So Long, 2016, And All that You Took

You were here and then you weren’t. I could say that about the year and a lot of other things — quite a few celebrities died plus our Mojo kitty and our hamster, Prarrie Dog, who passed several months ago too.

We miss our kitty dearly. He had the best character arc ever (especially for a cat). I think about his cuddle-bug personality daily.

David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Ron Glass, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, John Glenn, George Micheal, and more. All gone. Perhaps this year seemed so harsh because I knew who all of these people were, and I was used to having them around. They were popular for my generation. Plus so many of them weren’t even old. It seems unfair.

Carrie Fisher is the celebrity death that hit me the hardest. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, passing the next day only upped the sadness. What heartbreak for the family and all their friends.

I first loved Carrie Fisher in Star Wars, a movie that came out when I was nine years old and blew me away. It made me a different person. I could probably date my life “b.SW” and “a.SW”. Or maybe BS and AS. Anyway, it sparked my love of science fiction (though some may debate calling it science fiction) and my love of (most) things Star Wars that would follow. 

I had seen Star Trek before Star Wars, but Star Wars prompted me to watch Star Trek again. I was hungry for adventure and outer space. Star Wars ignited the hunger.

Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia was a strong woman, a leader, who could save the guys as much as they saved her. (Somebody had to get them into that garbage chute. You can’t just shoot all the stormtroopers.) She was the original self-rescuing Princess. If there were others before her, I don’t remember them. She’s the one that mattered to me. 

Carrie Fisher kept up that theme throughout her life. She became so much more than just Princess Leia. From her honesty about mental illnesses to her insanely funny interviews to her witty and amazing writing… 

And I really mean amazing. She wasn’t just some celebrity who decided to write a book and isn’t that cute. Her writing was awesome — funny and compelling. And it was more than just books. Carrie Fisher was a script doctor, a person the studios could call in to rescue lackluster scripts for movies and such. She knew her craft. 

She kept at it and excelled. 

She melded with Princess Leia in ways that made her own the character and allowed Princess Leia to become part of who Carrie Fisher was too. She was more than the sum of her parts.

And then she was no more. She will be missed. 

2016, I’m sure I will miss parts of you too. Other parts not so much.

May those of us who made it through, have a rich and wonderful 2017 filled with love and laughter, joy and peace. May we rise to the challenge.

Copyright Deb L. Kapke 

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Calling Wildfire in Gatlinburg

Firefighters are struggling to put out wildfires in Gatlinburg and Sevier County, Tennessee tonight. High winds may return overnight after a calmer day. Sevier County includes the popular Great Smoky Mountains tourist spots Pidgeon Forge and Dollywood. 

The fires may have started last week. But a mix of dry weather and extreme winds last night spread flames so quickly that many residents and tourists had little to no warning before buildings began to burn.

I spent my teen years near Nashville, Tennessee. Like so many area families, my family spent many long weekends in and around Gatlinberg. It was always a beautiful area. 

In August of this year I drove through to my High School reunion and stopped for a wee bit in Sevierville. 

It’s hard to see videos and pictures that show so much of the beloved vacation spot in flames or blackened. 

My heart hurts for all the families who had to leave their homes with no time to save more than themselves and the clothes on their backs. Many of them had to leave pets and animals behind. 14,000 people were evacuated.

I’ve always told my daughter that if we ever had to evacuate our building due to fire, we may have to leave the kitties behind. Not that I would want to, but I’d want my daughter to get out in an emergency. I hope I could always make the right choice myself, but can’t say for sure what I would do. (I’d want enough time to save our kitty.) So my heart just breaks for all those families who had to make such difficult choices.

And I’m especially sad for those who have lost their life, are injured, or lost a family member. Right now only three fatalities have been reported. I hope that’s it.

I know it might be cliche to say, “thoughts and prayers,” but sometimes thoughts and prayers are all we can do. I’ll send a lot of them to Tennessee. I’m sure there will be more in the coming days.
— update —

Fixed the spelling in my post. Sorry about that. 

Also note that I read reports yesterday of the fire starting last week (November 23) in the Chimney Tops area and then spreading explosively on Monday into Tuesday. Other reports say the fire started on Monday. Certainly addition spot fires started on Monday as the hurricane force winds sent flames and sparks flying into dry brush and trees. Addition fires may also have started from downed power lines. I’m sure investigators will reveal more information in the weeks to come. 

Many prayers to all involved. 

Consider donations to the local Red Cross, rescue and emergency organizations, and area animal shelters. Folks in the general vicinity may make immediate donations of clothing and supplies. 

This post is also for NaBloPoMo.

General Updates

We’re still sad about our kitty. Sadness comes and goes in waves. 

Since Fidel Castro and Ron Glass passed in the same week, it makes me wonder if there isn’t something brewing in the universe. At least I can always remember what year our furry friend passed. 

If our kitties each had a superpower, Fletcher’s would be his friendly, chilled-out attitude towards everything and Mojo’s would have been his love of cuddling and getting petted. He aggressively sought kitty strokes. He’d even meow at us to sit down and pet him. 

Dave reminded me that twelve years ago I never would have claimed that Mojo liked to cuddle. He changed a lot over the years (so did I). We’ll continue to miss his cuddle especially as we get back into our everyday routine after the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Awesome friends sent us an Edible Arrangements bouquet in honor of Mojo. It was a super nice surprise and helped improve the overall mood at home.

Our other cat is taking it all okay. He didn’t mind one bit that Fidel Castro died. I think he’d have liked Ron Glass though. And he seems down about losing his buddy Mojo. 

Normally the kitties go through playful times. There’s lots of pouncing and chasing each other (and imaginary critters) as they tear around the living room. But Fletcher hasn’t done that in a few days, so I think it sunk in that his friend isn’t coming back. 

Fletcher is getting lots of extra kitty strokes and cuddling and treats and hugs. Hopefully, we’re helping him cope as he’s helping us cope. Mojo was our friend and his for over 16 years.

Between vet trips and mini-Thanksgiving trips and unexpected crying, last week was a busy one. I think I accidentally missed a day for NaBloPoMo and didn’t write anything for NaNoWriMo for a few of the days. Just when I’d expected to have some extra time for writing. Poof! I could not keep my eyes open. Gah. But life happens. 

I had a few technical issues with posting from mobile devices. A few posts I thought I’d posted before midnight showed up as after midnight (so had the next day’s date). That may have happened when I made edits. And I think at least once, my mobile device wasn’t connecting so it saved a post locally but didn’t post it live when I though it did.

I’ll try for an extra post or two today and tomorrow.

I have no idea how many total words I have for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been writing on different devices, so I need to consolidate and add it all up (then feed it into the machine to make it official). I definitely won’t be at 50,000 words, but that’s okay. I still wrote lots of days. I know I did better than last year. And I made some progress with the story. So that’s good.

I had a mini-cleaning frenzy in my kitchen. I think that’s a good thing.

Thanksgiving foods were all extra yummy, and it was nice to spend time with family and relax some too. No matter what else, we still had a lot to be thankful for this week. And I’m enjoying the leftovers.

Thanksgiving 

On this day of eating lots of food with friends and / or family, I wish everyone much good food and plentiful friends and loving family. May we all have much to be thankful for today and all year. And may we have the wherewithal to give thanks. 

We ate food at my mom’s. The five of us ate food until we felt like we would burst. My stepdad usually cooks the turkey in an old, plain white T-shirt to retain juices. It sounds weird, but always tastes delicious as does the stuffing and giblet gravy (which weren’t cooked in a T-shirt). The sweet potato casserole was dotted with marshmallows and just enough seasoning (brown sugar and vanilla extract) to be super yummy. We made the green bean casserole — our favorite variation with diced water chestnuts. 

Then, when we felt like we could hardly eat another bite, we had pumpkin pie.

While we’re sad about the recent loss of our kitty, we had much to be thankful for. Earlier in the day I did some cleaning and even wrote some words for NaNoWriMo. It was good. 

Lost Our Mojo, a Memoriam

We said good bye to our kitty Mojo today. He’d been sick recently. Then he got somewhat better. Then not so great. Today he had a rapid decline, and then he was gone. We’re very sad and will be for a while.

He was a rescued kitty who was our friend for more than 16 years. 

Mojo was afraid of humans for the first few years we welcomed him to our home. He wouldn’t let us pick him up. 

In recent years he was our cuddle bug. He’d plaster himself against our legs when he could. Picking him up rarely bothered him. He even seemed to like it. He loved his kitty strokes and would purr up a storm when we pet him. His paws would knead the air.

He loved playing with toy mice and chasing laser dots. Fletcher (our other kitty) liked to pounce on Mojo while he was playing.

Last winter he slept on my lap a few times. 

For many years the balcony terrified him. This most recent summer he learned to love going out there to bask in the sun or hide out at night. By the end of summer he’d wait by the door for us to let him out. 

More recently he even learned to sit to receive his kitty treats. The expression, “you can’t teach an old dogs new tricks,” did not apply to Mojo in every way possible. 

We will miss him terribly and cherish our memories of him always. 

The Week

It was a busy week. With the election on Tuesday, I got up early to vote. Then, like a lot of people, I didn’t get much sleep that night. I dozed, looked at incoming election results, then woke up. Then dozed a little more. It was very surreal.

Wednesday, I had a meeting at my daughter’s school. So there I was talking with her teachers, and so very tired. Though, I think we were all a little tired. The teachers had very nice things to say about my kiddo, and I’m very proud of her.

Thursday,  before work I took the cat to the vet to get his blood drawn. Then dropped him off at home before I went to the office.

My daughter had Robotics club after school, so I had to pick her up.

The school was having an International Night that evening. Since it started several minutes before I arrived at the school, my daughter was already in line to sample the many tasty foods, and I went inside to see what it was like.

I’m so glad we went in. International night was really cool. Our area has students from so many places. We got to taste foods from around the world.

One of the desserts was called, Casery (maybe also spelled Kesari). It was from India and flavored with cardamom. It was different but yummy!

Then we saw a video the students made and watched part of a talent show the students performed.

Then I had pinball league. I stayed awake enough to play a few good games. Yay!

I came home and tried to blog. I. Was. So. Tired.

I kept typing and falling asleep mid-sentence. And I kept typing the wrong thing. Finally, I managed a couple of tiny sentences and was done.  I had to count that as my NaBlogPoMo.

Friday’s blog post didn’t go much better. I was so tired. But I was a little peppier since we got good news about our little old kitty cat. He’s a lot better. That made me happy.

Today is catch-up day … for many things. Laundry. Groceries. Blogging and writing. Resting. But still driving my daughter to and from places. At least I’m getting a few of these done.

Wishing everyone a great weekend!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

And an other (NaBloPoMo Skimpy Day 11 and Cats)

Hopefully, I can do some extra writing over the weekend. But Thursday and Friday were days of skimpy writing.

I got good news about one of our kitties. He had stopped eating several weeks ago and was otherwise not well. Blood work from the vet told us his liver enzymes were way off and his pancreas was off too. Feline Triaditis is what the symptoms seemed to be telling us. One liver enzyme in particular is considered high if it’s over 150. His was over 2,000.

He had to take 4 medicines for a while. And when I say he had to take 4 medicines, I don’t mean that he took them voluntarily. He’s a cat. So I mean that we had to give the medicine to him and this was not always easy. One of them involved plopping (or more often shoving) a pill down his throat as he tried to kick me away. Not fun for any of us.

But his bloodwork came back almost all normal today. We can drop the med that’s hard to get him to swallow, so this is a huge plus on many levels. Of the other meds, one he already finished and the other we get to taper off. The last one he will stay on for his Thyroid.

I hope he stays healthy for a good long while.

Yay!

 

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Another Awesome Day and Cats

I have over 500 words for NaNoWriMo so far today (only about another 1,500 and it will meet a daily goal except that I’m behind on my total goals). It’s early, so I have another chunk of writing time planned for later.

Plus this post counts for NaBloPoMo Day 6 which probably seems silly except that this way it’s done. That’s better than not done. (And actually I wrote more than I thought I would. So I may post again later today or not …)

I’m trying to squeeze a lot into this beautiful day. I’m planning to get several things done at home then maybe visit a farmer’s market. Then maybe take my daughter to Cox Farms to enjoy some Pumpkin Madness (a day of pumpkin smashing and fall activities). There’s a market there too though so maybe I’ll just skip the farmer’s market beforehand.

Our cats are completely battling it out in the kitchen as I type this. I can hear them squealing and thumping on the floor and on each other. Glad they still have some spunk. They finished the old-man gruel that we like to call “cat food,” and now they’re just full of it (piss & vinegar along with the food).

We have old kitties, so we mix their food with lots of extra water and some added clear fiber (like Benefiber only generic).

Dave recently purchased a mini-blender for the sole purpose of mixing up the cat food. The cats gobble this stuff down, and then they don’t know what to do with their extra time.

They feel like they should be eating for longer, so they pester us and each other in the time they would have used for eating. It used to take them about a half hour to an hour to finish their food because we’d have to add more water and give a little stir. They’d leave and come back a couple of times.The blender has changed that. 

Plus, our cat Mojo doesn’t like to drink water the same way most cats do. He likes to stick his paw in the water, splash it a while, then lick the water off. Sometimes he’ll even leave his paw in the water as he sucks on it, almost like a straw. It makes a mess. When he’s done, there’s  water on the floor and a path of wet paw prints.

Our other cat, Fletcher, usually looks at us as if to say, “Do you see what I have to put up with?” He doesn’t like drinking the water after Mojo’s had his paws in it. Today, Mojo was especially splashy with the water. So we took the water away for a few minutes. That’s when the cat fight started.

They’ve calmed down now and will probably take their old-man naps in a few minutes.

Maybe they can sun on the balcony for a bit while it’s still warm out. Kind of what I’d like to do.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Snowzilla! And sleeping cats.

Our little section of the country just had a blizzard, dubbed Snowzilla, that lasted 36 hours. We had hours and hours of snow and wind then sunshine enough today to make the snow glisten and look BEAUTIFUL. Digging out will take time.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much snow we got since the wind was a-blow’n and made some gargantuan snow drifts. (Is that a car or a snowdrift or both?) But as far as I can tell our area got 25 inches of snow. My mom’s town, an hour away, got 38 inches. That’s just crazy snow. I don’t think I’ve seen quite this much since I lived in a suburb of Chicago back when I was a kid. (I’ve seen close, but …)

No school for the kids tomorrow and no school on Tuesday either. The county rarely (if ever) announces two days, straight up, in a row. No announcement about Wednesday yet.

Metro (our subway and bus system) has been closed since Friday evening. That’s practically unheard of. They need to clean the subway/train tracks as well as more of the roads for the buses. I think they’re hoping to open again Monday, but I’m guessing full service won’t be back until Tuesday? Wednesday? Who knows.

In our humble abode we’re well stocked on food, but I wish I’d shopped for a shovel earlier last week. By the time I tried to buy one there were no shovels to be had. I would have looked sooner and harder if I didn’t think I had a garden shovel in storage. But when I went to fetch the shovel I realized the shovel wasn’t so much a shovel as a flat edger for trimming grass next to a sidewalk. Why do I even have that? It’s not going to move much snow. We’d do better with a large pot or even a cookie sheet.

I ended up using a piece of cardboard (folded slightly origami style) to shovel a section of balcony near our door. I didn’t want too much snow falling back into our home when we opened the door to go out. But I’d really like to shovel off more of the balcony as a whole because there’s a lot of snow. That’s going to melt, and it’s going to have to go somewhere.

This morning, after the snow had stopped, our cat Mojo for the first time EVER in his entire life climbed up onto my lap and went to sleep. He’s never ever done that before in our 15 years of being his family. So much for teaching old dogs (and cats) new tricks. He taught himself.

He climbed up while I had my legs stretched out under a blanket. First he tried to get comfortable on my shins. Then he shifted and found my lap more comfortable (it’s a lot softer). He curled up and finally went to sleep. A total first. I hated to have to move him.

He loves sitting next to us on the couch. But sitting on us has never been his thing. He was a feral cat before we adopted him from an animal rescue group. Terrified of people, we couldn’t even pick him up for YEARS after we got him. So maybe today he felt cold and wanted some extra warmth, but it’s not like it’s never been cold in here before. This was a landmark move for our skittish and brave boy. I’ll be curious to see if he does it again.

Our totally laid back cat Fletcher slept by my feet the entire time. It was kitty heaven.

So today we all watched Interstellar. We haven’t sat as a family and watched a movie often enough recently (except Star Wars but that’s Star Wars so …). Dave had seen Interstellar before, but Sara and I had not. It’s a long movie. But by the end we were all in tears. Then Dave was laughing at all of us for getting so emotional over a movie. But MOVIE! We liked it and would like to watch it again because it glossed over some details that we’d like to catch next time around. It really had to gloss over some of the details because otherwise it would have been, like, a five-hour move. But we liked it. We were all warm on the inside with all the beautiful sparkling snow on the outside. It was nice.

 

The Cats and the Cucumber

If you’ve seen this video you might be tempted to scare your cat with a cucumber. I was. I was tempted.

There are several articles out now about how scaring your cat with a cucumber can be traumatic (such as this one). Some cats are fragile. The scare may cause him or her have a permanent fear of cucumbers.

Seems to me like those cats were already afraid of cucumbers. The only way to overcome the fear is to expose a cat to more cucumbers, right? I mean, it not like he’s going to get over the fear through therapy and cucumber photos. Right?

Well, before I read the advice from vets, I tried it. More