Mark the Book, and the Memory

I have never read a book on an electronic device such as a Kindle. I’m not sure without googling it what the other electronic versions are called. I’ve never even seriously considered the idea of trying it. Yep, call me old-fashioned, however I prefer the print book for many reasons – the weight and feel of it, the often colorful covers, physically turning the pages and more. And you can enjoy the look of a book even when you’re not reading it. There is nothing like a row of books in a bookshelf or stack of them sitting on top of a coffee table or night stand, providing deep satisfaction just looking at them and contemplating the idea of reading them. It just plain makes me smile.

IMG_2569That brings me to the bookmark. You can’t use a bookmark in an electronic book (ok since I have never used a Kindle maybe there is an electronic bookmark). That being said many of the ways I described why I like print books holds true for bookmarks – their physicality, their color and design and for many of them the memories they hold. I have a small collection of bookmarks. Part of the enjoyment and gratification of starting a new book is choosing which bookmark to use. Generally in the summer, if I know I will be reading outside by a pool, or even better by a lake or on the beach by the ocean, I choose a beachy- themed bookmark. Such a bookmark would have been perfect back in the day when I was reading by a lake in Minnesota as described in a post from 2014 called A Girl, A Book, A Place.

Many of my bookmarks are of the freebie paper variety, often distributed by bookstores and libraries. IMG_2570I spent some time working at the now defunct Borders Books, where one of the tasks I thoroughly enjoyed was restocking the bookmark kiosks.

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IMG_2568My favorite bookstore is the Tattered Cover, an independent bookstore in Denver, Colorado. When I first moved to Denver in the mid-1980s, there was just one Tattered Cover located in an area called Cherry Creek. There are now at least two other locations.

I was lucky enough to peruse the bookshelves of the renowned Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, Oregon, during a business trip. Sometimes business trips don’t provide much in the way of free time, however I knew when I was planning this trip I absolutely had to find time for Powell’s.

Some bookmarks are from places I have visited. The bookmarks with the pie and Muir Woods I bought on visits to Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum and Muir Woods when my sister Julie and her daughter Madison visited a few years ago. The pie bookmark features a painting by artist Wayne Thieband, who liked to paint pictures of pies, cakes and other baked goods. The Isis and Nefertari bookmark was purchased on a trip to Cairo, Egypt, which I wrote about in the post “Ride Like an Egyptian: Job Traveling Tales from Memory Lane.”

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IMG_2575You can’t be a cat lover and not have a cat-themed bookmark – it’s hard to believe I only have one! Besides cats and books and reading just plain go together. There is nothing like being curled up in a comfy chair or lounging on the couch with a good book, a cup of tea or other refreshing drink and a cat curled up on your lap or nearby.   IMG_2512

 

 

 

I am about to start a new book. Since it’s spring (almost, and it sure feels like spring) and the name of the book has the word lilac in it, I am going with this plant/floral bookmark, which was part of an inspirational card given to me by my sister-in-law when I was going through cancer treatment. No kindle can top that. Happy reading!

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Maawwwmmm!!!

I’ve been thinking about my Mom a lot since she passed away unexpectedly about three months ago. Sometimes the memories are prompted in a surprising way. Last week a co-worker came into my office late in the afternoon with an exasperated look on her face, holding her cell phone. She shook the phone and said “my kids (she has two tween-age boys fairly close in age) are driving me nuts.” She then rattled off a series of messages they had sent her, with each of the boys complaining about the other one regardingt silly stuff. So and so won’t let me have the remote, so and so is throwing potato chips at me. You get the drift.

IMG_2352 (1)It reminded me of growing up in my small hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota. I had an older sister Julie and two younger brothers Dan and Mike. Our Mom worked as an admitting clerk at the lone hospital in town, which was about a block from our house. We were often all home alone together when Mom – and Dad – were working, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing with a fair amount of bickering about what I am sure was insipid stuff that wasn’t really worthy of the resulting drama, but at that time and age seemed of the utmost importance. Often times the arguing would result in – back before the age of cell phones – a land line phone call to our Mom, or if it was a particularly (again perceived) egregious situation, it could result in one or more of us sprinting up to the hospital to vent about the insufferable actions of one of the aforesaid siblings. In my case at least, the venting would begin with Maaawwwm!!, sometimes in a high-pitched, dare I say screeching voice.

Keep in mind that Mom was often admitting sick people or people about to have medical procedures who may have been anxious or nervous. Needless to say sometimes, maybe often?, we were airing our grievances in her workplace at not the most appropriate times. In fact, if my memory serves me right I think Mom once said that somebody once depositive a severed finger on the admitting desk.

I don’t remember many details about the sibling squabbling that occasionally required a mad spring to the hospital to complain to Mom. I do remember that my younger brothers – who were about seven and 12 years younger – could drive my sister and me a little nuts. They used to like to play stick hockey in the living room, which at the time seemed so annoying, and probably interfered with watching “The Brady Bunch” or “Little House on the Prairie” on the lone TV in the house. I remember glaring at my brothers, and I am sure at times it resulted in multiple Maaawwwmmms!!!

Sometimes the fighting would be between my sister and me. I had a close friend named Maren, and we both had the same long straight hair, parted down the middle, so popular in the seventies. Maren was over at our house one time when Julie and I were having a heated argument. Maren was seated at the bottom of the stairs with her back facing the stairs when my sister came tearing down the stairs with a book in her hand and thinking Maren was me, wacked her on the top of the head. Maawwwmmmm!!!!!! I am sure she got an earful after that incident (and Maren a headache no doubt).

Once and a while there would be a medical need of some sort (fortunately not for Maren) that required a trip to see Mom at the hospital. My youngest brother Mike had a thick head of blonde hair that could become a tangled mess. When he was about six years old I was brushing the tangles when I discovered what I thought was a tannish white wad of gum, until I noticed the gum seemed to have a bunch of very small wiggly legs (yes ewe), which turned out to be an engorged wood tick. Mom was working at the hospital so I marched Mike up there, where even the medical personnel had a hard time safely removing the fat tick.

Another time my brother Dan and I were fighting about something, chasing each other around the house. Dan tried to dash out the back door by pushing on the glass window pane. Unaware that the door was locked, his hand broke through the glass, cutting it badly enough that we made a trip to the hospital. where yes Mom was working, for stitches. Help Mawwwwm!! (Update from my sister Julie after I shared this blog post on Facebook: The hand through the door incident. Was about Dan and Mike fighting over a can of root beer!!!! Dan grabbed it and ran to the door and tried to push it open with the soda and his hand. It was locked, so his hand and the soda went through.)

IMG_2350 (1)During the last few months, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the year I lived in Devils Lake about five years ago, where I worked for the newspaper. I am so extremely grateful now that I got to have that year. I spent a lot of time with my parents, and my Mom and I forged a better relationship. She was, as most Moms would be, thrilled that I had moved back to my hometown after being away for so many years. I lived in a tiny house just a few blocks from my parents. As a housewarming gift Mom, a cat lover, brought me a cat wall hanging. I still remember her bringing it over to my little house when I moved in, holding it high up in the air, a big smile on her face, For the last few years, it’s been hanging in my laundry room of my California apartment. After she passed away, I moved it into the living room to a more easily visible location to be a constant reminder of Mom.

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The Recipe Box

Glorified Rice

My friend Shurette made my Grandma B.s recipe for Glorified Rice for Thanksgiving.

A friend of mine recently asked me for a recipe for a dish that I brought to her house for Thanksgiving some years back. The dish was Grandma B.’s Glorified Rice. If you’re not familiar with Glorified Rice, it’s a sweet rice dish with whipped cream and fruit, at least in Grandma B’s version. Grandma B. was my maternal grandmother – Virginia Burgstahler. She and my Grandpa lived in the teeny tiny town of Oberon, North Dakota, about 30 miles from my hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota. Grandma B. was an excellent cook and baker, and for many years when I was growing up we would travel to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner, as in the mid-day meal. I don’t have a strong memory or her making the Glorified Rice for those meals, although I am sure she occasionally did. After Grandpa passed away, Grandma eventually moved out of their house in Oberon and into an apartments in Devils Lake. It was then that she started coming to our house for meals and holiday gatherings. Without fail, Grandma B. would bring her Glorified Rice and her delectable homemade buns and sometimes another dish or two. She would always bring them in a large, dark brown wicker basket, everything tidily packaged, the rice in a pretty bowl with Mandarin oranges neatly arranged in a pretty pattern on top of the sweet, creamy rice.

imageI don’t remember when I first started making the Glorified Rice myself, but I have made it occasionally over the years, including the time I brought it to my aforementioned friend’s Thanksgiving gathering. To find the recipe I had to look in my recipe box, whose purpose now for many years, what with the Internet and Pinterest, is primarily to house recipes written on recipe cards gathered many years back.

imageLooking through the box and its recipes is a trip down memory lane and one most definitely worth taking. Sometimes the recipes are written in someone else’s handwriting, including my Grandma B., my Mom and my sister, and it takes me back to when they shared it or when the dish was first served. There is a recipe for Darlene’s Sugar Cookies, Darlene being one of my Mom’s friends from her Oberon days. It was our go to cookie recipe for Christmas growing up in DL. There is a recipe for Special K Bars, a decadent treat my sister often makes for holiday gatherings year round. Other times, the recipes are in my handwriting and I remember the time I wrote them down with the recipe giver – generally one of my grandmothers or my Dad – dictating the recipe to me, often while they were making the dish while I sat at the kitchen table pen in hand. You can also hear their voice in the recipe. The recipes from my paternal grandmother – Christine Jager – sometimes sound a little vague and I can hear her telling me to cook a little while, add a pinch of this. One of her recipes, including the one for Kucha, says to use oleo, which I believe is what margarine was called back in the day. Kucha was a mildly sweet flat bread sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and was a staple at Grandma J.’s house, along with her signature pies. There is a recipe for Sue’s Chicken Marinade, Sue being one of the first friends I made after graduating from college and moving to Colorado. And there is a recipe for chili from Shurette, my longtime friend and high school pal who recently requested the Glorified Rice recipe. Some of the recipes, including the one for Glorified Rice, have some notes of my own, taking me back to some cooking mishaps (keep the heat low – don’t scald the milk!) and also a few spots and smudges no doubt from spills.

imageSo on this Thanksgiving Day, while I am enjoying some of Eddie’s Cabbage Salad (yes as in Fast Eddie, aka as my Dad). I hope you’re enjoying some dishes, old or new, perhaps made from a recipe written on a recipe card from your own recipe box.

 

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Remembering Mom

My Mom recently passed away unexpectedly at the age of 77. I didn’t see it coming, and it took me very much by surprise. Quite frankly I am still processing her death. It still doesn’t seem quite real. She still feels very much alive to me, and I can feel her presence with me, which is comforting.

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Mom on the far right in mid to late 60s.

Some of my earliest memories of my Mom, and my Dad as well, is when we lived in Grafton, ND. I was about four years old. It was just my sister Julie and me back then, although we would eventually be joined by two brothers. We lived in a small green house on a corner lot next to a cemetary, and sometimes we would play among the gravestones, although I don’t think my Mom was wild about the idea. We soon moved to Devils Lake, ND, and initially lived in a small white house not far from a larger white house my parents would purchase when I was in grade school.

Throughout her life my Mom loved cats. The first cat I remember Mom having was in that small house when I was about five years old. We had a beautiful, fluffy calico cat named Kitty, who eventually had a litter of kittens. My sister and I slept in twin beds back then, and I remember we tried to stuff all the kittens and our dolls into the bottom end of one of the twin beds, with us in the front end. As you can imagine the kittens were not cooperative, and I remember them biting our toes and making us scream and giggle. We eventually went on to have other cats, including my Mom’s cats Buddy and Liddy.

When we were young, my Mom enjoyed watching musical movies. We would watch (in an era of a different kind of TV) the annual airing of movies such as the Sound of Music and the Wizard of Oz, the latter of which I am pretty sure I cried at every year when I thought the Wicked Witch of the West was about to get the best of Dorothy. We also went to watch movies at the drive-in theater on summer nights in DL, my sister and me in our pjs in the back seat of the car.

My sister and I always sat in the same spots in the car, Julie behind my Dad in the driver’s seat and me behind my Mom on the passenger side. Some weekend days or weekday evenings we would go for a “drive” around town or the surrounding countryside. I can still remember my Mom telling my Dad, aka Fast Eddie, “Eddie slow down you’re driving too fast.” My Dad, with a twinkle in his eye and a wry grin, would sometimes temporarily step on the gas and then, of course, slow down. These drives often included a stop at one of the drive-in diners in DL or the Dairy Queen.

imageMost Sundays for many years involved driving some 30 miles from DL to Oberon, ND, for Sunday dinners, or what is often referred to as lunch in some parts, at my maternal grandparent ‘s house. My Mom was extremely close to her parents, particularly her Mother, who would often sew matching outfits for my Mom, Julie and me.  These Sundays were generally sedate affairs, definitely no electronics involved. I remember looking through my grandparent’s bird books, reading Little Lulu and Archie comic books and playing dress up in my Mom and her sisters’ old prom dresses. They were often nearly day long affairs ending with an early supper with leftovers from dinner and my grandmother’s legendary homemade buns.

My Mom wasn’t particularly fond of cooking or baking but one of my favorite dishes she made was something we called Chop Suey that included browned beef and canned Chinese vegetables over rice. Also sometimes we would make a pie and sprinkle the extra pieces of dough with cinnamon and sugar and bake them. When my Mom and Dad went out for a “fancy” meal, such as to The Ranch Restaurant in DL, she usually had shrimp, and for many years she enjoyed peanut brittle at Christmas time and other sweets.

In addition to enjoying watching musicals, my Mom liked to watch figure skating, something I still enjoy doing to this day. Although my Mom was not a texter, my Dad is, and I would sometimes text him and tell him to let Mom know when a skating competition was airing.

My Mom liked to swim. I have very fond memories of going to family swim time with Mom and and my siblings in the late afternoon in the summers at the Devils Lake swimming pool. She would swim laps, often with her eyeglasses intact, back and forth across the pool. I remember driving home from those swims feeling so refreshed and relaxed and at peace. My Mom saw that we took swimming lessons and also ice skating and ballet lessons. I also took baton twirling lessons, although that might have been my idea. And she took us to the library, where we were part of summer reading programs at the Devils Lake Carnegie Library.

In her younger years, my Mom was part of a weeknight bowling league with her lady friends, and although I was never part of those outings, I bet they had a good time. These outings usually meant that back at our house my Dad held rather raucous poker nights with his buddies, most of them the hubbies of my Mom’s fellow bowlers.

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Recent day camping-esque pic.

These same bowler/poker friends were part of numerous camping trips over many years, both on the shores of Devils Lake and at place called Max Lake in Manitoba. We started out tent camping and eventually bought a small white camper with a large vertical red stripe. We fished, we swam and we boated, including on pontoon boats built by my Dad and his buddies. My Mom, and all us, enjoyed campfires at night, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and making S’Mores. Even though as my parents got older and no longer went camping, they still enjoyed backyard campfires, especially my Mom, both in their own backyard and at friends’ Don and Colleen’s family farm, where in the summers there was always a new batch of kittens for my Mom to enjoy.

One activity that my Mom enjoyed throughout her life was tending to plants and flowers, something her Mother also appreciated. I remember many a spring buying flowers – petunias, marigolds, impatients and more – with my Mom that she would plant along the borders of their home. In addition, there were usually orange tigerlillies and fragrant petunias in a variety of colors. I also remember cutting fresh lilac blooms from the bushes bordering our back yard, fresh lilacs still being one of my favorite fragrances. Later when they added a deck on the back of their house it would include pots full of flowers, with Mom always stringing colorful lights above them, illuminating them in the dark.

My Mom always had a strong faith and growing up we were members of St. Olaf Lutheran church, where we attended church services every Sunday. Although I have fond memories of participating in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in my grade school years, I grumbled quite a lot as a teenager about attending Sunday morning church. I thought I had found an out when I went to Saturday evening mass with my best friend Shelley, who was Catholic, but my Mom said it didn’t count. 🙂 There also was the annual church Mother/Daughter Lutefisk Banquet. Lutefisk. Awful stuff. More recently my parents were members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, where my Dad still works part time as a custodian.

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Mom loved her grandkids.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I wasn’t particularly close to my Mom for most of my adult life, and now that she is gone it is hard to not feel guilty or bad about that. In writing this post and reflecting on my upbringing I am grateful to her for introducing and experiencing with me so many things that she enjoyed or appreciated and that I still do to this day, including gardening, swimming, reading, pets, faith and more. I also don’t think I fully appreciated her thoughtfulness. And from both she and my Dad and my grandparents instilling in me good manners (most of the time) and the importance of being a decent, caring human being.

Thank you so much Mom for everything. I so appreciate you. I love you, and I miss you.

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My patio today full of lights and flowers, which my Mom would have loved.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Fixable

montereyBenign is a pleasant word. It rolls off the tongue so easily and smoothly and has a truly warm and pleasant quality about it. So does its meaning. First – gentle and kindly. It all sounds like a peaceful day by the ocean with a close friend, balmy breezes, the sound of lapping waves and pleasantly picturesque scenery. The second definition is medical – not harmful in effect, in particular, (of a tumor) not malignant.

oh noBenign was the word I was hoping for last late September after having a mammogram that resulted in six biopsies (yes six, definitely not a pleasant experience). After the biopsies I had a full weekend to stress about the possibilities before receiving the results. On the one hand most lumps or areas of concern are benign. Yet the fact that I had six biopsies seemed like a large number, and what were the chances that ALL of them would be benign. Sometimes being a glass is half empty kind of a gal, I had a queasy feeling in my stomach when the doctor called me with the results – two malignant tumors and one in question. Malignant. Not such a pleasant sounding word. In fact sounds a little gnarly.

Needless to say much has happened since September, as it is now early March. Several friends have asked me since the diagnosis if I was going to write about my experience with cancer. For many months, I just couldn’t write about it. I tried a few times and stopped mid-pen and mid-type. It just made it all too real, even though it couldn’t have been any more real.

So I am writing now, and it feels cathartic. In sum in the last five months, I have had two outpatient surgeries to remove the cancerous areas. A second surgery was needed after the first as the necessary clean margins weren’t obtained. I couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon doc lady for these procedures. She had absolutely awesome energy, humor and a positive attitude – and she shared my love of all things purple. I have had a PICC  line placed (yep, it’s purple, a good sign I think), and I had my first chemo treatment this week, one down and seven to go over the next four months. Chemo will then be followed by radiation.

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Socks from a friend, which I have turned into an arm band/cover for my PICC line.

The first thing people generally say when I tell them I have cancer is that they are sorry, which is an understandable reaction. Trust me, I’m sorry too. However the thing about breast cancer is that it is very treatable, and statistics are there to back that up. I have been sent quite a few cards and gifts from friends and family since my diagnosis. One card sent by a friend said that she had another friend going through cancer who said she was fixable. I like that. I am fixable too, and am currently in the process of being “fixed.”

Back to those cards. In addition to them I have seen an outpouring of love and support through them, as well as via social media posts, text and email messages and phone calls. The calls have been particularly wonderful, as I have become rather hermit-esque over the years.  I have reconnected with so many friends, including those I had not spoken to in years or on a very regular basis for some time. It’s been a blessing and true joy to have these regular conversations. They are sustaining me. Many friends and co-workers tell me I am strong, but I would not be nearly as strong without these calls and all the collective support.

Still being single and living alone I have my moments, especially at night in the dark. I worry about money, as in not having enough to support myself and pay all my regular bills, much less the mounting medical bills. My income is my sole source of support (there is disability which only pays half of your salary, which is simply not enough, not even close). I worry about the effects of chemo and/or radiation making me unable to work enough or not at all. I am hoping some of you could help in the fixing process by perhaps giving a small donation to a GoFundMe account set up by a dear friend of mine (which required some cajoling on her part to get me to agree to it.) Any little bit will help. If it’s not within your means, I equally appreciate your support and prayers.

https://www.gofundme.com/7xm3h-help-lisa-jager-kick-cancers-butt

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Type It Tom and Prisoners

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Curious kitty Chloe’s first exposure to a laptop. What would she think of a typewriter?

I have always enjoyed listening to National Public Radio, which here in Sacramento I listen to on Capital Public Radio. However I became a more regular, avid listener during last year’s election, and now I listen to it pretty much every day, driving to and from work and to meetings, running errands, etc. Two stories I heard in the last several months have really stuck with me, and they both involved typewriters, for which I have always had great affection.

The first story (part of which also appeared in the New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/how-one-of-the-last-american-typewriter-companies-survives) was about prisoners using typewriters, and the second was about Tom Hanks writing stories that included typewriters. More about both of those later.

But first, listening to these NPR stories focused on typewriters made me remember learning how to type in a typing class in the seventh grade or so. It was back in my home town of Devils Lake, ND, and the typing class teacher was Mr. Brown, who also happened to be my best friend Shelley’s Dad. I remember him being a tall man with a crew cut, a booming voice, an engaging smile and a gregarious, no nonsense personality. He made learning how to type fun and challenging. I wonder how kids learn to type these days? 

Now back to the NPR stories. The first story was about inmates in prison who want to write for a variety of reasons, many of whom did not regularly write before they became prisoners. However, in prison computers are not available to inmates for such purposes, and the only typewriter that they can now use is a special plastic typewriter – called Swintec – that is made by one company in the U.S. In the story prisoners were interviewed about how they secured the funds for the $225 typewriter, how expensive the ribbons were to replace and what kinds of things they were writing. One of the prisoners was on death row and started typing letters to officials who might be able to stop his impending execution (in which he succeeded). He began to think of his typewriter as his companion in his solitary confinement cell. Another prisoner actually became a journalist in prison, selling some of his articles with plans to continue writing when he is hopefully released.

I think this story stuck with me not just because it involved typewriters, but because prison life fascinates me. Why? In part because I don’t think I would bode well in that environment, and I just have a rather morbid curiosity about how life functions inside the prison walls. Since moving to this part of California I have toured Alcatraz Island and the former prison there three times. The tour includes audio narration featuring interviews with former prisoners about what it was like to be a prisoner there. It sounded like a truly dreary, depressing and dreadful existence.

Now on to a happier story. Everyone knows Tom Hanks as an award winning, extremely likeable actor. But it turns out he also is an avid reader and has long collected typewriters. He acquired his first one around 1978, about the same time he started his acting career. He now has more than 100. Oh how I would enjoy seeing that collection, personally shown and described to me by Mr. Tom Hanks. The actor also recently became a published author via a collection of short stories called Uncommon Type, with each story having a typewriter as part of the story in some way. The book is on my Christmas Wish List, should anyone want to send a copy my way! 

Outside of prison, you don’t see people using typewriters very often, although they probably still have some use in certain settings. When I worked at a library years ago, for awhile we had one typewriter for library patrons to use to perhaps type a letter or an address on an envelope.

Blog picI have one not so very old typewriter, and I don’t even remember for sure now where it came from. An old boyfriend maybe? I would like to get my hands on some much older and funkier typewriters and restore them if necessary. It seems to me at one point we had a quite old black typewriter in our family house in Devils Lake. In fact I paused while writing this blog to text my Dad Fast Eddie to see it’s still there somewhere. Sadly, it is not

So that’s my little ditty for today about typewriters and prisoners. And Tom Hanks

Hashtages, typewriters; NPR, Tom Hanks, prison. writers

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Kit Kat Jenni

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My sister Julie (r) and moi.

When I was growing up in a small town in North Dakota my Mom was fond of cats, and we almost always had one in the house, even though my Dad, Fast Eddie, wasn’t so wild about them.  The first one I remember was a gorgeous fluffy Calico named Kitty, who had several litters of kittens. When my older sister Julie and I were about four or five Kitty had one of her litters. One day when we were playing with them we decided we wanted to load the kittens, all of our dolls, miscellaneous toys and ourselves into one of our twin beds, which was no small feat. The kittens were not very cooperative, and I don’t think we succeeded in our mission. We tried various ways to position the kittens in the bed, including putting them under the covers at the bottom of bed where they proceeded to play with our toes, which only made us giggle and wiggle with the rambunctious kittens ending up back on the floor  over and over again.

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Could she be any cuter?!

Fast forward a few years – well more than a few – and I got my own Calico, a kitten who I named Jenni. I was living in the Washington, D.C., area at the time and had recently lost a cat to cancer named Morgan (a Tuxedo cat named after Morgan the pirate cat from the  T. S. Eliot book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Jenni was brought to me on Labor Day weekend 1997 by a friend who had some property in West Virginia where a neighbor’s cat had had a litter of three kittens, two black boy kitties and Calico Jenni. I still remember her first night in the house. I ordered a pizza, and she went crazy over the aroma, clawing at the pizza box and meowing fiercely, although I doubt in the wilds of West Virginia she dined on much pizza. Like most kittens she was a fireball, a tiny bundle of energy. In the townhouse where I lived I had a bay window full of plants, and when Jenni first discovered it she proceeded to shred those plants in Edward Scissorhands fashion, her small furry self whirring through the leaves with her sharp claws leaving them in bits. It was around that time that Jenni was introduced to the neighbors, who cooed excessively at her cuteness, and received one of her first nicknames from a neighbor who called her Jennyanydots – another cat from the T.S. Eliot book. Over the years Jenni had multiple nicknames, including Jenny Benny, Jen Jen, Little Girl, Queen Jenni, Kit Kat Jenni and, unfortunately, Barfie.

 

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Jenni on one of our many road trips.

Morgan and other previous cats hadn’t been fond of riding in cars, and I was determined that Jenni wouldn’t be the same, so I took her lots of places as a kitten, including running errands around the Virginia burbs. She would sometimes sit on my shoulder or directly behind my neck on the top of the seat. On some of the initial rides she meowed in earnest, however as time went by she grew content in the car. In fact, over the years she became a champion traveler, which proved to be a good thing because travel we did moving from D.C . back to Denver and points beyond.

She also learned to adapt to other animals, including cats and dogs, although a bossy, feisty side of her could come out in her around them, and she came to be known as Queen Jenni. When I bought my first house in Denver I decided I wanted a dog. One day I went to a shelter and came home with Sammi, a mixed breed adult dog. Upon meeting Sammi for the first time, Jenni (who was a small sized cat with Sammi at least five times her size) sniffed her and then gave her a welcoming hiss, followed by swiping her nose with her paw. The

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Sweet Sammi

two never really warmed up to each other completely, and being an indoor cat Jenni seemed to resent Sammi when I would let her outside the sliding patio door into the backyard, sometimes giving her a hiss and a swipe. This kind of treatment resulted in Sammi being somewhat afraid of her, and Sammi would often go to great lengths to avoid her, although they eventually came to a truce of sorts. The household also included cat Cinder, and Queen Jenni liked to sit at the top of the stairs or in the upstairs hallway, swatting her tail and gazing over the living room as if she was looking down at her kingdom.

Jenni inadvertently gave me a scare or two over the years. One of our moves included Wisconsin, where me moved in the dead of winter into a beautifully elegant apartment in a renovated old Victorian house. The only piece of furniture I had upon arrival was a bed my brother, who lives in Wisconsin, had given me. One frigid morning I stepped out early to go to a local gas station to use the facilities, as those in the apartment weren’t working. Upon returning Jenni was nowhere to be found. I walked around for quite some time calling her name, searching in every nook and cranny. After awhile I became alarmed, thinking she might have slipped outside when I went out. Eventually I started walking up and down the streets of my new neighborhood calling her name. I called animal shelters. After a good five or six hours (and a few tears), I was standing in the bedroom contemplating my next move, and out popped Jenni from what seemed to be inside/under the bed. To say I was surprised is an understatement. It turns out she had somehow crawled under the mattress and inside the platform box which was serving as a box spring. I was absolutely flabbergasted and more than a little stunned. Jenni of course was nonplussed and sat in the sunshine sleepily licking her paw. She pulled a similar disappearing years later in my parent’s house in ND, where Fast Eddie and I had to work extremely hard to find her, eventually luring her out of her hiding spot with some catnip.

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For 20 some years, Jenni happily greeted me at the door in all of my households, snuggled with me, played with me, road tripped with me, listened to me talk and sing, made me laugh at her antics and more. She was the only constant at my side 24/7 all those years. When you are single and live alone, your pets just aren’t part of the family. They ARE your family.

So it is with extreme sadness that this week I had to say farewell to my sweet beautiful girl. Bye bye dear Jenni. You are now my angel.

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