Category Archives: personal


well clearly i haven’t gotten any better at updating on this general “me” blog. i’m doing better at writing in my art blog, but not here. last i wrote here it was february. and now it’s october. it feels like a lot has happened since then, but at the same time, not much, or not enough. but maybe what has happened is just what was supposed to happen. everything in its time.

and i’m still here. now 56. and now cat-less for the first time in 15 and a half years.

yes, the biggest most recent thing to happen is that stencil the cat died. yesterday. i had to put him down. and it was heartbreaking. excruciating, really. from diagnosis – tumor in his throat, likely cancerous, that was constricting his esophagus and trachea – to death was 2 weeks. i mean, the vet and i had been trying to figure out some of his obvious behavioral and physical changes over the past few years but nothing was coming up on bloodwork or scans. until two weeks ago. he’d lost the ability to meow beyond a whisper a few months back. i just thought it was a getting old thing, that he’d finally given up the loud bellowing that followed sticker’s death a year and a half ago. it didn’t seem like he was straining or in pain, and i welcomed the quiet. i should have brought him in sooner… but i just didn’t realize it was a sign. he kept eating and doing all the normal cat things, so we just kept keeping on.

sigh. i’ve been crying nonstop for days, knowing i was close to having to make the decision to put him down. but it was so confusing, because he’d rally and seem like he was doing better. and he was still so attached to me up to the end, until the moment i had to extricate him from under the bed to take him in to the vet for his euthanasia appointment. he did get mad at me for that, and the ensuing kenneling. he always hated going in the kennel, and going to the vet. maybe he knew what was coming.

but now my house is empty and quiet. i threw the giant old man litter box out last night. dumped all the half eaten cans of cat food that were in the fridge. picked up and washed the elevated bowls i’d only just bought him a few months ago to make his eating easier. threw out some well-loved toys. changed the sheets on the bed and vacuumed underneath it, because when i had to pull him out from under there i realized he’d vomited under the bed what looked like weeks ago. (ick.) picked up and emptied out his water fountain – i still need to give it a thorough scrubbing before offering it to anyone else. de-furred the sofa and threw out his very beaten up cat scratcher/lounger. (there’s a second one i’ll offer up to anyone who wants it because it’s newer and in better shape, still has life left in it.)

i still need to take his cat tower out of my studio, but it’s large and bulky and i might need help. it’s not one of those carpeted towers – it’s one of those newer kinds made of wood, made to look nice and go with your furniture and just has furry pads on the different levels that can be replaced. the furry pads are goners after at least 10 years of use by stencil and his brother sticker, but i’m pretty sure someone can buy new ones and just wipe down the rest of it and it will be good as new. i remember this thing being pretty expensive at the time. but that will free up some space in my studio.

and i still need to give the house a thorough vacuuming and dusting. mop the bathroom and use the shopvac to get all the remaining litter out of there. and then the chore of donating/offering on the local buy nothing group all of his food and treats. i still have medical stuff leftover from sticker’s death a year and a half ago too. i need to move that shit out of here.

i made several social media postings on facebook and instagram about stencil’s illness and then death and got quite an outpouring of support. it was really sweet and i have felt really held by my community of friends far and wide. it’s been very helpful. it’s hard when you are already very alone in the world – no partner, no kids, no real living family that you are close to, no housemate of any kind beyond your cats – when they go and now you – i – am all alone, really. it was so so quiet and still in the house last night. i did sleep, uninterrupted possibly for the first time in a long time, but it was still an uneasy sleep without my boy next to me, touching me, putting his paw in my hand or resting his head in my open hand. that’s how we often slept together.

but yeah, so i’ve been emoting strongly and openly to everyone and anyone for days now, crying so much i had to take tylenol last night to make my head stop hurting. i feel very wiped out. still sad, but mostly empty, still in a bit of disbelief that there is no living creature sharing my home now. it’s just me.

i know i’ll get used to it. maybe i’ll even come to enjoy it, the freedom of not having to rush back to my house to take care of aging, ailing cats at least twice a day, lately much more often. it does make taking a trip i’d planned months ago for mid-october a lot easier. i’d like to think it will make me more likely to take off on adventures a little more frequently, but i’ll have to get back to a better financial place for that. the past few years of vet bills have really piled up on the old care credit card.

anyways. i’m not sure what the point of this post was other than just to update what’s been going on. you can read about my art adventures on the art blog – the one thing i will say is that i have definitely succeeded with my previously-mentioned intention of developing a more consistent art practice. i’d say i’m in the studio almost every morning, and now that i’ve paid to take a 12-week course, i’m painting almost every day. it feels good, even though i can’t say i’ve had any major breakthroughs yet. but i’m moving in the right direction.

life goes on, at least for me. and now i’m left to make sense of it without both of my longtime familiars. i’ll be ok, i know, but i sure miss them both.

intentions (it’s february already)

i’m trying to do a better job at updating on my various blogs. (i have 3 – this one, my art blog and my pet biz blog which is really just a website for my business but i do sometimes post little updates about my availability/openings.) so here i am. this will be a long and rambling post that will probably only be interesting to me but hi, thanks for reading, if you are.

i posted on my art instagram yesterday a pic of my monthly calendars for january and february that are taped to my wall in my studio, where i mark each day that i spend time in the studio – at least 20-30 minutes – creating, working on art, even writing. just doing something to keep the creative juices moving. it feels rather ridiculous that i need to do this but it’s one of the little accountability tricks (hello adhd!) i’ve learned over the years that really helps me follow through and stick with something. kinda like making lists and then crossing things off. there’s a sense of accomplishment that rewards, similar to that little dopamine hit you get when your social media post gets a “like.” but instead of looking outward for my pat on the back, i get it from myself every day that i’m able to mark an “x” or circle the date on the calendar. and then at the end of the month i can see that i really have been showing up for myself and doing the work, even if i don’t have any finished work or sold items to show for it. and it counters that limiting belief that tells me repeatedly that i “don’t have time” to make art. because i do; i just need to claim it. prioritize it. do it.

this was one of my new year’s intentions for 2023. well really i started on this one back in the fall when i started taking online art classes to get myself out of a blocked/bored period, during which i tend to spiral downward into the “i suck at being an artist” place and then i don’t make any art at all for months or sometimes years. i’m trying to reprogram my brain, reframe my negative thoughts, and at the same time develop a new habit – that of making art every day (more or less). i’d like to be able to say that i truly have an art practice, which is hard to do when you skip months and years and never really work through all the ideas in your head that you want to create. and, well, something about middle age, being 55, that makes me realize if i don’t do it now, when the hell do i think i’m gonna do it? time’s a tickin’. i’m not getting any younger. (plus i have this fantasy – or is it an intention? – that my retirement plan is to be a successful working artist that can support myself after i’ve gotten to the point that i can’t or don’t want to walk dogs anymore.)

so yeah. not new year’s resolutions, cuz i don’t believe in that. that’s just setting yourself up for failure. but intentions at least name where you want to go and how you want to get there. it’s good to put it out into the universe and to tell yourself. to visualize. and then to be gentle and kind to yourself when you don’t manage to do it every single day or have natural breaks due to life, work or other circumstances. but to keep going. keep showing up.

the other intention i put out there to the universe and claimed for myself was to try to exercise more. i know a lot of you think i get plenty of exercise because i walk dogs for a living. and i do when my business is really busy – i can get up to 15-20K steps a day, which is a lot. but right now my business is really slow and i’m not even getting to 5K a day some days. and also, as good as walking is as an exercise, i’m not really doing it aerobically all day. some dog clients walk fast and i do get my heart rate up for 20 minutes at a time, but most of my dog clients are slow meanderers. i’m still moving but the health benefit is probably negligible.

so while in my process of sorting through my friend nita’s estate/house full of things, i kept eyeing this fold-up exercise bike that she bought a few years ago for physical therapy after one of her stints in rehab. she used it for a little while but then it just sat. and over the months as people have come and gone claiming things from her house, no one took the bike. i didn’t realize at first that it folded up to take up less space and i originally thought i wouldn’t have somewhere to put it in my house and it would be hard to move, to fit in my car. but in january, as things were winding down at her place, i found the owner’s manual and realized how to fold it vertically and voila, i knew where i could store it when not in use in my house. and it would fit easily in my car. it kinda seemed perfect. so i took it.

me and bike riding go way back. i’ve always had a bike. as a kid all through elementary and junior high, i rode my bike to school. it was over a mile each way. and for much of my life here in new orleans i was without a car, so my bike was my main means of travel through my 20s and 30s, getting me to the bank, the grocery, the post office, etc. all those years i worked for nita over on algiers point, i rode down canal street from midcity and took the ferry over on my bike. when hurricane katrina hit, i actually had 2 bikes, but didn’t think to put them upstairs when i evacuated and they drowned downstairs in the entryway to my dad’s apartment that got 4 feet of water. i did get a bike in louisville that i rode some, but my 40s and 50s has had me sharing or owning scooters and cars so bikes have taken a back seat and rarely used. (i do still own two regular bikes that are in the shed gathering dust.)

even when i owned a real bike and used it, i have had recumbent exercise bikes in my home. i had one on iberville pre-katrina and used it to help me lose a bunch of weight during one particular time in my 30s. and then when i moved into my current house, i got another recumbent bike that mostly lived out on the back porch since i didn’t have anywhere to put it inside. i used it off and on until a family of wasps decided it was a great place to build a nest, and the elements really messed with the electronic display on it as well. i eventually dragged it to the curb. so it’s been a while since i have had an exercise bike but it’s what i think of first as a home exercise method for burning calories, moving muscles and getting my blood circulating better.

all of this is prelude to saying that grabbing this bike from nita’s was a good way to work on my intention of moving more. and the first two weeks i had it i used it almost every day. the first few days were really hard and then it got a little easier. i started with 10 minutes, like i had when i was in physical therapy, and worked up to 15 but that’s where i stopped. it’s been a few weeks since i got on it but i woke up this morning and hopped on before i even had my coffee and did 15 while watching an art instruction video on my phone. (it has a little shelf where you can position your phone or ipad to watch things. i also pull it into the living room so sometimes i watch tv.) this morning it wasn’t hard at all and i barely broke a sweat, my heart rate not even reaching 115. which is great, cuz one day i was having a really hard time, hadn’t slept much the night before, and could only do 10 minutes and my heart rate got over 140 and i thought i might have a heart attack!

anyways. i’m thinking of making a little accountability calendar to keep near the bike to reward myself every day that i use it by marking it off. and maybe recording how long i rode it. i know i feel better when i do even 10-15 minutes, and i’d like to work up to 20-30 and then maybe faster or increase the difficulty/tension. all of this is about trying to regulate my blood pressure and cholesterol better, which i know exercise helps. i used to like going for long walks but since i walk for a living sometimes it’s a hard sell to go walk more – my feet always end up hurting/swelling – so the bike riding seems like a better option for me. it’s not a recumbent bike, it’s an upright, but it has a big padded seat and nothing hurts when i ride it so it feels like a pure heart and muscle workout.

what else? what other intentions did i have for this new year? well, a lot of it involves my art and the business of art, which i have not focused on at all for years now. the irs is about to tell me that my art biz is just a hobby cuz i’m not showing a profit on it like i did for many years. and really, i’d love to be making more money from my art right now, especially since the pet biz is slow. but i’m also in this exploration and education phase with my art where i’m trying not to think first about making something to sell but instead to make something to express, to just create, to enjoy and explore new processes. so those things are at odds and so far i haven’t made any motions to sell anything i’ve been making over the past 6 months, mostly cuz nothing feels like a finished product. and that is by design!

so i’m wrestling with that inside my head and meanwhile my bank account is dwindling precariously low and if i don’t pick up some new clients or figure out something to sell soon i’m gonna be living off my credit cards and raiding my hurricane emergency fund. i guess we’ll see what happens. it’s interesting for me to note that i’m not really freaking out about this. i know my pet biz ebbs and flows – it’s just like this sometimes and the new clients always appear eventually, usually after mardi gras. money always seems to fall out of the sky for me at just the right moment – the abundance of the universe is real. but i am certainly at a low point right now. i just have to trust that it will resolve and keep doing what i’m doing, working on myself, my health, my art practice, and putting good vibes out into the universe.

i guess that’s all for now. did you make any new year’s resolutions or intentions? how are they going for you? i like it when i get comments on this blog cuz it lets me know someone is reading it besides me.

oh, and happy mardi gras to all those who celebrate!

spring… and patience

i never checked back here after i wrote that last post about sticker’s passing, so thank you to those of you who replied in the comments. i just now saw them. stencil is still howling in the mornings, staring out the window/door, but he is otherwise doing fine. we are both still grieving in our own ways and together. it will just take some time. i know folks keep suggesting i get another cat or a kitten or do some fostering but i don’t think either stencil or i are quite ready for that yet. maybe down the line…

i’ve had to start picking up some overnight pet sits, which i really didn’t want to do anymore – both for myself and for stencil – but my finances require it. unfortunately my pet biz is just not in a place where i can survive without doing some and the demand continues to be high because there are so few petsitters who do overnights, but i’m trying to limit it to one or two a month so i have time to recuperate in between and stencil isn’t left alone for too long. so far he seems to be doing ok with it. (i’m already booked up w/my limit of overnights through june! so grateful for my clients!) i would much prefer having more cat sits or dog sits that didn’t require me to spend the night but in this business you have to kinda just take what comes and be flexible. i will continue to work towards a time when i don’t have to do overnights.

so, yes, back to patience. i tweeted the other day that the month of march is trying to teach me patience and i’m failing miserably. it’s been a rough month of feeling in limbo. i’ve vague-posted a few times on facebook and i’ve told some folks in person what’s going on but haven’t wanted to speak about it publicly on social media cuz i guess it all just doesn’t feel real to me yet and i’ve been afraid to jinx it. but i’m about to pay my rent and my landlords swear the work will get done this week before the 1st so i guess i can go ahead and talk about it. maybe talking about it will help move it along. (please send some energy in my direction to make it so!)

new paint job on the house i’ve rented in for 11 years

i’ve lived in the same 500 square foot one bedroom rear apartment for 11 years now. i really love the house, the location, the neighborhood, and don’t want to move but have been feeling stagnant in my life and like i need a big change and i frankly need more space. i’ve needed more space almost as long as i’ve lived here but have somehow managed to make it work all this time. hurricane ida and the aftermath made me realize how isolated i feel back here, how limiting not having a front door/street access is, how much i missed having a crosswind! as often happens with traumatic experiences, it also made me reevaluate my life and realize how unhappy i’d been recently with my life in general. how i’d always dreamed of more and, well, it’s later than you think.. so better get to it! so i got into therapy (online), started addressing some things, visualized what i wanted my new life to look like, wrote it all down, made a vision board of sorts, and started to make movements in that direction and act as if it was going to happen. and wouldn’t you know? things started happening.

backing up for a minute…. several years back, the former tenant of my place (who became a friend and was one of my cat clients before she moved away to atlanta) had told me she once had a conversation with my landlady about knocking the door down that separates my apartment from the front two rooms of this shotgun structure. it never happened but she said my landlady sounded open to the idea in order to keep her as a tenant. she ended up moving into a bigger place and i ended up in the tiny apartment, but that’s been in the back of my head for years now. the timing never worked out that the apartment next door was empty long enough for me to have that conversation with my landlady, though. and i never felt like i was in a financial place where i could take on any additional rent, which would of course be necessary to get more space. (one of the reasons i’ve stayed here so long is that the rent has been very cheap.)

well i’m still not really in that financial place now but given these changes i was looking to make, i decided when the last tenants moved out mid february to jump and hope that the net would appear, cuz it was time. i reached out to my landlady, who loves me and wants to keep me as a tenant cuz i’ve never been late on the rent and have helped her take care of this house over the years, and broached the subject. i don’t want to get in to all the details here, but, long story short, over many weeks time and some back and forth, we were able to negotiate something that worked for both of us, for me to assume the rest of my side of the house, starting april 1st! yay!

from the front door looking in at my new living room and second (yellow) room

and so began the month of march, my month of waiting for something to happen. waiting for the locks to be changed so that what will soon be my front door will have a new lock and key. waiting for the doorway that had been cut between the two sides of the house to get blocked up, to return it to two shotgun apartments. waiting for the door at the end of my hallway to be unsealed from the other side (not pictured, but in the yellow room) so i could get through to the other two rooms… but only after the other two things happen, so i’m not exposed and can secure my apartment. a handyman was hired to do all the interior painting and fixes on the other side, and he will be doing the work necessary to open my side up, as well. i thought he might do the work to get my apartment situated first… but sadly, that has not been the case.

looking towards my new front door through the living room

and so i continue to wait. the handyman does not keep regular hours and comes and goes randomly. nice guy, and seems to be doing good work, but clearly he has multiple jobs going on at the same time and this one is not his priority. he doesn’t have a crew, works alone, so it’s slow-going. he has replaced the locks on the other side and fixed those doors so they are secure. but the lock on my side gave him some trouble so it has not been resolved and i no longer have access to those rooms until it is. nothing has happened to seal up the doorway between the sides or unsealing the door in my hallway.

and meanwhile, all month long there has been a different work crew painting the exterior of the house, the result of which is the pic above a few paragraphs. it looks great and i look forward to being able to enjoy that front porch! (my back porch looks nice too, see pic below.) it’s gonna be amazing to open the front door and back door and feel a breeze throughout the house! (none of the windows open in the house cuz they’ve all been painted shut.)

happy to have my back porch back

so yeah. it’s been quite a month. and april 1st is friday. is it possible to get it all squared away by then? sure. it’s really not that much work (for my side) and could be done in a day but it will take the handyman prioritizing it. i talked to my landlords today and they are just basically at the mercy of the handyman who sets his own schedule. so we all wait.


meanwhile, i already moved everything away from the door at the end of the hallway in preparation for it being opened up. (i’d used it as a storage area so there was a dresser with a ton of stuff piled up on top of it that is now just crammed into my bedroom.) so it feels like my tiny space is even more chaotic than usual. i’ve measured the new rooms (in the brief window of time that i had access to them) and drawn out a blueprint of the space to start visualizing how i might rearrange everything. but i can’t start assembling any new furniture or moving anything obviously until i have a key and the door is opened up. it’s just so frustrating.

however the universe has at least answered my desperate call for work and money, to be able to afford the new rent. i sold some art and folks were really generous in their payments. i did a 5 day overnight sit. i’ve had some other pet sits in addition to picking up one new m-w-f dog walking client. (after losing a m-f daily client, which didn’t exactly make up all the money i’d lost but is something.) and i’m fully booked with pet sits for the month of april, into may, and have a long overnight sit in june on the books. so it feels like i’ll be able to get through the next few months ok.

hopefully by then i’ll be situated in my new extra space and have one room dedicated to being my art studio, which will help me in my efforts to beef up my side income from my art. i hope to figure out a way to get the t-shirt printer back inside the house so i can get back to printing too.

it might take many months for all this to come together but this is the vision i’ve been (wo)manifesting so i can move in to the next phase of my life where my art is more a part of my every day and i don’t have to compartmentalize it quite so much in my physical (and mental) space. and hopefully all this change will also inspire me to let go of some of the excess clutter that i’ve built up over the last 11 years in the house, as i streamline and feng shui my living space.

so that’s my news. that’s what’s been taking up all my mental energy as of late. i haven’t really been going out and doing anything social as i’m trying to be financially frugal, but i look forward to a time very soon when i can actually socialize in my own home, have people over!! it has taken a lot of work to get me here and will continue to take a lot of work to follow through and make it all happen, as well as continuing to afford it. but this is my work for 2022. i knew 2022 was going to be a year of change for me. and so it is. new year, new life!

rip sticker (2008-2022)

sticker in his prime, circa 2016

if you follow me on social media, you are probably tired of hearing me emote about my cat sticker. over the past year, i chronicalled his battle with renal failure and the more recent discovery of liver cancer as a way of coping with my feelings about it, which helped me finally come to the decision to euthanize him last wednesday. i had a hard time letting go but it was the right decision; it was time. i thank all my friends and followers on facebook and instagram for allowing me the grace to overindulge my sadness and grief in their feeds.

writing has always been one of the ways i’ve processed my life and its many twists and turns. it’s one of the reasons i keep this blog, even though i write in it so sparingly and usually only about my recovery from brain surgery or non-alcoholic beer. i’m going to try to write more often about different topics, just to get shit out of my head and to keep my brain from turning to absolute mush in my middle age.

but to stay on topic here, yesterday i picked up sticker’s ashes at my vet’s office, having been delivered there by heaven’s pets.

i wasn’t prepared for how emotional i would feel seeing a tiny baggy with some of his shaved-off fur and the card with his big ole polydactyl front paw print. (i specifically asked them for a front paw print since he had those ridiculous extra toes.) i don’t really know what i will do with all these remains, though the idea of eventually incorporating them into a painting about him seems inevitable. i’m not ready for that quite yet though.

stencil and i are adjusting. i think stencil is lonely but he’s too old to subject him to a kitten in the household and i really don’t think he’d accept an older cat. (plus i really just don’t want a 2nd cat, at least not right now.) but every morning now after i feed him breakfast, he sits on his cat tree perch in the living room, staring out the window at nothing in particular, and just howls. loudly. incessantly. i kinda feel bad for the neighbors, because i’m sure they hear him, but even when i go in there and talk to him, play with him, give him treats, as soon as i leave the room, he’s back at it, meowing again. at some point he gets tired and curls up for a nap but it’s a pretty annoying 7am routine. (he doesn’t do this at other times of the day.) i don’t know if it has anything to do with missing sticker but he just started doing it, so maybe.

as for me, since wednesday i’ve done a lot of cleaning in the house. wednesday night i channeled my grief into vacuuming and rearranging the furniture in the living room a bit. i just needed a change from the position i’d just spent much of the last few weeks in nursing sticker on his window ledge behind the futon. so i moved the futon to a different wall, and the folding table that is my art table to a different spot. i’m not sure i like it but it’s nice in the short term for things to be different. today i bought another set of plastic drawers on wheels that are wide enough to accomodate a lot of my paper supplies and prints – it’s a $20 cheapie flat file hack. so the living room/studio space feels better organized now. we’ll see how it feels when i get back to actually painting again.

i also bought a new larger litterbox. well it’s not really meant to be a litterbox – it’s a long plastic bin that’s only six inches tall, probably meant for under-bed storage, but it’s basically as large as both of the smaller boxes i had for sticker and stencil before. they’d used the same litterboxes their whole lives; i would periodically scrub them out in the backyard so they lasted a long time. but stencil being an only cat now, and a senior cat, i figured i’d get him one large box that fit the same space. i hope he likes it ok. i’m thinking it will be easier to upkeep.

it’s going to take a while to get used to sticker not being here. i still sometimes expect him to be underfoot when i walk to the bathroom. but i know he’s free now from the pain of his little failing body, and i think he had a pretty good life as a pampered housecat these past 13 years. it was certainly a better life than he would have had as an outdoor feral cat, which is what he was when he was found as a baby kitten along with stencil and his other littermates on the campus of west jeff high school post hurricane gustav.

this was the irresistible kitten picture attached to their craigslist “adopt me” ad:

those crossed paws! still kills me. they always loved each other so much.


life goes on, i guess. it’ll just be a little more lonely in our tiny house. but at least stencil and i have each other. and now i will have to spoil him even more. i’m sure he won’t mind!