Monday, January 03, 2022

Manic Hobgoblin's Resolutions for 2022!

Manic Hobgoblin is an egomaniacal inner voice that previously lived in my head rent-free. He took off during the pandemic to a luxury bunker in an undisclosed location. As soon as he possibly could, he emerged from said bunker to resell toilet paper and face masks on the internet at a 4000% price markup. Manic Hobgoblin skipped the line for a COVID-19 vaccine, not at all sorry as he pushed past elderly individuals and immunocompromised people. He justified skipping the line for a vaccine, because he needed it to go on a VIP cruise lasting 245 days and traveling to 59 countries. Now he's back from the fancy cruise. 

Manic Hobgoblin ran out of money, and defaulted on his bunker payments. Lately he sneaks into my home (and my head) with alarming stealth. I tried to push him out, but he whisper-screamed some New Year resolutions to me. He said he won't leave until I share them with the world. Or at least with my 357 loyal readers. (You know who you are. I'm going to HEB later. Let me know if you need anything.)

Manic Hobgoblin's Resolutions for 2022 are as follows:

1. Learn some foreign languages such as Lemerig, Njerep and Ongota. Fluently.

2. Read every book in The Library of Congress.

3. Start an Etsy store that drop ships factory made stuff.

4. Become an actual social media influencer. 

5. Get plastic surgery for abdominal muscle implants. 

There. I did it. Hopefully Manic Hobgoblin will leave now. I'm trying to convince him to move into the Museum of Ice Cream so he can generate loads of content for his various social media accounts.

I'm not making any resolutions for myself. This pandemic took it out of me. I've let go of most of my control issues. I've let go of making concrete plans. I've let go of doing full hair and makeup every day. The closest thing to a resolution this year is setting my reading challenge goal to forty books over on Goodreads. 

Happy New Year! I'm hoping 2022 is better than the previous two years were. 

Felt festive & cute. Might delete later.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Have You Met Queenie?

Don't you love hearing about other people's dreams? Whether their dreams are nonsensical, deeply Freudian, prophetic or just plain mundane? No? Me neither, so I'll keep it brief. Chad and I both had some intensely vivid dreams during the height of the pandemic. One of my dreams was that we had moved into a new house in a new city, and we had a beautiful long haired black cat. I told Chad about this dream, wanting to ask him what new city he thought we might have moved to in that dream. But his eyes got really wide, which made my eyes get really wide, and made me say, "Wait. What? Why do you look like you saw a ghost?" Chad said, "I also dreamed that we had a beautiful long haired black cat." Oooooooohhhh, coincidence dreams! So naturally, I started cruising the local cat rescue adoption websites to manifest our shared dreams. Plus our resident cat, L.B., communicated with much meowing that he was so lonely as the only remaining indoor cat for over a year's time. Chad and I knew that Janie wasn't long for this mortal coil, and that if we didn't act soon, L.B. would literally be beside himself as our only indoor furry roommate.

In April of 2021, Chad and I adopted a ridiculously cute, affectionate and adventurous kitten. She has medium length black fur with the tiniest white spot on the tip of her tail, and a cocoa undercoat featuring a marble tabby pattern which can only be seen in the brightest natural light. 

We tried many different names for this kitten including: Hazel, Zelda, Millie, Midori, Taxi, Kenzo, and some others I can't remember, because we almost immediately rejected them. A few days after we brought this kitten home, I looked at her, and said, "You're so in charge here, like a little queen. Is your name Queenie?" She gave an imperious slow blink and a nod, then toddled off to find L.B. so she could get a good licky grooming from him. I ran the name past Chad, and although he had previously been very attached to the name Hazel, he agreed. 

Aunt Queenie played by Elsa Lanchester in Bell, Book, and Candle

I got the name Queenie from the character Aunt Queenie in the movie Bell, Book, and Candle, and from the character of Queenie Turrill in the British television series Lark Rise to Candleford. The name Queenie also derives from an affectionate British nickname for people who share the same first name as a Queen of England, such as Elizabeth, Victoria, Anne and Mary. 

If you follow me on Instagram, or you are one of the exactly seven people allowed into my home during the pandemic, then you've seen Queenie. For the rest of you, see the photos now. You're welcome!

Queenie's adoption profile pic

Queenie's first day in her forever home

Peek-a-boo! Queenie sees you.

Queenie loves lounging in a sunny spot.

Queenie and Janie overlapped for a few months and sweetly shared heating pads.

Look deeply into Queenie's eyes. You're feeling very sleepy...

Queenie's typing skills are nonexistent, but she is a hit on Zoom.

Queenie blends right in with the velvet chair/throne.

Queenie and L.B. love each other so much.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Janie: A Memorial

Janie Lulabelle May Snacks Currie was an excellent dog. Known by her friends as just Janie, she had a rough start in life as a young single mama. Janie and three of her puppies were picked up as strays by benevolent animal control employees and taken to the city animal shelter. Back then, Austin was not a no-kill city as it is now. Blue Dog Rescue group plucked Janie and her puppies out of the city shelter before their time ran out. 

Chad and I went to a meet and greet adoption event for Blue Dog Rescue. We had picked out three other dogs based on their cute online profiles. Two of the three were already adopted by the time we arrived, and that third sweet dog was not the right dog for us. One of the coordinators for Blue Dog Rescue steered us toward Janie. The coordinator told us about Janie's excellent manners, her gentle nature as a mama dog, and her success rate with house training. Janie's puppies had all three been adopted, but Janie remained. People love puppies, and I get that. But Chad and I wanted a calmer, house trained dog, who knew the sit command, and could walk on leash. We did not want a puppy. We took Janie for a walk around the Petco parking lot. She took care of business, as if to say, "I feel immediately comfortable enough to poop in front of you." When we dropped her back off at her crate with her foster mom, Janie sat down and flopped over to reveal her tummy for pets. Chad and I both knew in that moment that this was our dog. I feel like she picked us, just as much as we picked her.

In her younger days, Janie enjoyed walking (up to three miles a day) at a good pace. She savored chewing on Nylabones and Benebones, earning her the nickname "Landshark." Janie liked to sunbathe on the back deck for hours at a time. We would make her come inside at regular intervals to cool off, teasing her that she shouldn't bake her brains too much. Janie loved attending the prestigious day school at Camp Four Paws, and was head of her canine class for many years there. She relished a good romp at the dog park. Janie never got the knack of swimming per se, but she delighted in a nice soak in the waters of Shoal Creek or Lady Bird Lake.

Janie spent thirteen and half years with us. (She was at least fifteen years old in total.) She was an excellent nanny dog for many foster kittens and for two foster puppies. Janie was very sweet and gentle with our resident cats, and especially patient with Sonic the bully. Janie met our most recently adopted cat, Queenie (more on her later), and shared her heating pad with the new kitten. 

As Janie got older, she experienced steadily escalating troubles with her back hips. Under our veterinarian's care, Janie was taking a daily NSAID pain reliever which we supplemented with CBD treats. Near the end, Janie let us know that she was increasingly in pain and discomfort.  She paced around at night, and could not be consoled. She whined softly as a way to sooth herself often. Janie no longer enjoyed sunning on the deck or chewing on Benebones. Chad and I had many tearful talks about what we needed to do for her. We decided that for the final two weeks before her scheduled farewell appointment, we would double-dose her NSAID tablets and give her the maximum recommended CBD treats each day. (Double-dosing the NSAID meds is not sustainable as it can cause stomach ulcers among other problems, but we knew it would be for a very limited time.) We spent her final two weeks spoiling her rotten and doing everything we could to make her comfortable and happy. Despite our best efforts, she was still clearly uncomfortable and tired of everything. On Janie's final day, the doctor at our veterinarian's office told us all the perfect things: "You gave her such a good, long life. We should all be so fortunate. It is very selfless of you to let her go. She knows you are here with her. She's drifting off to sleep." And after a moment, the doctor listened for a heartbeat, and hearing none, she said, "Janie is at peace now." Chad and I each kissed Janie's giant, heart-shaped forehead a final time as we cried with jagged breaths and snotty noses. 

For weeks after Janie's departure, we wondered if we did the right thing. (We know rationally that we did, but this is part of the process of grieving an old dog, a beloved family member we carefully chose.) Chad and I start each other crying again with a shared memory, a knowing look, or a mention of Janie's schedule. We were absolutely spoiled to have a dog as sweet and gentle and full of personality as Janie was. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Dear (Totally Imaginary) Housekeeper

Thank you for continuing to work for us during this weird time in history. You are like a chosen family member.

Thank you for staying on top of the laundry, making sure we've ordered all the food for the pets and the squirrels,  and for planning our meals in response to ingredient shortages at the stores. (Seriously, why is there no slow-cook brown rice to be had?) But... last week when our curbside grocery order made it home, I noticed that literally one-third of the items were missing. We were charged for those items. We were counting on those items for meals. When you contacted the store to try and rectify the situation, I understand that the prerecorded message directed you to the website, and then hung up on you. I'm sorry that happened to you. I know how frustrating that must have been. But... I'm still awaiting a refund from the store after you emailed them about the situation. Please follow up with the store again.

Thank you for being resourceful, and planning curbside meal pickups from our favorite local restaurants last week due to our grocery shortage. But... we were looking forward to healthy homemade meals.

I understand that you panicked after last week's grocery pickup snafu. Frankly I also felt my anxiety rising. While I appreciate that you took the initiative to set new grocery pickups for this week, you went a bit overboard. So much cheese! Which luckily keeps for a while. But... what am I supposed to do with five pints of organic grape tomatoes. And why can't you find any slow-cook brown rice still? How long does it take to grow more rice? I'm holding you personally responsible for the rice shortage, (Totally Imaginary) Housekeeper.

Also, thanks for ordering washable face masks for the household. But... the large size you bought for Chad does not fit over his big face. What do you mean there is no extra-large size? Can you get out the sewing machine and fix this?

Also, the dog needs you to do more enrichment activities with her. She seems to enjoy the training activities. Please stop just giving her a Kong treat every time she whines. That only buys us four or five minutes. You have to do the training where you make her sit and stay, then come to you in the far corners of the backyard. That tires her out more.

Also, L.B. misses his former feline companion. I need for you to play chase the laser pointer dot with him more frequently now. He also wants more brushing. But... please do be a dear, and swiffer all the loose fur after his brushing sessions. I'm tired of seeing cat-fur-tumbleweeds rolling around the hardwood floors.

Also, I noticed you haven't been ironing the pillow cases for the bed. We really liked that. Can you please do that again?

Also, I know I said I would repaint all the exterior doors during this stay-home time, but I don't feel like doing it now. Please, (Totally Imaginary) Housekeeper, can you paint the doors? We have the paint and the supplies. Just make sure you clean up after yourself.

Also, can you please go to the plant nursery and buy tomato plants, tomato cages, basil, and bougainvillea plants? Now that it's warming up, I need you to spruce up the raised planters and hanging basket planters. Just wear a face mask. I'm sure you'll be fine.

One more tiny thing: my car battery warning light is indicating that I need a new car battery soon. Can you please deal with that?

Thanks so much, (Totally Imaginary) Housekeeper. You're the best. I don't know how I'd cope right now without you.


Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Sonic: A Memorial

Sonic came to live with us in October of 2006 when he was approximately six months old. He was originally found in a feral cat colony in the Travis Heights neighborhood. Sonic was named for his loud, yodel-like meows by the lady who found him. Sonic was always very chatty, responding vocally to any prompts. Sonic adored and annoyed his two older feline roommates in equal measure. He loved people, especially people who fed him. Sonic loved a heating pad. Perhaps owing to his early days in the feral cat colony, Sonic also enjoyed the outdoors. Typically, when Sonic went outside he stayed in our backyard, in or on top of his heated, weather-proof cat shelter on the back deck.

Sonic was mostly a sweet cat who loved a warm lap and getting brushed, but he had his dark side. Sonic struggled with anxiety which manifested in resource guarding and inappropriate urinating all over our home. The amount of Sonic's pee I cleaned up over the years is both heart-breaking and infuriating. Heart-breaking that he suffered with his anxiety. Infuriating, because cat pee is a booger to clean. The amount of Simple Solution and Nature's Miracle we went through with Sonic was astounding.

Sonic did not like our dog, who joined our home in February 2008. Sonic charged at our dog, and bopped her on the nose aggressively a few times a week. Our dog is a tolerant sweetheart, and never once defended herself. I tried to explain to Sonic that he weighed thirteen pounds and the the sweet, tolerant dog weighed fifty-plus pounds. I told Sonic that one day he would pick a fight above his weight class, and that it would not end in his favor. (This, here, is called foreshadowing.)

Sonic loved his new little brother, L.B., when he arrived on the scene in December of 2015. The two boys were sweet wrestling buddies, always up for a game of chase. They both indulged in catnip, laser pointer shows and ribbon chasing together.

Late on the night of Friday, March 13, I heard (but thankfully did not see) a cat's war cry out in the front of our home. The yowl was loud, and ended abruptly. L.B. was sitting with me at the time, and heard the ruckus also. It ended so quickly that L.B. and I thought nothing of it, returning to our reading. The next morning Chad asked if I had let Sonic inside last night, because Sonic wasn't waiting at the backdoor to come inside that morning as he usually was. I said no. I did a thorough sweep of all of Sonic's favorite cozy hiding spots inside the house. No Sonic. I walked the front yard, the side yard and back yard, calling for Sonic. He typically came running when I called him. Still no Sonic.

At this point, I think my brain was protecting me from the memory of what I'd heard the night before. Especially on top of the whole quickly evolving COVID-19 situation, I was processing too much information.

Chad and I have seen coyotes roaming our neighborhood late at night on several occasions. They come up from the creek bed, looking for food when most people are sleeping. But Sonic had disappeared in the past for up to three days, and returned home unscathed. I was trying to decipher if Sonic was out on an adventure, or if Sonic had been a coyote's dinner. I checked the local lost and found pet pages online. Still no Sonic. I checked his microchip registration, which has current contact information. No reports of a microchip scan for Sonic.

On Sunday afternoon, March 15, I looked at Chad and said, "It feels different this time. I don't think he's coming home." Then I teared up just the tiniest bit as I relayed the scuffle that I heard out in front of the house the night Sonic disappeared.

Three weeks later, still no Sonic. We're 95% certain that Sonic charged at a coyote, thinking he would win that fight, and became the coyote's meal. The circle of life isn't always pretty.

Sonic lived a good life of almost fourteen years. He was predeceased by two of our beloved O.G. cats. He is survived by Janie, the dog he bullied, and by L.B., his beloved feline companion. Sonic's favorite vet tech, Jan, once said, "He's a cool cat, so chill, just hanging out with us while we do his bloodwork and urinalysis." While in some ways we miss Sonic, in other ways it is a relief that he is no longer peeing all over our home and bullying our sweet, elderly dog.

Maya Angelou said it well. "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Sonic made us feel many things, some lovely, some not so lovely.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Manic Hobgoblin Retreated to Bunker

I haven't heard much from my inner Manic Hobgoblin of late. He retreated to his luxury bunker in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Southwestern United States of America. Luckily he left me with one tub of sanitizing wipes and about ten rolls of toilet paper. I also found a box of face masks in my painting supplies that he forgot to abscond with when he left at sunrise a few weeks ago. (These face masks are not the N95 kind that should absolutely be donated to health care workers, just the little pleated ear loop kind.)

In absence of Manic Hobgoblin, and under stay home orders from my city, I've been balancing chores with fun homebody activities. Lots of laundry, washing dishes, cleaning out clutter, vacuuming,  preparing tax documents, etc, interspersed with lots of reading fiction, playing card games/board games, moving around the giant Easter eggs on my front lawn each day to amuse myself and passers-by, cuddling the pets, watching Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. All this fills my days just fine. I don't need Manic Hobgoblin spinning around my house right now telling me to learn a fifth language or to try every exercise video from the internet. I wish Manic Hobgoblin well in his bunker. Maybe he can stay there permanently.


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Manic Hobgoblin Hates That Class

Going back to school during middle age is difficult for me. I always feel like I should be studying, watching a how-to video, doing homework, or practicing recipes for my pastry chef classes. I made all A grades last semester. I am on track to make an A in two of my three classes this semester. But the third class is very challenging for me. I hate it. It makes me want to quit the program. If I don't pass this class, I will not be allowed to continue the pastry chef program. The name of this vexing course is "Basic Food Preparation", and it is anything but basic. I'm learning to flute mushrooms, tourne potatoes, make hollandaise sauce, and a bunch of other overly complicated, fussy stuff I'll never do again as a professional baker.

This past week, the chef-instructor for this class scolded the class members, saying we should memorize our recipes and methods for preparing the assignments before class. (Forgetting that many of us have never worked in a professional kitchen. Ignoring that most of us have never made the Mother Sauces from scratch.) Chef barked that it shouldn't take 30 minutes to make a Hollandaise sauce, Espagnole Sauce and French Classic Tomato Sauce. (Um, I beg to differ. The instructions for the Espagnole Sauce clearly state to simmer it for one to two hours.) Chef also said that his job is not to teach us to cook, but to teach us to be professional chefs. (Clearly discounting that the baking and hospitality students must take this Basic Food Preparation class, and that baking and hospitality students do not want to be culinary chefs, thanks all the same.)

Chef has failed to instruct our class about mis en place, or getting all of our ingredients prepared and organized before we begin. He just barks at us to go faster, and to come wash the dishes that are stacking up at an alarming rate. Then Chef yells at us that we didn't finish all three sauces and our fancy cut board presentation. Is this what hazing feels like? I am not a fan. Class consistently gets out late. We are sent home to do our lab reports, rather than being able to fill them out while Chef is present to answer questions.

Also, Chef hates when his students are vegetarians (even for religious reasons), and when they have food allergies (going so far as to drop a student from the program who has an anaphylactic allergy to fish). I'm a vegetarian with a peanut allergy. *sigh* So I gagged my way through rendering pork fat for the tomato sauce and deglazing beef scraps for the Espagnole sauce. (I was told by the culinary school program advisor that the Basic Food Preparation class didn't deal with any proteins. Um... beef and pork are proteins!) I will never again prepare Mother Sauces as a baker, I hope.

My inner Manic Hobgoblin wants to quit. This class is difficult. This class is not fun. Chef is unreasonable in his expectations, and sloppy with instructions. Manic Hobgoblin says it is better to quit than to fail. Manic Hobgoblin says that something I want to do as a future profession should not hinge upon this difficult class that is so very loosely related to my future profession.

Manic Hobgoblin and I agree that Hollandaise Sauce looks and tastes like heart disease, that Espagnole Sauce smells like a sickly sweaty cow, and that pork fat has no place leaving greasy drops in Tomato Sauce. Gross.

However, I have to disagree with Manic Hobgoblin that I should just quit the program. I'm going to get through this BLEEPing prerequisite class. I probably will not make an A, thus ruining my 4.0 Grade Point Average. I will do my very best to pass this vexing class with a C or better. Being imperfect is better than quitting in this case. Riiiiiiiiight? Because I'm having doubts.