Folks, do you ever find that, in the midst of having waaaaay to much to do, you start mentally planning more projects? I do this all the time, and I think it is a way of avoiding the need to think about the current quagmire around me.
Right now we are neck-deep in a ton of projects, and yet I find myself contemplating up-dating the door mouldings and changing the color of the living room walls. Yeah, like I need another project. If I mentioned these plans to mr husband right now, I think there would be a homicide.
It has been a pretty awful week, so I guess my brain needed a diversion from reality. Son and Daughter-in-law have bought a house, at last! It was a HUD foreclosure, and while it is a sound, good house, it needs a lot of work, and also an “occupancy inspection” from the city before they can move in. While I agree with a lot of the updates the city requires, such as proper venting of the furnace and hot water tank, etc., much of it amounts to a shake-down for more money. They charge $250 for the inspection, done by 5 different inspectors, and we will see the report tomorrow, but basically it is asking us to bring a 50 year old house up to code, which isn’t really financially feasible, and isn’t required for all residents buying homes, just those buying a home that has spent time vacant. It is stressful and expensive, to say the very least.
So we are exhausted and rapidly going to the poorhouse, our own house is overdue for a good cleaning, and leaves are beginning to fall, signalling our time is short for completing any outdoor projects this year.
Then this past Tuesday, we noticed our Chippy cat wasn’t acting well. In fact, she seemed lethargic, and Wednesday morning she seemed to have trouble breathing. I high-tailed it off to the vet first thing in the morning, and after x-rays, they rushed me to an emergency vet, where she was promptly put in an oxygen-tent for animals. After a battery of tests, they determined she had very advanced hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a big word I likely misspelled that means heart disease and she was already suffering from congestive heart failure. After 24 hours of treatment, she wasn’t responding at all to the medication, in fact, it was damaging her kidneys, and she was fading fast. She was so fragile, we only had a couple of minutes with her Thursday evening, when we made the decision to let her go, as she wasn’t going to survive outside of the oxygen for long. Even the vet, who usually will never give advice, agreed that it was best, as there was no way she could improve with the amount of damage to her heart.
I won’t subject you to the details, but if you have been there, you know. My son and I and his wife were with her, and she seemed relieved to have us hold and pet and kiss her. My heart felt like it was broken into pieces. We will miss her so very much. It happened so quickly, without any warning signs. Monday she seemed fine; Thursday, she was gone.
Chippy was only 4 years old. I know you are not supposed to admit to having favorites, but she was my favorite pet EVER. She was very special to me from the first time I saw her as a 12 week old kitten.
As I write this, Mabel is flopped across my lap, her toes on the keyboard. She hits the space bar now and then, and squeaks at me when my hands disturb her rest. I feel bad, as she is very sweet, but no one can replace our Chippy.
I have been preparing myself for the passing of Rowley dog, who is old and having troubles of his own, and for our Mr. Cookie, who has advanced arthritis and is 14 years old. I was not in any way expecting to lose Chippy, not at this age. We still have Mr. Cookie, and Mabel, and three of the orphans, who have all been adopted but have not been placed yet, so our house is far from empty.
I am selfish, I suppose; there is still a cat on my lap. My heart, however, has an empty spot that still hurts, and there is a little grave in the backyard where my calico friend now rests, wrapped in the kitty princess blankets I made for her.
So maybe that is why, as I sit here with Mabel on a cold Sunday morning, I look around and contemplate painting the walls. Thinking about what comes next is better than thinking about today. Maybe hard work helps heal the sadness.
In the business world, there is a saying: you can get it fast, cheap or good. Pick two.
I think that applies to other things in life, such as planning a big event, as well. For the most part, you can’t do fast and cheap and have it be good. Good and Cheap won’t be fast….you get the idea.
So I was recently confronted with a situation where I desperately wanted all THREE, which required a re-defining of what I consider “good,” and a little flexibility on the concept of “cheap.”
Here is the story as it unfolded to me: last Thursday, my wonderful son informed me that he and his sweetheart of several years (whom we really like!) have decided they are getting married…..on Tuesday! Yes, five days later. It seems they got the marriage license, made an appointment with the JOP, and then decided that they should tell the parents rather than just elope as originally planned.
People, I was not shocked. I suspected an event such as this was in the works; you could tell by looking at them. And I wasn’t surprised at the shortness of lead time – mr husband and I did almost exactly the same thing 26 years ago – decided on a Monday that we were going to marry on Wednesday. Granted, mr husband was active duty military at the time, and due to report to his duty station on Friday, and I had decided I was going with him, married or not. He picked married. Ah, young love!
Needless to say, I was happy for them, worried for them, wondering where they would live (not here!) and whether they could live on what they make. I am sure my parents suffered similar worries, and I was only 19 and moving 800 miles away! They are in their mid-twenties and will likely stay in the same county.
We decided to give them a reception at our house. I planned a wedding in three days, so certainly I can plan a reception in 5, right? I read a lot on line about small receptions, quickie weddings, etc., and found a little that was helpful, but not much I didn’t already know. I didn’t want a paper-plate, cold sandwich buffet. This is my only child; if this event doesn’t warrant the good crystal, I don’t know what does!
They didn’t want a big wedding, or an elaborate party. They didn’t want us to spend a ton of money that could, frankly, be the down-payment on a house. My cousin’s daughter just married last month, and they spent about $50k on the wedding. Sigh. Even if I had it, I wouldn’t do it. No offense to those of you who do want a big wedding, it just isn’t our thing. Eloping is much more romantic (it’s a habit in our family), and if not that, then a small party is really most appropriate. You are just as married if you spend $100 than if you spend thousands. Just my opinion.
The preceding part of this post was written prior to the wedding. Now, with five days of reflection after the event, here is what I learned about a small home-based reception for about 2 dozen people:
1. pray for good weather: Claymire is small (you know that already) so it was great to have the patio area for people to congregate.
2. take care of every little detail, then forget about it. I had an assortment of glasses for toasting champagne, drinking wine or beer or punch. Nothing matched, but it was all vintage crystal and looked beautiful and unique. I ran out of coffee cups, but no one cared – by that time, they felt comfortable enough to rummage around the kitchen for the old mis-matched mugs I had stashed in the back.
3. A party is about the people; feed them, give them a place to sit, and let them mingle. It is surprising who will discover common interests with one another.
4. Have a lieutenant so you can enjoy the party. I did most of the preparation myself, including cleaning the house; during the party, my mother completely took over so I could enjoy the guests. Platters were magically refilled as needed, ice was stocked, and things were washed up and put away before I really noticed what was happening. Thanks Mom!
5. Take a ton of pictures. Everyone had a camera, and there were still some things we missed. Thanks to friends and family, we got at least one shot of the most important things, like the cake cutting and the toast.
6. Invite the neighbors. It’s a celebration, so the more, the merrier
7. Don’t invite the pets. We had an elaborate plan for stashing away all our animals safely and comfortably for the event, which took some doing, considering our 4 orphan kittens are still with us.
8. Silk flowers look beautiful arranged in vases, and no one really thinks less of you for not using real ones. The vases were ones I had, mostly from yard sales and Salvation Army thrifting; I used all white so there was a cohesive look. My friend found coupons for Michael’s and I saved 40% on the flowers.
9. Don’t buy until you borrow: friends had tablecloths, chafing dish, ice buckets, platters, pitchers, flowers and vases. It freed up more money for food and a cake.
10. You can order a custom wedding cake on short notice; our local bakery Julian Brothers, make a beautiful two-tiered wedding cake that I ordered on Saturday and picked up Tuesday. As long as it isn’t too elaborate, this reception center-piece is totally doable and not really that expensive.
11. frozen hors d’ouvres are worth it. I bought ours at Trader Joe’s – they don’t have a lot of “junk” and preservatives, they all cooked in the oven at the same temperature, and they looked very pretty on a platter. I chose vegetable bird’s nests, samosas, mini-potato skins, etc. I included a lot of vegetarian options – my daughter in law doesn’t eat meat – and also chocolate-free dessert options for those who can’t have chocolate. Also, sandwiches and pizza – guests like familiar foods, and don’t always want to wonder “what is that?” “is that something I can eat?”
12. I also suggest picking up a bottle of sparkling cider if your other drinks are alcoholic – teetotallers and designated drivers will appreciate being able to toast without feeling awkward.
The best parties are those where everyone is just having a good time and not staring at the clock. There were no little pockets of people who were left out – everyone mingled. Neighbors talked with family, young people talked with the grandparents, and a few people sneaked in to play with the kittens.
This didn’t cost a fortune, either. Even including the wine and the wedding cake, the whole thing was well under $500. I think we successfully walked a fine line between “good” “fast” and “cheap.” My cousin’s daughter will have much better pictures of her wedding, that is true. I am not sure what my son and daughter-in-law thought of the party or the decorations, they were having too much fun to really notice. And that, I am sure, is what will be memorable.
I am fascinated by the small house movement, and while I can’t see mr husband and myself ever living in a “tiny” house under 400 square feet, I do love the ideas and inspiration from small houses and apartments. I’ve never been comfortable in large houses, or even large rooms, and I enjoy decorating a space by editing out what I don’t need, finding the perfect piece of furniture for what I do need, and not having all that extraneous “stuff” just to fill up floor.
By current (US) standards, Claymire is not a large house. At 1209 square feet, it is about average for our neighborhood, larger than a lot of the world would expect, but by no means a McMansion. Some people may argue that it’s not a small house, but considering the average US house is over 2000 square feet, I think it qualifies.
Three of us lived here for a decade quite happily, even without a good organization plan. Now the two of us find we have ample room, even without a basement, second bathroom, walk-in closets or all the other things we are frequently told are necessities. We even have an extra bedroom that is basically a catch-all space; currently home to the orphan kitties, it serves as my office, sewing room, library and guest bedroom a couple times a year. I am glad we have the room, but if we had to live without that space, which is about 10×12 feet including the closet, I think we could do it.
Claymire is the largest house we have owned. (our first was 540 sq feet) When it was built in 1949, the house was about 845 square feet, two bedrooms, 1 bath, a small eat-in kitchen and a separate utility room. It was home to a family of four, and was considered adequate for its time. They added a small work room in the 1950s (that spare bedroom), a garage in 1951, and a breezeway in 1969, which is currently our living room. About that time, they took out the utility room and made it part of the kitchen. It made a larger kitchen, in theory, but no more storage space; just more floor! I would have preferred having that separate utility room/laundry room, but its too late for that now!
The bedrooms aren’t that large, and the closets are small, although we do have five of them, plus a pantry. This weekend we did a little improvement to the “master” bedroom. That room is about 10.5×13 feet with 2 windows and a 42″ closet. The one wall where the bed fits best is between two doors and in front of the heating duct, so this weekend, we moved the bed in front of the window. I know, I know, it’s not supposed to be done, but, hey, it works!
We attached the headboard to our bedframe with some 1x4s we found in the trash last weekend! Then mr husband and I found these great wall lights at Lowe’s ($29.95 each), so we both have reading lamps, as well.
The room feels so much larger now, so I took it one step further, and decided to combine our clothes into the tiny closet. Since we moved into this bedroom, mr husband, who has MANY more shirts and pants than I do, has been using the closet in our spare bedroom. I realized, though, that I don’t have that many clothes, and most of my closet space was being used to store things like extra purses, scarves, nylons, etc. Basically, stuff I need a couple of times a year, that don’t need to be front and center on a daily basis. So I cleaned that stuff out, put his stuff in, and voila! We have a shared bedroom closet.
There is even a space left on that shelf for more stuff! I used all slim velvet-covered hangers – pink for me, beige for him. He has just slightly more than 1/2 the hanging rod, but I have most of the top shelf, so it’s fair. You can’t see it in the photo, but there is a top part to the closet, too, where all my shoes are living!
It may be a small space, but that will keep me organized. The larger the space, the more I tend to fill it up with junk! The old closet now holds occasional clothes; extra jewelry boxes, formal dresses, mr husband’s tuxedo, etc. It, too, will need some serious purging, but that’s a job for another day. For now, we are enjoying the feeling of having our whole bedroom put together, and fitting us both. Somehow, that makes the whole house feel larger, but in a good way.
So I began this post intending to explain why I like our small house. I don’t enjoy always feeling the need to defend the choice to people (especially family) who just don’t get it. I think in some families, especially ones like mine where they have had to work and struggle for everything they have, there was always an attitude that if you weren’t striving for something more, you were failing somehow. There must always be the bigger house, bigger yard, better car, more vacations, etc.
My parents lived in a trailer when I was born. They currently reside in a 4,200 square foot Colonial on an acre of land. In between, they lived in a small cottage, an 1830s historic Greek Revival, a farmhouse on 17 acres, a brick colonial on 1/2 an acre, and a house on a mountaintop with amazing views. Always getting better, larger, more impressive, more rural (or suburban.)
We started out in a two-room apartment, moved to a 4-room apartment, a 540 square foot 1920’s bungalow, a 1040 sq ft1915 foursquare, to our current home, with a couple other very tiny apartments in between. Our choice has always been a smaller house in a metropolitan area. I think it’s a valid choice. The trade-off for living in the city, if Royal Oak can be considered a “city,” is a smaller house in a great area. Different choice, but still valid. Living in a large house in suburbia would be worse than death to me! My next goal, if we ever leave Claymire, is to live in an apartment over an old store in a downtown area.
Other great points?
1. Any room can be painted with only 1 gallon of paint.
2. We replaced all the flooring for a couple thousand dollars. After all, there’s only a little over 1000 square feet of it!
3. It’s easier to clean – seriously, I can vacuum the whole thing in about 10 minutes.
4. Ditto for mowing the lawn – it actually takes me longer to get the mower out, fill the gas tank and push it to the front yard than it takes to cut the grass there.
5. Our taxes are reasonable.
6. It’s cozy – but not cramped. Sure, when we have company, it can get crowded, but I can’t see maintaining that extra square footage for the few hours a year we may have guests. If we were big entertainers, we may do it differently, but we still have a 16×16 patio and a big back yard, so we will stick to summer-time shindigs!
7. I can afford to decorate, and redecorate, when I want, without breaking the bank.
I know our current space will seem extravagant to some – after all, we have a garage, a workshop and an attic attached to our place, which gives us a lot of room for projects, tools, etc. Some days it does seem small; some times I even wish I had a basement (horror!), if just for the cat litter boxes! But then, I remember that the people we bought the house from lived here with their six children, and I realize I really have nothing to complain about!
In case you are wondering, there really isn’t much else getting done around here, outside of caring for the kittens. The garden is hanging on through the drought, with some additional watering, and the roses look quite nice, all things considered. No new projects underway, although I do plan to recover the cushions of the Morris Chair when I finally have some free time again.
In kitten world, however, things are changing rapidly. I think a day to a kitten is a month to a human child, developmentally. They are eating on their own, completely. They are using their litter box (about 90% of the time!) and they have discovered how to scale the plywood barricade I made to keep them in “their” room. Clever kittens!
As you can see, they are getting bigger! They can run and jump and, of course, climb, and they are so much fun to play with. While I know the world did not need more kittens, I am hopeful these little orphans will all find loving homes. They deserve it!
The tiny kittens are now
4 1/2 weeks old, after consultation with my rescue coordinator, turns out the kittens are really only 3 1/2 weeks old, at most. …..and growing like crazy. They have started playing and climbing and running, and are using their litter box pretty well.
The one problem we had was with food: they only wanted the bottle, but they were chewing the nipple and not getting any milk. They have tiny little teeth now, and are ready for some food. At the very least, they should be drinking out of a dish, relieving me of the burden of constant hand-feeding.
The trouble is, they didn’t want to give up the bottle. Maybe because they lost their mother early, or maybe because they are stubborn, they simply refused to drink from a bowl, and I have been run ragged with the constant hand-feeding, every four hours. I would need to refill the bottle a couple of times to be sure they got enough. Finally, I had enough.
On very experienced advice, I decided they were done with the bottle. I mixed them nice warm KMR formula and put it in a very shallow saucer. I mixed another with some warmed, yummy kitten food. I am taking that last part on faith – did not taste the kitten food! You would think hungry growing kitties would be happy to lap that up, but no dice. They cried and screamed and scratched at me to feed them. I tried all the tricks – putting it on my fingers, gently pushing their little chins into it, letting them walk in it and lick it off, etc.
No takers. They simply cried at me until I left the room, then they curled up and went to sleep.
That was yesterday. All day today, I changed out the food, tried little tricks to get them interested, and left them alone. Every time I checked, the food looked untouched. I was getting panicky and exasperated and worried. Was I going to starve them to death? Was there a reason they couldn’t eat from a bowl?
I was assured from several sources that, when they were hungry, they would eat. I wasn’t so sure. Maybe these kittens were just stupid? Would my will hold out against theirs?
So tonight, being our 26th wedding anniversary, we planned to go out to dinner, and I was still concerned that the little furballs had not had theirs. I made up a nice slop of kitten food and milk, added a second dish of milk, did my usual encouragement of stuffing some in their mouths with my finger, and left them alone.
We had a great time, by the way, at Fishbone’s in St Clair Shores. They make an admirable Old Fashioned cocktail.
Upon our return, I could hear the kittens crying, but it wasn’t the plaintive cry they had earlier – it was loud, lusty meowing of very hungry kittens. I peeked inside their room, and was amazed; all the food was gone. The milk dish was actually licked dry!
I praised them and inspected their dirty little feet and faces.Such good kittens! I made them more food, just in case they were still hungry. They may still challenge me with their dietary preferences, but I guess I won this round!
Update: As of today, Tuesday July 24th, all kittens are eating from the bowls, and seem to like the kitten food/formula mixture. They need more frequent bathing, but that just means they get special cuddle-time while they dry off!
You may or may not know that kitten season is upon us. In the rescue world, this is the time where all the unwanted/unplanned and unfortunate tiny kittens are born into a world that doesn’t seem to have enough homes for all of them.
Answering a call for help yesterday morning from my best friend, I rescued 4 tiny kittens who were in imminent danger of being eaten by two large, prey-driven dogs. The mother was nowhere to be found, and one of the hungry little guys wandered into the dogs’ yard. Fortunately, my friend was working in the garden, and was able to corral the dogs before they noticed the little grey ball of fluff.
When the phone rang, I was in the middle of my mending, (booooring), so welcomed the call. A call for help? Cat rescue woman is on the way! I grabbed my cat carrier, my cellphone and keys and was on the road in under a minute. There really is something to be said for my policy of ALWAYS being showered, dressed, made up and ready to roll at a minutes notice. You have to get up pretty early to catch me off guard!
I arrived on the scene and we started searching for kittens. They had retreated to the woodpile. We took it apart a little at a time and uncovered four little kittens.
I tucked them into the carrier and rushed off to the store for kitten formula. (okay, guess I’m not really prepared for anything.) The man at the pet store helped me choose KMR, which stands, rather predictably, for kitten milk replacement, two small kitten nursing bottles, and then warned me that, at least the two smaller ones, who weren’t moving much, would probably die.
It took a little persuasion to get them to eat from the bottle. Apparently, I neither smell nor act like a momcat, but eventually they caught on. The biggest guy, who I am calling Biff, doesn’t like the bottle, and would rather chew it, but either way, he gets the milk into his belly.
We visited the vet today, and he said their momcat had done a great job, and that I was doing okay, too. Even the smaller kittens are 8 ounces, and are no longer lethargic – they are active, noisey little balls of fur!
Needless to say, it doesn’t get much cuter than this! They eat every 3-4 hours, so it is a round-the-clock job, at least for another week or so until they can start eating on their own, and learn to use a litter box.
We have set a trap, and hope to catch the momcat, but it isn’t looking too encouraging. I would like to catch her, and have her tested for Feline Leukemia and other illnesses, and let her finish raising these little guys herself. Hopefully she will show up tonight. Either way, these guys are safe. Rowley dog wants to adopt them, and camps out by their crate, guarding them.
Mabel gets very upset if they cry – maybe she remembers her own babies, but these babies don’t smell right to her, so after she runs to their rescue, beats up the dog (he didn’t do ANYTHING!), she sniffs them, hisses and runs away!
So now you know what I’ll be doing day and night for the next week or so! Hopefully we can find a foster who really knows what they are doing, but until then, I will do what I can to keep them happy and growing.