Tag Archives: Play

Paws to play: the life of a young cat

Paws: n. the feet of a quadruped that has claws (dogs, cats, lions, bears, etc.)

Pause: n. temporary inaction or stop

Play: v. to engage in recreation or sport

This really isn’t a blog about pets, but last night was all about pets.

First the dog threw up. Loudly. I woke up – cleaned up the rug (god knows what she got into…). Back to bed. Lay there waiting for it to happen again.

It didn’t. Eventually I got back to sleep.

Then the cat decided it was time to play.  Although he’s almost ten months old and very active, he just discovered that he could pretend his tail was a foreign object – a mouse, perhaps. And he practiced catching it – on my bed, with me in it trying to stay asleep.

Next he used his prehensile paws to root about on every table and shelf in my bedroom, seeking something he could pick up or push onto the floor. Papers, pencils, books, my glasses, my watch, a bracelet, a stapler – one by one these things clunked, crashed or fluttered to the floor, with the cat after them.

Lightweight objects are always worth several bats around the room; heavier stuff he just stares at before jumping back up to find something more interesting.

Meanwhile sleeping had become nearly impossible. BUT, in that awful nighttime nether world I was also too out of it to get up and throw him out of the room.  Besides, I knew he could make an even bigger mess with the stuff on the kitchen counter.


A seed packet?? !


And what would happen if I just pushed it a little farther??

I wish I had as light-hearted and dispassionate view of the world as he does – that I could pause to play.

Puzzles: the pleasure of piecing things together

Puzzle: n. a mental challenge; a problem or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity.

Piece: v. to join into a whole —often used with together, as in a puzzle

Our Thanksgiving was pretty low-key. Just my son, my ex, me and another couple who are old friends thru church.

We skipped the turkey this time and had coq au vin (made by the ex), roasted potatoes (yellow finn, sweet and yams w. shallots and garlic), salad w. pomegranate seeds and pecans. Mary makes killer pies so she brought one. We had some chanterelles my son picked in the Cascade foothills last month (frozen) which I made into a yummy appetizer spread. Lots of very nice wine.  Nice not to be stuffed up to HERE.

After dinner we sat around and my friend Mary pulled out a couple of small jigsaw puzzles, just 75 pieces each, that she and John had picked up on their last trip to the UK.  These addictive little gems are made by a company called Wentworth.

They’re mounted on wood, and the shapes are intricate enough to make the puzzle a real puzzle – straight edges are usually internal pieces and the pieces that go on the edge do not seem to have straight sides. Each puzzle also has a handful of pieces that are thematic – they call them “whimsies” – like in one puzzle of a violin, there were pieces cut like a clarinet, tuba, trumpet, cello, etc. In one of a bucolic scene you’ll find bunnies, birds, etc.


We found 75 pieces plenty engrossing – with two people per puzzle – all talking to ourselves, mumbling, cursing, cheering.  Very relaxing and satisfying.

At the places that sell them in the US I couldn’t find any puzzles smaller than 140 pieces.  I’d start at modest level – 1000 pieces will take you all year!

If you’re into buying gifts this year, these would be fun.

Play: prescription for kids

Play: n. recreational activity ; esp. the spontaneous activity of children

Prescription: n. a written direction for a therapeutic or corrective agent ; specifically one for the preparation and use of a medicine

You’ve read about “nature deficit disorder” a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. It refers to the trend of children spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems and loss of appreciation for and understanding of the natural world.

Now we’re worried not just about kids playing outside, we’re worried that they don’t play much, period.  The experts say they need more time from freewheeling play at home and in school.  Not only is it bad for their little psyches, it’s downright unpatriotic as budding American citizens.  The kids will be at a disadvantage in the global economy where creativity, innovation and cooperation are needed.

The National PTA has launched a “Rescuing Recess” campaign. The American Academy of Pediatrics is chiming in with recommendations as well:

*Developing “safe spaces” where children can play freely outdoors in their neighbourhoods.

*Reduce use of “passive entertainment” including TV and computer games.

*Promote use of imagination-nurturing toys such as blocks and dolls.

* Encourage fantasy role-play for preschoolers.

*Let kids play at playgrounds, etc., without feeling their parent is watching every move.

*Don’t insist on playing with your child if he or she is happily playing alone.

All I can say is GOLLY. When I was a kid (and walked five miles barefoot uphill in the snow to school), we had very few toys. My favorite toy was dirt.

I’m not kidding…dirt. Plus a big spoon, a pot or piepan, some rocks, sticks, and a little water. I was as happy as a piglet playing with these magical ingredients.

Inside my sisters and I threw a blanket over the dining room table and played house. We played teacher and practiced writing like grownups – loopy scribbles that we pretended were real words telling real stories.

We each had a large collection of paper dolls. A favorite game was issuing invitations addressed to a particular paper doll: “Martha is invited to a gala weekend in the country. There will be a hunt on Saturday, a ball Saturday night, a swim party on Sunday, followed by a picnic. Please plan your wardrobe accordingly.”

Of course “Martha” may not have come with clothing appropriate for such a weekend, so we’d have to make our own outfits with crayons and scissors.

Fast forward to a feng shui consultation I did a few years ago. Although ten-year-old Janice, the couple’s only child, had recently been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, they wanted me to focus on boosting the flow of wealth into the home.

The house was modest in size and pretension, but there was no place to sit, except at the dining room table. Every chair in the living room had a large stuffed animal in it. The woman had so many potted plants that she spent most of her minimal free time caring for them. And then we went into Janice’s room.

Toys everywhere. EVERYWHERE.  On the chair, on the bed, on the bookcase, spilling out of the toy chest, and all over the floor. Some still in the original box or wrapping. Little Janice sat on the floor, paralyzed by the plethora of toys.

Once in awhile the critical mother-in-law in me overpowers my dispassionate consultant self, and I told the parents that their first priority was to get rid of 90% of the toys and stuffed animals and plants, creating a calm environment so that poor Janice could have space for her self.

They weren’t happy with my analysis. They couldn’t imagine being separated from all this stuff that had taken so long to acquire.  Five years later, I heard that Janice had a bout of depression so severe she was hospitalized.

If I’d known then what was going to happen, I’d have suggested that the family rent an unfurnished home in their neighborhood and move only the most crucial pieces of furniture in from the old house. See how that felt. See how Janice responded. Then maybe add a few favorite books, dolls, etc.  After they adjusted to the spare existence, have an estate sale company sell everything else from the original house.  When it was finally empty, they could move the critical stuff back home from the rental.

Ah, the benefit of hindsight.

Play! Prescription for the puritan soul

Like many introverts, I take life pretty seriously.  What I do must be purposeful, practical, productive.

Or so my inner critic likes to remind me.

It’s only now that I’m “of a certain age” I realize life’s way too short not to play.  So in recent years I’ve joined Toastmasters, taken up swing dancing, learned to yodel, tried my hand at improv comedy, beefed up my blues guitar chops, and in general decided it’s OK to enjoy making a fool of myself.

This morning, thanks to a comment from Scatterbrain who blogs at Splodge-plog.com, I found a link to an article about the SF Regional Air Guitar contest that took place last week.

Talk about purposeless play! You have to watch the video (the larger image, please) of the winner Alex Koll (stage name: Awesome Shred Begley, Jr.) explaining and demonstrating his extraordinary talents at Air Guitar.

Now this guy puts his heart and soul, body and hair into PLAY!

Play #1

I have two aging pets, Fritz the cat, who will be 17 in a few months, and Molly the standard poodle, who is almost 14.

I’ve been kind of wishing they were a little more fun, a little livelier. But maybe that was too much to expect from such old critters. Maybe what I needed was a young thing (a kitten?) to juice things up.

Then I remembered what Gandhi said: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” I wondered if the seriousness was not in them but in me. Perhaps I was the one who needed to be more playful.

So when Molly came back in from her morning poop, I stood and faced her and went into the doggy “I want to play” pose – a bouncy semi-squat.

She was surprised for a moment, and then she did the pose herself and started jumping all around, very excited and tail-waggy. We did this a few more times till the energy fairly buzzed in the room. This attracted Fritz, who usually sleeps most of the day. As soon as he came into the room, Molly did the doggy pose to him.

Normally he will have nothing to do with her, but this time he walked back and forth under her nose, waving his tail into her chin. Meowing and purring.

This doesn’t sound like much, but in our small household it was delightful shift.

I think Play may require more than one post…