A Farewell to Skating

I need to make a small announcement.

Relax, buddy; I'm not dying or moving to Mars or anything.

Relax, buddy; I’m not dying or moving to Mars or anything.

Image:  earthporm.com

After fifteen years of figure skating at my local rink, I’ve decided to take a break from the sport.  It has nothing to do with anyone there, with the city I live in–my dislike of it is separate from how I feel about skating–or anything related to the rink itself.  I’m just getting burnt out. I was going to wait until after the Christmas show this year to quit, but I think I need to take a step back from it now.

Skating has done a lot for me–it’s given me something constructive to do, it really is fun, and I learned to sew with really difficult materials (stretch velvet, anyone!?). But lately, I’ve found my focus shifting to other things, and showing up at the rink every week has become more an obligation than something I look forward to

It’s not just a weekend thing–my workouts have to take it into consideration, there is the clothing aspect, music, etc.  Anyone who skates knows that it’s not just a sport; it’s kind of a lifestyle and a mindset.

I don’t want to start hating it. I don’t want to go to the rink and feel like I don’t want to be there. I’m not ruling it out of my life completely. As long as I can physically and safely do it, I can return to it later, even as a senior.  Check out this skater if you don’t believe me!

Right now, there are a few things I want more than I want to skate. And in order to get them, I can’t divide my attention any longer.  Plus, skating costs money–and I want to spend that money on leaving this place because there’s nothing here for me.  With Pig gone (RIP little kitty), I don’t need to worry about finding a place that would suit her.

Recently, I received a request for pages from an agent, which was kind of a wake-up call—I had gotten into a rut of thinking I would never publish anything and nothing would change.  But hey, someone asked!  Even if they reject it, another might not, or they might not reject the next book. (When) that happens, I want to be totally ready to do whatever I need to do.

I have books I want to write.  I need to focus on coming up with good ideas and getting them down on the page.  I’m trying to stay creative–I’m teaching myself to draw.  And I’ll still be working out to stay healthy.

The skating program at my rink has grown a LOT since I started.  We now have more organization, we have other adult skaters–for a long time, I was the only one.  I wish them all the best and hope all their dreams will come true.

It’s time for mine to come true.

The white tree and the rainbow have decreed that it will happen--or maybe I'll just get wet.

The white tree and the rainbow have decreed that it will happen–or maybe I’ll just get wet.

 Photo:  Elizabeth West

Vocabulary: X-actly What You Needed on a Lazy Sunday

It’s time for another fun vocabulary post!  Today’s letter is x.  It marks the spot, denotes a signature, and looks like someone making a snow angel.


Image:  Kerys / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Because of the letter’s rarity in English, many words that begin with x have Greek origins.  You pronounce the x at the beginning with a z sound.  I’ve included pronunciation for some of the less familiar ones.

X axis – The horizontal line on a graph.  It’s math; don’t ask me.  Ask these people who think math is fun (it’s not).

Xanthophyll (ZAN-thu-fill) – This word tripped up Laura (Ingalls) in Little Town on the Prairie during a town-wide spelling bee.  It’s a yellowish or brown pigment that causes colors in autumn leaves.

If you haven’t read the Little House books because you think they’re for kids, go back and reevaluate your life.  Then read them.  They’re much, much better than the television series, which I loved as a child but find completely unwatchable now (except for certain select episodes, most having to do with Alison Arngrim’s delightfully wicked Nellie Oleson).

How could you not love this?!

How could you not love this?!

Image:  @iamnellieoleson / Twitter.com

Xerophyte –  A plant that can survive with very little water.  You often see xeriscapes, or gardens made up of such plants, in arid regions.

Xerotic – No, it doesn’t have anything to do with porn actors doing the nasty on top of a Xerox machine.  Get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty thing.  (Or not; I like that in a person.)

Medical folks refer to abnormal dryness of the skin, mucous membranes, or conjunctiva (in the eye) as xerotic.  Anybody with eczema (like me) probably has a touch of xerosis.

Xenophobia – An intense fear of strangers, or of that which is foreign to one.

“Doctor, maybe we shouldn’t go near those aliens,” Clara whispered nervously.  “They look rather fierce.”

“Nonsense!” the Doctor said. “One unfortunate trait of humans is a predilection for irrational xenophobia.  You’ll see what I mean when Earth gets to the 2016 elections in the U.S.  Let’s go say hello.”


“On second thought, a little xenophobia can be a very healthy thing.  Run!” 

Xhosa (HO-sa) – a South African ethnic group who comprise 8 million members made up of several tribes.  Their titular language is the second most widely spoken after Zulu.  Read more about them at Wikipedia.

Beautiful kids!

Image:  Zakysant / Wikipedia.com / CC BY-SA 3.0

Xilinous (ZY-li-nuss) – Pertaining to cotton.

“I believe that this xilinous material will burn,” said the Doctor.

“G-good,” Sarah Jane replied through chattering teeth, “because this b-bloody planet’s like ice.  Let’s get a fire going, Doctor.”

Xiphoid (say it like typhoid with a z) – Sword-shaped.

Xoanon (zo-annon) – A wooden cult image from ancient Greece.  None have survived except where reproduced in other materials such as stone.

Give me some of that xilinous material. It’s cold in here.

Image: User Mountain / Wikipedia.com

Xù (Vietnamese) –  A South Vietnamese coin that was the equivalent of a cent (one one-hundreth of a dông, which I guess was like a dollar).  Click the links to hear some native speakers pronounce the words.

Xylorimba – A musical instrument like a xylophone with an extended range–it covers many of the sounds a marimba and a standard xylophone can make.

Check out this man demonstrating one on YouTube.

Xylograph – An engraving in wood used for printing.  You see these prints a lot in medieval illustrations, where they’re often called woodcuts.

That’s all for today, kids.  See you next post!

Cat Bites are Dangerous! or, It’s not Pig’s fault her mouth was a steaming cesspool of filth

We will resume our regular flippant writing content after this post.

I need to divert from talking about writing to discuss something important.  You may have seen my previous posts—Psycho Kitty (aka Pig) died on July 7.  When I caught her for transport to the vet, she bit me quite hard on both hands (poor little baby; it wasn’t her fault).

We got to the vet, but there was nothing he could do for her.  From the symptoms I described, he thought she might have had a heart problem.  I took her home and buried her in the backyard, near her favorite bush, her favorite toys with her.

Within three hours of the actual bite, my hand looked like this:

My gross cartoon hand

Photo:  Elizabeth West

It hurt like I’d been shot.  Since it was after eight o’clock and the urgent care closes then, I went to the emergency room with an infection called cellulitis.  They gave me a small bag of IV antibiotic, a tetanus shot, an ultrasound, and a prescription for oral antibiotics, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the infection.

The next night, I was back in the ER–it got worse.

More IV dope, and they popped me in the hospital for two days.  I must have had five or six bags of the stuff altogether–four hours on the drip, then a couple hours off, then four more hours, etc.  Round the clock.  They took an x-ray to check for bone involvement.  Fortunately, my bones were good to go.

Finally, they discharged me and sent me home.  I’m still taking the oral antibiotics, and though my cartoonish hand has resumed normal proportions, my finger is still swollen and painful with limited range of motion.  I’ve been assured by a hand surgeon that it will heal, and I have a follow-up appointment with my primary care physician in the morning.

I don’t blame my kitty.  She was very ill and she had never bitten me like that before.  I don’t know if she even realized it was her mummy trying to stuff her into a carrier.

Her little gravestone.  <3

Her little gravestone.  <3

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I’ve been telling everybody who will listen to please, PLEASE take animal bites, especially on your hands, and any signs of infection from any wound seriously.   Cat bites in particular are very dangerous–their teeth are like little needles that poke the germs right in there.  And your joints have lovely sacs of synovial fluid, which bacteria just LOVE.

It’s warm, it’s dark, it’s anaerobic….bring on the mai-tais!

It’s warm, it’s dark, it’s anaerobic….bring on the mai-tais!

Image:  cuteimage / freedigitalphotos.net

Watch yourself, everyone.  You don’t want to go through this.  I was lucky it didn’t get worse.  And I miss my kitty.

In Memoriam: Psycho Kitty (aka Pig)


I DO NOT EVEN BELIEVE IT. Not FIVE minutes after I posted that blog post, Pig showed up on the patio.

She still will not eat.
She will not come to me.
I cannot leave food out, because two seconds after I put something under the bush for her, the monster strays were in the yard.

This is almost worse than if she were dead. I have to watch her slowly go feral and die.

I cannot get rid of these cats and if I don’t, she WILL die. I don’t know what to do.  I guess I will call the shelter and the vet in the morning and see if there is anyone who can help me either get rid of these cats NOW, or catch her.

Being single and alone sucks big time.


Psycho Kitty has disappeared.

She was harassed out of her yard by strays–a mother cat and kittens who took up residence in my neighbor’s crawlspace.  When last I saw her, she was hiding in the culvert pipe and would not eat, nor would she come out.  I checked again Sunday afternoon, and she was gone.

I have called her Psycho Kitty as a pseudonym, but I will share her real name with you.  She was called Pig (prior owner called her Miss Piggy, but I shortened it).  I often called her Piggy, Baby Girl, Bawlbaby, and Piggins.

This is a picture of her on her thirteenth birthday, 5 May 2016.  That is her purple British mouse, one of a packet I bought her at my auntie’s vet office in London.  It may have been her last birthday.

Aww Pig 2016

Photo:  Elizabeth West

This is not a feral animal (or rather, she wasn’t; if she is still alive, she may be now).  Pig has had two owners–me and a former neighbor.  The previous owners took care of her shots and fed her, but they didn’t bother to socialize her. She has always been timid as a mouse.  They dumped her on me when they didn’t want to care for her any longer.

I didn’t want a cat at that time, but I realized no one would likely take her because she was so scared, and she was strictly an outside cat.  So I adopted her.  After a great deal of coaxing and love, I had a sweet little baby who would come when I called.  She would demand attention from me.  She played with toys I bought.  She loved being brushed.  She even let me put her on my lap and pet her.

She loved me, and I loved her.  She could be very annoying, and it cost money to have her taken care of when I traveled, but I found a good pet sitter and took her to the vet regularly.  I bought her special food.  She has been well cared for.

PIg distracted from the squirrels

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Pig’s previous owner had her spayed.  I had no worries about unwanted kittens.  Unfortunately, other people have no such concerns.

The feral cats next door have starved and driven my cat out of her yard.  They drove my neighbor’s cat indoors (lucky him, to have a cat who likes being inside).  It has been a nightmare akin to having wharf rats move in.  I’d actually prefer the rats, because at least a pest control company will take care of those.

In her memory, I make this plea to you, interspersed with a few cat facts:

  1. Please, please, PLEASE spay and neuter your pets when they are young. (Dogs too.) Cats can start to reproduce as young as 4 to 6 months, and they will.  It’s a biological drive.  Neutered animals may still have loud kitty sex outside your window at 2 a.m., but they won’t be able to infest your yard with kittens.  According to this website (http://www.knowyourcat.info/info/reproduction.htm), “It has been estimated that in a 12-year lifespan, without human intervention, a single female cat could be responsible for as many as 3500 descendants.”

There is no good reason for pet cats to reproduce.  They don’t long for babies the way humans do, and it is not against God or nature to neuter them.  Unless you are a reputable, licensed breeder, I beg you–spay and neuter.

  1. Please do NOT feed strays. Do not leave food out for your animals–cats don’t need to snack all day, and I guarantee you they won’t eat it.  The strays will.  Also, don’t feed in one place hoping to distract them from another (in desperation, this was tried and it does not work).  If you leave food out, you will also attract skunks, raccoons, and possums, all which probably live in your city.  (If you’re in London, it would be foxes.)

Pig was fed twice a day and given only what she would eat. There were no leftovers, and until these cats moved in, we had few problems.

  1. If you see a neighbor feeding strays, please talk to them and try to convince them not to do this. Please realize that feral cats are not cute.  They are, in effect, wild animals.  Cats are very close to their wild origins, much more so than domestic dogs.

a.  They do not need you to survive.

b.  They carry various diseases that can infect other animals, including feline distemper and rabies (which can also infect you and has a 99% fatality rate).

c.  The lifespan of a feral cat is usually only about 2 or 3 years, and it’s not the best life.

If you don’t spay and neuter and / or if you foolishly abandon animals you grow tired of, then you cannot call yourself an animal lover.  Cats who are well cared for can live up to 15-18 years. If you’re not prepared to make that kind of financial and emotional commitment, then you should not have one.

Only known video of Pig playing with toys

 My sweet, timid kitty is either running wild and scared, or she is lying dead somewhere and I can never find her or say goodbye to her.  I may have lost her forever, and these horrible awful animals who drove her away are still frolicking through my yard until they’re weaned and gone.  Pig did not deserve to have to starve alone away from her loving home.

Dear Pig, Momma loves you.

I miss seeing you at the gate when I pull up after work.

I miss you coming to meet me at the car like a dog.

I miss your bawling at the kitchen window for me to come out and then running around like a crazy thing when I tried to play with you.

I miss you setting the belly trap and I know you were laughing when I fell for it (ouch).

I miss you yelling at me in the car after we went to the vet’s office (and you were a good girl while you were there–they all thought so).

I miss your excitement when you got a can of Fancy Feast or a little broth envelope.

I miss giving you a treatie at night before you went to bed.

I miss you.

Godspeed, little girl.

Even this one, fat and mouthy as she is.

Photo:  Elizabeth West