Brand New Start

Whew! It’s been two and a half weeks since I moved in to my new apartment. My old lease finally expired and I handed over the keys, so I’m absolutely done with that nightmare.

Let me start off by saying I feel like I’ve finally come home. This apartment is spacious, beautifully light and everything here works. My old place was missing many key features, my new place is the average, standard apartment with all features included. That means my own internet, tv and telephone, and my own hot water supply for the shower and kitchen. While I can hear my downstairs neighbors (as you can with most apartment complexes), they’re not being obnoxious. No more slamming doors, daily fights, weekly parties and so forth. My days are filled with peace and quiet.

I can definitely tell that having lived in my old place for 5 years has left its marks. I find myself lapsing into ‘worst case scenarios’ panic attacks over small things. If I drop a spoon by accident late at night, my first response is a bad panic attack and preparing myself for a visit from the police or bullying from the neighbors. I’ve even broken down crying twice over my cats playing and making noise, something that really isn’t an issue but that used to be an issue with my old neighbors, you know? It really shows how bad my life was and how terrorized I felt. The weird thing is that I never realized just how bad it was until I got the chance to move out, distance myself from that situation and compare it to what a ‘normal’ situation looks like.

The change of scenery was a bit tough to deal with at first. I don’t do change well, and I’m glad that moving took weeks to accomplish rather than mere days. I had to put flooring into my new place (houses in the Netherlands are usually offered ‘stripped’ – i.e. there is no flooring and there are no appliances, you have to bring it all yourself. It’s common for tenants to lay laminate flooring and then take it out when they move to put into the new place.) and paint a few walls before I could move my furniture over. It was mainly just my dad, me and my dad’s trailer moving all of my belongings over. We’re both cripples on disability with back issues, so we had to be super careful not to hurt ourselves in the process. One or two loads in a day was our max, and then we were done for for the rest of the day.

We managed to pull it off eventually! All my stuff is here now, I have a new bed (a cheap one from IKEA that is surprisingly sturdy and good quality for such a low price), I have almost all the appliances I need and my cats are all settled in as well.

I’m really happy that I’ve socialized my cats so well, too. They adapt to new environments very quickly because they’re used to traveling with me. I bring them with me to my parents’ and friends’ places, so they don’t fuss or get stressed from moving around. The first night, both of them were yowling at the door ‘to go home’, but by the second night they slept through the night without a hitch. That’s all it took for them to realize we live here now. 🙂

Let’s see, my birthday was last week on Easter Sunday. I had my family over for brunch and cake, just a quiet get together! I was still pooped from the whole moving business so I didn’t really invite anyone else. I got a knitting book from my boyfriend and ended up knitting a bunch of swatches from it!

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First off, I have to say I LOVE the book. I’m sure I can find most of these stitches online, but having them in paperback for on-the-go and in one big collection to flip through is so much nicer than browsing an endless online database and having no real way of bringing that with me. Some reviews on Amazon complain about the way the patterns are written. They’re not exactly conventional, in the sense that the written pattern is usually combined with the chart. You probably need to be able to work with both to make full sense of it.

For example, a chart will have 6 rows. The written pattern is setup in a slightly weird way by saying “Row 1 (right side) and every alternate row: knit like this. Row 2 and 6: Knit all stitches in the manner they present. Row 4: Cable row. These last 6 rows form pattern.” Which essentially a complete pattern, complemented by a correct chart, but it’s not the way most pattern books are written in my experience and it throws people off. However, if you read carefully and follow the patterns step by step, they work out absolutely fine. I haven’t found any mistakes yet and I love the variety in the patterns.

The only thing I’m not too keen on is the fact they include an edge stitch in every pattern, and count this edge stitch in their totals. If you’re like me knitting swatches with a 5 stitch garter edge, it can throw you off when you’re supposed to get to ‘the last 4 stitches, p3, k1 (edge stitch)”. Because I will only have 3 stitches left until I hit the garter border, so my first reaction is “I MESSED UP SOMEWHERE” when I didn’t. But I think that’s also something that I’ll get used to quickly. All in all this is an awesome resource book for knitters, and for its price you really don’t have to leave it on the bookstore shelf.

It also prompted me to knit my first cables ever. They’re something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now but never really felt inspired to get around to. There are so many variations and I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. I picked 3 slightly similar cables to work with and made the above swatches. No blocking because it’s leftover acrylic yarn that doesn’t block well, but it works out!

I wanted to see how cables behave in a fabric, with and without proper borders. Found out that the more stitches you cable (like a cable 6 versus a cable 4) the more they pull. My next swatch will be in the round to see how that works out for socks and the like! I’d hate to ruin a project by guessing wrong so I love knitting swatches.

Somewhere throughout the move I also managed to finish a pair of socks for a friend.

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I ran very quickly out of yarn for these socks for some reason. I’m not sure why, they’re not particularly big ,the gauge is the same as with all my other socks and it’s the same kind of yarn. But they turned out fine and I hope to be able to send them out soon. I might have enough yarn for my frankensocks too, I might incorporate some cables or lace from the book to make something different for once!

What have you all been up to? I’ve been so busy I didn’t really have time to get caught up with my blog feed, I’d love to hear summarized updates!

Still around!

I don’t have a lot of time for a full blog post right now, but I promise I’ll sit down and write this week. 🙂 I wanted to let everyone know I’m doing excellent. Since my last post, I’ve finally moved into my new apartment and I’m slowly getting everything sorted out. I missed out on group for a few weeks and today’s my first day going back. (I missed everyone so much!)

My cats settled in super quickly. The first night they were meowing at the front door trying to get out to ‘go home’, the second night they slept peacefully throughout and they haven’t looked back.

My babies having an early evening snooze.

I have internet at my new place which is 1000x better than my old connection. I can finally Skype with everyone again! All in all, I’m super excited to be here. I’ve already found so much more peace and my sleeping schedule is doing so much better than ever before. I can see myself living here for 5-10 years easily. 🙂

Grateful thoughts of the day

I’m grateful…

  • that I’m part of a knitting community that isn’t full of yarn snobs.
  • for having made so many connections with strangers all over the world, who share kind words and thoughts that I’d never have expected.
  • for a boyfriend who, despite my mental and physical illnesses and his frustrations for being so far away, sticks with me and makes real efforts to help me in whatever way he can without making me feel bad.
  • that I have a friend who keeps me productive and lets me earn a bit of extra pocket money to tide me over in difficult financial times, while being fully understanding of my problems and giving me the space I need. (Seriously, how many people can say they have such a lenient and awesome boss?)
  • for the craft of knitting; very few things are as satisfying as learning, creating and being proud of your creations!
  • for the friends in my life who I may not talk to every day, but who are there for me when the need strikes, and who pick up conversations with me as if we’d never been apart no matter how long it’s been.
  • for the friends in my life who listen to me ramble on and on every single day and never complain.
  • for my family, who may not be perfect, but who are always perfectly trying. ❤
  • for my fur babies for loving me unconditionally and being the best and most precious kitties I could have ever asked for.
  • that I’m capable of being independent in most areas of my life, even with my disabilities.

Sometimes life seems like it works really hard against you. At those times it can help to put things you’re grateful for in a list. We’re always far more blessed by life than we realize. I have many great things to live for, even when it seems there’s nothing but pain and struggling. Life is good if we allow it to be.

Keeping your cat indoors

It’s true that many cats who are outdoors can live long and healthy lives, but in my experience talking to cat owners who allow this, there’s also an incredibly high risk that they won’t live long and healthy lives.

As some of you may know, I have two wonderful cats for the past 3 years. A 4 year old gib and a 3 year old molly, if one wants to use the correct terms. (It really just means a fixed male and a fixed female but it sure sounds fancy.) One is white and deaf, the other is a relatively small tux, both European short hairs. As you can imagine, letting deaf and undersized cats outdoors is a bad idea by itself, but some of the reasons I wouldn’t let a big healthy cat go outside are pretty big too.

For starters there is traffic. I’ve seen enough dead cats smushed to pieces on the side of the roads and highways when I was still working and commuted daily. Then there are many acquaintances and friends whom have shared tragic stories of cats being lost to traffic more than once. I live in a country that fits 10 times in the state of California with a high density population of almost 17 million. There are no vast remote forests or deserts to live in here, the next city is 5 minutes over in most cases. But even if you live in a remote area, there are other things you need to look out for.

Predators. Whether those are (wild) dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes or other predators who can kill cats, there are a risk almost everywhere. I often hear people say “But my cat is smart/strong and stays away form them”, and I just shake my head. What if you cat gets caught up in a trap? What if they break a bone and can’t flee? There are so many reasons why a (hungry) predator will have the upper hand, it scares me to think people just shrug this possibility off as unimportant.

If it’s not other predators, what about other cats? FIV and other diseases are transmitted through fighting and reproduction. Not to mention the injuries that can be sustained from serious fights! I don’t know about you, but I really don’t enjoy seeing my furry babies be hurt, and I see no sensible reason in allowing that to happen when it’s not necessary.

There’s also a reason you need to be careful with indoor cats and plants – many plants are toxic, and quite a few of them are appealing to cats to nibble on and ingest. It’s not uncommon for them to be poisoned this way and either suffer immensely or even die. Indoors you can control the plants you keep (and even keep plants that are specifically for them to nibble on without any negative side effects).

Let’s not forget that the world is inhabited by really terrible people. Every now and then a story pops up in the newspaper that tells us about how a local cat population was poisoned, abused, tortured or even killed by some animal hating psychopath who found outdoor cats to be the most easily accessible victims for their sick pleasures. Even if your cat is shy towards strangers, it can still be caught in a trap. If your cat is friendly towards strangers, what will stop it from approaching? You can’t teach your cat to not take candy from a stranger the way you can teach a child.

But cats are SUPPOSED to be outdoors! It’s cruel to keep them inside!

This is a popular argument used for outdoor cats, and it’s one that is incredibly easy to debunk. No, cats are domesticated animals. If you put some time and effort into making your home suitable for cats and you work with them, you can meet ALL their natural needs and have a content cat who is not left wanting for a single thing. Saying a cat is a wild animal that needs to be outside is like saying our dogs need to be dumped outside to do as they please because they’re ‘just like wolves’ and can fend for themselves. By domesticating animals we’ve inevitably removed their ability to fend for themselves – domestication means they rely on humans to exist and thrive.

Territory – Simply place cat furniture around the house to give them their own territory to mark. Cats mark with numerous glands on their bodies, including the cheeks and paws. Scratching posts in different parts of the house are a good start. Tall cat trees work too. It’s also useful (and fun) for cats to have accessible, high shelves where they can observe their domain in peace. This will create confident cats who have their own territory established and are content with what they have.

Hunting – Play time meets hunting needs. Get feathers, mice or other toys on strings on a stick and trigger their instincts to hunt. If you exhaust them to the point where they lay down and rest or pant, you’ve met their need to hunt until tired. Following play time you can feed them (to reward them with their ‘caught prey’) after which they will groom themselves and go to sleep. If you do this in the morning when you get up and before bed time, they will also adjust to your schedule and not keep you up at night either.

Exercise – I know people feel silly doing this, but put some time into getting your cat to walk on a leash. If you have a kitten, get a small harness and get her used to it as soon as you can. Most cats will be very dramatic and first and ‘drop dead’ and act like they can’t move. Don’t be fooled by this! Before you attach the leash, get them used to the harness. Feed them treats and stimulate them to move while they wear the harness for about 5-10 minutes, then remove it and reward them with pets, verbal praise and playtime. Create a positive association. Do this daily and increase the duration until they move naturally and don’t even realize they’re wearing the harness anymore. If you create a positive association not a single cat will mind the harness, so it’s up to you to make ‘harness = good thing’ a reality. Don’t give up. After this you can attach the leash and go outside. Put your cat down and let it take the lead at first. It will be cautious if it’s not used to being outdoors, but if you do this every day it will become more confident and start walking. Give gentle tugs to encourage a walk and eventually your cat will understand that you’re taking a stroll together. (Please don’t drag your cat across the floor. If necessary use low-calorie treats to encourage your cat to walk). This is not always an easy process, especially on older cats, but I’m confident that every cat can do this. It’s a great way to get exercise in for your cat and let it experience the outside world without all the risks that are involved with it.

These are 3 basic needs that every indoor cat is met with if the owner puts effort into it. Many indoor cats are happy and fulfilled, but it’s no uncommon for pet owners to neglect their pets and let them fend for themselves out of laziness. There’s really no excuse for having an unhappy indoor cat.

To make matters even more shocking, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is anywhere between 13-20 years. An outdoor cat is only expected to live between 3-5 years, and that’s being generous. Do some outdoor cats exceed this and live happily? Sure. But a vast majority don’t, otherwise the average expectancy wouldn’t be so heartbreakingly low.

My cats are my babies. I don’t plan on having children of my own, but I consider my pets to be my children. (Don’t worry, I still treat them like cats, but I won’t deny the bond I have with them is extremely deep and as close to being my children as it gets.) When I research the risks outdoor cats have, a piece of me dies as I try to imagine letting my cats go outside. It’s so unnecessary, they go everywhere with me (to friends and family, on walks and so forth) so they see a lot of the world, I play with them, they are comfortable and confident with their territory – they aren’t unhappy in the slightest. They’re very happy, very relaxed, very easy going and content. Why would I even bother taking all these awful risks? There’s no benefit for them outside.

This is why I strongly encourage cat owners to keep their cats indoors. It’s up to everyone how to live their lives, but really, are all these risks worth it? These are not children who can be taught how to cross the street, which people are trustworthy, what plants are safe and which are not. They’re animals who act on instinct, even if they’re incredibly smart and do things that amaze us. When it comes down to it they are vulnerable creatures in a harsh world. We’re their guardians. We should be guardians in every aspect, not just by name.

Will I think poorly of an outdoor cat owner? I will be unhappy with it, but I won’t judge. I’m doing what I think is best for my babies and I know there are people who will disagree with me, just as I disagree with them. That’s fair enough for me. I just hope that this post will be useful to cat owners and cat owners to be and help make an informed decision. I’m not a cat expert but I am very knowledgeable and have very well trained cats, so if you have any questions about anything in this post, please leave a comment.

Here are some resources that have some extra information on the matter, too.

http://www.cat-world.com.au/indoor-vs-outdoor-cats

http://www.vetinfo.com/indoor-outdoor-cat-life-expectancy.html#b

http://isp.netscape.com/homerealestate/feature.jsp?story=catmyths

Isn’t this a shit storm?

I’m so beyond exhausted and depressed. The whole process of starting up trajectories for disability, social work, debt counseling, getting someone to take over all my finances and charting how much I owe everywhere feels like being bulldozed into the ground every single day. The only reason I’m still doing it is because the choice has been taken out of my hands and I’m not doing this alone. If I was, I’d probably have crawled into a hole again and hidden from the world. Hopefully within the next 4-6 weeks my disability will be paid to me again so I can afford to live and work off that. One step at a time.

A debt collector came by last week and took possession of over half my furniture. Their intention is apparently to sell, but I’m mind boggled as to how they’re going to try and justify all the expenses with stuff that’s not even worth €300 when combined. Half of it is severely worn down and damaged by my cats (does anyone really want to pay money for 4 red chairs of which 2 are partially broken and all of them are scratched to the point where stuffing is falling out?) and the rest is just… old. Everything I own is second, third or even fourth hand. My microwave’s display is broken.

The debt I owe to this company is 1.2K. The debt collector racked that up with another 1.3K (totalling 2.5K) by going through the process of claiming my possessions, making a list and putting out ads to sell it all. They won’t even make back the money to put out ads if they do manage to sell it all.

The bastards didn’t even have the audacity to write down my dryer. Damn thing is broken and useless and I’ll happily get rid of it, but out of all the things I own that’s the ONE thing they didn’t write down. Ugh.

To top everything off, I miss my boyfriend terribly and don’t know what to do with myself half the time, and my cat’s health is going up and down so much I’m not certain how long I can put off a vet visit. I’ve managed to collect €90 for the vet bill, but I don’t want to go in until I have at least €150 to cover all possibilities. And then I still need about another €150 for any follow up treatments, as experience has proven that I can’t allow too much time to pass between the vet visits due to everything starting up all over again. If you have a couple of spare bucks lying around to help my cat get better, please check out my fundraiser.

Honestly, I’m amazed I haven’t had a massive breakdown yet. Thank god for knitting and gaming.