I had wondered how we would all recover from the death of our cat, Erma, and as it turns out, we're doing quite well. The girls miss her but have moved on. I find myself turning to say something to her before remembering she's not there, but those moments are disappearing quickly. From a housework point of view, it's significantly easier now that she's not here. She required a lot of care that had to be done on schedule. But would I do it all over again if we could have her back? Sure.

Speaking of housework, I am back to feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that need to get done on a daily basis. Not all of it relates to homemaking, but the things that weigh my spirit down right now do. I need to make some changes. Here's a short list off the top of my head:

1. The girls cannot continue to play, play, play without cleaning up, cleaning up, cleaning up throughout the day. I simply cannot handle the mess. Hmmm, "mess" isn't exactly the appropriate term. To them, the toys and objects that are left all over the house are props in their detailed, dramatic play. But I'll tell you, when it's bedtime and I'm tired, it looks like one big mess to me.

2. Laundry. Let's face it: I hate doing it, folding it, and putting it away. This job needs to be delegated to my husband and children ASAP.

3. 'A's habit of collecting things. This girl LOVES to collect objects. All kinds, from anywhere. I tolerate it for a while, then something happens and I feel like I'm pushed over the edge. Last week when I found that the greasy fishing *component* (or whatever it's called) that she found in the woods had left a stain on the carpet, I had one of those moments. She collects things and weaves them into her play. When I talk about this, people come up with all kinds of helpful suggestions. Oh yes, I've done many of them. She has a big case that matchbox cars come in, and she stores her collection in there. When that gets full (and it has), we glue the collection to a piece of sturdy cardboard so she can see all of her objects and have more room in the case for more *stuff*. We hang things up and display them. And still she brings more collectible items into the home. The worst are the cough drop and candy wrappers. Tell me, who needs a collection of wrappers?

I am overloaded with a number of other things right now too, but those things are either enjoyable (like all of the volunteer and paid work I do, or the gardening that will soon commence in earnest) or they are impossible to change (like the on-going, low-level stress that comes with living with a child with life-threatening food allergies). I can manage just fine if I get rid of the most frustrating pieces of the puzzle.

In the meantime, it finally feels like spring in our neck of the woods, and that, my friend, goes a long way with me.

:: I love sandbox hands! ::

:: Strawberries ::

:: Garlic coming up! ::


Erma is gone. She died in my arms on Tuesday.

She's been feeling "old" for a while now, so it wasn't a huge surprise. But it wasn't exactly expected, either. She was fine when we all woke up, and while I was preparing breakfast for 'A' and 'H' she came and asked for some food too. This was our routine. She would sit by her plate and look at me until I finished up with the girls and fed her.

While I was getting breakfast ready, she left her place at her plate, and the next thing I saw was Erma, hobbling and limping as quickly as possible back to her comfort spot by the pellet stove. I wondered if she had twisted her leg or pulled a muscle. I called the holistic vet to say that she needed to come in for a chiropractic adjustment. I got a 12:30 appointment and went along with my morning plans. But Erma wasn't okay. Every time I checked on her, she was agitated: tail flapping, pupils dialated, posture twisted. She was in pain and she was confused. Perhaps even scared. I offered her food and water, but she wasn't interested. I offered her comfort, which she took in small amounts. I didn't know what was wrong with her, but my gut told me it was the end.

By chance, 'A' and 'H', who are always with me during the day, were ready to be picked up by our babysitter extraordinaire, Rachel. Last week, on my birthday, I thought about the perfect present, and realized that a day by myself to get things done would be just what I wanted. Rachel and I talked and decided on Tuesday. As I got them ready, I told them to tell Erma that they loved her and say good-bye to her, just in case she died that day. It wasn't a new conversation: I had been telling them for a few months that Erma wasn't going to live much longer, and when she died it would mean that she would stop breathing and walking and purring, and she wouldn't be living with us anymore. She would be dead.

Rachel picked them up; I got Erma ready for her cat-carrier. When I picked her up to put her in it, she lost control of her bladder, and urine went everywhere. I thought, "This is it. She's dying." Then I thought, "Maybe she has held it in all day and she just had an accident." I had this thought because you know, I'm the mother of small children who put themselves in just these situations. These kinds of thoughts aren't foreign to me.

I called the vet and informed them that this was perhaps The Day, and I would be there soon.

On the car ride, Erma sunk more and more into herself. She started to find that place where we go when we die from natural causes, that place inside of her where all that matters is her own survival. She responded just barely to my touch. She put her head down between her paws to rest... her head?... her eyes?... her life?

When I arrived, she was examined and it was agreed that her heart was failing. With it, her systems were failing. My goodness, it went fast. I always wondered how it would unfold. Would it be long and drawn out? What would the signs be? How would I know? As it turns out, it went along rather quickly.

I made the decision to put her to sleep right then and there. I was alone. My girls weren't with me, and Jeff was at work. The decision was mine to make, and I would be there without my family. It was then that I realized that the day was unfolding just as I wanted it to. In the past, when I thought about this day (and I had - it was a long time coming), I had always assumed that the girls and Jeff would be present. The only question was, "would the girls wait in the waiting room during the procedure?" Now that question was irrelevant. It was me and Erma. And somehow, it was everything I wanted it to be. I realized that if the girls were there, even if they waited in the next room, my thoughts and energy would be directed toward them and not toward Erma. If Jeff were there, I would have stumbled over how to let him into my pain. She was, after all, my cat of 18 years. I got her as a kitten when I was 20 years old. She's been with me for all of my adult life, and almost half of my entire life. She's my cat and my friend. Saying good-bye to her was a very personal thing for me. Doing it alone was best.

I had some time alone with her, but her progression was so rapid that she didn't want to dilly dally. I put my ear to her belly to listen to her purr, as I have done day after day for 18 years. For the first time, her purr was weak at best. She was barely with me. She was ready. I called for her doctor and sat down with her in my lap. A sedative was injected first, and I sat with her for about 15 minutes, just holding her and watching her slow down. She was awake but became increasingly relaxed and unresponsive. I didn't have a lot of thoughts at this point. She was just ready, and I was there to see her through it. Then the final injection was administered, the one that would stop her heart. It was all so peaceful. I did have a fleeting thought that perhaps I shouldn't be doing this, because it's So Final. But it was the right time, and I couldn't override that. She died quickly and peacefully in my arms. And in that moment, everything about it was right.

Emotions are funny. I thought that I would be devastated. On the way to the vet's office I cried and cried. I couldn't bear the thought of losing her. But when it was all happening, and I saw that she was ready to die, and then watched it happen, my emotions changed. I went right away to acceptance. Don't get me wrong, I'm sad. I find myself looking in places where she habitually sat; I look down to see if she's scratching at my chair to get my attention; I miss the feel of her soft fur; and I just called Grace by Erma's name on accident. Heck, I get teary just writing this. I miss her. But I know that the time was right. I don't have any second thoughts or doubts about her death. It happened when it was supposed to happen.


So tell me, where does the time go? It's flying by so fast for me right now. I've got my hands in a lot of pots, so that factors into it. It's birthday season for us ('H': March 8; 'A': April 9; Me: April 14; Jeff: April 20), followed by Mother's Day and our wedding anniversary. It's spring, and the ground is thawing, so we're busy with yard clean-up and gardening. I'm involved with UU congregation activities. I'm educating my children. Managing the household. Comforting the cats. Feeding the birds.

This whirlwind of activity seemed to come on strong, and after it started, I shed my 20th century skin and welcomed some 21st century technology with open arms. I'm what you might call a "late adopter" of technology. I had a flip cell phone that I barely used, and I wondered why people would ever want to text each other when texting seemed so cumbersome. I didn't store music on any device - the radio was just fine for me. I checked my email when I was home and connected to the internet between loads of laundry. At some point I started to realize that I wanted to be able to connect to the internet while I was out and about, and perhaps it would be nice to have my email available then too. I went to the Verizon store and picked out a Droid X. I love it! My technology-hip husband has brought me up to speed very quickly: when I get into my car now, I can listen to Pandora or my stored music through the radio, and when I make calls, I can hear the conversation through the car speakers. At home I can plug my phone into the TV or the stereo to listen to music or look at photos. I have to say, I love being wired! I never thought I would. I think I can keep my old fashioned values but still live in a modern world. Nice.

To top it all off, my brother in law and his girlfriend got me a Kindle for my birthday. A Kindle! I had never seen one in "real life" and I was surprised by how easy it is on my eyes. I'm thinking about which book to buy first...

In the meantime, I'm enjoying a book that my friend and fellow blogger Erika introduced me to... which has lead me to a new way of looking at bread and, dare I say, has given me a new outlook on life: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Wow. Super easy, super delicious. I'll say it again: Wow!

I've also been practicing my cake decorating "skills" - or rather, displaying my lack of cake decorating skills. I decorated this covered wagon cake for 'A's birthday last weekend, then tried a round cake for my birthday a few days ago. The covered wagon cake turned out great - the round cake, not so much. Jeff's birthday is in a few days, so I have yet another chance to see what I can do with a pastry bag full of frosting. We had a nice family party for 'A' and in a few weeks she'll have her friends come over to celebrate.

Did I also mention that I continue to work at the farmer's market every other Saturday and I'm working on developing a few websites too. Life goes on. Things need to get done; people are here to be appreciated, noticed & loved; my little girls want to be read to and played with; food needs to be cooked; the house loves to be cleaned; the church is counting on my energy. Somehow I manage to do just enough of these things to feel like I'm contributing to the greater good.

spring cleaning!

So, what do you do when you're feeling depressed about the upcoming end of both of your cats lives? You clean the garage, of course. We've been needing to clean it for about 5 years now, and this was the weekend to do it. If you had peeked in before we started, you might have thought we had... um, trouble setting our priorities. I guess that's a nice way of saying it. In short, it was a total pig sty. Now it's a partial pig sty, and it's on the way to becoming a cleaned up work space. Woo hoo!

This week has been very boring, thank goodness. Refreshingly boring. I've done laundry, taught reading, put the deck furniture out for spring and summer use, cooked meals, run errands, read stories aloud, and so on. Busy and boring, just the way I like it.

Erma and Grace

:: 'H' and 'A' at the library ::

Oh my, I've stumbled upon the photo apps for my new phone! I can take photos and apply all kinds of filters to them. Today I'm using Retro Camera by Urbian. I can see how this can get addictive awfully quickly.

:: Erma ::

I've had two days in a row of bad news about our cats, Erma and Grace. I posted yesterday about Erma's failing kidneys. Today the doctor called me with the results from Grace's bloodwork and said that her thyroid levels look too high, and since her heartbeat was very high yesterday, even for a nervous cat, combined with the fact that she's lost weight, I might want to consider a second test to determine conclusively if she has an overactive thyroid. The vet has a gut feeling that it's a serious problem. I ordered the test.

If Grace does have an overactive thyroid, I'm not prepared to send her for surgery or give her medicine daily for the rest of her life. I'm not prepared to say good-bye to her, either. When reality hit yesterday about the end of Erma's life, I thought how lucky we are to have Grace to help us get through this. I wasn't planning on losing Grace, too.

Over the years, I've given thought to Life After the Cats. I know that they'll die someday. I know that I'll want to get another pet, because I like to live with animals. I've never owned a dog, but part of me would like to have one. Maybe a standard poodle. Or maybe another cat. I would love a Maine Coon Cat. They're loving and they're wonderful hunters. The hard part about getting a pet after losing one is that I half expect the new one to replace the old one. But in reality, they don't. They're completely different, as they should be.

:: Grace ::

I still have to sit down with our holistic vet and talk about all of this. I'm trying to not be emotional right now, but the knowledge that my cats are ill and I can't make them well again is painful for me. I'm here to be their caretaker and companion as they make their final journey. I'm trying to not think about the hole they will leave in my life, how I'll miss the physical closeness, the fresh smell of their fur, the sound of their purr, the sense of trust they have with me, and all the years that have gone into our relationships. But I can't help feeling very sad.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!