Trembling Whiskers

cats

On the day we brought Baby home, the cats met us at the door.  They were partially curious about the screaming creature who could be heard from outside, but mostly hungry from eating every last crunchy nugget left out by the cat-sitter and anxious to have their bowls refilled.

While the cats tried to understand what it was that we brought into their previously harmonious sanctuary, Baby continued to wail.  It was no wonder as to the reason for his displeasure, he had just encountered the coldest and most blustery day of winter and was only three days old.  It was a cruel change from his most recent very warm and cozy living situation of the last nine months.

His tiny, still wrinkled face was red as he continued to express his disappointment with the world as a whole.  I felt mostly responsible being the one who grew him, only to evict him in the middle of an Indiana winter.  Sorry baby Hoosier, it won’t get much better for a few months, I thought.

Meanwhile, the older cat quickly figured out what was happening, she was being replaced, yet again.  She hissed at us with yellow teeth before making her retreat into a secret, not-so-secret, hiding place under an overstuffed chair.  This left the younger cat, a fat tiger girl, alone to fight or flee from the new foe.

She incorrectly opted to fight and stand her ground.  This was her first go around with Replacement and it was as painful and confusing as anything else experienced up that point of her four years.  Hissing and baring her strong white teeth, she tensed her 14-pound body, ready to attack.  She was not about to welcome the mostly hairless and screaming creature into her home, let alone allow it to stay.

Unfortunately, this caused Baby to wail even louder.  His screams reached a new level that was surely audible throughout the hood, which also happened to be at the perfect pitch to level the cat’s ears back flat before sending her into hiding, next to the older cat under the chair.  The two were unified at last with trembling whiskers and broken hearts.

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Nine Lives

soul mates

Her left eye doesn’t close all the way anymore, stuck in the instant before a wink, and her tongue slips out past the tiny front teeth that never fully developed and hangs from her petite mouth.  There is a patch of white fur missing from her back and as of most recently one ear remains parallel with the ground at all times.  Her sweet face is a mish-mash of teasing expressions that when put together are no laughing matter.  

I am describing my angel, JB Cat.  She has been with us since the beginning, rescued from a cat jail in Small Town, Indiana.  She came as a complete package with ear mites, worms and an extreme stranger danger anxiety that kept her curled up and hissing in a ball for the first three months. 

When she finally uncurled and moved out from underneath of the bed, we were still naïve enough to try and keep houseplants and a cat at the same time.  JB quickly assessed the situation, found the plants to be enemies, and set out to destroy them with various plots such as knocking them over and pulling them from the dirt.  Once free from the houseplant threat, JB settled in for a very long stay.

Over the past decade, she moved with us from apartment to apartment, always packed up in a carrier with the last load of most important belongings, and then finally to a house where she caught her first spricket (a beastly combination of a spider and a cricket). 

She terrorized every family member who ever stayed with us for the first few years, sneaking into their room and watching them sleep either from their pillow or chest.  On the day before our wedding, she went missing and almost caused a complete mental breakdown and then casually emerged from the recesses of the sofa when we came back to pick up our bags for the honeymoon.  Of the three times she escaped, she was always found mewing from under a pile of leaves, frozen by the overstimulation of nature and unfamiliarity of the world.  

Most days, she spends her time sleeping on top of furniture and waiting for food.  She rarely complains and purrs when pet.  JB Cat has personality, history, opinions and plans.  After being together for so long, she has a human family, and although, she isn’t liked by all, she is loved (perhaps only by me?).  Its hard to imagine life without her hiding from friends, stalking family in the night, or purring on my chest in the evening.  Yet, it seems that it’s an approaching reality, one that grows closer with each new ailment from which she never quite recovers.  While she is still living and wheezing on the couch behind me, her lifeforce grows dimmer and my sadness grows greater.

This world was never made for one as beautiful as you, JB Cat.  

Cat Hospital

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Our bathroom is now a hospice ward in what is turning out to be a cat hospital. The patients outside of the hospice ward are low acuity; they are working through issues of obesity and anxiety, an over production of hairballs and general sense of neediness.  Patient X is not working through, over, or around any issues.  She exists between life and death, stuck in the moment right after the sun sets and pulls the light from the sky, slowly wasting away in a state of limbo. 

I want Patient X to be comfortable and the environment is important in this goal.  The window is covered; the room stays cool and dark, even during the day.  Patient X no longer needs to keep her days and nights separated.  

Each day, I give her a fresh dish of water and crunchy kibble.  Last week, she moved the bits around with her paw to make it look like she had some interest in it.  Now, it’s all she can do to turn her pink nose up at it and lay back down in her box. 

I then sweep up the loose litter and scoop out the clumps and wet spots, but today, there is nothing to clean out.  There is only a dying cat hiding under a soft towel in a cardboard box, neither eating nor eliminating.  She watches me with dull eyes that sparkled green with curiosity and trouble not long ago; they are much like the changed eyes of my grandfather since the cancer spread through his body.  He, too, is lounging about in limbo, losing time and strength as his body winds down from eighty years of constant life.      

Sickness takes up space, a lot of it, especially where every nook and cranny is already filled with a knickknack or stack of books.  It’s hard to prioritize and harder to understand other than that it happens.  Sickness leads to a sadness that fills up rooms and houses, spills out windows and forces open doors.  When the sadness has no place else to go, it shimmies and shakes its way down the road to the neighbor’s house and lets itself in through the backdoor for a season.   Until then, I guess it’s here to stay.

Tentative

The Benefits of Strep Throat

Image result for cup of tea

“Something is off,” I said in a rasp.

It was still dark outside, an early morning in the Midwest, as I prepared for the day. Two cats lounged in front of me, licking at their fur and stretching.  They were thoroughly unconcerned with the trials of their human-keeper.

I tried to swallow and felt razor blades cutting into my throat which was slightly more concerning than the sound of my voice.   Gingerly, I reached up to touch the affected area and discovered a golf ball sized gland just under my jaw and felt certain that it was not there last night.

One feline stopped grooming just long enough to acknowledge my ailing presence and meowed with a rather mean expression that seemed to say, “Just make sure we get our kibble.”

The two bullies left the room and their mistress for a pursuit of a higher calling, kicking litter out of their boxes.

Flushed with fever, I fanned my face. I had to get to work; there was the already overdue report that was only halfway done, clients in need of bus tickets, referrals, supportive listening, and my new coworker with a history of forgetting to return to work after lunch breaks who required constant supervision.  There was so much to do and such little time.  I couldn’t waste a single minute before Christmas, New Year’s, and the time off in between.  Could everything wait, I wondered with my soon-to-be-boiling-from-fever- brain?

“Yo, this some B.S. right here,” I could hear my coworker’s most used line as I felt the massive lump on my neck and tried to swallow again, as though the last time was an anomaly. The lump and pain were both still in place. After a quick inspection of the back of my throat in the mirror, white spots were added to the list of issues that led to a trip to Urgent Care where I was diagnosed with strep throat and kept from work for at least a day.

How dare they take me off work? I raged for about a minute and then accepted my quarantine orders. I read, napped, dutifully took my medicine and provided kibble to the gang of cats that rove through our tiny house and remembered the importance of taking care of me.

Sometimes it takes getting physically stopped in one’s tracks, rendered unable to eat or drink, and restricted from work to actually stop for a break and realize that if you give everything away, there’s nothing left for you or those who love you at home. I took the day and my antibiotics and returned to work rested and ready for the final push before the holidays.

I slowed down and re-prioritized, de-stressed, drank more tea than booze (until 12/31/16) and started saying no to unnecessary responsibilities.  And that’s how strep throat saved me in a painful and contagious sort of way from self-destructing over the holidays and with any luck in 2017.

Fine Dining

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Feast
In an unusual spirit of generosity, I decided to prepare a special dinner for my girls.

I carefully considered the options from the fancy cat food shelf. Tuna or salmon, chicken livers or chicken in oil for the carnivorous cat and gluten-free, organic vegetarian options for the California cat. There was no shortage of choices so I grabbed a tasty chicken-like meat blend and headed home, excited for their reactions to this rare delicacy.

Six almond shaped eyes watched me as I divided up the can of smelly gunk into three little dishes. Only two of the six eyes showed any reaction, naturally belonging to the oldest and wisest of the pack.

Her tail might be skinny and her back balding, but her sense of smell was a keen as when she had a full set of teeth and thick, lush fur. Jibber-Jabber knew what a treat was about to be within a paw’s reach, the much sought after and desired canned cat food that she remembered from her kittenhood.

Jibber-Jabber sat anxiously where she expected her dish to be placed, next to her water bowl proudly reading, #1 Cat. She took this title seriously, especially when she had to deal with a young and foolish #2 and #3 cat.

They aren’t #1 Cat material, she mused while waiting. Her white whiskers twitched with impatience.

#2 and #3 mewed in anticipation of the hard, crunchy kibble to fill their dishes. They wanted the same kibble that filled their dishes every day and nourished their furry bodies and left them craving more.   Hard, crunchy kibble was to them what the white bread and peanut butter sandwich was to me growing up.  Change is hard and often unwanted.

They sniffed at the dishes with the wet cat food and stepped back in disgust. I got down on my hands and knees, scooped up a fingerful and offered it their sensitive, pink noses.

“Come on, just try a little taste. You will love it,” I promised.  It was the same kind of cajoling I used with my clients as I encouraged them to try new things, like budgeting.  Admittedly, I learned this type of negotiation from my own mother who swore I would like new things, if I just gave them a try, like lima beans and swimming.  Bleh.

The cats glared at me for what could only be considered treason in their small cat brains and left the kitchen.

In the meantime, Jibber-Jabber snorted and purred as she gulped down mouthfuls of the grey mush. She glanced over at her departing comrades with the simple and greedy joy that comes from not having to share the last piece of pizza or in this case a three course meal in which each course was the same, nasty wet cat food.

A job well done

Guest
cat at w

“Do you need anything else?” I asked sweetly of our visitor.

I had just dropped off a towel, washcloth, and still boxed bar of soap. The sheets were clean and there was a working ceiling fan. Just shy of a little piece of chocolate on the pillow and the offer of a happy ending, the set-up was pretty luxurious for being free.

A cat sat on either side of me as I stood facing the man, their white whiskers twitched with mischief as they silently watched.

“No, thanks for everything. I should be fine for the night.”

A sly smile tugged at the side of my mouth knowing the terrors of the dark that he had yet to face. It was unlikely that he would “fine” by morning.  No matter, I bid him goodnight and shut the door.

It was not long after all of the lights were off and everyone was tucked into bed that the cats went to work. They started out as they do every night, with a song of their people, meowing back and forth between one another and sometimes all at once.  Occasionally, they harmonized but mostly tried to outdo each other with creative riffs and scats.

Once satisfied with the beautiful music that they created, they left to greet the newcomer. They knocked politely on the door with a soft paw and then more forcefully with both paws.  Perhaps they feared that he hadn’t heard their knocking as they started mewing demands to be allowed entry in addition to banging at the door.

I believe they stand on their hind legs to gain more leverage in their pummeling of doors.   This goes unconfirmed since I have only been on the receiving end of the knocks, on the side of the door to which they desperately wanted without really knowing why.

Like most of us, the cats are pushed and pulled by a current of life towards unknown destinies without any understanding other than this simple truth, there is no other way.

The next morning, our visitor appeared with dark circles under his eyes and his bags were already packed and waiting by the door.

“Leaving so soon?”

“Turns out I have things to take care of back home that just can’t wait.”

We waved goodbye from the door, while the cats supervised the departure from the window with pink noses pressed to the glass, most pleased with their night of work.

Jibber-Jabber Cat

Connected
wc

While I’m writing, my precious cat, Jibber-Jabber, insists on draping herself over my shoulder or stretching out across my lap.  It doesn’t matter if I’m actively using a pen, she simply rolls and knocks it out of my hand and covers the pad of paper with her furry, white body.  Once she’s in place, she reaches her paw out to encourage a quick tummy rub.  Not too much or too long, she lovingly bites my arm to let me know when she’s had enough.  She purrs to show her satisfaction at achieving ultimate control.    

Clearly, she’s the boss of couch time and Sunday mornings in our house which makes her quite happy.  It’s hard to get anything done with Jibber-Jabber always lounging about and waiting for her opportunity to snuggle.  She left for a minute, likely to get a drink of water.  She’s always thirsty these days.   

She’s already on her way back  so I better write fast.

Jibber-Jabber and I have come a long way from the time she took up residency in our home.  I remember walking into our shabby one room apartment after class when an emaciated, greasy white flash streaked past me. It ran at top cheetah speed across the room and dove under the couch.  

I screamed, “What is that?”

Huge yellow eyes stared out at me from the safety of the couch.

“That is our new cat, babe.  She’s a Siamese.  Isn’t she great?  The pet store lady said she is practically still a kitten, a little shy but very special,” my life-partner then/husband now responded.

Jibber-Jabber remained under the bed or burrowed into the couch for the next month, coming out only for food and water.  I questioned how great she was after discovering she had ear mites, worms, and fleas and a thing for biting feet as they walked past her hiding spots. 

After six months, she started to gain weight and confidence and we realized she was not a Siamese cat.  She grew into a massive housecat, average in every way aside from her insatiable appetite.  After nine years, we knew for certain she was not shy, just riddled with unbearable anxiety.   While the pet store lady might have been wrong about the cat’s age and temperament, but she was right about one thing.

My once-little, now old and yellow-toothed Jibber-Jabber is special, really special, so I let her stay on my shoulder or in my lap and write around her.

Breakfast Favorite

robin

“Whoa! Watch where you’re going!”

A bird flew from a bush with a great commotion of flapping and feathers. It landed on a branch on top of a pile of sticks a few steps away from the bush from which it burst and glares. The little bird redefined the cliché’ if looks could kill as it continued to stare at the intruder with beady, black eyes.

“Must be something good in there, eh little bird?” the intruder purred with a throaty voice and crept closer to the bush.

Sure enough, a nest was tucked into a low crook in the scrub bush. It was loving sewn together by beak and claw, made of twigs, trash, mud, and a piece of string. The nest was dangerously low, just low enough for a little peek by any curious, four-legged passerby.

“Eggs! There’s four blue eggs in there!”

The still-warm orbs nestled together in the center of the nest, siblings through the shell.

And through the next life.

The cat reached up with one furry, violent paw and whacked the nest down to the ground already littered with fading mulch and dead leaves. Speckled blue eggs rolled out over the debris in zig-zag paths. Each egg was neatly stopped by the pink, waiting tongue of the cat that loves scrambled eggs.

Mullygrubs 

  
Rainy days are the worst, unless you have the freedom to curl up with a good book and wait for the world to dry out.

As for me, I am at home allegedly working. My work phone rings and I watch it buzz and vibrate like a trapped cicada. It is my prisoner and I don’t choose to be a kind guard today.

Dripping, grey skies bring out the bad employee in me. It brings out the whining, resistant to change, let’s-push-everything-out-until-Monday, really bad employee. Normally, I am at least half way compliant, sort of positive, and willing to tolerate company shenanigans. 

Another call comes in, this time from the couch as I sit in this impossibly hard-backed chair.

“Come, have a lay down. Your book is welcome, too.”

I try to find another reason to resist.

I am almost done with Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. A day like this would be perfect to find out what happens in Texas, his last stop. It is likely more of nothing, just another case of the mullygrubs. Still, I need to know.

Plus, my priorities are set around escaping reality, especially when Monday through Friday, so this would play right into my main objective.

Before committing to anything, I ask, “What about the cats?”

“Don’t be silly. They’re already here, waiting for you.”

As if on cue, the little one looks over the arm of the couch and gives me a sleepy mew. I see she has been warming up my favorite spot. The other two are curled up, deep in their normal 20 daily hours of beauty sleep.

My will power is weakening and I am walking towards the big, tan beast that beckons from the next room.

Just a quick nap, I bargain with myself and promise to work twice as hard in twenty minutes. Closing my eyes, I briefly consider that rainy days might not be the worst, after all.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mullygrub

6 Tips on Preparing for a Job Interview 

On preparing for a job interview
1. Don’t go out drinking the night before with your old college roommates. Celebration shots should come after a job offer, not before the interview.

2. Do remember what you wrote in the cover letter about all of the “relevant” experience you bring to the position.

3. Eat breakfast – passing out in front of your future boss and co-workers will definitely leave an impression, but not the best one to start building your street cred’.

4. Lint roll the cat hair off your best (only) suit. Hiss and show your teeth at the cats if they try to approach to re-apply. Don’t trust the purring, they don’t have your best intentions at heart.

5. Leave early- the world will conspire to make you late.

6. Take a deep breath and relax, you were made for this.

  

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