Remember this little girl? (Kitty updates!)

Kitty update fans… I’ve owed you this post for a long time. Nenette updates have been few and far between. Not only that, but the last one was pretty lame, as it was text-heavy and it featured only one pic of Nenette. I know you’re here for the pics!

The thing is, I’m always trying to take pics of her, but she dislikes having her picture taken. She knows when I’m doing it. She’s the Houdini of photography: she’s good at escaping. More often than not, I wind up with a blur of whiskers and butt-hole.

I don’t give up, though. I’ve been continuing my efforts, and now I’ve got a handful of pics to show for it. These range from the first week of September to yesterday. Oh… I should say that I’ve posted a couple of good pics of her on my Instagram in the last few months. Those pics aren’t included here. My insta account is thatasianlookingchick, if you’re interested (it’s in the sidebar).

Without further ado, enjoy some pics of Nenette!

 

She loves to lay down next to me while I’m writing. Here she it trying to get my attention:

 

Nenette’s favorite kitty bed is this backpack that I mistakenly thought was mine.

 

She still leads us to her toy box and digs into it, searching for the toys she wants.

 

Nenette in her toy corner

 

Nenette doesn’t hang out on the bed, but she’s been joining me more when I settle there with my laptop. (It’s a sleigh bed. I sit and lean against the footboard.)

 

Nenette on the prowl (new territory for her)

 

She still loves her little glasses of water all over the place. This one is a permanent fixture behind me where I write. She comes and asks for fresh water several times a day.

 

Nenette drinks as much water as I do.

 

Nenette up in her crow’s nest at my office window… one of her favorite places.

 

Nenette in the late summer

 

I picked up two new plants for my office, so Nenette had to inspect. By the way, my office looks slightly different since I last posted pics of it. I might do an updated office tour post, if you’d be interested in seeing that.

 

Nenette with Linden, one of my new plants.

 

Nenette’s always loved to hide behind the books in the living room. Now she can do it in my office, too, since I’ve acquired some shelves.

 

Easter egg Nenette

 

That’ll do it for this post! Everything is good with Nenette. I’ll keep trying to get pics of her so I can do these posts more often.

 

Nenette’s tale of woe, bird edition. (Kitty update!)

Our yard abounds with two types of birds: doves and grackles. I always liked the doves. I liked their calls. The grackles, not so much.

I noticed the grackles hanging out by the dumpster behind our backyard. I didn’t know what they were, at first. A friend filled me in. I don’t like them, I said. They’re creepy and they sit on our back fence by the dumpster, and sometimes they fly around it and dive in. She said that she liked grackles. We agreed that she could have my grackles if I could have her doves.

Cut to six or so months later, to a few weeks ago. Callaghan and I started spreading wild bird seed across the gravel outside our bedroom window, because Nenette loved to sit on the dresser and watch the doves. There were doves perched on the wire above, doves on the side fence, doves in the neighbor’s mesquite tree, doves everywhere. Nenette had a great view. If we put seeds on the ground, we thought, Nenette would have more birds to watch!

We bought a huge bag of assorted seeds and scattered them around that part of the yard, replenishing the spread every other day. The yard proliferated with birds in the mornings and late afternoons. It was just doves, at first, and then some smaller, brown birds that we decided must be finches.

Then the grackles joined the party. I watched them in dismay, but the more I observed, the more they fascinated me.

Look what they do! I said to Callaghan one day after calling him to the window. They use their beaks to dig and throw rocks aside so they can get to the sunflower seeds.

We noticed that the doves and finches weren’t eating those larger seeds. But the grackles were.

I studied them, transfixed by their methodology. A grackle would dig into the large gravel, picking up the rocks and flinging them left and right. Then he’d grab the unearthed sunflower seed, fly to a patch of dirt on our small lawn, and patiently gnaw at the seed, repeatedly dropping it and picking it back up until the shell gave way. He’d eat the seed, fly back to the gravel, and start the process over again.

We marveled at them. Grackles are interesting! They’re smart! They hunt, make decisions, use their beaks like tools. They eat the sunflower seeds, which no one else in our bird community did. We never saw them bullying other birds. In fact, it was the doves who were territorial and rude. A dove would march toward a grackle, who would then peacefully walk away to a different spot while the dove poked around in the grackle’s hole, even though there was nothing there that he wanted. We also saw the doves bullying each other.

I was wrong, I said to Callaghan. He said yes, it’s the doves who are the bullies.

Grackles aren’t creepy because they hang out by the dumpster, I thought. Don’t judge a book by its cover. My word! I’d been profiling the grackles.

Now a fan of grackles, I looked them up online so I could learn more about them.

I found out that grackles are considered to be PEST BIRDS.

We stopped feeding the birds, afraid that the grackles would start doing all of the Terrible Things. Callaghan was also concerned that with the abundance of doves, some would be sure to nest on our house and wreak whatever havoc that would cause.

And now, poor Nenette has no bird party to watch. This is has been Nenette’s tale of woe. She is bereft.

 

No more birds for Nenette.

 

I miss the birds, too. I loved watching them! Are they really that bad to have around? Would the doves wreck our house with their nesting? Does anyone know?

La Fin.

Writing Q and A: habits, music, status. (Writing updates!)

My last writing update post was on 30 June, so it’s time for another one, I reckon!

Every writer’s habits and rituals are personal, right? And, for many of us, in flux. Things flow and evolve. We go with it.

I still wish I was a writer who could stick to a schedule. The best I can do – more importantly, what works for me – is to protect my optimal writing time. Currently, that’s one full weekday (Mondays) + all early mornings. The rest of the time is for flexible writing, meaning, I can write around going to the gym Tuesday-Saturday, as well as occasional appointments, errands, and lunches.

At this point, there’s never a day that I don’t write at all. I write something every. single. day.

Speaking of which! My Tuesday/Friday blog-posting time here in TALC has officially changed: I’m now posting within the mid-morning to noonish window.

With all of the above, I’ve started off this mini writing Q&A. I’m happy to answer some of these recurring questions:

Q: Can you multi-task while writing?

A: It depends. The deeper I get into a writing session, the more scarce I am on social media. When I’m in a “deep sleep” stage of writing, I’m completely incommunicado.

I can’t be off-line, though, because I refer to the dictionary, and I’m always researching something or another.

Q: Do you listen to music while writing?

A: Not usually, but sometimes.

When I started working on this novel, I’d listen to certain songs to invoke a memory of a time. I haven’t done that for a while. Now, I can write with music playing on a low volume, choosing music that creates a background soundscape.

A current favorite is by Rachel’s: “To Rest Near to You.” It’s moody and eerie with voices whispering “I thought the sea.”

It’s perfect for this last stretch of the novel.

Other good background songs of the moment: “With More Air Than Words,” “Night at Sea,” and “Letters Home” (Also by Rachel’s, from their 1996 album The Sea and the Bells.)

I wish I could provide you with “To Rest Near to You,” but I get my music from Soundcloud, and you have to have a Soundcloud GO+ account in order to hear that entire Rachel’s album. Here’s their song “Stark Sea,” though, also on my current writing playlist:

 

 

I like this sort of music while I’m writing. It’s atmospheric without distracting my creative brain cells with melody that wants following.

And when I say I play the pieces with the volume down low, I mean very low. The planes taking off and landing at Sky Harbor are louder.

Q: Do you take breaks?

A: Yes. Many. I have to stop often in order to put distance between what I’ve written and what’s in my head from having written it.

There’s actually a pattern: on an average day, I go through three writing stages and two break stages, beginning and ending with writing. (I take smaller breaks within the writing stages, usually to eat. In the afternoons, I eat often.)

Q: Distractions?

A: I do get up to wander around the house. I have to unfold myself from the floor every once in a while.

Incidentally, I have Nenette, who is not a distraction. She’s the opposite of a distraction. She puts her nose on my forehead to transmit inspiration.

 

Nenette in her crow’s nest tree in the corner of my office.

 

These days, Nenette is apt to sleep on the floor next to me while I’m writing, but she still spends time up on her crow’s nest.

Q: Current project stage and status?

A: I’ve reached, as noted earlier, the final stretch.

Things are accelerating. That doesn’t mean that my writing’s accelerating, though. I have to focus now more than ever in order to control the pace and manner of unraveling.

As for current status, my word court at present is 56,952. My goal word count continues to be a moving target, so I’m just going to say that I’m between 80% and 90% finished.

That’s it for the monthly update! Thank you all for reading, once again. Happy Friday… or whatever day it is when you read this. =)

Every day is Bring Your Fur-child to Work Day. (Nenette update!)

Kitty update lovers, today is your lucky day on TALC, for I have a Nenette update post… only a month since my last one! Shocking!

Being that I’m in my office all day, all of these pics were taken here.

Nenette has developed new habits and games for this new, revised office.

For instance:

 

She spies on me from behind the plants.

 

Behind HER plants.

 

She gazes at the Buddha (like mother, like daughter).

 

With the Buddha.

 

She instigates play by chewing the tassels on the bag I keep right next to me. She knows, see, that I don’t want her to chew those tassels… by chewing on them, I’m compelled to grab her toy – the black string behind her – to distract her away from the tassels. (Yes, I’m easily trainable by her. I’m only partially susceptible to her tricks. Truth be told, I could refuse to participate if I wanted to!)

 

Chewing on tassels that aren’t toys (aka playing)

 

Now that I’m not sitting at a table with room on it for her, she drinks her water beneath the small bench behind me. This little “cage” has become her new watering hole, and here, she’s upped her water game, taking it to a whole new level: she comes to ask me for water, I get up and get it, bringing my own refilled glass while I’m at it… and then when I get back, I set her water glass down, hold mine out to her for a toast – “chin!” – and we both drink our water.

Callaghan could not hide his amazement the first time he witnessed us performing this ritual.

 

Nenette with her drinking habit

 

(I don’t know why/how that black bar filled up the bottom part of the pic, by the way.)

 

She naps on the futon.

 

Nenette crashing on the futon

 

She lolls around with her tongue sticking out.

 

Nenette revealing her silly side up in her crow’s nest (looking a bit washed out by the bright sun behind her)

 

And there’s our Nenette update for June! I’m not making any promises, but we’ll try for another one in July.

Nenette is full of surprises. (Kitty updates!)

I would’ve posted this earlier today if I wasn’t spellbound by the creosote scent in the air. The creosote plant’s ability to intoxicate is sorcery, I’m telling you. Rain brings it out. Creosote isn’t a fragrance you catch as you walk by the plant… it’s a fragrance that saturates the air completely. The Sonoran desert is magic.

Admittedly, I’m also late because I went to the gym this morning, but that’s another (awesome) story.

Getting on with it – as you can tell from its title, this post is about Nenette. I’ve got updates for you… man, do I have updates!

My parents flew in at the end of last week to stay for a four-day visit. Callaghan and I had high hopes that they would be able to see Nenette… at least once, if only in a flash. As you may know, Nenette hides when people come over. We wanted her to prove her existence to Mom and Dad.

WELL. Nenette did hide herself, but she also came out… and when she came out, she stayed out.

Dad was sitting on the couch and she went to him and head-butted his hand so he’d pet her, and then the little minx turned around and stepped forward with that flirty arch in her back that’s kittyese for “pet my butt.” It was elevator butt in the living room with someone she’d never seen before.

She did the same thing with Mom in the hallway. Also, she talked to them with her conversational trills. Also, she dropped to the floor and rolled around. WHAT’S MORE, she did all of this several times throughout their visit.

Callaghan and I were looking at the spectacle like WHO is this cat, and what did she do with our Nenette??!!!

You could’ve knocked us over with a feather. I’m very happy to be able to use that cliché in this context.

The only explanation for Nenette’s unprecedented behavior is that she knew that these were her Grandparents. It’ll be interesting to see what happens the next time we have people over. That will tell us something! Will she do the same with others?

At any rate, I’ve got a few pics here that I’ve accumulated over the last few weeks. Here’s Nenette modeling some facets of her personality. Enjoy!

 

Nenette in the library shadow

 

Nenette in vintage filter

 

(I love how that filter emphasizes the bronze of her Abyssinian coat.)

 

Nenette sleeping

 

Nenette playing

 

Nenette in beastmode, ready to face her opponent

 

That’s it for this wondrous kitty update. Nenette is full of surprises! Time will tell if real changes are happening, or if her behavior was specific to the people involved.

What’s new with Nenette? (Kitty update!)

It’s been two weeks since we lost our sweet Cita, and I know that I owe you Nenette fans an update about her, since my last kitty update post turned into a Cita-only post.

In the last two weeks, Nenette’s usual set of challenges has been compounded by a slew of changes all at once. All changes are traumatic for her. She’d been adjusting to Cita’s presence, and now she’s had to adjust to Cita’s absence. That seemed to be traumatic. At the same time, the carpet in our front room and hallway was getting ripped out and replaced with flooring. That was traumatic. And earlier this week, our houseguests arrived, and their presence, of course, has been traumatic.

Going back to Cita, though: Nenette seemed to know that whatever had happened, it wasn’t good. No doubt the sadness clinging to us clued her in, but there were other indications, as well. The baby gate missing from Cita’s room door. The fact that we no longer spent time in that room. Most of all, probably, the absence of Cita’s scent and energy.

Looking back on it, we actually wonder whether Nenette had been aware that Cita was dying the whole time. She’d been remarkably tolerant of her.

It really looked like Cita’s disappearance didn’t settle well with Nenette; Nenette was agitated for two days. She returned to herself once we scoured Cita’s room and everything in it and opened that door again. We also stopped giving Nenette the anti-anxiety med she’d been taking in order to ease her re-introduction to Cita.

As far as our houseguests this week, Nenette has made herself scarce, predictably, camping out in our bedroom and venturing into enemy territory the scary unknown only in the early mornings when said houseguests were still asleep.

She did have a surprising moment this week, though… she allegedly (I didn’t witness it) came out and approached one of our friends and asked him to pet her, which is unheard of, especially because it was the male of the two friends!

And right now, our guests are up and about, and Nenette is still around in the house. She’s being cautious, but she’s out. It’s funny – whether houseguests stay for two days or four days, Nenette seems to know when it’s their last day, and that’s when she starts getting brave, usually. Today is Day The Last, and Nenette isn’t running for her life to hide in our bedroom.

I took this pic of Nenette last night as we were lounging on the bed together:

 

Nenette on the bed

 

In short, Nenette’s doing well, and her progress is chugging along. I hope to report that she’s less afraid when our next houseguests arrive in three weeks.

ETA – by popular demand – more pics!

Nenette’s Abyssinian side makes her coat colors interestingly different depending on time of day and type of light source. Here are a few pics from the last few months….

This one’s kind of blurry, but her expression is classic Nenette, so I had to include it:

 

Nenette in the early morning.

 

Here’s Nenette displaying her inner wildcat:

 

Nenette in a late morning sunbeam.

 

Nenette in the late afternoon.

 

And here she is spying on me as I was working one night:

 

Nenette at night.

 

Finally, Nenette decided to insert herself into my The Americans poster.

 

Nenette as a cast member of “The Americans.”

 

Happy Friday!

Cita and Opportunistic Mycobacteriosis.

Late Tuesday afternoon last week, Callaghan happened to check the skin beneath Cita’s fur on her backside, where her open wound had been. When we found that the wound had re-opened, we called the vet and arranged to take their open evening appointment slot.

At the hospital, the doctor looked at Cita and then took her to the back to have the area shaved for closer examination. Cita was returned to the room with two large shaved patches on her back end and hindquarter. We saw her old wound, open and oozing and rounded, just like it’d been before it healed. We also saw five more wounds exactly like it. It made no sense. She’d been indoors and pampered in a protected environment for four months.

The next day, Cita’s test results came back, and our baffled doctor consulted with Dr. K, who, with his expertise from many years of experience, determined that Cita was suffering with Opportunistic Mycobacteriosis. We weren’t looking at wounds. We were looking at lesions. Dr. K had only seen the disease twice in his long career.

Cita’s case was textbook.

[Click here to read about mycobacterial diseases in cats]

[And here’s another site on the subject of Opportunistic Mycobacteriosis]

[ETA: Here’s yet another one]

It turned out that just like Ronnie James, Cita was suffering with a disease caused by an environmental menace, and it was uncommon enough that it escaped detection until the end. Ronnie James had come into contact with a poisonous caterpillar in France. Cita had come into contact with a mycobacteria, most likely from soil. Cita had loved to roll in the dirt. The mycobacteria in the dirt probably entered her system through a puncture wound.

We were shocked, but thinking back, we realized that we never actually saw Cita get attacked. We’d seen her getting chased, and early in the fall, we observed tiny puncture wounds after one such incident… so when her first lesion appeared at the beginning of November (the night before we left for my brother’s wedding), we just assumed that the horrible wound had come from an attack.

We recalled how the doctor at the emergency hospital remarked that Cita’s wound didn’t look quite like a cat fight wound. We went back through our paperwork and saw that the doctor had written “dog bite,” and we remembered that she’d hazarded that guess.

All of our assumptions had been based on circumstantial evidence. We’d seen Cita instigating fights by growling at cats, and we’d seen her running away, rather than fighting. We just assumed that the wound had come from a cat jumping on her back as she ran.

(I’ve always been against the notion of cats being outdoors; my cats have always been indoors-only. Cita had been an exception because of the details of her rescue from the street. Despite our strenuous efforts, it wasn’t working out with Nenette, so we had to release her back to her backyard patio and her outdoor laundry room.)

With her diagnosis, everything made sense, especially the solid thickening in her lower belly that no doctor had been able to figure out. At one point, we followed one doctor’s advice and scheduled a surgery for exploration and to remove whatever was in there, but when we took her in for the surgery, the surgeon recommended sparing Cita the ordeal. We’d had X-rays taken, and our surgeon also took Cita back for an ultrasound. None of the tests showed a tumor or a hernia, so we agreed on a “wait and see” approach.

We’re so glad that we did. Cita’s disease was advanced, and no surgery could have saved her.

Since we didn’t know what was going on back then, we re-started a course of antibiotics, plus a painkiller. Cita got better. Her wound closed up, and she was feeling well. She was taking an anti-anxiety medication so we could ease her second introduction to Nenette.

And that medication was working: Cita and Nenette were eating breakfast and dinner together, facing each other through a baby gate under supervision. There was no growling. It was a much different story than early last summer. Cita and Nenette seemed comfortable together; we’d gotten them to the frenemy stage, and we’d planned to take the next step in mid-May.

Cita was happy and relaxed, as playful and affectionate as ever. We spent most of our time with her in her “apartment,” which she loved. She had her favorite scratch pads from the patio, all of her toys, including her precious salamander; she had multiple bedding areas and surfaces to climb. She had houseplants and her cat tree by the window, and she loved sitting on the highest level, enjoying the spring breeze through the screen and watching the birds.

When we received Cita’s diagnosis, we were told that we could battle the disease with another aggressive course of two different antibiotics over an extended period of time, though her prognosis was abysmal. We bought the first round of antibiotics, but instead of starting her on them, we read the websites and talked about the situation all night. We decided against prolonging Cita’s life with a miserable routine of twice-daily medication and discomfort; we didn’t want her last days to be terrible.

We’d given Cita the best life that we could, and now we wanted to give her the best death that we could. We wanted her passing to be happy, beautiful, and dignified.

On Thursday afternoon, Cita received a sedative and painkiller cocktail to help her slip into sleep comfortably. She fell asleep happy in her Daddy’s arms, with me kissing and stroking her face and head. The last thing she heard was us telling her how much we loved her, and me saying, “Sleep well and have good dreams,” as I’d done every night while tucking her in. Once she was asleep, we gently laid her down on the table so the doctor could administer the second injection – the one that would stop her heart. She didn’t know that it was happening.

Now Cita is at peace, but we’re devastated. She’s left an enormous vacancy in our hearts – though she’ll always be in our hearts – and home. She’d been here as long as we’ve been here.

We’re so grateful that she adopted us, so honored that we’d had the privilege to make her last few months of life happy ones. She was pampered and loved probably more and better than she’d ever been. Just like Ronnie James, Cita was pure love and sweetness. Everyone who knew her loved her. She effortlessly stole the hearts of everyone at our veterinarian hospital – the receptionists, technicians, doctors.

We asked for her cremains to be returned to us in an open urn. We’re going to scatter her ashes amongst the plants, trees and flowers in our backyard. She’d loved accompanying Callaghan as he’d go around watering everything. She loved her flowers.

 

Cita’s collar and paw prints

 

Here are the pics of Cita I’d prepared for the post that was supposed to be a kitty update post:

 

Cita at the vet.

 

Cita… starting to feel better.

 

Cita watching over our front yard from her “crow’s nest.”

 

Cita notices everything!

 

Cita falling asleep while looking down on me.

 

Cita loves her window perch.

 

And here are pics of Cita on the morning of her death…

 

Cita’s last bath

Cita on her last day.

 

Thank you all again for your good thoughts and kind and compassionate comments. We appreciate them more than you can know.