I am happy to announce that the S’mores ice cream is a hit. Lyndon took a spoonful, his eyebrows went up and he said, “Oh, that’s very nice,” which in British means, “Damn, this is delicious!”

Had my own bowl and yep, he was right. The crunchiness of the graham crackers balanced the richness of the fudge ribbon and the sticky, slightly caramelized sweetness of the toasted marshmallows, and with the custard ice cream underneath it was a beautiful thing. This will definitely be going into regular rotation.

In other creative news I finished the top for the first throw quilt and used the remaining strips to cut out the pieces for the second throw quilt (they’re in similar color schemes, although I needed three new fabric swatches to replace three that weren’t appropriate for a monochromatic quilt). Also mentally plotted out a short story while I was working and I plan on getting that started next week, so yay for writing!

That being said, I also spent a lot of time watching the weather news after seeing the clouds that went overhead this morning—they were dark and ominous as hell as they started gathering steam and headed east. My heart goes out to everyone who lost homes, cars, or lives to the tornado outbreak today.

Ice Cream!

In addition to meat, fowl, and certain kinds of fish, our local butcher shop (Hirsch’s Meat Market, and they are AWESOME) also sells things like eggs and locally made ice cream (they used to sell milk from a local dairy, and God I miss that stuff). Despite having a Kitchenaid stand mixer with an ice cream maker attachment and lots of experience in making my own cold, sweet stuff, I decided a few weeks ago to try the LMIC’s marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream (mainly because it meant I didn’t have to make it myself).

It was certainly tasty, as you might expect. But I did wonder why they didn’t go just a little further and make S’mores ice cream. Which led me to wonder—what would go into homemade S’mores ice cream? Graham crackers, obviously, and marshmallows but ones that had been toasted to get that lovely caramelization, and some kind of chocolate ribbon would work, I thought.

So tonight I have toasted mini marshmallows in the oven (spread a cup of them over a parchment paper-lined cookie tray and put them under the broiler for 2.5 minutes), crushed up graham crackers, and whipped up a plain custard ice cream (mainly because we ran out of vanilla—need to add that to the shopping list). When the ice cream was ready I decanted some into a quart container, sprinkled on some crushed Grahams and marshmallows, and dotted it with fudge topping, mixed it a bit, then put in more ice cream and repeated the process. It’s currently in the freezer chilling, but judging by the spoonful I had earlier this is going to be some damn fine ice cream.

Welp, Y’all Are Stuck With Me

Got the results of my blood and pee tests on Monday and all my numbers look good, so it seems like I’ll be around for a little while longer to make stuff, take care of the J Crew, and annoy the bigoted. So I have that going for me.

I’m also about 3/4 done on one of the throw quilts I’m making for a friend (sorry, no pictures—it’s a surprise gift for someone and I don’t want to risk spoiling that) and it looks spectacular. I should have the center finished by tomorrow and the border put on by Friday, then I can layer the top with the backing and batting and quilt it over the weekend.

Then I get to start on the second throw quilt, which is also using a Log Cabin block but in a different format from the first one. Looking forward to seeing how both of them turn out!

I Have Successfully Adulted Today

Look upon me in awe, mortals, for I have doing All the Adulting. I have:

  • Mailed off a baby quilt
  • Bought food and supplements
  • Paid the bills
  • Trimmed my toenails
  • Swept the kitchen/breakfast nook/dining room/library
  • Made a hair appointment for tomorrow
  • Made a TikTok promo video
  • Watered the garden and said hello to J.J., Jordan, and Sandy
  • Called the health insurance and in my sweetest Southern Church Lady voice asked them to approve refills at Walgreen’s, which they agreed to do

And now I’m upstairs writing, of all things. I’m genuinely impressed with myself. Tomorrow I shall tackle cancelling the cable and bundling our cell phone accounts together (might as well give them 24 hours to process the payments), get my hair cut for the first time since my sister visited back in 2021, and deep clean the downstairs and upstairs bathrooms as well as write.

Keeping busy helps.

Off to the Vampires

Or as others call it, my yearly physical. Apart from the fact that I had to fast until 3:00 PM it was pretty painless—talked to the doc, everything was normal, he renewed my scrips, went down to the lab to drop off some blood and pee, cool cool cool.

Only to get home and find out from my pharmacy that there’s a problem with our new medical insurance and they won’t approve the scrip renewals. The tech explained that they probably want us to use mail order, which I will be damned if I do so I get to call United Healthcare tomorrow and explain that no, we will not be signing up for any med mail order system they have and to approve the scrips at the pharmacy.

Since I’ll be playing phone tag with them anyway I’ll go ahead and cancel the cable as well, then switch our cell phone plans over to the 55+ plan. I hate making these kind of phone calls, but if I have a cluster of them I may as well get them all knocked out in one big batch.

Cleaning and Sewing

I don’t know how many people do this, but my particular reaction to grief, apart from crying, is cleaning. When Jordan died I gave the master bath a deep clean, finished recaulking the shower enclosure, and did a bunch of other tasks to get it in shape.

After J.J.’s death I’ve been organizing the house, vacuuming and sweeping the downstairs daily (yeah, yeah, I know I should have been doing that already, don’t @ me), planting the new lantana to replace the old ones that got killed in the frost (at least, I had assumed so until I dug up one monster and found little green leaves sprouting on the underside. I also learned that lantana have big-ass taproots so next year I’ll just cut everything WAY back and wait until the end of March for it to start blooming again), mailing stuff that needs to be mailed off, putting a bunch of stuff away, and making a master list of what I’ll need to deep clean each room. I think the J Crew are a little confused at Mom bustling around all the time.

Until I go upstairs and start sewing. I was commissioned by a friend to make two Log Cabin throw quilts, one in the Asexual flag colors and one in black, white, and grey, and I’ve started the Ace quilt first. The border will be black, white, grey, and purple stripes like the Ace flag with purple corner squares; so far this is turning out to be really pretty. I hope the recipient enjoys it.

It’s definitely been theraputic for me. Log Cabin blocks lend themselves to chain piecing so putting together the actual blocks is nicely repetitious and goes quickly. I should have the entire center section done by Thursday, the borders added on Friday, and I’ll put the backing/batting/top sandwich together over the weekend and quilt it. Even better, Joann Fabrics is running their Daffodil Dash weekend sale so I’ve been able to pick up the bulk of the fabric at a discount, which gives me more $$$ for quality cotton thread, batting, and borders. I’ll post pics once the entire quilt is done.

Coffee With My Editor

My editor lives in the next town over and knew about J.J. so she offered to take me out for coffee today, coffee being a code term for taking an hour to grab some sort of non-alcoholic drink and something sweet to eat, then hanging out together for a good old-fashioned bitch session.

There’s a place in Allen that I particularly like for their boba tea and mochi donuts, so we spent an hour there talking about losing pets, our quilting (we both love to quilt and often bring our latest projects to coffee time), her recent trip to her husband’s home state, and other things that were meant to soothe me and get me back onto an even keel.

Which I kinda need. I hate crying with a passion—it makes my eyes puffy, it’s hard to see, and I get whanging sinus headaches. So the fact that I’ve been bursting into tears every couple of hours has not been pleasant, as you might guess. I know grief is a process, everyone goes through it at their own pace, and at some point I’ll be able to think of J.J. and not tear up. But I haven’t reached that point yet (apparently I am in the Pain and Guilt stage of grieving)

So I’ll just keep a handkerchief on me and rely on my friends to cheer me up. Luckily for me I have great friends who are really good at doing just that.

So Much Time

It really wasn’t until today that I truly understood just how much time I’d been spending on J.J.’s care. My morning routine would be: get up, get cleaned up and dressed, come down and feed the J Crew if Lyndon hadn’t already done it, check on J.J., change his bedding (and pee pads) if necessary, shift whatever was in the washer to the dryer, load dirty clothes and soiled bedding into the washer and get that going, come back and give J.J. a sponge bath, then some sub-q fluids, then snuggle him for awhile, then put him back on the bedding and grab some breakfast. In the last few weeks I would hang over the back of the futon and hold his water bowl so that he could drink, and try to tempt him with some kibble, Lick ‘n’ Lap, or Hydra Care.

The rest of the day would be spent checking on him periodically, cuddling him when he wanted it, bathing him when he needed it, switching out his soiled bedding as necessary, doing multiple loads of laundry, picking up any poop he might have left in the bedding or around the house, and trying to clean around him so that I didn’t disturb him when I vacuumed. I always had an ear out for him if he yelled for something, and while he was still mobile I would come running if he wanted a sponge bath, water, or kibble.

Today, I fed and watered the J Crew … and that was it. I didn’t have to do any more J.J. chores. In fact, I had enough spare time to give the living room a really good vacuum, hit the futon with My Pet Peed to get rid of any urine smell, take the ramp out to the back yard and hose it off in preparation for putting it away (we’ll need it again once the J Crew become unable to jump up onto furniture), throw away the kitty little box the ramp had been resting on, and order a pretty solar light for the memorial corner.

And I only did two loads of laundry. I don’t think I’ll need to do any tomorrow. It’s just weird, how much of my day had been devoted to taking care of J.J. Even so, I still miss the little booger.

Making a Memorial

As it turns out, digging a grave for a frail elderly cat is more work than you’d expect, especially in North Texas clay with all kinds of thick roots running through it. But making yourself too tired to cry is kinda useful, too.

We buried J.J. with the ashes of Jordan and Sandy in the southwest corner of our back yard (ignore the condition of the soil—I’ll be remediating it this spring). As I said to Lyndon, their little boxes are just something I dust and it would be more appropriate to mingle their ashes with J.J. We also added one of Lyndon’s old shoes, because J.J. loved to sing to Lyndon’s shoes at night, dragging one into the middle of the floor and MEOOOOOOOOOWing to it.

I cried a lot yesterday, especially in the shower, and only got to sleep with some pharmaceutical help. Today, however, is memorial day. So I went to Calloways and asked them what kind of rose or flowering shrub would work well over the grave. Since it only gets 6 hours of sunlight in the morning they said that a rose would be problematic but an azalea bush would work well in that kind of partial sunlight, blooms in spring and fall, and we could always plant annuals around it for additional color.

So I bought a small azalea bush with red blossoms, some shrub soil, additional lantana for the southern flower bed to replace the ones that got killed in the frost, then came home and put on my gardening clothes. I grabbed border stones from the little wall ringing the tree stump out front (will someone please remind me to have people come out this summer and grind out the danged thing?) and used those as a border, then dug a hole for the azalea bush, added the shrub soil and some mulch, and watered it.

I can see it from my kitchen window when I’m at the sink, which makes me, well, as happy as I can be at the moment. Afterwards I took the practically unused box of Hydra Care into our vet to have it donated to someone who could use it and thanked them for taking such good care of J.J., and of course I burst into tears at the end of it. Lyndon and I will probably grieve for some time, and even Jeremy, who is Not a Cat of Much Brain, has noticed that something is wrong and wants to stay with me when I’m in the house. I guess he’s my new shadow and bodyguard. As for Jessie, she keeps wandering around the house, then comes up to me wanting scritches and reassurance. Jemma and Jasmine don’t seem to be bothered all that much but they weren’t raised by J.J. and Jordan the way Jer and Jess were.

There’s a palpable absence in the house. I keep walking past the futon, which has now been cleaned and had its cover put back on, and it’s so strange not to see J.J. laying on his bedding and lifting his head to look at me. Lyndon said that he always used to talk to J.J. when he came in from the shops and was putting things away in the kitchen, and last night after he ran to Walmart it hurt not seeing J.J. watching him while he chatted about his day.

He was an amazing cat, and he will be missed deeply.

J.J. Pussycat Fletcher (2001-2023)

We hadn’t planned on getting a cat.

Oh, sure, we’d talked about it. But moving from country to country every two years like we did for the first eight years of our marriage wasn’t conducive to having a pet. It wasn’t until we moved back to the US in 2001 that we even gave adopting a cat a second thought. But even then it was something we’d do in the future, when the time was right.

As it turned out, the right time was May 11, 2002, when I went to a local PetSmart to see if I could find some equestrian gear for a friend. They were having an adoption event and I got to play with puppies and an adorable schnauzer before I went into the cat area. All the cats were all wonderful, of course—the huge gray Maine Coon, the equally huge orange tabby, the kittens, the long-haired gray tabby.

And then I wound up next to a cage marked “Cass.” A couple and their kids had been cooing and sticking their fingers through the bars to pet whatever was in there, but moved on to the next row of cages. When I peered through the grill, I saw a little black cat sitting there. He spotted me and blinked slowly at me. He wasn’t adorable, he wasn’t doing tricks or grabbing my attention—he just looked at me. I reached in to scratch behind his ears, and he moved his head until I had just the right spot.

When I pulled my hand back he stood up, carefully walked his front paws up the cage until he was balanced on his hind paws, then reached out through the bars and laid his paw on my nose.

“That is so sweet!” another customer declared. “I think he just picked you!”

I’m not one to miss a sign. I called Lyndon and told him how I’d been chosen. He was quite pleased and said, “I think you need to bring that cat home,” so I filled out the forms, paid the adoption fee, got all the necessaries, and brought Cass back to the apartment.

After some discussion, he was renamed J.J. Pussycat Fletcher, J.J for short, and for the next twenty-one years he would be my shadow and bodyguard (I’m serious about the bodyguard bit—if a repairman or some stranger came into the apartment J.J. would remain at my side glaring at the interloper until they left). He was extremely smart, would come get us if something was wrong (we started saying, “What is it, Lassie? Is Timmy down the well again?”), and loved being in the same room with me.

And he got big. I don’t mean fat—I mean long, broad, and muscular. We’re talking back yard panther. One time a Girl Scout came by to sell cookies and peered past me at J.J. who was lounging on the stairs. “That’s a BIG cat,” she said admiringly.

At the time Lyndon and I had office jobs and didn’t want J.J. to get lonely so we got him a black and white cat named Jordan as a companion. They got along well enough for a handful of years until I rolled over Jordan’s tail with my office chair. I don’t know what his yowl meant in Cat, but clearly he was calling me everything but a child of God because J.J. came charging into the room and launched himself at Jordan. The two bowled out of my office in a shrieking, spitting ball and I had to throw water on them to separate them. After that J.J. hated Jordan and would hiss at him any time he came near (which was often because Jordan kept trying to make amends).

In 2011 we got Jessica and Jeremy as kittens and the guys became Uncle J.J. and Uncle Jordan after a somewhat rocky start, taking care of the kittens like they were their own offspring. Jeremy became Jordan’s best buddy and Jessie was definitely Uncle J.J.’s girl, although I have pictures of both of them curling up with Uncle J.J. looking after them watchfully.

In 2013 we lost Jordan to GI lymphoma. Three cats were okay, but we liked having four of them so we adopted Jemma (the tortie) and Jasmine (the grey striped tabby) in 2014 from some friends of Lyndon’s who were moving and couldn’t bring the cats with them. Yes, I know that makes five—it’s a long story. For the last nine years we’ve been a household of five cats and two humans, said household definitely run to suit the cats’ needs.

Then medical problems struck again. In 2017 J.J. was diagnosed with kidney insufficiency and was given one to three years to live, which broke our hearts. Of course, he promptly ignored that and continued on with his life, cheerfully eating the special kidney food for a year before turning his nose up at it. We figured at this point he could eat whatever he liked so we fed him well in an attempt to keep as much weight on him as possible. Jessica and Jeremy became champs at hoovering up anything he left uneaten and turned into a pair of chonks. We tried to explain to them that once Uncle J.J. crossed the Rainbow Bridge the never-ending buffet would come to and end and they’d go on diets, but they preferred to live in the moment and enjoy the leftover treats and Lick ’n’ Lap.

In the last few years J.J.’s health problems increased. He developed kitty dementia and “cloudy window” cataracts, and started going deaf. He also had problems with peeing in the litter boxes (he would go up to the litter box, look at it, then squat a foot from the entrance) so we started adding pee pads under them so that he could pee (and poop) on those. Over the last few months we turned the futon in the living room into a hospital bed for him, putting a plastic tarp down and layering that with cushions, pee pads, and bedding that would get changed with increasing frequency. His last checkup was in December 2022, and apart from his assorted health issues he was in remarkably good shape—BP was normal, heart and lungs sounded fine.

So we celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with him, and January and February 2023 passed with me changing his bedding multiple times a day, giving him water, treats, and sponge baths (which he would demand by going into the bathroom and yowling until I came running), and cuddling him whenever he wanted. On 2/27 we noticed that he was very unsteady on his feet, and on 3/1 I picked up a banana bag from our vet so that I could give him sub-Q fluids. He stopped eating on 3/3 and showed signs of an upper respiratory infection.

I took him into the vet on the morning of 3/6. She said he was in end-stage kidney failure judging by the strong odor of uremia on his breath, and asked if I wanted him to be put to sleep. He’d been alert and active the day before, I explained, and had been on the cusp of death a couple of times before until he bounced back. We both agreed that she should treat the URI and give him meds and an appetite stimulant, and I’d keep giving him the sub-Q fluids every day, but that we’d hold an appointment on 3/8 for euthanasia in case it became necessary.

He spent the next two days being well and truly spoiled by everyone in the house, even Jemma (whom he didn’t like for some reason), and somehow pulled yet another miracle out of his furry behind. On the morning of 3/8 Lyndon burst into the bathroom while I was busy adding to the land mass of Texas and told me excitedly that J.J. had just eaten some kibble.

I cancelled the vet appointment and the Elderly Gentleman bounced back for a good week and a half, eating everything offered to him and snoozing happily in sunbeams. He also started developing constipation due to his kidney failure which required daily warm water enemas to help him pass the poop. But hey, I was already giving him sub-q fluids so what was one more medical procedure?

Unfortunately, this was just a brief surge interlude, not a true recovery. J.J. stopped eating again on 3/17, and today he started refusing water, which we knew was the final step. I administered a painkiller so that he’d be able to sleep comfortably for the afternoon, and called our vet to make the appointment tomorrow morning. Being the stubborn little pooper that he was, J.J. decided to go on his own terms in his own bed this afternoon at 5:15 PM. He’s buried in the back yard with Jordan and Sandy’s ashes and I’ll be planting a rose bush over his grave as a memorial of the best bodyguard—the best cat—I could have ever asked for.

Thank you for choosing me all those years ago, J.J. You made my life wonderful.