Monday, March 23, 2015

Grateful For Catitude

Barn cats are a tough breed. 
We have four specimens of this special breed. 
And I'm always amazed they are still with us at age four. 
Yes, I just knocked on wood. 
The out of doors is a rough place. 
Country life involves foxes, stray cats, and the sheer idea of becoming lost. 
Which I'm positive happened to one of our boys a few years ago.
Missing for two weeks. 
He's never strayed again. 
Our troop grew up in our barn that sits about 30 yards from our house. 
They began residing there at eight weeks of age. 
Acquired on Independance Day. 
Hence their names. 
Firecracker. 
Popcorn. 
Jumper. 
Cali. 
I don't know how that last name came to be as the others are all BOOM related. 
BOOM as in a firework sound. 
They were named by the kids. 
Zoe was in the middle of her two years of chemo. 
She usually got anything she wanted. 
Bald and walking around in a chemo haze, she was easy to please. 
You want some kittens?
Sure thing kid!
We went to grandma's friend's house that steamy July day to get ONE kitten from the litter that was living in her shed. 
But we couldn't pick just one. 
Too. 
Much.
Cuteness. 
So, we brought all four home. 
And surprised my husband with our loot. 
Good thing he likes cats. 


As they grew older and braver they began wandering closer and closer to our house. 
And the girls eventually brought them into their domain. 
Where they were coddled and kissed and put into doll beds. 
These four siblings are by far the sweetest, most trusting felines I have ever seen. 


And I've seen many cats. 
A decade and a half of veterinary techiness behind me, I am one with cats. 
And seem to prefer their ways more so than the dog way. 


Today was shot day. 
I prefer to give these barn cats their annual vaccination to prevent feline funkitude. 
It can be pricey to take four cats to the vet's office for vaccines.
I can't by law give a rabies shot, so our horse vet does that when she comes out. 


They were all neutered, with one spay thrown in, at about 4 months of age. 
I didn't do the surgery though. 
Our vet did. 
And they still joke at their office how Popcorn lost his kernels that day. 


On cold days they tend to stay inside. 
Inside our house. 
Snuggled on our laps or on a bed with one of our two housecats.  
Sometimes we even see them snuggled up next to a dog. 
I have the honor of saying that we have the best group of cats on the planet. 
There are no fights. 
Lots of head licking. 
The barn cats exit at night to go on the prowl. 
We find dead mice sometimes. 
That's their main job. 
Mouse control. 
In warm weather they are outside all day and night. 
Lounging in the barn. 
Sunbathing near the barnyard water trough. 
Relaxing on our pool deck as children run past them to cannonball into the cool relief of water. 
Barn cats are the best. 
Well, mine are anyway...


Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Shouldn't Have Left Home...

I was only gone for four days. 
And on day two it happened. 
I had hopped into a car with a friend and rode west on I-80 through Iowa. 
We landed in Omaha and I believe I was probably at The Bagel Bin on Sunday when it occurred. 
As I was sitting devouring a delicious everything bagel that had just the right amount of salt and toppings baked into it, he was on Amazon. 
Buying a metal detector. 
Something that I feared would come into our home eventually 
Something that I had forbid for years. 
You might say "what kind of person are you to forbid your husband anything?!"
Well, let me tell you this...

I prefer my yard to NOT have a bunch of holes in it. 
I prefer to NOT have piles of metal doohickeys around every corner. 
He's done enough damage with his five pound magnet attached to a rope that he carries around. 
That stupid magnet that gets sucked onto shovels as I try to move it out of the way in the garage. 
And then I spend the next ten minutes trying to pry it off of that shovel. 
Stupid magnet. 
He has carried that around because I've put the cabash on a real metal detector. 
He dug up enough of our yard with that magnet. 
Enough with the digging!
We have enough 50 year old aluminum pie pans!

I'll never see him again. 
It will be like mushroom season.  
When we will be out in the yard, looking off into the distance and I'll be discussing something deep and profound with him and as I'm wondering "why isn't he answering me?" I'll turn around and see he's not even standing there anymore. 
The woods are calling to him. 
The morel mushrooms are whispering to him...come find us.
Now it will be the metal detector. 
Murmuring to him from the next room. 
I'm just waiting. Are you ready to go on a hunt?  No one will care. Let's dig up some shit!
And he'll be gone. 
And he will have forgotten to take his phone. 
Just like when he goes out looking for fungus. 
When he falls over an uprooted tree root, he'll just have to crawl back home on his own. 
With his new best friend dragging behind him...


Monday, March 16, 2015

The Fear Remains

My ten year old fell asleep in a living room chair yesterday at 5:00. 
Which shouldn't be strange. 
But it was. 
She never does that. 
And when I told my husband, who was fixing our dinner in the kitchen, he stopped what he was doing and stared right into my eyes. 
Because he also knew how odd that was. 
And we try to tell ourselves that it's nothing. 
We say it out loud to one another. 
"Oh, it's probably just a virus.  She has been sick recently. Coughing. Low fever. It's nothing."
But our fear lives very close to the surface. 
Cancer always lives very close to your heart and it takes over your rational thinking. 
And we are very rational thinkers. 
Except when it comes to Zoe's health. 
We may smile and go on with our day, but it's there.
What if the cancer has come back?
She was very tired prior to her diagnosis. 
Headaches take me there as well. 
I've calmed down with the bruises as she doesn't get them as much. 
But if I see one I ask "how long has that been there?  Where did it come from?"
And Zoe takes it all in stride. 
Answering her parents questions with calmness as if it's her job to reassure us. 

It's been 4 1/2 years. 
4 1/2 years since we were told the horrific words *your daughter has leukemia. Blood cancer. 
It seems like an eternity since those words were said. 
And like yesterday.
And I'm sure she just has a virus. 
Instead of leukemia. 
Again. 
But our fear is present.
It's always hovering no matter how much I shoo it away. 
And no one can tell us to get over it. 
To not let the fear in. 
Because we never invited it in in the first place. 
Cancer brings fear as that proverbial gift that keeps on giving. 
So we watch her. 
Like a hawk. 
Looking at her every move out of the corner of our eyes. 
Not letting on that we are observing everything that she does. 
Because she's fine. 
Just fine.
We have to tell ourselves that. 
Tell our hearts that all is fine...



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Little Kid Lost

Our two goats are sisters. 
Twins. 
Gigi named them Tulip and Yogurt. 
We bought them from our local zoo when they were babies. 
We bought them to be companions for our pony. 
They were the first inhabitants in our newly renovated barn in 2011. 


When Buttercup arrived they were terrified of her. 
What was this giant beast that we were locking them up with?!
But in a short period of time, they came to trust her. 
Trust that she wouldn't run over them. 
That she would share fruit treats with them. 
But Yogurt and Buttercup have a special bond that we've noticed. 


Of course Tulip is her very, very best friend. 
If one goat is separated from the other by a gate or fence the screaming starts. 
The relationship that Yogurt has with the pony is very unique in my eyes, though. 
You see, Yogurt often loses her baby. 
Baby?
Yes. 
Her baby. 
Yogurt goes into a false pregnancy a few times a year. 
Where her udder fills with milk and she prepares for birth. 
The vet has seen this happen in Yogurt and has told us what is probably happening. 
Since of course she's not really pregnant, as all of the animals in the barn are female, she probably has a cyst on an ovary causing false pregnancy. 
Goats aren't normally spayed like our pet dogs and cats are. 
Goats are seen as working animals. 
Most people breed them, milk them, butcher them. 
But our goats are our pets. 
And Yogurt thinks she's pregnant too often and then becomes the saddest thing I have ever seen. 
She moans. 
She cries. 
She hides. 


Most interesting is that when she hides she hides under the horse.


She won't leave Buttercup's side. 


And those sounds she makes are so mournful. 
But here's the thing. 
I don't know if she's crying out because she's in pain, having contractions and trying to give birth. 
Or if she's already had her baby and now can't find it. 
I know I'm anthropomorphisizing things with her. 
But something is definitely happening. 
She cries and hides for usually two days. 
She let's me pet her, which isn't her thing. 
She likes to always act tough and will rear up on her back legs to hit you if you try to pet her. 
Which is really just very funny to see because she never does hit anyone. 
It's her tough-gal warning. 
Well, unless you're a cat. 
Or a chicken. 
Or Gigi holding a cat or chicken. 
Then she will make contact. 
I'm wondering if we should get her spayed. 
It will make her more comfortable I think. 
And she won't look for her baby. 
Or whatever she's doing. 
Anyway, it will make me feel better...



Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Snowy Barnyard

It finally snowed at our house in Central Illinois. 
It seems to wait to snow a big one late in winter. 
We have been getting big downfalls of winter white in February and March the last few years. 
Everyone headed out early as is needed when you have farm animals. 


We need to shovel out doorways and make paths. 
We put straw down outside the chicken coop so that the hens have something to walk on instead of sinking. 
They still came out and sank as a few of them jumped right off of the ramp not realizing what would happen. 
We have about 8 inches of powdery snow today. 


Buttercup loves snow. 
She will romp and buck and kick and roll all. day. long. 


The goats don't get as excited.
Especially Yogurt.  
She's shorter and her belly hangs into the cold. 
She constantly has a "what the hell?" look to her when it snows.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Girl Was On Fire

Today we had a birthday party for Zoe. 
She turned ten years old four days ago.
Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents came. 


And her hair caught on fire. 
The girl's hair caught on fire as she bent over the cake to blow out her ten candles. 
And this what quite joyous for me. 
As I told her when it happened "that's awesome that your hair caught on fire!  Well, not that your hair caught on fire, but awesome in that your HAIR caught on fire!"
Because her hair hasn't been this long since she turned five. 
The birthday before she got cancer. 
And now her hair is long enough to catch itself in the flames celebrating another year of life. 
The flames OF life. 
And the girl was on fire. 



*a big thanks to her great uncle Dave for extinguishing her hair with his hands. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Final Days Of Paris

Still in Paris and still walking. 
I would love, love, LOVE to live in this city for a few years. 
To get to really know the neighborhoods. 
To become one with it's cafés and museums. 
But, since we had a limited amount of time we had to see it all. 
And at a quick pace. 
With a few leisurely strolls mixed in. 
Actually, my quick paces all turned to leisurely strolls on this trip. 
Seeing that I was hauling around a growing human within my abdomen. 


Norte-Dame. 
The cathedral in the heart of Paris. 
I believe it's very near the center of the city. 
The one made famous by Victor Hugo and the hunchbacked boy he wrote about who lived within it's towers. 
The church that began being constructed in 1163. 
That's 500 years before Pilgrims decided to get on a boat and head out into the saltwater for a new life. 
The church that is protected by gargoyles who live atop it's towers. 
Who put that sign up saying *not recommended pregnant women climb the stairs?
Move out of the way people, this pregnant lady is climbing to the top of Notre-Dame!
And I did. 
All 387 steps up. 
Or was it 433?
It was a lot. 
Thank goodness there's a gift shop halfway up. 
With some seats. 

The few from up there was literally magical. 
It was the most breathtaking view I had seen in a long time. 
Was it what I had hoped it would be?
Yes. 
And more. 
The River Seine and Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacre Couer. 
All seen from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral. 
A postcard view from my dreams. 


Once we meandered leisurely back down the steps we stopped for a crepe. 
There's a great crepe shoppe with a red awning right at the feet of the Cathedral. 
If you're ever in Paris, get one of those crepes, okay?

When Chad and I travel to a new city, we visit a zoo. 
Paris was no exception. 
We started out one morning to the oldest zoological park in Paris. 
The Ménagerie.  
Not realizing how far away it really was, it took us a very, very long time to get there. 
And we may have been going in the wrong direction for maybe an hour before it was realized. 
And I may have been the one in the lead. 
When we finally arrived it wasn't that interesting. 
All I remember are flamingos and meerkats. 
And my feet hurt. 

It was nearing the end of our trip and we had one thing left to see. 
And we were having trouble finding it. 
Why we wanted to see this particular sight is odd enough. 
We were on a quest to see the tunnel that Princess Diana was in when she was killed in a car accident in 1997. 
I had read that there was a memorial near the tunnel, but it wasn't in many guidebooks at that time. 
The Liberty Flame that commemorates French Resistance fighters. 
And it was supposed to be near our apartment. 
We had looked and looked and decided to look one last time during the evening of our last day there. 
OH, it was on the other side of the Seine!
We had been looking on the wrong side of the river the whole time. 
It was dark when we found it. 
A sculpture of an oversized golden flame sits over the tunnel on the street above. 
But I wanted to see that tunnel.
And take a picture. 
Why?
Who knows why really.
To document a piece of history, I guess. 
In my lifetime, her death was headline news. 
A tragic end to a beautiful life. 
So, I was going to get a picture. 
There's a median between the two traffic lanes leading into the tunnel. 
I thought I would just walk down that. 
Geesh, there's a lot of traffic going through that tunnel. 
My plan was to walk down the median, getting as close as I could without actually going into the dark. 
I ignored my husband's numerous requests that sounded like... "you're not going into the traffic! you're going to get killed!" 
And snapped a picture. 
And another when I got back to the side of the road. 
Both were a bit too dark. 
Of course I didn't know this at the time because this was before the popularity of digital cameras. 
I had to wait until I got home to see what had been captured on the film. 


Once we saw that tunnel, we were assured that we had seen everything. 
We had eaten dinner near the Arc de Triumphe. 
We had taken a batobus ride down the River Seine taking in all of the sights from the water. 


We had climbed the curving walkway and stairs up to Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. 
We had eaten a prosciutto and cheese sandwich on a bench on the Ile de la Cité.
I ate the largest cotton candy I've ever seen under the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower. 


We had meandered through Rue Cler. 
The street market that was around the corner from our apartment. 
We bought fresh food there that we took back to our kitchen. 
In our Parisian kitchen Chad whipped up dinner for us a few times. 
It was a grande street market and I loved it a lot.
Except for that one afternoon at the fromagerie. 
And the cheese shop owner began yelling at Chad in French. 
Was she yelling that she wanted us to try a free sample?
Oh. 
We were being told to leave. 
Because he had touched the cheese. 
Apparently, that was a big no-no. 

We said goodbye to our Paris apartment in the 7th Arrondisement and headed back to the airport. 
Since we were flying standby, we had to wait for all revenue ticket holders to check in before we would know if we would get a seat. 
Two seats, remember.
As we chewed our nails and looked around we noticed two other people waiting. 
And then it was announced that there were two seats left on the jet back to Chicago. 
Two seats and four people. 
Please, please, please give those seats to the pregnant lady and her husband!
Luck was on our side that day and we got the seats. 
We said a bittersweet au revoir to Paris. 
And have been dreaming of a trip back ever since. 
With our two daughters who have a love for all things French that they have inherited from their mère.
Our daughter Gigi will fit right in.