Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend update (about Caruso, of course!)

This little guy continues to amaze me.

Last night, we hosted David's twin nephews and one of their wives (Kurt's wife and two children are in Germany for most of the summer, visiting her family, and he's been here for a few days). Mr. Caruso was curled up on the love seat, which has become 'his' place in the living room, when they arrived, and I was sure he'd disappear in a streak of gray fur as soon as he heard their voices. But I was dead wrong - he sat in his spot, calm as could be, and even let Kevin scritch his ears! He stayed out of his hide-y hole for the most of the evening, letting everyone pet him, purring up a storm, and behaving as if he's always lived here.

At one point, he was sitting under the table and I came into the room, called his name, and he popped out from under the table and walked over to me, tail held high, obviously glad I'd returned.

He's a courageous little guy, and I'm so, so grateful that the folks at Animal Aid trust me enough to let him live with us.

Now all we have to do is convince Harley, the o-so-irritable tortoise-shell princess, that Caruso has as much right to roam the house as she does. With luck, this will happen some time in the next, oh, decade or so.

He seemed a bit more nervous and skittish this morning, and I'm wondering if the months he and his fellow kitties spent alone when his guardian was in and out of the hospital has scared him enough that a prolonged absence of humans (like when we sleep) scares him into thinking we're gone and won't come back? Or am I anthropomorphizing just a little bit here?

Friday, June 22, 2007


We have two large banks of strawberry vines growing in our back yard, and I've been out every morning for the past week, bucket in hand, picking strawberries. David has strawberries with his cereal every morning. I've made one strawberry pie, several servings of strawberry shortcake, strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar, and I've frozen about six cups of whole berries so far. I picked another quart or so this morning, and plan to serve them tomorrow evening with pound cake and whipped cream. From the looks of the vines, we'll easily be able to harvest another few quarts of berries before this year's crop is done.

And the berries on the blueberry bushes are starting to turn blue-purple, so it will be time to do some harvesting there very soon.

Oh boy, oh boy!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Yep, another Caruso Comment

I gotta say that this little guy is absolutely amazing. He's been living here with us since June 1st, less than a month, and the changes in his behavior have been incredible.

Don't get me wrong - he's still extremely wary of Sam and Harley (Harley, being a typical tortie, is much more aggressive towards him than Sam), and he runs and hides under the table in the living room whenever he hears a loud noise, or when David comes into the room. But the bonding he and I did when he lived at Animal Aid has continued, and we've established what seems like a decent trusting connection. So when I wake up and finish my morning 'duties' (make coffee, clean litter boxes, put out a few Greenies for Sam'n'Harley) I now go into the living room and call out "Caruso!". Within seconds, he's out from under the table, leaping gracefully up onto the love seat, and we start a little love-fest. I never dreamed that he'd respond to my calling him in such a short period of time, or that he'd have the courage to curl up on a pillow next to me on the love seat and fall asleep - but that's what he'll do now. A week ago, when I'd stand up and leave the living room, he'd be back under the table in a flash of gray fur; in the past couple of days, he's stayed on his pillow, in a cat-curl, with his head on his front paws, and continued to sleep even though I'm no longer there to protect him.

Oh, and he comes by his name honestly, that's for sure. He'll yowl whenever he's moving from one space to another in the house, or when he wants me to come in to the living room and spend a little time with him. And his purring can fill the room!

My guess is that I won't see three kitties curled up in bed with us when I wake in the morning for quite a while, but things are definitely moving in the right direction.

I'm so, so glad we were able to adopt him. Most people who go to shelters want to adopt the tiniest kittens and puppies (who wouldn't - they're adorable!), but we opted for slightly older cats when we brought Sam and Harley into the family (they were four and five months old, respectively) and now that we've adopted a senior kitty, I can see us continuing to do that in the future.

Hell, I'm older and sick - why should I discriminate against a cat with the same demographic?

Friday, June 15, 2007

A little this, a little that

Let's start with Caruso.

It seems like he's getting a little less frightened every day, although he has a long way to go before I'd call him 'comfortable' living here. The latest change in his behavior happened two days ago. I was sitting on the love seat in our living room, reading a book, when he emerged from under a table next to me, me-yowled a couple of times, and jumped up beside me. He began purring almost immediately, rubbing up against me and showing me exactly where he most needed scritches, when he noticed I had a small pillow resting against my (much-too ample) belly. He half-climbed onto the pillow, got that eyes-half-closed-ecstatic look that cats get when they're blissful, and began kneading the pillow, purring all the while.

After a few minutes of this, he noticed the other small pillow propped up in the opposite corner of the love seat, went over there, did a little kneading, and curled up for a quick wash-up and a nap. We sat there together for a long time, me reading and Caruso napping. It was a lovely moment of peace and calm, and I'm hoping for many more.

On another topic entirely... David built me a small, raised garden bed in the sunniest corner of our back yard. At one point, there was a huge (and apparently gorgeous) cherry tree back there, but it died and had to be cut down. The folks from whom we bought our home had built a child's play structure in that area that David took apart last year. We had the tree stump ground down last summer, our nephew carted the sliding board and swing away to use for his kids, and David salvaged all of the lumber and most of the screws from the structure.

Last week, using what he'd salvaged from the play structure, he built the raised beds. We got a trailer full of soil from David's sister & brother-in-law, he shlepped it all down in wheelbarrow loads, mixed it with soil from the garden, and yesterday I planted veggies (four kinds of tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cukes, eggplant and zucchini). I need to strew some Sluggo on the soil to try and prevent a slug-fest out there, and to keep everything well watered and weeded. With some luck we'll have salads made from our own little veggie garden later in the summer!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One more from graduation

(From left to right: Emily, Zack and moi, a few minutes after graduation in May)

One of my beloved friends suggested that I post this photo (she really loves Zack's smile - and those gorgeous dimples). As I look at this photo, I swear his joy is almost palpable!

I live to serve, so -- here it is!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Caruso, con't

Yesterday marked some kind of breakthrough for Caruso, I think.

I looked into our guest bedroom, where he's spent a lot of time hunkered under the bed, and there he was, curled up on one of the pillows, out in the open! We did a little bit of bonding, and I left him there, still on top of the bed. About an hour later, I saw Harley sitting in the doorway of our bedroom (an unusual place for her to be), so I peeked in and saw Caruso lying on our bed! (I'll know he's been accepted into the pack when all three cats end up sleeping with us at night.)

Unfortunately, Harley, who is a typical tortoise-shell cat, with enough attitude for several other kitties, got pissed that he was in her spot, and chased him off the bed and back into the guest bedroom. She began a fight, but I think David managed to make it clear to her, in his inimitable and quite successful way, that she was not allowed to harass Caruso. So far today, she's left him alone.

I went looking for him when I woke this morning, and couldn't find him anywhere. I checked all of his hidey-holes with no success, when suddenly I saw his head pop up from behind a small table that sits in the center of the bay window in our dining room - he'd been stretched out on the windowsill (something neither of our huge cats could possibly manage) and I didn't see him until he looked up. He let me come over and scratch his ears, and then he spent an hour or so lying in a pool of sunlight while David worked on the crossword puzzle nearby. When I returned from volunteering at Animal Aid, Caruso and Sam were lying a few feet apart on the dining room rug, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight that was streaming in the windows.

It looks like this is gonna work!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Caruso, continued

For now, he seems stuck in a holding pattern, spending most of his time curled up in one of those wonderful cat-circles, with his head resting on a paw, safely tucked away under the bed in our guest bedroom. My morning routine now consists of (1) make coffee, (2) empty the litter box,
(3) give Sam and Harley some 'greenies' (cat treats that clean their teeth) and (4) lie down on the floor next to the bed where Caruso is hiding and spend some time petting him/talking to him. At first, there was no reaction from him, but now he starts to purr almost immediately, which I'm hoping is a Good Sign.

Whenever he's moving from one spot in the house to another, he announces his intent with very loud yowling, as if to warn everyone away. I've managed to pet him when he's hunkered down under the dining room table, and even to catch him and hold him a couple of times, but for now, he's very much the phantom cat living in our home.

C'mon Caruso! We like you a LOT, and would love it if you'd join the tribe!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Caruso Update

It turns out that Mr. Caruso is quite a bit more adventurous than we'd imagined when he first arrived here. After two days living in the hall bathroom, he decided it was time to get out and explore the rest of the house; once he'd done that, there was no keeping him in that room. He's still scared, of course, and tends to run away whenever David or I try to approach him, but we figure it's going to take some time before he feels safe enough to hang out with us the way our two cats do.

He's found several places to hang out (under a table in the living room, on top of a set of drawers under the desk in the sunroom and under the dining room table - do you sense a theme here?) and we can usually find him in one or another of his hidey-holes when we look for him.

At this point, our biggest problem is keeping Harley and Sam away from Caruso's food (he's on a special diet), which isn't easy. But from what I can tell, he's eating and drinking and not too terribly traumatized by this latest change in his life.

I'm just looking forward to waking up one morning and finding him curled up on our bed, fast asleep. Then I'll know he's really joined the family!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Seven Things

So a ways back, my dear friend Reva tagged me to post seven things about myself that most folks don't know.

This is a difficult task for an extravert, since we tend to share intimate details of our lives with strangers in line at the supermarket, but I'll do my best.

1. I was born three weeks before my actual due-date, on a Saturday evening in December. My parents were attending a Philadelphia Orchestra concert, and my mom's obstetrician was away for the holiday, unable to make it back for my arrival. So I was delivered by an intern who, in what I can only assume was sheer panic, somehow managed to drop me as I emerged into this life, and I landed on my head in the 'after-birth' bucket. I've often wondered if that event explained a bit about my bizarre mental process, but I'll never know. My uncle, who was our family physician, stopped by our house every afternoon on his way home from house calls (remember house calls?) 'just to see your beautiful little baby'. He was, of course, checking to see if I was okay, and didn't tell my parents what had happened until I was over a year old. Times have changed, huh?

2. Back then, I was a friendly, adventurous kid. One afternoon, when I was five or six years old, I convinced one of my little girlfriends to 'explore' with me. So we took off to visit someone who lived several blocks away, something that little kids simply didn't do back then, causing huge panic when our parents realized we were nowhere to be found. I'm not sure how we got back home, but I do know that was my last solo exploration attempt for a very long time, at least one that took me 'off the block'.

3. But I was still an extremely social little kid, so one afternoon I wandered down to visit the one family on our block who had a television set. When I got home, I told my parents I'd been 'televisiting' (apparently, this is a true story). My dad was so charmed by my cleverness that he sent the quote into Readers' Digest where it was printed in the 'Kids Say The Darndest Things' column. He won $5 for the quote.

4. One summer, my roommate made extra money driving a Good Humor ice cream truck. She wasn't able to make her rounds on a couple of nights, so I did it for her (which was pretty interesting, since I had absolutely no idea how to drive a standard transmission back then). I'm pretty sure I took my profits, meager as they were, in ice cream.

5. When I moved to Boston in 1977, it was almost impossible to find work in my field (Human Resources), so I registered with a temp agency, and ended up working at Harvard. I worked as a temp at the Law School, and then spent several months working in the Provosts' Office at Harvard College, where I typed and re-typed and re-typed dozens of drafts of what became the Core Curriculum. I ended up being hired as assistant registrar at Harvard Law School, where I got to meet all kinds of luminaries, from Archibald Cox to Lawrence Tribe. One of my responsibilities was producing the 1L seating charts, made famous in the movie "The Paper Chase", and I still remember seeing student workers sitting on the floor outside my office, cutting photos out of the freshman 'face book' and pasting them onto huge pieces of poster board.

6. Many, many years after this, one of my managers suggested that I attend the Dale Carnegie course. I went - reluctantly - and was all set to hate the experience when, to my surprise, I loved it. I just rediscovered the "Outstanding Performance" pen I won during the course, and i still have all of the books I purchased for the course, including the workbook with signatures from all of my fellow attendees. A year or so later, I went back as a 'graduate assistant', and the instructor with whom I worked convinced me to sign up for instructor training, about half-way through my first stint as a graduate assistant. I did it, was certified as an instructor, did one session as a student teacher, and was assigned my first solo class a few weeks after that. It was rare for anyone to attend instructor training after only one experience as a GA, and unheard of for someone to be assigned their first solo class after only one student teaching gig, but somehow I managed to do that. There's no doubt that the course changed my life.

7. In 1990, I was scheduled to fly to Shanghai with my manager, to work with the Plant Manager and his newly hired team in a chemical plant being built by the company I worked for at the time. At the last minute, my manager had to bail on the trip, and I was faced with going to China alone (I didn't even have my travel visa at that point!). I was terrified and furious, but I found the courage to get on the plane and make the trip. It ended up being one of the most memorable experiences in my professional career, even though I arrived in Shanghai with nothing more than my scented markers and a few rolls of masking tape. I spent the week facilitating a series of meetings with the plant managers, a group of young Chinese workers whose employment with this joint venture showed both courage and vision. At the end of that week, we had crafted a series of seven core values for managing the plant and the people who worked there; as far as I know, they are still being used! I still have a little bowl that the managers gave me as a thank-you gift the day before I left.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Caruso update

Caruso is settled in to his temporary home in our hall bathroom. He found his new bed within seconds, and seems quite content to curl up in there when he's alone. But as soon as I'm in there with him and settled on the floor, he pops out of his bed and joins me for a love-fest. I coo at him, he purrs back at me. He rubs up against me, marking me with his scent and I scratch his ears and rub his back. He's definitely eating and drinking, and has used the litter box, so it seems as if he's gotten comfortable in this new place already.

He's very skinny, so I'm hoping we can get him to eat and gain a little weight back. The biggest challenge for me is all about patience, a quality I lack. It will take time to integrate him into our household, and I, of course, want to open that door and let him out into the rest of the house RIGHT NOW. So maybe we will end up helping each other?

I'm so glad he's here.