Summer is here and hell is empty

Becky, Jeff, and Owen came to town last week to be with us as we heard the results of Dad’s PET scan. We’ve been waiting for this news for more than a month, and I’m happy to report that the cardiac sarcoma hasn’t grown nor spread to other parts of the body. There is still something there in the center of Dad’s heart, but that’s along the lines of what we expected. Dad will start taking a daily chemo pill to delay its regrowth. There are many options when it comes to chemo pills, so he may have to try several to find the one with the fewest side effects.

To say Dad is cancer-free would be untrue, but we’ve bought time, and that is a huge blessing and relief compared to the fear we carried in December, January, and February.

Dad’s daily struggle remains to be the side effects of the stroke (caused by the heart tumor). As much as we know about the human body and the resilience of a determined man, it is a mystery as to why he isn’t walking independently. But, that’s what a brain injury does: it messes with your whole system. Dad manages on his own during the day to a degree, and there is a steady rotation of OT and PT therapists coming to the house. He isn’t a quitter. He won’t give up.

His spirits are steady, too. My cousin Paul and his family joined us on Saturday for dinner on the deck, and he and Dad raised a glass to the positive test results. It was a good time being together.

We’ve taken Dad fishing a second time since our boat day in early May. I remembered there was a handicap-accessible fishing spot on the Little River, so last week we threw a few lines in, even though the water level was low and the chances of catching anything were slim. Any opportunity to get Dad in nature is worthwhile. You just have to STEER CLEAR when he’s casting because those unruly stroke hands are all over the place.

Chuck and I slipped out to fish early Sunday morning and stumbled upon a dock near us that is perfect for Dad. It’s secluded with plenty of room to spread out. Plus, it has little dips in the railing that should work well for him in the wheelchair.

So yes, it’s finally summer, and we’re enjoying every bit of good weather we can. Our magnolia tree has bloomed, and Chuck and I (with Salem) are relishing our low-humidity evenings on the front porch.

Finally, a few words about this week on the national front. If you know me in real life, then you know already know I feel. If we are close, then we likely share similar feelings of despair. George Floyd was murdered, and a longsuffering pot of boiling anger bubbled over (again). Unfortunately, I think the anxiety and the steady undercurrent of stress from months of isolation during COVID have only made us even less capable of managing ourselves in this chaos. As an ally, I am a patient listener and a deep thinker, but I’ve got to stop watching videos of cities, businesses, and people on fire. From now on, I’m censoring the articles I read and focusing on the positive things I can do to promote change. I’m not silent, but I’m not running my mouth either.

I’ll leave you with my favorite line from The Tempest:

I’m wrestling with a lot of conflicting thoughts right now, but, like Shakespeare’s Ferdinand, we have to call out evil when we see it, whether it be a devil’s knee on the neck of a dying man or the convenient delivery of bricks to an angry crowd.

Lord, your mercy.

Medal No. 19

Are you ready for the longest race report ever?

There are a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t have run this half marathon. Yes, I was trained for it, or at least as trained as I get these days. The entry fee was low, it was a “flat and fast” course, and, with it being in Charleston, West Virginia, I could stay with Mamaw and visit my Aunt Gloria. Those were the things that convinced me to run it in the first place.

But things started to fall apart, as they sometimes do, and I considered not going just days before I was supposed to leave.

First, Chuck’s work week got extended, which meant he wouldn’t be home. No problem, I thought. I can take the boys with me! They need to visit their great-Mamaw anyway!

But then Salem got sick again – another block – and this time, the medicinal intervention wasn’t working. It all started late in the evening on Good Friday. We were waiting for family to arrive from Disney and I noticed Salem was crouching in odd places around the house. He grimaced, wouldn’t settle, and when I touched his belly, it was hard as a rock. I knew.

Off to the emergency vet we went at midnight, where he was catheterized to relieve the pressure off his bladder. By 6:30 a.m. I was paying the bill and transferring him to our regular vet, who spent the next two days treating him. By Monday, it wasn’t working. Pulling the catheter only made him block again, so a decision had to be made: Let him go or take him to the emergency vet in Knoxville for reconstructive surgery.

I wasn’t ready to let him go.

By Wednesday he was home with newly reconstructed urinary tract, stitches, and an Elizabethan collar (i.e., the Cone of Shame). I was to leave in two days for my race, but seeing as how he was heavily medicated and still wandering like a zombie, how could I leave?

More important than my cat’s health is my father-in-law’s health, and he is not well. Needless to say, there is a lot going on here. 

As I toyed with the decision to stay or go I got wind that my Aunt Gloria had fallen in the night and fractured her pelvis in three places. She was in a rehab center, so the pull to go to Charleston was now not just the race but also visiting her. I was torn.

Enter stage left: The BFF. Corey texted that she was ready and willing to come up Thursday night from Atlanta and stay through the weekend so I could run the race and visit my aunt in the hospital.

For real? She would keep the boys? Take care of Salem? Spend the last few days of Alex’s spring break in Tennessee?

Immediately I thought no way. That’s too much! It’s too much help. It’s silly! I could stay home. I should stay home. I’ll just stay home.

But no, she meant it, as best friends often do, so I accepted. She and Alex showed up late Thursday night, and after taking the boys to visit their Papaw, who’d been released from the hospital into hospice care, I packed my car and set off for a brief 24-hour stay in Charleston. I visited Aunt Gloria as soon as I arrived and stayed up for a short while talking with Mamaw. The race didn’t started until 8 a.m., but I’d missed the cut-off time for packet pick-up, so I needed to get to the University of Charleston no later than 7 a.m. to get my bib.

Naturally, since the lead-up to the race had already been tumultuous, I started to feel poorly as I went to bed Friday night. My stomach was wrecked, and I felt weak. What in the world was this cosmic punishment? I couldn’t settle in, couldn’t get comfortable. It felt like a million needles were penetrating my abdomen.

I barely slept. When I wasn’t writhing in bed I was on the floor of my Mamaw’s guest room holding yoga poses to ease the pain. When the alarm went off at 6:15 a.m., I’d dozed for few hours but didn’t sleep a wink.

This isn’t unusual, by the way. I rarely sleep well the night before a race, and it’s been this way for a decade, so nothing has improved in that area. I’m too nervous about potentially sleeping through my alarm, being late, and not being allowed to run. Personally, I think the pre-race anxiety helps me.

But feeling ill? That never helps. SOMEHOW, mercifully, despite the pain I suffered all night and the threat of snow that had me anxious, the race went well. I finished in my standard time frame, usually falling somewhere between 2:15 and 2:25. (The official time was 2:21.) Also, the pain in my abdomen subsided, which was curious considering how bad it was throughout the night. It did snow, but only a little, and the freezing temperatures were tolerable and kept me from overheating. (Give me a cold run over a hot run any day!)

West Virginia’s State Capitol with snow-capped trees behind it:

The University of Charleston is situated directly across from the capitol building on the other side of the Kanawha River, which made for a beautiful run. I’m sure the event organizers would’ve appreciated warmer weather.

Corey sent me photos from home, a sweet reassurance that all was well.

Salem made himself comfortable, per usual. This was Corey’s view Friday evening:

After a long, steaming hot shower, I had a quick bite of lunch with Mamaw and packed my things to go. My original plan was to stay much longer, but the original plan was long gone. I got on the road and headed home.

This should be the end of the story, but that’s hardly the case. My father in law continues to decline, and Salem is still wearing his Elizabethan Collar because his stitches haven’t been removed. I went to the doctor on Monday to see what in the world is going on with my insides, and Corey went home only to have her own family emergency unfold. Her wife, Gwen, fractured her tibial plateau – the very important load-bearing top of her tibia – at a training exercise for work, and now she’s facing multiple surgeries and months of recovery. It is a huge blow, particularly since Gwen, a police officer and exercise fiend, is not well-suited to a life of low-to-no mobility. 🙁

Yet, we all press on because that’s life. Lord willing, which I’ve learned to say more frequently now, I’ll run my 20th race in May. Should things fall apart again, maybe I won’t. Who knows?

Medal No. 17, Stranger Things 2, Halloween, NaNoWriMo

In the interest of time and space, here’s a recap of how I ran 13.1 miles in the pouring rain and ruined my phone, how we celebrated Halloween and Salem’s Supposed 10th Birthday, and why I’m taking another stab at National Novel Writing Month with my third novel.

My goal to run 20 half marathons by the time I turn 40 is moving along nicely. On Saturday, the day it monsooned in East Tennessee, I ran my 17th long-distance race. Before readying my cell phone for a wet run in ziplock baggies, I snapped this photo of the windshield.

Oh, the irony.

Fast forward two and a half hours and I crossed the finish line fully drenched but pleased with my run. It wasn’t until I was safely back in the car that I realized water had seeped into the baggie and, therefore, into the phone.

{insert expletives here}

I tried to make a call and couldn’t. The camera wouldn’t work. The speakers wouldn’t work. I was so mad at myself for deciding to run with the phone. I thought listening to an audiobook would distract me from the rain (it did!), but I also thought I’d taken enough precautions to keep my phone dry (I didn’t!). I drove home and immediately put the phone in a bag of dry rice for 24 hours.

The screen is streaked and the phone works fine, from what I can tell, but the forward-facing camera still does not work, which is the CRUELEST IRONY OF ALL for a photographer.

Still, I earned Medal No. 17, and I plan on getting Medal No. 18 in two weeks.

In between the race and Halloween, Chuck, Jackson, and I binged the second season of Stranger Things. (Jeremy opted out.) I loved it as much as I hoped to, but I was disappointed in the amount of profanity in the second season, particularly since Jackson was watching. Every episode I reminded him, “We don’t talk this way, remember?” It was just too much, and frankly, unnecessary. That complaint aside, I thought the plot of Season 2 was an excellent continuation from Season 1, particularly with the inclusion of Max. (I could’ve done without Max’s brother and about 85% of Episode 7.)

This, by far, was my favorite scene. I melted:

Halloween rolled around and we took Jeremy (as Ron Weasley) and Jackson (as Big Nate – his imaginary best friend and book character) to our friends’ house to trick-or-treat. I don’t have a photo of them because I didn’t bring a camera.

Actually, that’s not true. Here is a photo from trick-or-treating:

Only the front camera works (i.e., the selfie camera), and it’s actually terrible.

Oh well.

Before Halloween got away from us, we took a few minutes to celebrate Salem, our wonderfully fat black Halloween cat. As I’ve mentioned before, we have no idea when his actual birthday is, unlike Major, whose birthday is December 9. So, we selected October 31 for our favorite feline and celebrated what might be his 10th year on Earth (we aren’t sure about that either) by giving him a can of tuna.

Finally, since today is November 1, I am making a second attempt at finishing my third novel during National Novel Writing Month. I’ve participated three times before and was successful in both 2013 and 2015. Last year was a wash, but here’s to trying again! (Maybe I only write novels on odd years?) I fully admit to starting the month ahead of schedule because I still have 3,000 (or so) words from last year that I’m recycling. There’s only one story to tell right now, so I’m not starting a new one.

Signs of Life Days Seventeen through Twenty

When Friday morning rolled around and I’d finished a laundry list of things to do, including laundry, I hibernated in my bedroom for two hours awaiting my best friend and her family to arrive. I was going into a weekend with house guests and their four-month-old puppy. For an introvert and lover of all things neat and tidy, I needed a little bit of time to prepare mentally.

That may sound terrible, like I don’t enjoy having company, but that isn’t true at all. I love hospitality and I certainly love hosting people who are important to me, but I need to ready my brain for a house to be in disarray, for extra mess in the kitchen, for an increase in overall noise. Throw in a puppy and we’ve got a busy household. Because I love these people and their dog, it’s a no-brainer! It just means I need a minute.

Corey, Gwen, Alex, and four-month-old Wrigley showed up late Friday night. In my animal-loving fantasies, I anticipated Major and Wrigley running circles around each other, spending hours in the backyard, and wearing each other out, and out-snoring each other in marathon napping sessions.

Nope. That’s not at all what happened. Despite Wrigley’s attempts, Major wasn’t having it. It’s like he knew Wrigley was a Georgia dog, and in this Tennessee house, this wasn’t okay. While Wrigley puttered around the house, Major secluded himself to my bedroom and whined. This might be the closest they got to one another.

His loss! Wrigley Chubb is a sweetie pie.

We all went to the dog park and Greenway on Sunday afternoon so both dogs and both 13-year-olds could get out some energy. Jackson wore his Georgia Bulldogs hat in solidarity.

That’s Jeremy (on the bike) and Alex (on the skateboard) and Major following them inside the dog park. Poor fella wanted to run alongside them.

Our families have strong ties to one another, so anytime we can plug in and make memories, it’s worth it. Though Major didn’t make the family photo (he was hiding in the bedroom), Salem was a big boy and suffered through it. He kept his eye on Wrigley the whole time.

Before they headed back to Atlanta this morning, we had one more visitor to welcome. My family lived in Atlanta from 1990 to 1993, and while Corey’s friendship is one I’ve kept since living there, my sister has hung on to a few friendships as well. Andre was like a big brother to me. In fact, all of my sister’s friends treated me like I was their little sister. I felt special, loved, included, all of it. This is where social media has been a blessing to people like my sister and me – it’s enabled us to keep tabs on folks from everywhere we’ve lived.

So when I read a Facebook update from Andre saying he was going to Gatlinburg for the weekend, I jumped on it. COME SEE ME! What’s it been – 18 years? More? I don’t even remember.

Of course, this means he knew Corey too, because she was always at our house and we all went to the same high school. They were seniors, we were freshman.

How does this happen exactly? To go decades without being in touch and then see someone again and it feels like no time has passed? Or even if you realize time has passed, it just doesn’t matter.

Sitting next to Andre on the couch in my grown-up living room, in a home I share with my husband and children, it was all I could to not act like a 14-year-old girl and talk about how special I felt riding around in his red Chevrolet Tracker. He was so sweet to me, and I never forgot it.

This is the stuff that makes life GOOD and worthwhile. Deep and abiding relationships, making memories with people you love, loyalty that spans decades…

And puppies. We cannot forget the goodness of puppies.

Signs of Life is a blog series I’m writing for February 2017. It was born out of desire to replace the negativity and despair that’s been bogging down our friendships, families, and communities after a tumultuous election season. This series won’t solve the world’s problems, but I hope it will create a speck of light and positivity when and where it is needed. 

Christmas 2016

Christmas celebrations began on Saturday night with Jeremy and Jackson exchanging their brother gifts – a tradition my sister and I had and one we’ve passed on to both sets of boys. They use their own money and we take them out separately to shop.

Christmas morning was slow-moving. Because the Packers game in early December was the big family gift, the boys knew that wrapped gifts would be minimal. Per the Four Gift Rule, they both still received a book, clothing (Packers socks), and something they needed (an iPod charger for Jeremy, pajamas for Jackson).

There were fun things in their stockings – a particular favorite were these goofy glasses. Thank you, Corey!

Jackson was so pleased to receive some South Dakota State University gear from my parents. Random team, you say? Nah. Jackson loves the SDSU Jackrabbits!

We had one other surprise for the boys and that was an upgraded game system for the whole family. We all enjoy playing video games, and the last time we bought a new system was in 2009. They didn’t see that one coming for sure.

Christmas was mostly good, but it was also challenging. It’s hard to celebrate a holiday when there are two people missing from the family. There’s a tender balance between forcing Christmas cheer and making sure your kids’ holiday isn’t overshadowed by immense grief.

Still, we are thankful for those who are still here and happy to share a warm meal with as much gratitude as we can muster.

We tried very hard for a family photo of all six of us – the pets included – but Major is wholly uncomfortable sitting in close proximity to Salem. Hence, the ever watchful side-eye.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! Many blessings for a fruitful, healthy New Year. 

 

The Start of Fifth and Seventh Grade

We started school today, and afterward I took a two-hour nap. I love homeschooling.

Fifth and Seventh Grade

The boys are in fifth and seventh grade at The Miller School for Boys, which means this is our sixth year of homeschooling. NEVER EVER DID I THINK we’d be a homeschooling family. Sometimes, I’m still surprised that this is what we’re doing.

Brothers August 2016

Jackson, Age 10

Jackson age 10

Our fifth grader is all sports, all the time. He loves wearing football jerseys and reading his ESPN Encyclopedias.

ESPN encyclopedia reader

Football loverAn avid reader of all things, he spends a lot of his free time on the couch or front porch with a book. This year he’ll play flag football and participate in a younger youth group at church that uses Harry Potter-inspired curriculum. Jackson hopes he’ll be sorted into the Hufflepuff House.

Jackson August 2016

He’s still as cheerful and smiley as ever, always happy to chat with anyone about sports and share his random bits of statistical knowledge.

Jackson fifth grade

This year Jackson is taking Geography, Science Survey, Language Arts, Reading Comprehension, P.E., and Bible. Today he started fractions and reading The One and Only Ivan.

Jeremy, Age Almost 13

Jeremy August 2016

Our middle schooler wakes up every morning hoping he’s actually 30 years old and living either in a big city as a head chef or on the pacific coast as a marine biologist. When he realizes he’s still a kid who lives with his parents, he forges ahead with anticipation. Super mature and thoughtful, Jeremy is an old soul who loves to be with people. He’s in youth at church, still enjoying soccer, and carries a very heavy backpack to co-op.

Jeremy age almost-13

Be still my heart, he still loves to play with Legos. 

Still loves legos

This will likely be his last year playing soccer with Parks and Rec. He’s ready for stiffer competition.

Soccer lover

Jeremy seventh grade

Jeremy has a heart for animals, something he and I share, as well as a deep curiosity and desire to understand God. Sometimes I want to peek into the future to see where this guy ends up because he could go ten different directions and succeed.

Forever competitive

This year Jeremy is taking pre-algebra, French, Physical Science, Mock Congress, World History (specifically the Middle Ages), and the MARS Project. He’s also in my Literature and Creative Writing class at co-op. (We’ll see how that goes!) Today he started reading Wonder.

I feel like we hit the jackpot with these two.

Love them

Finally, a word from our mascot, who didn’t care that we were trying to take photos…

Salem interrupts

Cheers to a productive school year and happy attitudes every morning!

Then the garden exploded

We’ve been drenched with rain for a solid week, or so it felt, during which I ignored the garden. Last I saw the little baby plants were sprouting mightily and gaining some height. Then yesterday, on the first solidly dry day, I went outside to inspect the garden and found that it had doubled in size.

garden in early June 2016

Remind me next year not to put the zucchini (bottom left) next to the cucumbers (bottom right). Not wise plant placement!

Zucchini blooms:

zucchini bloom

Grow strong, little cucumber:

Grow strong little cucumber

My favorite! Next year, more Japanese Eggplant!

first japanese eggplant

Still don’t know what to expect out of this artichoke, but I’m keeping an eye out for something that looks familiar:

artichoke

Tiny garden spider makes himself at home:

Garden spider

And finally, the property manager, who would like to be left alone, thank you very much:

Salem in June

Like new little baby teeth

You know how exciting it is when those first few teeth pop through your precious baby’s tender gums? You knew it was coming, you saw all the signs. Then suddenly one morning, there’s a tiny white speck. Eureka!

That’s how excited I feel when my newly planted vegetables take root and grow twice their size in under a week.

It brings me such happiness to go in the backyard and see new life growing.

Okra – never grown okra before, but it’s darling:

okra

Sweet Georgia Onions. Can’t wait to sauté them:

onions

Surprise sprout of potatoes, left over from last year. I decided to leave it:

potatoes

Japanese eggplant, my favorite:

Japanese eggplant

Pickling cucumbers:

cucumbers

Sweet basil for a summer of pesto:

basil

Never-grown-before artichoke. No idea what this will look like:

artichoke

The pets are loving the warm sun as much as I am and always join me outside. Look at our gorgeous boy! Major is three years old and far more chilled out than he was a year ago. Thank goodness.

Major May 2016

Salem – God bless – looks completely stoned. But hey – he’s alive.

Salem May 2016

Napping in the sun

Jeremy and I took a moment to mourn this beautiful white moth. RIP pretty thing.

RIP white moth

Though there’s a cold snap this week with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, summer is indeed on its way. Three more days of school and then I’m off the hook for a while. Amen, and amen.

“I’m sorry I have no good news.”

This is how our veterinarian began the conversation. For the second time, Salem is being hospitalized for being unable to urinate. Common in male cats, the muscles of the urethra spasm and constrict, making it impossible for him to relieve himself, which, if left alone, would kill him.

Why is this happening, you ask? The first time there were crystals found in his bladder, which helped create the obstruction along with the muscle spasms. He spent three days at the vet sedated with a catheter. This was the week before Christmas. He came home with two types of muscle relaxers and a special diet.

Then, Monday night, I found him in the bathroom sink trying to pee, the same behavior he exhibited in December when the urethra was completely closed. Bizarre behavior. A sign of desperation.

Sure enough, the urethra was locked shut because of a spasm so he hasn’t urinated in nearly two days. Salem will spend another three days at the vet sedated with a catheter.

When I asked why this happened again, the doctor said it might be because of stress.

I am so tempted to argue that remark and echo what Chuck said last night, “What in the world does that cat have to be stressed about?”

My reply, in a word, “Major.”

No, they do not get along. It used to be that they tolerated each other, ignored one another, and kept to themselves. But Major has grown bolder this year, challenging Salem with a keen eye and pointed stance when he walks by. This prodding results in Salem hissing, running away, and retreating to a spot where Major can’t reach him.

Only late at night can the two lay on either side of me, resolving to share my attention.

But I’m not sure his stress stops there. If it’s true that our animals and children sense negative energy in the house, that they will siphon it and project it in their own behavior, then I am just as guilty as Major for causing stress in this house.

worryI am so nervous and high strung that little invisible stress-filled balls of anxiety escape my body at random, swirl around each room of my house, and supplant themselves in people and pets. It’s true that women have the power to set the mood of the house, and in this house of all men, I’ve created so such apprehension that even the cat can’t pee.

I’m not making light of it, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Anxiety is why I can’t sleep, why my stomach is upset so often, why I get headaches, why I snap at the boys, why my shoulders are up to my ears even now. I take medication, I exercise, I eat mostly well. I’m not sure what else to do. There is no switch to turn off my brain.

Salem will stay at the vet for the rest of the week. Hopefully I can bring him home on Saturday. It will cost an obscene amount of money and he will be on medication the rest of his life.

And if we can’t get a handle on this, then that’s another story altogether.

A story from the other writer

Y’all, we have another writer in the house. I didn’t edit his story, but I did format it properly. Jackson has been really into writing over the summer and lately he’s been begging me to type his stories out on the computer. As if I’d say no!

Super Cat!
by Jackson Miller

Super Cat

One night a cat was playing with a ball. He was A TALKING CAT! He heard a (bang) then a (clang). He went outside.

Oh, he thought.

The next day he went to Target to get cat food and some books. Then he went down the new movie aisle and he saw tons of them: Lego Movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: the Winter Soldier, all kinds of them!

After that he started going home and then he heard a scream again! It was the evil teddy bear!

“What are you doing?” Super Cat asked.

“DESTROYING STUFF!” he yelled.

Super Cat ran home really fast! He had super speed! He found a package and scratched it open: TADA! It was a suit with a mask and a cape! It had the letters SC on it. When he found evil teddy bear he said, “You are no match for me!”

And then he killed him.

The End.


 

My other boys

One of them was happy to take a photo this morning and wish you a happy weekend. The other pretended not to hear me. Forgive his rudeness. He doesn’t care about you or your weekend or what you think about his lack of caring. You can move along now.

Fur babies

 

 

Pining for Summer

This family is ready for summer, as in no school, lots of sun, extra sleep, and some sort of liquid. Ocean? Pool? Sprinkler? Patio cocktails? Yes to all.

Jackson has finished all of the curriculum I had planned for him, so he’s doing a Summer Bridge book to complete the semester. Jeremy has a final test in math this week, which leaves only Zoology on the To Do List for him. They ask me every day how much longer they have until summer break, which is a funny question since they are pretty much able to dictate that time frame themselves. Work harder and faster, I tell them. You’ll be done sooner. It’s that easy. Realistically, it’s not easy, because working harder and faster is hard.

Speaking of harder and faster, I start another summer semester of graduate school on Monday. This marks one full year that I’ve been chipping away at a Masters degree. If I continue this pace, I should graduate in December. More importantly, the novel will be finished since I’m using it as my capstone. Even though I’m not working on it as fervently as I was last semester, I think about my characters every day. I imagine what they’re doing, wondering if they are waiting for me to return. It’s that schizophrenic parallel I told you about a few months ago. Not sure how to explain it any other way. Put simply, I miss them when we’re apart for too long.

In conclusion, that blob of black fur on the boys’ desk is Salem enjoying a sun ray. I suppose he’s ready for summer too.

Sunbathing

My Favorite Scene – and a poll!

Our first assignment for Performance Writing was to transcribe in proper format our favorite scene from a movie. As soon as I read the instructions, I knew what scene I’d choose. It was a no-brainer.

It took about forty-five minutes for me to type out a two-minute scene from Stranger Than Fiction and I’m confident that it’s fraught with errors. I’ve already posted it to the online classroom and it’s currently being ripped to shreds. I’m not offended in the least. I don’t know squat about screenwriting, so it’s only through trial and error that I’ll learn.

Favorite sceneI’m also in the middle of writing my first short story of the semester. Depending on how it turns out, I might post it here. Of course, I need to know if anyone would be interested in reading it.

[polldaddy poll=7777267]

Salem appreciates your feedback.

My nighttime lap buddy

The Birthday Boy

Of course, we don’t know if Halloween is Salem’s actual birthday, but that’s when we decided it would be a few years ago when he came to our family. If a black cat’s birthday isn’t on Halloween, then it should be changed so it is.

Here is Jeremy taking a break from school, listening to A Wrinkle in Time, with Salem tucked in at his side.

Listening to Wrinkle And here he is begging me to finish my Literary Theory outline so we can hurry up and go to sleep. My late-night writing is highly inconvenient. Someone needs attentionI hope Halloween isn’t a total washout, but there’s a chance we won’t make it outside at all due to rain. Still, we’ll be spending the evening with friends, which is better than trick-or-treating anyway. I’ll post pictures tomorrow.

 

Because Salem is my favorite

On account of the day, let’s take a minute to fawn over the favorite.

I secretly root againstsalem as artsanto-shea black catsalem and I skateBlack cat artTwin black catson the stepsfavorite piece

Cheers to the black cat in our family, who will cross our path a dozen times today with an attitude of indignation. We are lucky to have him. baby pantherhappy friday the 13

He’s the boss of Major.

This mischief happened earlier in the week. I considered it a challenge of authority:Major on the tableBut then this happened shortly after, and then I was reminded of who’s really in charge:Who's the bossIn other news, I saw something on Pinterest that I had to try. Actually, there are dozens of things on Pinterest that I’d like to try, but this seemed doable. Instead of tossing my romaine lettuce cores in the garbage, I stuck them in water and placed the glasses on the window sill. I was surprised to discover that the lettuce leaves actually grew back.

Growing lettuceThey aren’t spectacularly long lettuce leaves, and it’s taken a while for them to grow, but nonetheless it worked.

And finally, I got word today that the insurance claim to cover Jeremy’s hearing aid was denied. This is a very expensive denial, so I will be putting on my boxing gloves and going into the ring to fight it.

The Perfect Pet

A few nights ago, on the eve on Chuck going out of town, I let out a big sigh, groaned in exhaustion, and jokingly asked, “So which kid are you taking with you tomorrow?”

He paused, then answered, “Salem.”

Yes, after three months of wrangling a blue tick puppy and nearly ten years of parenting, even Chuck prefers Salem, which is how I always knew it would be. He finally sees it my way.

Salem may be fat and irritable, but he is the most fabulous little being in this family. He doesn’t require much from us and he occasionally brings us presents. The boys love asking me to rank everyone in order of who I love the most and I answer consistently with, “Your dad, then Salem, and you two are tied for third.” It makes them laugh, they know I’m (mostly) kidding, and they’ll ask me to say it again a few days later.

But seriously. He’s awesome.

In the tree

the hunterWhat about Major, you ask? Yeah, he’s on the list. Somewhere near the bottom. Because when he’s not scratching my legs or chewing a Galactic Hero or barking at nothing, he’s doing this:

Lounge chair

The Boss

Salem is the only one with power in this house. He is the boss of us, particularly of Major, and now that the dog has started howling and baying, Salem is having none of it.

It all begins with this adorable face:
Adorable

And then he starts this nonsense:Loud

Salem is usually napping comfortably until he is disturbed:
HushAnd then he’s just pissed:AnnoyedThe boys continue to have fun with their houseguest, though my little Jack is often excluded. I remember what it feels like (Becky) to be unwelcome in my older sister’s bedroom (Becky) when she had friends over to visit. I adored my sister (Becky) and she mostly liked me, until she had a sleepover, and then I was no longer worthy to be included (Becky). I’m not pointing fingers or anything (Becky) but rather acknowledging the natural order of things when you’re the youngest child. I clearly harbor no resentment.

(Becky)

Storms are coming tomorrow so the kiddos will be outside for as long as possible tonight. Then I will shove them in their beds by 9 p.m. because it will take them another couple of hours at least to stop chatting long enough to fall asleep.

Salem the Dog Whisperer

Look at the confidence. Salem is so certain that Major will stay right where he is that walking across the backyard is old news. No biggie. No threat. Life is good when you run the place. He who chases his own tail! Imbecile!

The Dog Whisperer

Major is still a challenge for me. He is loving and cuddly at night when bedtime is near, but the rest of the day is managed chaos. The only person who can control him is Chuck, who is second in command after Salem, and I’m desperately trying to assert my inner Pack Leader. It’s not working. My hands look like chew toys. To the stranger in the check-out line, I must look like I stick my hands in blenders.

The dog won’t be neutered until May, so I know I’ve got this amped aggression to deal with at least until then. My hope is that after we sever that testosterone he’ll calm down a bit. Even the vet recognized how dominant Major is, so I know it’s not just my pansy demeanor we’re dealing with.

In other news, we woke up to snow this morning and it reminded me that I never posted a photo from our weekend snow. Despite its beauty, we’re all very ready for spring.

Weekend Snow

Major and Smokey

This is Chuck’s old Smokey stuffed animal. It mostly stays in Jackson’s room. When I saw it under the bed I remembered we also had one of Chuck’s old Tennessee t-shirts which Jackson has recently outgrown.

So then we played dress-up. Smokey and MajorMajor has gotten significantly bigger in the last two weeks. He has to be more than ten pounds now, and I’m happy to say his potty training is going well. He’s even stood by the door a few times to signal he has to go outside. The biting is still an issue, but our hope is losing his milk teeth will lessen that problem. He certainly doesn’t lack for chew toys.

PoseSunday night was horrific for Jeremy. Vomiting and other stomach activities raged on for hours. He couldn’t even keep down water. After a rough night with a fever, he rested most of yesterday. By last night he was able to keep down food. Today he seems fine but I can tell by his pale face that he’s worn and weak. Another day of rest might do him good.

Like the awesome cat he is, Salem kept Jeremy company in bed most of the day.

Sickly

The Puppy and the Panther

Yes, I know I should be talking about my boys here, but hang on. We’ll get back to the humans next week.

In two weeks time, Salem has conditioned Major not to cross his path. The cat will perch on whatever piece of furniture he can in order to look down upon the rambunctious eight-week-old puppy. He watches the dog with keen, steady eyes and when Major finally notices that he’s been watched, he’ll stop, stare back for a few seconds and then back up slowly. Essentially, when Major locks eyes with Salem, he backs away to give Sir his space.

When they’re outside, it looks like this:

Observe

There have been a few occasions when the pair have been within a few inches from each other and all was well. Salem is always aware, Major not so much, and I’m eyeballing the whole thing to make sure the 16-pound panther doesn’t skin the eight-pound puppy with one fell swoop.

So far, so good. And then, this morning happened on my lap:

Snoozing

sleeping together

Yay for progress! Happy Weekend!