On Trying to Find Joy When You Don’t Feel It

I almost didn’t write a joy post this week because I don’t really feel any right now. Like I can’t stop crying I don’t feel joy right now. On top of all the stresses of literally doing 4 jobs at work and the continuing pandemic that at least I’m still living in even if no one else is, my 17 year old cat is dying. I can’t remember having to actually go through this before. All the other animals I’ve had during my life have either run away or gotten very sick, very quickly such that we chose to put them asleep almost immediately. I haven’t had to suffer through the slow decline before. I think my parents had to with a cat I got in middle school, but I was no longer living with it when all that happened and hadn’t for a long time, so it wasn’t the same. We’re also supposed to be going to Hilton Head next week, and I have no idea if we should even go. I really need a break, but will I even enjoy the trip if I’m worried about my cat the whole time? Also, I’m worried about subjecting another friend to dealing with a very sick or dead cat. The last cat we had that died had a stroke while we were on vacation and my friends had to deal with taking her to the emergency vet and having her put to sleep with our sign off over the phone. I don’t want to put anyone in that situation again. Even if she’s completely fine while we’re gone, will I regret not spending that time with her since it’s bound to be a very large chunk of the remaining time we have with her? But if I give up my vacation that’s it. There’s no replacement vacation down the line. Our time rolls over at the end of June. I use it now or I lose it.

So that’s all to say I’m pretty much only feeling sadness and stress right now. But I read this article in the New York Times earlier this week, “How to Cultivate Joy Even When It Feels In Short Supply“. It in and of itself was a little joy reminding about the importance of practicing joy even when joy seems hard to come by. So here’s me going through the motions this week as a reminder that there are still joys in the world even if it’s hard to feel them.

  • This first one is a bit of a cheat as it is not something that happened this past week or even in the past couple of weeks. There a few things I added to my joy list that are sort of perpetual joys, so I was saving them for times when I might be short on other things to write about. This one is a little sad because it’s something my cat used to do all the time, but hasn’t been doing the last few weeks since she started not feeling well. It used to be that when I came home from work she would be sitting on the sofa and would meow for me to come pet her and do this little move where she lifted her head up and her nose got all twitchy in anticipation while I was walking over to her. I loved it, and I’m sad that it seems like she might not ever do it again. But it’s a good reminder to cherish these sorts of little things because you never know when they might end.
  • Speaking of the cat, even though it’s a sad plan, I’m glad we at least have the plan to just sort of make her comfortable and let her ride out her life now. For weeks we were up in the air running tests and waiting for the vet to call us back and the not knowing was just stressful. We still don’t know 100% what is wrong, but it’s likely cancer and we made the choice to not continue testing to confirm and do chemo because based on what I’ve seen it probably buys us only another 6-9 months with her and that didn’t feel worth it to put either her or use through.
  • Two toned tulips. The past week or so has been peak tulip season in Baltimore. Lots and lots of people have tulips planted in their yards, and I have really enjoyed seeing all the different colors there are. I’m especially fond of two toned tulips. Some of them are dramatically two toned and some are very subtle, but they’re my favorites.
  • Kwanzan cherry trees. There are lots of flowering trees around where I live as well. There are several different types of cherry trees and pear trees. My favorite though are Kwanzan cherry trees, which bloom a little bit later than some of the other trees and have also been in full bloom in the last week or two. They have these really full, lush pink blooms. I adore them.
  • We usually get take out for dinner on Thursday nights and I was trying to decide between bbq and tacos, so I threw up a poll in my Insta stories on Thursday afternoon. BBQ took an early lead. It was only one vote ahead by the time I ordered the food, but I went with it because it was in the lead at that point. By the time we picked up the food, they were tied. Then because the poll stayed up for 24 hours people were still voting well past when we actually ate dinner and it amused me that in the final tally tacos made a big comeback and won.
  • Speaking of BBQ, I like that we have a neighborhood BBQ place, Blue Pit BBQ, that has a BBQ jackfruit sandwich on it, which means I can enjoy the meat and my vegetarian husband can actually eat there. Most BBQ places are not friendly to vegetarians. Even most of their sides have meat in them. But he can get a sandwich and a side of mac and cheese and be happy, so I get to be happy with some BBQ too.
  • I was out taking a walk this weekend and I wound up behind a couple of older ladies walking together and one of them was playing with a yo-yo as they walked. Why not?
  • We had some really nice weather this past weekend and it brought people outside. My house sits right at the top middle of the T in a T shaped intersection. There is a group ofneighbors on the cross street that sort of dead ends into our house that just hang outside all the time when the weather is halfway decent. In the summer they set up canopy tents. Mind you none of us have front yards. They’re just hanging out on the sidewalk. I’ve always appreciated watching them treat their sidewalk like an extension of their house, particularly because they’re not obnoxious about it or doing it in a way that I think is really disturbing anyone else. It was nice to see them back at it. Though it almost all ended in tragedy apparently because some jerk face who was involved in a hit in run a few blocks away and was trying to get away for some reason drove down their block not on the street, but on the sidewalk while they were all out there. Luckily no one was hurt, but seriously what the hell is wrong with people.
  • And that brings us to our musical delight of the week, which is somewhat related. My next door neighbors have a back porch area that they’ve turned into a little oasis and spend a lot of time out there since they have a house even smaller than ours and multiple generations living in it. I often hear them sitting out there playing music, especially if we have the windows open. If I hated the music, I would probably be annoyed by it. Luckily I don’t. It’s a lot of 70s and 80s soft rock, which I’m all in on. This was the first time I can remember hearing them out there with their music since it got cold, and I appreciated that the first song I heard was “Summer Breeze”. Great song and it felt very apropos for the occasion.

Charm Kitty Cafe

Last night I went with two friends to check out Charm Kitty Cafe, the new cat cafe, that just opened in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps the best thing about it is the name. If you’re not aware, one of Baltimore’s nicknames is Charm City, so I’m a huge fan of the clever play on that to call the place Charm Kitty Cafe. I’ve never been to any other cat cafes so I don’t know if the way this one works is comparable to others. It’s not so much of a cafe as a place to go hang out with some cats. You can get a cookie or a cup of coffee, green tea, or hot chocolate, but that’s it.

You have to make a reservation to go. It’s $10 on weekdays or $12 on weekends for 70 minutes with the cats. They get the cats from the local SPCA, so all the cats are 100% adoptable. Most of them were super sweet either letting you play with them or pet them a lot. There were two that were not really interested in anyone at least by the time we were there, which was the last session of the day.

My only complaints were that they didn’t have enough toys that you could actively engage the cats with and the kids. There were plenty of toys around that were more like things that cats would chase on their own like the little toy mice or balls, but there was only one dangly feather thing for humans to really use with the cats. That seems very short-sighted. Also having kids there was not great. They allow kids over the age of seven. There was one family with 2 while we were there. They were probably both under 10 years old. It’s a nice treat for them because apparently their father is allergic so they can’t have pets of their own, but also they were kids so they were doing what kids do with animals. They were chasing them around and being more aggressive than the cats really liked, thus making it less than ideal for everyone else there trying to interact with the cats. They left from the session early, so we did happily get some time with things being more chill.

It’s not somewhere I’d probably go on a super frequent basis, especially since I have a sweet, adorable cat at home, but I would definitely go back again at some point.

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Remembering My Sweet Cat Charlotte

On December 28 we sadly had to put our cat Charlotte to sleep. We first noticed that she was sick back in August when she stopped eating and getting sick if she did eat anything. It then became very apparent that she had slowly been losing weight for some time and because she had always been a skinny cat we hadn’t really noticed. The initial diagnosis was hyperthyroidism, which she did in fact have and was probably a large contributor to the weight loss, but even after going on medication for that she was still getting sick and not eating. We did a bunch of additional tests, but even after spending all the money on that the vet was never able to come to any conclusion about what was actually wrong with her. They said they could continue to run more tests that would get increasingly more invasive and more expensive without necessarily getting any great feedback. We all decided the best course was to treat her with steroids for lymphoma, which was their best guess about what was wrong and see how she responded.

After going on the steroids she seemed to bounce back. With the help from some appetite stimulants she gained back all her weight and was acting more like herself again. Sadly I think all the help from the extra weight and the steroids just helped her mask the fact that she still wasn’t well. According to the vet cats do everything they can to hide the fact that they are sick, so you often don’t know anything is wrong until they are really bad off. Charlotte seemed perfectly fine when we left for our Christmas trip to Arizona and the friend who was watching her on Christmas sent a photo of her looking all happy that day. Unfortunately a few days later that was not the case. Our friends that were watching her on that Sunday night found her lying on our basement floor not moving and breathing really funny. They called to let us know and tell us they were going to take her to the emergency vet.

The vet called us and let us know that she was showing neurological issues. She wasn’t responsive when they waved a hand in front of her face and her legs were locked, which is a sign of neurological issues. Her lungs were also very bad which they said could be due to issues in the part of the brain that control the lungs or she could have aspirated some of the blood that she was drooling. The whole situation sounded awful. After asking them realistically whether she would really be able to come back from this they said no, so we made the decision to have her put down and not prolong her suffering. At the time I was really sad that we weren’t there in order to say goodbye to her, but in retrospect I’m kind of glad I didn’t have to see her the way they were describing her condition. I get to remember her seemingly happy and healthy as she was when I said goodbye to her on the morning that we left.

We got our Charlotte along with our other cat Scout about 9 and half years ago from the SPCA that is down the street from our house. Although we adopted them at the same time they are not from the same litter. All of the other kittens from their respective litters had been adopted out and there were no two kittens available from the same litter at that time, so we picked out two kittens from different litters. Paul picked out Scout immediately and then was looking at some other kitten who was just sleeping and looked boring to me. I told him I didn’t want the other kitten. Instead I was taken by the kitten that was literally hanging off of her cage door. I thought that looks like an insane, fun little cat. That was my Charlotte.

At the time her name was Precious. There was no way I was going to call a cat Precious, so she got renamed Charlotte after Charlotte’s Web (obviously Scout was named for To Kill a Mockingbird). I would still call her my precious kitty all the time though, especially after The Lord of the Rings when I would say my precious like Smeagol. Paul did not like it when I did that. I had many other names for her as well. I called her gooberhead all the time. She was also known as Meeper because of the cute little barely there meow that she had that was more like a meep than a meow. She also went by Little One in contrast to her fat sister, and as stealth kitty or sneaky cat because she was very good at sneaking past you into rooms she wasn’t supposed to be in without you noticing and then getting locked in there. I called her Crazy Pants because true to how she was acting from the first moment I saw her she was always slightly insane. I also called her Smushface because of her tendency to sit with her face smushed into the corner of the cat tree.

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Incidentally she never paid much attention to that cat tree in it’s original location along the wall on the opposite side of the room, but as soon as it was moved across in front of the book shelf in order to make room for the Christmas tree or for the new cat tree we bought to replace this one she loved it.

I lost most of my pictures of the cats from the first few years of their life when the hard drive on one of my old computers fried after Scout chewed through the cord on it. Paul pulled up some of these cute kitten pictures of Charlotte that he had for me.

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Charlotte was the sweetest cat I have ever known. Together Scout and Charlotte are the best cats I have ever had by far. They love people, are very mellow, and are not at all biters or scratchers. Most of our friends prefer Scout because she is the more outgoing cat and is the one that will come out during parties and stuff. Don’t tell Scout, but I always had a special place in my heart for my little Charlotte. She wasn’t a fan of commotion, so she would run into the basement when people were in the house and moving around a lot. At the end of parties or when people were over and just chilling on our couches or around the dining room table then she would come out and beg for attention. She loved for people to pet her and would sit next to me on the couch, meow, and head butt me until I would pet her. I once read an article saying that petting cats creates a stress response in them. I said someone should tell Charlotte that because she insists on being petted at all times. I have never had another cat who has begged for attention like she did. She was definitely a lap cat.


Almost every morning before I left for work she would run to the sit on the arm of the couch, which is right next to our front door and beg me to pet her on the way out the door. It was the sweetest thing. She knew my routine and when she would hear me coming back down the stairs after brushing my teeth she would race from the back of the house, around the top of the couches, and onto the arm of the couch. I always wanted to get a video of her doing it, but sadly I never did. I did snap this picture of her waiting for me on the arm of the couch one morning though.

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Charlotte also liked nothing better than a precarious position to sleep or sit in. She was constantly amusing me with the places and positions I would find her sleeping and sitting in.

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Charlotte also had a weird obsession with tomatoes. You could not leave tomatoes out on the counter or that cat would get into them. The first time she did it as a kitten I thought she was attracted to it because as a red, shiny ball it looked like a fun toy. I was completely wrong. It was definitely something about the smell that attracted her. Even when we brought tomatoes home from the farmers’ market in a completely opaque bag she couldn’t see into she would start stalking around them and jumping up on the counter to try and get into them. She would not just play with them. She would actually eat them. This is what would happen if you left a tomato unattended around Charlotte.

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Charlotte and Scout were never super cuddly with each other, but they did like each other and get along. They would play and wrestle with each other and groom each other, which usually devolved into said wrestling matches. They would chase each other around the house and Charlotte was also smart enough to cut Scout off by taking the shorter route behind the TV stand instead of running in front of it. Every once in awhile you would find them cuddled up together though. Scout is definitely missing Charlotte and has been wandering around the house meowing like she has never done before and is super needy with us at the moment. It’s sad because you can’t really explain to a cat what happened to her little buddy.

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This is the last picture I have of Charlotte. My friend Kristen took it and texted it to me on Christmas. I miss this little girl so much and I’m so sad that she’s gone, but I’m glad I got to spend 9 and a half years giving love and getting love from this super sweet little cat.


Husbandless Long Weekend

While my husband has been off at Vegas since last Wednesday for a convention I wound up with a long weekend because my library was having a new boiler installed on the roof which involved bringing in a crane. For safety reasons we had to be closed, which meant I got a bonus day off work. I spent the afternoon with my friend Kristen. We had lunch at Barcocina. I had heard great things about how they had renovated the space since taking it over after Shuckers closed. The reviews online were middling though, so I was a little worried about how it would be. We had a nice lunch though. The weather was lovely so we got to sit out on the patio right along the water, which was great. The space definitely is the best thing about the restaurant. As the other reviews suggested the food was fine, but nothing outstanding. I had the buffalo chicken tacos, which although spicy did not really taste like buffalo sauce to me at all. My friend had the shrimp quesadillas, which seemed to have enjoyed. I feel like the service must have been a little lacking somehow as well. Because we were out to enjoy a nice leisurely, casual lunch and were enjoying catching up I didn’t really notice it while we were there, but when we left I realized we had been there at least an hour and half. Not exactly a speedy lunch and not great if you needed to get back to work. After lunch we stopped and got some gelato from Pitango Gelato. I love me some Pitango, but it had been a very long time since I had been. With the Charmery now open steps from my house I’m much less inclined to drive down to Fells Point for gelato. It was nice to pay them a visit again.

The rest of Friday evening was spent dealing with taking my cats to the vet. One of them is sick and not eating. We still don’t know what’s wrong and that’s not a happy topic so I’m going to dwell on it here other than to say that we tried out a new vet, and I’ve really liked them a lot so far. So if you’re looking for a vet in Baltimore I would recommend Doc Side.

Saturday I took myself to the movies to see Boyhood. It’s written and directed by Richard Linklater, who also did the Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight trilogy. I loved all of those movies and I was looking forward to seeing this one. In some respects it’s the same as those movies as it feels like dropping in on someone’s life and watching them for awhile. It’s about living in the small moments of a life. In the Before trilogy you’re seeing a few hours in a couples life play out almost in real time and dropping in on them every 9 years. In Boyhood you’re dropping in on a family every so often, but for much shorter periods of time but more frequently. It’s also actually a very interesting piece of filmmaking. If you know anything about the movie than you know it was filmed with the same actors over a period of 12 years with filming scenes with them every so often over that period. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play a divorced couple raising two children. Linklater’s daughter Lorelei played the daughter Samantha and Ellar Coltrane played her younger brother Mason Jr., who was the main focus of the movie. Because of watching the same people age over a number of years I had to stop and remind myself several times that this was a fictional movie and not a documentary. That of course also had to do with the story of the movie, which really did just feel like watching someone’s life unfold. At points it may have felt a little too real. It was really lovely though. I both laughed and cried while watching it, which is always the sign of a good movie. If it sounds like something you think you would enjoy I would definitely go see it.

Saturday night my friends Sean and Catherine had a housewarming party, so I went over there for a few hours to welcome them to the neighborhood. They have a great little house, and I am jealous of their garage. I’m sure they’ll be happy there for many years. It’s nice to have more friends moving into the neighborhood for a change too instead of leaving it for the suburbs or another state entirely.

After church this morning I went out to lunch and for ice cream with a couple of friends. All in all it’s been a nice weekend. Though I could do with out the cat drama. I’m also looking forward to having my husband back home tomorrow night though.

Scout versus the Hair Band

Scout has always loved “catching” various tie type items. In the past she would come triumphantly bounding up the basement stairs making this adorable little meow with various types of wire ties that she found. They varied from velcro ones to plastic ones that Paul had either left lying around or cut off of something. Paul bought a package of hair bands so he could use one to attach his Halloween costume to his head. There were four more in the package. Knowing how much she loved the wire ties I figured Scout would love to play with them so I tossed them out on the floor for her. I was right. She loves them and carries them all over the house. Sadly she has given up her adorable triumphant meowing for a sort of yowling at them, which is not so adorable. It’s funny because she’s usually a very silent cat. She has very strong feelings about these hair bands though apparently.

*Note: The talking you can hear in the first 30 seconds or so of the video is an Extra Hot Great mini-podcast, which I was listening to before it dawned on me I should probably shut it off until I finished recording the video.

New Cat Tree

This isn’t necessarily making me happy, but it’s making the cats happy so pretend they’re writing this. Though they are cute, which makes me happy.

We’ve been talking for awhile about getting a new cat tree. The original one we had for the cats is probably about 7 years old. It’s Scout’s primary scratching place so it’s pretty worn out as you can see. We actually replaced the sisal rope ourselves a few years ago, but it still cost about $30 for the rope and was a pain in the butt to do because of trying to get around that little tunnel. So we decided next time it needed to be replaced we would just get a new tree instead. The carpet on the little platforms is pretty gross at this point too from years of the cats lying on them and puking on them.

Old cat tree
Old cat tree

The rope where Scout usually scratches is really falling apart at this point and she doesn’t like scratching there anymore so she decided the furniture was a good replacement while we were gone for Christmas. She luckily didn’t do too much damage, and I immediately bought some stuff to cover the corners on the couches and decided it was time to break down and spend the money on a new cat tree.

Paul finally went out last weekend to try and buy one but neither the nearest Petsmart nor the nearest Petco had ones on par with what we currently have. Either they just had tiny ones or great big crazy ones. So he came home empty handed. I had told him I couldn’t get one on my own because it would be too heavy for me to deal with based on the weight of the one we currently have. I was going down to run some other errands in the suburbs south of the city yesterday so I told him I would at least pop in to the Petsmart and Petco down there to see if those locations had anything different even if I wouldn’t be able to buy and bring it home. At least we would know.

The Petsmart did wind up have some stuff that was akin to what we already had. I wound up buying one and bringing it home. It’s not as sturdy as the old one nor quite as big so I was actually able to bring it home by myself. I feel a little bad that it’s not as nice as the old one, but the cats don’t really seem to mind at this point. I do imagine this one won’t last as long as the one we’re replacing though.

Scout is very happy to have new rope to scratch on. Charlotte really likes those cardboard scratch things for her scratching pleasure so we have a couple of those lying around. So I figured she would like having one on the new cat tree. So far she hasn’t touched it yet. I’m sure if sprinkle some catnip on it she’ll get excited about it. Though in retrospect I’m now questioning my decision on that one since those cardboard things make a mess. The corner by our bookshelf where we have the regular one tucked away for her always has masses of cardboard shavings lying around it. Now I realize this stuff is going to be lying right out in the main part of my living room. Perhaps I’ll avoid alerting her that it’s there and if she never figures it out good.

As you can tell they seem to be enjoying it so far. They’re pretty much enjoying exactly like one would expect with Scout being the lazy cat and Charlotte being the crazy cat.

Scout sleeping on the new cat tree
Scout sleeping on the new cat tree

Charlotte loves playing with feather thing on the new tree.
Charlotte loves playing with feather thing on the new tree.




Crazy Cat vs. Lazy Cat

As I have mentioned in this blog before I have two cats. They have entirely different personalities. Charlotte is an insanely crazy, bonkers kitty. I should have known when I picked her out at the SPCA because she was hanging off of her cage door. She treats all of our furniture like her personal jungle gym and likes to sleep balanced precariously on things so not much has changed from the time she was a wee little kitten only a few months old and now when she’s an 8 year old cat.

Scout on the other hand is the exact opposite and is extremely lazy. Consequently she’s a fatty. In her defense she has always been chunky even when she was a tiny little kitten. She looked like she swallowed a baseball. Now she just looks like a big blob. She’s definitely gotten lazier with age. She used to chase toy mice around like crazy, but now she kind of half-heartedly will bat a new one around for a few minutes.

You can totally tell their personalities when playing with the laser pointer. The laser pointer we have is attached to a keychain which makes it jingle when you pick it up. The cats have developed a Pavlovian response and come running when they hear that noise. I don’t know why Scout gets so excited because this is how she plays with the laser pointer now in her old age laziness. She runs and sits under the cat tree and does this. She wouldn’t cooperate for my video, but occasionally she’ll stick a paw out as if she’s trying to get the dot.

Charlotte on the other hand is insanely crazy and bouncing off the walls. She kind of acts like this even when she’s not chasing a laser pointer. She doesn’t really jump at the walls then, but the running thing she does all the time no matter what. Usually it ends with her hanging off the sofas, which I am not a fan of for obvious reasons.


The One Where I’m a Mean Cat Mom

My cat Charlotte would like you to know that I am a mean cat mom. You can tell she is clearly starving and yet I just stand there don’t do anything to help her. Not only that like any good parent I take video of her being pathetic. She pretty much does this every night while people in the kitchen making dinner despite the fact that it’s usually 3 hours before she usually gets fed. Poor pathetic kitten makes me happy.

Because the Internet Needs More Photos of Cats

I almost forgot to post something today. Not too much going on around here today. Still trying to recover from my cold, which has now developed a cough that previously wasn’t there. I probably overdid it at my friend Alison’s party yesterday. I went thinking we would stay 2-3 hours, but I was having such a good time we wound up staying for 7. Woops. Lots of good friends and good food, so I guess that’s a bonus making me happy thing from yesterday.

Anyway, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for cute pictures of my little monster Charlotte who was determined to sit on my lap as long as it was available today.

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My Cat is Cuter than Your Cat

The cats aren’t normally allowed into the bedroom, but Charlotte snuck in the other day and made herself quite comfortable in the bed. She was even cuter when I first walked in sleeping all tucked in under the covers, but by the time I got my camera she was ready to run. Also enjoy a few more pictures of Charlotte being super cute that I took over the past week. I know you wish your cat was as cute as mine, and if you don’t agree she’s the cutest cat ever she will shoot you with her laser eyes.