Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I think Annie channeled Buddy

As I told you below, Buddy had to be put to sleep earlier this month. He was a member of our family for a long time. Like most cats, Buddy had some behaviors that were his alone, although he hadn't performed some of them in his last weeks.

Another of our cats, Annie, is a calico we adopted this fall. By the time she started spending most of her time indoors, Buddy was weak and not himself. They didn't interact much if at all. He hung out by the water dish, lying down, and Annie could always be found curled up in a chair, asleep.

After Buddy died, Annie started doing some things she had never done before. They are things Buddy used to do all the time before he got sick, but Annie had no way of knowing that.

First, she took over his window seat. Okay, that makes sense. It's a nice window seat, and it was empty. Then she started walking on the stove...like Buddy. Then I found her curled up in the downstairs bathroom sink. Over the years I took many pictures of Buddy curled up in the downstairs bathroom sink. Then she began trying to share Angel's dog bed. Buddy used to drive Angel nuts doing this. Then she began hanging out in the upstairs bathroom, and trying to get on the lap of anyone who was using the bathroom...like Buddy. Finally, yesterday when I was making the dogs' dinners on the kitchen counter, Annie jumped up and started eating it. It was as though Buddy, a grey tabby, had turned into a calico!

She performed Buddy behaviors for several days, until I realized that Buddy, working through Annie, was showing me that his spirit had survived and he was still very much around. Once I came to that realization (with great appreciation), Annie went back to being her normal self.

The older I get, the less things like this surprise me.

Thanks, Buddy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Picture Me, Picture You

I've been putting photos in albums for months. No organization, no chronological order....just taking photographs from wherever--usually photo envelopes piled in plastic bins--and filling albums with them. I bought the albums at Target--nice, big, sturdy volumes with space to write something about every picture. If if this wasn't such a gargantuan job I'd try to think up clever captions for some of the pictures. But as it is, I write "Jill on Aurora, 1991"..."Suzanne, age 4, Gillian, age 2"..."Joey, 2 weeks old"..."Nocci and Buddy" (cats)... "Angel, 1998" (dog) and so on. Once in a very great while I write "me."

This family photographer didn't get her picture taken very often. There are the birth pictures, of course, the ones of Gillian's and Joey's births. The latter actually shows my face. And when Suzanne reached the age of five she took a few shots, like the prized one of little Jill patting my HUGE bare stomach (with Joey inside). But most of the albums show three children being raised by horses, dogs, and cats. And, occasionally, their father.

If any young mothers are reading this, here's my advice: Get someone to take your picture with your children once in a while. This could be anyone--the Avon lady, the person behind the counter at the health food store, the kid who collects the carts in Wal-Mart's parking lot. The first good thing about this is that you'll have a photo of yourself being a mother. The second good thing is that these won't be portraits; they'll be unposed, unrehearsed shots of you and your kids doing whatever it is you do all the time.

Children are beautiful, and it's a temptation to photograph them that way, in all their radiant beauty. I love those pictures, I really do. I'm putting them in my new albums by the hundreds. But I also love the candid shots....the dirty shirts, the messy hair, the comical facial expressions, the images that caught them in mid-movement doing everyday kid things. I wish I had more of them.

Children disappear as they grow. The five-year-old displaces the three-year-old, and we realize with a start one day that we'll never see that particular toddler again. Then we remember the newborn. And so it goes. Thank heavens for the camera. Use it well.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Buddy's gone.

I had to have Buddy put to sleep today. The vet said he was in heart failure. That explains his labored breathing. I don't know how old Buddy was, but he was our family's close companion for 15 years or so. Like so many of our pets, Jill discovered him. He was in the barnyard, limping with a badly injured paw. He was so patient with the car, with the vet, with the treatment, with us. He was everybody's Buddy, and that's how he got the name. He was the kitchen cat, always underfoot--literally. He was the guardian of the water dish, a skilled conversationalist, and my personal feline grief counselor.

I like to think he's with his beloved Nocci, pictured with him below. And, of course, with Jill.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cold Hands, Warm Heart (and Feet)

After weeks of Weird Winter Weather--capitalized because we began to speak of it that way--we've been plunged into a deep freeze. One day I walked the dog wearing only a long-sleeved t-shirt (and jeans); the next I bundled up in parka, woolen gloves, and scarf. More significantly, I opened up my box of disposable foot warmers.

I have Raynaud's Syndrome, which shuts down the capillaries in my fingers and toes if the temperature drops below a certain point. I'm not sure what the point is, but my fingers can turn white while peeling a carrot taken from the fridge. I've had the condition for years, but it has grown progressively worse. In the past couple of years, I lost fingernails each winter. Last winter I also developed open sores that can lead quickly to gangrene.

My feet, however, are fine--thanks to those disposable foot warmers. And thanks to Walmart's post-winter sales and good old eBay, I buy them economically and in quantity. If I could wear mittens all day every, I'd use the warmers inside them, too.

Everything's a trade-off, though. (That's my philosophy of life...one trade-off after another.) When the thermometer dips below freezing, I'm reluctant to leave the house wearing anything that doesn't keep me warm. The temperature was 10ยบ last night. I went to a jazz club and danced....in my jeans, Land's End all-weather mocs, wool socks, and foot warmers. It was not the most graceful of dances.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Food and Tastebuds

I have a large cookbook collection that I was strongly attached to until I the day I learned to Google recipes. Today I searched on "pork chops" "sweet potatoes" recipe and got one that also included onions and apples, two ingredients I had plenty of. It had been awarded many stars by 74 reviewers. The reviews made it clear just how individual we are.

"FABULOUS dish!" gushed one reviewer. Five stars. "Dry and bland," whined the next. Two stars. Actually, most of the reviews were positive, but a handful of deeply disappointed cooks was represented as well. I was impressed with how few cooks stuck to the original instructions. They'd rave about how delicious the recipe was, and then casually mention that they had increased the brown sugar, added cinnamon, browned the pork chops, added wine, threw in some nutmeg, and cooked the entire thing on top of the stove instead of in the oven. Almost everybody decreased the amount of black pepper. I can see why--the recipe called for two teaspoons!

This is the kind of thing you can't get from a cookbook. If I go through my old cookbooks and look up the recipes I've been making for years, nine times out of ten I can tell you that I've made adjustments to it. It's nice to read how others tweaked a recipe, and whether or not their tweaks yielded a good dish.

I made the pork chop recipe tonight, but I didn't follow the instructions either. Since I usually avoid sugar, I left the brown sugar out entirely. I like cinnamon, but I wanted this dish to be more savory than sweet so I wasn't tempted to put it in. Instead, I followed the suggestion of one reviewer and added garlic. I also added Tony Chachere's creole seasoning at the suggestion of another. And, after reading of the experiences of many of the reviewers, I browned the pork chops first and cooked the dish on top of the stove.

I liked it. Four stars.