One of my Christmas presents from Brett was a book of knitting patterns for dog coats. I knit one for Lucy and it was so much fun to make that I’m going to knit another one. When we walk on the trail, Lucy is quite the stylish pup!
My last name, Kehret, is pronounced “carrot,” and is not an easy name to spell. Even so, I am amazed by the variety of spellings that are used when readers write to me. One would think that a person who’s writing to an author would have a copy of one the author’s books and would see how the author spells her name.
This week alone, I’ve received letters where my name is spelled Kerhet, Kehere, Kayret, Kerhert, and Krehert.
The town where I get my mail, Wilkeson, Washington, is a challenge for spellers, too. The most common mistake is to add an “r” and call it Wilkerson, but I’ve also seen it spelled Willkeson, Wilkesone, Wilkesen, and Wilkersonn.
I’m glad I have an easy first name. So far, everybody’s spelled Peg correctly.
I spent this morning at the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project in Lynnwood, Washington. Today’s clinic was a memorial to Molly, my special cat friend for more than sixteen years. It was a full clinic, with rows of cats in cages being spayed or neutered. I know that many, many litters of unwanted kittens were prevented by today’s surgeries and I feel it was a fitting memorial for Molly. My friend, Karrie, who stays with my animals when I travel, went with me.
Last week’s storm left my driveway piled with broken branches and downed trees. On Saturday, there was still so much ice that I couldn’t even walk down my driveway, much less start trying to clear it. Mid-afternoon, two young men knocked on my door. They were about 21 or 22 years old, and called me “Miss Peg.” They told me that when they were in school, they had read Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. (They knew where I live because all of the kids in my small town and the next town over know who I am and where I live.) They were driving past, saw the condition of my driveway, and said, “Miss Peg has polio problems. She can’t deal with those trees.” So they did it for me! They dragged all the heavy branches off the driveway and told a neighbor who was out with a chain saw about the one tree that was too heavy for them, and he cut that up. When they had finished, I could get my car out. They asked if I needed anything from town, and then they both wrote down their names and cell phone numbers and told me to call them if I needed any more help.
I’ve always known from my mail that I have the best readers in the world, but I never expected that the memory of a book they read a decade ago would prompt two young men to be so caring.
As I write this, I am in the midst of a horrific ice storm. Freezing rain followed a foot of snow, leaving an inch-thick crust of ice on everything, including the branches of the trees. The weight was more than many of the trees could bear. Many lost large branches; some snapped off eight or ten feet from the ground. Others bent low, bearing the weight but not yet giving in to it. Many toppled.
When I stand on my porch (the ice is too treacherous to venture out around the property) it sounds as if I’m surrounded by gunfire. The sharp snap of branches breaking is followed by a waterfall of ice hitting the ground. The mock orange trees, transplanted from Anne’s yard, that guard the entrance to my nature trail are bent so low that the tops of their branches now touch the ground. A clump of three birch trees, a long-ago Mother’s Day gift, look more like a weeping willow. The vine maple that’s so glorious in the Fall now arches forward like a supplicant on a prayer rug. My woods look as if a giant had flung down fistfuls of match sticks. The trees lean in all directions.
When we first bought this property, Carl and I took classes in how to care for the forest and we registered to participate in a reforestation program. As a part of that, we planted more than two hundred trees. The deer ate all the dogwood trees the first week but most of the fir and pine survived and were watered and nurtured. I have continued the program. Many of those first seedlings are now more than forty feet tall. I’m especially sad to lose some of those.
Some of the downed trees will provide firewood for next winter; others will become shelter for the rabbits, mice and birds. Fallen branches will turn to mulch and feed the forest that remains. And when Spring comes, as I know it will, I’ll plant again.
Heidi is trained as an animal control officer and serves on the Washington State Emergency Response Team that helps animals in emergencies. I named the animal control officer in Ghost Dog Secrets Heidi, in her honor.
My birthday was Nov. 11 and I celebrated with family, including three surprise visitors: my oldest granddaughter, Brett, who drove home from college to attend my birthday dinner, and my brother and sister-in-law, Art and Joan, who flew in from Phoenix.
I thought I was going out to dinner with Anne, Kevin, and Pam – my daughter, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law. When we arrived at the restaurant, Art, Joan and Brett were waiting. It was a wonderful surprise and we had a fine celebration.
The other special guest had a sitter for the dinner, but then spent the rest of the week-end with me. My great-grandson, Seth, is three months old. He and Lucy were curious about each other the whole time Seth was here.
One of my problems from post-polio syndrome is fatigue. It isn’t the normal feeling of being tired that happens after a busy day but rather a heaviness that drains my energy and makes even small activities seem overwhelming.
One day as I tried to talk myself into going to buy groceries I thought, Why don’t I just pretend that I have lots of energy and then act as if it’s true? So, that’s what I did. Telling myself that I felt great, I gathered my list, my coupons, and my purse and set off. When I got home, I was still fatigued, but I wasn’t any more tired than I would have been if I’d stayed in my recliner – and I was no longer out of cat food, an important achievement.
Since then, I often pretend that I feel better than I do. You feel great, I tell myself. You can answer all your fan mail this morning. You can write three pages on that new book. Most of the time, it works.
The post-polio syndrome isn’t gone, but pretending allows me to manage it better. Of course, I’ve been pretending for years in other ways, making up events and characters and dialogue, and putting them on paper. Authors are adept at pretending, and now I find it’s been good practice for real life.
After I said goodby to Purrlie, I decided to take some time off from doing foster cat care. She’d had so many health problems that I was tired from the constant worry. I’ll give myself a month to rest, I thought.
Four days later, my friend Christine called. She was in a Fred Meyer parking lot next to a busy four-lane road, and she had just found a frightened little cat. Chris’s husband died two weeks ago, she’s caring for her mother, she works out of town a lot, and she already has a house full of rescued animals. She asked if I could possibly foster a cat. Of course I said yes.
Chris and I took Sweetpea to my vet the next day. She had no microchip. She did have fleas, ear mites, and diarrhea. Unlike Purrlie’s problems, all of those are easily treated and Sweetpea is doing fine. She’s a petite, silky cat with a squeaky meow. She lets me know if I’m too slow in serving her meals, and she also purrs and rubs on my ankles every time I enter the cat room.
No, I don’t plan to keep her. If I start adopting the foster cats, I’ll have to quit fostering. I broke that rule with Purrlie only because she had no other option. Sweetpea gets her first vaccines next week (she was so skinny that the vet wanted her to have good food for awhile before she got vaccinated) and then she’ll be ready for a permanent home. And I will be ready for a (brief?) rest from foster care.