A Cat’s Tale

My first night in my new house

Hi. My name is Orange Kitty. It wasn’t always that. I can’t remember what it was once. I just know that it wasn’t that.

My new people call me Orange Kitty or OK or sometimes Mr. Fuzzy Pants. I don’t really know why they call me Mr. Fuzzy Pants. I don’t wear pants.

I sort of remember the time before I got my new people. But it seems like every day that memory gets a little less clear.

I’m pretty sure I had people before the new people. I mean, I knew what the litter box was for and how to use it the first time I laid my eyes on it in the new house. So I had to have had one before. Right? And I know it’s not good to put my claws in the furniture. Although, sometimes I just can’t seem to help myself. It just feels so good, you know.

I can’t remember anything much about the old people. I don’t know how I came to be living on my own outside all the time. I do know that I didn’t like it much.

I remember there was a time I was doing fairly well. The weather was nice. The new people put kibble in a bowl in their front yard for me along with some water. I could have been happy if it had all stayed that way.

But the weather got colder and colder. They built a shelter for me, but they couldn’t make it really warm. They still put out the kibble and water and I was grateful for that.

Then one day it happened. I don’t remember much about it. All I know is that I hurt a lot afterward. Walking was kind of hard and the side of my face had been ripped off. Suddenly the nights seemed even colder than they had before. Then I was really thankful for the kibble and the water.

There was a flap of skin hanging down below my chin and my face hurt a lot but I couldn’t let the pain show. All sorts of things hurt a lot. My eye was swollen so shut that I couldn’t see out that side and I felt very vulnerable. It scared me a lot. Every sound made me twitch.

Then one of my new people started trying to get close to me. She, it was the female, would call to me saying “Orange Kitty, I’ve got food” like always. She’d put the food down but would not leave like she used to. So if I wanted it, which I really, really did, I had to get near to her. Had to let her be near to me.

That went okay for a while, but then one day she tried to touch me. I almost didn’t let her, but then I decided it might be okay. And there was the food, you know. And you know what, it felt pretty good. Her hand stroked down my back. She was gentle over my ribs. It was nice.

Time went by and next thing I knew, she was brushing me and fluffing my very long fur and then I realized I was warmer when my fur was fluffed. I decided I liked her.

Then he came along. The male. Turned out he was pretty nice too. Knew just how to pat me and where it was nicest and not to touch my belly even if I rolled over.

But still, I just didn’t know.

They have a dog. The dog was nice enough, but you just never know about dogs. Still, this one seemed like it wanted to make it work. Even chased off a couple of rival cats that came into the new people’s front yard. I thought that was pretty good.

Then one night, they offered me some canned food. It smelled really good. But I had to go inside the house to get it. Man, I wasn’t sure about that. But my face was hurting and wasn’t healing very well and the thought of that food was overwhelming.

I went inside the front door and keeping my hind feet outside, I ate some of that canned food. It was really good.

The next night, they offered canned food again. But it was further inside the house and I had to get all of me inside in order to eat it. I ate as much as I could as fast as I could and then dashed back outside. I felt so smart. But I wanted more of that canned food.

Then there was the time that they offered the canned food and she patted me while I ate it. That felt pretty nice. Then she sat on a step inside the house and I walked further into the house after I ate just to get a couple more pats. You know how it is. One good pat deserves another.

After a few days, I found myself walking all the way up the stairs and investigating the house. They let me do whatever I wanted. And when I needed back outside, they opened the door and let me out.

They had started closing the see through door while I ate. It helped to keep all that cold air out and it was really cold air. The first time they did that, I freaked out. Couldn’t help myself. I didn’t really know these people. I had to cry and paw at the door. They opened it right up.

So anyway, pretty soon I realized they would let me in and out as I wanted. It really helped me to know that I could get out if I needed.

Over time, I wandered through every corner of the house both upstairs and downstairs. The weather had gotten really, really cold, but I was still sleeping outside in my little shelter. It was so cold that my water froze every night and she would have to bring out boiling water in the morning to unfreeze it so I would have something to drink. I was always very thirsty. The water was really good.

So one night when they invited me in, I walked in calmly and ate some food. Then I wandered upstairs and spent a long, long time poking around.

When I went back to the front door, she was standing there, ready to open the storm door if I asked. But I didn’t ask. She looked at me and said, “Well, then. I’m going to shut the front door too.” And she did. I had a brief moment of panic, but then I thought it would be alright.

I walked back up the stairs, went down the hall and into the people’s bedroom. I hopped up on the bed and they didn’t shoo me off.

I’ve been living with these people ever since.

My face finally healed and my fur has grown back. She took care of the painful fur mats behind my ears and that fur has grown back too. I’m still a bit gimpy and I can’t jump as well as I once did. But I don’t have to worry about any of that because I’ve got these new people and they seem to be pretty nice. So, I’m going to keep them. And it seems like they would like to keep me also.

Life is good.

Getting comfortable in the new house

A Bother and a Burden

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I believe that there are three things that every living creature deserves: contentment, health and comfort. Yes, it sounds like entitlement until you take it apart a little further and acknowledge that what each individual needs in order to have these things is very different. And, in my opinion, entitlement is a matter of degrees and perspective.

I’ve always felt that I deserved to have those three things and I have done what I needed to do in order to have them. If sometimes I had to bother people or felt I had become burdensome in order to get them, well that’s what I did. You will never get what you want and need if you don’t ask for it.

Selfish? Maybe. A number of my relatives were fond of saying of my younger self that I was selfish.

But I am also giving. I find helping others to be fulfilling even if my help is not acknowledged or rewarded in any way. It doesn’t matter because I’ve already been rewarded by the good feeling I get from helping someone.

I’d be willing to bet that the majority of humanity feels the same way. People want to help. Helping feels good. I feel that when you let someone help you, you are also doing them a service. Self-serving? Maybe.

Some people don’t want to bother other people with their issues or burden others. I actually get a little bit angry when I hear that sort of thing. I don’t really know what the motivation for feeling that way is, but to me it says that the person does not feel they are deserving. And that makes me very sad.

I think most people might find it difficult to balance personal need against the needs of others. I think this is where the feelings of being a burden arise. But we all need help sometimes and we are all deserving of it.

And that’s my thought for the day.

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Millie’s Further Adventures in Time

youtube.com This new novel features a dog along with the ducks from the previous novel.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished writing “Millie’s Further Adventures in Time,” which is the sequel to “Millie’s Adventures in time.” I know, not very original with the title.

I’ve spent the time in between then and now proof reading and editing my digital manuscript. It’s tedious and sometimes boring, but I found some mistakes and made some edits which I hope will have improved the novel.

When I thought I had that all worked out, I uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing. I had already set up the cover and the details of how the interior of the book should look. Once they processed the upload, then I was able to preview the novel.

It was a mess.

So I went over the formatting. Moved a bunch of stuff around and had another look.

Still not good. But better.

I have no idea how many times I went over the manuscript checking this and that, changing this and that, but it was a lot.

Finally, today, I gave up trying to perfect it (there is a blank page in the preview mode that is not there in my digital manuscript and I can’t seem to get rid of it in the preview mode no matter what I try) and ordered the proof copies.

In some ways, it is very exciting to be at this point in the publishing of my latest novel. In others, it is fairly anticlimactic. For the most part, the hardest part (the writing) is over (the exciting part), and yet there is still so much more left to do (the anticlimactic part).

I can certainly see the allure of having an agent and a publisher so that, as an author, all you would have to worry about is the writing. But I tried for a year after I finished writing “Millie’s Adventures in time” to get an agent and failed. That was the time I allotted myself at the end of which I would self-publish. Between that first novel and this sequel, I self-published three other novels.

Yes, I would still prefer to have an agent and publisher to take care of getting the book to look exactly as I would like it, promote it, and all the rest. But since that wasn’t to be, I am content to at least publish the little beasties.

So, with any luck, it should only be another month or so and then “Millie’s Further Adventures in Time” will be available for purchase.

Will there be a third “Millie” novel? Maybe. I’m knocking around some ideas about that. So, you never know …

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Fear In Advertising

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I recently read a post by a very perspicacious WordPress blogger. It was about the power of curiosity to motivate. It got me to thinking. Really good writing and really good posts do that to me.

My husband and I haven’t watched broadcast television in a very long time. We don’t stream either. We get very little exposure to commercials. We do still see ads on the games we play and the articles we read online though. My point is that we don’t get a lot of exposure to the fear mongering that was prevalent in television commercials years ago. I consider that to be a good thing because I figure it is ongoing.

I do still have memories of sitting in front of the TV and ranting to my poor husband about this offensive commercial and the next one. Mostly he would hear me saying things like, “How stupid do they think we are?’ or “I can’t believe they just tried to put that over on us.” There would usually be a few “oh my Gods” thrown in for good measure and a swear word or two … or three or four.

I hate that advertisers feel they have to use fear in order to motivate a person to buy a certain product. Unfortunately, it seems to work. The list of fears seems to be endless. Here are a few:

Fear of damp spots in your armpits. Antiperspirants really are not good for you.

Fear that your house will smell like your house and not like a spring morning.

Fear that your freshly washed laundry will smell like freshly washed laundry and not like some chemist’s idea of a delightful scent.

Fear that you will miss out on something wonderful. I see this more in stores or ads that say they are for a limited time only or that supplies are limited. It might be the truth. Cynical me thinks not. I will admit though, that the Pandemic has made some things scarce.

Fear of germs … this one particularly vexes me. We humans have lived with microbes for a very, very long time. Most of them are not out to get us or do us harm. Really.

Fear that the car you are currently driving is not maybe the absolutely safest car to be driving … here look, we have one that is very safe. No car is absolutely safe to drive. Get over it.

Fear that your teeth are not white enough.  I mean, are you really going to lose friends because your teeth are a little bit less than perfectly white? If so, maybe what you really need are some new friends. And anyway, bleaching your teeth really is not good for them in the long run. That’s a personal opinion. “They” say that having a dentist do it is okay.

Sadly, in reality, fear mongering in advertising has been going on for a long time. As an example, Listerine was first developed as a wound cleaner in the late 1800s. It was touted as being particularly useful for wounds in the mouth where ointments and creams were not practical. But the product didn’t really catch on until it was marketed as a cure for bad breath. Early print ads depict a woman and a man standing close, face-to-face, and looking happy, while another woman sits alone looking sad and the implication was that the lone woman had bad breath and that Listerine could fix her right up.

The infamous “they” have done studies in which they have determined that most decisions are made based on emotions. Find an individual with a part of the brain that is responsible for emotions having been damaged so that the person no longer experiences emotions and sit them down at a table with a form to be signed and a choice of pens with which to sign it and they will not be able to sign the form because they have to choose which pen to use. Take away all but one pen and voila! They can then sign the form.

Decisions to buy one product over another are made based on emotions … unfortunately. So fear mongering in advertising is probably never going away. That means we have to be vigilant and careful and look rationally at the crap that is fed to us in all sorts of ads. I think the video ads do the most damage. Light, sound, movement can all be very compelling.

Or do what we did and just stop watching them. And look at print ads with a very jaundiced eye, as the saying goes.

Oh! But wait! Then you might miss out on the next and best new thing. OMG!

shamm.medium.com This is one of the early Listerine ads.
medium.com This is the ad I mentioned in my post.
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Thunderstorms

pinterest.com A view from near Tucson, AZ

There is so much to love about our home here in Wyoming. But there are a few things I miss about our previous home in Arizona. Thunderstorms are one of them.

In our previous house, the nook off of our kitchen faced mainly east. During the summer, most of the weather came at us from the east. That’s why it is called “monsoon.” During the rest of the year, the weather came at us mainly from the west. Monsoon basically means “a seasonal shift in the direction of the prevailing winds.” Or something like that. Anyway, the monsoon winds cycled a lot of moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico with dramatic effect.

The afternoon thunderstorms were welcome for the cooling they brought to the day. But the thunderstorms that happened after the sun had set were my favorite.

We would sit in the nook with all the lights in the house turned off and watch the show. We would talk about the day, about tomorrow, and whatever came to mind. Or we would be silent waiting to hear the thunder. Barely breathing. Listening hard.

When the storm was far off, there was no thunder. The lightning strikes would be silent and low down on the horizon. Some just a distant brief flash of light from behind the far off mountains.

As the storm approached, the lightning strikes would rise higher and higher in the sky. And the thunder would come to us, louder and louder.

Often, it seemed as if the storm was heading straight for us and us alone. Like we were magnets pulling the weather this way and that. Drawing it ever closer until the lightning was directly overhead and the thunder was deafening.

Then all talking would cease. There would be only the very visceral experience of the storm. Flash after flash of light and thunder so almost constant that it seemed it might never end.

You could feel it in your bones. In the pit of your stomach. Primal and awesome and too beautiful for words.

Often, I couldn’t stay indoors. I would have to step out into the rain, whipped by the wind, penetrating to every part of our deck. To feel the wind as it howled and the lashing rain, to see the lightning, purple and green, and to hear the thunder unfettered by windows and walls was like suddenly stepping naked into a world so wild it was overwhelming.

It was a feeling like nothing else.

We don’t really get those kinds of thunderstorms where we live in Wyoming. Don’t get me wrong, there are thunderstorms. But they are not the wild and powerfully elemental things that they are in Arizona.

I miss the Arizona thunderstorms. But at least I have the memory of them.

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Daylight Saving Time

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The state of Arizona ignores Daylight Saving Time (so does Hawaii and the various U.S. territories). So, with the exception of the Navajo Nation, Arizona stays on standard time year round. We lived in Arizona for about 28 years and really appreciated not having to leap forward and fall back every year. We got really accustomed to going through the day with the sun where it was supposed to be when it was supposed to be there … every day of the year.

One of the hardest adjustments we’ve had to make in moving to Wyoming is that this state observes Daylight Saving Time.

Totally messes me up at both ends of the deal. Takes me weeks to adjust to losing an hour and months to adjust to getting that hour back.  And because they have lengthened the duration of Daylight Saving Time over what it was when I was younger, it seems like I just about get adjusted to gaining that hour in November and then it’s time to lose that hour again in March. I hate it.

Permanent Daylight Saving Time is a big debate right now. Congress has tried this in the past. We had the mid-1970s and the energy crunch was really bad, so Government put the country on year round Daylight Saving Time. It was supposed to last for two years. It didn’t make it to one year. The people hated. They hated it then, they’ll hate it now too.

It’s my belief, backed by a number of neuroscientists and actuaries, that changing the clocks is bad for us. I won’t go into the whys here. You can look those up. I’m just convinced we would all be better off staying on Standard Time year round. I know that I would like it much better.

And that’s my thought for the day.

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Chasm

marketplace.secondlife.com

It was long and narrow and looked to be about a hundred years old. It was made of rope and wood that was so weathered, you almost could not tell one from the other. It looked like it might fall completely to pieces if you blew on it too hard.

There was no other way across.

She could give up and go back. But that was not in her nature. So she stood. For a long time. With her head tipped first one way and then the other, she considered and she reconsidered. Then she remembered one of her father’s favorite sayings … nothing ventured, nothing gained.

She put her right foot upon the first board.

That small weight set the bridge bucking with a ripple that she watched, frowning, travel all the way to the other end. She slowly removed her foot from the bridge as she remembered one of her mother’s favorite sayings … fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Thinking furiously with her breath coming in rapid and ragged gasps, she fought to calm herself. She couldn’t decide who to “listen” to, her father or her mother. One seemed to be telling her to go. The other seemed to be telling her to stay.

Then she remembered the one thing her parents always agreed on.

“Child,” they would say, “you can never know the ultimate outcome no matter how hard you might try to figure it ahead of time. So just do the best you can and hope for the best result.” She could see them both in her mind’s eye as if they were shining, full of light.

She took a very deep breath and let it out slowly. She had never liked heights … or indecision.

She firmed up her resolve and put her left foot on the first board. Once again, the bridge bucked and rippled, but it did not deter her. She set her right foot ahead of the left on the next board and when it did not crack and plunge her into the abyss, she put her right in front of her left.

She paused for a moment, one foot on one board and the other on another, and her frown turned into a small smile. Then she went resolutely onward, keeping her eyes on the far away end.

As she crossed the bridge, one cautious step after another, she reflected that much of life is like this. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you have reached what you wished to reach. And before she knew it, she had crossed the bridge and was ready to continue her journey.

#WordPrompt   Bridge 

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Winter Food: Chili

My chili simmering on the stove.

What could be better on a cold winter day than chili? Okay, maybe there is also beef stew and chicken soup. But chili sort of says it all … hot, hearty and spicy. Just the right thing to warm you up from the inside.

So, yes, the calendar says that we are very close to spring. But where we live in Wyoming, spring doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what the calendar says. And March can be the snowiest month.

It snowed over the weekend. We got about four inches or so. Riverton, where we live, is in a river valley (very large) at the confluence of several rivers. So we don’t get as much snow as some other Wyoming cities do. But it’s cold. Our forecast lows for the next few days are in the negative numbers with wind chill temperatures that you don’t really even want to think about.

So I put together a big pot of chili this morning.

I’ve often said to Bernd, my husband, that the herbs and spices that go into my chili are pretty to look at. So today, I actually took a picture of them.

Starting at twelve o’clock with the smallest amount and moving clockwise you have:  celery seed, ground oregano, basil, chipotle powder, ground black pepper, potassium chloride, coconut sugar, ground cumin, ancho chili powder, paprika and in the center, dried parsley flakes.

Many, many years ago, when my sister came for a visit, I prepared some chili (along with a number of other things) ahead of time so that cooking wouldn’t take up visiting time. When I asked my sister how she liked the chili because she was eating it without comment, she said something like, “I don’t think you should call this chili. Maybe call it a spicy meat sauce.”

I was a little hurt by that, but I got over it and it set me on a several decades long path to perfect my chili recipe.

Now to be honest, she has not tried my “perfected” chili and so I don’t really know if it is any closer to “real” chili than that spicy meat sauce from years ago. But my husband and I like it and so I suppose that is all that matters.

I thought I might share my recipe. Since I do not write recipes professionally and actually use very few in my cooking, I will do this in my own fashion. Kind of the way I do most things.

Start by browning one pound of ground beef and one pound of ground turkey in a large pot. I use a six quart Revere Ware Dutch oven that I bought before Bernd and I were married. It’s had a lot of use and is still going strong. You gotta love Revere Ware.

While the meat is browning, coarsely chop one large onion and one or more large bell peppers. I do not use green (unripe) bell peppers because we do not digest them very well. I use red, orange or yellow. Whatever I have on hand. Today I used all of a yellow bell pepper and most of a red one.

I keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge and use about 1.5 teaspoons of that. I add it to the chopped onion and bell pepper and set it aside until the meats is fully browned.

Also while the meat is browning, I measure out the herbs and spices. This is one of the few times I actually measure anything. It goes like this: ¼ tsp. celery seed, ½ tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. chipotle powder, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 tsp. salt substitute (potassium chloride), 2 tsp. coconut sugar, 1.5 tbsp. ground cumin, ¼ cup ancho chili powder, a whole pile of paprika, and a bigger pile of dried parsley flakes.

You could use real celery if you want. I use the seed because celery has too much sodium for my husband and me. He has sodium sensitive high blood pressure and I have Meniere’s Syndrome. Also, obviously, you could use “real” salt instead of the potassium chloride. I don’t know if the coconut sugar affects the taste significantly. I use it instead of refined white sugar because … well … it’s not refined.

When the meat is fully cooked, I set aside to cool a small taste of it for the dog and the cat (you could skip this step … see me smiling?). Then I add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. I stir that well and let it cook for a bit while I open two six ounce cans of tomato paste.

The tomato paste goes into the pot along with 24 ounces of water. I use the water to clean all the tomato paste out of the cans.

Then I dump in all the herbs and spices and mix thoroughly. Bernd likes a “wetter” sort of chili, so you might need to adjust the amount of water that you use.

I turn the heat down to low and simmer the mess for five hours. It’s edible after three hours, but perfect after five.

If you actually try this recipe, please come back to this post sometime and let me know what you think of it.

azquotes.com Margaret Cousins