Friday, August 16, 2019

Back to what matters!


Perfect timing---my new/old vanity plate arrived! I had this plate back a decade or so ago when I had a commercial vehicle, and now I have it again, after stalking it on the DMV site hoping it would finally become available again. I'm starting out cautiously with spay/neuter, until I know what my short-term income will actually be. But with a house full of kittens and cats, there's plenty of places to start.


Ten of this spring's kittens went off to the Humane Society of Schuyler County's spay/neuter clinic with SOS, two weeks ago. Merlin, the last unfixed kitten, went this past Wednesday. He still isn't thrilled about being scooped up by strangers, so he went in a trap, and you can see just how pleased he was with that.



My next project is to get all the cat summary medical sheet into Google docs so it can be shared with Debra, and I'd also like to plan for a Cat Ladies Tea this fall, since I haven't held one of those in over fifteen years--they used to be quite fun. They were a good way to get usually-isolated cat folk out to visit with people who will empathize rather than judge--or at least with people who are be empathetic enough to hide the "judginess" since no two cat people agree on everything!

I have at least three people who reached out for help with cats, during my last month at work, to whom I haven't provided the best support. I need to reach out to them.

At the same time, I'm trying to slash back the jungle that has crept in on my house. My fire pit (which was once a raised bed garden and required a ton of work to remove) had become an ant-nest-filled with weeds, so I cleared that out and re-discovered how calming it is to build a small fire, grill some veggies, and enjoy a quiet evening.


I'm taking photos of my poor neglected house, which sort of reminds me of a longhaired cat that isn't entirely matted but definitely hasn't been combed as often as needed. I'm looking forward to posting some before-and-after photos before the end of fall!


Sunday, August 11, 2019

A pause before a new start -- farewell to Petfinder


I was walking with Molly-the-dog just now, and the sky dropped me the gifts in the photo above. I think there's something symbolic about them...something that flies, and something that grows in the ground. And this is why.

I have not shared this here, but after 15 years of living my dream job, I have left Petfinder. Petfinder has made a long journey, from "LLC" to part of Discovery Communication, to part of the Purina family. When a company grows, it changes. And while it can be good for the company, and for associates for who thrive on that change and growth, it does mean that individual roles change. I was hired at Petfinder as a shelter support person, a mediator, a speaker, and a writer. I had team members who had the same job expectations, but each with a different emphasis. In a pinch, we could cover for one another, and we had insight into each other's roles. It's that mesh of different roles personally, and that awareness of my entire team's work, that I really love. That's less possible at a global company, where roles, by necessity, must be more individualized. Petfinder is doing new and amazing things, but at heart I'm just a cat lady and a critter-wrangler who helps people. I need that hands-on interaction, helping people.

Because I've hit the magic "55 yoa plus" I had an opportunity to "retire." This opportunity offered me a bit of breathing room to find a new job, I hope, back in the not-for-profit world. Stupid idea financially? Absolutely. Best idea ever, personally? Yup! I hope to take all those wonderful things I learned over the past 15 years and be able to use those skills a little closer to the ground. I certainly won't make as much income. But when you are offered an opportunity to remake yourself, it's worth serious consideration.

I considered...and jumped.

The hardest part was leaving six particular people, two of whom have been part of my daily life and work for fifteen years. Those two were with Petfinder far longer than I. "Remote" is absolutely the wrong word for working from home and the field versus an office. If you are truly an embedded "remote" person, you are always connected to your team. There is always IM, phone, and everything you see brought to amazing life online as the result of what you've done. When I dragged my Slack icon into the recycling bin and purposefully cut my connection with them...well, that's when I cried. I've been in touch with those six people, potentially, every hour of every day. There is no office door to close when you are part of truly great remote team.

It has been less that 48 hours since I closed the lid on my work laptop. The sense of relief has been overwhelming, at suddenly being able to concentrate just on my home, my family, my friends, my cats.

I scrubbed my shower for the first time in at least half a year.

When I replaced the garbage can liner, I took the can out and washed it.

I was able to say "Yes," to a short-notice request for lunch with my sister even though we live two hours from one another.

I mowed my lawn without panic, knowing I had time enough to get it done.

I put my roller bag luggage in the upstairs closet, for the first time in over a decade.

I took my dog for a walk with a sense of enjoyment, not requirement.

I sat on the floor with the foster kittens, and let them climb all over me, knowing that I could sit there as long as I liked.

I erased all the work projects off my white board, and replaced them with home, friends, and family projects.

And of course, I wrote this blog post. Without have to squeeze it in out of guilt that I had not posted in far too long a while.

It suddenly occurs to me that there are people who read this blog (or an earlier version of it) long before I even took the job with Petfinder in 2004. That thought reminds me that there is life before, and after, this amazing journey I've been on.

I realize this is just a short break before I have to find a way back to the income-bearing world. And I know no job is perfect--far from it.

But you only get one life. I probably have 15 years left to me that I can count on (I hope) to be able to make a difference for others, before I'll need to count on others to be there to make a difference for me. And I want to make those 15 years count.





Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Daylilies are flowering, sweet corn is in stores (but not yet on the local farm stands) and homeless kittens abound. It's July in central New York State. It's one of the busiest times of year, but also, because you work or play yourself to utter exhaustion, it's also a time when I find myself folding wearily into a chair at the end of the day. Hopefully the dishes are washed, cat boxes are scooped, and coffee is set up to perk itself the next morning on "automatic." That's a good day. And in that weary moment comes a time to think, because it's too hot to watch a movie or read a book. Hopefully a breeze has finally stirred up on the front porch while the bedroom cools off.

Summers past I might have scrolled through Facebook. But Facebook has turned into an old uncle or auntie, telling the same stories over and over to those people who are willing to listen to the same old stories. Facebook is turning me in an old auntie as well...only being spurred to post to say the same things again and again, the doom and gloom and anger, just sharing some meme, video, or friend's post that seems particularly eloquent. And the only people who see them are people who think the same things I do. We are all chattering away in a room with a closed door, sitting in our comfortable filter bubble, yelling back and forth at people who actually agree with us, all the while thinking we have the ear of the world.

Facebook makes me lonely, even though the usual faithful 30-or-so people see most things I post, and probably a 100 have me pop up in their social media lives weekly. Blogging make me less lonely, even though only a handful of people read my posts.

Perhaps its because a blog post sits in a permanent place. A blog is like a dog-eared book you can read over and over, with favorite parts you've forgotten about that you can surprise yourself with by clicking randomly on an archive date, just like grabbing a book and starting in the middle. Blog posts don't get shoved down fighting for breath under the escalating, accumulating vitriol of posts and memes throughout the day, forgotten until they reappear with a shout on Facebook Memories exactly a year later. "You have memories on Facebook!" Oh, wow, haha! I'd forgotten about that! Then "click!" You usher it away again and return to the latest infographic at the top of your feed.

I've Facebooked my life away. My little dog Molly is now ten years old, and all my plans of hikes in State Forests have come to naught. She sits on the porch and watches the world go by.


Granted, it hasn't all been Facebook. It has been work, and work travel. But things are about to have an interesting change.

Changes that are better fit for a blog, than Facebook.









Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spring comes at unexpected moments

Today is Easter. Holidays seem less meaningful now that my family is less anchored, with the loss of my mom in February of 2017. Today launched as a chilly and dreary morning. I dropped off donations in Montour Falls at the Humane Society of Schuyler County, which I of course failed to photograph, even though I left them on the porch of their very cute Kitty Kaboose. Part of the donation was a number of beds that the Handmade House had donated to my rescue. This would have made a pretty picture to send onto them, but alas, I forgot.

When I have too much of a wonderful thing, I try not to stockpile--although the temptation is great. Instead, I try to share. I've discovered that if I keep things "just in case," treats or food expire, soft materials are found by mice, unused tools get shoved to the back of a cupboard...far better to share before things grow old and worthless.

The sun came out very late in the day, and I went out to check out the neglected Memory Garden. Last year we were hit by flood after flood, and I never did a thing with the Garden. As I picked sticks and old hosta stems from the mess that I'd like to return to beauty this year, I saw that beauty had decided to unfurl without my attention. Other than the many bleeding heart plants I was given by Nancy, my first "fosterer" and an adopter, I have no early spring flowers. At least, I thought I didn't. I'd forgotten I'd dug up some flowers from my mom's garden shortly after she passed away. Last year they were too small to flower. But this year:



Surprise is a good thing. It can drag you out of complacency. Pull you out of a funk of mediocrity. Humble you with the tiny green shock that life goes on--often beautifully--even when you are distracted by things you mistakenly believe are more important.

Thanks, Mom, for the wake-up call. You were always pretty good at that.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Waiting for Spring

Spring is coming....please?

Normally there is a tug of war at the beginning of March between Winter and Spring. This year, Spring is notably absent from the fight, although I understand she plans to make an appearance this week. The many recalls on veggies this year, especially lettuce, have made me determined to get a garden going. I have the raised beds provided to me by the closing of Totalily Water Gardens (their water lily tanks), and many walking neighbors who probably would appreciate some free veggies. Because I never buy seeds from the many seed catalogs that arrive here via postal mail and I purchase my starts from Mountaintop Greenhouses right down the road, I had to find a way to funnel my spring energy. I purchased a potting bench to serve as a rolling roadside vegetable giveaway cart.


I used to have a beautiful tile-topped stand alongside the road for veggies and other free stuff I regularly give away, until the day someone took the word "free" over-literally and took the entire farm stand. I'll lock the cart to the fence when it's out, and I'll bring it in at night, since that appears to be necessary.

I do need to sit down and put pencil to paper to plan the raised beds. Normally I plant haphazardly, and I always regret it. I'll need to order a truckload or two of topsoil to fill the beds. I should have done that, and mixed in some local manure compost, last fall. Last fall, however, our entire region was worrying more about flooding than planning gardens a half-year in the future.

When I have a garden I have a lot more contact with my neighbors. There is always more than I can eat, or weeks when I'm traveling when I need others to harvest, or food rots on the vine. When I'm out weeding, I'm actually outside when neighbors go for walks along our country road. I've been a virtual hermit other than work for the past year, and that needs to change.

Any suggestions on what to plant? I tend to stay away from things that are really cheap to buy (carrots for example). And not only do I dislike eggplant, it attracts flea beetles. I plant cherry tomatoes instead of full-sized ones because they tolerate my periodic absences. My house sitters don't seem to understand that when I leave full buckets of water near a container, that means to empty the ENTIRE bucket on the plants, not just part of it, so everything I plant needs to be able to deal with a few days without full watering. I think they worry about drowning the plants, not realizing that the containers drain so easily.

Kale grows long into the winter, and I prefer swiss chard to spinach when it comes to sauteed greens.

And of course: Flowers.

Suggestions are appreciated!

Yes, there will be cats posts soon. I took two wandering tom cats to the veterinarian today to be neutered. Of course, I forgot to get photos.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

That Question: What do I want to look back on when I die?

It's a funny question, isn't it? It has entirely different impact, depending on how old you are, and how healthy you perceive yourself to me.

Now don't freak out, family and friends. I'm not poised to reveal some illness. This is just the "Question" OK? Thank you muchly; you can pour yourself coffee instead of alcohol now, 'k? No big announcements, here!

Nonetheless, contrary to popular opinion, there are far more life-reviewing milestones when you are older than when you were younger. A lot is made of turning 16, 18, 21, and 30 amid the younger years of your life. But nothing compares with things like job changes at mid-life, your first colonoscopy, the first loss of a too-young friend to an illness, caring for a family member during end-of-life, or just a sudden realization that if you learned you were going to die within six months, you wouldn't just be scared, you would be discontent with how you'd spent a big chunk of your life.

I was "lucky"--along with many thousands of others--to be involved in the huge animal rescue changes that took place during and after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005.


That I was privileged enough to be working for Petfinder, and the networking that took place after launch of the Animal Emergency Response Network (AERN) where lost and found Hurricane Pets were posted, is a milestone in my life I will always count in gold. Mostly I was simply riding a tidal wave created by others, but to look back and see all that has changed since that one year is overwhelmingly wonderful. Previous to 2005, national groups worked mostly solo, promoting their own work. After Katrina, national organizations, shelters, rescues, and even web resources, discovered that trying to go solo meant repetition and failure. A large number of partnerships--even the mere possibility of partnership--that exist now and save thousands of shelter and street animal lives each year--were born from the mud of those hurricanes, the sudden awareness of owners who risked their lives because they refused to leave their pets, the organizations who responded to help those animals requiring rescue, and organizations and volunteers who dedicated months and often years working to reunite left-behind animals with their displaced owners, or find those animals new homes.


As amazing and heartbreaking as that new beginning was, it was almost 14 years ago. There have been a lot of other "new beginnings" since then that I haven't contributed to as strongly as I would like. And many I haven't contributed to at all.

I'm 56. It occurs to me I only have probably only a decade when I can count on being able to scramble around under bushes, and up to two decades if I actually manage to take better care of myself than I am now (I spend the majority of my time on my butt behind a computer). For those of you in your 80s still hauling cat traps, all the more power to you---unless I make some life changes now, I won't be able to match your example.

Once upon a time, I went to conferences on my own, to learn. I looked carefully for a conference near me (there weren't a lot of them back in the 90s), and I spent my vacation and few available dollars to attend. I went to ever session I could fit in. Then I was lucky enough to get a job where I was sent to conferences to speak or exhibit, and I no longer had to sleep in my car or camp in a tent. However I had other networking responsibilities that meant I wasn't there just for my own edification.

Looking around now 15 years later, I see there are some funky, cool, and cutting edge conferences I'm missing out on, that I really need to attend if I want to stay on top of things. The Online Cat Conference was a real eye-opener. There are amazing people out there---some long-timers who have moved onto incredible new ventures, and a lot of brilliant newcomers.

So I'm off to The Acatemy Spring Symposium next weekend, flying solo, looking forward to wearing probably-non-work-appropriate cat lady clothes and keeping my ears pointed toward new ideas and the inspiration of other women and men working exclusively with cats.

If any readers are going, let me know! It's time to shake the dust out of the crannies of my brain. I want to start counting UP the years of my life by what I contribute, rather than counting down toward a rocking chair!

If you are feeling dusty like I am, here are some upcoming options

The Online Kitten Conference
The Petfinder Event Calendar

And if you are a writer, even if you aren't a CWA member, there's nothing more inspiring than the Cat Writers Association conference to open your mind to issues across all topics that relate to cats, including those beyond rescue.

Are there any I've missed? There were quite a few cat gatherings chatted up during the Online Cat Conference and I didn't get them all written down.









Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saving Perla

Heads-up. "Perla" is not a cat.

Perla is a marimba. I saw her on a Facebook swap-and-save page, posted as a xylophone. By her surroundings, I worried that she might find her way onto a curb or in someone's garage for kids to play with until she fell apart.


Why would I care about a marimba? Gordon and Christy have been long-time Owl House friends. We worked together to get their two gorgeous outdoor ferals fixed, and their two kittens rehomed. They then adopted two kittens from me. They are both well-known musicians, and Gordon is a world-renowned marimba player and composer; he's probably the only "world-renowned" person I shall ever know, so I enjoy saying it.

Therefore my tug of conscience to save this instrument. I sent the photo over to Gordon to see if the asking price (quite low if it turned out to be playable, but too much if it was trash) was worthwhile, and he was curious about it too, so off I went to a foreclosure-purchased house full of trash and treasure, to pick it up. I almost balked because A) it was much smaller in person than I expected and I wondered if it was even a "real" instrument and B) it was COVERED in spider egg-sacs. Needless to say I did not leave it in my car overnight and she spent the night on the porch. The next day I cleaned off the worst of the webs and brought her inside.


She was dusty, watermarked, and dried out. The bars (keys) had been strung with electrical wire instead of cord.


Christy and Gordon came over bearing pizza. Gordon gifted me with three pairs of mallets, and explained that this marimba was likely from Guatemala. He told me what to purchase to restring it, and luckily I had purchased an acceptable oil to clean it up (Lemon oil, no wax). He explained all the odd pieces and parts. There were nine posts (through which the cord passes to hold the bars up) that needed to be replaced, so he took them home to cut new ones. Good thing, as that's not something I would have been skilled enough to do.

So I cleaned. And cleaned. And look!


I'm still cleaning, oiling, and tightening and replacing screws for the frame. Christy tells me Gordon has completed the posts, but we are due for a huge snowstorm this weekend, so Perla will have to wait a bit to be re-assembled and re-strung. Then we'll get to hear what she sounds like! She will of course be off-pitch. The bars could be sent off to be tuned ($60 an octave), and perhaps I will some day. Basically I just wanted to save her from a possible junking, and it will be fun to learn to play a bit and have her in the house, so I probably won't invest in that. Then one day I'll likely give her to someone who expresses interest in owning her. She's too small for anyone serious about learning to play, but for a child learning percussion or someone who just wants her in the living room, as I do, she would be perfect.

I'll be sure to post more when she is playable.


Here is a link to a very cool info-graphic (in Spanish) on this type of marimba.







Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Two great cat-friends passed over this month

One of the saddest parts of doing rescue is a result of the best part of doing rescue--you have so many cats you call your friends, even if they now live with countless other people. So you also have more cats who pass over, than the average person.

A lot of adopters stay in touch as supporters and friends themselves. I get updates on our cats' lives. I learn when cats grow old. And I also learn when they pass on. I'm always so honored, and sad, when an adopter lets me know. When they contact me before they have to let their cat go, it's especially touching, because I know there is a part of them that feels like they need to not surprise me with a sudden drastic sadness, or they just want to share their decision beforehand, to verify in their heart it is the right one.

Two weeks ago, Holly lost Jack. Jack, also called Luther-Jack while he was here back when we were Wildrun, was a special kind of cat. He lived here in the house with me as he grew up. He was a kitten from the litter of Espie, an abandoned cat found up on the hill-road behind me, brought to me by neighbors who then also became my friends. Four of Espie's kittens developed kidney disease, and have recently passed away at ages 11-12. Espie's last kitten, Emmi, is currently living on the East Coast, and I have word that her kidneys are doing fine.

Holly called me the night before she was taking Jack in to the veterinarian for his last trip, and she shared all sorts of stories about his life. The most important of these was how he taught her grandkids to be loving and gentle with cats. He was a great friend to her, and she couldn't imagine being alone without him, and asked to come visit that weekend to see if she could provide a new cat here with a home.


Getting calls like this are always bittersweet for me. I never want to hear about a cat passing, but learning that the cat had a wonderful life with an incredible person, and that that cat made a difference in people's lives, makes all the time, money, and heartache spent in cat rescue worth it.

As an extra awesome note, Holly orders her supplies from Chewy. If you are a Chewy.com customer you may know they have exemplary customer service, and even send Christmas cards. Did you know they also sometimes send roses? They reached out to Holly when they learned of Jack's passing, and even reimbursed her last purchase for him.


Holly did visit, and took Sham (now Libby) home with her. More on Libby in another post!

A few days ago, we also learned that Tiger Tom, a cat who had been with us during our Wildrun days for over five years before he was adopted, and had been growing feeble for quite some time, was also no longer comfortable. Georg let me know via Messenger. It has been wonderful watching Tiger Tom's life on Georg's Facebook page. Tiger Tom gave us a tiny bit of internet fame when Life With Cats featured his adoption story on Petfinder 15th Birthday.


Tiger Tom had a quiet life of naps, snuggling, play, and lots of knitting yarn (I'm always impressed with knitters who also own cats. how do you keep the two apart?)


On Facebook, Georg wrote:

Today, Tiger Tom passed away. A piece of my heart that walked around outside my body is now gone.


Goodbye, Jack and Tiger Tom. Thank-you for bringing Holly, Georg and Jazz into my life, and thank-you to your people for letting me know when your story closed.