Salad Days

Dear Readers,

Like a lot of life, I meant to get this finished and posted over a month ago.  But I have been back East twice during that time, with the second visit a final goodbye to my father…

I thought that talking about everyday kitty undertakings would be too mundane, too ordinary—my mood being as somber as it has been of late.  But then I thought, well, what better way to acknowledge the gift of the everyday than with a post about the everyday.  So here is that post, kept mostly intact with its original title:


It’s mid summer, and the kitties and their humans have gotten into a routine.  Life is “normal”; well, as normal as you can get when you have two humans living with five felines.  Vacuuming should be constant, but I’m not a fan of the chore…  (And for those of you who wonder why the husband does not pitch in:  Roger’s domain is primarily house repair and outside maintenance—both ongoing, year-round activities!)  And then there is the continual changing of cat alliances and the breaking up of kitty skirmishes.   And the constant cleaning of daily hair ball pukage (yuchhh, gross).

Then there are, of course, the sweet routines:

Ø  Puffy supervising the making of the bed in the mornings.  Well, mostly he waits in a corner of the bedroom—patiently I might add—until I am roused enough to realize his presence.  Then he plops in the middle of the bed-making action and raises his rump sufficiently high to ensure rigorous rubbing.

Ø  Cuddling with the Tiggster at night on my office floor before bedtime.

Ø  Head nuggying (is that a word?) with Junior, chirping his way of happiness.

Ø  Even Blackie ensuring—through plaintive mews—that I don’t forget him during mealtimes.

And then there is Chewie with his food fetishes.  Zucchinis have been handled and are no longer left unguarded on the kitchen counter.  And this summer I’ve discovered that he loves… salad!   No iceberg  lettuce for him. Green leaf lettuce is a favorite, although he also has a liking for arugula, red leaf lettuce and mesclun.  I may not have seen the goofy critter for hours, holed up in some closet somewhere… but as soon as I start preparations for the evening’s salad, invariably up on the counter he emerges from nonphysical to inspect the progress—and to steal a leaf for munching when I’m not looking.  What an odd appetite indeed…


This time of year, with the summer waning and hints of fall in the cool night air, has always been a special time for me.  It is particularly poignant as it will be the first time without my father’s physical presence.  Being a product of his generation and a survivor of The Holocaust, my Dad never truly understood my choices of creative output.  Yet, he loved animals—especially cats.  And he always asked about my brood.

So these moments of mirth—when the unexpected collides with the everyday during a time when I feel very sad, indeed—have been a wonderful reminder and acknowledgement of the gift that is the present moment.  A gift that is  fleeting, momentary—and never guaranteed.

I’ll end with a video snippet of my father from 2009 (I was testing my former BlackBerry’s video capabilities) talking about my parents’ cat, Lilly.  He just loved and spoiled that cat!  She died two summers ago… I’d like to think that my father and Lilly have now reunited on the Rainbow Bridge to cross together into eternity…


The End of an Era

A little over a month ago I bid adieu to the house that was my childhood home.  With my sister, Robin, we made one more trip northward from the Philly area to remove any remaining items before we close (hopefully, soon!).  After completing our appointed tasks, we expressed our heartfelt goodbyes to our neighbors of 30+ years.  And then we made one more sojourn through the halls and rooms of the house that was once a home.  Now vacant, we visited the each room and floor one more time, taking in the significance of this life transition.

And, of course, there were a handful of cats that roamed its corridors, cracks and crevices throughout the 40 years my parents made it a home.  Buried are two in the backyard, and we paid our respects to their spirits that brightened our lives so long ago…

I haven’t lived in that old Cape Cod style house in Union, NJ, since I was 22; no matter.  It was the home of my origin, for better or for worse.  I returned to that home for many years for brief visits of respite and solace—during my 20s and first marriage; throughout the time I lived a “single” life in my early to mid 30s; and all throughout the time I have lived in Colorado.  And it was the home of my parents until late last spring (2012) when life abruptly decided enough was enough…

History.  We humans are blessed (or cursed) with the ability to recall history.  My childhood home is replete with this history.  So much sorrow and pain.  But yet there were moments of joy and happiness.  Cats, though, are not burdened by memory.  They exist in the moment.  There is no significance to time—other than they’re either happy to see you or upset you’ve been away for however long—A day?  A week?  A month?  But after a little softening, they cuddle and purr as if you were never gone.  It is the present—not the past—that matters most.

With the sale imminent, we’ve come to an end of an era.  I’m not going to miss this house; not really.  The only reason why I returned to Union for so long and so often was because of my parents.  And they’ve been aging quite dramatically in the year that has passed…  I just realize that, for better or for worse, my experiences in that house helped forge the person I am today.

So the house will be sold.  As we were locking up for the last time, Robin and I gave our silent blessings to the new family that will mark a beginning of a new chapter…

That’s Life

Now that we’ve allowed all five kitties full access through the house –except during the occasional cat skirmish—there always seems to be a cat (or three!) in bed during any one night.  On the surface, this is quite cute…it is a king sized bed.  But in reality this has impacted my ability to get a full night’s sleep….seven straight hours..oh, the hope and the glory.  Junior (the mostly grey short haired tabby), has a thing for my pillow.  Yep, my pillow—not Roger’s, mine.  Fine, he sleeps on it during the day.  But at night, it’s mine.  Well, maybe.  I gently toss the furbeast off my pillow, only for him to return stealthily during the night.  I awaken to a furried  paw on m’noggin. Junior’s quite persistent… And last night, he cuddled next to my head while I was half asleep and he began to lick Roger and his pillow.  Vigorously!  Odd and strange…

And Puffy and Chewie, the two half brother litter mates, have taken to sandwiching me in.  Chewie prefers my right side and Puffy, my left.  That’s fine until I need to move or stretch.  Then I’m the baddie for (again) gently repositioning the furried ones.

Junior & Chewie a'nappin

Junior & Chewie a’nappin

To balance all this whining  (yes, I’ll admit to it!), there have been some nice benefits to full house access. Blackie—  Roger’s partially feral project—is now exploring the nooks and crannies of the front sunroom.  And Tigger has expanded his in-home territory.  He spends time now in both the sunroom and the den.  In fact, Tigger has become quite the couch cuddler and futon napper— remnants of his kittenhood when he was the sole furbeast…

Balancing the good with the annoying…well, that’s life.  And perhaps I can look at the annoying as yet another opportunity for learning greater acceptance …

Hello, 2013!  As part of my effort to lighten the mood of this blog (per the husband’s feedback) at least occasionally, this first post of 2013 will focus on a positive change in the feline household:  there appears to be subtle shift in feline relationships—as evidenced by the photo below (taken by Roger when I was still half asleep!):

Early Morning with Chewie, Tigger and Junior

Early Morning with Chewie, Tigger and Junior

As you can see, there are three cats on the bed:  Chewie, Tigger and Junior.  The significance to this is that both Junior and Tigger are sharing space in relative close quarters!  You would never have seen this six months ago.  Since the beginning of the year, Tigger not only has been frequenting the sunroom and den much more regularly, he does so regardless of which cat might also be present.  Yes, there is still a bit of spatting between Tigger and Junior , but this is balanced with a seeming reluctant acceptance, finally, of each other’s presence.

Now, if cats can ultimately learn to accept the existence of each other and perhaps live in a tenuous harmony, what does that say for the potential of us mere humans?  We may not like everyone we meet, but does that really matter?

Can’t we all just get along?

I think it’s possible.  At least I hope so.

A Year in Pictures: 2012

To bid the year adieu, here are our cats past and present with which we shared this wondrous and sometimes vexing life experience.  These specific images I included in an annual personalized kitty calendar for Roger.


Orange Kitty & Sylvester.

Orange Kitty & Sylvester

Chewbacca, aka Chewie

Chewbacca, aka Chewie

Tigger, Chewie, Puffy & Junior

Tigger, Chewie, Puffy & Junior





Sluggo, aka "Mama Girl"

Sluggo, aka “Mama Girl”



Junior and His Daddy

Junior and His Daddy

Chewie and his froggies

Chewie and his froggies

Puffy & Tigger

Puffy & Tigger

Chewie & Tiggy

Chewie & Tiggy

Junior & Chewie

Junior & Chewie



Turn Turn Turn

And the leaves that are green turn to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.*

As we approach the last hours of late autumn, a few remaining golden and crimson leaves cling to their branches, struggling valiantly against the inevitable return to dust.  The crunch of fallen brothers and sisters, whispering in the wind the promises not kept yet not forgotten.  And a time, too, of spectacular sunsets, filling the autumn sky with hues of blue, pink and gold.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven…**

For me, autumn has always been a season of reflection, remembrance…and transition.  It was this time of year in 1993 when I realized my first marriage was truly over, and with it the broken promises of a life by which I could not abide.  And as of late, my parents’ situation seems to have stabilized—for the moment.  But now my father is also presenting with Alzheimer’s symptoms, and my mother is firmly entrenched in stage two.  Both my parents have now entered the final chapters of their lives, precariously perched on the threshold between here and … beyond.

A time to be born, a time to die…
A time to laugh, a time to weep…
A time to dance, a time to mourn…**

The ongoing saga of the outdoor ferals is a poignant reflection of this cruel reminder of life’s precariousness.  Of the half dozen cats that were once regular visitors during mealtimes, only Mama Girl, aka Sluggo—the feline mother of four of our indoor kitties—remains.  It’s now been nearly two months since we’ve been graced with the liveliness of Orange Kitty.  I saw him last the evening of Saturday,  October 20.  And Sylvester (Chewie’s baby daddy) has been AWOL since mid summer.  One warm evening he showed up after an absence of many days, seeming sad and alone.  He ate the meal we put out for him, and by next morning he was gone.  Why can’t they just stay and enjoy the largess that is our haven for them?  But no, these outdoor cats are compelled to explore and to roam.  And to meet their fates, no matter how harsh and heartbreaking it may seem to us mere humans.

With the acceptance of the transitions of Orange Kitty and Sylvester, an era is slowly closing.  It’s now just Mama Girl.  She comes around regularly during meal- and snack-times and spends overnight in the heated garage.  And yet in the morning, off she goes to explore the great outdoors, because she must.  And thus a return in the evening is never guaranteed.

Yet our indoor kitties continue to do well, oblivious to the changes to their external world.  As long as we keep them warm and well fed, their lives continue in a comfortable, purring love-fest.

In fact, we have just recently celebrated a significant autumnal moment:  on November 24, we rejoiced in Tigger’s five year anniversary of his adoption (yep, the only furball we actually sought out).

While completing the paperwork at the Denver Dumb Friends League, I remember gazing into the bright yellow eyes of this beautiful, perfect three-month-old kitten.  Tigger returned the gaze, full of expectation, adventure, impishness, love…and trust.  Trust that I would take him home, love and care for him.  Be his forever caretaker in a world that is both beautiful and harsh.

And I also remember thinking that there will be a time—perhaps in 15 or 20 years—that I will have to say goodbye to this wondrous spirit.  And for an instant I became overwhelmed with heartbreak and pain…  Roger then indicated that the paperwork was complete, and I got pulled out of my momentarily morose reverie back to my current, joyful reality.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven **

Ok, no need to practice heartache, for in a world of opposites—of yin and yang—there will be an abundance of both pain and pleasure.  Many years ago I took a ten-day Vipassana (insight) meditation course.  One of the major key points I gleaned from this experience is that humans create even more suffering by one of two means:  by wishing that the present painful circumstances be different from what they are, or by desiring that the current joyful moments stay with us forevermore.   We humans just can’t seem to accept that our realities are in constant flux.  That there will be seasons of great joy as well as dark sorrow.

Perhaps here is another lesson we can learn from our furry companions:  they are creatures of the moment.  They do not worry about the future nor ruminate about the past.  They experience their moments vividly, viscerally.

Despite our best efforts, we don’t have a patent on certainty.  Just like the feral kitties, we go out every day to explore and to play in this game called life.  Depending on the season, we might feel this game is rigged.  Or we might experience an unexpected win.  No matter.  We fully expect to return home every evening, to the blessing of those we love and cherish in this lifetime.  And for every day except our last—when me make our final return to the home that is the infinite—this expectation holds true.



*  words from Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Leaves That are Green”

** Words are adapted from The Bible, Book of Ecclesiastes; music by Pete Seeger; The Byrds’ single made it famous

Revisiting….the 3 Ps

Maybe I should just come to terms that, until I earn enough from my creative pursuits to justify the expense of a regular housekeeper, my home will never be completely clean from….poop, puke and pee.  Yep.

I envision a time when I can feel comfortable inviting someone to my home at a moment’s notice, without fear of retribution due to the wafting odors and dried vomit that seem to multiply exponentially.  Yes, I know we’ve chosen to share our lives with five cats and I’m bitching, but every so often I just need a release.

We’ve developed certain coping strategies.  Our couch is trashed pretty much, covered with two drop cloths that we change and launder several times a day.  We keep a constant supply of spot carpet cleaner and antibacterial spray.  My current products of choice are Woolite Heavy Traffic Carpet, Rug & Upholstery Cleaner and Method Antibac Kitchen Cleaner (orange zest).   Maybe I should look into buying stock in these companies… And it’s primarily Roger’s task to scoop the five litter boxes daily.  But, still.  It’s just maddening to take pleasure in the vision of temporarily clean carpet after 1.5 hours of vacuuming toil, only for the moment to be obliterated by a furball puking up a hastily eaten snack.   Grrrr.

Perhaps if I just enjoyed cleaning, I would attend to it more often.   Naaa.   It’s just not in my DNA to enjoy the process of housework.  I get it done when required, and I know logically that if I vacuumed or mopped more often, I would accomplish these tasks more effortlessly.  But I would just rather do so many other things—drum, write, experience a crisp fall afternoon walking with a friend…

If I were to glean any positive aspect from my continual annoyance with the 3 Ps, it’s the tips and techniques I’ve garnered from my coping efforts.  Which I will then pass along to a cleaning person once I’ve sold my first book.  Or sooner.

Oh….Is that the unmistakable sound of puking? Sigh.  Now, where did I place that carpet cleaner….

Avi Love

“And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”

Just for the record: while the melody is quite catchy, I do not agree with the sentiments expressed in the 1970 Stephen Stills hit.   EXCEPT when it comes to kitty love.

Since early June, I’ve traveled back East four times to help my sister and brother-in-law, Robin and Ze’ev, deal with our aging and ailing parents.  Of course I know that Roger is taking care of the kitties and all our nonhumans, but I do miss my furry lumps terribly when I’m gone.  However, I have found a new love:  my furry nephew, Avi.

Avi, Prince of Upland Road

Avi came into Robin and Ze’ev’s lives a little over a year ago as an abandoned young cat who adopted them one summer evening after a night of Israeli folk dancing.  As they approached their car, they spotted this youngster near their vehicle.  Robin called for him, and he came right up to them!  They had no choice but to oblige and take him home.  After much due diligence efforting to determine whether he had “on payroll” other human caretakers and ensuring optimum health, Avi officially adopted his new family.

Avi with Auntie Helen

Avi’s sweet temperament belies the fact that he’s quite impish and continually curious.  When he was not occasionally cuddling with his Auntie Helen on the couch, he was looking to play hide-and-go seek, chase balls or rile up his much older and irascible adopted feline sister, Tulip.  I’ve even introduced him to the joy of kitty curls—a benefit for both human and cat!—much to the chagrin of Papa Ze’ev:  with both arms evenly spaced, hold the underside of said kitty length-wise and curl up and down.  You know you’re doing well when you begin to feel the burn of your biceps and the kitty’s tail is up and a-waggin.  Good natured Avi did very well with the new addition to his exercise routine, with only an occasional mew of annoyance.

My unexpected love for my furry nephew has helped me to better cope with my trips back East.  It has also helped me realize that love has no bounds: it is not a finite resource or narrowly defined as romantic love.   Rather, it is a magic elixir, the gift of sharing yourself with others, with being in tune with all of God’s sentient creatures.  And it grows exponentially the more it is expressed and shared in this vexing yet magical experience called life.

Of Kings and Princes

That old saying that dogs have owners and cats have staff is so true.  In terms of archetype, I would describe a cat’s behavior as “king”:  they command more than demand attention—especially when it comes to love and affection.

Picture this scenario:  You’re paying the bills, penning an email or talking on the phone.  In other words, you’re just not giving your domestic feline enough attention as he patiently waits by your feet.  Since his world revolves around his immediate needs, up he jumps onto the desk to be closer to his human caretaker.  You pet, scritch behind the ears and then return to the task that has taken your focus.  Of course this is not good enough.  So with a barely noticeable swipe of the paw, a trinket is gently swept off the desk…  You notice, pick up said item and gently chide the offender—with the goal of returning to the task at hand.

But yet again, this is not good enough.  In his world, you have not provided enough attention. For a more dramatic effect, the offending kitty might choose to take a flying leap and ski across your paperwork—with documents aflutter and limbs akimbo.  After a few deep breathes, you gently toss the offender out of the room and close the door in a huff.  Bad kitty!

But of course our cats are not being bad.  They are just being the kingly, self-focused creatures they were born to be.  It was during this slow and somewhat reluctant realization I discovered the joy of the head nuggie—that robust rubbing of the noggin to express love, affection and…ownership.  In addition to five felines, we now have a menagerie of neon tetras and semi-aggressive tropical fish (angels, tiger barbs, clown loaches, silver dollars, catfish), two albino African claw-footed frogs and hundreds of apple snails.  (Well, we started with just three, but they did what nature does best.  I think we now have a handle on snail population control…) One afternoon while lying the floor and admiring how fast our snail progeny has been maturing, Junior, with vigor and focus, started rubbing his head against mine.  I needed to pay attention to him!  But then I decided to do something quite feline-like—I rubbed his noggin back, nuggie-style—and I liked it!

That afternoon the nuggie session was born.

I have seen the kitties rub up against each other, but this is the first time I had the honor of being a recipient of a head nuggie.  I did research on this phenomenon: http://hglick.hubpages.com/hub/Cat-Symptoms.  So, I’ve been officially anointed by the kings (and princes) of the household—a great honor for a mere human, ehhh?

I have now experienced the quiet joy of the head nuggie with Tigger, during our nightly calming and cuddling ritual before bedtime; with Puffy during our morning bed-making routine; and with Chewie whenever he demands a good face rub and a brushing.

Yes, our kitties can be frustrating and self-centered at times, but their simple outlook on life is also quite refreshing:  Imagine a life where, without any need for explanation or justification, you just ask for what you want.  Simple and to the point.  No need to prove your worthiness to be a recipient of life’s abundance.  And then you wait for it manifest in all its magnificent glory.

Imagine that, indeed.

The Illusion of Control

Sit here.  Down.  Stop.  No! 

The illusion of control.   If our felines beckon to our desires and demands, it’s only because our demands coincide with their momentary wishes to satisfy sensual pleasures… We might believe we have dominion over these beasts, but just wait until you’re out of the room…

According to my research, http://www.a-house-full-of-cats.com/catbehavior.html, cats have this limited, self-focused world view whereby they act (believe?) that the world revolves around them.  I want what I want and I want it now…so there!  I read somewhere that domestic kitties have the intellectual capacity and temperament of a toddler or young preschooler. And—unlike most human children—they remain this way throughout their lives.  Rather than wish this were otherwise—futile as it is—I am learning to accept this truism about feline companionship.  And to adapt my behavior to meet their needs while managing my expectations and mental health realistically.

So I know, intellectually, a cat might jump off a kitchen counter when I demand this of him with a strong voice and pointed index finger.  I also know that when I walk out of the room—up again he’ll jump to explore those cracks and crevices, sights and smells…  Therefore when I prepare and serve food, of course I always disinfect those surfaces beforehand.  I’ve been trained well.

And yet this seeming lack of obedience has a side benefit:  living totally for the moment, cats have this most wonderful ability to give us 100% of their attention—at least for brief periods.  The purring and the cuddling awakens in any cat lover a visceral connection to this magnificent yet vexing beast.  And then, like any ADD-addled creature, off they go to explore those new sights, sounds or smells…

We think we are teaching our cats discipline and respect, but au contraire, they’re teaching us.  Our relationship with our kitties—as imperfect as it is—is an ongoing reminder of being ever present to those ephemeral opportunities to just live in the moment.   And to let go this illusion of control over things outside of ourselves… A lesson I foresee revisiting often throughout this lifetime.