Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Me Again -- Layla.

Those kittens are pretty good, especially when they're asleep six feet up on their cat tree.  They kinda look like somebody let the air out of them, though.  When they sleep, they just flatten out and snooze away.  But I'm finding out they're not so bad when they're awake, too.

I confess: I've been playing with the little one, Stillwell.  He's a feisty little guy and he likes me.  It's so much fun to bounce at him and jump back and run in circles!.  He jumps at me and play-swats me on the nose and he thinks it's hilarious.  And they think it's cute, which makes it even better.  And did I tell you how much fun he is?  I'm starting to really love that little guy. 

Just so he doesn't try nursing on me.  He nurses on everything.  He works at stuff with his little tiny feet and he sucks.  People's clothes.  Blankets.  Fuzzy things.  I think he still misses his mom, even though he's three months old.  Maybe they took him away too soon.  It's sad when that happens.  Sometimes I miss my mom, too, and I'm a grown dog, three years old.  But I don't suck on blankets!  Yuck!  He can stay away from Layla if he wants to do that. 

She's knitting mittens today.  Eggplant colored.  The yarn label says "aubergine."  The pattern is a little complicated and she had to rip out a row, but she'll catch on.  I could follow it, but it's hard to hold all those little needles with my paws.  I kind of forget and chew the needles up instead, and that makes her use bad words.  I like the yarn, though.  Sometimes I steal her yarn and make it into toys.  It makes great toys!  She said she'd make me a sweater, but I think she knows I wouldn't wear it.  Not a chance.  I may have short hair, but I'm part chow.  Chows don't wear poodle clothes!  I bet you already knew that. 

When they adopted me, they came all the way to Georgia to get me.  Well, to Chattanooga, and that's about as far.  I was in Atlanta and the shelter woman drove me to Chattanooga.  They met her there.  The shelter woman said I was a border collie mix, but it didn't take them long to discover I wasn't any part of a border collie.  More like chow and pit bull, they think.  The inside of my mouth is black and when I bark, it comes out "poomph," like a proper chow.  The only part about me that's like a border collie is the smarts.  Suzy really is a border collie, but the vet said she has Attention Deficit Disorder.  But she can figure things out OK, like how to open the front gate.  We really get them going when we do that.

Then they put a padlock on it.  Suzy hasn't figured that one out yet and I can't reach the key. 

photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's Me, Layla. I'm taking Over.

First she decided to take a week off for her holiday -- Chanukah, they call it -- they light a ton of candles every night.  (I like the jelly donuts, and we had warm brisket in our kibble three times.  That was great.)  But then she took another week off because she was so scootchy from the OTHER holiday -- the one she doesn't celebrate.  There was so much of it everywhere that she said she just had to hunker down and hide out until they were all finished with it.  She hasn't written a word on here for two whole weeks. 

OK.  That's it.  I'm taking over.  Boy, could I tell you a few things about what's been going on around here.  Chaos.  That's the word for it.

About the time of that other holiday, these two kittens showed up at Mobley.  That's our vet.  It always happens like that with cats.  Somebody dumps one at Mobley and they know just who to pass it on to.  Their cousin Mary Pat who has the pet chicken even sent them a Crazy Cat Lady action figure. The two of them are really suckers for tiny, helpless, abandoned kittens and the staff at Mobley knows it.

Helpless.  Yeah, right.  Have you seen those tiny razor claws?  Suzy found out about those when she tried to -- uh -- play with that little tomcat.  Smart move, Suze!  They may be little and fluffy and look like living dog toys, but helpless, they're not. 

Anyhow, they stopped by Mobley to get heart worm meds -- I have to take those because I actually had heartworm once.  Got it when I was living on the street.  Let me tell you, the treatment for that is no fun!   I was in a crate for months.  Well, it seemed like months, with no running and playing at all, but I'm well now.  It's over.  No more treatments that make you feel bad.  I'm taking my meds, though.  They never forget to give them to me. 

Laura was sad because Ms Hobbes, who is nineteen and seems to be getting lighter and wispier by the day, and sleeping more, and says she hurts all over, is headed for the Rainbow Bridge.  So the people at Mobley used this as an excuse to dump two little tiny kittens on them.  Two!  They're not even related, but they said they couldn't be separated.  And these two fell for it. 

So now we have cat chaos.  Panther wouldn't stop growling and hissing at anybody in a cat suit -- even her best friend Mary Margaret!  She just went totally bonkers.  Ralpher is so mad he may never be the same.  He is beginning to forgive them, but only because Laura lets him use her Mac Book in the morning to write his memoirs and email his friends in Peru.  Joey is cool because he thinks he's transitioning into a dog, so one more cat doesn't phase him.  He even plays with the little tyrants.  So does Mary Margaret, but she wants to wash their butts and they don't think so.  Ms Shadow is such a cool old dog, and all the cats love her, but these little bitty kittens think she's the dog from hell and they hiss and spit and growl at her so much, they have broken her heart.  Even Mary Margaret, who was a total brat when she was a kitten, always loved and trusted Shadow. 

For a couple of days there, I thought those kittens had rocked our world and not in a good way, but they seem to be growing on me.  If they get too far out, I just tell on them.  I tell on them a lot.  They don't bother me because I stay out of their way, but it's important that we have order around here, and I have learned I'm not in charge. It's not my door, so somebody else has to maintain it. 

Do they have obedience training for cats? 

The funniest thing is, Panther finally made up with Mary Margaret and stopped growling and hissing at those kittens, but now the kittens won't stop growling and hissing at her. 

I killed the knitted brown alpaca mouse she made for them.  It was only fair. 

Dodger and Stillwell, notorious kittens.  Do they look like trouble to you?

photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Tiger in the Tank

Tiger's wife said she had to use a golf club to rescue him from the wrecked car he drove into a tree.  From the back seat on the passenger side...?  Oops.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  She did a pretty good job breaking out the rear windows on both sides.  Looks like some damage by the door handle, too.  Kinda think she was not exactly aiming at a rescue here.

Can't say that I blame her a bit.  I think she showed incredible restraint. 

What is it about sports figures that makes us want to imagine them as heroic moral models?   We create their personas from whole cloth.  When they fail to live up to our expectations, we are stricken.  Our imaginary Tiger Woods is forever a three-year-old golf prodigy, as free of genetalia as a Ken doll, and about as real. 

Sports figures are blown all out of proportion and made into golden heroes.  The same testosterone that drives their success at sports also feeds their libidos.  The hero-worship that elevates them to superstar status is a powerful aphrodisiac.  Groupies follow them.  Temptation is rampant.  The fact is, they are not heroes.  They are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances.  Intoxicated by their own PR, down they go.  It's actually more amazing when one of them doesn't fall into the trap than when one does. 

When we hear the news, we are furious because they have given the lie to the stories we have created about them.  We are exposed for the idiots we truly are for doing this, and we do not want to forgive them for it.  Ever.  We play endless games of "ain't it awful?" with our friends. 

Magic Johnson is a similarly idolized sports hero who also fell from grace, but his fall was cushioned by the sympathy he got for coming out as HIV positive.  We swept his astounding promiscuity under the rug in order to comfort him in his life-threatening illness.  We still get the warm fuzzies when his name comes up, but while Tiger had maybe dozens of ladies, Magic had thousands.  Thousands.  Hard to believe. 

I am not suggesting we give them a pass.  Adultery is what it is, and when kids are involved, it is very, very bad stuff.  I know that first hand, having been a kid who suffered from the results of a father's adulterous affairs, and watching what it did to my mother. What I am suggesting is that we stop making them into idols,   that we stop imagining them as Ken dolls and understand that they will do this stuff and we should not be too surprised.  It should not be a career-ender unless we think Tiger's screwing around also extends to fudging on his golf scores. 

I think maybe a good, reliable moral compass might make a nice holiday gift for each of them.  It does seem to be the one thing missing in their fabulous collections.  Anybody know where they might get such a thing? 

photo credit:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mary Margaret of the Strict Observance

Mary Margaret is a cat of the strict observance.  None of that blurring-the-lines-coexistence stuff for her.  She meows of herself in the plural -- the Imperial Cat "We."  No nonsense about playing with the dogs, or sharing her food with them, or cosying up to them or sharing a spot on the bed with them at night.  We are a cat of the strict observance and We shall not be refused.  Our needs come first, and shall be met.  No other animal of any kind will be tolerated, including other cats. (Except maybe sometimes Old Hobbes and maybe sweet little Pantherette, but only for a moment. We become bored or annoyed and fisticuffs ensue. And We always win.)


Do you think it's time to go to sleep?  No.  We want to be petted now.  We will make biscuits on your pillow until you pay attention.  Scratch the top of Our head, please, but not the ears.  The ears are forbidden.  You may pull Our tail, gently.  Now that you are fully awake, I will ask you not to touch Us.  You may now rest until it is time for Us to be fed.

On the other hand, Joey Moustache is a CaDog.  None of that uppity cat stuff for him.  He is not a bit shy about sharing a dish of food with a dog or having a wrestle with his best friend, Suzy the border collie.  They sleep together under the bed.  He hangs with her in the daytime.  He plays chase games with her -- sometimes he teases her until she chases him, sometimes he chases her.  He likes dog stuff.  He loves his cat brother Ralph, but he really prefers the company of canines.  So much less drama!  He aspires to be one someday.  He has marked Suzy thoroughly.  She belongs to him. 

Mary Margaret?  He's reasonably polite, but if she asked him a question, he'd pretend not to hear it.  Better to just stay out of that realm entirely. 

"Pick your battles," Joey always says, rubbing up against his dog friends and purring with a full throated voice. 

photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tis the Season

My cell phone has been ringing "off the hook"  -- oh, right, no hook -- with scammers trying to either get my card numbers or offer me fake loans.  The text messages are pouring in.  The first one said text STOP to unsubscribe, which I stupidly did, despite the fact I had not subscribed to begin with.  All this did was let them know they had hit on a live number, and then the fun began.  Every few minutes I got a text that says "Your application for a cash advance has been received!"  or "Your application for a car loan has been approved!"  Right, except I applied for neither.  It's like the emails I get telling me I won that lottery I never entered or offering to let me help them smuggle millions out of an African country which they will share with me because I am such a dear sweet Christian woman.  (Wrong, dear heart.  I'm about as sweet as a rattlesnake, and I'm Jewish.)   

If I respond positively, they will want me to put up some substantial cash to close the deal.  Then I will never hear from them again. 

It's $mas, not to be confused with the actual Christian holiday, but rather, the special secular holiday for shopaholics that happens at the same time.   People are out there spending like there is no tomorrow. The retailers depend on it.  The little children demand it.  The scammers figure everyone is tapped out and desperate and will not be thinking clearly because they are on a shopping binge and drunk on the endorphin rush of spending pleasure.  And needing a loan, right?  Just a little cash advance to help them out at this critical time? 

Yesterday, I began getting multiple calls from a number in Canada that Google does not recognize.  If you don't answer, they do actually stop calling.  Then there is the caller whose CID shows up as UNAVAILABLE who calls me several times a day.  Do they think I'm going to answer a call with that ID?  Seriously?  This one has been calling for three days now -- should stop by this afternoon. 

This morning I got yet another scam call, from a familiar number: 404-697-3127.  Google hits on that one instantly, and it's one I recognize because the guy using it called a friend of ours about six months ago and scared her badly.  He claims to be from American Express.  He leaves a message to call him back on an urgent matter, and have your AmEx number ready.  Yeah, right.  If AmEx were to call, they would already have my number, so that would be ridiculous.  If you do call back, he tells you your account is seriously overdrawn and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law unless you give him money right away.  Sometimes a woman calls and asks you to make a payment over the phone.  There are multiple numbers used by this particular scam, and multiple scammers.  Here are some of them: (215) 873-3443, (404) 697-3127, (718) 564-3261, (954) 308-5595, (954) 503-1800.  All are presumably cell numbers.  If any of these show up on a phone near you, don't answer.

Because of the threat, and the idea these people have their AmEx information, people do fall for this one.  Never give out your card  number!  No legit company would ever ask you to do that.  That you are asked to do so identifies the caller as a scammer instantly. 

And, they occaisionally call someone who doesn't have an AmEx account, like me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Two Boats and a Helicopter

There is a story that sometimes shows up in sermons about a man who is caught on a sinking ship and turns away all human resources sent to rescue him -- two boats and a helicopter -- because he insists that his faith is so great that "God himself (sic) will save me."  Of course, the ship goes down and the man drowns, later showing up at the gates of heaven mad as a wet cat. 

"I'm a little surprised to find myself here," he says.  "I though God was going to save me!" 

"We're a little surprised to see you here, too," says the angel at the gate.  "We sent two boats and a helicopter!" 

Looking back over my life, I am beginning to recognize all the boats and helicopterst I have turned away over the years -- not to save me from drowning, or from some dire predicament, unless you count poverty as a dire predicament, but to give me access to a better, richer life in so many ways.  Hindsight is 20-20, they say, and I can vouch for that.  I can see so many opportunities that I just ignored or walked away from or totally missed, it's ridiculous. 

At 71, I just completed the first draft of a novel.  What if I had written that when I was 20-something?  I have a lifetime of learned skills since then, but my imagination was rich in those days and I could turn a word. But that's just the beginning.

I could sing and play piano and guitar.  Did I ever do anything with that?  Too shy, even though my jazz musician husband begged me to work as a duo with him, and even lined up gigs for us, in an era when folk-singers were all the rage.  I could draw and paint, and sold my work in a gallery, but did  not follow through with it when we moved to another town.  I could design clothing and knitwear and do couture sewing.  Did I ever do anything with those, beyond spending one year as a high-end jewelry designer or making clothes for my kids?  Except for a little dressmaking on the side, and selling some of my jewelry in a shop in the Haight Ashbury, not at all.  My landlord in San Francisco tried to sell me a Victorian four-plex for $1.  It was a chancy neighborhood at the time, but it took off shortly after that and became a hot place to live.  Did I take it?  Nope.  It would be worth about $4 million today, minimum -- not a bad return on investment. 

Of course, timing is everything, and what seem like simple, easy answers today were not so easy then.  If I had the resources I have now back in the day, I would have a very different life.  I think the internet has given everyone with access to it unlimited opportunities. 

But those boats and helicopters kept showing up, and I kept waving them away.  Not because I was waiting for God to fix things, but because I was too dumb to recognize them for what they were. 

This might seem like whining about missed opportunities, but I have had a fabulous life, even without taking advantage of the many extraordinary things that came my way.  I don't really regret missing them a bit, because had I taken them, I would not have the life I have now.  Somewhere in a parallel universe, another MaryAnn took one or more of those boats or helicopters and did something entirely different -- and right this minute, she is wondering what her life would have been like if she hadn't. 

And right there on the horizon waits another boat, and a helicopter...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Frozen Roses

It's not nice to fool Mother Nature. 

The weather has been unusually warm for November, with temperatures in the high sixties and low seventies.  It tricked the flowers into thinking spring was arriving early and they put on a late fall show for us.  The roses bloomed.  The honeysuckle bloomed.  Those dark green bushes with the upright leaves put out spears of tiny white daisy-shaped flowers. 

Nobody was fooling the wisteria, though.  It turned its leaves a brilliant yellow-gold and dropped them, right on schedule.  Smart stuff, wisteria.  Rose of Sharon was right there with it, leafless now and proud of itself.  It's a tough little weed, related to hibiscus, but with the street smarts to survive an icy winter.  Roses, though, are probably just a little slow -- the dumb blondes of the flower world.  They were tricked into blooming.  Oh, look, it's a pretty day.  Let's all go to the beach!  Things were going really well and they were showing off like crazy when the bottom fell out and the temperatures hit the floor.  And there were the roses, wearing bright-colored bikinis with everything exposed. 

It did't snow, but it may as well have.  It looked as if it had.  The neighbor's rooves were covered with white.  The ground was covered with white.   The cars were caked with the stuff.  Laura had to chip out the windshield of the Hyundai before going off to her physical therapy appointment at 7:30. 

And the roses were frozen solid.  Sad little colorful icicles that once were flowers.

I'm going to go put on a sweater.

photo credit: MAJ