10 minutes of your life


“Do you like spirits, mommy?  Even fuzzy ones?”

Many years ago, I was at a party thrown by, and attended by, varied people from a Philadelphia BBS. (This would be internet-before-the-world-wide-web, when we connected via modems and messaging systems,   when 2400 baud was still pretty common and 9600 was incredibly fast and why are you laughing?? Get off my lawn!)


So.  There was this party where people were bringing in videos of things most of us had never seen.  It’s where I first saw “Bambi VS Godzilla” and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” as well as several of the Warner Bros. cartoons that are too politically incorrect to be shown anymore (although you can find them easily enough on YouTube).

And then someone walked in with an animated film – Japanimation, to give you an idea of how far back this story goes –  that needed a bit of explanation.  “This isn’t in English,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s really about.  But it’s awesome and you have to watch it.”

The title of this movie?  “My Neighbor Totoro.”

It was in Japanese with no subtitles, and it was…bewildering.  And amazing.

A few years later, I saw this movie for rent and told my mom we had to get it.

“What’s it about?”

“I have NO IDEA.  But you’ll love it.”

And she did, of course.  Because it’s amazing.  Really, it’s the perfect bit of anime for me, with its soot sprites and bizarre cats and nature spirits.

Based on all of this, you’d think that I’d love anime.

I don’t.

I seriously have zero interest in the genre, outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

But that’s not to say I won’t give it a chance.  I think it’s one of the personality traits I find most frustrating in other people, the inability to give something new a chance, to give it 10 minutes of your life and see if it’s worth 10 minutes more.  (This is a concept my friend Gwendolyne introduced to me, and it’s brilliant.)  I’m not always good about this practice, myself; but I know that when I am, those are 10 minutes of understanding/experience/compassion that enrich my life, and so really, I can’t recommend the idea highly enough.

…And part of me still kinda wants to snuggle a totoro.




The plan was to leave between 8am and 9am. My beloved husband made the 5 hour drive to go get his kidlet Thursday night so we could leave this morning.

7am? He’s up. Because he’s awesome.

7am-8am: I cling to the bed, moaning ‘no no I don’t wanna get up..’

8am? I leap like a gazelle from the bed, realizing I didn’t pull out my picnic basket and air mattress pumps for us to use on this trip. He asks, “You have two pumps..? Never mind. Of course you do!” He laughs, hugs me, and keeps on prepping meals to take with us.

8:30am: I make coffee and feed the cats. My cat (sensitive princess that she is) refuses to eat, so she doesn’t get her vitamins. Again. Kidlet joins us in the kitchen. Coffee and bacon are consumed. I offer bacon to the kitty-princess, sneaking vitamins onto it. She eagerly eats the bacon.

9am: Kitty does a spectacular job horking up bacon in various spots in the living room. 😦 Bones says he’s nowhere near ready. Kidlet gets dressed, I putter around getting ready, packing, watering the garden.

10:30am: Bones is struggling to get all 3 bikes on the bike rack. I suggest we swap out my new bike with my old one. He makes them all fit. Yay!

11am: Yay! We leave!

11:10am: Poop, we forgot some stuff. And hey, do I have water shoes? And a hair tie for the kidlet? (Yes and yes.)

11:20am: Yay! We leave again.

12:15pm: My bike starts to fall off the bike rack at 70mph. Bones VERY QUICKLY pulls over, but the rim is bent. I say it’s ok, let’s just keep going and he and the kidlet can ride without me (…and I can do cross stitch!) He says no, let’s go home and ditch the bikes. We agree to take my bike straight to the bike shop for repairs and…we can get my old bike.

1:30: Yay! We’re back on the road!

3pm: we realize we didn’t being coats or long pants…”Wanna go back?” I suggest. Bones does not kill me..probably only because he’s driving.

5:00pm: We buy groceries. I throw cat food in the cart. “For camping?” “No, for my delicate puking flower at home.”

5:30pn: First campground is full.

6:00pm: Second campground is full..and there are a LOT of boarded up houses here that are probably inhabited by vampires.

6:05pm: Kidlet admits she doesn’t know there’s more than one kind of vampire.
6:06pm: MY HEAD EXPLODES BECAUSE DUDE, HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT VAMPIRES?!? What are they teaching kids in school these days?? (Note: the child has informed us the past that Abraham Lincoln really did hunt vampires, and she learned that in school, SO CLEARLY THEY ARE TEACHING READING, WRITING, AND MONSTERS!!)

6:30: Third campground full. Bones is ready to go to a hotel. He looks defeated. I suggest one more GPS search and let’s make a few calls.

6:35pm: Bingo!!!! We find a campground with an open spot..5 min from where we bought groceries around 5pm.

10:36pm: Tent is up. Fire’s going. Husband cooked a great dinner. Kidlet has been riding her bike, had dinner, and decided she’s had enough of being outside an hour ago so she’s in the tent watching Youtube. I’m holding my honey’s hand, typing this, loving him a heckuva lot.

Lurk: March 1998 – October 8, 2013


“I have a kitten for you!  Weren’t you looking for a black cat..?”

Truth was, I had been, but had just been bamboozled by a thoroughly evil kitten (who soon earned the name Hades) into bringing her home from a pet store (and I think she’s still the only pet I purchased rather than adopt).  So the answer should have been no, I don’t need another kitten.

“But I’m saving this one for you!”

Well.  Poop.  Now I felt obligated.  So I agreed to adopt this little fellow, sight unseen, and my fellow museum employee brought him to work for me, with the warning, “He, um, needs a bath. He won’t leave his litterbox.”

Turns out this little guy, maybe 7 weeks old, was feral and skittish and terrified of the world.  He literally cried for 3 days straight whilst hiding under my claw-footed tub.  Based solely on that desire to hide, I named him Lurk.

lurk 1

When describing Lurk, I often thought about this quote..except I changed it to, “My poor, neurotic cat.”

It took years – literally years – for Lurk to show signs of being ‘my’ cat.  But when he wasn’t being terrified of everything, he was always The Good Cat.  He put his toys away into the toy basket when he was done playing with them.  He would sit at the dining room table – in a chair – and politely wait to be offered food, which he would remove from the table with one extended pinkie claw so he could eat it off the chair.  When the rest of the cats would be running out of the house via an open basement window, he was the one hiding and not getting into trouble.  When we moved and I wasn’t sure he’d ever come out of hiding, he would eventually show up, offering toys to, say, the ferrets by lining toys up along the sides of their cage and rubbing his face against the wire, purring his trademark feel-it-across-the-room purr.

Lurk was the kind of cat that wanted to be near you, but he wasn’t a lap cat. I found myself buying furniture that would allow him to sit next to me, because that’s what he wanted.  And as he grew older, he discovered snuggling in bed was a grand thing.  His rule was, “Don’t pick me up, but please use me like a pillow..or a teddy bear. And please let me insert my head into your eye socket.  Forcefully.”  I caught him one night sneaking onto my bed, checking to see if I was asleep, and then pushing his butt under my arms so we could snuggle without me knowing it.  (Or so he thought.)

Some people were convinced Lurk never existed because they never saw him.  Some people got to see, up close and personal, that they were never never NEVER going to play with his toys the way he wanted them to..and that meant they were Very Stupid Monkeys Indeed.  (And by ‘them’ I mean ALL of us.  We were all stupid.  And his expression clearly told us that.  Yes, read the linked post.)  For a while, it meant that if you weren’t sitting on the sofa, in the exact right spot, you were Doing It Wrong and he was going to walk around loudly telling you so until you gave in and sat down.  My housemate in Pittsburgh was apparently the complaint department..more than once he’d stomp past me, storm upstairs, and LOUDLY tell her his opinion about (fill in the blank)…to which she’d plaintively reply, “Your monkey is DOWNSTAIRS.  Tell HER!”

When I adopted Lurk, I can’t say I could really get close enough to tell for sure, but I’m pretty certain he was jet black. As he’s aged, he’s slowly gone grey.  Heidi always said it looked like he’d been eating powdered doughnuts.

lurk 2

In 2009, Lurk caught fleas (and, I suspect, swine flu) from my neighbors’ cats.  He was anemic and dehydrated and so weak…the vet gave him vits and sub-q fluids, and I slept on the floor with him, forcefeeding him a slurry of wet cat food and Pedialyte, telling him he wasn’t allowed to die on me.  It was close.  But. He was always The Good Cat, and he didn’t die.

Moving to Michigan meant meeting new kitties, and Lurk did really well with that.  He seemed fascinated by the fact that the first floor is more or less a huge circle, and he’d do laps, nails clicking on the floor no matter how many times I trimmed them.  He developed the habit of clicking through the house at night, climbing the bed stairs Bones had purchased for him, and then waiting..waiting…and “MEOW!!” to make sure I was awake so I would pet him.  It was not his best trick.  OTOH, he had stopped trying to insert his skull into my eye socket, so I suppose it was an improvement.

Around two months ago, we had an onslaught of fleas in the house.  Lurk had developed an allergy to them after 2009, so he was the first to show signs, and he retreated to the basement, not feeling so well.  At this point in his life, he had lost his two right side fangs, and he was clearly not eating much, so I started feeding him wet food.  He quickly improved, but remained in the basement..honestly, I think he was playing me at that point, as he was always bright-eyed, eager for pets, and very mobile. The only thing odd was that he was still hanging in the basement, where he’d created a sort of clubhouse for himself out of boxes and blankets.  I soon caught him eating dry food when he thought no one could see him..little stinker.  I’d walk around the corner and watch him eat.  He’d look up, see me, gulp, go back downstairs, and start complaining.

He returned to the upstairs a few days ago and outside of choosing to mostly stay on one chair (which was sorta what he was doing downstairs).  He didn’t eat the wet food I’d placed in a dish on his chair yesterday morning, but seemed fine otherwise.

We got in late last night and he was…no longer ok.  He was struggling to breathe, he was unresponsive, his tongue was lolling out of his mouth…it looked as if he’d had a stroke.  Bones was the adult. I just couldn’t do much beyond pet him and shake.  We took him to an emergency vet office, and they told us they wanted to do some quick bloodwork, but they thought that if they gave him fluids and such, he’d recover…that he hadn’t had a stroke, but maybe it was blood sugar, or anemia.  (I doubted blood sugar.)

So suddenly, there was hope.  I sat with Bones and I looked through my LiveJournal to find the post where I’d shared Lurk’s bloodwork in ’09, so we could compare results, because maybe there was useful information there.  And because I blog everything.

And then suddenly, there wasn’t hope.  The vet came in looking genuinely sad and surprised and said, “He just took a turn for the worse. Do you want to say goodbye?”  She said that he was on his way out but yes, he could use some help, so we agreed to have her put him to sleep after we said goodbye.  I didn’t stay with him because he didn’t know I was there at all.  It was his kidneys.  There were no warning signs.

When Hades passed away in 2008, she and Lurk were alone in my house, and he was so scared.  So very scared.  He was literally wild-eyed and howling when I opened the door, and was inconsolable for over a week.  It was as if he’d seen the Kitty Grim Reaper itself.  I can’t help but feel he came out of the basement because he didn’t want to face that alone again.  (I know it’s silly of me.)

I always used to say that I’d be able to actually hold Lurk without it being a bad thing by the time he was an old kitty.  We did that successfully last weekend, when I carried him to the kitchen to say hi to Bones and his kidlet.  And when he was in my lap on that car ride last night, that thought came back to me.  And when the front desk person asked if Lurk had bitten anyone recently, I said, “The only person he’s ever bitten was my ex husband, when Lurk was 7 weeks old.”  Outside of that one instance?  Lurk was always The Good Cat. All he really wanted was a cuddle..and for someone to wash his head.

Hades was the kitty that chose me, that was my familiar.  Lurk was the kitty I took in because..I’m not sure how good his chances would have been without me.  He became my therapy animal of sorts, my anchor when things were not so good, my priority above anything else.  And it’s been humbling to see how many of my friends are mourning him right along with me.

…I love him so much.

cool stuff you should buy: Pyratical Cat!


For those of you who may not know, this is Lurk, my cranky old man kitty.

Recently,, we received a surprise present from The Pyratical Cat which contained, among other things, a bag of ZOMG potent catnip, several catnip mice that the younger beasties of the househould promptly drooled all over, and…these.

They’re all about the size of a placemat, and at first I thought that’s exactly what they were. That, or perhaps throw cushion covers.

The truth was rather much more awesome..they’re kitty blankets!

This little beauty in particular was made of awesome and win and too many cookies to count. Bones! How perfect! AND it glows in the dark! Honestly, it wouldn’t have had to do anything else in order for me to love it. BUT…

This is me trying to illustrate that there’s an opening on either side of this particular blanket. One side has a larger hole than the other, so that you can…

…SLIDE A HEATING PAD INTO IT!!! Lurk, you see, has been showing signs of arthritis for a while now, and Jen (the owner of The Pyratical Cat) had suggested at the end of last winter that I try making a heating pad available for him after I kept finding him pressed up against heating vents in the house. So this prototype blanket is Jen’s attempt to make Lurk more comfy – in a nice safe Halloweeny way – when the weather starts to get colder again!

These next two shots are just to give you an idea of what the other blankets look like. They don’t have that special sleeve feature – that’s reserved just for Lurk’s special blanket! – but wow, I love these fabric patterns..!

If you swing on over to The Pyratical Cat on Facebook, you’ll see that there’s a wide variety of fabrics to choose from – piratey to feline to magical to just plain ol’ pretty! And I can’t tell you strongly enough how dang good the quality of catnip she’s using in her toys. Jen’s always looking for new ways to amuse the felines – one of her products, called ROUS – is designed especially for those kitties that destroy regular cat toys. She also has (I may be getting this name wrong) a toy called a ‘kitty kickboxer’ that really appeals to the cat focused on hunting/kicking reflexes, and she makes collars and leashes as well.

Also also, you should be VERY aware that everything sold by Jen has been designed AND TESTED by her before it’s offered for sale. This means you know these products are as safe as she can possibly make them!

The gothier versions of these products may be found at Macabre Merchantile (or, if you do not inhabit the Book of Face, http://macabremercantile.com will get you there, too).

The Pyratical Cat is coming soon to Artfire athttp://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/patron/ThePyRaticalCat, but be aware the store’s internet presence is still being tweaked. Liking the FB page is your best bet to not miss out on the awesome!!

this is why I get nothing done at home


I think I’ll take a look at online work opportunities.

*cue computer to say HAHAHAHANO and freeze for ten minutes*

I should update my profile.

*cue computer to spasm into a nonfunctional paperweight*

GRRRRRR..but hey, wuzzat?

ZOMG CAT!!! must take picture!

*cue phone to say HAHAHAHANO you’re out of storage space*








Lather, rinse, repeat.

a message for my cat


Ok, my little crackmuppet…please note the following:

This is catnip.


This is coneflower seed.


You have seen the container of coneflower seed (and, apparently, some mold) sitting on the floor for quite a while. (Yes, I’m a horrible housekeeper – we’ll discuss that later.)

You know the catnip just showed up in the house two nights ago.

That does not mean that every container in the house now magically contains catnip.

Now put on your coat. We’re taking you to a Catnippers Anonymous meeting.



“Have you seen the cat toy?” I asked my housemate.

“I think it’s on the other side of the sofa.”

I grumbled and fetched the toy in question – a plastic rod with a bunch of feathers attached to one end – and handed it to our friend G.  “Ok.  This is Lurk’s favourite toy.  But no one knows how to play with it correctly.  Good luck.”

G, a veteran cat owner and cat toy operator, quickly gained another house kitty’s attention by swinging and flittering the toy through the air, calling Lurk’s name.

“He used to come running when that toy was being used,” I explained, “but the little bell inside it has fallen off.”  Outside of that small problem, the toy is nearly as pristine as it was when I bought it three or four years ago.  Because as much as Lurk loves the toy, he generally won’t play with it.

Because everyone plays with it wrong.

Finally, he deigned to make an appearance in the room, carefully checking in with my housemate and me for scritches before he slowly approached G and sat just within toy’s reach.

She bounced it on the floor.  She swooshed it over his head.  She did all of the things that had inspired the previous cat to swat at the feathers.

All she got for her trouble was the ‘you are a dumbass’ look from my cat.

Which is what we all get.

“Try rubbing it on his face.  Sometimes he likes that.”

She did, and he looked happy for a moment…then it was back to sitting and pouting and staring at the useless monkey.

G persisted, eventually inspiring 15 seconds of play out of Lurk.  This is the most reaction time anyone ever gets, and it’s falsely encouraging.  The joy, the swatting, the ‘oh look he can play like a regular non-neurotic crazy-making cat!’…only to end abruptly as he returns to sitting and staring with ‘UR DOING IT WRONG’ written all over his face.

“I am being totally dissed by your cat!”

“I know. I’m so sorry.  But NOW YOU SEE.”

He eventually sadly skulked away, radiating dejection.  Had we left the toy on the floor, he would have come back, mewed, and half-heartedly swatted at it.  Because he really wants to play.  I just – after 14 years of living with this cat – have no idea how he defines ‘play.’

(Unless his intent really is to just make it very clear that, in the end, we are all stoopid munkees.)

(It’s a good thing he’s so damn cute.)