Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

To Pill a Mocking Cat

March 14, 2015

If you live with a cat, especially an older one, you may know that the way one describes administering medication to a feline is “to pill” them. Yes, it is an active verb, perhaps more accurately described as a contact sport.

It starts out innocuously enough, with a text to my phone from CVS that Bob or Daphne Stafford has a script ready for pick up. I have long since stopped grumbling about being a secretary for my cats. Now I just swing by, have their date of birth at the ready and pick up their drugs. Sometimes I mention that it’s for a cat, as Phenobarbital and Prednisone might look like a tricky combination for a 10 or 11 year old child.

Bobcat recently had a cardiac event, which necessitated an additional trio of medicines. I stare in a combination of wonder and horror at the cabinet which holds his arsenal and finally bought am and pm medicine cases to help keep them straight. It used to be so simple. I could stuff his one pill into a treat and he was grateful to gobble it down; he would even purr in anticipation. The stuff for his arthritis was dumped into his food, and although not thrilled about this arrangement, hunger always prevailed, and down the hatch it went.

Two months ago, a quarter of a pill was added to his regiment, and Bob decided that this one could not be disguised in a soft treat. He would eat around it, or drool it out of his mouth, leaving a trail of evidence on his way to sulk underneath the bench, or hurl it out of his mouth. His previously secret target practice means he is able to land these tiny bits on shirt collars, eyebrows, or camouflaged into the carpet for later disposal.

This latest round of prescriptions made my eyes pop, and my fingers wince in anticipation. One is liquid, and easy to squirt into the corner of his mouth, one is small, and acceptable in a treat, but the third is the size of Wyoming. We learned that they were designed for dogs to be chewed, so they are like biscuits. For Great Danes. Liver flavored. I need to cut it into literally dozens of pieces. The best way to get them into the animal is for my husband to get him in a gentle (but firm) headlock while he is lying down (the cat, not my husband). Then he can pry open the cat’s locked jaw, creating an open gullet for me to shower the flavored bits of cardiac functioning assistance. This is a much less efficient option on my own, as I am lacking the extra hands needed to hold him steady, and can only employ a gentle knee or elbow as I contort him and myself into the most favorable way to impart the gift to him. A lean 21 pound cat can bring remarkable force to bear when he puts his mind (and claws) to it.

I wonder that he still likes me at all, subjecting him as I do to twice daily torture, but Bobcat does not hold a grudge. He still purrs when we walk in the room, assured that our attentive ear scratches are on the way. I’m grateful that he can separate out the pill adventures from this repertoire and that we can remain TV buddies, and spooning champs.

And so we toil with pilling the cats, trying to balance what it right for the furry creature while retaining most of our digits and bank account. It’s all part of the learning, part of the love and care for a fabulous feline.

The joy of leaf blowing

November 23, 2014

I don’t believe that my husband was intentionally keeping me away from our leaf blower. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m sure he would have been thrilled had I woken up one weekend morning asking whether it was gassed up and ready for use. In the division of labor that had been in effect regarding yard work, he was Leaf Blower Guy and I was Rake and Drag the Tarp-full to the Woods Woman.

This year, however, he is shoulder deep in our kitchen renovation, thereby leaving the task of leaf removal to me. Last weekend being a quintessential autumn weekend, I asked where to find the blower. He dropped what he was doing and promised to get it ready. A few minutes later he reappeared peeling off layers of clothing and muttering under his breath about some hose that had come loose, dousing him in gasoline. It was not a straightforward fix.

Undaunted, I headed out with the rake and my best whistling tunes. Our neighbor spied me and my slow progress against the tide of leaves in our yard, and offered up his industrial strength leaf blower. He showed me how to control the strength of the blast, and how to refill it, and helped me strap it over my shoulders. I was off! Hearing the noise, within minutes my husband appeared, thinking I had decided to use our own blower, unheeding of the fact that I would reek of eau de gas. He burst out laughing when he saw me, declaring that I had a huge ear splitting grin on my face.

I was not aware of this; I was just amazed at the power at my fingertips. Like a magic wand, each way I pointed it, the leaves would dance their way toward the spot. How incredibly satisfying. The blower would have relocated chipmunks and squirrels with no problem, but fortunately there were none in my path.

As I wove my way around the yard, creating piles to be carried off later, or sending streams of leaves into adjacent woods, I realized I had found my new vocation. I could rent myself out as a leaf blower and do this all day for weeks. Hours of delight with such tangible results.

Although the blower could remove layers of moss, create divots, or worse, one thing it did not budge, I realized, was bear scat. It took a moment to realize what this dense substance was, but no other animal around was large enough to leave gifts like this in our yard. Could the afternoon get any better? Evidence of our bear friend decorated several sites on the grass, thereby disproving the adage about where a bear, well, you know, eliminates.

I was out until night descended, reluctant to give up my fun, although comforted by knowing I would get another crack at it the next day. After first raking and then spending a happy hour blowing off other work on Sunday, I ran out of gas and returned the tool to our neighbor. Saying goodbye to my new buddy, I felt some releaf about what I had accomplished. And I could dream of new ballets to choreograph in red, yellow and orange with the magic of the leaf blower.

Meg Stafford can be reached looking at catalogues of yard tools at

Not Standing on Ceremony

September 29, 2014

Weddings are always a reflection of the people starring in the ritual- large or small, formal or casual, with varying emphasis on music, food and presence of a religious tone. The wedding we attended on Saturday at the Crane Estate in Ipswich was no exception. What did take me completely by surprise, however, was the way in which the ceremony was conducted.

The bride and groom were the daughter of the Vice President and the son of the President of the company where my husband has worked for 22 years. They’re both close to 30, and everything about the wedding was driven by their preferences, their choices.

“Uncle” (at 80, actually the groom’s great uncle) became licensed to preside, and anyone connected with the company knew how this translated. For the many (among 400 guests) who were not so well acquainted with Uncle’s charms, what unfolded was nothing short of mind blowing.

Uncle’s demeanor was that of someone hosting perhaps a family reunion cruise ship talent show; he was informal, familiar, telling stories about the couple’s families, the company, letting us know when he was tired and would like to sit. In the middle of one story it occurred to him that he should sing a song. Impromptu, in a lovely baritone, he began, but after a few lines, could not remember the words. He asked for assistance when he lost his place in the program, and was happy to receive help about the timing of inviting the two people to do readings to take the mic. They each spoke for a minute or two, and the couple exchanged vows that they had written. In the middle of the marital pronouncement, he interrupted himself to announce that he remembered the words to the song. Our eyes popped imagining a digression at this point, but he refrained from singing a refrain.

We laughed, we looked uncomfortable, we dropped our jaws in disbelief at what we were witnessing. The two families, though, were clearly loving it, comfortable, welcoming. As my husband pointed out repeatedly, he is a known raconteur, and this was a conscious and deliberate choice.

The couple had invited a level of personalness and humor to what, judging by the storybook cover, had appeared to be a formal occasion. I had read too much into the grandeur of the Great House set atop 2,000 acres that rolled down to the sea.

They knew that they were getting 45 minutes of stand-up, delivered with love from someone they hold dear. They were confident that no matter where the service wandered, it was based in the heart, and would end with a legal and delighted pronouncement of their status as husband and wife. The rest of us were honored to be extras in the movie of their creation.

Meg Stafford can be reached at

Old dog, new tricks for us

September 14, 2014


It was the message no one wants to receive while on vacation. We had just settled into our rooms at a lovely bed and breakfast overlooking a lake in the Highlands of Scotland when I noticed an email from our neighbor: “We’re at the vet’s office. Please call ASAP.” I realized that the email had actually come through a couple of hours before, but we had been driving through the mountainous Highlands: beautiful, remote, and completely without service.

Four days into our vacation this was the first place that had no wifi service in the rooms, only downstairs in the lobby. I texted back, not sure whether it was our dog or one of the cats in our geriatric animal unit who was in trouble. At nearly 18 years of age, our dog had already defied the odds multiple times, coming back from the brink of pancreatitis or dehydration, bouncing with remarkable spunk to his arthritic but enthusiastic self.

Navigating the communication was proving challenging. I had no phone service, nor did our daughter with a British phone. My husband, two daughters and I gathered in one section of the lobby, pooling our respective electronic devices. Skype! We used my husband’s iPad, and called our neighbor. We could hear her, but she couldn’t hear us. The service cut out and I called back and if I spoke loudly, she could tell I was there. She continued speaking even when she couldn’t hear me. Already home from the vet, they had administered fluids and an appetite stimulant, but needed to have our wishes clear should the dog start to fail again.

Teary, but clear, we call back and convey our wishes for him to be comfortable, but not to keep him alive until we returned four days later if he was in pain.

“The vet needs you to call and tell them directly, “ our neighbor advises. We ring off, and place a call. Amazingly we get through first try. I explain our wishes to the woman who answers in an increasingly loud voice because the wifi is shaky, fading in and out. “OK,” she says, finally, “but I need you to tell the vet herself. Can you hold?” I sigh, praying that the connection can sustain.

The vet picks up and I rush to try to get our stance across before we lose signal. “Our dog has lived a long and happy life and we don’t want to prolong it if he is in pain.” I’m speaking in a controlled shout so she can understand. “What?” she asks. I take a breath and go for the quick direct route. “IT’S OK TO GIVE THE DOG THE SHOT IF IT’S TIME.” I look around and see a couple on a Skype call with their grandchild, and another couple speaking in hushed tones. The vet responds. “So it’s ok with you if he doesn’t come around from the fluids?” “YES, IT’S OK.” I’m self conscious about screaming how it’s all right to send our dog into the next life with all these people around. I’m hoping they are foreign and don’t understand me.

“Ok,” the vet says. “I need you to just tell our tech since we can’t get it in writing.” She is transferring me over before I can tell her that I already spoke to someone. Tracy picks up and I feel a wave of nervous laughter bubbling up. I am in a sit come here, about to shout to a third person that IT’S OK TO OFF OUR DOG if necessary. I have to slap a hand over my mouth to regain control.

Miraculously the line holds, although it is staticky. Tracy is apologetic and sympathetic but I interrupt her and blurt out that “IT’S OK TO GIVE HIM THE SHOT IF NECESSARY.” Having satisfied this condition we are able to ring off and I breathe out a sigh of relief.

The next morning I remember that we have our calling card number and text it to Beth, our generous neighbor, suggesting she call my daughter’s phone. We receive the call in the afternoon and once again our little street dog from Puerto Rice has come through, happy to eat the special cans of dog food from the vet. I am eager to see the little guy, grateful that we will be able to be with him again, with no plans to be away more than a night for months to come.

Meg Stafford can be reached at She will have good service for the foreseeable future.


Sprint Triathlon as a Newbie…

July 13, 2014


I signed up for my first Sprint Triathlon! The Appleman has been held in Littleton for a number of years, and I have always thought it would be a fun challenge, but our family has usually been on vacation during the time that it was held. This year, I realized that we would be here for sure, and decided to throw my hat over the fence, so to speak. Now it is over the fence, in the lake, and the only way to retrieve it is to jump in!


This triathlon involves a 1/2 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3 mile run. I have cycled for years, usually a 20 mile loop, so the biking part is for sure the most comfortable leg. We have a pool, and I usually swim laps for a 1/2 hour a few times a week in the summer, so I thought that a 1/2 mile should be doable. I have never been a runner, but again, three miles seems like it should be attainable. Right?


I signed up for the first open swim clinic last week, because swimming in open water with a sea of wiggling bodies is not the same as my leisurely solo back and forth in the pool where I can stop whenever I want to shake water out of my ears, or just look around. Boy was this a good idea. In this well run clinic, right on Long Lake, where the event will take place, I’m guessing there were around 40 people present. Some were first timers to this event. This was the case for one young woman, who said that she usually swims at Walden Pond. Twice around the perimeter, or 3.4 miles. Whaaaat???


I realized just how leisurely I do actually swim, and that’s ok, but the stopping part is really not an option. No picking daisies during this event. People enter a sprint for different reasons, and as a first timer, I am not out to blow away the field. Completion is looking pretty good, and I had at first thought that as long as I’m not last then I’ll be ok. Now I realize that what the heck? If I’m last, I’ll still be smiling as long as I’m not blue in the face.


I bought a wetsuit yesterday, not for warmth but because it’s a big aid in the buoyancy department. I had been calling it my Catwoman suit, but realized that Michelle Pfiefer can rock it as Catwoman; I’m focussing on buoyancy and will leave looking fetching for when I’m throwing sticks to the dog. The first person I spoke with about a wetsuit was in a biking store. “You want it to fit right, but you don’t want to be swimming in it,” he said. “I do want to swim in it,” I countered. “You can lose time in the transitions,” he insisted. If he means that I will lose time by gaining seconds during the transitions, then Of Course that’s true. All those high fives and fist bumps as I leave the water will take time. Transitions = breather, right?


Have you ever been wetsuit shopping? Wriggling into one after another of these snug fitting garments is a workout in itself! I was panting by the time I zipped up the winner with the leash that pulls up the back zip. But what a concept! I think I’m going to install colorful back zip leashes on some of my dresses!


I also bought some tri-biking shorts. Typically padded bike shorts are comfortable and would act like an incredibly efficient diaper, which would be awesome for biking toddlers, but less wonderful for a waterlogged adult trying to make up the fist bumping time on the bike. To say nothing of attempting to run after that. Tri shorts are less padded and will not take on water. So now I’m fully equipped and practicing my 3 sports as best as I can around my work and home duties. I’m nervous, but excited, and looking forward to more training, both in the open water, and on the road. More thoughts to follow in this three part series challenge…


Slightly breathless Littleton resident Meg Stafford can be reached at

Living in a Material World

October 4, 2013

I reached into my bag to grab my wallet and pay for the food supplement at the pet store when I realized it wasn’t there. The owner of the store saw my face and said, “Uh-oh. Something not good is happening.” “Oh, NO!” I exclaimed. “I stopped for gas on the way here (15 miles back) from work, and I did something I never do, which is leave my wallet on the top of the car while I pumped gas. I must have driven off with it still there.”

I raced out of the store as I heard her say that she would put the supplement  behind the counter.


I tried to invoke Siri’s help in calling the Hess station where I stopped, but she kept offering me a confounding array of options that I could not review while driving. There was only one number that I tried before tearing out of the parking lot, and no one answered.


I screeched into the Hess lot and dashed inside, explaining what happened. “No, no one has turned in a wallet.” “It’s red!” I cried, as if that made it more turn-in-able. Scanning the lot and the pump I used, I started my trek up the road. There were two guys planting the small hill outside the Longhorn restaurant next door. I repeated my plight. They looked at each other, but neither had seen a red wallet (with the words dum-dum implied on the top).


I marched along the side of the road, sweeping up and around each section of sidewalk and road. The onramp to Route 495 is a large right turning arc and I thought this was a likely place it would fall off. Up the side of this quarter mile of weeds I tromped in my little black dress with tiny white polka dots and my wedge heels. Nothing. When I reached the highway I stood and sighed and then turned around to walk the strip that separated the on and off ramps, hoping a different angle might yield a better result.


A hundred yards down a trooper heading to the highway pulled over. “What are you doin?” His tone was respectful and wary. I embarrassedly told my unfortunate tale. “You aren’t going to walk on the highway, are you?” Something about his tone told me that he had already received a call about some loon trooping around the side of the road. “No, I’m going to get my car and drive on the highway,” I assured him. He seemed satisfied. “Okay, good luck.” And he was off.


I continued my fruitless search and was within 50 yards of the Hess when I spotted a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk. “It’s not my wallet, but I’ll take twenty bucks,” I thought. As I bent down to pick it up, I spotted my wallet a few feet away, on the side of the road. There it was, with seemingly nothing else gone! How could I have missed it the first time around? Perhaps a car was driving over it at that moment? Whatever the reason, I breathed deeply and trotted to tell the Hess cashier. Thanking the gods of St. Anthony, or whoever else is responsible for this lovely turn of fate, I sent up a word of thanks for saving not only that afternoon, but countless other hours of replacing licenses, credit cards and precious photos.


Vowing to take more time and turn down the multitasking setting in my brain, I returned to the pet store, home, and the rest of my life. I think about the gift this kind of near miss represents, and want to make sure that I am not just running on. We all make mistakes, and certainly I will never again adorn the roof of my car with my wallet, but I need to really pay attention to where I am and what I am doing. Life in the slightly slower lane promises untold rewards. I’m all for that.


Conversations with Gravitas

September 20, 2013

The email came with a file attached and I was sure that it was a photo of her children, ages 6 and 9. We love my husband’s cousin, and enjoy any communication from her, whether it is about a visit, or the people in crazy colorful garb selling marionettes on the street.


It turned out that the photo was a bucolic scene: a field with some trees around..quite a lovely picnic spot. Except that it was actually a space for cemetery plots. (In New Jersey they would say, “You’ll plotz for our lots!”) Yes, my husband’s youngest cousin had scoped out some space in the cemetery in Falmouth, where her family has had a connection for years.  My brother-in-law owns a house by a Falmouth pond, and my father and mother-in-law also lived in North Falmouth for ten years. My husband’s grandmother used to come up for the summer, and we would go fishing or clamming with her. Our engagement party was on the lawn of Camp Wee Nappie.


But do we want to be buried here? I’m not sure. We don’t live near there, and we have not often visited the cemetery. My first mother-in-law died just ten months after we were married. My husband went once with our older daughter when she was 7 or 8 and wept while she put her little arm around him. She had never met her namesake.


In her email, Anne laid out prices and possibilities. Would we get a group rate? It is a two-for if both people are cremated. Her parents and sister were reserving spaces, as she was for her family. What I want to know is when they say the plot thickens, does that mean you can add a layer of cremains on top?


It surprises me that my husband and I have not talked about this. We have had a will for years and revised it once our younger daughter turned 18, but we have not discussed where we want to hang out once our bodies give way.


I have always imagined my ashes being scattered in beautiful Lake Minnewaska, in the Hudson Valley where I grew up. I loved swimming in the glacial turquoise waters, and hiking down to the bottom of the waterfall nearby. However, we haven’t been there for years, and only visited once with our daughters, so it no longer holds the same meaning. Falmouth had been a place we were all together but that is no longer the case, not since my father-in-law lost his second wife, and the family shifted.


We spent a week in Maine many summers in a row, and this is certainly a place to which we have some attachment, but is there one particular spot? My dad is buried on the property of the house they built outside of New Paltz, New York. My mom is now back in that area, but I don’t know what her wishes are around this. The house they built together has new owners who are lovely, but may not take kindly to memorials in their space.


It’s an interesting conundrum, one that will have an answer, and I want it to be intentional, not left for others to figure out. If we buy, would it be ok to sell our lots if we decide on something else? Is that poor etiquette, like reserving a house on the beach with the family and then subletting to someone else? I like the idea of being with the Stafford clan, but I’m not sure I want to be in a lot at all. I want to be returned to the earth, at least in part. A piece of the equation lies in what my kids want, and I’m not sure that they even know. Apart from my father-in-law’s second wife, they have not experienced a great deal of death during their lives. At their ages I had already lost three grandparents, plus several uncles, aunts and cousins.


Clearly the family would have an easier time getting together in the hereafter than we do in our day to day lives. But that still doesn’t answer the question of what is right for us. As far as cemeteries go, we couldn’t ask for more. It is really a question of whether that is what we want, and where we want. We will have to ponder it just a bit more. My husband’s cousin decided this week, but we are not quite ready with the answer. We will have to hope that if we do decide to be there, that we can still get space near them. If not, we’ll live…or not. But either way, as long as the people who want to commune with us have a space to do it in the way that they want to do it, we’re all good.


And dying to tell the tale.


The Pool Frog and Other Late Summer Perils

September 4, 2013


People do not typically consider frogs to be wily animals, but I am here to tell you that coyotes have nothing on these sneaky amphibious creatures. They have taken to gathering in the pool in gangs of eight or ten during the night. Clearly they’re conspiring about evasive maneuvers come morning when I have a limited amount of time to attend to them before heading off to work. They have also worked out that I will not leave any of them in the pool, so they focus on how to distract, fool or outright trick me.


I think this is a late summer specialty when I have less patience with the frog removal detail as the water has become cool and less inviting, so it is no longer about me and my selfish swimming needs, but only about them and their entertainment watching the human race around the pool carrying the big net.


The first tactic is “divide and distract.” Going for two frogs right next to each other with one swoop, they wait until the last second and swim in opposite directions, effectively stymying my pursuit. The next move is the “wait and jump.” They save this for when they are already in the net and then turn and do a swan dive (not easy for a frog) back into the pool. Sometimes they go for the leaf pose, camouflaging themselves with the collected debris at the bottom of the pool. This works more frequently than it should, because we have become lax about vacuuming, thereby allowing for more frog hiding possibilities.


The next technique involves swimming into deep water because they are much more speedy in deep water than I am with my long handled net, dragging it through the water which feels like it has taken on the viscosity of molasses.


I believe their favorite is watching me dash around the pool doing my imitation of the pole vaulter’s dash as I try not to take out any windows or bushes in the process. And all this as I am trying to save them from the chlorinated death trap that is the pool. Some kind of gratitude.


Another late summer bummer for me is the onslaught of mums. I whizzed by some the other day on my bike, and winced, but didn’t think too much about it. The next day as I got out of my car at a farm stand, I was visually assaulted by an entire display of them.

“Aaaaah!” I screamed involuntarily, like a vampire being faced with garlic. There were a couple of guys standing there who looked at me sympathetically. “Yeah, we don’t like them either,” one of them said. “It’s too early!” I cried. August is not for mums which herald the change of seasons.


It’s not that I don’t like fall. In fact, it is my favorite season, and the one in which my husband and I chose to make our wedding vows, but I don’t like to rush summer out the door. Someone told me that she saw Halloween decorations up at someone’s house the other day. I’m hoping that they just never took them down from last year rather than think that they are two months in advance of this holiday. I want to savor the delights that summer has to offer before bidding it adieu.


I suppose that all in all, this means that I should thank the frogs for providing me with the pull back to summer activities, even if they are the only ones doing the swimming.



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