December 28, 2009

They don't just hold shoes together...

Does your wallet look like mine? After a lovely Christmas with family and friends (and Sherlock Holmes and chipmunks), I have scanned my purse and found exactly one piece of lint. Couldn't even afford two!

But cast no worries upon my stubbly shadow... I'll get by. Because along with jujitsu, filleting and slow poisons, I possess the skill of the Shoestring. Not a member of this elite art? Allow me to enlighten you.

Can you fill to bursting three bags of groceries on a mere fifteen dollars? That's Shoestring, baby!

Can you squeeze an extra fifty miles out of a tank flashing the deadly empty warning? That's Shoestring, baby!

Can you pay bills, feed eleven pets, buy presents for nine nieces and nephews and still pay your physician copay without hitting the credit card? All from one paycheck? That's... you get the picture.

Momma's been doing it for years, layering the craft of creative shuffling with the talent of thrift. I learned at the feet of a master. Despite an empty account, a cleaned-out change jar and no further revenue for two weeks (darn you bi-weekly employers!) I am surprisingly comfortable. Because I spent wisely, I have food, gasoline and no impending bills. I have utilized every knotted rainbow Shoestring at my disposal. The trick is not to trip.

I am super-uber-comfy-ish. Which doesn't mean I won't hug the calendar on payday!

December 25, 2009

Yes, but for 24 hours?

What is it with the holiday season and movies?

I dare say no single day has garnered as many cinema experiments as Christmas. If it isn't in the title, it's weighing down the plot with the thickness of figgy pudding. Santa, elves, reindeer and the occasional grinch are unavoidable today. And, of course, we have 24 back-to-back, unending hours of Ralphie and the Quest for a Dangerous BB Gun.

"It's smiling at me!" (Ralphie's dad and the duck)

I'm not opposed to catching Snoopy and Jack Skelligton as I ramble through channels. Quite the opposite. But how many Santa Clauses does it take to complete Tim Allen's career? And no, I don't want to see Arnold and Sinbad slugging it out in the aisles nor every drawn-out, sap-coated version of Christmas romance that Lifetime can think up (it ain't just 'women in peril' on this day).

And that's just the small screen.

Apparently, the sugar high from too much pie keeps people up Christmas night (that or the spiked egg nog) because throngs of over-stuffed patrons will fill the theater tonight. The mere fact that we've all maxed out our credit cards buying STUFF (see last post) should make movie-going the least viable choice. I mean, $4.00 for a teeny box of Even More Sugar? The cost of a slushy is the equivalent of my electric bill and the smallest popcorn they serve would feed Nebraska. And you must take out a loan to pay for it.

Having said that, I shall be among the... um... fruitcakes.

Yup, as part of my Christmas prezzy from my roomie, we shall traipse merrily to the local big screen to see Sherlock Holmes (my choice). See photo below for a sizable reason for the trek. I hope the movie's as good as Mr Downey looks but regardless folks, it's a night out requiring no down payment from me and therefore I will tug down my santa cap and go. Although, with a 10 pm start time, I should be getting home at right about... tomorrow.

December 23, 2009

Mall Santas Don't Try Anymore

When experienced as an adult, Christmas has a tendency to lose a little something in translation.

Remember the magic of waking in the morning with the taste of anticipation and suspense warring on your tongue? Perhaps you still believed that a hefty fella could fit down your chimney (provided you had one) or that a thick gloved man could jimmy open the back door without setting off security alarms (assuming you had those) or at the very least that a red-attired dude could squeeze through the bathroom window to the obliviousness of your neighbors (despite them being ex-Russian spies like ours).

How fast did you fly out of your covers, creating enough static in your Superman or My Little Pony feety pajamas to fuel the mid-Atlantic region, and zoom (and I do mean Zoom) to the living room where tree and presents and grinning parents await? Even the realization that Santa did not bring the goodies did not deter your enjoyment of, shall we say, GETTING STUFF.

Because that's the name of the commercialization game, right? STUFF.

But not in our household. Being on the lesser end of the economic pool as we were, the gifts did not reach the ceiling. Our tree was not real, rather a three-and-a-half foot contraption weighed down with fake snow. And there was, let's face it, not many ways that a giant red-clad jolly guy was sneaking into a single-wide trailer without waking the entire neighborhood (since they were, like, six inches away).

But here's the thing...

We always got what we wanted. The spirograph, hoppy hop and sit & spin were among my still-favorite surprises. The tree was always beautiful, with the red garland dad insisted on, hovering over the more perfect platform you've ever seen (and I'm talking lit buildings, tee pees and a jet black train). Dad would spend eternity and back on the pine fencing, gluing one piece at a time until the old fashioned trim wound around the full length of felt-covered plywood. They don't do THAT at the stores!

One year, my mom-mom bought my sister and I porcelain dolls. Even in the throes of Alzheimer's, she knew that I should have the brunette one while my sister got the blond one. Even today, when I look at that doll I get goosebumps.

As an adult, it becomes mandatory to hand the magic off to the next generation. Now we are the engineers, helping Santa down the chimney, through the door or past the window. We wrap until our fingers spit curses for the paper cuts. We get manhandled by the crowds when, like this year, shopping had to be put off for a 12-20 inch snow storm. And we're the ones who grin as our offerings are torn open while simultaneously praying that the present doesn't end up at the bottom of the toy box by next week. There's a bit of competition amongst family members now; who'll have the preferred gift?

I don't have children (other than the furry sort) so I play Christmas with the nieces and nephews. I suppose it's not the same, but it's what I've got and being the Cool Aunt doth so totally rock. Still, when I scoot from my bed tomorrow morning, I'll be missing the feety pajamas, the tree and the surprise. My house will look no different, the price of having tree-climbing cats, destructive dogs and no kiddies for whom to deck the joint out.

Oh look... the melancholy fairy!

I'm not complaining. Because I have memories of close knit Christmas mornings where five people who really only had each other in this world would Oh and Ah over the number of presents that somehow my financially struggling parents managed to buy. We were never disappointed. And we had each other, something we lack a bit right now. I think that's the womb from which my melancholy has sprung. But my parents still have that same snow-covered tree and while there's no platform this year, there's always the chance next time. My parents' tree-topping angel, the same one they had thirty nine Christmases ago, has never needed a bulb replacement. And I'm still greeted with warm hugs when I arrive for Christmas dinner, although such squishy embraces are a year round thing.

The point? Hang on, let me search under the white tree for it...

Oh yes! The point is that Christmas is no longer surprising, but that shouldn't mean the magic is lost. Santa still drives by on the back of a fire engine, waving to the shivering masses at the curbside and if you close your adult eyes, you just might feel a little something mingling in with the sirens and exhaust fumes. Today my roomie and I entered the Super Walmart (I know... tragic) and a departing woman offered us her cart. Roomie took that as a trick to avoid putting her cart away and that may be so, but I've got just enough holiday spirit to think perhaps she was just being kind.

Because kindness is a big chunk of what the season is supposed to mean (along with love and peace and all that rot). In the end, it's a choice... will you see the worst in human throngs mobbing every aisle in a world where Santa never really came down your chimney (or door or window) or will you accept that, in the midst of commercialized madness, there's still something to be gained by childlike faith and enough optimism to fill a stocking?

I choose to cultivate Holiday Happiness!

December 19, 2009

Ode to the White Stuff

Remember when snow was the entire purpose for the blustery winter months? There was a sled in the shed and the promise of a school closing. I'm an old trailer park kid and would descend upon the little field behind my single-wide and play for all I was worth.

Yes mom, I have my mittens.

The pleasure I soon outgrew, as happens to unfortunate young adults who must now learn to drive in the white stuff. If you were me (which I suspect you weren't unless you've manipulated the space/time continuum) you had to drive your father's Oldsmobile with a learner's permit in your hand while the former drill sergeant keeps his hand hovering between the steering wheel and the emergency brake. Suddenly snow is a thing to be cursed.

And of course, there's all that shoveling. Why, I remember one president's day when we received 17 inches of not-so-fluffy molecules. We got a snow day that day, the entirety of which was spent shoveling. And shoveling. And shoveling. I'd have rather been at work. This was, in fact, the last snow day I received and it was nothing like the romping gaiety I recall from youth.

Except we have dogs.

Because ( as previously noted) you're not me, you may have kids and therefore have already re-discovered the bliss of deep snow. I, however, have come back to the love through four legged nutcases who think the piling mass of coldness is their personal plaything. Oh, they run and jump and frolic in the grand tradition of any kid in a new snowsuit with a well-oiled sled (none of that plastic nonsense if you please). My gigantic pups have made it fun again because watching and interacting with them shrinks me down to an excited ten year old, which height-wise isn't terribly difficult.

So thank you Zaedah, Mysty and Willow. Turns out that despite adulthood, I still dream of snow days!

December 13, 2009

Who needs sleep?

A few days ago, my roommate announced that she intended to go kayaking and invited me along. The offer was made with an expectation that I'd say no since I was already in my PJs and curled up in bed (under fleece sheets!) with a thick book.

Not to mention it was seven pm on a Wednesday in the midst of winter and I'd just been chained to my work desk for 10 hours. Naturally, I said yes!

Of course, kayaking means manual labor, because it's not just the paddling, it's the heavy lifting. As those who know me are aware, I top the scales at a staggering 102 pounds. So the breakdown goes like this: Put two kayaks on car, take kayaks off car and into water, paddle like mad, put kayaks back on car and then take off to put away.

I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, huh?

So there we are on a lake that is off-limits after dusk, my spaghetti arms struggling to keep up with my experienced friend as we fight the current of a flooded waterway. We ducked under bridges that would normally be high above our heads and dodged startled Canadian geese who were trying to bed down for the night. Smart creatures.

Did I mention it was cold? And dark?

Along the way we saw two separate flocks of egrets, which glowed silver/white in the moonlight as they migrated. That was a first. We chatted and teased and mocked (as friends do). When we tumble back home at nearly 11:00 pm, I find my devil-cat has peed on my bed and I must now do emergency laundry. And the alarm goes off at 5:45 am so I can enjoy another 10 hour day of working.

It was so totally worth it!

November 29, 2009

The Robot and the Fish

Anyone who knows me (which is anyone who does) will tell you that I hover on the Cliff of Silly. It's a ledge where I've pulled up a sleeping bag next to the roaring fire of ridiculousness and made myself at home. Marshmallows can be roasted on the flames of my insanity. But I digress...

I have been known (by those who know me) to assign personalities to inanimate objects. I just think the spatula should enjoy being a microphone and yes, my pencil rolls off the table of its own volition. It likes the ride.

Above we have Mr. Miagi, a red Japanese fighting fish who, by virtue of his breed's quirks (do fish have breeds?) had to live in his tank all alone. Oh, he amused himself by playing in the bubble stream and could eat like a starved child at a free ice cream buffet. And certainly he paid attention to the office staff (he was employed as a mascot) when we lifted his lid. He had no opinions on proprietary matters, but nonetheless, he was quite a hit with visitors. And then the office lights were shut off because five o'clock had come and it was time for the human types to race back to their own tanks.

I like to think that, on those lonely nights and lonelier weekends (three-day weekends must have sucked), he wasn't entirely alone. You see, I'd given him Robby.

Robby doesn't actually work as I'm told he once did. If you're older than me (for which I offer apologies and Depends) you may remember Robby Robot, who ate your dimes and never pooped them out. He was a mechanical bank and, sadly, mine has retired from active duty. So I put him in charge of Fish-Sitting, a job for which an immobile item has, in fact, little choice. I like to think that, on those lonely nights and lonelier weekends (four-day weekends must have blown), Robby would provide Miagi the audience he craved.

Unlikely friends from whom we may learn a lesson. The first is that granting sentience to playthings is a good way to score eye rolls from others. The second is that we should be so undiscerning in our quest for friends. Grudges, prejudices and wars all spring from a narrow view of differences; fish and robot could have fought over the value of plastic over flesh and vice versa. But Miagi just swam and Robby just watched.

Now that Mr. Miagi has gone on to that great tank in the sky (or under that tiny bush by the warehouse) I find Robby's permanently downcast eyes rather indicative of his emotional state. No one else sees this, naturally, but we should all have such good friends.

November 28, 2009

Minor Allergies

Sometimes, the animal kingdom gets it right. I have (as previously mentioned) eight felines and not one of them is especially sensitive to their shortcomings, flaws or quirks. They just blast through life in that self-important way of theirs, untroubled by such things as leaking eyes, crooked tails or extra toes. We have unapologetic 'velcro' kitties (the ones that cling), unabashed schizophrenic ones (the ones that fear their own whiskers) and carefree adventures (the bombastic ones who won't stay out of the basement). They don't mind being different, odd or even mildly insane. They just are.

We're all a bit sensitive. Go on, admit it. What are you sensitive about? My list includes small... shall we say... bosoms, utter lack of vertical reach and a spine laid out in such a way as to resemble a blind man's doodling. But I have arrived at such an age that these things have been relegated to the bin of 'minor inconveniences.' I know they're there but acceptance is two parts reality and one part dementia.
Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember.

I have developed an allergy. One might say I'm allergic to a stick. Or not the stick so much as its existence. Or not so much its existence as the documented proof thereof. Confused? Good.

My problem is thus: I have, sometimes-sporadically-occasionally, required the use of a cane to remain mobile. I know... shocking. MS is a funny thing, letting me tell it just how invincible I am while plotting to cut my legs from under me without warning. Sensitive about MS? Not at all. As anyone with the disease will attest, the MonSter isn't interested in such novel things as pride and therefore sensitivity is fairly short-lived.

In truth, I don't truly mind the cane anymore. When I need it, which isn't often yet, I can endure the stares from people who see a young person stealing the accessories of a senior citizen. I can manage under the constant "Can I help you?" when I'm trying to reach the Fiber One cereal. I can even laugh off the people who walk right past me (and practically over me) when I fall. The one thing I strive to avoid in all that is photographic evidence of my stick.

Yup, that's the allergy. I cannot tolerate having my picture taken while holding the dastardly thing. Something about committing its likeness to glossy paper bugs the all-loving crap outta me. When I was in Williamsburg VA this summer, I needed the dreaded thing to maintain forward momentum and made darn sure the cane was ten feet away from any photo op. My friend looked at me like I'd sprouted mold whenever I threw the wretched thing halfway across the state so she could snap a shot of me. Recently, my oldest niece and I went to a nature center and once again, the stick was a balance saver. But she got a picture of me with the cane and I had to refrain from tossing her camera into the lake. That would be impolite.

I suppose humans are wired for denial, particularly regarding things society considers weakness; mental disease, addictions, physical imperfection and everything in between that can't be squeezed into the cookie cutter. Not having a picture of the cane doesn't change its presence in my trunk. Not having a picture doesn't mean it won't be there next time I need it. It should be a badge of courage, a sign that while something within me wants to defeat me, I have chosen not to let it. At least I could go to Williamsburg and the nature center and countless Walmart trips that have involved the stick. The pictures just prove I was living, not sobbing at home for a disease I cannot change. MS would like me to do that but my Mommy taught me to be defiant.

And anyway, it's one of the few weapons that is legal to carry!

November 4, 2009

Doormats (or The State of Which)

I was the quiet kid in the back of the class. I was the girl who never winked at a boy. I was the lady who wore the conciliatory nature as though it were virtue. It's not.

I'm a woman now, however fervently my height disagrees. I've done the self-examination thing to the point of boredom. There's much we don't realize about ourselves and more that we do. Often what we don't like within ourselves becomes a sweep-under-the-rug nuisance. Change is and always shall be counter to our instinct. Most humans dwell in that forest of the status quo.

In these questing years, I've come to understand a little of how others view me. I'm the doormat. It's a useful invention, really. We all have one and those that don't mourn its lack. Who doesn't want visitors to wipe their feet? I have lived a wiped feet existence. Oh, not in every aspect, but in the ones that count (meaning the personal matters) I have to shake off the dirt they track in.

Not my family, naturally. No, it's the ones who share no blood with me that seem to see that as an excuse to trample on me. Why? Because I've always let them. And when that brilliant self-examination is through, I see a person within who hates confrontation and wishes to upset no one. So essentially, I'm too nice. Which must explain why I'm still single.

I intended to say something to someone at some time today, a cutting dissection of how I am being treated and how I demand it cease. And let me tell you, I rehearsed all day. It didn't happen. Because though I had the words, I failed to summon the appropriate moxie. I have reached the point of anxiety and cannot open my mouth properly. I want to spare feelings, everyone's except my own.

There's a point when even the most conciliatory person must stand their ground. The one I must correct thinks that I can't do it, can't say it to their face because I'm the quiet kid in the back. I long to prove them wrong. I need to. Because I'm still a person, no matter how short or nice or anxious. I can be conscious of others' feelings while still voicing mine. This is America, folks. I have rights.

So I will get up off the floor, dust myself off and kiss off the status quo.

September 30, 2009

The Offer and the Chicken

Every person I know in this life lives in and around Bucks County, PA. If the location doesn't ring a bell, imagine the breads of Philly and Trenton. Bucks is the meat. And it's been my home my entire life. I know, I know... I need to get out more. I hadn't traveled much as a kid, other than whatever campground we could reach in a day. Now getting out into this sparkling country has become terribly important to me as evidenced by a vacation in Arizona, a trip to the everglades and most recently a drive from Florida to PA by way of an extended stay in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

And then Kelly had to go and get me thinking...

My friend and former coworker moved back to California, where life in a seaside college town is apparently waaaay more fun than fighting with Jersey drivers. Her new digs feature a small downstairs apartment where little me has been invited (possibly even seriously) to live. Come on out, she says. Share living expenses and get away from the East Coast tension. So, in the spirit of my anal brethren, I made a pro/con list. Yes, even early middle aged people do this.

Problem one: Family. I live (and I'm not kidding) three streets away from my parents. I like this, keeping them close for parental hugs and such. And I'm an eight-time aunt of darlings aged 16 down to not-quite-born. This is an important role to me, being childless myself.

Problem two: Money. A cross country drive and all the gas/food/motel expenses is a wee bit out of the pocket change range. I'm a single gal, after all and far from independently wealthy.

Problem three: The furries. Can you imagine me tooling down the road in my rental van, towing a Neon-full of cats behind me? How do I sneak them into the motel each night? And did I mention my 13 year old dog (still recovering from a second cancer surgery) gets carsick?


Pro one: Weather. My multiple sclerosis is no fan of heat, which brings symptoms I'd be just as glad to live without. And the cold steals what little circulation I possess. San Luis Obispo is, by all accounts, the happy medium.

Pro two: Living. Yes, aside from travel, my thirties have been as unexciting as my twenties. I'm not a chance taker, I don't get up and go, I haven't the pioneering spirit. So I watch as opportunities pass me by. But I have no man (and no expected prospects), no offspring, no monumental debt. So why can't I get up and go. The wonder of technology will help me stay in touch with loved ones. Do they actually require my presence here? I don't believe I'm that important to anyone. MS has given me challenges but I'm not disabled, darn it. I want to live and see and do!

Pro three: Housing. I have ready-made and available housing in a new state. How often does that happen? Four walls and a new beginning. Who wouldn't love that?

But... sigh. Though I've considered all the angles (while I was supposed to be working, I might add), I know that I'll never go. I will live in Pennsylvania for the rest of my days, regretting yet another missed opportunity whilst surrounded by loved ones.

Honestly, that's not such a bad deal.

September 26, 2009

Generational Technology

Today, a new participant in the social experiment known as The Internet will wander onto the game board. My father, who has knowledge and experience on the world wide web, will now have access in his own home.

You'd be surprised at the number of 'previous generationers' online at any given moment. I speak to Medicare patients all day long and often hear the word 'e-mail' drop from their lips in the same sentence as 'colonoscopy' and 'pacemaker.' Our parents, grandparents and occasionally beyond are typing their way into this instant-news, viral-video, mass-networking world. My generation has become enslaved to our keyboards but if you look at the person surfing the web next to you at the library, chances are they've got a few decades on you.

It has given me pause, though. Is the Zaedah found online someone my father will recognize in real life? Is there anything connected to my penname that I wouldn't want him to see? What will he learn of his child by roaming in cyberspace?

Would he be proud?

I'll have to let him answer that. I can only hope that I have been true to myself and the ideals, passions and beliefs that he's long seen in the flesh-and-blood me. I will welcome my daddy to this wired land and gladly guide him to everyplace his little girl inhabits.

And though we live a mere three streets apart, I expect an e-mail often, Poppa Smurf!

September 23, 2009

Aging with the Wizard

Tomorrow I shall be 35. No, that's not a typo... 35. That's three and a half decades down and I'm still the height of a twelve year old. On a stool. With platform shoes. Tonight, however, I will be the age my height suggests and those shoes will be ruby. And big sis is in on it too!

We're going to watch the Wizard of Oz, which turns waaay older than myself and thus has earned a coveted screen at our gigantic, overpriced and admittedly impressive theater. Yup, Dorothy's back on the big screen for a one night, one showing engagement. And I will see her in all of her newly digital glory. Why? Because I can.

Because I'm old enough to drive and, despite snickering in the back, I can actually reach the peddles. Because I grew up watching this movie which, by line of logic, means I actually grew up. I'm paying with money earned from my grown-up job (or as grown-up as selling air can be).

My sister doesn't know where we're going yet, as I think the birthday girl is entitled to surprise other people instead. And I can only hope she'll be as excited as me to see a movie at ten o'clock at night and then get up in the wee hours of dawn for the activities that adulthood requires. I hope she'll join me in the reverse aging process, marveling at munchkins and flying monkeys and a yellow brick road I'm fairly sure scientists have yet to unearth in reality. I'm about to hit the 'old threshold' according to family, coworkers and my traitorous hair color. I don't care. Tonight I'm still 34 going on twelve.

Mind you, I'm so old now that the sense of thrift has set in and I bought the normally four dollar candy ahead of time at the dollar store. Sue me!

September 20, 2009

The End of Humor

Several years ago, writing had become a multi-generational affair. My father cites my writing as his inspiration to pick up a pen and record his own thoughts and experiences. Over time, he made a binder for all of his children, filled with memories from days gone by and considerations of the world now before him. But it's been awhile since he's added to that binder...

He didn't think we were interested.

I doubt I'll ever convince him of how wrong he is. But two days ago, after a hiatus, he finally picked up the proverbial pen and made a new entry called 'Humor.' In it, he reflects on a solitary childhood and how he overcame loneliness at school with humor. It became, he tells us, a shield as hard and protective as a turtle's shell behind which he could hide the true person inside. Daddy explains how he now lives Bruce Springsteen's 'Glory Days,' when one is left with boring stories of days gone by.

My dad can tell a story like no one else. He infuses so much life into a simple recount of the day or a remembrance of long-buried relatives. They're anything but boring. And while he acknowledges that he's been putting that humor away, because the world is too busy, because his family is too busy, because his health is weakening along with his spirit.

He is now the unsmiling face we see on the photos of Native Americans. His ancestors.

He says:
"So I have put the humor aside and will now just wait for the spirit to leave me."

No time soon, I pray. Because there is such value in this man of wisdom and love. Because no one is a better example of everything little girls want to find in their future soul mate. No one can live up to my daddy. And no one has stood by me, lifted me up and made me whole like my parents. I need his stories and the humor that comes not as a shield but as a genuine part of his spirit to remind me of who I am, where I come from. If he will listen, I will tell him not to put his thoughts away but preserve them as he has in the past. If he thinks no one cares, no one's interested and no one has time, he need only look at his daughter.

I am standing here, ears alert, waiting to hear his voice.

September 15, 2009

The Name Project Update...

My little Facebook social experiment continues, gentle readers (see blog entry dated 9/12/09). I shall have some raw data coming your way soon, an initial compilation of what I've learned about we fabulous women. The dozen new friends I have made (lovely ladies hailing from all points on the globe) have been a delight and I will strive to add to our numbers. A Facebook group is in our future.

For the time being, I wanted to share a few responses I've received from willing participants (no arms twisting was committed in the making of this project...

"You know I have thought we should all get together for so long now. Can you believe how many of us there are???? I wonder what we all look like? How we behave? What is really in a name!!! Good for you Zaedah for branching out to connect us all. Let's make it happen! : )"
"Hey... I've accepted your friend request to support your quest, Have fun
collecting Amy Blacks.

So I guess I wasn't nuts after all. And it appears I've infected my brother...

"Cool idea sis. Maybe I'll give that a try. Hope there's not to many of me,
one is toooo many."

If you don't share my name, it's never to late for a legal alteration!

September 13, 2009

Cat Hoarder Test

Apparently, I am one of gazillions that has become interested, shocked and occasionally appalled by A & E's new show, Hoarders. Here we feast on folks with minor trash disposal issues, credit card love and enough food storage to carry one through the Apocalypse. But yesterday I saw one that made me ponder my own household collection...


Sure, we've seen feline adoptions gone mad on Animal Cops too and many head shakes ensued. But the 71 year old woman on yesterday's program was a prime example of too much love and no good counting skills. When questions, Shirley put her cat population at 20-25. If only. As law enforcement began the task of rounding up the brood, the final tally was 75 cats, a host of them dead. And she had no idea! What kind of scent can rampage through a house that can successfully mask the smell of rotting corpses?

My roommate and I have often said that anyone entering our home would likely think we were on the cusp of hoarding. But I have devised a way to judge our proclivity by the hoarding standard. It's quite simple... if you can answer (correctly) how many cats you have, you might not be a hoarder. Especially, in my opinion. if the number is still a single digit.

We have eight. We know their names, birthdays, quirks, manner of arrival and can accurately run down their varied medical conditions and vet visits. And, in fairness, we are two households combined and one of the critters is a foster cat. There. I feel much better. So here's to Zazu, Zimba, Zorro, Bugg, Reuben, Stitch, Pudge and Montana!

September 12, 2009

The Name Project

Have you ever wondered how many people share your name? When I was young, I saw an article in Time magazine and was surprised to find the author's name was my own. So I grabbed a phone book and noted two or three locals enjoying my moniker. Years later the advent of the internet allowed me to search worldwide for others with my rather simple name. The numbers were, frankly, staggering. There's a lot of ME running around the globe!

I haven't thought about this little game for some time, until last night. Out of momentary boredom (and we all know how dangerous those can be) I plugged my name into Facebook's search engine and the resulting list was 500 names strong. There were a few variations but for the most part, I had several hundred ladies who'd either been born or married into my name. And so, in the spirit of my uber-friendly mother, I decided to say hello to a few handfuls of them. I sent friend invite with a quick explanation (because no one likes a stalker). In the first few hours, I received 7 replies.

I look forward to reading every profile, every synopsis of a life lived under the same umbrella. An eager eye will be cast to the similarities, the differences, the stories learned on a screen. Perhaps a few cyber-friendships may be constructed on this foundation of a name.

More to follow...

September 11, 2009

Every Generation's Question

It seems to me that every generation is called upon to answer a variation of the age-old question; "Where were you when?"

On this day, we ask our friends, coworkers and occasionally strangers, "Where were you on 9/11?" Eight years on and still we are curious. Why? To gauge the impact on others, to engage in remembrance of a shared experience, to fulfill what the previous generations know. My parents ask the question in reference to John Kennedy. Their parents asked because of Pearl Harbor. Perhaps we'll tire of the game one day, but at present I can still recall every detail of the 12 hour day I was working when I learned of the first plane's crash.

As we recall events today, most do so with a shake of the head and a reverent voice, telling our day with the remnant of disbelief. I sometimes wonder how those who championed the hijackers tell it. Where were they when our country was changed. Do they revere the killers? Do they shake their heads? I don't expect to meet anyone who sides with the perpetrators and must therefore contend myself with the empty act of forgiveness. They killed people I don't know and though the day shook me, it will never approach the pain of those who buried a loved one or gave their lungs for the cause.

At the Veterans Administration call center, we received a call from a vet how said aliens were attacking. In minutes another man informed us that a bomb went off. Soon the story trimmed the fantasy fat and veered toward truth. We were attacked. And then Peter Jennings took over our radios to give us the play-by-play of a day gone terribly sideways. Without televisions, we relied on callers to update us on the visuals. Another plane struck. The Pentagon was breached. A plane was missing and thirty employees began scanning the ceiling tiles. The bulk of the day was thereafter spent talking among ourselves in shock-tainted tones.

The drive home is what I will remember most strongly and will always mention when this day as recalled. I will speak of the man who stood on the side of the road at 8:00 pm with a huge American flag. He waved it solemnly and I will not deny the tears that welled. On that day, everyone I knew had become a vocal patriot and this man showed his pride in the most beautiful display I'd ever seen.

We no longer look up at every airplane overhead with suspicion as we did in the days following 9/11. There are less flags flying, though more magnetic ones remain on cars than I can ever remember seeing prior to the event. Distance dulls the perspective and time lessens the wound on most days. But today, on this anniversary and every one to come, our minds reverse the tape and replay our day. The day we were slapped, the day we stood up again, the day we united. The day we survived.

I am an American. I wave my flag. I remember where I was when...

September 10, 2009

Entry Number A

Wisdom should pervade this first entry, but alas it is rarely found at the end of my fingertips. Thus I type from this place of sporadic confusion, planning nonsense as only the mortally silly can. I lack wisdom, therefore no self-help book shall ever bear my name. I cannot promise sage advice nor enlightenment, only the ramblings of a scattered mind on this stark white blankness that is the waiting entry.