Twas weeks before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… save for perhaps a large orange cat with a penchant for shiny red round things that dangle tauntingly from evergreen branches and roll wildly when he bats and chases them. Saturday morning—after meticulously positioning the tree skirt “just so” and adusting every last branch, twinkle light, bulb, miniature angel, teddy bear, snowman, santa and reindeer the night before—I awoke to discover an ornament missing from the tree. Thus far the crime scene clues include a slightly askew tree skirt, two vacant metal hooks embedded into the carpet, a random red bulb resting silently in the middle of the room and one “innocent” looking kitty peering out at me from between the brightly lit branches. Not sure I’ll be able to crack this one.
I didn’t need to call the cast of CSI to properly deduce what had transpired while my back was turned… A tipped-over plastic cup, a cell phone on the floor and a sheepish-looking cat hiding out beneath the table told me all I needed to know.
My 2012 vehicle registration form, passport renewal packet, voter registration application and my sister’s 40th birthday card (signed, sealed, addressed and stamped) laid purposefully on the dining room table. These items that were too important to forget or misplace and required attention in the near future were now soaking wet. Of course, the bill from the cable company (that I’d already paid) also sat there… dry as a bone.
The table was empty save for these items and we have no children running around so naturally I considered it safe to sit my cup of water and cell phone right next to them while I went to make the bed and check email. More wrong I could not have been. You see, Stanley has an affinity for knocking things off of the places where they sit. He especially like desks and tables. Pens, reading glasses, cell phones, pieces of paper, paper clips, keys and now apparently cups with liquid in them are not safe when placed on a table or desk.
Don’t ask me why these items are far more interesting to him than the dozens of cat toys I intentionally leave strewn about. If it has value, he wants to knock it over. Now, for some reason, end tables, shelves and coffee tables don’t interest him. Which is why it is safe to place breakable items on them. Thank God some places are still sacred.
But I can’t really blame him. It is my fault. I let my guard down and didn’t realize how comfortable he has become in his new home. He doesn’t go on his little sneak-attack, rampages of destruction when he’s in a new or unfamiliar place. He slinks around, literally lying low, slipping in and out of the shadows until he gets the lay of the land. It is then and only then—when he is truly comfortable—that the mischief really begins.
Well, welcome home Stanley. I’m glad that you feel happy and content in your new digs. I only hope the DMV doesn’t mind when I show up with a wrinkled registration form next week. And that they believe me while reluctantly taking the compromised form from my hand as I tell them in the cheeriest, most confident voice I can muster: “The cat did it. And I swear Mr. Motor Vehicle Man… it was only water.”
Sufficiently “loaded” with kitty tranquilizers, the 140-mile trip south with the cat went off without a hitch. Stanley slept or “meditated” with his eyes half open most of the time and only fussed at me when the Marc Cohn CD I had been playing reached it’s end. Seriously folks, he squeaked and squeaked at me when the music stopped and I had no idea why given that he’d been so relaxed the entire trip.
The only thing that was different (near as I could tell) was that my Marc Cohn music had stopped. So just for grins I started the disc over again and like magic… he laid down his furry, little head and went back to sleep. A-MA-ZING. Who knew Marc Cohn had such an impact on critters of the feline variety?
I’ve moved a million times (with a cat in tow) and have read a million and one times that it is well advised to introduce your kitty to their new environment a little at a time. Like… a ROOM at a time. Well, given that this is the first time Lee has ever had a pet in his house, I didn’t feel like doing all of the corraling and tip-toeing and Ooo!! Watch out for the cat-ing. So I just decided to wing it and let him OUT of his carrier to explore his new surroundings as he so desired.
Yep. That idea was genius. I zipped open the carrier, he went straight to the basement and wedged himself tightly in a corner between an old bed and two walls as though a tornado were headed this way. Oops. Maybe I should have done the room-by-room thing after all?
I did manage to cajole him out of his fox hole with some food, smooth talk and a little petting. I mean, he is male. And he HAS come up to the main floor at least once or twice to do a little recon… and for more food. So I know we’ll get there… eventually. However, I can’t help but feel like some wicked stepmother whose has locked her child away in the basement like Cinderella. But, he’s using his litter box, eating, drinking and venturing upstairs on the occasional intel-gathering, Black Ops mission… so what more can I ask for at this point, right?
Besides Stanley’s assimilation to the new habitat, I had one other major concern. Due to the floor plan of the house, it was necessary for us to install a cat door in an interior door from the kitchen leading down to the basement where his litter box is located. Stanley has never had to deal with a cat door or any closed door for that matter. So the question has loomed large for over a month as to whether or not he would learn how to utilize this contraption in order to “do his business” in the appointed area.
Well… the one good thing that has come out of this giving-him-the-run-of-the-place faux pas is that his great affinity for the basement — and sheer, blind terror of anything non-basement related, has inadvertently caused him to learn how to use his little cat door as he desperately flies through it every… single… time I haul or coax his fluffy ass up the stairs. I guess if history has taught us anything it is that fear can be an excellent motivator.
I know, I know… for crying out loud when is the moving going to be DONE already? At least a few of you readers may be asking that question as I use this post to report that one, final trip must be made to gather the remainder of my things from my old house to bring them to the new one.
One of the items I need to collect is my Keurig coffee maker that I carelessly left behind. I have been without it for over a week and would be experiencing withdrawals were it not for the Starbucks right across the street. But the most important thing I left behind last week that I absolutely MUST return to fetch would be Stanley, the cat.
Poor Stanley has been living it up at my parents’ house where he is utterly and obscenely spoiled. In fact, I’m certain that after seven days he is certain that I’ve abandoned him and am no longer his human. He is probably operating under the false assumption that my parents are now his rightful slaves.
I’m afraid he has no idea how his world is about to be rocked.
Anyone who owns a cat or is owned by a cat (the latter probably being more accurately stated) knows that they are not fans of change. ANY kind of change. So, while I AM looking forward to having him with me in my new home… I am NOT looking forward to the production of bringing him to it. And IT WILL BE a dramatic production.
He will cry and cry and cry (even though he is mute he still makes the most pathetic, airy, squeaky sound you ever heard) until he is exhausted because he HATES riding in the car. And the crying will make me feel bad and I will worry myself into a frenzy.
Upon arrival at his new pad, he will slink around, belly to the ground, for a day and a half sniffing everything in sight and looking terrified. Around day two or three he should be relatively chill about the whole thing and find a nice place to sleep it off for the next three days where he’ll either reluctantly accept his new fate or plot some sort of revenge.
My only hope are the “herbal” calming chews that my father bought for Stanley at Christmas. I’ve given them to him before and it really does chill him out… This is, of course, assuming he doesn’t just eat around the chews—when I hide them in his food in order to trick him—or try to trick ME by pretending to eat them and then spit them out when I’m not looking.
Wish us luck and if all goes smoothly… I’ll live to write about it. And of course… OF COURSE I’ll be
subjecting you sharing it with you just as soon as possible upon our return.
When you’re actively employed—waking up early to the nagging of the alarm clock and slogging to work day after day—one cannot help but imagine that the day will inevitably come that is their “Last Day of Work.” Whether it be to retire, begin a new job or explore a life/career change… we imagine it will be miraculous and glorious with the choirs of angels singing and the clouds parting and all that jazz.
Well, dear friends and readers… today is that day for me and so far there are no choirs of angels or parting of clouds. Now, bear in mind that I have never and I mean NEVER left a position without another similar or better position waiting in the wings. Or at the very least several promising interviews on the books and resumes scattering the earth like propaganda leaflets being dropped by plane.
I have always worked. Since I was 15 years old I have held down at least one and as many as four different jobs at a time. So I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be leaving a job with a generous, comprehensive benefits package behind in pursuit of “whatever happens.” But this time… THIS time is unique.
This time I have a supportive and encouraging man in my life who sees my full potential and recognizes that “it will be OK” if I don’t find that dream replacement job tomorrow. Words cannot express the peace and joy with which his calm confidence fills me.
In the interim, my plan is to try my hand at domesticity. (Please pick up reading wherever you left off after the laughter has stopped.) Martha Stewart I am not, but that doesn’t mean I cannot learn the artful ways of the domestic goddess. Right? You’re still laughing aren’t you? Until the dream job comes calling I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity to get back in shape and keep a home. I’m serious.
Ten of the 50 pounds I recently lost have moved back in and taken up residency on my ass and both of us abhor the wallpaper in the living and dining rooms. It’s officially time to tackle my fear of the oven and its cousin, the stove. My wardrobe needs a good looking over and some serious organization.
The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll miss the office gossip, dressing up for work each day and talking to other professionals… but I suspect there will likely be a bit of a honeymoon period for me, my sweats, my yoga mat and the cat. I promise to take as many of you who care (or dare) to join me along on this new expedition—and with the whole domestic goddess goal in the mix—I can also promise that it shan’t be boring.
Ahhh the joys of moving. Taking your house apart bit by dusty bit and placing all of your things into boxes only to load them onto a truck, drive somewhere else, unload them from said truck, unpack them and try to figure out where the hell you’re going to put everything in the new space.
Yes, it is just one of those things that we humans must do now and again and it is never fun. The results can be wonderful and rewarding—make no mistake—but the act itself is a little… shall we say… off-putting?
But I am an adult and I can handle this transition. Excited and anticipatory about the future, I am able to focus on all of the new adventures coming my way. The cat… on the other hand (Or should I say paw?) is not going to be quite as thrilled.
Currently, my dining room looks like a cardboard cityscape. Boxes of all shapes and sizes are stacked up lining the periphery waiting anxiously for me to fill them with my crap. I thought it would be a good idea to have the boxes close at hand so that Stanley, my cat, could get used to them for a bit before I begin the demolition of his world.
Now, cat owners know this already but for those of you non-cat people, I will fill you in on a little cat secret: They love boxes. Like a kid at Christmas—more interested in the box than its contents—a cat will hop into an open box and make it his own within a matter of seconds. It is a rather adorable sight to behold… if you like cats… and I obviously do… but I digress.
Stanley is of course, no exception. He started out at the bottom of the “city” just lying around inside one of the small ones that happens to be turned on its side. He then bravely ventured to another larger one flipped upright and hung out in there for quite awhile.
Then last night I found him, all Lewis-and-Clark-like, boldly scaling the stack to mid-level. By tonight I expect to come home to discover that he’s reached the top and rigged up some sort of flag all MacGyver-like out of a fork and dishrag to stake his claim.
All this time I can’t help but think to myself: “Sure you love the boxes NOW Stanley… but just wait until I begin packing your entire universe into them and suddenly everything you know is gone — including your favorite blanket.” And I am riddled with guilt… praying that he takes to his new digs happily and quickly.
He’s going to hate me. At least for a little while… Probably until I start unpacking in the new place and the resurrection of his cardboard city begins again.
It has been exactly one week since I’ve been at the office and four days since I had any obligation of any kind. And it feels great.
There is a little part of me (notice I said little) that feels I MUST be doing something… I SHOULD be doing something. And yet, I don’t. I’m sure this enjoyment of doing nothing will eventually wear off.
Perhaps I will tire of staying up until 2 a.m.—laughing and imbibing with friends—then sleeping until 10:30 a.m., getting dressed at 4 p.m. and doing it all again. Perhaps not.
Either way, come Monday I will have to get up and get back into the game.
Until then… there is a perfectly good spot for me… on the couch.
It has long been a great source of frustration and vexation to me that December and the time surrounding the holidays is dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year” because, well… I find it to be more like the most exhausting time of the year.
Don’t get me wrong. It does have its magical moments for sure. But truth be told… between all of the holiday preparations, commitments and gatherings, nieces and nephews in winter sports and fielding 100,000 questions from family and friends about any future wedding plans… finding time to write has been a little more challenging.
That is why—for this Monday’s post—I am sharing with you something Christmas-ey that I hope will make you smile…
For you fellow cat owners out there you know that all the catnip in the world cannot compare to the sheer bliss found in the bottom of a paper bag… or on the inside of the leftover cardboard tube when the wrapping paper has been used up… or in a pile of crumpled tags, receipts, tape and ribbon scraps.
And don’t even get me started on their magnetic attraction to the low-hanging tree ornaments. Suffice it to say that for at least one member of this household… Christmas truly IS the most wonderful time of the year.
Have a great Monday everyone… only 12 shopping days left. If you don’t have that special something for that special someone yet… My advice is to get out there and get it over with or else there’s a good chance it will wind up beneath someone else’s tree.
Like a lioness waiting in the tall grass for her prey, I swear they could smell the fear. I walked through the door and 10 pairs of eyes stared up at me from their seats. How bad can this be? I thought to myself. They look harmless enough.
Sitting there quietly around a circular table playing with Play-Doh, the 10, two and three year olds seemed content and well behaved. I’m not sure what I expected… I think something resembling pure pandemonium, but much to my surprise, they were sitting still. I spoke with one of the other teachers. She gave me some instructions on what worked and what didn’t. She told me some ways in which to prevent all hell from breaking loose—which I really appreciated. And then, she closed the door behind her and headed toward the sanctuary.
OK. I’m alone with 10 kiddlets. TEN. That’s… A LOT. I take a deep breath. And I am alone with them for over an hour. An even deeper breath. Exhale. “Hi kids! My name is Joanna and we are going to have some fun! We’re gonna play, listen to some music, then hear a bible story, and play some more! Doesn’t that sound like fun!?!” They’re just blinking at me. WHY are they just BLINKING at me? Isn’t anyone excited?
Frantically, I rummage through the papers I’ve been given. I am supposed to tell these little ones the story of Abraham and Sarah. “Who wants to hear a bible story?” I say with as much excitement as I can muster while thrusting my hand up into the air, hoping desperately that they’ll catch my enthusiasm and do the same. More blinking. Not a single hand goes in the air. OK, now I’m positive they can sense my terror.
Let me just take a moment here to interject that I am not very good with kids. I don’t have kids. I don’t watch other people’s kids. I’m never around kids, save for nieces and nephews. And they don’t count because they have to love you no matter what… that or you can usually just buy their affection with candy & video games and stuff. So when I was asked to teach the 2s and 3s class during the church service every 3rd Sunday of the month and actually agreed to it… I really had no idea what I was in for. OK… back to the story…
“So NO ONE wants to hear a bible story!?” I try for a second time to get them excited about this. However, one by one I watch the children get up from the table and just… wander off. Where are they going? I ask myself. What are they doing? I am dumbfounded at the fact that they are TOTALLY IGNORING me. Initially I try gathering them back to the table but soon realize that this, like herding cats, is a totally useless endeavor.
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! I hear one girl whine from a far corner of the room. She is pulling blocks off of the shelves. Another child starts putting plastic grapes on a toy plate and waddles over to a… MICROWAVE? Surely it isn’t plugged in. Surely it is there for preparing snacks or food during the regular school week. Surely he can’t reach… Oh @#$%! It IS real, it IS plugged in and he CAN reach it because he is now microwaving plastic grapes!
“OK, Jeffrey, we aren’t going to PLAY with the microwave. That isn’t safe.” I hear myself say as I take him by the shoulders, remove the plastic grapes from the appliance (thank God they aren’t on fire) and redirect his attention elsewhere.
Mercifully, my sister enters the room then. She is in charge of the church nursery, plus is raising 7 children of her own, so any advice I can get from her at this point would be welcome and appreciated. “How’s it going?” she asks. “Ummm… good… ummm… (my eyes are darting around the room peeled for inevitable disaster) they… uh… don’t seem to want to listen to me…” My voice trails off as I take MORE things away from Jeffrey who seems to only be interested in contraband.
My sister recommends that I try counting down from 10 minutes to Bible Story Time. Let them know that in 10 minutes we are going to put the toys away, come back to the table and listen to a story, and then go to 5 minutes, 3 minutes, etc. until it is time. This, she says, prepares them for what is to come and therefore it doesn’t become a big “issue” when it’s time for the story. I don’t see how that is going to work any better, but I’ve got nothing to lose. Meanwhile, she offers to bring down some snacks for the kids to have later. And she leaves.
I do the countdown thing, announcing every few minutes how much time we have left just as she suggested. I have no idea if it is working, but we’ll find out. I also turn on some music hoping it will calm me down and lighten the mood.
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! I hear the same girl cry out from a different corner of the room. What do these kids have rockets on their butts? How are they moving around so quickly without my noticing?
I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! Another girl yells out. What a sweet little angel.
“6 minutes! In 6 minutes we’re going to pick up our toys and listen to a bible story!” I announce again. By now, my teenage nephew has joined me… much to my relief. My sister, sensing my panic, has sent in reinforcements! God Bless her!! It is another set of eyes, ears and hands to help me corral these little ones for story time.
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! She cries out again from the toy kitchen.
I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! My precious little angel answers back.
“4 minutes! In 4 minutes we’re going to pick up our toys and listen to a bible story!” I announce again. My nephew informs me that it has been much longer than 2 minutes since the last time I reminded them of the countdown. “What does it matter Cameron… they don’t know the difference! Just so long as the number keeps getting smaller!” I hissed at him through a plastic smile. And Cameron just shrugs while helping 2 little guys make baseballs out of Play-Doh.
“Nuh-uh!” A boy says to me… “I know it’s been longer than that!” And I think to myself: Since when does a 3 year old know how to SUBTRACT!?!
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY! She cries out from inside of a bookshelf.
I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! My darling, adorable, peaceful angel answers back.
Since the one little boy is onto my “fudging the numbers” with the countdown thing, I point to my watch and say: “When the BIG hand is on the 12, we’re going to pick up our toys and listen to a bible story!” And he comes over and grabs my wrist, examining my watch to see just how long it is going to be.
I DON’T WANT TO HEAR A BIBLE STORY. She says a little quieter now while standing right beside me.
I WANNA HEAR A BIBLE STORY! My giving-me-hope-and-keeping-me-sane angel answers back.
“OK! It’s time! Cleanup, cleanup everybody do your share…” I sing the song as I gather up Play-Doh and blocks and plastic food. Cameron makes quick work of the cleanup too and surprisingly the children are joining in! It’s working!!! “Time to come sit down at the table now everybody! We’re going to hear a story about Abraham and his wife Sarah!” I practically sing as the children are miraculously doing what I’ve asked! The countdown worked!! It actually worked! And even my little Bible-Story-Protestor is magically seated at the table. I turn off the music.
I’ve been given a packet of materials for story time which includes the story (of course), some worksheets and several large, paper cut-outs of the biblical characters and their props in order to “act out” the story for them with visual aids. I begin telling the story by showing Abraham first. I talk about Abraham and then give him to one of the children to hold. I figure this will keep them interested if they get to interact with the teaching tools rather than just sitting there empty-handed.
They seem to like holding the paper characters and they even raise their hands to be the next child to receive one to hold. However, they won’t simply HOLD the paper cut-outs like I’ve shown them. Instead, as I work my way through the telling of the story, I see that Abraham is standing on his head, the shepherds and their sheep have gone missing and Sarah is crumpled into a ball. So much for that idea.
Something I want to mention here that I have observed over the years is that young children who have been exposed to church and Sunday school have 2 standard answers that they will give NO MATTER WHAT THE QUESTION IS. They are (in this order): “God” and “Jesus.” Every time. No matter the question. So if I ask them: “Kids, what does it mean to make a promise?” The answer will always be: God! And when I hesitate and say: “Noooo… try again…” Then the answer will be: “Jesus!” And they seem NOT to answer with anything else until they get a bit older.
Of course this case is no exception. Every question I asked them during the story, the answers they gave were always: God and Jesus. And that, folks, concludes the question and answer portion of our time together. After what has seemed like an hour (though I know by my watch it has only been 10 minutes) I reach the end of the story. I think we are all relieved. I pass out the worksheets and TRY to help them fill them out. I figure I have GOT to send these kids home with something to show for their time spent in here. We haul out the crayons and no sooner do I attempt to tackle the first illustrated question… I notice that they have ALL scribbled ALL OVER THEIR PAPERS.
It’s time for potty-breaks and snacks.
Potty-breaks and snack time go over rather smoothly save for the boy who is “helping” pass out the animal crackers by giving everyone else 3 a piece while stuffing 6 more into his mouth each time. That and there was the little girl who wanted so badly to be helpful by giving everyone a paper towel for their crackers… that she eventually pulled ALL of the paper towels out of the dispenser and onto the floor one at a time.
So with one crumpled Sarah… a paper-towel, crayon, worksheet and Play-Doh scrap strewn floor… A boy running around with a death-grip on the animal cracker box… A table covered in crayon marks and cookie crumbs… And three kids arguing over a plate of microwaved plastic grapes… The first parents arrive to retrieve their children. I have no idea what the expression on my face must have been, but it could not have been one of a confident, competent and comfortable child-care provider.
And as each parent left with their child in hand, one by one they asked me: “So how did it go? How was <insert name of child here> today?” their anxious faces desperately searching mine for the truth. And straightening my sweater, I answered each parent by replying: “Oh. It went just great. <said child> was such a good little helper and a good little listener. They played nicely with the others and they picked up their toys when I asked.” In other words… I totally lied. Yeah. I broke one of the commandments. BUT, the relieved parents then smiled and happily walked out the door with their children.
And it was then that I thought to myself: You know… actually… it went just great. The kids were pretty good little helpers and good little listeners (for a few minutes anyway). They played nicely with each other and they picked up their toys when I asked. And a month from now, when I do this again… I probably won’t change a single thing… except for maybe laminating Sarah.