Thursday, May 31, 2007

Arizona Bits

We have returned. I think the official total of mileage on our poor rental car has been declared "around a thousand".

It was a fascinating trip. Neither of us had been to the area before. I lived in El Paso for a year and had taken a family trip to Carlsbad Caverns and the White Sands area, but had never been to the high desert.

It was fun to watch the landscape change as we sped along the highways. From the dry hills of Phoenix covered in saguaro forests to the stark red cliffs of Sedona. Then up through the ponderosa pine forests to Flagstaff. Then to watch it all reverse as we drove east to Winslow and Holbrook to respectively stand on a corner and see the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert.

No less amazing than to about face and watch it all in reverse as we headed up, up and up to the Grand Canyon. Which was indeed grand. My son had been there before and he told me, "No matter how much you play it up, it will still be more than you imagined." And he was right. I had pretty much gotten the vastness of the area right in my mind's eye. What I had forgotten to imagine was the depth. And that amazed me.

The whole thing amazed me.

We so did not want to leave those mountains that we made a second stop in Flagstaff before pushing on south to Camp Verde where we saw Montezuma's Castle, which are ancient Indians ruins built five stories high in the face of a mountain. We had a good giggle over the information sign that explained how the people who built the dwelling were probably pushed out of the Flagstaff area by overpopulation. My thoughts were that some real estate developer Indians got hold of ancient Flagstaff and soon all the rich Indians moved in, driving the cost of living up so high that the poor 'native' Flagstaff ancient Indians were forced out.

As soon as I'm not exhausted, doing laundry or tending to still feuding and now totally freaked out kittens, I'll have more.

Moi over the edge at the Grand Canyon after making two brothers laugh when I told Jason, "You're not the boss of me!" because he said I couldn't climb out on the ledge. (It was 35 degrees out, hence the sweater)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Drinking Loki Style

Loki sez: What?!?

Well, I have a to-do list as long as my arm. We'll be off to Sedona, Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and many points in between.

I shall return.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


..or Thor is part dog, part two

Note all the damage. All compliments of Thor. This is why we now have two locks on this door.

Loki sez: Who is it?

Finger Licking Good

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon

I was on call last night which means I spent half the night sitting on sofa-zilla with Thor, flipping round and round through the channels, never finding anything to watch. I finally fell asleep around two a.m. After Jason got up, I went to bed and slept a few more hours. I hate being on call. I can't sleep. My brain has pulled the switch from day person to night person automatically. I get paranoid that I won't hear the phone ring if they need me to come in. It's not much fun.

But it does give me an "extra" day to do things, since I won't be sleeping until this afternoon.

I went to World Market yesterday but ended up spending all of my gift certificate on a travel bag. It looks like a newspaper carrier bag (shows how old I am, I remember the carrier walking down the streets, tossing papers out of a canvas bag). But this one is in black with a stripe of colorful fabric, a sort of Asian/Indian pattern of color, down the center. It's large enough to pack our food and what ever else I may want to carry on the plane with me.

And speaking of picnic lunch. Do you know how hard it is to find healthy food, worthy of being a meal and not a snack, that you can eat without a knife, fork or spoon and will pass airport security. Let's just say that you can't. Let's just say that I find it impossible to believe that it would be so hard to toss out a couple of sandwiches to the huddled masses crammed in the cheap seats. I'm not expecting a gourmet meal for Pete's sake. But a sandwich on a 3 1/2 hour flight over lunch time? I really don't think it's too much to ask.

Okay. Enough procrastination this morning. I have a mandatory meeting to attend. I hate and despise meetings. I am not a meeting person. Perhaps if meetings were run where information was presented, problems identified and solutions agreed upon, I could get to be a meeting person. But since they tend to be bitch sessions that go round and round and round and round and round the same issue over and over and over and over and over again, I find myself wanting to scream within minutes. I want ALL this time back at the end of my life.

Loki sez: I'm not over sensitive! Thor chewed my ear off! Look, I have NO EAR!

Mom note: Thor did not chew Loki's ear off. In fact the only injury I found on either of them was a broken claw on Loki's back paw.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

Not really, but I can pretend. Our flight leaves Atlanta at 11:00 am. We arrive in Phoenix at 12:17. But it's a three and a half hour flight. Cue twilight zone music.

Yes, I know it's the time zones. But it's more fun to think of it as a time warp.

That's the fun part. Here is the not-fun part.

No food. Yes, no food.

Oh, we get a snack and our choice of a second premium snack.

And they wonder why people are freaking out and getting belligerent on flights. It's low blood sugar! Add alcohol and there you go, instant heiney-hole.

But my mom, for my birthday, bought me a gift certificate to World Market so I can go get all kinds of yummy things to make a picnic lunch for us.

Kitten Update:
Sunday morning Thor breached security and he and Loki were alone for a couple of hours (I was at work and Jason was sleeping). It didn't appear that there was an actual fight - no chunks of fur like last time - but they were both upset. Loki was in defense mode on the cat tree and Thor was hissing. I think part of the problem was that Loki was cut off from his "safe place" under our bed. But they both calmed down within minutes of being separated. So now there are latches on all the "doors of separation" and until Thor grows an opposible thumb, they should be Thor-proof. Emphasis on "should". Today they were laying on the floor on opposite sides of the door, looking at each other and batting at each other's paws without hissing or growling. They also got to eat kitty treats on opposite sides of the door.

Ah, innocent days before the serpent of violence was unleashed in their garden.

Friday, May 18, 2007

It's In the Genes

I hadn't had a chance to venture outdoors yesterday before my mom stopped by. As I opened the door and beheld the smudgy sky and inhaled the smoky air, I asked, "Is that smoke?"

"Yes," dear mother replied.

"What's burning?"


Ah, and Jason wonders where my pithy zinger skills come from.

Kitten Update:

We are in day three of the five day separation. I have been alternately confining them to rooms one at a time to let the other roam about the house so they keep each other's scents fresh in mind. I brushed Loki this morning and let Thor smell the fur and he tried to mark it with his scent and then tried to lick it. Which is, I suppose either a good thing or a good way to get hairballs yakked up on the rug. They ate treats on opposites of a door without episode and seem interested in each other through the doors.

The problem lies in that while Thor's scent doesn't bother Loki, seeing him does. Yesterday, there was a moment when they saw each other and Loki hissed. The plan is to keep them separate for five days then begin gradually reacquainting them. If we can properly barricade the door between the kitchen and the hallway, we will leave them separated like that with Loki having the bedrooms and front room and Thor having the kitchen, back room and laundry room, while we are away in Arizona. That way, they can interact at the hallway door, but we will have the peace of mind of knowing that they won't have a relapse while we are away and unable to intervene. My brother will be coming by every day to feed, water and scoop, but he won't be here if something goes wrong.

What is hard is that they miss each other terribly. They are both super needy and super affectionate and cry and scratch at the doors for each other. But my vet and Jason's research emphasize that not keeping them separate for long enough before reintroduction is the number one reason why incidents like these become chronic aggression problems between cats.

My brain knows that, but my heart breaks every time one looks for the other.

But this is my goal:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'm the Worst Cat Mommy in the World!

Jason wonderfully described the horrifying scene that occurred yesterday.

What he didn't say is that it was all my fault. Mine. Mine alone. I knew better than to befriend a strange cat. But I allowed myself to believe that I could control the interactions so that none of them came face to face. That the plexiglass barrier, while allowing for brief (and I mean brief, I never let them interact more than a minute) glimpses, would be enough.

I was always on the alert that neither Thor or Loki came into actual contact with White Cat.

I never dreamed they would turn on each other!

After the incident yesterday morning, I kept them apart. Loki was hiding in the laundry room. About four, he came slinking out, sniffed a sleeping Thor without any problem, then walked cautiously to the site of the battle. But Thor woke up and jumped down to see his brother and scared him.

A second major battle ensued.

Loki spent the evening under the bed and then I put him in the room-formerly-know-as-my-son's with food, water and a litter box. Then I couldn't sleep and went to read with him. (Thor in the meantime is going APESHIT behind the door in the kitchen. We had to barricade the door.) Loki was very sweet with me, very loving and wanting to lick my thumb, which is his way of comforting himself, like some cats with suck cloth, Loki licks my thumb.

By this morning, Thor had learned that if he climbed to the top of the barricade, he could pry the door open enough to pop the lock and set himself free. And I could not spend the entire day in the kitchen with him. So I moved Loki into the above mentioned room and let Thor have run of the house. (In between crying jags over how I've totally ruined my kitten's lives forever)

But, there might be a glimmer of hope. They have been sniffing and meowing at each other through the door. Loki wants out. I opened the door a teeny tiny crack and let them be nose to nose for a skinny second and there was no hissing. So maybe letting them be able to hear and smell each other in a safe environment will help mend this riff.

But will they ever do this again?

I'm a bad cat mommy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Envelope

I suppose it’s a good thing that it surprises me every year. But then I’m surprised that I’m surprised. Because every year for the last four years and every other year for the previous five years, that fat envelope, addressed to my son, has arrived in the mail. And I’m surprised. And angry with an impotent rage that has no outlet, has no relief, just an free-floating sense of injustice and futility and in the back of it all, a twinge of fear for the what if factor.

But this isn’t about me. It is about my son. To be more precise, to tell the story properly, you must know that legally, he is of no relation to me. He was my step-son when I was married to his father. But laws and legalities mean little to us. I became his mother when he was three and I remain his mother even now when he is facing his 25th birthday.

You see, I raised him because twenty one days after his first birthday, a man accosted his mother in a parking lot, kidnapped her at gunpoint, drove her to a patch of woods in Ridgeville, raped her and listened to her plead for her life, not for her sake, but for her children’s sake, then shot her in the head, leaving her body for hunters to find three months later.

The following year, in 1984, this man admitted to what he had done, not only to my son’s mother, but to another woman who he also murdered, and many other charges.

The fat envelope I get each year lists all he was sentenced to and the amount of time for each count. That takes two pages of the envelope’s contents. Seven life terms plus 355 years for a slew of other charges.

When my son was 17 years old, this man came up for parole. Fifteen years after being sentenced. For “good behavior”. My son had not even reached adulthood. See, in South Carolina, a life sentence means 20 years. With time off for good behavior.

And now that the twenty year mark has passed, we get that envelope every year, telling us when the parole hearing will be. This was the first civic duty that my son began attending too. The families of the victims gather their strength, prepare their words, and go to Columbia to sit before this man and the parole board and ask, beg, plead that he not be allowed to go free. That he serves out the sentence imposed upon him.

This year, my son was worried, he thought his ship might be out at sea on the date of the hearing and he planned to submit a video to be played for the board. But he thinks he may be able to attend in person.

The man who did these horrible things was young at the time. He is now in his mid-forties. And part of what my son fears is that the man is still capable of doing horrible things. That another family will suffer. That another little boy will grow up with no memories of a mother who loved him very much. That another child will think of his mother’s face and have only the images from fading photographs come to mind and who has no memories of his own, only the memories borrowed from others.

And there is always that vague anxiety. Could this be the year? Would they really let him out? We don’t know. It could happen. This is why he goes, why the other family members go every year. To say no. To say remember the victims. Remember us.

This is his life. Since he was seventeen and probably for the next thirty years. It will be his duty. He will plan vacations, weddings, graduations around it. He will one day take his children to a small marker on the ground and try to explain it to them. When they ask about their grandmother, he’ll only have those borrowed memories and the few fading photographs to give them.

And yet, he is not bitter, he does not and will not let the victimization go any further. It empowers him to be able to stand up and say no. There is no other gift he can give to his mother but to stand and speak for her.

And I have no greater gift than the right to call this man my son.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Trippy Tuesday

I'm having a weird day. I renewed my driver's license by mail and when I received the new one, it had the wrong signature on it. And since I would have to present that license to airport security, I really didn't want to end up in a glass cage waiting on a female officer to give me a full body pat-down before I ended up in the suspected terrorist interrogation room trying to explain that my former name is Italian, not Middle Eastern. (Really, they detained my mom in the San Francisco airport because she didn't want to walk barefoot across their nasty floor and just ASKED if she had to take her shoes off, because well, my 70+ mom just looks that dangerous, I guess.)

But as usual, I digress. I took erroneous license and a book to the Leeds Avenue DMV this morning. But before I could walk from the counter where you tell the person what you need to the counter where you fill out the paperwork person A gives you, they called my number. I had to speed fill out the paper work. Then I had really not read more than three words in my book when the correct license was done.

That is pretty scary.

And for some reason, I keep thinking about the man who felt the need to come up from the street to knock on my door to inform me that I was pretty much doomed to hell because of the bumper sticker on the back window of my truck. He just wanted to make sure that I understood that his religion was the only legitimate religion and that I and the masses that I mislead with my notion of peace were all going to burn in hell and that it wasn't our place to make peace, but to tell others that they are all wrong and are going to go to hell unless we believe in his religion.

I was polite to him. A bit snarky and I told him like a thousand lies, but I was polite.

But it made me extremely angry.

And now every time I see my bumper sticker, I still get a little mad.

And that makes me mad because I like the bumper sticker. Maybe I should get a bigger one.

I'm also contemplating an experiment. I want to get an "Obama 08" sign for my yard and document what happens. Seriously. One street over, people put up a flagpole and started flying the Confederate flag when a black family moved in next door.

But it is all just a reaction to a situation that happens every year that I can't do anything about and it infuriates me every year that I can't do anything about it.

Blech. Kitten picture time:

Thor sez: Just adore me and all will be well.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lazy Monday

I slept late this morning, mostly undisturbed by the feline horde. So, using Highway 61 traffic as an excuse, it was too late to do any errands other than grocery shopping.

After that was complete, I wandered out to the back yard to check on things. The bluebirds are definitely living in the bluebird house.

First tomato:

It's just a little "patio" tomato plant. We'll see if it survives the wildlife.

The Catnip crop is coming along nicely:

Then, I wandered out to the creek, but our visitor from Florida was not to be seen.
I did, however have another creek side visitor:

Who decided under my chair was the perfect place to be:

In semi-sad news, we learned that Marie Leveau's restaurant is closing. We took my mom there for brunch yesterday and there was a big sign on the door. June 2 (or 3?) will be their last day. So if, like me, you love the red beans and rice or jambalaya, better hurry and get some before they close. The owner did say that they would be reopening as a noodle and sake bar.

Thor sez: Clean laundry? Is that my problem?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thor Wars

Scritchedy-scritch-sratchedy-scratch. Repeat for up to ten minutes.

Thor seems to think he can tunnel his way through plexi-glass.

White cat looks so worried.

Loki sez: Mom, is Thor insane?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Five Things I Learned Yesterday

1. Going to check email while a frying pan of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) heats up on the stove top is a bad idea.

2. Smoke alarms sitting in decorative bowls in the front room do not work.

3. Cats will panic in a smoke filled house.

4. I have apparently lost my fire extinguisher.

5. White Cat doesn't really care that smoke is billowing out the front door, she would like her hand out now, please.

Thor sez: I've been washing my fur all night and it still smells like smoke!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Holy Matrimony Batman!

Yesterday I saw a television commercial for what (I assume) is a new show, Wedding Crashers. The concept seems to be that people getting married let a television production company basically come and do terrible things to "ruin" their wedding so the shocked and horrified guests can be filmed.

This is the holy, sanctified by God, blessed union upon which all that is good and right in America resides institution that we had to write legalized discrimination into our state constitution to protect? From gays? How about some protection by tacky and desperate to be part of the celebrity culture and get their face on television idiots who agree to this sort of thing?

Loki sez: That's twisted!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Twelve hour night shift

so all you get is this lousy picture:

Whiskers up!

but then I feel guilty because of all the Thor pictures:

A rare sighting of grumpy Loki.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Free Bird

This morning I watched as a crow took off from the power lines and flew hard, wings pumping, across the street and through the neighbor’s yard before veering up toward the tree tops one street over. He continued up, wings working hard to gain altitude and I watched, curious as to why he was flying so hard and fast. Then he coasted in a long graceful arc and began to pump again until he caught a river of current in the air. Wings outstretched, body tilting side to side, he rode the wind, zooming across the space until within seconds he was out of sight. A moment later, he reappeared to do it all over again. Playing in the wind.

What is it about speed? We strap ourselves into roller coaster cars, we climb to the top of super slides. We jump out of airplanes, wind surf, parasail, all in search of the thrill of speed. Just to feel the wind rushing by us so fast it leaves us breathless, hearts racing, jacked up on adrenaline, wanting to do it again.

We reach our hands out of car windows to play with the wind, to dip our hands into its stream, to feel the power of it against our palms. We turn our faces into the wind blowing in off the ocean.

And how I envied that crow and his ability to just throw himself into the wind, to ride fast and furious across the sky.

Thor sez: Hmmph. I could do that. If I wanted to. But it's naptime.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Funny

This made me giggle.

I've been looking at restaurants along the route we'll be taking in our Arizona Grand Tour. I'm trying to find good local spots. I want to try: cactus fries, buffalo steak, rattlesnake and cactus blossoms. I also want to have some good Southwestern/Mexican cuisine. Yum-O.

Thor sez: Excuse me? Where did you say you were going? Surely you aren't going to leave us alone again? I shall speak to the SPCA about this.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Bluebird of Happiness

Just might be living in my back yard. This little guy was spotted this morning, flying from the shed roof to the ground then to the front of the bluebird house. I never saw him go in the house, but I think if they don't live there now, they just might be getting ready to make an offer on the place.

(photo by JAZ)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It Takes More Than a Tit

Yesterday, a periodical arrived via U.S. mail and within the pages of this periodical was a short story on how if you breastfeed your baby, she/he will grow up to attain a social class higher than yours.

Now, let me just say that I am a big fan of breastfeeding. My thoughts are that it is the way that nature/Mother Earth/Goddess/God (take your pick) designed it. And it is way cheaper than formula, always ready, always warm.

I can out cheer all the pro-boob cheerleaders. But I am also in a position where I have to put my personal beliefs aside and support what the woman with the baby wants. I have to tiptoe through the minefield of mother guilt and try to gently ascertain what the true feelings are.

Some women want to breastfeed, but are just unsure because they've not seen it "in action" before.

Some women do not want to breastfeed, but feel they will be branded as "bad mothers" if they do not.

Some women just don't want to. Period.

Which brings me to my point. It takes more than a tit. As I read the story yesterday, I found it to be troubling because the subjects of this study had been born pre-WW2 and were interviewed sixty years later. That generation pretty much all finished high school at a higher rate than their parents and pretty much all did better financially than their parents. I would have liked to have seen some comparative data on their generational cohorts who were bottle fed.

I digress. My point is that you read all these studies about the wonder drug that is breast milk that will protect your child from everything, allergies to stupidity to obesity to shyness to ear infections. But what most studies fail to take into consideration is that most exclusively breastfeeding moms in America are still mid-to-upper middle class and beyond. Those infants are being raised in a more intellectually stimulating environment, whose parents can afford books and enrichment toys and experiences. They have better access to health care. They have access, once weaned, to more nutritious food.

Now, that said, I will state that some studies have been done in other countries, most specifically Scandinavian countries in which all mothers, regardless of income, almost exclusively breastfeed. And they have found the increased IQ. I look at those with a slightly raised eyebrow as those countries have a more homogeneous population, less class separation, better access to health care and better educational systems. So is it really JUST the breast milk?

So feed your baby however you want to. Love it, nurture it, teach it. You'll both be fine.

Thor sez: But I was exclusively breastfed and look how great I turned out!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This Customer Was Served

Last February, I purchased a Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner, which I promptly fell in love with and used so often that it bordered on OCD. Especially for someone with exactly two rugs in their home.

Then several weeks ago, it stopped working. Oh, it worked, it just didn't pick anything up off the floor. I was sad.

So I went to the website and followed the trouble shooting directions there until I got to the part where it said to call for assistance. And my heart sunk.

We all know the state of "customer service" these days and I did not look forward to negotiating the maze of "push one for", "push two for", "please hold". Or even worse, the "say yes now" or "say no now". At the end of which you get a surly human who puts you on hold until you can no longer stand the Muzak version of Barry Manilow's greatest hits, heavy on the "Mandy" and hang up.

Yesterday, I steeled my nerves, emptied my bladder, ate a hearty meal and cleared my day before dialing the number for the Dyson Helpline.

And was shocked, yes SHOCKED, when a real live human being answered on the third ring. Who was nice and helpful and even though my mailed in warranty had not been entered in the computer system yet, said no problem and just did it. Then talked me through my problem.


I love them. And I told her that, that I loved their vacuum, but now I love them even more.

And then I proceeded to vacuum everything vacuumable in the house.

Dyson Vacuums - The BEST. Buy one. Today.

Loki sez: You aren't going to vacuum me, are you?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Creek

On days when the spring weather tilts closer to summer, I wander through the marsh at the back of my property, then sit at the edge of the creek. I enjoy it when the tide is low and I can watch the fiddler crab, smell the pluff mud. The creek has it all: the sounds of the wind rushing through the reeds, the birds calling to one another, and the sun, hot against my skin.

We fished for catfish from these banks, we caught a dinner plate sized snapping turtle and had no idea how to release him. We threw the biggest rocks we could find into the water to scare away the snakes before sliding down the muddy banks, grabbing handfuls of marsh grass to slow our progress. If we had no rocks, the smallest tag-along brother or sister was tossed into the brown water. We once built a raft that disintegrated the moment it touched the current of the outgoing tide and played under towering pines on a small spit of land that the creek wrapped around in a sinuous curve.

We pretended we were pirates, shipwreck survivors, Indians or pioneers.

We snuck back home and stole sun hot tomatoes from our mothers’ gardens, raided kitchens for shakers of salt and pitchers of Kool-Aid. We’d eat in a circle, beef steak tomatoes as big as softballs, juice running down our arms, dripping from our elbows and wash up in the muddy water. We’d pass the pitcher around the circle, the Kool-Aid almost unpleasantly sweet. For dessert, we would sample honeysuckle blooms.

We fought and argued back along those creek banks. We negotiated. We presented our ideas. We made up stories. We worked together. We sweated and swatted mosquitoes while learning to put ideas into action. We improvised.

We bled on those creek beds. We took trips to the emergency room for tetanus boosters and stitches because of them. We helped our wounded home and went to visit them the next day. We promised our parents we would be more careful.

We all survived to adulthood.

Now I go to sit on those banks before writing a difficult piece. Just sitting there releases a childlike part of me that is forever fascinated with ‘what if’. What if this happened? Or that? What would this person do? How would that person feel?

And, if after a particularly emotional writing session, I go there just to drop my mind to neutral, to feel that same hot sun, to hear that same rustle of reeds, to hear the song of the birds.