The New Year Hath Begun

Snow Photo

Light breaks through the winter landscape for January

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Knock on wood: five days into the New Year and so far, I have avoided tripping, increased illness, and damage to myself in general. Not only does the temperature remain well below freezing, several mishaps befell me as the previous year drew to a close. Yet I remain confident the weather will warm up to at least above freezing in another week or so, and that I will rebound.

After having spent a wonderful day in Fort Wayne with my aunt, uncle, and cousin visiting from L.A., I drove home in a snow sleet storm. The conversation lively, the food excellent, and the tea and coffee at their home warmed my heart. Their company offered a sweet post-Christmas get together. Later, driving at 40 miles an hour, I didn’t make great time, but I managed to drive us home safely while enduring white out conditions.

As the morning broke, I found myself as sick as could be with a vile virus. Between the terrible cold weather and my overall malaise, I dosed myself with over-the-counter medications in the cabinet. In the wee hours of the morning, I stepped into the bathroom, and promptly tripped over something. I catapulted into the side of the porcelain bathtub on my right shoulder, and then crashed onto the tile floor on my right hip. Failure to turn on the bathroom light, my negligence in not stepping into sturdy slippers, my lack of vision wear, plus items left on the bathroom floor, combined to form a perfect storm of catastrophe. I had taken sinus and congestion medication before retiring for the night, which resulted in fuzzy thought processes, or lack thereof. Or I simply chose not to put away items.

At the risk of sounding like Lazarus, I was in tremendous pain, unable to get off the bathroom floor. EMS guys managed to hoist me up and into a straight back chair. After checking me over and evaluating my walk, they determined nothing had been broken. They suggested taking me for further evaluation at the hospital, but the winter wind whipping around outside held little appeal in my mind to venture out. The EMS personnel and the three firemen offered kind words and compliments about our Christmas decorations and outdoor lights. After they left, I spend the remainder of the night attempting to sleep in a recliner.

Thus, I remained inside during the blustery New Year’s weekend, making use of a heating pad and drinking copious amounts of green tea. It turned out that Coco Chanel, our little black and white cat, had developed a proclivity for the heating pad. Whenever she now sees me plug it in, she races to pounce upon it. We now share it. Last night I had a glass of wine with a slice of Whole Foods pizza. I have imbibed enough tea and water. I am still smarting over not having been able to toast the New Year with a glass of bubbly. Perhaps it is not too late to toast the New Year. Tonight I will fill my glass with the gentle fizz of Prosecco and ring in the New Year. It’s never too late!

Ciao for now.


Winter Solstice

Coco Chanel the winter solstice cat -
Coco Chanel the winter solstice cat –

Frosty weather set in at the end of November.  I know this for a fact because if it had not yet snowed prior to my birthday, as sure as there are stars above, it would snow on November 30th.  Always.  Until the oft referred to ‘global warming’ began melting icebergs in Antarctica.

On December 21st, I realized that as the days draw nigh earlier, my awakened state is diminished.  I long to rest in the green leather wing back recliner poised near the Christmas tree.  Through the sheer patterned curtains I observe the blue-black of a night sky scattered with stars.  As I wrap my hands around a hot cup of peach herbal tea, my contentment is complete.  I am at ease in my domicile on these long winter nights.

I refrain from reading news updates these days; the sensational and the aberrant impinge upon my tranquility.  I seek refuge from the restlessness of the world.  I envy the luxurious slumber of beasts that snooze throughout the winter.  Each morning I coax myself into abandoning the warmth of my bed in order to march once again into the breach that is the working world.

There is nothing that makes the winter solstice more comforting than knowing I will converge with friends over the course of the frosty weekends over brunch, dinner, or drinks.  I bask in the witty discourse and laughter of friends and family.  Yet I likewise cherish the solitude of my quiet life, my writing life, my inner creative life.  Yes, the comfort of winter brings serenity to my spirit each time I observe Fellini and Coco Chanel asleep next to the Christmas tree.  We should all be so relaxed and peaceful.

Fellini the winter solstice cat -
Fellini the winter solstice cat –

Ciao for now.

Remembering Sparkle, Part III

Few things upset Sparkle.  She had no quarrel whenever the mailman placed the mail in the box.   Sparkle remained staunchly in place whenever the doorbell rang; retreat was not part of her vernacular.  Calico Cat down the block would stroll up the steps to our front porch and wait for a reaction. The minute Sparkle caught a whiff of Calico Cat, Sparkle would hurl herself headfirst through the mini-blinds.   Snarling, hissing, back arched, nose hot pink with fury, Sparkle vented her wrath toward Calico Cat for daring to venture into Sparkle Territory.  Never mind that Sparkle lived the life of Club Med Cat as an indoor cat; her territory extended to the porch and yard as well.  Sparkle was adamant that we not interfere in feline territorial disputes.  Frankly, we were too terrified of her to intervene.  The irony was that Sparkle was the sweetest, gentlest cat imaginable ninety-nine percent of the time.

Sparkle presiding over her domicile –

A bona fide homebody, Sparkle despised her annual trip to the veterinarian.  Even though our veterinarian took only feline patients, Sparkle wanted no part of her. Anjelica always took care to place a clean fluffy towel in the bottom of Sparkle’s cat carrier.  They rode together in the back seat of our car to soothe Sparkle’s anxiety.

“Mama, please play classical music on the radio.  Sparkle likes Chopin.”

No matter how gently Anjelica attempted to placate her, it was to no avail. Once we arrived at the veterinarian’s, the situation deteriorated rapidly.  Once Sparkle nipped the doctor.  While lashing out at the vet another time, Sparkle bit her own tongue and bled profusely.  Another vet visit resulted in Sparkle urinating all over an assistant who was trying to weigh her.

After a particularly ill-fated visit the previous spring, the veterinarian placed a note in Sparkle’s file:  Henceforth Sparkle would be sedated.  Whenever I called to schedule an appointment, I felt certain the office staff drew lots to see whose fate it was to handle Sparkle.   Gingerly an assistant carried a spitting, snarling Sparkle back to the examination room.  By this time, we had grown accustomed to hearing cat screeching on the car ride to and from the vet’s and throughout the exam.  However, this time Sparkle was positively operatic in her high-pitched yowling.  Finally, the bedraggled assistant appeared:  Sparkle was wrapped in a bath towels [not ours] from which ominous growling was emanating.   Handing me a wild-eyed Sparkle, the exhausted woman said:

“Sparkle is very angry.  She broke loose from my grasp and jumped from the examination table on to the sink table.  Unfortunately, the sink was half-full of water.  You might want to keep the bath towel around her.  Just bring it back when you get a chance.”

And with that, the vet assistant turned on her heel and fled behind closed doors.

We peered down at Sparkle.  The pupils of her eyes were black. Rage caused her to breathe heavily and rapidly.  Her wet fur looked like mousse had been applied.

Somehow we managed to get Sparkle home.  She would have nothing to do with me until bedtime, but she happily snuggled up with Anjelica for bedtime stories.  Clearly she held me responsible for the entire disastrous experience.  She did sleep hard that night.

Sparkle on the bathroom vanity waiting for a drink from the faucet

Sparkle was the most vocal cat I had ever had, yet her vocal timbre was less than sonorous; it was downright shrill.  Each morning as soon as I set foot in the bathroom, Sparkle would charge down the stairs and leap up on the vanity.  As I was taking care of my personal needs, Sparkle would look me squarely in the eye in my compromised state and utter,

“Aaaaeeeeiiiioooouuuu!  Aaaaeeeeiiiioooouuuu!” at an ear shattering pitch.  Translation:  Get my Fancy Feast breakfast on the double!

To divert her attention momentarily, I would turn on the cold water at a slow stream.  Sparkle’s penchant for water from this tap only was then indulged.  She had us all well-trained.

Ciao for now.





Remembering Sparkle, Part II


Sparkle the Charming Cat –

Transferring from a bona fide nurturing Montessori classroom into a traditional Catholic first grade proved a traumatic experience for Anjelica.  I was going through a divorce and could no longer afford the suddenly doubling of the Montessori school’s tuition.    Her cat Sparkle represented a safe haven from the trials and daily grind of traditional schooling.  Each day when we opened the backdoor, Sparkle stood ready to greet Anjelica with a hearty “awaaaao”.  Anjelica would scoop up Sparkle in her arms and off they went to Anjelica’s room, returning for an after-school snack and glass of milk.  Sparkle slept with Anjelica nightly and shared her other pillow. “Bitty Kitty” as Anjelica nicknamed her, had an affinity for walking around the rim of the bathtub as Anjelica splashed in a bubble bath.  At dinnertime, Sparkle graced the chair next to Anjelica.  These two were inseparable.

Sparkle the Christmas Cat –

Sparkle participated in family birthdays and holidays.  One memorable Thanksgiving, I  set the pumpkin pie on the table, but had to retrieve a utensil from the kitchen.   I returned to the dining room just in time to witness Sparkle leaving one perfect paw print in the center of the pumpkin pie!  Christmas wrapping never failed to piqué Sparkle’s interest.  Diving into the bow box was practically an Olympic sport for her.  That cats were present at the birth of the Baby Jesus, Sparkle doubted it not.

Sparkle the Nativity Cat –

Sparkle followed movement closely on the television computer screens.  For her viewing pleasure, a nip of salty potato chip satisfied Sparkle’s human food cravings, along with bits of seafood, chicken, cheese tortellini, and Italian meatballs.  Anjelica’s sweet-natured cat was nothing if not eclectic in her gourmet food choices.  Sparkle was quite the gourmand gatta.

Ciao for now.


Remembering Sparkle, Part I


Sparkle the cat –

The summer Anjelica turned six, she informed me she wanted a cat of her own.

“But we have Lulu, our Houston cat,” I protested.

“No, Mama.  Lulu was your Houston cat before I was born.  I want a cat all my own.”

I sighed.  “Let’s look for cats to adopt,” I suggested.

“I drawed a picture of the cat I want,” announced Anjelica.

She handed me a drawing of a predominantly white cat with gold ears, a gold tail, and several gold spots on its body.

“Sweetheart, it will be hard to find a cat that looks exactly like the one in your lovely picture.”

“Let’s start looking, Mama!”

I felt this was a doomed search from the get go.  The odds of finding a cat with such particular coloring specifications seemed like searching for a needle in a haystack.

We went to the local Pet Refuge and Animal Control.  In the meantime, I queried colleagues and friends.  There were a plethora of black cats, gray cats, tortoise-shell cats, and variations thereof, but no cat remotely resembled the one of Anjelica’s dreams.

Finally, one Saturday morning, we drove to the county Humane Society.  Rows and rows of black, gray, black and white, gray and white, tortoise-shell, and calico cats greeted us with meows both sweet and frantic.  On a ledge in a huge cat cage, was a heap of kittens, stacked on top of one another snoozing the sultry summer day away.  From the bottom of the kitten pile, a gold-ringed tale lay draped over the edge of the ledge.  Upon closer inspection, Anjelica noticed a white foot.

Sparkle the cat –

“Mama!  Mama!  My cat! My cat!  She’s there!” Anjelica almost pulled the tall cage door open herself before the volunteer reached for it.

Gently, the volunteer moved each kitten until she reached for the gold-ringed tale, white-footed cat.  She placed the kitten in Anjelica’s waiting arms.  The kitten deigned to open its green eyes for a moment, then fell back asleep purring.

“See her gold spots, Mama?  See her gold ears?  Her white paws?  She waited for me.”  Anjelica paused, peering at the kittens pink triangle nose.  “Her name is Sparkle.”

“Welcome to the family, Sparkle.”

Ciao for now.


Ode to a Cat

A six-week old kitten.
A six-week old kitten. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a person who has been owned by various cats ever since I was three years of age, I feel qualified to address the elusive allure of cats.  At age three, I have a vivid memory of Mama driving us to Zio Eduardo’s farm to select a kitten.  A calico kitten mesmerized me with her grey white, gray, tan, and black dappled fur. I anointed her Kitty Carbon.  Why, I have no idea, but “Carbie” and I became inseparable as we romped and partook of afternoon teas.

The good-natured Kitty Carbon permitted me to dress her in my doll bonnets and sometimes even in a doll dress.  We took catnaps together on sultry summer days.   My Papa made her a cozy bed of fresh hay covered with a gunnysack, and piled high with plush towels. She snoozed away the nights on a shelf in the garage behind closed doors.  I didn’t understand why “Carbie” sometimes disappeared for a night or two or three.  Shortly thereafter, she puffed up.  Even though I was mystified, Kitty Carbon would bless us with four to six kittens several times a year.  Mama would always search for fine homes for “Carbie’s” brood, amid protests from me.   I wanted to keep them all.

After nine years, perhaps one for each of her mystical nine lives, Kitty Carbon passed away.  I mourned her deeply and lamented her loss.  Yet in those nine years, “Carbie” taught me the ying and yang of felines.  She manifested fearlessness when it came to hunting, but gentleness reigned whenever she was with me.  When drowsy, “Carbie’s” eyes became slits that covered most of her green eyes, while still aware of the world around her.  Enigmatic, she thrived on human love, and the company of neighborhood cats, especially in the spring.  Throughout her life, Kitty Carbon meowed sparingly, alerting us to her immediate needs.  She particularly excelled at purring.   Only two photos survive of her, and they are not of primo quality.  The above photo is as near a clone of “Carbie” that I could locate.  The photo may not be perfect, but Kitty Carbon burns brightly in my mind and in my heart.

Ciao for now.