Moving With Cats (or why has our whole world come crashing down around us?)

Today I’m going to use a few drawings to illustrate what it was like moving across the country with our three cats. Because my rendering of said cats will simultaneously make it appear that they all look the same, yet always a little different, I’ve gone ahead and given each cat its own identifier:

MoJo – He is the gray male cat. You will recognize him because he is wearing a top hat and his collar says, “Boy.”

Olive – She is the chubbier of the two female cats. You will be able to identify her by her round torso.

Lindie – She is the other female cat and is often considered my favorite. Shh. Don’t tell the others. She will have little hearts floating around her at all times to signify her status as the favorite.Cats

Okay, so now to the story. We began our preparation for the big move like any family would. For months we talked about all the things that needed to be done, created lists, and packing strategies. We then spent the final week essentially dumping the contents of all our drawers into boxes.

This was also the cats’ favorite part of the move. There were boxes to hide in. Human trinkets littered the floor and morphed into playthings to be batted under the couch.

Cats and boxes

Little did they know, all the trinkets would soon be in the boxes and they’d be left with a single blanket on the floor for them all to share.

empty house

They spent a lot of time fighting for the blanket and staring wide-eyed at the empty house.

At this point they thought they’d experienced the worst of it. But then their worst fears were realized: the rise of the carriers.

cats hate carriers

MoJo and Olive were placed side by side in the back seat. Lindie’s carrier was placed on top of Olive’s. Like this, but not really:

moving with cats

The one in the top hat wailed like a wounded child for about an hour and then they were silent. I assume this is because they were communicating telepathically.

traveling with cats

Once we arrived at the hotel, we let them explore their new world. See, kitties, it’s like an adventure. People travel to new and different places all the time. They actually do it for fun. Give it a try…

cats in hotel

cats in hotel

After two more days of driving, we arrived at our new abode. We set the kitties loose again, but this time the experience was much different.

cats in new home

And then a few months later…

cats in new home

was it just a dream

 

And a NaNoWriMo word count update: 21,586 words written so far! Not too bad for a lifelong procrastinator 🙂

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Grocery Shopping: Why I need a magic calculator and the patience of a saint

Groceries in transit

Groceries in Transit” by qmnonic via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0

Going to the grocery store is like going to the airport. You know it’s going to be unpleasant and it’s going to challenge you mentally, emotionally and physically.

-The mental challenge: This pack of toilet paper has a million cubic metric inches squared of paper and it’s triple ply with a really cute koala bear. Ooh, but this one is 50 gallons when unrolled and swirled into a 6-foot pyramid. But it’s only double ply. Let me take out the magical calculator I bought at Diagon Alley and do the math here. Screw it. Of course I’m buying the one with the cute koala bear.

Koala toilet paper

Because he looks so super snuggly! (“Lovely koala with Cushelle toilet paper” – SCA by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

-The physical challenge: The other shoppers are there to test your agility. They place their carts, bodies, children, anything they can to stop your forward motion and prevent you from obtaining that pack of gummy worms that you need so badly.

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I guess I should just be happy they’re aren’t  dinosaurs lurking in my store’s produce department. (“T-Rex sighted in the Grocery Store” by katerha via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

-The emotional challenge: The checkout line is intended to wear down what remains of your patience.

Of course only one register is open. And there are three people in front of you.

1st person in line – Seriously? You’re going to pay in all pennies?

2nd person in line – Say what? You’re going to buy twenty tubes of toothpaste using twenty separate transactions?

3rd person in line – Of course you have fifteen things in your cart that all need a price check. And now you’ve waited until the clerk tells you your total to start filling out your check. Really? You can’t write the date and sign the check until you know the total??

But what annoys me the most???? The shopping carts. I’ve been working on a very scientific study about shopping carts and how they’re conspiring against me. I’ll have the results for you one day. Right now I have to go to the grocery store. I was so confused by the toilet paper pricing last week, I forgot to buy some. Wish me luck!

How I Conquered My Book Eating Pigeons (or writing conferences are awesome)

A car crashes into a writer’s bedroom. The final line of her manuscript (the only manuscript that can save the world from fictitious book eating pigeons) is left unwritten. Will anyone ever read it? Will her story ever be told?

Pigeon flying

A book eating pigeon poised to attack.  (Pigeon in Flight. Image courtesy of quinet via  Flickr CC Lic. 2.0)

A young woman leaves her “day job” to write insanely humorous urban fantasy. Follow her as she skyrockets to the top of the industry and remodels her house to include a dark, but well lit library.

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My dark, but well lit future library complete with magical potions, because writing is magical. (Study. Image courtesy of CodyR via Flickr CC 2.0)

These aren’t the plots of Hollywood movies. These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind at night. And by night I mean while in bed desperately trying to fall asleep.

These thoughts can usually be divided into two very distinct categories: Fortune and Fame or Doom and Gloom. Examples:

Fortune and Fame – I can’t wait to sell the first million copies of my book!

Doom and Gloom – What if I never finish the book? What if something happens to me, and my manuscript remains the gooey, messy, but delightful draft that only I’ve read?

Fortune and Fame  – This trip will be amazing! Our Mardi Gras costumes will be the best anyone has ever seen and we’ll be on the front page of every newspaper and meet Angelina and Brad.

Doom and Gloom – Unless our plane crashes into an alligator infested swamp.

Yeah, I might have a little anxiety … countered by delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know why my brain does this. Someone please explain to me the evolutionary advantage of keeping myself up all night worrying about book eating pigeons or fantasizing about my Oscar speech for a book that doesn’t even have a title yet.

But I digress.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, CO and guess what? I learned things. I learned new ways to think about things. I learned that “things” isn’t a very strong word. Well, I already knew that, but I liked the use of anaphora.

Crows reading

Me looking up the word anaphora. What? You didn’t know I was a crow, with other crow friends? (Reader. Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney via Flickr CC 2.0)

When I sunk into my couch yesterday afternoon, I was filled with a range of emotions, the best being exhilaration. Although, you couldn’t tell from my slack jaw and glazed over eyes.

The conference was three days of workshops, pitch sessions, critique sessions and writerly fun. At times it was overwhelming, and the realities of the writing life can be daunting.

While I was splayed on the couch, my husband asked if I felt discouraged. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No, I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, I have never felt more encouraged, supported and empowered. I’ve never loved being a writer more.

When 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was semi-conscious and drooling on a throw pillow. So, I decided to go to bed. And then it happened – I couldn’t sleep. I was up for hours. I reworked my first two chapters in my mind, pondered marketing strategies and, of course, pictured myself walking down the red carpet. There was no worrying, no negative thoughts. Only the positive flowed through my mind.

So, goodbye Doom and Gloom. From here on out, I’m focusing on Fortune and Fame.

Thank you PPWC!

Using my Superpowers for Good (Or Rescuing a Stray Cat)

The first time I heard it, I thought it was the cry of an injured animal. The next time, I thought it might be the wail of a small child. Unable to take it any longer, I yanked the curtains open to see what was making such a dreadful sound.

I expected to see a grotesque mythological creature whose limbs had been torn off and was bleeding from the mouth, but instead it was just a cat. And it looked okay. Fine really. So, why was it screaming like a small child who just got their iPod taken away?

A few days later the cat was hanging out in my backyard, and I got a glimpse of his backside. Oh, that’s why. He wasn’t neutered. An unneutered stray cat. Great.

Using the special sense that allows animals to identify me as a sucker for their cute little faces, he quickly realized that my backyard was a good place to take up residence. He proceeded to spend his days eating the food I put out for him and either lounging in the sun or yowling as he paced around the house. Obviously, I’m the encourager of bad behavior.

stray cat

Here he is lounging with my cat.

This began in August and didn’t stop until February. By then I couldn’t take it any more. The temperatures had been dipping well below freezing and he began crying at the door, desperate to come inside. So, this is what I did:

1. I waited for my husband to be out of town to take action. This would have been much easier to handle with his help, so naturally I tackled it on my own.

2. I got my trap and set it right by the window so I could watch the events unfold, aka stare at the trap all day, using my telepathic powers of suggestion to get him to go in it.

Flashback: I tried to trap a yellow-bellied marmot two years ago, which conveniently led to me having the perfect sized trap to catch the cat. See, things do happen for a reason. Or perhaps I have precognitive superpowers, as well.

3. Like I said, I patiently waited for him to cross the yard and, well, walk right into my trap. He he.

4. After almost catching two squirrels and my own cat, he finally went for the bait. The trap didn’t trigger, though. I knew from my marmot trapping experience that this was a problem. If he got full without triggering the trap, I’d have to try again another day. Or worse, if the trap was triggered but he managed to get out, I may never be able to lure him in again.

5. I tried to use my telekinetic abilities to trigger the trap, but I was having an off day. So, I opened the back door and startled him into triggering the trap–just as I had planned, or so I told myself.

cat in trap

Here he is in the trap. I don’t think he was very happy with me at this moment.

6. I celebrated for a second and went into full animal rescue mode. (Yes, in addition to procrastination-panic mode and spousal-manipulation mode, I also have animal rescue mode. I’m quite versatile). So, I prepped my car and donned my non-regulation animal trapping gloves.

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My husband’s snowboarding gloves. I’m sure the people at the animal shelter were impressed.

7. Then I was forced to use my superhuman strength to carry the cat. The cat weighed strikingly more than my cats and was thrashing about in the cage. Certain I would be scratched and die from some rare cat borne illness, I held the cage as far from my body as I could and set him in the back seat of my car. Don’t worry; my use of superhuman strength was discreet so that I didn’t call attention to myself. The last thing I need is to end up helping people move.

8. I wasn’t sure what kind of music he enjoyed, so I kept the radio down and talked in that soft, calm voice that lulls all animals into a state of relaxation. You know the one I mean.

9. At the intake center of the Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL), I explained our situation. This time I used my verbal powers of suggestion to sell all his good qualities and explain how he would make a wonderful pet. I did so well, I almost walked out with a new cat.

10. The man explained the process and reassured me that they would do their best to get him adopted. He also said they might be able to do a TNR (trap, neuter, return) if he wasn’t a candidate for adoption. I made it quite clear that I would be happy to take him back and let him live in my yard. I entered spousal manipulation mode as I pondered the cute little cat house my husband would be encouraged to build for the backyard.

11. For the next month, I used by ability to obsess over things to check the DDFL  website at least daily, sometimes hourly, to see if he was on there. With each day I began losing hope. His little face never appeared on the adoptable cats page and I hadn’t gotten a phone call asking if he could be returned to my yard. I tried to convince myself that they were busy socializing him. Who knew how long he’d been living on the streets? But I had a terrible feeling that he might have been euthanized.

I began to question whether I did the right thing. My superpowers were only supposed to be used for good. What had I done?

I’ve wanted to write about this experience for some time, but I didn’t want to do it unless I knew there was a happy ending. I was perusing the Internet yesterday (instead of writing this post) and that’s when I found him. He’s up for adoption!

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His adoption bio. It compares his life to a book, which is strange because I’m a writer. Cue mysterious music.

I will now use my telepathic powers of suggestion to persuade someone who lives in the Denver Metro area to take a trip to the DDFL. Everyone reading this: you’re getting sleepy, very sleepy. (Wait – that’s hypnotism. Oh, well. It could still work.) You’re on a beach, with the sun shining down. Then a cute brown tabby jumps in your lap. You fall in love instantly and begin filling out the adoption papers…

Would you like your receipt?

I remember the days when you could go into a store and order a cup of coffee or buy a pack of gum and the clerk would just hand you a receipt.

But sadly, the world has changed. Now, many establishments offer you a choice, a decision to make. It seems simple enough. It’s a yes or no question.

“Do you want your receipt?”

I don’t know why this is so hard for me. I’m prepared for the paper versus plastic debate. I know whether I’m paying cash or credit. I’m ready to answer “no” when they try to sign me up for their rewards program.

But for some reason I can’t decide if I need that little piece of paper. I stand there, with my mouth hung open, “uh…. yes … no, wait.” I look to the other customers for a signal. What do you guys think? “Um.. No. Hold on. Yes, I want it.”

It’s even worse than the “would you like the receipt with you or in the bag” question. I don’t know. Either hand it to me or stuff it in the bag. I really don’t care. And maybe that’s why I have such a problem with the question. I guess I really don’t care. It’s usually asked by a fast food type restaurant and I know I’m not planning to return the veggie burrito I just scarfed down. Therefore, do I need the receipt? I still don’t know.

So, I make random, haphazard decisions, clearly based on whim. Sometimes, it’s a yes. Sometimes it’s a no. But, I can’t say that I’m comfortable with the decisions I’m making.

See, this is what happens when I say no: I watch as the receipt is ripped from the register, crumpled in the hand of cashier and then tossed into the trash beside them. I stifle a gasp. Fear runs down my spine. What if I really do need that receipt? How will I know they didn’t over charge me? What if there is super-secret information on that receipt that can now be harvested and used against me by the coffee making people?

But then this is what happens when I say yes: Receipts upon receipts pile up around me.

Now, instead of sitting in the trash at the local Starbucks, they’re lingering in my purse.

They take up residence in purses I haven’t used in years.

There’s even more in this purse, than in my current purse.

According to the plethora of receipts, I haven’t used this purse since June, 2011.

Some of them even get to live in this ceramic pot.

I don’t know why some grocery store and coffee receipts are more special than others, but they are. That is why they get crammed in the ceramic pot with the coupons I may or may not use and a birthday card from 3 years ago.

So, I fee like I need a plan, a strategy. Should I answer “yes” across the board? Or give a “no” if it’s less than $10? Less than $20? Maybe a “yes” for all goods from Starbucks, so they can’t harvest that super-secret information about me?

Or, I can just continue what I’m doing.

I don’t know. It’s just too stressful. Retailers, please, just make the decision for me. Just give me the receipt. And don’t you dare ask me if I want it printed or emailed.

Disorganization: The result of hoarding, procrastination and simple laziness

This is a warning to all Type A personalities, neat freaks and the uber-organized. What you are about to see might cause heartburn, increased blood pressure or the irresistible urge to whip out your label maker.

My very talented husband recently built mismatched (but still matching) nightstands for our bedroom. See:

handmade circular nightstand by Logan Windram

Here is my husband’s new nightstand.

White handmade nightstand by Logan Windram

And here is mine. Notice the nice big drawers for storing things.

This immediately creates two conflicting emotions:

Excitement – Hey, I just got a brand new, handmade, nightstand to replace the bulky, cheap, mass-produced one that I had for years. Yay me!

Dread – Hey, I just got a brand new, handmade nightstand that now needs to be filled with the contents of my former bulky, cheap, mass-produced nightstand.

This is a problem because:

1. I’m a procrastinator (you all know that). Why do today, what can be done tomorrow?

2. I’m a bit of a hoarder. Hey, I might need that Betamax VCR one day!

3. I don’t use traditional techniques like filing, sorting or categorizing to organize my things. I like to haphazardly stuff objects here and there. Secretly, I think this boils down to laziness.

I’ve included a few pictures so you can understand the full extent of the problem:

So, here is one of the drawers from my old nightstand. Note the complete lack of order. You might also note that I collect boxes of various heartburn medications.

Inside unorganized nightstand drawer

Here is a close up of the ooey-gooey inside. See how some of the items are stained red. That’s because I spilled NyQuil in the drawer a couple of years ago and then just let it dry. You’ll also note that I have decided I must keep a single pink balloon, tire levers for a bike and post-it notes in the nightstand–should I ever need to inflate a balloon, flag something or … I’m not really sure what the tire lever does… in the middle of the night.

Close up of old nightstand drawer

And the problem is not just with the nightstand drawers. It has infected the whole house:

First, the living room end table drawer. Contents include: various chargers, cat toys, a remote control, a piece of copper pipe and travel brochures from a trip we took over a year ago.

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Next, our wine rack drawers. This one has cat nail clippers, napkin rings, wine charms (hey, those actually make sense here), toothpaste and expired (I think) gift cards.

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The second wine rack drawer has a watch I haven’t worn in over seven years, batteries, some screws, and a random key. And by the way, the mint boxes are empty.

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And lastly, our linen closet. (Yes, that’s our coffee maker on the top shelf. Don’t you keep your coffee maker in the linen closet?) I won’t even go into detail here. We’ll just call it a disaster and leave it at that.

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Often this method of storing things works just fine: Of course I know where the ballet tickets are. They’re in the wine rack with the empty box of mints, next to the cat’s old rabies tags.

But then sometimes this happens: Where is my new credit card? I know I left it in this pile of address labels, paper Christmas ornaments and old flight itineraries.  Proceed to tear house apart and accuse spouse of throwing it away. Find it two years later under the sofa cushion.

Now, I will say there is one drawer in our house that is always meticulously organized. And, no, it’s not my husband’s nightstand drawer. Although, that one is pretty organized too… It’s our spice drawer.

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Logan added this awesome spice drawer to one of our cupboards a couple of years ago.

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See how all the jars are neatly in place and all the spices are labeled. They’re even alphabetized!

And in case you’re wondering, I started this project a week ago. The contents of one drawer has been emptied, organized and neatly placed in the new drawer. The other one is still sitting on the living room floor.

How to start and manage a blog (In the Real World)

computer cat

Image via Wilson Afonso via Flickr Creative Commons.

Day 1: Begin with the realization that you don’t spend enough time sitting on your behind, staring at a computer monitor. Then, conclude that the best way to remedy this problem is to say to yourself: “I think I’ll start a blog.”

Day 3: Figure out what the heck goes into creating a blog and spend a ridiculous amount of time deciding on the perfect shade of pink for your background.

Day 4: Become uncharacteristically indecisive and continue to tweak the background color and header image until you have them just right.

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Maybe this one… No. Not enough color.

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Now it has too much color.

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Maybe this one? No. It doesn’t seem right either. Perhaps I should take a few more photos…

Day 21: Now that the blog’s appearance is finally right, you begin to think about your blog content. Hmmmm….. what the heck are your going to write about?

Day 23: Realize there are all these blog memes out there and you want to participate in all of them. Then, being the realistic person you are, you whittle it down to Teaser Tuesday and Wordless Wednesday, and then two other posts a week. You can post four times a week. It will be easy. You even promise yourself that you will keep to your blog schedule, with the hope of having your blog posts typed and ready to go ahead of schedule.

Day 25: Become super psyched about your new blog and its awesomeness. Prepare six blog posts in advance, just to give yourself a little content to fall back on, should you ever fall behind. The exercise seems a little silly, because you won’t fall behind. You’re dedicated and it will be easy.

Day 30: Click the publish button on your first post, knowing that it’s unlikely anyone will read it. But there’s a little hope, just a little, that someone will stumble upon it and see it for the masterpiece that it is.

Day 31: Feel your heart flutter the next morning when you receive notification that you have a new follower. Yes, you have a follower… and it’s not your mom.

excited kid

How you’ll look when you get your first follower. (Image courtesy Tim Parkinson via Flickr Creative Commons)

Visit their blog to see if you want to follow them, surely you will because you must have common interests. Your heart flutter will now become crushing disappointment. They have no interest in you or your blog. They want to sell you something.

unhappy kid

How you’ll look when you realize that person isn’t really interested in your blog, or they are a robot. (Image courtesy Peter Dedina via Flickr Creative Commons)

Day 33: Publish your second post and wait for the likes and comments to roll in. Keep your eye on that magical notification button on the top of your screen. You wait for it to turn orange, but it doesn’t. Maybe it’s like the saying about watched water not boiling. You decide to step away and check back later.

Day 33, five minutes later: Certain that you’ve given it enough time you check for the orange button. You’re likely disappointed, but you still hold your head high and continue your blogging quest.

Day 70: Prepare for Monday’s blog post. It’s Tuesday, but hopefully no one will notice. You’re short on time, so you scroll through your pre-prepared blog posts. Sigh when you discover you’ve already used them all. Yes, in six weeks you’ve gone through all six of them. Quickly throw something together and hope your followers still like you. Strangely, this becomes one of your most popular posts.

Day 120: You’ve now been blogging for a few months and have found some great blogging friends (Hi everyone!). Your number of followers continues to go up and you finally understand what the blogging community is about.

Day 140: Allow your hope to slowly fade away. Blogging takes way more commitment than you ever anticipated. But you will persevere. Just maybe with one less post a week. No one will notice, right?

Day 160: You’ve now gone a whole week without posting. You feel guilty, but assure yourself that it won’t happen again.

Day 174: It’s happened again. Tell yourself that it’s okay; everyone gets busy now and then. You’ll do better in the future.

Day 178: Spend a couple hours catching up on your reader. Begin to wonder if those people who post 2, 3, 4, or 28 times a day are really human. You begin to wonder if they are aliens, or a type of superhero you’ve never heard of. Or perhaps they are human, but they’ve become immune to the most virulent time wasters of the Internet. Or they don’t spend hours researching the difference between lay and lie, only to forget the next day, so they just avoid use of the words for all eternity. Anyone? Anyone?

aliens

The very prolific alien blog writers (Image courtesy Interdimensional Guardians via Flickr Creative Commons)

Day 192: Hit the publish button on your 59th post. Not only was it posted on the day it was due, it was actually written in advance. Yep, you’re back on track… for now. You consider writing a few back-up posts, in case you become swamped again in the future… Nah. You won’t fall behind again, you’re sure of it…