Thursday, August 7, 2014

Old Cats, Bad Backs, and New Ways to Have Fun

It's been very hot weather lately. I hate it. I mean, I really really hate it! Heat like this makes me feel smothered, suffocated, trapped. It also makes me feel like I have a low-grade flu all the time, the symptoms of which only subside when the heat relents.

In addition to all this, hot weather makes my back pain worse because it's just too darned hot to lie on heating pads and take the hot baths that so relieve my pain.

Of course, I also burn easily and am very prone to sunstroke.

So, yeah, I hate hot weather.

Maxi dresses are not a solution to my discomfort but they are an aid.

Dress: Route; Sandals: Wonders; Earrings and right hand ring: Birks; Necklace and gold-toned bangles: gifts from Beau; Glass bangles and sunglasses: vintage; Hair clips: Stylize; Pinkie ring: boutique
They're also easy on my back, which is something I need a lot lately. You can see me reaching from solid object to solid object to support myself and take some of the weight and pressure off my back. Clothes that put any pressure on my lower back -- whether from a belt, a waist band, or a tight seam -- increase my pain level really quickly. Maxi-dresses don't do that.

Let's face it: maxi-dresses are the closest we'll ever get to wearing our nightgowns in public. Well, there was that nightgown that my much loved aunt let me wear as a dress in southern California heat when I was six, but, since then, I've made an effort not to wear nightgowns as day-wear. Pajama tops: maybe. Nightgowns: no.

The pain in my lower back increases exponentially over the day, especially if I'm trying to do... well, anything that involves being upright for a while. I often stretch it out as I'm doing here, trying to relieve the pain. Nothing is a cure but some things are a help.

I finally have a mobility scooter, which has given me more freedom, but I'm supposed to try to be a bit active so as not to lose what little strength I have. When walking, I've been having to use a cane all the time now.

I do so hope you've noticed that I try to co-ordinate my canes with my outfits. If I had more money, I'd have more canes, but at least I have a brown one and a black one, to match cool and warm toned outfits. I also now have a really pretty white one decorated with delicate pink flowers. It's a summery cane, don't you know?

Beau and I don't own a car but we do use a car co-op, so Beau can ferry me around when I'm not doing well, which is often. I find myself waiting in the car a lot, while he runs errands that are too painful for me to handle, or just infinitely faster for him to run on his own.

I watch the world outside of my window (to quote the band, 10,000 Maniacs) and feel sad sometimes. I'm an introvert so I don't generally ache to join the world, but I do feel jealous of the people who have the choice of whether or not to join or reject it. It's like gay marriage: you might not personally want to get married, but you sure do want the choice to be yours to make. My back prevents me from choosing whether or not I'm out and about and a part of the world I don't even always like that much.

On this particular day, I had another reason for wearing a very comfortable dress. Milo needed to visit the vet. I know from experience that, whenever I take a kitty to the vet's, my back pain gets much worse because I get all tense and worried.

Probably because of my own history as an abused child, I can't bear to see animals suffering, especially since it's impossible to explain to them what's going on.  (I long ago stopped eating all meat but seafood.) When they cry in the car and get scared or angry at the vet's, I stiffen up and, presto: pack pain.

But, as we all know, even geriatric cats like ours can get themselves into all kinds of trouble, like Bobby here, discovering cottage cheese and immediately throwing up because he's lactose intolerant.

Both of them recently got into a fight with a neighbour cat who made the mistake of thinking that they might like some company in our back yard. They both got bitten but, while Bobby's cuts healed well, Milo's did not.

So, off to the vet we went, crying Milo indignant in his home-made cone, but still happy to accept ear rubs. The vet and his assistants were all very impressed with Beau's makeshift cone. They said it was the best one they'd ever seen. Milo was quite a bit less impressed.

So yeah, even old cats and fat cats still get into trouble, but they seldom catch birds and that's a good thing, since I'm bird crazy. After three years of trying, I finally attracted a Goldfinch to my feeders. Soon, he brought a girlfriend, and, a while after that, they brought their young.

Aren't they the prettiest little things? Hint for attracting them: they like Niger Seed, but you've got to be patient.

Hummingbirds are another favourite of mine. I have no fears of my cats catching hummingbirds. Who ever catches hummingbirds?

Hummers are very territorial so I've really only been getting the one female (the one on the right). But, for a few days, a male (the one on the left) tried to share our flowers and feeders with her. She chased him out of our yard over and over again. Here, he's standing his ground, hissing at her. I think his efforts failed because I haven't seen him since, but I have seen her.

She won the argument and continues to enjoy our home, safe cats and all.

Old cats are a special kind of weird and require different sorts of care. This is my vet's very friendly cat, a long hair too old to groom herself well. They took the clippers to her for the summer and this was the result. She has no sense of how silly she looks. She knows for a fact that she looks great and we all want to love her and hold her as usual. She's half right.

But old cats, like disabled humans, mean more medical appointments. Thus, I knew what to wear for maximum comfort, without sacrificing style. 

And this finally brings us back to my bright and colourful outfit. I wear this dress a lot but it's only made it into the blog once before, here.

The children's playground, with all its bright, primary colours, seemed the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot with such a colourful dress. This was after the exhausting vet visit, of course.

Cats are way less work than kids. Who was the little snit kid who thought this was funny? Such a rebel he/she is... not.

Actually, I kind of am a mom now, or a step-mom anyway, but our kids are older, almost ten and almost thirteen, two milestone birthdays up and coming. They're now too old for a playground, and, I hope, too young to make stupid signs about "weed." I hope they never get into drugs. 

I did but that was pretty much inevitable. There were a lot of drugs in my home and it was common for adults to give them to kids. The first time I remember using pot, I was eight and my mother gave me pot brownies on a hiking trip, something I would never do with my step-children, or any children. By the time I was twenty-one, I was completely drug free. When your parents think something is cool, it holds little appeal after a while. Besides, I had better things to do with my time, like getting an education, and earning money as a writer. A rebel I am, and drugs get in the way of that.

So, while my step-kids are too young for drugs and too old for playgrounds, I'm the reverse: too old for drugs, and old enough for playgrounds. But I'm too disabled to play in them in any conventional way. Play and fun have to be found in different ways for me.

I pose artfully near the playground equipment, and try to make it look like leaning on it for support is part of the art, not part of the disability.

I get all bossy with my photographer (aka, Beau).

(I think I look just like a Jewish mother here but maybe I'm buying into the stereotypes.)

I colour and pattern coordinate with my city, and with this playground, instead of playing on it.

I bedeck myself with jewelry.

I frame myself like a painting, the active subject of my art, rather than the object of someone else's art, as so many women have been over the course of history.

I pose with flowers that match my outfits ...

... the flowers and I both catching the sun to the best effect.

I make up new ways to wear my hair.

(I think this is Beau's second best photo bomb, his dark shadow on my shockingly white back. His best photo bomb -- so far -- ever is here.)

I wear wacky sunglasses and take selfies.

I learn new ways to attract new birds.

And I laugh at my cat in his stylish new cone.

These are some of my new ways to have fun and be playful in my pain. Do I miss dancing and running and walking and a million other things I used to do for fun? Of course I do! But sometimes, in tragedy, old dreams and ways of being do need to be let go. But they must be replaced with new ones or the spirit will fall to its knees.

So I have my fun. And I call it art.

Oh, and don't worry, Milo is perfectly fine now. Fat -- and fine.

(All the cats and I are joining the fun over at Visible Mondays at Not Dead Yet, 52 Pick Me Up at Spy Girl, and at Shoe Shine at Ephemera.)


  1. Is Milo from Milo and Otis, or the Australian drink? Or something else?!
    I haven't been around long enough to see you in this maxi before. My first thought was, oh that's nice, that's a bit different too. And I'm sure cooler! (Temp wise)
    I'm glad Milo is all better now, and out of his cone of stillness!
    I love the photo of you framed in the ladder. We used to take a lot of photos of our kids at the playground. It really lends itself to beautiful shots. My kids are 9 and 12, so big birthdays next for us too :-) XO JJ

    1. Beau adopted Milo with that name already so we don't know how he got it. My cat is named after Bob Buckingham, lover of Edward Morgan Forster (writer EM Forster), because my other cat at the time was named Morgan after Forster. Wait! What Australian drink?

      Both of my step-kids' parents were raised in a cult that didn't allow the celebration of birthdays so they're just not in the habit of making a fuss of birthdays. But, now that I'm in the picture... Well, I'm changing all that!

  2. Love that maxi, and yes, this hot weather can be hard to bear. Poor Milo, buy yay to you and Beau for taking the best care of him. Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday, xox.

  3. I love the comparison of gay marriage to being disabled and doing what you should be able to do. Here to Here! (to both). Great job finding things around your city that match your outfit. Especially that painted man hole plate thing and the painting. Always new and fun ways to accessorize (like canes)!

  4. You look great in this, Charlotte! Great, vibrant your jewelry...looks really good!

  5. Aww, hope kitty is doing well. I love the maxi dress, and yes, If I could wear my robe in public I would!! I dont own a maxi dress, but next year I just might as they look that comfy. Your print is fabulous and the dress is great on you. I know about feeling lousy, my entire July I had high pain days. I live n Charlotte so we have had some unbearbale days, the heat feels good on my muscles but humidity can go. I also love the green ring!!
    from the link up,

    please stop by, jess

  6. You certainly don't look "hot and bothered" in that gorgeous dress but I can relate. Moving is an effort for me, too and the hotter it is the harder it is for me to move without lots of exertion. The difference may be that we have air conditioning here in the Deep South. Trust me, I'd be in jail for murder if we didn't!
    Did I mention you look seriously chic in that dress? ;-)


  7. You look lovely and very stylish in this maxi - just wow! So sorry that it hurts even more when it's hot outside. Hopefully the temperature is milder now - it is here - and you feel better. I took a break and returned to blogging just a few days ago, and I've noticed that you also took a break from your blog. Anyway, just wanted to say hello! And I agree about letting go and being open to new things. It's not always easy! Not even for people with great health. You are doing wonderfully well, Charlotte! Say hi for me to your friends birds and cats! xxx

    Oh I almost forgot - I thought this post would be perfect for Spy Girl's 52 Pick-me-up: SUNFLOWER this week! :)