A Week With My Mother Post-Back Surgery, By the Numbers

  • Hours spent at the hospital: 9.5
  • Horrible excuses for bulgogi beef eaten in the hospital cafeteria: 1 (which was 1 too many)
  • Staples in my mother’s back: 16
  • Disposable hospital gowns & pairs of gloves I went through: 5
  • Trips to Burgerville: 2 (twice as many as I typically make in a year)
  • Minor fainting spells (hers, not mine): 1
  • Fuzzy caterpillars seen: 7 (2 were squished)
  • Hours at the DMV: only 1 (seriously, if you have any DMV needs, go to Corvallis)
  • Profanities yelled at the TV during the second presidential debate: all of them
  • Bags of apples picked: 6
  • Times I was vaguely threatened by a rooster: 3
  • Times I was leered at by a cow: 2
  • Trips down memory lane: 12
  • Gilmore Girls episodes watched: 28
  • World problems solved: so many… if only people would consult us first
  • G&Ts consumed: oh crap, was I supposed to keep track?

with thanks to my pal Katie Hammel, from whom I swiped the “by the numbers” idea

The Great Smoot

The Great Smoot


“Have you ever seen Totoro?”

“The animated movie?” I asked, “No. Why?”

“He looks like – what were they called? – little black puffballs in that movie – something like Smoots, maybe?”

The boyfriend and I both looked down at the cat, and I started Googling things. It turns out the creatures to which he was referring were not called Smoots, but Soot Sprites. And an image search of “Soot Sprite” turns up the fact that other people think their cats look remarkably similar to the puffballs, too.

soot sprite vs smoot

It’s hard to tell the difference, I know.

Once uttered, however, Smoot could not be unheard. And so it came to be that our newest cat has finally revealed his true name to us. I’d like to (re)introduce him as The Great Smoot.

Of course, first he was just Smoot. Then Wee Smoot (he is so little, at least in comparison to the great monster cat), but this little guy has an outsized personality. And that’s putting it mildly. So, it was only natural that the name would evolve.

As it turns out, a smoot is a real (if somewhat farcical) thing. Our Great Smoot is far smaller than an actual smoot, but – at the same time – so much bigger.

The Great Smoot

winston c underfoot

Introducing Winston C. Underfoot


After we had to return Tallulah to the shelter when she turned out to not be a good match for Aloysius (or our busy, travel-loving household), we knew we would have to be really careful about choosing another cat. With lots of help from Animal Aid – where we got Aloysius – we now have a new kid in town.

Everybody, meet Winston.

winston c underfoot

Winston C. Underfoot, né Cole

Winston is a playful guy, though he’s not as instantly gregarious as Aloysius. He’s notorious among the people who know him best – at the shelter and his foster home – as a lover who purrs and drools copiously when happy, and who even hugs like a koala. I’m still waiting for a hug, but he’s already been really affectionate. His fur is super fine and silky. He’s not as easygoing about manhandling as Aloysius is, but he does like being petted.

At the shelter, he was called Cole, so his middle name is now Coltrane. (He will no doubt have 17 nicknames in no time, of course.) He’s had a bit of a rough time of life so far, having been in the shelter system for two years before we brought him home (they think he’s about 3.5 years old). He had a family before that, but they had to give him up when they lost their house due to a fire (no one was hurt, thank goodness). He’s got one cloudy eye that doesn’t alter his ability to see, and the shelter didn’t know if it might have been because of the fire.

So, yeah – it’s understandable if he’s a little slower to warm up to people. We haven’t always been reliable.

Winston is a little guy – he last weighed in about 10 pounds – but there’s a lot of personality in that little package. The more he warms up to us and gets comfortable, the more playful and spunky he is. I’m excited to have a lap cat around, and also one who may just give Aloysius a run for his money.

When we first visited Animal Aid to meet Aloysius, we were looking for one boy cat and one girl cat. When we realized later that Aloysius’ big personality was going to require a certain kind of buddy, the folks at the shelter pointed us to Cole. The two of them had been friends at the shelter, so it seemed like a good fit.

So far? It’s going well, though it hasn’t even been a week. Fingers (and paws) crossed.

winston c underfoot

Introducing the New Family Members


We finally got to bring home our newest family members yesterday, so it’s time for formal introductions.

If you didn’t know already, we had to return Tallulah to the shelter – you can read about that here – and now there’s another cat in town.

Aloysius, né Avery

Nicknames so far: Wishes, Monster Floof


This one was purring and wanting tummy rubs about 20 seconds after being released from his cage, and was eagerly exploring the whole house a few hours after he arrived. He’s the social bug, and will likely serve as the official welcoming committee of the house from now on.

He’s a big boy; he weighs only 13 pounds but looks heavier. His paws even look like he needs to grow into them, but he’s around two years old, so I think this is as big as he’ll get. We’ve no idea if he’s part Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat, but of course he appears to be part something-gigantic. The pointy tufts of fur at the tips of his ears contribute to that, too.

He purrs constantly, follows us everywhere, is very talkative, and slept most of the night at the foot of the bed. Both cats like having their tummies rubbed, which is a huge bonus. I didn’t dislike the name Avery, but I’ve wanted to name a critter Aloysius ever since I read “Brideshead Revisited,” and I finally got my chance.

And yes, I have just ordered a Furminator brush to deal with all that floof.

Miss Tallulah Belle, née Paris

Nicknames so far: Lula Belle, Pigeon
Note: Tallulah is Paris again and is available for adoption at Animal Aid! Are you her forever family?

Miss Tallulah Belle

This one is a small but high-density cat with a round barrel-like belly (she’s supposed to go on a diet soon). She’s a dark brownish tabby with a white bib, white socks, and a thin white stripe down the middle of her nose. I think she’s much cuter in person than in photographs.

She loves being petted more than anything else the world, especially the cheek scratches, and she chirps a little when she purrs like a quail or pigeon. She’s the shy one, mostly content to stay in her hidey-holes in the bedroom (her “safe” room for now), though she’s perfectly affectionate when she comes out to us.

I think she’ll be a super lovey cat, she just needs a little more adjustment time. Apparently it took her about a month to go beyond her safe spot in the shelter, so I’m pleased she’s already purring with us after not even 24 hours. They think she’s around three years old.

As much as I love the city of Paris, I couldn’t handle leaving her with that name. It just reminded me too much of Paris from “Gilmore Girls.” Plus, she seems like such a sweet and proper Southern lady, I figure her new name suits her.

Unexpected Gifts from My Father


A little more than three years after my dad died, my brothers and I finally retrieved what boxes of his stuff remained in his wife’s garage. We split it three ways, arbitrarily. The plan was to give each box a cursory sorting to pitch the garbage that was undoubtedly in some of them, thereby minimizing what we’d each need to store.

I expected to find lots of crap in those boxes, and Dad didn’t disappoint. Some of the gems from my boxes? Half-used post-it notepads and a staple remover. I am also now the proud owner of more drafting gear than any one person should own, especially now that basically no one does drafting using a paper and pencil anymore (anyone need a small collection of triangles?).

One of my boxes, however, contained treasures beyond anything I could have imagined.