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{March 28, 2015}   The Things We Do For Our Pets

Homemade Cat Toy

A Close-up of Zoee’s New Toy

I have written before about making toys for my cats. They always seem to like them better than the ones I buy. My latest creation was a modified version of a toy I read about in the January/February Humane Society magazine, “allanimals.”

The article by Emily Smith suggested that you glue toilet paper rolls together in a “wall or pyramid.” It also suggested you could cover them with non-toxic paint or fabric (which seemed like too much time and work to me when I didn’t know if they would like it). I modified the suggestion; I collected some toilet paper rolls and put a rubber band around them. Then, Emily instructed, use tissue paper to close some of the tubes with treats inside. I checked around my apartment and found a piece of tissue paper from a breakable item I had bought at the store. Hmmm…a friend had recently given me a small gift buried in shredded paper…maybe that would work too?

Oh-oh. This is what my living room floor looked like when I came home one day.

cat toys

Cats…Pick up your Toys!

And then I managed to make it worse by tracking the shredded paper around the house. And this toy has to be remade every time you use it! (Translation: reloaded with treats and paper.) I don’t know about this…

But she played with it! That’s a success!

So…I went around and gathered up my paper shreds to stuff them back in and loaded in some treats…and I watched her. Smart Zoee…She flipped it over on its ends to see if the treats would just “fall” out — less work. Hmm…the shredded paper didn’t hold the treats in that well. It might have appealed to her mischievous nature, but wasn’t practical.

I decided maybe it would be better to go out and buy some tissue paper…and let Zoee do her own shredding. Maybe it would keep her busy for just a little bit longer…:-)

 

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{January 12, 2015}   A Tiny House Story

rundown

Abandoned house

Anyone interested in what it is like to live in a tiny home? Not one that looks like this, I’m sure!

I’ve been reading about the Tiny House Movement for a while through Rowdy Kittens and other blogs, so when Chronicle did a special about tiny houses the other night, I had to watch it. I love the IDEA of living in your own tiny mobile space, and admire the people who follow through with it, but I don’t think I could do it (not without having a storage unit bigger than my house). 🙂

Much to my surprise, a few minutes of the show was dedicated to the narrowest house in Boston in the North End. I was transported back in time as I watched the segment; my friend, Danielle had lived there for a brief time in the 80s! She had a lovely summer garden party in the deceivingly large courtyard behind it.

I remembered her giving me the tour; she told me how often she caught people staring at the house. It is only 6 feet wide in one spot (as they show in the TV segment). There was one room on each floor (the second floor included the bathroom), so there wasn’t a lot of space, but the view was wonderful at the top! It looks out over Copp’s Hill Burial Ground and you can see the harbor (at least you could back in the 1980s when I visited). I was taking a poetry workshop at the time so I wrote a poem about it not long after Danielle’s party. I had to experiment with form and rhyme as an assignment, which I very rarely do these days.

It took a little digging to find my notebook from that time, but I thought I’d share the poem:

 

 Guided Tour

Into the narrowest house I was led,

half a hundred feet from where sea captains sleep,

up on the hill in their cold narrow beds.

I step up the narrow stairs, hollowed and steep,

the old wood worn smooth without sagging,

from hundreds of years, and sizes of feet.

On the second floor I’m chastised for lagging

behind to peer into the small bath and bedroom.

Up and around, I’m instructed, zig-zagging

Up to the living space, cozy as a womb,

Keep going, I’m told, though I want to stop,

then I’m climbing again, dropping my gloom.

Suddenly it seems we’ve come to the top;

there’s a soft bed, lit by a window

in an alcove where we happily flop.

Laughing she finally lets me know

the vision she wanted to share with me —

the tourists staring up like dead fish below.




Forgive me my absence. Being “time-challenged” I tend to be late for events, but working two jobs tends to make time fly in a broader way…fall already???

I had a weekend off from job number 2 and decided to take a couple days off from job number 1 and have a party! (Not really, just relax a bit.)

So I came home Friday night at the start of my four days of bliss to…a water leak in my apartment — sopping wet ceiling tiles on the floor of my closet. REALLY???

My landlady came over with her maintenance guy (another tenant) and I began removing things from my one and only packed closet to the living room: the only place I had any space. As I discovered wet journals and photo albums, I felt my stomach turn over…why does it have to be the things that I can’t replace?

We determined that there was some kind of invisible water buildup that had expended itself; there didn’t seem to be anything still leaking. Also, thank goodness it was NOT toilet water from the upstairs apartment. (This had happened before to tenants before me!) So…that was BLESSING NUMBER 1.

As I went through the wet journals, I discovered that many of those that were soaked were unused or partially used ones; only two of the wet books were actually filled with my life’s story. Most of the dripping papers were typed and printed poems, not penned material. Also, the small stack of literary publications that contained my published poetry were completely dry and undamaged…BLESSING NUMBER 2.

I was a bit teary about the photos, so my landlady offered to stay and help me get the photos out of the plastic-pocketed albums so they could dry out and be salvaged at least for scanning. It turned out only 4 albums were soaked; the rest were dry…BLESSING NUMBER 3.

We talked about people who lose everything in hurricanes and fires as we sat on the floor and cut open and discarded the photo album plastic pages. Surrounded by pictures, we talked about life in general, what we had been through, and what we were grateful about. My landlady joked as she held up some of the photos and asked me about them. “Everybody has these same photos,” she said, “Backyard barbecues, weddings, and scenery.”

At 11:00 pm, with barely a path to walk in the living roon, we finished the salvation project.

photos on floor

Photos, Photos Everywhere

Photos

A path through the photos

The next morning as I gathered up the curled photos and tried to group them by subject or timeframe to put them in shoeboxes, I found myself thinking about what I learned from the experience. I found that some pictures were generic…without the context of the other pictures from each book, where was this tree? This seashore? This sunset? Did I really need these? As part of an overall impression of a place or a trip or a moment in time, they were important, but as pictures on their own, what did they tell me?

There’s always a positive takeaway from moments like these, if you look for it. It’s just another step on the downsizing journey to learning what is important. It’s just…life.




old portrait

My Great Aunt Edie

My mother has a treasure trove of family portraits. Many were passed down by my grandmother (my father’s mother) who labeled as many as she could before her memory was completely gone. I have met with my father’s cousin a couple of times, and we have shared some photos and information. She has been working on a genealogy of my grandmother’s Swedish family for many years. I also have a first-cousin who is doing her best with my mother’s side of the family. I think every family needs an archivist, and I hope to be the one who performs that service for my generation. I sincerely love the old photos; to me they have a special beauty, especially the sepia ones.

This particular photo is of my great aunt. She died when I was still a child, but I do have some memories of her. We used to have family cookouts on Sundays at my grandmother’s house. My aunt Edie lived two doors down so she was also in attendance. Until I found some of the photos I have found, I thought of her as an old lady who DID NOT want her picture taken. I have a copy of some family movies that my brother had transferred to a VHS tape, where she appears ever so briefly before hiding her face.

To me this photo is beautiful. I don’t know the year, but she is wearing her wedding ring so I don’t think she is what I would term “young” in the photo, but certainly a lot younger than my childhood memories (when she was in her 80s). As I look at it I wonder what the occasion might have been for the taking of the photo. Unfortunately my grandmother is not around to ask and she did not write down a year, simply “Sister Edith.”

It makes me think about the generations after me looking at the photos we have taken now. Most are digital and informal. We tend to document children’s lives at least annually (even if it is just school pictures), but beyond college, other than wedding photos, it definitely tails off.

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I don’t have many pictures of myself as I have aged. The older I get, the more I become like the Aunt Edie I remember…”don’t take my picture!” But on the other hand…it is only going to get worse…I should get a picture taken while I am still youngish…

Looking at these old photos makes me ALMOST want to go out and get one taken for posterity. But of course I would then have to get my hair done, buy and put on some makeup, find a flattering outfit…hmmm.

Maybe not…:-D

 




The Daily Prompt mentions dishes, but I don’t mind doing dishes or any basic cleaning. Most physical cleaning chores can be performed in an almost meditative way.

Files

My most disliked chore is anything to do with paperwork and any chores involving sorting, filing, and organizing. I find making decisions about what to keep and what to throw out difficult, tiring and tedious. This leads to stacks of paperwork and canvas bags full of papers that have to be periodically sorted. I have the best of intentions, but I just can’t find time for EVERYTHING I am interested in.

As a writer, I keep every draft of a piece of work (still too often a hard copy), because I can have a tendency to over-edit, or rewrite a poem so extensively that it becomes a COMPLETELY different poem. At any given time I can go back to the original draft and send it in a different direction and create a different poem. And I have to admit, I can become fascinated with analyzing the process.

I know, I should be embracing the electronic age. Technology has been around long enough and has progressed far enough that I should be rid of this paper by now, but I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Weaning myself away from paper products, be they books or notebooks, is hard work. And unfortunately, I suffer from the same problems on my computer…too many emails, too many files, too many versions of things…SIGH




I have always loved Christmas decorations — their colors, their sparkle! It seemed like I could never have enough…until now. Whatever I have now, has to be enough. In my new small space I don’t have room for a big Christmas tree. This year my ornament collection of over twenty-five years, painstakingly unpacked, displayed, and repacked annually will stay packed away in storage. This year’s “late” Thanksgiving means this Christmas season is a short one, just 4 weeks (though the stores keep trying to make it seem longer) — definitely not worth digging through boxes in storage. Having anticipated this though, my 4-ft tabletop tree has been riding around in my car’s back seat for weeks. But what will I decorate it with? Surely I won’t be buying more ornaments? Imagination needs to be kicked into gear…But I do have something to draw on — a memory of a Christmas long ago…my Christmas in California.As someone born and bred in the Northeast, that was an oxymoron. Christmas is cold, and snow, and evergreens…

Tabletop Christmas Tree

Decorations to come…from my imagination…

That year my father had taken a temporary position in California. Near the end of his career as a marine draftsman, shipyards were closing and the need for ships was diminished, so he had to work where he could to support his family. I was in college, living in the house back home, while he, my mother, and younger brothers were living in an apartment in California. It was semester break and I was flying out to spend Christmas with them. I remember arriving at LAX two days before Christmas and seeing wreaths on the palm trees, thinking, “This is just wrong!” When we got back to their apartment, there was no Christmas tree! I was really disappointed and immediately complained. (I was young and ungrateful…after all, I should have just been happy to be with my family.) It could have been the start of a miserable holiday for everyone, but something wonderful happened. Always wanting to make me happy, my father said, “Let’s see what we can do…”

I followed him outside, not sure what he had in mind. Were we going out to buy one? Nope, he doesn’t have the car keys. Sticking out of the full dumpster outside was the top of a real Christmas tree; someone must have cut it off because the tree was too tall (or the ceiling too short). My dad pulled it out and said, “Here we go!”

I couldn’t help but smile, and I quickly jumped into the game. I pulled out some crushed soda cans…after all they were shiny and colorful! We got creative — using what we had and attaching things to the tree with bread ties my mother had stashed in a drawer. Our ornaments were stick-on bows, and gift tags, MacDonald’s toys, whatever we could find in the house…and we laughed and felt proud of our ingenuity. Charlie Brown had nothing on us!

I wish I had a picture of our “ugly” little tree to post here for you, but I don’t. I can only share a beautiful memory of a tree I will remember forever. A tree that helps me to remember to be grateful.



{September 23, 2013}   Is Living Small More Work or Less?

I’m not going to surprise you with my answer: more immediate chores that take less time. Does it equate to the same thing? I don’t know; I’m still in the discovery phase. I’m discovering that the chores are different, but are still there none-the-less. In a small place the chores are more immediate and cannot be ignored. This is what I’ve learned so far:

1. There’s a reason for that old saying: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  Right now, I feel like I live in a thrift shop. It feels like my place looks messy, even when it is clean (still too much stuff), but if there is anything left carelessly on any surface, it seems to scream, “Put me away!”

And the corollary to #1:

1a.  You have to clean up immediately. I have always kept up with scooping the cat litter, even in a big place. But in a small space, the chore is immediate, or it smells BAD! Not only do I have to scoop immediately, but I have to get it outside to the dumpster right away. Also, although the number of dishes involved in the preparation and consumption of a meal for one person (and two cats) is a quick clean-up, I don’t have the space or the number of dishes to allow them to sit around dirty. I’m phobic about bugs so I want everything clean, clean, clean!

2. You have to go out of your way to recycle. Though my carbon footprint is smaller, it is less convenient to recycle when you are in a small place with no place to store up the recyclable bottles and cans. At my house, I could store them in the garage or under the porch until I could take them to redemption. As an apartment dweller, if I decide to go for a “can walk,” my route has to include a walk to the redemption machines at the local grocery store. When I first moved, I had noticed all the recyclable cans in my apartment dumpster and was amazed at people throwing out money! When I first saw them, I wished I could climb in to collect them, but now I understand why they are there. Too bad.

3. You can’t fit every gadget into a small space so you have to be creative and simple. I have a basic sink; there’s no vanity top for putting things down on (like putting on make-up, mixing up dye for my hair, etc.). Instead of putting the stuff on the toilet, I discovered the tray system. I take it out when I need it and put it away. Similarly, I don’t have a clothes drying rack, I have a small expandable curtain rod for my tiny shower. No big vacuum…a corn broom has to do.

small sink

Sink without vanity

small sink with tray

Sink with Tray

And under the bed, behind every piece of furniture and door, lurk the things you need, but don’t use often…but at least you don’t have to see them.

You can deal with anything with ingenuity, creativity and good cheer!



{August 26, 2013}   Magnetic Poetry Monday (2)

Magnetic Poetry, Poetry

 

I found it challenging today; I kept looking for words that weren’t there. The calendar set is limited.

I might have to cheat and dig into my other set next time. 🙂

 




I recently spent some money on the cats to help them adjust to their new surroundings: a new cat tower, new scratching refill, and new toys. I was gratified that they have been using them. But…the favorite toy of the moment is once again a homemade toy. (See my blog about the first homemade toy here.)

A couple of years ago, my husband and I made chocolate lollipops at Christmas time. We had some leftover candy sticks; I find leftover crafting items perfect cat toy components. In this case, I figured if the sticks are safe for humans to chew on, they would likely be safe for the cats. I tied some leftover ribbon on a candy stick and —  VOILA! — a new toy. My cats are very interactive and they definitely prefer toys that bring them in close contact with me. So I sit on the floor and dangle the toys for them. (Please excuse the quality of the pictures in this post…it’s hard to play with the cat with one hand and take decent pictures at the same time!)

cat play

Aimee watching her favorite toy

They like to grab the ribbons, but also they LOVE to chew on the stick!

closeup cat toy

We LOVE to chew on the stick…

The downside is that the ribbons slide right off and I have to keep putting them back on. To the cats — that’s part of the fun (Off–On–Off–On…). To glue the ribbons would be spoiling part of the game (for them). Sometimes they run off with ribbons streaming from their mouths. (I wish I caught a picture of THAT!)

Anyway, I recommend the local craft store as a go-to place for cat toys. 🙂

cat playing

Aimee playing with her present favorite toy



{August 9, 2013}   Daily Prompt: Smell you later

shade flowers

Lily of the Valley

This Daily Prompt took me back to a springtime walk and the beautiful memories of my grandmother that came to me that day. The memories were brought on by the sight and smell of lilies of the valley at the side of the road. The sweet smell of the delicate bells flirting amid the dramatically curving leaves brought her back to me. It’s not what you might think — it’s not that she wore sweet “old lady” perfume that smelled like these flowers; her shady yard was abundant with them.

She and my grandfather built their colonial house on a lot covered with tall pines; there aren’t that many flowers that can grow in that type of shade, but lily of the valleys thrive in such a spot. She and my grandfather must have liked the pines because they didn’t cut them down to make the yard sunnier. (The people who bought and renovated her house after she died cut down most of the trees and completely transformed the lot and the house, leaving her old yard and house only a memory.) One whole side of her driveway was a swath of lilies of the valley; when we would pull in the driveway for a springtime visit, we would always pause to breathe in their sweet smell before going into the dark, cluttered house.

She must have been trying to reach me from beyond that day: hours later I was at my parents house with my younger brother.  We unearthed a box of games in the back of one of our sheds of “stuff.”  The shed is full of boxes that were moved out of my grandmother’s house when she passed away. My father intended to go through the shed himself, but he passed away before he could get it done. Now it is a chore for those left behind.

The games also brought back more good memories of my grandmother: When we grandchildren were young, we took turns staying at her house for the weekend. She kept a lot of games there for our entertainment when we stayed over, some of them games my father had as a child. They were quite old, but “new” and “special” toys to us. We used to fight over whose turn it was to stay over. When you live in a small house full of many children, you long for more space and quiet and the concentrated attention of a grandparent. She made us feel special.

Those were the days…



et cetera
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