Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fifty-five Years, Thirteen Weeks, and Approximately Four Days

When I was a kid, I was required to make my bed every morning. If I didn't do a good enough job, I would be told to repeat the process until it passed inspection. Sometimes it took me three or four tries to get it right. It was especially challenging when my mother put my brother in charge of the inspection.

One of the first things I did as an adult was to assert my independence by not making my bed. Oh, I would make it out of politeness whenever I visited at anyone's house, but in my own home, I have had fifty-five years, thirteen weeks, and approximately four days of not making my bed.

I take not making my bed seriously. No one in my house is required to make their beds. I'm not even sure Nick knows how, which will be embarrassing when he visits someone's house and doesn't do it as a courtesy. Hopefully, he'll figure that out.

Did you know that the colonies of dust mites don't thrive in an unmade bed? Dust mites like it warm, humid, and cozy, the temperature of us, not the temperature of a cool room. So, I have only been encouraged by this study to not make my bed.

Dust mites are gross.

Image result for dust mite images free

Yet, we live with them every day. If humans had very good vision, we might go bat-shit crazy trying to get away from the creatures that live on and around us. Like face mites.

face mites

You're grossed out now, aren't you. I am too. My face itches. I wonder if these things die in great numbers when I scratch my itches?

Okay, I might have to go throw up. There is no getting away from these things. I'm going to have to stop thinking about it. That's hard since there is a photo sitting on my screen right now. I tried to convince myself that these creatures are a part of having healthy skin, but I couldn't find a study. I need a study saying that they're good and useful mites, that they help people set their faces to rights.

So hard. So impossible when you start to think about it. You know, those little fish that clean the sharks. The sharks don't just tolerate them. They encourage them. There are fish that open their mouths so the cleaner fish can brush their teeth. And they can see their critters.

I hate parasites. Leeches, ticks, giardia anything that attaches to a body, inside or out. Oh, I could spare some calories to creatures around me. I always toss down a couple of nuts for birds that hang around when I'm snacking. I like birds. I like squirrels even though they're just friendly rats with decorative tails. I like cats, dog, the ultimate creatures to take advantage of my good health. They came to us to eat what we had left over and they stayed. They don't suck the life directly out of us, but they certainly change our behavior, eat our food, require that we groom them, clean up after them, and give them affection.

If dust mites were bigger, they'd have to be furry and have big eyes. They'd look a little like a hedgehog or an armadillo. Armadillos are adorable. Why am I so grossed out by the mites? For me to like them, they'd have to look like the Tardigrade bugs, those little water bears that scientists say can survive in space. If I really have to have face mites, can't they at least be cute like the water bears?

Image result for tardigrade water bear images free download

So, the mites pictures are far enough up my screen now, that I'm breathing a little more evenly. I'm going to imagine that my face mites are furry little creatures that kiss my face a million times a day and give my skin the healthy glow that it has after a hike. I'm going to imagine that when my face itches, which it still does, that I am only petting my thousand little pets as I scratch my forehead. I scratch dogs at the park when they sidle up to me, right? I'll pet any stranger cat in the street that's friendly enough for me to come near it, right? So, my little dust and face mites are my friends, cuddly little creatures that I care for. Shoot, they're the perfect pet. I don't have to open a can of food, refill a water dish, walk them, play with them, or even clean a putrid litter box.

Oh man, this is not working. My face is the face mite's litter box.

Breathe in, out, breathe in, out, breathe in, and out very slowly. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Don't think about it.

And I'm back.

So, in order to control the colonies of dust mites that live in my bed, I insist that not making my bed is the best method for managing. It's nice to be able to jump into a cool bed at night without having to fold down the sheets. It's healthier. Right? It's a time-saver.

This morning, I needed to go back to bed. I woke up too early and I was going to need to go back to bed for a while to have a normal day.

Blitz likes to jump back into bed with me when I go. All of the furry babies do. When I went back into my bedroom, they all followed me. I have a good bed. Seth took up residence on the folded-over part of the duvet at the bottom of the bed. Blitz sat on his own pillow with a fleece pillowcase at the top of the bed. Teddy circled once and groaned a little as he laid down in his own bed next to my bed. It was cozy. I was surrounded by my furry creatures and it was very cozy.

 I had noticed that Blitz did his business after I got up and when I came back into bed, he sat on his fleecy pillow for me to pet him before I fell back to sleep.

While I was getting situated, fluffing the covers up over my face, wiggling my toes against the still-warm depth of my sheets, and petting Blitzie,  I realized that there were little crumbs of something in bed with me. Ew.

I sat up in bed, turned on the reading light, and threw back the covers. I could feel them, one scratchy thing by my knees and another itchy one near my calves. I got out of bed. I turned on the overhead light.

There was cat litter in my bed, tiny chunks of cat litter. I had been sleeping in a litter box. That filthy little kitten. Oh man, it was so disgusting.

I'm going to have to break my fifty-five year, thirteen week, and approximately four day streak of not making my bed.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, August 25, 2017

Morse Code

Blitz is getting friendlier. Finally, he doesn't run when someone besides me leans over to pick him up.

Every day, I whisper into his ear, "No one is going to hurt you here. Everyone loves you here. The hard part is over. Just relax and have some fun."

Okay, it's not exactly those words every day. Sometimes it's only, "Chill out, dude. This isn't the hunger games."

The hypocrisy of saying that occurs to me when we're going to bed at night.

Blitz has trained me to pet him any time I'm on the stairs. He runs half way up and then stops, rolls onto his back, and throws his paws into the air like a puppy begging for a belly rub. He has dots and lines on his belly. I can't help but drop three bags of groceries and get on my knees to pet those dots and lines. Besides, stopping always elicits help from anyone in the living room who thinks I may be struggling under all that weight. I'm a little devious myself.

So, I rub Blitz's belly and let him play with my fingers and roll around. It's just recent that he can stop himself from rolling down a couple of steps as he does all this lolling about. It was adorable.

I already miss the clumsy little kitten.

So, I guess I screwed up by making this a spot for love and affection. I never let Nick and his friends play on the stairs when they were little. I said they were too dangerous. Why didn't I stick to my guns with Blitz? I blame the dots. And especially the lines. They're adorable dots and lines. They look like Morse code. What does his belly say?

I should look that up. The Universe could have sent me a secret message. It could be important.

At night, when I'm going to bed, Blitzmunchen does the same thing, stops in the middle of the stairs and rolls onto his back. The lights are sometimes off because my eyes are tired and I use the teeny spotlight on my iPhone. Then, when he stretches out on the steps, I struggle to see him and risk kicking him.

Once, I caught him with my moving foot and he flew down four or five steps like a soccer ball. I dropped the pile of library books I intended to read in bed and told him I was so sorry. I didn't mean to kick him. I just didn't see him.

Do animals know how night-blind humans are? Or do they just think we're stupid, or worse, mean?

Anyway, once I sat down on the steps to try to apologize, Blitzkrieg came running up to me for a belly rub. So now, forever and ever, I have to sit on the stairs at night, when I'm exhausted, when I'm almost blind because I'm using the tiny spotlight on my iPhone, and fumble with petting his belly.

So no, Blizzard, it's not true what I tell you every day, that no one is going to hurt you. I could hurt you. I could kick you down the stairs. I could step on you and break that already crunchy spot at the end of your tail. I do love you. I do. But I could be the one that makes life hard for you all over again.

I hate being a hypocrite.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Blitz's Other Mommy

I picked up dog food at my vet clinic yesterday. I buy the expensive stuff, Hills I/D, because my Teddy has some kind of allergy.

It might make sense to spend the money for a test to see what he's allergic to so I can go to a cheaper kind of food, but he's the second dog I've had on the Hills I/D diet. The first dog, Indiana, had the expensive test and still spent the rest of her life eating the expensive food. It worked for her. It works for Teddy.

So why spend the money on the test, right?

There was even a guy at the counter, a customer, who informed me of a brand of cheaper food I could buy. Frankly, I'm tired of spending money on a bag of new food to see if it will make Teddy barf down the passenger-side door and into that groove where I put my hand to close the door. If he pukes a second time, it will go into the little crevice where the seat belts sprout. If I'm at home, I don't want to have to leap up from the computer to slam the sliding glass door open when he's retching only to have him vomit in my yard shoes lying there because I didn't move fast enough. I'm not enamored of having him flap his ears and having to put goop in them for a week, getting sprayed with the excess glop every time as he tries to evade my helpful attention. I learned that my mouth is usually open when I'm focused on getting the liquid into the right place in his ear while I grapple his body between my knees. That stuff tastes terrible. I'm not sure I can handle being poisoned with any more of the ear gunk. And we don't even need to talk about the hot spots. I get a lot of dirty looks at the park when my dog has hot spots. I can't thrive under the glare of those dirty looks.

So, no. I don't feel up to trying the great new food that a total stranger tells me I have really got to try so I can save a few bucks each month. He spelled the name of it, you know, as if I were a dull child not understanding the value of his lessons. 

Oh, we could argue all day about this, but that's not what I sat down to tell you.

I wanted to tell you about eternally sharing a kitten.

Blitz will always belong to more than one family.

At the vet clinic counter, I had made a pile of all the food I needed to buy, dry dog, wet dog, wet cat, and treats. Seeing the big bag of food, the office manager came out of her office.

"Can I help you with any of that?" she asked. She always has a smile on her face. I knew I was going to have to tell her that her smile had become an indelible image in my day.

"Yeah, I was wondering if this gastrointestinal stuff is the same as the Hills Hypo treats."

And we went back and forth, chatting, while she found exactly what I wanted behind some other bags of treats. That friendly face. It gave me a little heartache every time I imagined it.

"You know, I picture your face a lot," I said, sounding just a little bit crazy even to myself. She stopped smiling for a second. "You know what I mean." She probably didn't. "Every time I kiss Blitz's head, he leans into me. It's as if he thinks that's the only way a kitten can be properly loved. You did that."

She smiled again.I finally stopped rambling.

"He didn't like it when he was a baby," she said. "He used to squirm whenever I kissed him. I can't believe how big they're all getting. They're all grown up now."

"Except Blitz has a tiny little head."

She laughed. "They all do, don't they?"

"And the back end of him is normal size."

And she laughed again.

"Do you think he's stunted?" I asked. "He's going to stay pretty small."

"They're all the same size. You know, they could be. The kids that saved them were feeding them Ritz crackers. You knew about the kids, didn't you?"

"No!" I said.

"The kids that found them didn't have much. They only had Ritz crackers, so they fed them what they had. That's how the one, the one that was dying... That's why he's named Ritz. The kids got really worried about them and they called us so we could help. That's how we got them to begin with. The kids fed them Ritz crackers."

"Holy cow. I didn't know that." 

"Yeah. Those kids saved their lives." I didn't mention to her that everyone in her office saved them too. I had seen a before picture of Ritz, the kitten that almost died, flaccid and with glazed eyes. His after picture was of a bouncy healthy kitten leaping for a string. Every time I go into the office, they tell me that now he plays with his German shepherd and Labrador retriever, that he's a pretty cantankerous kitten. They tell me that Blitz is really affectionate but that he's much quieter than his brothers.

It always takes me a while to get out of the vet's office these days when I buy food. I don't mind. It's a connection I never had with them before.

When I got home and hauled all of my bags and cans inside, dry dog, wet dog, wet cat, and treats, Blitz stood in the kitchen waiting for me to open a treat for him. The way the plastic crinkles is enough to call him from the deepest recesses of the house.

"Do you want a treat, Blitzen? Are you hungry?" I use a baby voice when I talk to him. I should be embarrassed to admit that, but I'm not.

"Yeah," he said.

He literally says yeah, now, and eh.

I opened the bag, pushed him out of the way with my foot, and popped open the garbage can so I could throw away the plastic strip.

Why is it that a cat is always standing in front of the garbage can when I need to step on that little pedal? Every single time.

"Now," he said.

I slid my fingers across the top of the pouch to close it and carried the treat into the living room where I sat down on the couch. I put a pillow on my lap and patted it with the hand that held the treat. With my other hand, I held down the hidden button that lifted the footrest of the built-in recliner. There were food crumbs in there. Why do they have to hide those stupid buttons where there are always food crumbs and lost paper clips?

Blitz jumped onto my lap and aligned himself down the length of my belly. Then he put his right paw on my left breast. He always does that. Why does he always do that?

I put the cat treat right in front of him, where my cleavage would be if I had one. I don't think he even chewed the thing.

Then, he half stood and leaned in toward me. I held him by his sides and kissed his forehead, where the little M lines score his eyebrows.  And there she was, Blitz's other mommy, smiling and talking about her baby in my head.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, August 21, 2017

Animal Behavior During the Eclipse

I took Teddy with me to meet in the parking lot where Mike works so that I could share in the use of the eclipse glasses his company handed out. That company had gotten cheaper and cheaper over the years but this is the coolest gift they've ever given us, except for a children's Christmas party years ago with a real Santa and a karaoke Christmas caroling contest. I won the contest.

I told you I could sing.

Teddy. Right. I was talking about Teddy.

So, Teddy jumped happily into the car at 8:45 this morning. He sighed as we drove on the overpass hovering next to the dog park. I heard him from the back seat.

He groaned when we parked next to my husband's car in the company parking lot and I rolled down the windows for good ventilation.

He sniffed my fingers as I got out of the car with my paraphernalia and leaned in the window to explain it to him. Should I be embarrassed at talking with a dog as I stood by myself in a parking lot where I didn't even work?

To hell with what I looked like. Paraphernalia. I brought some stuff.

Small recycled box
Two pair of binoculars
Welding Glasses

Now, Teddy thought the snacks smelled good. Pepperoni and apple chips. Well, he wasn't much interested in the apple chips.

I lined my kit up on the hatchback. My notebook slid off. I picked it up. My pen cap skittered onto the asphalt and rolled under my tire. I got down onto one knee and retrieved it. The pages of my open notebook fluttered and flipped. I took the pin, poked a hole in the box and used it to pin the pages down on one side.

The hole in the box gave me a cookie shadow the size of this capital O, only with a bite taken out of one side. I managed to balance my notebook and pen in one hand and the box held in the air in the other to get a shaky shadow to fall onto my notebook. As I drew the outline, my pen and my hand obliterated the box shadow. My notebook was evidence of a pathetic science experiment.

Teddy stuck his nose out the window.

"This is boring," he seemed to say.

"Get over it," I said out loud. Nick was somewhere East of where I stood, watching with his friends. I didn't have to feel any embarrassment over my geekness. I love this shit.

I pulled the caps off a pair of binoculars. No, I was not about to look through them at the sun. Mike hadn't yet appeared and I didn't want to be blindly wandering around in the parking lot when he did. I aimed the googly-eyed end of the binoculars toward the sun and shifted it around, looking beyond them to the ground.

Shit. It didn't work.

I almost gave up. One more shake of the binoculars and I was ready to throw them back into the front seat.

Matching crescents danced on the side of my car.

Cool! They looked like the eyes of the wondering emoji. They were poised in the center of the shadow of my head. It looked like I had googly eyes!

Just then, Mike showed up with the eclipse glasses. He said hello to Teddy while I put the glasses on to see. They were cheap paper glasses and when I put them on, I couldn't see a thing until I looked in the direction of the sun. It was beautiful! These things were great. Mike worked for the coolest company ever.

Teddy was happy for a moment.

I handed Mike one of the seltzers I brought and pushed a pepperoni stick out of the package for him. This, Teddy indicated, was a little interesting. Then, I showed Mike how I was tracing the outline of the eclipse onto my notebook as it progressed. He laughed as I dropped my notebook, then my cardboard box. And the image shook so hard it was hard to capture it on my notebook. I put everything down and showed him the crescents through the binocular. They turned the eclipse upside down.

I hadn't realized they flipped the eclipse. Teddy pulled his head back in the car and laid down with a grunt. No pepperoni for dogs. Boring again.

Mike and I took turns with the glasses. You could almost see the progress, but it wasn't even the peak, 92% in the Seattle area, and my eyes were already tired. We wandered away from the car to look at the shadows from the trees. There were some great crescents on the surface of a clean white SUV parked next to a tree. I took a dozen pictures of someone's car in the parking lot of Mike's company. I hoped no security guard came outside to ask me what I was doing.

Teddy stuck his nose out the window as if we were going on this great walk without him. Crying.

Then, we came back to the car for the grand finale. The glasses showed the narrowest sliver of sun. No diamond ring. No corona. We weren't within the band of totality. But it did get unnaturally dark for a clear morning and the temperatures dropped to a noticeable degree. I shivered. Teddy put his chin up on the arm rest inside the door. Totally boring. No park. No pepperoni. No walk.

Then, Mike and I took even more time to watch the crescent roll up and over the top of the moon. I tried the welding glasses, but everything was way too bright, so I put them away. My binocular crescents showed me with humble eyes on my shadow. I took a couple more pictures, balancing the binoculars on my shoulder to keep the images steady.

Then, Mike needed to get back to work. One lost hour of productivity for every worker in the county. I wonder how much that cost? With Mike gone, Teddy was even more disinterested.

I loitered in the parking lot for a little longer, unabashedly showing people who wandered by that the shadows on the white SUV were still very decorative. Teddy crawled into the front seat and prepared to take a nap. Mike sent me a photo of a white wall with leaves shadows on it, crescents making it look like an artist had gone overboard with his curves.

And then it was over. I gathered my notebook, my pen, the stupid cardboard box, the binoculars, and the great little pair of eclipse glasses that Mike had left for me to use. It was over.

I moved Teddy out of my seat and sat down. He hopefully hopped into the back seat. Time to go to the park?

I then proceeded to look at Facebook and Twitter photos and videos for twenty minutes before reluctantly acknowledging that this event of a lifetime was over, at least until six years from now when we could see it all over again in Indiana.

Then, finally, we went to the park. And finally, Teddy had a grin on his face. Now, this was great, dogs to play with and trees to pee on and water to swim in and fuck the eclipse.

I loved the eclipse.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, August 14, 2017

'Deadlines' for Moth

I have this recurring nightmare. I'm at college on the first day of finals. I have no idea where my class is because I haven't gone to a single class the whole semester. I have one class left before I graduate yet I know I'm not prepared. Today, I have my final in a subject I barely understand. I can't afford to fail this class. I don't want to have to stay here and take it over again. I don't want my education to be incomplete. My future depends on it. My husband has graduated and found a job in another city. He has already moved there to get our lives set up. I so desperately want to go with him. I so desperately want to pass this class if I can only figure out which room is the right room and remember one or two details from the heavy tome I read the night before.

Usually, I'm standing in the university halls in my underwear.

I went to Purdue. I did graduate. I swear I did. It was decades ago. It was the era of big hair, Jordache jeans, jelly shoes, fanny packs, and the Rocky Horror picture show. Let's do the time warp again. I know I'm bragging, but bear with me. I'm nervous. I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

But in this dream I am there at college all over again. Over and over, I have to graduate from that tight-assed school with a degree that doesn't suit me. I have to prove that I am worthy to go off to live my life with my husband. I don't want to live in a dorm one more year. I don't want to have Freshman roommates. I don't want to go out on a Friday night to keggers and frat parties and beer. Oh my.

I'm fifty-seven fucking years old. I am too old and fat for this shit. I really am. I'm a stay-at-home mom, a housewife, a woman of leisure, except when my husband gets the idea that we need to spend our precious time volunteering. I spent ten years volunteering at my son's schools. I still volunteer there. I spent ten years volunteering for his Boy Scout troop. I'm almost done with that, but now and then, I still get a phone call from a Scout who doesn't know he's supposed to say hello on the phone and tell the person on the other end of the line who's calling and why he's calling. Last Sunday, I volunteered for seven hours in a tiny kitchen helping to feed 127 people at the Forest Theatre's last show of the season. I had a good time. I was busy, but this wasn't what you would call a deadline. None of it is what you'd call a deadline.

I don't really have deadlines. If I don't show up to volunteer, what are they going to do, fire me? If I don't make dinner one night, is my sixteen year old boy and adult husband going to starve to death?

So, here I am. I'm fifty-seven exhausted years old. My son is in high school, practically raised except for the finishing touches.

I don't have deadlines.

And yet I still have these fucking dreams. Over and over. I wake up from them in a sweat. I'm breathing heavily. I want to roll my husband over in his bed and make sure I'm not sleeping in a dorm with an oversized pillow instead.

I wonder if it's God talking to me. Or the "Universe," you know with a capital 'U.' Or maybe it's just the deeper parts of my own brain, talking in its sleep.

"Jules, you're not finished yet," it says in a stage-whisper. "You do have a deadline to meet. A dead. Line. Get it? If you don't get this stuff done soon, you will never be able to do it. Ever."

Did you know that Van Gogh did most of his paintings within four years? He was practically manic, trying to get them all done.

I sometimes wonder if he had recurring nightmares about school. Did he worry about dead lines? Did he dream that he painted in the fields of hay in his underwear?

Finally, after ten years or so of these nightmares, I realized what they were all about. The end of my ultimate education was approaching. I still didn't know a thing, I mean really know. If I was going to take that final step, I knew I wasn't ready. I would never be ready. But I had to take it because if I didn't, I leave one huge thing incomplete. And I never get a chance to complete it.

And so I am here, telling you my story, hoping I know enough to pass, feeling like I could easily fail, feeling like I'm standing here in this hall, in my underwear.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sewing with Cats

Blitz is standing on my lap while I type. He's purring but he wants both of my hands to pet him so any time I get going with two-handed typing, he lifts one paw out of the embrace of my elbows and taps the keyboard. He likes the cursor, a bug that can move in such tight circles his eyes feel a little drunk.

We could sit here like this for hours, my left hand holding back his paw. What can I do with the cursor to make Blitz's head bob back and forth in a ridiculous way? What can he permanently change in one tap of his paw?

He and I had an adventure yesterday.

See, Mike, Nick and I are going to the Renaissance faire on Saturday and suddenly Nick needs me to make him a tunic. It isn't enough to go shopping once we get to the faire like most people do. No. I have to make him a tunic so he can appear there as if he's this uber-Medieval man who made his own costume from leather and twine.

"You can make a tunic, right?" Mike said. I usually quilt, preferring the two-dimensional nature of a blanket to the three-dimensional nature of covering my butt.

"Mom, do you like sewing stuff like this?" Nick asked.

We were already at the fabric store. The two men had already chosen the fabric, a slick linen while I searched for a pattern I might be able to follow. Nothing from Vogue. I was not ready for Vogue. Nick held out the bolt to me. I'd like to have a skirt made out of this linen.

"I can do that, but in two days?" I said. Mike gave me the secret-code look. It said, 'Look, the boy has expressed an interest in something besides video games. I don't care how much money we spend or how much time it takes for us to support that but you are going to make this tunic, so help me God.'

"Yeah, honey. I like making costumes. I'm not sure about the collar. I've never done a collar before, but I'll give it a shot." I held the bolt out to the sales lady behind the counter, trying to smile faked confidence into Nick's face. "I can figure it out." The sales lady looked at me dubiously.

I probably had made a collar some time in my deep past, but I didn't explain to Nick about the trauma of learning how to sew and restitching seams so many times that the fabric eventually ripped at the seam line. At nine, I could not sew in a straight line to save my life. But this is Nick and I would do anything for Nick, especially if it pulled him away from video games. Mike is working on a leather project with him. At least I don't have to cut and stitch leather.

Fifty-three dollars later, we have the makings and the pattern of a tunic. We could have bought a tunic with a lace-up yoke and puffy sleeves for thirty five. But no.

Yesterday, I woke up early. How the hell would I be able to make a tunic with puffy sleeves and a real collar in two days? I pulled out the wad of Kleenex they use to print the patterns, expecting them to shred as they came out of the envelope. I unfolded them on the pool table. I looked at the directions. Collars. Oh, and I'd have to figure out how to sew a yoke at the neck and turn it right side in. I tried to sew it, turn it, and stitch on the collar in my mind. Mush.

I needed pins. Pins and scissors.

I ran upstairs to get my good scissors and a pin cushion and ran back down. God help anyone who used those scissors for anything but fabric. I ran back upstairs for a pair of scissors to cut the paper pattern.

The nice thing about this sewing set-up that I have is that I get a great workout doing it. The pool table is generally clear enough that I use that as a cutting table for any projects. It's downstairs. My sewing machine is upstairs. This is my stairmaster, forgetting my scissors and pin cushion. Up and down, up and down, until I've done my thirty minutes of aerobics or more.

When I got back downstairs, the pile of tissue was on the floor. Blitz stood a foot away, nonchalant. There was a single hole in the top layer of the pattern.

I glared at Blitz and picked up the wad of tissue. One small piece slid out from my grip and Blitz was on it, all the feigned disinterest gone from his face.

"No, you do not get to play with these," I said. I'm sure he understood what I said, but he's a cat. He had no interest in complying.

I spread the linen out onto the table and ran my hands over it. A skirt is two pieces, a bell and a waistband. Pockets are easy. No. I needed to learn how to make a tunic, one with a yoke and a collar.

The pattern for the tunic had six pieces but I had to distinguish them from the pants, the scarf, and the pirate band that wrapped around the model's heads. I began to cut the tissue with the cheap scissors, separating the six pieces from the others. Blitz leaped onto the table and sat down on the fabric.

"Get off," I said, trying to be gentle as I pushed him away from the pile of already-torn tissue. His naked butt pressed into the linen and he used one claw in the fabric to resist. His intent was apparent. The crinkly paper was a perfect new toy. It would shred into a million entertaining pieces.

I lifted him off the fabric and put him on the floor. I had just smoothed out the fabric again when he leaped back on. So, I moved the pile of tissue to the other side of the pool table and finished sorting them. Before I cut any of this, I thought, I'd need to measure Nick. I was just getting proficient enough with a pattern to add length here and subtract width there. I ran upstairs to get Nick out from under the spell of the television.

Because I was making this tunic for him, he submitted to the measurements. He's growing up. Even a year ago, he would have grumbled at the interruption even if it was something I was trying to do for his benefit.

When I got back downstairs, Blitz dropped a straight pin from his mouth. I screamed. Blitz bolted.

"Nick, I need you!"

Nick and I spent the next half hour trying to coax Blitz out from behind the suitcases in the under-the-stairs closet and examine him ears to tail. Nick held him belly up while I checked his mouth for damage and rubbed his neck and belly to see if he had any pain. I called my vet while I continued to rub, squish, and stare at Blitz. Blitz stretched out and let me massage him all over. The vet said that if he had anything in his mouth or had swallowed a pin, he would be in distress. This cat wasn't in distress. She said we should probably keep an eye on him for the next twenty-four hours just in case.

That cat needed more than one eye on him.

When I got back to the pool table, there were five straight pins scattered around the pin cushion. I was always careful with my straight pins. I had hated getting them stuck in my feet as a kid and always picked up each one whenever one fell. Blitz jumped back onto the pool table.

"Oh, no you don't," I said. He glared at me as I stuck his pointy toys back into the pin cushion and swept under the fabric with my hand for any more. It came out with one pin stuck into it. Great. I would bleed on the tunic before it was even cut. The cats had never messed with my pin cushion in my sewing room. Now, suddenly, it was a toy or a hazard, depending on your perspective. I reached up and placed the pin cushion on a high shelf.

Then, I smoothed out the fabric again, nice fabric.

I gathered tissue pieces from the floor where they'd floated when I'd screamed and Blitz had scattered. There was another tear in one of them. I laid them down onto the fabric, trying to replicate the drawing in the instructions. The front and back had to be cut on the fold. The sleeves would need to be less puffy to fit the rest.

Seth jumped onto the pool table and stretched out on the other end of the fabric, shifting a piece of tissue out of his way. Nice fabric. It would make a good cat bed. I picked him up and put him on the floor. By the time I straightened up, Blitz jumped onto the table and dislodged another piece of the pattern.

I was getting nothing done. Not one thing.

I needed to move the fold in the linen to make it work. I picked each cat up and put them on the floor and lifted the linen by one corner before they could jump back onto it. Tissues floated away. Blitz batted at the long piece of fabric as I tried to move the fold to about a quarter of its width. Before I spread it back onto the pool table with the fold just right, Blitz jumped back up and sat down on one end.

"Neat game," he seemed to say. "Your turn."

I crawled under the pool table and located each of the six pattern pieces. I grabbed the pin cushion off the high shelf and tried to hold it while I pinned the tissue for the front of the tunic to the fold in the fabric. Blitz played with the little strawberry that hung from the top of the pin cushion while I held it.

Just then, Mike walked in the front door. He was home from a hard day at work.

"Hi hon," he said looking from one cat to the other. "You having fun?"

Thank you for listening, jb