She will be missed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017




These weren't blooming a week ago, but apparently Mother Nature has decided she's tired of endless March and has gone straight to July.  It's 90 today, and 2 days ago, it was 40.  Go figure.

One part of my landscaping that might not have survived all the weather-induced drama is my young street tree.  You'll note the leafless shadow on the sidewalk.  It had begun to bud and we got one last, hard frost and all the leaf buds turned black and fell off.  Now it just looks sad.

Maybe it'll come back.  And one thing I've learned in all my years of gardening is that there's no point in crying over a dead plant (or tree).  It's just an opportunity to try planting something new.

Happy spring, everyone.  Hopefully you haven't gone from shivering to sweating in the space of a few days.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


My local thrift store.  Photo courtesy 2nd Mile Center
I had to share a something that happened yesterday.  I was heading out to lunch with another woman from the offioce, walking down to Reading Terminal (a large indoor food market in Philly), and because she didn't have her jacket, we decided to cut through Macy's instead of walking around the building.

I can't tell you the last time I was in a department store, let alone a Macy's at lunch hour, with the big Wanamaker's organ playing in the background and an anthill worth of people milling around.  Why do those stores always feel like it's Christmas?

It stopped me for a second.  All the stuff was just overwhelming, and I realized as we continued our walk that the extent of my shopping in the last few years has been for food or fabric, or at thrift stores.  Being inside an actual, huge retail establishment was weirdly disorienting.

Macy's at Christmas. Photo courtesy Getty Images.
And yet, that kind of shopping used to be a way of life.  Maybe not department stores (at least for purchasing), but I was a happy browser and would go in any store and look around, more often than not coming out with a bag of something that I didn't really need -- and probably just recently unearthed and donated.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Time to let go

While I wouldn't call myself a hoarder, I do keep things.  Lots of things.  Some for sentimental reasons, some because they're useful.

Some because I just haven't found the right home for them, and they can't just be given away.

I've had my set of Anne of Green Gables books since I was a kid.  The first book came for my 9th birthday, and I accumulated the rest over the next few years with my allowance money.

I loved those books.  And they couldn't just go to the thrift store or get left in a free box.  They needed to go to someone who would also love them.

Last week in sewing class, one of the girls said she wished she could just be left alone to read, write, sew and pet her cat, and I knew I'd found the right person.  I checked with her mom to make sure she didn't already have them, and once that was confirmed, I dug them out and got them ready for their new home.

Hopefully Phoebe, and her younger sister, Hannah, will get as much enjoyment from these books as I did.

And it's good when the universe puts the right person in front of you know when it's time to let go.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


Well, I survived the weekend.  Barely.

Sometimes you just have to realize you're not Superwoman.

To say that I was exhausted after 2 long days of being personable, on my feet, in the sun (and dealing with the inevitable sunburn because I never remember sunscreen), would be an understatement.

And then I strained my back.  Not badly, just enough that when I went to work on Monday, I knew I should have stayed home, and flat.  So I contacted my afterschool sewing program, made sure my assistant could cover for the day, and stayed home and flat on Tuesday.

That evening, I got a text from Kia.  She'd left a package for me in the box on my porch.  When I went to get it, this was inside -- a little something from the kids, who apparently missed the teacher who spends all her time saying, "No, you can't do that."  "Get off the table."  "Stop climbing on the window seat."  "Don't lean out the window."  "Those are sharp, don't poke her."  "Don't wave the scissors around."  "Didn't you hear me the first time?"

They missed that.  Awww.