Informal weekend update: Canning with the Blind

This weekend was hectic and quiet at the same time.

Saturday Nan and I canned some corn relish/salsa with some farm fresh corn on the cob. My mother-in-law, having grown up on a farm, knows her corn and has a gift for picking delicious corn.

Nan, as a lifelong blind person, has a fascination with all things cooking. She always says that she doesn’t understand how people learn these things. I told her I don’t quite remember how I learned to can, though I do know I always had an interest in gardening and in preserving the rich variety of foods we have in this region.

But it was fun to see Nan respond to the tools involved in canning.

Yesterday, Mars and Minerva attended an adoption event with our cat rescue group Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Meanwhile, the teenager and I volunteered with the FURR kitten event and backpack distribution through the Verizon Store in Forks Township. Our foster Touch of Grey came from there. They actually have foster cats free roaming the store!

The teenager and I finally got our FURR t-shirts. I’m very excited. The teenager looks really good in hers.

Meanwhile, at home, our foster tripod Louise has been very cuddly and at my side relatively non-stop.

Louise

And I finished the proof for Manipulations. The book designer (my partner Gayle) will check out the file tomorrow.

My friend Bill sent me the manuscript for his next book in the Kink Noir series, Bondage. I’ll start my review sometime this week.

And finally, I made a list of all the authors and books that I hope to publish via Parisian Phoenix.

I was shocked how many titles were on the list. I hope I have the resources and the marketing prowess to do these books justice.

Crazy Cat Lady Update: Checking in on the FURR fosters

I have been trying to jot down this entry for at least 24 hours. We got the exciting news that Hermes has an approved adoption application!

His new parents found him on Petfinder and will be coming to get him next weekend. They live north of the Bronx and fell in love with him via photos and YouTube videos.

And this cat who once wouldn’t let you touch him now let me hold him!

Not a flattering photo but proves my point.

Handsome Hermes of the Greek Pride

Hermes just turned one. He is the last of our Greek Pride litter, which was our first litter fostering with FURR (Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab).

His sister Hades bit me and I ended up in the hospital. She eventually went to a barn home. Of the 12 kittens we’ve fostered, she was the only one that would not be domesticated.

Their brother Artemus got adopted first (by Jim West— yes like Wild Wild West). Apollo and Zeus were adopted together.

The Roman Pride and The Norse Pride came within a week or two of each other. The Norse Pride kittens were long-haired and found homes quickly because they were so goofy and lovable. They would have gone even quicker had they not contracted ringworm and then I contracted Covid.

The Norse Pride

Vesta of the Roman Pride found a home first. Those kittens are all tuxedoes. Jupiter is being adopted today. Mars and Minerva are still at Petco in Phillipsburg, N.J.

Two weeks ago tomorrow we got foster Louise, an adult cat of the sweetest, gentlest temperament. She had her leg amputated the first week of March and gets spooked very easily. She likes to hang out under my bed.

Louise

And today we took on Touch of Grey. She looks a lot like Louise. She can be moody, we are told. So we’ll do our best to win her trust.

Some of these cats have seen and been through so much.

Touch of Grey

Maybe next time I’ll do a brief update of our actual pets…

Cats and kittens available through FURR are listed on their website: http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org

Saturday Animal Adventures, part 1: Deliveries

My volunteer efforts these days focus on animals instead of people, primarily as a foster family for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. You can visit their website here: http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

We have fostered three litters of kittens in the last nine months, all named after various pantheons of gods: The Greek Pride, The Roman Pride and The Norse Pride.

At 10 a.m. this morning, which is rather early when you get to bed at 2 a.m. after clocking out of work at midnight, teenager #1 and I had an appointment to meet a fellow FURR volunteer at the Petco where Mars and Minerva are in residence awaiting FURRever homes. Today, we wanted to reunite Jupiter with his siblings.

Crating Jupiter did not go as easily as anticipated, the teenager couldn’t find her shoes, we forgot Jupiter’s folder and we missed some of the turns for the store. But we arrived and now the Roman Pride is together again, except for Vesta who is now known as Paisley in her new home.

Jupiter reuniting with siblings, video here.

We left Petco, and retrieved the missing folder. But before returning to Petco we had to catch the baby birds as I was transporting them down to Bird Mania so they could be tamed and potentially sold.

That was a process, moving four baby birds to a separate cage. But teenager #1 managed to do it.

We took the folder to Petco, grabbed some coffee at Wawa, and headed to the bird store. The staff at Bird Mania scooped the baby budgies like cats on the hunt, trimmed their claws and clipped their flight feathers.

On the way back, we got a phone call from FURR that someone was interested in meeting Hermes at the adoption Saturday event at Petsmart on Rte. 248 in lower Nazareth. Our Hermes?

I had to ask because Hermes is an absolute love and a character, the last remaining “kitten” of our Greek Pride litter that we brought home August 1, 2020. He loves to be in the middle of the action, loves to play, loves to sit two-to-three feet away, but will not tolerate being touched by human hands.

You see, he was very sickly as a kitten and received a lot of medicine. Medicine is delivered by human hands.

Oh, and Hermes is the matriarch of all our other fosters. He turns one any day now and has mentored every other kitten we have had.

And this potential adopter thought maybe we could bring him over for a meet-and-greet and that maybe he could go home with them.

I said I would gladly arrange a visit for the future but their was no way we could crate him today. This is Hermes’ adoption page: Adopt Hermes.

Hermes is a very entertaining cat, and would be the perfect for someone who just wants a pet who interacts versus one that cuddles.

So, last but not least, I anticipate a part two to this entry as we are scheduled to acquire a new foster later today, one with special needs that make her very suitable for this house. More on that when it happens…

Can a relaxed weekend yield a relaxed Monday?

My weekend was shortened thanks to mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy, with me doing a four-hour shift on Saturday before teenager #1 had her four-hour shift at the diner. I invited my mother to come down and join me at Tic Toc.

When the teenager got home, most of the family hung out in the backyard with some pets, a hammock and a pound of cheese fries.

Then yesterday teenager #1 and I did the grocery shopping and visited Mars and Minerva (of the FURR Roman Pride) at Petco. They were so glad to see us.

And we had tons of unhealthy but tasty food including my mother-in-laws completely amazing homemade Easter candy.

My sleep patterns and quality of sleep have been good lately, and my dreams though rather nonsensical had a heavy air of pure emotions— I blame the full moon.

Monday, though bright, had a whipping wind and a deep chill. I had been practicing a “cutting cords” exercise I heard about on a podcast (specifically Kesha and the Creepies) and had some memories on my mind. My heart felt heavy and a ten-hour shift awaited me at the Stitch Fix warehouse.

Assigned to QC (line 3, table 3A), I spent 10 hours folding clothes. My times kept me firmly at 80% of their expected daily metrics, which is as high as I’ve ever gotten and I think nicely consistent for an extended shift.

Early on in my shift, I encountered a Karl Lagerfeld shirt called the “Zelie” which I took as an awesome reminder of my own creativity and endeavors. One of the main characters in my Fashion and Fiends novel series is Basilie Saint-Ebène d’Amille, whose husband always calls her Zélie. Another side note, my college roommate named Zélie and I gave Zélie her birthday.

Lagerfeld, of course, is a fashion legend and powerhouse. His legacy in worldwide fashion has touched more fashion houses than I can remember. His own label and the iconic Chanel influenced me the most.

Surprisingly, I had no pain yesterday which has me a bit in shock. So once again I am grateful.

But the final hint toward my own projects that came was a text from my friend Joan who would like to try the next set of portraits tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, life at home was not so smooth. Teenager #2 received some good news as she has a job interview today at a local grocery store. She apparently met the manager in the yogurt aisle. But teenager #1 encountered some bad mojo in my room. Was it the full moon? The date? (The date does hold some personal significance) My own attempts at “cutting chords”?

She discovered this while spending time with Nala the Naughty Cockatoo and delivering popcorn to the budgies. Those budgies are now chasing popcorn all over their cage.

So she did a sage cleanse with the help of Misty the cat who also assisted her in designing a candle ritual for me to perform when I got home.

Hopefully things have calmed.

The crazy, the lazy and the witchy

Today was a typical day in the crazy menagerie of our home. But it was delightful. I’ve come to accept that Saturdays are overscheduled and hectic. Sundays are a rest day.

F. Bean Barker woke at 5:30 am— a normal part of the routine in her old home. No one gets up that early here.

I went to bed around 2:30 am so when Ms. Black Bean woke up and barked/whined/howled for 30 minutes, I texted teenager #1. She went down, covered the dog’s crate with a blanket and laid down on the couch beside the dog to go back to sleep.

After that 45-minute disturbance, I woke at 9:30 am. The teenagers finished picking up the house to prepare for the notary arriving at 1 pm.

We cared for our pets and crated Vesta and Minerva of the FURR Roman Pride for the adoption event at Petsmart.

We then stopped at Dunkin on the way home because I wanted to do something to thank my husband for taking the time to come sign this paperwork and for supporting me in the refinancing of the house. It’s been about 20 months since he’s lived here with me. Neither one of us has filed for divorce. So his name is still on the deed of the house and the current mortgage.

This new mortgage will pay off my car, save me $300 a month, though also extend my term five years. Now instead of the house being paid off by the time I am 55, I will be 60. Mortgage payment alone on the the refinancing will pay off is 50% of my take-home monthly income and that makes me nervous.

My hope is that once the pandemic ends and life shifts, new opportunities and stability will allow me to apply extra money to the principal.

And teenager #1 will take her drivers exam Tuesday. If she passes, her dad and I will have a massive insurance bill so my solace is that if something should happen to my car, at least it is paid for.

Teenager’s dad loved his new cold foam chocolate stout cold brew. The closing almost went without a hitch, but Fog decided to saunter across the table amid the notary’s pile of papers. Cats are not allowed on the table. Especially when we have guests.

The teenager got ready for work and we watched an episode of Canine Intervention on Netflix. I wish they had more episodes.

I dropped her off at Tic Toc Diner. I then went to get the kittens.

Those adorable tuxedo sisters then went to Petco (Greenwich Township, NJ) for their adoption habitat.

Minerva (left) and Vesta

Vesta, having spent about three weeks in the habitat at the other Petco, sat there and shook in fear.

I came home planning to walk F. Bean Barker with our neighbors, Jan and her Ladyship Sobaka. But Bean only made it a half-block.

She’s just exhausted.

And then Jan and I went to pick up Nan and have dinner at Tic Toc. The teenager was worried about not having a Braille menu for Nan. As if we need a menu.

The teenager told me the founder stuffed with crab looked really good as the cook took a lot of care in its preparation and plating. I ordered it. With coleslaw. And the silly waitress got me french fries instead.

The dish reminded me of a crab cake wrapped in other fish. So good and a ridiculous amount of food for the price.

After dinner, Nan and I hung out at my house until it was time to retrieve our waitress from the diner.

And then when she got home, she unboxed this month’s box from Witch’s Gifts. These items are so carefully curated. To see the unboxing: March Box Witch’s Gifts

These boxes (and my tarot and witchy podcasts) remind me that I need to pay more attention to my spiritual and magical development.

Kitten Drama, my own mission to Mars

Kittens, like small children, can get into everything. And while cats, at least most of them, are extremely intelligent and practical creatures, their attraction to climbing, exploring and getting into small spaces can get them into serious trouble.

I like to tell the story of how Oz, the second dumbest cat I have ever owned, used to get his head stuck in every shopping bag or item with a handle he found. And then he would run around the house like the Tasmanian Devil.

This morning, I had a scary experience with my almost seven-month old fosters, The Roman Pride. They are part of the rescue efforts of volunteer nonprofit group, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Teenager #1 spent the night with her dad. Teenager #2 got up early, fed the household cats and mastered the art of an over-easy egg. I apparently had fallen into a deep, cozy sleep and after several days of getting six hours of sleep, I slept from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m.

I headed to Teenager #’s bedroom after a breakfast of two eggs on a crumpet and a cup of tea, prepared by Teenager #2, and immediately knew something was wrong.

The room looked like this:

And the kittens looked like this:

And my mom instincts immediately were on alert. Headcount… 1… 2… 3… 4…

Where is Mars?

I text Teenager #1 the photos to warn her. I open the wet cat food, which isn’t necessary as they have a self-feeder.

Everyone congregates at the food bowl. Except Mars.

Teenager #1 suggests he got into the closet. That she’ll check when she gets home. But I am unsettled. Other moms will understand. I text Teenager #2 the photos. Teenager #2 comments. And I mention I can’t find Mars. She joins me. And she finds Mars lying docile in a corner.

Now, between Mars and Vesta— the two who did a residency at our local Petco— one of them has loose stools and has peed on Teenager #1’s blankets. We are starting a protocol today to decipher who needs to go to the vet. But meanwhile, I am looking for clues.

Vesta has been a little lethargic lately. Mars is the spunky one, who, often panics when being handled. He bit one of the other volunteers which is why they came home. And he’s not usually prone to biting. I wouldn’t have sent him out to Petco if that were the case. So now he’s missing. Maybe he is the sick one.

When teenager #2 tries to handle him, he doesn’t fight but he doesn’t cooperate either. He sticks his claws in the nearby cat tree. But we found him. So I relax. And teenager #2 leaves. But he’s still not joining the others for food. I open one of the coveted squeeze-up treats. Still, he stays put.

My gut says something is wrong.

Teenager #1, in her second year of wood shop, deconstructed her bunk bed and made it into a loft. On one end of what used to be the lower bunk is a bookshelf and a seat that hides a storage box.

The other side is a cat tree and some cat beds of various types.

Mars is under the cat tree in a cat bed. Between the seat and the cat area, the new soft sided carrier I got for Christmas is on the floor, open. I reach for Mars. He doesn’t move. I pull him up to my lap, the cat carrier bangs into my legs and prevents me from getting him to the destination.

Quickly, with the cat in one hand, my hand supporting his belly, I put it all together. I grab the carrier with my other hand.

I pull everything into my lap. Now this cat is silent and limp. Remember— he’s the spunky one. This is very wrong.

My fear is legitimized. Mars has somehow crawled through the handle of the soft-sided cat carrier and gotten it twisted tightly into a knot around his hips. He has soiled himself— his back legs are wet. And if you know cats, you know they will go to great lengths not to soil themselves.

Do you know that moment in any bad situation where you have to chose between calm and panic? I am thinking about all the ways poor Mars could be hurt and trying not to panic. I need to free him. I’m trying not to think about how long he has been trapped like that.

I have to swirl the bag in one hand over poor Mars to untwist the knot against his belly, again and again. I call for teen #2, verbally as I have no hands left to grab my phone and text her. She runs in. I free him. She gets more wet food. He gently jumps free of me and goes to the bowl.

A few moments later he jumps up to the water bowl and drinks slowly for a good five minutes.

And when he is done, I hug him. He doesn’t fight me. I take the carrier into the hall. Now, if you excuse me— Mars needs another hug.

Learning to Fly

This is a post about babies of multiple species.

My dad helped me… no he did it… my dad got a really disgusting clog out of the vacuum cleaner last night. And then we (with my stepmom) went to Tic Toc Diner to harass teenager #1 at her first official job as a waitress. The young man assigned to our table recognized me and asked if we wanted her to serve us, and I said that wasn’t necessary we were happy observing her from afar. But he gave her the table anyway.

That’s my baby, and she was buzzing around looking very focused. There is a strange heartwarming and heartbreaking feeling when you see your baby becoming independent.

Earlier that day, Vesta and Minerva went to the adoption event at Petsmart. But no one inquired about these Roman Pride babies. I brought them home to Hermes.

Teenager #1 is with her dad right now, so I spent some time working with our foster kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. I’m going to post some videos from today to show progress.

Hermes is afraid of human hands. And Mars— oh spunky Mars— bit one of our fellow FURR volunteers when she tried to move him from the habitat at the Petco in Easton to the one in the Phillipsburg area.

Video: Manhandling Mars (and Hermes)

Video: The Roman Pride

Meanwhile, I decided I had to let go of my fear of harm coming to the parakeets. I opted to let them free fly for the first time since Boo-Boo’s death (see Farewell Boo for details). And it was the first time for the babies. My room is oddly silent right now because all SIX birds, including Nala the Goffin (who turned five this week), are sleeping. The budgies flew so hard!

Video: Baby birds awkward flight

And here’s a video of Hermes from yesterday: Hermes amid the vacuum

So all the babies are doing well!

The Monday report of challenges, joys & lessons

It is almost 12:45 am. Tuesday. I’ve been home from work about 2o minutes. I started the dishwasher and poured a beer— that may also include crème de cacao and peanut butter whiskey.

It’s about 15 degrees outside which means my parking pad area was icy and hard for the car to climb, but the Jetta is safely in the garage.

I just sat down on my bed to write this blog entry about the joys, challenges and lessons of my Monday. Let’s go in reverse chronological order— start at the most recent and work to 24 hours ago.

Challenge #1– the Belkin charging cord I got for Christmas appears to have stopped working. Now I have sworn by Belkin cords for years. And they all last years. Why has this one failed? I’m too tired to troubleshoot. I whipped out my new Anker cord I bought as a spare when I saw it on sale. And teenager #1 needed one. Bought one for all of us, including teenager #2.

Challenge #2 and Lesson #1– I still suck at QC at the Bizzy Hizzy. The official goal is 130. I did 89 on Friday and 82 today. I am not accustomed to failing at assignments and it’s compelling exercise to try to improve at something at which you really seem to be bad.

Which brings me to… Joy 1– working in a warehouse with a wide variety of people has shown me how eager people are to help when you appreciate them. As I have mentioned before (see Rip it off fast like a bandaid), the ability to take criticism seems to be unusual at the Bizzy. I had another colleague come up to me today and thank me for being agreeable and willing to listen.

Joy #2 — cherishing the leftovers of last night’s Peruvian chicken with red peppers and Brussel sprouts.

Challenge #3– understanding how this video of my dear cat Fog reached 100 views in less than 24 hours: Fog purring. And now that I go to copy the link it’s up to 453 views a mere 5 hours later. Why?

Joy #3– meeting Barbara at Petco. She is one of the volunteers who helps care for the kittens in the habitats up for adoption through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Challenge #4– cats are a**holes. I had to very forcefully remove Fog from my room last night because he kept dangling from the parakeet cage. I cried myself to sleep because he’s slept with me for about a month now and I didn’t feel like I could rest without him.

Peaceful Saturday

The weekend started on a rowdy note, after a difficult but not insurmountable week of difficulties with my physical body after two weeks of mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy.

I haven’t written much not because I lacked anything to say, but because my emotional exhaustion matched my physical fatigue.

The teens stayed up last night, and Mama found herself hungry around 11 pm so from my high-jacked-from-inbound-processing work station, I texted them:

You guys want pizza?

I let teen #1 order from Dominos as not much else is open that late at night, and somehow a $43 charge appears on my Amex. They do love their pizza.

I know at work I’m still slow compared to the people that normally work returns, processing and even QC but I felt good last night and my numbers did improve during the week.

I got home at 12:25 am and the pizza arrived at 12:30 am— which tasted amazing and I ate too much. It was perfectly accompanied by a cold Yuengling brought by my separated-from husband.

It was so nice to spend some time laughing and joking with the teens. Even if we were up past 2 am.

We took Minerva of the Roman Pride to the Cat Adoption Day at Petsmart hosted by the organization with whom we foster/volunteer: FURR. Minerva’s profile is here: Adopt Minerva. Her brother Mars and sister Vesta are at Petco.

Mars

On the way back, I stopped at Dunkin and we tried the Valentine’s pink velvet macchiato.

Pink Velvet Macchiato (includes Minerva) video review

I spent some time helping Teenager #1 gather sources for her AP English research paper on Anne Rice’s influence on the vampire legend. I can’t wait to see where she takes it. I know where I would.

I also bought some unusual liquor yesterday— so here are some cocktail ideas I put together.

  • Caramello Russian: 2 parts caramel vodka with 1 part crème de cacao
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Shot: 2 parts peanut butter whiskey, 1 part crème de cacao

Fostering scare: “Trapped” kitten

Every animal mishap when you have pets— and consider yourself an experienced pet owner— starts with the phrase: “I knew better” or “I should have known better.”

This one is no exception.

Everything I state in this blog entry is based on my 40-somethings years of experience with all sorts of cats and a teen obsession with Cat Fancy magazine circa 1990. Do my knowledge may be wrong, don’t take what I say as gospel. I’m just trying to spare you from making my mistakes.

So, yesterday, the teenager suggested moving two of our foster litter, The Roman Pride, to join Hermes (our final in-house résident from The Greek Pride) now six months old and young, fluffy The Norse Pride.

Clockwise from top: Loki, Vale & Hermes

Now, what we should have done is brought the cat carrier to the mud room, put the kittens in, and transported them to the teenager’s room. What we did instead (and I was dumb to do this) was scoop them up and carry them into the kitchen.

The teenager even warned me that I had a terrible hold of Vesta, the most timid of her litter. Now, my cat friends, do not confuse timid with docile.

As soon as we set foot in the kitchen— Vesta started to wiggle and I lost my hold of her. A timid cat is a scaredy-cat. This poor kitten has been in a house three weeks, and I suddenly try to carry her away from her siblings into a room— a new world— that she has never seen.

Luckily, her cat instinct drove her into the bathroom off the kitchen. Unfortunately she wedged herself between the shower and the wall.

That little glowing moon is a cat eye

There is a litter box right next to this shower, we gave her a plate of wet food and closed the door. We had to wait her out. She had to regain her sense of safety and trust in her environment. We closed the door.

About four hours later, the teenager tried to disassemble the shower, but it’s so old the fasteners are corroded. So we had to wait.

In the morning, she was screaming. I opened the door and after a few minutes the screaming stopped and she cautiously crawled free.

But then my personal cats scared her. Back she went. I moved my personal cats to another location in the house, have her food, and left the door to the room where her siblings are open. The bathroom door was also open.

After a while, I brought the calmest sibling of her litter into the bathroom and the two of them called to each other and then I put Minerva back with her brother.

All the doors are open.

About ten minutes later, Vesta carefully crept toward her siblings and “home base.” All kittens safe.