The Chipmunk Has Not Expired…

Dominic the cat carrying a chipmunk

Appearances to the contrary, I wanted to let you all know that I’m still around and plan to blog again. I’ve just been having a bit of an extended break. As a chronically sick person living with someone who is even more chronically sick than I am, this is sometimes necessary.

Dominic recently presented me with (hmm… a coded message perhaps?), and I feared you all were thinking the same thing.

It turned out my fears for the chipmunk in the photo were premature, I’m happy to say. When Dom got closer, I realized the poor thing was still alive! (It hadn’t looked that way to begin with, and that was why I’d tastelessly bothered to snap a pic on my phone.) Then mayhem ensued after I dropped the phone and tried to encourage him to drop the chipmunk (he growled and ran with it).

Then it dawned on me. He’s lazy. He might prefer canned.

So I scurried into the house and returned with one of his favorite flavors of Fussy Feast and loudly opened it near him. He dropped the chipmunk. The chipmunk ran like hell toward some trees and looked remarkably ok.

Fortunately for Dom’s prey, but less so for Dom, he has no canine teeth and had just had his nails trimmed the day before.

Chipmunks will prevail.


Young Larry circa 1999.
Young Larry circa 1999.

One day in January in 1999 I looked out the window and saw a black cat running across the yard toward the house. At that time, we had four cats, including a semi-feral stray who’d suddenly appeared a month before and had moved in with us. She was a black cat with a round and compact sort of build. We’d named her Lila.


However, this black cat was long and sleek, with big ears and lanky limbs. This was definitely not Lila. I went out to investigate. The long black cat ran up to me and began to frantically rub against my legs, over and over again. (A friend who’d dealt with abandoned animals in his job later told me that dumped cats will do this. He was hungry and scared.)

My husband Victor appeared, saw the cat and exclaimed, “What is this? Lila’s cousin Larry?!” The name stuck. And so did the cat.

We weren’t really excited at the prospect of 5 cats, but what could we do? Larry would position himself at the back door and wail pathetically in a soulful voice that could be heard throughout the house. He had chosen us.

Lila never cared much for Larry.
Lila never cared much for Larry.

I think the moment I fell in love with him was when, a few days after his arrival, I saw him wetting his paw in the water bowl in the kitchen, then reaching up behind his ear to wash himself. I’d never seen a cat wet his paw for a bath before. He was adorable, this gangly, yet elegant-looking cat, dunking his paw and washing up after dinner.

Larry circa 2011.

There were quite a few things about Larry that weren’t like most other cats. He was so smart and had such an expressive voice, it was sometimes almost eery. He would talk at me and I to him. If I asked “Do you want to take a nap?” he would sprint to the bedroom and hop up to his spot on the bed, waiting for me.

Larry is featured in Superstition
Larry is featured in the artist’s book Superstiion.

Larry has been mentioned and given credit in at least a couple of my artist’s books, including A Cat’s ABC and Superstition, an edition I’m still assembling for Book Art Object. He was my feline muse.

He had beautiful eyes that changed color from green to yellow, depending on the setting. Through the years I used to tell him that it wasn’t fair, what he’d done to me. Someday he was going to cause my heart to be ripped from me, and I hadn’t gone out looking for that. He’d just appeared and made me fall in love with him.

Larry's Green Eyes
Larry’s Green Eyes

The other cats who’d already been in residence before the arrival of Lila and Larry were older. Over the following years they passed on, and eventually we were left with the two black cats. Or, rather, we had his ‘n her black cats. Lila barely tolerated me but adored Victor. Larry barely tolerated Victor, but he and I were a bonded pair.

My kitty.
My kitty.

Four years ago, Dominic showed up in the yard, just as Larry and Lila once had. And then came Steve, a moment of kitten madness on my part two years ago. Larry grew old and was afraid of the vigorous and playful Steve. I felt guilty for doing that to Larry, the cat who was more a soulmate to me than a cat. But we still managed to all coexist.

Dominic and Larry
Dominic and Larry

Lila grew ill and passed away roughly a year and a half ago. We spent our 20th anniversary that December burying her in the garden. I realized that almost every photo I had of her was either of her with Victor, or of her sitting vigil waiting for him. Such sadness.

Larry’s sleek black whiskers all turned white. His heart began to fail and he grew frail. He was taking almost as many medications as we do. The last time we saw his regular vet, her face grew grim as she listened to his chest. “It won’t be long… months, not a year.” And she warned us to prepare for the likelihood of a sudden death.

Three days before he died.
A few days before he died.

I discovered that “sudden” is a relative term. A blood clot, it turns out, is not a particularly peaceful way for a cat to leave this world. My beautiful, smart and devoted Larry has died of a broken heart, and he has taken a piece of mine with him.

What do people post? Cute cat photos, of course.

I’m behind with everything. Among other things, I’m still working on the BAO editions, which I’d absolutely planned to have done and mailed by now. Being chronically sick often means turning into the sort of irritating, antisocial flake I never planned to be.

Steve watching TV
But I also had to take some time out to tame the studio a bit. I simply couldn’t work in there anymore. I plan to post some pictures later of my organizational progress. For now, I am getting back to assembling books. I’m currently folding … and folding … lots of pages.

I’ve also made a new banner and spiffed up the blog a bit, you might have noticed.

Steve bird watchingIn the meantime, I thought I’d post a couple pics of my cat Steve. What else is the internet for, if not for cute cat photos? If you’ve been following for a while, you might remember that he came to us last year as a little 4-month old kitten. As you can see, he is now a strapping 12+ pound cat who¬†loves to watch TV.

A few nights ago he sat mesmerized for a full half hour in front of a documentary about tigers (until the scene where a cub killed his first prey — then he went wild with excitement and started tearing at his feather toys).

Here, he is enjoying one of his favorite YouTube videos. What does this have to do with books or paper? I haven’t a clue. It’s just one of those cat lady things.

Happy New Year!


This is the front of a postcard I concocted in Photoshop for a recent exchange with friends in my local book arts guild, NORBAG. The lucky black cat is Steve the kitten.

The actual item was inkjet printed on plain old Strathmore Bristol which, surprisingly to me, sometimes works quite well for this purpose. And the printouts don’t scratch easily, as they do with coated papers meant for inkjet. It’s not suitable for everything — graphic-type pieces like this tend to come out best.

Happy, lucky New Year everyone!

I have not been abducted by aliens

I’ve been feeling quite a bit under the weather recently while having a lot to get through. I took a break for a while. I hadn’t meant for it to turn into two months.

One of the things on my plate had been yet another appeal to the evil pharmacy management company I’m now forced to get my prescriptions through. This isn’t related to bookbinding or art except on a personal level, since without the medication they’d suddenly denied me, my ability to function even minimally in my studio would’ve been quite up in the air.

Last year, we were under the power of a different company. Last year, I had an approval for a drug that is the difference, for me, between bedridden somnolence from M.S. or being clearheaded enough and having enough stamina to occasionally do things like, say, make a book once in a while. Without coverage, the medication is around $1,000 a month. The difference for me is so dire that we coughed up the money for a couple of months after I ran out and my appeals dragged on. But obviously that was not going to be sustainable.

The pharmacy benefit manager said that no study showed it worked for M.S.-related “fatigue” (which is a whole lot worse than what “fatigue” sounds like). The pharmacy benefit manager lied. Almost all of the research says it works. And the latest research actually shows that it not only helps significantly, but that people like me who take it long-term actually wind up less disabled down the road than people who don’t take it. I finally appealed to the state. And now, what do you know, I was told that not only has my drug been reinstated for me, but that the company is changing their criteria and will now approve it for M.S. It took 7 months to get there and required a lot of research and buying medical journal articles to show how much they’d lied. I’m grateful for me, but am so depressed for others out there who don’t have insurance coverage at all or who don’t have a university background (I was at one time a graduate student in linguistics. I know how to find things.) My doctor was angry and willing to write letters and call too. In all, it was a rotten experience that took a lot out of me for a while.

But not all has been bad. I had a book accepted into the next We Love Your Books show to take place later in the year (more on that soon). And I’m working on my first Book Art Object edition, a board book called Superstition.

And I got a kitten last week. Yes, I decided that three cats weren’t enough. I need to clean cat boxes even more often. I’m well on my way to being a cat lady.

I walked into a pet shop last week and, damn me, I fell in love. I now have four cats, three of them black. His name is Stephen. He’s going on 5 months old and growing by the day. And all he has to do is flash those sweet baby eyes at me and the latest torn up plant in the window is soon forgotten.

As you can see in the photo, he likes to sit on my lap at the computer (which has a weird but wonderful ergonomic keyboard that’s made it possible for me to continue to type in spite of pain in my hands). The mug next to the keyboard, you can’t see, is actually a chipmunk mug.

Little Stevie also likes paper…

I’ve also been indulging an obsession for board books, and will be teaching a workshop on how to make them for my local book arts guild this weekend. More on that and probably a tutorial coming soon (or at least sooner than 2 months from now).

[Update a few years later: I have since been undiagnosed with MS. I still have a neurological disorder and significant fatigue. It just is now nameless.]