Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day!

As a confirmed cat lady, I plan to spend Earth Day sitting inside… in my sun room... with a cup of coffee… reading a book…  that’s not about anything "green".  

Don’t get me wrong, I love being outdoors… when it’s not raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing.  Unfortunately, those conditions make up a good portion of the year in friendly Upstate New York.  But I still love it here.  After all, there’s nothing like a good snow day!  Besides, if it's nice out all the time, what would I have to complain about?  (Cat ladys always need something to grouse about.)  All the crappy weather makes you really appreciate it when it finally becomes pleasant… then it’s spectacular!   Not too hot and not too cold for about 5 months.  It lasts just long enough for the Cat Lady to emerge from the hovel to rejuvenate before hibernating for the winter.  Earth Day signals the onset of the glory days… even if it is a little gloomy out today.  

So with it being Earth Day and all, maybe I'll go pick up dog poop in the back yard just to mark the occasion.  Fun times!  Or maybe I should just leave it as fertilizer for Mother Earth?  Now that sounds like a much better plan!  Always glad to help a girl out!  Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On My Way to Mommy Jail… Adventures in Parenting Part 2: "The Railroad Years"

The first seven years of little Vladimir’s life were filled with his dreams of becoming a train engineer.*  For about five years he wore the same outfit every day… OshKosh overalls in a tasteful blue and white stripe, along with a matching striped engineer’s hat. For Halloween he would dress it up with a red bandana.  (No cute little pumpkin outfits for Vladimir!) 

This suited Vladimir’s dad and I just fine.  We gratefully bypassed the current popular culture icons such as Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers!  We felt it was far superior to go with the classic childhood toys.  Our house became filled with trains of all sorts… Brio, HO, N-Gauge, G-Gauge, Lionel, Duplo, Playmobil, Lego... and more. The Little General became one of our favorite movies and Thomas the Tank Engine’s best friends became ours as well.  My creative contribution was to craft stuffed cloth Annie & Clarabel train cars to go with the stuffed Thomas the Tank Engine that Vladimir took to bed each night (in lieu of the traditional stuffed animal.) Vladimir’s dad spent hours in the basement workshop, creating new additions for the collection… tiny wooden train sets, additional wooden track for the Brios, Christmas tree ornaments, etc. Each was lovingly crafted for the enjoyment of all. Family vacations were spent traveling to railway museums and sleeping in caboose motels.

Later on Vladimir developed an interest in roller coasters.  Because he was a large economy-sized kid, he was tall enough to ride these amusement park demons by the time he was four.  And I dutifully accompanied him, trying my best not to faint or lose my lunch on the spiraling drops in mid-air. (My personal best was riding the Quantum Loop five times in a row without barfing.) 

Now, you’d think these were innocuous pursuits, which would afford few reasons to be sent to Mommy Jail.  But believe me… there are plenty of ways that only Vladimir could come up with. 

From an early age, a favorite Saturday morning routine for Vladimir and his dad was to go to one of the local train spotting locations to watch for trains.  During these outings they would occasionally find old railroad spikes and the “fish-plates” into which they are driven.  These would be collected and brought home for the “collection”.  This would not be bad in and of itself.  However, I was a bit taken aback one morning when I came outside to find 4-year-old Vladimir with a sledge-hammer in hand, pounding the spikes through the fish plates and into our driveway.


“HOLY CRAP, Vladimir!  WHAT are you DOING?!?!”

This reasonable question was met with a proud smile and the words… “Daddy said I could do it.”   GRRRRRR!  

(Cut to scene of parents arguing in quiet voices about the sanity of this pursuit.)

I had visions of having to rush Vladimir to the hospital with a spike sticking out of his foot and blood gushing from the massive head wound where he had clunked himself with the sledge-hammer.

Emergency Room Nurse:  “And Vladimir’s Mommy… how exactly did little Vladimir come to having a rusty railroad spike driven through his foot… not to mention the gash in his head?  Were you actually stupid enough to think these were appropriate toys for a 4-year-old?  We’d like to have you talk to our social worker now.”

Definitely a reason for being sent to Mommy Jail!

Vladimir’s dad assured me I was over-reacting and so the tradition continued and the number of fish-plates in the driveway grew.  For years I thumped over them as I drove the car in and out of the driveway and swore at them each time my shovel came to a jarring halt during the snowy season.  (It wasn’t until Vladimir was 20 years old that he finally agreed to remove them.)

Another time, Vladimir and his dad decided to build their own roller coaster.  It was really cool!  They made 24 feet of grooved wooden track out of 2 x 4’s that actually went up and down and over which Vladimir could ride a little cart that they also created.  We would add “poppers” to the track to create extra thrills.  (The chances of being arrested for having contraband “poppers” in our possession were slim, so I agreed to go along with this plan.  They may yell at you for being stupid, but I don’t think they take you to Mommy Jail for that.)  Come winter, the track had to be put away. 

One day, Vladimir called me to the basement to ask a favor.  He was clad in his cute little engineer outfit as usual and had gotten out one of the sections of roller coaster train track.  He was laying down on it and wanted me to tie him to the tracks.

Okay, I’d play along…

I did such a good job, Vladimir looked as though he’d been tied there by Snidely Whiplash himself!   Then Vladimir wanted me to leave him there like that.  Okay... 

I went back upstairs and went about my business and all was quiet from the basement.  The more I worked, the more uneasy I became… 

This would be the perfect time for someone to come visit, (for example, the social worker from the hospital,) discover I had my child tied up to railroad tracks in the basement and turn me in to the Mommy Police.  Mommy Jail was definitely looming in the distance.

When I rushed back downstairs to untie him, Vladimir was laying quietly and contentedly, wondering why I was in such a state.  Poor Vladimir… once again I took all his fun away by insisting he had to let me untie him.   Worse, I made him promise never to go to school and tell everyone I had tied him up in the basement and left him to rot. 

Lucky for me Vladimir’s a great kid… or else he could still be holding this one over my head to this day! 

Mommy Jail still lurks!



*Vladimir came by this interest honestly… his paternal grandfather was also fascinated by trains and had a nearly complete vintage set of Lionel trains of his own.  (Sadly, Vladimir’s dad was never allowed to play with these when he was a kid… they were strictly his dad’s toys.)  Vladimir is now the proud owner of the Lionel trains, most of which are complete with their original packaging.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On My Way to Mommy Jail... Adventures in Parenting Part 1: "The Contortionist Years"

I have been lucky enough to be blessed with a boy-child.  Miraculously, he has made it to adulthood without any major disasters.

What really amazes me is that during the course of raising him, I never had to go to Mommy Jail. I often resorted to reverse psychology to convince my child that some of the things he had planned were not in his best interest... not because he would get into trouble, but because I might get sent to Mommy Jail!  

Mommy Jail is a place where they send incompetent parents who allow their children to come to harm while doing incredibly stupid stuff.

Which would, of course, mean no tasty dinners, bedtime stories, or kisses goodnight while the beloved parent is in Mommy Jail.  Over the years I have come close several times to going to Mommy Jail... mostly because I was willing to go along with my child's incredibly stupid ideas.

Take, for example, what I fondly refer to as "The Contortionist Years."  As long as I can remember, my son (we'll call him Vladimir to maintain his anonymity) has loved squeezing into small places.  This actually began in utero.  The kid loved hanging out in there... so much so that he didn't want to come out.  He was having way too much fun rolling around and poking me in various uncomfortable places.  Two and a half weeks after my due date, my doctor finally decided enough was enough and she proceeded to induce me.  Still no action.  By the time Vladimir finally popped out, we understood why it took so long.  He measured in at ten pounds and 23 1/2 inches long.  For god's sake, the kid was almost two feet tall!  How did he ever manage to fit in there?

As the little rascal grew, and grew, and grew, he still loved squeezing his long, lean body into small places.  One day Vladimir decided to play hide and seek.  Unfortunately, he didn't clue me into the fact that we were playing this game.  I was becoming frantic, searching high and low, from the basement to the attic, looking for him.  Standing in the second floor hallway looking perplexed, I suddenly heard a small voice at my feet.

With a "Hi, Mommy!", little Vladimir popped open the door to the laundry chute... where he was dangling in thin air two stories above the basement!  And to top it off, he had the biggest, sweetest smile on his face I had ever seen!

I was admirably cool, calm and collected as I responded:

"HOLY CRAP!  How did you get in there, Vladimir?!  Get out of there this INSTANT before they come and take me to MOMMY JAIL!"

Crestfallen, Vladimir crawled out and waited patiently for me to calm down.  Just about as my heart beat returned to normal... he asked if I wouldn't consider tying a rope around his waist and carefully lowering him to the basement via the laundry chute.   That way I wouldn't have to worry about him falling and I wouldn't have to go to Mommy Jail.

Didn't he hear anything I had just said?  Couldn't he envision what the repercussions would be if the rope slipped and he crashed to the bottom and we had to call the ambulance?  Or worse, if he got stuck in the laundry chute and we had to call the fire department to extricate him?
Which would in turn result in a call to the police to take me to the dreaded Mommy Jail?

You can guess what happened next...

We went to the sporting goods store where we bought some sturdy climbing rope. Back home I drew on my ancient scouting skills to tie a rope around him with a knot that wouldn't tighten up and asphyxiate him.  Gingerly, we lowered him down into the laundry chute, all the while praying he wouldn't get stuck.  

He never made it to the bottom of the laundry chute as it turned out it was a tight fit after all. But at least we didn't have to call the fire department to pry him out again.

And I didn't have to go to Mommy Jail.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Mating Habits of Squirrels

I've lived in the same house for over 20 years.  Before I became a homeowner, however, I had my fair share of "adventures in renting."

In college I lived in an apartment over a bank.  Being above the bank made us feel really super-duper safe and secure.  We figured any burglars would be far more interested in the vaults beneath our apartment than in our meager belongings.  Another advantage was that the apartment backed up to a popular pub.  We could sit out on the roof on warm nights and listen to the bands that played on weekends for free... no cover charge up where we were!  It also provided us with a prime view of the guys who were coming out into the alley to relieve themselves.  (We were not impressed!)

After college I moved to Colorado.  (Remember "The Worst Camping Trip Ever?")  There we found a wonderful apartment.  The price couldn't be beat!  Perhaps because the last tenant was an old woman who expired in the apartment in the middle of August... only to be found two weeks later.  We could feel her presence whenever we passed the stain she left on the floor in the parlor.  She also left a distinctive odor, which we later learned was from the powder the funeral home spread around to cover up the other telltale signs of human decay.  Strangely, our friends never liked coming to our house for dinner.  I wonder why?  This resulted in many free meals at their house, so we didn't mind too much.  (Perhaps this was when my cat lady tendencies began.)

The best apartment we ever had was a clean, bright second floor palace with two bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen with a dishwasher, pantry and beautiful porch.  Now that was luxury living as far as we were concerned!  No one had died there, so it always smelled as fresh as a spring breeze!  The only downside was that we had to share a driveway with "The Crack," who owned the house next door.  He earned this moniker from the neighbors because of the low riding pants he wore to do lawn work.  His lawn was pristine... the talk of the neighborhood.  He was so proud!  There was never a blade of grass out of place and he was vigilant in brushing up any intruding leaves into a small dustpan.  "The Crack" also lined the driveway with symmetrical rocks that he painted bright white.  (Touching them up frequently when they became even slightly dingy.)  In winter he carefully shoveled each snowflake into a beautifully rounded bank of show on either side of the drive.  He even cleared a perfect half circle of pavement into the street to prevent the snow from being tracked into the driveway by car tires.  

Things were fine until we committed the supreme faux pas when we tried to be neighborly by doing the shoveling ourselves one morning.  Our intrepid neighbor was horrified by our crude, randomly placed piles of snow!  From that point on "The Crack" got up way before the crack of dawn to assure we would never attempt to shovel ever again!  

The following spring, we nearly drove him into an asylum when we installed a basketball hoop on our garage... he even insisted we were to blame for his mother's demise because we played basketball "all over the driveway!"  Horrors!  When we bought our house we were sorry to leave that apartment, but not sorry to see the back of "The Crack" as we drove away for the last time.

The most memorable abode, though, was the garret apartment we rented from a little man of middle-eastern heritage.  He was by far the most peculiar landlord we had.  His English was somewhat sketchy, as was his expertise in the area of rental properties.  

There was no heat in the apartment other than what came up through one small vent.  In the winter we rigged up an army surplus parachute over a mattress on the floor.  By entering this makeshift tent and tucking the parachute under the edges of the mattress, the warmth of our breath raised the temperature inside to a balmy 58 degrees!  Time to break out the bathing costumes!

The issue of heat was minor however, compared to the new pets we acquired with the apartment. In addition to the usual mice, we periodically entertained squirrels that crawled in under the eaves in the storage space. They frolicked merrily around the apartment as we chased them about.  I'm sure we amused them greatly.  Calls to the landlord to assist in their removal were met with cold disbelief.  Finally, the little man decided to act on our request for help in removing the furry tailed intruders.  He came over late at night and squeezed into the tiny crawl space above the low ceilings to capture the little rascals.  It wasn't long before his foot came crashing through the ceiling as a squirrel escaped his grasp!  As drywall dust came down on his head he beamed with pride as he told us he had chased the squirrels away.  

The next day he returned to fix the problem for good... by attaching sheet metal over the eaves with duct tape.  Now that's a sure way to keep squirrels out permanently.  Needless to say, we weren't too surprised when a few weeks later a squirrel once again found its way into our apartment.  The funny little man was not amused when we called him with the news.  Not believing that a squirrel could have penetrated his security measures, he came over to verify its existence.  He conceded that a squirrel was indeed in the apartment, but he could not accept that his fine sheet metal and duct tape solution had failed.  Rather, with great seriousness, he filled us in on an important bit of information...

It was obvious to him that the previous squirrel had laid an egg when it was in our apartment and the current squirrel was its progeny!  So that explains it!

What could we possibly say to that?  We more or less gave up on the landlord providing any useful assistance.  Not long afterward we turned in our keys to the garret and became "The Crack's" neighbors.  We left without cluing in the old landlord to the actual mating habits and reproductive cycle of squirrels.  He's probably still chasing them!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My Secret Life on Facebook

I admit it... I'm a facebook fiend.  As a Cat Lady I don't get out much so I enjoy keeping up on the activities of the beautiful people in my life via electronic means.  In other words, it allows me to feel like I have lots of friends without actually having to leave the house to interact with them. And, yes, it does have elements of stalking associated with it.  Oh well... a girl has to have some vices.

Anyway, people on facebook frequently mention these wonderful, free opportunities to analyze your inner psyche by means of simple quizzes.  I recently took two of these just for my personal edification.   Here are my results:

Cat Lady completed the quiz "Which Car Suits Your Personality?" with the result Toyota Yaris.
You have a very normal personality.  You like things small, economical and do not like any surprises in life.  The Toyota Yaris should keep you as happy as can be!

Wow!  Right on target!  Now... if only someone would give me a nice, shiny, new Yaris like the one in the picture they showed with my results!  I could trade in my 14 year old Corolla and feel like I won "Queen for a Day!"  (If you remember that old television show... you've just been given a reality check about how old you actually are.)

Then there was...

Cat Lady completed the quiz "Which Crazy Bitch Are You?" with the result Courtney Love.
You are one wild bitch.  You love trouble and trouble loves you  You like to have a good time and won't let anyone get in your way.  Sometimes you seem like you are perpetually trapped in a childhood mentality and you take alot of flack from alot of people for your carefree ways.  Nevertheless you care alot about the people close to you and if anyone messes with you or the ones you love you will fuck them up.  You can rock out with the best of them and won't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You are this perfect balance between girly chick and tough chick.  You are blatantly honest and sometimes people can find this a little hard to take but you really don't give a shit.

Hmmm... somehow this one doesn't sound quite right!  I mean, Courtney Love?  WTF? 

It definitely seems too brash for a cat lady.  Should I go back and review my answers?  They most assuredly didn't have cat lady's demeanor in mind when they created this little quiz.

I occasionally have my wild moments and I can agree with being trapped in a childhood mentality... would I have become a Kindergarten teacher otherwise?  

And I can be carefree... when I'm not being neurotic about everything in life.  

And often I really don't give a shit about a lot of stuff.

I do think I have a long way to go before I could be classified as either a "girly chick" or a "tough chick".  

Being a Cat Lady would seem synonymous with the term "Crazy", and we cat ladies may have our bitchy moments, but COME ON!  I'm not frequently known as someone who will "f" you up if you mess with me and my friends.  At least not in a blatant way.... I'm much more passive-aggressive than that!  (And I'm still a prude and have difficulty using the "f" word out loud.)

And as for rocking out with the best of them... maybe back in my college days.  However, a herniated disk and ripped out knee have slowed me down considerably in that department.


I will probably continue to take the silly quizzes on facebook.  A Cat Lady needs something to while away the hours, after all.  Like everything else in life, though, I'll definitely take them with a grain of salt.  

But if you see me rocking out on the dance floor, messing people up... at least you'll know why.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Birds on My Front Porch

And now for something completely different....

I keep a holiday wreath on my front porch year round.  (I even try to change the decorations occasionally to suit the season.)  In the past I would get around to taking it down sometime in February or March. However, several years ago, some birds took up residence in it. Since that time there have been three separate nests built in it.  The original was built by wrens, the one from last year housed robin eggs and now some house finches have taken over the nesting site.  They're very sweet, with delicate brown feathers and soft rosy heads.

It's very satisfying to watch them prepare the nest from my own perch in my sunroom.  The birds take exception, though, when I go in or out of the front door.  They let me know how unhappy they are by fluttering their wings at me and squawking.  I try leaving them little gifts of soft golden retriever fur to line their nest. Sometimes they accept my offerings and other times ignore them.  (I remove any cat silhouettes from the windows for the duration so as not to alarm them.)  

I'm hoping that these little house finches will be secure enough to lay their precious eggs in the nest.  If I'm lucky, one morning I'll wake up to the chirp of baby birds.  Then I can watch them grow for a few days until they're ready to leave the nest.   

It does my heart good to see the life cycle completed right outside my window.  And it gives me hope that spring will indeed come soon.

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