Monday, January 30, 2017

Sickbed Friends

Bob and Meeko. photo by Kara Hartz

I was in bed sick over the weekend, and I woke up covered in cats. Bob may have gotten thin in his old age, but Meeko is a solid chunk of cat and he had me pretty pinned down. I like to think they were there to snuggle me out of affection - but it's possible I was just in their napping spot and they made do.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Alien Pet Care - Flash Fiction Friday



It was shaping up to be another day without a lunch break. Why oh why did people let their pets get into the garbage and medicine cabinets, and run out into the street? Then they had the nerve to question the cost to fix them. Well, you had the option to not let them eat poison and cause car wrecks, but sure, it's all our fault for needing to scrape out a living while cleaning up after you.

Heather took a deep breath. It was just the hunger and exhaustion. Really, she would never to choose a different life.

Doctor Vaughn came into the treatment room. "Heather, go get the Durgeto from room three for xrays."
Sigh. Durgetos were creepy. She didn't understand why people kept them as pets. The novelty factor probably. They liked saying they had an alien for a pet. She was amazed that creatures from Titan with its wildly different atmosphere could live on Earth at all, let alone thrive the way the Durgetos did. The veterinary community has been scrambling to get up to speed on their biology. This hospital was one of only three in the state that could care for them, so they saw a lot of them here.

It was sitting on its bottom, like a hairy piglet with long arms and legs. But the smile - it was the smile that revolted Heather. Some people said it was cute. They were wrong. It held out its front limbs as she approached, they reminding Heather of tentacles because there were too many joints. One had a swollen lump and moved stiffly. Ah, that's the reason for the rad. The creature tucked itself against her chest as she picked it up and clung to her making its version of a purr that rumbled but varied in note so it was almost like a melody you could feel. 

Okay, maybe she did understand why people liked them. She might too, but only if she could train hers not to smile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Almost, but Not Quite Cuddled

Bob and Meeko. Photo by Kara Hartz 2017

This is about as snuggled as these two ever manage. It's funny because they both - Bob the most - cuddle with me all the time. I have caught them allowing their feet to touch sometimes. They have also been known to groom each other - but that's where the line is drawn I guess. Notice there is no actual physical contact here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

200 Posts and Almost 10 Years

Last Friday's Flash Fiction Friday entry, 'The Last Chicken' marked the 200th entry for this blog. It made me think about how long I've had it. Looks like the first entry was March 2007, just a few weeks before the birth of my second daughter actually. I don't remember why I was inspired to start a blog at that time, but here we are.

That was almost 10 years ago. 200 entries in 10 years is not impressive; average of 20 posts a year - but actually it was not so even as all that. Such is life though, right? Uneven.

If anyone actually reads this blog (possibly 4 of you according to the follower count blogger shows me - Hello!) you may have noticed I'm trying something a little different since the new year. I'm trying to stick to a self-imposed blogging schedule to post more regularly. In general I'm trying to impose some structure on my writing habits. So for the time being I am aiming for posts each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with the Friday entry being a new piece of flash fiction. My original goal was to actually write 2 or 3 flash pieces during the week, then pick the one I liked best to share. So far that's the only part of the plan I've failed at. I've only managed a single flash story each week, so that's the one I've shared. That's the aspect I plan to focus some extra work on. In fact, when I finish this entry, I'm going to start a flash piece while there is still plenty of time to write another later in the week.

The 10 year part could potentially be impressive depending on how you choose to view it. Maybe it's impressive that I'm still here, talking mainly to myself, still creating as much as my schedule allows. Or maybe it's sad that so little has changed. I think I feel somewhere in between. Impressive doesn't seem like the right word, but I don't think its sad either. My blog makes me happy. I enjoy posting. I like having something I made and sharing pictures of it, or text when it's a story. Sure, it'd be great if someone else enjoyed it as well, but if it's only me - well, I count too.




Friday, January 20, 2017

The Last Chicken - Flash Fiction Friday



The rooster walked along the fence line, head bobbing with each slow step. The last hen had passed away that morning, and so had Catlin and Ron. Fern had stuck the rooster in the brain scanner yesterday just out of curiosity - he'd still been acting normally then - and he had the prions too. She guessed the chickens had gotten it from eating the local bugs. Well, not bugs really, since this wasn't Earth.  Just tiny alien invertebrates. To the chickens they were only bugs though. 

They said the rescue ship was on the way. Maybe still a week out. The crops were all in good shape. Better than the livestock or the people anyway. As long as she washed things carefully, Fern would be fine for food. She hoped the others would still be around to make the trip back with her. A few were only showing early symptoms. They should make it until the ship arrived at least. Hopefully they wouldn't be too far gone for treatment. 

Part of Fern wanted to gloat, but she just couldn't muster the energy for that much vindictiveness. Not after watching most of her friends die, one after the other. She remembered how they had teased her, when they brought down that huge native ungulate. Enough to feed the whole colony. But not Fern. Soft, namby-pamby vegetarian Fern. She wished it was funny to think back on. 

The rooster is moving slower today than yesterday. Swaying slightly when he stands still. Fern knows the rescuers won't take him along when they come. She pushes the button for the gate and the latch opens with a click. She swings it wide and walks out, not bothering to close it behind herself. Let him be free while he can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016 Year in Review

Several other blogs I follow have done 'looking back' year end posts I've enjoyed reading. I wondered why it hadn't occurred to me to do something similar. Then as I thought about what I might include in such a post I began to see that I didn't especially want to look back at 2016. It was a rough year.

I turned 42 in 2016. I had been looking forward to my 42nd birthday for a long while, as a serious Douglas Adams fan. When it came however, I was in no mood to make a fuss. For 6 months out of 2016 I had my ileostomy, including on my birthday. I don't remember if thing were going smoothly with the ostomy at that poin or if I was dealing with one of my many struggles with it, but I feel even in the best of times I was not sleeping well, and in a constant state of worry.

I was unable to exercise or eat as well as I wanted with all the restrictions that were on me, and I still feel like I've hiking uphill to get my healthy good habits back. I'll get there, but it's not fun. I didn't write as much as I'd liked to, but I did finish a first draft of a short novel, that is turning out far better than any of my previous attempts. There is still lots of revisions I want to make, but it will get there too. I didn't sew as much as I would have liked to. Stress, and just maintaining myself took more energy in 2016 than normal. There wasn't as much left for the things that make life satisfying. I also didn't read as much as I would have liked. This one surprised me. Being ill so much should have given me plenty of time to read, I would have thought. Yet, doing normal things took so much more focus and energy, I often found myself too mentally exhausted to do much of anything but try to sleep.

But the glass is also half full. My perforated colon was a very serious problem. I read many medical papers and studies to learn more about my condition. I was in denial about the seriousness of things in the beginning. If my doctors hadn't been so aggressive, so insistent in caring for me, if I had put off visiting the doctor longer than I already had, it is something that could potentially have killed me. So while the journey was ugly at times, and more of a struggle than I like to think about much, I made it. My family and my medical team got me though it.

Maybe I didn't get as much done in 2016 as I would have liked to. Still, sometimes 'not dying' is enough of an accomplishment for a year all on it's own. So if you made it through 2016 - a year that many of our beloved artists didn't make it through - even if it was a ugly success, be grateful. I am.

Let's make 2017 more fun if we can.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Mystery Quilt Finds a Destiny

I've always wanted to make a quilt for Quilts of Valor. It occurred to me the other day that the mystery quilt I've been working on would be great for that purpose.

In researching the guidelines for a Quilt of Valor, I learned that while red, white, and blue quilts are not strictly required, they are the most requested colors. So my dilemma about the colors for the setting blocks is now solved. I've made two setting blocks so far and really like the red and blue much better than the green and grey the original pattern called for.

I will need to make one additional set of four pattern blocks as well to make the finished quilt the size I need it to be to donate, but that will be fine. Now, I need to go look at the choices to see which one I like best to add.

Doesn't the red and blue look nice?


Friday, January 13, 2017

No Pets Allowed - Flash Fiction Friday



Fredrick's heart jumped as he turned into the corridor for his unit and saw his front door open. He tried not to break into a run, but his eyes swept the hall, and he peaked into each other open doorway he passed on the way to his own. Why were they all open?

No sign of Tiger. Maybe he was hiding in the unit somewhere. Please let him still be in there. Cats were not permitted on the space station. What would they do to Tiger if they found him?

Once inside, he saw two workers doing something to the single window. Outside, he could see another in a space suit working from the outside. 

"What's happening?" Fredrick demanded.

The workmen turned toward him. 

"Ah, hello sir," one said, while the other turned back to her work. "There was a minor leak in section H this morning. All windows are now being inspected and resealed."

"Why didn't I get a work notice?"

"This is an emergency safety order. No time to issue notices."

"I see." Fredrick was scanning the room as the man spoke. "Well, let me not get in your way then." He fled to the bedroom. If Tiger was still here, hopefully this is where he would hide. 

Fredrick looked under the bed. No Tiger. Not in the bathroom either. Or the hamper. 

A yell came from out in the hall. Fredrick was out there in a blink. 

It was Mrs. Rimoti from two doors down. Fredrick came to stand beside her, looking with her into her unit.
"Do you see this mess those maintenance people left behind!" Mrs. Rimoti pointed at a small pile of what Fredrick assumed was packaging from the new window seals. 

"So, careless," Fredrick agreed, stepping into the room and scooping up the debris while frantically looking around for Tiger. His hands full, her bent to look under the sofa, then behind the end table. "Let me help you." He took the trash into the kitchen and tossed it into the garbage chute, and then opened the cupboard under the sink for a quick peak.

Fredrick walked in a large circle so he could stick his head into the bedroom as he left the kitchen before joining Mrs. Rimoti again by the door.

"Are you drunk?" she asked.

"No, no, just concerned." Fredrick looked up and down the hall. "This fuss over a leak, work crews not cleaning up after themselves. What is this place coming to?"

"Yes, exactly." Mrs. Rimoti nodded with a frown. "I think I shall call the Supervisor to complain."

"Good idea. So will I." Fredrick didn't offer a farewell because Mrs. Rimoti had already disappeared into her unit and the door slid shut with a snap.

Fredrick stuck his head into each open door way in the hall. Offering a smile and a casual 'hello' to any workmen or neighbors who looked up startled at his intrusion, but was gone before they could interact further. 

His unit was empty now, a shiny new seal on his window, and the crew for his unit had thoughtfully taken away their garbage. He shut his door as fast as he could. 

"Tiger! Here buddy, come'ere boy!"

Was that a meow? Where did it come from? Sounded like the shelves. Fredrick saw a small pink nose peeking out from the small gap at the side of the bottom shelf and the sofa, which had been shoved out of its usual place. 

"Did they trap you on your napping shelf?" Fredrick's sudden relief caused him to continue to babble to the cat as he pulled the sofa back into position. Tiger was meowing with complaint and twining himself through Fredrick's legs as soon as there was space enough to escape the shelf. Fredrick scooped him up, snuggling him to his chest as he sat. 

"You're okay." He rubbed the cat's ears. "We're okay."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bob and his Cat Diaper - 5 Months Later

Looking back at my original post about Bob and his cat diaper, everything was so new and exciting then. I think it's time to revisit how the cat diaper is working now that we've been at it for 5 months or so.

Bob in his cat diaper by Kara Hartz
The pluses:

It is still working really well - far better than any training or household modifications ever did for us. Now that I see how little control he has over his bladder, that all makes sense. Hard to teach him not to urinate in the wrong place if he can't always control when urine comes out.

In the past I needed to be very careful about how much of his stool softener I gave him - diarrhea was a serious problem for trying to live with Bob. So I was usually very skimpy with his dose. Now, if things get a little too lose, the diaper catches all. That, however, is rare. He is actually getting more and more regular, passing stools on his own - something he hasn't done in a year or more. That also means he is eating better , and vomiting less than before.

When I see him squatting on my pillow, I don't have to drop what I'm doing to whisk him away to the litter box. Have at it Bob! You go guy!

The minuses:

Because he lacks control, sometimes he'll have a dry diaper for days, then overflow, and we still have to strip the bed and wash everything. I'm learning to keep tabs on this and help him get things started if he has gone 24 hours without peeing.

Same with the poop. If he gets constipated, there can be a serious blow out when things get moving again. The diaper makes the mess much more manageable that it would be otherwise, but there have been a couple times that overflowed and needed major cleanup.

Fiddling with his stool softener dose led to occasional diarrhea. While this no longer gets all over the house (yea!) it does still get all over Bob's backside. Luckily, he has gotten used to baths and is very tolerant of getting tossed in the sink for a scrubbing. For awhile I worried about the longer term damage urine or stool might cause to the skin on his back and undersides, but so far, after 5 months, that doesn't seem to be a concern. Just have to make sure to change him regularly.

Lastly - it's kinda a bummer, with kids that have been using the potty on their own for 7-plus years now, to be back at changing diapers, and it's tempting to skip sometimes. Still, it's more than worth the hassle in the end. (Pun intended)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ab Strengthening Setback

As a follow up to my post a few days ago regarding my search for ab exercises that wouldn't hurt all my abdominal scars - I guess I'm back to looking.

I must have strained or otherwise done something bad because I have found myself in significant abdominal pain for the past several days. All my ab muscles hurt, all over. Otherwise I might have been concerned there was a medical problem. At times on Friday, I was near tears with the pain. Yesterday was a little better, but only a little. Today is much better, and no longer feels like something is seriously wrong - now my abs feel like an overworked sore muscle.

This is a frustrating setback because of how little I was actually doing with my exercises. There really isn't all that much I can cut back on. Do three reps of the pathetically easy exercises instead of six? Seriously, that's about all I could handle doing in the first place. Will doing less even be enough to start building up any strength at all?

Grrrr.

Perhaps tomorrow I will hunt up a yoga routine that includes some ab work and try the ab specific exercises again in a few days. Now I'm not only out of shape and wimpy, I'm scared too.



Friday, January 6, 2017

Flash Fiction Friday: First Love



The slamming of the back door screen and the shrieking of the girl as she tore across the yard woke Bob from his nap. Folding his ears back as he yawned and stretched, his front legs then his back. Reluctantly he slunk to the edge of the yard to crouch beneath the lavender bushes, leaving his warm corner of the patio in the sun. His old joints were stiff and he was on no mood for the crushing hugs and rough play the girl would force on him if he stayed in the open. 

The screen thumped closed again, calmer this time. Bob saw Leigh moving a plastic chair. She sat, and opened a book in her lap, but watched the girl for several moments before looking down to read.
Bob remembered how he and Leigh used to spend the whole day together sometimes. He would sit in her lap as she worked at the computer or pounce on the laundry as she folded. Since the girl had been big enough to move around though, Bob had slept hidden under the bed most of the day. He learned quickly that that was the only way to stay safe from being poked or his ears or whiskers pulled. Now he only came out after the girl was in bed. To get a short precious time in Leigh's lap again for proper, gentle ear and chin rubs.
He looked at Leigh reading , then at the girl who was now at the far end of the yard screeching some sort of song as she ran in circles. He stuck his head out from under the bush. Then crept a little further. Before he'd thought things through he had covered half the distance to Leigh. He found himself airborn, swinging in a circle. The girl held him under his front legs, his back feet dangling as she flung him around in her dance. 

"Caroline! Stop that!"

The swinging stopped, but he dangled still, his spine screaming for some support. Then Leigh had him against her chest, one arm under him, the other rubbing his ears. She carried him to her chair, and then set him in her lap. He thought about jumping down and back to his hiding spot in the bushes.

"Caroline, come here. You pet him gentle, like this."

Leigh ran her hand down his spine. Then a smaller hand hit him, pushing him down, and followed the same path. "Gentle, gentle. See, he likes that." The second time, the small hand was softer, but it plucked at his fur before departing.

"I'm sorry buddy," Leigh said, scratching his chin in the spot he loved. "She'll get better. I've got you now though." 

Bob curled up and settled into her lap, purrs overflowing out of him. Like old times.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Getting Back in Shape - Abs Edition

The pounds have flown back on since my ileostomy reversal. Some of that I expected - the weight I lost from being very, very sick for example. That was not healthy weight loss and I didn't expect it to stick. But then, I admit, I let the holidays carry me along their happy cookie filled journey without a struggle. That's showing up now in clothes that are a little snug, and a heavy sleepiness that hits me in the afternoons the way it hasn't in a long time.

So it would be time for me to get back on my healthy eating, regular exercise bandwagon even if it wan't the time of year for that sort of thing. I've been at it a few days now, and am already feeling better. The snug clothing part will take a little longer.

One struggle has been abdominal exercises. I've never had 'abs of steel', or even abs of anything remotely tough. Since the reversal though, any abdominal exercises I try hurt the scars (mainly the huge one where the actual stoma was, but even a little at the colon incision site). If you have an ab exercise you love, this is the place to share it. I'd love to try out some new exercises since I'm just not up for crunches yet.

A friend posted a workout video on Facebook that included a couple ab moves that were merely uncomfortable, not painful, so that's what I'm doing for now, but I'd love to see what else is out there.

Happy New Year all - here's to a healthy and happy 2017!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Christmas Amigurumi: Ashoka Tano and a Blue Minecraft Sheep

Ashoka Tand and Blue Minecraft Sheep Amigurumi crocheted and photographed  by Kara Hartz
Every year, I crochet a gift for my girls. Traditionally, it has been a pokemon. This year my oldest daughter had been obsessed with Star Wars (she makes her mother proud), and the younger is all about Minecraft (another amazing kid - how did I get so lucky!?). So I decided to try to make something to match their current passions. 

I made the sheep first, and am not super happy how it turned out. If you look at the pattern, it was supposed to use something called 'iris' yarn and a 0.9 mm crochet hook. That hook is so small it's difficult to see, and I'd never heard of iris yarn before, but from the picture I'd say it could probably also be called 'thread'. So I wimped out in tacking something so tiny, and I just made the sheep with plain ole Red Heart yarn and a G hook knowing it may not turn out right,. I knew that was a risk I was taking. The kiddo says she loves it, so I guess I'll be happy with that even though it isn't quite as blocky as I wanted it to be. I'm half tempted to try the thread version - but not yet. Must rest the hands from the marathon crochet session getting ready for Christmas.

The Ashoka Tano pattern is actually what gave me the idea to make something different this year. I don't remember what I was looking for at the time, but when I stumbled upon the picture of a crocheted Ashoka, I knew I had to make it. She is one of my daughter's very favorite characters, and she is now rewatching the Cone Wars series with me to bring me up to speed about Ashoka so I can read the recent book featuring her. One of the cool parts of this doll is the wire inside her limbs and lightsaber that make her pose-able. Plus, she looks fairly complicated, but I found that she made up fairly easily and quickly. The most important thing though - the kiddo loves her. I've seen her holding her off and on over the past few days since Christmas. That's what a maker wants to see. Yea!