Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Watermelon Tree

The closest you'll hear
From the atheist bug
Pseudo holiday cheer
And a chocolate mug.

Thankful for my kid
Else I'd be holed up.
He makes me live
And fills my cup.

Sincere thanks for reading
This often sad song.
Sincere hope for needing
Hope not too long.

Cricket, 2005
aka Nota Poet

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bridges to where?

Ten little Xmas cards.
You'd have thought I was building a monster bridge instead of just bridging some gaps.
Cards to lovely people who send me pictures of their growing children each year and are left to wonder about mine. Cards to family who I, by design, haven't talked to in over a year. Cards to people mad at me, people given up on me, people... gosh, I don't know what more to say about them.
My first ever cheesy holiday letter. At least it was embellished with lots of pictures of us along the borders. Looked pretty nifty actually. Well printed, heavy stock paper.
Cards filled with school and baseball pictures of my kid. Dove into picture packages going back over two years. People will see my youngster transform from a baby to a mature boy all in one envelope.
I sound equally accommodating and cheery in each. Regardless of what I feel.
When they go in the mail box tomorrow, I will have such a weight off.
Until next year.

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Monday, December 19, 2005


cat flashlight Over the weekend, I flashlight trained my deaf cat. Yeah, it sounds odd.

She now comes to me, guided by the beam of the light into the hallway. Or I can lean over the edge of the U-shaped staircase and show her to go downstairs to her food if she missed seeing me put out new. It has cut her howling considerably. I keep a flashlight by my bed and at the desk, letting her know where I am or where she needs to go. My house mostly faces east, so it is dim enough the rest of the day that she can usually see the flashlight.

Much more clever and low tech than a cochlear implant, huh?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A reassessment

aka Mom steals the candy in an unbeknownst sort of way

Yeah, the box was slotted as a stocking stuffer... until tonight. 'Tis the eve for wrapping. Arduous task.

Friday, December 16, 2005

She had a change of mind

She humbled herself and wrote a Blogging Baby update, asking for donations for the Dickens quints. She went beyond making fun of their ethnic names, past photo criticism and blind racism, right back to the spirit that inspired my discourse: helping a family in need, circumstances be damned. Seems she's found the spirit of the holiday season.

Blog bless us everyone.

[Did you catch that? Dickens babies, Dickens mangled quote. I crack myself up.]

PS - here's a sweet article with pictures of them in their new apartment.

ETA - Sorry the PS link is incorrect. I'll work to fix that.

Monday, December 12, 2005

My deaf cat

I have recently come to realize something. It is with great embarrassment that I reveal that it has probably been going on for quite some time.

My cat is pretty much deaf now. She's 17.5 years old and heading toward the infirm, but I wouldn't have wished another disability on her skinny, little body. She can still hear the very, very loud if it is right next to her hear, for example when she's on her kitty sauna (aka computer monitor) and I click on a website that blasts obnoxiously out the speakers next to her ears. She'll wake up for that.

I wish she weren't so oblivious to the fact that she can't hear, but I still can. She calls and calls for me, day and night. It is with her crying pattern, I am trying to piece together when she might have gone deaf. She's cried like this for almost all of the 4 years I've been in this house, but she used to come if I called back, or whistled, or clapped. Now she doesn't come, or she wanders around my usual haunts until she finds me. Or I go looking for her and have waving fits [my version of cat sign language] to get her attention. Or I throw things from in the office out into the hallway in order to catch her eye.

[A]ging cats adapt their lifestyle to cope with any incapacity; slowing down gradually, seeking warm, comfortable spots and spending more time asleep. They sleep more deeply and are harder to rouse, so don't suddenly disturb a sleeping cat or it will be startled, especially if its hearing is fading. This deep slumber also shows that the cat feels safe.

I've also tried to figure out the duration of her deafness per this sort of statement. How long has she been sleeping so soundly? I mentioned the sound sleep to the vet in June and I think she should have picked up on it and a deafness connection, not that an earlier diagnosis really matters a lot in this case.

By deduction, I think she's been essentially deaf for close to a year. Having just officially put it together, or come out of denial about the symptoms staring me in the face every day, I decided to search online about deaf cats to piece together more details. Much of what's published is about congenitally deaf cats (white ones with blue eyes), so it semi-applies .

These are helpful excerpts from several websites:
Communicating With a Deaf Cat
By Amy Shojai for The Daily Cat

[A]ge-related deafness, called presbycusis, is the most common form. It can develop rapidly or gradually when the cochlea (hearing organ) degenerates and the tiny bones of the middle ear lose their flexibility to vibrate and transmit sound.

The Cat Locator ( pendant attaches to the collar and emits a tone when the handheld applicator is activated, to help you find your deaf cat. You can also use the collar's vibration (much the way a pager or cell phone vibrates) as a training signal to curb desirable behaviors.

Older kitties often become clingy and cry for you to "rescue" them. Try wearing very strong, distinctive cologne on your ankles to help kitty find you more easily with his nose.

Living with a Deaf Cat
I usually jokingly reply to people, when they ask what it is like to have a deaf cat that she is just like all my other cats. I yell "no" and she ignores me, just like all the others do.

Where hearing loss is gradual, it can be ages before you realise that Puss is deaf because the cat compensates for its lack of hearing. Where hearing loss is sudden, the cat may appear confused, irritable, over-attached to the owner, insecure or exhibit other 'unusual' behaviours in response to the sudden loss of this sense. Some deaf cats call out more often and more loudly (they cannot regulate their own volume) while others may become mute.

In most older cats, hearing loss is gradual and not apparent until the later stages since cats do not always respond to being called.

Some deaf cats learn to respond to hand signals similar to those used in distance control of dogs.[Our hand signals consist of huge, gyrating, waves that catch her attention. I also try to catch light and shadows to get her to look.]

Poor hearing makes cats defensive - they strike out first and ask questions later. [Our puss is so gentle, this isn't an issue.]

In June 2003, a German acoustics expert announced his invention of a hearing aid for cats. Hans-Rainer Kurz, a hearing aid specialist, took two years to develop the hearing aid with help from experts at the Vetenarian University in Hanover. They developed a tiny device, which can be implanted in the cat's outer ear. Herr Kurz has already had success with a similar aid for dogs. He admitted that the device would not cure totally deaf cats, but could help those with severe hearing difficulties. The hearing aid ensures that the cat is able to take the usual acoustic signals and re-work them into sounds in the brain. Quiet sounds that hearing-impaired cats had never heard before would become distinguishable. The feline hearing aid currently costs around £300.

Recruitment of the Auditory Cortex in Congenitally Deaf Cats by Long-Term Cochlear Electrostimulation
Rainer Klinke, * Andrej Kral, Silvia Heid, Jochen Tillein, Rainer Hartmann
Science 10 September 1999:
Vol. 285. no. 5434, pp. 1729 - 1733
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5434.1729

My cat's isn't congenital (as in she isn't a white cat with blue eyes), but I think the science is interesting.

With these links, I've gone from low level (literally and figuratively) perfume on the ankles to cat sign language to hearing aids and up to cochlear stimulation. Whatever the cat owner might want to do to aid the deaf cat, there is probably a solution.

[Edited to add: I came up with a brilliant solution - my cat is flashlight trained, it was easy to do, and I can call or guide her with that.]

Of course, any proper solution includes shopping, too.

Love a Deaf Cat Today!

Love a Deaf Cat Today! CapLove a Deaf Cat Today! Jr. Ringer T-Shirt

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My lurking caveat

The following exchange was based on my sidebar Caveat, below and to the right. I've had a couple people reference it recently, so I decided to discuss it directly. Most recently, it was positively brought to bear by a professional lurker, Ann (not her name), who sent me an email today. If you readers have something to add, feel free to comment.

Because Cricket cannot comprehend the lurker mentality, please note that people who visit, according to StatCounter, over 20,50,100 times, people who spend 3 hours looking through 80 pages of posts, and people who subscribe via Bloglines but do not pipe up are considered by the resident insect to be just plain rude, at the risk of said insect seeming brazen, harsh, ungrateful, or ill-willed herself. Consider it her blogging pet peeve. She chUrps it unappealing that folks come here to read, gawk, waste time, or gather information for their own blogs while they should be kindly acknowledging Cricket somehow for entertaining and informing them or for helping them to pass the day. She likens it to a conversation with opinions welcomed and support optional. At least say "hello." Sheesh!

Hi Cricket,
I read your caveat and am writing to offer you some insight. I lurk. I lurk a lot. I always lurk. Reason is - I don't have anything interesting to add. I'm not clever, funny, or even knowledgeable about any particular thing. I'm just a lost and lonely soul searching for somewhere to belong. I could be wrong but I'm thinking perhaps a lot of lurkers are in the same boat with me. So please don't assume we're all just being rude.

email response...
Thanks for your message. I appreciate you de-lurking very much.

In all honesty, I do not agree with a comment needing to be interesting or to add somehow to a discussion (my comments sections never overflow enough to begin their own discussions anyway). Funny or clever isn't necessary, either. Simple support does wonders - ie, you're a funny lady, I like your style of mothering, you have a great kid, what a shitty day, sorry that happened, I can relate, etc. These aren't particularly interesting (perhaps you set the bar too high for yourself), but they show that you're listening and that you care about another human being.

I think it is very important for one person to demonstrate that for another, particularly a person who is lonely (aren't we all somehow?) and has the real need to reach out, despite the fear.

I also think that if I break some of your loneliness or isolation or make you laugh or give you warm fuzzies, it is only polite that you offer me positive feedback in return. We don't 'owe' each other in a sense of 'have to' but I do believe we 'owe' each other in a sense of 'what's right.'

Besides, you intending to be rude or not does not have to parallel what I feel about the situation. I am putting myself in a vulnerable position by writing, inviting scrutiny or whatever else comes along. It does not mean that I am less lost or lonely than you. However, when somebody comes on your front porch and peers in the window, they ought to say hello somehow.

Further, if you are truly looking for a place to fit, you need to try to make room for yourself at the table. I don't know to invite you unless I know you're there. And you don't know how well you might fit (as my life amazingly isn't summed up in alll these posts! we might have something big in common) until I know you a bit. That's why it is easier to have comments from fellow bloggers - I know them, their circumstances, their history, their current travails, and I know when not to feel oversensitive about a comment, b/c I know their senses of humor. If I didn't, honey, Orange and Ron, the bitches, would have been in hot water by now. (Ha!)

I hope this message makes sense more than a quick, cutesy caveat. From your email, I have to guess that they set the bar too high for themselves out of fear of not saying the right thing. Or, on the flip side, knowledge that they're pissed at me and will say the 'wrong' thing.

See, comments from strangers out of the blue are not helpful. Within a virtual relationship, stray comments happen and sometimes they are helpful, but the relationship is necessary first. See, she read me for hours and felt she knew me. I know nothing of her. Nothing. And she expects me somehow to heed her advice? And for me to discuss it with her in a place she doesn't check again?

I write this to let you know the value it gives you as a repeat reader and commenter, someone with a blogging relationship with me. You hold water then. However, lurkers with stray/hurtful/seemingly constructive comments do not hold water as such, but repeat commenters with blogs who say off the wall things sometimes through humor still hold water regardless.

The relationship is what matters. That's why lurking is bad to me. The relationship is completely one-sided.

I will probably use this as a post. I won't use your name or email address. I've had several silly comments about my caveat (I only did that 2 or 3 months ago after the 8 hr/day person - who still lurks), so this is a good opportunity to explain it. Plus, I want to reach the reader who left the critical comment and never saw my response.

Thanks again for writing. See, it really helped me a lot to sort my ideas.

Well shut my mouth

Just when I'm fussing about age, I find this - compiled lists of women discussing their pregnancies over the age of 40.

The author asks if it happens so rarely, why is it so easy to find?

[Magical website, please insert ditto marks for me!]