Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Birthday Post 2018

Hakeem Olajuwan, Geena Davis, Grigori Rasputin, Jam Master Jay, Billy Ocean, Jack Nicklaus, Chritian Dior, Telly Sevales, Benny Hill, Steve Reeves, Wolfman Jack, Placido Domingo, Ritchie Havens, Robby Benson, Cat Power, Emma Bunton, Cristobal Balenciaga, Ethan Allen, and me!

What could I possibly have in common with any of these talented, famous people? Well, seeing as how this is my 'birthday month' post, I'm guessing you can figure it out. That's right, we all share a birthday! I wanted to talk about how I was able to celebrate this year, because it was kind of a big deal to me – it's always a big deal to me, really, as I don't generally go out of my way to be seen or even heard, for that matter, but one day out of the year, I do like to be the star. For someone who makes a habit of staying in the background, hiding in the shadows, and silencing my voice so that others (who may or may not have anything useful to say, but seem to need to shout over each other anyway) may be heard, it's not always easy to jump out in front of everyone and yell, “let's have a party for ME!” but I do it every year, with varying levels of success.

Last year, a bunch of people suggested I 'go to the local Women's March', which happened on the same day, but I have a love/hate relationship with that march, so there was no way I was doing that. I mean, it would have been nice to feel like I could join in the march, but there were too many issues that spat in the face of intersectional feminism for me to feel good about being a part of it, so I wasn't. I felt much the same this year, but even worse – the local organizers started an online group, to which I was added by an activist friend, and I was able to ask some questions about what would be taking place during the march, such as if there was going to be space made for people such as myself to feel safe and included. The answer was a resounding 'NO', even though their mission statement (which has since been changed) read thus: “Our mission is to provide a safe and accepting platform for supporters of equality to rally and march in promotion of civil rights for every human regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, religion or creed.” Now, I know that's what they ­believe they're supporting, but the truth is, they are too entrenched in their own privilege to see that they're not, and they staunchly refuse to hear anything telling them so. So? They kicked me out of their group – way to promote equality, people – and I'm done dealing with local activists on that particular 'pink' parade of proprietary pretense. I went dancing with some girlfriends, and had a blast, instead.

This year, after several online calls for celebrants to come join me for a fancy dinner or some-such, it became apparent that none of my most intimate friends could actually negotiate a fancy dinner due to finances, kids, and other random but important factors. So I set a date and time, and invited whoever was able to come out on a Friday evening for pizza, and alerted the closest pizza place that I would be arriving around 7pm, with a contingent of anywhere between 2 and 20 people. I was completely overwhelmed with love and appreciation that 20 people really and truly Showed Up. They even brought cake and brownies! And gifts! It blew me away. I sat at that table (we took over all but one in the small dining area) looking around at these dear people, some of whom hadn't spoken to each other for awhile due to some of the interpersonal issues we all face as parents, and felt Home with my Family. I had worked all day, rushed home to pick up my son, and didn't bother to change my clothes, brush my hair, put on make-up or jewelry, because I wanted to go straight there to get the pizzas ordered so food would be ready when guests arrived, and it didn't matter to anyone. We're not a fancy crowd like that, and it doesn't matter to any of us if you're in a ball gown or your pajamas when you come to the table, as long as you come to the table.

I felt truly and utterly blessed to be sitting in the middle of this group of folks – one grandpa, five mamas, four dads, four teens, five kids, and one toddler (and a fetus, even!). It moved me. It's a feeling that is going to sustain me all year long, if not throughout the rest of my life. My Tribe, my community, my group of intimates, my cronies, the parents of my son's besties, our homeschoolies...the people I hope I know for the rest of my life, that I get to grow old with, and see our children bring us the next generation. Will it be so? I hope against hope, because these are all people I've only known for four years or less, as all the rest of my 'friends' have fallen away (a few who would come are simply too far). Even still, these are our people, and I hold them oh so dear, like family. Better than family, in fact, because aside from my mom (with whom I have a rocky relationship that happens to be in an upswing right now), my 'family' has thrown me away. But this is not about them, it's about me – celebrating myself, and having people in my life who are willing to do that with me. It's amazing, and I haven't had it in a long time. I feel renewed by their being present for me, and I hope I can do the same for them.

I've had some amazing birthday parties in my life...I remember: a bunch of school-friends in sleeping bags on my parents' living room floor (my 10th?); my Sweet Sixteen; Mom taking my bestie and me to see Cats for my 17th; I spent my 19th throwing up in my dorm after an off-campus college party; a few friends and I went out to my favorite restaurant for my 21st, where I grandly ordered my first legal beer, which they wouldn't serve to me because I had forgotten my ID, though one of the local crack dealers generously offered me some free cocaine during my overnight shift at the local 24/7 store; seeing a favorite band for my 23rd; my boyfriend choosing to work a double shift, then party at the bar rather than come home for my 30th; getting my first Barbie for my 32nd, who happened to be wearing the same outfit as me when she came out of the box (that bitch!); finally getting an apartment after spending my entire pregnancy homeless for my 35th, as well as being taken out for Indian food; throwing a 'masquerade ball' for my 40th; the homemade chicken mole cooked by a friend for my 42nd; and this - my 49th, for which there was the pizza party, a 5-course Israeli dinner with my mother and son, a movie with my son and a dear friend of ours, and a Greek dinner with a new friend, which turned out to be the 'fancy' dinner I had originally envisioned, just much more intimate, which was perfect!

49 is the square of 7 (an auspicious number by many counts, times two!); the number of days of the Counting of the Omer in Judaism, which is the spiritual preparation and anticipation for the remembrance of the giving of the Torah between Passover and Shavuot; the number of days and nights Siddhartha Gautama spent meditating before attaining enlightenment and becoming Buddha. Some Indian Buddhists believe in the notion of the 'intermediate state' (between death and rebirth) as lasting "seven times seven days" at most; the name 'forty-niner' was applied to 'Gold Rushers', being derived from when they showed up, in 1849; In blues music lore, Robert Johnson 'sold his soul to the devil' at the junction of US Highway 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi; Howlin' Wolf immortalized the road in the song “Highway 49,” by Big Joe Williams, with the lines “Long tall momma / She don’t pay me no mind / All she wanna do / Walk the Highway 49.”

It's going to be a Great trip around the Sun, and I look forward to sharing the journey!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thomas O'Malvin

We adopted our Thomas cat in May of 2015, having lost our previous cat to a car in April, and we were sad and missing him, so we randomly stopped by the animal shelter to pet the kitties.  there was a young orange tomcat there, not a kitten, but not fully grown, either.  my teen took one look at that cat, and looked back at me with those big, pleading, eyes...and we just had to go back for him the next day.  the name on the cage said 'Alvin', but we couldn't have that, so we changed it to Thomas O'Malvin in a nod to both the Thomas O'Malley character in The Aristocats movie, and the Primus song 'Tommy the Cat' (which I believe is based on the Aristocats character as well).

Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats

'Tommy the Cat' by Primus

Thomas - like most of the shelter cats I've adopted and brought 'home' for the first time - spent about three days hiding under my bed before he decided to give in to our soft calls of encouragement to come out, and be our friend.  he was rather skittish, and we had no idea where he had come from, or where he had been, but judging by the way he kept his butt so close to the ground while sniffing out all the new things, I figured he may well have been a feral kitten, rescued off the streets, or from outside.  no matter.  we did our best to make him feel welcome.  when he finally became comfortable with us, and used to his new home, we decided to let him explore the outdoors.  it's been awhile, so I don't remember how that went, but suffice it to say that he loved being able to roam the large property we are lucky to be living on, and to hunt.  he liked hunting, and while he was very well fed, he still enjoyed killing and eating the small mice and voles that are abundant in our woods.  and that baby squirrel...eww.

he wasn't a particularly cuddly cat, but every now and then he would jump tentatively up into our laps, freeze as if we might do something to shoo him, then step ever so gingerly over us until he found just the right spot to settle into.  sometimes he liked to lie along my legs when I had them stretched out, other times he would lay himself up along my body and drape his head over my shoulder, and sometimes he'd settle into a furry pile on my chest and neck.  he was (still is, I hope) a big, tough guy...he could also be mean, and I would warn small children that he'd rip your hand open if you pissed him off, but he would usually make damn sure to give you a warning with his ferocious growl, first.  he was our sweet boy, and could be friendly and loving, but he was not to be trifled with.

when an elderly friend's caregiver's cat had kittens, my son could not resist petting and playing with them (who could?), when we were there for our weekly visit, and so he became enamored of one of them, going so far as to start calling it by a pet name.  I warned him that those kittens would be given away when they were old enough, and not to get too close, because he would eventually have to say goodbye, so he decided to preempt that inevitability by asking if he could adopt the one he liked himself.  I weighed the decision and gave him the go-ahead, he asked the care-giver, and she gave him a non-committal response which changed from week to week - sometimes more towards yes, sometimes more towards no.  in any case, the week came when she said the kittens were ready for their new homes, and when my son stated that he was prepared to take his little friend home, she told him, "I never said you could have him."  well...I was furious, and so was my son, who was also hurt and upset.  I reacted by remembering another friend with a litter of kittens to give away, so we regrouped, asked if any were left, and went to visit with them.

they were incredibly adorable - and there went those big eyes again, pleading with me to take this one home Right Now, even though we didn't have any kitten food, a separate litter box, or whatever else we might need in order to welcome a new little fuzzball home.  didn't matter, we could get all that later, we Needed her!  but...what about Thomas?  "he'll kill her and eat her," I said, in no uncertain terms.  "she'll live in My room," countered the boy who would not be deterred.  so we drove the baby home in a box, made up a make-shift litter box, and fed her adult cat food softened with water until we went to the store.  when we got home with her, we took her straight into my son's room and closed the door.  within the first few hours of her being there, Thomas was at the inch-high space beneath my son's door making the most adorable cooing and chirping sounds at the tiny little paw that was extending out to grab at and play with him.  it was too cute, and so we decided to let him in...

while the kitten (Nahiri) seemed to have no fear of him, Thomas was a bit scared of her!  it didn't stop him from dropping to the carpet and rolling on his back, though, purring at her, and making sweet little love-noises at her.  we couldn't believe it - we'd never seen him behave like that, so we decided to let the little one have the run of the house when we were home, but kept them separated when we went out, for safety's sake.  eventually, we found there was no need for that, and they were allowed to co-exist:

Thomas & Nahiri

while Thomas loved his new baby kitten, he made it very clear he was the Boss of this house, and there were a few times we scolded him and made him stop chasing her around, or pulled him off of her if she cried out.  mostly they were good siblings, and Nahiri adored her big brother, sitting on him every chance she got, and letting him help her groom her fabulous, long, grey fur.  we didn't let Nahiri outside until she was over a year old, so Thomas would use 'outside' as his escape hatch if she got overbearing, which she sometimes does...because he knew she wasn't allowed to follow him.  she'd watch him, jealously intent, from the windowsill, leaping towards the door every time it opened, in hopes of escaping her confinement to engage with all the wonderful things Thomas smelled of when he returned.  eventually, Nahiri grew big enough (and smart enough) to go outside as well, and we lived our happy life as a two-cat/two-human household. 

Best of friends

this past summer, the property we live on was sold to new owners, and renovations of the buildings and land began in earnest.  while the general construction noise wasn't so bothersome to us particularly, one of the workmen sometimes brought his large, aggressive, German Shepherd to the property, and she would chase the cats if they were outside, so I tended to try and keep them in if there was work going on around the house and cabins.  it didn't always work, because my cats are used to having the run of the land, and they would often choose to be in the woods for the day rather than locked in the house, no matter how I felt about it.  but if they got out, they'd stay out until things quieted down, then come back in the evenings.  I always bring them in for the night - we have black bears, bobcats, coyotes, fishers, and owls in our valley, which can all make a meal of a housecat - even a bruiser like Thomas.  then the new landlords started taking down trees, and Thomas in particular had a Big problem with the sound of the chainsaws.

again - I did my best to keep my cats in the house, because the anxiety of having them out in the woods while workmen were dropping trees made me crazy.  although Nahiri didn't seem particularly bothered by the noise, she did seem to choose to spend those days on my son's desk, basking in the sunshine, while Thomas would make a break for the door, because he'd rather take his chances outside than be trapped inside with nowhere to run when he felt threatened.  one day, after having managed to lock him in, I couldn't find him when I came home.  I located him a few hours later under the couch, refusing to come out, because they had cut down the dead tree closest to the house, and he must have been terrified by the noise.  I felt so guilty, I let him make his own choices as to where he felt safest, which was - outside.

to add to this chaos, there was, until very recently, an abandoned property with its own house and cabins right next door (I suspect that lot and ours used to be one big property).  at some point over the summer and fall, during the dead-tree-removal frenzy, a bunch of large trucks and a bulldozer showed up next door and took the buildings all the way down to the ground, as if they had never been there.  that was another reason I wanted the cats in - I know Nahiri liked to play over there, so I expect Thomas did as well, though I never caught him at it.  as soon as I saw those trucks roll in, it added a level of panic to my 'protect the cats' campaign, and I redoubled my efforts to keep them locked safely In The House, with varying levels of success (see previous paragraph stating Thomas' preference in feeling safe when threatened).  the day after the trucks finished demolishing the neighboring property, my kitchen cabinet happened to fall off the wall, smashing a good portion of my dishes and glasses, as well as cooking oils and spices - it made an extremely unholy racket that scared the kid so bad he screamed long and loud...  again, hardly a wink from Nahiri, but Thomas had just come inside from his day hiding in the woods, and turned right back around and went out.

I did manage to get him in that night, and he even slept inside the downed cabinet, which I stood upright and left in the middle of the kitchen floor, but he was back out again the next morning.  that evening, I called and called him, but he didn't come.  I went out to check for him every hour.  "Thooomaaaaas!!!  Thomas O'Maaaalviiiin!!!" I yelled desperately in all directions, shining my flashlight around the yard...where could he be?  well, he could be anywhere, really.  he could be under my car, watching my pulse quicken, amused at my distress...but wherever he was, he didn't come.  at some point, around 2 or 3 in the morning, I just went and stood on the porch, willing him to Be There, when I heard an owl hoot so close - in the lilac bush next to the house, about 10 feet from where I was standing.  that was weird - I'd never seen or heard an owl in the lilacs, what was he doing there?  it gave me a bad feeling, like it was telling me something, though I didn't know what.  I found myself wondering if it had fought with Thomas, and he was out in the woods injured, but it was still dark out, so I went in to bed.  he was a big boy - he'd spent the night out before and still come home, I was just going to relax about it, and be positive.  he would come back when he was ready...he would come home tomorrow.

we haven't seen Thomas since early October, and it's now mid-January.  we've both seen him in our dreams.  we've both decided to believe that he got freaked out by all the tree-cutting, house demolition, and cabinet-falling, and went on walkabout.  we want to believe he went yowling at a neighbor's door, and got let in somewhere.  we pray that's what happened, in light of the recent sub-zero temperatures.  more than wanting him back, we want him safe.  people have regaled us with stories of cats returning years later, and I'm not sure if that's supposed to make me feel better, given how often we end up moving, but it does give us some hope, and keeps us from getting another cat to assuage the sadness of missing Thomas.  but how do we explain it to Nahiri?  she's been super-sad, and was needing to cling to us more than usual for awhile, and now she's sort of lost all her previous playfulness.  she sits in the window listlessly for hours, for whole days, moving only to eat, or visit the litter box.  I feel so badly for her, and talk to her about Thomas, not sure if the sounds I make to identify him are familiar to her, and if they are something she recognizes in association with him.  does it help or hurt her?  I can't tell, but maybe she can understand that we miss him, too, and that we are all grieving his loss together as a family.

we also know that if we choose to let our pets be 'outdoor' animals, that we have to deal with the consequences of that decision - they could get hit by a car, they could be eaten by a larger animal, they could get hurt and not make it home, who knows what could happen.  but I don't think it's fair to keep them in, and they definitely Love being out, so...I wouldn't choose to lock my kid in all day every day, so I don't.  the cats go where the cats want, and we let them.  period.  we just love the hell out of them while we share our lives together, and do the best we can for them.  we hope it's enough.  if Thomas is with a neighbor, we hope he's ok, and that he chooses to come back one day (soon!).  if he's...gone, we hope it was quick and painless, and that he forgives us for not being able to find him and help him, that we loved him dearly, and miss his purrs and companionship.

with love and remembrance of other kitties I/we have known:  Delia, my traveling companion for 5 years,who was killed by a wild dog (she's buried in a pet cemetery, with a headstone and everything).  Potato, a feral rescue who didn't want to be rescued, and took off out an open window the first chance she got, and never came back.  Little Bear, who disappeared in the woods one night, never to be seen again, about a year after the same thing happened to his sister, Beaner.  Molson, who I took in for a friend's brother for a period of time, who now lives with another friend.  Sphinx, who didn't come in one night, and may have chosen to take up residence in the nearby mouse-infested barn, but we were never sure.  Mr. Spats, who we lost to a car in the road.  Petey, who we suspect got into it with a nesting wild turkey mama, and died at home from what appeared to be multiple puncture wounds (we buried him under his favorite bush).  Taco, who we lost to a car in the road (he is buried out back of our current residence, by a patch of daylilies).  we loved them all ~ may they rest in peace.

Little Bear



Mr. Spats



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Memory Jar 2017

well, here we are again!  another New Year, another Memory Jar post (my teen and I started this tradition in 2014, and posted our first list in February of 2015).  it was a rough year - for many people, not just us - and as a result, I feel like our jar was a bit lacking in fun memories this time around, but we made the effort to recognize, and that's what matters.  of course, the teen (being a teen) was much less enthused with both filling the jar, and reading the memories out loud to each other, as has become our yearly tradition, but I made him take part anyway.  maybe he'll thank me someday, maybe he won't.  either way, I like the idea of it, so it will be continued as long as he lives here with me, so there.  every now and then, it's good to be the Queen, even though having jurisdiction over the household traditions really counts for very little in the grander scheme.  whatever, I'll take it where I get it!

Our Good Memories of 2017

Teen Wolf:
Magic the Gathering Draft Tournament
trip to Mystic Seaport, CT with best friend's family
13th birthday party
Bar Mitzvah & after-party
defeating the Zelda video game
getting a (toy) drone
FUNSPOT! (largest arcade in the world)
Magic the Gathering workshop @ Olive Library
going to New Hampshire (to visit Funspot)
Jethro Tull gig
getting a refurbished laptop from a friend
sleepovers with G
Robot 'camp'
heavy metal rehearsal!
that time we picked a point on the map to explore and ended up at a post office
the alphabet (?)
W's New Year's party (2017)

picnic w/the W's
Teen Wolf's Bar Mitzvah!
Teen Wolf's 13th sleepover
Jethro Tull gigs
Wonder Woman movie w/W & R
48th birthday henna, & going dancing w/friends (who bought me drinks)
Summer Solstice bald eagle by the river with L in the morning, fox on the ride home at night
Ike Willis show @ BSP
NYE ('17) w/W's
taking the teen on a mini-vacation to Weir's Beach, NH
my new-to-me bed
new dress and skirt
joking around and being goofy with the teen
Haunted House/Nosferatu/Rocky Horror Halloween show
being in a place where we can help others
laughing over sound effects: “it's like a whooo-ooo-oo” “you mean like this - kaRAKAKAKAKAKAA!” “uh...no.”
complimentary dinner at a local restaurant, decorated by a local artist we like
finally inheriting my grandmother's Bedouin collection
tying balloons on the cats for the teen for his birthday - hilarity ensued
laughing really hard at ridiculous things we make up when we're in a silly mood
Rosendale Street Fair

things that didn't make the jar, but should have:
Teen Wolf:  Magic the Gathering Ixalan Draft 1 & 2, joining the wrestling team, Big 4 of American Metal shows, Star Wars The Last Jedi, new-to-him iphone, hanging w/A
me:  both 'Big 4 of American Metal' gigs (SO much fun!), Star Wars!, Hannukah and winter Solstice gatherings, NYE ('18) w/N family.

Happy New Year, all ~ here's to a wonderful 2018!