Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Subtle Little Soul

Early this morning, about a half hour before my Oh-God-Early alarm was supposed to go off, I woke up a little. Sometimes, I manage to fall back asleep after shifting into a more comfortable position. I was overly warm, so I slid my hand up the pillow to cool outside air.

Sometimes when I wake up, I pat around on the bed to find Blitz. He sleeps in bed with me all night. He's very quiet, so if I want to know where he is, I trill my fingers on his fleece pillow. If he's not there, I tap the fluff of my comforter further down on the side where he sleeps. Usually, I make contact with the plush that is his fur, pet him for a minute, then go back to sleep.

This morning, I don't think I was awake enough to look for him and my hand slid up to feel nothing more than the fleece of Blitz's pillow before I started to fall back to sleep. Then, as if from a dream, one finger felt a furry little paw.

Just one finger.

I smiled and then sank into my dreams for thirty more minutes.

Blitz is a subtle little soul. He knows I don't need much, just the touch of a tiny paw in the night.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, February 3, 2017

Kitten and Dog Games

So, Blitzen and I have a game that we play. Today, Teddy was so jealous that he came to the top of the stairs and just whined while I sat there and got it set up.

He forgot all the times I played almost the same game with him and he also forgot that eventually, he just stared at me like I was making him work or something. So, he sat down next to me, ready, in case I decided to include him. I knew I'd try. I'd try to include the big clunky dog with the tiny crazy kitten in the game that we all played together. 

I love games for which everyone around me runs in circles. I sat at the top of the fuzzy stairs and imagined leaning back and sliding down while I waited for everyone to get ready. Bump, bump, bump. I could slide. Only bumps don't feel as nice to me any more, seeing that I'm 56 years old and lumpier and crunchier than I used to be, so I just imagined bumping down the stairs while everybody got ready at the top.

Before I sat down, I had gathered up all of Blitz's kitten toys that I could find and I stuffed them into my pockets. This is my daily dose of walking around the house and performing downward facing dog alternately with deep squats. It's my exercise program, people, so just leave me alone and try not to imagine what the real me looked like when I was doing it. This almost made up for me sitting at the top of the stairs after collecting all the toys I could find while everyone else planned to run up and down in circles. Almost.

Blitz has a couple of dozen tiny mouse toys and fluffy, fuzzy, tinkley, and crackly toy balls. He actually likes some of the balls intended for Teddy better than what I bought especially for him. I guarantee that ownership and jealousy factor large in their popularity. So, I piled all of the fluffy, fuzzy, tinkley, and crackly balls next to the top of the stairs along with some of Teddy's big, but still soft ones.

My house isn't particularly unusual except that the builder installed some very nice wooden windowsills and banisters. On either side of my carpeted steps, there are matching four inch wide boards that I have always loved for the sheer woodenness of them.

I especially loved them when Nick, as a toddler, realized they were perfect ramps for racing Matchbox cars. I knew I was supposed to tell him not to, in case his cars could mar the perfect woodenness of those ramps, but the excellent speed accumulated down those ramps and the abrupt stop at the end just fed my inner child. For years, before we got new flooring downstairs, there was a red spot where the red cars crashed on one side, Nick's cars, and a blue spot where blue cars crashed on the other, my cars. I kind of miss those spots now that they're covered over.

So, one day when Blitz was playing with a small green ball that Teddy had abandoned, I used my toe to push it to the beginning of the ramp.

"Ready?" I asked him. He stared at me, uncomprehending.

And then I pushed the ball down the ramp. He went bounding after it, nearly ramming headfirst into the treasure chest across the hall at the bottom of the stairs.

What an awesome game. Blitz caught on soon enough that whenever I said, "Ready?" he would leap to the top of the stairs and stare at whatever toy I had lined up for him. That was the part that I loved the most, that total doggyness when he stared at the ball just before I let it roll.

So, I sat at the top of the stairs with all the balls I could find.


Over and over, I got to watch Blitz scrambling, rolling, bounding down the stairs and in between, Teddy took turns chasing the bigger balls. Blitz got tired at the end, stretched out on one step, reached his paws over his head, and melted onto the next step, one by one, like abandoned silly putty.

It's an awesome game right to the very end.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Deathbed Test

My life seems defined by small interruptions, the stove-top timer that went off even though I'd already turned the heat off under my soup, the tiny cat who is convinced that the dog's food must be better than his and tortures the dog's heels while he tries to eat, the dog whose need to be let out is directly proportional to the number of seconds I've been seated in the recliner.

Yet, on the days when I'm not interrupted multiple times for inane reason, I end up pacing, losing track of my objectives, sometimes feeling aimless.

It's almost as if those interruptions serve as a reminder that I have a purpose in mind and the Universe is there to either prod me toward it or gently nudge me into a different direction.

It's the deathbed test. Am I the only one who does this?

When I'm lying on my deathbed, I once read, I won't likely wish I had spent more time cleaning my house. The original quote by Paul Tsongas went like this: "No one on his deathbed ever said, I wish I had spent more time on my business." When I first encountered it, some harried mom had changed 'business' to 'cleaning.' I was attracted to that saying like a fly to a pile of shit. I'm not known for my love of cleaning house. My friends once labeled me a bachelor because of the random and dirty condition of my apartment. I'm not sure if it was the bike hanging on the wall like art, the estate sale couch, or the dirty dishes fixed in the sink.

Since then, I've done the deathbed test for multiple areas of my life, spending time with the friend who doesn't respect my opinion, volunteering for the teacher who didn't like me because I stood up to her, the group quilt project that evolved away from the joy it was supposed to be into a chore and a debt. These things easily dropped off my list of priorities when given the deathbed test.

So what remains?

I will never regret making healthy meals for my family. The time I spent building Legos and playing with action figures with Nick stay on that list even though I had wished more than once that I could get up in a particular moment. Teaching Nick to drive sticks. I can't tell you how comfortable it makes me to let him take the wheel. He has pushed so hard his whole life to have autonomy and this is his beginning. Making that quilt for my best friend's daughter and the one I donated to the Evergreen Cancer Center in memory of my dad are both good deathbed priorities. And I'm glad I went to the Womxn's March on Seattle even though I knew I was getting sick. The two women marching next to me with their son scored a ten on that one, and the bald eagles too. Did anyone tell you that a pair of bald eagles soared over our march, like some great metaphor for the patriotic message of our cause?

Look, I still have this nasty cold and I don't think I'm going to make any great literary achievements today. I just wanted to tell you that talking to you passes my deathbed test too. I can picture you out there, all eight of you, commiserating when I'm aggravated about the silly cat and his quest for the best food in the house and the way he eats dog food in order to achieve it. I love believing that there are moms out there who worry about underachieving or who just feel unappreciated by their teenagers. I love believing that I might make one person think about how most of the plastic containers we buy are only filled half way because of a marketing ploy and that there's a whole raft of plastic bigger than Texas in each ocean right now. I might make you think about grabbing that Ziploc container that you can throw into the dishwasher instead of a plastic bag you're going to goober and throw away after one use. Or I might convince you to buy the loose lettuce instead of the stuff in a plastic clam shell. I might talk about Mike and make you think of one person who loves you dearly. I can never go wrong talking about love. And I love thinking I might sometimes make you laugh.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, January 23, 2017

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan:

When two great powers grapple, they often lock arms in a stalemate, neither side moving forward or gaining traction. But when one power is suddenly removed, the other often loses balance and begins to fall forward.

You finally have control of the Legislative, the Executive, and soon enough, the Judiciary branches of the United States government.

After millions of ordinary people around the world just marched against the direction the Executive branch of our government is headed, it might behoove those of you in the Legislative branch to reassess your priorities. Some Republicans have already begun, including John McCain.

A continued battle against President Obama's achievements may very well backfire. There is no great power in the government opposing you now. What makes more sense than continuing to oppose President Obama is to address the achievements you would like to make in service to the people of the United States.

Do you want to lower the deficit? What about reinforcing income and healthcare for our soldiers, the ones who gave up their health in service to their country? Why not simplify the tax code, making it more fair for all citizens? I'm not suggesting you make it more profitable for corporations. Corporations are not people. You could bolster funding to our system of education, bringing new energy into our flagging technical skills. Now is the time for you to seek balance.

Most of your population has beliefs that lie in between the two party's creeds. I vote as a centrist. I voted for Reagan and Bush Sr. both times. Since then, I have voted as a Democrat because I haven't liked the Republican candidates. I still see myself in the center, hoping for progress in that direction while allowing the greatest amount of freedom for all people.

How can Republicans best serve the people of the United States? Jobs? The pursuit of technology? Education? President Reagan was pro-education. What about the conservative use of our natural resources? President Theodore Roosevelt created many of our National Parks. There are great Republicans who served our nation.

Millions of people have just voted on January 21 in the Women's March on Washington. Pay attention. These people protested what they saw as ignorant and profiteering moves by our incoming Executive branch of government, Trump and his inexpert and billionaire Cabinet.


Use your power in service to the people of the United States, not in opposition to President Obama. He is no longer in office! Look at what you want to achieve, at the legacy you intend to create. What is happening now is NOT it. You intend to confirm a leader of the Department of Energy who does not know what the DOE does and has a degree in animal husbandry. The intended leader for the Department of Education thinks bears enter the classroom and that teachers want to carry guns. The expected leader for the Department of Housing and Urban Development does not believe in supporting low income housing. An individual in the Oval Office has deep ties to Russia and is breaking the emoluments clause, making a profit from his position. Not only that, he brags about felony assault on women and is known for liquidating corporations for the cash he can get from them. He ignores most of his security briefings and taunts leaders of foreign countries he doesn't like. Plus, he costs a million dollars a day by staying at Trump towers. As a citizen, I don't want to pay for that. Are you just going to let all of this happen because you are still in the mindset of opposing President Obama? President Obama is no longer pushing back.

Be careful that you don't lose your balance and fall on your face.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cut the Crap, Cheeto!

I've got a cold. My nose is running. My eyes feel like sandpaper. Dammit, the kitten woke me up an hour earlier than I needed. The best thing for my body today would be to lie in bed watching movies and eating chicken noodle soup.

But no way, Cheeto. I'm joining the Women's March on Washington. I will be counted among them.

All week, I tried to think of slogans for my banner:

Stop the madness!
Don't grab us!
Impeach! Use emoluments!
Pussy isn't all he's grabbing!

I like that one. It's plain. It expresses my emotions for yesterday perfectly.

Take no crap!
Cut off tiny hands!

None of these cover all my reasons for my fury. Yesterday, I read comments on Jenny Lawson's recent post and some women were saying that Trump's pussy grab language put them back into PTSD after they were raped. I can see that.

So, I'll march. I'll be silent if the organizers want that.

Here's one more:

It's a vigil, Asshole.

I like that one, but will Asshole know who he is? Will Pink Hair, Tiny Hands know I'm talking to him directly? Will he even be watching any of this? The word is that he's taking the weekend off after taking away home loans for low income people. Well, crap. In office for one day and the billionaire club is already stripping poor people of what little they have. Then, Tiny Hands congratulates himself and takes the weekend off.

Here are some more slogans:

No more grabbing pu$$y!
No deportations! No racism! No misogyny!
No way, Asshole in Chief!
Cut the crap, Cheeto!

I like that one too. I'm mad as hell and this energy will get me through today, just today. Fuck! I'm so incredibly pissed. I'll use this energy to get through the day. I will go, come hell, come virus, or come a 100,000 women. I will march and I will yell,


Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Good Reason to Spend the Night on the Bathroom Floor

So, I wanted to tell you about that first night with Blitz before it faded in my memory.

He had to go into the spare bathroom. Since he'd been given his last treatment for worms, he had to be isolated from Seth and Teddy. We also needed to see how they would do together before we set Blitz free in the house.

Somehow, I knew the animals would work themselves out. I figured that the first round of deworming medicine would do its job. Yet, I fixated on his status as a feral kitten.

The technicians at the vet clinic had spent as much time with the kittens as they could. They'd begun to fall in love with them. Still, I saw which kittens were individually loved more than the others because these kittens became more tame each time I saw them. I don't blame these people. The tiny kitten who'd been sick was so endearing when he quietly stepped onto my shin and huddled there on the day I'd visited all of the kittens in one room. It was easier to cuddle him into my arms than chase the others out from under the table. Blitz was still so fearful, running, spitting, and shivering whenever anyone picked him up.

I imagined him escaping from our spare bathroom and spending the next three days lost in an overcrowded closet in one of the bedrooms. And he could be so afraid, he might starve to death and back into some nether region of the house before we could dig him out.

Blitz was not going to get out of that bathroom. No way, no how I would have dead kittens starved to death in my walls. I've seen those crazy-cat-hoarders episodes. Dead cat skeletons behind an unfinished wall.

So, Nick and I sat on stadium seats on the bathroom floor. There was barely enough room for two along with the new litter box, the toilet, and the little box condominium I made Blitz out of two Amazon boxes, red and yellow flame duct tape, and fleece left over from ugly vests I cut out and never made.

I set the travel carrier on the floor an unzipped the side so Blitz could step out.

We waited.

"Mom, he's not coming out," Nick said.

So, I put my hands in the end of the carrier, wondered about infection in tiny kitten bites as Blitz spit and hissed. I dragged his tiny butt out of the dark corner and immediately handed him to Nick. Nick has a better touch, a better sense of cats than I do. He's the only one who can catch Seth when he runs out the front door for an escapade.

Nick looked down at the tiny kitten in his arms. 

There it was, the reason why all this bother was the right thing to do, that look on Nick's face. That tiny kitten with his head buried in his elbow. Once more, I knew that was reason enough for me to be the one to get Blitz through his first night in his new house, even if I had to stay up all night lying on the bathroom floor to do it

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Breakfast Dance for Fairness

I know I should be telling you about the first days of kitten. I'll get back to that, but right now, I need to tell you about food wars.

Every weekday morning, I get up at 5:50 am to work on my breakfast, a lunch for Nick, and food for Teddy, Seth, and Blitz. Yes, the kitten's name is Blitz.

Every morning, I stumble around in the dark before I get to the light switch in my kitchen. The problem is that Blitz hasn't figured out how to walk at my feet. One morning, before I found the light switch, I kicked him, totally by accident, like he was a football. I actually felt his little body lift into the air off my foot.

I dropped to my knees but he ran away. Then, I said, "Blitzen, are you hungry?" And he ran back to me as if I'd magically spouted creamed liver from my fingertips. That kitten is so gullible.

Then, I picked him up and petted him all over, making sure I hadn't broken any bones or ripped his tail off or anything. He purred as if breakfast was about to appear and then wiggled out of my arms. Whew!

The next morning, Blitz hadn't had enough of a lesson the previous day. Again in the dark as I was reaching for the light switch, he managed to get underfoot again. I stepped on his tail in my soft slippers and as the light blinked on, the poor guy swung around his squashed tail as if he was doing a maypole dance. There were long, agonizing microseconds after I saw him before my leg answered my brain command and let him go.

Back down on my knees, I tried to call him to me. Nothing. He was gone. "Blitz, are you hungry?" And there he was, as happy and cheerful as when I drop-kicked him, purring and looking for liver pate or maybe some salmon in my magic hands.

My knees are still sore, but he has yet to show any damage or even skill in walking around my feet in the morning. I think he knows that I don't mean to torture him. I hope he knows.

This morning, I did not kick him. I figured out - I know I'm a little late to the game - how to turn on that little flashlight on my phone. And I shuffle my feet instead of walking. It's safer that way, though I imagine I'm looking a little more like my grandma every day, shuffling one foot a couple of inches while gripping the walker with the purple tennis balls on the bottom of the legs before shuffling the second foot forward an inch or two.

So, by the time my eyes adjust to the bright of the fluorescent light, Blitz is standing on a little footstool I use to get the stuff off the top shelf of my cabinets. And he's leaning toward me and crying, a pathetic little cry where no sound comes out of his mouth. As I slide back and forth from the counter, to the fridge, to the spot where I keep the bowls, Blitz runs back and forth with me. I figure he gets a quarter mile in by the time it's his turn for breakfast. .

"Are you hungry, Blitzie?" I find one of those little wedges of pate in gelatin, Sheba. It's his favorite and I like it too because that stuff doesn't actually look like someone vomited and sealed it into a can. It smells good too. I wish they put their stuff into recyclable containers instead of plastic that's going to be floating in the Pacific ocean soon but we all have to pick our battles and non-vomit stuff that smells good goes a long way. "Are you hungry?" I say again and look down at him as he paces back and forth with me and leaps onto his footstool when I draw near to it.

"ow," he replies. His front paws wave in the air.

"Does your tail still hurt from yesterday?"

"ow," he replies. He looks so pathetic.

"Oh, poor baby munchkin."

"Yeah," he replies. And by then, I've tapped his tiny loaf of pate into a tiny bowl and he's stretched out long like a ferret, grabbing at the side of the cabinet. He hasn't learned how to jump as high as the counter yet, thankfully.

Then, I do a yoga stretch and bend down to put his tiny bowl onto the footstool. I stretch and pet him for a minute while he purrs, arches his back against my hand, and gulps his breakfast. I feel my hamstrings. I'm getting old and stiff but this helps.

Suddenly, Seth is in the room, threatening to shove Blitz out of his position. I quickly put some fat-cat food, Hills Metabolic, into another tiny bowl and put it on the washing machine in the laundry room. Then, I do a little weigh-lifting and pick up about seventeen and a half pounds of adult cat and put him in his position on the washer.

Then, I hear Teddy crying. I don't blame him. Teddy is always last to eat. I put half a can of his pate, Hills I/D, on top of a scoop of his kibbles and then I get ready, knees a little bent and eyes alert for the next step.

Blitz sees food in Teddy's bowl and abandons his pate for Teddy's stuff. Teddy backs out of the kitchen while Blitz gobbles as much of what has to be the good stuff as he can get. I pick him up and take him to the other end of the kitchen to his tiny abandoned bowl. Teddy edges back into the kitchen, but Blitz runs at him and dodges under his long legs to get to the dog bowl. Teddy is very polite.

The Hills I/D must be tasty stuff though it doesn't smell as good as the Sheba loaf. Seth finishes his fat-cat food, leaps off the washer with a thud, chases Blitz away from Teddy's food, and begins to dine. Seth will puke it all up if I don't put a stop to that. I pick him up and shuffle him away from the dog's bowl, trying not to drop-kick the underfoot kitten, who is certain that everyone is getting better food than him.

Did I tell you that Blitz's kibbles, Hill's Science Diet Kitten kibbles, lie abandoned in another tiny bowl under the footstool at all times? I think that when he's bored, Seth munches on them because he's gained an appreciable amount of weight since Blitz came to live at our house. I can tell when I weight-lift him for my daily routine that he's added a couple of one pound plates to the barbell.

Meanwhile, Teddy has retreated to the living room and is out there crying.

So, I walk into the laundry room. "Blitzen, are you hungry?" And there's my little Blitz, under each foot as I put it down, dodging out of doors as I try to close them ahead of him. Finally, I get the little guy locked into the laundry room where I put the abandoned fat-cat food onto the floor. Seth only ever licks the gelatin off of it anyway so it's nice that Blitz doesn't let it go to waste.

While Blitz is focused on food that has to be better than his own, I sneak out of the laundry room and find that Seth has eaten another chunk of Teddy's dog food. I'll find that in a wet pink pile in my sewing room later, I'm sure of it. I shoo him away and finally, Teddy comes into the kitchen while I stand sentry and he finally gets to eat.

Then, I get involved in making my own breakfast and miss Seth who rocks Blitz's tiny bowl as he finishes off the tiny wedge of pate, the best stuff in the house, according to the number of calories and protein involved.

Eventually, all the food is gone except dry kitten kibbles under the footstool and Teddy's dry dog kibbles. While I'm making Nick's lunch, Blitz will take out dry dog kibbles one by one and bat them around until he loses one under the refrigerator or the oven and goes to get another out of the bowl. Sometimes he eats them, but usually, he just plays with them and loses them. When I vacuum up those things, they rattle around in my vacuum cleaner as if it's broken. Blitz seems convinced that everyone gets better food than he does. So, he eats everyone's food, including his own.

Welcome to my new morning routine, the breakfast dance, and the beginning of my exercise regimen, my kitten's existential angst over fairness and equality.

Thank you for listening, jb