Coming Soon: Cat Attack

The dog and I live with five cats. (Insert who-in-their-right-mind rant here.) It is almost a peaceable kingdom, with one glaring – and hissing – exception.

Shadow the rescue dog, age about 8, likes everybody.  She terrified kitten Leo until Leo discovered the dog tail as toy. Now all but one of the cats like the dog.

Shadow and Luna, lounging

Shadow and Luna

Luna and Bop, age 10, came from the same shelter on the same day. They mostly get along but never much bonded.  We blame Bop.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

Luna likes everybody. For a long time he feared the dog. Eventually this fear evolved to a play arrangement with surprisingly specific terms: the dog can chase Luna  if the dog is in the backyard first and Luna arrives. In all other locations and situations, no chasing.

A new familiar sight - Luna napping with a youngster, in this case, Bo.

A new familiar sight – Luna napping with a youngster, in this case, Bo.

Arrow, Leo, and Bo, age 11 months, came from two different shelters on the same day. They could not be more loving and friendly to each other. All three are the sweetest cats I’ve ever known. Otherwise they have quite distinct personalities.

Waking up.

The youngsters, Bo, Leo, and Arrow, when they first joined the household.

Bop tolerates the dog but chases her if dinner is delayed and she is crabby.  Ditto Bop with her life partner, Luna. The reality is that Bop wants to be an only animal in a household where she never will be.

Bop hates the kittens and for months we had to keep them separate – no easy task in our 700 square foot home – lest she kill them. Now that two of the kittens are bigger than Bop, we let them mingle. The kittens are learning to stand their ground. We have six spray bottles of water stationed all over the house and yard. We spray Bop whenever we catch her messing with a kitten. Oh so gradually the violence seems to be lessening. But there are some days – you can just tell – Bop won’t be able to relax until she has kicked some kitten butt.

A peacekeeper.

A peacekeeper.

The situation is further complicated by the similarity in looks between mean old Bop and sweet young Arrow. What amazes me: the kittens can’t tell them apart, either! I thought animals used smell to identify. Maybe not, or maybe they can’t distinguish Bop from Arrow because the smells are so mixed up at our house. Whatever the explanation, the other youngsters, Bo and Leo, are always doing doubletakes when a tuxedo cat walks in.

There were too many instances of Leo and Bo clearly mistaking the two – running from their best friend Arrow, or running toward their enemy Bop – so now Bop wears a collar with a bell.  That seems to have helped some.

Typical sight around the household: Bop menacing a youngster.

Typical sight around the household: Bop menacing a youngster.

This time, the target is Arrow, just awakened from a nap to find Bop glaring at her.

This time, the target is Arrow, just awakened from a nap to find Bop glaring at her.

Pop quiz: who is this? Bop or Arrow? (answer on next page)

Pop quiz: who is this? Bop or Arrow? (answer on next page)


I started blogging as part of my effort to regain a writing career.  (Warning to other writers: J.D. Salinger aside, not writing for two decades will not bolster your career.)

Like most of my important life decisions – including writing novels and having kids – this one sprang from an offhand suggestion. Fortunately, impulsive decisions can be excellent decisions.

My blog’s initial purpose was to let people know my writing exists. Here’s how it was supposed to work: you read a post, you like it, you say oh look she’s got novels too I think I’ll try one. Wordpress and Smashwords stats suggest that chain of thoughts does sometimes occur!

(In other hands my blog might attempt aggressive marketing but the reality is that that ain’t me. Fortunately, my books do seem to be gradually building momentum despite this.)

When I started my blog:

  • I had considerable wariness, surely shared by most fledgling bloggers. What if I run out of ideas? What if nobody ever visits my blog? What if writing a blog keeps me from writing my novels? Fortunately – like most fears – these caused needless angst.
  • I assumed I would blog about writing but I hardly ever do.  I mention milestones for my novels (for example, today I launched a serialization of my psychological thriller ?Was It A Rat I Saw?) But I strictly write novels, so milestones don’t pop up that often. Sometimes I detail my writing techniques, but this blog will never provide advice on writing or editing.  I’ve only got this advice for other writers:

To improve your writing do more writing.

  • I anticipated a single-topic blog but instead have many.  I’ve got my preoccupations  (animals, my kids, sunrises, the ocean, epitaphs, an addict among my loved ones, patterns that prompt impromptu Rorschach tests) but I do keep adding to them. I aspire to an omni-topic blog. Although that will play havoc with my tag cloud.
  • I didn’t expect to have so many people like my photographs.
  • I didn’t expect to be staggered and awestruck by the vast number of interesting, beautiful, thought-provoking, nurturing, and hilarious blogs I have happened upon! I love being part of this sprawling yet tight-knit community. I still feel peripheral but that’s who I am.
  • I didn’t know that responding to WordPress Photo Challenges, Writing Challenges, and Daily Prompts such as  this one would be so much fun.

Layers and Pieces

This week’s Writing Challenge wants to see a recipe for moi.

Chop finely and mix:

  • 1 c introspection
  • 1 c imagination (substitute: insight)
  • 2 c empathy
  • 2 c knee-jerk tendency to rebellion
  • 2 c smart-ass remarks
  • 1 c curiosity (substitute: nosiness)

Cover with thin alternating layers of :

  • chutzpah
  • emotionalism
  • tenacity
  • timidity
  • enthusiasm

To lighten:

  • Add friends and children.
  • Fold in ocean air and vistas of sunrise or sunset.
  • Surround with shelter animals.
  • Add concerts, novels, walks, movies, art, or hikes.

Season as follows:

  • Mix skepticism and irony to taste, then double those proportions.
  • Infuse with 1970s punk, midcentury jazz, blues, alt bluegrass, alt rock.
  • Steep in book learning, street smarts, and belated learning from experience.

Garnish with wildflowers.

Serve on a bed of uncertainty.

Holds flavor best outside.

Store separately.

Staycations Away From Home

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 2.52.24 PM

Not somewhere I’ve stayed nor want to, but it might be affordable. (Photo credit: UrbanPhotos on Flickr.)

My favorite kind of traveling is to plant myself somewhere new and stay for a while, to get a sense of what it would be like to live there. I’m not drawn to monuments or tourist meccas, even though I know those places get famous for a reason. I’d rather wander neighborhoods, sample restaurants, find hole in the wall stores. I’ve been to Manhattan maybe 8 times, and I can’t tell you what the Statue of Liberty is like but I can give you a carefully assessed ranking of my favorite bagel joints.

A whirlwind tour of ten countries in ten days sounds awful to me, while ten days in one spot sounds like a good start.

There can be two problems with this approach. First, when you tally all the places you’ve been, the list does not grow very quickly. Second, if you plant yourself in the wrong place, you get to know a place you, well, don’t want to get to know.

I can’t be the only one who travels like this – am I?

P.S. In Manhattan, my favorite bagel joints are:

  1. Ess-A-Bagel
  2. Murray’s
  3. H & H.

(This post responds to this Daily Prompt.)

Tapping My Inner Hermit

The view from my cave.

The current internal view from my cave.

I have always liked being alone, and I am good at it. The one aspect of being a parent that was tough on me was all those years with so little alone time. These last few weeks, recuperating from surgery, with nowhere to go and nothing required of me except laying around, I have had more alone time than I have had in decades. I went through a bad patch at the start of the second week – OMG this is interminable –  but then I settled in. I’m reading a lot, writing a lot, and just — hanging out: petting the cats, patting the dog, pondering the hummingbirds in the garden, walking at sunrise and sunset. Now it’s jarring when the phone rings or a text arrives or a friend visits, as I spiral ever deeper into solitude.

Somehow I’ve managed to avoid most of my usual worrying and planning, which has allowed me to feel downright peaceful. I probably have to credit post-op lassitude for much of this accomplishment (and initially, heavy meds), although I have occasionally practiced some of the techniques I’ve recently learned at Al-Anon.

Having no required thoughts or agenda has been fertile as well as productive for my new novel. The ideas are flowing from all directions, at all times. I’d forgotten what that was like!

All in all, my post-op phase has been the ultimate in staycations. Tune in next week, when I phase back into work, set the alarm clock, and resume driving, to see how long the peace lasts.

Image courtesy of …

Self Reflection

(Today’s  Daily Prompt says: finish this sentence…)

When I look in the mirror I

  • am reminded of hopes and fears
  • see my mother, my sister, my son and feel awe at those family ties
  • suffer flashbacks to other eras and haircuts
  • struggle to take in my full reflection rather than its parts
  • feel familiar yet surprised
  • think I need to smile more
  • wonder what others see.


An End to Needless Worry

(Today’s  Daily Prompt says: write a letter to your least favorite trait.)

Dear Anticipatory Hysteria,

We’ve been together so many years and we will both have to adjust to life apart. But there is no question – it is time for you to go. I remember when you first came around. I was a teenager and noticed that nothing I ever thought would happen, did happen. So I began to imagine terrible things, because if I thought of them then they wouldn’t happen – a mental talisman. But the strategy never really helped. The terrible imaginings didn’t prepare me for other bad things that happened instead. Rather, they cost me so much time, energy and peace of mind — and kept me absorbed in misery that never materialized.

My new strategy is to note that I will have plenty of time to feel bad about something after it actually happens, and in the meantime I will do my best to keep my thoughts in the present tense, and to focus on all the positives, including the fragrance of the jasmine and the sounds of birds greeting the morning, as I write this on my front patio.

From now on I will save my apocalyptic imagination for my novels. There it serves me very well and has proved invaluable as I write my fantasy detective series.

P.S. Wherever you go next, please make room for your parents, Worry and Anxiety. Their eviction is in the works now.

The Daily Prompt: Silver Linings

We could debate whether silver linings exist in reality or in attitude but the answer may not matter. Either way, from my perspective, the ability to perceive silver linings is essential to happiness, contentment, and peace of mind. Silver linings are all about the ability to hope, to get past the inevitable bad and ugly times with the belief it gets better.  Many other people have thought about this, too, that’s why we have anonymous sayings like

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

or the Springsteen  lyric

It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.

or Eugene O’Neil’s

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue. 

I know a young woman who tried to kill herself this year. Twice. In between, she found a boyfriend – apparently also preoccupied with death – who did then kill himself. I have struggled and flailed to find the right words or argument that would convince her to keep going, to not give up. But I realize it won’t be anybody’s words that turn her around. The desire to live has to come from the inside.

When I was younger I was obsessed with not getting tricked or fooled and I was always determined to Know the Truth in every situation. I don’t think I care about that nowadays. I’m not saying I believe everything I read or hear. I’m not saying I’ve lost interest in truth. All I’m saying is that a suspicious nature takes a severe toll.

It is a fantasy to imagine I or anyone can live without illusions. Optimism is a kind of illusion. Optimists live longer and happier lives. (There are scientific studies about this so it must be true.) My current thinking is that I am going to believe that things will work out and life will evolve in good ways. Maybe on my deathbed I will say Wulp I was sure wrong about that. but in the meantime I will have enjoyed many days of hope and enthusiasm rather than bitterness and resentment.


Wildfires make nasty air.

Wildfires make for gorgeous sunsets.

Wildfires make gorgeous sunsets.

This post topic comes from The Daily Prompt.

Cruelty and Compassion, Feline Style

Because we must be insane, we have 5 cats. Two grown cats, Bop and Luna, age 10; and three teen cats age 8 months.  The youngsters immediately displayed distinct personalities but are all as friendly and as loving as can be.

Bop (left) and Luna at age 10. Bop needs an attitude adjustment. Luna is an object of worship.

Bop (left) and Luna. Bop needs an attitude adjustment. Luna is an object of worship. In ten years together this is the only time they have ever hung out together!

One of the grown cats, Luna, tolerates the youngsters but avoids them because whenever they spot him, all three converge to incessantly sniff him and follow him and try to get him to touch noses with them.

Grown cat Bop wants to be the only critter and she never will be, which has made her bitter. She is sweet to humans but chases the 45 pound dog; she is prone to unpredictable attacks on Luna (until Luna whaps her one); and she wants to kill the youngsters. Whenever she gets the chance she attacks youngsters Arrow and Bo.

Arrow and Bo, the most frequent victims.

Arrow and Bo, the most frequent victims.

Mostly we have kept her separate from the youngsters, which is even more of a pain than it sounds. Every so often we let them mingle, in hopes the youngsters will realize that they are now larger than Bop, and that if they stand up to her she will leave them alone. Bop is a classic bully. But so far the youngsters still run.

Recently, for the first time, Bop attacked the youngest cat, Leo, who started as a runt and doesn’t understand that he is now enormous. Leo’s is a goofy and gentle soul. He purrs when he eats. He plays with the dog’s tail.

Leo, the latest victim. Ferocious looking, isn't he?

Leo, the latest victim. Ferocious looking, isn’t he?

When Bop chased him, Leo got so scared he wet himself.

Now this is where the story gets good. After I sprayed Bop with water and locked her away, the other 10-year-old, Luna – the worshipped one – demanded to come inside.

He went over to Leo and touched noses with him several times, apparently in solidarity. Then he went back outside.

Leo pulled himself together a little and soon the other youngsters showed up to help Leo with his grooming. Within the hour he was back to his goofball ways.

P.S. Although this post makes light of it, I’d appreciate any advice about how and whether the youngsters can be put together with Bop. My son wants to get rid of Bop, but I can’t do that. She may be a mean asshole but she is part of the family.


Bop the villain, back when we had a rabbit. Bop loved to go in the rabbit’s cage, probably for the adrenaline rush. The rabbit attacked anyone who went near that cage. Bop and the rabbit were kindred spirits.