Oh, this is a tough one.
Sir Milo Sidney died at home on January 7, 2016, lovingly surrounded by his mamma, dad, and brother RJ. He was 17 years old.
I adopted Milo when I was 20. 20! A young, dumb college kid with roommates and a crappy Chevy Corsica decides to adopt a cat. This is where our story begins.
I went to Animal Allies in Duluth to see the kitties they had. I found Milo. Actually, his name was Sidney and his nickname was “Smudge” for the little faded grey splotch on the left side of his neck.
He was about two years old, a stray who had been in a foster home once or twice. How someone could foster this guy and send him back to the shelter? I do not know. But their loss was my gain. As I was scanning the cages in the small corner of the room, I felt a soft little tap on my shoulder. A white cat with grey spots was beckoning. I looked around at the other cats, but after that tap….I knew who wanted me to take him home.
Milo lived with me in Duluth and moved with me to Alexandria, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and to his last home in Richfield. He also had a couple-month visit to my parents’ in North Branch while I was traveling after college. He was quite the moving buddy, although car rides were not his strong suit. Once, in the 10-15 minute drive from my apartment in St. Paul to DT’s apartment in Minneapolis, Milo pooped, peed, and vomited. We called it the trifecta of bodily functions. At least it was in DT’s car.
In the course of over 15 years with Milo, we have thousands of memories. Right now it’s both painful and a blessing to have so much to look back on. Here are some of our adventures:
The lifelong diet: I can’t remember how much Milo weighed when I got him – he was average size and weight. After some time together, though….he got a little big. I think portion control was hard for me to impose on him in those early days. My bff/then-roommate Nancy was going shopping one day and I asked her to pick up cat food for me. She came home and sheepishly-apologetically, yet firmly, said “I bought him diet food.” That was that, Milo was on a diet.
The teeth (or lack thereof): In 2004, his vet discovered Milo had gum disease and needed to have 10 teeth pulled. He spent the rest of his life gumming food with one fang. Not that it at all hindered his food intake (see “The lifelong diet,” above). Little one-fang wonder.
The chirping: One of Milo’s sounds was chirping like a bird. It was a quick little squeaky trill, and it usually meant he was happy or simply demanding that you pay attention to him immediately. I imagine him stomping his paws if he was demanding attention immediately. My Chirpy Bird.
The bath: I had to give Milo a bath once in our life together. It was a complete nightmare for both of us. My apartment in Alexandria had an enormous, ancient, industrial-looking heater in the living room. While I was away for the weekend, Milo jumped behind it and rolled around in all the dirt and dust and grime. My white cat with grey spots was now all grey. The bath was at least an hour-long affair and in the end, I was more soaked than he was.
The ceiling: I lived in a duplex for a couple of years in Duluth with my dear friend Gretta and her kitty Hansel. We lived on the top floor of an A-frame style house. One night we realized Milo wasn’t around and went looking through the apartment for him. In closets, under beds and couches, behind shelves, every place we could think a cat would hide and hang out. We couldn’t find him anywhere. After a while we opened our front door to the stairway/hallway and there he was. We didn’t think much about it, other than he must have run out the door at some point. Later that week I brought our rent checks to our landlady, who lived across the street from us. She started laughing and said she couldn’t believe our curious cat. I had no idea what she was talking about, but apparently, Milo had snuck into the cupboard underneath the kitchen sink, which led to a crawl space on the side of the house. As he was nosing around, he crashed through the bathroom ceiling of our downstairs neighbor. Rather than return the strange cat in his bathroom to the upstairs tenants and obvious owners, our neighbor just tossed him into the hallway. Weird, but so was Milo falling through the ceiling.
The first impression: Also in the Duluth duplex….Gretta’s parents came to visit, I think it was the first time they had seen our new place. It was also their first time meeting Milo. While Gretta was showing them around, Milo found a bug on the floor and started toying with it. After his fun, he ate it. A few minutes later we were all visiting in the living room, Milo in the middle of the floor. He started to retch and gag and heave, then he threw up. He got up and moved to the other side of the room and threw up again. Then moved to another corner and threw up one more time. Poor Gretta’s mom….she had to leave the room! So nice to meet you, Milo.
The candle: Also in the Duluth duplex….Gretta and I often burned candles in our apartment. One morning I noticed Milo had no whiskers on one side, and the little ends that were left were brown and smelled like burnt hair. He’d gotten too close to the fire and singed his whiskers off. He was a bit asymmetrical and imbalanced until they grew back. Also, he never much cared about candles after that.
The neighbors: My apartment building in St. Paul was very cat friendly. A couple who lived there had a little grey kitty named Noodle. We often joked that Milo had a crush on her. These were the days when Milo loovvvved to dart out the door and escape into the hallway, he was such a monster. He actually was pretty fast, bounding up and down past the other apartments. One day he got underfoot as I opened my door and he ran out. I trolled the hallways on both floors looking for him, and arrived at Noodle’s apartment. They’d left their door open and there was Milo, camped out on their couch like he moved in three minutes ago. He was right at home and looked at me as if to say “What are you doing here and what do you want?”
The window: Milo stayed at DT’s apartment in Minneapolis quite a bit. At that time, DT had a cat named Lester who was older (about the same age difference as Milo and RJ). It was nice for the kitties to keep each other company. The apartment was garden level, and during the summer DT installed a window air conditioner in the bedroom. The a/c didn’t cover the entire width of the window, so some insulation filler was used to cover the extra space. One morning DT came home to find the added barrier had been pushed through, open to the outside. Lester was on the bed right underneath the window, his big owl eyes wide. Milo was nowhere to be found in the apartment. A brisk walk around the block to hunt for that bad, bad cat….there he was, perched on the neighbor’s front porch. Who knows how long he had been out that night. BAD cat! He could be so damn naughty. (See so many stories, above.)
The plastic bags: I think a lot of cats have a thing for plastic bags, but Milo was especially obnoxious with them. He’d lick them, roll around in them, get inside them, then lick some more, then roll around again….over and over and over. And he’d just FIND them, even when we thought they were safely out of his reach. Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? Cats in plastic bags is right up there.
The friends: Milo was friends with everyone. (See also “The neighbors,” above.) Family, friends, strangers, plumbers, contractors, adults, kids, people who are very allergic to cats, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits….he did not discriminate. Milo was a social butterfly and absolutely insisted that you accept his friendship.
The persistence: Milo needed, nay, required human contact pretty much all the time. It wasn’t enough to just sit next to you, no no. On you, all over you, in-your-face was his end game and he didn’t often take no for an answer. He’d just keep trying until you lost your will. I caved sooner than most in our house, and sometimes begrudgingly. Once he was in my arms or in my lap, though….it made me so happy. Milo always knew what I wanted (him). And oh, the snuggling. Milo was the best snuggler. Something I miss so fiercely right now is holding him during a nap. When he woke up he would strrrrrretttttch way out and reach his front paws to touch my face.
When I talked to my dad after he died, one of the things he said to me was “You did everything right.” This, along with so much that long last week, just broke my heart.
Not only did I worry about Milo and the situation at hand, I worried about the decisions I made, or would have to make. I worried about his comfort. I worried about him suffering. I worried about how long to let things go before I had to make a decision. I worried about being selfish in wanting more time. I worried about his quality of life. I worried about the future….what if he did get better, then what? I worried about borrowed time. I worried about doing absolutely everything in my power to do right by Milo. I worried that I didn’t always know what that meant, or when the lines blurred between what was right by him, or what was right by me. I worried about staying objective and seeing his condition as it really was, without letting all the emotions take over. I worried, I worried, I worried.
So, to get to the end of it all, and look back….I don’t know if I did everything right, but God I hope so. It’s just a comfort to hear someone say it. In my time as Milo’s mamma, this ending was so, so important to get right.
His ending was at home, with DT and I right next to him. Holding his little paws, dabbing his lips with water, scratching his head, stroking his back. Talking to him and telling him “I love you” again and again and again. I’m so thankful we were there and he wasn’t alone. I’m so thankful we could comfort him and that he knew we right beside him.
I wouldn’t wish this hurt on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my life with Milo for anything. I am so blessed to have had him, to have had his friendship and trust and loyalty all those many years. I didn’t always deserve it, but he never kept score and never held a grudge. I was always his mamma and that was all he asked for, all he required. So simple – just, be mine and make sure I am always yours.
Thank you, sweet sweet Milo for tapping me on the shoulder that day over 15 years ago. You knew even before I did that we were meant to be. I am the luckiest to be yours. Rest in peace – I love you so much.
Your mamma always xxxxoooo
DT and I headed south last weekend to run Des Moines’ big Dam to Dam half marathon.
I was extremely slow on the uptake with photos over the weekend….I just didn’t have the ol’ shutterbug in me. I’m a little bummed that I missed some good shots, but I’ll also get this post out quicker without much to edit. 🙂 See? Trade-offs, I guess.
While I’m missing the visual flair, I still wanted to write about the weekend because we found some new little treasures (and revisited some old favorites) in Des Moines and I didn’t want to forget them. AND I wanted you to know about them too.
First – big, fun news. Hellraising Hot Sauce has officially entered the Des Moines market! Through family/friend connections, DT and I met Rory at AllSpice Culinarium in the East Village neighborhood. We dropped off an order of sauce on our way into town and got to see his fantastic shop.
Saturday/race day was much cooler and wet than we expected. It wasn’t pouring ran, thankfully, but misting enough to be annoying and downright cold as we waited at the starting line.
I borrowed/stole this selfie from my brother-in-law Tom.
DT and I crossed the finish line together and it felt so good to be DONE. High five!
We headed to Exile Brewing for celebratory post-race beers at 9:30 am. They were delightful.
DT and I ate lunch at Court Avenue Brewing Company. We nearly fell asleep at the table once we had food in our bellies. Sooooo….nap time!
We’d heard so much about Fong’s Pizza, we had to check it out. The rumblings were true – Fong’s makes delicious pizza. Super thin and chewy crust, zippy sauce, and a bunch of topping options.
It was a whirlwind of a weekend! I always feel like our time in DSM goes by way too fast. We’re already plotting a return summer visit so we can get another Iowa fix. 😉
Way back in August, when it wasn’t -1 degree below zero outside as it is today, DT and I took a little trip to Texas. Yes, Texas in August. We’ll get into more of that hot insanity later.
This long weekend allowed us to do a few nifty things: visit our dear friends Mike and Colleen in Houston, see Austin (a new city to us and about a three hour drive away), and attend the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, of interest to us with our little Hellraising Hot Sauce venture.
We spent the first couple of days in Houston with Mike and Colleen. They live in a gorgeous house in a gorgeous neighborhood right on Lake Houston. It was so much fun to see them again and catch up after letting waaayyy too much time go by. But we had exactly zero trouble picking right back up where we left off!
First things first after Mike picked us up from the airport….a boat ride to find lunch and margaritas.
We learned that Mike and Colleen share our affinity for Farkle (apparently also spelled Farkel?), except they upped the ante with a “Spicy” version that doubles points. This photo captures perfectly what a lot of our time in Houston looked like:
We met Colleen’s sweet friend and neighbor Ronna. She and her husband have an absolutely stunning backyard and view of the lake. We spent our first evening on their patio, soaking in this scenery.
I mean, really.
I am pretty sure this is some version of Heaven.
The next day, it was very very WARM outside. Texas in August, eh? Thankfully Mike and Colleen’s pool was waiting for us right outside the door.
Their dogs Winchester and Genevieve also enjoyed a refreshing dip!
These two are hilarious.
That evening we took a sunset boat ride with Ronna and her husband. I think these photos speak for themselves.
Later, Colleen cooked a magnificent southern feast (she’s an Alabama gal) and Mike set off some fireworks.
Before we left to drive to Austin on Saturday, Mike took us to Tin Roof BBQ and we picked up lunch.
Positively delicious southern BBQ, and this coming from someone who doesn’t eat meat and only enjoys the sides!
And with that, we were on our way to Austin.
Honestly, visiting Mike and Colleen is like staying at a spa retreat. We were totally spoiled in their corner of paradise. Their friendship and company is just beyond and I cannot wait to see them again.
THANK YOU, Mike and Colleen!
As if one Big Birthday Weekend wasn’t enough, there must be one more!
Our first BBW had a scheduling snafoo for some family members, but DT, the kids, and I made our way back up to Alexandria for a redo. We were even lucky enough to cross paths briefly with Dustin and Allison, who were also in town for a cabin-with-friends weekend.
Our day started with a pretty drive through the country, destination: Inspiration Peak. I can’t believe I have roots in Alexandria spanning my entire life and still had never been here. It’s 1,750 feet high – one of the highest points in the state of Minnesota.
The hike up to the top is pretty quick (1/4 mile), but plenty steep the whole way. But when you get there, you get to see this:
On the way back to town we stopped by Leaf Valley Mercantile for a very late lunch. This is totally our kind of place, and Henry got his cheeseburger.
Yes, we made a return visit to Casey’s for a fiercely competitive round of miniature golf. We just missed the rain!
It was not DT’s best game. (Teehee)
But Sam and I tied for second place. 🙂 🙂
Dad blew us all out of the water!
We had an amazing dinner a la Chef-Randy-mans-the-grill, and for dessert the guys had a special treat. (Mom and I conveniently volunteered to do the dishes.) BeanBoozled: you spin, and wherever you land is the color Jelly Belly you must eat. Except….more than one flavor is green, or white, or yellow, or black. You might get pear, but it might be booger. It could be coconut, but it might be baby wipes. It could be black licorice, but it could be skunk. Or canned dog food, or vomit, or rotten eggs, or grass clippings. You see how pleasant this sounds.
Well, anyway, see for yourself….
Looks like tons of fun, doesn’t it?
Have you ever played Farkle? My family is addicted. It’s a dice game that’s a little quirky to learn at first, but once you do, you’ll want to keep playing and playing and playing. We weren’t sure how quickly Sam and Henry would pick up on the rules and the goofy scoring, but they surprised us and were quickly sucked in.
The game was FIERCE!
And the trash talking was epic.
It turned out to be a very late night – we were all pooped by the time we headed for bed.
Mom even read us a story (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) before tucking us in. 😉
Aww, Mamma. Ever our storyteller.
Then Bailey Louise had to crash the party….
On Sunday morning we were rested, refreshed and ready to eat a big breakfast. Fresh eggs from our chicken girls, bacon, toast, cereal….all set for the day!
After digesting just a little, we headed over to my grandparents’ house. Sam and Henry had only met my grandpa once – at our wedding, almost five years ago – and my grandma wasn’t able to be there. So, it was fun to bring everybody together again – I know G&G were just itching to see the guys.
The rain let up just enough so there could be a little outside time. My dad hauled out the old Mule and took the kids (DT included) for a spin. Sam and Henry kicked a soccer ball around the massive yard and did some exploring. Grandma loaded them up on her endless stash of sugary sweets. It was a lovely little visit!
We squeezed in ONE MORE GAME of Farkle before we hit the road to head home.
Another blast of a weekend in Alexandria is in the books! That the kids could be with us and had so much fun, whatever we found to do, made it all the more spectacular for everyone. Poor Bailey-hound probably slept for days after the Sam-and-Henry-tornado departed! 🙂
My bff Nancy and her husband Nate hosted a little ravioli-making party and dinner Saturday night. So fun!
Our ringleader was Gina, below right. Every New Year’s Day her family gathers to make homemade ravioli and eat a pasta feast. I love the idea of this tradition!
You have to feed the dough through the pasta machine about four times to get the right thickness. Nate is hard at work here:
Micah and Gina team up to make some pretty pasta sheets:
Sarah stamps out her ravioli rounds:
Gina made another batch of dough and kneads-kneads-kneads away.
Now Sarah kneads-kneads-kneads away. What a workout!
Nancy rolled out her dough and plots out cheese filling placement:
Then it was my turn….
Cheese filling spooned onto the dough –
– then the dough is folded over and I sealed off the spoonfuls with my fingers. Gina helped me cut them out and use tines of a fork around the edges.
Our creations – all shapes and sizes!
The little pillows need just a few minutes in the boiling water to cook and become tender:
Time to eat! Look at this beautiful spread….
And this scrumptious plate….
Dessert was courtesy of Micah and Sarah – Sweet Science chocolate mint ice cream (they also brought salted caramel) with biscotti. Ahhh! The sweetest ending to this meal.
I left Nancy and Nate’s as stuffed as our ravioli! (Stretchy pants now please!) Thank you, friends, for such an enjoyable and delicious culinary adventure. 🙂
Last weekend was just lovely. I always look forward to holiday baking with my mom….the memories are of the baking itself, of course, but go well beyond that.
It was a little different setup this Christmas – my parents moved over the summer so we had a new kitchen situation. We handled it like champs! The oven and timer gave us a little grief every now and again, but we persevered.
We tend to make mostly the same things each year, so I won’t bore you with a bunch of repeat photos….just a few I snapped throughout the day.
We baked well into the afternoon/early evening – the time just flew! I couldn’t believe how much we got done….we are a well-oiled machine, I’d say.
My grandma’s birthday was also Saturday….now that everyone is living in the same town, piggybacking visits is easy! We hung up our Santa/baking hats and headed over to wish her a happy birthday. We brought Bailey along….she’s a peppy bright spot for my grandparents. My grandpa (at nearly 83 years of age) gets down on the floor with her and wrestles, throws and hides toys, and ultimately waits for Bailey to tire out and rest her head on his lap. It’s both a hoot and very sweet to watch.
Then we went to my new favorite place in the world for dinner: Sixth Avenue Wine and Ale, a mere three blocks from my parents’ new condo. I forgot my phone and camera (how?!) so didn’t document the experience, but SAWA could take up seven blog posts in my book. It’s a delight. The live music extended our stay by at least an hour (i.e. another glass of wine). It’s a wonderful, cozy place to hunker down when it’s so blustery outside. I would kindly ask Santa to go ahead and bring a SAWA and put it three blocks from our house so I could live there every night.
Next time, next time….you’ll learn much more about this little gem.
So, to sum up Saturday: I just love this tradition, I hope we do it forever.