Monday, January 23, 2017

Sewing for the Cats: A New Vintage Collar

I made Ginger a collar.

For some time I'd been thinking I should branch out in my sewing from the dress-making obsession.  So, I drafted a little list of non-dress projects to make.  One of them was sewing a cool collar for my Ginger kitty.
Using a store-bought collar as the inspiration I whipped one up in no time.  Ginger has been testing it out for me over the past couple weeks.  She approves and so I intend to make a few more.
In my Crazy Cat Lady mind I am having visions of a different collar for each month, seasonally themed.  How cool would it be to have a bright green one for St. Patty's Day or with tiny bats for Halloween?!  I think it sounds swell.  Of course, I don't think there is any reason to deny that I really AM a crazy cat lady.
I call the collar "new vintage," which I realize is a contradiction in terms, because the loops, clasp, etc. are new.  The fabric is quite vintage though.  I've had it for a long time, but it was such a small piece I never really knew what to do with it.  I used part of it in an insulated casserole carrier (another non-dress sewing project) and had just enough leftover for a collar, too.  So, the collar is part new, part old.  I like that.
I'll be making more just as soon as I get some more clasps, bells, and other assorted bits of collar hardware.

And lest I be accused of favoritism:  Johnny doesn't tolerate collars well so she's out of luck.  She does get to wear a kicky little tie-dye bandana though!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nail Caps for Safety and Hygiene! (Or Don't Give Up!)

Johnny moved in a little more than a year ago--November 2015--when our friend, Michelle, was looking for a permanent home for her.  Johnny had lived with Michelle since her kittenhood, but then Michelle met and fell in love with a guy plagued by chronic lung conditions--and who is allergic to cats on top of that.  For a while Johnny had been living entirely outside, but Michelle wanted to find her a new (indoor) arrangement before winter settled in.  After a trial run with another friend, which ended unhappily, Matt and I agreed to try her out.  What can I say, just like with Ginger, I am a sucker for a cat in need?
Johnny is a special cat.  (They all are, aren't they?!)  One of this things that makes Johnny so special is that she's a bit obsessive-compulsive.  She gets it in her head to start scratching and licking and just keeps going and going and going and going...until she has wounds that look both terribly painful and rather gross.  She's had this tendency since she was a kitten.  Johnny has been checked out by multiple vets.  She is healthy and happy as far as anyone can tell.  "Maybe she has allergies," was the best answer provided.  So, she ate special allergen-friendly cat food for a while...with no noticeable results.  It's a puzzler.
From my research and from observations with her, I think she is just a little developmentally different, special needs, or whathaveyou.  She is quite clumsy and uncoordinated for a cat.  She drools--a lot.  She is slightly duck footed (you, know the opposite of pigeon toed).  She has had litter box issues, off and on.  The biggest symptom that everything isn't quite "normal" is her obsessive, self-injurious behavior.  She licks and scratches (and licks and scratches and licks and scratches) at her head and neck until both are speckled with raw, angry-looking wounds.
But a lovable gal, for sure, no matter how we label her.  
She has one of the loudest purrs I've encountered and she is quick to use it.  She meows in greeting and extends her hand in a welcoming high-five.  She regularly flops over on her back in the "cockroach" to elicit belly rubs.  She adores having her armpits scratched.  She is obsessed with beer bottle caps.  If she spots one she immediately goes after it.  She picks it up in her mouth and trots off to put in in her food dish.  This is where bottle caps belong, I gather.  Matt pulls them out and scatters them again and the game repeats itself.  If Ginger and I are in love, Matt and Johnny are, too.
Still.  Something had to be done, for the sake of all parties.  She was consistently peeing on the carpet two feet from the litter box.  She left gross scabs--complete with tufts of hair--lying about on the carpet/bed/couch.  Plus, she had open wounds, leaving her exposed to infections--and she perpetually harassed them, not letting them heal.  This was no good for her, in addition to grossing out the rest of the household.  We tried a wound spray to promote healing, but it wasn't working fast enough to keep up with her compulsive scratching.  We put her in The Cone Of Shame, but that was only a stop-gap and only increased the litter box issues.
We through about giving up on Johnny a lot.  More than I'm keen to admit, even.  We took her in without knowing what a special cat she would prove to be.  It seemed like too much--like in a world full of unwanted pets we could easily find a perfectly normal cat who needed a home.  One who wouldn't bring so many challenges along with her.
"Let's give it a month," we said.  Then it became, "two months."  Then, "Okay, three months."  Then it was "Just through the winter."
In the end, we realized that there wasn't an expiration date on Johnny.  She honestly needed up to figure something out.  She didn't have loads of options.  She couldn't go back to Michelle's.  She'd already had the failed trial run before she landed with us.  She needed a home.  Period.  Johnny turns thirteen this summer, which ain't no spring chicken in cat-years.  Knowing that, we just kept trying, working towards a solutions which would make us all happy.  What else could we do?  It was just the right thing.
On a whim--and not too optimistic of one--we tried nail caps.  And they changed everything.  Nail caps and a bandanna.
Now we've settled into a pattern that works, more or less.  It sure took time, but you know how it goes, the harder the struggle the sweeter the victory.  If we'd just given up this happy ending wouldn't have happened.  I’m so thankful we persisted until we found the work-arounds and solutions to Johnny's problematic behaviors.
I was totally dubious about the nail caps, thinking, "Suuuuuuuure!  I bet the cat will just lay there placid and let you put on fake nails!  Yeah, right!"  But, like I said, we were willing to try anything that might help.  The nightmare which I imagined when putting them on never came to pass.  She was remarkably cooperative.  She doesn't love it, but if we catch her when she is sleepy it is a piece of cake.  It is also much easier now since we only apply one as they fall off rather than eight all at once.

So now Johnny wears little rubbery nail covers on her back feet.  With her nails capped she cannot cause the terrible wounds.  This is an all-around win.  There aren’t scabs left behind on the carpet and furniture.  (Go, us.)  Johnny is healthier and at less risk of infection.  (Go, Johnny.)  Plus, it makes her more pleasant to pet which really only makes everyone happier.  (Go, team.)  
Marketed as a much more humane alternative to decalwing (which is like amputating the cat's fingers at the first knuckle) the caps are attached over the nail with a dab of glue.  They eventually fall off as the nail grows out and we trim the nail and replace the cap.  They're a non-chemical, non-invasive, quick, cost-effective solution.  
They come in colors and clear.  We initially picked clear and one could hardly notice that Johnny was wearing them.  When we bought our second pack we picked pink because Michelle’s hair is pink.  As an added bonus it makes it very easy to tell when they’ve grown out, fallen off, and need to be replaced.  
Johnny honestly doesn’t seem to mind them, now that she is used to it.  The first time we put them on she shook her feet and tugged at them with her teeth.  She wasn't used to how they felt and was trying to rip them off.  Now she doesn’t bat an eye when we apply a new one.  They nail caps seem targeted at people who have cats ripping up the drapes, but they work superbly well for this off-label use.
Like everything there are detractors who say nail caps hurt cat's feet or can inhibit their ability to walk or retract and extend their nails, but from my experience, Johnny is able to do everything she wants EXCEPT scratch herself to the point of blood and pain.  She walks, jumps, runs, climbs, scratches, plays, chases, eats, bathes, stalks, and all the other things cats enjoy.
The second prong in our successful campaign against head wounds involved fitting Johnny with a bandanna.  With the bandanna folded and secured around her neck she cannot keep licking at it past the point of baldness into raw, oozing wound.  I think it makes her looks cute, as well as providing a protective barrier from her sandpapery tongue.  I was worried the vet would give me a hard time about it being a choking hazard or something, but she said it was a clever solution and that a solution was what we needed.  She said many pets get abandoned because of behavioral issues and so she was just glad we'd found something that works.  
Even with all these accommodations, Johnny is clearly still itchy—she goes wild with purring and air-licking when we scratch her about the head or neck.  But at least we can help her with that without ripping her wide open, which we do several times a day.  Plus, with the toe caps she can still scratch herself, just without the razor sharp points.
It would have been simpler for Matt and I to send Johnny packing.  We could have gotten another cat.  That wouldn't have solved the underlying problem that there was a very special cat that needed a place to grow old though.  It took more work to crack that nut, but it was totally worth doing--in the small picture and the big picture.
In the small picture, we helped Johnny find a home.  In the big picture, we had the opportunity to demonstrate the kindness and empathy which I hope all beings find in this world.
I need my friends and family to show me empathy for a lot of things, too.  I’m far from perfect.  I am always late.  I often talk too much and too loudly.  I am a tightwad.  I get grumpy when my arthritis flares.  I can be too critical.  On top of all that someday I will be an old lady, maybe hard of hearing or clumsy or with bathroom problems of my own.  I’ll have uninteresting stories to tell and jokes that aren’t funny.  I want to believe that I live in a world where we take care of each other, even when it is not exactly convenient, where we find solutions to the problems we inevitably encounter when living together.  So, I try to model that if  I can.  To humans, to cats, just wherever I can. 
And I can’t recommend those nail caps enough.  Game changer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Books Read (and Listened to) in 2016

I read just about the same number of books as last year.  I read 100 this year versus 108 in 2015.  I didn’t come close to knocking out my Read-Every-Newbery-Award-Book challenge, but that’s okay.  I am reading my 19th book on the list.  Oh, so often things take longer than I expect.  I am a time optimist like that.  Also, I kept getting distracted with other books to read.  Val and Hannah sucked me into that Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, for example. 
Same as every year it took some doing to come up with my top ten list.  When I looked back over my total record for the year some books immediately jumped to mind.  It becomes harder and hard as I narrow titles down for the last few slots.  I’ve read a lot of swell books again this year on a myriad of topics, fiction and non-fiction.  As tends to be the case, most of my top ten are non-fiction, but that kind of compelling, page-turning, narrative non-fiction—nothing dry and boring.  Cliché though it may be:  Truth really is stranger than fiction.  Thus far, none of the Newbery books are contenders for the top ten list.  Maybe next year.
Beth’s Top Ten Books of 2016 (in no particular order)
  • The Big Sky Series by A.B. Guthrie (I am "cheating" and lump all these together as one)
  • Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
  • Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. & Kathryn Bowers
  • The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Green Metropolis by David Owen
  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold Steve Sheinkin
  • Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon
  • Freakonomics: A Rouge Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt

Annual Stats

Number of young adult or children's books:   26

Number of adult books:  20
Number of audiobooks (both adult and YA/children):  54
100 Total Books (compared with 108 total books for 2015)
Below is the full list of books I read in 2016.  So many good books, so little time.  The books are listed in reverse order with the most recent at the top of the list.
Photo credit to Kris Prinzing.
Books Read (and Listened To) in 2016. * indicates an audiobook
  • Freakonomics: A Rouge Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven Levitt)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)
  • Dreams of Joy (Lisa See)
  • Shanghi Girls (Lisa See)*
  • Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Iron-Clads, High-Powered Weapons and More to Win the Civil War (Thomas B. Allen, Roger Macbride Allen)*
  • Thimbleberry Summer by Elizabeth Enright
  • The White Stag by Kate Seredy
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)*
  • A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)*
  • Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight (M.E. Thomas)*
  • Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink)
  • A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 (Simon Winchester)*
  • My Heart is an Idiot: Essays (Davy Rothbart)*
  • Dobry by Monica Shannon
  • The History of the Devil (Clive Barker)*
  • Road Rage (Stephen King, Richard Matheson, & Joe Hill)*
  • Rotters (Daniel Kraus)*
  • The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat (Susan Fromberg Schaeffer)
  • Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women (Cornelia Meigs)


  • Dog On It (Peter Abrahams)
  • The Big Green Book (Robert Graves & Maurice Sendak)
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze (Elizabeth Foreman Lewis)
  • The Book With No Pictures (B.J. Novak)
  • Deadline (Mira Grant)*
  • Drawn: The Art of Ascent (Jeremy Collins)
  • Feed (Mira Grant)*
  • Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses (Claire Dederer)*
  • Fair Land, Fair Land (A.B. Guthrie, Jr.)
  • These Thousand Hills (A.B. Guthrie, Jr.)*
  • Waterless Mountain (Laura Adams Armer)


  • Pancakes, Pancakes! (Eric Carme)
  • The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food (Stan & Jan Berenstain)
  • The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies (Stan & Jan Berenstain)
  • The Way West (A.B. Guthrie, Jr.)*
  • The Big Sky (A.B. Guthrie, Jr.)*
  • The Cat Who Went to Heaven (Elizabeth Coatsworth)
  • The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
  • Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa (Joan Jacobs Brumberg)
  • Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (Tom Robins)*
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years (Rachel Field)


  • Sh*t My Dad Says (Justin Halpern)*
  • Impulse (Ellen Hopkins)*
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business (Charles Duhigg)*
  • A Clearing in the Wild (Jane Kirkpatrick)*
  • The Accident Season (Moira Fowley-Doyle)*
  • Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary Ride (Peter Zheutlin)*
  • 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life (Cami Walker)*
  • A Tendering in the Storm (Jane Kirkpatrick)*
  • The Chosen One (Carol Lynch Williams)*
  • The Trumpeter of Krakow (Eric Kelly & Janina Domanska)


  • What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul (Deepak Chopra)*
  • Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability (David Owen)*
  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy (Albert Marrin)*
  • Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon (Dhan Gopal Mukerji)
  • Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free (Hector Tobar)*
  • Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)*
  • I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust (Livia Bitton-Jackson)*
  • The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own (Joshua Becker)
  • The Last Book in the Universe (Rodman Philbrick)*
  • Loud Awake and Lost (Adele Griffin)*


  • Smoky the Cowhorse (Will James)
  • Cold War in a Cold Land: Fighting Communism on the Northern Plains (David Mills)
  • The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary (Simon Winchester)*
  • Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Julie Iromuanya)
  • Jeff Bridges: Poems (Donora Hilard & Goodloe Bryon)
  • The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoir (Mark Milhone)*
  • In the Kingdom of Men (Kim Barnes)*
  • Birdie (Tracey Lindberg)
  • Revived (Cat Patrick)*
  • Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation (Edward Deci & Richard Flaste)


  • The War to End All Wars: World War I (Russell Freedman)*
  • The Lucy Variations (Sara Zarr)*
  • Humans of New York (Brandon Stanton)
  • This is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn From the T-Shirt Cannon (L. Jon Wertheim & Sam Sommers)
  • Imperfect: An Improbable Life (Jim Abbott & Tim Brown)*
  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery (Steve Sheinkin)*
  • Sweethearts (Sara Zarr)*
  • Skinny (Donna Cooner)*
  • We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  • Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health (Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. & Kathryn Bowers)*


  • Shen of the Sea (Arthur Bowie Christman)
  • Newspaper Blackout (Austin Kleon)
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Stieg Larsson)*
  • Tales From Silver Lands (Charles Finger)
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire (Stieg Larsson)
  • French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure (Mireille Guiliano)*
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)
  • The Dark Frigate (Charles Boardman Hawes)
  • The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)*
  • Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (Bill Nye)*


  • Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex (Nathaniel Philbrick)*
  • Milkweed (Jerry Spinelli)*
  • Dear Husband,: Stories (Joyce Carol Oates)*
  • The Story of Mankind (Hendrik Van Loon)
  • The Voyages of Dr. Dotlittle (Hugh Lofting)*
  • Hallucinations (Oliver Sacks)*
  • How I Live Now (Meg Rosoff)*
  • The Snow Tree (Caroline Repchuk & Josephine Martin)
  • What Pet Should I Get? (Dr. Seuss)
  • Horton and the Kwuggerbug and Other Lost Stories (Dr. Seuss)
For 2017 my reading objectives are to carry on with the Newbery Award winners, to participate in Summer Reading at the Public Library, and to be a preliminary judge for books nominated for the High Plains Book Awards again, if asked.
All photos from my lovely, two week, Holiday Break.  Sledding, games, parties, friends, family, music, food, music, dancing, Father Christmas, gingerbread houses, snow, and more good cheer than I could shake a stick at.