3 Conversations Concerning a Cat

The CatCONVERSATION # ONE

Me: Why does this black cat keep meowing at our door? To cat: Go home. You don’t live here.

My husband: Just don’t feed it. If you feed it, we’ll never get rid of it.

Me: Even if I wanted to feed it, we don’t have any cat food anymore. I gave it all away.  This cat’s got to be hungry though. It’s been hanging around here  for several days.

My husband: Cats are great hunters. It’ll be fine. We don’t want another cat. The last one we had for what? Forty years?

Me: Just eighteen. I know we don’t want it. But, maybe I should just open a can of tuna. I don’t want it killing the birds. But I don’t want it to starve either.

My husband: Tuna? Are you craaaaazy? You give it tuna and for sure we’ll never get rid of it.

Me: Just to tide it over. It looks like we’re going to have to call around and try to find its owner. It looks like a nice cat, and I’m sure somebody really misses it.  Did you notice it has some tan spots on the black. Maybe I’ll make some signs and I don’t know . . how else should I advertise? Facebook? I’ll ask some neighbors too. It’s going to start getting cold soon.

My husband: There are services that come out and pick up stray cats. Let’s have someone come out and get it.

CONVERSATION  # 2—TWO WEEKS LATER

Our son (who stopped by with his family): Hey, listen to this. I was just talking to Steve across the street. You know that cat that’s been hanging around here? Well, it was just out front, and Steve spotted it and came over and said she’s his old cat. Her name’s Lyla, and about six months ago he gave it to a friend of his on 39th south. He said his buddy told him the cat didn’t seem happy there and kept disappearing.  Apparently she walked all the way back here from 39th.

Me: Seriously? Oh my gosh! Well, that solves the mystery. But why did she come here? Why didn’t she go to Steve’s.

My son:  Steve says he got a dog a few months ago.  He thinks Lyla came to his house and heard the dog, so she headed to your house.

Me: I knew she had to belong to somebody. I’m so glad I called back that service and told them not to pick her up after all. Her name’s Lyla?

My husband: So now what? Now we’re stuck with her?

Me: I guess we need to talk to Steve and have him talk to this friend.

My son: Steve doesn’t sound like he wants her. He’s got this dog now and as far as the friend, it sounds like he’s fed up with her taking off.

Me: I really don’t want another indoor cat, but I guess she could just keep living outside. I’ve already made her a little bed in the garage. I heard people even heat the little garage beds in the winter. (To my husband:)How would you feel about us letting her just keep living in the back like she’s been doing.

My husband, rolling his eyes: Aaargh. I told you not to feed her. I knew this would happen. Now we’re going to have another stupid cat to worry about.

CONVERSATION  #3—THREE MONTHS LATER

Me: ( Cat is sitting on my husband’s lap in our family room. My husband is feeding Lyla leftover milk out of his cereal bowl.) Are you craaaazy? What are you doing? Lyla has plenty of food and water downstairs. It’s bad enough that she sleeps on the bed with us. If you feed her from our dishes, she’ll be thinking she can climb up on the counters to get at our food every time we turn our backs.

My husband: (sheepishly) Lyla likes milk better than water. Don’t you Lyla?

Being a Back Seat Driver Isn’t an Easy Job

Even though I’m perfectly capable of driving, my husband generally does most of it when we travel. This designates me to the position of back seat driver, or more accurately in my case, passenger-side assistant driver, or even better, co-driver.

On a recent road trip to my daughter’s, I told my husband (only partially tongue-in-cheek) that I didn’t think he fully realized the degree of vigilance and attentiveness this position requires. “Oh, I think I do,” he said. “Believe me.”

It’s a fact that even when I’m totally tired I feel compelled to keep my eyes wide open so that I can dart them from the mirror to my blind spot, then around the back, then to my husband’s blind spot in order to stay completely aware of traffic behind us, to either side of us and in front of us. “Just relax and go to sleep,” my husband will sometimes say, but I can’t bring myself to do that. Would a co-pilot in a plane consider taking a quick snooze?

Of course, unlike a co-pilot who has real instruments on his side of the cockpit, there isn’t  actually any driving equipment on the passenger side of a car—not even brakes. That doesn’t stop me from pressing my foot down on the van floorboard, as I lean back stiffly, my right hand gripping the door arm rest. Even though these actions don’t actually reduce the speed of our van, they do communicate to my husband that in my humble opinion, he needs to slow down.

Let me make clear that my husband is not a bad driver. We’re both fairly decent drivers. Our driving styles, however, are drastically different. My husband drives far more assertively than I do, applying the brakes only when absolutely necessary. If there is a slower vehicle in front of us, he moves full speed to within just a few feet of this vehicle before swinging into the adjacent lane and passing it. In contrast, I like to start applying the brakes (real or imagined) an adequate distance from a slower vehicle–many miles before, my husband claims. Sometimes I’m even content just to lower my speed and continue driving behind a slower vehicle, especially if it’s a huge diesel truck. I regard such trucks with the same suspicion and apprehension that I imagine a tuna regards a killer shark. I’d just as soon not be in a truck’s radar or draw any attention whatsoever to our puny (in comparison) van. My husband, in contrast, has absolutely no such a “monster of the freeway” phobia. He swings around trucks with the bravado of a conquistador and without the slightest regard for this giant road creature’s ability to crunch us. “Neener, Neener,” he might as well be shouting.

But I recognize that my husband has the perfect right to drive differently than I do, so I generally keep my mouth shut, for the most part, with the exception of those times when I don’t keep my mouth shut.  “Slow down . . . slooooow down,” I feel compelled to repeat under my breath when I feel we’re going too fast around curves especially those with extremely high drop offs. In fact, I’ve become proactive.  I read the speed limit sign to him as soon as there’s a change. “It’s forty-five here,” I mention, matter-of-factly. If he doesn’t seem to hear me, I’ll repeat, “It’s forty-five,” my voice increasing slightly in volume. If he continues to ignore me, I’ll state the speed our van is going. “We’re going fifty.” Then I’ll inform him of the amount we’re driving over the speed limit. “That’s five miles over.”

Speaking of high drop offs, if there’s say, a body of water below, I go over in my mind what we would do if our van should plunge over the railing. I’ve heard to go out the windows not the doors, but have never heard if power windows even work under water. Just in case, I keep my index finger poised right there on the window’s power button in hopes I’d have the presence of mind to press it on the way down.

There are many more duties I consider to be my responsibilities as an assistant driver: weather reporting; reading a map and giving directions; (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly)  providing snacks (torn into extremely small, easy-to-handle pieces) and, if we’re listening to a book on cd, figuring out when the cd has ended and if so, how to switch it. I also check the dashboard at intervals not only to stay aware of our speed, but to try to determine whether we have enough gas to make it to the next town so that we won’t be caught again in the position we found ourselves that one time when we made it to a station on fumes and prayers. I consider it my job as well to watch my husband carefully for signs of fatigue, insisting we pull into rest stops if he looks tired. “You okay?” I always ask when we’re ready to pull out again.  “Do you want me to take a turn? I can drive you know.”

But unless he’s so sick he’s practically foaming at the mouth, my husband will answer, “I’m fine. I don’t mind driving. I enjoy it.”  And I sincerely hope that that’s true—that he really does like to drive as much as he seems to. Deep down, however, I strongly suspect it’s more like this:  He’d rather drive and be somewhat aggravated at my assistance, than be in the co-driver position himself, and be completely aggravated by my driving. In other words, he can’t handle this job.

The Rest of the Story

I loved those The Rest of the Story segments that aired on the radio for a number of years. Well, here’s a story that works well in that format. It’s about a man named Eric who was born in New York to German parents. His mother was so homesick for her homeland, however, that when Eric was only six, the family moved back to Germany. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great. World War II soon began, and Eric’s father ended up in a prison camp. Eric’s life was difficult as well. He was forced to dig trenches for the Nazis and suffered the torments of war.

Now here’s the rest of the story. The one bright part of Eric’s life in Germany was his love of art. One of his teachers recognized his talent and mentored him. Somehow Eric was able to attend and eventually graduate from a prestigious German art academy. But remembering his happy childhood, Eric always longed to come back to America, and in 1952 he returned to New York with $40 dollars to his name. Fortunately, he also brought an impressive portfolio. He applied at The New York Times and was hired as an artist. A publisher happened to be looking for an illustrator for a book called Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See and liked Eric’s work. Eric ended up doing the art work for this book, then wrote and illustrated his own book called 1,2,3 To the Zoo. He’d found his niche.

Always on the look out for ideas, one day Eric noticed some holes that had been punched into some papers on his desk. He thought they looked like something a bookworm would make. The bookworm character evolved into a caterpillar who ate through different foods. This book about a caterpillar taught children not only about good nutrition, but the days of the week, counting, and the metamorphosis, but most important, that learning can be fun! The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has become one of the most popular children’s books of all time; has sold 33 million copies; and has been translated into fifty languages. Eric Carle went on to illustrate or write and illustrate seventy more books. 103 million copies of his books have been sold around the world. But his second book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, remains, in my estimation, his best work—the ideal children’s book. And that’s the rest of the story.

Note: If you’d like a copy of “The Hungry Caterpillar” or the caterpillar or butterfly puppet that goes with the book, please contact anyaspuppettree@gmail.com.  

Caterpillar Capers

Yesterday I ate one gooey breakfast bar; two chocolates from See’s Candy that a friend who works there brought me; three (cold) pieces of pizza;  four marshmallow peeps leftover from Easter; five mini twix bars–same story; and somewhere between six and sixty chocolate chips just because they were there. Well, then I didn’t feel so great. Sooooo . . . I pulled out all the leafy greens in my fridge and made myself a nice big salad, and then I felt much better.

Somebody once said: There are no bad foods, just bad portions.

Somebody else once said: It’s all about choices.

I say: Never start off the day with chocolate.

This next week I will eat better. On Monday I will eat apples and avocados; on Tuesday I will eat broccoli or broccoli sprouts; on Wednesday I will have berries; on Thursday I will have cauliflower and carrots and coconut oil; on Friday I will eat oranges; on Saturday I will eat salmon, tomatoes and yams.

And this weekend I will not eat the kind of stuff I ate yesterday, and I will get all the sugar out of my system—what’s it called detox? This may mean I will need to go into a cocoon for a while.

Buff Stuff

After I bought a small TV at Target this morning, the clerk asked me if I needed help getting it to my car. “No, it doesn’t look very heavy. I think I can manage,” I said.  Then, and don’t ask me why, I added dryly, “Anyway, I recently won the Ms. Body-building contest, senior division.”

“Really, you did?” she said, her eyes wide.                   This is not me >>

“No,” I said.

She laughed then, realizing she’d been pretty gullible, but redeemed herself with a good comeback. “But you should have, right?”

“That’s right.” I smiled.

On the way out the store’s door with the little TV, I wondered where on earth that body-building comment had come from and why that would be anywhere in my brain. Almost immediately, I remembered. Only a few weeks ago a relative told me about a body-builder well into her sixties in their LDS ward, who, he says, is so buff that the men in the ward divert their eyes the moment she comes into view and don’t dare look up again until she’s out of view. To be kind, let’s say that it’s not so much that she flaunts her stuff, as that her physical assets would be stunningly obvious no matter what she wore.  The woman, he also let me know, is kind of reactivating into the Mormon faith, and the other sisters seem to be taking it pretty well, considering that she is not exactly your typical Mormon sister. I could pretty much grasp the situation, recognizing that (sad to say) we all have a tendency to want to lift our eyebrows at those who are completely different than us.  But though I’d never even seen the woman, my reaction to her was curious. No, even though I joked about it, I have absolutely no ambition to enter any kind of a body-building contest at my age and never have had such ambition, but I found myself feeling oddly optimistic at just hearing that a woman exists who is that ridiculously buff well into her sixties. If she could do that, I felt myself thinking, then that meant I should certainly be able to get into a little better physical shape—get rid of say, at least some of my stomach, and tone up a little of the flab off my arms, legs and well everywhere, something I’d been starting to feel pretty discouraged about.  In fact, even now as I think about the outrageous way she was described, it helps me feel hope that if she can do that, I should be able to get in good enough shape that the next time I joke about winning a body-building contest, the person I’m joking with will not think, Oh my gosh, I’m so ridiculously gullible. I mean look at her! but rather, Well, she may be up there in age, but she honestly doesn’t look all that bad.

A Phone Call From My Mother

A few summers ago I typed up this conversation I had with my mother.  I just ran across it the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

Me: What have you been up to today?

My mother: Ach,  it’s so hot and the people down the street go to work and leave their nice big dog tied in their yard, but then the poor thing winds its rope around a pole and can’t get to its water all day.  I see this when I walk by.  But I had a ten foot piece of PVC pipe.

Me: Oh? PVC pipe?

My mother: I had to put it across my bike and then walked the block to their house.

Me: Uh huh.  Okay. Then what?

My mother:  There was a small opening along the bottom of their fence, so I sat down on the sidewalk and carefully pushed the pipe under the fence to the dog’s water bowl.  Then I pushed the water bowl to the dog.  It took a long time, an inch at a time because I didn’t want to spill it, but he was so grateful, the nice dog.  He just slurped it up.

Me: Wow.

My mother: Luckily, nobody came by or they would have wondered what I was doing, and why this old lady was sitting on the sidewalk.  I was afraid the owners would come home.

Me: Don’t you think you should  just tell them.

My mother: Ach no, of course not. I can’t do that. It’s none of my business.