Saturday, December 12, 2020

Dear K


 

Dear K,

You asked me for a blog, since I haven’t written one in a long time. The truth is, I haven’t found a suitable subject. I wanted to write about the things I’ve been doing this year in the pandemic, how I’m grateful to be working, grateful to have my husband working from home, grateful for a mild winter, and happy to have Grendel in my life. 


But 2020 has been a shitty year for so many worldwide, I don’t want to sound glib or insensitive, especially since death has touched everyone, including me.  I thought maybe, if I write it as a letter to a good friend, it won’t sound that way, and you are often a favorite muse for ‘Earth to Thoeba.’

Being isolated didn’t affect our lives as badly. Dan adjusted to working at home, and I’m sure he prefers it. He makes jokes about ‘the commute’, which means shutting his computer off, walking across the living room, and pouring himself another coffee. For him, this is a kind of relief. He prefers not to leave the house if he doesn't have to.

I continued to work, but the hours weren’t crazy. I looked forward to more writing time. That didn’t happen as well as I hoped. I found myself engaging in non-writing projects. I did my usual spring cleaning, yard work and gardening, and later fall-cleaning. In between, I painted a few kitchen areas in a beautiful color named ‘Enchanted Flute.’ It’s a muted blue-grey that magically works with everything around it. It took longer than anticipated. First I had to remove the wallpaper. (You were right. Fabric softener helped) That is when I learned that the previous owners of this house used wallpaper to cover about a thousand holes and badly placed nails and screws. We decided that they did what they could—Google wasn’t around back then to look up How-To home repairs. That’s how I learned how to re-caulk the tub this year too, as well as patching way too many holes.

Oh! And I made both Dandelion and Pear Wine from scratch. Can’t taste any of it until March.


Grendel was an unexpected and delightful bonus, especially after losing Spartacus Jones. (After ten months, I still ache for him, and I’m crying as I write. I loved that boy more than anyone or anything.) It began with Dan leaving wet cat food leftovers outside for birds, stray cats...anything that needed the food. If Freya wouldn’t eat it, why waste it? (By the way, Freya is as perfect as ever. Even my Mom adores her. She’s ten years old now, and still a sweetie.) We noticed it was always a black cat that came after dusk for it. He began to come earlier and earlier until one day he showed up at the door to ask for it.  We let him inside, and he’s been coming in ever since.

He hasn’t chosen us—not really. As I type this, he’s been sleeping in the basement for six hours. Sooner or later, he’ll come upstairs and howl to be let out. Dan reminds me that he’s feral and he’s not our prisoner, so we let him out. We want to get him fixed, but he stresses out when we try to keep him in, and he’s always so hungry, we don’t dare starve him for 12 hours to get it done, not right now. We’ve brought him to the vet. Vet says he’s ‘fighting fit’., and she’s right. He’s a muscular, scabby little guy, and he’s finally gaining some weight on his skinny butt. He’s about two years old, and I want to get his hearing checked. Maybe he’s just fearless, and doesn’t respond to loud sounds. Hmm.

This is another reason why I’m grateful for such a mild winter. Not just because I hate being cold. I can’t bear the thought of him being out there and not being able to find shelter. I find it funny how I can sleep like the dead, but still hear him meow at the door and wake to let him in. But what if he comes when I’m at work on graveyards? Dan doesn’t hear him as well as I do. We’ve been so lucky this winter. The temperature hasn’t gone below -10 Celsius. (14 Fahrenheit)

In October we lost my friend T, who is our friend A’s mother, to a heart attack. I was sitting here at my desk when 911 came. She lived across the street from me, and I stared out the window and counted family members, sent A a text...You know it’s bad when the ambulance arrives and the paramedics aren’t in any hurry.

I miss her voice and her boisterous cackle. I miss the way she called me ‘Doh-nah’. I’m really going to miss her rice pudding and her curried chicken livers that she made just for me because those were the bomb! I never did get the recipe, and mine just aren’t as good. T was a social animal and a giver. I made more friends through her.

On the day of T’s funeral—Halloween-- an ambulance arrived next door. Everyone watched as they took J away, and days later, we learned that she’d lost her long battle with cancer. J was just such a lovely person, and she fought hard against cancer, for over a decade. The last time I spoke to her and her husband it was in March, and we raised our voices from way across the sidewalk as to not get too close. She had given up on chemo, didn’t have the strength for it anymore, and was trying something else I can’t remember now. I can’t pretend that I knew her well, but I genuinely liked her. Such a good person with such strength and character, and I’d been hoping to see her more often after the pandemic was over.

 

Days ago, we lost TC. I met him through friends and he was awesome. He was a member of Mensa Canada, but so down to earth. He had a horrific car accident eight years ago that left him with a brain injury that confined him to hospital. I should have visited more, but I was afraid he wouldn’t remember me. He did, but I still didn’t visit more. No time, no energy, excuses. I should have, but I didn’t expect him to leave. His system gave out, and I should have expected that would happen eventually. That feels pretty shitty. Everyone feels that death. I wish I had better words. 

I’m still writing and editing. ‘Elaina’s Fate’ is actually in the second edit, but it requires so much work. There were so many missing details and wonky ones. I had to re-write several passages and erase and re-vamp entire pages. It’s okay. It’s going to be a much better book. I’m still writing ‘Her True Name: Volume Three', but I need to do a bit more research. T was going to help with that, but she’s gone. I will research the Hindi gods I need on my own. I’m going to dedicate it to her when I’m finished. I just wish she’d be here to read it.

It’s been a strange year. I wasn’t sure what to write, what to blog. I'm crying for all the loss. Sometimes I can't keep track of all the battles. There's no many reasons to be angry and so many causes to fight for. I'm hoping that when Trump is FINALLY out of office, things will work better.  It was never just feminism, I know, I've always known--but I've had to check my privilege.  It was hard, and it has to continue being hard. Otherwise, how else am I going to learn? This year has been so enlightening in scary ways.

I think of you too, more than you know. We may have met on Farmville, but I consider you a close friend. Haven’t we shared so much? And not just recipes for Beef Stroganoff.

I may have had a better 2020 than most, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think of you, and of the people I lost. I know so many people out there are having the worst year of their lives, and I feel somewhat guilty for my good fortune. So this is my new blog post, written for you my cherished friend. Drop me a note soon, and let me know how you’re doing <3. I love you. Please take care of yourself.

 





Friday, October 2, 2020

Carry On Our Wayward Cat

 

If you've read the previous post, you'll know we're trying to bring a stray cat we've named 'Grendel' into our household. A lot has happened since my last blog. 
He got a bad infection in his leg. He came to our house very much later than usual, and when he did, he could not walk  He looked like a three-legged cat, and we made a decision. 
We shut him in, and made him an appointment for the vet. He was so tired and so sick, he didn't bother fighting us.  He just hobbled downstairs to sleep. 
As the night wore on, he growled, he pleaded, he lost the energy to argue. We did not let him out. The next day, I picked him up, intimidated by his terrible, monster growl-it's truly scary-But....He's all bark, no scratching or biting. I spent less than thirty seconds tucking him into a cat carrier. He didn't know what it was. He knew it seemed bad, but he didn't know how to fight it. Plus one leg didn't work right.
The vet gave him a shot of antibiotics, and he spent the next four days indoors with us. (Apparently, he's about two years old, and they gave him the birthdate of September 15, 2018.) That meant lots of love, lots of food and nip. Still he yowled and scratched at the door. Not wanting to stress him out, we released him after he stopped limping. 


He didn't show up for a day and a half. I was relieved it was only that long. I expected him to disappear for three or four days and it felt like it. But he returned, and now we have a new half established routine.

I feel like I live with a teenager. Grendel stays out all night, coming home to eat like a horse before passing out in the basement. He wakes in the afternoon, wolfs his breakfast/lunch/whatever and disappears. I told my Mom about it and she was blunt. "Donna--That's payback." I cracked the hell up, but wow...I suddenly feel mighty bad for my mother. He stresses me out a bit.

But as I sit typing this, my heart sings. Grendel rests on the floor by my side. It gives me so much pleasure to watch him play with a honeysuckle stick. It makes me so happy to make him feel safe. It feels like love. And maybe he loves us enough to stay. 

He just left to sleep the morning away downstairs. Typical teenager.

Edit: Yes, we still plan to get him fixed. He seems to know it too. His appearances have become random and unpredictable.

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Cat Who Devours


It's an odd thing courting a stray cat. Spartacus was so easy. I asked him to come inside and he did. This time I'm learning patience. Here's the story so far. This is the short version.

My husband likes to leave Freya's leftovers outside for any creature who needs it--birds, cats, whatever. He just leaves the dish under the patio table and in the morning, it's always gone. 

In the last week of July, we began to notice a black cat always came. As he became bolder, Dan got a good look at him. He was thin and had no collar, and was always hungry, so we made it a nightly thing to leave food out. 

I talked to our neighbors. Ladonna said he lived at the end of her street. Joyce said he lived across the street from us, in the green house three doors down. Hmmmm...Still we left food out. He seemed to need it.

One day, I was about to water the garden and when I opened the door, the black cat was standing on the porch. He looked eager and gave me a quiet little meow. So of course I went back inside and filled a plate for him. He must have been a bit desperate, because he had to pass Freya to get to our door. For her part, Freya didn't pay him much mind. Later that night, we had the screen door open, and he jumped right inside and asked again. 

If this cat belongs to someone, they can't be feeding him very well. He's skinny and devours everything we give him. He started searching around the house for more, so we gave him seconds. Now we leave the screen door open, and he just comes inside and explores the house while we fix him a dish of kibble and wet food mixed. 

We try not to get our hopes up. Maybe he DOES belong to someone. But like I said, he's skinny, scruffy,  dirty, scratched up,always super hungry and when he lifted his tail, we discovered he's an unfixed male. 

So we've named him. At first, I wanted to name him Hades. My husband wanted to name him Imhotep, or maybe Apophis. (Huge Stargate fan.) We had a small list going. I thought about his appetite, and watched him skulk out of our house in the dark, and it hit me. Grendel. Yes! He's the devourer who hunts in the dark and only comes inside to EAT. Dan reminds me that Grendel was an ugly beast. I remind him that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Grendel had a mother who loved him. (I'd like to be his Mom. I'm beast enough.)

I worried out loud on Facebook. My yard doesn't have many good places for a cat to hide from the weather. Someone suggested I make one from a Rubbermaid bin. I can tell you from experience, that doesn't work. After you cut any part of the plastic, it begins to rip, creating jagged edges, and it continues to rip, even after you tape it back up. Cold weather makes it snap into shards at the slightest touch. It's not that important to the story, but yeah, don't use a Rubbermaid bin for a homemade cat shelter. Anyway, we improvised. 

We have a shed. There's nothing valuable in it, just tomato cages, old pots and bits and pieces that should be tossed. We left the doors slightly ajar--just wide enough for a cat to sneak into. It's good because it retains warmth and it's a good wind break.

It worked! Dan told me yesterday that he saw Grendel peeking at him from the shed doors and Grendel came out to greet him. I checked for myself today, and sure enough, Grendel came out to greet me too. He lay down on the sidewalk and let me pet him a little bit. Then he followed me inside the house for a snack. 

I'm excited for the weirdest reason. After this last feeding, he roamed the house again, BUT this time, he used the upstairs litter box. Yay! What a wacky thing to be excited about. Now I understand what the big deal is for parents.

We're trying to give him space. He's already made it clear he's not ready to stay inside with us. We think that might change once it gets cold, there's still time. He and Freya seem to be okay. There's no growling or hissing. Once we can get him inside, and once he's comfortable, we'll get him to a vet and check for a microchip. He'll need shots. Eventually he'll have to get fixed. My worry now is that he'll get a cat pregnant, and we'll be on the hook for it even though he's not our cat yet. 

So, wish us luck. We promised ourselves that we would help a cat in need if ever another one came to us, and so we have. Whatever happens, we'll do what is best for Grendel. Not just in memory of Spartacus Jones, but because it's the right thing to do. We promise.

Sorry for the odd photo placement. I'm learning how to use Google Photos and Blogger changed too.

While you're here, check out Donna Milward, Author on Facebook and look for my contest.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Happy Birthday Spartacus

A good friend has asked when I would write another blog. What would I blog about? I already did one about the Pandemic and isolation. Nothing interesting about that, really. I'm doing some renovations. Nothing fancy.

Black Lives Matter? You know I'm onboard. You also know that I'm a white female, and my opinion is not required. I'm quietly relearning history and opening my eyes to some ugly truths that have been going on for hundreds of years. I'm pissed off, but now is not the time to vent. Now is the time to listen and read up.

Still writing and editing. Nothing is new.

But on the first of July, I got triggered somehow. I realized that on August first, Spartacus Jones would have been 8 years old.  I cried for three days. That's tomorrow now, and it still hurts. We lost him six months ago.

I'm reluctant to talk about my pain, especially in times like these. People everywhere are scared. They're losing loved ones and life seems a little crueler than usual. One of my friends asked for prayers for her mother in surgery. Another fears for her terminally ill father, and we pray for her son, who keeps running away. Another of my hometown friends is planning her son's funeral.

This year has been particularly ugly, and I don't want to make light of the pain of others.
But today, I'd like to write about Spartacus Jones. We still love him, and miss him everyday. If he were alive, I would be planning his tuna breakfast. I would give him new toys. I'd give him a new bag of catnip, and a half roll of paper towel to destroy. Then I'd get it on video.

As many know, I believe in the paranormal. I've seen and experienced some very strange things in my lifetime.

Here's a secret: Weeks after Spartacus' death, I was sitting on my couch, crying. I held his box of ashes in the crook of my arm, wishing desperately that I could hug his soft fur instead of sharp cardboard corners. I remember thinking, God, I miss you, Sweet Boy.


I felt a presence. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of pure love and gratitude. It enveloped me. I asked out loud, "Is that you, Baby?" and the feeling grew stronger. I told him we missed him, and we would always love him. I cried and kissed the box. I worried that I would never feel his presence ever again, and I think I'm right. Because although I heard no words, the feeling I got was 'goodbye'. So much love and happiness, so thankful for the life he had with us, but he wanted to rest. Spartacus Jones just wanted to sleep. Then the presence faded away.

I don't feel him, I don't dream about him, and I've never had another experience. But I won't ever forget him, or stop loving him. I know I have to get over him, but it's not that easy. He had a profound effect on our lives.

So tomorrow, Freya will get tuna for breakfast in honor of her brothers. (We lost Sully on this day about seven years ago.) We will continue putting cat food out at night for any strays who need it. We will continue to keep our eyes open for animals who need help. We will wait and see if the universe delivers us another soul in need of a home.

We want another cat in our house, but we wait.  We wait because some day another cat might need to come in from the weather again. And we'll be here with open arms.



Friday, May 1, 2020

Becoming an Introvert

This playground is actually roped off right now.
I actually consider myself an ambivert. I like a good party, dinner and drinks with friends, working in a team environment. I also enjoy my own company. I can be stingy with my time, especially if I'm writing.

My husband and I spent a lot of time at home even before the pandemic, and today is just like any other day of the week. I've been making jokes for years that I'll be a hermit in my old age.

Guess what? It's already happening.

On social media I see people clamoring to end the isolation. When I have to go out, everyone keeps a necessary, painfully formal distance in all things. It's exhausting and I count the minutes until I can go home. I am an ambivert, but I never really thought I'd see the day where I'd scramble to hide from the public. So many people are fighting to come out of isolation. Surely I'm not the only one in retreat? I'm not afraid, just embarrassed to be out and about, like I'm being a jerk.

And here's something else I just realized. I like the mask. I've said I wear the mask to protect others in case I am a carrier, and that is absolutely true. I couldn't bear it if someone got sick because of me. But I like the mask for the same reason I like the city. The anonymity. I like moving through the aisles knowing that I'm not offending or contaminating anyone by breathing on them. I like that no one can see my face or my facial expressions. Like somehow I'm safer from scrutiny. I've never been comfortable with my looks, and wearing a mask lets me not even think about it. No one can judge me behind my hair, glasses and mask. Isn't that silly?


I think I want to stay here.

I can't be the only one who feels this way. Is there anyone else who would rather stay inside? Or am I going agoraphobic?



Friday, April 24, 2020

Earth to Thoeba: Isolation Dreams

Earth to Thoeba: Isolation Dreams: Photo by: Read 01 I'm having weird stress dreams. It started with a waitressing dream, which is a common one for me. I waitressed fo...

Isolation Dreams

Photo by: Read 01
I'm having weird stress dreams. It started with a waitressing dream, which is a common one for me. I waitressed for six years, and it was over twenty five years ago, but when my subconscious wants to screw with me, that's where we go.

It started the same as usual. I'm working alone in a large restaurant when the place fills up with customers. (It happened to me once in real life, but to this day, it's a blur.)  But unlike most waitressing dreams, I keep my head. I formulate a plan, and go about my tasks methodically, with some success.

That is, until customers start to get nasty and strange. One woman stops me so she can berate my appearance. She tells me I look 'slovenly' and 'disgusting'. She then starts plucking Freya fur off my uniform and uses it to decorate her eyelashes and eyebrows. "See?" she snaps. "Like this. Take some pride in yourself for God's sakes."

Before I can reply, another customer directs my attention to a couple of disruptive addicts. They're high as kites and crawling around under the tables pretending they're babies. One of them is Bobcat Goldthwait. I'm told that he and his girlfriend met at a tractor pull. Um....Where are my bouncers? I realize I'm at Patty's in Red Deer, and it's the graveyard shift. We always have bouncers on graveyards. Where are the bouncers? I wake sweaty and relieved that I no longer waitress. ESPECIALLY on graveyards at Patty's.
Bobcat Goldthwait, Police Academy

Just the other day, I dreamed I was in a huge shop that sold EVERY flavor of ice cream in the world. It was wall to wall self serve dispensers, like soft serve. Cotton Candy? My favorite, but I want to be adventurous. Root Beer Float? Second favorite, but I crave something new. Squid ink? Okay, maybe not that adventurous.

What I REALLY want is Salmon flavored. I search for it, but there's no rhyme or reason to the system. I'm walking through miles of aisles and it's starting to piss me off. I REALLY want Salmon ice cream, dammit! Oh shit...I'm lost. How do I get out of this shop? I wake up sweaty, and I think this dream represents my craving for sashimi. God, I love sashimi more than any food in the world. Like silk on my tongue...

The next night, I dream that I work there. Even in the dream, I'm wondering why the Hell am I working in an ice cream shop? I've had enough of Food Industry jobs! But in the dream, I shrug it off. In these uncertain times, I must need the extra pay. Besides, they want me to create a tomato sorbet, and that sounds like fun. Start with vine-ripened tomatoes, maybe add a few heirlooms, like Purple Cherokee...and some basil for extra sweetness. Would garlic still work? Is there such a thing as Garlic Ice Cream?

Then it occurs to me...Is that Fucking Tomato here somewhere? The one with the Bostonian accent? I'd like to grind that bastard into the sorbet--him and his ugly carrot buddy. Then again, what if he shows up while I'm throwing his peeled tomato friends into a blender? I panic and wake up.

My dreams appear to be getting weirder, and I wasn't sure that was possible. However, it did remind me that I don't think I ever told you about my anthology project.

I guess I didn't because it's largely on the backburner. Lately I've had more time to work on it, and I've also developed new material. I've often said many of my book ideas come from dreams. Thoeba was the first, but all of my books have some root in something I've literally dreamed up. I have stories, drabbles and other flash fiction that showcase ideas that don't fit into my angel and demon/ mythology/ reincarnation brand.

Here's what you can expect: I've been a treeplanter who meets an Elemental. I've been an senior center worker who gets kidnapped by fairies. I've been exterminated. I've screamed from mountaintops about being an independently published author. I've met a shadow person. (Every bit as terrifying as they say.) All this and more from my warped subconscious.

I have a story named 'A Town Called Grey'. I tried writing it when I was fifteen, and my mother loved what I'd started. Right now it's too long, but still vague. It might not make the cut, but I'll finish it for my mom. No, I don't think it should be a novel. It might make a good Outer Limits episode.

I'm still working on it, but I can tell you about it now because it's actually coming together. How soon? I don't know. I'm just going to keep writing. So wish me luck, and I hope you enjoyed a silly blog after the last two sad ones.

And for the record--I've dreamed of Spartacus once. Last time I saw him in dreams, he was hairless, and I kissed the Hell out of him. We really miss that sweet boy.