It started on YouTube…

My first Internet exposure was on YouTube in April 2009. I had this notion I’d vlog my way to notoriety as a retirement activity that’d keep me off the streets yet encourage some small brain activity…so I didn’t die a slow, stupid death over however much time I had on this side of the divide.

I’ve set aside those early videos, much as I refocused this blog as one about “surviving retirement with two cats”. Cats are much, much more interesting and entertaining than some old fat guy chatting. Let’s be honest here! Yet those old videos pop up when people discover the older videos, recognize some value in them, and attach comments to them.

YouTube re-invented their channel format awhile back, and the new format allows viewers a sample of whichever videos the poster choses to feature. I feature current videos, most viewed videos, and favorites by others on my channel. Before the improvements, a viewer had to dig to find earlier videos people posted or call them up with tags. Most of the “most viewed” videos are early efforts at establishing a presence on YouTube. Apparently, people still find them worth a look.

Here are my five “most viewed” videos plus my favorite Andy video of when he was a very young kitten, upset with me for reasons I never learned:

NUMBER 1 ~

NUMBER 2 ~

NUMBER 3 ~

NUMBER 4 ~

NUMBER 5 ~

And, finally, Andy at two months old:

The Prednisone videos are hard to watch again, though people dealing with the effects of that drug periodically leave comments and questions on these. Doctors take heed: You put people on the drug, but you fail to really, really explain possible side effects, like you can suffer psychosis on the drug or develop diabetes. No small matters!

The Louie videos are fun. [“Lucy” is Louie before I learned how to tell the difference between a female and a neutered male cat. Ha! Seriously!]

Advertisements

spring has…almost…sprung!

I am a spring time person. I love the cold nights and the cool days, the soft rains and the raging thunderstorms, the smell of loam after a storm, the plants sending out new shoots of life I will enjoy into autumn. It’s hard to be cynical and sour when everything comes together, new.

Those who read this blog from time to time know that last year at this time I did a series of walks with my handsome ginger tabby, Louie. Louie and I had small adventures each time I followed him on his walks. They always were concerned with, from Louie’s perspective, “What’s new in my territory?!” Then, August 1, 2011, Louie died suddenly of lymphoma. I didn’t know until the very night he died that he was ill. To this day, I grieve that fact because I had medical insurance on Louie. He could have had a couple more years if we’d caught it in time. Yeah.

But it is spring time, time to put away the sorrows and travails of the previous years, and enjoy the resurgence of life.

This year I have Louie’s successors, the kitten brothers. Full of life and the dickens, Andy and Dougy aren’t Louie, but they are a new adventure for me. Louie I rescued from the pound when the veterinarian estimated him to be five. The kitten brothers come to me when they were a bit older than two months, last September.

The kitten brothers. Cynical Andy, just now starting to accept things as they are and enjoying them a little. He was the sicker of the two kittens, and had to put up with more than a life time of baths to wash the diarrhea out of his fur. Ugh! Goofy Dougy, always ready for a good time. He and Andy play well together, and I think Andy benefits from Andy’s goofiness, his “come on, Andy, let’s chase each other all over the apartment and hunt each other down” way of keeping Andy occupied with what’s necessary for kittens: A good time, all the time, thank you!

Spring. The kittens are eight months old, as of March 1st. They make me laugh. They make me look forward to getting out of bed in the morning. They behave badly but are good, little kittens by and large. Explorers of their realm, little predators learning how to do it by hunting each other -and me sometimes – they are spring spirits, young, reckless, adventuresome, rough around the edges, but holding the full promise of a renewal of the cat presence I liked about Louie in my life. They enter spring as kitten teenagers. That should be interesting!

I’m in a spring mood today. The remains of last year remind me of the cycle of life that ends in death for all living things, but there always is that little sprout poking up through the dead leaves, impossibly small now, but just waiting to spring forth as rhubarb, the first chives for a light oniony touch in an omelette, or maybe mint for some tea.

Spring. My season!

where have I been?

It’s been a long, hot summer. Lots of visitors, transitions. It all left me stunned, tired, worn.

I enjoyed the visits. Those were good! Some friends I’d not seen in years. Larry and Robert: four years. Ralph: three years. My brother from California, my sister and friend from Seattle, my other sister from Rapid City filled in the rest of the time. I felt blessed by each visit, and look forward to more in the coming year. Another friend, from Rapid City, couldn’t break away from his railroad job long enough to visit with us, an all too common thing, eh?! The person closest to the host is the one who can’t make it. Life can be perverse.

After 22 months of companionship, laughs, my cat Louie died August 1st or lymphoma. I was – am – shocked because I didn’t even suspect he was ill until his last day. I made a video for his veterinarian, thinking I could somehow save Louie by documenting how ill he was. The morning of August 2nd, I found him dead in my dryer, his favorite “hideyhole”. I bawled. I bawl just writing this. Louie was a beautiful, great cat.

Don’t watch this video if you are sensitive.

If you are sensitive, watch this Louie video. It is Louie at his best. He was a great cat!

When I picked up Louie’s ashes, a lady who works as a technician at the veterinarian’s asked if I’d be interested in a kitten. He wouldn’t be ready to leave “home” for about a month, she said. He was a pure bred Persian, suitable to be a pet, but not suitable for breeding or showing because his face is a bit crooked.

My face is a bit crooked, too, I thought, and I said I’d at least take a look.

It was instant bonding! I will tell more about this new kitten as our relationship develops. He isn’t a Louie, but, as this little video shows, he is quite the character. I named him Andrew (after the patron saint of Scotland) and James (because I like the name and all my pets have “James” as a middle name- why not?). Just plain Andy!

What do you think? Is Andy a keeper?

Louie alive~!!

All Louie blog time. I’ve found the video feature on my digital camera is just a little more fun than a straight photo, so you get to endure all Louie videos this time!

hiatus

My word! The last time I posted, it was the middle of summer, July 31st! Perhaps the cooler weather will prompt me to return to this blog.

A lot happened in that time, mostly management of my mother’s and my financial and insurance business, something I don’t want to relive.

At this point, I don’t think I have insurance coverage. I’ve become one of those unfortunates who fall under the status “has pre-existing condition”. It’s a big ‘un, too. Wegener’s granulomatosis. Not on the Nebraska Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool list of pre-existing conditions they cover.

Well, there is one form of vascular disease- WG is a vascular disease- on the list, but it relates of arterial issues arising from smoking. Wegener’s granulomatosis isn’t that. Smoking!? And what about these other “pre-existing conditions”? Alcoholism. Attempted suicide. Cancer survivor.

I’m here to tell you, if you are going to have a pre-existing condition in THIS country, the United States of America, it better not be an orphan disease!

“I’m here to tell you…”

That expression crept into my awareness after I first came down with Wegener’s granulomatosis in March or April 2003. Surviving that initial flare, surviving treatment with Cytoxan and Prednisone (the standard treatment for severe cases then and largely now, and known among weggies as the “Toxic cocktail”), that phrase took on new meaning and life.

“I am here to tell you,” I’d say. It wasn’t a given before. I was near death, with lungs and kidneys under assault by my own immune system. “I’m here to tell you,” I’d say. And I meant it!

I. Am. Here. To. Tell. You! I am here to tell you that America’s healthcare system is failing me just now, its insurance side at least, and I hope and pray that my health holds out until the Republican- and insurance company-opposed healthcare reforms phase in or I reach the age where Medicare kicks in, if that will do the trick.

I’m waiting now for a call or an e-mail from BCBS’s local agent to let me know if I am “in” or I am “out”.

If I am “in”, I get to pay too much for less insurance than I had under my company, then COBRA, plans. And be grateful to a healthcare system that values dollars over people, rich people over poor, the advantaged over the disadvantaged, umm… I hear violins!

[“Can Jimmy Stewart return from heaven and play me in the tragic movie I’m playing in my mind. Yes? Oh, good!”]

If I am “out”, I probably will survive. I’ll even set money aside for a rainy day when my body’s auto-immune system runs amok, again, as probability tells me it most likely will before I die of it or its complications.

[I must get to work on that obituary and funeral arrangements. I’m a veteran, so should qualify for a burial by Uncle Sam in the new veteran’s cemetery built on top of an old prairie dog town where I used to watch burrowing owl chicks feed on grasshoppers brought to them by their parents. I’ll like that!]

These will be days of uncertainty, but not days bereft of hope. My faith in God, tempered by this terrible illness, is key to that. That and the fact that God in His infinite wisdom had the good sense to create cats, of which I have one very amusing and companionable specimen, Louie.

I’m here to tell you, that’s Louie in the photo in the super hero suit he’ll wear when he rescues me from this quagmire! Good kitty!

seasonal miscellany

The coming of warm weather doesn’t appeal to me. I have difficulty with heat, perhaps a side effect of the Wegener’s granulomatosis, this disease I have that affects the small and medium size blood vessels. The how and why don’t make much difference: I hate heat!

The coming of warm weather has salubrious results if you are a member of the plant kingdom, however. This is the iris season where I live. We just went through the flowering crab apple (and other apple varieties) season a couple weeks ago. A bit earlier than that, to my delight, the rhubarb I planted last year made a small appearance. I think I planted eight plants, of which only two came up. From the two, I might yet get some rhubarb from the relatively larger one.

There it is! My little rhubarb! Actually, my little big one.

I’ve planted a couple of heirloom tomatoes, a Brandywine and another the name of which escapes me. Somewhere around the end of August, I should start to have too many tomatoes to deal with. The varieties I chose both are of the beefsteak style: one slice’ll do you because one slice covers the hamburger, BLT sandwich, whatever you have it on.

In past, when I had more consumers of tomatoes available, I planted up to eight plants. I’d make a delicious tomato plate with vinegrette and herb dressing (nasturtium, marigold petal, several varieties of basel, and two varieties of mint). Whew! That was garden eating!

Now, for the latest cat news!

Have I mentioned Louie can be willful and just plain obnoxious when he’s in a mood? My brother and my Seattle sister both have cats. They proclaimed Louie a sweet cat, but I testify to this: a sweet cat is still a cat! That’s my breakfast, my coffee, my juice, my chair. Yeah, like that!

The warming weather makes Louie, my ginger cat, restless to get outside and be a cat. This goes against my will for him. I live too close to busy roads to just turn him out. When Louie looked out the back door and found a visitor, keeping him in became harder yet. I call this familiar neighborhood cat “J. Doe”. Louie called it several names of his own before it fled, stage right. After this visit, Louie became much, much more interested in getting out on his own.

Even when the late spring snow came, and I let Louie experience wet paws, his wishes were delayed, not ended. J. Doe would have to wait for another day.

Louie’s behavior outside is reasonably good. I walk alongside or behind him. If you’ve ever “walked” a cat, you know they piddle around much more than most dogs. Sniff, rub, roll around in the loose dirt, just sit there, dig a potty hole (I approve, sort of- less litterbox waste to deal with, but an outside booby trap for an unsuspecting gardener.). When I’m ready to go in, usually when Louie starts to wander farther than I want to carry a 20 lb. (9kg) cat, I pick him up and take him back home. Yeah, he gets pissy about it, whining, threatening, ears folded back.

“Save it for your little cat friends, Louie.” Which, in this last photo, he demonstrates he did.


crepuscular

The black crowned night heron comes to mind when I think of “crepuscular”, meaning active just before and after dawn and twilight. That’s when you’ll find this handsome little heron in the marshes and lakes out in the Nebraska Sandhills.

A crepuscular black crowned night heron.

Once I decided it was time to have a cat companion, I had an idea they were active at night, or, at least, were active sometimes during the day, or why would they become the current favorite companion animal? If you just wanted a fur ball, you could get a Pomeranian. They’re cute! “Doggy”! Companionable! Diurnal! And perfect hand warmers in winter time!

I had an impression of what I wanted in my pound cat...!

I did have some sense of what I wanted in a cat. A neck warmer, perhaps, a lump that was active enough to engage me in cat fun, but not so active as to interrupt things like writing this blog. I mean, I didn’t want a needy cat, I wanted one that was copasetic, comfortable, a purrbunny in fact. A cat that had a dog-like love of attention, but a cat-like independence (i.e. didn’t attach itself to my leg and never leave me alone).

One expects certain demanding behaviors from the cat!

Nor did I want one that demanded so much of me that I didn’t have a life at home short of doing the cat’s bidding, a little dictator!

How demanding can a cat that sleeps 23-3/4 hours a day be!?

Louie’s veterinarian estimates him to be five years old, which makes him a mature cat but not an old one. I like to think of him as a 30-something cat, just embarking on a new job, that is to be a perfect companion for me.

And it means settling in here, learning that 2:30 AM isn’t feeding time, Louie. (“Eat some crunchies to tide you over, cat!”). Learning that the scratching board will have endless supplies of catnip pellets if you use it, Louie. That you don’t have to be up all the time I am, but best sources say I’m supposed to give you 12-1/2 minutes of attention a day for you to be properly socialized. Please, let’s not make that 50% at night when you hog up half my bed, and 50% when I find you asleep on the guest bedroom bed and wake you up for some kitty quality time! And help me with this cat toy business. What is it you need and want? Hunh? I can’t continue to buy cat toys you don’t use.

"Wuv" my kitty!

In the meantime, my job is to give my kitty “wuv”. I don’t care if he is crepuscular!

a little death

I had a call from the veterinarian this morning, 8:00 o’clock.

Freckles had died during the night. They were very sorry. They- the vet who spayed Freckles and another vet, who is an old friend of mine from over at the last place I lived- would do an autopsy on her, would let me know what they learned. She would be cremated. Would I like the ashes (“No.”) Would it be OK if they spread them, then, around a tree they have in front of the clinic? (“Yes.”)

Picture 63

Freckles and Me

Who accepts death immediately? I fight denial as I type. She was such a sweet little cat. She was so gentle, I’d hoped to take her over to the care center, for her to become the cat version of the dog, Benji. Benji belongs to one of the staff, and everyone loves him, he’s such a sweet little dog. See the pattern? She’d be a therapy cat or just something sweet and alive to cuddle in old arms and hands. No way can she be dead!

Freckles died. Is dead. Won’t come home. She will be cremated, and her ashes will be scattered round a tree that grows in front of the clinic. I like that. I drive by the tree many times a month. Her new home.

The vet reported the findings of the autopsy to me. Clear lungs. (I’d mentioned she sneezed a lot.) Normal kidneys. (She was a young cat, her life measured in weeks.) Nothing out of order where she’d been opened surgically. (The vets at the clinic all have great reputations, for cause.) In short, Freckles died of an “undetermined cause”.

In the human mind, though, “undetermined cause” is the start of outrageous speculation!

What of her three weeks in the pound, listening to and smelling the barking dogs? The stress of surgery plus the return to a cage while she recovered? That the recovery cage was surrounded on two sides by recovering dogs? Did they bark? Did she cower in her cage, frightened she was returning to this hell?

When the mind runs wild, anything is an answer. Stress. That’s my guess. It’s as good as “undetermined cause”, though I grant the two veterinarians involved in the autopsy the credibility that comes of their long years of study and practice as veterinarians.

guard cat

Louie and Me

What next?

Louie still lives with me. He is a charming, quirky cat. I will use him to fine-tune my knowledge of cat companionship. When I feel I’m suitably trained, Louie and I will adopt another pound cat. Or maybe a dog. No, a cat.

Today has been sad, there have been tears. A little death can do that to your day.

p.s. While I write, Louie holds vigil at the backyard window above my computer desk. Several times every night, he sits in the window, then backs out, comes over to me for a little loving. Or to stretch out over my mouse, mouse hand, and part of my keyboard, a good spot to snooze, by Louie standards. We’ll get on just fine.