bottom line: my life is better with cats

If you know me at all, you know this post was inevitable. Yes, I’m one of those – a cat lover.

walter kitty sm

Walter

I’m not going to say “cat lady,” because that sounds like I have 17 cats in my house on the outskirts of town where I play Bobby Darin records, eat bon-bons and watch game shows. Alone.

Right now that sweet little guy on the left, Walter, is trying to get settled in my lap as I sit at my desk and type this post. He’s my snuggler, the first lap cat I’ve ever had.

They soothe me. When I’m stressed, lonely or despairing, they’re there to protect me from all evil.

Like so many cat lovers, I want to show my appreciation for them. In my home, I have to keep myself from over-decorating my apartment in cat-themed art. It’s really startling to one day look around and lose count of how many inanimate cats there are in your home.

mimi beanie sm

Mimi

I decided it was time to move away from it, and at the same time look for something I hadn’t tried at all before, Modern Art.

I thought, check out Andy Warhol. Guess what I found out? Mr. Warhol did a whole series of cat pictures. I now have a print of one in my bedroom. It’s called “So Meow” and the colors are perfect. I’m not sure if I won or lost with that one. Let’s face it, wherever I go, the cats are going to pull me in,

Almost twenty years ago I picked up the cat of my heart, Paco. I love every cat who’s ever been a part of my life, but Paco was special. We were both lonely souls at the time who desperately needed each other. I saved him, and he saved me. It was a bond I don’t expect to have again.

When I got him, he was the squirreliest looking thing ever — great big ears, great big paws, a great big tail and scrawny everything else. Kind of like an awkward teenager, although at first I simply thought I’d inherited a homely cat.

Paco, sometime between really squirrelly-looking and beautiful.

Paco, sometime between really squirrelly-looking and beautiful.

“Mom,” I said in a panic when I called her. “He’s so funny looking and he ignores me!”

“I’m sure he’s not that funny looking,” she replied, “and he just needs to get used to his new home.”

Right on the second part, wrong on the first. But eventually he grew into the big beautiful cat he remained until he died at the age of 16.

Paco would sit at the door and wait for me to come home at night. I moved in with my mom for a short time, and she said he got in place about 30 minutes before I was expected home. I made sure I was never late.

One weekend I visited my brother out of town. I left at the usual time in the morning with a bag Paco didn’t recognize. My mom told me (after I got home) that he waited for me until 10:30 that night, until she finally picked him up and brought him into the living room to sit next to her. He pretty much stayed there until I came home. Then he was really mad at me, and hissed for an hour. Then he wouldn’t leave my side.

Montero watching Law & Order sm

Montero was a big fan of “Law and Order.” I also just realized how old my TV set is.

I’m crying a little as I write that story. I miss him, but I love my current babies, Walter & Mimi.  I hope I always have a cat in my life. These are pictures of some of those who have made my life better just by waking (me) up in the morning.

And I confess, I do listen to Bobby Darin from time to time. So do Walter & Mimi. We’re romantics. But I’m still a cat lover, not a cat lady.

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I am not Rosie the Riveter…but I can hang curtains!

I believe in being as self-sufficient as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I like having the right guy help me around the house. What’s more, the right guy can tease me a little about mistakes in my efforts at home improvement, as long as he doesn’t make me feel like a fool. There’s a difference.

Once upon a time I dated the wrong guy

for way too long. Despite oodles of proof to the contrary, he believed I was utterly incompetent when it came to things like changing a tire or replacing hardware on kitchen cupboards, and felt quite comfortable saying so.  Frankly, I think he would have preferred someone who didn’t know a hammer from a nail, but that’s not what he got. With me, anyway.

So no way was I going to ask for his help hanging my curtains. Even though in this case I was clueless about how it was done.

You see, I’d never heard of a level.

So instead I took a ruler, measured a reasonable amount above the window frame on either side and once in between, and marked each spot with a pencil. Then I took a strip of painter’s tape and stretched it across, so I’d have something I could check for a straight line.

Looked good to me. I took out my screwdriver and the screws that came with the curtain rod and went at it.

Now, I only had an old-fashioned manual screwdriver. It took FOREVER to get the task done. FOREVER.

On occasion I cheated and pounded the screw with a hammer just to get the thing moving.

Finally, it was ready. I slid the curtains onto the rod and placed the rod in the brackets.

You guessed it – crooked. I eyeballed how much and set out to adjust.

Again, FOREVER.

Still not right.

This went on for I don’t know how long,

until finally I had the whole thing looking perfect. Except, I had so many holes it looked like teeny mice had built a teeny mouse-hole condominium complex. That wouldn’t do.

Curtains! Victory!I knew about spackle, though, and Krylon paint. The curtains came down again, and I set out to fix the wall.

Well, I did a reasonable job with that. The curtains were hanging straight and looking good. Feeling almost smug, I made the mistake of watching some DIY show on the very subject of Mission Accomplished — and learned about anchors.

Oh Lord have mercy. Now I needed an electric screwdriver. And some sort of reward when this was done, because I was headed for the finish line, and I was going to finish a winner.

Finally, after getting this newly discovered aspect completed efficiently

— I did have an expert explain it to me, after all — it really looked good. Darn good. Good enough that when Mr. Wrong came over, his suspicious and close inspection didn’t reveal the truth. And certainly I didn’t.

Today, I have a plethora of electric screwdrivers, each designed for specific tasks l rarely perform. Perhaps more importantly, I have a level.

Now I just need to learn how to sew the curtains properly. Kidding, just kidding.

rules, respect, and giving a rip

There was a time when, with a carload of friends, I, as the driver, was caught in a stop-and-go situation in a parking ramp after a basketball game.

“Look!” my friend Kathy said, pointing at another car. “They’re going the opposite direction! Let’s do that!”

We should have, and I had a split second to decide. There was no law, no rule really, against it. Nothing would’ve happened other than getting out of that ramp an hour or so earlier. But I couldn’t do it. The signs told us which way to exit. Going the other way was wrong.

I can’t help myself. I’m a rule follower.

I’ll tell myself and everyone else I’m being respectful, but bottom line, I’m scared of getting in trouble.

You bet I follow the red light/green light rules. Always have, always will.

You bet I follow the red light/green light rules. Always have, always will.

I even make sure I’m going in the “Enter” door when I shop at Walmart, and veer to the other side if I find I’m headed for the “Exit” door by mistake. Keep in mind the automatic doors have sensors on both sides, and no one so much as blinks if you go through the “wrong” door. On your average shopping day, there’s no danger or inconvenience in entering through the exit door (on Black Friday, it is, of course, a different story).

This wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t feel like I was being controlled by these rules. That, I think, is the dividing line for me between what is right and what is compulsive. I do not, for example, compulsively follow traffic laws. I do it for two reasons: safety, and I don’t want to get a ticket.

No, make that three reasons. It’s the law. Following it is what you do.

When I was in college — the first time —

it was a VERY conservative school, and students could receive what were called “minutes” for infractions of a plethora of really stupid rules. I think breathing too loudly on Saturday morning before 10 a.m. was one of them.

You’d get three minutes per infringement, and if you flouted your rebellion to a point of getting 30 minutes, you received what was called a “campus”, and “volunteered” three hours of your time to the school pulling weeds or some such.

In the history of the school, only a handful of students had made it until graduation without any minutes. I could’ve been one of them, except for two things: 1) I didn’t graduate, and 2) one Saturday morning I slipped up and talked to another student in the bathroom before 10 a.m. (I almost wasn’t kidding above).

She talked to me first, but no matter. And she was an RA, so I was screwed.

It would’ve been good for me to blast my radio

after hours a night or two, or (really bad) show up after curfew (there may have been more serious consequences for that. And, oh yes, curfew). It would’ve been really good for me to kiss a guy on campus (again, I’m serious, a violation of school policy), but that rarely was an option anyway.

I say it would have been a good thing for me because I might have understood what I only now am fully grasping: breaking certain rules doesn’t make you a bad person, or even untrustworthy. There are boundaries and I probably held mine closer than was healthy.

Certainly I didn’t need to trap me and my friends in that parking garage for more than an hour. If I’d gone the wrong way, worst case scenario half the other cars might have followed me. As it was, my decision cast a pall on the evening; that’s what we always remembered about an otherwise fun night.

Who's in Charge smStill, old dogs, new tricks. Forget dogs — I should be like my cats. They (reluctantly) follow the few rules I absolutely enforce and don’t give a rip about much of anything I else I ask of them. Somehow they know what really matters. I rarely reprimand them, or think any less of them for their indifference.

Photo credit (top, stoplight): © Graphic Stock

a run is better than a re-run (revisited)

I’ve decided to run a 5k. My first run, ever.

woo-hooActually, I didn’t really decide to do it. It was somehow decided for me. In the course of idle conversation with a friend whose husband and kids ran a 5k the morning before, suddenly the two of us were committed to running the same in exactly eight weeks.

I may not be sure how I ended up making that commitment, but I’m glad I did. I believe I can and I will. Yes, I’m scared of making a fool out of myself – mostly by having a time comparable to the world’s worst marathon runner. Yet I got on the treadmill this morning and did surprisingly well. Maybe, just maybe, I can get through this and not only have a successful run, but within a moderately successful time. After all, I can walk it in less than forty-five minutes.

Wow, that’s more than I ever would’ve thought I could do

only a few short years ago. But since then I’ve been through hell & high water and survived. Now I’m ready to willingly take on some challenges outside my comfort zone, even my general “desire” zone. I’m picturing myself crossing that finish line with my friend’s teenage daughters, who finish well before me, cheering me on.

This will involve some other challenges for me as well, such as tossing a few dearly-held habits. Maybe coming to terms with one or two medical realities. Probably should invest in some running gear. I know I’m going to have my ups and downs in my desire to run this thing, but I am going to do it.

When I was going through the aforementioned hell & high water,

I frequently would hear the frustrating words, “everything happens for a reason, and someday you’ll understand.” I still don’t know if I believe that. Years ago my dad told me this: whether life is good or life is bad, we always think it’s going to stay that way. Meaning, life has its ups & downs and we tend to be pretty short-sighted when we’re in the middle of either state. I think I follow my dad’s way of thinking a little bit more. Not that I have to discard one belief to accept the other, but my pragmatic side is overruling the mystical in this case.

Still, lessons learned and applied during hard times make the good times better, and challenges taken on as a result of growth keep life from being re-runs. I’ve faced tough times before, but never those that changed me as deeply as what I faced three years ago. I think they changed me for the better, and that will make the good times really good. I just hope the good times last a while. I’ve earned it.

 

Time IIUpdate:

Since I first ran this piece in January, I’ve tried training for a 5k twice, and found my body won’t go for it. I can walk endlessly at a very brisk pace, but shift into running and everything falls apart. I’m proud to say I tried and I’m also glad I was smart enough to quit before trying a third time.

I’ve also started to see some possible purpose come into my life

from those trials of recent years. I continue to resist the idea that “everything happens for a reason” because it hurts to believe there could be justification, if you will, to the malicious deeds of others. But life goes on in a good way, and I continue to grow.


Image Credit: (clock) © Jakub Krechowicz; calendar © Stillfx — both, DollarPhotoClub.com

my oasis of chaos

In my doll-sized apartment, one of the first things you see is my coffee table. Therefore, I strive to make sure it reflects me, the real me.

incredibly messy real me coffee table sm

This is a fictionalized depiction of what my coffee table would look like if it reflected the real me. FICTIONALIZED.

Well, if that were true, this is what it would look like on a good day. (Note the January 26, 1986 issue of People magazine: Sexiest Man Alive 1986 — Mark Harmon. Every few years I come across that magazine and think, I need to throw this thing away. But, how can I? WHAT IF I MEET MARK HARMON A WEEK AFTER I THROW IT OUT and miss my greatest chance ever for a celebrity autograph? Like I’d be carrying it in my purse if I did meet him when he traveled here to Arkansas [I hear it]. So it stays.)

Fortunately I have enough sense to decorate to a higher standard than my muddled mind. I won’t bother to show you a picture of that (the decorating, that is), since A) everyone’s taste is different and what I think is So Classy you might think is So Garage Sale and B) as you can see, the available photography isn’t going to do it justice anyway.

people magazine 012686 sm

Sure, I could put this on my coffee table, but nobody would be allowed to touch it.

Still, I do want that table to make a quality statement. So sometimes I put out a really cool book of photography my dad gave me, or other times I’ll trade that out for my favorite childhood picture books (I saw that done in a decorating book once and it looked good there, but never quite translates in my living room). Mostly I leave room for any magazines or books I might be reading, but I leave the esoteric ones most visible.

My copy of “Why Men Love Bitches” is in a basket under the table, buried beneath a couple of phone books. It always remains out of sight, but rarely out of  mind.

When it comes right down to it, I could really overthink this thing. Like I said before, my apartment is tiny. Everything needs to serve a purpose. While some of that purpose is ambiance, more of it is practical.

So maybe a little oasis of chaos would work.

my best gifts received, part two — “what’s in a name?”

Growing up with a not-so-common name meant finding something personalized was going to be a noteworthy event.

That never happened. Of course someone could pay to print my name on a t-shirt or pen, but you didn’t find one in a store ready to go. I can’t explain why that mattered, but it did. A lot. For my friends with unusual names, such as Fonda, it mattered too. So I know I’m not alone in this.

Belinda Blackberry sm

I’ve heard the Tip-Top popsicle band has undergone some changes over the years, and Belinda Blackberry retired a few years ago.

My brother knew it was important to me, and when he had his chance to get me something pre-personalized, if you will, he went to unusual lengths to get it.

He was backpacking in New Zealand, and there in the grocery store window was a poster advertising “the latest fruity member of the popsicle band,” Belinda Blackberry.

With her slick haircut and wide-eyed smile, this singing sensation’s picture was destined to hang on the walls of my apartment. There was no doubt.

It took some persuasion and few phone calls to the right people, but my brother convinced the bewildered Tip-Top distributor to give it to him. Apparently the name Belinda is far more common in New Zealand than it is in America, so this man was skeptical of my brother’s insistence I would value the poster because it had my name on it.

I bet that man would be shocked, and maybe get a good laugh, if he knew that today, some thirty years later, this ad has been framed and now hangs over my desk at home, to keep me cheery on gloomy days.

No one could appreciate it more than me, for the name as well as the inconvenience & expense my brother was willing to go through to get it mailed to me. And oh yes, the pure camp value of the ad itself.

Thanks go to Tip-Top products, New Zealand’s premier producer of ice cream products & frozen treats. And they know nothing about this post. I’m just sincerely grateful they gave my brother that poster!

just a phone call away

One day, I woke up to the phone ringing. It was a woman I barely knew, but had talked to not long before about needing a new home.

The place I lived in was no longer adequate. In fact, it never had been adequate, but after my latest fearful call to the police, they’d strongly suggested I move out. Soon.

home sweet home smI think I may have found the perfect place for you,” she said. After a brief description, I knew she was absolutely right. It was perfect. I’d love it. My cats would love it. It was within easy walking or driving distance of…well, everything. Best of all, it had character.

One thing, though. Certainly it would be too expensive. There was no way a place this ideal could fit my teeny-tiny budget. I mentally held my breath and asked, “how much is it?”

She told me the price. Only slightly more than I was paying now. The utilities would definitely be higher, but I’d figure out a way. Not a half hour later, that way came to me via another call.

“I’ve got a job and you were the first person I though of,” my friend Wanda told me. “It’s only part-time, but it could grow to something full-time within a year. It’s yours if you want it.”

I already had a part-time job, and the hours for this one were exceptionally flexible, which I absolutely needed.

I lay there in bed, thinking, I must be dreaming.

I felt some soft paws tapping my forehead. Time to get up, the kitties were saying. The alarm went off. Time to get up, it was telling me. I opened my eyes. My phone was nowhere in sight. I had been dreaming. Damn.

But it could happen, right?


Daily Prompt: Grand Slam

Image credit: © Ekaterina Garyuk – DollarPhotoClub.com

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