Catpaws Cafe

Random musings from my virtual fountain pen

Late summer bbq

Late summer bbq, new creepy short story podcast episode available to listen free on

https://soundcloud.com/elisse-rosales/late-summer-bbq-by-catpaw-rosales

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-pfsi3-ddade4

Enjoy

New podcast episode: The new life starts here (or simply Caragh; a short story by – and read by – me)

Finally got the code from NCH yesterday so today I edited another short story podcast for you. I would have preferred it read by an androgynous voice-actor, but you’ll have to make do with me. 
You do not need to download any app to listen, just listen online. I hope you like it 🐾

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-kcbng-db298a

Smoke (and fear)

Woken up in the night by smoke. This is not unusual; out of the ordinary smells wakes me up. Sometimes I question if it is my migraine brain making it up. Most of the time it is cigarette-smoke (neighbors), or cooking smoke (neighbors again), and it dissipates after half’n hour.
This didn’t. So I went out and up on the roof to see what I could detect. A blanket of smoke covering the whole ‘hood as far as I could see, with no discernible point of origin.

I lay awake for an hour and a half, throat getting increasingly raw. I tried to calm myself with the facts that I was still thinking clearly, and the smoke was not making me drowsy, it couldn’t be bad bad, as in lethally bad. Every time I nearly dropped off to sleep the Danger Danger would go off in my body once more.

This morning Mario found out it was jungle fires around, the wind bringing the smoke to blanket the city. I could hardly speak. 
Lucky for us, the wind has turned and blowing the smoke away. It hasn’t rained for months, unless you count the few drops we just got, minutes ago, and I mean drops. I went outside and I didn’t even get damp. 
Scary, but I’m fine.

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh 💚


At this time….there’s a lot of grief and anxiety floating around in the ether. Feel it, cry if you want to. You do not need a “story” or to know why. Most of us have unprocessed grief, from this or other lifetimes. BREATHE. Let go. Let the tears flow, they are nature’s cleanser, almost like having a shower for your insides.

Feel
Observe
Accept
Love yourself.

an exercise known as FOAL, brought to us by Nora Herold and the Pleiadians. 

99% Invisible

Next up in my “love letters to favorite podcasts to break the writer’s block” – is 99% Invisible.

There’s the podcast itself – which is terrific – and can be found on most podcatchers, and there’ the supporting website ( https://99percentinvisible.org/ ) with so much more than illustrations of what you are hearing. A ton of interesting articles for example to keep you – and me – entertained for weeks, and rekindle one’s curiosity for the world. It’s warm. Engaging. Fascinating. Humane. It reels you in and hugs you reassuringly, a fantastic thing in stressful times.

It says Here! Look! Isn’t this amazing? And it is.
Whether you can’t leave the house right now, need something to do on a long journey, while commuting, gardening, or going for a run, listening to 99% Invisible you can discover the world through a new lens – that of your ears – and add to your bucket list for an other time.

99% Invisible’s fresh take on things you thought you knew keeps it interesting,  they’ve even managed to make some aspects of sports palatable.
It’s the kind of “radio” I wanted to make when I was trying my damnedest to break into radio during the 80s and early 90s. Now I don’t have to do anything but kick back and enjoy it, but yeah, it makes me wonder where I’d have been, on an other timeline. Instead I’m here fan-personing :O

With my phone ceasing I can’t access my highlighted favorites, so I’ve added some episodes I remember in no particular order. Just dive in and see what you like the sound of. Enjoy!

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/gander-international-airport/
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/managed-retreat/
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/depave-paradise/
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/hero-props-graphic-design-film-television/
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/lights-out/
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/uptown-squirrel/
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/mexico-68/

Crossover:
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/ways-of-hearing/

Nocturne

The times we are currently in has given me writer’s block so I thought I’d write love-letters to my favorite podcasts.
nocturne-kcrw-vanessa-lowe-tiATnY-y1ug.1400x1400
There is something about the NOCTURNE podcast, that makes it perfect. Not every episode, but often enough for it to be remarkable. I don’t remember where I found it, but I’m guessing a writer friend may have mentioned it. That’s how it usually happens. 

When the few introductory notes of Nocturne plays and the crickets in the background join in, it plucks at my souls strings, makes my stomach contract, and tear up in recognition of a kindred spirit, somewhere out there, are others like me. It connects with something deep inside, as if a beacon has just called out, and like a homing pigeon the compass within rights itself towards it. 
It makes me long for some undefined togetherness; that moment feeling more like home than any place I’ve ever been.

It’s like the best drink when you’ve been crawling through the desert for days; I want to reach out; to pick it up and drink it down, absorb it, breathlessly, before it evaporates or turns into a mirage. It is a drop of an elixir from a home I have yet to define. A handwritten letter from your best friend from another world.

I too have felt that hour, the ones during the night; that belongs to me, where the world has no claims on my beingness. The hour when my being relaxes, and mind does not race. Such a rare break from everything, and it is always too short, never long enough to be restorative; Not in a world where you have to keep in step with humanity.
It is the hour of being, of beingness, when no one is going to interrupt and accuse me of not doing enough by their definition; enough to find the next gig-job, keeping house, or in other ways try to make claims on my time.. When the veil is at it’s thinnest, and everything else…is near but not quite possible.

The darkness is a fuzzy blanket I wrap my soul in to stay sane. Which in itself is bizarre, given the dastardly deeds that take place under it’s cover.
Whatever I do at that hour, is for me, and me alone. It does not require justification. It is to nourish my soul. Not thinking of ways to improve my situation, life, or being; my mind forever searching for whatever clue I might have missed, crossroads where I took a wrong turn.

A reluctant city-dweller, I long for the darkness you never get in a city, a place where the herds gather for false safety in numbers, to earn their pennies to pay for the cost of living. There is no going for a walk after dark where I live if you want to stay alive. But we have a roof, and if I sit down I am shielded from the floodlights. Often accompanied by a cat – or two – sometimes by one of the neighborhood opossums. There I stay, sometimes for hours; watch the sky and the stars, planes and bats, trees lit up from afar, a strange reverse silhouette effect, trees that have managed to grow in this concrete jungle. Sometimes their leaves rustle at the hint of a breeze. Never still enough for a real candle, and always the traffic in the distance.

To listen for yourself, here are two of my favorite episodes.

Candle Hour

you-are-a-candle-150x150

Artwork by Robin Galante


https://nocturnepodcast.org/the-dark-revolt/
https://nocturnepodcast.org/the-weight-of-the-river/

Hello?

I don’t pub much here anymore. I write stuff, and by the time I’ve edited and typed it up (yes I’m one of those dinosaurs that likes to use pen and paper) three days later, life has moved on and what was once so urgent feels way too far in the past to bother posting here. Time in itself feels unreal. I feel unmotivated for the most part. I know somewhere inside there’s something smoldering and waiting to come out, but it appears to be behind some time lock. So I try to show up – just in case – and sometimes there’s a string of more or less coherent words.
I guess what I’m searching for is some version of Ikigai, a Japanese concept meaning reason for being, but it’s more than that. It’s calculus with too many unknown elements. I wish there was someone I could ask, or some answers to be found.

Anyway, I’m still here.

ikigai

Solstice and 2020

We don’t celebrate xmas, haven’t for many years. This year we’re not even doing anything for the Solstice. Hubby’s got his works do this evening, and I’ve been sick for a month (spent in bed) and energy is at a premium, so no big clean, no special dinner.
Bought two red candles for my yet-to-be new shrine the other day and right now they are sitting each side of my computer. I mopped the floor and put a new string of Buddhist prayer flags my sistar gave me ages ago up yesterday and hung a wreath of tinsel across the computer and one by the faery lights – decorating done.
I’ll make fresh apple sauce to go with my yoghurt later, and perhaps try my hand at making shortbread since I can’t find it here except in a big 2.1kg box. I wanted like…a dozen?
I’m the grinch who wishes the festive season was over already, I sick of parties competing who can play the loudest samey and monotonous music and go on for the longest; random fireworks or really just bangers. For everyone in the tourist industry work trucks on as normal, no extra days off and no double pay, just more work and longer days. So yeah, roll on January, I’ve had enough of 2019.
Merry whatever you’re celebrating and a happier new calendar year

Creating from a earth-friendly point of view

I make a lot of stuff, and while not being exactly zero waste, Love is in the Details certainly comes close. A lot of re-use, re-purposing, and everything is made to last. Unlike the fashion industry. Lucky me my taste is classic. I share my ideas with anyone who asks.

Yesterday I listened to a podcast recommended by Avery Trufelman on Twitter about the rarity of zero waste in the fashion industry. About the waste of fabric to facilitate speed in the production of inexpensive clothes, giving dirty clothes to charity, and the amount of landfill and burning of branded new clothes that the fashion industry does.). It was called “Pants on fire” and made me feel angry and sick in equal measures. Find it here http://outsideinradio.org/shows/ep-xw3dk

I had no idea the clothing industry was this bad. Sure, I saw burning or destruction of clothing as well as interior design objects whilst working at International Fairs after exhibitions, which shocked and made me despair, but this…and on this scale?!?
That people wear something 5-7 times before getting rid of it…I’ve never lived in that kind of world.

If you know me you know I’m good with a needle and thread (among other things), and I recycle, up cycle, reuse, re-purpose everything ad nauseum *because I can*. I realise not all have the skills, time, and the eye to do so, but for me it is a mental/creative challenge I enjoy. The only downside is there’s no outlet or market for it here. People don’t care. Not as long as there’s sweatshop produced clothing freely available.

I learnt to sew before I was into double digits, and continued because as a teen I couldn’t afford the clothes I wanted. Simple as that. It’s not something I particularly enjoy, but my perfectionist streak did not allow me not do it well. I’m mostly self taught. A couple of weeks ago I made me a few shirts, not because I’m particularly virtuous, I just can’t find any I like where we live in a size that fits. They will last me years. Why? Because my mother and a fashionista best friend way back when taught me how to look after clothes properly to make them last. I’m fortunate I don’t have the kind of job that requires a lot of presentable clothing. It frees up money to spend on things more interesting to me.

Wearing my PA Design shirt on a trip to Cobá, it has since been dyed blue to disguise the rust-stains it acquired in this rusty climate.

So, I’m not into fashion and my taste could be described as casual and classic. I really lucked out with the oldest shirt in my wardrobe – which I love – it is 31 yrs old. It was bought in a seconds store, and it was love at first sight. The 100% cotton is soft as butter and still feels fresh after countless washes. I recently repaired the collar which was praying and the fabric is starting to break down in this humid climate. When it eventually dies, I will make something else out of it. Perhaps it will live on as book-cloth for a journal, the lining of a bag, and a few pieces may find their way into a quilted cushion cover as a fond reminder.
That’s what you get from choosing quality over quantity.

That said, humidity is a real challenge where we live, and as a result fabric takes a proverbial beating. Mexico is the land of rust, everything rusts and stainless steel is rare to come by. Mexicans also have an unrivaled fondness for white t-shirts to match. Hubby wears his no longer presentable ones to do ‘talatcha’, ie maintenance work on the boat he captains. I sometimes remake them into ‘i-shirts’ or undershirts if it is a particularly good one. Once they’re worn thin or ripped they are saved in a pile to cut into strips to crochet into cushiony bathroom/bedroom mats. If we had a shed there’d be some adorning that floor too, lol. It’s free, functional, and I know it’s not to everyone’s taste.

As Love is in the Detail I created – among the many things – cat/dog baskets; using blackout fabric (for it’s sturdy and waterproof qualities) with a removable, washable cover. Filled with recycled fiber waste, shredded thinly and padded in an ingenious way, it makes a comfortable and hardwearing basis for seat cushions, floor cushions of a futonesque kind. But it takes time, commitment and foresight, and a lot of thought, not to mention skills. It would be much easier to grab something of the shelf in a supermarket for sure. In a year you get to replace it when the cover has worn thin or the seams ripped, and the stuffing flattened into nothing. Fine if you want to redecorate and have the funds. Not so with mine.

So called “waste” fabric is made into reusable shopping bags for sale (and occasionally handed out at the local market for free),  journal covers, pot holders, coasters, and very little is ever thrown away. It would be quicker and easier to make it from new material, but that’s not my game. It is to make you aware of the endless possibilities to landfill or burning. Waste not want not as an old acquaintance used to put it.

Tabi-Cat in a nest of reusable shopping bags!

Book me for a day or more; I’d love to share my skills and ideas with anyone who wants to know.
https://www.facebook.com/Love-is-in-the-detail-662052323931245/

This blogpost was inspired by this short video shared by a friend on facebook  https://www.facebook.com/bbc/videos/383355525644858/

Avery Trufelman created a miniseries for 99% Invisible called Articles of Interest which deservedly went on to win clutch of prestigious podcast awards. You can listen to it here: https://99percentinvisible.org/aoi/  or find it in your podcast app.

Catpaw Rosales is a European transplant residing with their husband and cats in Mexico. A soft-spoken, highly introverted being who avoids socializing, and prefers cozy dinners with a few friends to going out. Passionate about restoring and upcycling furniture.
At one time or another they has been a silver-smith, artist, magazine editor, graphic designer, edited audio-books, worked in repro-graphics and in finance, and a wide variety of insignificant temp-jobs .

Do not pet the humans

The charity anthology Do Not Pet the Humans just got published and is now available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon Kindle. Among others it features one of my short stories Cats in the garden.  Enjoy!

Stigmas, guilt, and shame

A friend of mine recently posted on social media about chronic fatigue and the shame she felt for no longer being able to do all the things she used to. How she no longer had the energy to feel ashamed and wanted it out in the open.

As I currently reside in that box too, it stirred me why we feel any and all mental states that aren’t outright happy as potentially shameful and perceived as a personal failures.

It brought back to mind an article I read some time ago about another even more stigmatised state of mind: depression.  I started writing a response but ran out of energy…

Clinical depression is a change in brain chemistry.

Why we are told to be ashamed of this malfunctioning I don’t know. We’re not besieged by shame if we need to see a dentist, break a bone, or become iron-deficient? I know I have friends who would no longer be here were it not for chemical intervention in the form of antidepressants, and yet it is hush hush.

For the record I’ve been on half a dozen different antidepressants in the quest to reign in the migraines. They never did anything for me (except the one that turned me into a numb and uninspired zombie) so I assumed I couldn’t be depressed.
My English GP asked at the time if I was depressed and I said no… Fed up, angry, and frustrated, yes, and who wouldn’t become depressed when besieged by frequent migraines?

The only reason you are reading this is because in my perpetual hunt for something to lessen the migraines I tried something that put the depression on pause for me. Best sideffect ever I’m sure you agree! (It also greatly lessened the blinding waking headaches I’d been suffering, and allows me to get some sleep.)

Enter reading a timely article by Raimond E. Feist (from 2016, you can read it here: https://www.facebook.com/refeist/posts/10154669328183056 , I cannot recommend it enough) gave me the biggest lightbulb moment.  A few days later I started reading it out loud to my husband but I only got about half way before I was sobbing.

THIS was the part that got to me:

“I remember a time when I came downstairs and realized I had left something upstairs and needed to go back upstairs and get it. Imagine standing there for a moment, overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness, just incapable of climbing back up those stairs to fetch something forgotten, and almost being reduced to tears by the need to run back up and get what you’d left there. It is an existential moment of conflict those who’ve not experienced depression can not imagine. “You just pop back up the stairs and get what you forgotten. What’s the big deal?” The big deal for me was that was when I realized how sick I was and decided I needed to get help. My marriage was on the rocks, my wife hardly could speak to me, and my kids couldn’t figure out what was wrong with daddy, but it was my need to climb back up one flight of stairs to retrieve something and my momentary inability to force myself to do it that made me understand I was mentally ill, that I was in constant pain and needed to change things.”

That was me, minus the wife and kids. You see, if you’ve never know differently you start to believe that this is what everyone deals with and therefore I must be weak and lazy who can’t. Cue beat yourself up for it.

I‘d said “no” when my GP asked, because I didn’t know. I’d said no because I can’t remember life ever being any different. If you’ve always been depressed – how would you know?

I found out accidentally because my perpetual hunt for a way to lessen the migraines had led me to try yet one more thing, and that incidentally offered a window into a world without the veil of depression.

The pause on depression was a revelation.  Instead of a daily inner perpetual battle not to cry 50 times a day, while at the same time being too exhausted to do so. Knowing if I do, a migraine will sure follow and I’ll be too whacked to do anything.

I never suspected anger was part of clinical depression – until it wasn’t there. Just gone. Maybe that’s why in my heart I never considered myself an angry person.
I have no problem with a bit of healthy anger. Anger is my ally, it can help lift heavy boxes, it is always fighting my corner, putting me first – even when I don’t.

Frustrated could be my middle name, where my mind works so fast and on so many tracks at once not even I can keep up, let alone get it out in a coherent form.

Like so many I was high functioning. My perfectionism and self discipline beat me with a stick and would not allow for less.

You Push Push Push yourself, until the day you no longer can, and then you still don’t let up berating yourself about it. You’re not trying hard enough! Are you going to allow yourself to be a failure? Others can do it so you just pull yourself together and f’kin get up and do it you fat lazy … and on it goes. You’re not “happy” “enough”, not grateful enough, not [fill in the blank] enough.

Then came the proverbial straw. It sneaked in the back door. Last summer I contracted something and the lingering exhaustion that followed never left. The inflammation in joints and what not I’ve had for years got worse. The migraines became chronic (the definition of chronic being ‘more days with than without’).

I gave up trying to keep up the apperance any longer when chronic fatigue set in, on top of the almost ever present physical pain. I gave in to the brain-fog. (Undiagnosed I will add, as this is Mexico and here it does not exist.)

This winter I’ve croched a storm, something I hadn’t done in decades. It’s been the only thing I could do with the fatigue, something that offered a tiny outlet of creativity – which is what I run on- and makes me feel I’m still if only remotely human.

Most of us still live in a world where listening to the body isn always practical or possible. Or we listen and ignore the signals because we don’t have time to slow down or don’t know what to do. I find myself trying to bargain with mine too, much good that it does, hoping it will hold together for an other hour, til I got this or that done. -I only have today to do this damn it, can you just f-kin keep it together and fall apart later, wait until I get back home please? I don’t have time for another migraine right now damn it….

Migraine (and other chronic pain dis-eases) is a robber no security system knows how to keep OUT. Chronic pain drains what little energy there is left. Inflamation drains too, and noone seems to have any idea why it won’t budge.

With chronic migraine you’re forever exhausted because if you’re not wiped out recovering, you’re almost certainly in what is called the prodrone, the build-up phase. Wooly headed, confused, foggy. Have you ever sat down in the supermarket isle and cried because you don’t know what to put in your trolly? Don’t know how to get back home because you can’t think straight and your body is just pain, lead, and jelly, all at the same time? How often have you sat where you are, to tired to even cry because you don’t have the energy to move and desperately need the toilet? Not that often I hope.

Then the supermarket stopped selling it here.

My world fell apart.

For TWO MONTHS I’d had a glimpse into a world I never knew existed. Of course I had suspected others did not feel like whole world was somehow conspiring against them. Before I suspected I was just weak or lazy. After all, that’s what I’d been told countless times before I understood my HSP temperament.

“It feels like hell. Clinical depression isn’t “I’m depressed,” as in “I have the blues,” or “I’m sad today.” Sadness is indeed one of the symptoms, but it is not simple sadness. Constant fear and anger are there as well, no matter how deeply hidden.”

“It’s a very difficult thing to share with someone who hasn’t been through it, because it’s a peculiar type of pain. It is mental pain, but it hurts just as much as any physical pain, but it never stops.”

As I ran out of tablets everything came rushing back. Once more the smallest thing and every task and chore felt like climbing mount Everest again, or like a personal insult. I was back fighting the urge to succumb to “wanting” to sink down against the nearest wall and rock catatonically; or beg to go to sleep and not wake up ever until the world has somehow righted itself again….

The nebulous fears were back, the ones that every day threatens to engulf and swallow me whole like mental quicksand. Suffocation by exhaustion.

My days are punctuated by a soundtrack of wailing sirens from emergency vehicles, and the almost daily news of shootings near and far.
Most days I wanted to scream. Scream at other people’s simple joys, because I’m jeallous; why don’t I attract something in my daily life that makes me feel glad to be alive? I feel nothing.
I wanted to scream at the never ending parties and repetitive music played by neighbours day in day out. It’s not that loud but it does not have to be if it feels relentless. With the hypersensitivity that accompanies depression, fatigue and migraines it becomes unbareable, like being poked repetedly with a stick or kept awake for weeks on end. It goes from being an irritant to something more akin to mental torture.

 

Depression robs you of joy. I don’t feel excitement; the best I can manage is is relief. Respite from the onslaught. There may be the odd day or hour here and there of contentment if you’re really lucky.

I feel love when the cats rub against my legs or flop on my feet, or jump up on my lap, I do. When I find an unexpected note from my hubby.

I feel grateful for cooler days and north winds and for the ac in the bedroom.

I remember reading somewhere that depression is anger turned inwards. That would explain a lot. Justified or not, whatever the reason. Feelings of helplessness turn to anger, and then because we are taught that’s socially unacceptable, gets turned on the self instead.
I strongly suspect chronic fatigue is part of that setup too.

Besides my indigo anger, frustration with being so damned observant and impotent to do something about it, from back to all that happened during the school years and even before. Being an adult trapped in a childs body. Unheard, unlistened to.

A friend brought me back some from abroad.
I can breath again. There is a glimmer of hope once more. Life is looking possible again, perhaps it might be worth sticking it out for a bit longer, one never knows, something nice could come my way. There might be a reason for living floating around somewhere even if I haven’t yet pinpointed it.

I’ll leave you with a final quote, suggesting what you can do to help someone dealing with what we call a chronic condition.

“So what do you do? You listen. You ask non-accusatory questions and listen. You engage and you listen some more. You don’t judge; just listen By the very act of being there, you start to change the dynamic. You can’t fix that person, you can’t chid or bully them into feeling better, or joke them into it, or anything else, but listen. And in that listening, maybe something will occur and maybe the person you’re listening to will hear something they are saying and realize they need to make a change, and then something good will happen.”

Love,

Catpaw.

Two good easy to read articles about depression:

https://www.boredpanda.com/mental-illness-depression-tired-explanation-pj-palits/?utm_content=inf_20_2558_2&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=socialedge&tse_id=INF_ad2efde0083f11e8ae24f1904b59aaad

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