Monthly Archives: February 2013

To spring! And back again.

Here at the house, the endless sanding and painting continues. But, how many posts about sanding and painting can I inflict on you? I have to live every stroke … but you don’t. (You are saying, “No, no! More about painting, please!!” Well, too bad. You’ll get over it.) Today I am going to write about spring. Or at least, the harbinger of spring in these parts—the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

Eric always makes sure two tickets to the show are stashed in my Christmas stocking. In the bleak grayness of December, it’s the best gift ever because it holds all the promise of the new year.

We hit the display gardens first. This year, sorry to say, we weren’t wowed by any of them. Oh well … some years got it, some years don’t. (Last year we found our inspiration for a new conifer garden, so I can’t expect that every year!)

Like the Home Show or the Puyallup Fair, most of the vendors are the same from year to year. One of my favorites is Whidbey Island’s Bob Bowling Rustics, fanciful little outbuildings made from recycled building materials. I aspire to own one someday … when we have more space. (It’s hard to take good photos when dodging the crowd.)

Bob Bowling Rustics

We picked out a new ceramic night light for the bathroom. How night lights relate to a garden show is not obvious to me … except this one has a ginkgo leaf motif.

ginkgo night light

Among the plant vendors we unexpectedly found a coral-bark Japanese maple ‘bene kawa,’ which is the little tree we lost in last January’s ice storm.

ice storm 1/2012

Bene kawas are hard to come by these days. They seem to have gone out of style with most growers, so we were delighted to find someone who still provides them. We snapped up a baby bene … not sure where he’ll go, but there’s always room for one more.

And then … I saw it, its golden needles glowing across the crowded room—the object of my plant lust for several years: a Chief Joseph lodgepole pine!! These guys are almost impossible to find if you’re not in the landscape trade. I peeked at the little guy’s price tag, just for a split second. I’m pretty sure it was upwards of $300. I turned the tag back over so fast, I’m not entirely positive. That’s nuts, right? I walked away. “Talk me down from this ledge,” I begged Eric. I successfully put Joe out of my mind. Until … I saw more Chief Josephs dead ahead! And one of these beauties could be mine at the bargain price of $220! Funny how that works, isn’t it? You walk away from something exorbitant and then see a price only slightly less ridiculous and—bam—your wallet falls open. Yes, Joe came home with us. (I am not sorry.) So did a cut-out steel kitty.

Garden show goodies

Lacy think steely kitty looks a lot like her! Look at those ears!

Lacy and steely kitty

False springs have a way of coming to an abrupt end. When we got home, the house felt chilly. Our elderly oil furnace had run out of fuel! When that happens, the old girl won’t restart without coaxing from a furnace technician … preferably one who’s on overtime because it’s a weekend. I might add, this isn’t the greatest time to buy oil, at $4.45/gal. I guess I had that comin’ after splurging on Chief Joe. That’s just the way life works!

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Remembering Rosencrantz

Rosencrantz

On February 11 we lost our beloved Maine coon, Rosencrantz. Rosey was a big cat who lived a big life. Fourteen years is a reasonable old age for a cat, but it seems our animal friends always leave us far too soon.

Rosey came to live with me and my former husband in August of 1999. He simply showed up on our back stoop, an adorable kitten of about six or seven months. (Click on any photo to enlarge.) 

Rosey at six months

Rosey at six months

He wasn’t a bit afraid of our boxer, Paisley, which totally confounded her. She didn’t know what to make of a cat who wouldn’t run away.

Paisley and Rosey meet

Paisley and Rosey meet

 We discovered that this little kitten had made a nest in long grass beneath one of our rose bushes, so we named “her” Rosey. (Rosey was so furry that we missed some important evidence.) Our vet informed us “Congratulations–it’s a boy!” But the name Rosey stuck. As he grew, his name grew, too. “Rosencrantz” matched his stature and bearing, but he was always Rosey to his friends.

Rosey quickly bonded to us and to his new boxer buddy. Paisley and Rosey became fast friends, often cuddling together in bed. During his fourteen years, Rosey befriended three boxers (and taught them all to love cats), but I think Paisley was his favorite.

Rosey and Paisley

Rosey and Paisley share the bed

Rosey and Dodger

Rosey and Dodger share the couch

Rosey and Duke continue the tradition

Rosey and Duke continue the tradition

Wrestling

Paisley and Rosey wrestling

A cushy home life wasn’t enough for this cat. Within a few months, he’d gone out and gotten himself a job at the union hall office across the street. For reasons we’ll never know, Rosey decided he was part of the office staff. For thirteen years, Monday through Friday, Rosey steadfastly reported for work at the International Union of Operating Engineers, Seattle Local 286. He’d wait until one of his staff got out of the car, then trot excitedly with them to the door, tail held high in glee. Like clockwork, he always came home for lunch and snack breaks, then walked back to work. He spent hours helping Terry, the attorney, by holding down papers on his desk or keeping his chair warm while Terry patiently sat elsewhere.

Legal assistant

Legal assistant

When some of the staffers stepped outside for smoke breaks or to chat in the sun, Rosey facilitated the meetings, proudly strutting amongst his staff and looking very much in charge. When Terry retired, Rosey took a new position in lobby and parking lot security, but his union loyalty never waned.

Rosey meeting

Meeting time

Weekends and holidays were disappointing, as the office was closed. Rosey still showed up promptly, only to sit forlornly in the parking lot, waiting for his peeps … until he’d give up and wander home.  

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

One day I discovered a new tag on Rosey’s collar. His union buddies had given him a small enameled charm with the union number and logo on it. A journeyman at last! Rosey proudly wore his union tag for the rest of his life.

Adjacent to the union office is a warehouse where a local vocational college runs an HVAC training program. In the summer when the roll-up doors stood open, Rosey often pulled a double shift, working in the office during the day, then helping the instructors teach evening classes. Many times I’d catch a glimpse of his backside as he scampered up the stairs to the classroom. Everyone knew him and he basked in their attention. That union tag on his collar earned him a lot of respect.

When he was a youngster, Rosey was fond of riding in the car. I’d take him for short hops, like to the grocery store a few blocks away. People stared in amazement at the car with two boxers in the back seat and a large cat on the dashboard. One day a loud motorcycle frightened him, and Rosey decided car rides were no longer for him. However, he didn’t lose his sense of adventure or curiosity about cars. More than once, one of his coworkers discovered they had an extra passenger on their trip home. Thankfully, they always turned around and brought him back. And then there was the day that Eric and I hauled a trailer-load of belongings to a storage unit about a mile away. When we peeled the tarp off the load, we were horrified to find a slightly disoriented Rosencrantz blinking in the sun!

And more than once, Rosey spent all weekend at work because the staff locked the doors on Friday night, not knowing he was sleeping in some quiet corner. Eventually they added his name to the in/out board just to make sure he clocked out on time.

About a decade ago I became serious about gardening and landscaping. It was Rosey who taught me that gardens aren’t just for humans—they’re also for cats. He enjoyed his mini-jungles and he helped us care for them. Whenever Eric and I worked in the yard, Rosey was always there, supervising and keeping us company, and greeting passers-by. He knew more people in the neighborhood than we did.

In the sumac tree

In the sumac tree

Rosey in the Japanese maple

Rosey in the Japanese maple

In the catnip pot

In the catnip pot

Besides being a natural supervisor, Rosey was the feline patriarch of the neighborhood. Imposing in size, but never aggressive with other cats, he simply commanded respect. He was King Coon, a kind and benevolent ruler. The other six cats in his household never crossed him. He could shut them down with a mere scowl. He also used that scowl to stop traffic as he sat squarely in the middle of the street.

One of his favorite games was leading me on a merry chase down the street on summer nights, trotting two paces in front of me until he finally allowed me to “catch” him and carry him home. He’d growl menacingly as we neared the door, sometimes boxing my ears or biting my arm, trying to startle me into letting go. Nice try, Rosencrantz. He never bit hard enough to hurt. It was all for show. He knew it, and he knew I knew it.

Rosey was never one to hide his feelings. If we didn’t let him have his way, he told us exactly how he felt with a salty vocabulary of huffs and hisses. That cat could curse like a longshoreman! And grooming? Maine coons need to be brushed, but brushing Rosey was like grooming a wolverine. During the summer he matted up something fierce, so a few times I had him shaved. As long as he kept his leonine mane, bushy britches, and fabulous tail, he seemed to take it in stride.

Rosey's haircut

Rosey’s haircut

As Rosey hit middle age, he developed high blood pressure and for the rest of his life took daily medication (just like his parents). We didn’t realize that high blood pressure in cats can cause blindness. But before long we did notice that the reflective inner surface of his right eye had changed … and it wasn’t long before he was blind in that eye. He seemed to adjust fine to monovision, but soon something else developed. Rosey had glaucoma, and it could not be controlled. He was grumpy with a migraine-like headache from the ocular pressure. The only solution was to remove his painful eye. Although the surgery seemed drastic and disfiguring, as he healed and his hair grew back in he gained a jaunty, pirate air. And best of all, he immediately regained his old personality.

Healing from eye surgery

Healing from eye surgery

Just a couple of weeks ago, Rosey once more became grumpy and stopped eating. Tests confirmed pancreatitis, which has a poor prognosis. The news got worse: an ultrasound revealed tumors throughout his abdomen—aggressive pancreatic cancer. There was nothing that could be done. We were devastated. It was Wednesday. Only a week before, I thought Rosey was a healthy cat. I made arrangements for our vet to come to our house on Friday and put him to sleep. We needed a little time to come to grips with this news.

The next day I bundled Rosey in a towel and took him across the street to say goodbye to his union hall friends. They were wondering what was wrong because Rosey never missed work. I left him there to visit as long as he wanted. He stayed for half an hour, then one of his coworkers walked him home.

Rosey and Liz

Rosey and Liz

When Friday dawned, Rosey was lying under the bed. I sat down to work at my desk by the dining room window. I glanced across the street and was shocked to see that Rosey had slipped out the dog door and was resolutely walking to work! He was determined to say goodbye on his own terms. He stayed all morning and took his time walking home in the sunshine. Eric and I decided this was not his day to die. Instead, I took him the vet to have 750 ml of fluid (the equivalent of a bottle of wine!) drawn from his abdomen. We knew he’d only be with us for a few more days, but I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.

Rosey's last day at work

Rosey’s last day at work

That last brave visit to his office took all the strength Rosey had left. He deteriorated rapidly over the weekend. Monday morning, though, I found him once again lying by the back door, thinking about going to work. I carried him to a kitty bed on the window seat where he could rest and gaze across the street at his beloved office. He could no longer walk. Our vet arrived, and we said our final goodbyes as she sent our amazing cat off on his next adventure.

After 13 years of watching Rosey hold court at the union hall, I still expect to see him in the parking lot, keeping an eye on his business and his house, ready to come flying home if I wave at him. I miss his warm, woolly body curled in the crook of my arm at night, his Harley-Davidson purr and his squeaky-toy meow, and his unvarnished opinions. I’ll always admire his unfailing sense of purpose, the loyalty he showed his friends and family, and how he lived life his way, right up to the end.

Rosey at 14

Rosey at 14

I like to think he is taking a summer stroll with his old friends Paisley and Dodger, just as he often accompanied us on neighborhood walks. We’ll miss you dearly, Rosencrantz Coon. You will always be in our hearts. Happy travels, little friend.

Two friends

Two friends

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Doin’ the DIY shuffle: one step forward, two steps back

One step forward

Casey, our electrician paid us another visit this week. By now you know that a Casey visit is always illuminating, and this time was no exception. We now have—OMG—a light over the  kitchen sink! I know, you’ve had a light over the sink all your life, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is, I’ve been living without one for almost thirty years. And now, before old age overtakes me, I can finally see to do dishes (not that I will spend much time doing dishes when we get our new dishwasher). It’s rather strange to stand at the sink in the evening with the light shining right over my head. I feel so … exposed!

ceiling lights

We also have a new wall outlet for our microwave and toaster, which eliminates an extension cord. Pretty fancy, eh? Although I’m concerned that the absence of that extension cord might somehow interfere with the coalescence of cat-hair dust bunnies, which could ultimately affect the formation of hurricanes in the north Atlantic.

When Casey removed the old fixture and cut through the drywall ceiling, and then through the lath and plaster above it, dark, fluffy, ancient insulation floated down over everything. And there, from the ceiling, hung two wires. No junction box, just two wires. (I was not surprised. I have seen this in other rooms.) Boxes? We don’t need no stinkin’ boxes! Needless to say, now we have boxes. Our house is getting safer in small increments.

no box

Two steps back

Months ago, back when we were naively beginning this project, Eric demoed the old white plastic tile that lined our walls and replaced it with beadboard. The beadboard’s all installed and primed, waiting for us to quit banging around and creating dust so that I can apply the finish coat of paint. But, when Casey installed the microwave outlet and wired the new overhead lights to their wall switch, sections of beadboard had to be ripped out to permit access to the wiring. Not a big deal, but we were a little discouraged to undo something that was so close to done. I guess we just weren’t thinking of wiring when that paneling went up. Sigh.

new outlet

Eric and I have been eagerly awaiting the day when the upper cabinet frame would be painted and cured long enough to hang our three beautiful glass doors. Finally, that day had arrived! To give the structure more strength, Eric had replaced the two central vertical pieces that the doors attach to,  but the vertical members at each end of the shelf unit were still in decent shape and firmly attached. However … neither of us had thought about the fact that new wood is not the same dimension as old wood. (We are usually smart enough to catch things like that—really, we are!)  The new frame pieces and doors were nearly 1/8 inch thicker than the original pieces, which made the doors and hinges protrude 1/8 inch beyond the original frame. Dammit! The remaining old frame pieces would have to be replaced, too, to make everything line up flush. Off they came, splintering in protest and popping chunks of my new paint job (and the 100 years of paint it covers) off the woodwork. @#$%^!!!

shelfish

Eric painstakingly cut and fitted new pieces, difficult because the arched wall on the left side of the cabinet is anything but smooth and square. Now we’re back to fixing plaster damage and repainting, just when I had mopped the inside of the cabinet and was ready to roll out the shelf paper like a welcome mat. Sigh.

During this process we discovered one reason why the paint doesn’t stick to this house. The original cabinet wood is coated in spar varnish—typical of the time period. Of course. Sigh.

However, despite the fallbacks, we are close to making some major progress. Not actually making progress yet, but close to it. Downstairs, where the real magic happens, Eric is assembling drawers: cutting, gluing, dovetailing, and routing up a storm. Any day now, a small army of drawers will come marching up the stairs and install themselves in our base cabinets. That day will mark the halfway point of our DIY cabinetry adventure. When I see drawers (and I will see them long before they’re installed because I’ll  have to sand and finish them), I will know we’ve turned for home.

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