Friday, September 28, 2012

a new Oliver

I'm the newest resident cat at fourwhitepaws!

Laurie and Nancy just dropped by to bless me with this amazing gift!! Laurie knitted me an Oliver! Wow!! I love it!!!

Now, let's see if Oliver loves Oliver!

Always good to be cautious when meeting a new cat

Start by sniffing the butt


Oliver's not looking very sure about this

Knitted Oliver has bendable legs and tail!

The second meeting:

New best friends!!

Laurie, thank you, thank you, thank you for the delightful gift! I feel honored and blessed that you would knit me an Oliver! How very, very sweet.

For those that don't remember, the patterns for these adorable knitted feline friends come from Knit Your Own Cat: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 16 Frisky Felines. I think I'll be asking Laurie to teach me how to knit, these would make the perfect Christmas gifts! And now I want a knitted kitty action figure in the likes of each of my cats! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

lurking monsters

Buddy has a very complex set of feeding rituals.

6 am - Breakfast. Buddy eats locked away in my upstairs bedroom, away from all the other cats, who get their breakfast in the kitchen. Buddy integrates in tummy rubs with his breakfast, he eats a few bites, hops up on the bed to have his tummy rubbed and then goes back to eat a few more bites. This pattern repeats and repeats until he demands to be set free.

6 pm - Dinner. Buddy gets a bowl of wet food and a bowl of dry food on the cushy ottoman in front of the fire. Most of the other cats get only dry food and on the floor in the kitchen. Rose is the exception, she gets her dry food under the ottoman because she feels safer to be under something while eating.

8 pm - Second dinner. Buddy starts his campaign. He demands that I go upstairs with him, close the door and serve him a second serving of dinner. He never eats all his nuggets from his first dinner, so he's just asking for the remainder. So, of course, being the obedient servant I am, I give in to his demands. He doesn't require tummy tubs with dinner, but he does demand to be not crowded by other cats.

Willow being the intelligent cat she is picked up on Buddy's ritual and decided she might benefit from this arrangement. Now, in the evenings, she makes her way upstairs to the bed, where she sleeps in anticipation of being in the right place at the right time. And of course, resistance is futile.

One evening I placed a small dish of nuggets under the bed while I visited with Willow as she ate her second dinner from atop the bed. Sure enough it only took a few moments before I heard CRUNCH! CRUNCH! coming from under the bed. Apparently the monster under the bed needs to eat too.

Recently I was lucky enough to get a picture of that monster.

 Hmmm, the monster sure looks a lot like Rose!

Monday, September 24, 2012

play therapy

No question last week was a challenging week, it was very overwhelming. My anxiety level was through the roof but things seemed to settle down some over the weekend. I was hoping with the new week would come a fresh start, but then Sunday night the washing machine burned up, so we may be in for another rough week. Time will tell.

Thank you everyone for your encouraging comments and emails. Every one of your kind words helped me get through last week. Thank you! Thank you!

There were actually some positives from last week too. I am so tremendously thankful that Laura and the kitties are all alive and well. Everyone here is in good health. That is a significant positive! Laura took Oliver to the vet on Saturday to get his wound looked over. The vet thought it was an old injury that got infected somehow. I'm not so sure, but I don't have any other ideas and Oliver's not saying. I hope the fur grows back! Oliver was coming close to needing his annual check-up and shots too, so we killed two birds with one stone (figuratively, not literally - no birds were harmed!)

Oliver watches a squirrel in his yard
I had a class all day Friday and Saturday. That helped me get my mind off the week that was, although the class is about learning a therapeutic modality for processing trauma and I had a week of trauma. So when it came time to practice what we had learned, it was nearly impossible not to think of the week's events. Thankfully though, the people I was working with were all kind and understanding.

Even though I rarely talk about my spirituality here, my faith is very important to me. It permeates my life on all levels. As I view faith, it's a matter of believing in something that doesn't make sense and something that it beyond my comprehension. This last week in particular has raised all sorts of theological questions as I wonder what's going on in my life on a spiritual level. A lot of things have occurred (a number of which I have not shared here) that really feel bizarre, like something is happening on a spiritual level. Trying to figure out all this stuff feels like trying to navigate a storm with a rusty, scratched and difficult to read compass. Anyway, thankfully, I did not feel spiritually alone in the midst of last week. Symbols of my faith stood out like beacons throughout the week found in unexpected places; the cab of the tow truck, on the city bus, and in a conversation with a fellow student at class.

Friday, while on the lunch break at class, I called a friend and shared the events from my week and to ask if it might be possible to borrow a car for the weekend. Before I could get to the ask, she offered me the use of one of their cars. Tears of gratitude filled my eyes. I held back the urge to sob fearing that if I allowed myself to go there and released that energy it would exceed the duration of the lunch break. Being overwhelmed with gratitude when feeling vulnerable is so much more pleasant than being overwhelmed with more anxiety.

This weekend, when not in class, we were car shopping, which is one of the least favorite things I can imagine doing. We met a handful of colorful used car salesmen and drove a number of cars. After all that pain and suffering, we remain carless And here comes another moment of gratitude, for the most part our schedules don't require a car, so we are able to get to work and most of our routine activities without the use of a car. Meanwhile I'm gathering the parts to get the old car fixed. Hopefully the old Jetta will run again!

I talked with my mom this past weekend, she seems in positive spirits. She has started an estrogen-blocking medication that is suppose to get rid of the cancerous tumors. I hope it works!

My main soothing strategy for getting through this weekend involved play therapy. Playing with the cats that is! I have been putting in every spare ounce of energy lately on various projects around the house, which has left them starved for play. After just a few minutes of playing they all came alive! Like wilted plants getting their first rain after a long drought. Playing with them is always such a great joy.

Nahum being the gentlecat that he is, let his adorable sister take the first round:

Now Nahum follows me everywhere with his string. It's hard to be overwhelmed with everything when fluffy Nahum is carrying his favorite string over to me so I can wiggle it for him.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

it's not raining

Frodo: "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."
Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
  - Frodo and Gandalf in the mines of Moria,
The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

It's only Wednesday and I'm done - stick a fork in me. Please let it be over. This week can not come to an end fast enough. Here are a few of the highlights from this week.

Sunday, I discover there is extensive water damage to the backside of the house between the exterior entry to the basement and Oliver's enclosed porch.This will cost lots of $$ to fix, $$ which is not there. And the rainy season is coming any day now.

Monday afternoon I got the definitive diagnosis about my mom. She has cancer in her lungs. I don't know any other details right now, but that was plenty to knock the wind out of me. About 12 years ago she survived breast cancer. Now she's 78 and has significant heart issues to contend with (prior cardiac arrest, permanent A-fib with an extremely elevated heart rate, etc.) and so cancer on top of all the heart stuff feels very daunting. Prayers for her and my father would be greatly appreciated.

I have some significantly stressful stuff going on at my work which has required a lot of emotional and cognitive energy.

Tuesday night I wasn't able to sleep much. Too much stress from work. I got an email from my TNR mentor, Nancy, stating she has a perfect barn home for Brown Kitty, if I want to relocate him. The idea of relocating him right now, with everything else that is going on in my life feels way too much, however, deep down I think it might be best for him and for Oliver. Will I be able to muster the emotional energy to step into relocating right now? I don't know. Seeing how Oliver antagonizes him really worries me. I really don't like cat fights. Saying goodbye to a beautiful feral cat who calls my yard home feels agonizing.

Wednesday morning, I'm scrambling to get out the door to meet a friend for breakfast. I notice Oliver has a big patch of fur missing from his rump and there's blood. My heart sinks. I so worry about him spending so much time outside with all the dangers associated with living outside. I instantly wonder if he's gotten into a big fight with Brown Kitty. I didn't have a lot of time, so I vowed to look him over more thoroughly when I returned.

After I returned I give Oliver a thorough inspection. He has a big piece of fur missing. He had cleaned the wound so there was no longer any blood, just missing fur. The very weird thing is, the location of this missing fur is the EXACT location where he was missing fur from some other incident prior to my knowing him. This time around there is a lot more fur missing than there used to be. He's not missing any fur anywhere else and otherwise seems to be in good spirits.

You can see in the very first picture I ever took of him in Jan, 2011 he has a mark on his rump, where he was missing some fur and the fur undercoat was showing.

Jan 23, 2011
Here's a fuzzy shot of his butt from a year ago, you can see the same injury in the same location as the current one, only it was much smaller back then.
Sept 7, 2011
He lets me touch spot without any problems. I just can't figure out what happened and how come he would have more missing fur in the same place as before. If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them. I so worry about him. He's been spraying more than usual lately, I'm guessing in response to Brown Kitty's defiance of staying in the yard and eating at the feeder rather than going away, as Oliver wants him to do.

Every other Wednesday afternoon I have a meeting in Seattle, I drive down, attend my meeting and then pick Laura up in downtown where she works and we commute home together. Today the car decided to die right in the middle of the street in downtown Seattle during rush hour. Oh the joy! Of course there were many drivers honking their horns, upset at me for blocking traffic, like I was choosing to park in the middle of the road!

The car was dead. Dead. Occasionally I was able to get it to turn over a bit and it revved high and belched tons of black smoke before it died again about 3 seconds later. After about 15 minutes of blocking traffic I was able to get it to run enough to drive it to the nearest parking space where it made a horrid sound from under the hood. About an hour later the tow truck arrived. And another few hours later I was finally home.

The last time my car stranded me was back in May of 2010 (Theo's big adventure) when I had Theo with me and no carrier, only a harness. Thankfully, I didn't have any kitties with me this time, just Laura, who hopped a bus home so the kitties could get their dinners close to on time.

The car was towed to the shop and I took the bus home. We only have one car, so when it's down, we're down too. I fear the worst for this car, but I can't complain, the poor thing has provided over 256,000 miles (411,992 km) of faithful service. It's been amazingly reliable and a great car. I'm still hoping that maybe it can be resurrected, but I'll find out tomorrow.

The long winter rains of the Pacific Northwest have a way of zapping all my energies and replacing them with endless despair. Mother nature here doesn't believe in four seasons, we go from the sun and nice of summer to endless winter drizzle with no transition. Usually this switch happens in early September.

Tonight, as I was walking home from the bus stop, I had a moment of gratitude. I was thankful that it was not raining. The very same moment of gratitude carried me home on Monday night, even with my heart heavy with the news of my mom. My heart is way overwhelmed with sorrow, grief and worry, and yet thankfully it's not raining.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

yearly maintenance

Can you believe it's been over a year now since I built the kitty village for Oliver? I'm having a hard time believing it's been a whole revolution around the sun, but indeed it has.

I took advantage of the sunny Saturday and did some maintenance on the village. I've learned a few things since I built these various structures so I figured I might update them based on my new knowledge.

Too many times have I seen Oliver cornering Brown Kitty in the Dining Hall. Just the other day I looked out and saw Oliver on the roof of the Dining Hall while Brown Kitty was trapped inside. I was successfully able to distract Oliver away so Brown Kitty could escape. My solution was to remove the plexi-glass window from the back of the Dining Hall, so now cats can come and go from the front and the back!

With a front and rear entrance, Brown Kitty will no longer be trapped

One thing I've learned over this past year is that outdoor kitty houses ideally should have two entrances to prevent a cat from being trapped inside by a predator, or in my case by Oliver. I was resistant to add a second entrance because it would let more cold air in, but after seeing how Oliver corners Brown Kitty in places, I thought it might be a worthwhile tradeoff. So, I added a back exit to both houses.

Oliver's House with new rear entrance

I also added a fleece curtain on all entrances of both houses. Hopefully the curtain cuts down on the cold drafts. We'll see how well they work.

Oliver's Guest House

I still need to relocate Oliver's Guest House back into the side yard. The experiment of having it near the garage was a fail. No one used it. I'm thinking I'll move it back to where it was first located.

Quality control is important

Post-snoopervising union mandated break

I also did some work on the new feeder. I gave it a coat of primer and two coats of paint. It'll be a lot easier to clean now.

Oliver's family approves of the new paint job

Oliver walking in the lilac tree branch

Monday, September 17, 2012

2 years of Rose!!

Today is Rose's Gotcha Day!! Two years ago I rescued her from the engine compartment of a truck in front of the house. She was so little and scared.

Sept 18, 2010

Sept 29, 2010
She has grown into a pretty adult kitty over the two years.

She continues to be very fearful of humans, however since I started intentionally not making eye contact she has mellowed quite a bit.

Rose is our only indoor kitty with yellow eyes.

She loves to hang out on the warm stove.

Today, she will get special treats, which is easier said than done. She doesn't let us get near her for any reason, including to give her treats, we have to throw them across the floor over to where she is hiding and then we hold back Theo and Nahum from running to steal her treats. Maybe for her special day we will lock everyone else up and let her savor her treats from her special safe spot under the love seat.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

wiring project is complete!

Electrical service and network wires have been run out in the yard over to Oliver's house. The electrical service is so Oliver's House can be heated. Having an outdoor electrical outlet means no ugly extension cord running through the yard this winter!

Outdoor electrical service installed

I'm quite happy to have that part of the project complete. That's been something I wanted to do since I first heated Oliver's house but didn't get around to until now. With that now done, I can focus on running wires for the remaining parts of the in-house ethernet network.

Going into the crawlspace under the house is never a joyous experience. It's dark, dirty with lots of spider webs everywhere. I'm not the biggest fan of spiders and I'm really not a fan of rodents. Thankfully, I've never encountered a rodent under there, but I still fear it could happen!

To combat my anxiety about entering the crawlspace, I use the buddy system even though it tends to slow down my productivity. I find the trade off to be worthwhile.

Oliver snoopervising up and close

Union mandated nap after a shift of snoopervising.

Back on the job

I was in the crawlspace running ethernet wire to jacks in the living room. Good times!

Nahum inspects the hole in the wall

Willow assists with pulling wires

Willow taking a rest break

Thankfully with Oliver, Nahum and Willow's help, this project is now complete! So now I can shift my energies over to other projects.