Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Willie, mio gatto bello

March 5, 2005.  That's the day Willie found me.  The poor, scrawny thing was sitting under my Neapolitan neighbor's car howling.  As much as I didn't want a stray cat, something told me he was different.  Unlike most strays, despite looking like he'd been horribly beaten up by other neighborhood cats, it seemed that all he wanted was a little love and attention - calling him out resulted in almost instant purring.  I was also afraid that if I didn't feed, he'd be dead in front of my doorstep by the next morning.  So I fed him, and he came back.  I figured I'd just have an outdoor cat.  He was very sweet, after all.  The neighbors got a kick out of him, too, but couldn't figure out why he didn't want to eat the pasta they left out for him.

After taking him to the vet for shots, I learned that he had FIV, the feline version of HIV.  This essentially meant that he couldn't be an outdoor cat.  He also couldn't be around my other two guys until I knew how they'd react to him.  The vet explained that while it had been common practice to immediately euthanize cats with FIV, that practice was waning.  He talked about FIV cats he came across that lived into their teens, but Willie was so skinny and beat up, I figured I'd be lucky if I had him for two years.  In any case, I couldn't see putting down such a friendly cat, and while I did try to find a home for him, ended up with him myself.  That ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.

For the first couple of months, until he was neutered, Willie lived in a room by himself (I'm pretty sure Sepp, my alpha male cat, would have ripped him apart otherwise). As rough as that time was, it was very clear I was making the right decision, as it quickly became apparent that Willie was the sweetest cat on the planet.  All I had to do was open the door to his room and he'd start purring so loudly it sounded like someone was driving by on a large truck.  All he wanted to do was be around people, something that continued for as long as I owned him.
My nephew Logan with Willie,
who was his favorite cat.

After Willie was fixed, Sepp calmed down a little, and, although he was never a fan of Willie, they eventually reached a point of civility.  It's a good thing, too, because about a year after Willie first came around, it was time to move back to Chicago.  I couldn't imagine not bringing him home.  After he and the other boys got their pet passports (yes, those are things), and we were off.

Traveling was rough for him - he did not do well cooped up in a carrier for 20+ hours.   Once we got here we was fine though.  His foster home for the first month he was in the US was with a family that had a little boy named Stephen who was about 10 years old at the time.  Willie slept with Stephen every night, and I'm sure Stephen missed him once he was gone.  

Willie has made that kind of impression with everyone he's met ever since, often changing the feelings of people who tell me they really don't like cats.  I used to joke that I didn't matter who came over, if someone sat down on my couch, Willie was in his or her lap within about 30 seconds.  He'd jump up, sit down, and start purring.  All he wanted was love.

Willie "hunting" Siggy...
Willie not only became fast friends with people, he became best buddies with Siggy. Whether they were chasing each other around the apartment, grooming each other, or curling up together, Siggy, who's never been an only cat, couldn't have asked for a better big brother.

I often got questions about Willie's FIV and whether or not I had to give him medication or do other things for him.  I actually found that the trick to keeping him healthy was getting regular dental cleanings.  He ended up only needing 3 of them though - by the last one all of his teeth had been pulled.  That was in August of 2009, and for the next 4 1/2 years, he was healthier than he ever had been.

...and the boys curling up together.
There were a couple of health scares along the way, the most major being a bacterial infection that landed him in the hospital for the weekend in the spring of 2007.  As much as I didn't want to lose him that early, I knew he was terrified being in an unfamiliar place and I swore that I'd never put him through anything like that again.  

Earlier this year it became apparent that Willie had been losing weight, and blood tests confirmed that he was in renal failure (Siggy who turns 13 in two weeks is also in renal failure, but in a much earlier stage).  He also had a heart murmur.  Not being one to subject my pets to major medical procedures that they don't understand, I knew that I had to make the most of the time I had left with him.  It's been another 5 months, which amazes me.  

Watching chipmunks run
around the patio was a
favorite kitty pastime.
About this time last week it became evident that Willie's last days were upon us.  I generally kick the cats out of my bedroom when I sleep, but have let Willie into the bedroom since then.  He's slept on top of me, which I haven't really slept at all.  I'm slightly exhausted, but consider it well worth it.  

This little eulogy doesn't do him justice - he's been the best, most loving friend anyone could have asked for, for well over 10 years.  While I have a knack for picking good cats, I daresay I don't think I'll ever find another quite like him.  Anyone who had the chance to meet him and be loved by him is incredibly lucky, and I'm the luckiest of all.

One of my favorite pictures of him...Merry Christmas Cat!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


The title of this post is suddenly evoking images of Maria von Trapp for me, but that's beside the point...

I came to the conclusion the other night that I may have a great deal more confident than I realize   Don't get me wrong, I can be as insecure as the next person in a variety of situations, I just think that since I've worked so hard over the past couple of years to just go with the flow, it doesn't occur to me that other people involved in a given situation may be nervous.

What got me to thinking of this was a first date the other night - meeting someone new used to get me very anxious and/or nervous, whereas nowadays I just try to relax.  We met for coffee, and at certain points of the conversation I felt like there was a decent connection.  There were other moments, however, that this guy was strangely standoffish.  My initial thought was that he was not enjoying himself and was perhaps being too polite to leave.  He later admitted that he'd been really nervous, which completely changed my perception.  The strange thing is that it hadn't crossed my mind all that might be the case, maybe because I wasn't nervous at all.  Is that weird?  Aren't I supposed to be nervous on a date?  By the way, this guy will not get a second date which has nothing to do with his being slightly standoffish.  He was just kind of an idiot.

On a different note, I saw an old friend recently and as we were heading out for the evening she shared that she was typically a little insecure when it came to putting together outfits (she looked fantastic).  As the conversation progressed, she offered that she was insecure on a number of different levels. To look at her - someone who is strong, beautiful inside & out, appears to be self-assured, and really just wonderful all-around - one would never guess the feelings that lie just beneath the surface.  I guess that's the way most people are, though - you never know what's really going on just beneath the surface.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Resolutions - past and future

This time of year it's on everyone's mind - how will I improve in the coming months?  What are my new goals?  If you're organized you've started making progress on your resolution(s), or have at least chosen one.  If you're like me, you're still trying to figure out what to do.  I wonder how many others are in that boat.

I've actually thought about this a lot over the past week.  Well, I've spent considerably more time thinking about why it is that it takes me so long to figure out what to do than I have actually coming up with how I'll improve for 2013.  I've come to the conclusion that things are always so busy for me in December but so calm for the first half of January, that my brain just needs a little bit of a break.  Therefore, I guess my first resolution this year, and every year going forward, is that I don't need to worry about a resolution until January 15th, and it's only the 7th!

Thinking back to 2012, I ultimately resolved to do less of what I felt obligated to do and more of what I wanted to do.  While it was a lofty goal in some respects (the whole short sale situation put a bit of a damper on it), I was at least somewhat successful. I:

-Stopped offering explanations when was unable/unwilling to do something or participate in an activity.  There were some exceptions but for the most part I did well simply telling people I wasn't available for [insert name of activity] and stopping there, rather than including a reason.  I plan on making this the norm from here on out.

-Decided to start on annual projects.  Obviously last year it was shooting.  Though I never really reported on my progress after my safety class in March, I did go out at least a few times on my own.  I never did "graduate" from .22s to 9mm semi-automatics, but at this point feel like I'm ready.  Whether or not I go shooting again, who knows?  I'm glad that I invested at least a little to do something that provided a new an interesting experience for me.

My 2013 project, for those just tuning in, is beer brewing.  I did get my small batch brewing kit for Christmas, and I am registered for "Making Beer at Home" at Brew Camp at the end of the month, so I'm all set there.  Actually, while I'm itching to get started, I want to do it right and wait until after my class - something else I've told myself over the past year is that I don't need to do everything right now.  Anyway, in the mean time I guess I'll need to keep thinking about other resolutions.  Any suggestions?  What are some of your resolutions?  

Thursday, December 27, 2012


What kind of an effect do you think you have on others?  Does the setting matter?  How long do your impressions last, do you think?  This is one of those topics that I have a tendency to reflect on quite regularly, so I thought I'd share a recent example.

During one of my Music Box performances this season, the quartet was singing in the lobby and a little girl became fixated on us.  I think she was probably most fixated on the tenor (go figure), but she was enthralled nonetheless.  She just stared until we stated singing "Holly Jolly Christmas" at which point she started singing along, or at least mouthing the words.  She knew all of them.

Later on, as we were up on stage singing "Jingle Bells" and getting ready to introduce Santa, she somehow talked her dad into letting her come up to the front of the theater, and she stood in front of the stage for several minutes.

Now, she was very young - probably 4.  Certainly we made an impression on her, but how strong was it?  Will she remember us when she's 10? 20?  When she's up on stage performing herself?  Or is she simply enthralled with performers in general, and so will forget us?  One thing's for sure - I'll remember her.  At the very least, she'll be a great reminder of the impressions that we can make on others when we least expect to.  You never know who's watching, or who you'll influence.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Old stuff in new spaces

There are always new things one either needs or wants when one moves to a new home.  For example, many people are superstitious about bringing old brooms into new dwellings.  Being one who much prefers a Swiffer sweeper or vacuum, I really don't have an opinion one way or the other when it comes to brooms.  On the other hand, something I am really big on is purchasing a new garbage can each time I move.  Today, 15 days after I moved in, I finally have my new garbage can.

Don't get me wrong, having a garbage can is important, but an empty cardboard box lined with a trash bag will serve as one temporarily.  There have also just been too many things higher on the priority list, like additional sorting out of stuff.  You see, while I've done a really good job over the past year or so when it comes to both condensing and not accumulating additional stuff, there was inevitably more to go through having moved into an apartment two-thirds the size of my former condo (less than that if you consider that I don't have a storage unit or garage in the new place).

With additional sorting comes figuring out what to keep and what to donate.  Most of it's not a big deal - I really don't need three 9" x 13" Pyrex pans.  Some of it's a little harder and I suspect it'll take me a little while to figure out.  There are my egg guys - while I don't really don't want to devote most of a kitchen wall to their display, the thought of giving them away makes me sad.  I can recall many an excited phone call from a sibling who, having found a new egg guy item, wanted to confirm whether or not I'd seen it, whether or not I had it, and if I didn't would tell me not to get it for myself if I came across it.

Then there are more important things like my cats.  While the new place is probably too small for all of us, how do I part with one of them?  I think my solution will be to give them some extra love to keep them calm while they get used to the smaller space, and to get a Rumba to help keep up with the cat hair all over the place (anyone know whether or not they still make Rumbas?).


By the way, I know some of you are anxious to see some pictures.  I'll make that a priority after the holidays!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanks - Day 30

There are half a dozen things I could write about today, it being my final post on the subject, but I couldn't finish the month without giving thanks for friends.  Really, I think I can be a horrible one - I'm not good at keeping in touch, and being the strong introvert that I am I'll often choose to stay home for some much needed Viki time rather than go out.  Despite this, I somehow have some of the best friends on the planet.  I'm so blessed, and don't know what I'd do without you all.

Old friends may or may not know how much they've helped me stay afloat over the years.  Newer friends probably don't realize that they've given me hope for the future of the human race, and, yes, while that sounds ridiculously corny, those of you who know how overly-serious I am, know that I mean it very sincerely.    Friends I see & communicate with often really brighten my days, and those I only talk to once in a while make me smile because of the great times we've had.

I won't start listing names, because if you're reading this you're a friend.  However, I can't end without mentioning my 1320 Honeys.  Though our house on Brown Street is no more and the golden ass is MIA, I love you ladies like no others on Earth. Thank you. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanks - Day 29

Earlier this month I wrote about how I was especially thankful for my own city.  Although this post is another one that was meant to have made it much sooner than today, today, and most days, I’m thankful for many other cities and towns around the world.  I’m always surprised when I meet someone who I feel is extremely cultured, sophisticated, intelligent, well-read, and domestically well-traveled who has also made it out of his or her 20s without making it to another continent.  It makes me feel even more fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to visit Europe several times, and even got to live there for a little while.

Living in Italy, though the relationship that made it possible ended badly, was probably one of the most valuable long-term experiences I’ve ever had.  It gave me a new perspective on how other people throughout the world view the United States, be it good, bad, or both at the same time.  Though the US certainly has its problems with respect to the glass ceiling and women earning lower wages than men for the same work, living in such a male-dominated society gave me a new appreciation for how far we have come.  On a completely different note, I also started getting more enjoyment out of the little things in life, probably because they were so different!

Visiting other countries has led to great times with family and friends, and has allowed me to see and experience important pieces of history – both my own and that of the world.  Probably more important to me, however, is that traveling helped me to find the other city in which I feel more at home than any other place in the world: Vienna, Austria.  I’m convinced that I lived there in a former life, which also makes me wonder where else in the world I’d feel so at home – there must be somewhere else.  Here’s to more traveling in the future!

The gardens at Schönbrun in Vienna