of twisting or turning would allow me to push the end back through the opening it had mysteriously wandered through to make its conspicuous lump. Frustrated, and not willing to force the chain for fear of damaging it, I put the necklace down by the door. I'll bring it to a jeweler, I thought.
Fast forward to this morning. An agreement I'd been working on for a new project had a couple of deal points I was having a bit of trouble nailing down. I'd emailed the draft to the lawyer involved. A couple of days ago... In keeping with our times, I left him a voicemail and email yesterday with the questions, asking if we could discuss "in the soon."
This morning he called at around 10. We hashed out everything, and it all seemed to fall into place. For some reason I went to the door. And picked up the necklace. What you see in the picture is how it appeared.
I've had some wonderful adventures with serendipity, and physical changes in objects for no standard reason (looking at a previously non-working appliance – no, not a microwave – thinking "Work!" and having it suddenly perform perfectly, for example).
But a sudden untanglement, with no physical cause, this is new.
I love it!
NOTES FROM THE LITTERBOX
Conversation between the Hillebrandt Litterbox Sanitation Engineer (Q) and Pixelle Cat (PC)
Q: Fer heaven’s sake, Pixelle! How many times can a cat poop in a day?
PC: Well, let me see…there was that time at 1:00 am, when you got out of bed to clean out the box.
Q: I remember it well. Then there was the 3:00 am fragrant breeze wafting me out of bed again.
PC: Yes. Purrrrr. You were pretty snarly, for a human.
Q: Yer damned right! It’s really hard to keep getting awakened out of a deep sleep by a crappy smell.
PC: I beg your pardon!
Q: OK, OK. I know this is just call to nature stuff. But really, 3 more times from 7-9 am? And then off and on all day? Really, Pix, it’s a bit much!
PC: Well, did you ever think this is something you’re doing?
PC: Maybe it’s the food?
Q: Hmmm…you usually don’t go this often. What have I been doing differently?
PC: Dunno, but dinner was tasty tonight.
Q (sotto voce): You know, I think it’s time for some rice in your food, Pixelle Cat.
SOUNDS - litterbox scratching in the BKGD.
CUT TO: 3 days later - Night
Q: How you feeling, Pix?
PC (suspiciously): Why do you ask?
Q: You only used the litter box twice today.
PC: Yeah. I guess you’re right. I’ll have to work harder.
Q: Very funny.
Timeout for some cat cuddles.
Is there a moral to this tail? You tell us! Hint: rice really does help get rid of The Pussycat Runs. Anyone have any other remedies? Or similar tails?
Pussycat Goes Walkabout
It all began when little Sam Cat went walkabout in October of 2012. I was of course heartbroken. She tried to come back in two nights later, but her former boon companion Pixelle the Prosecutor hissed and snarled fiercely and she ran off. I raced out after her, but could not get her to come back in....Then Sam started coming around, in April of this year. I'd been worried sick and felt guilty as hell for letting her out in the first place. But then, I've had cats since I was a kid and this is only the second who'd ever disappeared. And I'd always let them outside because I think no living critter should be trapped.
Dear Sam Fans --
I don't know how to tell you this. So I'm just gonna go in. The little pussycat, residing in a cabinet in one of my bathrooms for close to 3 weeks, was beginning to lose it. Crying out several times a night, glaring at me from inside instead of looking sweet. If I dared put a toy or the brush she'd loved in close, a claw would come shooting out, and huge hissing would accompany the shot. So, despite the advice of my vet and a pet behavior specialist, I thought, I've got to get her out of there so that I can begin the reintegration process, if that's going to be possible.
First step, called Animal Control to see if they send people to help get feral-types out of things like cabinets. Answer, no way in hell! Let this cat go. She clearly wants no part of you or the others in the household. Ever. She'll be fine outside without shots. Millions of pussycats are.
I wasn't really buying it, but I did want to bring her, and me, some relief. And relief also for the other two cats, who kept getting lured into one room by me to try to get little Sam to feel safe emerging, and would then get very testy with each other. Not a great plan. So, next step, call a vet tech and see if he would be able to make a house call to help me first confirm this is little Sam, and then help me get her to vet for check up. Then, be able to help with reintegration, i.e., insuring the other two cats wouldn't kill her.
I lucked out and the tech was able to come next day. With steel lined gloves scarred, as he showed me, by previous cat bites and scratches. And big towels. And a net. He'd warned me this was going to be a battle though he would do his best to get the cat and wrap her in a towel to soothe her, and then he'd be able to "wand" her to check the microchip to make sure we've got Sammy. The net would only be used as a last resort, because it would really stress the pussycat out.
So, I was told to let him do his thing while I went off, and not be surprised by noises. He'd call me when ready. I left him to his thing while answering a very exciting email. Which was a little difficult due to numerous thumps and thuds in the background.
Finally, the call. I went to the tech, who was standing catless but with information. No chip. Sammy of course has a microchip. Huh? "Can't find a chip. I was only able to check one side of her, but the wand really should show if there is one."
I was dubious. He offered to check the other side of the cat, which meant I was again sent off while he made valiant efforts to corral the angry and scared ball of fur. Several minutes later I was called in again.
"No way. She took hold of my finger with her teeth, through the glove, and I thought, 'Great! Now I'll be able to check her completely.' But, she was going to go right through my hand. So, last resort. Do I have your permission to use the net?"
He'd warned me using a net might need to happen. He now added that I should expect pee and poop. I suggested we remove the rugs. He said that was a great idea. So, out I went again.
VERY LOUD HISSING AND BANGING. But, finally, a net emerged from the bathroom, containing one furious cat. The vet tech followed, holding said net.
We got 'er done. No chip.
Then the tech put the lid on. "I think this is a boy."
There are other chapters coming. "From pee and poop to something better," and "When does becoming a lock picker make you a good person?" For tonight, I'll leave it by saying my daughter's friend has now labelled me a cat kidnapper.
LIFE IN THE CATS LANE
You who are owned by cats, like me, know the morning drill. Here’s an excerpt from my diary from a typical Tuesday...
5:00 am. Sound asleep, peacefully dreaming. Of something other than cats, most of the time. Lately for me, it’s how to get a word out of x, e and p in Word on my cell phone, something I’ve been addicted to since Alec Baldwin got thrown off the plane for playing this wretched game.
Suddenly, something lands on my head. Aacchhh! What the hell? Wide awake, I see a cat on my chest, peering into my face. Little Sam Cat. But I know that she wasn’t what landed on my head – the missile was much lighter. I feel around the pillow. Ah, there it is. One of Sammy’s nerf mice. She loves to play fetch and is really good at it.
But I’m not having any. “NO, Sammy! It is not time to get up!!!” I try to hide the mouse in a drawer. Sammy is not fooled and pulls the drawer’s handle to get at her treasure. Luckily, she’s not quite strong enough. I savor this tiny triumph, feeling not the least bit of guilt. And, closing my eyes, I drift back off…
5:20 am. SPROING! Dammit to hell! Sitting up, I’m just in time to witness little Sam take a running leap and ricochet off the bed again, meowing loudly upon hitting the floor seven feet away. “Sam! Cut that out!!!”
Sure. A few more running leaps, with contact. I remain motionless, trying to fool the cats into thinking I’m really back to sleep.
5:30 am. A very deep growling meow, followed by a poke in the cheek with a claw. A gentle poke, not meant to hurt, but a poke nonetheless. I have never been able to teach the very affectionate Pixelle to keep those sharp nails retracted. “No, Pix. It is NOT time for breakfast! Go back to sleep.” A heavy weight walks down my body, finally making circles between my knees. Mercifully, Pix nestles, meowlessly, between my knees. Grateful, eyes closed, I nod off again.
6:35 am. BANG, BANG, BANG! Without turning around, I yell, “Fi Cat, stop that!” Fiona, Sam’s sister, is opening the cabinet door, which springs shut with a loud thwhack each time she tries to pry it open with a paw. The door slams once or twice more, then, amazingly, all is quiet on the bedside front.
7:00 am. An Identified Flying Object lands with a thud on my right foot. “Sam-meee!!!!!” She has leapt from the top of a 7 foot tall bookshelf.
7:01 am. OK, I guess that’s it for sleep. I stretch, and before I’ve even stood up a feline chorus rings out. Sergeant Pix, Cat-in-Charge-of-Getting-Meals-for-the-4-Legged, takes command, going nose to nose with her little sisters, telling them breakfast is coming. Meanwhile, I rattle around the kitchen, taking care not to step on anyone.
First things first: set up the coffee maker – as a friend says, gotta get my heart started. Next, it’s pick up all 3 cat plates and soak them in the sink, to loosen any stuck-on morsels remaining from dinner. While the plates are immersed in suds, I pad into the guest bathroom and empty the clumps in the litter box. I then go into my office, where a second litter box resides, for the almost exclusive use of Fiona Cat. Which I’ll explain in another post … it’s a long story.
7:30 am. OK, so by now, coffee brewing, boxes cleaned for the morning, it’s time to return to the kitchen, scrub the cat plates, and dollop ¼ can of wet food onto each. Knowing the cats will turn up their noses if served the same food twice in a row, I carefully alternate stacks of pussycat meals before placing them in the cupboard. Love it on days when the already sliced bits or filets come up…much faster. Today it happens to be the pate, which can’t simply be spooned onto the plate, so I had to take a bit of extra time mashing the liver and chicken with a fork.
I put the plates down, food ready to be picked up easily by the kids with no hands. Pix takes a few bites, then retreats to the litter box. Pungent. As soon as she returns to her food, I run in and re-scoop. Next, it’s rinse out the water bowls and replace, with filtered water from the frig door. The little ones deserve not to have metals in their systems, just like us humans, right?
First sip of coffee. Ah….this day might be alright after all.
Sammy leaves the room.
Litterbox scratching sounds, accompanied by an indelicate odor filter into the living room from the guest bath …
_or ... Head on Neck, Place
For the last few weeks, I have been in a tizzy. More than usual. I am not sure why. Lots going on, but that in itself is not unusual. I am a million years older than I used to be, so that could be a factor, except, the series of things that have been happening are familiar…going into a room and forgetting what the hell for, asking the cats, but they don’t know either and so are of no help, none of this is new. Putting things down and then not finding them until they’re good and ready to be found, something I call “Reverse Kleptomania,” also par for the course for years.
But today kind of takes the cake. I put together a handful of stuff to toss into the trash, grabbing my keys on the way out. I live in a condo, so this is standard procedure. We toss the regular trash down a chute in a special little room off the laundry on each floor. But I also had recycling stuff, so I would need to go down to the garage, as that type of trash goes into special containers. For security, we have to have our keys to open the elevator on the lower level.
So far, so good. I’ve got everything held in such a way as to keep the keys and toss the trash. Carefully, I keep the keys in one hand as I toss some of the regular trash with the other, keeping the recycling tucked under one arm. Then, I carefully toss the other trash down the chute. Voila! Great work. Except, OMG, I’m not holding the keys. Did I toss them in with the second bunch of gar-bahge? Oh, no! I did, I did. Arrrgggghhhhh. How could I forget I was holding them?
OK, OK. I know I’m a sieve head. So what to do? As I run back to the apartment to pick up an extra set of keys, thoughts come flying through my brain. Yick. I’m going to have to reach into the smelly mess of gunk. I just hope I can get to it without having to dive in. I remember that there’s been a ladder in the garage the past few days, for some ongoing repairs. I hold onto the ray of hope that it’s still there. When I get to my apartment, I decide to grab the broom, in hopes it will help me ensnare the keys without having to dumpster dive. I run back to the elevator and keep hoping the ladder is still there. Wow! It is. My luck expands. There is also a neighbor there who sees my expression, and asks, “What happened?” When I tell him, he says, “You know, you could always call a locksmith. It’s $70.”
" Well, yeah, but those are my car keys, and a replacement costs $100 and has to be special ordered...it'll take days, and it’s the only one I have.”
“No problem. I’ll help you,” he says with a nod. He carries the ladder over while I prop open the door to the dreaded dumpster. Oy, the odor.
My valiant savior climbs up to the top of the ladder. “You can’t see a bloody thing in here. We need a torch. Do you have a torch?”
Yeah, I remember, he grew up in England. “I do, but of course hadn’t thought to bring it down.”
“You really can’t see any thing. Can you get the torch?”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
“No worries. I’ll wait for you.”
Leaving the broom by the door, I turn to go. “Thanks so much!!!!”
I race to my apartment, get the only flashlight I have, which throws out a very small light, race back down, hoping it will do. When I get back to the fragrant dumpster, I hand the light to my friend.
“What is this? You can’t see anything with this…Wait…I see them….hold on….”
He reaches over, without the aid of the broom, swoops down and comes back up, keys in hand.
I ask, afraid to hear the answer, “Did they land on a dry spot?”
“They’re cool. No problem. You’re very lucky.”
He hands me the perfectly dry, perfectly clean, non-aromatic keys. I threw my arms around him, giving him a huge hug. “I can’t thank you enough!”
“No problem. Have a great day! Don’t worry about the ladder. I’ll put it back.”
Feeling saved once again in life, I happily return home.
Am I really getting soft in the head with age, my biggest fear in life? Well, mayhap. But I also remember what my mother once told me. “You drop things because you forget you’re holding them.” I was 8.
On the Death of My Blender
From "Ina Hillebrandt, The Appliance Years"
Those of you who know me may recall the days, a bit ago, when I dedicated my life to selecting, and then purchasing new appliances for my kitchen. Those were rarified times. I’d get up in the morning, brew coffee on my brand new Gevalia brushed steel coffeemaker, waltz over to the computer, and start the day’s search for the very best blender and food processor I could find, in brushed steel to match the lovely coffeemaker, at the best prices of course.
It all started when I took my customary neighborhood two mile walk one Sunday morning. As I rounded the bend on the homeward stretch, I saw what can only be described as Stuff. Laid out handsomely at the mouth of the driveway of its large apartment complex, it was Stuff nonetheless. What caught my eye specifically was a small Pakistani rug with a bit of my favorite color, peacock blue, woven into its pattern. Perfect, I thought, for an elegant doormat I’d been thinking I needed. As I approached the rug, I also saw other items spread out along the sides of the driveway that piqued my interest. But before even considering these, I asked a young woman who seemed to be one of the sale’s hosts, “How much for this rug?” “One dollar,” she told me. Thrilled, I immediately said, “Sold!” Occasionally I am quite decisive.
With this super purchase under my belt, I began to roam, eagle-eyed, about the various items on display. There was a set of 7 foot tall pine bookcases, another Item I’d been thinking I needed to house the overflow of books at my place, a waffle iron/grill for my daughter, several attractive wooden planters, and some lovely baskets. Total cost: about $45! But the prize was something I’d never seen before. A sleek, sophisticated brushed steel blender and food processor, all in one unit! With about a zillion tantalizing attachments fit into the curved base. The design was by Italian masters, wonderful, a kind of swooping S curve with the blender on one end and food processor on the other. “Does this work?” I asked the lady who was the seller of this unique cooking instrument. “Of course!” she assured me. The price? Are you sitting down? $10.00. I could hardly believe my luck. I had a blender, but it was vintage ‘80s and a gold color, as was my food processor, which I kept in a cabinet and never used. But here everything would be in one place, taking up little counter space vs. that required by two separate pieces, beautiful to look at in the bargain, and the requisite brushed steel. “I’ll take it!” I said happily. Given I had a lot of little things to cart back to my place, the blender/food processor/planter/bookcase seller offered to loan me her wheelbarrow, which was perfect. I was to bring it back when I returned for the bookcases. One of the fellows on hand would walk them the block and a half to my place using a hand cart when he was free later, with me guiding him.
As soon as I got home with the smaller goodies, I couldn’t resist. The blender/processor were a bit bespotted by food particles, and I couldn’t wait to get the whole thing cleaned up so I could try it out. A half hour and a few cuts later (those blades were indeed sharp), everything sparkled. I plugged the unit in, and pushed the on button for the blender. Silence. Same for the food processor. I rearranged both units, thinking I’d perhaps not got them on snugly enough or in quite the right spot. Pushed the buttons, one at a time again. Nothing.
Well, I thought, maybe there’s a trick to it. Thinking logistically, I hurriedly emptied a beat up bookcase I planned to toss now that I had the new one, packed up the fancy appliance, put it into the wheelbarrow and back to the sale I went. Coming up to the previous owner, I said, “Not to worry! You gave me such good prices on everything I wouldn’t dream of returning this, but I can’t seem to get the blender thingie to turn on. Can you show me how you put it together? Maybe I’m doing something wrong.” The lady smiled and showed me how to do it, which looked to be the same procedure I had followed. “Well,” I said, “I’ll take it back home and try again. Thanks so much!” Ever hopeful, I escorted the shelf-pusher back to my place, we put the bookcases where I wanted them, took the unit I’d emptied earlier to the curb to be picked up by anyone who wanted it. Then, bidding adieu to the nice man, I hastily went back inside. And back to the Italian. Which, once reassembled, again failed to work. Frustrated, I went online to see if I could find out anything further about getting this one to work, or maybe purchase a new one if the price were right. It was then I found that 9 out of 10 people who had bought one of these hated it and would never recommend it. Turns out there was a trick to making it work, but it wasn’t foolproof, and even if the reviewers got it to go on, the motors would burn out within a year and you could not get them fixed.
Rats! I thought. A few other words came to mind. However, not one to remain defeated, I began my search for the perfect all-in-one. It became clear pretty fast that there was no such thing. At one store, the Cuisinart people told me there was a reason no one else makes a blender and food processor together in one unit, with two separate stands aboard – they don’t work! Yes, there were compromise units, with smaller pitchers that tried to accommodate both types of cooking needs on one stand. But if you got one of these, you sacrificed capacity, flexibility or power. After two full weeks of daily checking, I finally found a great buy on a huge Kitchen Aid food processor. Not brushed steel, it had a shiny stainless base, but it would look good with the coffeemaker, and was top of the line in terms of performance. The real splurge would be the blender. A gorgeous Breville. European design, most powerful motor, it was just simply the most beautiful appliance I’d ever seen. So, I shopped and shopped for the best price. Finally, when it went on sale for almost $100 less than its usual price I raced to the store to grab one.
And ever since purchasing the beauty, I never tired of looking at it. The lid has a loop for a handle, giving it a distinctive appearance, and the base is a beautiful tall pedestal of brushed steel. It zoomed into action when called upon to perform, quickly whipping up guacamole, morning smoothies and other sauces and mixes. A few weeks ago I started to experiment with blender ice cream. Using crushed ice, frozen fruit chunks and skim milk, plus vanilla and Stevia, I could create delicious yet low fat and calorie-trimmed treats for myself, and then a group of friends at a dinner. However, the blender was not happy. She began to argue with me until one night when I was whomping up a chocolate cake batter to pour over pears in a fluted baking dish, she started smoking. I turned her off of course, and took out the batter, blending it with a spatula as best I could. The cake? Perfect. The Breville? Dead. Even after resting, she would not start again. I felt totally bereft, and betrayed.
So, I got a new baby -- the Ninja. With three blades at different levels on the removable stem, it promised to be an even better performer than the Breville, which though I loved her dearly, was a bit of a pain to work with -- heavy (glass vs. plastic pitcher on the Ninja), and you always had to take off the bottom, which screws and unscrews in directions opposite those in the U.S., a thing I always had to think about. And whatever was under the blade at the bottom would be hard to scrape out. The Ninja’s bottom is easy to get to so there should be less waste, I figured.
At the counter when trading in the European work-of-art-cum-blender, I told the sales rep how sad I was at its passing. He asked if I’d thought of just trying a different Breville. Maybe you got a bad one, he suggested. After all, isn’t the Breville the very best on the market? He said I should try the Ninja if I really wanted to, then feel free to bring it back if not satisfied, and try another Breville. After a few days, I find the Ninja’s a snap to use. It fits on its base easily, is light to pick up and take apart for cleaning. That’s very neat. And while it isn’t as elegant, it’s OK to look at. But ya know what? There are tiny ice particles that don’t quite get exploded by the Ninja…
On Being a Jewish Mother
I just noticed how long it's been since I've written in here. And I blame it all on the new arrivals, Samantha and Fiona Cat, now about 8 months old, here since they were about 4 months of age. Well, there has been a lot to do on our video project (more soon about that), and an upcoming book. But the cats have also taken their toll.
Every day since they arrived it's been like this:
7:00 am: Wake up, have coffee. I don't care what else is going on, without 17 cups, well, OK, 4, my eyes won't focus.
7:05: Clean the litter box(es).
7:10: Sip coffee while feeding the furred ones. This means keeping Samantha, a born vulture, at her own plate so Grazer Pix won't get hers cleaned prematurely by the Little Interloper, or her sister Fiona. See, once they finish their own food, Sam and Fiona crouch nearby and stare at Pix, menacingly. Pix is cowed by this behavior, and abandons her food.
Unless I intervene, Sam especially gets fat and Pix is left to nibble dry food.
So I have got wily. I now put Pix's plate in my office, lure her in with me and then leave her to munch while I go back to tidy up the kitchen, and yes, clean the litter box in the bathroom, again. Once Pix is done in the office, I go back to let her out, and to clean that litter box. For little creatures they sure poop a lot. And yes, I now have a litter box in my office.
You cat owners out there, did you ever notice that as soon as you clean the litter box one or another of your little furred friends has to make his or her mark in the sand?
8:00 You know the drill. Sigh.
The rest of the day is interwoven with cleanouts, referring fights and playing fetch with Samantha. Used to be Pix's game. Now, to get Pix to resume her role, I have to close us both up in the office for playtime, too. Otherwise, Sam takes over the toys.
In Facebook, I mentioned that I brought Fiona home to keep Pix company.
Next time remind me to tell you about the trauma we faced when I brought Sam home to keep Fiona company.
Back to Writing Tips!
And even to jot down some more memoir writing tips. Here are some of Ina's Weird Prompts (TM) to get ya started. These are more for flexing and lubricating writing muscles than specifically for memoir-writing. But I have found often that people in my classes find links in their minds to treasured memories from these little lines. Have fun with them!
Hi, and glad to see you! My blog features memoir and fiction writing tips for you out there aiming to create enchanting memoirs and flights of fancy of your own; new "Pawprints," those close encounters of the furry kind, by moi; and topical comments as they bang on my head to be written. Plus: videos featuring talented authors I'm privileged to work with, reading live, Coming...your life stories, here. Got one you want to share? Use our form to be considered.