The Aftermath of February 5, 2014

Predictions were for a “hard winter”, but what did that mean?

To start: much colder temperatures than usual, freezing water pipes, three inch thick ice, three foot piles of snow, uprooted trees, fallen branches everywhere, crushed and broken bushes, potholes in the roads, evidence of vehicles that did not stay road-bound, mailboxes knocked over by snow pushed by a plow, and loss of electricity for days.

Melting snow has revealed the plethora of fallen tree branches, muddy yards, weeks of hidden dog “fertilizer”, and roadside trash. Water often disguised potholes; driving on roads was hazardous.

I am tired from the adjustments needed for the winter onslaught, and now we are faced with the Spring clean-up.  Mother Nature doesn’t bother with clean-up; her debris is allowed to decay and mulch into the landscape. But humans like to sculpt their surroundings, which includes tidy lawns and trees standing neatly. There’s a lot of work to be done to restore a controlled environment.

Serendipitously, tree trimming was done at my house the day before this storm. Relatively few branches fell here. Hauling those few to the nearby burn pile was easy. Drive two hundred yards in any direction, and you see piles of tree limbs along the sides of the roads, and an occasional entrepreneurial sign offering tree clearing and removal service. Every day, you can hear chain saws.

Now we’ve had a few warm days. Blessedly slowly, snow and ice are melting. The creek can cope with a slow melt. I am still using fallen twigs from white pines for traction. Yesterday, it was 70ºF; last night it was 20ºF, and today with the wind, it feels like 5ºF. What’s next on the hard winter agenda?

There was a time when we did not have weather predictions. We relied on instincts and observations of signals around us. In our complicated populated ever busy world today, weather predictions promote “snow brains” but allow time for preparation.

Regardless of the weather, people will still push their own agendas and get on the roads, determined to get where they want to go. Just ask the insurance industry.

Not me. When the roads are dicey, I cancel appointments and stay home.

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Compliance = Safety

Not true.

But many of us were raised in households where compliance was the best way to get along. We learned from that.

Possibly to our detriment. We learned to appease, not to make waves, to subjugate our own wishes to the desires of others.

Some people are so heavily into compliance (sometimes disguised as “service”) that they don’t even know what they think. Their focus is on what other people think, and want, and how they can fill the other person’s needs.

When compliance comes up against a question such as “what do you want?”, the compliant often turn it back to the enquirer ( “what do You want?”) or they might say, “Oh, I don’t mind…”  This condition is described as being a doormat.

A habit of compliance leads to no longer thinking for oneself.

It’s important for anyone, child or not, to know what the boundaries are. If everything one does is wrong, the boundary is amorphous. You’re left constantly searching for what is right. If the rules are clear, the boundaries are firmer: you know what’s okay and what’s not okay. When the behavior is totally disruptive to those around him/her, as a regular response, then it’s time to look at why.

When someone is trying to express him/herself in a manner that is “breaking the rules”, take another look. Notice the personality that is trying to assert itself. Breaking the rules is not, in itself, a bad thing. It allows innovation and creation. Some of the greatest rule breakers are famous, and rich.

Preparing a child for making decisions, weighing options, pros and cons, is a parental skill. Schooling should assist in developing this asset but often schoolwork is not much more than a rote memory exercise.

Thinking for oneself, having the courage to explore options, knowing that failure is inevitable at some point in life and can be a tool to growth, are concepts that help one to manifest talent and create a life course.

Compliance does not equal safety. The only safety in life is confidence in your own abilities.

Go for it!

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The Ice Storm of February 5, 2014

The adrenaline is slowing. I want to sleep unfettered by worries about heat, water, gasoline for the generator and making sure everyone is fed. Cuts, bruises and eight broken fingernails after the loss of electricity three days ago are souvenirs.

We were warned about the coming ice storm. I hauled out the generator for a test run; it wouldn’t start: dead battery. I called around for a replacement: not available. When the power failed, a neighbor’s son came, with his strength to pull the back-up cord, and he got it started. Then the generator itself recharged the battery.

A few years ago, after years of two or three power outages per year, I leapt into generator relief. It was costly but now I feel that having a generator is better than not having a generator despite the amount of work involved in maintenance and running it and the incredible noise. It meant not having to rehouse myself or the seven animals who live here.

The effect of losing electricity threw me into survival mode, hauling wood in for the fireplace, getting out twice a day to refill the five gallon gas “can” (it’s plastic), and maintaining both of those sources of sustenance. My car was my chariot to normalcy.

The bottom dropped out of the usual everyday living: no telephone, no television, no internet, no doing laundry, vacuuming, etc.  Adrenaline can be a wonderful thing.

The first night, being unsure if the generator would keep going overnight and the effect of it running out of gasoline, I shut it down at dark. I slept on the living room couch in front of the fire, rising every one or two hours to add more wood.

At six the next morning, I was at the gas station for the first refill of the gas can. The new fangled safety features defied my logic; I had to ask for help to unscrew the cap and screw it back on. People can be amazing when you ask them for help. Already, I was on the edge of tears, and we were less than twenty-four hours into this experience.

Five gallons of gasoline is heavy and I had to lift the can to above my waist level in order to pour into the generator. Twice a day at least. The 6+ gallon generator would run on minimal usage for up to eight hours but there is no gas gauge so it was a staggered top-up to keep it fed. The second night I spent on my bed, under a quilt, rising three times to top up the generator, our life line to heat, water, and recharging the cell ‘phone.

After two days, a routine started to shape itself; out early for more gasoline, feed animals, attend to minimal chores like feeding myself and practicing “basement yoga”: to access circuit breakers and the furnace room, you have to get on your knees to reach steps into a 4 foot high passageway to the basement where you can stand up. About ten times a day.

The silence without the television, demands from computer connections, or the telephone was both wonderful and mystifying. A crank-up radio kept me in touch with what was happening elsewhere: over 600,000 customers without electricity, that number gradually dwindling over three days, four days…

On the afternoon of the third day, two trucks pulled up outside. Big trucks. Hydro Québec was the signage. French accents confirmed their origin. Again, I was near tears. People from Canada were here to help us! I hugged the first fellow I talked with; I wished I could bake cookies for them.

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The promised call from the electricity company to say power was restored, never came. At about 6 p.m., lights came on in neighboring houses. I shut down the generator, switched over to the Mains supply, and started to immerse myself in catch-up: laundry, a hot bath, shower and washing hair were at the top of the list. After the bath, there was no doing anything except collapsing into bed. Everyone was warm, fed, and safe. I had read 1.75 books.

Soon, everyday life as we know it in our society will erupt. People will be scurrying about chasing their own agendas, often not paying attention to what we take for granted. Like electricity, the juice that feeds our conveniences, that provides service and comfort. Amen.

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Helping The Earth To Breathe

The determination to get rid of the asphalt driveway at my house had been festering for a long time. For twenty years, I had been looking at it, pulling weeds out of it, dealing with the upheaval from having a new well and water line installed which ran under the driveway.

As often happens, the situation reached a point of critical mass – criticism from my inner voice, being fed up with how untidy it looked and the water leakage from the water line connection into the basement. But mostly, I was nagged by a sense that the earth couldn’t breathe.

When I moved into this house, I found black plastic under the flowerbeds. I pulled it out immediately because my sense then was that the earth couldn’t breathe. Imagine how much worse that must be under a paved driveway. Pulling up the black plastic revealed no earthworms. Not one. In another area, also with no earthworms, I had started a compost pile with discarded vegetable matter and leaves. Within six months, earthworms appeared; big, fat beautiful earthworms and now the compost pile is a source of earthworms for other people’s gardens.

Seeing what neighbors had done with their driveways was the inspiration I needed.  Three contractors bid on the job, each of whom had really good ideas. The biggest surprise came when the workers started breaking up the old asphalt. Under the asphalt was concrete!  A dumpster was soon full of the wreckage. And I could feel myself breathing more easily.

The debris was cleared, pavers laid at the start of the driveway, and small grey gravel blending nicely with surrounding colors, was put down. The dog considered this her own private “sand”box. She jumped into it, pushed it around, threw it up with her paws, crouched low and pounced.

Was I intuiting a sense of relief from the earth, or was this projection, that I felt so much better about having permeable gravel now? It was as if each of us could breathe easier. That sensation has not changed. Now under inches of snow, the snow will melt, into the earth, not into my basement. Who knows? My driveway may be a meadow one day.

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Don’t Miss This Opportunity !

Ever just let the telephone ring?

These days, there are so many telemarketing calls (yes! my phones are on the do-not-call lists) that it is not worth rushing to answer the telephone to find out it’s a call you would not have taken anyway.  I let the answering machine pick up the calls.

Caller i.d. is one of the most useful functions now available. If I see an area code outside the U.S., or UUU as the i.d., I ignore not just the call but also any message.

Sometimes, a robo-message tells you to press, say, 1 for more information, and then later, press, say, 9 to be put on their do-not-call list. As if I wasn’t on a do-not-call list already. And if I’m not home I can’t press ANY button to respond to their unsolicited unwanted call. So guess what? They call back!

Sometimes, I return a missed call, and I get either a busy signal or a notice that the number has been disconnected. Very helpful.

I am tempted to include in my out-going message: I do not respond to solicitations over the telephone. Would that help? Not in most cases, because they hang up when they hear an answering machine. And they call back.

There are times when I am so incensed with repeated calls from the same number at all times of day, that I report the number to the Federal Trade Commission hotline. They are notoriously swamped with complaints like mine, but if we do not report these calls, the FTC has no way of tracking them. So I report them. It takes a few minutes to do it, but if nothing else, I feel better afterward: I did my part.

Alexander Graham Bell, I thank you for the remarkable convenience called a telephone. Now how about coming back and restoring the simplicity and relative privacy of your invention.

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Part 2 – What Now ? A Tabitha Update.

After ten days’ capture in the shed, one morning I opened a large carry crate and shoved Tabitha’s breakfast into the far corner. Without looking back, she went straight in and I shut the door.

At opening time, 8 a.m., I was at the vets’ office. In the past, knowing I have cats that are difficult to capture, they have let me bring the cats and leave them to be slotted into their schedule where possible.

Since adoption on October 2, I had kept the vets’ staff updated about Tabitha’s arrival and the plan to have her fully vetted. The Rescue assured me she was spayed and vaccinated against rabies but I had no papers to back up the information. I needed to be sure.

The staff had also been updated regularly, in essence used as a sounding board, through the trauma of the bite, the painful decision to euthanize a cat which might hurt someone else, and the seeming impossibility to capture her. Now, she was in a crate and in their office.

Three attempts to “deal with it” had met with the proverbial brick walls. Three times.  I had to ask myself if there was some bigger picture here. Maybe she was not meant to be euthanized.

I explained the full situation to the vet, and signed papers to allow them to sedate her if necessary so she could be examined, given the necessary rabies booster, and wormed. I found it reassuring when the vet told me that staff members had received similar bites from “pets” and gone through the same hoops of recovery.  I left Tabitha with them.

An hour later, the vet called to say that they had been able to examine Tabs with no sedation, she was a healthy eight pounds, had been wormed, vaccinated and was ready to go home. And her front paws had been declawed.

WHAT?  Anger flared in me.  She was adopted as a barn cat. Aside from my personal disapproval of declawing, clearly she had been someone’s pet!  The chances are that when she came into heat, she escaped her home and for whatever reasons did not return.

No wonder she bit me! I must have made a movement that frightened her and she responded in the only way she could.

My sense of relief was huge, almost indescribable. Now I had a better understanding of her, and why every attempt to deal with “it” had been unsuccessful. She was meant to have a second chance. Or by now, maybe it was a third.

So she came home. To her proper home.  I am careful with her, and she is becoming a nice companion. Understandably, she desperately wants to come into the house. She has done so on many occasions but she stays only a short time, then seeks her freedom again. She has come to some kind of arrangement with Imagine, the semi-feral cat I scraped off a local road seventeen years ago; they share the furnace room in the cold weather.

For now at least, this story has come full circle, from optimistic adoption, through significant trauma, to an understanding, caution, and optimism once again. I am grateful. It’s been an interesting journey so far.

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Part 1 – A Tabitha Tale. Results Are Not Always What You Wish For…

On October 2, I brought home a rescued stray cat. A beautiful calico, she had been captured with kittens, spayed and vaccinated. I named her Tabitha.

For a week, she lived in a large dog crate in my shed, with the necessary litter, water, food and shelter. After a week, I left the crate door open so she could have some freedom. She managed to escape not just from the crate but from the shed by pushing over, one by one, a case and a half of water bottles that had been stacked to block the cat door exit. It was not a smart way to block the exit. The bottles should have been stacked on the outside, not the inside. Operator error.

During the next few weeks, she was sighted about once a day and eventually she showed up regularly at meal times. She took to the shed as home where she had a warm bed and a regular supply of dry cat food. She would come when called, rub against me for the food, talk a little, and purr.

Feeding her the usual breakfast of canned food on a Sunday morning, and having stroked her in the past, I did so again when she whirled so fast that it was a blur, and bit me on the wrist. Hard. Six puncture wounds. It was a quick release with sufficient bleeding. I washed it with soap and water, rinsed with alcohol and then Tea Tree Oil. Standard procedure.

Overnight, the bite flared. By the next morning, the doctor said, “you could lose your arm” and I was catapulted (pardon the pun) into antibiotics by injection and orally. The side effects of the antibiotics were another matter.

During my recovery time, Tabitha was captive in the shed, cared for regularly. But four days later, after she came to me and lightly rubbed against my leg, she spun and bit me again, on the same wrist. Two more puncture wounds. I had enough antibiotics in my system to deal with it.

Tabitha was Havahart trap savvy. Two attempts to catch her that way were in vain. The first time she reached over the trigger plate to get the food; the second time she ignored the food. The next resort was to call Animal Control and have them take care of “it”. “It”, the situation, the cat who could not be trusted. She was not an “it”. She was a living beautiful creature who was a potential threat to humans. Or vice versa. A call to the vet who makes house calls was not returned. Everywhere I sought help, there was no help.

It seemed the only logical move was to euthanize her. But how? She could not be caught. For the time being, she was isolated and would be captive in the shed for at least ten days, as required by law after an animal bite.

The results, all around, were not what I had wished for.  I had anticipated adopting a young barn cat, an outside cat to help keep the mouse population in check. Now I had a cat who had bitten me and seemed uncatchable.

But that’s not the end of the story…

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