Saturday, October 29, 2016

Practice Saying 'No, Thank You'

After I told Nick and much later, Mike, about the trailer park kittens and we agreed as a family that we might consider bringing one home. We could easily have left it at that. I should say instead that I could easily have left it at that.

But I didn't.

Later in the evening, Seth got his usual burst of energy, and I found myself chanting, "Kitten! Kitten! Kitten!" Now, we've chanted this before when Seth is batting at Teddy's ears or at a toy that's dangled in front of him, but it took on new meaning this time, new emphasis. 'Kitten' could mean someone else in our house too.

The next day, Mike was out doing something for the Boy Scouts and wasn't going to be home for a few hours. To my credit, Nick had been sitting in front of the television watching a Netflix series that he'd seen before. We were both bored of it. I tried to think of this as something helpful, getting Nick up and out of the house for a change, not something underhanded to further influence Nick and the way he talked to his dad about getting a kitten.

"Want to drop in and see the kittens this morning?"

"Can we do that? Just drop in?"

"Sure. Why not? They're looking for homes for these kitties, aren't they?" This was further evidence of my insensitivity to the needs of others. I didn't even bother to call the vet to see if they were busy.

So, we invented an errand. I can't even remember what. Socks, the Post Office, something lame. And then we had lunch. It was nice to go have lunch on a Saturday. After that, we casually drove into the empty parking lot at the vet's office where the kittens were being held in isolation.

"They're not busy!" I said cheerfully. And in we walked. They took us back right away, enthused at people who might either foster or adopt any of these guys. They tied us into gowns. They found the right size gloves for our big hands. And the next thing we knew, they'd caught us a pair of wild spitting kittens to hold so that we could fall in love with them. Even their hissing was adorable. It was. Really.

"They don't bite any more," the cheerful technician said. And yet, I had to hold my kitten around its chest and legs with my long fingers to keep him from leaping out of my hands. I wasn't sure a kitten could safely leap to the ground from my height.

"These guys are not much more than a pound," she told us. "They'll have to be two pounds before anyone can claim them. They'll have to be cleared from isolation and treated for fleas." She didn't mention worms, but I figured there were worms too. Weren't there always worms with kittens? Maybe I shouldn't mention worms either.

"It'll be a week or two," she said. Nick and I stood there, each of us with a kitten held firmly in our hands. My kitten had stopped hissing but was still panting. Nick's kitten had been claimed already, but sat comfortably in his hand as he stroked his tiny ears. Too bad we couldn't take that one. He was nicer.

Then, in some semblance of letting the technician get back to her job, I asked if Nick could hold the available kitten before we left. The technician reached for Nick's kitten. It struggled and clawed as she tried to pick him up and before she could lean all the way over to put him down, he leapt to the floor, scrabbling for the safety of the cage and his other siblings. I handed Nick my little grey kitten and immediately he stopped panting and calmed in Nicks hands.


I do not know what it is about that boy, but he has a way with cats. A cat will run from me on the street when I call to it but walk toward him casually, as if this hulking teenage boy was the cat's meow, rubbing all over him and purring. Even as an eleven year old boy, cats came to him easily. How is that fair? Eleven year old boys are like Neanderthals!

Finally, I apologized for all the time we'd taken from the vet tech's day and said we'd think about it. I knew we couldn't make a decision without Mike being involved. The last time I did that was when my grandma had just died and I had an excuse - my grandma just died so don't anyone dare fight me over an extra cat in the house.

When we left, the technician took our gloves and our gowns, sprayed us with disinfectant and we were on our way again. No debt to pay. No obligation. There was still time and plenty of excuses. We could walk away. No deal. No problem.

Then next morning, I awoke knowing absolutely that getting a wild kitten right now was a terrible decision to make even if he was a rescue from under the trailer of a very nasty man who was letting them all starve to death. I was just recovering some energy after a nasty bout with a virus. Nick was still catching up from missing six days of school. Mike was finally getting some sleep and recovering some time from the Boy Scouts by stepping back from being the Scoutmaster. He was still going to do some trips and adult training, but he finally had time to fix that bottom step that heaved every time anyone stood on it. This was a perfect time for all of us to cruise a bit, to stay on course, to keep away from distractions, to catch up on our sleep.

'No, thank you,' would have been the correct response. 'No, thank you.'


Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, October 28, 2016

Manipulating the Situation

So when I got home, I tried to stay quiet about the five little kitties. They were in isolation until they recovered and were safe. They were adorable. I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that four of them still needed homes. The white one, the pretty girl, was claimed. The rest were boys.

I like boys.

When I got home, Mike wasn't home yet. Nick quietly helped me carry groceries and the huge bag of dog foot. I almost hate when he's quiet. After unpacking the groceries, I sat down in the recliner and stared at Nick until he looked at me funny.

"What?" he said.

Mouth shut, I thought. It's no fair if Mike isn't home yet. It isn't fair if I use his boy's pleading eyes against the poor man. And when I sat quietly, a stern voice in my head told me our lives were well settled. We had a five year old dog, a six year old frog, and an eleven year old cat. He was a good cat. I shouldn't upset the balance. I just shouldn't.

I picked up my iPhone, started a new game of solitaire and let Nick go back to his Netflix show.

Mike and I have been worried about Nick. He dropped out of football. He dropped Boy Scouts. He even dropped karate just a month before his sensei said he would be ready for the adult-level black belt test. How could he quit right before he achieved this level? He kept saying he was dropping one thing so he could focus on another. And when the other thing came up, he'd make excuses and say he was going to focus on something else. It's been hard to do, but we've let him decide.

Three months later, Nick's still not doing much. My friends reassure me that he'll be okay. A friend who taught high school for twenty-six years said it was a common age for a lull and shifting interests. I remember hearing the Scout leaders say that we should encourage the boys to get their requirements by the age of sixteen because the boys so often loose interest at that age. I don't think I really believed them. Besides, I thought, I really wanted Nick to use initiative. I think initiative is a critical lesson. But he quit everything!

Learn what you like to do and do it.

If you don't do it, isn't it a clue that you don't want it so much after all?

So, you'd think it would be easy to leave Nick alone in his search. I keep telling my friends that I just want him to be interested in something, anything. Well, anything besides the television and video games. I don't really care what it is. I have trouble watching him do nothing.

I went back to staring at Nick. I was finally going to learn to keep my mouth shut for as long as it took for Mike to get home. An hour? An hour and a half? How hard is that?

"What?" Nick said again.

I tried to start another game of solitaire. It didn't work. I looked up at him and he was still looking at me, waiting.

"When I picked up the dog food, they brought me into the back to see some kittens they rescued."

"Kittens? Really? Can we get a kitten, Mom? Can we?"

"I don't know," I said, smiling at his enthusiasm. "We'll have to talk to your dad." Mike does so much to make his boy happy. He really does. I know I'm bad. I know I should have kept my mouth shut and talked alone with Mike first.

But I didn't.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trying to Keep My Mouth Shut

So, I followed my friend into the bowels of the vet clinic, and there, in isolation, were five adorable kittens playing with their new surroundings. They were rescued from under a trailer where a horrible man lived, my friend said. Horrible.

I didn't want to know how horrible.

I have to tell you that I had to unfriend a friend who kept posting those kind of stories and pictures about the horrible people that dogs and cats are rescued from. I know that some dogs suffer terrible neglect and abuse at the hands of people. I know that some people let hordes of cats overrun their properties but lose track of them where they get parasites, starve, and often die. I know that there are wonderful people out there who routinely rescue these sad creatures from the clutches of death and help to find them homes.

But I can't tolerate the agony. I just can't. I'm willing to be on the receiving end of these stories. I fell in love with an abused cat who was returned to the shelter three times and a pit bull mix who had been abused and who had nearly died. I had two other shelter dogs who turned into beloved members of the family. I know that this is the only thing I can do. I can not rescue or even watch a rescue because my heart breaks every time even though the ends of the stories are usually happy.

But when I looked at those kittens, adorable and tiny as they were, a quiet voice in my mind told me it was a mistake to be here. We finally had some peace in our house, finally enough sleep.

It was probably Mike's voice. I've lived with that man for a quarter of a century. I know his voice in my ear when I hear it. He has a soothing voice, a sensible voice, a voice that respects the boundaries of having too much to do.

"You should adopt one of these sweeties," my friend said, leaning into my other ear. "He would love living with you." She already had one in mind. Three were already claimed. She wanted me to take the one she loved but couldn't take because her dogs would eat him. She wanted to love him from the vantage point of my house and the days when I brought him in to stay because we were going on vacation. She wanted to be an auntie.

"I'll think about it," I told her after looking through that window for twenty minutes. "I'll talk to my family and we'll think about it."

And it should have ended there. I should never have opened my mouth at home. I should have called Nick to carry in the big bag of dog food and left a comfortable silence between us or at least talk of homework and Scout meetings and such. I should have, but you know I didn't.

Thank you for listening, jb

Hoodwinked by Cuteness

We're in trouble and it's my fault. Seriously, our lives were pretty even these days. The dog, the cat, and the frog are plenty busy, but we could handle that. I've got more energy than I did because of my sleep doctor and my rheumatologist. So things were cruising along. Life was ordinary for a change. I like ordinary.

See, all I was doing was picking up dog food at the vet's office. Teddy has an intolerance or an allergy and so he eats the expensive stuff. Go figure. They all eat the expensive stuff at our house.

That was when my friend, the vet technician, said these thirteen fateful words.

"You just have to come back and look at the kittens. They're adorable."

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A New Ear Worm

I woke up to a new ear worm. Oh, this is going to be a good one if I have to listen to it spiral around in my brain for a week or more. Somebody, please. I'm begging you. Start a new ear worm for me.

Last night, Mike put The Lego Movie on TV. I had forgotten that I enjoyed it, at least a little. My husband watches the Presidential debates one night and The Lego Movie the next. Go figure. He's a man of diverse tastes. Plus, you have to admit, don't you, that the Presidential debates have had a comic feature about them. Farcical. Animated, in the very least. Those two are so goobered up that they look like plastic bobble-heads of themselves. I guess they have to do that. Hair has to be a helmet when you're sporting a comb-over flip. I can't take it seriously. I'm telling you. If I did, I'd just have to put my face in my hands and cry. I'm hoping that other countries know that most of us don't believe we're showing our best selves here.

I'm done with the political rant. It's just that it's gone on and on and on and then has spiraled into this incredibly strange choice of candidates. Nauseating.

So, my ear worm? I was trying to tell you about my ear worm a la Lego.

Everything is awesome. 
Everything is cool when you're part of a team. 
Everything is awesome when we're living our dream.

I'm sure it was intended to get on everybody's nerves, sort of like the song that gets on everybody's nerves. A couple of years ago, Nick and his Cub Scout friends worked to put that one in my head at camp. Yes, the everybody's nerves song has rolled around in my head, thankfully never for more than a day or so at a time. It's dangerous for me to even contemplate the song that gets on everybody's nerves. You never know what's going to stick.

I've lived with La Cucaracha in my mind. That one took about three years to go away completely. Agony. Sheer agony. A couple of years ago, there was I'm So Happy - clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. It did not make me happy after it endured for a month or two. I also lived through If I Only Had a Brain, not a good song for humming at work. It was embarrassing and I think my brain's revenge for all the mistakes I gave it grief about. Ding dong, the witch is dead is also not very good when your boss is a woman. And I won't even mention Disney's oldest, lamest ride through fairy dust and pink animated castles and gondolas. That ear worm does brain damage to those of us who are susceptible to inane and repetitive songs. Just don't do it. Don't say another word.

So, while I rummaged through my dirty fridge for lunch parts this morning, reminding myself that I needed to clean it out today, I heard Everything is awesome. When I picked up dirty plates and glasses from the living room from last night's snacking, I heard Everything is cool when you're part of a team.When I got into the car and backed it around the corner to wait for Nick to come running down so I could drive him to the bus stop, I heard some different song on the radio for a blessed moment until we arrived. Unfortunately, it wasn't long enough to supersede my awesome agony for long. When I got home and walked back into the house, I noticed that Nick had avoided breaking down some boxes that Mike had left in the foyer for him yesterday and I heard Everything is better when we stick together. And when I trudged back up the stairs and saw that I had a whole load of dirty dishes in the sink and spread out on the counter, I heard Life is good 'cause everything's awesome.

Life is just awesome, isn't it?

Can anyone help me? Can you suggest alternatives? Sing a little reggae, beat box, classical, alternative pop, zydeco, jazz, anything into my ear. I'd love to hear something different, something that is fun to hear over and over, something that I could whisper, whisper, and whisper again to reset my poor brain.

Thank you for listening, jb