Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Writing as a Way of Life

Things are always getting in the way of my life.  Whether it's work, or the anime convention that I'm working on, or perhaps just allergies or maybe it's a cat or two who NEED attention NOW... things are always getting in my way.  I went to college, after all, in order to get a degree so I could have some kind of backing when I typed my little heart out.  I thought to myself, 'With this degree, I can write and then people will say, "She knows what she's doing because she has a degree."'


Sorry, I had a bit of a moment there.  I tried to write when I was a teenager, and even though I look back at those stories and cringe, I know there was some spark of life in them.  There are always ideas, but in this day and age it's awfully hard to share those ideas.  Don't get me wrong, the internet is great for putting yourself out there.  But it's TOO big.  There are TOO many people writing.  TOO many ideas being tossed around and no one is patient enough to read through things either.  I've found that about 90% of the emails I send out anymore are in large part ignored because I'll get an email asking about something I already detailed in full.  Was I not clear enough in my first email?  Of course I was, they just didn't read it!  My husband once just re-posted something he'd written to someone because they refused to read what he'd sent before they asked for it.

Basically, back when I was growing up, it was easier to write.  I guess I'm wiser now, because I know unless I put something out there that's fantastic,  it's not going to be read.  In fact, there might be only one or two people who ever read what I'm writing now.  However, do I care?  No.  I've heard authors tell aspiring authors that you just have to write.  Just keep doing it.  Eventually someone's going to take notice that you're doing all of this and maybe by that time you'll be good enough to actually become famous.  Or maybe, at least be found by a small group of people who like what you write.  Or at least, I hope that might be the case someday as I still haven't been found by anyone, and even my husband rarely reads what I've posted.

It's sort of a disheartening thing when all you want to do with your life is write; but there's no one who cares enough to read it.  I used to have to shove stories under my mother's nose for her to read things.  She'd never just ask what I was working on.  I'd have to shove DIARIES under their noses just to get them to read what I thought of them.  I even had a little brother who wanted so little to read about my life that he didn't even want to invade my privacy.

I still leave diaries lying about the house, my only writing that I tend to do that isn't blogging, and still, never do I have someone pick it up and say, 'Hey, what's this?'  No, no one picks them up and I've been writing a daily journal since 1997.  I kid you not, I have at least a small blurb for every single day for over 10 years.  Not once has anyone read them but myself.  Mind you, I've forced people to listen to them, but no one has ever bothered to go, "hey, wonder what she was doing two years ago?"

And even though I have all of these pressures against me writing, I still do it.  Maybe now I just feel obligated to write.  Or maybe it's because after I've read something really great I think about how great it would be if I could write something just as good.  Maybe I could get published writing about my cats, or my home or my life, that maybe someday, somewhere, someone would want to read about it.

Thus...I have this blog.  It only shows a mere fraction of what's been going on in my life, and although much of my life is pretty boring, I'd like to think that perhaps it's an outlet to allowing me to expand my writing.  I still get criticized for my typos and grammar, but I believe I'm better than many of those bloggers out there who don't care about grammar.

Oh my gosh, that reminds me of so many people I meet along the way.  I think it's that bull-headedness that really makes bad writing stick around.  These people think they're good writers.  I'm always amazed at them, really.  I used to edit for one of those people who couldn't take criticism and kept writing badly over and over again.  And then just recently I ran into a fellow who was so haughty about his awesome writing that when I was curious enough to try to read it, I nearly fell over laughing.  I would NOT have taken credit for what he wrote!  If I had been him, I would have been ashamed to even post something that atrocious!

Sure, I know I write with dangling participles.  I know I write passive sentences.  But to read what he wrote out loud...oh my gosh, I'm pretty sure his writing would have improved 10-fold if he'd only read out loud what he wrote.  So take that as a hint for you, have someone read your writing out loud. If it doesn't flow like someone naturally speaking, then most likely there is something very wrong with it!

And so, in something of a summary, as I know my husband will be returning home eventually and I'll need to work on dinner... yet another thing gets in the way of my writing (of course).  But I've started working on a novel about my life with my cats.  Oh of course, I'm not nearly as witty as some of the writers I've been reading lately, and maybe I don't have an incredibly sentimental tale to tell since they haven't died or touched anyone's life, but they've touched mine.  I'd like to tell the story about how my cat drags his cat bed around the house and how my other cat demands to be petted the moment we get out of the shower.  To me, it's interesting, and it's a way of memorializing something that's happened to me over the years.

Maybe...just maybe, someone will read it someday.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tidbits around the House

There's no real purpose to me having a picture of Olivia on here except for the fact that she's adorable and fluffy and even though she sheds like crazy, she's still my favorite cuddle cat.  Lately, she's starting to come out of her shell a bit more again since we brought home Tenchi, the littlest addition to our crew.  Of course, now he's not exactly little anymore, as he's just as tall as Olivia and only a pound away from her at 6 months.  I have a feeling he's going to be our biggest cat.


As I was wandering about the house yesterday, fighting an infestation of ants trying to eat the cat food in the kitchen, I recalled the fact that we had a package of ant traps under the kitchen sink.  I hadn't even had my first cup of coffee for the morning as I swept, mopped, and eventually set down the traps in the corners where I saw them coming from.  I think after having our new patio built that they had a new way to get into the house.  My husband was a bit wary about using traps since they kill off the entire community of ants, but as I reminded him, if there are so many ants in the yard that some find a way inside, then there are too many ants.  On the plus side, this morning I have not seen any ants, and maybe it's because it's finally stopped raining for more than two hours (the sidewalk is actually dry the first time in almost a week).  But I'm happy that they've decided to move on...


Here's a helpful tip if you ever buy a milk carton that's the old fashioned cardboard kind.  If it doesn't have a screw cap, then use a paperclip to seal the opening shut again.  It'll keep things like creamer, heavy cream, and even regular milk good longer than just closing it and shoving it back in the fridge.


What really irritates me about working retail sometimes is the fact that people have the tendency to look down on you.  Not sure exactly why that is, because I know people who don't work retail and make less than I do, and really, if you don't have a college degree of some sort, most retail stores won't hire you for a management position, that's just how it is.  But just the other day I was calling out for the next in line.  "I can help who's next!"  I said cheerfully.  The woman that came up put her items on the counter and practically growled at me, "URGH!"  I blinked a couple of times thinking she was irritated for having waited too long (which is usually why they get mad...or it's because they couldn't find something.  Usually I can either apologize to make them feel better or find the item, at least, usually.)

"Is something wrong?"  I asked, almost hesitating to find out what was going on.

"It's NOT, 'Can I help whose next?', that's NOT proper English.  And you people always say that, every time I come in, it's just wrong."  I stared at her, tried to explain that not everyone said it that way, but then it occurred to me that I wasn't wrong, because, in fact, I was saying the contraction of "who" and "is" - hence, "who's".  She was still going on about how it was the "English teacher in her" that couldn't stand to hear it said wrong.  I rung her items and said, "May I help the person who is next in line.  Is that better??"

"Yes, that's better."  The woman then left and I shook my head, because it really wasn't any different than saying "May I help the person who's next in line?"  And the fact that she had to jab in there that she was an English teacher, as if all of us working in retail are stupid.  I, in fact, have a degree in English as well.  I've thought at various times that maybe what I was saying wasn't correct, but the truth was, I even looked it up in the Associated Press Handbook to see if the contraction was real.  It is.  But for some reason I think she thought I was saying "whose" which would be incorrect.  Unfortunately with the English language, the two words, "whose" and "who's" sound identical.  The fact that she got upset and didn't say, "are you saying the contraction?" means that she got angry without thinking it through.  It was worse than when someone has to point out the distinction between "can you" and "will you".


Speaking of English pet peeves; I have a few of my own.  Recently, it's mostly to do with when people add an "s" to the end of a word that isn't supposed to have one.  A few examples:  Targets, Walmarts, Meijers, JCPennys, HotTopics, and Krogers.  I've noticed that oftentimes it comes more frequently in Southern areas, but then again, everyone at home up North used to call it "Meijers" too.  Now, I have thought about it a bit to think that perhaps this comes from our past when places were named after a specific person.  And maybe back in the day it would have been "Kroger's Grocery" meaning some person named Kroger owned a grocery store.  So, perhaps, as stores eventually grew big, they dropped the possessive "'s" and stuck with the last name by itself.  Not all stores did this, I know that, but I wonder if in the collective conscience, some people still think of the stores as belonging to someone.


I wish it were possible to just become immune to Salmonella poisoning or whatever other bugs exist on food that make you sick.

The reason I say this is because I just came back from a trip to West Virginia and while there ate at a Chinese restaurant that my husband loves.  He's been eating there for years, and now I sort of have been too, but things were getting a bit sketchier over the last few visits, and then suddenly a friend and I both ordered Egg Drop soup and we both got food poisoning pretty bad.  Seems that I keep getting it once every few months to the point where I just don't want to eat anywhere that I feel a bit weird about the food.  This time it was a slightly suspicious green colored egg in the soup.  Didn't think too much about it because I've had odd colored pieces in the soup before without much trouble.  However, what should have made me stop eating it was the fact that the soup wasn't broiling hot like they usually get it.  Usually they're bringing out your egg roll or your meal by the time it cools down enough to eat without scorching your tongue.  This time, no such luck, which meant that whatever was in that bad bugger was still alive.  SO...  A note to you, if your egg drop is not scalding hot, don't eat it!

As for the picture above, this was the sunset above my in-law's house on the night before we left.  I was recouping from the food poisoning by that point, thankfully.  I'm just glad it hadn't been so bad that I couldn't go places, because I've been sick like that and on vacation, it's just not any fun.


On a last note, I think because we've been having almost monsoon type weather (which, for the record, I actually like rather than last year when we got only a couple rains during the whole summer), we've also got a bunch of bugs.  With the hoard of bugs (remember the ants I talked about?) there are also a ton of birds.

I've heard a saying once that "you never see baby pigeons".  Well, these aren't baby pigeons, but a close cousin, the mourning dove.  Each year we have at least one pair of mating doves that hang out in our yard, and usually they find themselves a nice spot on our fence to build a nest.  This year it was in the back corner above a lilac bush.  The reason you "never see a baby pigeon" is they usually stay in the nest until they almost look like an adult (only a bit smaller in stature) and then they're let out to fly.  Unfortunately I'm pretty sure only one of these little ones survived, as I only saw one of them after this once it was able to fly.  The other probably went to a neighboring cat.

We have two, a black one, and a calico-looking tan stripe/white cat, both pretty fluffy.  I call them "him" and "her" consecutively.  "He" will come up and stare in the back door at my cats and since he looks like my Mina, sometimes I get a heart attack thinking she's gotten outside.  "She" will roll around in the catnip growing in the back yard.  Both of them, when they get too close to the Mockingbird that lives around here, will get attacked and chased away by the little gray bird!

And the robins around here....Oh I swear to you those things are horny.  Already they're on their second brood this summer.  First set had one baby, and now we have two hanging out on the fence pooping everywhere.  At least it's better than the first one who chose to sit on my porch chair and I had to scrub that bugger like crazy.

I will leave you with one last thought:  Have you ever seen a baby pigeon?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Retail Life

I'm going to preface this right here and say that I normally don't talk about work.  And if you know where I work, don't mention the name because even I'm not going to come right out and say it.  And what I have to say is no reflection on my job whatsoever.  I'm just going to ramble idly for a few paragraphs about retail life in general, as a consumer and an employee of somewhere that sells stuff for money.  (I recently went through a very lengthy training seminar about behavior on the web and as I would like to keep my job, I try my best to keep where I work private when and where I can.)

Anyway, so the other day I met this interesting gentleman, who responded to my askance of whether he found everything okay gave me a resounding, "NO, I did NOT."  I get that from time to time of course, and whereas most of the time it's because perhaps we just don't carry it, sometimes I get lucky and can go get the item for them, or perhaps can order it.  I like to do things like that even when we have a big line that will tick off people who are waiting, but you know, if they see you do something like that and then apologize to those waiting, they're usually pretty accepting.  Heck, I'm a pretty patient consumer myself when I see someone going above and beyond for someone else.

Surprised at the gentleman's response, I questioned if I could help him find it and with forcefulness, he refused me and went on to say that now that the store had been moved around he could no longer find anything and since nothing was in the same place as it had been he would no longer return to shop at our store.  What could I say?  It had been over a year since we had changed the layout, and after working there for years, I was actually pretty happy with the new layout myself because things were grouped better than before, whereas similar items used to be spread out all over the store.  I told the gentleman just that and his response  was basically that no one liked to "shop" for things, that there had been a survey about it quite recently, which stated that before, people liked to mosey around to find items.  But now in our busy day in age, people liked to get in and get out.  Apparently he had also stopped going to our local Kroger because they had recently renovated and had moved everything around.  (In truth, some things had moved in the middle of the store to accommodate a liquor area in the middle, but the important non-packaged junk was still on the inside of the store).

I didn't say too much more to him, there's not much more too say to that.  Sure, they actually do make shopping malls completely open air now with parking in front of stores.  Of course, I'm often the same way when I go to a store I go directly to the place where the item is and then get it an leave.  But generally, women like to shop.  Heck, many of the men who come to my place like to shop around too.  They'll wander around the store, but if they want something specific, they'll ask for it at the front desk.  This gentleman did not want to ask, did not want anyone to show him, and did not want to ever come back.  Well, I thought to myself that if it had been over a year since he had been in the store, it wouldn't be much of a loss if we didn't get his $20 purchase every couple of years.  But he made it out to be a big thing.

Now, I know for a fact that as long as you have good customer service, a good product, a clean store, and a refreshing inventory, people come back.  Only those "in-and-out" shoppers won't return once a month or so because they don't care about the new stuff we get in all the time.  Heck, when I go to a store and don't see anything new there, I'll wait a few months before returning back just in case there's something different.  I'm always surprised when people throw a hissy fit about our store, whether it's the layout, lack of an item or just something that confuses them, because I have a feeling that they've never worked, or been around retail much in their lives.  Sure, everyone has to shop to survive (or have someone else shop for them) but it's a cut-throat world out there and if you don't do something to keep people coming back, especially that one Jane Smith who buys the big ticket stuff, you're never going to get anywhere.


On the flip side of things, I have a confession to make.  I'm very impatient with poor customer service.  I've become more so since I started into management, as it reflects very poorly on a company and brand.  And it was sad because there's places I've been to time and time again just recently that I've stopped going to when things failed for me.

Restaurants are one of my largest pet-peeves right now, and maybe it's because I've seen so many Restaurant Stakeouts.  Recently I've had some pretty poor service that reflects more upon the management then the employees, and it really saddens me because it says to me that the corporate offices of these places are "saving" so much money on training that their employees have no idea what's going on.  The last two places I've seen that were at the local IHOP, which I've eaten at only once because the first time there was no waitstaff on the floor and the kitchen was so backed up that no food was coming out...full restaurant, no food.  We eventually got it, but I thought, okay, so it's new they need work, we'll wait a few months.  So we went back, and there was no one cleaning tables, so the poor hostess was bustling to clear tables just so she could seat people.  She never once asked a manager to help or refused to seat anyone, because I guess if the waiters didn't clear their tables I guess they didn't want money either from new paying guests, right?  So we went to Cracker Barrel.  For the record, I rarely have a bad experience there, they really have their stuff together.

Second most recently was Fazoli's where I love their stuff, but the kitchen staff was all just goofing off and then they screwed up my husband's salad by putting it under the heat lamp while my chicken parmesan was cooking up all nastly... I'm pretty sure I should have returned that bugger because it probably came out of the freezer box like that.  *sigh*

Then there's Firehouse Subs which I love, but when the owner isn't in, sometimes you don't even spot the staff as they're down the way picking up burritos as a neighboring restaurant.  Or maybe it's like the Dakota Watch in the mall today where the employee had completely disappeared even though I just wanted to get a new watch battery.  In fact, most of the places I went to today to find a new battery were completely empty.

And as much as people hate the name Walmart, I'll tell you what, the gal came right on over when called and helped me out immediately.  She explained why her computer was going so slow when she rung me up and I had a nice conversation with her over slow registers.  Doesn't matter that she scratched up the back of my watch, but the point was that she cared enough to get it done and was polite doing so.

Plus, she was there.

Not only in body but in mind too, because I've had a terrible experience at a store at the Easton Town Center that sold local goodies.  The guy who rung me out was too busy talking to the gal behind me, rather than to me, so when I told him I had the coin change after giving him a bill, he said, "Nope, too late," and refused to take the coins!  Then continued having a conversation with the person just standing around!

This, quite frankly, just boggles my mind.

Why are people in jobs that they don't like?  Is it just because that's all they could find?  Why aren't they trying to find something that they like?  I like my job.  I may not love it, but I certainly don't hate it, and I'm good at it.  So when someone complains to me about my store, I take offense, and I take a stand and I take problems into my hands.  And maybe that's why I'm in management and maybe that's why I have so many awesome customers.

But for that one not-so-awesome customer experience in the bunch, I have this to say:  things can get better, but don't be nasty, be patient.  Problems get solved but you have to be reasonable about it.  I won't go back to a few places for awhile, but I'll go back eventually.  I won't stomp my foot and demand for free stuff, because that hurts the employees more than it hurts the company.  And for those of us who like working in retail, we want to help.  A nice request, a well-asked question, a patient attitude; all of these will get you very far in the world.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Meet Firefly.  Back in the 1980's when My Little Pony was first getting off the ground with the toys and cartoon, Firefly was the main pegasus pony.  Back in 1983, this was my first pegasus toy.  As you can tell, she was well loved.  Over the years her 'cutie mark' has disappeared to almost nothing.  Her tail was lost when I was a little girl.

It's a curious thing, but I remember very distinctly the day that I took her to school with me for show and tell.  I loved Firefly, and even though I had a handful of other ponies by that point, she was the only pegasus and she had her front legs molded in something of a pose which was completely different than the earlier ponies.  If you've ever looked at the original ponies you'll see they are very stiff legged.  Anyway, I took her on the school bus with me to Kindergarten to show her off.  I'd discovered sometime before that her tail would pull out since it was basically one large hank of artificial hair with a metal bracket wrapped around it.  I'd show it off to my friends how I could pull the tail out and then stick it back in her soft rump.

Unfortunately, that single simple thing backfired on me and on the school bus home from school the tail was lost forever.  For months...literally months, maybe even years, every time I was on a school bus I looked for that darn tail.  Even through High School I still looked on the floors of school buses thinking I'd find it, or one of the other handful of things I've lost on buses over the years.

So, maybe that's the reason that the incident sticks in my head so clearly.  Maybe the affection that I showed to Firefly is also the reason that most recently I decided that this favorite childhood toy of mine deserved some much needed attention.

It also helped that Folk Art paints came out with a product a couple of years ago called "Extreme Glitter" paint.  And as luck would have it, they had dark blue glitter just about the same color as Firefly's cutie mark. So, I just recently embarked on a process of restoring poor Firefly back to her former glory.  I guess the only thing I couldn't do is fix the discoloration between her head and and body since that was a problem in the actual vinyl mold color.
The thing about Extreme Glitter is it takes quite awhile to get the results you want if you want a LOT of glitter.  The picture to the right shows the first coat of glitter paint over the original cutie mark.  Luckily enough of the original glue from the factory still existed if held up in the light just right so I was able to reproduce it pretty closely.

Here is a closeup of that first layer of glitter as it's drying.  It starts out as a milky glue-like substance with just barely any glitter.  The reason for using a paint like this rather than using just glue and glitter is the obvious one, you don't have to worry about the glitter coming off over time.  Of course it can still rub off like the original paint did, but using glue and glitter would have produced a less accurate reproduction.

Now fast forward about three coats later and the cutie mark is pretty much where I want it.  There was still a problem though...her tail.  Now, there are plenty of places around that you can order fake hair, but since I wasn't really planning on doing more than one pony restoration at this time I started looking to find an alternative to ordering it online.

Over the years I have "saved" quite a few ponies.  There was a time where you couldn't buy new ponies at the store, and during those periods I would go to flea markets and garage sales trying to find ponies I could salvage from the brinks of children's hands.  I would also randomly find ponies in the woods across the street from my house and that's how I found two or three including an Apple Jack toy which was a joy for me since growing up I had never had her.  I also got about two or three ponies from friends who did not treat their toys like I did.  One I've always sort of called "Frankenpony" since she was one of those 'brush and grow' ponies which I later found out was named "Ringlets".  However, she'd long since lost most of her tail, cut by some unfortunate scissors and then hot glued into place, and her head was also hot glued into place since it had been removed at some time too.  Normally I'd hate to 'chop shop' one of my toys like that, but one stripe of her mane color is only a shade off in color so it went to restoring Firefly's tail today.

The final result is a much happier pony.  She still has a few chips in her hooves, a bit of dirt here and there, and as I mentioned before her discoloration from using different vinyls in the past when it was produced, but at least she is now restored to some of her previous glory.

It's fitting that this pony's character eventually turned into that of the current series' "Rainbow Dash".  I'm proud to be the owner of this toy on her 30 year anniversary.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Two (Furry) Daughters

I have two precious daughters.  Olivia, the eldest of two years and three months, and Mina, two years, or maybe just shy of two years.  They are two of the most precious things to me in the world, and I love them dearly in their own, separate and special ways.

Of course, you probably already guessed that these daughters are not human since they are so close in age to one another.  And perhaps by the title of this writing which has "furry" in it.  If you guessed they are most likely cats or dogs, you would be correct in the former.  My daughters are my fuzzy kittens.

There are a great many people now who treat their animals as children.  I would never go so far as treat them as spoiled children, nor would I dress them up, carry them around in designer purses, or speak about them as if they were the only things in the world that I care about.  I do care about people, although I don't care very much about human children.  They have their moments, I will admit.  Hidden smiles behind Mom's legs, a wave or a "Hi!" from a cheerful one at the store, or the way they're always curious about things.  But then, so are cats.  Cats also don't scream and yell at you that they hate you.  They don't require your attention 24/7 (well, some do) but especially they don't require schooling, helping with homework, separate rooms for themselves (they don't, trust me on this) and they don't need clothing which has to be in the newest fashion every other week.

I grew up with pets.  I didn't grow up around small babies.  My younger brother was born fifteen months after I was due to my mother believing that as long as she was breast feeding she didn't need to be on birth control as well.  Hello!  I was just barely out of diapers by the time he was, so I only had a few months of toddling around after the young one with clean diapers to help Mom change.

I had dolls growing up, but my favorites were always stuffed animals.  I had a duck given to me at a very early age by my grandmother, and by the time I was five I was naming my stuffed bunny "Morning" after the thought that mourning doves cooed outside during the spring and it was spring when I received my bunny, and also it was first thing in the morning when I was asked again what her name would be.

It's sort of rare for children to come up with names for toys nowadays.  I digress in my writing since I notice that if a little girl or boy comes up to me to show me their brand new doll or stuffed animal and I ask for its name I usually get, "I dunno," or "I haven't given it one yet," or in my most recent case, "Well, she is a Barbie, so that's her name."

All the way through my childhood and teenage years I liked horses.  If you asked me what my favorite real animal was, I would say "horse".  If you asked my favorite non-real animal, "unicorn."  But I was very rarely attached to actual pets.

My first two childhood pets were Sammy and Trapper, two orange stripe cats with bits of white on them.  They were indoor/outdoor cats so they were pretty wild as most of those kinds are.  After Sammy was put down when I was six or so, we had a bought with a fish tank.  When I reached about seven or eight I begged my parents for a black cocker spaniel I dubbed "Stormer" after a character in "Jem and the Holograms."  Stormer lived to the ripe old age of fourteen before dying of a cancerous lump under her tail.

By then I had already lost my father, and with his death, Mom felt it fair if I had a cat replacement since I'd been asking for one since I entered college.  Alex, a grey and tan stripe tabby, was found across the street from my aunt's house, so we adopted him.  Two years later near the end of college a guy I dated for a short time offered me one of his cat's kittens, and that is when I had black Neo.

Strangely enough, all three animals, Stormer, Alex and Neo were buddies.  Stormer would crawl up onto the couch to fall asleep, and in would come Alex, and finally Neo, all cuddled up together in a fluffy pile.  We're pretty sure both cats felt somewhat sad when Stormer died, but as they had one another, they seemed to get along fairly well.

Alex wasn't as much of a cuddler with other cats, however, so Neo would spend much of his time with me, as was right since I had adopted him and Alex, after my adoption had taken a liking to my brother instead.  Sometimes I think it was because of his mysterious closed bedroom door.  My brother would only open it on rare occasions when the funk was too much to bear and Alex would high-tail it in there and find himself in a wonderland of smells and sights.

When I moved away from home four years after graduating college, I was unable to take my cat with me.  I regret that decision even now, seeing as though not long afterward a disease took him and he died of kidney failure.  Neo wasn't very old, only seven or eight years, which is a relatively short time for an exclusively indoor cat.

So I vowed, as did my husband, that we would do our cats right in the future.  Both of us had grown up with cats in the household, so when we moved away from home into an apartment complex that refused pets, it was a shock to our systems.  We could see our cats in pictures, visit them after a four hour drive, but could not bring them with us or even adopt new ones.

Neither of us regretted the apartment we lived in when first moving to Ohio.  It was a spacious two-bedroom, two bathroom, ground floor with a nice large patio and space for me to plant.  It overlooked a beautiful pond that always had ducks floating around on it, and it was a short walking distance to the pool.  The only times we really wished we had cats in our lives during that time was when it got super cold outside, and when we'd occasionally see a stray running around outside chasing the mice and voles our bird feeder encouraged up to the building.

Then our neighbors moved upstairs and in came the loudest couple we'd ever encountered.  They'd yell and fight all hours of the night.  We were never quite sure what their problem was, but then the neighbor beside us moved and in came a hoarder.  In came the mice too.  Up came our lease and out we went into our new home on the other side of town.

We spent about a month repainting everything, cleaning carpets and putting in new appliances.  Washed windows, hung shades and curtains, moved in a few weeks before we were even due out of the apartment.  Spring was just starting to arrive when we said goodbye to our first home in a new state.

I promised myself that I wouldn't ask for a cat until my birthday in June.  I really only made it until about April before I was begging for a cat.  We went to every shelter, Humane Society and pet store in the area.    I wanted that beautiful fuzzy grey ball of a kitten at the pet store where they kept cats from local shelters.  I filled out that form with my heart beating heavily and we waited.  We visited that little ball of fur every few days thinking we'd get a phone call.  Nothing ever came.  My husband called the shelter.  "Oh, that one was adopted already.  Did you submit a form?"

Heartbroken, I found out the big box pet store had never even faxed in the form for the kitten, instead losing it in the shuffle somewhere.

Almost the very next day we were at the Humane Society.  We had only fifteen minutes to look around before they closed for the day.  I raced in, heart pounding again, this time we'd find one, I knew somewhere deep down.  Right in the front display were kittens.  I didn't want an older cat, although I had thought about it a few times, and was just about to settle for one we saw the week before if she was still in her cage...  I rushed in, not even asking to open the display door, and immediately this little gray ball of fluff ran right over to me and I scooped her up.

"Yata!"  I proclaimed, and even though neither I nor my husband are Japanese, we both knew the "We did it!" proclamation.  We retired into one of the play rooms and she skittered around the floor chasing after balls and fuzzy things like a pro.  She calmed down when I held her in my arms, and my husband ran out at the closing call to grab the adoption forms while I held my kitten in my arms unwilling to let anyone else even see her until I knew she was mine.

Olivia was brought home April 29, 2011.

Olivia was princess of the household for six months all by herself.  We followed a routine of getting up first thing in the morning, running downstairs to play with her for ten or fifteen minutes.  Then she'd eat, then she'd ask to play again.  She asked constantly.  She loves playing with humans.  She would play with herself from time to time, but more than likely, she'd run over and run back to wherever it was we were keeping her toy that week until we finally followed and started to play with her.  It was, quite frankly, pretty exhausting.

Our little ball of fur, however, had very few quirks.  She liked to climb under cabinets, and up on things.  She liked to explore and loved anything new.  She still does.  Most cats like routine, she likes new.  She likes to play the game of "cleaning the house" or laying on new laundry.  She has a strange obsessions with yowling at us as we've gotten out of the shower.  If you bring a new box into the house she'll want in that one rather than the five others she has around the house.

So, we thought a few months later, maybe she would like a new kitten.  But only after we had finished up our convention that year, since it took up a lot of our Olivia play time as it was.  And strangely enough, even after I had just had a conversation with my husband that we would wait until one just sort of 'showed up', the week after the convention took place a co-worker told me she had found a kitten and would we want to adopt her?

Mina was brought home on October 15, 2011.  The vet, at the time, said she was probably born sometime around June, and thus would have some time before she could be spayed.  Okay, thought I, we'll let her settle into the routine and then get it done in another month.  Only we found out in November that she'd already gone into heat, putting her closer to six months of age at that time.  Strangely enough, our daughters were only a few months apart.

Our new black cat with the semi-long fur that resembled a "Chantilly/Tiffany" cat to nearly a 't', was full of affection and curiosity.  She didn't like being picked up, and she'd make it known by a deep, blood curdling growl.  But otherwise, she was quiet and she liked to sit on your lap.  Loved to purr and wanted attention all the time.

Olivia hated it.

She didn't, I should clarify, hate Mina.  She was curious about Mina, sniffing her any time she could and wanting to be near this strange creature at all hours.  She kept an eye on her.  I sometimes think that Olivia didn't know she was of the same species.  Mina would growl and hiss and act very catlike to our spoiled princess, but Olivia didn't know any better.

What Olivia hated, was the fact that this new, what-ever-it-was swooped in and played during her play times.  She didn't get a chance to go after the feather on the string or the little mice we'd throw about.  Olivia didn't get a chance with all of the tassels and balls and spinning things because the moment any of them would come out, Mina would be on them instantly.

Eventually Olivia stopped playing all together.  We could sometimes lock her up in a room by herself to play for short bursts, but eventually she started looking for Mina even in a locked room.  And forget about the old toys, because those didn't hold her attention at all.  Only something new would do.  So we bought a laser pointer.

It was with the advent of the little red dot that both cats would play at the same time.  Olivia would find herself so intrigued by this strangely elusive fly that she would completely forget about Mina.  It worked for awhile until the battery wore out and the cats couldn't see the dot anymore.  Even when we replaced the thing, Olivia had then realized it was an 'old toy' and only Mina would go after the mysterious bug.

If we zip forward to today, things are still fairly similar.  Olivia doesn't like to play when Mina does.  But she has gotten into the habit of asking again.  Mina learned to meow like Olivia, but she does it for generally more odd requests than food and play.  She likes to bring us "hazardous-things-to-step-on".  She totes it from the basement or some corner of the house, sets it down on the floor in the living room and goes, "Meep!"  To which we rush over thinking she's going to swallow it and realize it's a piece of broken mirror.  Or maybe it's a shard of cement.  Today, for example, it was a very sharp wood screw.  I have no clue where she got this screw, but it was her most recent find and she received a treat in return.

Mina doesn't like jumping very much.  She's not exactly a heavy-weight but she does have rather short legs.  She shakes as she goes up the cat tree, and she's never attempted to get up on a countertop, and I sometimes doubt that even if she wanted to jump straight up onto the bed that she would be able to without the aid of the wicker trunk that sits at the end. She makes up for the short legs with big ears.  Those ears can hear us coming from a mile away and she's always there at the door to greet us home.  Or they're causing her to run in fear from a thunderstorm and send her hiding beneath the television cabinet.

Olivia, on the other hand, has small ears and long legs.  She's hurt herself a few times jumping up too high, but we've found her up in the basement ceiling on occasions, or on top of the kitchen cabinets near the ceiling, oftentimes confusing us as to how she even got up there.  But a loud noise doesn't affect her at the least.  She'll follow the vacuum cleaner around, brave the sound of the loudest train or thunderstorm, and barely flinch when I clap at her for scratching up the furniture.

My two fuzzy "daughters" bring me joy every single day.  I do understand sometimes how people get so caught up in animals they tend to forget about humans.  I'm not like that, don't get me wrong, but I also don't have an inclination to go out and have young humans around me for extended periods of  time either.  I wouldn't carry them around or dress them up or treat them like people.  Well, except of course for talking to them when they are around and of course scolding them like they would actually understand what was coming out of my mouth.  It would be nice, but I know deep down they don't completely comprehend what I'm saying.

And most recently I've worried about what adding a third child to the mix would do to this family unit.  My mother of course, would like it to be a human child, of course, and so would the in-laws.  But there's a slight possibility of a new kitten being added to the mix in another month or so, and yet for some reason I'm hesitant.  I'm sure we would settle into a new routine, maybe the girls would find a common ground and maybe some of them would become buddies.  Who knows?  But what would happen to Mina's constant begging of human food?  Or Olivia's demanding play at certain times of the day?  What would adding another litter box to the basement do for the smell?  And what about cleanup?

I suppose I won't know until it happens.  And if it does, Lord willing, we'll be able handle it.  Why did I even want to add a third to the mix?  I'm not even sure now, so I suppose we shall have to wait to see.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Fever

Today I'm simply going to ramble.  That's it.  If you don't want to read the idle ramblings of a 30-something, then don't read it.  That's it.  I'm telling you, you probably aren't going to be interested.


Now, for the rest of which, I mean, me, and maybe some random stalker I have out there, I have Spring Fever.

In fact, I think it's worse than that, I have an actual fever, but that's probably due to the cold that my husband gave me and the drastic weather changes that we keep getting every week here in the wonderful Buckeye state.  Don't get me wrong, I really like this state.  I moved down here from 'ye ol' state up north" that's shaped like a mitten, and if that state were in the same condition job wise and such I'd love to be there.  I miss the green.  No, I don't miss the ever present cold that is usually there, but I do miss being in my Mom's backyard where there's actual trees and stuff.  Mind you there's trees here, but only if I plant them.  Up there they seem to just appear wherever you look.

Anyway, I did say I was going to ramble, didn't I?  I miss the sunshine and it actually being warm enough to be out in it.  And I miss planting things and I haven't even had the motivation to start seedlings this year because I just haven't felt up to it.  I've been sick three times this winter so far, four if you count the bladder infection that keeps popping up from time to time.  That's my own fault, I don't drink enough actual water.

Who does nowadays anyway?  I have a friend who doesn't drink soda.  He's skinny.  I'd like to be skinny.  I'm addicted to Coca-Cola.  I'm sorry.  Blame my father.  I like coffee too.  Blame my mother.  I don't think either of them will care, I don't blame them exactly, I know it's happening and don't do anything to stop it.

The problem with this feeling of lethargy and spring fever is that I just feel depressed.  I go to work and I want to do stuff.  There's LOTS to do.  I have time to do it and I should have the motivation, but then I look outside, and think about how tired I am, and I just want to go home.  It's not work's fault, it's my own depression seeping in and the fact that I don't feel like I'm putting my best foot forward.  I know how I feel when I'm up to snuff, and especially this week, I have not felt that way.

I'm not going to complain today about my lack of friends.  I have friends.  I'm not going to say that I want to hang out with people more because, well, I've been hanging out with people at least once a week for the last month (except maybe this week since we were all sick) so it's been a nice change of pace.  What I will complain about is that I never give myself enough time to get caught up on everything I'm supposed to be doing, or would like to be doing.  I make time for my husband, for my pets, for chores, for work, for reading , blogs, videogames and friends, but not for things I have on my back burner.  I have things to do for the convention I help run and except for a brief spell two days ago, I really haven't touched anything to do with that, and I know there's lots I should be doing.

So...there.  There's my ramblings.  My husband just came home from work so I suppose I will say hi to him and post this!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cats in Closeup

If you've never been to my house (which, most likely you haven't) you'd notice that I decorate with a lot of cats.  I've got cat figures, cat pictures, cat lithographs, cat statues, cat frames...well, you get the  idea.  Point being, my favorite display of cats in my house are the photographs I have taken of my own cats.

If you have multiple cats like I do (or dogs, I suppose heh heh) and you want an instant conversation piece, think about displaying pictures of them in similar frames together on the wall or on a bookshelf somewhere.  Closeups of our furry friends are very beautiful, and even though they might be a bit difficult to get at first, the final product is extremely satisfying.

Photographing cats can either be extremely easy (if they love to lay in the sunshine and sleep) or extremely difficult (if they're in constant motion and like to hide).  So it's always a challenge when it comes to getting that perfect portrait of your favorite cat in the household.

My first cat photograph was of my Mom's cat, Alex when he was around 8 years old.  Alex is now around 14 years of age, but still plays around like he's a kitten.  Thankfully, even though this striped tabby is in constant motion (especially when he spots a wrist strap on a camera like he did in this photo) he also loves to sleep in sunny spots.  The different stripes and gradations of his fur, and his beautiful yellow-green eyes pick up the light for just about any photo I've taken of him.

The second photo of Alex shown here was taken this Christmas when he was going on 14 (as of January 6th or thereabouts).  The camera has changed, but Alex still has always taken to having his photo taken and will usually give you a fair number of opportunities for a good shot to be taken.  If you have a cat like this, you're lucky!
The second cat I photographed was my Neo.  He's been deceased now for about three years, but I still have his photograph on my wall because he was a dear, sweet pet and an awesome companion.  Neo also loved to sleep in the sun, but because he had deep dark brown fur (you'd call him black normally, but with all "black" cats they very rarely have actual black fur, it's usually very deep brown), it was hard to get a good shot of him.  Dark animals such as Neo should be photographed when they're in good lighting and you have to be patient for a good photograph of them at times.  You'll see what I mean later when I show you a picture of my other black cat, Mina.

Obviously, lighter colored cats, cats with stripes, etc, all pose their own specific challenges when taking photographs.  Take my husband's parent's cat, Maggie, for example.  Maggie can have her picture taken in sun or shade (as you can see here, slight shade is preferable since sun tends to make her washed out), however, Maggie is an ornery cuss.  You wouldn't know it by this photo, but the next day she swiped me across the face with her claws because I leaned too close to her to look at her without my contacts and she didn't like me looking at her 'funny'.

But closeups don't have to be close, as long as they are clear and have an obvious subject.  Don't aggravate your animal too much when taking photos either.  If they're starting to get irritated, stop, wait for another day and try it again.  Maggie, for example, will start to growl and swipe if you try too many times.  I've spent many trips to my In-Laws trying to get another good shot of her without much luck.  In my last attempt she started to give me 'crazy eyes' maybe next time!

Obviously lighting makes a big difference in photographs you take of your animals.  A nice sunny day will probably produce better results than a a shady one.  But we won't go into it too much because I'm not a professional photographer, I'm just a novice who likes to take pictures of cats.  So, if you aren't happy with a particular picture, wait until you get one that you're really happy with before hanging it on your wall!

Olivia is my first cat in my new home.  She is solid gray with light yellow-green eyes.  She photographs extremely well when she's sitting still.  In this shot she was in her cat tower watching for birds out the window.  I'd recommend getting a bird feeder if you want good shots of your cats being still.  There is nothing like a cat holding still to try and pounce on a bird that can get you a good opportunity for photographing them!  They'll hold still in sunshine for minutes on end, and even if you irritate them a bit with your constant nagging with the camera, they'll tolerate it to get a chance at that next bird!
As I mentioned before, cat photography doesn't have to be close up.  The idea though, is to capture a moment that really defines your cat's 'essence'.  Okay, this probably sounds stupid, but what does your cat (or dog, this works for both I swear) like to do most?  Do they lay around or do they catch frisbees?  Do they scratch up chairs or roll around on the floor a lot?  Catching them in their natural state might be difficult without a good action shot camera, but give it a try.  It might take a good many photos to capture them in that 'just right' moment, but it can be done, and it's worth it.  Especially in the age of digital cameras, just snap and delete away until you get just that moment of awesomeness.  The photo of Olivia on her stand was one of these special moments for me because she reminds me most of "Happy Cat" in it.

Now, lastly, the hard pet to capture a photo of.  You'd think a cat that likes to lay around like this would be easy to take a picture of, right?  Throw in the fact that the moment the camera comes out, Mina is running around after the camera cord, or she's running off to plop down somewhere else, or if you get near her near the door while bird watching she's off to see something else...well, this is where that patience I was talking about with Maggie comes in.  You can have a loving, adorable pet who will come right up to you in numerous situations, they can get right up there in your face, and yet, you can't take a clear picture of them if your life depended on it!

Mina is definitely THAT pet.  My husband and I used to joke when we first got her as we'd show each other photographs of spaces of empty floor, "this was where Mina should have been, but she moved."  Or "this is a picture of Mina's ear" or "here's her tail".  Yeah, you get the picture.  If you have a cat who likes to hide a lot, I'm sure you know the feeling.  You might love them to pieces, but sometimes you just want to glue them down!

Even when Mina is sitting in the sunshine, she's extremely hard to photograph.  As you can see by this photo, she's different than my first cat Neo because her hair tends more toward black/white/gray than it does brown.  Her 'mane' or ruffle around her neck is a bit more brown, but she has little white hairs throughout her body and if you pull out her tuffs they're a dark gray rather than brown.  It makes for very difficult photographing.  As you can see by these photos, I'm still trying to get that perfect shot of her.  However, I did give up just recently and use the bottom photo as one I have on my wall.

Try it for yourself.  Especially if you are a pet lover like me.  Make your own calendar, send out picture cards, etc.  Just... don't take pictures of them in hats or clothing.  PLEASE.  And the reason I say this isn't because I'm against dressing up animals.  I've done my share over the years too.  No, it's mostly because, just as with humans, certain styles of clothing will date a photo more than anything else.  Capturing an animal the way they are most of the time around the house, that will make a better artistic display than putting a hat and cape on your dog.  (Unless they're a shi tzu and they're always wearing a bow to keep their hair out of the eyes...then well, maybe.)  You may not believe me, but try to trust me on this one, you'll be happy if you do.

Feel free to send me your own cat/dog photos.  I'd love to see your closeups too!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Coffee Snob

I don't have licenses to any of the stuff you see in the right...I just wanted to show off my "coffee counter".  I'm not a huge coffee snob by any means, and I don't have to have the cup of joe every single day either.  It's just nice sometimes to have a cup now and again and it helped when my mother in law gifted us the Keurig a few years back.

At the time of the Keurig, I really didn't think it was going to catch on like it did.  Having to use one little disposable cup per cup of coffee?  Specialized machine?  And it's how expensive to buy a box and a machine?  Well, it certainly did kick off another world of coffee making devices, and this one is one of the earliest machines that came out.  It's still working fabulously, sans an occasional bad k-cup, but otherwise I can have a cup of coffee in less than five minutes if my heart desires it, so it's grown on me.

For those of you in the "coffee club" and perhaps also a member of the "sci-fi" club, you'll recognize the little worm from MIB (in this case it's a bobble from the trilogy BD set) drinking his cup of joe.  I really thought it was a fitting addition to the coffee counter.  They never really went far with the worms on the movie.  The first movie they were pouring coffee, then leaving the planet with smokes and that was it.  Second movie the princess ended up staying with them awhile, but no coffee.  The third they were around a bit but not all that important.  What's funny though, is that if you're like me, you'll remember them having a much stronger 'coffee presence' at one point or another, and that came from the MIB cartoon series that was on for quite awhile.  The worms were almost always drinking coffee (probably because their other vices, cigarettes and alcohol weren't allowed on a children's cartoon) so if you ever caught that series you'll know what I'm talking about.

My history with the coffee cup began at an early age.  I know my mom always loved to drink her coffee, and I'm not sure when I first started to be able to order my own cup of it in the mornings.  It was pretty early, because I do remember on the first day of Junior High, I remarked to my mom that I would like to start having coffee in the morning because I had to get up so much earlier than I used to in Elementary school.  So it was probably around 12 or 13 when I first started having coffee fairly regularly.  I even introduced a JH buddy to it at her Dad's birthday party by showing her how to mix up a good cup using cream and sugar.  At that point she was mostly into Moon Mist and other caffeinated soft drinks.

Coffee was a fairly boring thing though until I reached about college age.  I used to call where I lived "The Town Starbucks Forgot" because it wasn't until after college we got our first real, stand-alone store.  Before that point we had to go probably an hour's drive to visit a Starbucks, and even though there was a little kiosk in a local Hudson's (later bought by Macy's, basically the same store) it really wasn't the same.  There was a couple of fancy coffee places around town, one was "The Coffee Beanery" which I didn't realize until later was actually a chain.  It had perched itself next to a bookstore called "Young and Welshen's" in town and eventually they even opened a doorway between the two so you could have coffee and books.  But I never really partook in that until a few years later when Border's opened across the street, driving that chain closed and then moving the "Beanery" down the street into the mall.

HOWEVER...don't mistake me, even with these coffee options available, I was a poor college student who was working as many hours as I could and paying my way through.  Most of my money went to the cheap vending machine cappuccinos and lattes.

A friend of mine whom I met online introduced me to my first freshly ground, brewed through a natural filter, real cream, real sugar, in a pretty little coffee cup.  It tasted so completely different than the Folger's and Maxwell house I'd pretty much grown up with that it was a special treat every time I had it.  And even now, to this day, I can't quite copy the supreme coffee mastery she had, even grinding my own beans and using all of the same ingredients.  She had a touch with the ordinary cup of coffee.

Fast forward years later when I first moved in with my soon to be husband.  He drank tea.  He wouldn't touch coffee until I got him to taste a sip of mocha here and there.  And even then he'd never actually drink an ordinary cup of coffee.  But then came the Keurig.  Then came the coffee grinder and the Starbucks cards and the Caribou Coffee and the local Stauf's.  I actually think it was the local Stauf's that was the final nail on the coffin for him.  Most specifically the "Highlander Grog" and "Snickerdoodle".  When he found out you can flavor coffee before you even brew it, and it doesn't taste as much like coffee...I think that did it.

Since then we've both become low-level coffee snobs.  We won't drink the extremely cheap stuff and we both like to grind our own.  We have Keurig for when we're too lazy to do it.  Heh heh.  Coffee left on a burner for hours?  NO.  Coffee made from something out of a can... Most likely no, unless it's freshly opened.  Gas station coffee?  No way!  And we're both gold card members for Starbucks...'s that bad.