Cats, Crocheting, and Computers – The New Neighborhood of my Life

As with anyone in my generation, I grew up playing outside in my neighborhood until I was called in from the distance by my Mother for supper. We were probably playing some sort of game that involved nothing more than a simple ball, but my siblings and I were completely engrossed in whatever game we had invented for the day. This is not the world our current generation lives in and I can’t judge them for their seeming obsession with television, computers, video games, and cell phones, because that is how they are growing up and that is their reality. Tell them to go outside and play with a ball for hours and you are certain to get that teenage glare of utter exasperation at the stupidity of your suggestion.

A vast sea of cell phones that become more obsolete with each passing second...

I recall my teenage moment when I rolled my eyes into the back of my head when my grandfather told me about walking a mile to school without shoes in the winter. I also recall getting “the look” from my oldest son when I told him when I grew up, we did not have a microwave. The look implied, first of all, “who cares,” and secondly, “I can’t relate.” Whatever…

Between my early childhood to my mid-thirties, I had moved several times and lived in numerous states and settings from extremely remote and rural, to downtown, to suburbia. The one thing in common with each neighborhood, I always knew who my neighbors were. Sometimes it was because of the friendships generated through my boys who always had friends dropping by, or sometimes it was the adult friendships that brought such wonderful traditions as sharing a cup of coffee or a neighborhood barbecue. You always knew you could pick up the phone if there were an emergency, and even if you didn’t like a particular neighbor, you still knew who they were by name and sight. The friendships were not necessarily born of common interests or shared passions, but the simple implied bond of the street you lived on.

Zoey, Harley, and Mia are perfectly coordinated against the warm and neutral colors that compliment the afghan I made for our living room couch. My favorite time of the day is when I finally call it quits and have the furry gang come snuggle on my lap with the afghan keeping my toes warm!

Throughout the weave of all those years, all those neighbors, and all those moves, was the pattern of my life that was held together by a patchwork of cats and crocheting projects. I had always been a relatively shy, reserved, and quiet person and somehow the relationship I had with my cats and a ball of yarn seemed the perfect company for me to ponder life in my own private way. My cats never judged me, always took me at face value, and I often felt their company far superior to many a human I had encountered. I felt a comfort and quiet beauty in each skein of yarn and found it to be a soothing metaphor for the patchwork of life and not just the patchwork of a blanket I was crocheting. Somehow all of these unique colors, textures, and yarn weights were able to coexist in harmony, as do the people of a neighborhood community.

The kittens - Rolz, Mia, and Peanut at about 3 months old, who, along with a crocheting project, helped inspire me to write my book.

It seemed like so many events in my life could be traced back to whatever afghan I was making at the time and what cat(s) were napping on my lap with me. Some afghans were made quickly for a special occasion, such as a baby gift, and some, like the one that became pivotal to my dream of writing my first book, took me over 10 years to finish. Somehow in all that time, it still waxes me sentimental and I have leftover balls of yarn to this day I cannot part with that are tucked away in a wicker basket that holds all of these cherished remnants.

I now find that I cannot judge the younger generation, as I have become them. I still have my bond with my cats and my crocheting, but my neighborhood now consists of the network of friends I have made because of my computer. I am not terribly proud to admit this, but I can honestly say with the exception of the man who lives across the street from me, I have no idea who any of my neighbors are. I literally get up in the morning, drive to work, and then drive home 10 hours later. Once I am home, I am utterly exhausted and my world consists of my family, Dan, my cats, and increasingly, the endearing relationships I am garnering from social networking as I try to build up my blogging and writing career before I go to bed and start all over again. I am attached (addicted) to my technological devices and because of that, my neighborhood is now a new patchwork collage of uniqueness, but rather than it being constructed of the people coming and going on my block, it is a patchwork of like-minded peers that I have bonded with due to our love of a common passion – cats. And from that common passion comes very similar passions, such as reading, writing, books, blogging, and crocheting (or knitting, if you so prefer).

I know the neighborhood cats far better than the people - I call this bruiser who is touring our backyard, Major.

And this is all due to the technology I was so quick to dismiss at one point in my life as not being important. I called that my crotchety “Andy Rooney stage” as I scoffed at Twitter, I rebelled against facebook, and I refused to get a LinkedIn account. Now, well, let’s just say that I am the “Queen of the Refresh Button” and I can’t imagine going a day without checking my emails and my facebook notifications. I have wonderful treasured friendships and relationships with people, that in the scheme of things, would appear to be virtual strangers, but through the relationships we have built through the written word, they know me better than some people who have known me for years…

Currently, I am working on an afghan for my office. You will note the conspicuous absence of cats... trust me, it is temporary!

The simplicity of my cats and crocheting remains constant, but most ironically, all our modern technological conveniences that are supposed to make our lives simpler, have done just the opposite. While fascinating and not something I care to give up, life actually seems far more stressful, complicated, and harried than ever before. I am actually thinking a nice cup of morning coffee with a neighbor would be a rather delightful treat…

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  1. Ingrid King says:

    What a wonderful post, Deb! I, too, have come to social media kicking and screaming, and now, it plays such a key part in my life, both professionally and personally, that I can’t imagine my life without it. I marvel at the relationships and often real friendships that have formed from these online connections – yours being one of those treasured friendships.

    And every time I see that photo of you crocheting with the cats in your lap, I marvel at the fact that your cats will let you crochet in peace. I occasionally try to knit, but the only way that would be possible at my house would be to lock myself into a room away from Allegra and Ruby (and that’s just not going to happen)!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Ingrid. You are certainly one of the wonderful friendships I have made as well. As far as the cats, what you see in the photo is the cats AFTER they have settled down for a content slumber – there is much yarn chasing and unraveling up to that point! The crochet hook will usually fall on the floor, as will several balls of yarn that land under the couch!! So, don’t let these little Angels fool you!

  2. Bonnie says:

    Love this, so relatable. We too have little to do with our neighbors right around and us. Ironically enough, the neighbor I am closest to has a backyard connected to ours and how do we communicate? No, not over the fence, but by FB! When our schedules don’t collide, we do find time to take a power walk together which I cherish.

    I go through phases from time to time where technology becomes a nuisance and I try not to give into it as much as I do. I took a bread from FB just last week and I was completely miserable (but boy did I get a lot done! LOL).

    I think you’re better off to go with the flow of the times and nature while still clinging to the old things too, it’s a nice balance.

    I love your afghans, and the one in the last photo you’re working on is amazing, I love the sunflowers! I wish I had your talent.

    • Deb says:

      Bonnie – that is so interesting about how you communicate more with your neighbor on FB than in person! It reminds me of the Holidays when all the kids come to visit. Sometimes the only communication going on in the house is the flurry of all of us emailing and texting people, when those we love are right in front of us and we can actually talk to them!!! Thankfully, we do combine the flow of the times and always revert back to our favorite activity – playing board games together. No technology in the world can top a good game of Clue!

      Thank you regarding the afghans – I love the current one I am making too – you are absolutely correct, it is a sunflower pattern and the colors are just so rich and warm that you feel snuggly just looking at it!

  3. Bonnie says:

    Oh and PS, I had a light bulb moment this morning after exploring your sight a little more and I am getting your book for my mama for Mother’s Day, she loves biographies and non-fiction and she ADORES kitties (her little midget cat Paulie is the love of her life and brings her much happiness). So thanks, I’ll let you know how much she loves it!

    • Deb says:

      Oh Bonnie! That is so sweet and such a great idea for a Mother’s Day gift – thank you for sharing that idea and I am certain she will fall in love with all the stunning photos and artwork in the book!

  4. Bernadette says:

    Deb, you know I can relate to the cats and crochet! I love the photo where one of them is stretched out between your legs–apparently this is why humans are shaped the way they are–and the two curled next to you under your elbow. The only reason I can get away with playing with yarn and not sharing my toys is: 1) Cookie taught them that my toys were my toys whether it was a brush or yarn or a piece of paper; and 2) they know I’m making the thing for them and they’lll get it eventually anyway.

    But I also relate to the virtual friends, having worked on a computer since the late 70s and experiencing its beginnings as a communication device long before I had a computer at home, I came to see it as my way to freedom from the day job because I could display my art and do my graphic design work–from home! I have long-distance friendships that go way back because of the people who found my very first animal portraits website all those years ago, and my first freelance design customers; it was all for the sake of business, but became a place for friendship I’d never imagined. Once social networking came along it was a chance to reacquaint with friends who’d moved away and then meet friends of friends and new friends, like you and Ingrid and so many more. I still dig my heels in at all the “other” electronic devices aside from a computer (including a TV) but don’t know how much longer I can hold out. But how nice to be able to get up on a rainy Saturday morning and read and share stories with two friends while still in my jammies!

    • Deb says:

      Bernadette – as you must have guessed by now, you were my muse for this post and the friendship we have been forming has caused me quite a bit of reflection about life!

      I love that your cats feel you are making the thing for them – that is absolutely how they think and once I finished the project of the one where they were stretched on my legs, as soon as I put the blanket at the foot of the guestroom bed where it resides, ALL the cats came to lay territorial rights to it!!!

      All of my computer endeavors began for the sake of business as well, and I am completely taken aback as to the people who have also found me and the new friends I have made… Here’s to a cup of morning coffee together my friend!

  5. RumpyDog! says:

    I love social media! But I can so relate to changing times, and the demands of online interactions.

  6. Brian says:

    I am not sure how we got into social media but we sure have gathered tons of friends! Have a very happy weekend everyone!

  7. Marg says:

    That was a great post Deb and it is so true about our internet friends. It is so rewarding to have friends all over the world that we wouldn’t have had 40 years ago. I really enjoy all my wonderful blogging friends and everyone is so supportive. Have a great week end.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Marg – I feeled as blessed as you do to have so many wonderful friends due to the Internet. For example, if you had told me years ago that I would be making friendships in Japan, I never would have believed you!

  8. Vicki Cook says:

    You certainly are not alone in how your relate to the world. I am by nature an introvert, so it’s normal for me to spend most of my time by myself. I know the neighbors who live on either side of me and across the street to say “hi” and not much beyond that. There is no common bond that draws us together except one couple who lives next door has cats.

    Sometimes, we will sit outside and talk about our “furkids”. We both feed and shelter outdoor cats. If one of my indoor cats slips outside, they always come over to let me know and offer to help me find them. Last summer when I took in a pregnant female, they watched the kittens as they grew up and helped me find good homes for them. They even offered to split the cost of having the mother spayed. So in real life, as on the internet, my relationships seem to revolve around cats!

    • Deb says:

      Vicki – I have lived in my current house since 1996 and when I had dogs, I found that I knew more of the neighbors, because any time one of them would escape, they would help me find them! I would do the same for them, and that would be our common bond. Since I only have indoor cats now, that has all changed. I used to see people outside landscaping, but even that has gone away. I think everyone is just so busy in their own little worlds…

  9. What a wonderful post this is. I love how you interweave the different aspects of your life into one cohesive story. It’s really becoming more and more common for people not to know their neighbors, and I guess the digital age is a large part of that. But I couldn’t imagine a life without my computer and the internet. For me, it’s nice to work at home — alone but for the company of cats — yet still be able to feel “connected” to so many people all over the world.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Julia – I really enjoyed writing this post, and although I wax nostalgically for the past, I must say I feel so personally fulfilled in the present. And yes, one is never alone in the company of a cat, especially when it is a cat on your lap as you connect on the computer!

  10. How beautifully put, Deb…It’s hard for people who are introverts like myself and I suspect you to just be constantly social and out there and it is a fine balance to find that niche where we can be “in real time” with our neighbors and other family members and connecting to so many incredible souls in the virtual world we may have never met. Cat people tend to connect in very different ways than most others and I too struggle with checking in with myself about how I’m feeling in my social life vs. that quiet place of contentment spend with my cats and a few close friends. Thank you for writing this.

    • Deb says:

      You are very welcome Wendy and I am not surprised this post touched you as it touched me. Yes, despite me constantly baring my soul to the world as of late on my blog and through the book, I am an intorvert and very private. I have just come to the realization that my writing can actually inspire and help other people, so that is why I am willing to open up with such honesty. Cat people really are a special blend of personality and I am so blessed for all the friends I have made becasue of mine.

  11. This resonated with me on several levels. I’d blogged last week about not knowing most of my neighbors and by trying to find Mystery Miss’s owners, I’d connect with more of the community. I finally did find MM’s owners ( I use that word deliberately) and it didn’t go as planned. I long for the days when neighbors did drop by for coffee but now we need to coordinate a simple coffee date as if planning a wedding or corporate takeover! Have a great weekend and purrs from our gang to yours.

    • Deb says:

      Oh Layla, so, so, true… While I love my social networking friends, there was nothing nicer than meeting people such as yourself in person, like we did at CWA. I truly wish we could share a simple cup of coffee and did not have it center around airfare, hotel reservations, and all the rest! But, since it is what it is, I am grateful for the “coffee time” we share via our blogs and emails. You have enriched my life and I wish you a wonderful weekend as well.

  12. Cheysuli says:

    Does the Woman have friends offline? Actually since moving from Vancouver she has relied more and more on her computer friends. In fact, one reason she considers doing something like working a few hours a week at a Starbucks or a pet store or some place is so that she will get face to face, person to person interaction with someone other than the baristas at Starbucks! Of course, our neighborhood is new so there aren’t many people around yet. However, without children, even if she were friendlier, there are so many people doing the 10 hour day and ready to drop that it’s hard to know who your neighbors are.

    • Deb says:

      It really is a complicated world we live in Chey. The idea of working part-time somewhere is a really good one and probably will be very good for the Woman. If I did not have to worry about paying the bills, I would ideally work a few hours a week in a place like a craft store to interact with people, then spend the rest of my time concentrating on my writing and making the world a better place for kitties!!

  13. Reba Messina says:

    Hello you 3 beauties! Thought I would drop by on this hoppin’ Saturday. I have a contest going to win a beautiful kitty collar or lead on my blog. Hop on over and enter!

  14. Mommy feels the same way! We love our internet friends. Interestingly, it’s really something that her work encouraged her to do years ago, since she works for a company that’s all about the human connection. (And those connections are happening to an increasing degree online!)
    But she likes the warm months so she can go out on the weekends and interact with the neighbors on occasion.
    WE don’t like that so much, though, cuz she leaves us inside *heavy sigh*….

    • Deb says:

      Always give and take, huh Ryker’s Boyz ‘n’ Allie!! Thank you for the photo love! Dan is a pro and I must have a million favorite pictures!! Hmmm… just how many cases is it now that you have submited against your poor mama who just put an AWESOME Super Cat Highway in your house??!!!

  15. Carolyn says:

    I haven’t read any of the other comments yet, Deb, but just wanted to say that can we all curl up with you and the kitties on the virtual afghan you’ve created? A wonderful post I totally agree and would you believe it, my very next blog post will be something along the same lines!!!??? Well it is about gadgets and modern life anyway. However, it is not nearly so well written :)

    Now I will go and see what everyone else has said :) xox

    • Deb says:

      Carolyn – if I can get Zoey to agree to share some space, you are more than welcome to come snuggle with us! I am glad you enjoyed the post and look forward to what you have up your sleeve!! I am certain it will be highly entertaining!! :)

  16. FINALLY!! I was able to stop and read this and I am so thrilled that I did…lovely, just lovely!

    Believe it or not i didn’t learn to use a computer until the late 90s…didn’t know how to upload video or photos til approx two years ago. I also kicked and screamed in reference to LinkedN, Facebook and mostly Twitter.

    Now…I find myself feeling lost if I can’t “check in”…online. Like you, some of my most treasured friends have come from the online blogging world (both dog and cat friends), I even met my husband online! I literally had met him ONE DAY after I got my first computer.

    But…the difference with me (I attribute it to nosiness lol) is that I DO know my neighbors. Often i wish I didn’t but for some reason people always congregate around me. I get to experience the joys of both worlds when often all I crave is solitude and someone to teach me to make an afghan :)

    • Deb says:

      Caren – I would give anything to be one of your neighbors – I consider our email chats the next best thing, but there is just something special about the “congregation!” I think you would enjoy crocheting, it does bring you to a calm center, which is so critical for us Libra’s. It is not had to learn – much easier than knitting (for me) and I would be happy to teach you!

      I know what you mean about the videos and photos – I’m just learning all of that myself and looking back, a lot of my early work has much room for improvement!! Oh well… thanks for stopping by to chat and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  17. I can TOTALLY relate to the metamorphosis of my *neighborhood.* I remember laughing at friends for using Facebook, citing that it was just another MySpace…something that had no relevance in MY life.

    Well I have two words: WHAT HAPPENED!?

    And the answer has introduced me to friends and neighbors all over the world. It’s not just Facebook. Facebook for me has been merely an extension. …it’s really the pet blogging community that has expanded my world. A community of wonderfully passionate, giving people with a shared love.

    Wouldn’t want it any other way!
    ~Glogirly

  18. Marlene says:

    I love this article. Neighborhoods are not what they used to be. As a kid growing up I felt safe in my neighborhood because everyone was looking out for everyone else. Today’s world is quite different. The neighborhood seems to consist mostly of email and Facebook and other social media friends. My immediate family consists of four cats, all rescues. I feel closer to them than I do to humans, I guess because we are together day and night.

    I know who my neighbors are and could probably reach out to any one of them is I needed to. But I do not visit with them on a daily basis. Things certainly are different these days. Are they better? I am not so sure. I do however treasure the friends I do have even though they are not great in number.

    Thanks for this article.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for stopping by Marlene to share your thoughts. This post really touched a nerve with me too, as I also question if things are actually better. Certainly a very provocative subject matter and one that seems to be changing in scope each and everyday as technology seems to be evolving in warp speed…