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Book Tuesday: Homer’s Oddessey, by Gwen Cooper

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Resume: Gwen Cooper is 24 years old, she recently broke up with the man she thought she was going to marry, she has temporary living arrangements with a friend she hasn’t known for that long, the salary she pull as a non-profit organization worker will never be enough to allow her to afford a place of her own in South Beach, Florida, and she already has two cats. The last thing she needs is the “special needs” kitten that her vet is talking up to her. She takes him in anyway, calling the eyeless black kitten Homer after the Greek blind poet because Homer (the cat) is going to be the writer of his own story. The book follows Gwen and Homer (and Scarlett and Vashti, the other two cats) for a period of eleven years, through professionals ups and downs, a move to New York in late 2000-early 2001, and meeting the love of Gwen’s love.

As I was reading the book, I frequently turned to the inside cover and read the author bio. The more I was getting attached to crazy little Homer, the more I needed the reminder that the book didn’t end with him dying, that he was still alive at the time of publication. That reassurance was especially useful in the second to last chapter, which recounts a couple of days when Homer got really sick and stopped eating. Considering what my own experience had been with a cat who got sick and stopped eating (Goddamned FIP!) I was especially nervous, and relieved to hear that he recovered and lived to the last chapter. Isn’t it nice, to read a pet biography that doesn’t end with the end of the animal’s life?

But what struck me the most about this book is that, once I finished reading it, almost all I could think about was: “the Montreal sibling should read this.” The Montreal sibling is Gwen Cooper at age 24, more or less, and I know how useful and important it has been for me to recognize myself in book characters. Not because I was looking for a life manual; because it felt so good to know that I’m not alone to struggle with what I struggle with, to know that someone else knows what it feels like to be me. I found a copy in French at the library and got it to my sibling (who doesn’t read in English), and here’s to hoping that this book gives that sibling what other books gave me. I’ve also been told that the sibling is already acquainted with Homer’s story, which I was not when I picked up the book, and is looking forward to having some time to read it.

 

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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Meet the new roommate.

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This is Rosie. She is one of the Montreal sibling’s cat, and she’s going to be staying with me for a while, maybe until Christmas.  (Long story)

Personality-wise, she is really different from my old cat. For one thing,  as you can see, she is capable of sitting still and taking a good picture. For another, she really doesn’t like being brushed. She also lets me touch her a lot less then Miou-Miou did, but I’ve only had her for a day,  so maybe that will change in time.  Or not.

In any case, she is a good, quiet kitty, and I’m happy to help out by keeping her for a while.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How my week-end went

Pretty well, all things considered. My week ended on sort of a shitty note, one that I’d rather not talk about, but so far the week-end seems to be making out for it.

Yesterday, the Preakness Stakes, the second race of the Triple Crown, was run in Baltimore. I don’t make as big a fuss about the Preakness as I do about the Derby, which ran two weeks ago, but I do watch it almost every year, if only to see if there’s going to be a Triple Crown winner this year. And from what little I know about horseback racing, things are looking pretty good this year. The same horse won both the Derby and the Preakness, and he won them both by a fair margin, which means he just might have the stamina to run the mile and a half Belmont, the final race of the Triple Crown, three weeks from now. And on top of that, it was pouring rain in Maryland yesterday afternoon, and the horse still held his own.

(Unrelated, but still good news, I went to my parents’ house to watch the race, and my Montreal sibling had dropped off the cats, both the ‘street rescue’ one and the ‘wanted ads’ one, in preparation for moving back in town for the summer. I got to pet the kitties, and they are both so nice and so gorgeous. I think I’m more ready then I expected to get a new cat of my own. Don’t tell the Montreal sibling, though; I don’t want to be pushed. I’ll go to the SPCA in my own good time.)

This afternoon was CanGames, a local convention of tabletop and role-playing gamers in Ottawa. I was leading a play-test for A Match Made in Austen, the card game I designed and which is now being produced by Renaissance. It was a small play-test, only one person signed up for it, but that one person was very enthusiastic, and picked up some of our promo material to distribute to friends who might like the game as well. My friend Caroline Fréchette, the driving force behind Renaissance, was also there, and we had a good look around in the vendors room, browsing other card games, looking for some inspiration. (We bought a few, and are planning a board game day to test them out. We haven’t had one of those in ages, it’s going to be great!) That was a fun time.

Speaking of A Match Made in Austen: the Kickstarter is trucking along nicely. The game is now 36% funded with 31 days to go. I don’t want to jinx it, but we might just make it, and wouldn’t that be cool! Launching a finished product knowing that at least two dozen other people are as excited about it as we are.

And tomorrow is a day off, because it’s Victoria Day. I’ve talked about my feelings about three day week-ends before (in a gist, the two day week-ends suit me fine) but it has been a while since I spent a day in my jammies, watching movies or reading. I think I might be overdue.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron

When I learned how sick my cat really was, I decided, for some reason, that I needed more literary cats in my life. (I was going to say more fictional cats, but Dewey was not fictional.) That is when I borrowed Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron, from the library.

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(I learned my lesson from last week.)

Sometime, I really think that I make terrible decisions, the kind of decision that will inevitably make me cry, just to remind myself that I’m not a robot*. Reading this book when I did was definitively one of them, and I’m not just saying that because I was reading it in a bus full of strangers; they can suck an egg if they don’t like me crying. I’m saying that because it’s a biography of a cat. I knew from the start that it would end with the cat dying, and that unless the book was so terribly written that I couldn’t finish it, that death would hit me pretty hard.

The book was not terribly written, not at all.

One of the things I loved best about it is that it wasn’t just the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the kitten who was found in the return box of the Spencer, Iowa public library one cold winter morning. Of course, the book covers the life of Dewey, who recovers from his night in the return box to become the official library cat, status which brought him national, and even international, fame. Dewey sounds like he was the most adorable cat: playful and sociable, without being clingy. The perfect library cat, in a word, and the kind who makes me wish that my library had a cat.

It’s also not just the story of head librarian Vicki Myron, who found Dewey that morning and was his non-official keeper. She does inject a good part of herself in the book, as is her right as a narrator, and her story is inspirational on many levels. Her many trials and tribulations cannot fail to strike a chord with readers. (Is it prejudiced to say especially female readers? It might be, but I’m having a harder time imagining male readers connecting with the medical complications caused by childbirth, and the breast cancer diagnosis.)

Along with all of that, it was the story of Spencer, a small-town in Iowa, and the people who call it home. The descriptions of Spencer and it’s inhabitants are so tightly interwoven with Dewey’s story that you begin to think that the story could not have happened anywhere else, or at any other time. The setting would probably feel mythical to anyone younger then I am; it brought me a lot of memories and nostalgia for my late eighties to late nineties childhood.

I’m really happy that I’ve read this book, although a small part of me wishes that I’d waited a few more weeks, at least.

*There are moments when I doubt my own capacity to feel emotions, such as when I went to see The Fault in Our Stars and didn’t cry, so those reminders feel terrible but might actually be good for me. Like Buckley’s.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Things that happened during the hiatus: I gained (and lost) a cat

The story is this: one of my siblings moved to Montreal and started collecting cats. First there was the one from the classified ads, or some such, I honestly don’t remember. Then there was the one litteraly rescued from the street. Then it was volunteering at the SPCA, taking cats in foster care. I find it especially funny since the sibling in question has always been a dog person. I, on the other hand, am a cat person, and the sibling knows that very well. Ever since classified ads cat, the sibling has been telling me that I should get a cat of my own.

I was hesitant, to be honest. At first I had the excuse that I was still living with my parents, and they didn’t want to have pets. Once I moved out on my own, the excuse became “I have to work, I’m gone for nine hours a day, I don’t want the cat to get lonely and depressed”. Finally, the sibling fostered a cat who got along very badly with the other cats, and who apparently had no problem being left alone for hours on end. Out of excuses, I relented.

And into my life came Miou-Miou. (pronounced mew-mew)

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I was going to give him a more dignified name, but come on! Look at him. He is such a Miou-Miou. Also, I had the hardest time taking a good picture of that cat. This was the best I could do for the longest time. Then there was this picture, which might be concidered better, by some.

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Derpface.

Anyway, he was terrible with other pets, if the Montreal sibling is to be believed, but I never had any problems with him. He would walk up and say Hi to me when I came back from work, or even just from being away. He could be very playful, when I teased him with the feather thing or threw a catnip mouse at him (I don’t think the catnip made any difference: he just liked to chase the mouse), but he could also be really chill. I could always pet and brush him; he even let me rub his tummy, and cats generally don’t do that. The worst thing he ever did to me was slither out of my grasp when I was trying to give him a hug.

That is, until the end of February, when he began to worry me by not eating anymore. I mean, fair enough, I was gone for nine hours a day, so I might have missed him eating a few times, but I did clean out the litter box, and the absence of stool was hard to miss. On March second, he completely freaked me out by doing nothing all evening but lay on his side next to the living room window. That’s when I called the vet.

Long story short? Effusive feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP. Google it, or if you don’t want to, just take my word for it: it sucks.

I spent a lot of time crying after that first vet visit, and since. I also spent a lot of time on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was told from the get-go that whatever the diagnosis (leukemia was an option for a little while, and so were other tumors, or some bacterial infections), the prognosis was bad, and that Miou-Miou’s lifespan had been dramatically shortened.

The great fear I had when I really began to realize that he was sick was that I had somehow accidentally caused that illness. He was a rescue cat, he survived six years or so in really difficult conditions, and the idea that I somehow killed him in three/four months was driving me nuts with guilt. Thankfully that fear was unfounded and dismissed by the diagnosis. Humans can’t cause FIP. The second great fear was that he would die without me there. It’s what happened with the last pet my parents and I had; he was sick and died while my mother and I were gone on a week-long trip. I had plans to go to New-York on Easter. While I didn’t want to unnecessarily cut his life short, I also didn’t want to have him die while I was gone.

I spent three weeks of trying a bunch of meds and watching him get a little bit better before slowly, slowly getting worse. I started coming home from work at lunch to feed him. Whenever I left the house, I was always afraid that I would be gone too long, that he would miss a feeding or a dose of meds. I was watching him all the time, breathing a sight of relief with every sign of life. One of my favorite activity became laying my head on him and listen to him breath, or purr.

Three weeks of that turned out to be my limit. I finally took the decision to have Miou-Miou euthanized. I had the final appointment on Friday, March 27th.

 

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(My mom went with me to the vet’s, and she tried to get some pictures of us together. He struggled against the camera to the very end, my poor baby.)

It went very smoothly, and as well as those things ever go, I suppose. I cried buckets at the vet, and I cried myself to sleep that night. Since then, I emptied and stored the littler box, washed the food bowl, put away the toys that weren’t completely mangled and tossed those which were. Now all that remains are clawmarks on the drapes, and on the couch. And my memories.

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(The only unarguably good picture I have of him.)

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(A little magnet message I made with the set I got for Christmas two years ago. My Montreal sibling got very upset upon seeing that the set included puppy, but not cat or kitten. The Montreal sibling lacks creativity.)

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: The “Magical Cats” mysteries, by Sofie Kelly

I was taken with the urge to read cozy mysteries about four/five months ago, and I have spend a great deal of time sifting through the collection at my local library, looking for the right fit. The good thing about cozy mysteries is that there are almost as many different types of series as there are readers. Something for everyone if you know what to look for. Whether you love cooking or crafting, or music or books, or pets or babies, there is something out there for anyone. The story can have a hint of supernatural, or be completely in the realm of fantasy, or be completely mainstream.

After a lot of trial and error, I figured that I wanted something with books, especially those starring librarians, and with pets, with maybe just a hint of the supernatural. I found exactly that in the Magical Cats series, written by Sofie Kelly, a pseudonym of Darlene Ryan.

The Magical Cats series follows Kathleen Paulson, a Boston-born librarian who takes a one-year contract to oversee the modernization of a small Minnesota town. She adopts, or gets adopted, by two almost-feral cats, who have magical abilities: one can turn invisible, and the other can walk through walls. They also have the “cozy mystery pet” syndrome: they know exactly when to get involved in a homicide investigation, and they have a knack for finding the piece of clue that will guide their non-professional-investigative-person owners to the guilty party.

When I first began reading the series, I was worried that the supernatural element might be a bit too much. After trying some “witchy” cozies and getting annoyed with the magical element, I wanted something more mainstream. But the magic here is so specific, it’s an original twist that doesn’t feel so far removed from reality. (Which should give you an idea of the talent of Sofie Kelly: the cats who turn invisible and walk through walls still feel realistic.)

The main character, Kathleen, is a great protagonist. I was expecting more of a book-lover vibe from her, although she does occasionally breaks into book quotes, but it is clear that she is a librarian at heart. She’s the straight man to her family of crazy actors and artists, which leads to some interesting reactions vis-a-vis her super-powered cats. And, most of all, she is a cat-lover. Because, really, it’s the cats that sell the story. There are many well developed and amusing secondary characters in the from of Kathleen’s family and friends, and a police detective romantic interest. But it’s all about the cats.

The series is six books along so far. A seventh book is planned for this fall. I can’t wait, but I don’t have a choice.

eta: It occurred to me that this post might look better with the covers of the books discussed. So, here is the series, so far

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and here is the upcoming book

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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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