Obscure August Folklore #amwriting #writerslife #folklore

By Ronel Janse van Vuuren

I needed something to take my mind off my own life for a while, so I googled “August folklore” and found something fun.

Have you ever heard of the term “Cat Nights”?

Well, I haven’t. Which isn’t too odd considering that in my hemisphere it is now the start of spring and that the whole concept of Cat Nights has to do with the start of autumn.

Apparently one can find the term “Cat Nights” on calendars across Europe and America even today. The oldest (printed) reference to this is on the Old Farmer’s Almanac of 1792.

When do the Cat Nights begin? On August 17 as the Dog Days of summer draw to an end.

Of course it’s an obscure Irish legend that started it all (all great folklore has roots in old Ireland, I’ve found).

The legend states that a witch can transform into a cat, and back again, only eight times. If she tries it a ninth time, she will be stuck as a cat forever. The yowling of the cat is, of course, the witch lamenting her fate. Foolish witches are caught in this state particularly on August 17th and that is why caterwauling is so prominent on that day. (Though, I’m sure most owned by a cat will differ – cats like to test out their lungs on any given day or night.)

So now you know where the whole “cats have nine lives” and the idea of witches prowling around as cats came from.

Cats are truly amazing and have been the source of lots of folklore around the globe. (I wrote a piece about it on my blog a while back. You can read it here.)

There are constellations named for felines – check it out here.

And someone even wrote a poem about this obscure piece of folklore. You can read it here.

Mm, cats even make interesting characters. I’ve used them in my writing and they always take the story to unexpected places. (There are different cat characters – some faery cats, some regular cats – in my short story collection “Once…” that cause intrigue and plot twists whenever they appear.)

I hope you learned something new about cats and that you now have a smile on your face. Until October.


Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers.

Connect with Ronel:

Amazon : Twitter : Pinterest : Google+ : Goodreads : Ronel the Mythmaker : Instagram : Newsletter

Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” Poff Cleared & Released by FBI

Posted by M. K. Waller

For today, I wrote about reasons writers write. I titled it “I Write Because…” It ran to about 600 words and had one gallery of photos and one stand-alone shot. It was not an exceptional post, but I was pleased with the way it turned out. As I wrote, I saved and saved and saved. And saved. But when I was ready to publish, it wasn’t there. That’s the truth and nothing but. Someday I will find it. Someday the universe will cough it up and say, “It was there. You just didn’t look.” But at this point, I don’t care. I am tired. I refuse to start over. So I pulled the following post from Telling the Truth, Mainlu.

You might remember that a while back, a woman in Houston mailed explosive devices to former President Barak Obama and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The FBI traced the woman through cat hair found on the package. The news articles were interesting but not comprehensive. For the previously untold story, read on.


Three cats suspected of helping owner Julia Poff mail explosive devices to former President Barak Obama and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were released from custody Thursday afternoon following questioning by federal law enforcement officers.

FBI crime lab investigators had found a cat hair under the address label on the package containing the explosives and traced it to the Poff cats. It is alleged that Ms. Poff sent the potentially deadly devices to former President Obama and Governor Greg Abbott because she was mad at them.

Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” Poff were taken from the Poff home in Brookshire, Texas, 34 miles west of Houston, Thursday around 9:00 a.m.


FBI Agent Arnold Specie, chief of the Houston Bureau, announced in a press conference late Thursday that after intense grilling, officials were satisfied the cats had no connection to any nefarious activities.

“The only thing they’re guilty of is shedding on paper their owner later used to wrap the explosive devices. You can’t fault cats for shedding.”

He said there’s no doubt these are the right cats. “The fur of all three exhibits white hair. That’s true even of Puffy Poff, who is mostly orange but has a couple of white spots on her underside.” He assured the press that DNA testing will confirm the hair belongs to one of the Poff cats.

A reliable source, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, said he’s not so sure. “They know more than they’re telling,” he said. “It’s impossible to get anything out of suspects that keep falling asleep in the middle of questioning. And every time Muffy rolled over, Specie gave her a belly rub. Specie’s always been soft on cats.”

The early morning raid, which involved a number of federal agents as well as a Houston PD Swat team on stand-by, rocked this usually quiet community to its very core.

“I could tell something was going down,” said neighbor Esther Bolliver. “I was outside watering my rose bushes when I saw these men wearing dark suits and ties crouching behind Julia’s privet hedge. One of them was holding out what looked to be a can of sardines, and saying, ‘Kitty kitty kitty,’ in a high-pitched voice, you know, like you use whenever you call cats. I thought it was Animal Control.”

Mrs. Bolliver ran inside and told her husband. “I said, ‘Bert, come outside and look,'” she said.

“I knew they was G-Men first thing,” said Bert Bolliver. “It was the fedoras gave ’em away. Animal Control don’t wear fedoras.”


Ten-year-old Jason Bolliver, who had been kept home from school with a sore throat, added that the raid was exciting. “It’s the best thing that’s happened here since my teacher had her appendix out.”

Agent Garrison Fowle (pronounced Fole), who led the raid, said capturing the cats proved remarkably easy. “The sardines did the trick. Those cats ran right over and we grabbed them and wrapped them in big terry cloth bath sheets and stuffed them into carriers. It was a snap.”

Neighbors, however, contradict Agent Fowle’s account, pointing out that the Brookshire Fire Department had to be summoned to get Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” out of a  live oak near the corner of the Poff property. It is believed she bolted because she realized the sardines were bait instead of snacks.

Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud”

While at the Poff residence, BFD EMTs bandaged second-degree scratches on Agent Fowle’s face. They also administered Benadryl to Agent Morley Banks, who had broken out in hives.

Agent Delbert Smits was airlifted to Ben Taub Hospital in Houston. Information about his condition has not been released, but Mrs. Bolliver observed Ben Taub has a first-class psychiatric emergency room, and she thinks that’s why Smits was taken all the way into Houston.

“By the time they got Pud-Pud down from that tree, the poor man was staggering around like he had a serious case of the fantods.”

After their release, Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” were relocated to an unspecified location.

Special Agent Fowle said the initial plan was to fly them to Washington, D. C., in the care of Agent Banks,  for further debriefing, but Agent Banks put the kibosh on that, saying there was no way in hell he was going to spend one more minute in the company of “those [expletive deleted] cats.” Fowle said Agent Banks has been granted sick leave until he stops itching.

When  the commotion has died down a bit, Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” will be honored for their part in the capture of their owner at a joint session of the Texas Legislature at the State Capitol in Austin and a reception hosted by Governor Greg Abbott at the Governor’s Mansion.

British Prime Minister David Cameron introduce...
British Prime Minister David Cameron introduces President Barack Obama to Larry the cat at 10 Downing Street in London, England, May 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) [Public domain]
Former President Barak Obama announced that on their next swing through Texas, he and Michelle want to take the cats out for a catfish dinner.

“Let me be clear,” President Obama said. “Although totally and completely innocent of any crime, these cats surely had a positive influence on the perp. The activity Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” witnessed was fair and balanced, targeting both a Democrat and a Republican, and as such is the first bipartisan effort I’ve come across since my first inauguration.”

After law enforcement officers had left, neighbors expressed concern about the cats’ future welfare. The Bolliver family, noting the three felines spend most of the day sleeping on the hood of their Buick anyway, wanted to take them, but their offer was rejected.

Instead, Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud” will make their home in Houston with Special Agent Specie.


Update: The White House has reluctantly announced that President Donald Trump will  invite the Poff cats to a huge celebration at the White House. Muffy, Puffy, and Sybil-Margaret “Pud-Pud,” however, declined the invitation, on the grounds they will be busy that night grooming their hair.

Rice Pudding: A Story of Disaster

Posted by M. K. Waller


Christabel’s sister Chloe, who would have done what Christabel did if she hadn’t been busy elsewhere doing who-knows-what


Ever had one of those days
that no matter how hard you try,
you screw up everything you do?”

My niece posted that on Facebook tonight.

Yes, I have. The Day of the Rice Pudding Fiasco.

One day back in the Ice Age, my high school faculty scheduled a potluck lunch for the day before Thanksgiving. Usually we celebrated with Tex-Mex, but burritos had become boring, so we chose a Southern theme. For me, that posed a problem.

For several years, I’d been depending on a local grocery store’s rotisserie chicken and Chinese buffet and several restaurants for meals, and I’d forgotten how to cook. I’d also forgotten what to cook. I needed something that wouldn’t tax my vestigial culinary skills. Fruit salad was the obvious choice, but I wanted a dish that would look like I’d done more than peel bananas and open a few cans.

The easiest thing I could think of was rice pudding: Cook rice (leftover is fine). Mix beaten eggs, milk, and sugar together. Add rice. Set a large shallow pan containing about a half-inch of water in the oven. Pour pudding mixture into baking dish; sprinkle with cinnamon. Set baking dish in pan of water (I don’t know why) in the oven. When the blade of a case knife stuck in the center comes out clean, remove from oven. Serve hot or cold (it’s better cold).

I’d watched my mother make it–without a recipe–dozens of times. It was always delicious. It also qualified as Southern.

Granted, certain details had escaped me. Like how many eggs and how much sugar, milk, and vanilla. And whether vanilla was an ingredient at all. And how high to set the oven temperature.

Minor details.

I set to work boiling and beating. I slid a large, low-sided pan into the oven, filled it with a half-inch of water, and closed the door. Then I set an enormous flat CorningWare dish on the table, near the oven, and poured in the mixture of pre-rice pudding.

As usual, I had made almost more than the dish would hold. Sweet, eggy milk lapped at the sides. The CorningWare was heavy, and its contents made it heavier. I steeled myself for the task of getting it into the oven without slopping liquid onto the floor.

I turned and opened the oven. I turned back.

That’s when I saw Christabel.

Christabel LaMotte, named for the poet in A. S. Byatt’s Possession, a big, black, velvety, green-eyed hussy of a cat, heavy as lead. She had an agile mind and a healthy sense of entitlement.

And she was sitting on the floor, eyes trained on the edge of the table, calculating the distance, the angle, the thrust required to launch her to that higher plane.

“Don’t. You. Dare.”

She dared. Before I could grab her, she achieved liftoff.

But she’d forgotten to factor in the CorningWare dish. Landing off balance, she belly-flopped into the eggy mess. Again before I could grab her, she scrambled off the other side of the table and ran out of the kitchen, down the hall, through my bedroom, and into the living room. I followed, yelling, “Stop,” and, “Come back here,” and, “You’re ruining the carpet.” Things like that.

I finally caught her in the dining room–about three feet from the kitchen door; she’d made a whole circuit–carried her back to the kitchen, closed both doors, set her down, and said, “Bathe!”

Then I went to the living room, flopped into a rocking chair, listened to Dan Rather, and let milk, eggs, sugar, and a trace of vanilla and cinnamon dry and stick to a stretch of long leaf pine and three rooms of carpet.

After Mr. Rather reminded me to count my blessings, I returned to the kitchen and found Christabel sitting just where I’d left her, staring straight ahead, eyes gleaming with repressed rage and resentment, ebony underside covered with goop.

I fetched damp cloths and a towel and joined her on the floor. She didn’t like the bath much more than she liked the goop, but she tolerated it.

Damp but clean, she retired to hunt for her misplaced dignity. I cleaned up gunk. The carpet came out in fine condition, but I my Southern dish was gone with the wind.

Still, the makings of rice pudding remained. A miracle–except for a thin film the size of cat paws plus belly, it was all there, in a CorningWare dish. The oven was hot.

No one would ever know. Christabel was meticulous about personal hygiene. Heat would kill any kitty germs she’d left.

I had only to roll back the clock to the second before Christabel became airborne.

But I did not yield to temptation. The stakes were too high. One black hair on one fork, and my pristine reputation would have been history. Nearly a dozen eggs, no telling how much sugar and milk, several cups of rice–I scrapped it all.

The next morning on the way to work, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a package of Oreos. Good old Southern food.

Now. I started this piece with a question about a day spent getting everything wrong. But then I wrote about one little culinary disaster spanning less than a half-hour out of twenty-four. An English teacher would say I didn’t follow instructions.

But believe you me, the five seconds it takes for a cat to make a hard landing in uncooked rice pudding is equal to a whole week of screw-ups.

And speaking of rice pudding, a while back, I posted about a 1000-word scene I wrote and then scrapped because it wasn’t right. Several people complimented me on my willingness to let it go.

What I didn’t make clear is that the 1000 words, taken as a whole, were pretty bad. They were first-draft, just-get-it-onto-the-page-quality words that resulted in a very bad scene.

They weren’t words I could have revised and revised and turned into a high-quality scene. There was cat hair all over them. They had to go.

But they didn’t go very far. In my documents folder there’s a file labeled Excisions. That’s where the hairy words live.

Because I never know when they might start to shed.


I first posted about rice pudding on Whiskertips. This seemed a good time to share it again. Christabel and Chloe aren’t with us any more, but they’ll never be forgotten.

I blog now at Telling the Truth, Mainly, and occasionally (about cats) at Whiskertips.

The Cat Lady* Writes Again


Posted by Kathy Waller


You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.
~ Mark Twain,  A Tramp Abroad


Ernest Davis-Waller on back of recliner

I’m sitting in my recliner, feet up, laptop on lap, Ernest Davis-Waller stretched out on the wide overstuffed armrest to my right. His left foreleg stretches down so his paw rests against me. He’s making biscuits on my leg. Clothing doesn’t protect me: his claws pierce my flesh. I take his leg, move it up to the armrest. He reaches down and resumes making biscuits. I move his leg back up… he reaches down… If only he didn’t look so pleased with himself. But finally I give up. He’s had a difficult day. I guess.

William Davis-Waller is in the hospital. Friday night I noticed he was limping a bit, and I knew what was wrong. Saturday morning, the veterinarian diagnosed diabetes. We fed him special food the rest of the weekend and took him back to the vet early Monday morning to stay until his glucose stabilizes.

William Davis-Waller watching PBS

William and Ernest came to us from Austin Pets Alive, which rescues cats and dogs from the animal shelter and fosters them until the cats and dogs are ready to rescue people like the Davis-Wallers. They were six months old when we got them, Ernest first, and William a month later. They hit it off immediately and spent the first night practicing for the Daytona 500–from the bed to the floor to the closet to the bed to the floor to the closet, round and round and round, trampling the humans, all night long.

Five days after they met, Ernest developed a tummy complaint and was admitted to the hospital. Within twenty-four hours, William stopped eating and lay limp and unresponsive in my lap. I took him to the hospital, where he was found to be running a high fever. Ernest was better but not ready to be released. I left William and went home.

Ernest and William sharing recliner

That afternoon, I called to check on William. He was fine, said the vet. She’d put him in the cage with Ernest, and in a couple of hours his fever was gone and he was all perky and eating like a horse. She wanted to keep both over the weekend.

By Monday, however, things had broken down a bit. Ernest, it seems, had told William in no uncertain terms that the cage wasn’t big enough for both of them. According to the veterinarian’s assistant, he used some pretty sickening grammar.

William was moved, post-haste, to his own accommodations.

But back at home, they teamed up again, brothers in arms. And for the past seven years, except for the night Ernest spent at the emergency veterinary clinic–he ate ribbon again–they haven’t been separated. Until this week.

I dropped in this afternoon to check on William and, just in case, told the vet about his dependence on Ernest. He was doing well, his glucose level was down, and he would be ready to come home in a few more days. And would I like to visit him?

William on piano, where he is not supposed to be
William on piano, where he is not supposed to be

They put us in one of the examination rooms and closed the door. William didn’t say hi, how you, no pleasantries at all. Nothing. Instead, we wrestled. He wanted off the exam table. I sat down and held him on my lap. He wanted back on the exam table. He purred twice, for a total of four seconds, and only trying to get me off guard so I would loose my hold. In short, he wanted outta there.

The worst part was that for the full half-hour we were together, he engaged in projectile shedding. I’m used to that, it’s what cats do at the vet’s, but it’s darned uncomfortable when you’re using both hands to corral the beast and can’t spare one to get the fur off your tongue, where it shouldn’t have migrated to in the first place.

William by himself
William by himself

The really worst part, of course, is that he has diabetes. When he came to us, he was all ears, tail and tummy, and he vacuumed up every bite we gave him. He grew into a larger cat than I’d expected him to, based on his small, tapered feet, and the ears, tail, and tummy shrank to proper proportion. But he continued to put on weight. I knew he was becoming a candidate for diabetes. And though I tried to take weight off him, I wasn’t consistent in my efforts. Being a good parent means you sometimes have to do things neither you nor your child, nor your cat, enjoys. If you don’t do those things, you end up feeling guilty and doing things you both like even less. In this case dealing with needles and syringes and blood tests.

On the positive side, the veterinarian told me something I didn’t know–that with proper treatment, diabetic cats sometimes improve and can survive without insulin injections. Like Type II diabetes in humans? I asked. Yes. That makes sense. And now we have something to work toward.

And I can go to bed tonight without worrying that William is running a high fever because he’s lonesome for Ernest.

Ears, tail, and tummy

There was a post on Facebook yesterday that claimed the position you sleep in reveals something about you. If you sleep flat on your back, you’re quiet and reserved and have a high sense of self-worth. If you sleep on your side, you’re calm and laid-back when you’re awake. If you sleep on your back and snore, you’re irritable (reasonable, since you possibly have sleep apnea, but that’s not quite the same as being reserved or laid-back).

I don’t know how I sleep–except that in the morning the sheet and blankets are usually on my side of the bed. I’m afraid to ask what that means.

But for the most part, the position I sleep in depends on two things:

  1. how cold I am; and
  2. how many cats occupy the space that rightfully belongs to my legs.

I’ve taken so long moseying through this piece that Ernest has abandoned me for David’s recliner. He may or may not go with me upstairs to bed. Whatever happens, I know that for tonight, at least, one of my legs will be assured a place to stretch out.

But I’ll be glad when William comes home, even if it means I have to sleep sitting up.



*I’m not really a cat lady or even a cat person. I’m a dog, cat, horse, parakeet, cow, and chicken person, and I would like to be a raccoon person but I’m smart enough not to try that. But I can say, with Mark Twain,

When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.
~  “An Incident,” Who Is Mark Twain?


Mark Twain’s thoughts about cats appear at http://www.twainquotes.com

Of J. C. Penney, Robert Redford, and a Return to Civilized Dining






Posted by Kathy Waller


Writing this post won’t be easy.

ernestandkathy9 (2)
Ernest pinning down left arm

Sixteen pounds of Ernest lies across my right forearm, pinning it to the arm of the recliner. He’s on his side, positioned so he can turn his head and, with a moonstruck expression, gaze upside-down  into my eyes and/or reach across to pat my chest. At present, he’s making biscuits on my upper arm and, head thrown back, pushing with his chin at the mouse, which will soon fall to the floor. It doesn’t matter. With my arm weighed down, my fingers are the only movable part of that appendage, and they’re typing as fast as my brain can make up words. The mouse is purely decorative. I’m surprised to have gotten a whole paragraph down.

Well, no, not really surprised. We do this all the time. I say, “We’ve talked about this. You can’t lie on my arm when I’m using the laptop. So move.” He turns his head, gives me the coy But-I-wuv-you look, and thinks something like, Not on your old lady’s corset cover. I’ll move when I’m good and ready.

He’s good and ready when David brings bacon and eggs, or, rather, bacon and egg. David, bless him, has been providing chair service since I started chemo. I spent six months eating mostly Rice Krispies, because they tasted like what they were; David spent the same six months eating fruit and vegetables and ravioli out of cans, and Pita Pockets out of the freezer. I felt bad about letting him eat such shabby  meals until I realized he likes them. He’s just been polite enough (for twelve years) not to mention he prefers tinned pears to fresh.

Ernest is polite enough to raise himself up off my arm when I jiggle it sufficiently, but then he lies back down. While I eat, he watches and waits for crumbs to fall. If I were eating a biscuit, a muffin–anything that tends to shed–he would be crawling across me, snuffling my shirt. An iota of carbohydrate is enough to justify trawling.

Crumbs don’t fall. After David removes the tray, Ernest removes himself to the back of the recliner, above my head. That’s his new favorite place. Stationed there, he can sleep, pat my head, run his claws through my hair, occasionally kick me with a strong hind leg.

I slept late this morning, caught up in a dream I still can’t shake. I was sitting on a bench outside a new J. C. Penney store, waiting for a train (the tracks ran right by the front door), and Robert Redford, who had performed at the grand opening, was sitting beside me. The actress who had appeared with him sat on my other side. The actress said something to Redford about the skit they’d just performed, and he shot back a deadpan response.

Up to that point, I’d been pretending they weren’t there, as is polite when one finds oneself sitting between celebrities one doesn’t know personally,  but his response was so funny that I clapped my hands over my face and guffawed. The actress said something else, and this time his reply was even funnier than before, and I guffawed even louder.

It was a dream, so whatever happened next made no sense. I did wonder how J. C. Penney managed to talk Robert Redford into opening a store. As to why I dreamed about Penney’s: Yesterday David told me that after a thirty-year hiatus, the company is again selling appliances. I have no idea why I dreamed the store doubled as a depot. I don’t know why I dreamed about Robert Redford, either. But who needs a reason?


After a brief pause, we return, my laptop and I in the recliner, Ernest on the chair back above my head. I’ve just been through the dry run for my first radiation treatment tomorrow. The most recent PET scan showed cancer in one lymph node, but no evidence of metastasis from it. Lesions are gone from the lungs. At this time, only the positive node will be treated. I was once told to anticipate results from all diagnostic tests would be better than expected. These results were exactly that. Peace of mind is no longer an option, but my expectations remain high.

Infusions continue, but the evil drug, the one officially classified as chemotherapy, was withdrawn nine weeks ago. Until it was stopped, I had no idea how rotten the previous months had been. Still, the side-effects I experienced were relatively mild–the side-effect of a positive attitude, perhaps. I feel better now, stronger, more interested in pushing a cart through the grocery store.

I’m not interested in cooking. Several weeks ago I made half a pot roast–I wore out after preparing the carrots, so David had to deal with the potatoes and onions–that turned out to be simply wretched. Last week I bought a chicken whose disposition is still hypothetical. The doctor told me radiation will probably make me feel very tired. I’ll wait to see what happens before taking back the kitchen.

But at some point, I’ll have to do the right thing. I’ll return to cooking. David and I will return to civilized dining. And deprived of chair service, Ernest will continue cutting off circulation to my fingers, making biscuits on my arm, running his claws through my hair, and kicking me with his strong hind leg–but with no hope at all of crumbs.

DSCN1843 (2)


Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear in Mysterical-E
and in Austin Mystery Writers’
crime fiction anthology, MOW cover - amazon pix
She is working on a mystery novel.

About Refined Foods, Humans, Cats, and Fats by Kathy

0kathy-blogThis post by Kathy Waller

At the outset, this post contains no advice at all, just what I’ve heard, and it will look like it’s about my cat (again), but it’s actually about weight management. But to get to the heart of the matter, we’ll have to go through the cat.

William is on a diet. He’s nine years old and it’s past time for him to take off the weight I’ve allowed him to put on. I want to prevent diabetes and all the ills the older cat is often heir to.

The vet advised me how I might  begin, but with two cats, it’s difficult. I can’t isolate him because he wouldn’t eat without Ernest eating first, and isolation brings the risk of his clawing a hole in the door. With cats, you don’t close doors, period. And the last time William and Ernest were separated for any length of time, William stopped eating (!), ran a high fever, and became practically catatonic (no pun at all). After a few hours, I took him to the vet, she put him in the cage with Ernest, who had been there a couple of days, and by evening, she reported, William was “eating like a horse.” I don’t dare keep them apart until William decides to eat.

I switched them to a grain-free diet–never could understand why carnivores needed grains–and they both fell to enthusiastically, but after a few days I began to worry I’d changed their food too abruptly. I did not want to throw anyone into liver shock, so I’m now mixing old food with new, and over three or so weeks will have them both back on meaty kibble. I’ll also check to make sure the grain-free they’re eating is of good enough quality.

To digress a bit–my massage therapist suggested the new diet. I spend an hour a week on her table, so we have time to talk about many things, including food and cats.

The following pictures give evidence of William’s need for a lifestyle change:

William official portrait china closetWilliam tv watercolorWilliam and Ernest sharing recliner 3William with kitten bookWilliam keyboardingDSCN1041 (1)



Now to the heart of the matter: I’ve had my own battles with weight management since I was about fifteen, and have battled long and hard with several weapons, some better than others. Finally I’m seeing progress and have hope I’ll get down closer to where I should be–not the 1991 level of 18% body fat, when I felt I could fly, but closer. The time since I was fifteen is too long to write about here, but I’ll repeat what I heard last night.

It was in one of those Internet commercials by a bariatric specialist who spends fifty-five minutes saying how shocked you’ll be to learn what she has to say, and the last five telling you about the pill she’ll sell you (I didn’t listen that long)–but one thing she said about refined and “invented” foods (chemicals) woke me up:

“Anything the body doesn’t recognize, it turns to fat.”

It sounded so reasonable, I asked the massage therapist about it. She said, “Hmmm, yes, that works.”

Later, she said, “That’s not exactly how it works. [I’d suspected that, I’m pleased to say.] When the body/brain doesn’t recognize something, it tries to wall it off and stores it in fat cells. What it doesn’t know is stored rather than excreted. But the doctor’s description is close enough.”

Well. I wondered why doctors and nutritionists don’t use the chemicals-to-fat equation to explain what’s wrong with eating refined foods. They say it in other ways, but not that way.

It’s like Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant– / Success in Circuit lies.” Why don’t they stop going in circles and say exactly (almost) what happens.

As I said at the outset, I’m just repeating what I heard. No medical or nutritional advice is offered here. I don’t want any humans or animals to be harmed as a result of reading this post. We could all be wrong.

But if it’s true, it’s bound to operate the same way in cats. I think.

A long time ago, I began a blog in which I would discuss my experience with pounds. A counselor once suggested I write a book about it. Personal accounts of such helped me in various ways, and I had a lot of experience and had learned a lot and might have something valuable for others.

I disagreed for this reason: All the women who write those books successfully are highly literate Jewish gals from the Midwest, and they’ve said all that needs to be said, and I’m a marginally literate Southern Presbyterian from Texas, and we Scots don’t necessarily want everyone knowing our business, and I can’t remember anything since childhood anyway.

He said he’d give me my notes. I’m sorry I didn’t take them, because I’d like to know what he noted about me. (Probably,”She never shuts up.”) (Jewish gals from the Midwest: Geneen Roth [When Food Is Love] and Betsy Lerner (Food and Loathing, a marvelous book]. And others.)

But anyway, I decided a while back I would blog about it, and I set up the blog and named it Guts and Midriff, after a line from Shakespeare.

There’s no room for faith, truth, nor honesty in this bosom of thine. It is all filled up with guts and midriff. ~ William Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 1, 3. 3

Shakespeare has a line for everything. And it appeared no one else had used that as a title.

I wanted to be anonymous, though, because I was afraid I’d make a mistake within WP, and my name and all my sordid secrets would be out there and all the billions of blog readers would learn them and I would be–something. I don’t know what, since I’m sure all of them are out there anyway. But I left the blog private and unwritten.

Now I shall throw caution to the wind and open Guts and Midriff, and let everyone know what I think I know. So there.

This post is late because last night, when I finally chose the topic and began writing (as usual), William climbed into my lap. When he wants to occupy my lap, there’s no discouraging him without repercussions–he slips down and takes chunks of my skin with him–and there’s no room for both him and the laptop, as there used to be. So I stopped writing. Then I fell asleep in my chair for a couple of hours, and he almost slid out of my lap that way, and I decided it best to go to bed. And I’ve had appointments today, so there.

To repeat something else, I heard a minister say an excuse is, “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Yeah, sort of, as in I should have written this last week or last month, but I did begin on Friday, and it wasn’t okay, and that’s what happens, and then when I begin, last minute, William or something jumped into my lap. He was in my lap last night while the bariatric specialist sat on the footstool, finishing up her commercial (the pills). Excuses vary in quality, and this one isn’t great, I realize.

To quote a different minister, whom I think I’ve already quoted on this blog, “It’s a grrrrrrreat” failing.” He was Scottish, and, like Shakespeare, said everything better than just about anyone else, so I’ve spelled it roughly as he said it.


Kathy Waller blogs at various places
and has had two stories published
in a recently-released anthology,
but she doesn’t have time
to say anything else about that.
She’ll fix it later.


*(Kathy Waller blogs at Kathy Waller–Telling the Truth, Mainly,* and at Austin Mystery Writers. Her stories hMOW cover - amazon pixave been published in Mysterical-E and in Murder on Wheels: 11 Stories of Crime on the Move (Wildside, 2015).Telling the Truth, Mainly refers to a line from Huckleberry Finn. The blog was formerly named To Write Is to Write Is to Write, an allusion to a quotation from Gertrude Stein. It was a good quotation but a bland title.)







Doris McCrawPost copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw


I thought I’d take a break from writing about individual women doctors and investigate a related topic, grooming the cat. If anyone has tried this exercise, you know it is filled with challenges, frustrations and maybe a bit of laughter. Okay a lot of laughter; after the scars have healed.

I can hear you saying, the cat grooms itself. Yes, they do, but sometimes they can use a bit of help. Just ask the cat owner who cleans up after a hairball has landed on the floor, bed cover or your shoes. Because the cat is used to grooming itself, they don’t like their owners manhandling them, unless of course you started when they were really young. How many people have done that?


Just like grooming a cat, anytime you try something new or challenging, there is that learning curve. The pain of getting scratched or worse, being disliked. Like the cat, you will get over it. No, you may not like it but once it’s done you do feel better.

When I started researching ‘my’ doctors, I ran into a lot of stuff, much of it did not even contribute to the overall information I was looking for. I had to clear the excess away and get to the basics. Even as I worked through the ‘women had a hard time’ scenario to get to the actual information, I found myself worrying about whether I would ever find the truth. I’m not saying women didn’t have a difficult time, but back then everyone had a difficult time compared to our lives. When we try to put our lifestyle against another it will always fall short of the other persons truth.  The fiction writer can get away with some of those comparisons, but for historians it can cause problems.


So as I groom my cat, and he starts purring, then wanting to play with the comb, I find pleasure in his response. As I groom away the excess in my research, I also find a great deal of pleasure. But lest you think that excess fur, and excess information are a total waste, you can use the excess to create something new. No, I don’t usually use cat fur, but it would be fun to glue onto something creative. The excess information I don’t use, well it can end up in a story. which is what I did with my latest short.  That titbit of information help me create Tom’s story, a follow up from my first novella, which will appear in an upcoming anthology.


So you see, even grooming the cat has rewards. Until next time, here is to your own joy in grooming your ‘cat’.

home for his heart angela raines

also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

Author Page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL

Photo and Poem: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

Blog: http://renawomyn.blogspot.com/ 

Lessons We Can Learn from Cats

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

As many of you know, most of the time I write about dogs. It’s not that I don’t like cats, it’s just that I seem to be “more successful” writing about dogs. I have five different stories published in five different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and each story is about a dog. I have submitted other stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul, including ones for their planned cat books; however, none of those submissions have been accepted for publication. So perhaps I’m not the “purr-fect” ‘caterwauler’ for these anthologies, but I do believe we can learn some valuable lessons from felines, observations and inspirations different from dogs, but important just the same.

Experts believe anywhere from 74 to 96 million cats are owned by people in the U.S. (but, can one truly “own” a cat??!). Two cats currently reside at my house. They are sisters, born of the same mother but most likely with different fathers. These two girls are NOTHING alike! They look different, they act different, and they don’t even seem to like each other (although they used to sit together or lie beside one another when they were kittens). Murphy is a long-haired black and white cat with a loving, outgoing personality (she was the runt of the litter interestingly enough); Bailey is a short-haired tortoiseshell who is quite independent and a bit timid around people, particularly strangers.

Murphy and Bailey as kittens.
Murphy and Bailey as kittens.

I’ve had cats most of my life, starting at age seven, and I’ve learned some great lessons from them. Here are a few:

  1. Take time to rest. Cats sleep a lot during a 24-hour day. In fact, some experts say healthy cats sleep 50 to 70 percent of the time! Even the big wild cats, such as lions and cougars, take cat naps, conserving their energy for those big kills they need to make to survive. Why do house cats that are well-fed and don’t have to hunt sleep so much? You got me – I guess they just know sleep is vital to one’s health!Bailey_Basket1
  2. Soak up the sunshine. Kitties often spend much of that nap time lying in the sun, basking in the warm rays like a beach queen. Sunlight lifts a person’s mood, especially during a long winter season as many of us have experienced this year!
  3. Taking a leap of faith is sometimes necessary. My cat Murphy likes to jump from the top of our deck to the patio below (scares me to death, I do admit!) She isn’t afraid of taking that leap of faith to get her to the destination she desires. Teaches me that although it’s scary, sometimes a leap of faith is just what we need to get to our next goal or place.murphy_deck rail
  4. Appreciate the little things in life. Ever notice how a cat can play with the smallest piece of paper or scrap of yarn? No bling needed to satisfy Fiona Feline!
  5. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and those you love. Remember seeing the video of the cat chasing off the dog that was attacking a young boy? http://kdvr.com/2014/05/14/watch-family-cat-saves-boy-from-dog-attack/Cats will defend not only the humans in their lives, but also themselves against attackers, (including their own sisters, in the case of my kitties!)
  6. It’s okay to desire love as well as to be independent. My two kitties epitomize that truth – even Bailey has become more of lap-sitter lately – yet both of my girls like their independence and “me-time.” Many relationships die due to someone being “too clingy” while most thrive when each person has interests separate from the other (case in point: my husband sings barbershop and participates in the Coast Guard Auxiliary while I attend writer’s group meetings/conferences and transport dogs for rescue, yet we also travel together and enjoy our cabin on the mountain as a couple as well as independently, and we attend baseball games together, especially when his favorite team is playing in Denver! He and I share interests separate from each other as well as together, maintaining our love through togetherness and independence.Gayle and Greg_Cardinals

So, I’m here to dispel the myth that Gayle only likes dogs – NOT SO! Although I did watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show earlier this month, I also watched Kitten Bowl II the day of the Super Bowl. I’m also writing this to remind people that cats are special too, and just like dogs need rescuing and adopting, so do kitties. In fact, studies show that only 2 percent of cats that are brought to shelters as strays are returned to their owners because (1) owners don’t come looking for them and (2) there is no identification on the lost cat by which to contact an owner. Additionally, nearly 41 percent of cats entering shelters are euthanized every year. It seems a large number of people think cats are “disposable.” A sad testament to the mind-set of many people.

In addition to the wonderful lessons we can learn from our feline friends, cats often are easier to care for than dogs (you don’t have to walk your cat or take it to the “cat park” for exercise, for example). So, if you’re thinking about adding a pet to your home, consider the more independent, yet still affectionate cat – there are a variety of breeds, colors, and temperaments, and there are thousands in our nation that need loving homes.

Learn more about cat breeds at http://www.catchannel.com/breeds/ and find a kitty in your area that needs a home through your local animal shelter, rescue group, or at www.petfinder.com.

bailey basket                                     Murph_backofchair


Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.


SageBigAdventureFront-small    SageLearnsShareFront-small   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

Lazy Dog

Jennifer FlatenThis blog post by Jennifer Flaten

I don’t care how old you are, it will always feel wonderful, and a little naughty to turn the alarm off, rollover and go back to sleep.

Since, today is the start of the kids’ thanksgiving break, I got do just that, the alarm went off, but I turned it off and went back to sleep since the kids are finally old enough to enjoy the joys of sleeping in too.

The cats, on the other hand, were not amused. They believe breakfast is late if it hits their dish at 3 minutes past 6a, so breakfast at 7 is completely unacceptable.

To make this point, Noodles, our youngest cat, positioned himself on the pillow next to me and stared at me. Pfff, that’s easy enough to ignore, I just rolled over.

Our senior cat, Pimento, really knows how to get stuff done. He plopped himself right on my chest and meowed pathetically until I got up.

I got up to feed the cats, but Ginger the dog did not. Ginger simply slithered from her spot on the bed to mine.

Ginger is a lazy, lazy dog. If two people are in bed and one gets up, she will stay in bed until the other person gets up. This is nice when my husband leaves early for work, not so nice when I get up to feed the cats, get the kids up and fed, and discover the lazy dog is still in bed.

On most days, Ginger staggers from the warm cozy bed into the living room then hops up on the couch with one of the kids and promptly falls back asleep.007

I am not used to such a lazy dog. Pepper, our first dog, was a charming mix of black lab and Brittany spaniel. He took his job as timekeeper very seriously. He made sure we got up at exactly 6a every day. If we tried to sleep in, he would stand at the foot of bed shifting his weight from paw to paw. Such a subtle sound but one guaranteed to drive you up and out of your bed.

When the girls were babies, if I got up in the middle of the night to tend to the babies, Pepper would get up with me and keep me company. He would also follow me out to the couch on the nights I battled insomnia.

The only thing guaranteed to drive Ginger from the bed is the sound of a cat bowl falling to the floor, especially in the morning when Ginger knows it is filled with canned cat food. She can be sound asleep, snoring even, but if a bowl hit’s the floor she snaps awake and zips into the kitchen to do clean up duty.

Still lazy or not I love that silly dog.

Follow me on Facebook
Browse my jewelry on Etsy


Jennifer FlatenThis blog post by Jennifer Flaten

This is a picture of persistence. 002

I know it looks like a picture of two cats, but really, it is a picture of persistence. The cat on the left is Pimento, our oldest cat and a former shelter cat. We got Pimento about 5 years ago from our local humane society.

He was from a cat hoarder’s house, one of 100 cats they removed. Due to the nature of the conditions Pimento lived in before we got him, it took a long time to integrate him into our household.

While he is warm and loving with immediate family, even tolerating our dog and then later our puppy Ginger, guests NEVER, see him. He disappears the minute the doorbell rings.

The cat on the left is Noodles; he is our “newer” cat. We also got him from a shelter. He is a former stray. Aside from being seriously underweight when we got him, there was nothing wrong with Noodles. He certainly wasn’t shy.

He had no problem integrating into our household. He loved us from the minute we brought him home. He even, dare I say it, likes the dog, but what Noodles really wanted was to be buddies with Pimento.

Pimento wanted nothing to do with him. In fact, Pimento ignored Noodles’ very existence for the first few weeks. When he couldn’t deny that Noodles was here to stay, he refused to let Noodles anywhere near him.

It was Noodles’ dearest wish that Pimento would be his friend. Noodles would try to eat next to Pimento at the food bowls and Pimento would bat him away. If Noodles tried to sit by him, Pimento would hiss. If Noodles walked by Pimento, Pimento would raise his paw in warning and Noodles would scurry away, but he always came back.

This went on for at least two months. Then one day, Pimento was napping on the couch and Noodles hopped up by him and settled in, there was no hissing and no raised paw. There was only two cats snuggled side-by-side on the couch. Persistence.

Follow me on Facebook
Browse my jewelry on Etsy