Oops. Pardon my mug.

If obliviousness were a respected skill, by now someone would have awarded me an honorary doctorate in it.

Walking along the hallway of the home where I’ve lived for a decade. Stop in surprise. “Hey, how long has that wall sconce been there?”

I’ve spent most of my life living almost exclusively inside my head, so I am proud of my recent accomplishments. Nowadays, each day I experience the outside world, for many minutes at a time. (The minutes are not consecutive. But still.)

Several decades ago, a friend gave me a mug for Christmas. It was covered in cat drawings. (Drawings of cats, not by cats.) I was surprised, because that friend was not known for kitschy or cutesy. I glanced at one frolicking cat on the mug, forced a smile, thanked my friend, set it aside.

The mug sat in a cupboard for ages, until I came to appreciate the camp value of having a cat mug. I began to drink my public coffee in that mug. I carried the mug with me around offices, into meetings, probably even as a volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. It turned out to be a hell of a sturdy mug. All those years, all those trips out in the world, hardly a chip to be seen.

Only very recently, washing the mug, I realized.

Those cats aren’t frolicking. They’re having an orgy.

I can’t tell you how many people noticed. My obliviousness extended to other people’s reactions to my dirty cat mug.




Four Days Later…

When my beloved cat Leo disappeared, I got myself on a listserv that sends me photos of cats in shelters near where he vanished. Leo’s been gone more than 3 years but I still get those daily emails. I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe. I need to acknowledge the existence of all those cats. Few will get outside again. Locked in cages that reek of bleach and strangers. Not in my emails but in the shelters are just as many dogs, of course. Plus all the “exotic” animals.

I’m taking my first drawing class. (Teach old dog new tricks. Tap unused parts of the brain.) Our final project is themed This is the way the world ends. I put some of the shelter cats in my drawing, from my email dated November 25, 2018. When I went back to finish the drawing four days later, 1/4 of the cats were gone (the unshaded/white cats in my poster). No longer in the database. Maybe some of them got adopted.




Confirmation of Feline Underpinnings

I’m not much for housework, but have always especially hated vacuuming. In fact, once as a kid, to avoid using the vacuum I picked up crud from the carpet in my room with tape. That only took 150 times longer.

Pop math quiz: assume the room was 10 feet by 10 feet, the tape was 1/2 inch wide, and I didn’t clean under my bed. How much tape did I squander that day?

Answer: no one has an answer. No one wants to do math on a frigging blog.

Anyway. Now that I’m a grownup, I live in a carpet-free house. Even without a carpet, I did need a Shop Vac in the kids’ room when they were small. I came to recognize the distinct sounds of common objects as they got sucked up the tube: the clatter of a track cleat, the rattle of a marble, the thunk-ffffff of a sock.

I believe my hatred of vacuums confirms that in a previous life I was a cat. I don’t know what I did wrong, that merited my returning as a lower life form this time.



I wish I could credit the creator of this famous and oft-posted cartoon. Does anyone know the cartoonist’s name beyond Je-something Be-something? An admittedly casual search yields only the pages that have posted this classic.

This post responds to a WP Daily Prompt.

Gee. Thanks guys.

Dear Family Cats (and also the dog),

Thanks for giving me an unforgettable experience. A night of induced insomnia and – okay – a couple laughs.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

The perpetrators, Bop and Luna.

It all started about 130 am. The dog woke me up, walking in and out of my room, flopping down in the hallway, jumping up again to tick tick tick tick another circuit of my room. When she walks at a certain pace, her nails on the floor sound like the Sixty Minutes clock. At 130 pm, I find this charming.

After a moment of consciousness, I heard what had made the dog restless. Cat fight, a couple houses away. I recognized the voice of my beloved Luna, whom I had failed to lock inside. I keep the cats in at night (coyotes), but on hot summer nights Luna often evades capture.

Luna is 10 years old and I had never heard him fight before.  He is a peaceable fellow who gets along with most other cats. The part of my brain that was awake decided it was a good idea to break up the fight. I filled a glass with water and headed down the street. No noise, no cats. Okay. I dumped the water and returned to bed.

Turn out my light, cue the fight, which resumed a few feet outside my window. Refill the water glass, take it outside, toss water at the cats. The other cat ran north. Luna headed west, stopped, stared at me, then sprinted after the other cat. Jerk.

The really!-I’m-mean-and-I’m-going-to-hurt-you! howling resumed in the backyard. By now I was too invested to shrug and lie in the dark listening to fake loud cat aggression. In the backyard, I decided to turn the hose on them. I turned the hose on full bore and I blasted them —

— with a dribble of water. Oh. The hose had kinked.

While I worked on unkinking the hose, from the house behind ours came brutal THUNK-thunk-THUNKs as the pit bull tried to slam his way outside through a closed dog door. He wanted in on the cat fight.

Suddenly I realized that what I needed was to be asleep. I left the hose and returned to bed. Where I lay, very very awake, for 3 hours. As many of you know, time expands at night and those 3 hours lasted for days.

I finally drifted off to sleep shortly before dawn. Not long afterwards, I jolted awake to shrill cat screeches. For the first time, our cat Bop had ambushed the kittens during the night, which is usually a time of truce. Perhaps Luna had inspired her.

There we were, stumbling into the hall, squinting at the lights we each turned on: my daughter and I, armed with water bottles, looking to spray Bop for messing with a kitten.

A peacekeeper.

A peacekeeper.

Actually the “kittens” are now 11 months old and two of them are bigger than Bop, but she knows how to bully and they will always consider her enormous.

Wow. He is so cool.

Recent runt kitten Leo stands outside window and watches his hero Luna snooze. Leo doesn’t realize he has grown up to be the biggest cat in the neighborhood.

Now the dog was energized. With two humans out of bed, it must be breakfast time.

Have you ever gone for a walk just after dawn? It is such a peaceful time of day.

P.S. As I write this, Bop has knocked the DSL modem to the floor. Twice.  So we’ll see whether this exposé ever gets posted.

(This post responds to today’s Daily Prompt, “I’d Like to Thank My Cats”.)

Coming Soon: Cat Attack

The dog and I live with five cats. (Insert who-in-their-right-mind rant here.) It is almost a peaceable kingdom, with one glaring – and hissing – exception.

Shadow the rescue dog, age about 8, likes everybody.  She terrified kitten Leo until Leo discovered the dog tail as toy. Now all but one of the cats like the dog.

Shadow and Luna, lounging

Shadow and Luna

Luna and Bop, age 10, came from the same shelter on the same day. They mostly get along but never much bonded.  We blame Bop.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

The oldsters, Bop and Luna, age 10.

Luna likes everybody. For a long time he feared the dog. Eventually this fear evolved to a play arrangement with surprisingly specific terms: the dog can chase Luna  if the dog is in the backyard first and Luna arrives. In all other locations and situations, no chasing.

A new familiar sight - Luna napping with a youngster, in this case, Bo.

A new familiar sight – Luna napping with a youngster, in this case, Bo.

Arrow, Leo, and Bo, age 11 months, came from two different shelters on the same day. They could not be more loving and friendly to each other. All three are the sweetest cats I’ve ever known. Otherwise they have quite distinct personalities.

Waking up.

The youngsters, Bo, Leo, and Arrow, when they first joined the household.

Bop tolerates the dog but chases her if dinner is delayed and she is crabby.  Ditto Bop with her life partner, Luna. The reality is that Bop wants to be an only animal in a household where she never will be.

Bop hates the kittens and for months we had to keep them separate – no easy task in our 700 square foot home – lest she kill them. Now that two of the kittens are bigger than Bop, we let them mingle. The kittens are learning to stand their ground. We have six spray bottles of water stationed all over the house and yard. We spray Bop whenever we catch her messing with a kitten. Oh so gradually the violence seems to be lessening. But there are some days – you can just tell – Bop won’t be able to relax until she has kicked some kitten butt.

A peacekeeper.

A peacekeeper.

The situation is further complicated by the similarity in looks between mean old Bop and sweet young Arrow. What amazes me: the kittens can’t tell them apart, either! I thought animals used smell to identify. Maybe not, or maybe they can’t distinguish Bop from Arrow because the smells are so mixed up at our house. Whatever the explanation, the other youngsters, Bo and Leo, are always doing doubletakes when a tuxedo cat walks in.

There were too many instances of Leo and Bo clearly mistaking the two – running from their best friend Arrow, or running toward their enemy Bop – so now Bop wears a collar with a bell.  That seems to have helped some.

Typical sight around the household: Bop menacing a youngster.

Typical sight around the household: Bop menacing a youngster.

This time, the target is Arrow, just awakened from a nap to find Bop glaring at her.

This time, the target is Arrow, just awakened from a nap to find Bop glaring at her.

Pop quiz: who is this? Bop or Arrow? (answer on next page)

Pop quiz: who is this? Bop or Arrow? (answer on next page)

Meanwhile, Later Than Same Nap

Recently I posted a photo of my cat Luna enjoying a nap in a window breeze.  While Luna slept, one of the kittens, Leo, spotted him and took time out from his daily backyard frolicking in order to approach Luna. Below are photos of the encounter.

Some backstory needed here. Luna is 10 years old, patient and tolerant with our three kittens (now 10 months old), who worship him and thus annoy him. Whenever they see him they pester him. They relentlessly try  to touch noses, to sniff him, to follow and stare at him. So Luna rarely lets them near.

Wow! There he is!

Woah! There he is!

I've never sniffed the bottom of his paw before.

I’ve never sniffed the bottom of his paw before.

For some reason I can't bite his tail through the screen.

For some reason I can’t bite his tail through the screen.

Wow. He is so cool.

Wow. He is so cool.

Which One Are You Like?

Waking up.

Bo, Leo, and Arrow.

Recently our kittens had to wear cones after surgery. Their reactions captured their personalities and some basic differences in approaches to life’s troubles.

The cone disturbed Bo mightily.  He didn’t know what to make of it and he immediately became miserable. I’m trapped in a cone. This is terrible.  He dragged himself backwards until he hit a corner, where he hunched down and gave up.

Initially, Leo also wigged out and dragged himself backwards. But he quickly adapted. I guess now I’m a cat who — wears a cone. Okay! Within a few minutes he had evolved an odd but successful, neck-craned gait and had found new ways to pursue his favorite pastime, playing with tiny pieces of crud.

Arrow rebelled against the whole concept of cones. As soon as we put a cone on her, she began whipping her head from side to side and pawing the cone’s edges. No way am I wearing this, get this @#&%$ thing off me. She had it removed and hurled across the room within about 10 seconds.

So far, I have gone through life with responses on the Arrow-Bo spectrum, but I aspire to become more like Leo. How about you?

Retirement Party Postponed…Indefinitely

So. When I was young I kept changing jobs and taking time off to do one thing or the other. I’d work on a novel. I’d do some traveling. I did a lot of worthwhile things and I pretended I agreed with Cary Grant’s character in HOLIDAY, who wants to have experiences while he is young then work later, after he discovers what he is working for.  (Pretended because I knew all along that what I wanted was simpler. I wanted to skip the day job thing entirely.)

I have friends and coworkers who chose less circuitous paths and a number of them have retired, or are considering it. So. I tried one of those on-line retirement calculators, and the results are in.  For the next decade, I only need to save 87% of my pay and then I will have enough saved to live at 22% of my current income level.  Of course if I could save 87% of my pay I probably wouldn’t need a retirement calculator.

Looking for a bright side – after living on 13% of my pay, my retirement income would really feel luxurious.

Overall, just one more indication that the kittens need to get jobs.