Christmas Tree Mystery

stanley under treeTwas 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.

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Comfort Zone

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. 

Here he is on my mom and dad's kitchen table... being entertained by a pencil.

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.”

Marc Cohn, Black Ops and Cat Doors

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.

Fetching Stanley… and the Keurig

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.

The Last Day

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.

Cats and Cardboard Cities

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 doesn’t get any better than this…

I always knew I had certain “tendencies” toward the doing of absolutely nothing. But nothing quite confirms that suspicion like a nice, long holiday break.

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.