Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Since When Are We Best Buds?

I know that we are very, very fortunate to live in a country that allows us the right to vote, and to have such a large voice in really important issues.  I understand that not everyone has this right, and that countless men and women have died fighting for it.  And I appreciate that.  I really do.  However, I also dread election season.
Hubby and I are registered as Independents.  I’ll spare you the stories of why; let it suffice to say that we see it as a good thing.   Mostly.  The bad thing is that we seem to get a lot of attention from both of the main parties, and all of the candidates.  I guess our votes are seen as really being “up for grabs”.  Every day the mailbox is filled with letters and postcards boldly declaring why Mr. Y or Miss X can be our only choice. 
This year, though, they’ve added phone calls into the mix.  Really annoying, overly chummy phone calls.  Most of them have gone to voicemail.  They’re largely all the same: “Hi Danielle!  It’s Bob!  I’m calling to get your pledge to vote for Candidate John Doe!  He’ll solve all of North Carolina’s problems, and give everyone a puppy!”  Okay, so the puppy part is an exaggeration.  The exclamation points aren’t. 
I can’t help wondering when “Bob”, who I’ve never met, and I became best buds.  I understand that Bob is enthusiastic, and I’m kind of interested in knowing what he’s putting in his coffee that makes him so perky.  But we’re not friends.  Calling me by first name doesn’t make us friends.  It doesn’t necessarily put us on the same side of an issue.  And it definitely doesn’t put Bob in the position of asking me to “pledge” or promise something.
I don’t stand on ceremony when it comes to names.  I still look around for my husband’s grandmother on the rare occasion when someone addresses me as Mrs. Zecher.  The kids next door call us Mr. Nick and Miss Danielle – their parents’ rule, not ours.  I’d be totally fine with them just calling me Danielle. We’ve talked about pets, their piano lessons, the garden – I know them. 
I don’t know Bob.  And we’re certainly not best buds.  I can’t help thinking that it is inappropriate for politicians (or their over-caffeinated minions) to presume to act like we’re best buds.  We’re not, and trying to behave as though we are doesn’t help their cause. 
So what about you?  Have you fallen victim to the phone calls?  Does it irritate you when a stranger calls and acts like you’re best buds? 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chandler & Pansy

During the summer our semi-local no kill shelter was inundated with cats and kittens; at one point there were nearly 400 cats and kittens in their care.  They sent out a plea for temporary foster homes and we ended up bringing Chandler and Pansy home for about a month. 
They weren’t even two pounds when we brought them home.  Frankie is our baby, and he’s five now, so it had been a while since we’d had tiny little kittens in the house.  They have so much energy when they’re that little!  Everything was interesting to them, and every day was an adventure. 
We had to keep Chandler and Pansy in a separate room because Duke seems to believe that tiny furry creatures are snacks, not guests, but we spent lots of time playing and cuddling with them.  And being climbed. Apparently we both make great human jungle gyms. 
After about a month the shelter had adopted out enough cats and kittens to have a little breathing room and Chandler and Pansy were able to go back to the shelter to be put up for adoption.  We really enjoyed having them.  It was a lot of fun to watch them explore, grow, and really start to develop their personalities. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is It Possible To Care Deeply About Everything?

If you’ve spent more than about five minutes here at Sweet Tea Reads, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a supporter of animal rescue.  I have a few other causes that are near and dear; Alzheimer’s, cancer, the American Liver Foundation, and things relating to the emergency services/first responders (if you’ve been around for a while you probably know why those are the things I really care about).  
I’m not saying that I just don’t care at all about other causes.  They just aren’t really button pushers for me.  They don’t ignite passion or anger.  I mostly find myself thinking “that’s terrible” or “I’m glad someone is working on that” and then going on with my day.  Maybe that makes me really horrible.  I like to think it all balances out because the things I care deeply about are maybe the things that make some other people think “that’s terrible” or “I’m glad someone is working on that” before going on with their day.
Nick and I have talked about this a lot over the years.  He has a few near and dear causes as well, and for the most part ours line up very well.  We choose very few causes to support financially as we’re able, he spends almost all of his volunteer time with the fire department, and I spend almost all of mine doing something related to animal rescue.  We both have a different place we want to volunteer at once we’re retired, and it’s one of the things we’re looking forward to when retirement finally comes. 
We both think that with limited time and resources it makes sense to focus on the things that really matter to us.  Now, I’m not saying that we refuse to support other causes.  I can think of only a few causes that either of us adamantly refuse to support.  We’re both on board with saying yes whenever a cashier asks if we’d like to donate to this or that cause as long as it’s not one of the few we refuse to support.  We both will usually chip in a little if a friend or co-worker is raising money with some sort of walk or run.  I think the difference is that when it’s not one of “our” causes we have to be asked, and we do/give a lot less.  I’m okay with that because I know it’s not that we’re being stingy, it’s just that we support something else instead.
I’ve had conversations with friends over the years who just don’t understand or agree with this approach.  They view caring more about one cause as not caring at all or enough about another.  Or they make the argument that anyone putting forth the effort for their cause deserves just as much consideration for that cause. 
Most recently this conversation has been with my sister.  She has recently become very involved with a cause through one of her very close friends. It’s a really good cause, and I’m proud of them for really acting like grownups and working hard at something important.  It’s a good cause. It’s just not one that really pushes my buttons or inspires a lot of passion or anger.
My sister doesn’t understand this.  She has asked me to do a few things related to this cause.  I’ve declined a few, and done a few, though apparently not with the energy and zeal she expected.  I finally tried to tell her that while I really respect what she’s doing it’s just not something I’m as passionate about.  She doesn’t understand this.  She makes the argument that caring deeply about and working hard for her cause doesn’t have to take away from any of mine.
I just don’t agree.  There are only 24 hours in a day; time spent doing one thing typically means less time spent doing something else.  Monetary donations are also limited; a donation to one cause means no donation to another cause.  Therefore I choose to donate the bulk of my time and resources to the causes I care deeply about.  I’m just one person, and I don’t seem to have the time, resources, or energy to do it all. 
What about you?  Do you think it’s wrong to be much more passionate for some causes than others?  Or do you choose carefully?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Series on Hospitality & Entertaining

I’ve written fewer blog posts this year than in either of the two prior years.  I’m not liking this pattern.  I enjoy blogging, I just seem to let it go the moment things start to get busier than usual, and then I get annoyed with myself for not blogging.  I’m trying to work on that.  I’ve read quite a few posts from other bloggers about doing some sort of series or challenge to get into a regular blogging routine, and I like that idea.  I’m not sure about sticking to one topic for an entire month, but a two week series seems very doable.
So I’ve decided to write a two week series on hospitality and entertaining, I'll run the series from November 1st - 14th, just in time for the holiday season.  We’re getting into the time of year when people are planning (or thinking about planning) holiday parties, dinners, and hosting out of town guests, so the timing seems good, and one of the best compliments I’ve ever been given was when a friend told me that I’m a good hostess, and that she couldn’t imagine ever coming to my house and not being made to feel welcome.  I can’t begin to tell you how amazing that made me feel!  I’m also hoping it means that I’ll actually have something to offer with this series.
I’ve already written a few of the posts, and I plan to address things like choosing what type of event to host and entertaining on a budget.  If there are questions you have, or specific topics you’d like to read about please let me know in the comments.  I want this to be useful, or at least interesting, so ask away. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

When “Failure” Makes You Happy

Do you remember Duke, the dog we picked up from the shelter to foster almost a year ago?  We “foster failed” during the summer.
When Duke came to us, he was heartworm positive, and had a damaged paw.  He made it through the heartworm treatment (which took almost six months before we got the negative test) and into our hearts while he was going through that.
He just fit in perfectly from the beginning.  We love him, Emma loves him, and he does well with the cats.  We had to keep him! 
Duke’s front right paw was damaged when he came to us.  It was initially thought that he’d had a broken leg that didn’t heal properly, but when they did more testing they determined that it was nerve damage (no one has any idea how it happened, and unfortunately he can’t tell us) and that the leg couldn’t be saved. 
His leg was amputated about a month after his negative heartworm test. He went in for the surgery on a Wednesday morning and came home on a Thursday afternoon.  The first few days were rough.  He was uncomfortable, he didn’t like the bandage, we had a lot of trouble keeping the bandage on, he kept messing with the IV site, and we had a terrible time dealing with that once he licked it to the point of having a sore.  But we got through it!  My friend Crystal came and stayed that weekend to help with him.  Nick is an EMT, so is really good at changing bandages, and I became fairly decent at it myself by the time it was over.
During the process of his leg amputation and recovery Duke managed to become a little bit of a local celebrity (or at least had a “15 minutes of fame” thing going on) when the shelter started a chip-in to try and raise some of the money for all of his treatment.  He was very popular at the vet’s office, I tracked his progress on Facebook, people we barely knew were asking us about Duke’s recovery, and I ended up bringing him to work to meet some people.  That grew, and he ended up visiting a few different departments.  Duke loves people and attention, so he basked in his fame. 
Things have calmed down, and we’re happily a six fur kid family.  We have noticed that Duke seems to get some extra attention whenever we take the dogs out.  There’s just something about a three-legged animal that seems to make people want to pet them and meet them.  Duke is fine with that because he loves people.  And food.  And people have food! 
So we totally “failed” as foster parents with Duke, but we couldn’t be happier to have failed.  He just fits in and completes our furry family. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Winner & An Apology

So I may be the worst blogger ever.  My deepest apologies.  All I have to say for myself is that the summer just got away from me.  I can’t believe we’re already officially a week into fall.
The winner of my June Is Adopt A Cat Month feature is PAWS.  You can read more about them at Animal Shelter Volunteer Life.  The check is finally in the mail.  I am so sorry it is so late!  Thank you to everyone who participated.
Our summer was crazy and busy; some bad stuff, some good stuff, mostly just life. 
Nick’s grandfather, who has always been incredibly healthy and active, was hospitalized, and now has a major heart problem.  I’ll try to make a long story short.  He was initially hospitalized for pneumonia, after Urgent Care sent him to the Emergency Room and the Emergency Room sent him to ICU, largely as a precaution due to his age.  Less than 12 hours later he was on a ventilator.  Things were very up and down, and he ended up being moved to a different hospital.  He’s home now, and will be going back for major heart surgery later this week.  If optimism counts for anything, he should be just fine.
This has been the summer of appliances for us.  We finally bought a small chest freezer after talking about it for years.  We planted a much bigger garden this year, and everything lived, so it was nice to be able to freeze so many things.  The CSA boxes have also been very full most weeks.  I had mixed feelings about adding a second freezer when it’s just the two of us, but I think it’s a good thing.  Using our own homegrown produce this winter instead of paying outrageous prices for it in the grocery store should help make up a lot of the cost of the freezer.  And I’ve been able to freeze things like home-made chicken broth that we just didn’t have room for before. 
Our HVAC finally gave up.  We’ve known for a while that we would be replacing it sooner rather than later.  No one is sure when our old one was put in, but everyone who ever came to work on it said you just didn’t see those anymore.  There’s a chance it was as old (or older) than we are, so it did its time.  “Sooner” became “now” in July, though it took until August to get everything together to get it done.  The new unit is great.  It doesn’t run all of the time like the old one did, and we’ve noticed a difference in the power bills.  I’m very excited about the heat working better this winter! Hopefully no more mornings of waking up to ice crystals on windows. 
I’ve often heard that things happen in threes, and that proved to be the case for buying appliances for us when the washing machine died/flooded. I was doing laundry before my sister came to visit, and when I went to move it from the washer to the dryer I walked through standing water. That’s never a good sign.  We thought we had it fixed and it flooded again. We finally determined that fixing it properly was going to cost about as much as a new washing machine, so we opted to get a new one.  I’m mildly obsessed with doing laundry, so I’m still really excited about the new one. It’s High Efficiency, and it’s huge.  It can handle a dog bed, which is a big deal in our house.
No summer would be complete without something involving pets.  We fostered two adorable little kittens for about a month.  More on them later, because that much cute has to have a separate post.  We also officially adopted Duke (we’re currently at about a 50% “fail” rate as foster parents).  More on that later as well.  Duke’s journey has been long and intense. 
The garden did better than it ever has before.  We put in two raised beds, and (mostly) maintained what we had before.  We ended up with lots and lots of squash, zucchini, peppers, basil, and tomatoes.  We shared quite a bit, and froze quite a bit to enjoy later.  I think we would have had more, but I hurt my back and the garden was left largely untended for nearly three weeks.  The cherry tomatoes are still going strong, though; last year they made it almost to the end of October.  The basil is still holding on, though it’s no longer thriving.  Now I just need to get out there and pull out all of the dead plants. 
So what about you?  How was your summer?  I’m looking forward to catching up and seeing what I missed. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Interview with Animal Shelter Volunteer Life

Today we have an interview with Meowmeowmans (a.k.a. Kevin) from Animal Shelter Volunteer Life.  It's a great blog featuring the adoptable cats at PAWS.  Be sure to check it out!  

Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us about your work at PAWS!  And thank you for being involved in cat rescue!  Yours is the only rescue blog I’ve ever come across.  What led to the decision to write a rescue blog?

My amazing wife, Tracey, started Animal Shelter Volunteer Life to help raise awareness about the wonderful PAWS cats, and to help demonstrate the amazing human/animal bond that takes place during the time we spend at the shelter.

How did you become involved in cat rescue?

I’ve always been a huge animal lover, and while growing up in Southern California, my family had a wide range of pets, including dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards and fish (though not all at the same time).  Flash forward MANY years … I first began volunteering at PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society) at a time when I had just moved back to the Norwalk, Connecticut area, after a job stint in another city.  I was living in an apartment that did not allow pets (happily, my landlords later changed their minds), and figured I could get an “animal fix” by volunteering with the cats and dogs, while doing something good and productive. 

It wasn’t long at all before I was hooked.  And it was clear I was getting far more BACK from these animals and my experiences at the shelter than I could ever give.  I am still volunteering there almost 17 years later.  On a side note, PAWS is where Tracey (who has been volunteering for 11 years) and I reconnected (we used to work together a long time ago) and fell in love.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face at PAWS?

Like any no-kill shelter, it’s often a numbers game for PAWS.  There are so many stray and abandoned animals out there, and not enough space or resources.  It really highlights the need for strong spay and neuter programs, education, and Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR), etc.

Anyone involved in animal rescue knows that it can be heartbreaking at times, is there one particular rescue story or experience that helps you continue on as a cat rescuer?

There is definitely some sadness that comes with being involved with animal rescue, but it’s critical to remember that the lives of the animals that do wind up being rescued are improved on so many levels. You never forget the sad things that happen, but clinging to – and really owning – the good stuff that happens really helps keep us from being overwhelmed.

It breaks our hearts to see new arrivals that are fearful, angry or emotionally withdrawn.  And who can blame them? What an overwhelming experience to be thrust into.  But we are so often amazed and inspired to see love, kindness and patience help those very same animals learn to trust people again.  And there’s no better feeling than when that animal finds its forever home.

So many times people seem to think that what they’re able to do isn’t “enough” to help a rescue or shelter.  What are some of the small ways you’ve found that people can make a big difference in the lives of shelter cats?

There are so many opportunities to help shelter animals.  Some people might think that “only a few hours” isn’t going to make a difference.  But there is so much you can do.  A few hours spent sitting quietly with a frightened animal could very well be the thing that helps it begin to trust people.  And for those who aren’t as hands-on, the shelter is always in need of supplies, food, and donations.  Other ways to help include fundraising, helping to write pet animal bios, conducting store visits to solicit donations and distribute information, making needed building repairs, transporting animals for vet appointments, cleaning, writing thank you letters, collecting and redeeming  ​cans and bottles, fostering animals, and so on.   These things are all critical to the shelter’s survival, so it is no exaggeration to say they all make a big difference in the animals’ lives.  I would encourage everyone to just try volunteering.  The time you give will change lives – the animals’ and yours!

Is there anything major (urgent need, exciting new plans, etc.) going on with PAWS right now?

There is a really cool volunteer-initiated and implemented “catification” enrichment effort underway right now in one of the open (no cage) cat rooms.  The room is being redesigned – with spaces, furniture and interactive features – to improve the lives of the cats by creating a home-like atmosphere for these kitties as they wait for their real forever homes.

If you had one paragraph to convince someone to adopt/rescue a cat, what would you tell them?

Shelter cats are amazing, and have so much love to give.  They are not somehow “broken.”  In our experience, there’s a good home for every cat and dog … they just need a chance.  By adopting an animal, you’re actually saving TWO lives – the one of the animal you adopt, and the one of the animal for whom there is now space at the shelter.  Rescue pets KNOW you’re the one who saved them.  Your reward is the unconditional love they give to you.  And everyone wants to be loved, right?