These Are the Times

November 21st, 2013

I’ll be brutally honest: I hate the cold. A lot.

I dislike the chill in the air with it’s crisp nose numbing twang. I hate all the work it creates with leaves and falling snow that has to be precariously piled into makeshift walls of some ill-shaped fort. I loathe that I go to work in the dark and return home in the same shadowed gloom, missing the sun completely each day.

These, however, are the times I treasure. I feel some pull to (as an ex-sister in law says to her children) “get cozy”. When it’s dark outside and the bitter cold wind relentlessly slams itself against the windowpane I yearn for nothing more than my solitude. It’s my time to recharge.

There’s something dazzlingly magical for me about being snug, warm and secure in a softly lit room while the world around you cools and lies dormant for a few months that appeals to me. Perhaps I was a bear in a past life.. hibernation is definitely a favored activity this time of year.

It’s About Adventure

March 26th, 2013

Until last Sunday I had never participated in Saint Patrick’s Day.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

The thing is, here in Happy Valley, Saint Patrick’s Day is a HUGE deal. HUGE!! So much so in fact that Penn State students created their own version (State Patty’s Day) one year when it overlapped with spring break. So now the city of State College celebrates two such green drinking days in various manners of speaking.

My intrigue with Saint Patrick’s Day was shattered for me prematurely which most likely caused me to not seek out participation in the revelry. I was under the impression that the green beer served was something special. Something trotted out once a year like egg nog. Something laden in nostalgia. Something crafted by brewers but once a year like a summer shandy or winter ale.

It turns out it’s just food coloring in Miller Lite.

I was a bit devastated.

Sunday was to be my very first official Saint Patrick’s Day adventure. I had made plans to get up an the ass crack of morning to go to breakfast at our local brewery. They were giving away free stuff to the first 50 people. FREE! STUFF!! Who doesn’t love free stuff? They were serving bangers and eggs and later in the day there would be mash. You could have mash or bangers or bangers AND mash.

I wanted it all. I wanted a pint of beer with my eggs at 7:30 AM on a Sunday Morning. I wanted to wear green and in fact had ironed a button down in a very nice shade of green to wear and planned the rest of my outfit accordingly (black shoes, gray jeans, black jacket). I even got up a full hour early to get ready and have a cup of coffee so that I would be almost like a real live awake person and not awful to be around.

And then 15 minutes before this great and wonderful thing called Saint Patrick’s Day was supposed to transpire, I was cancelled on. You may now take this moment to imagine both my delight and pleasure in having gotten up at 6AM on a Sunday morning when I didn’t have to.

I stewed for probably two more hours, having a few more cups of coffee and wistfully lamenting the bangers that were not to be had. The eggs that would never be mine. The pint(s) of beer left in the keg that no longer had my name on it.

That’s when it hit me. “Screw this shit!” I proclaimed to Buffy who had been lounging on the back of my chair at the time. I had stumbled across a biscuit recipe on Smitten Kitchen a few days before and decided that it was now or never! I was angry! I would take out my frustration on biscuits!! OH SUCH BISCUITS WOULD I HAVE!!

And I set about making biscuits from scratch. I didn’t have buttermilk or even real cow milk and had to use almond milk. I didn’t have a cookie cutter to make those nice flake apart biscuits and instead had to make drop biscuits. I didn’t care! I was throwing caution to the wind damn it!

As I sat on the couch munching the fried egg biscuit sandwiches I concocted and sipping some champagne, I reflected over the morning. I wasn’t furious that my plans had been cancelled. Plans get cancelled all the time. Nor was I pissed at the person who cancelled said plans as things come up and these things happen (Though I was slightly annoyed re:6am wake up!). I was upset that my adventure had been taken away from me.

I was contented knowing that when faced with this, while I blearily grumbled under my breath about it, I was able to rise to the challenge and create another adventure for myself: making biscuits from scratch which was something I’d never done before(Bisquick was always my trusty helper in that department).

Later that morning I received a request to go and partake in Saint Patrick festivities so my green outfit was not wasted.

Best of all? I got my very first green beer.

The First Scare

March 14th, 2013

It was barely a month since my two cats had died and while I’d stopped crying at the drop of the hat, I had no desire to have another pet any time soon. Ever. For years.

I received a text message from a close friend of mine who knew what had happened and was curious if I’d like a kitten. Her former mother in law had one that needed a good home you see. I told her no. I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to the kitten, I reasoned. It wouldn’t be fair to me. I would look at that tiny little creature and be unable to provide to it the same amount of love I’d given to Calvin and Claudia. It was all used up. Tapped out. There was no more. My cup was empty. She understood.

Shortly after that I received a text message from the FMIL. It was a picture of a tiny buff colored kitten. The text included with the photo let me know that her name was Buffy and she was a very sweet and affectionate kitten who needed a home and if I wasn’t interested in taking her, she’d be going to PAWS to find a family.

A kitten named Buffy. BUFFY. B-U-F-F-Y. A name that I would never in a million years name a pet of mine. A name that resonates within me. Buffy. Had her name been Bashful or Susie or Allison or Scruffy McCatFace, I could have totally walked away from the entire situation with a hearty and resounding “no thank you”. But the universe apparently had other plans and instead placed in my lap a kitten whom it knew I couldn’t refuse outright. I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to just go MEET the kitten. What harm could come of that?

I met Buffy on a Thursday. She was in a very warm and loving home already with a few other cats but when I came in, she was petrified. She was timid and scared wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. She hid under a dresser. I sat down next to the dresser and tried to let her sniff me and touch her. She wanted nothing to do with that. They pulled her out and gave her to me and I pet her for a few minutes and she lost herself in the attention until she remembered that I was a scary stranger and then she bolted out of my hands and down a hallway.

A few minutes later she returned and then ran back down the hallway. The second time she came she went back under the dresser she was hiding under which I was still sitting in front of. I took this to be a pretty decent sign so I agreed to take her. She would be dropped off in two days time to me.

When she arrived she was equally as shy and petrified. I had set up to give her complete access to the house and seeing how she reacted (hiding under the couch and refusing to come out) I decided that perhaps my rooms (servant’s quarters) would be a better place for her to get acclimated. She hid under my bed for a day and a half, allowing me to coax her out for short amounts of time. I worried that I’d done the wrong thing in taking her. Was she going to get comfortable? Was she going to stay under my bed and be antisocial for the rest of her life?

Now, she is my shadow. I can not leave a room without her trailing behind (or in front of) me. She will come when I call her name. She runs through the house with reckless abandon. I am completely smitten with that rambunctious little tornado with claws and would die if anything were to happen to her.

Flash forward to this past Tuesday. I was out of the house and got home around 10:30, my arms laden with a casserole dish and several bags from the grocery store. I came inside, put my stuff down and wandered in to talk to Scott. We chatted for a few minutes and I noticed two very weird things. I wasn’t greeted by Buffy and it was far, far too quiet.

I didn’t panic at first because Buffy is afraid of air. If she hears a noise she runs to hide behind me or under something. I figured since I made a lot of noise coming into the house she was hiding somewhere. I began to panic a bit after ransacking the place and coming up completely empty. Had she gotten outside in the thirty seconds it’d taken me to get into the house?

I wandered around in the front yard calling her name and shaking some treats. I was greeted with silence. A second ransacking occurred and when she didn’t turn up that time my panic ratcheted a bit. I went back outside and began to call her name louder.

It was only when I walked around to the other side of the house that I discovered her, under the table on the patio, hunched down with a petrified look in her eyes. I walked up to her and she bolted from me, hiding under the steps of the hot tub.

I walked over to her and was able to talk her out from under the steps and scoop her up. As we made our way back around the house to go into the kitchen she heard or saw something that startled her and she attempted to scramble out of my arms. (Un?)Fortunately my face was in the way and I am now the proud owner of three large, ugly cat scratches. I knew instantly that they would bleed because of the way they stung. I got a firmer grip on her and we went back into the house. I put her down and she instantly started twisting around our legs and playing as though she hadn’t just experienced the greatest fright of my entire life.

I went upstairs (followed by my trusty shadow) and I cleaned up my bloody face and then sat on my bed and sobbed. It was an ugly cry complete with snot and tears the size of golf balls. I forgot what this type of fear is like. It’s awful.

I knew she was alright and I knew that I was alright and I knew that everything was going to be ok. But what if it hadn’t? I was lucky this time.

Today my scratches are still bright red and scabby and probably will be for a few more days, but Buffy is no worse for her foray into the big cold world.

And for that I’m thankful.

Calvin

December 5th, 2012

I will never forget the first time that I met Calvin. It was the second day that I’d known Jason and we had gone out to a bar for a few drinks (it being a few months after my 21st birthday). Jason’s house was packed with his roommate and his roommate’s friends and Calvin came into the room, inspected the people that were there and then retreated the safety of some place that was out of the reach of rowdy human hands.

Anyone who knows me well can attest that I dislike camping a great deal. My idea of camping is staying at a 2 star hotel. That, my friends, is roughing it. To this end, I always like to end up at home, in my own bed so that in the morning I can pee when I want, shower when I want, and not have to leave the house before brushing my teeth because let’s face it… No one likes to greet the world with a scuzzy mouth.

Much to my dismay (and Jason’s amusement) because we had been drinking so much, I wasn’t able to get a ride home. I also wasn’t going to walk the mile home myself so I was going to be spending the night on his couch. I was loaned a pair of sugar daddy pajama bottoms, a pillow and a blanket and that was my survival kit for the camping expedition I was about to under take. I curled up on my side with my face very close to the edge of the couch and drifted off into slumber from which I did not stir.

(VERY) Early the next morning, I opened my eyes and started. A small tiny cat face was three inches from my own, just staring at me. He and I continued this stare off for a few more moments before he let out a tiny meow (in those days his meow was nothing more than a whisper really) and then he jumped up on me, circled a few times and made himself at home for a tiny nap. I, as I learned later, was in his spot. Clearly me being there did not stop him.

From that moment forward I was able to watch as Calvin grew and developed into my little guy he would one day become. I often wondered where down Calvin’s family tree a dog resided because he possessed the most remarkable talent of playing fetch. I have never seen a cat so intent on it in fact. You could throw a plastic screw off soda cap down a hallway, he would chase it down and bring it back to you. The thing was though, if you ignored him he would make noise until you payed attention. Here!!, he would demand, I brought this cap back!! Throw it again!!

Moving in with Claudia was not an easy adjustment for Calvin. He was used to being the baby, the sole attention getter and now he had to not only share his people, but share his space as well. One skill he learned from her that he used almost on a daily basis was how to be loud. When Claudia wanted, she wanted NOW. Calvin too learned that his tiny whisper of a meow was not going to cut it and soon became the voice of a nation. Or well.. the voice for both Claudia and himself.

Calvin was also an impressive mouser in our Southgate Townhouse. On more than one occasion I would stumble my way, bleary eyed, downstairs to be presented with a trophy. The first time this occured, Calvin was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. Once he saw me he ran full tilt into the kitchen, sat down next to his trophy big as you please and waited for me to turn on the light. Once I did he let out a hearty meow to announce Here! I’ve slain this for you! You can imagine that I was both pleased that we no longer had a mouse running around our apartment (this would explain why he and Claudia had spent several hours sitting next to each other without killing one another with their faces pressed against the bottom of the stove) and also dismayed because I had yet to consume any sort of coffee and now had to clean up a dead carcass that was on the kitchen floor. Jason’s suggestion had been to put it outside our roommate’s door so that he’d step on it (Apparently dead mice are really the gift that keeps on giving) but I vetoed that idea and double bagged it and buried it- dumpster style.

If any cat has ever had 9 lives, it’s been Calvin. That poor cat has been sick and written off more times than any other I know. He had to have a claw cut out that he snagged and cracked in half, which then grew in and fell out only to be replaced by some form of awful awful kitty cancer where, once you find it’s it’s already too late. He bounced back from that without a blink. His thyroid has given him issues for quite some time and while it makes him barfy, he’s continued to roll right along. I can always tell when Calvin is going to get sick. Not only do his ears get extremely warm, but he after he’s thrown up he seeks me out to sit in my lap for comfort.

Most recently Calvin has been diagnosed with severe heart disease and unfortunately this afternoon it was deemed that there wasn’t anything left to do for Calvin an that the quality of life he would have from this point forward would not be a pleasant pain free existence for him. This afternoon Calvin was put to sleep to prevent him from suffering needlessly.

Calvin was one of the most extraordinary cats I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and I will forever cherish the headbutts and memories that he’s given me. When pets must leave us it is always too soon, no matter how prepared you are for it. Doing the right thing is not always the same as doing the easy thing.. but no one ever said that doing what was right would be easy. Often it’s the hardest thing you can do.

You will be missed Calvin. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your life. You’ve caused me so many tears but each of them has been worth their weight in smiles and laughter that you’ve inspired. I will always love you and you will always be my little guy.

I