Monday, March 30, 2015

At last, Spring is stirring

The weather has been beautiful the last few days. We went out together yesterday and had an ice cream. It was wonderful to go out without the need to put my head down and "get through" a task before it got through me. :) 

A full month earlier than last year!
This morning I looked out the bedroom window and saw, shining in the sun, a clump of purple crocus blooms! I grabbed my camera and ran down to take a picture before the sun disappeared from that inside corner. Then I came in and had my coffee. 

Ian came over last Wednesday and we took the cats to the vet for their annual vaccinations and check-ups. The young cat, which we shall refer to as the Red Screamer, sang an improvised opera all the way there and back. His performance was so impressive that every technician at the vet's office had to come from the back to see what kind of cat was capable of such volume, such intensity and range, such depth of emotion and pathos! When they expressed sympathy that he was confined to a heartless crate (which he sleeps in at home of his own choice) he really laid on the histrionics.  He missed his calling when he didn't go on the stage. He was checked over and pronounced in robust, if noisy, health. 

Mr. Grey Fluff is too much of a good thing. His front legs are bowing because his chest is so broad! He's shaped like a barrel chested man who has to wear suspenders to hold up his pants. His belly is tight and firm, but what a big chest he has! 

I needed advice on how to slim him down safely. You have to "diet" overweight cats very carefully because they are prone to a fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis  if they are fed too few calories. Weight loss must be slow and measured. 

These days, rather than telling you Mr. Cat looks like he should weigh X number of kilos/pounds they get out the tape measure and measure all the bits, circumference of head in front of the ears, length of the front legs, the last section of the back legs, from nose tip to the base of the tail, and around the chest just behind the front legs. Then they add the weight.  

These measurements are entered into a computer program, which apparently looked at Smokey's measurements and weight, had a hearty laugh and said, "Cats aren't shaped like that! Try again." The technician said basically we have a square cat, and we'd just go with the closest match on the chart, which said 50% BMI. Holy Cat Batman! 21+ pounds (9.52 kg) and the chart says he ought to weigh 13.2 pounds (6 kg). That's the same weight as the Red Screamer. It'll never happen. I'd be happy if we can get him to 15 pounds (6.8 kg). He'd be great at 15. 

We came away with a case of canned diet cat food, and a bag of crunchy diet cat food, lots of booga booga talk about it being designed to suppress genes that increase appetite and firing up the metabolism, and instructions on how much to feed him (not much) and I'm thinking, 'Yeah, that's gonna happen. This appetite on wheels is going to be scratching on the fridge door like he's trying to dig his way out of Alcatraz.' One good thing, if he doesn't eat any more of it than prescribed it will be cheaper than the very expensive food we've been feeding him. 

But he's a fussy eater. He will eat fish. Specifically tuna. That is it. I worry about that. Too much mercury in tuna, but I can't get him to eat anything else. So, we try it, and he loves it. And believe it or not he's perfectly satisfied with the portions. He eats the food and licks the bowl, and walks away happy. I leave the kibble in the bowl and he eats it off and on, and he's not starved the way I feared he might be. And he's obviously feeling well, because he dug a toy from under the washing machine this morning and went chasing after it, which is something he hasn't done in a while. 

This afternoon I went down and picked up the flotsam and jetsam that the constant wind has blown into the entryway, plus the cigarette butts, and various wrappers and receipts and paper bits dropped by residents. And as I did so I took note of all the green bits poking up through the mulch in the flowerbeds; poppies, geraniums, tulips, daffodils, hostas, mint, English thyme, and others whose names I have forgotten but will recognize as soon as I can see more than a green button peeking through the mulch. I need to get down and start trimming back the shrubs this next week if I can, before they wake up. 

We made it through winter. It may snow, and we still have some cold days ahead, but Spring is stirring. At last, Spring is stirring. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

KIVA Loan for March

Gladys, business woman and mother of two, Fort Portal Uganda
This month's KIVA loan goes to Gladys, a very hard working lady living in Fort Portal, Uganda.  Gladys has a produce store selling beans, ground nuts and maize flour where she works seven days a week, five hours per day. In addition she has a small farm where she grows produce to sell at her store. 

Like many people with a small business she is faced with the hardship of limited capital which hinders the growth of her business. She supplies produce to schools on credit and faces hardships due to their delayed payments. Her goal is to own a food store that can sustainably supply retail customers year-round. 

A previous KIVA loan helped her by providing capital which she used to improve the wholesale buying power of her business, thus improving her profits. 

She wishes to construct a permanent house, which she has already started building, and like mothers everywhere, she dreams of providing a college education for her two children. Bit by bit she has laid the foundation for the house and construction has begun. 

With the increase in profits from her business the last KIVA loan afforded she bought iron sheets to roof her house. With this new loan she plans to buy the timber to frame the walls and roof.  

Many poor families in Uganda cannot afford housing that meets their needs. By making a housing loan on KIVA, you give people access to flexible capital to obtain or improve their homes. Better housing means better health, sanitation, and even educational outcomes for children. A house can also be much more for entrepreneurs who run businesses out of their homes. In this way, housing and small business loans on KIVA share a common purpose: they alleviate poverty and enable families to enjoy more stable lives. 

You can help lift a hard-working family out of poverty for as little as $25.00 - share your wealth today through a KIVA loan. 

Follow Your Bliss Over the Cliff

I just watched the first half hour or so of a well-known motivational speaker's program on PBS in which he placed great emphasis on following your bliss and going after your dream, which makes me think about my own little dusty dream, and how it's even more important to me now than it was when I was ten years old, when it was more about having a pony and living in one house forever and never having to change schools four times in one year again than anything else.  

Cob Cottage
The way the world is moving, toward a more conservative, hateful, ever widening gap between rich and poor I want what I wanted when I was ten even more, a small piece of land, a half-acre to an acre in size, where we can build a small - very small - house. Granted the dream house is different now than it was 59 years ago, but times have changed since then. I'd say 500-600 sq feet would be plenty if it's designed properly. I'd install solar panels and a small wind turbine for power. A stream or a drilled well, the use of composting toilets, and recycling of our grey water through a living marsh would insure we could live off the grid.  

The house would have to be wheelchair accessible so Tony can get through the doors and in and out of the bathroom and into the shower and out again safely. I want a room with windows facing south we can use as sunroom/greenhouse so I can grow greens year-round, and where Tony can work on his models, I can paint, sew and do yoga, and we can  sit in the sun in the winter. This apt faces north and we never see the sun at all. Our balcony doesn't even get sun. 

We'll need thick, heavily insulated walls and ceiling, so we can heat with a rocket stove and a back-up propane stove. A wide overhang and a porch for spring, summer and fall evenings. A raised bed garden, so  I can grow all the fresh vegetables we love to eat. Fruit trees, a hive of bees,  a half dozen chickens for eggs. A run for the cats, and a tree for them to climb.  

Our problem (aside from the lack of money) is that, because of health issues, we have to be within a short distance from a town with a hospital. In Canada that limits our choices. We also want to be somewhere where the winter is not quite so brutal as it is in Calgary, so we're looking at going back to BC. 

As I sit here the neighbour down the hall has fired up his nightly bonfire of marijuana again. I swear it's GMO and crossed with skunk musk, and it makes me so sick I could just cry. We put a big towel and a rug under the door, but we can't keep his smoke from invading our place. 

So I dream. If you have an envelope lying around which contains oh, say $100,000 in it, we could probably come up with some of the money by selling this place when the mortgage comes up for renewal, but it won't be nearly enough. And my bliss is losing heart. What's his face on the TV said just do it, but if I start digging holes and pouring a foundation on someone else's land I'm either gonna end up in jail or the loony bin, and since they closed the loony bin  to save money I'd end up in jail. And that isn't a part of my bliss at all. So I'll just keep dreaming and you think about that envelope.