Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Update on Ye Ole Pets


Last week, Webster and I went to see the vet. A few days apart, Web pooped on my dining room floor sometime in the middle of the night. This sent me into a full-blown mental breakdown during which I decided Webster was dying because this is how The End started for King. I even had a mental health chat with myself about it to remind myself that it was just my Old Hurts Ball in my chest being triggered by a similar event -- that Webster was most likely NOT dying. Alas, my anxiety and fear got the best of me, and I had to leak out of my face and beg my darling to come snuggle with me at all times for the next 24 hours until we could get in to see the doctor.

It turns out he's just constipated.

Oh Webbie:


Webster has gotten very creaky in the last year. I can hear him coming into any room because his foot snaps when he walks. Snap snap snap snap. He's also had trouble getting up onto the couch or other high places and has biffed it off backwards many times. It breaks my heart.

The vet felt Webster's back and back legs and said he seemed/felt a little stiff. Solution? Arthritis medicine! It will help lubricate his joints and make it easier for him to move around. Also, the pooping in funny places can be because arthritis can make it hurt to poop, so some kitties start holding it in to avoid the event and then stop themselves up. They also begin to process water differently, so they dry out faster than regular kitties who have younger kidneys. Solution? Miralax! Yep. Miralax for meows. Well, it's just the kind you buy at the grocery store.

Webster has been losing weight and is down to 11 lbs now, so that definitely wasn't my imagination. At his prime, he was 16.5 lbs, but he's been losing about a half pound a year for many years as part of the aging process. He still eats like a champ -- especially that special UTI wet food in the morning. MEOW! The vet said the weight loss is OK unless it's a crazy-fast no-eating kind of thing. Then it's time to worry.

I also came up with a theory of my own, which is that Webster is having trouble finding his way around in the dark house. Briarpatch is kind of like a shotgun house, so there's a long way to travel to get to the litter boxes from my bed -- especially if it's dark, and you already have cataracts. You can't see it in the picture, but he has a milky glaze across each eye. When he pops into the bathtub and asks for water out of the tap, he'll be standing one inch away from the stream and not see it. I have to run my finger through the stream for him to notice that it's there. So I've been leaving the entryway light on overnight to give Webster a beacon to follow across the dining room carpet all the way into the bathroom where the litter boxes are waiting.

The arthritis medicine is in a capsule, so I just open it and sprinkle it in Webster's wet food each morning. The Miralax is also a powder, so it dissolves, and he doesn't notice that it's there. (This was NOT my experience with Kingie, who could sense medicine in any form in any food and then refused to eat it.) It's only been four days, but Webster seems to be less rigid when he's walking, which makes me feel so much better. I know aches and pains are just a part of getting older, but I want to avoid it for Web as much as I can. And so far, we've been successful with NOT pooping in funny places.

*crosses fingers*

I also figured out that Webster is younger than I thought he was. The vet had him listed as being born in 2003, so he's only 16. Whew! Still old but not OLD old yet. Well, I don't have any idea what his real age is, but the adoption place said 2003. We'll just go with that.

Gretchen? She's totally fine:


We've been doing extra combing to attempt to control the Spring Shed. Gretchen's been busy watching the outdoor birdies through all the windows and napping in sunbeams. She's not as overweight as she looks in this picture, I swear. She's just really really really really furry:


And Alice? STILL HERE!! It's kind of hard to believe. Considering that Pippa passed away almost three months ago, I'm quite surprised that Alice is getting along so well solo. Apparently, we both don't mind living alone. She's still scratching her right eyeball like crazy (unseen in this photo), so she's definitely blind on that side. It's just a tic she picked up and can't seem to let go of. Alice is around 2.5 years old now, so she's quite geriatric. But she still runs on the wheel faster than any meecer I've ever seen in my life:


This concludes your visit to Blonde's Home for Aging Critters. Have a nice day!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Learning Mahself a New Skill: Woodcarving


Yesterday, I went to Midwest Woodworkers in Omaha and took a class called Carving Figurines I. The little mouse above is what I carved.

*takes bow*

It's not perfect by any means, but I'm quite proud of myself for it being my first time woodcarving and all -- especially since I'm timid with knives. I learned my lesson when I shoved a box cutter right into my shin a few years back, yes I did.

I had two main obstacles to overcome:

  1. My teacher and his wife were both right-handed, which meant that everything they showed me was backwards.
  2. I have peeled a potato maybe ONCE in my entire life (I eat my tators with skin), and I was just a wee child the last time I "helped" make an apple pie with Grandma Blonderson (who did NOT let me skin the apples), so I basically have zero experience with paring anything at all. It turns out paring/skinning fruit or veggies is a very good way to learn how to carve wood.

So basically the greenest greenerson EVER went to go take a wood carving class. That sets the stage.

Luckily, my instructor and his wife were very patient, good teachers. And because the only other person who was signed up yesterday didn't show, I had all of the attention to myself. Yay for me!!

We began with a safety lesson. First things first: wear a glove. A good, safe, tough glove. There was a stack of about 10 gloves sitting right in front of me. Alas, they were all left-handed. In order to carve with my left hand, I needed a right-handed glove.

*crickets*

*pauses to have elementary school flashbacks: "One of these things is not like the other..."*

Luckily, my teacher's wife had brought along some items, and one of them was a uni-hand Kevlar glove that basically looked like this. Also? I was in a legit awesome woodworking store, so I could have gone out to the shop and bought a glove on the spot, but I simply used the one that was there.

Woodcarving is an interesting process. You start out with a basswood blank that is *kinda* in the shape of whatever you are going to carve. In this case, my teacher brought mouse blanks. MEESES! Perfect!! Now, as a miniaturist, my experience with basswood has been hit or miss. It's easy to cut, but it's also super easy to snap, break, and ruin quickly in really really small scale. It turns out that this softness is a huge asset when you're working with a "large" block of it. This blank was about 4 inches by 2 inches? Something like that. I learned how to find the center of the back of the mouse by eyeballing -- way more fun and natural for me than mathing it out -- and then we drew on the areas that I would need to carve:


Then I learned how to hone -- not sharpen but hone -- my carving knife with "strop abrasive" aka aluminum oxide powder and a "hone strop" aka a piece of rubber like the kind on the bottom of your tennis shoes. (Here's a good explanation/visual of the difference between honing and sharpening: honing a chef's knife.) Basically, when you sharpen a knife, you cut parts of it off. When you hone a knife, you bend it all back into place. My teacher told me that if I care for my knife, I can use it forever with regular honing. He said he's had the same carving knife for 30 years -- proof in the pudding.

I'm a visual learner, so I had to watch my teacher very carefully while he demonstrated carving his own little mouser. Verbal directions went straight over my head and out the door. I went very very very slowly and felt quite nervous about the whole thing. He told me that it was OK and normal. He said many women who take his classes are quite timid with their wood blocks while many men just hack away at the wood with wild abandon -- no real surprise there. And despite my feelings that women can do anything men can do, personally, I do NOT have the forearm/hand strength of your average corn-fed male. I'm sure my hands and muscles will strengthen over time if I work at it, but I was coming into the situation with wimpy dexterity compared to my master carver teacher. He could do something in one slice that took me about five. Or maybe six. Still, he had a lot of patience, tricks to teach me, and a great sense of humor.

I got the basic idea down, and then I carved and whittled for the next three hours. The time FLEW by when I got into the zone. Every so often, we sprayed our meeces with a mixture of water and alcohol to soften it a bit and better show the grain (I have trouble cutting WITH the grain, yes I do). I made a few boo boos that my teacher helped me fix. From time to time, his wife came over to try to help me better translate his movements to left-handedness. They were both lovely people, and I was very happy to be in their company.

At some point, we ended up with these little fellows below. My teacher's is on the left and is named Bernie. Mine is on the right and is named Sheldon:


Since I actually have a real mouse at home that I've lovingly photographed many times (somehow, beyond all odds, Alice is still alive and kicking), I think that my face is a tad "mousier" than his. Otherwise, you can see how his skills help his mouse to have more rounded and natural-looking haunches than mine does. Which is fine. He SHOULD be way better at this since HE is the teacher. I'm just pointing out the differences I see. I also should have rounded out that forehead line on Sheldon's face, but overall, I'm happy with him. We glued on whiskers, tails, and shoved in pins for eyes:


PRESTO MAGIC!! What was once a block of wood is now a little meecer. It's really tempting to want to sand down all of those cut marks, but my teacher told me that you want those there because it shows that the item is hand-made. Why cover the marks of the knife you used to bring that little fella to life? Good point! We did remove the dust and tiny bits of wood from the final products with some metal buffing stuff attached to a Dremel, but for the most part, you carve it by hand, and you're done. It's incredibly satisfying and relaxing:


And since my classmate didn't show up, I got to take home the extra mouse blank. WHOOT!


I originally signed up for the class because I'd love to learn how to carve some wee mini figurines. I can't see myself translating my woodcarving skills immediately into miniature, but I can see carving a few minis in the future after I've had time to practice. If I enjoy it enough and feel confident,  I'll invest in micro carving tools, but for now, I got the "regular" size ones.

This is a detail knife on the right, and a palm v-tool on the left. I used one other tool to make the mouse -- a gouge -- so I need to get one of those. I LOVE gouging the wood. I did that for the inner ears, and it basically was what I was trying to do with the detail knife instead of paring. If possible, I would have made the whole mouse by gouging. It's FUN. Alas, I forgot to buy this tool before leaving the shop. I was completely distracted by the yummy smell of fresh wood and the incredible amount of tools and FUN THINGS all around me in the store. The knives are kind of pricey, but that's how all Good Tools are. I'm old enough now to know that it's better to buy one good expensive tool than five cheap ones that instantly break:


I also picked up a hone strop and the special powder to go with it:


And then I was feeling all proud of Sheldon and was zipping along and got halfway home when I realized I FORGOT TO BUY A FREAKIN' GLOVE. Come ON Blondie!!!!!!!!!!!!! I won't even allow myself to take my knife out of the package without a glove. (Speaking of which, a knife cover would be handy as well...) But by then, I was too tired and lazy and stuck in construction to turn back. So I'll just have to go back to the store soon to get my special glove and the gouge tool and maybe a few basswood blocks (and totally one of these fun carving kits they have) so I can keep practicing. I'm also going to need a thumb guard for sure because I don't trust myself at ALL when I'm paring toward my thumb. I tip my hat to anyone who slices and dices without needing to go to the hospital.

*tips hat*

And then one day, I'll invite over my niece and spin a long, rambling yarn about some crazy farmie story while I carve a tiny duck out of a block of wood just like a good grandpa should.

*bats eyeslashes*

Cheers to life-long learning!!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Miniature Flowers: Pascale Garnier Kits


Back when I purchased the Beacon Hill kit, I was living in the Concrete Jungle of Chicago. In the very last year that I lived there, I decided to garden for the first time in my adult life via some flowers on the front steps of my shared house/building. I was actually a pretty good container gardener considering the circumstances -- low light; random critters; cement everywhere; nuclear hot and muggy summers. I really enjoyed it, and I was keeping orchids (indoors) for the first time, too, so I decided the Beacon Hill should have an Orchid/Plant Room. If I couldn't have a really big garden or greenhouse in my Real Life, I could certainly have one in miniature. Over the years, I purchased a bunch of tiny orchids and flowers to eventually put in this room, but I hadn't made any myself. I was far too intimidated. Flash-forward 10 years, and I'm ready.

I haven't made a TON of miniature flowers, but I have learned the main steps and process. I've put together a few kits and have been practicing making gerber daisies with leaf sheets from A Little More in Miniature. I wasn't sure flower-making was for me, even with the straight-forward kits. I either have a ton of patience or no patience at ALL when it comes to making minis. I wasn't sure I would be able to handle the intricacies of wee petals. Mostly, I didn't want to have to paint all of the pieces in advance. I do NOT like Paint and Wait, Rinse and Repeat. Luckily, there are all kinds of miniature flower kits out there that are already in the right colors. YAY!

I have a few kits from other artisans, but I was most interested in getting Pascale Garnier kits. Pascale lives in France, and she's active with the miniature shows in Europe. She does NOT have a blog, web site, shop, etc., but she DOES take orders via email. I had seen some of Pascale's flowers after my friend April put together some of the kits, and I was blown away by the beautiful creations. But I'm not April. Could I still make the pretties? There was only one way to find out.

You can purchase Pascale Garnier flower kits in the U.S. on some vendor web sites, but the prices are ridiculous. I was so happy to see that the kits directly from the source were 1/3 of what some American sellers price them at. (I understand marking up goods to make a profit, but come ON.) I've found that many European miniaturists sell their goods directly if you can figure out how to contact them -- which sometimes means you have to use Google translator. God bless Google.

So I wrote to Pascale via email, and she sent me a whole slew of photos to look at and some price sheets. Fantastic!! Most of the kits I purchased were 8 or 9 euros, which was about $9 or $10. The most expensive kit was only 14 euros (when you see it, you'll totally understand). The prices on the flower kits were so good that I was able to buy far more flowers than I thought I would be able to. I decided to splurge and get a whole bunch of kits for my birthday, which is later this month. Girlfriend spoils herself for her birthdays, yes she does. (Solo people get to do that. It's one of our rights. Kind of like how married people get tax breaks. It just comes with the territory.)

Anyway, back to Pascale's beautiful kits. Time for the eye candy!!!

I've started working on two of the kits so far. The first one is red geraniums:


And blue/purple hydrangeas:


I lurved putting these together because I really enjoy puzzles, and I've learned that flower kits are really just tiny itty bitty puzzles. SO FUN! I look forward to tinkering with the rest of these soon.

Light yellow Cymbidium Orchid and Purple/Blue Lilacs:


White Phalaeonopsis Orchid and orange Imperial Crowns:


Pale pink Royal Lily and Pink Snapdragons:


Pink Double Cup Peonies and pale yellow English Roses (which were sent as a free bonus WHOOT):


Variegated Ivy:


And the 14 euro kit (which is seriously NOT expensive at all for such an amazing kit) -- HOLLYHOCKS! I love me a good Hollyhock!!!! They are red, dark pink, and light pink. And that beauty on the right is called a Bougainvillea. Stunning. Just stunning. I'm saving these two kits for last so I'll be fully prepared to try to do them justice:


I know this is probably virtually impossible, but I'd love to try to make a wee Hollyhock Girl if I can figure out how to do it. Here is a Real Life sized one I made a few summers ago. Auntie used to make these when she was a girl, and she taught me how to make them at a family gathering one day. Love them. Something tells me this isn't a very realistic goal because even 1:1 Hollyhock Girls are tricky, but you never know...


But back to Pascale. What I really adore about her kits is that she includes EVERYTHING. For example, see the Royal Lily kit below. That green square is a piece of fun foam to use to shape the leaves and petals, which is so helpful. For this particular plant, you can see a piece of thread and some fluffy yellow stuff has been included. The geraniums and hydrangeas both came with some Fimo for the innards of the flowers. Pascale even includes the dirt for the top of whatever pot you plan to put the flowers in -- such a nice finishing touch. Yes, some flowers may require a tiny bit of paint here and there, but that's not a problem at all:


Basically, I can't say enough good things about these kits, and they are perfect budget-wise. Also? You may have noticed that all of the kits are written in French. No worries! Pascale has excellent English translations for the kits that she sends along with them. WHEE!

[How does one say WHEE in French?]

*scratches head*

I ordered these kits well in advance of my birthday because I didn't know how long they would take to ship overseas and make it through Customs, but they arrived in less than a week (that's not normal; it's like the Universe wanted me to have them immediately). I think it usually takes 1-2 weeks for shipments from France, but don't quote me on that. (OMG, my mother always says "don't quote me on that," and it drives me nuts because who am I going to be quoting her to??? but now I'm getting older and am becoming more and more like Ma. It's happening!!!!)

So yes, I'm ridiculously thrilled with mah birthdays present to myself. Flower your little heart out, Blondie. You can do this!

-----------------------------

To contact Pascale, remove the spaces around the @ in this email address: pascale-garnier @ sfr.fr

------------------------------

Thank you, April, for telling me about Pascale, and thank you, Pascale, for making such BEAUTIFUL and wonderful kits for miniaturists like moi. ← I used a French word!

------------------------------

For a fun artist feature on Pascale Garnier by Jane Laverick, click here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Reawakening


For my entire adult life, up until these last few years, I went out at least once a week. Usually two or three times a week. No matter where I've lived, I've always had "the bar" that I go to. I enjoyed being out, seeing people, making new friends, and having noise in the background. Even when I was happily coupled, I still made it a priority. Because of this, I made a bunch of really interesting friends all across the country. I always loved my fellow barflies. People come and go, change, move, magically appear or disappear -- a townie bar is always the same no matter where it's at, and I've always really loved the experience. And then it just stopped.

There were a few life circumstances that led up to it, but mostly, I got heartburn and my back problems got worse and I got older and had less energy. The last thing in the entire world that I wanted was a beer. I enjoyed waking up in the morning without a headache or the stench of the previous evening floating around me. I got really into my hobby and spent my evenings working on projects instead of going out. Little by little, my barfly friends vanished. I find myself wondering about them from time to time, and I'm always happy when I run into one -- but that's rare.

Last weekend, I went out in town with one of the few remaining Real Life friends I have here in Farmsville. We had a grand old time, and I was happy to see her and her husband. While we were at the bar, I saw a girl I've known since childhood. She was a few years younger than me in school. I went over to say hello, and we hugged and exchanged news about our families. And then she asked me if I live here? Yes, I've lived here for almost 10 years.

*record screeches*

OK, it's 9 years. Right? I moved here at the very end of 2007, so it's more like 9 years. Yes. But still. As the words came out of my mouth, and then I watched the surprise come over the girl's face, I realized whoa, I've lived here longer than I've lived anywhere else. As a chronic mover -- like all the way across the country mover -- this is interesting. I've found a home. This is good! But I knew that the girl lived here. I've known that all along. I know a lot of people who live here. But they don't know I'm here.

It's totally self-imposed. I don't participate in Farmsville events. I'm not on Facebook. I'm not a member of any social groups or structures, such as a church. Since I'm single, I don't have any "other side of the family" obligations or outings. I live in the country and work from home. 'Nuf said. I am my own island. And so far? That's been perfectly fine. Seriously. I needed some down time from society to do some mental health work and figure out some of my dark sh*t and grow into the Adult Blondie that is sitting here typing today. I just needed a break. Plain and simple. At a resting state, I enjoy being a hermit, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Introvert? Check!

Earlier in my life, I sought out new ways to make friends on a regular basis. I signed up for classes at community centers or colleges or museums to try out new things. I was always excited when I signed up for the classes -- hoping I'd find whatever it was that my soul was seeking. Then I was always deeply disappointed when the class or the people didn't fill that hole in my heart. I was always looking outside of myself for comfort, and it backfired time and time again. At the classes, in the groups, at the bar. I spent a lot of time being painfully disappointed. It sucked.

So without really being aware of it, I just called it quits. I quit looking for interesting men to talk to or possibly date. I quit trying to dance the delicate dance of Adult Female Friendship. I completely bailed on meeting fascinating strangers at the local water holes. I focused on work, my online friendships, and my miniatures. I dove headfirst into my miniature guild and busted through a bunch of mini builds and felt very happy and content. I still do.

But.

The other day, my father invited me to lunch during the work week.  

What is this? What is this new-fangled fancy thing called a lunch date?! Wait a second! People leave their houses during the afternoons?! On purpose?! And you would like to do this with me???

*crickets*

Flashbacks:

  • The best lunches EVER with my girlfriends at the Giant Publishing Company in Chicago.
  • Driving through the Portland Wendy's with Cousin Kira on a random summer afternoon and then talking for hours about something ridiculous and loving it.
  • Meeting up my besties after class in Iowa City for coffee and socialization at Micky's.
  • Having "a table" to go to in high school in the lunch room right here in Farmsville. 

When did I stop having lunch with other people? Or maybe a better question -- when did I stop caring about not having lunch with other people?

Part of this is maturity. As we get older, we don't need as many people in our lives. For my married/kiddo friends, they don't have time for a lot of things because they're growing humans and working on their marriages and GOOD LORD kids' activities these days! I'm listening to hold music with a lot of my momma friends, genuinely hoping that I'll have solid relationships with them again once their children are grown. But it should probably be a bit healthier on my side of the call. I should be living my own life and be projecting my own kind of hold music because I'm doing things I care about and creating a valued and important life despite being solo.

This might sound like I'm beating myself up for being a hermit, but I'm not. There's true value in it. I have time for self-reflection and mindfulness. I get to explore nooks and crannies of my brain that most people simply do not have time to explore. I like being cerebral, and I embrace my weirdness. Adult Blondie has to be her own best advocate.

You're fine, Blondie, you really are. But you could kick it up a notch. Slow and easy wins the race.

At this point in my journey, I truly feel most things are chance, luck, or serendipity. You meet the right friend, partner, boss, job, wife, neighbor just because. You're in the right place at the right time. I used to think that I was in control of everything and so therefore, all of my failures were because of me. Over time, I've figured out it's not me. It just is -- whatever event I'm trying to make happen, it either will or won't happen. For example, my parents who were raised in different parts of the country in different lifestyles and who went to different colleges just happened to meet at a really small townie bar one night in a city that neither of them should have been in -- no family there, didn't go to college there, etc. It just happened. POOF. Ah, there you are. And now they've been married for 40-ish years. They couldn't have planned that. Nope. You can't plan that sh*t. And neither can I.

BUT.

I can give chance the opportunity to happen.

Right now? For the last few years? No chance. I've had my head buried in my studies and my hobby and my work and my family. It's OK. It happens. Not a failure. Nothing wrong with it. I've been fine. For reals, I've been fine and very content, and I've settled into a very comfortable mental-health zone that doesn't involve crying on the regular. It's good stuff.

BUT.

I'd like to have lunch with someone. Maybe a couple of someones. I'd like to choke on my food as I laugh SO HARD at something one of those someones said. I remember that. I loved it. It was good, too.

No, I don't need to go stand in a grocery store aisle each day and wait to bump into people. No, I don't need to hit up the local bar three nights a week. No, I don't need to make myself really uncomfortable by forcing myself to do things I don't want to do just because I feel like I should.

But I can sign up for a new kind of class that might really interest me and bring me some joy. I can ask that girl from the bar for her phone number the next time I see her just in case she is also looking for someone to have lunch with once in a while. I can find reasons to go out and be in the world on a semi-regular basis instead of spending so much time by myself.

I can get out more.

In fact, I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Letter to a Dollhouse


Dearest Beacon Hill,

As much as I always want to work on you -- like really truly almost ache to work on you -- I never do it. Why? What is it about you that keeps me from picking up the tools and ending this long game? I bought you in 2006. I cracked you open and was ready to roll. It's been 10 years.

I thought giving myself a deadline of December 31, 2016 would make me attack your naked shell and GET TO WORK ALREADY, but nope. Here we are almost at the end of April. That means I have seven months left according to my personal deadline. It was more realistic-ish when there were closer to 12 months. I don't think I can cut it in seven. Especially because there are so many unpredictable Real Life Events that keep happening to fill up my time.

It's some kind of mental block. That has to be it. I've gone through them in my head.

Is it because I got you to get over my ex-boyfriend, and finishing you somehow puts that relationship to bed permanently? No. I've grown and changed too much since that breakup to let something like that happen now. You are just a dollhouse. Plain and simple. You no longer represent anything to do with that ex or have that kind of power.

Is it because you intimidate me? Kind of. I can own that one. There are parts of you that I have not yet figured out how to master. The main one being that tower:


I didn't originally side you all the way up. Now there are tight corners that are missing siding:


This is not something I can't handle, however. My mini skills have blossomed over the years by working on other miniature builds. Those experiences have given me the skills I need to fudge it. Figure it out. DO IT. I can do it. I know I can.

Is it because I want the top hat to remain removable, but I don't want it to look stupid? Possibly. However, I just learned a really great lesson from fellow miniaturist Emily Morganti via legendary miniaturist Jim Marcus. Emily needed a hinge for her Little Belle and wrote: "I remembered [Jim Marcus] telling me that he didn’t mind if his houses had visible hinges — that you shouldn’t try to hide the fact that a dollhouse is a dollhouse."

This makes so much sense to me, so now I need to simply find a cool eye hook or clamp or pretty thing to hold the top hat on. That won't be so hard now that I have officially given myself permission to make it obvious. Thank you, Emily. Thank you, Jim Marcus:


Is it because I don't like the light blue? I think I've gotten over that. For a long time, I was bummed about going with this color as an accent. It's Anita Slate Blue, and I've regretted that color choice since the minute I bought it. I wanted that accent blue to look more like the one on this house, which has the color scheme I copied. For a long time, I pondered trying to take apart the bits of the house that have this color, but then I decided meh. It's fine. So I guess it's not the blue:


Is it because you're so giant and f*cking intimidating? Yes, a part of the reason is that:


But on the other side of the coin, I have so many fun minis for you. Like these flowers I bought years ago:


And this sign for the Heritage Room that I bought at my first mini show in Davenport, Iowa, in 2013:


And this furniture for the Crime Museum:


And this copper rooster in memory of Grandpa Blonderson:


And this horrifyingly disturbing yet fantastic X-ray from April (for the Crime Museum -- story for another post):


And this antique quilt and bedding set from Barbara Studebaker that I bought for myself this Christmas. I love it so much:


And who can forget this clock from April?:


Glinda from Brae is ready for the Wizard of Oz rooms:


I've even been diligently dusting off old kits and putting them together. Kitty from Volker Arnold in a resting state:


And then ARMS UP!:


Debora gave me these poppies. POPPIES!! POPPIES WILL MAKE THEM SLEEEEEEEEP:


I need to make pretty flowers for this kitty vase that represents Webster. And I need like seriously neeeeeed to simply have this radish from 64tnt displayed SOMEWHERE. I need to look at it all the time for the sake of random silliness:


So my sweet, wonderful, beautiful Beacon Hill. I accept your flaws. I'm fine with your slightly crooked ways. I'm at peace with the fact that you aren't going to look perfect. And I know full well that painting all of your gingerbread trim might kill me, BUT I'll be so proud and happy when you're finished. I will have such a fantastic sense of accomplishment!!!!!!!!!!!!

So why why why why? Why can't I even get myself to DUST you?

Is it because you're no longer in my living room? You were front and center over at Farmhouse Villa:


Hmmmm.... I think there's something to that.

I feel like because I have a Mini Room in my house that I have to use it. It's perfect for storing all of my mini things, but it's hard to shoo the cats out of there (oh yes, the cats certainly have something to do with the BH procrastination, hence the tinfoil) and at night, my gray walls paint choice (that I LOVE) is dark. Too dark for painting. Not too dark for building though. I've built plenty of other things in there already.

I feel guilty not using the Mini Room because it's there and I begged my father to help me fix it up for my minis. Random Internal Blondie says: "You really should go work in that room. Go in there. Go." There's NOTHING wrong with that room. Seriously. It's a perfect room. Especially now that Pa fixed the HVAC issues.

WTF, Self?!

Sigh.

I wonder what would happen if I put the Beacon Hill in the living room for a while?

It would probably bother me. Now that I have a bigger house with so many rooms to store things in, I'm far less messy. I like keeping the house relatively clean. It feels good, better, healthier. I like the ch'i of Briarpatch as-is. I also dislike judgment from random visitors about things like giant, in-progress dollhouses in one's living room. Been there, done that. I know I shouldn't care, but I apparently do.

Devil's Advocate Blondie says: "But wouldn't it also be healthier to work on minis, which you haven't really done in earnest since before Christmas?" Yes. Yes, it would be very good for me to embrace my hobby head-on. And it's true that when the Beacon Hill was sitting in my living room, I stared at it all the time, thinking up more and more grand ideas about how to work on it and decorate it creatively.

Hmm.

Perhaps I'll bring the Beacon Hill out and put it behind the couch for a few weeks. Just to stare at it. Just to see if that will spark my mini-ing fever. I can let myself off the hook with the 2016 completion deadline, but I DO want to work on the house. I love this house. I want to finish it.

How does that sound, Beacon Hill? Want to come out and play? I sure hope so because I have so many fantastic minis waiting to be displayed inside of you:


We'll keep the foil handy to attempt to deter Gretchen. We'll deal with kitty hair sticking to your siding. We'll say: "I don't care," over and over and over again if the dollhouse makes the living room look "messy" in some way. I will put you where I can't ignore you and let the staring begin. Yes, let's see how that goes. It's worth a shot.

Love,

Blondie

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Planning Ahead for Meow Loss


So about a year ago, when Webster was 16 (if we can trust his initial adoption papers), I took the meows to the vet for an annual visit. I asked the vet how long he thought Webster might live. He felt Webbie's kidneys (said they were getting smaller), checked him over, and gave me the verdict: Webster will probably live to be 18. That was one year ago. So now Webster is 17. Somewhere in the depths of Briarpatch, a clock has started ticking.

Now, of course, no one can predict death. Webster could go on to randomly live to be 25 or something. [Hell, Alice the mouse keeps going like an Energizer Bunny despite being like 125 years old in mouse years.] But somehow I doubt Webster will last into his 20s. He's been losing weight for the last few years and now has a very bony back and hip area. He used to love for other people to snuggle and pet him, but now he only likes it when I do it. He used to play a lot more. He used to be shinier.

My little old man is going to break my heart when he goes.

Because I'm all about mental health now, I'm forcing myself to not pretend that Webster will live forever. Slowly, ever so slowly, I've also been working on this skill regarding my aging parents. (HI PARENTS!) Thinking about the grand circle of life has led to discussions about cremation -- both human and animal. And a lot of other conversations that I never ever ever wanted to have, but I've been making myself do it because it's important. I've been adulting lately.

But back to Webster, who is on my lap as we speak because that's where Webster is when Momma is working. Always. On. Momma.

What will I do when the time comes for my cuddlebug? How will I sleep without him right beside me? How will I heal my heart?

OK, there's a fine line between adulting and Preparing Too Much. For now, I'll stick with the logistics. I've been worrying about this ever since I talked to the vet about realistic indoor-cat life expectancies.

When King died back in 2010, it was smack in the middle of a really brutal winter. The ground was FROZEN. There was no way King was going to have a proper farmie burial, so I had him cremated. King was the very first pet in the Blonderson family to have such a froufrou ending. Most of our hamsters, kitties, and goldfish ended up somewhere in the back 40 -- even now I have no clue where my childhood cats are buried. King was different though because he was my cat. Lives-in-the-house cat. More-like-a-roommate cat. I ordered the little box for his ashes, which now lives in the bookshelf with other meaningful objects.

King's box is very pretty:


Naturally, when I moved into Briarpatch, I lost the key that opens the box:


The people at the vet's office gave me quite the shock when they presented me with King's paw print, which I was very grateful to receive. I also have this little memorial that I made in his honor. It has his last rabies registration tag and his favorite mousie toy in it:


When my mother's farm cat died at age 19 in 2013, I asked for a paw print for her as well. Girlfriend had front claws, yes she did:


So what to do about Webster?

Last month, I got a postcard reminding me about Gretchen's scheduled vaccinations. When I called to make her appointment, I asked about bringing in Webster, too. It turns out that they no longer give kitties distemper shots once they reach a certain age, so Webster didn't need to come in for anything.

*crickets*

This was the moment where it really sunk in. I packed Gretchen up in the carrier to go to the vet solo. After her shots, I decided to put my big girl pants on and ask the administrative assistant about their kitty death options. This is my old Farmsville vet, but he has a new office in a neighboring town, so I wasn't sure about their protocol. She assured me that they do the paw prints -- but reminded me to make sure to ask just in case. And then she showed me the box. The box was not very pretty. Economic? Yes. Pretty? No.

Webster and I have spent far more time with each other than King and I ever did. The little, simple wooden box just seemed Wrong in comparison to King's.

The next evening, I ended up having a discussion about this with my sister. Dorothy knows how much I love thrifting and being crafty, so she suggested that I buy/make my own box for Webster. Because I have time on my side, this is something I can do -- fabulous idea. Of course, this then led to a discussion about my parents' ashes/urns, which led to a conversation about my parents living in my bookshelf with my dead cats, but that's all for another blog post...

Webster.
My handsome boy.
My cuddlebug.
My snuggles.

I love him so much.

It would feel weird to bury Webster somewhere on the farm and then keep King on the shelf. But it would also feel weird to cremate Webster when he could simply be buried naturally on the farm. I suppose it depends on what time of year it is and whether or not my father is available to help me. There are too many unknown variables to know for sure what I'll be able to accomplish. But this much I can do: I can look for a special box. Just in case.

The day we took Maggie in to the vet to have her put to sleep (she went downhill fast in a 24-hour period), I mentioned that she was SO bony. Her hips and backbone were sticking out. The vet tech told me that's how you know that a cat is getting really old and doesn't have a ton of time left. As I sit here now, petting Webster's bony behind, I wonder how long that mysterious clock will keep ticking.

I knew all along that Webster would need another cat. With Gretchen, I'm not sure. She'll let me know, and I'll figure it out when the time comes.

There. Now I've written about it. I've acknowledged the worry and fear inside of me and have given it room in the world. Now, hopefully, I can stop thinking about it and simply enjoy the time we have left.