Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Three Little Kittens and One Heart Lost

Three little kittens and one lost heart. Mine.

Tragedy took their mother when they were three weeks old and then I stepped in as Mom. I didn't ever have children but these little fluffs quickly became my fur babies.

It's so true that kids change your life. Even my blogging decreased significantly while I played Mom.

They were sick. They got better. They got sick again. They got better.

The roller coaster went on it seemed forever. Finally, Whisper and George seemed to turn a corner and gained weight. Little Angel, always the tiny one, struggled to flourish. He didn't give up on himself though and never did we.

Last week though a couple other cats in my home got sick. Because cat illnesses can be so contagious we didn't want to risk the kittens getting sicker. So we moved them to another home.

It was a sad but wise move. Now the house is much quieter. The cats remaining are recovering with medicine and soon the house will swing into a routine, a much quieter routine.

I wonder what it will be like to not have my faucets licked right before I need a drink? How will I sleep without little bumps wondering around under the blankets at 5:00 a.m.?

My little fur babies have moved on and so must I.

I'll take a break from more fostering for a while, just to let us all settle down and to get any illness firmly behind us.

I'm sure the adult cats are sighing with relief.

Reports are that they are doing well in their new foster home. I will be fine too now that I have a lot more free time... it's just taking a while for the heart to remember to let go....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What the Heck?

Okay. Remember the other day when I said the "truth is stranger than fiction and I believe it" statement? Uh huh. I remember it too.

So this one is going to blow your mind. Well, it blew mine.

It's Christmas eve and I get home from my usual work day. Finally I get to my emails and there's a message from my Dad. The subject: What Ever Happened???

I open the email and read.... then I sit back? What the heck? I went outside to confirm. Yep, Dad was right.

He'd been to my house earlier in the day to drop something off and noticed something not quite right. Something was missing.

If you look at the photo above you'll see on the left is a black metal pole. At the top of the pole is a wooden bat house. It's been there for about six or seven years. The pole sits inside the hollow part of an old lamp post - about 4 feet of which is still there.

The email was asking where my bat house and pole had gone, including the lamp post because they were no longer there.

I went outside and checked. Stolen? Whatever for and why? Prank? Seems like a lot of work for a prank.

The lamp post has been cut off at the ground. None of the parts appear to be around. Dad says people are stealing steel right now all over the city. Really?

That's just weird although I'd prefer to think someone valued my bat house and pole rather than just vandals running off with it.

We know it was there 3 weeks ago so this 'crime' is recent. I have to wait for daylight now to look at little closer.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jeremy Squirrel - Who Exactly Is the Boss Around Here?

There's a saying: If you can't beat them, join them.

We're hoping we've resolved the Barbara vs Jeremy debacle, especially since Jeremy was kicking my butt and winning the battle.

So I called Dad for help. He made Jeremy a Squirrel Condo, lined with nothing less than carpeting. It sits in my kitchen waiting for a couple coats of paint.

We're hoping that Jeremy will be so in love with the condo that he'll opt to live in it instead of inside the garage.

I just need to find some time to do the painting.

Saturday morning I slept late. I'd been on duty with Red Cross as a Personal Disaster Assistant. We are on call throughout the night and weekends in the event of a disaster in our city. It can be a huge incident like the flooding in New Orleans or it could be the pipes breaking in an apartment and flooding the occupants out.

Red Cross is there for those people who don't have insurance or a place to go. We'd had a call at 4:00 a.m. and when I got home I got a couple hours sleep and then had to work all day. So I was catching up on sleep.

Jeremy noticed that his breakfast was late that morning. When I finally showed up in my kitchen he was there outside the window. Waiting. He perched himself on the top of the trellis so he could do surveillance through the kitchen window to see when I finally got my lazy self out of bed.

He saw me. I saw him. He twitched his tail. He was sending me a message. Unfortunately, I knew exactly what he wanted.

I put my hat on and went out. I gave him some peanuts and watched while he stuffed sunflower seeds into his face like me with the chicken balls at the Mandarin buffet. I noticed he was looking a little bit heavy....

He was tilting his body a bit from side to side while sitting up. I've seen this before in older squirrels. I don't know what it is. It could be old age, neurological issues, or injury, but I have seen this balance issue with squirrels a few times in the past.


video

Don't worry. It won't slow Jeremy down. There was an old black squirrel years ago that had a balance problem. He lived for years laying down to eat his sunflower seeds. He was a little bit heavy too....

Maybe I'll put the new squirrel house inside the garage. That should make it more tempting for Jeremy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keeping in Touch

Have you ever noticed how when cats and kittens sleep they are always touching?

Sometimes it's just a paw, like in this photo where kitten Angel is reaching out to touch the big old Tom cat while they sleep (he's not related to Tom in any way).
They do it with big old Tigger too.
I watch as the kitten starts off sleeping a few inches away. Slowly they maneuver themselves closer and closer until they are sleeping right with the adult.

It shares warmth. I think it provides the kittens with a sense of security too.

When the cats sleep on the couch next to me they always sleep next to my leg, or on me if they can. They want that touch or I should say they want to suck heat from me.

Because the kittens were underweight they'd feel the cold more and they wanted their mother. I spent a lot of time over the last 3 months cuddling with them.
You know you're a personal furnace for a pet when your cat is letting you know it's time for you to go to bed because he wants to. He wants me to warm up the bed for him.

Another point about keeping in touch, I haven't blogged much about the 3 kittens I've been raising. Their mother was hit by a car and died when they were 3 weeks old and I've been Mommy Cat to them. They had been pretty sick for the last while and needed to be medicated.
They were surviving though but not well enough to be thriving. So I apologize for the on-line quietness.
It was in part because I was so busy and in part because I feared there might be bad news. The last few weeks they've really turned a corner and are finally packing on some weight.

It was touch and go whether or not they would have one of the feline diseases which would mean they'd have to be euthanized... so I was worrying about them.

Two are healthy enough for adoption now and the little runt, Angel, just needs to put on a little more weight and he'll be ready for his new forever home too.
Soon I'll have an empty nest again. Well, not completely empty. What will I do without the poopy bums and dirty feet?

Like the great cycle of life, Whisper, is now at the 'interested in water' stage, just like Jay was a few months back when I reported on him. Now Whisper is fascinated with the sink and the shower. The cycle repeats itself and it's only a matter of time until he too falls into the tub :)

[George: Mommy opened the secret door to the furnace room --that place we were never allowed to go, and she let us play in there. So I snooped everywhere. Now I'm cleaning the dust bunnies from my whiskers]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Curtains Caper

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. I believe them.

The curtains in my garage, the ones that hang over the window in the small side door, disappeared one day. It was very strange. Who would want to take my curtains?

A few days later I found them. Jeremy had stolen them. And he never apologized either when I took them back. In fact, all he did was natter at me quite loudly as I prodded him with a pair of BBQ tongs. All I was trying to retrieve was what was mine in the first place.

You see, Jeremy is a squirrel. He's got the bushiest squirrel tail that I've ever seen. I'm certain he's quite proud of that tail. It would keep him very warm on our cold Canadian winter days.

For the last two years I have put sunflower seeds out and Jeremy has been a daily visitor. He's also quite brave around humans and he would often approach me quite closely. That's when he would natter, but in a nice way, and shake his tail. This would be his form of begging. He wanted peanuts. I would always give him some and he would try to stuff 3 of them in his mouth at once. Squirrels never seem to catch on that they can only really carry 2 at a time.

When I was in the garage Jeremy would follow me in and beg for the peanuts there. He knew that's where I kept them, sealed up in a container.

I went into the garage and after being in there a few moments I heard rustling. I got a ladder out and climbed up to where the roof joins with the walls. There's a space there and I bet you can imagine what I found. Yes, Jeremy. He had made a nest in the garage. I discovered he was making use of the cat door and was coming and going from the garage. He had obviously made lots of trips because his nest was full of leaves... and my curtains.

I evicted him, despite his complaints. A few days later he was back and I had to climb the ladder and evict him again. Then I had to close the cat door for the winter. I worried that stray cats would be cold so I made sure there were cardboard boxes and lots of straw in the old dog house so they'd have a place to go.

A couple weeks ago I went into the garage and again I heard that familiar rustling. I knew right away who it was. Jeremy had chewed the wood of the cat door and made a hole big enough to get back inside the garage again. I blocked the hole and evicted him. He was not happy.

He showed up in there again. As I drove the truck in I saw him sitting on the roof of an old rabbit hutch. He nattered at me like I was a big old meanie. I got the raccoon trap out and you can probably guess what I put in it. Yes, peanuts.

Two nights later I had him and took him out of the garage and released him. It was dark and he ran off into the night.

The next morning he wanted his peanuts in the back yard. I think I'm forgiven.

Then a week later I saw a poor orange tabby cat in my backyard, cold and starving. I put out food for him. It was cold too, -5. There was nothing I could do but open up the cat door in the garage so this stray would have a warm place to go.

I bet you know what that means.....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake (Oh Yeah)

Hate me now or hate me later.... but this one is so good, it's a real problem!

I didn't create it so I can't take credit. I'm simply posting it for you to enjoy... and so that I can find the recipe in the middle of the night ;)

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE:


- 4 tablespoons flour

- 4 tablespoons sugar

- 2 tablespoons cocoa

- 1 egg 3 tablespoons milk

- 3 tablespoons oil

- 3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)

- A small splash of vanilla extract

- 1 large coffee mug (Microwave Safe)
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well..
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Babies


I have lost my heart to this little minnie. We call her Angel. And she is one too.

The ring of the doorbell a few weeks ago was kittens being delivered, three of them. There were four but one was adopted the night before so I was taking over as their foster mother.

Indeed, I really was taking over as their mother. These little ones, at the time 3 weeks old, had lost their mother. She was outdoors raising them (a stray cat, most likely a drop off) and she got hit by a car. Caring neighbours took her to the vet in an effort to save her life but they were not able to.

So she died and her babies, still nursing and three weeks old no longer had a parent. The neighbours called the animal organization and that's how I got involved.

Kittens are pretty sweet but these kittens are downright adorable. A little bit dirty and smelly, I did my best to towel them off to give them their mommy bath. I tell you Mommy cat does a much better job keeping kittens clean than I do. I felt like the parent with the dirty children. I've had a hard time keeping up.

I'm pretty sure that the littlest one, the black and white female, is the runt of the litter. She's a little underweight and I wish she'd eat more.

They all love a cuddle and want some time to cuddle with me on my shoulders. For the first two weeks they kept looking for a spot to nurse. My heart just broke for them because I knew although their tummies may be full, they were seeking that special comfort that nursing could bring.
They're seven weeks old now in the photos, and four weeks old in the video.

I've had them in a spare room for their safety and also as a quarantine. Normally the mom cat is tested for the contagious cat diseases and if she's found disease free then we can usually assume the kittens are healthy and fine.
But in this case there was no mother cat to test so we're having to wait for the kittens to be eight weeks old so they can be tested.

videoIn the mean time, I'm learning to play mother to my little pride of dirty faced sweeties.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cat Adoptions

It happened so quickly. One minute I'm home doing my usual busy stuff and then it happened. The phone rang.

It was the animal non profit organization calling. You see, Jay's photo had been in the paper on Saturday and a couple of ladies wanted to adopt him.

Gulp! The baby.

They were also very interested in adopting Jay's bestest friend in the world and that was Whiz. This was fantastic news. Poor Whiz had lost all his best friends to adoption, including his sister, so it was time that he got to keep one.

I called the ladies and we set a time for them to come the next day. Usually when someone comes to view of the foster cats I put all the cats in the basement. That way I can contain everybody in the room and if gives each cat an opportunity to see and know that one of the cats is being put in the cat carrier and being taken away. It makes a huge difference to the cats for them to know the cat has been taken away and hasn't just disappeared.

Once one of the kittens was adopted late at night and none of the other cats saw the person come to take him. The next day his play mate went around crying trying to find him. So after that mistake I always make sure everyone knows that the kitty has gone to their adoptive home and ever since then, no more crying after a cat is adopted.

The ladies arrived and we went downstairs. I knew Whiz would be a bit panicked. He's a little shy at first and I knew he might hide but I had them all locked in the room so it was okay. But I underestimated Whiz. He went up the stairs and pressed on the door and somehow he got it to pop open.

That meant the scaredy cat was now loose upstairs where he promptly hid.

While the ladies waited downstairs I turned the upstairs upside down. I could not find him. I kept looking and it took me 20 minutes to find him. He was in the last place on earth I'd think to look, behind the curio cabinet and jammed into a 4" space at the end of a bookshelf.

I brought him downstairs where the ladies fell in love with his great looks. You see, they knew that Whiz wouldn't always be a scaredy cat. He was just nervous around strangers and once he got to know them he'd settle right in.

My frustration at not finding Whiz was quickly put in place when I realized that a power bigger than myself had better plans than I could think of. That 20 minutes with the ladies in the basement was necessary. It was just the right length of time for the ladies to meet and also fall in love with Beauty, Jay's mother. By the time I brought Whiz downstairs the ladies had decided that 3 cats would suit them just fine.

So in one day I had 3 adoptions! It was fantastic.

But boy was the house ever quiet. Everyone felt weird with the quiet. Gracie was bored and started supervising me and the other cats started sleeping a lot more. The young ones were gone.

But a week later, there was the doorbell and another cat carrier. But this time it was coming in and bringing kittens. Little kittens 4 weeks old. They had no mother and they needed someone to raise them.

Oh we've got noise now. Trust me they've got BIG voices :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Look - BEFORE you Leap!

I just have to share with you about Jay's absolute fascination with water.

I've learned that growing up kittens go through phases of interest. They paw at little bits of string and dangling things, then as they get more mobile they head to the bathroom.

I'll walk in and find half a roll of toilet paper pulled off the roll and dragged around the room. A very brief Crime Scene Investigation quickly proves the culprit: Tiny teeth and claw marks. The perpetrator: A black and white kitten, male.

Jay got a little "snip snip" last week and so he is now neutered. But he doesn't seem to mind. All he wants to do is play, play play.

His latest fascination has been a little frustrating and a little funny. It's WATER.

I can't turn on a tap anywhere and remain alone for long. Jay will show up. He started by pawing the stuff and shaking his paws. He progressed to licking his paws from there. Then my toilet conveniently won't flush on it's own so I had to take the cover off the tank.

This tank has become Jay's new play area. He puts his paws in the water, he drinks it and lately he's starting chewing and pawing at the parts inside--I think he's trying to work out how I make the water go by touching something in there.....

Soon he'll be flushing the toilet by himself.

I always put the seat down though because I don't want any cat drinking from the toilet bowl. It's bad enough that they eat mice and lick their bums and then come and lick my face.

Once I was cleaning the tub so I had about 3" of water in it. I had to leave for a bit and come back. I did have that little voice speak to me--you know that one that you ignore because you're busy but later you'll regret not listening too? Yeah, that one. Anyway, about 10 minutes later KER-SPLASH! Yes, Jay just had to investigate this water and in doing so he fell into the tub.

I have a new deep tub and in his panic he couldn't jump out. I grabbed him up and put a towel around him.

That was his first bath.

The other day he tipped over the water dish and I found a pond of water on the floor.

He also licks at the tub and bathroom sink facets, trying to catch the drips.

But the biggest laugh of all was last night. I was in the bathroom and Jay came charging in to play with the water. He jumped right up on the toilet seat .....except that I forgot to put the seat down.

That was Jay's second bath.

I think the third time will be charming :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

View of the Day

The wet flower photos I took last week in between rain storms!
This is a closeup of a day lily just after a storm. We had many severe storm warnings last week.
But this weekend we've been blessed with SUNSHINE! That's right. You know, that round yellow thing up in the sky.
And it's been hot too. Hot enough to get you thinking about going to the beach along with 10,000 other people who are feeling exactly the same way you are :)
I had a sleepy, lazy day today. On my right slept Tom cat and on my left slept Tigger. I sat on my backyard swing for a few hours this afternoon and read some books and did some journaling. Most of the time though I just watched the birds and butterflies swooping back and forth.
Tom and Tigger have spent most of the summer outdoors and I've had a hard time convincing them to come in, even in the rainy weather. I have a roofed porch off the garage with cushions and that's where they can hang out all year round.

Tom and Tigger visited the vet today and had their shots. Tom weighed in at just over 16 lbs and Tigger at 13 lbs. No one could accuse me of not feeding them. If anything, they should probably be on diet food... shouldn't we all though?

I still have not done my back yard landscaping yet.
It was my plan to get most of it done this summer but the broken arm back in April kind of threw all my plans off schedule. There's always next year.
So my bags of soil and iron dragonfly will have to wait to be properly placed next year. I'm pretty easy about not getting it done. I wasn't completely set yet on how I wanted it so a delay will give me more time to think about it. I'd love a little pond.........maybe with an arched bridge....... Well, at least dreaming is free.

Most of my blogging this summer has been over on my other blog The Bee Journal
where I've been going on and on about my latest obsession: Beekeeping.

And here is a mystery that is solved, although I have no photographs of the culprit. Every year I'd find these perfect round holes in the soft leaves of my Red Bud tree. Now some people would be upset that some insect or creature had done this, thinking it was unsightly. Me, I thought it was pretty cool to see such perfect circles and all I wanted to know was who was doing it? And why?
When on my beekeeping course I learned that this is done by the leaf cutter bee. It cuts a round top and bottom and makes a perfect little leaf tube, and inside the tube it lays its eggs.
Just think, there's an insect out there that can cut a circle better than a kindergarten student and can fold it like origami better than you or I could probably do. Now that is cool.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Camping in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada

For a little while that afternoon Dad pretended that this was his boat. He claimed to have servants and all manner of people to wait on him.

This photo of part of the harbour in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada reminds me a little of a few harbours I visited while travelling by yaht in Australia. There are indeed a few well off people in this world who can afford these expensive boats.... we're just not those people.

Instead, we camp. But we're older now so we don't tent it any more where we're on the ground. We use a tent trailer and enjoy the comforts of soft mattresses and, forgive us, electricity. (We even have a small microwave that we use).

Hey, if you're thinking this isn't real camping, you might be right, but I must tell you I've paid my dues by camping in all kinds of weather and in different countries. I've lived outside for weeks on end and have numerous times given up the soggy tent in the rain to sleep in the car. Today though tents are much better made than in my day. We also used to cook all our meals on the camp fire (if it rained it got really interesting - cold beans from the can). Often we'd use a coalman stove set up outside on the picnic table as well.

Our camp site just outside Tobermory called Happy Hearts came with flush toilets, showers and even a Karoke Night.

For meals, each family member gets part of a grocery list that when complete, ensures we have healthy meals all week long... although the Chili on the second night might not have been such a good idea. There were 8 of us after all and that's a lot of 'music' after the meal, if you get my drift.

Oh and we had a "Chippy" too. A chipmunk found us on day 2. We noticed he was already trained to come up on the picnic table and beg for food. We happened to have a bag of peanuts so we kept him happy.

Every year I usually spend some time each day painting watercolours. A few years ago this generated a lot of interest among the family members at the camp site. They wanted to try painting too. What happened then was that everyone was busy painting except for me.

This year I didn't get to paint either. I had new students to teach, my niece's friend who accompanied us and a young girl from the next camp site.

I save all kinds of photos of wildlife and insects and flowers which are the inspiration for these budding young artists.

We take it easy for the most part and don't make too many plans ahead. Our focus is to have some down time and to relax.

My nephew Codie and I scuba dive so we had planned a few dives on some shipwrecks just off shore. I have an underwater camera but it uses film so once I get the film developed I'll post those photos.

The best treat of all this trip was the weather. There was this blue stuff up in the firmament called 'sky'. We hadn't seen it for so long that many of us couldn't recall what it was called ;)



Friday, August 7, 2009

Making Pocket Stews to Cook on the Camp Fire

I must have been only 10 or 12 years old when I learned to make pocket stew. My class was going on a day trip to a bog and part of the trip included a camp fire where we'd cook our own lunch. A man came to our class and taught us how to make it.

(Photo - my sister as she enjoys her pocket stew)

I'll never forget that field trip and the yummy stews. I have a camp fire in my back yard now and occasionally my niece and nephew come over and we make the stews.

Also, every year when we go camping its mandatory that Aunt Barb help everyone prepare their own pocket stew to roast on the fire.

Here's the recipe: Some people call them Hobo Stews.

Campfire Pocket Stews

  • 1 Hamburger or Turkey Burger Patty
  • Chopped Carrots
  • Sliced Potatoes
  • Chopped Onions
  • Frozen or canned Corn
  • Frozen or canned Peas
  • 1 can of Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 Can Beef Gravy (or Water – but gravy is better)
  • Spices such as Garlic Powder or Steak Spice, Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Large Piece Extra Strong Tinfoil about 1 ½ foot long
  • Campfire long handled tongs
  • 1 Plate that won’t melt with fire hot tinfoil
  • 1 Package of peanuts in the shell
Directions:

1. Cut up all the vegetables
2. Make a patty from the meat (you can put onions right into the patty if you like)
3. Make a tinfoil pocket by folding tinfoil in half. Fold the edges over about ¼” once and then again to make a double sealed seam up the sides. It helps to fold the corners up too
4. Add the following to the tinfoil pocket:
5. Place the meat patty on the bottom (but it doesn’t matter if the meat goes on the bottom or the vegetables).
6. Add a good handful of each vegetable. You only need to add the vegetables that you like. It doesn’t matter if you put a little or a lot—put as much as you want depending how hungry you are. (Leftover pocket stew tastes great too).
7. Sprinkle on spices that you like (steak or vegetable spices are good)
8. Hold your pocket carefully and add 1 can of beef gravy (the campfire is hot and if you don’t add lots of liquid – either gravy or even water, it will become too dry and burn)
9. Fold the top edge down 1/4" once and then again to create a seal. The pocket should now be sealed on all sides and not leaking.
10. Handle the package carefully so you don’t poke holes in it. Place it on the campfire coals and let cook for 30 minutes (or the oven set at 350 degrees C for 30 minutes if it rains and you can't have a fire). Be careful not to puncture the package or the gravy will leak out. Sometimes holding it on a plate when putting in the fire and removing is easiest.
11. Check the meat to be sure it’s fully cooked before you dine.

Don’t forget to recycle the tin foil.
Oh, you were wondering about what you're to do with the peanuts? Well, they're for Chippy the chipmunk of course. He's a vegetarian!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Night Time Visitor

It was not a dark and stormy night, but I had a lamp on in one of the spare rooms with the screen window open.

I was trying to catch any cool breezes to lower the temperature in the house.

The light usually attracts small moths which the cats like to chase from the other side of the screen but on this night I saw a large shadow hanging on the screen.

Of course I had to go outside to have a look.

A lovely Polyphemus Moth lay hanging on the screen - attracted by my light pollution.
Notice the lovely rose coloured markings on the wings. I did pick it up but was careful not to touch the wings.
After a few photos I put the moth back and then went inside to turn off the lamp. The light was distracting the moth from its real search, for a mate.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let's Just Blame Barry

It's Barry's fault. He writes an amazing blog about his experiences.

Unfortunately Barry has been recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer which he is bravely facing. Barry is blessing us though by sharing the intimacies of living, fighting and dealing with having cancer. We read daily of the blow by blow of the inside life of a person with cancer. His blog is life changing.

So why is it his fault? Well, he wrote about conversations (http://anexplorers.blogspot.com/2009/07/casual-conversation.html) and about how we say hello to each other. The question was about how do you respond if you have cancer and he described conversations of various people who had cancer.

This brought a wave of memories for me - some from a while back and a couple more recently. That's why it's his fault. He writes so well that he draws the emotions out.

I wrote about Bruce in the comments section of his blog - I'll paste that bit below. But what I want to tell you about is Bonnie.

Bonnie has cancer. I don't know her well. She works in my building for the same department but a different section. We have never really had many chit chat type conversations. Our only real connection has been when Bonnie came to take software classes that I taught as part of my job. She struggled a bit with the computer, so we would have some one-on-one time in class. She was a pleasant student though and I enjoyed having her in my classes.

She was off for a very long time. I didn't even know at first that she was ill. Word can sometimes seep slowly through a very large department but eventually I heard she was off battling cancer. Then I forgot about it. It's a not very kind thing, but it's true. Life and work and busi-ness and I didn't know Bonnie well so we didn't associate much. She just slipped from my mind.

Then she'd show up in my cubicle. She wanted to chat and she was staring at my very intensely, but in a very loving way. I caught this emotion vibe from her but I was clueless as to why she stopped to chat with me because we hardly know each other and then because of the look in her eyes.

She mentioned that she'd just been in to see the people in personnel and she reminded me that she had been off on sick leave because she's battling bowel cancer. Of course, then my memory returned. She told me that the doctors are calling her a miracle. She should not be alive, but she is. She pointed out her wig, mentioning that she'd lost all her hair. What I noticed was the love that was just spilling from her eyes.

What is remarkable is the polar opposites of our mental positions. My head was wrapped up in my work. I was in my professional workplace mode and was acting in that role as I'm accustomed to doing. But Bonnie, she had broken out of that mold, mind you by force, but nevertheless she had done it. Her life experiences had transported her to a new plane. She was operating on a spiritual level and that was what I realized was the look in her eyes. She was trying to connect to me the person, not the business professional. And I had to shake off the professional and be a person again so I could connect with her at that important human level.

It took a woman I barely knew with cancer to interrupt my "busy" day to show me how I was being caught up in stuff that quite frankly really didn't matter. I never used to understand that saying "in a 100 years no one will care" because I thought everyone would. But now I know better. I've seen things in the workplace that I cared deeply and intensely about be tossed off like yesterday's garbage. And I'm saddened to think that I would give up an opportunity to work on my relationships with others by chatting so I could run back to my desk to work on what would be garbage a few years from that day.

Barry stirred up my recent metamorphosis/change experiences where I've spent considerable time having a deep heartfelt look at things that I thought really mattered, only to find that they didn't. It was earth shattering and a revelation. I believe it's made me a better person, helped to refocus and re-balance my life and relationships.

When I ask people how they are I always stop to really listen to their response.

So, thanks Barry.

My Comments from Barry's blog:

I have about 4 stories I could share on this topic but I'll share just one and try to be brief.

At work, I'm the "busy person" - the one that doesn't stop and waste time very often chatting. I don't have a problem if others do it, it's just that I don't care for it. So the whole "How are you?" and answer, "I'm fine" would be my normal response - anything else can lead to conversation as we all know.But one day Bruce invited me into his office. He had a map out and he was very excited about planning his first overseas trip to France.

You see Bruce had really severe diabetes and a heart valve problem and had been on a transplant list. He got a kidney and it transformed his life - no more insulin or diabetes. I was so happy to see him well.I felt a prompting inside telling me, why not take some time and visit with Bruce, so I did.

We had a great chat as he pointed out the sights on his map that he planned to visit. I left his office feeling more upbeat than before - so I was glad I listened to the prompting.

That night Bruce had a heart attack and died. I can tell you EXACTLY how I would feel today if I had not stopped to chat and went back to my desk to work 'busily' on some ridiculous report that I don't even recall. That day I did something that was WAY more important.I have a happy memory of our last time together. :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tour of a Fibre Mill

Last week I went with my friend Deb from Ziraldo Farms (http://www.zalpacas.com/) to Oil Springs.

She was going to this little village because they have a great mill operation.

I blogged about the alpaca shearing that I went to in April 2009.


After the shearing, Deb drove out to Oil springs to drop off the alpaca fibre for washing, combing, carding and creating yarn and rovings for spinning.

I remember seeing many mills when in England and Scotland as a child.



They were always housed in large warehouses with machines that went very fast.





And always at the end was a lovely gift shop full of the cloth that they had produced.

I especially enjoyed seeing the Scottish tartan cloth they produced.

This mill is much smaller in scale but the machinery is still the same today. In fact, the way that fibre is processined is still pretty much the same today as years and years ago.

The Edy's have a large alpaca farm with about 75 alpacas.

They have every colour in the alpaca rainbow and it was a real thrill to see them.

They run the mill alongside their own large alpaca operation.





They offer lovely yarns, roving and knitted garments that are inventive and absolutely lovely. You can check them out at http://www.alpacascanada.com/.

They had baby alpacas everywhere. Of course, it's spring and the babies have been popping out of mommy's since early spring. In fact, one little dark baby was born just a couple hours before we arrived.





All the alpacas have been sheared so they were ready for the heat of summer. Some enjoyed the shade indoors while others wanted to romp outside or nibble on some grasses.

Oil Springs is not far from Sarnia, Ontario and is actually a pleasant back roads drive. It's a nice time to relax and visit while driving.

I even saw beehives at an intersection of two country roads so we stopped for photos.





I think these hives may belong to Munro Honey in Alvinson, not very far away from Oil Springs.

There were more than two machines but the first photo is the machine that takes the roving and makes it into yarn.





The second photo is the machine that cards and combs the fibre.





Their mill processes all types of fibre, even dog hair!


(Pictured is the carding machine).

Growing up Kitten

Every day there's a little change. First his tail started to get longer and then his body needed a few days to catch up to the tail. Then his whiskers grew in really long and he looked like a baby with adult whiskers. Now his legs are growing longer which is making him taller.
We've settled on calling him Jay, although he's had other names: Cutie Pie, Sweetie Pie and Mischiefer.

Both Jay and his mother Beauty, a lovely calico, are up for adoption.

I'm fostering them until we can find permanent loving homes for them.

Whiz, my other foster cat is in his glory.

Finally he has someone with boundless energy that wants to play with him. I reminded him of just that last night when Jay, acting in his mischiefer role, decided to pounce on Whiz while he was napping.

I'm sure Whiz had a few moments there when he regretted wanting someone--anyone of any age--to play with him.

The mommy cat, we call her Beauty, got spayed last week so she's been taking it easy this week and sleeping and keeping a low profile.

She's eating well which is good and hopefully she'll now gain some weight back.


Both Beauty and Jay were very sick when they first came here and for a while it even looked like the kitten wouldn't live.
That was when Amber stopped going in the cat quarantine room. She couldn't bear the thought that they might not make it.

But I told her that regardless of the outcome, it's our job to never give up on them. So we didn't. And they survived.

The kitten has also taken to playing with the bunny. Now this isn't a little bunny, this is a very large Angora rabbit, named Lexi.

Lexi is a bit strange and thinks that the kitten attacks are actually attempts to pat and groom her so she runs towards the kitten and encourages him even farther.... I think I've been so busy with projects lately that Lexi is feeling a lack of attention.

I was glad a few weeks ago to cut off Lexi's long soft fur. I collect the fur to use later to spin into Angora yarn for knitting. I also cut off Margarite's hair, my other rabbit.

(Photo of Lexi before the haircut).


Her hair wasn't long enough yet, but I knew she was uncomfortable and hot and I already had lots of her fur saved. This shorter cut hair can be used for craft projects or put out for birds for nesting material in the spring. Margarite was unusually cooperative with being groomed and having her hair cut off, so that alone showed me how very happy she was to have it removed.

And Tom is doing very well for an older cat. Unfortunately he still thinks he's young enough to defend the property and last night I saw another stray run away when I opened the back door--probably another drop off cat to the subdivision.