Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

The Return of the Light

Filed under: Daily Life,Holidays,Rats! — folkcat at 6:32 pm on Monday, December 15, 2008

We’re okay. Lots of other people are still without power. There are advantages to living in the heart of downtown, especially when you’re on the same portion of the power grid as, oh, the police department and town hall.

Our power came back Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m., 37 hours after it went off. During the interim, we had no lights, no internet, no television, no heat, no hot water. We kept one room warm with an oil lamp with a mantle, but could only burn that while we were awake or present.

The good news is we saved all our perishable foods. We woke up – artificially early for us – at around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, resolved not to open the fridge or freezer, and immediately left to find ice. We moved quickly enough on that to find the nearest supermarket open in emergency mode. Three 15-lb. bags of ice were stuffed quickly into the compartments, one in the freezer, two in the fridge, and we didn’t open the doors again for the duration. After the refrigerator had a while to run again once power came back, we checked – everything is still okay.

Otherwise, Friday was spent in a series of forays into the outside world, hoping to find news, batteries, restaurants that had power and could serve food, food we could eat at home without refrigeration or heating. We weren’t very successful in most of these efforts – many of the places we hoped for were in some power corridors that were severely damaged, and so they weren’t open. Others ran out of supplies quickly. We never did turn up the spare bottle of lamp oil we wanted.

We did get Friday brunch at a local diner – all the fast-food places were in pockets that had no power. Friday dinner was eaten at a Chinese restaurant in a plaza that was on.

By Saturday, after all of Friday’s fuss, I was feeling unwell enough to refuse to go anywhere. I stayed huddled in the one warm room, the living room, with the oil lamp and the Ratties and a battery-operated radio we’d dug out, listening to Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, while Gryphon took an insulated lunch bag and fetched burgers and fries home from Wendy’s.

The power came back on while we ate those.

Sunday was spent in pajama-day mode, relaxing and taking comfort in being able to do normal things. Today, I’m still trying to catch up on feeds and reads online.

We did venture out this afternoon for a rehab appointment for Gryphon and some errands. Along the way, we could see many spots that were still without power. One stretch of the main road coming into Wilton was closed through Friday and Saturday, but had been reopened by this morning. Still, you could see the homes there were dark. In one spot, the power feed had ripped off the house and was laying across the road for cars to drive across. The street light on that pole was hanging at a sad, unnatural angle.

Another utility pole on the same stretch had snapped in two halfway up its height, and the top half hung there, precariously leaning on the lines. A fresh pole appeared to be standing next to it, so the pole crew at least had been through, but now we need the electrical experts to actually move the connections and lines over.

Everywhere, there are piles of splintered branches along the road, ripped limbs hanging off lines, snapped tree trunks glaring in the midst of wooded patches. Businesses that are open have put out signs especially for the occasion. One natural food store/greenhouse read “Hot Coffee, Warm Greenhouse, Only Slightly Smelly Staff”, an allusion to the fact that so many people are still without hot water or heat at home and have trouble showering. Other signs were as simple as “We Have Power”, “We’re Open”. Spots that advertise “Free WiFi” have full parking lots.

The first topic of conversation among strangers – and we’re all chatting with each other as we wait in long lines at fast-food counters and supermarket checkout lanes – is “Do you have power?” The answer for far too many is “no.”

This storm has done a lot of damage. Friday we encountered one man in the supermarket who told of how a tree came down and took out half his house and two vehicles. This was in a part of our town called Wilton Center, which used to be where town hall and everything were located until the railroad came through by the river. Wilton Center is up on a large hill, connected to the rest of the world by twisting, winding roads. He told us his family had to “four-wheel it out” to get to civilization.

I am sure the impact of the damage hadn’t really hit him yet, because he seemed to be in amused amazement as he spoke. Almost even giddy, I thought. I hate to think what’s happened to him as the reality of it all sank in later.

Bottom line, though, we’re okay, the Seven Little Ratties are okay, we have food, heat, electricity, and we’re starting to feel like things are almost normal again. Such as they are. Oh, and we also did one of our few bits of holiday shopping today – we stopped into the local candy maker and each picked out an assortment of special treats to enjoy through the season. Including Gryphon’s traditional giant candy cane – I’d guess about eighteen inches long, an inch or more thick, and all handmade, hand twisted peppermint goodness. It’s excessive, but he wants for so little that we go for it.

In Rattie news – five out of seven ratties have been observed running in the Wodent Wheel on more than one occasion each. That’s everyone except for Lola, who may be a little plump to fit inside comfortably, and Yuri, who’s slow to accept new things. Who knew?!?

Just Putting This Out There…

Filed under: Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Holidays,Rats! — folkcat at 5:28 pm on Tuesday, November 18, 2008

…since I know several family members now read this blog, at least on occasion.

Here’s the link to my Amazon Wishlist .

In case it matters, I’d say the most desired item on that list is the three copies of the new EverQuest II expansion, The Shadow Odyssey. With Gryphon currently on at least temporary disability from work, and without cable television, EQII is our number one entertainment source, and the only one we’re still paying for in this tight budget. We derive so much pleasure from it, and the cost-per-hour for the value we get from it is dirt cheap compared to what a lot of people spend money on, so we consider it a totally worthwhile expense. We’d need a separate copy of the expansion for each active account – between us, that’s three.

We can still play and enjoy the game without having the expansions right away, but The Shadow Odyssey does add a lot of content that will enhance our online reality.

For What It’s Worth. No obligations, no worries. Just putting this information out there for anyone who wants it.

In other news…

Gabby and A.J. went to their new foster home on Saturday. Caitlin has already had such success with them that I’m calling her the Rat Whisperer. Within 24 hours, she had handled them multiple times without a bite, and had them hanging out on her lap.

I am humbled, and in awe. And simultaneously immensely pleased that the girls have such a wonderful place to live now, and totally curious how we managed to get off on the wrong foot with them.

To use a phrase I really hate, but which seems appropriate, “it is what it is.” I’m really glad that it’s all working out for the best for them, at last.


Still out of work. Still waiting for disability insurance to kick in. Still immensely grateful to my family for all the help they’ve been able to give us.

We are closer to answers regarding Gryphon’s health. He has, apparently, more than one lung-related problem. We’ve begun treating for the one, the other still has some tests needed to determine how bad it is.

Meanwhile, we passed a threshold today. We went to the DMV and picked up temporary disabled parking tags for him. Given that he can hardly walk from the living room to the kitchen and back without stopping to catch his breath, he needs them.

We’re still wrapping our brains around that.

The Good, The Bad, and The Vague

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 5:19 pm on Friday, November 14, 2008

The Good News: We actually have some results on Gryphon’s health that give a clue what’s wrong with him. Further tests are being done to confirm and to define the parameters, but at least we know something now.

The Bad News: If this is what we seem to think it is, the implications are life-changing. While we don’t have an official diagnosis yet, and can’t be sure it’s as bad as we fear, we’re still very shaken as we try to process the information.

The Vague: All of the above, for several reasons. It’s too soon to say anything for sure, it’s Gryphon’s story, not just mine, and we just don’t know if putting out too much detail at this point could hamper future issues or not. I promise that you will know more when we have something we can say. Maybe I’ll even convince Gryphon to write a guest post.

On a Happier Note: Our foster girls go to their new home tomorrow, where the foster parent has previous experience with rats that bite.

Meanwhile, it’s good to know that our Perma-Ratties love us and miss us when we’re gone. Here was the scene I found when we came home from grocery shopping this afternoon:

Clockwise from top left – Lily, Laurel, and Lola

The three girls heard us come in the house, and in their excitement they simply piled on top of each other as they each tried to be the one closest to me in the corner of the cage. Poor Lola got to be the bottom of the pile. (The focus is part of the “Vague” section of this post, because I took this picture with my phone.)

Where were Yuri and Leo while this was happening? They’re boys, and therefore too cool for such a display of emotion. So they stayed in their nap spots and pretended to pay no attention. Now, if I’d had treats in my hands, I’m sure it would have been a completely different story.

Final Note: Many thanks to all who have offered their support and encouragement in comments and e-mails. It means a lot to us to know that we have such good friends out there. My sincere apologies to anyone I have failed to respond to – and I suspect there are at least a couple of you. My only excuse is that my head has been as addled as ever as we try to deal with current reality.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Holding Pattern

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 4:01 pm on Monday, November 10, 2008

Many thanks to everyone who offered their support over the issues of our foster girls. It really did help to hear from you.

Gabby and A.J. will be moving on soon to a foster home where they know how to deal with biting rats. I am greatly relieved – I knew that something more can be done for them than we are able to offer at this time, and now they’ll get it. It looks like we’ll be passing them along this coming weekend, schedules willing.

Gryphon is still home. We still don’t know everything about what’s wrong. But we do have some progress – a test today actually showed something that can be explored further, and may be a likely factor in many, though probably not all, of his symptoms. I’d tell you more, but it’s not my story to share, and we actually don’t know enough yet to say anything more certain than this.

I’ve been knitting rat rugs, kitchen dishcloths, and rat hammocks. Many of them. My hands hurt sometimes. They’re simple garter-stitch, fairly mindless, and we need them. So it’s a good thing. And they help me cope with the stress of everything.

The Perma-Ratties are still doing just fine, and keeping me good company. Lola is now 1 year, 9 months old, and at least once a day she comes to my lap and just tucks in a narrow space between my arm and my belly to snuggle and get skritched. Yuri and Leonardo are about 1 year old now and, well, they’re boys, and spend lots of time just lounging up in the highest elevations of the cage. Both of them, however, are more willing to come out on the lap with the whole gang and mill about under a blanket. Lily and Laurel are all of 4 1/2 months or so old, still children, really. They are bouncy, lively, and curious about everything. Still too wriggly to sit still for a skritching, but they love coming out to play.

Hang in there, folks, and thanks for keeping me company. More when there’s more to tell.

Stumbling Along

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 7:52 pm on Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I finished the socks I’ve been working on.

The yarn is…actually, I forget the name. It’s that fairly inexpensive one with aloe in it that started showing up last year. On Your Toes, maybe? This colorway is called “Beach Print”.

Those who get picky about details may notice that the color sequence runs in opposite directions on the two socks. I had started these as lace-patterned socks, then frogged and began again as my plain vanilla k2p2 basics. In the course of frogging that first sock, the direction of that half of the yarn got reversed. Since I’m not concerned about my socks being matchy-matchy, I left it. I like how they came out.

I began my increases for my heel and ankle earlier on the foot – at only 4.5 inches from the tip of the toe, in fact. These are the best fitting socks I’ve made yet, so clearly, I’m doing something right.

In other news, I wish I could report that all is better. Truth is, a lot of the financial stuff is hitting the fan, big time. We’re going to be visiting various government offices in the next several days – and have already visited a few this week – with the goal of putting some of our past tax dollars to work for us. If you get my drift.

Because things are so tight, I’m going to have to stop going to Panera on Thursday nights for the foreseeable future. We just can’t afford the gas expense of driving anywhere that isn’t absolutely essential, nor can we justify the cost of eating at even a mildly priced restaurant. Anyone who reads this and wants to continue the Thursday night tradition without me, please do so! I’ll be back when I can, I just don’t know when that will be.

Gryphon’s health is improving, but it’s slow and unsteady progress. But there’s no denying that there is progress, so that’s good. Beyond that I really can’t say much except that he’s not back at work yet, and we’re still not sure when he will be.

He’s making good use of his recovery time at home, though. Gryphon has always been a whiz at homemade pizza, having worked at a pizza shop many years ago. This weekend, he tackled making a quiche for the first time – and boy howdy, that was tasty! He did it again last night (those refrigerated pie crusts come two in a package, after all), and as far as I’m concerned, he can make quiche any time he wants, I’ll be happy to eat it.

Nothing new to report about the ratties. I know I’ve left you hanging on the Gabby and A.J. story, but with the way things are in our life right now, that’s turning out to be a very difficult story to tell. These girls are about as tough a pair of ratties as I’ve ever seen, and the trust training they’re going through is a brand-new, stumble-and-trip as we try to figure it out, different sort of process for me and Gryphon. We’ve way out of our element here, and trying to work together to see that we do right by them.

I’ll be sure to tell you what I can, when I can.

The No Title Post

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats! — folkcat at 5:30 pm on Friday, October 17, 2008

Hi, all. Things continue to be stressful here, which is why you don’t hear more from me. There is change happening, however, and it’s ultimately for the better.

Gryphon’s health is on the mend. The key seems to have been a medication, the dosage of which had been increased, but which was causing some fairly serious side effects. As in, bad enough we couldn’t trust him to drive, and certainly not to go to a job where he works on heavy machinery. He’s been taken off the medication now, however, and even though it’s only been three days, we are seeing a huge improvement. We expect to see him back at work at the start of November.

Meanwhile, that leaves us financially strapped, since he didn’t have enough regular leave to cover the time he’s missing. We’re pulling together various resources, including a federal medical leave, to cover the gaps as best we can. Right now, Gryphon’s two jobs are first, getting better, and second, filling out forms and such to acquire what assistance we can from assorted agencies. We’ll be okay – it’s just a fair bit of a different sort of work to make it all happen.

Ralph and Norton turned 9 weeks old on Thursday. This Sunday, we deliver them to their new family. Yes, they’ve been adopted! We’ll miss the little buggers, but I’m so glad they’re going to a good home. Yay!

Our new foster girls, Gabby and A.J., are in the house. I may not talk about them a lot for a bit – it turns out that their socialization has been so badly neglected that we’re having to use intensive measures to re-train them to trust humans. It’s hard work, but we’re already seeing a small measure of progress. It’s my hope that before long, they’ll be okay with letting people pick them up and handle them.

As for me, I’ve continued working on my latest pair of socks. I’m actually within two inches of finishing the second one. Maybe I’ll post a picture next week.

That’s about all for now. I hope you all have a good weekend!

I Know I’ve Been Quiet

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats! — folkcat at 3:24 pm on Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I haven’t knit since Thursday last week. Well, I’ve been knitting a rat rug, but only a few rows a day. Knitting has been on hold because I’m just not feeling it most days right now.

I was sick from heat exhaustion Saturday night after our errands that afternoon. Sunday was mostly recovering from that. And of course, Sunday began all the excitement about the new rat babies coming to us.

Monday Gryphon and I had some personal business emergencies to deal with. Tuesday, a doctor’s appointment (everything is going well). It’s been one thing after another taking our attention away from having just normal, routine days at home.

Tonight, I pick up the new girls, Lily and Laurel. Lola is all excited – she sees the other cage set up near theirs, and keeps peeking to see if anyone is in it. Yuri and Leo, well…they’re boys. They’re sleeping, and showing no particular interest at all. I’ll bet anything that will change as soon as the scent of two new girls hits their noses later.

It seems like almost everyone I know is having a similar slump period – depression, unsuccessful job searches, financial woes, health issues. I don’t know what’s going on in the cosmos to bring such a trend around. Here’s hoping it passes quickly!

And of course, I promise…baby Rattie pictures will be posted as soon as it’s at all practical!

Breaking News – Amherst, NH Plaza Fire

Filed under: Daily Life — folkcat at 10:13 pm on Thursday, June 12, 2008

I was coming home from Panera tonight about 8:20, when traffic was backed up fairly severely. A friend of one of my co-knitters had mentioned a large fire in this direction (west along 101A), and she wasn’t kidding.

I was able to see the column of smoke from some distance down the road as we crawled slowly in our cars.

Amherst Plaza Fire, smoke column

I thought I could guess about where it was located. Sadly, I was right. It was Amherst Plaza, home to several long-standing businesses in the area. Most notably, Covered Bridge Yarns, a craft store with a history going back a couple decades at least, and Amherst House of Pizza.

This is what’s left of the House of Pizza.

Amherst House of Pizza - Ruins

I pulled over into the parking lot across the street – as many others had – to stare in horror at the devastation. This was an l-shaped plaza, with Amherst House of Pizza anchoring the front corner along Route 101A. I saw blackened windows at least halfway down the length of the plaza. One of the ladder trucks was pumping water on the building all the way in the back corner.

The front end of the building, completely gone. Not sure what else was along the front face besides the pizza shop. But I think there was a beloved children’s clothing consignment shop down the burned length, and I know that Covered Bridge Yarns was there, too.

A police officer directing traffic chatted a little with us onlookers. As far as he knew, no one was hurt in the fire.

Not physically, anyway. The family that owned the Amherst House of Pizza, that shop was their entire life. They’ve been there for years. Gryphon and I used to go there sometimes, and he’d been going for many years before I even married him and moved to New Hampshire – and that was 15 years ago. Their kids grew up crawling on the floor there, and when they were old enough, they stood on step stools and boxes and operated the cash register. This place was their life.

I’m sure the owners of the other shops are in every bit as much turmoil now. I just didn’t have the same connection with them.

New Hampshire television news has some coverage of the story here: http://www.wmur.com/news/16592166/detail.html#

They take reader submissions of photos as well, I’ve sent in the two I posted here for their archives.

As I write this (10:08 p.m.), the fire is still too young to have any clue what happened. They were still pumping water on it at 9:00, when I decided to move on and get home.

Not much else to say about that, really. I’m going to go sit with my thoughts now.

How I Smote Scorch, the Burning Wizard

Filed under: Daily Life,Games — folkcat at 1:27 am on Thursday, June 12, 2008

Household chores as a dungeon game – Chore Wars

I’m terribly unmotivated when it comes to housework. I stumbled upon Chore Wars while passing by a blog the other day. Gryphon and I are trying it out. So far, it’s fun! If you want to see how I’m doing specifically, you can visit my character page here: Woolgatherer

Chores are Adventures or Quests. You earn XP for them, as well as (virtual) gold and random treasures. You might encounter monsters. Scorch, the Burning Wizard is one of the denizens of the kitchen that I might run afoul of when I am Baking Bread or Cooking Food, for instance.

So far, so good. We’ll see how well it works in the long run!

Big Changes and a Moment of Rattie Zen

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Television — folkcat at 1:13 pm on Monday, June 2, 2008

Hi, everyone. I know it’s been a while. I’m not sure I’m ready to post several times a week yet, but I can deal with posting when there’s news to report.

A large part of why I haven’t been posting is that most things haven’t changed. Gryphon is still looking for part time work or a better paying full time job. We’re still struggling to find ways to get by more cheaply. This has all been going on for five months now. I find it a wonderment that we haven’t gone completely down the drain yet, but Gryphon is something of a miracle worker when it comes to managing the budget, and he’s kept us (barely) above water so far.

There aren’t many places we can cut the budget anymore. At least, not without changing our lifestyle pretty seriously. And, well…today we took a step that does exactly that.

We cancelled cable television. Which means that, in our little valley between two ridges with no TV antenna, I will not be receiving television programming over either the air or the cable wire.

What? you’re thinking. This is the woman with three TiVo’s who watches a lot of television programs, who’s a fan of the media in a way most people never imagine. How can she give up television?

The answer is, I’m not. I’m just giving up cable television. I’ll be cancelling one of the TiVo’s (which will be offered up for sale some way or another) that is no longer under a contract, and keeping the other two. I may not have a television signal coming in by either of the conventional means, but the remaining TiVos can still download movies and television shows from Amazon UnBox. It makes sense to keep them active, too, since they’re both still under contracts that would require a large cancellation fee.

Besides Amazon UnBox, we’ve re-activated my NetFlix account. There is a multitude of programming that I can get on DVD, and they also have thousands of hours of both television shows and movies available for instant viewing on your computer.

So I’m not giving up television at all. What I’m doing is becoming far more selective about what comes into the house. Instead of having to make my selections from the shotgun programming of cable television, the largest percentage of which I’m not interested in, I’ll be going directly to those programs that I know I want to watch.

Past seasons of shows I never got to see, such as those that were on pay cable channels, I can watch on DVD. Most of the better new shows these days either stream for free from the network website the day after they air, or are available for download from Amazon UnBox or iTunes very soon for a modest price.

I’m really very excited about this. I feel that it’s a vast improvement, an elimination of the chaotic input from cable and broadcast television that I had to filter significantly to get what I wanted. It’s like a music afficionado who gives up listening to radio stations and switches over to getting the good stuff on LPs and CDs.

We called the cable company today. The change happens….tonight!

Your Moment of Rattie Zen

One of the Rattie Rugs got shoved so that it hung over the edge of the middle shelf the other day. Lola decided it was a comfy place to snooze. And the lens on my camera phone was actually small enough to fit between the bars of the cage, so I didn’t have to disturb her by opening the door.

Comfy Lola

May we all find a moment in our lives as relaxing as this! Enjoy!

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