A Tale of Two Kitties

The first half of 2014 has been a time of great change in my static, little world.

Not like that’s a bad thing.

Change can be good.

Force you to grow, to adapt.

But it is so hard.

First, my evil-sweet tabby cat passed away in April.  Didn’t  expect it. He was only nine and feisty, an illness took him quickly.  Soon after,my oldest child decided to move out. I expected this. She’s old enough and smart enough and fully capable of making a living.

But it’s sad and changes the dynamics of my day.  Everything shifted. No more kitty cuddle breaks and no more crazy antics or quirky eating habits (he ate lasagna-really?  I thought only Garfield did that).

The loss of my daughter left another kind of hole. No witty batter in the morning, no one to run out for Chinese late night, no one to force me to watch things like Sleepy Hollow, which I now adore.

Two sources of my daily zap of fun, entertainment, and love–gone.

After grieving over my losses, I hatched a plan.

What better to heal a handicapped heart than a new kitten?  My youngest and I took our time.  We visited the humane society, checked Facebook posts, asked friends.  At last, we found a cache of seven that were a few weeks old and litter trained. We visited.  They all were adorable but one little girl stood out with her black kohl eyeliner, stealth attacks and kamikaze escape techniques.  She was a tiny BA warrior and we were smitten.

Then a strange thing happen, a little white and gray boy snuggled up to us.  He looked like a white Pikachu from the Pokémon anime.  Never have I seen a kitten so forcefully affectionate.  And the eye contact he made—crazy.  So instead of one, we came home with two.

New litter boxes, and toys, and names.  We reviewed all the couple names, Donny and Marie, River and Simon, Zan and Jana (Wonder Twin powers activate), even Jamie and Cersi. But in the end we each picked one.

Meet (names subject to change):







Petunia (aka Toonces the cat who could drive from the 80’s SNL skit).






So it’s been all fun and games right?

Fun n' Games

Not so much.  You forget how hard it is to teach new pet not to chew on cords or climb drapes or massacre furniture.  It’s been an adjustment. They are learning. We are learning too.

It is forcing, pulling, pushing, enlivening me to grow and keep my heart open, cause in the end, not all change is bad.

Yin Yang

Yin Yang


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Memories Do Not Burn

On Friday I ran out of shorts and it was going to be a hot day. I eyed my closet and although I’m not a dress girl, I thought it would amuse my daughter to wear one. I put on the dress and a magical thing happens when I dress up, I start to feel a little better, a little more positive.

I needed that, the positive feeling. The end of June had been a whirlwind of stressful events. It kicked off with my son having a Cyclic Vomiting Episode (he takes a preventative, but sometimes we have one break through). Then one of my fathers-in-law ended up in the hospital (in ICU) for longer than expected (two weeks) after a surgery. We forced invited my mother-in-law to stay with us, so she could be closer.

And of course the time period was not lacking for writing related disappointments; the highlight of which was an anthology I’d been invited into rejecting my story. It’s not a common practice to have this happen. Stories that editors ask a writer to write are generally used, if they’re not acceptable quality editors usually work with the writer or give them one last chance to get it right. I’d never respond to a rejection, but in this case I had to know. Being dyslexic I work really hard to make my stories engaging and free of errors. I don’t want my handicap to show or a story to be accepted because it was “as good as someone with a writing disability could manage” but because it was the best story period. The editor assured me it was not my story; in fact, it was among their favorites. It turned out three pro writers turned in stories too long. My story happened to be the right length to keep them on budget. I’m actually thankful for his honesty. He could have easily told me it was not what they were looking for, that it wasn’t hitting the theme, or was low quality—but he told me the truth. I’m grateful that he did. I’m just annoyed that I turned down other work to do this project, because it fit my skill set the best. Such is the life of writing as an award-winning writer who doesn’t have an established name. Yet.

So although I’m not a dress girl, I put on the dress, I wore the cloche 1920s style hat, and when my mother-in-law called and wanted to go out to lunch as a thank you for offering a place to stay, I felt as if my luck could be turning. All because of the dress.

My mother-in-law was snapping pictures faster than the paparazzi to commemorate the occasion of me in a dress.

My mother-in-law was snapping pictures faster than the paparazzi to commemorate the occasion of me in a dress.

It was just a few hours later as I sat writing that my best friend, Meghan, called me. I went out to the back porch and an uncharactistically light breeze was blowing, the sun was shining, casting a yellow glow off the tree leaves and grass. It was a perfect, beautiful day, the kind that leads to open doors ripe with possibility. And I listened carefully as my friend explained to me that she has breast cancer.

I nodded in all the right places and of course the enemy cancer is slated for doom. I imagined the cancer cells squealing like pigs as the chemo treatments took effect. And, like the warrior princess we are, we hope to bathe in the blood of this cancer enemy. I just was hoping she was calling me to tell me she’d sold a story since she writes now, too.

I promised to call our other friends; she was done talking about it for the day. I made a note to call and check-up on her parents and make sure they were doing okay. I know how hard it can be to so far away and try to quell the overwhelming feeling to not hop on the plane just to hug her.

I called my parents and although they were camping and out of cell range I left a message. Our parents are friends and see each other often (her dad works with my mom) so I wanted them to know.

The next morning my dad called to reassure me it would all be fine. My dad had cancer earlier this year, so hearing his reassurance helped. He was on his way to work, but would go back to camp in a few hours. A few hours later my sister called. I answered with a hesitant voice, because I assumed that the Siskiyou County Grape-Vine was at work.

It went like this:

“…Hey.” I added a fake smile, too.


“Yep. How’s camp?” I asked because we still had to get out pleasantries, right?

“Tina.” She stopped, paused for a minute. This was not about Meghan. “Have you heard from mom or dad?”

“I talked to dad this morning. He was on his way to work….”

Sensing I was not up to speed, she cut me off. “The house burned down. Mom and dad’s house burned to the ground. I can’t get a hold of our brothers to tell them.”

She assured me that everyone was okay, and that our mom was on her way to the house to check out the damage. Apparently it was still burning, but had already been declared a ‘total loss.’

I left messages for my brothers trying to get a hold of them before they checked Facebook (Already people were posting about it, which goes to show how close our community back home is). I talked to my mom who was in good spirits about the whole thing.

“What can ya do? It is what it is.”

“I needed to downsize anyway.”

“It’s just stuff.”

“My first thought was of Rexida.”

Rexida. A nightmarish fabric doll with a plastic head, an anatomically correct plastic butt,  one lazy eye, and receding hair suspiciously the same color as mine. I carried her everywhere as a toddler. That horrible doll that my siblings and cousins tormented me with. Finally gone. We shared a therapeutic laugh over poor Rexida’s fiery demise.

My parent's house.

My parent’s house.

Then I texted my friends, which consisted mostly of rampant cursing. Meghan called me within two seconds of hitting send.

I gave the initial explanation: My dad had decided to go back to the house to check on it, and when he turned down the driveway it was already engulfed in flames. They don’t know what caused it yet, most likely a freak accident with wiring, or any spark of any kind since it’s so hot and dry there.

And then we burst out laughing.

I mean, what are the chances of all this bad news happening at once? We declared that good Karma had to start flowing soon, just to balance it all out. Neither of us are the types to sit around and wait for bad news, or even wallow in it, so we decided that focusing on the good things that were happening right now—even though the bad seemed to be eclipsing it—was the only way to proceed forward. So we’re doing 100 Days of Good Karma—where for the next hundred days we’re focusing on the sliver lining in each day.


If anyone would like to join for all or part of it, you’re welcome to participate.

Last night I went to bed with a new purpose to keep positive. But sometime in the night I started thinking of all the things that were gone. It started out as small things like my mom’s record collection from the 60s and 70s—there were a few Beatles albums in there I think, I remember them anyway. There were photos going back for generations, a lot of mementos of both my great-grandmothers. We’d just transferred a bedroom set that my great-grandma Freda had left to me to my parent’s house for the kids to sleep on when we stayed there. Her last name is the name I’d chosen as a pen name for writing. Then there was my husband’s glasses, Our Elf on the Shelf we’d stored there because it’s where we go for Christmas. Then it was the harder things, like the wall just as you enter the living room where we all measured ourselves as kids. Our friends and cousins measured themselves there, my kids for as long as they could stand had a measurement for at least twice a year. My parents lost a lot more: work records, important documents, furniture, computers, their home. My dad collects family historical and local geographical items like, Native American relics that had been passed down in his family, my grandfather’s war medals, and World War II uniform. Things I cringe to write, because I know they might read this post and be reminded. Even though they’re strong, resilient, adaptable, and being positive about the whole event.

My cousin is an EMT and was volunteering for the community fire department and was on the call. They were able to throw a few things out the window before it wasn’t safe to do so anymore.

One of the items saved was a small cut out of me on my wedding day and hand and foot impressions of my kids we'd given my parents as a Christmas gift.

One of the items saved was a small photo of me on my wedding day and hand and foot impressions of my kids we’d given my parents as a Christmas gift.

I remember during a particularly bad fire in in the forests of Chico, the air was filled with ash. It swirled like snow on the sweltering smoky day. I would avoid looking too closely at the debris floating around me—in hopes that I could shield myself from the disaster of the loss of people I didn’t know. I saw one land on my car, smacked right in front of me, begging to not be ignored. It was the letter “a” fully visible. Someone’s home library burning at that very moment.

I faded in and out of strange mixed dreams all night, each time calming my racing heart by reassuring myself that my parents were okay, nobody, not even the family dog were inside the home while the fire raged. I’d not trade a single item for that. This is just stuff.

The mantra my mother kept repeating: it’s just things. Things are replaceable. Things are not needed.

And Pam put it into words best this morning for me: cancer is curable, houses can be rebuilt, and memories do not burn.

Fire heart

A childhood craft project. The project burned in the fire, but left the ghostly impression of a heart.


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Product Placement Disasters

It’s the opening of a really quirky joke: Two bloggers walk into a drug store.

Except the punchline was more gross than funny.

This blog post is a mash-up of SmashedPicketFences and GettingTheWordsWrong meets product placement fails.

We were looking for something that would prevent Meghan’s kids from throwing up during a road trip.

The store manager escorted us back to the anti-nausea section of the store. Logically, this was placed near the anti-diarrhea medicine. As the store manager pointed out other products, I noticed Meghan’s lips twitch into a suppressed smile, she signed for me to turn around and look at the rest of the aisle.

Directly opposite the anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea medicine was a bank of shelves containing condoms and lubricants. Which now looks a lot like the YA section of a bookstore with it’s black cover wrappings and vague close up photography of wisps of ribbon for color.

The store manager was still there, so we did the whole eye communication thing-y and pretended to be mature.

When the store manager left, Meghan said, “Tina, look what’s behind us.”

I looked at the condoms. Then looked at Meghan. “Yeah, I saw.”

After a moment of giggling like fifteen-year-old girls (maturity has never been our strong suit, especially when we’re together), we brainstormed how to better rearrange the store.

“Condoms don’t belong next to anti-diarrhea medicine. I mean, what kind of story does that tell the clerk if you’re buying both anti-diarrhea and condoms?”

“Do people commonly need both?” I added.

When I worked in a grocery store, there is this whole psychology of trying to get people to buy other things by placing them next to something you need.

Like ‘I came in for milk and at the end cap across from milk was a box of Oreos’ or ‘oh man, I ran out of laundry detergent, but while I’m here I should pick up some cleaning supplies. I should totally clean all the windows in my house.’

Meghan said, “Why would anyone ever need both condoms and anti-diarrheal?”

We stared blankly at each other for a moment.

Then we both shuddered.

“Condoms should be over there,” Meghan said, pointing to the wine aisle. “It should go wine, condoms, pregnancy tests.”

“That’s too ideal,” I said. “Real life would go: pregnancy tests, wine, condoms. Because I’d like to believe people learn from their mistakes. And chocolate should be in there, too.”

Meghan shrugged. “An end cap?”

We debated the order of operations for a few minutes before checking out, but we both agreed that condoms definitely did not belong next to anything related to the stomach flu or an unfortunate decision to try out that hole-in-the-wall restaurant where they call the cook “Buster” and he’s not wearing a shirt.

We Love Comments! Every time you comment….uh, I don’t know, I’m drawing a blank on this one. Still in shock.

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Blogging Buddies


I love to run. I would get out every day if my knees could handle the impact. When I hear about runners who have to force their happy butts out the door to get a couple of miles in, I’m perplexed. I’ve always wondered why people needed motivation to do something that gave me such a rush, such freedom, such joy. Some runners even recruit workout partners to get off the couch.

I didn’t get the buddy concept until I took up blogging.

I’m new to blogging but this was not my first attempt. I started a blog way, way back in Tobey!2002, when the whole idea of blogging still smelt as fresh and new as Toby McGuire in Spiderman (remember that ab reveal scene?).

I dolled it up with a picture and made a post or two. But soon I found I had left it fallow for a long time, and the longer I left it bare, the more embarrassing it became to post and with two pre-teens life got busy. The little blog drowned in the interweb stream of consciousness.

In 2011, I got super serious about my writing career and thought I had to have an online presence, so I spent a week learning Blogger, setting up all the pretty themes, and fonts, even came up with a cool name. I posted. I committed to doing it once a week, then once a week flew by, then I committed to once every two weeks. I watched those zip by as well. I allowed my fiction writing to eat up all of my free time. Years passed. No one cared if I posted anyway, there was no accountability.

Now, I’ve finished a few books and short stories. I’m submitting to publishers and considering some of my online options. But again I needed to get out of my writer’s hidey hole; I needed to connect.

I hit upon my answer when I discovered group blogging. Some of the pressure released. If I don’t have much to say, then I call on my blog mates to help. And if I don’t post there are people who depend on me, which raises the stakes of not performing. And in those long, lonely days when I believe no one reads, I know that at least my blog mates will be checking.

After joining a joint blog, it’s becoming more and more clear why people need workout partners. They empower you, hold you accountable, and share you success. All that power available, just by asking. This experience has lead me to be more open minded, and perhaps I will be exploring other joint ventures.

Anyone looking for a workout partner?

Have you ever thought of joining forces in order to accomplish more? Let me know about your experience, or just stop by to say hello.

For every comment you leave a superhero reveals his toned abs for public admiration.

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Other Tasks As Assigned

Over the weekend I got together with my three best friends. We all have that friend who understands you, accepts you, anticipates your sour moods, and knows the right thing to say at the right time. I have three of them (four if you count my husband). They’re pretty awesome.

While we chatted into the wee hours of the morning and relived our most horrid and morbidly embarrassing moments, one of my friends described the unexpected things that she’s had to do in her job. She called it “other tasks as assigned” which is how it was presented in the job description.

These are the jobs we never would could have anticipated or planned for. They pop up at the exact wrong time and of course demand all the attention. And they MUST be done before anything else. Now, an “other task” might be something that can be procrastinated, but usually not. It seems small, but becomes huge just from the sheer avoidance energy we expend on it.

I just had an other-tasks-as-assigned kind of month. It started out with my son having a migraine episode. He gets stomach migraines (for which he sees a specialist at Standard Medical for because his case is fairly severe, but we have it under control with preventative medication, sometimes the prevention doesn’t work and this was one of those times). I plan for the possibility and usually try to get ahead of any writing work I have, just in case. But also in the same time we had family unexpectedly in the hospital, lots of visitors, and overnight guests. I also had two writing projects take interesting turns. And a novel re-write, which takes precedence above any other writing related task. Also throw in a pushy sales man, a leaky toilet, and a dozen other unplanned things.

As a parent, I expect other tasks as assigned; I even expect that some surprises will happen. It’s called life. But when everything happens at once it starts to wear on me and I don’t get as much done when I split focus to several different things.

I’ve been trying to get better at this, since I’m prone to falling into old anxiety patterns and excessive worrying. I flitter around from one project to the next, not really getting anything done to completion. This time I was able to stay afloat, and get it all done. As far as stressful events go, this time was not at all as intense as it could have been, so it made for good practice. I attribute it to forcing myself to stick to my daily walk (even if I had to drag my company along for the ride), the new zero gravity chairs, and a really good book to escape to.

But seriously our new zero gravity chairs are amazing.

Also some really amazing friends at the end of it all.

The “other tasks” can be overwhelming, but I got through them, even if I had to slow down to a moment-to-moment planning strategy.

My emergency combat a stress filled week schedule looks like this:

  • Daily walk
  • Healthy meals/snacks
  • Two goals. One that is a small “must do” and the second is a you’re-a-superstar-if-you-can-manage-it goal.
  • Evening Yoga/or five minutes of concentrated breathing—even just closing my eyes right before bed and clearing my mind.

For me this keeps things sane. Of course, it all flies out the door when things are in complete crisis mode, but that is when something huge happens. This is just for those little pile it on unexpected zillion tasks days.

We love comments! Every comment you leave takes away one other task assigned from a poor unexpected soul.

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