Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Balancing Act

Well guys, I've been struggling a bit the past few days trying to achieve some sort of balance in my life.

Since Sputty died, and Smoky was pronounced cured, my load has lightened a bit, and I've been trying to deal with a bunch of long-neglected issues that have been piling up.

I spent a whole day shredding documents, I've been doing umpteen zillion loads of laundry, packing away extra litter boxes, filing away all of the documents and stuff from my mother's funeral, cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning, and just generally trying to re-claim my life from the land of sickness, death and dying.

For some reason, it's been really important to me to try to spiff up my surroundings a bit. I'm not sure that I exactly understand this phenomenon, but it's like I need some sort of a visual reminder that the difficulties of the past year are in the past, and that life is moving on.

So I got all excited by this post about using old sheets as a couch slipcover over on ANNIENYGMA and thought that perhaps with some combination of what she did and the slipcover I came up with for my recliner, I could craft some sort of slipcovers for my couch and love seat - both of which are suffering from years of cat shredding, and are starting to get holes in the seat cushions.

I dove into the project with wild abandon... which is just never a good sign with me.

The first thing that happened was that I reached into the back of the linen closet for some old sheets, and pulled out a towel that had little brown spots on it from where Sputty had apparently peed on it. I stood there for half an hour sobbing and hugging the towel. Dammit! When is it gonna stop hurting so much?

At any rate, I concluded that I needed sheets that were a different size, so I headed down to the basement where I have a trunk full of old linens from beds-gone-by of various different sizes. Problem was, said trunk is stored in the cluttered closet under the stairs.

So I start pulling stuff out to get to the trunk, and the first thing I come across is a box labeled "Mow." Mow was the first cat of my adult life, who also went through a long, drawn out illness before finally dying in my arms 10 years ago.

I was so torn up about it that I packed all of her special things into a box that I haven't been able to bring myself to open since. So then I had to stand there sobbing and hugging the box for a while. Still couldn't bring myself to open it.

My Beautiful Little Mow-Mow Girl

But I was determined to press on with my little project, so I dove deeper into the dark recess beneath the stairs looking for the trunk, and failed to take into consideration that the ceiling of said storage space beneath the stairs gets ever lower the further back you go.

Long story short, I whacked my head on the underside of the steps so hard that I nearly knocked myself out.

At this point, I should have just stopped. But now I was getting mad. Why does everything have to be so f-ing hard? Wait... don't answer that.

So I yank the trunk out and start pulling out linens - only to discover that many of them were either leftover from my childhood, or were things that my mom and I bought when I was going away to college, or were given to me by my mother at various points over the years. More sobbing...

But... determined to finish this project and achieve some sort of mythical feel-better ideal called "closure" I pressed on.

Pretty soon I had the whole living room torn apart, and there were piles of linens everywhere, and it became clear that while the idea of using sheets to make a slipcover could work - I didn't have the right sizes, or colors that could possibly not look ridiculous in my living room, and I was gonna have to go buy some sheets to get anything close to the result I wanted.

I pondered the idea of spending hour after hour perusing the thrift stores, and it all just seemed like more than I could handle.

My head was throbbing, I felt dizzy and nauseous, I felt stupid for hitting my head, I was afraid I might have given myself an actual concussion, I didn't have any linens that were gonna work, I wasn't going to be able to throw together a slipcover in an hour or two, I didn't want to deal with shopping, I was mad as hell, and I just wanted to stop being surrounded by constant reminders of death and dying.

At that point I sorta lost it. I called CatMan in a heap of inconsolable tears. Poor guy. He picks up the phone and I'm on the other end of the line babbling incoherently about cats, and mothers, and sheets, and concussions.

He finally got me to calm down enough to tell him what had happened, walked me through an online concussion test, and then managed to convince me that I was in no condition to be taking on this project right now. Yeah... I probably should have been able to figure that one out on my own...

You know, sometimes I feel like my whole life is a giant tug of war between competing ideals, desires and realities.

I want to be frugal, and green, and not wasteful, and self-reliant, and sustainable, and a whole host of other noble things. But what often gets lost in the mix is that I also need to take care of myself.

I guess this is all my long-winded blathering way of telling you that I'm getting a beautiful new set of slipcovers for my birthday.

They were ridiculously cheap on eBay - and no... they're not organic cotton - not even close. And they were probably made by some sweatshop slave worker somewhere in India or China, and I'm sure they'll be packaged in plastic, and they're not even remotely green (well, actually they're a nice dark olive green color, but you know what I mean.)

And while I was at it, I also ordered a new portable futon mattress to use for when CatMan and I do movie night.

Long story here, but he has back problems and in order to be comfortable for the length of a movie needs to be horizontal - plus, we like to snuggle during the movies.

Anyhow, we have been using an old foam mattress taken from a sleeper couch that someone abandoned 25 years ago, and a feather bed topper that I found in the basement of my house when I moved in - both of which have got to be at least 50 years old by now, have little cushion left in them, leave incredible clouds of dust behind when I haul them out and set them up, and both of which got peed on numerous times during the past year of Sputty urinary problems. Suffice it to say... something needed to be done.

I had grandiose ideas of trying to clean them more thoroughly, or trying to salvage the feathers, or making something wholesome and organic from scratch, or solving the problem in some clever, green, frugal way, but the events of the past few days made me decide that it's just not worth it.

Here's the thing. I just am not capable of single-handedly saving planet - or saving the human race from itself, as might be the more accurate description.

And try as I might to achieve some level of eco-perfectionism, the reality is that there are trade-offs with all decisions.

And in the long run, I think that if I don't take my own mental health into consideration, I'm not really being a help to anyone.

I have to admit that I'm torn between feeling defeated, and feeling utterly relieved about these decisions. But truth be told, there's no shortage of projects in this house, and hopefully having these two big ones dealt with will allow me the time and energy to focus on other ones in a slightly more... umm... healthy manner.

Sooooo.. what do y'all think about all of this? Am I just being a selfish, materialistic, horrible, typical American consumer? How do you deal with the constant balancing act of these sorts of decisions? I'd really love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pretty "Darned" Good

Alrighty! So, my adventures in darning have been progressing, and after several practice runs on old T-shirts, I finally took the plunge and decided to give it a go with my SmartWool sweater.

For a complete novice, I think it turned out remarkably well.

Here's before:

And after:

Certainly not perfect, but pretty darned acceptable. Yuk, Yuk.

And from a distance... well, you can still see it, but it's really not too bad:

Please ignore the shadow of my hand taking the picture... 

Thanks so much to everyone who offered advice. I found several tutorials online as well, the most helpful of which was this one by Martha Stewart.

I'm not entirely sure that I got all of the "loops" because the original yarn was pretty darned microscopic. (Enough with the darning jokes already!) I had to wear magnifying glasses and it was still pretty hard to keep my rows and columns going straight.

In truth, the hardest part was matching the color of the yarn. I couldn't find any actual wool that was anywhere close, so I went with thread, which, unfortunately has a bit of a sheen, so in certain lighting it does show a bit, but I'm still quite pleased with my efforts.

I think I did get a tad bit of cat fur woven into the darn, but oh well... such is life!

So now, I think I can finally replace the song that's been running through my head: "There's a hole in the sweater, dear Liza, dear Liza..."

Since I've been trying to spend less time staring at my various screens, this song seems like perhaps it should take over the spot in my mental radio. Though, I think these days you'd have to blow up much more than just the TV and paper! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

No News is Good News

I've issued a "news moratorium" here at the Cat House.

This is something that I've often heard touted as an antidote to many of the ills of modern living.

You know, remove yourself from the constant flow of information and allow yourself to experience each moment as it unfolds, and to immerse yourself in the world that you actually inhabit rather than the one that comes through our many screens.

I have to admit though, that my purpose with this little exercise is well... um.... not quite so lofty.

Have I mentioned that I'm a HUGE figure skating fan? I know, I know... it's really terrible. I sorta feel like I'm promoting child abuse by watching the stuff, but I seriously just can't help myself. I see them out there twirling on the ice and suddenly I'm back in the 3rd grade watching Dorothy Hamill bring home the gold medal... yes, it's a sickness.... and yes, I had the haircut.

Anyhow, the Olympic ladies long program (the one that determines the medals) is gonna be televised tonight and I don't want anything to ruin it for me, so I'm not watching the news, or looking at Google news, or turning on the radio, or television, or anything else! And don't any of you DARE ruin it for me!!!

This is quite a challenge for a news junkie like myself - and to be completely honest, I did watch the late news last night after the broadcast of the short program (the first half of the competition.) Hey... I had to see what the weather was gonna be like. Plus, I had to know if there was anything about the body in the river!!!

Seriously, we had wonderful weather in the 60's yesterday so CatMan and I went for a bike ride. So we're riding along the South Platte river when all of a sudden we hit a section that was cordoned off with police tape. There were a pile of officers there who shooed us along.

On our way back about an hour and a half later, it was still there... only now there was just one young cadet doing the shooing, and all of the officers were down in the river inspecting something. I was afraid of getting in trouble, so I just hopped over the guard rail to the street and continued on my way like I was supposed to do... but CatMan stood there grilling the cadet trying to get some info.

When he finally crossed over to the other side where I was waiting he told me that they had found a body in the river!! He had actually seen them pulling it out! He wanted me to go back with him to see if we could see anything else, but I really, REALLY didn't want to see it. Seriously, that sort of thing could scar a person for life!

So at any rate... this no news thing is a HUGE challenge especially on a day like today, because I'm dying to know what they found... it's like CSI Denver or something like that.

But I'm holding firm... I'm not gonna peek... because the ladies are worth it.

Plus, I think it might actually be healthy for me to try to get un-addicted to the news... you know, for all of the lofty reasons I mentioned above.

So, how about you? Am I the only crazy news junkie out there? Do you think it's healthy to watch the news?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Good News and Bad News

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

But the good news is really, really good, and the bad news is more like just a bummer.

So the good news is... Smoky is cured! He's been given a clean bill of health and the vet says he's now completely normal!

See... I is normal now!

There was great rejoicing!

So now to the bad news...

Don't know if any of you will remember this or not, but a few months ago when I got my mortgage paid off, I celebrated by letting myself buy a few things that I really, REALLY wanted. One of them was a SmartWool base layer top that I bought to replace one my mother had given me that was the wrong size.

When I purchased it, I did so with the intent of wearing it for winter bike rides, but very quickly it became my most favoritist piece of clothing. Seriously, the thing totally rocks!

It's warm, but never too warm, and it isn't at all scratchy like most wool is, and I was even beginning to convince myself that it was worth the ridiculous sum of money that I spent on it. I think it was like $85-$90 which is vastly more than I've ever spent on an article of clothing in my entire life.

I've worn it WAY more than any human ought to wear any single piece of clothing, I just love it so much...

OK... so... if you have a wonderful piece of clothing that you love to pieces... and it's your most favoritist thing ever... well... you probably shouldn't wear it when you're trying to cram a struggling fe-lion into a box to take him to the vet.

Long story short, my wonderful, beautiful, beloved SmartWool shirt now has a lovely hole in the front of it where Smoky got me with one of his back claws.

Yes... My life is covered in cat fur... why do you ask?
I guess he wasn't entirely happy about having to go to the vet.

Oh well... it's only a thing after all. I'm gonna see if I can find some thread that is a pretty close match and maybe I can darn it so it won't be too noticeable. And it will still be warm and fuzzy and comfy and wonderful... but it's still a major bummer. I guess this is why I don't generally spend much money on things like clothes.

It reminds me of a cartoon that a friend of mine at work used to keep over her desk. I searched the interwebs high and low for it, but alas, no luck. So I'll do my best to re-create it for you.

It went something like this:

Releasing Your Attachment to Material Things.

Option A: Spend years practicing meditation and slowly, over time, your attachment to material things will begin to diminish.

Option B: Get a Puppy

Oh well... anybody got any advice on darning my SmartWool top?