The Litterbox

Odds and ends and bits and pieces, all bundled together with flushable clay.

Thursday, December 30, 2010 , terribly early in the morning

Reaching out via Twitter

One of my most entertaining discoveries this year has been Twitter.  I never thought I’d have any use for Twitter, let alone become a daily user, but it’s my favourite place on the Internet to communicate with large numbers of people on a huge number of topics.  Best of all, the short bursts of information tend to reveal the author’s personality better than a 10,000 word formal essay would, so I’ve gotten to see the “authentic” side of many people who are otherwise wrapped in a veneer of fame and celebrity.  Perhaps the best thing about Twitter is that so many people use it, so it’s a way to tell Lady Gaga you loved her meat dress, but also a way to tell a local restaurant owner that you love the meat loaf.  I’ve always been a person who wants to express my gratitude for a job well done, whether it be a well-acted movie, a well-run race, or a well-written book, so Twitter gives me a way to thank the talented folks who keep me awed, entertained, and inspired.

Thanks to Twitter, I was able to thank author Susan Orlean for writing “The Orchid Thief”, the book which opened my eyes to the literary genre of nonfiction travel/adventure and which gave me inspiration to work on my own green thumb—it would definitely make my list of my all-time favourite books.  The book was already special to me, but via Twitter I’ve learned that Orlean is a huge animal lover who does rescue work, so that adds an extra layer to my enjoyment.  Via Twitter I’ve been awed by the work ethic and drive of Olympian Lolo Jones, another animal lover, and touched by her offer to cook us Thanksgiving dinner next year.  Twitter gave me means to thank Rosanne Cash for her recent book and for her music, which I’ve been listening to for at least 25 years, but I was also able to offer her advice on a cat behavioural problem.  A couple of months ago I made dancer/choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba laugh by tweeting about how I worked her name into the lyrics of “Good Morning, Starshine”, and when we were dealing with Chelsea the cat’s recent diagnosis of kidney disease (and the resulting veterinary bill), Inaba voluntarily asked her Twitter followers to donate to Wee Paws, and made a donation of her own.  Inaba is another person who’s actively involved in the rescue community, and she loves and spoils her cats, even getting dialysis for one, which I think is awesome.  Another animal lover on Twitter is swimmer and 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin.  She’s given me tips on gardening, sent me messages about bird watching, and posts photos of her frequent travels all over the planet (often posting pics of local food delicacies… yum).  Getting a glimpse into the everyday, normal lives of people who otherwise seem “larger than life” is an excellent way to remember that with a little hard work and dedication, we’re all capable of great things.  Sometimes the roles are reversed in a rewarding way, too, like when actresses Alyson Hannigan (cat lover) and Kristin Bell (dog lover) express admiration for me, for Wee Paws, well… that’s the kind of thing guaranteed to put a smile on a girl’s face.

Thanks to these “celebrities who Tweet” for sending encouragement, entertainment, and laughs to me and Wee Paws via Twitter… it’s nice that the Internet still holds happy surprises after so many decades (I dialed into my first BBS 22 years ago!):  Natalie Coughlin, Lolo Jones, Pricilla Lopes-Schliep, open water swimmer Melissa Helmers, Alyson Hannigan, Kristin Bell, Cat Deeley, Susan Orlean, Rosanne Cash, Ol Parker (director/producer of a few of my favourite movies), author Ben H. Winters, model Joanna Krupa (animal rescuer extraordinaire), and original catwoman Lee Meriwether.  I’ve really only been using Twitter regularly for a few months, so I look forward to meeting many more.  I’m also starting to connect to the expat Canadian and veterinary communities on Twitter, so there are lots of new people to meet! 

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 12/30 at 04:02 AM
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 , terribly early in the morning

All Headey, all the time

...and needless to say, I suck at Nablopomo.  Oh well, there’s always 2011 to look forward to, and perhaps I could practise for it by blogging once a month in times other than November.

I’m posting to thank Lena Headey for being awesome and having such a large film catalog that I’m still barely halfway through it despite numerous nights of insomniac movie marathons (I’m the insomniac, not the movies).  I love period pieces, foreign films, and British comedies, so I’ve had tons of fun catching up on obscurities like “Aberdeen”, “The Parole Officer”, and “The Red Baron.”  Headey has been consistently great in every film role I’ve seen her in, and I’ll be very sad when I’m left with nothing to watch except her rare clunkers (I’m looking at you, “The Cave”).  Headey is an avid supporter of charitable causes, too (especially animal welfare causes), so it’s nice to know that I’m enjoying the work of someone who’s talented *and* compassionate.

Here’s a little sketch about making charitable donations that Lena Headey made for “Funny or Die”.  I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll enjoy the photos that I’m also posting of Headey (I’m embracing my inner, middle-ish aged fangirl):

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Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/30 at 05:25 AM
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Monday, November 15, 2010 , terribly early in the morning

See you for Nablopomo 2011?!

Okay, so I was a Nablopomo failure, although at least I attempted it this year (I don’t think I’ve even considered attempting it since about 2007).  I definitely have lots to write about, but most of the time I feel like the space between my ears is filled with sludge and it’s tough for the coherence to burn through.  I’m sure blogging would be easier if I had a routine, but since moving life is still a series of new, daily surprises (Surprise!  The kitchen sink is leaking!  Surprise!  The overnight low was 26 and the well pipes froze!)and my routine consists of making sure the pets are fed and that I empty the litterboxes.

One distraction living out here in the boonies is that the night sky is amazing.  I walk outside and can see not only the the Pleiades star cluster, I can see the cloudy blue tinge that covers the cluster and adds to its awesomeness.  I’m supposed to be taking our little, blind dog, Phoenix, out for her bathroom trip (and ensuring she doesn’t fall into one of the backyard’s potholes), but I often end up staring at the sky with my jaw hanging open, making a note to identify this star and that constellation after I get back inside.  I use the free Astroviewer program for most of these identifications, btw, if you’re looking for a fairly simple program to help you identify the objects in your night sky.  Since we moved in late August I’ve seen multiple “shooting stars” (including a few from the Perseid meteor shower), looked at Jupiter through telescope and bincoculars, and had my first ever glimpse of Uranus and Neptune.  Early today I watched the International Space Station cross over for about 5 minutes before it disappeared from my field of vision, and it was incredibly easy to spot and really stood out as the brightest object in the sky (other than the moon).  Our belongings got really messed up and separated during our move so I’m still searching for a couple of missing pieces of the telescope (mainly I need the counterbalance weight to keep it from tipping over), but when I get it properly assembled I’ll take some photos with the camera.  My telescope is quite old (it was a gift from about 15 years ago), but it still gets the job done, and it’s still freaky and fascinating to see the rings of Saturn.  My “sky viewing” goals are to see the Sombrero galaxy and to try to see the comets 2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami and 103P/Hartley before they vanish near the end of the month.  I try to remind myself that even though it’s 26 horrible degrees outside and breezy and I’m freezing, the cold weather makes for a clear and bright night sky (and I can see my breath!).

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/15 at 03:19 AM
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Sunday, November 14, 2010 , the wee hours

Remember Menu Foods and ChemNutra?

I’m sure many corporate attorneys would like it if we would all just forget about the Menu Foods/ChemNutra pet-homocide debacle of 2007, but hey, some of us remember every little thing.  I wanted to post an update to the situation to let pet owners know that earlier this year, Menu Foods was sold to an even larger private-label pet food manufacturer, Simmons Food Inc. (”The Simmons group includes Simmons Pet Food, a manufacturer of wet and dry pet food, and dry ingredients for dairy, cattle, aquaculture and pet food manufacturers.  Simmons has annual sales of more than US$1 billion.”)  I think this potentially could create even more problems for mass-produced pet food because now more food than ever is under the manufacturing control of one company, so caveat emptor and try to always keep identifying information from the products you feed in case of a recall.  If you normally buy a 20 lb. bag of dry cat food and dump the contents into another container and toss the bag, be sure to cut out and keep the product identifying information (like production dates, UPC codes, best before dates, etc.) until the product has been consumed.  If you want to visit the Simmons website it’s at http://simmonspetfood.simmonsglobal.com.  Frankly, if the best thing a company can say about your product is that it meets AAFCO guidelines, it’s not a product I’d feed to my pets.

As for ChemNutra, they got off with barely a hand slap and claim to no longer be in business.  While it might technically be true that ChemNutra isn’t operating any longer, the people who own the company have started a new one called EOS Direct, and they import food ingredients from China!  Deja vu!  Their website is currently “down” (no surprise there), but keep an eye on http://www.EOSdirect.com and be aware they’re still in business, still importing, and that the Chinese suppliers of the tainted ingredients were never caught or extradited so they might still be making poison wheat gluten. 

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/14 at 02:54 AM
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Thursday, November 04, 2010 , mid-afternoon

This posting every day stuff… it’s just hard.

It’s been a very, very long day, and all I can think to write is, Nablopo…no.  No, not today.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/04 at 03:10 PM
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010 , early evening

No more sweatpants

I’m going to stop referring to myself in a joshing manner as a “crazy cat lady”, and instead, start to call myself “cat woman”.  Not “a cat woman” or “one of many cat women”, but “Cat Woman” (super-villain).  Can I clean litter boxes while wearing a skin-tight leather jumpsuit?  Can I grind ten pounds of chicken while maintaining an incognito alter-ego?  More importantly, can I write a blog entry while my arms are pinned by a dozen sleeping kitties?

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/03 at 07:23 PM
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010 , mid-afternoon

The Longest Day

For a variety of reasons, I haven’t slept more than a few hours total over the past three or four days… chalk it up to insomnia.  Today I’d reached the point at 4am where my head was swimming from fatigue and I could barely walk, and I was going to gratefully fall onto my pillow and finally doze off.  As a last-minute chore I took the little dogs outside for a potty trip and lo and behold, the two large dogs had managed to pry open the double-gate to the backyard and they were GONE.  Vanished.  We drove all over the neighbourhood in the cold darkness, shining a whopping big flashlight and calling their names, but couldn’t find either of them (we did find a lot of rabbits).  We reported them lost to AVID, to 24PetWatch, to animal control, and to the shelter.  I wanted to send reports to local vets but I was literally dozing off while sending emails and couldn’t take it anymore… sleep was going to win.  Just as I was getting ready to have a nap I noticed that Mack had returned on his own, and was sitting at the back door.  He was in a lot of pain from arthritis and limping badly, but he was home.  He didn’t bring Dante with him, though, old, cranky Dante who can’t walk around the block without getting tired.  Long story short, at some point, animal control found Dante and called us.  We went and bailed him out for $40 just a few minutes before the shelter closed, and he came home in a bad mood but none the worse for wear.  I’m the worse for wear, beyond annoyed that he cost $40 and angry that he’s continuing to search for ways to get out of the yard!  He’s been a good dog his entire life, and now he’s a rebellious senior!  At least Mack has some separation anxiety so I think he’s inclined to return to where he can find Nancy-mom, but to Dante, I’m not even chopped liver.

Tomorrow we return to talking about the weather.

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/02 at 03:57 PM
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Monday, November 01, 2010 , mid-afternoon

Minutes to spare

When I decided to participate in Nablopomo, I knew I’d find it challenging to keep up with the post-per-day criteria.  I hadn’t planned on going down to the wire on the very first day, but look at me, it’s 11:50 pm… now I have a real excuse for making this short and sweet and not very profound.

Today some friends helped us move the remainder of our stuff out of a rented storage unit, so as of tonight, everything we own is back under one (teeny) roof.  We haven’t unpacked anything except absolute necessities since moving in (I subsist on one pair of shorts and one pair of sweatpants because I can’t find my jeans), but now that the move can finally be considered over I guess it’s time to tackle the boxes.  It’s such a daunting task, almost as daunting as the task of packing the boxes, although at least we’re not dealing with anyone else’s deadlines.  I imagine I’ll still put off totally embracing unpacking until the days get colder and I’m stuck inside, and I’ll keep spending my free time doing yard work, subduing tumbleweeds and fire ants under warm blue skies.  The temperature variations of living so close to Death Valley still boggle me:  it can be 32 degrees at 5am, but 82 degrees barely 6 hours later.  With nothing to hold the heat in, I live in a place that will allow me to express both extremes of my wardrobe in a single day (if only I knew were I’d packed my parka and my flip-flops).

Tomorrow, I’ll try to start earlier in the day, and to talk about something other than the weather.  Maybe I’ll even talk about cats!

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 11/01 at 03:44 PM
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Friday, October 29, 2010 , evening

Nablapomo

Nablapomo.  A post every day for the entire month of November.  I’m in, believe it or not.  See ya in a couple of days, peeps!

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 10/29 at 09:38 PM
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Monday, August 16, 2010 , terribly early in the morning

Moving, finally

Just a short update to let anyone who might still be reading this know that we’re finally moving.  It’s sad and stressful… I mentioned to Flippy that I felt like I was breaking up with someone, because I’m leaving something I don’t want to leave.  Eventually I’ll love our new house, but right now I’m terrified by how tiny it is, and by all the things that aren’t working in it.  We’ve got no working dryer, only one working bathroom, an iffy stove, an iffy heatpump/air conditioner, a yard that’s full of sharp objects and a short wall that the dogs could easily jump, and a house that’s tinier than we expected.  Our current house is about 2100 sq. ft., and although the new house is supposed to be 1800 sq. ft., it isn’t…. it’s more like 1400.  We only saw the house once before we agreed to buy it (and really, it was the only house we could afford, anyway), and looking at it again we’re realizing that it’s so small we won’t have room for at lot of things we own.  The master bedroom barely has room for our bed, let alone the computer desk and the TV armoire that we have now.  The other rooms are so small that I can’t imagine putting more than a twin bed in each.  I’m sorry for being whiny, and I do appreciate having a place to live, but it’s so frustrating to know that Freddie Mac refused to let Flippy’s father buy our current house, so we could have avoided moving.  This move is taking so much out of us, emotionally and physically… I lost all day Sunday because I suddenly started to vomit on Saturday night, for no reason other than stress.  Anyway, the moving van is coming on Tuesday, ready or not.  It’s mostly “not”, but thankfully the movers will also pack up anything we haven’t tackled yet (i.e. almost everything, although we’ve packed over 100 boxes of books alone).  Today (Monday) we hope to move all the cats in a rented cargo van.  It will mean they have to spend 24 hours alone in a new place, but we’ll take all their familiar cat trees and litterboxes and hope they’ll enjoy exploring.

Just cross your fingers for us, if you’re so inclined.  We definitely feel like two people with heavy-duty chronic illness right now.  Oh, I apologize that I’ve had to temporarily shut off comments because of all the spam I’ve been getting, but once we’re moved I’ll fix the “captcha” system so I can turn comments back on :)

Posted by Leigh-Ann on 08/16 at 03:21 AM
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