Thursday 26 August 2021

Madder Than A Wet Hen

I am all fired up over kitty litter.

Or, rather, the absence of kitty litter.

First world problems, I know. But I think it illustrates neatly the lack of power lowly consumers have over corporate decision making because those decisions are made to serve the shareholders ahead of the folks who buy the products, the same folks who actually provide the profits which go to those shareholders. And that's kind of a global problem.

Not like global warming, mind you, but a result of a consumer society that's contributing to emissions and thus to global warming.

There, now I've justified writing about my complaint and will carry on.

I have used Yesterday's News Original Unscented kitty litter for well over a decade now. It is - or was - made of recycled newspaper, formed into pellets that broke down when wet. It was not scoopable and it was somewhat more expensive than most cat litters, drawbacks which I was okay with because of its good points: it wasn't dusty (which was helpful for me and for one of our cats as we both have twitchy airways), it did not track, and it had a naturally woodsy smell without added scent. It also came in a sturdy paper bag which was recyclable and compostable.

For the last month our local stores have had empty shelves where Yesterday's News kitty litter used to be. After a couple of weeks, I found a new version of Yesterday's News at a single store in our town - it was a flaked or pulverized form of the product, and was supposed to be clumping and dust-free. The litter situation at home was getting dire, and I couldn't find any other acceptable substitute, so I bought some.

It was not dust-free, it did not clump in any helpful way (i.e., it clumped but then it fell apart as soon as I tried to remove the clump), and it tracked worse than a dozen children who've been at the beach all day.

I decided to contact the company on their website (Purina, a subsidiary of Nestle) and ask if the product had been discontinued. I also - politely, I believe - expressed my issues with the new form of the litter.

It took several days for them to respond. Engagement Specialist #1 did not answer my question about the product being discontinued, but did ask for my zip code so they could check for nearby stores where I might be able to buy the litter.

If you're keeping score, they got half marks for trying to help and half marks deducted for not answering the question. 

I replied with my postal code. Zip codes are American, postal codes are Canadian . . . which I felt did not bode well for finding a nearby store. 

After several more days, I received from Engagement Specialist #2 a short list of pet stores that supposedly sold the product. The company also provided a link to their website, directly to the page describing the product I wanted.

Only two of the pet stores were remotely close to my home, and neither had the product in stock.

And here's the penultimate in ridiculous:  the product page - to which they provided the link - stated the product was being discontinued in July of 2021.

So the company's own customer complaint personnel didn't grasp - or didn't want to confess - that the answer to the question I had specifically asked about the product being discontinued was Yes. 

If you're keeping score, we are now at a minus position because the list of stores provided was useless and providing the link to their website without stating up front that the product was now unavailable was misleading.

And yet, when I replied to tell them so (more politely than I've stated it above), they continued to soldier on. This time I heard from Engagement Specialist #3, who sympathized with me, told me their product wasn't usually dusty so I should provide the product information from the bag and the name and address of the store where I bought it, presumably so they could download blame to the store; they also suggested I should maybe try placing a mat outside of the litter box to catch the litter before it could be tracked across the floor. (Due to needing to keep the cats separated, I have a total of five litter boxes throughout the house, and I refuse to buy five mats to "maybe" deal with this issue.) Finally, they asked for my full address so they could send me coupons for a product I had already said I would not be buying again.

After taking a day to compose myself, I replied that I no longer had the packaging (true - it went with the compost earlier in the week) and I had no need of coupons because I wasn't going to buy the new product. I also said that the ONE THING I would like to know was why they had discontinued a product that worked fine.

Yes, I already know that the answer is "profit" but I want to hear them admit it.

If you're still keeping score, the company is now at minus eleventy million.

I'm under no illusions that my protest will do any good, no matter how many facts I have on my side nor how long my buying history is. 

But it was better than doing nothing. Hopefully there are a few more consumers out there who might have registered their complaints. 

I'll let you know if a miracle happens.

Oh, wait, I already had my miracle with the leaky water pipe. 


I have no idea what I'm going to use for kitty litter now. I guess the cats will just have to learn to use the people toilet.


Let us decompress with a few funnies. And by "us" I mean "me", unless you too need to decompress, in which case I really do mean "us".






If you have a cat, what kind of litter do you use and do you find it satisfactory?

If you have a dog, just thank your lucky stars you don't have a kitty litter problem.

Have a good day, everyone!

Saturday 21 August 2021

How It's Going - The One With The Sudden Water Leak

Good day, my friends.

And despite the water leak mentioned in the title of this post, it feels like a very good day because it could have been so much worse.

Our town is replacing all the water meters in residents' homes. In order to do this, they require access to the meter. Ours is in a closet under the basement stairs. A closet that is used as storage and is packed to the brim. A closet that is, or was, inaccessible due to storage of yet more stuff lined up in front of the closet, several layers deep.

Yes, we should have dealt with it long ago. Somehow, with everything else going on the last few years, it never got tidied up.

But knowing I had to make an appointment to have the meter changed got me going. Bit by bit, over the past couple of weeks, I worked on clearing away the items outside the closet, and this morning, very very very early, between my first and second sleeps (some day I'll explain that, maybe), I thought I'd finish up by removing the things from inside the closet.

No sooner did I get the floor cleared than I noticed a drip of water on the floor. Just a drip, but a steady one.

I got a pan. The drip increased. I debated turning off the water main, but the arrows on the lever weren't all that clear or intuitive to me, and my tentative try only made the drip worse.

I got a bucket. When it was half full - in a surprisingly short time frame - I tried the lever again.

And then all heck broke loose. Well, not exactly heck, just water, but it was spraying in every direction. Suddenly there was no time left to be gentle with the lever. I gave it a good yank out of desperation, and the fire-hydrant-like spray reduced to a steady stream. I calmed down enough to decide it was just the water draining from the pipes in the house, via gravity, and sure enough it eventually slowed and stopped.

I called the 24-hour plumber, who came within the hour, replaced a severely deteriorated rubber washer, and restored water to all the things that use water.

As seems to be my habit these days, I cried after he left, from a combination of relief and the terribly lonely feeling of having no one to talk with about the near-disaster.

Nevertheless, disaster was averted and I feel overwhelmingly lucky that I was right there when the leak began. Maybe I brushed against the pipe while moving stuff, but I was being careful and I didn't think I had even touched it. The washer might have just been ready to give out, without any help from me.

I shudder to think of the flood that could have been, if I had gone for my second sleep and not noticed anything amiss for another four hours. I'm so thankful for 24-hour plumbers and the serendipity of noticing the leak as soon as it started.

Shall we celebrate with some funnies? 

Of course we shall.






That's it for now.

May your week be leak-free in every way.

And may you leave your worst (or best?) leaky story in the comments so we can all feel less alone with our plumbing problems, whatever they may be.

Sunday 8 August 2021

How It's Going - The One With The Dead Thing In The Wall, Part 2

Continuing from yesterday's post . . .

The mouse that finished off the story in Part 1 never returned. I'm sure he/she was indeed the source of the scratching in the wall, evidenced by (1) my seeing him/her, and by (2) the barrier being slightly askew, but also by (3) the lack of "dead thing" smell over the next few weeks.

Part 2 of the story is what took place here last week.

This time around, I heard no scratching to warn me.

I had been at work a lot.

I had been at my mom's a lot.

The air conditioner in the next room had been running a lot.

Our fridge - which is quite loud - had been running a lot.

So if there had been any scratching, I missed it.

What I couldn't miss was the unmistakable odour of something dead in the wall when I opened the kitchen closet one evening. 

The next day, I took everything out of the closet. There's a lot of stuff in that closet. My plan was to air it out on the deck. So I brought the clothes rack up from the basement, one bumpity step at a time, and took it outside. Then I took the first armful of garments outside to hang them up.

And lo, in the five and a half seconds that I was gathering the first load of clothing, it had started to rain. So I moved the rack back inside again, to another room that also has an exterior door, left the door open, and hoped there would be enough fresh air to do the job. Never mind that the rain soon turned into a streaming downpour that pounded against the deck and sprayed into the room, necessitating closing the door.

In ordinary times, this would have been mildly stressful. But with my husband's death and my mother's dementia, pretty much everything that happens unexpectedly becomes an additional stress that feels worse than it ought to. 

Never mind, I told myself. Just put one foot in front of the other, over and over. Some day all of this will be history. Or I will die without it being resolved. One or the other.

Then I unscrewed the panel that my husband had put up over the hole in the closet wall. I cried as I thought about him making that hole and that panel just for me, and also about the fact that he had been the last one to touch it, and finally about how blissfully unaware we were then about how things would be now.

But aren't we all pretty much blissfully unaware of our futures? Up to a point, at least? And so I dried my tears and got some gardening gloves and a garbage can, hoping to find the dead critter and remove it, and hopefully hurry up the process of getting rid of the smell in the closet.

No such luck. No live critter, no dead critter, no critter of any sort.

So I propped the panel back in place, shut the closet door, and began the wait for the smell to go away.

I'm still waiting.

Did I mention it's summer here? With the house closed up to keep out the heat, there is less air circulation and the smell is lingering and seeping out more than it did the other times.

I feel bad for that critter, and I wish I could prevent this from happening again. The magic panel will only work if the critter gets into the exact same spot in the wall each time, and if I manage to hear it before it goes toes up.

Anyway, that's how it's going at the moment, along with everything else that I've been complaining about in my last few posts.

Shall we have a few smiles? Yes, we shall.










Until next time, peoples, try not to get trapped in any weird places, and please take care of yourselves.



Saturday 7 August 2021

How It's Going - The One With The Dead Thing In The Wall

I blogged about this a couple of years ago but I can't find it now so I'll recap it here. Its relevance will become clear later.

Many years ago, I was sitting in our quiet kitchen and heard a tiny scratching in the vicinity of our kitchen closet. I couldn't see anything in the closet and the cats didn't catch anything over the next day or two, so I assumed the critter - if that's what it was - had made its way out the same way it had made its way in.

I was wrong.

Two weeks later, I started noticing a peculiar and not very pleasant odour in the closet whenever it was opened. That's when I realized the poor critter had died in the space between the walls. After crying for its sad end, I took everything out of the closet and waited for the smell to dissipate. Which it did, in the fullness of time.

Time during which I pictured the poor little corpse slowly drying up and leaving behind a poor little skeleton.

My husband examined the exterior of the house to try to find the entry point for the critter, but if you've ever see how small a mouse can be, and how much smaller it can make itself to get through or under something, you'll realize what an impossible job that was. But he found a few possible holes and filled them with expansion filler.

Alas, it all happened all over again a year or two later. Husband went around again with the expansion filler and sealed even the tiniest nail holes.

Alas . . . and you know what happened again.

Finally, the next time I heard scratching in that wall, I begged my husband to cut a piece out of the wallboard so we could rescue the critter before it died this time.

He agreed to do it, probably because he thought it would be easier than watching me cry, although he wasn't hopeful that the intruder would magically be in the precise spot he cut open.

And indeed, there was no body, dead or alive, in the space he excavated. He propped a panel of wood against the wall, held in place by a couple of pieces of heavy wood, and left the next step to me. I had no idea what the next step was, but it turned out none was needed.

That evening, after my husband was asleep in front of the TV, I was walking through the kitchen and a tiny movement caught my eye. I had been out for a walk in the rain earlier in the day, and I had hung my yellow raincoat on the doorknob of the door leading to the back deck. Sitting on top of the raincoat on the doorknob was a teeny mouse.

I grabbed the cat and put her in the closest bathroom, grabbed the garbage can at the same time, and tiptoed back into the kitchen.

The mouse was gone.

I did the only thing I could do at that point - took the raincoat and gently threw it out the door onto the deck. And shut the door, rather quickly I might add.

The next day, I checked the raincoat three times before I brought it back in.

There was no further sign of the mouse.

The wooden panel that my husband had propped tightly against the wall, held in place, you recall, by several heavy boards, was found to be slightly askew.

That wasn't just a mouse, it was a mighty mouse.

Anyway, I see this post is getting too long, so I'll be back tomorrow with ......... Part 2 ....... 



Sunday 1 August 2021

How It's Going, Part Two of Infinity

Hello, my fine people.

I thought you might like an update on my mom and her geriatric assessment that took place last week.

I wish I could tell you what the assessment results were, but that report has to go to her family doctor first, and is then released only if she requests it. But I've been told the family doctors may relax those rules in the interest of communication and making good choices for the patient.

Mom had reluctantly agreed to have a health care worker come in to her home to give her her pills, but when the time came for her to give her official permission, she balked. And it wasn't worth it to me to fight it.

She is quite concerned about Covid, or at least that is the reason she has given for a lot of the preferences she expresses. She would go to the grocery store every day if she had transportation, but she won't have anyone in her house.

But we've had a slow breakthrough, if there's such a thing, on the new car decision - she told me yesterday that she misses her car and would like to have another, but then she thinks to herself, "It's so much easier for Donkey to drive me places!"

So, even though my heart sank a little at the thought of being caught in the role of chauffeur, it's better than having her drive.

And maybe it will eventually lead to her accepting other people driving her, if necessary.

My impression from the geriatric clinician who conducted her assessment is that nothing will change in Mom's living arrangements until she gets much worse. Bearing in mind that she could not actually release the report to me, this was only my impression, based on her careful choice of words when I asked about "care for the caregiver" (me) and explained why I was asking.

It wasn't unexpected, but it was still hard to hear. She said that if a patient refuses outside help, the family may have to accept a certain amount of risk, and things may have to get considerably worse before anything can change. She gave the example of her own farming grandmother, who finally got to the stage where she couldn't understand that the caregivers were caregivers, and instead thought they were farm workers who had no other place to stay, and thus allowed them to stay in her home.

I am resigned to this now, but only because I have done a lot of pondering on how to balance my needs and my mother's needs. I have thought about boundaries, and responsibility, and also the sad fact that my help will likely never be enough for her, given her memory loss, and the end result of that will be an unhappy mother, no matter how much I do.

So, instead of an intensely unhappy but short period of my mother railing against suddenly being "put" into a nursing home, I will be facing a long slide into unhappiness for her, coupled with me feeling unappreciated and unfairly burdened. I expect there will be many moments of frustration for both of us, but it seems there is no easy choice. And to be honest, in many ways I don't think she needs to be in a nursing home yet, I just need to not have full responsibility for every aspect of her life where she does need help.

Two weeks ago, I think my head would have exploded if anyone had had the absolute gall to point out that I can't change my situation, I can only change my response to the situation. I've never liked that little aphorism, and I think I know why. Because I didn't understand it.

Today? I can see how that works. I cannot change the situation, true. But changing my response to the situation doesn't mean just gritting my teeth and smiling while I run faster and faster.

What changing my response actually means, at least to me, is to have my boundaries firmly defined in my own head, and then doing - or not doing - the things that take those boundaries into consideration.

For example, I will visit her daily with her pills, because I think that's an important basic function to maintain her health, and as I said she will not accept anyone else's help (yet!). But I will not take her grocery shopping every day just because she'd like to get out, partly because I know the daily pill visits are going to deplete me, and partly because I have offered her other ways to socialize and she will not take them.

This may seem so obvious to the average observer, but it's been hard-earned wisdom for me. I am a people-pleaser, and a person who takes my family responsibilities very seriously. And I tend to push myself to the wall, and then even further, before I realize I can't go on. I need to set those boundaries so I won't reach that point of desperation.

And so . . . . . . on we go . . . with a rather steep learning curve for both of us.


In other news, I have met my most urgent work deadlines, so I am enjoying a bit of a break for a couple of days. As I write this, it is past suppertime and I haven't done a thing all day except loaf around and listen to the peace and quiet. It's one of my favourite sounds.

Yesterday I learned how to get gas in a gas can for the lawnmower. I kept expecting the thing to explode, but all was well. The trick is to avoid igniting the gas vapours with either obvious things like an open flame, or unobvious things, like a spark from static electricity in yourself or the plastic gas container, or from a hot vehicle nearby. Thank goodness for the internet, which has the answer to just about anything. 

The grass hasn't grown much the last few weeks, which is lucky for me because I didn't have time to cut it anyhow. Our summer has been surprisingly temperate. This is not what we've come to expect from our summers; it feels more like the summers we had twenty or thirty years ago. It makes me feel guilty, given that so many other areas are clearly suffering from the changing climate, enduring fires, drought, record-breaking heat, and flooding. Beyond the guilt, though (which is not a useful response to begin with), I feel profound relief that I haven't had to add relentlessly difficult weather to what feels like an already heavy burden on me this summer.

Small mercies are sometimes not so small.


How are things with you, my friends? I'm here, and I'm listening. 

And lounging.

If I were a dog, and if there two of me, this is what it would look like.

 So fire away. I'm all ears.