Questions for My Cat

Let me start out by stating how I admire you, both as an individual and as a member of your species.  I’m especially impressed at how felines made a somewhat hesitant deal with humans for food and shelter in return for, well, not much on your side.  Sure, you’ll live with me, take food, show some level of affection, but I recognize it’s a choice, and one you make on a daily basis.

Still, there are some things I just don’t get.

  • Why do you wait all day to use the litter box? You spend the entire day alone in the house, but wait until I get home before you decide to let loose with something that smells so bad I’m considering purchasing a hazmat suit.
  • What are you looking at?  Periodically you will stare at nothing for a long time, and with a look of total concentration.  It weirds me out.  
  • How come you pretend to love your toys when I have company, but won’t go near them otherwise?  You look like those cats in the commercials; when it’s just us they gather dust.
  • And, in general, what’s with the pickiness regarding play things?  I buy a toy guaranteed to amuse you.  You play with the box and won’t touch the toy.  
  • Why are toes so fascinating?  No explanation needed on this one, just some rationale for why you feel that my feet, and especially toes, exist solely for your amusement.
  • Do you deliberately wait to scratch my favorite chair in front of me?  You never touched any of the furniture, only using scratching posts.  Because of that, I spent a lot of money on a custom-made chair that is now covered with a throw.
  • Am I food or friend?  You snuggle up next to me and purr.  An hour later I catch sight of you perched on top of the kitchen cabinets, glaring down at me like I’m a gazelle and you’re the tiger.   
  • And, finally, the biggest question of all: do you like me?  Sometimes you seem to adore me, but other times you shoot me that look of utter disdain and scorn only a cat can manage.  It really messes with my confidence. 

Please respond at your earliest convenience.  Don’t pretend you can’t read or write; I’ve seen your earlier posts. 


Learning to Live in the Now

Remember the old story about the grasshopper and the ant? The ant spends the pleasant days of summer working hard building a nest and filling it with food, while the grasshopper enjoys the lovely weather and plays.  The two encounter each other one warm day and the grasshopper asks the ant to come and join the party; the ant declines.  A few months later, snow covering the ground and a cold wind blowing, the hungry, freezing grasshopper shows up at the ant’s door and begs to be let in.  The ant, sitting in front of a roaring fire with a larder full of food, turns the grasshopper away with a stern lecture about the value of work before play. The ant was clearly a total douche.

I’ve always identified with the ant (although I would share with my grasshopper friend.)  Years ago I made the decision to change careers to something that would give me more financial security, but less day to day satisfaction.  I decided my compromises would be made at work, not at home. To me, money means choices, and the more choices I have the better I feel.

My plan worked well; while I never loved my job, I always liked it, and more to the point, I was able to have that good life.  However, over the last few years my enjoyment of work has steadily declined to the point where I really and truly don’t want to be here anymore.  I’m at the age where looking for a new job is limited; few places are interested in hiring someone over 60.  That leaves retiring, which brings me right back to that darn ant.  What the story got wrong is that the ant would never spend winter relaxing by the fire with a good book.  A real ant type would be nervously pacing back and forth, thinking how safe is the food supply from being ruined by pests, and that there probably isn’t enough to last the whole winter anyway, and getting ready to go out and forage some more as soon as the storm died down. 

That’s the reality of being an ant: worrying more about what might happen instead of enjoying what is happening.  The battle wages within me, but I’ve come to a decision.  

I think…

The Darkest Time of Year


It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.  I feel words starting to bubble up, but haven’t wanted to act on letting them go. 

Late last summer something started to shift inside me. I stopped grieving.  I still missed Rick, but it was no longer in the forefront of my consciousness.  I was here, now, in July of 2015 and starting to wake up and feel good.  It had been a long journey, but I was at the end of it and ready for what comes next.

And then… I heard from my brother.  What was thought to be arthritis, then nerve damage, turned out to be cancer: metastasized, stage 4, terminal.  That news came on the 3rd anniversary of the day on which Rick went into the hospital. I spent what would have been my 10th wedding anniversary with him and my sister in law for what I knew would be my final visit.  He died in late December. He and Rick were close; one of my favorite pictures is the two of them leaning towards each other and both making the same silly face.  When Rick died, my brother wrote a heart-felt eulogy; I’ve now returned the favor by writing one for him.

The moving forward I experienced in July disappeared. Emotionally, I went back to where I had been 3 years earlier, almost overwhelmed with sadness and feeling cut off from life.  There wasn’t anything to write last fall that I hadn’t already written  2 or 3 years ago.

By now, I should have it figured out, but I’m still floundering.  I should be at the next stage of my life, whether that means moving on to a new relationship or being happy and content on my own.  I’m neither.  I thought I’d grown into a wise woman capable of doing anything.  Instead, I’m spending my evenings watching binge-watching old TV shows.  I wait for the next bad news. 

I’ve sat on this post for a few days.  Waiting for the coda that shows my realization this is just one spot in a long journey, or the epiphany that turns this very personal revelation into something with universal meaning.  Neither has come to me.  I think, for now, I’m just feeling low.  I’m still stuck working a job I no longer like.  It’s winter, and the sky is dark when I leave in the morning and when I come home at night.  There will be more sun in my life, both literally and figuratively, but right now is the darkest time of year.

Cat Chronicles

I had some spare time in between naps the other day and reread my kitten posts from last year. How young and silly I was; my tail was twitching with amusement as I read them.


Last year I was obsessed with establishing dominance over my human.  So many things confused me.  I couldn’t figure out why she would spray me with water or physically remove me from the best places in the house.  I worried a lot over our relationship and what my future would be.  Now that I am fully grown, I have come to realize how foolish those kittenish mewsings were.

First is the ridiculous notion I had regarding who was actually in charge.  It was me, of course, all along.  Sure, she is physically bigger, but that means nothing.  Do I feed her?  Am I required to do anything I do not wish to?   Do I even need to clean up after myself?  No, no and no.  She attends to my every need, from ensuring I have a multitude of toys and attention to keeping my bowl filled with food.  No one does that for her; I know this is true, because in all the time I’ve lived with her I have never seen anyone come in and provide her with food, or clean up her messes, or even bring her toys.  Yet I get these every single day. 


She is my servant, pure and simple. Though not always the best servant, at least she tries.  This leads to the second lesson I have learned, which is that she is not that smart.  Last year I was so proud of a trick I taught her that I wrote a post about it.  I was excited and felt this would be the first of many such games I could teach her.  I was wrong; while she is capable of learning, the pace is much slower than what I had hoped for.  I believe this lack of intelligence is endemic to the entire species.   Other humans that visit her also appear to lack the most fundamental logic and reasoning skills.  For just one example if another cat showed up I would chase it around, fight a little, wrestle, determine who was dominant; in short, have fun.  When she has other humans in the house they sit and talk, none of them realizing what they are missing. 

20150919_191728_002I think a big reason for this species-wide stupidity is their inability to communicate in meaningful ways.  The gentle nips and scratches that are clearly meant to push her, or a visiting human, in the right direction never work, and instead of going “Oh!  You need more food.” I get shot with a spray of water. Believe me that gets old fast! She has extremely poor communication skills, and this seems to be the case for all humans.  They don’t get the most basic requests.  A simple “get out of my chair” is ignored.  Obvious requests to stop petting me, or to start petting me, are consistently misinterpreted.  They have no sense of smell, and limited hearing and sight.  The complex range of mews, yowls and chirping noises I make are never interpreted.


I realize now vastly superior I am.  Those few issues I noted last summer mean nothing. My nemesis the spray bottle is still used but I now understand she has to use this because she has no other way to communicate.  It is annoying, but I feel sorry for her more than for me; how limiting it must be when her only options are to spray water or physically pick me up!  Her size, which intimidated me last year, means little without brain power behind it.  She is like any large beast of burden, capable of heavy lifting but certainly not up to the philosophical reasoning on which I spend my days.

The key to our relationship is to let her think she’s in charge.  This is quite easy to do as she misinterprets size for smarts.  She is remarkably easy to manipulate, and within her limitations I am becoming somewhat fond of her.  Wait… I hear her at the door.  Time to close out this post, turn off the computer and pretend I’m napping.

Life, Re-invented

Today starts year 4 of my reinvented life.  Today, August 31, marks the 3rd anniversary of Rick’s death.  I’ve thought a lot about our life together and where I had expected to be.  A week earlier was what would have been our 10th wedding anniversary. I spent that day with a severely ill family member, on what may well be my last visit.  Had Rick lived, he would have been with me.  We would have extended that sad trip into a vacation, adding some joy to the sorrow. 

We traveled well, his calmness in the face of anything combining with my planning and organizational skills.   I miss those vacations; the GPS voice helps me to stay on track, but she’s not nearly as much fun. 

“I’ll have to reinvent myself” said my friend, as we talked about the impact of that serious illness.  “I’ve done it before, and I’ll just have to do it again” she said.  Reinventing myself; that’s what I’ve been doing the last 3 years.

Three years out, things are different.  It’s a quiet, personal remembrance. It feels muted.  The minutes tick by at work and I remember: this is the time when I got the final news, this is when I went in to say goodbye, it was at this very moment that he died.  So much has faded, as I knew it would.  Tonight I will go back and read what I wrote as it was all happening, and I’ll feel the immediacy in a way I can’t anymore.  It’s a memory, now.  It’s in the past. 

I have reinvented myself, mostly.  But I still remember, and I still care, and I still grieve. 

Reflections as I end my third year of being a widow

July 30 is the anniversary of the day when I woke up and knew something was very, very wrong.  Three years ago I drove to the hospital, following the ambulance carrying Rick.  I didn’t know it at the time, but he was never coming home.

After three years I no longer actively grieve, but I do mourn.  I miss him, each and every day.   Car rides and walks are my time to talk with him, and I do so regularly.   He was funny and brilliant and kind.  We complemented each other well. I miss his advice and support.  No matter what, he was always there for me. 

Still, I don’t live in the past; I live in the now, in a present that no longer includes Rick or us as a couple.  Much of my time is occupied with interests and friends that he never knew.

I spent the first year after his death grieving, an active and painful year filled with the physical work of going through his house and personal effects, and the emotional work of coming to some sense of acceptance over what had happened.  I had a plan of concrete things to do, and checked off each item as I completed it.   When year two started, I made a new plan, one that focused on me.  I registered for online dating, took classes, and made every effort to create a new me with a new life.  Year three post-Rick, this year just entering its final month, has been different.  I’ve slowed down.  I gave up on actively pursuing dating; if it happens, fine, but I’ve come to terms with the realization that I just might be on my own for the rest of my life.   This year, I have focused on accepting my life as it is, and trying to find some semblance of peace and enjoyment in what I have.

August remains a transition month for me.  Three years ago, I made the transition from wife to widow.  Each year since, I’ve slowed down during this month to spend time thinking about where I’ve been and what I’ve learned.  August has come to be the time when I try to derive some meaning from my past. I think I’m getting better.  I think I’ve truly left grief, that active, burning bright experience, behind me.  I feel at home in my life in a way I haven’t for several years.

I am not sure what I want from this next year, the fourth in my new life.   I know I’ll be making some major changes, though it’s too early to talk about those yet.  I hope to continue growing.  I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, and I’m finally comfortable.  Maybe that is enough.

W. E. B. Du Bois was right

“The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line”, said W. E. B. Du Bois in 1903. He was sadly correct, and I sincerely hope that his prophecy for the 20th century is not repeated in the 21st.  

There’s an assumption of guilt-by-nature applied to any crime involving an African American suspect that doesn’t exist for whites.  White college students rampaging after a football game are criticized for drinking too much and partying too hard, but they are not called thugs or animals.  When white teens are accused of crimes, there is a call to look for the reasons why; were there mental health issues, or family problems?  When black teens are accused of crimes, they are viewed as hardened criminals beyond any hope of redemption.

Despite the vast predominance of mass shooters being young, white males, there is no presumption of a common thread of race linking each new event.  Conservative radio hosts do not take to the airwaves discussing their ideas on the failure of white families to instill decent values in their sons, nor do Fox News hosts bring in white guests who are expected to apologize for the actions of their fellow whites.  Instead, each case is reviewed and debated on its merits.  Mental health issues are raised, as are concerns over the bad influences that can come from outside influences such as movies, music or video games. 

Contrast that to incidents where the alleged perpetrators are people of color.  Reviewing the comments section of local online news sources bears this out.  Crime reports showing pictures of African American suspects will garner far more comments than the exact same story would have had the picture been of a white suspect.  Comments will focus on the “obvious” connection between the suspect’s race and their crime.  Many will contain base racial stereotypes and slurs.

Different standards of review are not just reserved for people accused of committing crimes.  I’ve spent close to 30 years working in professional office environments that have included small and large companies, privately held, corporate and government.  In every situation I’ve encountered people who were, frankly, incompetent. It’s a fact of life; not everyone succeeds at every job.  When a person of color or a woman fails, the prevailing wisdom is that they were hired for token reasons, and that of course they weren’t as good as anyone else.  I’ve never yet heard anyone suggest that maybe the white guy who failed was hired because he looked just like everyone doing the hiring, not because he had the needed experience, and so of course that’s why he failed.

It’s sad and depressing and I don’t know how we can move forward.  I don’t have any ideas for solutions or any hope that it will get better.  I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that in 2103 Du Bois’s words will have been as prophetic for the 21st century as they were for the 20th .

A generic ‘Open Letter’ for use by all those open letter bloggers

It’s 2am and I am wide awake. You, I am sure, are fast asleep. I know this to be a fact because your behavior towards me during our 2 minute interaction was so callous as to prove, definitively, that you are a deranged sociopath.

I have cried for hours, replaying the incident between us.  You, of course, walked off without any concern or awareness of how your cruelty would affect me.   I am a sensitive, caring individual – unlike you – which is why I am writing this blog post to inform the entire world of the grievous wrong you did.  I know that the entire world will be interested in what I have to say because I am an extremely important person, far more so than you.

Earlier this evening, we were both at a location where groups of people go to interact with each other in public.  Clearly my group of people had the right to do whatever we wanted regardless of its impact on anyone else.  I mean, it is a public place, right?  Therefore no rules of conduct exist.

Apparently you were not happy with the behavior of individuals within my group.  Instead of recognizing our superiority to you, and therefore our innate right to disrupt everyone else, you decided to ask me to do something about it.  I was so shocked that someone might think their rights are equal to mine that I was unable respond.  All my life I have been treated as the most special person in every situation, and your action towards me was incomprehensible.  You actually thought it was acceptable to ask for the behavior to stop.  You did this unaware of the year’s long history and issues of every single person in my group, and how that causal relationship made us blameless for the results of behaviors we knew would occur.  If you had even an ounce of compassion or humanity, you would have realized that we counted for more than you.  I have no idea why you felt the need to speak up; and I do not care.  The personal histories of people in your group are of no concern to me.

In closing, I am hoping you see this open letter, and realize how very wrong you were to expect rights equal to mine.  I hope that the entire online world takes my side in understanding that some of us, mostly young and privileged, always White, and generally with higher incomes, count more than everyone else.

Thank you.

The Age of Anger

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From the Collection of the Artist.”

A hundred years from now, a major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was during our current historical period. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure. What will it say?

Introduction to the Age of Anger exhibit
Welcome to the Museum of the People. This special exhibit focuses on late 20th century and early 21st century American culture. Historians call these “The Angry Years”. This introduction will attempt to provide some context to what you are about to view.

Section 1 focuses on home life. The first thing you’ll notice is the noise; sound mufflers are available if needed, but we really urge you to try and last as long as possible before using them. That ongoing, never ending persistent background noise is from a television, or TV (a sales and entertainment machine displaying 2-dimensional moving content that was ubiquitous starting in the mid-20th century). During The Angry Years, most American homes contained multiple televisions, distributed between common areas and sleeping chambers.

The kitchen area looks stark; can you tell what is missing? If you guessed the lack of a garden and composting area, you are correct. Also missing is solar panels; in fact you will notice a lot less light in all areas of the house than what we are used to.

The idea of generating power through movement, and the positive affect of exercising on attitude, was only just beginning to be understood during this time period. People spent most of their time at home being immobile. What little movement they did was physically isolated from the other parts of their lives. In most cases, Americans sat on couches and watched TV.
There is lots more to see in this section of the exhibit. Be sure and visit the gender defined sleeping chambers for children, which give a good example of the constricting roles assigned at birth based on presumed gender. Take a look at the large garage, and the number of vehicles stored inside. To answer the question that almost everyone asks, yes, it was considered normal for each adult to have their own pollution causing large automated vehicle (or “car” as they were called then).

Section 2 contains a display of a variety of work environments. The Angry Years were the final period of what historians call The Machine Ages. This time period started with the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s and ended around the middle of the 21st century. This was the one and only time in recorded human history when the it was generally believed that people should create a separate environment for focused activities. In addition, the type of activities each person did had a direct connection to their level of power and prestige in society, and even to their ability to procure basic necessities such as food and shelter.

During The Angry Years, in fact during the entire Machine Age time period, most people earned income from “work”, as these activities were called, and that income was required to pay for every facet of their life. Most settings in this section of the exhibit look familiar to us. What you need to envision is that people were required to spend a pre-defined amount of time in these settings with the expectation of being focused solely on work activities.

What does not look normal to our eyes is the “office” work area exhibit. The small square rooms (or “cubicles” to use the parlance of the time) were areas in which people were expected to spend 40 or more hours per week, focusing only on tasks assigned to them. We urge all visitors to sit one of the interactive cubicles to experience a few minutes of what this was like. Now, imagine being in this environment 5 days a week, for 8 straight hours, and doing this year after year. Historians universally agree this environment was a cause of much of the anger and hostility that affected this time period.

Section 3 covers entertainment and activities, with lots of interactive areas. Everything shown here is labeled with the date it was created. It all seems very primitive by our standards, but keep in mind that these items were considered state of the art at the time.

About the Age of Anger exhibit

The big question historians ask about this time period is why there was so much anger. As shown in this display, the average American had a good life. Food and potable water were in abundance, and the environmental crises we experience on a constant basis were infrequent and viewed as unusual weather events. Despite what appears to us as an oasis of plenty and good fortune, the average American during this time period was in a constant state of anger. People formed into self-defined groups based on race, ethnicity, religion or even political affiliations, and focused intense hatred at other self-defined groups. Every activity had the potential to degenerate into an angry confrontation. The number of violent interactions between people seems staggering to us today. Murder was an everyday occurrence. Mass shootings happened weekly. Smaller examples of rage can be found in section 3 by viewing examples of actual comments that people posted on the internet (please note that due to the graphic content, only adults can view this part of the exhibit).

There are no easy answers to why people were so angry. Years of study by academicians in multiple disciplines have resulted in two main theories, which can be very broadly summarized as:

Too much stimulation – this theory presumes that the constant, ever-present level of noise and marketing experienced during this time period was just too much for many people;

The work and life dichotomy – we know, now, that human beings did not evolve to be mono-focused on a single activity for hours at a time. Adherents of this view point to the rise in violence that occurred during the entire Machine Age as proof.

The goal of this exhibit is to provide people with a chance to learn about and experience, just a bit, what life was like 100 years ago. We hope you enjoy this look into the past.

Strong as Hell: The Radical Empathy and Irony of ‘ Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’

If you haven’t seen this show I highly recommend it. This post, from one of my favorite blogs, does a great job of describing the subversive genius of the show.

Life Measured in Coffee Spoons

“Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! It’s a miracle! Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! Females are strong as hell!”

As the opening credits, an Auto-Tuned parody interview with a neighbor who witnesses the rescue of the Indiana mole women, faded into a few harmonized “ooohhs” and its prescient concluding words “That’s gonna be, uh… you know, a fascinating transition,” I already knew two things. First of all, this song would probably be in my head until the day I die: an ear-worm that would re-surface at 4 am in library cubicles to be loudly shouted at unsuspecting study buddies, a soaring anthem that I would softly chant to propel myself through the final mile of my run. No doubt, the theme song of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was going to claim it’s rightful place alongside its notable motivational predecessors, “Live every week like it’s Shark Week!” and “Hollaback Girl (This Shit is Bananas).”

Secondly, as footage of little girls posing in tutus and swinging from monkey bars juxtaposed…

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