Friday, August 2, 2013

Oliver Friday: Some sad news

For part of this summer on this blog, I had instituted a weekly photo of my cat, called Oliver Friday.  When I began this, I did it with the knowledge that it would not last forever.  I did it as a way to pay tribute to the sweetest cat in all the world.  I knew it would be temporary because last February we found out that Oliver has cancer.

One day as Oliver was cuddling with me before bed, I noticed a lump on his ribcage under his arm.  I was unsure what this was, as Oliver is a pretty big cat, and he has a lot of extra body mass rolling around his frame.  It didn't seem right, so I made an appointment with the vet.  After a biopsy, it was revealed that Oliver has a sort of a fibrous sarcoma.  The vet was concerned, as this type of tumor is typically associated with the area in which animals are vaccinated when they are young.  Apparently the vets now vaccinate in a leg or arm in case a tumor starts growing in that area, and they have the ability to amputate a limb if necessary.

You can see his tumor here.

Ultimately, Andy and I decided that we were not going to treat the cancer.  We were going to let Oliver live the rest of his life in relative peace until it was time to let him go.  He's had a long and happy life, and we did not want the end of his life to be full of medical procedures.  Since then we've been monitoring him closely.  It's so difficult to know how he's feeling, but there have been little signs.  His meow sounds a little different, diminished, almost scratchy like he's tired.  He's begun laying primarily on his left side now that the tumor has increased in size.  He has smaller tumors growing under his belly, which indicates the spread of the cancer.  He's eating less, but he's still eating.  We've decided to let him go in a couple of weeks.

A little background on Oliver's life:

When I was about 16, I was coming home from marching band practice, and while stepping onto my front porch, I noticed a tiny gray and white kitty all alone.  I quickly called to my mom and brought him inside.  Concerned that this little guy had wandered away from someone's house, the next day I posted flyers around the neighborhood and surrounding area, looking for his owner.  I'll never know where he actually came from, because no one claimed him.  At that time we had a dog, Abby & another cat, Charles.  My mom was gracious enough to let him stay, and I named him Oliver, because he was just a little orphan!

Certain memories:
-My aunt predicting his eventual size from the size of his paws as a kitten.  "Look at how big they are!  He's going to be a big cat".  Considering he's been about 18 lbs for the majority of his life, I'd say he lived up to that prediction, (and it's not all fat, I swear).
-Having a sleep-over with my friends and Oliver attacking their heads while they slept, haha. :)
-When he was a kitten he'd play tug of war with toys while growling like a dog, play fetch, play so hard he'd pant, and jump so high he'd soar!

In a couple of years, I successfully launched from home with my entrance into college, under the pretext that when I was able to, I'd take the cats from my mom's house (she wasn't too fond of the fur).  Years went by, Abby and Charles passed on, and Oliver was the remaining animal in my mom's house.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to take Oliver until a couple years ago, when I was actually living in a place that I could have my own pet.  As soon as I moved into this current apartment, I immediately drove back to Michigan to pick up Oliver and bring him with me to Chicago.

At this point, Oliver was now 12 years old.  I knew that I'd have him for as long as he had left, and I was determined to make the rest of his life as enjoyable as possible.  Over the past two years, I've seen him grow and flourish in my home.  Although he has remained a scaredy cat till the end with strangers, I have successfully worked with him to eliminate his fear of the sound of traffic, ceiling fans, the outdoors, and much more.  Although he is still afraid of strangers, he is actually a lot better than he used to be and does come out to see people occasionally.  I've also spoiled the crap out of him.  I've got cat grass, fresh & dried cat-nip, a basket full of toys (which he mostly ignores), treats, and the best food for his old, aging body.  I'll leave boxes and tissue paper on the living room floor for days/weeks because he likes to sit on them.

He's always known me and remembered me his whole life (every time I'd go to my mom's house).  However, these past two years, with the absence of a cat-companion, I became Oliver's "person".  He chose me to be his companion, just like he chose our family 14 years ago on our front porch.  Oliver has been such a extremely exceptional pet, it's been hard to imagine him not being here anymore.  I know it will take a long time to stop seeing him out the corner of my eye or to expect him to be right around the corner.  I'll miss him scream/meowing at me for food/comfort/play time.  I'll miss having conversations in general with him:

A typical conversation:

"Who's that kitty?!"
"Who's that little boo boo?!?!"
"What do you want?"

He's such a talkative, loving, and interactive cat.  I keep telling people, they can have their energetic aloof cats, I'll take my old, gigantic, slow & lovey cat every day of the week.  I've never met a cat like him, and I'll never find one like him again.  I'm going to miss him so much.  Here's to celebrating his 14 long years of life.

I'll miss you, little guy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Bob Dylan Quilt Series: The Last Step

So last week I began hand-stitching the border in place, and I am happy to say that I've finished!  It's definitely relaxing to do while watching some TV that doesn't require constant attention, such as a documentary on Netflix.  I sat through almost the entirety of Ken Burns' Prohibition while working on the border.  Here's a quick shot of the front and back of one of the corners:

And here's a look at the original seam where the bias tape edges were put together:

Looking pretty good so far!  Technically, I could probably stop at this point.  BUT.  This is a quilt, I'm gonna finish it like a quilt and make it as good as possible.  Now comes the actual "quilting" portion of the project.  Basically, front and back of this blanket/quilt are not connected anywhere but the border.  Quilting solves this problem and prevents shifting of the material in the middle.  There are a number of options here:

1) You have tons of free time to hand-stitch awesome quilting patterns all over the blanket (not staying on the seams)
2) You could attempt to machine-stitch patterns all over the blanket (at your own risk)
3) You could pay someone to do this for you.
4) You could make this into a "tie" quilt where you tie little pieces of the quilt together in strategic places. (I think this as more for baby blankets, am I wrong?)
5) You could machine-stitch "in the ditch", meaning along the existing seams on the front.
6) You can hand-stitch "in the ditch" (in the seams).

I'm goin' with #6 you guys.  My reasons for this is that I've never done it before (and I'd like to try), I think it'll create a nice looking finished product, and while I may not have a LOT of time on my hands at this point, I'm pretty fast at stitching and don't think it'll take too long.  So far I've stitched across two seams, and it's going fairly well.

A few issues:  I don't have a quilt stabilizer thingy to stretch the quilt out nicely so I can do this.  I'm basically stitching this with it in my lap.  Due to the difficulty in placing each and every stitch perfectly on both sides (I'd have to keep flippin' the dang thing over!), I'm working by only looking at the stitching on the top of the quilt and using my hands (below) and my eyes (on top) to estimate the stitches coming up from the bottom layer.  So, what does this mean?  The stitching on the front will look perfect, and the stitching on the back will be less than perfect.

By the way, I really hate this.  IT'S NOT PERFECT?  AAAAAAAHHHHHCK!

Here, take a look.  Below, the top seam has been quilted.  Hard to see, right?  You can tell compared to the bottom seam, which hasn't been quilted yet.

However, here's the back of that seam.  Straight, mostly uniform, but some of the stitches are a little wonky.  AAAAAACK.  If I had machine stitched, the back would look perfect, but it would be HARD to get the front to look perfect.  At this point, because I would rather the front look perfect with a little back issues, I've gotta just go with it.  This is the side that will be against the person getting warm anyways!!!

One thing to note is how to hide the edges of the thread at the beginning.  I had to call my mom on this one:

"You make a small knot in the thread, smaller than you normally would, about one or two knots.  When you start your stitch you make sure the needle goes through the batting.  Give it a small little tug so it goes into the middle of the quilt, and gets stuck on the batting and doesn't come out the other side."

Guys, I was amazed.  This woman has a wealth of handicrafts knowledge.

Oh, and to hide the thread at the end of the hand-stitched seam:

1) Stitch to the end
2) Make one last tiiiiny stitch as close to under the border as you can, but don't pull it all the way through
3) Loop your needle through the loop of thread two times
4) Now pull it tight.
5) Stitch into the middle of the quilt and out the very edge of the quilt (to hide the little tail of thread) & cut the thread at the edge.

I'll work on getting a video or pictures up on this process, because it can be confusing!  And now I'm off do do some hand-quilting. ;)

Make sure to check back next week, I'll be posting updates about this project!  If you are unsure of anything I'm doing here, please let me know and I'll clarify.  And as always, Thanks so much for visiting. I really appreciate everyone who reads and comments. If you like what you've seen here, please follow me on Facebook and Pinterest to receive updates.

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