Anna’s Camino: Day 15 – Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.

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Follow the arrow. Maybe I don’t remember too much of the day’s walk because it was mostly all in shades of brown and gray…

Terry! Cats! Wet Laundry! Inclines! Cream Soup! Single Beds! Muddy Feet! What a weird, painful, memorable day. Well, kinda. I actually have very little memory of the day’s actual peregrination, just bits and pieces of before and after. There’s a vague impression of the albergue feeling cold and a touch damp when I woke up, and of waking to the sound of my alarm and quickly (very quickly – I got great at this) shutting it off before it could annoy anyone else.

On the whole, I was usually the very last pilgrim awake each morning, so for me, keeping the alarm noise down wasn’t so much about waking anyone else up as just not wanting to intrude on anyone’s need for morning quiet. I’m not a cheery, good-morning-y type of person (not grumpy or anything, just generally not at my best first thing in the day), and I’ve found that the more peaceful my first hour or so is, the better my entire day will go. I prefer to be woken gradually, with cuddles (not too many, not full body, not from the wrong person), soft music (not the wrong genre – which could be any genre, depending on how I feel coming out of whatever I was dreaming, so best that you watch carefully for cues that I’m hating your playlist), and/or cats (all cats are good cats, except Charlie, who’s just the worst). See – I’m totally easy going! Totally got this morning thing down. *Cue maniacal laughter as I set the last person to wake me up’s house on fire.* Nah, not really…I’d never do anything that unsubtle.

OK, you’ve got me, I’m painting a rather dramatic picture of myself. Ask anyone who’s woken up in the same room as me, and they’ll tell you that I’m an OK human being. My general setting is “even keel,” even first thing. In all seriousness, the only thing that is guaranteed to make me hunt you down and cause you bodily harm is unnecessary noise. Especially pointless and/or repetitive noises, like continued alarm noise (see above), TV sounds, music that I hate, dogs barking, or conversation that isn’t directly related to someone getting me coffee and/or bacon products posthaste.

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Mornings are tough – even on the Camino.

I don’t care how much of a morning person you are – people who talk at full volume first thing in the AM, within earshot of people who are trying to sleep and/or slowly wake up, are complete asshats. Yeah, you heard me, loud morning person – you suck. Stop it. No, I don’t care if you’re chipper and want to get going, or if you think that the sleeping person should have already been up minutes ago. You’re awful, and the fact that no one has told you this yet is most likely due to them endeavoring to get their seething morning hatred out of the way lest they cause you bodily injury while requesting you put a sock in it. Take your conversation elsewhere, heathen.

I’m not always successful at it, but I do try not to be a hypocrite in such matters, especially in public situations. Which leads me to a controversial statement: I packed my clothes in a giant (crinkly, loud) Ziploc space saver bag. Quelle horreur! Anyway, to keep this blog post to a minimum, I wrote a whole new post re: Ziploc bags vs. packing cubes. Check it out here, if you’re so inclined. Long story short: if you’re the last person awake, everyone else’s packing-up noise far outweighs the Ziploc bag in the room (but when it’s bedtime, you should make sure you’re the first to finish up with bedtime ritual stuff, so you aren’t crinkling when people are trying to pass out). Yes, you guessed it – I’m also very particular about people being noisy when I’m trying to fall asleep. I probably won’t say anything about it, if you’re being noisy. But I’ll hate you, silently, forever and ever. Sorry ’bout that. I’m a work in progress, much like New Orleans streets (if you’re from New Orleans, you’ll get the joke).

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Packs and poles, waiting for their owners outside of a cafe.

So back to the Camino – I woke up, got dressed, packed up, and walked to the town square with Natalie. We stopped at a little cafe for cafe con leche and zumo, accompanied by our own snacks from our pack – bread, meat, and cheese. I had a brief laugh at the pile of pilgrim backpacks outside the door. We met up with Terry again at the square, and left town together, but the rest of the morning is a haze.

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Natalie and Terry, walking ahead of me.

I walked faster than Terry, and Natalie walked faster than both of us, but just like most days, we ended up playing leapfrog over the course of the day. Sometimes we all walked together, sometimes we walked in pairs, and other times we walked alone. I was generally somewhere between the two of them (sometimes behind, as in the picture above), so I kept an eye out ahead of me for Natalie’s orange pants, and behind me for Terry’s bright green windbreaker. When Terry and I walked together, we talked about books (we’d both read our fair share of Camino-related titles), and I asked her questions about her life. She’s the wonderful sort of woman who thinks of herself as rather ordinary, but then can start a sentence with “Back when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa…” I loved getting to know her.

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Mud. So much mud.

We got into Villafranca Montes de Oca together in the early afternoon, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. Just before we got there, we had to walk down a long, terribly muddy hill. The mud was ankle-deep in places, and very slick, so it was a weird combination of trying to maintain balance while also trying not to get a shoe pulled off in the muck. That last stretch was a killer, so though it was a shorter walk than most days, in all, I was exhausted. As we entered the town and started the uphill walk to our albergue, my shins were screaming in pain. There was no doubt in my mind that I had shin splints in my left leg, and the muscles in my right calf were seizing up, too. I was terrified that this was it, the day I’d snap my Achilles tendon. Terry said she remembered reading something about massages available in town, so I kept my mind on that little snippet as we walked, to try to stay calm.

Terry and Natalie were both experienced peregrinas. This was Natalie’s second time on the Camino Frances, and Terry’s third, so I trusted their information more than any book or app. When we got close to town, Terry gleefully announced that there was an albergue in town that was attached to a very nice hotel, Hotel San Antón Abad, which was renowned for its hospitality. As we walked through the little town and up the hill towards the hotel, I was intrigued to see that we’d be entering the estate through a walled garden – basically the back door of the hotel. The garden was still lush, even at this late date, and to my delight, there were cats. They were a little more sleek and cared-for than seemed typical, and my estimation of the hotel was greatly improved when I saw that someone had even left bowls of cat food out on the back patio.

The hotel is a grand old building that has catered to pilgrims since the 14th century. The regular private guest rooms are inside the main structure, with the albergue segregated off into a separate wing in the back. Terry and Natalie entertained thoughts of the three of us sharing a posh hotel room for the night, and the staff were happy to let us take a look at our options. We all took our boots, by now covered in mud, off in the main hall, then padded upstairs in stockinged feet after the front desk attendant, who unlocked rooms and stood aside to let us inspect the digs. The rooms were ornate, with plush rugs and custom upholstery throughout, priced at about a third of what an American hotel room of the same quality would have fetched per night. It was almost a shame to decide against a night of luxury, but in the end, we decided as a trio to forgo the expense and bunk down with the other pilgrims for the night. As it turned out, this was a great decision, since the albergue had a whole room with single beds! The last time Natalie and I had slept in a place with single beds was nearly a week prior, at Zabaldika. Once you’ve been walking 15-mile days for a week or two, nothing can replicate the joy of knowing you don’t have to painfully clamber up metal ladder rungs to sleep in child-sized rickety top bunk.

Terry, Natalie, and I picked beds at the very end of the dorm, which was great in that I got an entire corner to myself (with my own electric plug – woot, woot!), and no one would be walking past the beds in the night. Unfortunately, this also meant that once the lights were out that night, I would be walking through a pitch-black room, past a long line of beds, to get out to go to the bathroom (and of course I had a couple of times that I needed to get up to pee that night – awesome). We chatted as we went through all of the motions of making ourselves at home. Everyone has something different that they do. I always liked to get my sleeping bag unrolled and laid out, my pillow inflated, and slip my sleeping mask and ear plugs under the pillow for easy access later that night. Natalie inspected every nook and cranny for bedbugs, flipping over her mattress and inspecting all of the joints of the wooden bed. Terry carefully spritzed down every available surface with a homemade lavender concoction to ward off insects and ensure a peaceful night’s sleep.

Once unpacked, I showered, put on new clothes, washed my dirty outfit in the bathroom sink, then went out to hang everything up on the line. It was cool and humid out, with low clouds hanging in the sky, so I had little hope that the laundry would actually dry by morning. This was a recurring theme for me over the course of the Camino, as it was always mid to late afternoon by the time I arrived. Between cool evenings and heavy morning dews, I got used to starting the day in cool, slightly damp duds.

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Hopes crushed. *Sigh.*

As soon as the laundry issue had been sorted, I hobbled back down the hill into town. The hotel’s regular masseuse wasn’t in that day, but the front desk attendant had told me I’d find another massage therapist just down the street, at the bottom of the hill. My descent into town was consumed with thoughts of how heavenly the massage would feel. I had somehow come to believe that I would be miraculously completely healed if someone else could just touch my shins. In retrospect, it’s most likely this faith that made the resulting experience a breaking point in my day.

I found the right house, then knocked on the door. A woman answered the door, and in limited English told me that the therapist was away, but I could call her and she’d come back if I wanted an appointment. I asked if the woman would call her for me, since I didn’t have a phone to use. The woman said no. I asked again in a different way, using my limited Spanish vocabulary to try to bridge the gap, but she said no again. Finally, I gave up and trudged back up the hill to the hotel. One leg was throbbing, the other was filled with a stabbing heat. Halfway up the hill, I had to take a break to sit on the sidewalk and cry. It seems so trivial now, but at the time, the combination of pain, fear that I’d surely be gravely injured if I didn’t receive professional attention, and just the general frustration of not being able to make myself understood all piled up and pushed me over my emotional limit for the day. I sat there in the middle of nowhere and cried for five minutes or so, then did a mental “suck it up, buttercup” and continued back to the hotel.

One of my favorite things in life is soup. I love cream-based soups, in particular. New England clam chowder is an ultimate favorite here in the states, but long ago, a friend who lived in Austria turned me on to Knorr powdered soup mixes. Cream of asparagus soup and cream of potato soup fill me me with a sparkling inner joy that just can’t be replicated by many other things. Maybe smoked salmon, really good triple cream brie, and freshly baked baguette. OK, I shouldn’t be writing this hungry. The point is that as soon as I got back to Europe, on my first grocery store run, I scoped out the soup section and happily scooped up a few packets of Knorr cream soups. For the remainder of the Camino, I traveled with at least one soup packet on me, in case of dinner emergencies. In this case, in the aftermath of my failed attempt at finding a massage, and the fact it would be hours until dinner, I decided to make a pot of cream soup to cheer myself up. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying soup and writing post cards to the folks back home, interspersed with a little time in the garden, trying to coax the cats close enough to be petted.

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This photo is from the next morning, but these are the cats from the garden. ❤

Pilgrims continued to arrive through the afternoon, and it was here that Ruth, an Anglican priest, first crossed our path. She would feature more heavily a day or two down the line. I also met a married couple who seemed a little standoffish with the other pilgrims, but something about them intrigued me. I’d meet them again a few days later, as well. Only one pilgrim out of the bunch stood out as someone I’d rather not meet again. I was lightly napping that afternoon when a gaggle of pilgrims walked into the dorm room and started to unpack and get settled. For the most part, everyone was doing their own thing and being quiet, but one older guy seemed intent on regaling everyone with his knowledge and experience. He spoke loudly, waking me up in his need to command the entire room’s attention. By now you will know how I feel about people who wake me up. I disliked him immediately, sight unseen, and as he continued to talk, I was further annoyed by his tone of voice, the way in which he sought to both ingratiate himself to his captive audience and place himself on a pedestal. He seemed like one of those people who define themselves as a “guru” or “thought leader” in their career field. Let’s call him Pilgrim Bob.

Pilgrim Bob proudly proclaimed that he’d retired from his job a few years back, and had been walking the Camino ever since. This was his umpteenth time walking the Camino Frances, though he’d walked other routes. He knew everything there was to know about every town on the route – just ask him. If anyone needed any help with anything at all, he was there to guide you to the right answer. But of course the Camino wasn’t what it once was. So many people, all year long. Just too many people, and everyone thinking they’re an expert, though of course most of them hadn’t walked anywhere before, and only found out about the Camino from watching The Way. Those folks weren’t REAL pilgrims. Not like Pilgrim Bob, who was now devoting his life to being a REAL pilgrim.

The conversation went on in this vein for some time, until someone actually did ask him a question. The answer was to unnerve me for the rest of my walk, and possibly forever. It’s seriously something that I still worry about. It was a question about bunk beds vs. single beds, and if we’d be seeing any other places with single beds. Of course, Pilgrim Bob couldn’t answer the question properly, but made up for this by telling an anecdote. It seemed that a few years before, Pilgrim Bob had stayed at another albergue, where they’d just gotten new wooden bunk beds. He was on the bottom bunk, and had been napping there for awhile, but decided to get up to get something out of his pack. Only seconds after getting up, the top bunk collapsed. Had he stayed a moment longer, he would have been peregrino mush. Bob went on to say that he heard of another pilgrim who was killed in this same manner, crushed by a falling top bunk. I already hated climbing to the top bunk, and feared rolling off at night. Now I also feared sleeping on the bottom bunk and being crushed in my sleep. Awesome. Thanks a lot, Pilgrim Bob, you jerk.

Terry and Natalie were out walking around town, and missed out on the Pilgrim Bob story, so I told them that night when we met up for dinner in the hotel dining room. The hotel offered an excellent pilgrim dinner. I had spaghetti as my first course, followed by steak and chips, and I remember that Natalie had cuajada for dessert, but no clue what I had. Probably creme brulee, my old standby.

I had a breakthrough moment during dinner, as well, possibly as a result of the emotional current of the day, maybe just because the wine was flowing, or perhaps it was all of this and more. Many days on the Camino seemed to just be powerful, in their own weird way. I learned so much, changed so much, came to appreciate my weirdness, my wildness, be it ever so elusive. As we sat there at our little dinner table, all three of us peregrinas, I looked at my friends’ faces and saw myself. I saw who I would become, and for the first time, I wasn’t scared. I was excited. I was 33, turning 34 in under a month. Natalie was about 15 years my senior, and Terry was around 20 years her senior. All of us were unmarried, a condition that had been lately filling me with fear and dread, even though I simultaneously felt like a total idiot for feeling that way. After all, I was dating, and I didn’t need a man to survive. Indeed, most of the time, flying solo seemed the most natural and only truly acceptable state.

Tonight, I looked at my new friends across the dinner table, both so strong and free and genuine. I already loved them, so soon into becoming acquainted. How could I not? We’d shared so much of ourselves, no games or posturing. Just honesty as we placed one foot in front of the other each day. They were amazing women, living interesting lives on their own terms. I’d spent the last few days coming to terms with my high esteem for them, and here at dinner, I was now suddenly connecting the dots and seeing that I could have just as much esteem for myself, if I chose. I didn’t need to be scared of being somehow broken and useless because I wasn’t married by some imaginary “sell-by” date. I didn’t need anyone else to make myself amazing. I just needed to keep on being me, and I’d be amazing all on my own, just like my friends were.

After dinner, we strolled back through the garden to our dormitory, happy and sleepy. It was cool and crisp out, and the air smelled of wood smoke from someone’s fireplace. We had all just started to get ready for bed when the hospitalero (rudely, we all agreed) popped into the dorm and turned off the lights about 20 minutes before 10pm. A low murmur of shock traveled down the room, and the room (even Pilgrim Bob) united in a general grumble-fest for about five minutes. No matter the albergue, the rules stayed the same, and we pilgrims got used to a certain routine: lights on at 6am, everyone out of the albergue at 8am, lights off at 10pm. Turning the lights off early was just not cool, man. Headlamps came on (not mine – I’d thrown it out a few days before, to save weight), there was a flurry of last-minute pack crinkling and sleeping bag rustling, and then, one by one, the tiny lights went out. Another day on the Camino had ended. Lucky for me, I slept well, with only a couple of awkward trips down the length of the dorm room to get to the bathroom in the dark. The next day was to be one of my hardest yet.

Click here to read about Day 16 (Part 1). 

Every Encounter

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Just one of the many animal friends I met along the Camino de Santiago. He was so soft!

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us to share a quote that we return to again and again. Mine is “Every encounter is an encounter with yourself.” To me, that means that every creature you meet in life is a reflection of you. How you see them is a direct result of how you see yourself, and how you treat them says a lot about you.

I left to walk the Camino last October right after I’d been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I’d known for some time that things weren’t “right” with me, but I’d had trouble expressing it to others. I was locked inside myself in a way that I’d never been before. Walking in Spain was not a luxury – it was a necessity. I needed those long days in nature to help untangle my thoughts, and to start finding a way to love myself again. I needed the exercise to learn how strong I could be, and had always been. I needed the people that I met to learn how small the world really is, and how much love is available if we just open our hearts and minds to it.

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I met this sweet dog after a particularly sad encounter earlier that morning with a litter of sick kittens. We hung out for about a half an hour, and he kissed me the entire time. Definitely made my day better.

But I didn’t figure this out while I was walking. In fact, my mind was strangely blank for most of 30+ days I spent hoofing it through Spain. At times I despaired, in fear that I wasn’t “figuring IT out” – whatever IT was supposed to be. No matter what, though, every day on the trail I met at least one animal (sometimes more), and every time that happened I felt compelled to slow down, take a break, and shower that cat, dog, horse, etc. with love. I was lucky to be walking with people who understood that I needed this, and that they shouldn’t try to hurry me along when my animal encounter of the day happened along. It was moments like this that I most felt in tune with my favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi. It started to dawn on me that his deep love for all creatures wasn’t just a symbol of his faith, but of mental health, and an understanding of our interconnectedness with all beings.

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There were so many starving and abused animals on the Camino, and it broke my heart. I saw this sweet lady looking in the window of a cafe, so my friend Jakob and I stopped to feed her our lunch rations. She was scared of Jakob, so we surmised she’d not been treated kindly by men. However, she let me pet her after a bit, and I made sure she ate until she was full. I worry about her still.

It was only after I’d gotten to Santiago de Compostela that I read the quote “Every encounter is an encounter with yourself” and it suddenly hit me that I’d been showering animals with the love I needed to feel. I needed that kind of unconditional caring, and I’d shown myself that I was capable of giving it to to my fellow creatures – so what was stopping me from doing the same for myself? It was a huge moment in my life, for many reasons. I suddenly felt such deep respect and love for my walking buddies who had intuitively known that I was in deep need of these love lessons, and helping me nurture that time each day. I felt an even greater love for the animals that I met along The Way, and for the lessons in acceptance that they’d taught me. Most of all, I could finally connect my ability to love others with what it should feel like to love myself. It’s a really big life lesson, and I’ll be working on it for the rest of my time here on the planet, but I’m so happy that it finally got through.

My current endeavor, The Hobbit Walk, is an extension of the lessons I learned on the Camino. Click through to find out how you can help.

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Pablo was one of the last Camino cats I met. He ran right up to us on the trail, so I sat down and cuddled him for awhile.

One Foot In Front Of The Other

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach, unless our walking is our preaching.” – St. Francis of Assisi

When I first started seriously considering going on pilgrimage, I made this silent agreement with myself that I would only approach the concept of the journey from a place of positivity. I guess that might sound strange – after all, what’s there to be negative about when you’re considering a soul-shaking adventure that promises to completely change the way you encounter the world from that point forward? Positivity wasn’t part of my grand plan; it wasn’t something that I carefully decided on and then tried hard to fulfill – being positive was just something that happened, then continued to happen. And now that I’m writing this blog post, I’m finding that indeed, I’ve been used to thinking about this trip in such glowing terms that it’s hard for me to put words to any underlying worries.

(Side note: Yay for positive thinking! It actually works! This is especially important since I’m generally kind of a realist in the day-to-day, definitely not anything near to being a Pollyanna.)

There comes a time, however, when you must confront potential issues, if just to work through them and visualize what your solutions might be should problems arise. For me, my greatest concerns about this trip have been focused on either side of the Atlantic: my cats’ wellbeing while I’m gone, and my physical stamina on The Camino. 

If you’ve ever read my other blog, Compass & Quill, you’ve probably seen me mention my two cats, Izzy and Munky, at least a few times. Though I wouldn’t go as far as some cat ladies and say that they’re “my life,” they are definitely my fur babies, and I love them. When you decide to share your home with another living creature that depends on you, there are always going to be some sacrifices made for their wellbeing. For instance, though I don’t always have the money to go to the doctor, they always get a yearly vet visit, stay current on their shots, and get the healthiest food I can afford. They make a mockery of my upholstered furniture, despite constant claw clipping, double-sided tape, pheromone spray to keep them from being stressed, and a dozen other tries at possible deterrence, but that doesn’t mean that I’d ever consider declawing them. And now they’re going to cost me a pretty penny for a pet sitter while I’m gone.

But even though I’ll most likely have at least a couple of people looking in on them on a regular basis during my absence, I still worry. Izzy is high strung and only likes one human – me. The last time I left for a couple of weeks, even though she had constant care and companionship, she still meowed herself hoarse at the door, waiting for my return. What’s she going to do when I’m gone for a month and a half? Luckily, Munky loves everyone. I doubt he’ll even notice that I’m gone as long as he’s still getting back rubs on a daily basis. But I’m afraid to think of the stress I’ll be putting poor Isabel under by being gone for an extended period. There’s no real solution, so I guess it’s really not something I should think about too much more. I’ll shower her with love for as long as I’m here, and I’ll make sure that their cat sitter is the best possible choice for a loving surrogate while I’m out of town. After that, it’s out of my hands.

The other thing that worries me is the physical toll of walking 500 miles. Unlike the cat situation, this is something for which I can prepare myself. However, much like the cat situation, no matter how much preparation I undergo, it is inevitable that there will be a considerable amount of pain involved. If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading so many Camino autobiographies, it’s that I will think that I’ve thought of every eventuality, but I’ll miss something. But the best I can do is try to go with the flow. Put in as much work as I’m capable of, then take my chances.

Right now, I’m walking about seven miles a day on average, with a 15 lb. backpack. I’m going to try to keep upping that number (pack and distance), until I’m closer to walking 10 miles a day with a 25 lb. pack. Hopefully that will negate some of the shock to my system when I kick things off in St. Jean Pied-de-Port. I’m also going to need to start doing some thorough stretching on a daily basis to try to get my hip and back pain under control prior to leaving. If anything has a real chance of sidelining me, it’s going to be hip/back/knee pain or a major blister. Unfortunately, I’m really prone to blisters, so I’m not sure if there’s much I can do to avoid them, other than properly breaking in my hiking boots, wearing good socks, applying some sort of non-chafing cream/lotion my feet every day, and bringing along plenty of bandaids and moleskin patches for hot spots. One thing I should be much more worried about, but am not letting bother me just yet, is the fact that there are no hills or mountains anywhere near my home in New Orleans, yet much of the terrain I’ll be covering in Spain is hilly or mountainous. The best I’ll be able to do is start walking at steep inclines on the treadmill, and hope that helps a little bit. Other than that, all I can do is put my boots on and just put one foot in front of the other, and trust that they’ll get me where I want to go in the end!

Have you had any worries about walking The Camino, or about leaving your life behind to go on pilgrimage? How did you address them?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light (On My Favorite Cat)

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Yeah, I know I’ve already posted one entry for this week’s challenge, but yesterday I caught an interesting glimpse of my cat Isabel through the camera lens, and thought it was worth sharing. We’re technically supposed to be sharing a light source, but you’ll have to take this at the more metaphysical level – she’s the light of my life, and also has a way of shining brighter when there’s a camera trained in her direction. I caught her yesterday basking in the brightest spot of sunlight in my apartment, and loved the crazy contrast of this shot.

R.I.P. Mufasa (2000 to 2013)

Rest in peace, sweet man.

Rest in peace, sweet man.

This afternoon I got a phone call from Mum, and she was crying. For a second I thought the worst – that maybe my father had had an accident in the wood shop, or a heart attack while driving to work (active imagination). Luckily, the news wasn’t as terrible as that, but it was pretty bad. Another member of my family, my adopted feline brother, Mufasa, had to be put to sleep today. Mum is devastated.

Mufasa and his sister Tabitha moved into my parents’ house pretty soon after I moved out for college, probably around the Spring of 2000. They both had abnormally large eyes, and for a few years I liked to tease Mum that they were actually aliens here on a surveillance mission. Fasa was a light orange and cream-colored tabby, and Tabby was a rust and black tabby. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different; they were the opposite ends of the cat spectrum. She was aloof, demanding, and often cruel, while he was trusting and sweet, goofy like a puppy, and always visibly desperate to be picked up, petted, and cuddled.

While Tabby was a holy terror, peeing on the belongings of people she didn’t like (including me), and generally acting like a evil, furry little dictator, Fasa was ever the lovebug. He was crazy about smelling fresh flowers, and he’d spend hours sniffing any flowers Mum put in vases around the house. He also made friends with little critters that got into the house. Mum was always simultaneously annoyed with and admiring of his sweet way with household pests. She wanted him to kill mice or cockroaches, but would always find him happily watching them go about wreaking havoc. He always seemed to take it personally when one of the other cats would kill a mouse; Mum said he went into a depression for weeks when my father’s goldfish died off, and only started to purr again when new fish were put in the tank.

One of the most curious things about Fasa was that he loved pink toys. They say that cats can’t tell much about colors, as we know them, but he could always pick the pink toys out of the bin. He didn’t much care for toys of other colors. When he and Tabby were little, Mum got them both fuzzy mice for Christmas. She bought pink ones and blue ones, a few for each cat. Tabby quickly dove in and began dissecting her mice. That cat was a killer, through and through, and had “murdered” all of the mice within hours of receiving them. She carefully ripped each mouse apart at the seam that ran along its belly, then ripped out the little leather ears, tore the fake fur “skin” off of the plastic core, and moved on to her next victim.

Meanwhile, Fasa eagerly selected one pink mouse to love, and Mum kept his others safe in the hall closet. Fasa groomed his mouse and cuddled with it, then hid it away carefully when there were other tasks on his kitty agenda. He knew his sister well. It took her a few days, but Tabby found his hiding spot and gleefully dissected Fasa’s pink mouse in front of him. For the next couple of days, he sadly cuddled with the only part of his mousy friend that was left, the little pink fur covering. It was heartbreaking.

Eventually, Tabby’s destructive behavior got her put out of the house, something that I do not normally support, but in this case don’t have much problem with. Outside she went from tormenting her brother to becoming the full-fledged maniac she was always meant to be, killing wildlife left and right and generally having an awesome time being a badass. Fasa, meanwhile, stayed indoors, being an adorable little muffin. Eventually he was joined by two other partners in crime, CB and Lucky, both of whom were much kinder.

Mufasa and his pal CB.

Mufasa and his pal CB.

He and I didn’t hang out that much, just because I’m very seldom home in NC. When I was in town, he’d always come and cuddle with me in bed at night. But most of the time I’m here in New Orleans, so he’d listen in on my phone conversations with Mum. He couldn’t bear to be away from her too long, and never left her lap unwarmed. He especially liked to butt his head up against the phone receiver when she was talking, so he could be a part of every single thing that she was doing. As she and I would talk, I could always hear him, just under the receiver, purring deeply and listening in.

I guess he hadn’t been feeling well this week, so Mum took him to the vet, and when they got there the vet said there was nothing they could do. Fasa was suffering from heart failure, and it was his time. Mum bought him a few new toys – pink, of course – and she said he batted them around and purred. He loved her so much, and she him. She was with him when he died, which must have been of great consolation to him. She’s not doing too well, though. Please, if you’re reading this, send my Mum some good energy. She could really use that love right now.

Fasa, you loveable lump of a cat, you will be missed. You were full of goodness and light, and didn’t have a mean bone in your body. If the pet psychic is right, and cats reincarnate and come back to owners that loved them, do it quickly. Mum’s a mess without you, sweet boy. But if the rainbow bridge is a final thing, I hope that the other side is full of everything you love most – soft, soft pink fake fur, bowls of tuna, whole fields of fragrant blossoms, and friends to give you cuddles and rubs, to pick you up and carry you around 24/7, and who let you listen in on their phone conversations. Kisses.

The Daily Post’s Creative Writing Challenge: Metamorphosis

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“Black Cat Eye” by Drehli

The following post is a response to a creative writing prompt issued by The Daily Post. Today’s assignment was to tell a story of human-animal transformation.

*************

In the movies, the detectives always tell the grieving widow that the victim’s end was painless, and that he didn’t feel a thing. That it was quick, and he probably didn’t even know what was happening.

But I knew. I knew, and I felt every second. The blood was flowing out of my gut and into a sticky, steaming puddle, and I guess to anyone else it would have been pretty obvious that I was a goner. But leaving wasn’t a possibility. I’ve always been an optimist, you know?

I didn’t know my killer. Still not entirely sure why he chose my apartment to rifle through, or why he stuck around to beat the shit out of me after cutting open all of my couch cushions. Maybe if I’d been a little smarter, if I hadn’t grabbed a kitchen knife for self defense, I’d still be around to figure all of those bits out. But I did grab a knife, and I did try to stab him, and next thing I know I’m alone, on the floor, with several large wounds where perfectly good internal organs used to be. My guts were on fire, my legs didn’t work, and that was that.

I had options, of course – scream for the neighbors, find my cell phone, try to crawl to the door. But I didn’t do any of those things. I didn’t give up, but looking back, I didn’t exactly try my damndest, either. You can probably tell that that’s something I’ve spent some time rehashing – why just lie there? Still not sure. Except that my mind was racing, the pain was starting to ease off a little, and I desperately wanted to work a little normalcy into the situation. “Why me?” was what was hovering around and around in my last few minutes of humanity.

So it wasn’t sudden, or painless. My life ebbed out onto the crappy linoleum of my crappy kitchen in my crappy little apartment, and there were no sirens in the distance, no heroes pounding down my door. They wouldn’t get there for another three hours. In the end of my life as Joe DeRuth, the only one left to see me off was my cat, Ella. And eventually she got bored and went to take a nap under the overturned couch. She can be such a bitch sometimes.

*************

Once the cops come and find your dead carcass, and the EMTs have a look just to make sure you’re really dead (especially if you’re as fresh as I was), the morgue comes to take the body. The medical examiner takes a look to figure out how you died while the detectives are combing over your belongings to figure out how you lived. Somewhere in there they get in contact with your family and let them know that you’ve kicked the proverbial bucket, and then your folks come to identify the body and collect your belongings.

I was never married, and didn’t have a serious girlfriend. My parents have been dead for years, and the few good buddies I had died in Afghanistan. It was just me and my older sister, Pam. We were close enough, but she loved me more than I knew, apparently. More importantly, she loved my mangy feline, and was at my apartment to collect Ella as soon as the police would let her in. It was Pam’s arrival that told me something was off with my situation. Mostly the realization that I still had a situation to attend to.

I could hear Pam before I saw her. She was outside in the hallway, talking with someone in that gravelly voice of hers. Too many cigarettes; she’s a bundle of nerves, just like our mom was. A rattle of a key ring, a shaky scratch of key in unfamiliar lock, then she and the landlord walked in. I recognized Mrs. Connolly’s old fashioned nursing shoes from my hiding spot under the couch. That was what tipped me off that there was something wrong. Something rumbled in my chest, a little noise of frustration and fear. Why was I under the couch?

I was dead. The blood puddle still clung to the kitchen floor. The apartment was still tossed. My sister, pillar of strength, was standing in the entry, tears openly streaming down her cheeks. She was toting a cat carrier, so she was probably here for Ella. But why was I seeing all of this? Was I a ghost?

“Shhh. Calm down, Joe. Stop being such a freak.”

What the…? My head (I have a head?) snapped around quicker than it ever had when I was alive. The rumbling in my chest intensified of its own accord. In the darkness of the under-the-couch structure, I couldn’t make out much. There definitely wasn’t room for more than one person, but since I was dead, I figured that maybe there would be room for another ghost or two. But there was nothing. “Who’s there?”

“Kitty? Ella! You can come out baby, it’s OK sweet thing.” Pam’s feet were beside the couch now, with Mrs. Connolly’s right behind her.

“Maybe we should tip the couch over.”

“No, I’d hate to accidentally hurt her if we tipped it over wrong. She’ll come out. I know where Joe kept the cat treats.” Both women walked back towards the kitchen, Mrs. Connolly’s feet stopping suddenly at the edge of the linoleum. Pam, ever no-nonsense, stepped right over my blood and straight to the treat drawer. I felt the rumble in my chest stop.

“Oh yum, the salmon ones!” A brick wall of fur pushed past me and into the kitchen. Ella was munching on treats in no time; so much for cats having a conscience.

“I can clearly see how heart broken you are, jerk!” The words were out before I knew it. Ella responded with something that sounded mostly like happy crunching with a garbled “whatever!” thrown in. Pam, on the other hand, scattered a few more treats and then cautiously walked towards the couch. The rumble in my chest started again; what was going on here? How did she hear me?

“Mrs. Connolly, did Joe have any other animals? I could swear I just heard a little growling noise under the couch.” The feet were closer.

“Not that I knew of – he knew he’d have to pay another deposit for any other pets he brought in. I suppose he might have tried to get around that by hiding something from me.” I could already hear the gears turning in the old lady’s head. Good luck getting that deposit back, sis.

The hand snaked in and grabbed me before I had a chance to react. I struggled for a second, then went limp. It was very similar to dying again, but in slow motion over the course of a few seconds. What was going on? How could someone see me? Or touch me? Or grab me? Or yank me out from under the couch and ohsweetjesusthisismeflyingthroughtheair…

And then I was getting a hug from my big sister, and I didn’t really care. I snuggled into her sweater, breathing in the sweet smell of lavender soap and cigarettes.

“Look at you, hogging all the love already. We’re going to have to have a talk about that, dude.” I looked down to see Ella’s big yellow eyes, staring rather murderously up at me.

“Aww, look at it! Isn’t it such a gorgeous little thing, Mrs. Connolly? I wonder why Joe never told me he got a new kitten?” The rumbling in my chest started again in earnest, but this time it felt a little different. It felt familiar, which is kind of funny, since it was my first purr.

Photography Friday! Week 3 – Mostly Kitties

Lots of drama this week, but I don’t feel like talking about it here, honestly. Instead, I’m going to share photos of my cats – yay! OK, and some other stuff.

On Saturday morning, The Man and I cleaned the house, and I washed all of my clothes. Izzy helped:

Izzy Loves Laundry

Later that day, I picked up my new FitBit Flex, then oversaw opening night of my gallery’s new exhibit, Necessary Tangent, featuring the work of Danny Baskin, Martin L. Benson, and Peter Barnitz. This was the third event that I’ve curated at the gallery, and I really enjoyed working with three fantastic artists. If you’re in New Orleans, please stop by to see the show before it ends in a couple of weeks. The works are very affordable, which is becoming a rarity in today’s art scene…

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On Sunday, I spent the day hanging out with The Man. The day started out with this guy, then a shopping trip, followed by a couple of long naps and some TV-watching. Pretty awesome!

Cat in Laundry

Monday was all about work. On the way to the office, I saw that the World War II museum’s newest gallery, the Boeing Center, is finally open!

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On the way home from work, the WWII Museum’s Victory Garden looked too enticing to pass up.

WWII Museum Victory Garden

On Tuesday, I started the day off with a rare morning run. This is how I felt afterwards:

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That afternoon on the way home, the sun was setting on St. Joseph Street in a spectacular manner:

St. Joseph & Magazine, New Orleans

Wednesday morning I awoke to this gorgeous little face. It wasn’t really love, though – just a plea to wake up and give him food. Izzy didn’t seem to care that the bowl was close to empty, so I found her enjoying her favorite new pillowcase once I finally got out of bed. Recently I started using satin pillowcases to help my skin and hair retain moisture, and she’s really into pushing me off of the pillow in the middle of the night. So I gave her a second pillow in an attempt to save my neck. She must have been a diva in her last life, because she sure is now!

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Later that day, I ate a sandwich that made me sick for the rest of the afternoon. I left work early, took a nap, then laid around with The Man for the rest of the day. He left for NYC yesterday morning, and since I was still feeling icky, I stayed home and took it somewhat easy. I didn’t end up taking a photo on Thursday, so here’s one from earlier in the week – my work space at Cathedral!

My desk at work

It’s a little messy, but it’s also full of items that mean a lot to me. There’s a photo of my two best friends and me last summer in Croatia, a funky little painting I purchased not too long ago, a ruby glass cup (holding pens, which is probably not the best idea) from the 1893 Columbian Exposition, a ton of origami pieces that I made way too long ago, the Ultimate Yogi DVD set that I practice daily, and if you look closely, you’ll see my planner in the bottom left corner, proudly bearing a sticker from the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus!

The Naming of Cats

"The Naming of Cats" by Dosankodebbie (click thru to see more)

“The Naming of Cats” by Dosankodebbie (click thru to see more)

Picking a name is a serious matter. It’s like getting a tattoo – the action requires thought, and the more time you allow for the process, the better. I have a couple of friends who have given their children spectacularly horrid names, and I’ve never really been able to broach the subject with them (nor is it my place to). But I’m curious. Did they just not think? Did they not run through every possible eventuality? Or (and I can’t decide if this is better or worse) did the thought process move past every scenario, and the horrible name still win out in the end?

The answer is always the same in the end for me – it’s none of my business. My only job is to hope that the kids grow into their nominatives in the best possible manner. I do believe that kids grow into their names, too. I have a pretty hefty list of names I’d never choose for my own children, based on awful people I’ve met in the past. Shelby, Tina, and Christie all make it to the top of my list – all mean girls & bullies from my youth.

AURYN

The AURYN

So far, the naming process for me has been restricted to my pets. When I was a teenager, I got my first cat of my own, a black calico kitten. After days of deliberation, I named her Auryn, after AURYN, a mystical amulet from The Neverending Story. Later, my parents adopted another kitten, an adorable white & tan tabby. I named her Frances – not sure why, now, though it’s definitely one of my favorite names. Both cats died very soon after I went to college. Auryn was run over on the highway, and Frances had severe health issues and died suddenly.

I didn’t get my first “grown up” pet until college, following a spate of unfortunate attempts at fish ownership. I’ve just never been able to keep fish alive for very long, despite (or maybe because) of my obsession with testing the water, buying the best food, keeping the tank clean but not too clean. Fish and I just aren’t meant to be – much like plants and me. I’m not allowed to have anything green and frondy in the house unless it’s made of plastic or silk. Even so, I do have one fish at the moment. His name is Sparky. The upside-down catfish is a killer (he’s eaten every tank companion I’ve provided, even the ones that are supposed to be compatible) and either a terrible drama queen or else extremely resilient. Every time I do a water change, Sparky plays dead at the bottom of the tank – hence naming him after the electric chair.

Matthew

Matthew

Matthew, a brown & black tabby, came to me from the Walmart parking lot in 2001. My college friends and I were going to shop, and on the way to the store we talked about how I’d really love to have a kitten, but that it was too expensive and probably a bad idea. I was very sad to not have a friend in my life, but had come to terms with needing to be “responsible.” We got out of the car, and I immediately heard him meowing. It was a 100+ degree day in Louisiana, the parking lot was hot enough to fry an egg, and definitely hot enough to scar soft little kitty feet. He was just a kitten, probably around 3 months old, and he was screaming at the top of his little lungs from under the car next to us. I told my friends to go on inside to shop, and then I spent the next 30 minutes boiling on the blacktop, trying to coax him out. Once he got out from under the car, he rushed across traffic and up to the storefront, then stood, looking at himself in the mirrored windows, just meowing insanely. With an offer of cool water in a little dish, I was able to snag him. He was covered in motor oil, burning up from the heat, panting wildly, too weak to struggle, but trying anyway. I knew right then that he was a gift – and that he was going to be a handful. After a little consideration and research into baby names, I decided on Matthew – “Gift of God.” It seemed perfect, because the coincidence of our meeting was just too great. Also, as a medieval studies major, I wanted to give him a name that fit my life. His second name was Marlon, after a coworker. He turned out to not only be pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me, but to be my best friend. I was inconsolable for days after he disappeared in 2007.

In his poem “The Naming of Cats,” TS Eliot explains that cats have three names – the name we give them, the name that they go by (a more “particular” name that could only belong to one cat), and the name they secretly call themselves. I called Matthew Matty sometimes, but his real second name was Meow Meow.  Not too imaginative, but it stuck, because he was ALWAYS meowing, and he always meowed in double syllables. For his entire life with me, every night Matthew would put me to sleep by curling up at my right shoulder, snuggling his nose under my right ear, and purring until I passed out. When he was tiny, he actually tried to nurse there, giving me little kitten hickeys, but as he got older, he just got used to pressing his nose up under my ear. When he left my life, I couldn’t sleep or eat for days.

After Meow Meow disappeared, a few months went by and I was desperately lonely. My best friend and I had moved into a huge, scary attic apartment in an old Victorian mansion, and I was terrified to be on my own there. For me, having a cat around has always been the best way to fight off my fears. What can I say? I read way too many horror novels in my youth.

I spent my days reading the classifieds and Craigslist in search of my missing boy, and this one ad kept catching my eye. Some college kids had found a little brown and gray tabby kitten, female. After a few days of continued posts, a new ad went up: if no one wanted the kitten, they were taking it to the pound at the end of the week. Of course I called immediately and arranged to save the kitten that afternoon. My best friend drove me over to pick up the kitten, and on the way to the house, we discussed the fact that she had a line on a little black male kitten that was up for adoption. I’d get this kitten, she’d get that one, and then we’d “switch” – I’d get the male kitten and she’d get the female (I was convinced after Matthew that boy cats were better). However, one look at Isabel, and I changed my mind. I had to keep her.

Baby Isabel, back when her eyes were brownish gold.

Wild baby Isabel, back when her eyes were brownish gold. Check out those claws of death!

She was tiny – she fit into the palm of my hand – and her eyes were still blue. It was obvious that she hadn’t been weaned properly, though she was eating wet food. The college kids said that they had found the mother and a litter, but the jerks had taken the feral mom to the pound, and given away the kittens one by one. Isabel, the runt, the weakest, was sick and no one wanted her. No one but me. I took her home, gave her medicine to clear out the horrible bacterial infection (her tiniest kitten farts could clear whole rooms), and watched as she turned into a holy fucking terror, climbing drapes, eating plants, biting any ankles that got too close, and just generally being the scariest thing in the apartment – to hell with ghosts.

Isabel’s name came from one of my favorite movies. I love the film Ladyhawke, whose main character is named Isabeau. Isabeau was played by actress Michelle Pfeiffer, who had (and has) the most beautiful eyes. The first thing to stand out to me about Isabel was her eyes. They’re prominent, wise, and sharp. When we first met, they were deep blue, but they quickly turned to a crazy golden brown. Now they’re a beautiful jade green. Isabel quickly became Izzy (sung to the tune of the Beatles’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”). From there, over the years, The Man has taken to calling her Skroazzles – this came about in the following order:

  1. Isabel
  2. Izzy
  3. Miss Izzy
  4. Izzums
  5. Scrizzums
  6. Scroazzums
  7. Scroazzles

Weird, yes. I still call her Izzy-belle, or sometimes Izzy-smells. There’s a song for this, too (to the tune of “Jesus Christ, Superstar”): “Isabel, gee you smell!” It’s that kind of household. And no, she doesn’t really smell. That’s her brother, Munky.

Baby Murphy, tuckered out from playing.

Baby Murphy, tuckered out from playing.

Munky’s original name (the one that’s on his doctor’s records) is Murphy. The Man and I took longer than ever to name him, for various reasons. I was looking for something perfect, and honestly, Murphy’s personality is rather devoid of normal cat traits. It took awhile for me to realize that I had adopted a dog in a cat suit. He’s docile, agreeable, pretty dumb, not very imaginative or inquisitive, and more of a lump than any other cat I’ve ever met. Everybody loves him. He’s a huge cuddle-bug who lives for belly rubs, head scratches, and treats. Colonel Meow would be horrified.

Murphy became Murphy because he liked to steal sips of my beer, and at the time I was drinking a lot of Irish stout. When he first entered the household in 2010, Isabel (who was still an antisocial biter who only liked one human – me) was having none of him. She hissed, spat, struck out, growled…from the other side of the bathroom door. Meanwhile, Murphy was inside the bathroom, purring up a storm, trying to reach out under the door to make friends. The angrier she got, the happier he seemed. Then one day he escaped the bathroom. The horrified Isabel tried to attack, then gave up and went to hide. He batted at her hiding spot. When she came out from hiding, he tackled her. When she hissed at him, he rolled toys her way.

It took about a week, but he wore her down with stupidity and love. He’s such a sweet, unassuming dude that he had no concept of the fact that she was bigger and meaner. He wanted to be friends. That’s a cool growly noise you’re making, let’s be friends! Oh gee, you’ve got sharp claws – what do you say, let’s be friends! Oh hai there, you’re doing a great job of biting me – wanna be friends? Oooh, wrestling, my favorite! I’m just going to sit on your head until you’re ready to be friends, OK? It was this silliness and insistence on play that turned him quickly from Murphy to Munky. Munky instead of “monkey” because it’s more of a chunky, heavy word – just like the cat. Imagine that he’s made of play-doh – simple, soft, non-threatening.

Also, he’s such a fucking Nermal. I couldn’t help but find him charming, but I felt for my poor Izzy. She hadn’t even seen another cat in over two years, and then this one gets dumped on her. Literally. Eventually she was so tired of being angry that she just gave up and cuddled.

Izzy & Munky's first ever shared nap time.

Izzy & Munky’s first ever shared nap time.

Munky also gets called Munky Man and Murph. The Man also calls him “My Buddy” – they’re BFFs AAF, like for reals. They take naps together, watch sports together, eat crunchy snacks together, all kinds of man stuff.

The Man taking a nap with Munky right after we got him.

The Man taking a nap with Munky right after we got him.

Cat Conversations

Mornings in my house look like this:

Miss Isabel enjoys her morning.

Both of my cats love to be loved, but usually Munky is the bigger cuddler. I’d like to say that Isabel is much more refined in her tastes, but that would only be half of the story. The truth is that Izzy is a complete weirdo. She only cuddles in the morning. She’s seldom happy or cute or in any way sweet. She shies away from people she doesn’t know, and even if she does know you, unless you’re me you only have about a 20% shot that she’ll let you pick her up or touch her for any extended period.

Then the rest of the time there’s the bitching.

I don’t know how else to describe the bitching, really. It is what it is. Isabel loves to complain before, while and after you’re petting her. She has a uniquely rusty sounding voice, and she loves to use it – loudly. Most people see her talking as a one-sided affair, but she and I frequently have little conversations (or shouting matches, as the case may be).

It goes something like this. Imagine me on the couch in the living room, and Isabel quietly hanging out in the bedroom. She wakes up, and realizes she’s bored.

Izzy: “MROW!” “MROWMROWMROW!!!!” “MROW!” (from a distance – it’s obvious that she’s still on or under the bed)

Me: “WHAAAAT?”

Izzy: “MROOOOOW!”

Me: “Come ‘ere!”

Izzy: “MROW?” “MROOOOW!” (getting closer) “mrow?” (definitely in the room, but I can’t see her)

Me: (silence – I’m not going to cater to her madness)

Izzy: “MROOOOWWWW!” (from at my feet, with a little bit of malice since I made her actually walk to find me and we all know that baby girl doesn’t DO work. I jump. I always jump.)

At this point I realize that she’s just lonely, the poor wittle bitty, so I bend down to pick her up. Her eyes light up and she scuttles away slightly, then stops to face me expectantly. Thinking that maybe she’ll want to play, I find her mousey and toss it across the room. She walks away. I find a string on a stick and dangle it for her. She openly scoffs as her brother comes running over just begging to be taunted with dangly things. Then she glowers at me while I amuse Munky, until I finally pass the dangly string on a stick to The Man and go to pick up the lady cat for cuddles.

At which point the little monster walks away. Ooooh, that bitch.

I follow her into the bedroom to try to pick her up. She runs around the bed and peers around the corner: “mrow?” Ah, I see that it’s time for a kitty massage session. “Well, get up on the bed.” She responds to tongue clicking sounds, like a horse, so I pat the bed and click twice. She’s up and ready to be petted.

Isabel stands on all fours while being petted, even if she’s on a soft surface. She makes a complain-y sound every time you touch her. She walks away from your caress, but if you stop she’ll turn and glare at you accusingly, typically issuing a stern “MAOW” to get you moving again. That’s for the normal person. When it’s me, she makes complain-y sounds, then soft little rusty murmurs. I respond in kind, answering her “mregh” and “grumph” sounds with my closest copies. The Man says it sounds like we’re having a conversation, and most of the time it feels that way.

She lets me know when she’s tired of me by jumping off of the bed and going to get a little bite to eat at her food dish. After that, a long nap on the couch, maybe followed by some rough housing with her brother. Nighttimes are spent sleeping on or near me, and if I’m lucky, my morning will start off with a sleepy, sweet Izzy all over again. If I’m lucky. Otherwise, it’s bitchy, complain-y Izzy – but really I adore her just as much.

 

 

 

Being Sneaky

While Murphy prefers a warm lap or at least a spot very near to said lap, preferably somewhere within a belly-rub’s distance, Izzy is all about solitude for most of the first half of the day. Most days she beds down somewhere quiet and secluded until around 2pm, then comes out to say hi, play for a while, then nap next to me until I’m done with work. Sometimes her quiet spot is right out in the open, at the end of the bed or in a laundry pile if one is convenient. Other times she hunkers down under the bed. Lately, though, I’ve had no clue where she was hiding during her ‘me’ time. Until today.

I should have known she’d take her towel obsession to the next level (literally), and get up into the linen closet.

Isabel Cat Hiding in Linen Closet

Isabel Cat Gets Dramatic