Cat Writers’, Cats, Crochet, Calvin, and Covid – Making Sense of it All

I shared this graphic a couple of weeks ago on a Friday but it remains true to the landscape of COVID-19. Just what day is it anymore?

The dichotomy is interesting and not one I’m entirely capable of expressing or even understanding. I’m living in the present, going through the motions of life, but somehow, I’m detached from it all, as if perhaps it’s happening to someone else as I watch it from the sidelines. Each day runs into the next with no real beginning or end, time seemingly defined by body counts, not days, with the only real marker of time the loud and persistent daily reminders from my cats who demand meals with regularity, showing no regard for my malaise or inability to comprehend the newly defined COVID-19 landscape all around me.

It’s happening. I know it’s happening. It’s on the news with nary a break in-between. It’s practically all anyone talks about on social media and when I go outside to catch a breath of fresh air, I’m greeted to what is now normal – glimpses of people in masks walking their dogs around the neighborhood and children riding bikes, also wearing masks. I also experience it on those rare trips ventured to the grocery store where the air is heavy, filled with the scent of panic so palatable one could touch it if not for fear of becoming contaminated.

My home office also bears witness to the new landscape. What was already a cluttered room filled with mountains of books, pictures, my computer and printer, cat-related Knick knacks, awards, and more is now becoming a claustrophobic, walls-closing-in space that began in earnest on March 20, the day I began working my day job remotely from home (something I thought would be a one or two week stint at most), bringing with me my laptop computer printer, and manilla files stuffed with what I considered my most needed papers at the time.

I’ve actually always wanted to work from home, but as an independently successful author who writes her own rules and schedule, but that never happened. Working from home for someone else was not the dream job I created in my mind, especially as everything about it is temporary and makeshift (I’ve got yard furniture acting as desk space, for example). While it’s amazing how much can be accomplished outside a physical office environment, it’s also been far more mentally taxing and challenging than I ever imagined, notwithstanding my cats are thrilled to have me home – Kizmet and Shadow – in particular, who report for duty every day, keeping me company for my full 9 to 5 shift. 

Without fail, every morning Shadow is ready to report for work with me.

I love having the company of Kizmet while working from home, despite that his napping on my keyboard and mouse at the same time renders me helpless to get anything done.

I’m an introvert by nature and with the overabundance of technology it never stops. I’m connected to work via a VPN system (Virtual Private Network) and it’s all day long endurance of Microsoft Teams meetings, text messages, emails, phone calls, and chat windows, to the point I don’t have time to get any actual work done and feel like I’m drowning by the end of the day. I’ve used my speaking voice more in the past month than I have in a year and it’s wearing me out emotionally and mentally. It’s also ironic – without driving to and from work, I have more time in my life to get other things done – important, productive things. But, the mind can be a funny thing and mine has a tendency to go on strike in times of duress.

It’s happened on the couple of occasions I’ve been laid off from work, it happens during hurricane season, and it’s happening now. I just don’t feel creative and I’m prone to aimless surfing on the internet, or watching too much television, or spending crazy amounts of time watching videos of someone carving animal shapes into watermelons (quite fascinating, actually) because I just don’t have the energy or wherewithal to do anything else.

Some of it is the genuine sadness of mourning what should have been and feeling sorry for myself, something I don’t like to do, but sometimes it’s impossible to be positive and cheerful all the time and I think as people, we have to allow ourselves the courtesy of feeling out of sorts and being okay with admitting that despite having a good life, with so many having it far worse, that it’s still okay to feel bad.

And how could we have ever predicted this to truly prepare ourselves? March started with the wonderful news from my son, Chris, and his husband, Jason, that the adoption they had been hoping for was going to happen, with the baby’s due date of March 20. I was working on a crochet project to celebrate his birth – an heirloom blanket to match the theme of his nursery – Snoopy and the moon. To create the design, I had to cross stitch thousands of tiny little “x’s” – it was an intense project – much more complicated than I anticipated and it was a race against time to complete it before he was born but I loved every minute of it, so looking forward to his arrival in our lives.

And the Cat Writers’ conference that I’d been planning for months that was going to take place in July in Iselin, NJ, in conjunction with the CFA/Garden State Cat Expo was really starting to shape up. I was just getting ready to announce our exciting speaker lineup as well as our plans to hold a mega book signing and fundraising event for Tabby’s Place, a wonderful organization in New Jersey that rescues cats from hopeless situations, with special needs cats the heart and soul of the organization.

Back then, I grasped that we needed to be cautious and I washed my hands with liberal abandon, but COVID was still something far away that affected other people and was primarily a bizarre situation that caused people to hoard toilet paper and paper towels and not the frightening pandemic we are all social distance living today.

It truly hit me on March 25th, the day my grandson Calvin was born. He would be coming home with Chris and Jason on Friday the 27th and rather than be there to meet him (we live about 20 minutes apart), to hug and kiss him, and hold him and tell him I loved him and that he meant the world to me, I had to celebrate his arrival through pictures and video. Social distancing was real. I wasn’t safe around my own grandson and my dreams of holding him were forevermore taken away from me. I knew I wasn’t alone – the world truly had something in common as so many of us had births, funerals, birthdays, and milestone moments that we could not be a part of in-person but it still hurt desperately and I couldn’t avoid crying crushing tears of pain.

I wasn’t able to meet Calvin when Chris and Jason brought him home, so I settled for making a collage and inserting a picture of me in it to make me feel better!

I had spent months and months crocheting and cross-stitching this heirloom afghan for Calvin, hoping to give it to him in person. Instead, I had to settle for mailing it to him and seeing a picture.

I also had to make the heartbreaking decision to cancel our CWA conference and awards banquet, but as President of the organization, I had no choice, as everyone’s safety had to be the priority. With so much uncertainty in the air, along with people understandably apprehensive and probably not wanting to travel, as well as the financial strain many of us are experiencing – all were reasons to move forward with a conference at some future date in 2021 to be determined.

As it currently stands, the convention center where the CFA/Garden State Cat Expo in NJ was supposed to be held, is now a makeshift hospital at least through May, possibly June, and the owners of the venue don’t have further knowledge past that, as the State took it over, which means the CFA has also canceled their show for this year.

While the right decision, it really hurt as I had such high hopes and great plans in store for everyone which has contributed in many ways to the underlying depression I’m feeling. But, it’s not in my nature to not find a silver lining. The world needs happiness and something to look forward to so we decided to still go on with our communications contest and will be hosting a virtual event to present MUSE Medallions and Special Awards to winners in a virtual celebration. We don’t have the date yet, probably still in July and even though it’s not ideal, I’m happy to be giving people a reason to smile, celebrate, support one another, and support our feline companions who are doing a mighty job lifting our spirits and keeping us company.

I’m also excited to say that we will also figure out a way to hold a fundraiser for Tabby’s Place during the virtual ceremony. With them currently closed to the public following a NJ Executive Order, they will need help more than ever to fund their cage-free sanctuary that provides their kitties with medical care, food, TNR needs, litter, toys, and so much more. 

So, like a cat that lands on its feet, we adapted. As has the world. Much of it is heartbreaking and there are many a day I’d like to start the morning with wine on my cereal instead of milk, but it’s also been heroic, creative, brave, and touching as we figure out ways to communicate and stay in touch with one another. I’m probably more in touch with family and friends than I have been in years as we connect through Zoom, social media, pictures, and videos.

Yah, sometimes tensions can rise in close quarters, and even my cats who bring me comfort and solace can get on my nerves with their territorial fighting as they are still adjusting to having a new cat in the house – our Shadow who’s been with us since last November. When you are cooped up, you realize 8 cats is a lot, and if we’re feeling cooped up, you can only imagine how they feel, considering they are cooped up 24/7/365, COVID or not.

So, I try to be a better cat mom. I spend more time with them. I pet them more. I talk to them more. I play with them more. And when they snuggle with me, it makes everything seem a bit better. And there has been some good, too. The earth is thriving with us staying home, inhaling the clean, unpolluted air with welcome joy and showing it’s pleasure with clear skies and pristine, sparkling water. Perhaps we may consider a compromise and have people work from home a couple of days a week moving forward just so our planet can take a break from the tolls of mankind and breathe.

Much of it is psychological, too. It’s not that I have anywhere to go and it’s not that staying at home is bad. I still eat every day, I still have a job, and I’m still blessed with a life rich with family and friends. It’s just the mental trauma the restrictions of social distancing place on us, coupled with the uncertainly of it all. And one-day things won’t be like this any longer. But they’ll never be the same again either. My first meeting with Calvin was through a glass window when he was 10-days old. It might seem strange now, but that’s the story of how his life began. We are all participants in a historic moment in life and all we can do is try our best to be better people as a result of it all.

Meeting Calvin in my typical cat-lady style! He was 10-days old in this picture!

Take care everyone and stay safe. Love and blessings to you all.

hearts

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  1. Jo Singer says:

    Howdy!

    I love reading your posts. I just feel so guilty-actually that I haven’t touched my blog since Sir Hubble Pinkerton passed. I keep hoping to get back to it- but-right now- (which would be a purrfect time) seems like just too much to handle. Too many things- pressing on my brain.

    So all I wanted to say is so happy to know you, and Marty says “Hi” too. For me, staying connected is critical.

    I can only begin to “grok” how disappointing it was to have to cancel the annual CWA event. I feel for you and those planning to attend. Take care, my friend and stay safe and well.

  2. I feel the same way about WFH, but like you , making the best of it with the ‘help’ of the kitties! Have a great week.

  3. Ingrid King says:

    You perfectly captured what so many of us are feeling. My heart is breaking for you that you are not able to hold your grandson – of everything you’re dealing with, that has to be the most difficult. Virtual hugs to you as you navigate this new temporary normal – I refuse to call it the new normal, because it’s unbearable to think that this is what life will be like for us going forward. Be safe and stay healthy!

  4. Hi Deb … even tho I am 76 yrs & retired, have not been out/about in just about 45-days now, so somehow you
    captured “my feelings” as well …
    But mostly I wanted to say that you truly brought tears to my eyes … having actually been at the birth of my three
    wonderful grands, the lights of my life … I hope and pray that it will not be too much longer now before you’ll be
    able to hold sweet baby Calvin in your arms for real and what a joy it will be. Congratulations to your son and
    his partner, and to you! A truly awesome event in an otherwise fairly dreary time … it is so heartwarming to know that good things are still happening …
    Ann

  5. caren says:

    First, HUGE congratulations on Baby Calvin!!!!!!!!! you are going to LOVE being a grandma and will be a fabulous one! Can’t wait until you are able to REALLY hold, hug and kiss him!!

    And…boy oh boy can I relate to this “the mind can be a funny thing and mine has a tendency to go on strike in times of duress”

    Maybe it’s a Libra thing……but…with all of this new, “free” time on my hands I am getting LESS DONE (other than constant cleaning, preparing grocery lists that now take over an hour to prepare because of doing it online)….and cooking. I am blogging less than I ever was and am reading blogs less. Why? Because of EXACTLY what you mentioned, in times of duress MY MIND GOES ON STRIKE. I am glad you defined this for me and am glad I am not the only one who experiences this! Everyone else seems so productive! I can barely focus 🙁

    Stay safe and healthy and hang in there……….one day this WILL all be over!

  6. caren says:

    OMG how could I NOT have commented on the GORGEOUS blanket you made! That is INCREDIBLE!! Just incredible and so beautiful!

  7. jmuhj says:

    As always, so eloquently said, Deborah! I’m a worker-at/from-home normally, but I’m still feeling all the things you wrote of, as are my roomies and my three beloved feline family members, who started picking up on the changed atmosphere at home early on.
    Congratulations to you and your son and his husband on the arrival of little Calvin! Being born into the world at this time will hopefully give him added strength and resilience. The gorgeous blanket undoubtedly helps as well as your colorful collage!
    Yes, so many great cat-centric events have been put on hold for now. We all look forward to them when it is safe.
    *And hey, @Jo Singer! How are you all doing?*

  8. We are purring for the day that things get back to normal…but honestly, we don’t think we’ll ever see the normal we used to have. We’re going to be living a new normal.

  9. Kitties Blue says:

    Dear Deb, Thanks for joining the hop. Some things go on without regard for our current circumstances. Being retired, I often have trouble knowing what day of the week it is, so that is not new. But I miss my friends and hugs. Congratulations on the arrival of your grandson. I pray you will soon have that all important, in-person meeting. A couple of weeks ago, one of our local hospitals closed the NICU, not even letting parents in to be with their newborns, all in an attempt to keep the virus out. Such a difficult situation for both the infants and their parents during a crucial time for bonding. Our world is topsy turvy, with the only good thing being the strain it has taken off our environment. Totally aware of how difficult some days can be with eight cats, especially having eight and one of them having regular seizures. We have a stay at home order until the end of June, which seems like years away. Please stay safe and healthy and try to keep your sanity! As has been said ad infinitum, “We are all in this together!” Best regards, Janet and Kitties Blue

  10. Ellen Pilch says:

    I am sorry you don’t get to hold your grandson yet. Congratulations! He is a beautiful baby. Stay healthy. XO

  11. Karen Nichols says:

    Here’s sending you a big hug from the left coast. I know all the incredible work you and others have put into planning the conference, and can only imagine what a kick in the gut it must be to have to cancel the event. But not to be able to hold your new grandson…wow, what a challenge…makes everything else pale in comparison.

    Amazingly, although my day-to-day life isn’t significantly different from my pre-covid life (now as then, I work from home, have groceries delivered, tend to keep my social distance), something has eaten my brain. Everyone else on the planet seems to have sprouted creative wings, yet I fall into the “what the heck day is it?” camp and am even more easily distracted than usual. Weird how the psychological elements play out. We’re lucky that we’re able to isolate completely and the only significant impact is not being able to see my mom who lives in a rest home nearby.

    Calvin’s afghan is just exquisite. You’ll get to hold that tiny little angel-boy in your arms soon enough!

  12. Congratulations on your grandchild! Calvin’s dads look over the moon happy!

  13. Thanks for sharing your always incredible posts. Congratulations on your cute grandson Calvin. Such an adorable little sweetheart. When we work from home some days and our kitties do the same thing your Shadow does. Have a fantastic rest of your week.

  14. laura says:

    am not blogging but HAD to sneak here to say CONGRATULATIONS to dads, gram maw, gram paw and the rest of the family…how cool is this !!! and speaking of cool, the blanket you made is epic ♥♥♥ nothing but happiness is wished for you all, for years and years; I hope your mother’s day gift is the ability to hold calvin and hug the dads♥♥♥

  15. meowmeowmans says:

    This new “normal” is so different, but we are doing our best to carry on. Our sweet Gracie and Ava are such blessings always, but even more during this time of the Coronavirus and working from home.

  16. Concatulations on your granddaughter. What a purrecious gift in a time like this😺Clean Pawkisses for a Happy Thursday to all of you. Stay Safe Healthy and Yourselfie🙏🐾😽💞

  17. Andrea says:

    I’m like Jo Singer, I haven’t blogged since Two-y’s passing. It’s just too hard. But things since then have really changed haven’t they. I work from home anyway as a writer but that has dried up a bit because I am having trouble contacting my sources. I have way too many appointments and meetings by Zoom and similar apps. I seem to be busier than ever even though things are closed. It is spring and I have a yard to care for. The cats need my attention and the sun is beckoning. That’s what gets me through it.