Assisted Living Cat

I’ve written before about the-cat-who-lives-on-the-kitchen-table. Her status has changed. She now lives on my living room couch.

IMG_0223My old girl is now 20 years old and her health is definitely failing. About 10 years ago the vet discovered she had diabetes, which we decided not to treat, because it meant giving her two shots a day, at the same time, every day. We decided to make her comfortable and when she declined, to put her to sleep. Instead,  the diabetes disappeared with no special treatment or diet or anything. Since then we’ve had three or four instances of her becoming ill and then rallying.

So she stayed on the kitchen table and we no longer ate there. Eventually she moved to a chair in the TV room and now she has parked herself on my living room couch.

Kitten on left; sick kitty on right

But now she is blind. She must be able to see lights, because she stares at lamps, but she bumps into things that unexpectedly get in her way–like one of the kittens. Luckily the other cats leave her alone. Devil Cat and Brooklyn Cat (my daughter’s black cat who is staying with us for awhile) are not fighting with her anymore, probably because she no longer can “eyeball” them. She just stares blankly.

steps to climb up onto the couch

I have to carry her to the litter box and bring her food and water. She can walk back from the box and find her way, but she makes no effort to get there on her own. She needs pet steps to climb back on the couch, because she can’t jump anymore. She doesn’t get down to go to the food dishes. Still, she does not seem to be in any discomfort.

The thing is, how long can this go on? I feel we are one toileting accident waiting to happen and that would be one too many for me. Is it fair to her to wait until she suffers? Is it selfish of me to want my living room couch back? I think it would be traumatic to move her to a different location.

I’m very attached to her. My whole family is. She’s been with us 20 years!

I really do not know what to do. Any advice?

Coming to New Jersey

2015 NJRWA Book FairDiane will be signing and giving away books at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference multi-author booksigning! October 17, 4:00 to 5:30, Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel, Iselin, NJ.

James River

Two weekends ago, the dh and I house and pet-sat for my son so they could go to the beach with his in-laws for a weekend. They needed someone to take care of the dog and feed the cats so it was easy enough for us to do. Of course, that meant that the OTHER grandma got to be with the-cutest-grandson-ever and we got the dog.

It turned out to be a nice weekend, a little mini-vacation for us. We spent the Saturday with my sister-in-law and her husband. They took us to the James River, where Richmond, VA, area folks like to go on warm, beautiful weather days.

And it was beautiful! Take a look!
I don’t know if you can see, but when the water is this low, people can wade out to the rocks to sit or sunbathe or even have a picnic. We didn’t go out on the rocks, but we did walk along the river for a couple of miles.
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Look at the reflection in the water!
Here’s one more.
A dreamy, peaceful scene.

We’ve been to Richmond many times over the years and driving over the bridges we’ve seen people on the river, tubing or kayaking or canoeing, but this was the first time we actually went down to the river.  It made for a wonderful day.

This coming weekend we were going to go to the Americans in Wartime Museum (what we call the Tank Farm), but with the hurricane forecasted, it was cancelled.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Finishing Up

Step 3 in the writing of a book is doing editor’s revisions and that’s what I’ve been doing this week. I look like this….

Well, maybe not precisely like that. I’ll be back again next week!

Location Location Location

Do you ever wonder how authors pick the settings for their books? I can’t speak for others, but I have a system…sorta.
I’m currently working on Book 2 of The Scandalous Summerfields series–Edmund’s story (Bound By One Scandalous Night)–and I needed to send my characters away from London. That was all I knew about it. Just away from London.

So, where should they go and where should I go to find out?

515px-English_counties_1851_with_ridings.svgWhere else. The Internet!

First I looked on a map of the historic counties of the UK. I couldn’t use a current map, because the counties changed in 1889, 1965 and 1974 (For more about that look here).

I decided to send them to the Lake District in Cumberland, because the Lake District was picturesque and it was far from London.


b1b13b94a657Next I went looking for a house for them to live in and instead found a sheep farm, Deepdale Hall. A sheep farm would give them something to do in the Lake District (one of the joys of research is that moment when your research solves a plot problem). What’s more, the scenery was spectacular and I thought my characters might like it.

I even stumbled across a Lake District sheep farmer, a rather well-known sheep farmer, James Rebanks, who wrote an acclaimed book, The Shepherd’s Life, about working on the farm, which I promptly bought and read.

88f68a9a342b187b97ace164b2298843But the house at Deepdale just did not fit my vision of how their house should appear, so I looked some more and found the right one, Carleton Hall. It even came with a floor plan (which I altered somewhat). Carleton Hall was the right house, but I stuck it in the landscape of Deepdale Hall and called it Middlerock House.

74611_2319664_FLP_00_0006That’s how I create location location location when I’m writing a book

What happens to the characters in the book? You’ll have to wait until next spring to find out, but you can bet it is Scandalous!

Where Were You on 9/11?

Tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of 9/11, a day we will never forget, its images instantly recalled by just saying those two numbers. 9/11.

I was at work that day, on the 7th floor of a building in the same county as the Pentagon. My coworker brought a radio in that very morning and turned it on just as the first attack on the Twin Towers took place. A few minutes after 9:30, the Pentagon was hit. We could see the smoke from some offices in our building. Then we heard of Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania, thought to be targeting either the White House or the Capitol, just across the Potomac River. Everything was immediately cancelled. No one knew if more planes were coming. My husband worked in a building next to the Capitol. He left almost immediately but drove a roundabout way home that took a few hours. Other people fled the city by crossing the bridges. Countless numbers of them streamed past our building on foot. We were asked to stay, so as not to add to the congestion. I left about 4 pm and drove home on nearly deserted streets.

A year later I visited the site of the World Trade Center. It was heart-wrenching, a big void. People were weeping. When tapes of the 911 callers were released, a couple years later, I heard them on the car radio, driving somewhere alone. I burst into tears.

A documentary of the Boat Lift was released in 2011. Narrated by Tom Hanks, it tells how unplanned, uncoordinated, untrained, ordinary people with their ferries, water taxis, charter boats, etc. rescued people trapped on the piers and seawalls of southern Manhattan. I could cry again just thinking about it. In fact, I did cry when watching it again not too long ago.

If you ever have doubts about the fundamental goodness of people, watch this video. You will be uplifted.

At the end of the documentary, Hanks tells about the evacuation of Dunkirk in WWII, when 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued with the aid of private vessels, merchant marine ships, fishing boats, pleasure boats. The rescue took 9 days. On 9/11 500,000 people were rescued in only 9 hours.

For months after 9/11 I’d occasionally see formations of Air Force planes flying over my building. You can imagine, after the attack on the Pentagon, we all worried there would be another. After a while, though, I caught on. These were fly-overs as tribute to one of the Pentagon victims being buried at Arlington Cemetery.

May we never forget!

Where were you on 9/11?


Teresa Gaston

Mom and DadMonday was my mother’s birthday. She passed away in 1989 after a long painful year of deteriorating health, so it was a blessing for her. My mother was a quiet, timid, kind person who never had much confidence in herself. She never had the opportunities she and my dad gave me and my sisters and I knew, even when I was a self-centered teenager, that she got vicarious enjoyment from my successes.

She and my aunt (her sister) were great readers, something they shared with me. We passed around Victoria Holts, Philippa Carrs, and Rosamunde Pilchers, but also Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss and others of which my mother said, “I skip over those parts.” (Sure, Mom, I thought at the time!) I am sad that my mother died before I ever dreamed of becoming a writer. I like to think she would have enjoyed my books (even if she skipped over those parts)

On Facebook on Monday, I linked to an article I wrote about my mother, about a moment in her life where she became courageous–a true heroine. I am posting it here again, because I don’t want to lose it. And I am proud of my mom for it.

Here it is, first written for the now defunct Wet Noodle Posse ezine and later reprinted by Kim Lowe in the Fort Meade community paper:

It was the mid-1960s in Alabama, on the same Army base where the National Guard was billeted when Gov. George Wallace stood in the doors of the University of Alabama. It was a volatile time, a time when images of the civil rights movement were broadcast around the world. Out of sight of cameras, so quietly even her teenaged daughter did not realize, a most unlikely woman became a superheroine.

My mother, Teresa Gaston.

We lived at Fort McClellan, Ala., about 150 miles from the historic hot spots of Selma and Montgomery. My father was a colonel in the U.S. Army, and this was the first time he was stationed in the Deep South. At that time, discrimination against blacks could be found in any part of the country, including within the ranks of the Army, but in Alabama and other southern states it was the law. We had never before lived in a state that practiced segregation. The Army had been desegregated for years, and that was what we were accustomed to. At that time in Alabama, the home state of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and other courageous blacks, one could still find water fountains saying “for whites only.”

Because the Army was desegregated, a few black families were stationed at Fort McClellan, a posting that must have been very difficult for them. Their children had to attend segregated schools that were separate and not equal. Off post, those families would have suffered the same discrimination as the local black citizens. Yet a black soldier could not refuse being stationed in Alabama. It was his duty to go where the Army sent him.

The military was not just a job. It was a life that encompassed the whole family, who were expected to behave according to military standards. For example, I answered the phone, “Colonel Gaston’s quarters. Diane speaking,” and if we children were anywhere near the raising or lowering of the flag, we stopped and faced the flag with our hands over our hearts. At Fort McClellan, my father was about the fifth-highest ranking officer on the post. Because of his high rank, my mother was expected to be active in the Officers’ Wives’ Club and in their charitable and social activities. To do otherwise would have reflected badly on my father’s military career.

My mother was a very shy person. She left school in the 11th grade and consequently believed she was not as intelligent as women with more education, even though she was an excellent bridge player and an avid reader. She had very little confidence in herself. The Officers’ Wives’ Club was directed by the post commander’s wife and when this woman asked my mother to head up a committee, my mother could not refuse, even though it was difficult for my mother to assert herself as a leader.

My mother’s superheroine moment came when a black officer’s wife volunteered to serve on my mother’s committee. The post commander’s wife, a southern woman, ordered my mother to refuse. My shy, insecure mother was faced with turning away the woman, who must have been quite isolated in the larger community, or locking horns with the most powerful woman on the Army base, powerful enough to hurt my father’s career. Luckily, my father supported my mother in whatever she decided to do. I, on the other hand, was so busy being a teenager that I was mostly oblivious to my mother’s moment of courage.

My mother included the black woman on her committee.

It would have made sense for my mother to make her decision an issue of civil rights, equality and fairness. My mother believed in all those things, and it was the perfect time in history to take such a social stand. Her reason for accepting the woman on her committee, however, was based on something deeper than a social cause. It was based on something that ought to be at the root of all human interaction.

My mother could not bear to hurt the woman’s feelings.

February is Black History Month, an appropriate time for me to belatedly honor my mother as a superheroine for her quiet, largely unnoticed, courageous act. My mother, timid though she was, always considered other people’s feelings, not their skin color or anything else. Underneath it all, isn’t this the very essence of equality?

By 1996, 30 years later, Fort McClellan’s post commander was Maj. Gen. Ralph Wooten, a black general officer.

Do you know someone, an ordinary person, who had a superhero moment? Perhaps even yourself?


Yoga_lotusI have the great good fortune to be attending yoga classes twice a week. I say good fortune even though I am not at all prone to exercise, although I think about exercising all the time, e.g. “I should take a walk.” “I should join a gym.” “I should do Pilates.” “I should do something.”

Best I ever did at regular exercise was going to my local Curves, but then it closed and I knew I would never make myself go to the one that was two miles farther away.

I’ve always been interested in yoga, though, and took a couple of classes years ago at my workplace, but they were always time-limited.

But then my friend, Darlene Gardner, told me about a twice-a-week yoga class for people in my age group, given in a nearby community center, that is free. It is also first thing in the morning and Darlene would pick me up. Every possible excuse not to do this class was taken away.

Yoga is much more than exercise, of course. According to Wikipedia, Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. Various types exist in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. I am interested in the physical practice, but there is no escaping the mental and spiritual benefits as well. Yoga is definitely calming.

I’ve been attending for almost six months now and I love it. Yoga, even in its gentler forms, is surprisingly strength-building. It also helps with flexibility and balance. The other students are nice people and the instructor is a sweetheart. She and her husband have a fitness studio in nearby Fairfax, Virginia, called Abundantly Fit.

I definitely have developed greater strength and flexibility and the yoga also makes me more conscious of my posture. I still recite the “shoulds”–“I should walk on days I don’t do yoga.” “I should stretch on days I don’t do yoga.” You get the idea.

What exercise do you do?


We have kittens in our house!
My son and daughter-in-law are pet people. Pre-kittens they had three rescue cats (all with their own dramatic stories) and a rescue dog (I should do a whole blog about Bean someday). So when a feral cat brought her kittens into their front yard, my daughter-in-law ran out and managed to grab three of the four. They were so tiny she had to feed them every two hours with an eye dropper.
As they grew (cuter and cuter), they turned into the sweetest kittens I’ve ever seen. Thanks to my son, daughter-in-law, daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend, and the CUTEST GRANDSON EVER, they became totally attached to people and did all those yearned for cat behaviors – purring, sitting on your lap, etc.

Then the time came for a decision. To give away all the kittens? Or keep the kittens in the family?

That was a no-brainer. Son and daughter-in-law kept the male (Rocky), my daughter claimed the gray girl, Pepper, and my husband and I kept the black and white girl, who we named Cleo.
Of course, we already have 3 cats, two of them very old, and, since my daughter and her boyfriend are now staying with us, we also have her kitten. Two of my cats now have their own mini-mes.
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Yes, we are crazy. I fully admit it, but these two kittens have brought us so much joy! When my daughter moves out (soon) we’ll be down to 4 cats. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot more reasonable?

What are you? Cat Person? Dog Person? Both? Other?