March 31, 2012

Room Cleaning; Dream Fling; Credit Card Fraud

Yesterday I had William work on his disastrous room for awhile. It's a room he shares with Henry, but the mess was pretty much ALL HIS. I set what I considered reasonable goals: "I need to be able to walk to your bureau to put away your laundry, and I'd like to be able to walk to your closet to get out your next-size-up clothes." I was so pleased with the results: he made a large difference, bringing his room from "It looks like people stood in the doorway and threw trash into this room" to "This is a messy child's room."

Then I emptied his trash can. There were BOOKS in there. COINS. Clothespins and combs and hangers and SOCKS. It was not QUITE that he just picked up everything indiscriminately and put it into the trash, but it was CLOSE to that.


I had a dream the night before last that I had a romantic fling with a friend's husband. This dream is sticking with me in two ways: (1) I feel stressed, as if I DID have a fling or had at least thought about one; (2) he seems cuter to me now.


A month ago there was a fraudulent charge on our credit card, and the credit card company closed our account. It was a big mess: we had things set up to auto-pay, and we had things where we'd authorized a charge but the payment hadn't been charged yet, and we had returns in the mail, and we had things we hadn't even remembered were set up to automatically renew/charge, and so forth. We still don't have it straightened out, since some of our auto-pay things (1) wouldn't let us change the card but then (2) automatically took off the auto-pay when it hit a non-useable credit card number and (3) didn't say so, so we got these "PAST DUE PLEASE PAY NOW OR ACTION WILL BE TAKEN" notices. Because when a card doesn't work, it's obvious that a customer who has paid early every month for ten years has turned to a life of crime.


This morning the credit card company called AGAIN, to say there's been ANOTHER fraudulent charge and they were closing our account AGAIN. I started CRYING to the guy on the phone, because it's just so DISCOURAGING and so FRUSTRATING. I asked whether there was any OTHER option---do we really have to do this AGAIN? Sorry, no other option. I asked how we could prevent this, and he said by only using the card with companies we trust. ORLY. Thanks for the HOT TIP. I'll stop giving it to any old place that asks me for it, then! Well, but it wasn't that bad: he did say it in the context of "That's all I can say, because it's not a question even I, a credit card fraud specialist, can answer." He was sympathetic, but what I wanted was something more like "Here is the answer: don't use it for Company X anymore, because they have a bad employee who's stealing card numbers."

March 29, 2012


Having cat-related death thoughts lingering at the top of the page makes it look as if that is still my current frame of mind, and partly it is, but it's more that (1) I got the new Stephen King (11/22/63), and (2) Henry is sick with something that means he wants to sit on my lap and read books / play video games / talk about fighting imaginary monsters all day long, which is par for the course except that he's too sick to go to preschool or my mom's house so there goes the time I usually blog.

So. We all continue to be sad about Benchley, but some of the "I HAVE HAD A GLIMPSE THROUGH THE CRACKS OF THIS DAILY FACADE INTO THE UNFATHOMABLE DEPTHS BELOW" feeling has faded. Plus, we are coming up on Kitten Season, and we are planning to place a soft furry kitten bandage on the Benchley-death owie, so the anticipation of that is helping as well.

I am anticipating it with somewhat less joy than the children are, because in my experience kittens are darling little pains in the tail/pocketbook, and pre-trained/vaccinated/fixed adult cats are where it is. But the children have never had a kitten and will love everything I dislike (wild careening! skidding across countertops, knocking everything in their path to the floor! racing right up my standing body!), and the kitten will be a cat soon enough, and in the meantime I can enjoy the cuteness of a kitten as much as the next person, so it won't be all bad.

Hm. It seems a little tactless to be talking about kittens so soon. Well, I don't think I would be if it weren't for how the idea of it seems to cheer the children, and also because of how lonely our other cat seems: she walks around, looks out the window, sits mopily in my lap, walks around a little more. She's good with people, but she's a cat's cat and always preferred to hang out with Benchley. Without these factors, I think I would be more at the "Why bother to get a new pet, when it will ONLY DIE???" stage still.

March 26, 2012

Cat-Inspired Thoughts on Death (Good Morning!)

I keep mentally composing more posts about Benchley's sad end, but not wanting to seem as if I don't have this in perspective. That is, I can think of many, many life circumstances I could have endured that would make me want to shake someone who was going on and on about a cat.

This, though, is the perfect place for the Hopkins couplet carefully learned in high school English class: "It is the blight man was born for, / It is Margaret you mourn for." If you daydreamed about cute classmates through that class instead (and who could blame you with all the twisty poem phrasings to untwist), the poet is telling Margaret that when she's sad about things dying/ending, what she's actually sad about is her own eventual unavoidable death.

It's not that the death of a cat is so extremely terrible on the spectrum of terrible things, it's more that it can bring to the forefront of the mind all those things further up on the spectrum. So it's that I'm sad because our cat died, but it's also that I'm horrified to realize that DEATH IS REAL, IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS, IT WILL HAPPEN TO ALL OF US AND IT MIGHT NOT BE A PEACEFUL OLD-AGE DEATHBED SCENE EITHER BECAUSE TERRIBLE DEATHS HAPPEN ALL THE TIME. I know this already, but it sits on the surface of my mind like oil on the top of water: it's RIGHT THERE, but it never sinks in.

It's been large-application horrifying to realize how many death-related thoughts end in "Well, but at this point it's irrelevant." My worst fear is that Benchley was injured but not killed by the car, and then died because we didn't find him in time---maybe after quite a long time of lying there suffering. It's newly startling to me each time to work through that chain of upsetting thoughts and run right into "But at this point, it's irrelevant. Either way, it's over."

It's a comfort in some ways (he and others are not suffering NOW, even if he and they suffered THEN), but a horror in other ways: THERE IS NO GOING BACK, EVEN IF A DIFFERENT PATH WOULD HAVE COME OUT DIFFERENTLY. And this happens with so many things: every thought path where things could have gone a different way (if he'd happened to take a longer nap before going out, if the car had seen him in time, if the car had left one minute earlier or later that day, if we'd been on the scene when it happened, if our cat Feather could have communicated to us where he was) or where there is an objection to his death (but he was so young/healthy/strong, but he was so scared of the road and didn't go near it, but it was so much more likely that he was just trapped somewhere, but I didn't expect it, but it was just an ACCIDENT)---ALL of them end the same way, with irrelevance. It still did happen the way it did happen; he is still dead.

The way the body lingers awhile seems crazy. When we found Benchley, he looked like himself. There was his fur, still glossy and plush and familiar. There was his ear, still a thin triangle with a fluff of fur inside. There were his whiskers, still sticking straight out. There was his tail, fluffy as usual. It's hard to accept it: we look at a body, and our eyes/brains are telling us two different things simultaneously: "There he is" and "No, he isn't." Instead the body should vanish, or turn instantly to dust like a staked vampire on Buffy. The slower route is horrifying and comforting, showing us that the same materials just cycle around endlessly, that nature is busy all the time taking care of it. But the sudden disintegration would make more sense.

While not wanting to reduce a pet's existence to "being something that makes a person go 'hmmm'," I can see how one of the many good things about having pets (let's save the many bad things, such as peeing on things and needing expensive medical care, for a less emotionally vulnerable time) is that they provide us with opportunities to get used to...well, to Margaret. Or to an important relative of Margaret's. As a parent, I've been finding it tremendously helpful to have this chance to explain things I hadn't realized the kids were wondering, or to correct things I hadn't realized they'd thought. And to give them as gently and lightly as possible their first exposures to a message we all need to understand but that I don't want to tell them: "This happens to everything. (This will happen to you.)"

March 24, 2012

Sad Cat Update

I'm afraid we found Benchley's body, in a large dense shrub in our yard. I'd looked there once already, but he's only visible from one angle, and his fur is the same color as the brown leaves under there. We looked again this afternoon after seeing our other cat hanging around that area.

The most likely is that he was hit by a car, but we had trouble getting close enough to the body to see. I mean, we were able to confirm he was dead, but I think he's been there since Monday/Tuesday so we didn't want to...... Anyway.

We're all sad, of course, but the children are resilient:

Me, weepily/carefully: "*sad news*"
Them: "*sad*...*pause*...Can we get a new cat?"

He was a very nice cat, so I'm sad---but more than that, I feel so grateful to KNOW.

March 22, 2012

Missing Cat Stress

It took awhile for us to realize our cat Benchley was missing: he's indoor-outdoor (microchipped and collar-tagged), and in nicer weather he's outdoors a LOT. He was originally a street cat the shelter felt could be domesticated, so we went into it knowing he was more wild than usual---but he's adapted very nicely to home life. He jumps onto laps, he purrs and snuggles, he likes to be scritched, he likes having a food dish available.

He likes snuggling tum-up.

But now we haven't seen him in at least two full days, and William says it's two and a half: I'd been counting from the last time William saw him, which I'd thought he'd said was Tuesday morning, but William says it was Monday night. Benchley often goes out for a long time, but he always comes in to eat.

The first fear with an indoor-outdoor cat is that he's been hit by a car, but Benchley gave me scars the one time I carried him in the direction of the road. Accepting the possibility of a car-hit is part of the complicated decision involved in choosing to let a cat go outside, but I think the statistical chance in this particular cat's case is low: he had a childhood on the streets, as it were, and he continues to be extremely careful with roads.

The most likely with this particular cat, I think, is that he was being a Furry McNosyBritches and went into someone's garage or shed, and has gotten closed in. We had a little problem with our neighbor back when we first got Benchley, because not only would he visit their yard, he would walk confidently right into their house and be difficult to remove. That issue was resolved with the consistent application of spritz bottles, but it doesn't mean he hasn't gone somewhere else. He's also curious and brave and kind of dim, so he's the sort of cat I can picture ending up in the inner workings of a wall or something.

My biggest fear is that he is somewhere we COULD have found/saved him, but that we won't think of it until it's too late. (Well, and after reading Marie's neighbor story, I'm also worried about that.) I'm remembering when Paul and I first moved in to one of our apartments, and we couldn't find one of our cats anywhere, and he turned out to be wedged in a corner behind the water heater, completely vertical and upside-down. I would have expected him to yowl or meow or make scrabbling sounds, but he hadn't at all: when we found him, he was absolutely still and wide-eyed, and didn't make a sound until I had to pull him out of there by his tail. (I called a vet first to ask for extraction advice, and that was what she recommended. It felt very Odd and Wrong to do it, and/but it totally worked.)

But I'm also remembering when our new kitten was missing, and I was repeatedly and senselessly searching the house and then agitating about it on Twitter, and someone said her new kitten was lost once and they found her in a drawer. And I called the kids, and we went around opening drawers, and THERE WAS THE KITTEN, IN A DRAWER. It was like MAGIC. So I'm hoping if you have a "We thought there was no point looking there, but THERE HE WAS!!" cat story, you'll share it.

I would also welcome stories of cats turning up a week (or whatever) later.

March 20, 2012

Elegies for the Brokenhearted, by Christie Hodgen (with Book Giveway)

I hated Elegies for the Brokenhearted immediately, on the very first page. So I can't really explain why I persisted with it, since I don't strongly enforce my "give it 30 pages before giving up" policy in such cases, but I DID persist, and soon loved it so much I was skipping computer time to read it, and snapping irritably at children who interrupted me, and thinking about the characters while making dinner.

(photo from

I can't explain why it worked for me. It has so many things I dislike in a book, starting right away with being written in the second-person singular ("You were such-and-such," "Your father was so-and-so," etc.). The second major issue was that it was in the form of letters to people. (Though this is the very thing that helped with the first issue: I hate being told that _I_ did something I DIDN'T do---but clearly she was talking to someone else.) The third major issue was that the narrator was the dreamy drifter type, which I don't usually find appealing. The fourth major issue was the prose style: two pages in, I said to myself snidely, "A hundred bucks says the word 'lyrical' will be used on the cover." (I won that bet.) The fifth major issue was that it fed right into my mid-life crisis: "WE ALL LIVE MISERABLE POINTLESS SELF-DECEIVING LIVES, AND THEN WE DIEEEEEEEEEEE."

Nevertheless, I loved it. LOVED IT. It took me more than a dozen pages to hit my stride with it, and with each new section (there are five sections, each addressed to a different person) it took a few pages again. The narrator is addressing each of five people in her life who have died; after the first one, I started putting my hand over the birth/death dates at the beginning of each section, because I didn't want the clue of how old the person had been at death.

Normally I struggle with short stories because I get upset when they're over (I like series best: MORE than a whole book, not LESS). This is sort of like short stories because it's five separate "You"s she's writing to, but it's actually a novel: in the background of each person she's writing to, she's writing about how her own life went, and the stories start to tie together. I love stuff like that, where you gradually piece together a bunch of things. I was tempted to start again at the beginning, so that I could fit those earlier parts into the parts I'd patched together since then.

Our library system also has Hello, I Must Be Going by the same author, so I've put in a request for it. (That's a test, for me, of a good book: do I immediately seek out other books by the same author? And in this case I'd barely closed the book before I was at my computer.) If I like that one too, I'll probably order a copy of her third book (A Jeweler's Eye for Flaw) and donate it.


Speaking of donating, I have some ad revenue to spend, and I like the idea of using it to make you read something I liked. So I'll buy a paperback copy of this book for one person who wants to try it. I always feel awkward about leaving a comment on a post when I wanted to comment on the content but I DON'T want to enter the giveaway, so let's do it like this: I'll choose one random winner from all comments that MENTION wanting to win a copy. I'll pick someone on Friday the 23rd, probably in the morning sometime.

[Edit 03-23-2012: Winner is StephLove!]

March 16, 2012

OMG JUST HIDE HER ALREADY; The Cazalet Chronicles

I need to just hide all of Paul's sister's Facebook posts. Pretty much every single thing she says gets me riled up---and then she makes it worse by interlacing such posts with posts about how no one has any common sense and she's surrounded by stupid irrational people who can't think. Obviously I just need to hide her. Obviously. But I have that unpleasant ADDICTED feeling, like I almost WANT to get riled up because it justifies my dislike of her---even though every time I DO read a post, I wish I wasn't spending so much time mentally arguing with it afterward. I don't know, as I write that out it just sounds really dumb, and really obvious what the correct path is. Obviously I should hide her. I'm going to do it right now. Right now. Right after this. I just want to check one more time to see if she has some new inflammatory thing to say about politics and/or religion and/or other people's mental powers relative to her own. ...Okay, I hid her. Thanks for talking me through that.


I would now find it very refreshing to see some engagement/wedding photos that were just two people facing the camera and smiling. (I don't mean I don't ALSO want the other kinds, which are also good. But fancy stops looking fancy when everything is fancy.)


Rob has those tiny rubber bands on his braces now. I had forgotten from my own experience how those end up EV.ER.Y.WHERE.


I just finished The Cazalet Chronicles, a series of four books by Elizabeth Jane Howard. And because I go nuts when I want to read a series and can't figure out which one is FIRST, please just tell me which one is FIRST, OMG WHY IS THERE NOTHING SAYING WHICH ONE IS FIRST???, I will tell you which one is first: The Light Years (careful: there are a bunch of other books with the same name). I don't know what is up with the high price---$25 for a PAPERBACK?? I'd buy one of the used copies for $4 (1 cent plus $3.99 shipping, but I feel more sane if I think of it as $4 with free shipping). Or, I would get it from the library, which is what I did in fact do. The next three are, in order: Marking Time, Confusion, and Casting Off.

I haven't seen Downton Abbey yet (I like to wait until a series is over, so I can watch it straight through and don't have to wait for the next season), but these books sound exactly like everything I hear about Downton Abbey. World War II era family drama with many, many sub-stories. Anything described as "_____-era" makes me feel automatically weary and bored, but most of the issues are non-time-period-related: jobs, affairs, the various ways marriages work or don't work, various kinds of romantic relationships and their outcomes, unexpected pregnancies and their outcomes, sibling relationships in childhood and adulthood, getting something you want and then being happy or unhappy with it, etc. And once I was into it, I really DID find the time-period-related things interesting: the shortages, the rationing/coupons, the various issues involved in having some of the guys in your life off fighting in a war. And it takes place in England, so that makes for a change if you're more accustomed to the United States point of view.

One annoyance was that the author was very fond of starting a new section using pronouns and no names, so that it would take awhile to figure out who was who and what was going on. I hate that. I'd skip ahead each time until I found THE G-D NAMES, and then I'd go back and re-start the section knowing who we were talking about.

There were also a few places where the prose got super tangled and strange for a couple of paragraphs. Unfortunately one of those places is the very first page of the first book. PLOW THROUGH IT. There were also some little cheesy parts here and there, but I found I had a tolerance for it, so perhaps you will find the same thing.

I found it very challenging to keep straight which kids were siblings and which were cousins. I also have trouble when there is, for example, a Rupert and a Richard and a Roland. There's a family tree in the front of each book, but I hate family trees in books because they often include terrible spoilers: "OMG, John is going to marry Ellen?? Harriet is going to have another baby?? AND WHAT IS THIS DEATH DATE FOR ARNOLD!?!?" So. I think if I were reading it again, I might make myself a little chart as I went along, and then I could use it as a bookmark.

I liked the series A LOT, and was very sorry to have it be over. There was a little part at the end that was like the author saying SHE was sorry too, and that made me weepy in a happy way.

March 14, 2012

Inappropriate Jokes; Cat Update; Dream Tattoo; Anemia Update; "Yummy"

My 13-year-old son made a crude "That's what he said" joke. And expected me to find it funny. I need a gagging/cringing/WTF/scowling emoticon.


We got the best update possible about the cat: she was adopted less than 24 hours after we brought her to the shelter, by an older lady who lives alone and wanted a pleasant feline companion. It's such a perfect outcome, it made me a little suspicious: it has that "sent to a farm where he can run and play" sound.


I dreamed last night that I got a tattoo on my THROAT. It was a heart, and below it the words "all i need"---all in lowercase like that. At first I was so happy with it, and I was telling family and friends that I knew it seemed like nothing I'd ever planned, and also wildly impractical for someone who doesn't like turtlenecks or scarves, but that I loved it and was so glad I'd gotten it.

But soon it was like my brain woke up a bit and started engaging with the dream more, and I was thinking, "...Wait. But removing capitals is not my style! And even WITH capitals, what would that phrase...SIGNIFY? And why the heart? Does it tie in to the phrase, or is it separate? And oh man, I'm just going to have to pay for laser removal, aren't I? And now I have that Jack Wagner song going through my head." So then I started saying to friends/family, "I know, I know, I don't know what I was thinking, clearly a mistake, I'm getting it removed." I was relieved to wake up and find I didn't have to pony up the dough for that procedure.


The comments on the anemia post (small increases are good; it can take awhile; some people just sort of struggle their whole lives to keep their iron up even as high as Edward's low) have really helped me feel better about Edward's anemia situation, especially since we just paid another $250 for blood tests that showed us once again a tiny improvement that to me seems insignificant (and worrisome in its insignificance, considering our efforts). The $25/month Floradix didn't work the miracles I was hoping for; now we're trying the $5-for-100 28mg ferrous gluconate tablets.


William complained to me that his art teacher keeps describing everything as "yummy." I told him he could definitely find sympathy on the internet for that.

March 10, 2012

Spring Ahead (Daylight Saving Time) Printout to Avoid the Endless Discussions About Whether It's EARLIER or LATER Right Now

I will tell you what kind of talk sends me immediately to the kind of squirmy rage that makes me want to flail futilely at someone's face: "Wait, it would be FIVE o'clock, but now it's SIX o'clock, so it'll be EASIER....wait, no, HARDER to...wait, no. Okay, it WOULD be five o'clock, but we CHANGED..."

I'm not saying I don't start these very Daylight Savings Time discussions myself: I'm powerless not to, which makes me want to flail at my own face. And then I have to listen to Paul doing them and ALSO correcting me that "actually, it's saving, not savingS," which he's super-lucky hasn't gotten him killed. PLUS, the kids get involved, so there's the added bonus of having these discussions with people who are not understanding the concept at all.

Anyway, this has got to change. (CHANGE. See what I did there?) I'm not going through this again. Well, no, I'm going through it ONE MORE TIME, but this time I'm WRITING IT DOWN. Every time we do that stupid hour-math in the next couple of days and come to an accurate conclusion, I'm writing it down. Next year I will be able to copy this to a word-processing document, increase the font size, print it out, and hang it next to the clock. (Paul tells me I could also make a Google docs document so that ANYONE can print it out. I will work on this, so perhaps when we are looking for this post next year we will find a link to something printable.) (Ha ha, like I'll actually follow through with that.) (I ACTUALLY FOLLOWED THROUGH WITH THAT: Google Docs printout.)

(changing from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time)
("losing an hour")

It will be HARDER to wake up in the morning: you will feel startled and deprived when the alarm goes off, or if you don't have to use the alarm you might wake up startled by how late the clock says it is. If the kids normally wake at 6:00, you may be pleasantly surprised to find them getting up at 7:00. (Maybe. In my experience, children only seem to make the negative adjustments.) Then you'll walk around all day saying, "I don't know WHY I'm so tired when I slept an hour later!" If you have a teenager, he or she may emerge an hour after you would usually expect.

It will be HARDER to go to bed at night: you will feel sleepy later than usual. If you have a small child, you'll be dealing with an hour of perkiness and calling you in, as their little internal clock tells them it's not sleeping time and you tell them it is.

It will be EASIER to wait for meals: you will feel hungry later than usual. The children will not be hungry at lunchtime, and then an hour later you will be saying, "OMG stop whining for food, you JUST HAD lunch. This is why I told you to finish your sandwich." Then you will sneak into the kitchen and have a little nibble because OMG HUNGRY.

It gets light LATER in the morning. This is dreary for waking up, especially since we have been since December gradually getting used to having more light in the mornings, and we will sit sipping our coffee resentfully in the dark.

It gets dark LATER in the evening. This is nice for the evening commute, and for making letting the kids play outside right up until dinnertime.

People who forget to change their clocks will arrive places an hour LATE. If you are having a party on the Sunday of a time change, you should make plans for late arrivers, just in case, and you should put a reminder of the time change on the invitations. If you have an appointment, you may miss it. If you have church, you may arrive just in time for the post-service coffee and doughnuts.

If you want to prepare the children for the change ahead of time, don't bother. Or if you must, you can spend the days before the change waking them up earlier and putting them to bed earlier. And I recommend changing the clocks late afternoon on Saturday, so that the lost hour comes from the kids' pre-bedtime time, rather than their post-bedtime time.

See also: Fall Back (Standard Time)

March 9, 2012

How to Get Rid of the "Click to Look Inside" Arrow

Let's say you would like to refer to a book from Amazon, and you would also like to use-and-properly-credit-of-course the photo. But crap, it has that "Click to Look Inside!" arrow on it. It's not a big deal, don't want it on there, especially since then it looks like the person reading your post could click on the photo to look inside the book, when actually they can't. But even if you take the image to photo-altering software, it's tricky to get the arrow ALL the way off without chopping some of the photo.

This is why you should have married a computer guy. Maybe you didn't, but I did, and he told ME so I can tell YOU how to get rid of the arrow.

Here is how things look at the beginning. There's the book you want a picture of, but it has the arrow on it, like so:

(screen shot from

Hover over the image and right-click the mouse button (if you have that kind of mouse) (if you don't, these instructions will be useless) (unless you know what the equivalent of right-clicking your mouse would be) to bring up the little menu, and select "View Image"---being careful not to click on the search-inside-this-book menu that pops up when you hover over the image of the book:

(screen shot from

This will take you to a big white refreshingly-empty page with just the picture of the book, complete with its Click to Look Inside! arrow. In the URL field, highlight everything between the FIRST comma and the LAST comma:

(screen shot from
(you can click the image to see it larger)

Hit "enter" to make that section disappear and simultaneously activate the new URL. Look: arrowless book picture!

(screen shot from

Right-click this new image and select "Save Image As..." (or your computer's equivalent) as usual.
(screen shot from

There! Done!

(photo from

March 7, 2012

What Will You Do When the Kids are Older?

Now that we are done with the child-bearing part of life, I've been mulling what I'll do next. I have some time before I need to make a decision, but mulling is one of my hobbies.

Based on the employment opportunities in our town, a front-runner possibility is to get a 6-week nursing assistant degree and work in the nursing home. This might be a poor fit for many, many reasons (shift issues, crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat issues, maybe-I'd-just-hate-it issues)---but if so, the investment of time and energy involved in trying it wouldn't be too disheartening; and if it does work out, there's room for getting more training and making a career of it.

Another possibility is to get a job in the school system, so I'd be on the same schedule as the kids until they're all old enough to be at home by themselves.

I am sparing you a list of all the other possibilities, as there are legion, none of which are MORE interesting than those two.

All this mulling has made me interested to know other people's plans. Some of you may be planning to go back to school. Some of you are already working but may be planning to change hours/shifts or change companies or change jobs entirely when there's less little-kid stuff in your lives. Some of you are at home and are planning to go back to established careers. Some of you are at home and already know what you're planning to do next. Some of you are probably like me, mulling the possibilities. Tell me what you're planning/mulling! Or tell what you DID do, if you've gone through this already!

March 6, 2012

What It's Like to Take a Cat Back to the Shelter

I see I left the cat topic hanging. This will be part update, part "Here's what it's like to return a cat to a shelter, in case you have such a thing in your own future," and part "work-arounds for neuroses."

I kept trying to just call the shelter and initiate the process, but my throat would lock up when I picked up the phone. Finally I emailed, even though that wasn't one of the options, and in my opening paragraph I was semi-frank about the situation (so that they wouldn't email back "Sure! Just give us a call to set up an appointment!"): I wrote that I kept trying to call but choked up every time and had trouble organizing my thoughts because of being so self-conscious about the crying, so I hoped it would be okay to at least start the process on email. Recently I've been thinking there are times when I have to just find a way AROUND the phone, even if it's a bulky/awkward way or seems weird/inefficient to other people; even if it DOES seem weird to them, it probably doesn't linger in their minds for long.

Anyway, email WAS fine, and I'd gone into probably far too much detail about the situation in the email so she didn't need to ask any further questions before agreeing that it sounded like returning the cat was the best thing to do. She gave me an appointment: I was lucky they had room so I could have an appointment just a couple of days later (it's a no-kill shelter, so sometimes there's a waiting list or even a long waiting list). She also had me print some forms to fill out about the cat's behavior, habits, litter/food, personality, etc. I filled out the forms right away, and I was glad because then over the next couple of days I kept thinking of things I wanted to add/modify.

She also asked me to bring in a copy of the medical history from the vet, which meant another call. I really agitated about that one (how to open that conversation? how to keep from choking up?), until I thought of the way to say/ask: I called and said that the cat would be going to another home, and so we'd like to send her records with her. That solved two things: (1) my reluctance to say "going back to the shelter" and (2) the difficulty of needing to inform the vet that they no longer needed to send appointment reminders. I think they could have rushed the forms if I'd needed them right away, but again I was glad I didn't wait until the last second: it was a Wednesday, and I said I needed them by Friday afternoon, and she said I could pick them up Thursday morning.

On Friday afternoon I left Henry with my mom. I wasn't sure if it might help to have a child along for company/distraction, or if it would be better not to have to deal with it. I think it would have gone okay either way, as long as I'd prepared him that I was likely to cry. But as it was, it was just me and the cat.

The shelter has a special entrance for drop-offs, and I got confused and went to the wrong one. Which was completely fine: someone just walked me through some interesting back hallways until I was at the right place. Then she asked if I'd already talked to someone, and I said who I'd talked to, and she paged that person---which was very nice, because then I didn't have to tell the story over again and she already knew what the scoop was.

When she arrived, she looked over the paperwork I'd filled out and asked a couple of questions, and then looked over the vet paperwork and asked when the last flea/tick treatment had been (I was glad I'd thought to check so I could answer, but I don't think it would have been a huge deal to have to call her later that afternoon with the information).

I had to sign a form giving up responsibility/rights to the cat. The fee for relinquishing the cat was $45, and there was a little sign suggesting that increasing this amount would help them with their costs. We periodically give donations to this shelter anyway, and the little sign helped with my anxiety that donating more would look like Guilt Money, so I went with $100. (Particularly easy since the last time I'd looked into this, many years ago when a stray found us, the fee for relinquishing was just over $100---so that's what I'd been expecting.)

The shelter worker was very positive and kind and matter-of-fact (non-disapproving) throughout: she said they had had a surprisingly active adoption month in January, but that the kittens wouldn't be cropping up until spring, so their cat area was quite depleted and she thought a nice cat like this one might get snapped right up. In fact she said she was eager to get her "out on the floor" (the cat could go right out because she was up to date on vaccinations and so forth; otherwise they can spend a month or more in quarantine), because the weekends were busy times for people coming to look at animals. She also said it was nice how the cat was purring and chin-rubbing inside the box, obviously unbothered by all the shelter smells and sounds.

She asked if I needed some time to say good-bye to the cat, and that's when I crumpled/choked (while shaking my head no: I made sure to do the final snuggle at home, based on good advice from the comments section on that first post). It was the right time for the tears, though: I hadn't wanted to be sobbing and speechless throughout, but if you imagine this event as taking place in a movie, we would EXPECT the actress to show some emotion at that point, so I wasn't too embarrassed, and in fact I hoped it helped accurately communicate that this wasn't some casual thing to us.

I'd brought her in the same cardboard carrier they gave us when we adopted her, so that was handy too: I could just leave the whole thing behind, and didn't have to remove her in order to get my carrier back.

The shelter worker let me dab my eyes for a minute, and then she said, "Okay, well then I'll get her settled in..." and I knew the official part was over and I could go. I had to walk weepily past several shelter employees outside, but again I wasn't much embarrassed: I'm sure they understand it when the person is leaving through the "Animal Intake" door.

When I got home, I checked the shelter's website, and they already had the cat's profile up. I posted the picture/link on my local Facebook account, hoping a friend or acquaintance would adopt her. The next morning, someone commented that the link didn't work---and I checked and the cat was already gone! I checked several times over the next few days, wondering if maybe they just took the profile down to edit it (they'd put back up the same one she had when we adopted her), but it stayed down.

So it looks like she only spent one night at the shelter, maybe not even one night! I like imagining her in her new house now, luxuriating in how there is no one leaping out to scare her, no one bothering her, no one policing the litter box, maybe several people who like to sit still and pet cats. Assuming she really DID go to a good new home (I have lingering anxiety about her going to another house where things aren't good for her, but that's out of my control so I try to suppress), this really was the right decision. It was a very hard and stressful decision, and the day I had to drop her off was pretty grim, and there were several episodes of last-second panicking, and there was some crying in the car on the way home---but after it was done (and especially after she was re-adopted so quickly), I felt much better, and also felt gladness for her that she wouldn't be suffering at our house anymore, and gladness for our other cats that they could settle down (they've been way happier), and relief that the decision and resulting actions were done with.

March 5, 2012

Suggestion for Facebook: Parental Access

We let Rob get a Facebook account on his 13th birthday. It ended up being a fun way to help mark the day: a 13th birthday felt like it was Special and needed Special Things, but it was hard to think of what those Things might be. Saying "Yes, when you're 13" for a couple of years and then "Okay, YES, today you may!" sure helped. (Facebook doesn't allow people to sign up until age 13 anyway, but many of our local acquaintances have allowed their kids to sign up earlier using a fake birth year, so Rob has been suffering as many of his friends play Facebook games and talk about being Facebook friends.)

We told Rob that we weren't really sure how to handle social media stuff with him and would have to kind of feel our way through it and make changes as we went along. We started by agreeing that one of the conditions of him having a Facebook account was that he had to be Facebook friends with me so that I could snoop around if I wanted to. We dithered with the idea of having his password, and told him we might change to that later if with time we felt like being friends wasn't enough for us to be comfortable.

I wish, though, that Facebook had a different type of friendship link available for parents and their minor children. Being Facebook friends with Rob means that he sees MY status updates in HIS Facebook stream, and neither of us wants that. And also, it doesn't give me the sort of access/control I want: I want to be able to verify that his privacy settings are appropriate, and I don't want him to be able to block or restrict me from seeing what he posts.

The parent-child friendship link I'm imagining would be one-way: the child's status updates and activities would show up in the parent's Facebook stream, but not the other way around. (Or maybe there could be the option to allow it or not allow it, depending on what the particular parent/child combination preferred.) The parent would have certain limited access to the child's settings---to the privacy settings, for example, but not to the friend requesting/accepting areas or the likes/info editing areas. The child account would not be able to block or restrict the parent account. The whole arrangement would disconnect automatically when the child turned 18; at that point, either the parent or the child could make a regular friend request.

It seems like one of the main problems would be how to make sure the person trying to get Parent Access to someone else's account was actually that person's parent/guardian, and I'm not sure how that could be established. Maybe just by the usual Facebook request format: "X says she is your parent or guardian, and requests parental access to your account," with buttons label "Accept" and "Deny."

It seems to me like this would be a nice compromise between "We're just friends so you can block me" and "Give me your password and therefore get inspired to create a second Facebook account I don't even know about."

March 3, 2012

Prosecutable Offenses

Leaving fewer than the household-agreed-upon minimum number of ice cubes in the tray. (Our household minimum is four.)

Leaving the toilet paper roll empty, or with less yardage remaining than the household-agreed-upon amount.

Throwing away a roll that still has a half-length on it.

Leaving dishes "to soak" (the quotes here signify "and never coming back to wash them after they've soaked").

Leaving dirty clothes on floor, in presence of laundry basket.

Leaving towels on floor, in presence of towel bar/hook.

Late enough to activate the "Dead by side of road / injured in hospital / we should have more life insurance" sequence.

Leaving removed hairs on display.

Leaving toenail/fingernail clippings on display.

Leaving dishes symbolically on counter.

Being too quiet, in a way that makes the other person tense and nervous.

Not knowing the name of that actress I'm thinking of. You know, the one we liked! In that thing!

Exaggerating illness.

Washcloth falls on shower floor; takes other person's washcloth instead; does not remedy situation after shower is finished. (See also: towel too wet, forgot to get a towel, etc.)

Going to bed early without saying anything about it beforehand.

Using up the last of something without putting it on the list.

Loading dishwasher the stupid way.

Forgetting to use in-sink disposal before starting dishwasher.

Fingers still on keyboard while "listening."

Leaving drops of pee on the toilet seat.

Claiming nothing is wrong when something clearly is.

Tracking in slush.

Allowing last sliver of soap to fall to shower floor; leaving it there to turn to mush and/or for the other person to handle.

Eating the last of the leftover pizza without mentioning it.

March 2, 2012

Then Again, by Diane Keaton

I finished Then Again by Diane Keaton, and I have mixed feelings.

(photo from

For the first quarter of the book, I was incredulous: Could she STILL be talking about her mother? Why am I reading her MOTHER'S journals? What is going ON? I definitely was not going to read the whole book. Then I skipped ahead a chunk of pages and saw she was at some point going to be talking about Woody Allen, so I thought I would hang in there awhile longer.

And it was worth it, and I was glad I did: when we shifted into talking more about DIANE KEATON'S life in Diane Keaton's memoir, I was happier. Ah, Woody Allen! Ah, Jack Nicholson! The stories of how she chose her children's names! Hot photo of Al Pacino. Stories about her school days and early acting days. Little gossipy mentions of other actors who went on to be famous too. Blissful sigh.

Still, there was TOO MUCH DIANE KEATON'S MOTHER. I realize Diane Keaton wanted to work through something and wanted to make this her mother's memoir as well as her own, but I'm not sure SHE realized that for the most part readers are interested in the memoirs of people they are interested in. I'm interested in Diane Keaton, and I'm interested in hearing SOME about her mother (as I'm interested in hearing about her father, siblings, friends, boyfriends, kids), but the mother's journals a really boring blog. Who are we? Why are we here? How can I fulfill myself when all my needs have already been met and I'm still unhappy? Why am I not more important? And then there were the mother's collages, which took up way more than their share of the photo sections and were like a moody junior-high project. I do think there could be a market for a memoir of her mother and/or a reprint of her mother's extensive journals/collages, but I'd want it separate from this book.

The rest of it is what I'd expect and/or want from a celebrity book. There was the usual sprinkling of:
  • name-dropping that would be considered gratuitous except that it's part of the reason we're reading the book

  • hints that the celebrity could have been a way bigger success, but chose not to be and/or was forced by circumstances not to be

  • humble quoting of other people's high regard and encouragement

  • flattering photos

There is a tone that feels familiar from other books I've read by celebrities: a bit of the "bride at every wedding, only person sitting round-the-clock vigil at every deathbed" feeling. Reading such books, I always suspect that celebrity's siblings would be annoyed at how situations were portrayed.

I came away from it liking Diane Keaton MORE, but also feeling disappointed that she spent so much of the book quoting her mother, who I never came to like/appreciate/admire the way we were intended to. I was not at all tired of Diane Keaton anecdotes and would have wanted to hear a great many more.

March 1, 2012

Tooth! in! Crisis!

I am fretful because there was a misunderstanding at my dentist's office. I thought they wanted me to go get some orthodontic adjustments for cosmetic reasons, and when I called back to say actually that wasn't a financial priority right now so never mind about forwarding that paperwork, they mentioned that actually this referral was not about looking pretty, and they used the phrase "If the tooth can be saved," which riveted me. "If the"! "Saved"! When I'D thought we were talking about The Pursuit of Unnecessary Dental Perfection! (This is the kind of event/reaction that gives a nice snapshot of the type of life someone is living compared to the world average. Is a tooth crisis at the HIGH end of my Life Stresses Spectrum? Then things are going pretty well, global-perspectively-speaking.)

This stressful phrase ("If"!) was on my answering machine, which won't be clear from the first paragraph because I'd thought it would be simpler not to go into details such as that when I called them I talked to the receptionist, but then she gave my message to the dentist, who then asked a different receptionist to call me back. See how boring that is, and how it seems completely irrelevant? And yet without it there is confusion, because it seems like if I called them to say X, and they responded Y, my answering machine would not be involved and there'd be no Stressful Needing-to-Call-Back element to this story, nor a Not Knowing What's Going On element.

Anyway, this means I need to call back and find out what on earth is going on. From casting my mind back to the conversation the dentist and I had, I think the tooth in question must be one of my two front teeth. The root is apparently re-absorbing, according to the x-rays. (He didn't say it was re-absorbing. But he said it was "transparent" on the x-ray. And I looked that up online and found that that probably means it's re-absorbing.)

It can happen from trauma or, most often, from orthodontic work. Presumably that's where the misunderstanding happened, but I'm still not sure what the misunderstanding WAS. Why wouldn't I have come away from the appointment realizing the tooth was in jeopardy? Why would I go to the orthodontist about a tooth that might need to be pulled? If it's the tooth I think it is, it WAS the one I wanted to go to the orthodontist about: it has shifted down from the other teeth in a way that bothers me cosmetically, but not enough to feel like it Must Be Taken Care Of. And certainly I wouldn't want to finally go to the expense and trouble of having that tooth re-aligned with the others, only to have it pulled out.

Also, I'm very stressed about it maybe needing to be pulled. It's not only the expense (my mom recently looked into the price of replacing one of her own teeth, and the estimate was about $5,000), it's also the shock of not anticipating such a thing AT ALL, even as a possibility ("But I FLOSS!! And I don't engage in dangerous sports!!"), and the way "having a tooth removed" has old-age associations for me. I immediately think of my grandmother and her fascinating removable-tooth-on-a-piece-of-fake-gums.