It’s taken me a while to get to the point where I can write this post.

We noticed shortly before Thanksgiving that Donovan, our youngest cat, was looking a little thin for him. I kept an eye on him for the next couple of weeks, and by the second week of December it was clear that he was indeed losing weight. I wasn’t sure how much because I couldn’t find the record of his last vet visit, but I remembered him being generally around 14 pounds. When I weighed him, he was down to around 10 1/2 pounds.

That alarmed me, especially when I realized that he wasn’t being his usual energetically squirrely self. We took him to the vet that Monday, December 12. When Dr. Globerman felt his abdomen, she immediately said she felt something there that she didn’t like. The x-ray she immediately took told the full tale — as I had feared as soon as she spoke, it was cancer, aggressive and fast-spreading. There had been absolutely NO sign of it four months earlier in August, when Donovan had gone to the vet because of an absessed bite wound on his shoulder.

Given how rapidly the cancer had progressed and how far it had spread, Dr. Globerman said that in her opinion, surgery would not buy a lot of time. She didn’t even suggest chemo. Since we all knew that Donovan was a very nervous and anxious cat in the best of times, and that he was a very hard cat to medicate, I made the difficult decision to not make his last weeks a nightmare of stressful treatments that were unlikely to delay the inevitable for long.

For the next two and a half weeks, we cosseted Donovan as much as he would let us during his decline. He had established his “home base” in my studio, so I set up a comfortable bed for him in his chosen spot under my worktable.  His food and water bowls were placed in there, right by his bed. He would still get up and come out for visits, and often in the evening would come snuggle in his usual spot on our bed for a while as I read or knitted.

Donovan had no appetite to speak of and in fact had trouble eating anything — he’d bite a piece of kibble and the pieces would fall out of his mouth. So I would fix him a bit of canned “junk food” like Fancy Feast or Friskies, well watered down into a soup. He could lap up a little of that at a time, but as the days wore on even that didn’t interest him. Finally, the only thing he would really even try to eat was the Friskies “Natural Sensations” treats — he wouldn’t even eat Greenies!

It broke my heart to watch him growing weaker and weaker, but I didn’t want to lose him before I had to. I knew he would let me know when it was time to go, and when I got home from dance class on the 29th, he did. He came out of his bed and quietly wailed to me when I came in the room.

The next day, Friday, December 30, we took him to Dr. Globerman’s and sent him on to Rainbow Bridge.

R.I.P. Donovan, March 2003 – December 30, 2011. You left me far too soon, sweet boy, and I terribly miss your snuggly, silly self. I’ll meet you at the Bridge when the time come — in the meantime you can cuddle & play with Iris, and Andrea’s Bellacoolah and Mincot and Piglet, and all the Good Mews kitties there.


Grief is a funny thing

I really didn’t cry at all when Dad died last month. But I have been in tears off and on all day today thinking about the three Good Mews cats that were euthanized in the past two and a half weeks. As I read the tributes to Theo on Facebook today, and contributed my own comments, the tears just welled up and overflowed.

So of course the analytical side of me has to try to figure out why. It’s not like I had adopted Pops or Marley or Theo myself. They aren’t the only Good Mews cats I’ve known and loved to cross over the Rainbow Bridge — there’s Sargent, and Wonder, and Harry, and Samantha and Louise, and Gideon, and Relish…I could go on and on. I didn’t have the bond with them that I had with Iris, and that I have with Sarah and Mr. Boots and Donovan.

Maybe it’s that these three were special even among special cats. Maybe it’s that I shed my tears for Dad as I watched him battle his pulmonary fibrosis and heart problems for the past seven years.

Maybe it’s that I feel I CAN let myself grieve openly for these babies because, though I loved them, they didn’t mean nearly as much to me as Dad. It’s safe to shed tears for them.

Farewell to Some Feline Friends

The volunteers of Good Mews Animal Foundation are having an emotional November. Two of our most memorable residents have made the journey to Rainbow Bridge; a third will be joining them tomorrow morning.

Pops was found up near Canton on a brutal January weekend, emaciated and frozen almost to death. Marley was found huddled under a dryer vent in the cold of November in similar condition, with matted clumps of his half-shaved-off fur weighing his frail body down. Good Mews took in both of them in, and miraculously, with treatment and loving care, they survived their respective ordeals. Once healthy, both were adopted by families who loved and spoiled them as they deserved. Pops was renamed Lionel, and enjoyed all the comforts that an elderly cat deserves. Marley made an appearance at last month’s Kitty Kegger, where he was the star of the evening as the symbol of all that Good Mews embodies.


Sadly, age and past suffering caught up with both of them. Pops crossed the Bridge on November 1st, and Marley followed him two days later.

Today we found out that Theo, our “Shelter Manager” until he was adopted a year ago by the Brabant family, will make the journey tomorrow. Theo has been battling renal failure for some months now, and it has clearly progressed to the point where prolonging his life would only be prolonging suffering. Theo is one of a kind — a handsome black cat who loved to dress up in fancy collars and ties, a cat with his own Facebook account, loved by everyone who knew him.

Theo Brabant, New Years 2011

Looking very dapper, our Theo!


Theo will not only meet up with Marley and Pops, he will be reunited with his best friend Marshmallow, who passed away at the shelter from a sudden heart attack in March, 2010.

BFFs Forever -- Theo and Marshmallow

In addition, one of our own lost her battle with cancer  a week and a half ago. Fellow adoption counselor and volunteer Janey MacIntyre will be missed by all the other volunteers who knew and worked with her over the years.

Those of us left behind grieve and miss them, but we are comforted to know that they are out of pain and at peace.


Pops — Another Reason to Rescue

Pops the Cat

This is Pops. We don't know anything about his life prior to about ten days ago, when an anonymous woman near Canton found him in her yard during the worst of our recent bitter cold spell. He was emaciated to the point of starvation, dehydrated, hypothermic, and generally in very bad shape. She brought him inside, gave him warmth, water, and food, and began searching for a place to take him.

Clearly Pops is no feral cat, but most likely someone's long-time pet who had for some reason been left to fend for himself. He doesn't show typical feral behavior, and his poor physical condition is evidence that he wasn't used to surviving on his own.

Fortunately it's been a very good adoption month at Good Mews, so we had a space for him. First, though, we got Pops to a vet, who treated the hypothermia over several days, gave him fluids and food slowly and carefully, and medically evaluated him. Tests showed that he appears to be between twelve and fifteen years of age, which makes him Good Mews' oldest current resident. He also turns out to have hyperthyroid, which is treatable in cats just as it is in humans. His initial weight was a mere five and a quarter pounds, which is simply horrific. The pads of his feet are all torn up, and his teeth are in such bad shape that dry food is difficult for him to eat. Chances are most, if not all, of them will have to come out when he has his dental.

Pops' age and condition make me wonder if, when his prior owner found out about the medical issue, they just chose not to deal with it, or him, at all. If that's the case, well, there's a special place in hell for those people.

Now that we've gotten Pops into the shelter, he's slowly improving. His weight is up over six pounds already, though we can still feel every single bone in his body. He's starting to realize that he doesn't have to be food-aggressive, because there's plenty there and it's not going to run out. In fact, the challenge is to just give him small amounts at a time so he doesn't overeat and make himself sick.

His energy level is still very low, and it's clear he's still got a ways to go before he's completely recovered. He's still not strong enough to groom himself well, so Joyce Fetterman has been working on him bit by bit getting the knots and mats out of his coat. We could shave him, I suppose, but he needs what coat he has to keep him warm. Besides, as I commented today, "leave him what little dignity he has left."

With all he's been through, though, he is a love! He's been justifiably wary since he arrived, but we volunteers have been loving on him and trying to reassure him that he's safe now, he's cared for, and the nightmare is over. Apparently we're getting through to him. The notes on the Cat Catalog say he loves to be held. Also, this afternoon both Joyce and I were with him at separate times, and we both heard him very quietly, tentatively purr as we cuddled and petted him.

Cats like Pops are why I make my own small contribution to the animal rescue cause.

Meeting Lexie and Lenny

My brother Chris is a fellow animal lover and rescue volunteer, recently joining forces with Our Pal’s Place here in Marietta (I use the phrase “joining forces” advisedly because my brother is a force to be reckoned with!). Among the many tasks he takes on for them is being K9 coach, trainer, and friend of Lexie, a pit bull mix that many other rescue groups, even “no-kill” ones, would have deemed “unadoptable” and had euthanized.

Chris has been chronicling his adventures with Lexie both at his own blog and on the Our Pal’s Place website and newsletter. I have followed the story with great interest, particularly when in chapter 2 a small, fearless orange and white kitten introduced himself to Lexie. Lenny, as the kitten was soon named, and Lexie have become the best of friends and live together in the Learning Center at OPP.

On Saturday, Chris and I finally meshed our schedules and Gary and I traveled to OPP to meet the pair. I freely admit I am a cat person rather than a dog person, but both dog and cat won my heart immediately. In the hour we spent there, I saw exactly what my brother has accomplished in the months he’s been working with Lexie. It’s a facet I’d not seen before of the man I still think of as my “baby brother.” Her trust in him and love for him is so clear! I also got quite a nice little introduction to the nuances of dog behavior, as well as my own share of slobbery dog kisses (something which I do NOT allow from just any dog). Of course Lenny was not omitted — he got as many rubs and ear scritches as he would permit.

Watching the two of them interact was so cute! Lexie is a good-sized and rather rambunctious dog, while Lenny is a small-to-average sized cat; yet Lenny is clearly in charge but lets Lexie THINK she is. I’m used to seeing very bonded cat pairs, but I’ve never seen a dog/cat pair quite like this.

I also could tell what a challenge Lexie has been, and still is. Given the “hard cases,” medical and behavioral, we take in at Good Mews (including this year’s socializing of three completely feral adult cats), I really applaud groups that don’t just concern themselves with the easy rescues, but are willing to work with the challenging animals as well. A dog like Lexie is well worth the effort!

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Branding & Being a Polymath

My business partner Andrea commented on Twitter this week that

I totally fail at branding. I tweet about rescue dogs, academia, early music, lampwork and jewelry, words, health care, and politics.

She’s not alone — I could almost have written that tweet, though mine would have said “I tweet about rescue cats, computing, lampwork and jewelry, bellydancing, chainmaille, and teaching.” The same thing is true of my blogging, as you know if you read Art of the Firebird regularly. I blog and Tweet and post about whatever I damn well please, which means I may focus on beads one day, cats the next, and my sore abs the third.

Of course, this goes against everything you see from the self-proclaimed “social media experts” who state that your Brand must be tightly focused and contain nothing extraneous or unrelated to your major product. By this theory, my blog/website/Twitter/Facebook should be focused only on my lampworking/jewelry business because everything else confuses my branding. I should have another set of accounts for animal rescue, and yet another for teaching matters (okay, I DO have a separate web site for the teaching, but still…).

I suspect that the people who say this either a) don’t have a real life into which they fit social media and marketing, or b) have no clue about being a Polymath (or, as Barbara Sher terms them, a Scanner). It’s just not realistic to manage multiple blogs or social media accounts for different things. There’s the time factor, of course, but there’s also the “keeping things straight” factor. Sure as anything I’d mis-post half of what I write to the wrong place.

I’m NOT only a lampwork glass artist, or a chainmailler, or an animal rescue activist, or a computer scientist, or a professor, or anything else. I’m all of these, and more. If I limit my postings to only one aspect, that isn’t the true me. Any polymath will tell you that we can’t be limited to one thing — even my brother the social media maven doesn’t manage to limit his Twitter and Facebook to one focus!

In truth my “Brand” is ME, ALL of me, and that’s what my blog, and my Twitter account, and my Facebook account, reflect. So SEO/marketing/branding rules be damned, I’m branding the Polymathic Me, all of her, because that’s what makes me unique!

Running a Really Small Business

One thing I keep researching is managing a really, really small business like Art of the Firebird. Heaven knows there’s a lot of information out there about small businesses, but so much of it is geared toward either people who want to be consultants of some sort, toward people who are opening brick-and-mortar retail, or toward people who are eBay-ing. Even the information for artists is mostly geared for people either doing the “show circuit” or trying to get into galleries.

What does Art of the Firebird require?

  1. Product. I think I’ve got making product down, more or less. I get my torch time in, and make jewelry in the odd minutes here and there. That’s the fun part, after all!
  2. Inventory management. I’m getting there. I’ve got the tool I need set up for finished product, but I really need to do a better job of tracking the glass, at least, so I don’t overbuy some colors & find myself without others.
  3. Local shows. Down the Street Bead Shows are doing well enough for us for the beads & such, but it would be nice to find a couple of “finished product” shows that would be a good fit for Andrea and me. I don’t just want to blindly apply to some, though, which means research, which means time!
  4. Photographing product. Pain in the ass task! Even though I have the photography corner set up more or less permanently, the setup needs tweaking (lighting is not what it should be). I’d also far rather melt glass than shoot photos! If I’m going to sell online, though, it’s critical.
  5. “Stocking” the online stores. Well, that depends on getting the photography done and products inventoried. Once those get done, adding items to ArtFire and 1000 Markets is pretty easy. I keep wondering if there is any point in trying to have a presence on any other online venues…and if it’s worth the time.
  6. Marketing. EWWW!!! HELP!!!! THIS is where I need a guidebook for my type of business. Honestly, I just don’t know what the hell to do here!
  7. Accounting. What I know about accounting is this: money comes in, pauses briefly, and goes back
    out. I tried QuickBooks and it’s big-time overkill for me. Isn’t there a simple, easy-to-understand accounting setup or tool out there somewhere?
  8. Generic other stuff. You know, packing and shipping online sales, restocking supplies, making sure all the various forms get filled out & submitted in a timely manner every year, redoing our show display every time we do a show (it seems), and a zillion other things that aren’t coming to mind right now.

At least I don’t have to deal with stuff like, say, payroll! Sarah, Donovan, and Mr. Boots work for Greenies, after all.

Respond and Rework

I got this from Kandice Seeber, who got it from the BeadedLily’s Sketchbook blog — sounds like a fun meme!


Respond and rework. Answer the questions on your own blog; replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention; add one more question of your own.


What is your current obsession?
Once I finish up my grades, I’ll get back to working on borosilicate glass leaf pendants, trying to work out some nice shapes & colors.

Which item from your closet are you wearing most lately?
Jeans, jeans, and more jeans, with the occasional cargo pants thrown in there.

What was the last thing you bought?
A couple of magazines this afternoon during our regular Saturday trip to Borders.

What are you listening to right now?
Nothing except the ambient noise around here. Sometimes silence is the best!

What are you reading?
Anna Quindlen’s Rise and Shine

What 4 words would you use to describe yourself?
Introverted, creative, sardonic, strong-willed

What is your current guilty pleasure?
I don’t really have guilty pleasures, but maybe it’s reading “chick-lit” and romance novels.

What would you do if the internet was irreparably damaged and you had to find another way to connect?
I would like to think I’d write letters, but I’d probably just stay unconnected. I’m not a phone person so that’s out.

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere right now?
Probably New Zealand, since that’s the place I most want to visit.

If you could grant someone else one wish, what would it be?
I’d give my father a cure for his heart disease and pulmonary fibrosis.

What flower are you most anxious to see bloom this spring?
Actually, I’ll be just as happy when everything quits blooming since the pollen has made me utterly miserable this spring.

What are you most happy doing?
Hanging out with my husband, or melting glass, or both together.

Care to share some wisdom?
Two things:

  1. Life’s not fair, so get over it.
  2. If you’re in a hole, stop digging.

If I walked into your work space today what would you want to show me? What would you want to hide?
I’d want to turn on my torch and show you how I make my beads and pendants. I wouldn’t really want to hide anything in the workspace, but I might close some of the other doors in the house!

What makes you laugh out loud?
The ICanHasCheezburger and IHasAHotDog websites. They also make me go “Awwwww!”

How many pets do you have, and what kind?
Three cats, plus the 80 or so I work with as a Good Mews volunteer.

Link back to me if you do this meme yourself!

Best of the Ridiculously Long Time, Part 2 — COLOR

Here we go with Part 2 — COLOR!!!

Next up — some philosophical musings!

Pictures of Mr. Boots

Here are some pictures of Mr. Boots, both before he came home from Good Mews and since he’s been home.

Mr. Boots’ Picture Album