Black Cat Houdini

Or: Where there’s a will there’s a way

Felis Triumphans

Black Cat wants to be with us. Mostly with me, but also with my husband. Pre-renovation she would follow me about the house. If I was doing something that appealed to her (as in creating a lap, working somewhere she could have a view of the world, etc) she would stay with me. If I was doing something boring like ironing in the basement she’d see what I was doing and then leave for more comfortable/interesting locations. During the renovation she’s had great fun walking between my husband’s keyboard and my keyboard – she can annoy both of us without too much effort. *grin*

How it began – ah, the innocence

During the work day all is copacetic. Her preferred spot is the cat tree next to my “desk” but sometimes she neeeeeds to be on the table with her tush on the edge of my keyboard. Hey – if that’s what she needs, that’s what she needs. My friend Honour understands this and understands who sets the priorities in a household. 🙂 Lately BC has taken to walking across my keyboard. We have been having many discussions about this habit.

Let’s see you push THAT door open

It’s been 2.5 months since the renovation and the Second Great Incarceration began. Apparantly BC has lost patience with being incarcerated. Oh sure, it’s fine during the day when there is almost always one of us incarcerated as well. But she has THINGS to do at night, especially walking on us while we are sleeping and meowing loudly at 2:00 am. Being incarcerated impinges on the things she needs to do.

Insufficient # of shoes and brick placement

In our defense I need to remind everyone that WC and BC are incarcerated to PROTECT THEM. Upstairs the walls are opened, there are holes in the floor, splinters and dust. Yes I try to keep on top of all those things but still. Our friends have a horror story of how THEIR kitten managed to get up in the walls and get herself dry-walled there before anyone knew it. They had to tear down the wall to get her. We’d really prefer to avoid such a situation.

So to protect our fur babies we blocked the doorways, creating the Second Great Incarceration. It has been working well. Then about 2 weeks ago my husband informed me that I had forgotten to latch the door to the dining room and when he came down in the morning there was BC – on the stair landing, NOT incarcerated. Then he told me the same thing the next morning. Well, one night of forgetfulness I can believe but not TWO nights. I investigated. I discovered that if one tapped on the door with enough pressure (and it didn’t need much) the hook would pop out of the latch and the door would open. Such a BRILLIANT kitty!!! I switched the latch to a carabiner AND began putting the paper recyling bin in front of the door when I went to bed.

reinforced the netting

She got out again. We realized it when my husband got up in the middle of the night to “use the facilities” and I heard him call her name. He came back to bed and she followed. The next morning we went to check. Carabiner & bin in place. Plastic door, brick and shoes in place. Did she teleport??? We discussed this. I investigated and noticed that there was actually a lot of space above the bookcases in the living room, part of the plastic doorway setup. I thought maybe she jumped up there, walked behind the plastic and then jumped down to the hallway. I spent a good hour the other morning putting up screening, enforcing all the tape on all the existing screening and plastic. I was sure that would be the solution.

Reinforced door – notice addition of screening to block passag

That night we hadn’t even made it to sleep before BC was up in the bed with us. I confess that we both adore her and it was NOT a hardship to have her snuggling. She does NOT try to escape when there are workers here, nor if we are also incarcerated. Even so – this was a mystery that needed solving. There might come a time when we do NOT want to risk her wandering about and getting stuck/hurt. In the morning I said the only way she could have gotten out was by wriggling UNDER the plastic door in the front hall. There were shoes there, and a brick on one of the zippers, but she’d seen me go in and out that door. When I checked I saw that yes, a cat COULD fit underneath, but only if it didn’t mind wriggling and pushing through a tight space. I didn’t think cats really did that kind of thing.

I am Cat. I am Strong. I am Determined.

Last night I determined to “win” this game. I moved the brick, I put my husband’s shoes, my sneakers, my sandals all onto the plastic flap on the floor. You’d have to be one very very determined kitty to push ALL of that out of the way to get out. BC is a very very determined kitty. When *I* got up last night to use the facilities, eyes closed, still half asleep, a little furry head brushed my hand. Yep, there were 3 of us in the bed again last night. Where there’s a will, there’s a Black Cat.

Napping after a hard night’s work moving shoes and bricks.

She Is Amazing

This is a cat who refuses to surrender to time and ill health. My husband likes to play videos on the tv for BC to watch. He had one going the other day and WC came CHARGING in from the other room to spring up on the little cat stand and stare at the hedgehog. Apparently hedgehogs are EXTREMELY interesting. *shaking my head* WC insists on getting stronger and more active every day. She’ll be 20 in August. Kidney and thyroid issues. WC: “Don’t bother me with trivia.”

“What’s It Like?”

I am having top-notch nursing care

I can’t believe how many people have asked me that this week. What’s it like to have Covid? MISERABLE. No matter how much you want to be “in” with the “in crowd” – pass up the opportunity to get sick.

Not the usual counter-top picture I share with you, but neither of us is much into food or cooking this week.

My husband and I have the same symptoms. It’s like having a horrible, horrible head cold or, imagine this, a viral infection in the sinuses. We are both congested. He’s coughing every few minutes and I’m blowing my nose non-stop. We’re both trying desperately to keep it out of our chests, because once the congestion is in your chest you KNOW how disgustingly uncomfortable that gets. I have had a painful scratchy sore throat for days. One of my personal issues is that if I take too many Tylenol or Advil I tend to get an ulcer. Yeah, this is probably NOT one of the more pleasant weeks in my life.

thank goodness the grape tomatoes are healthier than i am

Fever, yep that’s present too. We are living on Tylenol and Sudafed during the day, and Nyquil and Afrin nose-spray at night. We are drinking oceans of liquids. Sleeping a lot. For me yesterday that meant most of the day. Not sure I was awake for even 10 hours. Brain fog. What’s brain fog? That’s when you can’t focus at all on any one thought. It’s too much effort to think, you can’t remember why you wanted to think, and it hurts too much to think. I have no idea what day it is.

I have the butterfly weed but no butterflies 😦

I am so very grateful that we have our house, our garden, the deck, my sister & her husband, and that the contractors are NOT here this week working on the renovation. With the things we HAVE to help us survive, and the things we do NOT have to deal with, this week is less horrible than it could be. I tried to imagine the 2 of us feeling like this in a small apartment with no real space to separate and no way to go outside. I’m sorry that we had to cancel weekend plans, and maybe even next weekend plans, but we are very fortunate to have the support system we do. My sister and brother-in-law have run errands for us, replenishing the depleted medicine stock. I wonder if they’ll do a grocery run for us too? 🙂

the pink echinacea makes me happy

On the positive side we do seem to be getting a little better. My husband has a prescription for some meds that are supposed to help him not relapse as he recovers. Of course the list of potential side-effects sound almost worse than the current symptoms. I felt strong enough last night that before I went to bed (in the recliner, because he’s in our bed and I’m living in the recliner in our sun room) I Windex’d every surface and handle and knob I could reach. And I only slept 10.5 hours last night! Definitely on the road to recovery. I hope. Please.

I LOVE these very tall daisies. I thought I’d lost them – choked out by other plants. But I have this group and a small group on the other side of the house. They grow to 2-3′ tall

We’re Going to Need More Pipes

unstressed wc

We finished growing framing for the time being. Not sure if I mentioned this already but this project will happen twice – first for 3 rooms and then for 2 rooms. Anyway, John has finished growing closets, and some walls, and a doorway. Now we need to grow some pipes. Maybe this weekend I can get back out to my garden so I can grow plants, not house. 🙂

lots of framing got done

The plumbers, Ken & Chris, were here bright and early this morning. I knew they were coming but I didn’t have a time. I decided I had time to do my morning walk, shower & dress before they’d get here. Wrong. 🙂 I got out of my shower and saw the trucks parked out front. Whoops. I made it to the front door at 7:59am and personally I think that should keep me out of the dog house.

it begins with a hole in the floor of the new bathroom

Since we are adding a bathroom, we need to add pipes. As usual I had no idea what this means in terms of destruction/construction. I learned that they would be cutting open my NEW breakfast room wall (see 2018 for new wall photos). Ken was not sure about the wall – what they’d find, what it would imply. I said to him “never fear!!! I BLOGGED all of 2018’s renovation. I’m sure I have some picture of the inside of the walls from that angle.” And indeed I did. 🙂 Yay me! The upside of being able to produce exactly what they wanted to see is that they have no objection to me wandering about today, taking pictures at various stages. I didn’t think John really enjoyed me coming around. I tended to wait for him to take breaks.

Next we cut open my beautiful wall to see the hole in the new bathroom

I’m still amazed at how fast this seems to be going at the moment. My recollection of the kitchen renovation is that someone would come and “do something” for a day or 2 and then everyone would vanish for over a week. Someone else would come and “do something” and everyone would vanish. If Ken’s schedule is correct for this week, I’ll have had workers here for 9 days straight: demolition, framing, plumbing.

Now to find the stack in the basement!

I still can’t envision how this will come together – what pieces happen when. When does the new flooring get put down? In stages as a room is done, or will they do the whole floor in one process? When they tell me that we will have the new bathroom working before we demo the old bathroom, what constitutes a “working bathroom”? In truth I’m a lot less stressed about it now that things are happening and I can talk with them than I was before the demolition. I’m also less stressed, I think, than I was with the kitchen. One, I’ve lived through a major renovation now. Two, I think we did a better job creating living spaces for us during the process. Three, honestly – I’m just too old and tired to spend my energy stressing about the renovation as a whole.

As with plants, the pipe grows from the bottom up

No, my Super Power IS obsessing/stressing, but my specialty is on parts of the whole, not the whole renovation. *laughing* I’ll focus on specific areas for my stress. Speaking of stress, the cats are holding up remarkably well. I didn’t think WC would mind too much given her deafness and overall preference for the 1st floor anyway. But BC seems to be doing alright as well. She has her set times to join me in “my office” in the morning and afternoon. Now that I’m doing my exercises on the living room floor she joins me there to coach. We both miss sleeping together, but we fit in lots of cuddling during the workday and before bedtime.

Pipes grow even faster than framing – right up that wall in a day!

My current worry is about my roof. John pointed out last week during the rain that the roof was leaking – water on the floor beneath the eaves. That roof is only 10 years old. I’m not happy. Don said he’d take a look at it but Don comes in and out sporadically. He’s very reassuring when he’s here but part of me wants to tie him up to a post and make him explain EVERYTHING to me in detail. And then have him fix it too. 🙂 It’s supposed to rain tonight/tomorrow morning so maybe I’ll be able to find the spot in the attic.

Meanwhile back on the 2nd floor, the hole gets bigger and gets a companion

I’m also finding the construction noises a bit wearing. I’m not sure why. You’d think that hearing productive noises would be enjoyable. Yet I find myself cringing when the hammering or drilling gets above a certain level. Unexpected BANGs also make me cringe. There seems to be much more dust involved in this renovation. It could be that there is, or there isn’t but I spent less time in 2018 moving in and about the construction. I feel like I’m always breathing dust. I also learned today that I don’t care for the smell of the glue the plumbers use to seal the pipes. It’s like rubber cement smell on mega steroids.

Look! There’s my breakfast room!

I want to see some of the items that I’ve ordered actually get here. The teak cabinet and the track lighting for the new bathroom are not here yet. The cabinet is due anywhere from now til mid-July, and the lights aren’t expected until mid-July.

Pipes!

I want to start playing with the shower tiles. 🙂 That’s a “reward” for me – getting to layout the tiles and create wall patterns that I think are aesthetically pleasing. I gather the tiles won’t be needed for a few more weeks. They’re at the tile store waiting for me but I don’t have a good place to store them here until I need them. No fair!!!! I want to CREATE!!!

unstressed bc

She Is Herself

MY chair, MY house – what are YOU looking at?

I have so many pictures, stories and thoughts that I have been sharing with you in my mind. 🙂 What, my telepathy is not working? Rats. I’ll try the old-fashioned way, but I make no promise that I’ll be able to get it all written.

Perspective – she got there all by herself – She conquers tall chairs!

FIRST, however – WC is VERY much herself. I think she has decided that she is going to live as long as I do, and make sure that my every day is all about her. Every hour. Every day. She was back to her demanding regal self within 24 hours. She is very fragile, no question about it. She no longer walks with any cat-grace. But she realized that life was happening on the 2nd floor and she came up to check it out. We locked her in the basement during Seder (carried her down gently, her yowling at the top of her lungs the whole way, plus pee’ing on the steps) and she came up the stairs several times to yowl at the door. Obviously difficult as walking is, she’s going to do it if she wants something. Not to mention getting up high on furniture to survey her kingdom and to nap in the sun. 🙂

Back to a preferred sun spot on the back of the couch for a nap

Guilt and Remorse

I am without doubt the worst cat parent that has ever been. I was trying to do what I thought was right. Instead I miscalculated and my poor little WC has paid the price. Look – her litter mate GC had the same ailments/illness as WC. GC got weak and died in a matter of weeks. GC went down to the basement, emerged only intermittently and then passed away.

WC began showing symptoms in August of 2021. Some days she was so weak, so fragile, so sad that we didn’t think she’d last a week. Some days she seemed so pathetic that we’d say “if she’s like this tomorrow still we’ll call the vet”. Then she’d perk up and eat and meow and march about giving us orders as if she’d never had a bad day in her life.

But there were a lot of those sad bad days. We kept expecting her to die any week now. We did NOT bring her to the vet because she HATES the vet. She always soiled herself on the way to the vet. Cried piteously the whole way. Cried there. So even as she got more frail, we said “well we know what’s wrong and why torture her by bringing her to the vet to hear what we already know – she’s old and sick”. We let her medicine and food plan lapse a few weeks ago because the vet wouldn’t renew them without a visit.

It’s now 9 months since we began thinking “any day now”. I ‘broke” and made an appointment for her. She smelled, she was completely matted. WC who used to have the silkiest smoothest fur in all of creation. She spent the day at the vets’. Being shaved, cleaned – inside and out. Poor thing – was given fluids inside and out. Yes, that means both ends. The vet called me 3 times during the day to give us progress reports. She warned us that WC was extremely bony and had lost lots of weight, despite the fact that we feed her on demand every 30 minutes. Perhaps cancer? But she’s over 19 years old, and we said no xrays, no heroic efforts.

They sent her home with a little jacket to keep her warm. They suggested fiber for her diet to help with ‘output’. Gave us a fatty supplement to help with her skin and health. Powder to sprinkle on her skin to help with the nicks on her from the shaving (she also had lots of old-lady growths on her skin that got nicked). Look at her. I feel so guilty, so awful, so wrong. If only I’d brought her in when I stopped being able to keep up with her matted fur?? The truth is that there is no change in her care going forward. She seemed so deflated yesterday. The bit of good news is that this morning she was back to meowing at me impatiently for her breakfast. AND she jumped up onto the couch where I do NOT have any protective cloths. I guess that might be her “in your face, mom!” moment. Sigh. My poor little girl. I feel so guilty that I seem to have done it all wrong and she had to pay the price. 😦

Her favorite spot – next to her daddy while he watches TV

Refuge in the Little Moments

Sigh. I made the mistake of looking at the news. Although it is beautiful sunshine outside, it is also COLD – in the 30sF. Too cold. My to-do list is uninspiring. At moments like these it’s good to turn to the little things in life that can take me away from this moment and into a moment that makes me smile.

White Cat. Sigh. She’s not often a moment that makes me smile, I must confess. She’s over 19.5 years old. Arthritic. Ill. Unclean. Dying of starvation (literally) – we need to feed her every hour. She’s noisy – very meowy because it hurts to move (arthritis), it hurts to defecate, it hurts to be hungry, it is annoying when HER person (my husband) is NOT on the couch where he belongs so she can snuggle. Meow meow meow. I’m probably not supposed to admit or say this, but it will be a huge relief in my life when she finally decides she’s ready to quit hers. And then I catch sight of her all curled up and sweet and innocent on the couch in the sun. All I can do is melt and smile and enjoy her little pink nose and her little pink paw pads and her little pink ears.

Spring flowers always lighten my mood and gladden my heart. These pictures are from one of my afternoon walks. I’m not sure what that purple ground cover is – the flowers look like azaleas but it’s WAY too early for azaleas. I think. The magnolia tree takes me back to my childhood. We had the good fortune to live on a street that had an island running down the middle. Down the middle of the island were magnolia trees, one after the other. They were glorious for about one week, before the petals began turning brown and dropping. My sister’s birthday is a week AFTER that peak magnolia time. My grandmother, who LOVED flowers and gardening, would always come out for my sister’s birthday, and always bemoaned the fact that she was too late for the magnolias. Tradition! That is a cherished loving memory of us all happy together, even if my grandmother missed the magnolias.

Of course it’s wonderful to see my OWN garden starting to wake up as well. I think that this year instead of tying back the forsythia, I’m going to cut it way back. We are having construction done (again) on the house, beginning in May. Yes – I will indeed be documenting it and inflicting the photos and my complaints on you. For some reason I am incapable of remembering what they call the a/c unit we are having installed upstairs (split? slim?). It will have some unit that sits outside the way central air units sit outside, but we will have vents in each of the rooms upstairs. The outside unit is going to be sitting in either the forsythia or the rhododendron, although I suppose maybe we could tuck it back on the far side of the rhododendron and lose the azalea and the andromeda bush back there. In any case, the forsythia needs some heavy pruning. It’s way too straggly. And it’s fun for me to think about gardening. 🙂

There is an old sexist saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In our family we laughed at that saying because both my sister and I married men who are great cooks. We always joked that the way to OUR hearts was through our stomachs. 🙂 While my husband is indeed an excellent cook, there are a few meals that are “mine” to make, mostly in the comfort food category. I make the holiday briskets, the tuna casseroles, the ground beef casseroles and the corned beef & cabbage dinners. My husband so enjoyed his corned beef & cabbage dinner this past March 17, he insisted that I take a picture of it. 🙂 I agree – it was delicious. And now I’m hungry.

My cookbook insists on calling this “Boiled New England Dinner”

Patient Update

If you look carefully, you can see he’s missing more parts. I think from various falls.

To my great surprise the butterfly is still with us. No, I have not named him. Yes, I did indeed go out and buy a bouquet of flowers for his enjoyment. It’s considered “enriching the environment”. It did not occur to me until after I strewed them about that they were going to die because they wouldn’t have water. I’ll either need to accept that fact and do nothing about it, accept it and clean up the dead flowers, or go buy more live flowers for the butterfly. I’ll let you guess which option is the most likely to occur. I’m definitely rethinking my former love of butterflies.

Before I added more water to the saucer. He needs the towels to keep from drowning. I think.

No surprise, WC is still with us as well. We had a day where we were sure that “this was it”. We’ve had many of those days. Yet again WC has rebounded, yowling to be fed if I don’t move quickly enough upon a demure meow. She’s still jumping up on furniture, cruising the downstairs. Checking out the humidifier is of great interest to both WC and BC. WC also likes to let me know when the litter pads need changing. WC likes to keep the staff alert and responsive. She has my husband completely under her paw. I suggested he and I might watch TV together. He looked distinctly uncomfortable and said that there was no room for me on the couch with him and WC, and that besides the couch was messy from her “issues”, and that really I wouldn’t enjoy being next to her. I have been displaced. And you all wonder why I am so cranky so much of the time.

She’s really a hobbit. I think this was her Elevenses

I’m very disappointed in my readership, I must confess. NOT ONE of you posted to let me know how long I might anticipate sharing my kitchen with the butterfly. Do you not realize that I need to climb up on the counter in order to see it? To refresh the water in the saucer? To make sure there is still food rotting in case it deigns to eat? Do you not realize that at this close proximity it is much more like a BUG than a butterfly??? I had to turn to the internet for hope – and you know how dangerous THAT can be. “For example, a swallowtail butterfly generally lives from six to 14 days while a monarch butterfly can live from seven to nine months.” Day 6. (and counting)

There is NOTHING patient about this one. “Stop aiming that ‘thing’ at me!”