Category Archives: family

Beocat Ate Beowulf for Breakfast: Part 3

This is the 3rd and final installment of the legendary quest undertaken by Sir Mark Beocat, a fearless and valiant man on a dangerous mission to “fix” a problem of a full load of fertile feral cats. Last week, after a heady first success of reaching the daily maximum katz capacity of 6, we learned that the social club in an adjacent property dumped trays of fettuccine Alfredo out their back door offering the Katz a potential food source. Would Sir Mark get derailed by some unimaginative person’s party food waste? Would his efforts come to naught? Would the Katz learn that the fabulous smelling sardines and chicken in that cage thingy leads to a really, really bad trip, a blackout, and a hangover? And then avoid it altogether?

And now, the conclusion to Sir Mark Beocat’s Epic Quest.

Sir Mark’s log, Tuesday, December 19: “We trapped a bonus cat last night, so I had 4 cats to take to Springfield, the cat feeding villager [our dad] took 3 to the CT vet. We’re now waiting on some more.”

Sir Mark had made a rookie mistake and closed the traps the night before. Now he was worried. They had no cats for Wednesday. Still, he soldiered on and kept despair at bay. “The Katz were mucking about the deck last night, so maybe we’ll have some luck tonight.”

Wednesday, December 20: “We have 3 more going to surgery this morning! That makes 10 caught, leaving 4 more to go in the next 2 days.”

The original count had been 13 katz, but another had been identified by the villager. Keeping count was how Sir Mark knew he was making headway. His days fell into a blurring intense rhythm of trap checking, and then covering each trapped kat with a sheet or towel. Because the traps are just wire the katz don’t recognize they are in a cage and will continue to bash themselves against the wire. Once covered, they quiet down. Then there’s packing trapped katz in the truck, driving to the 8 am vet in CT. Drop off new katz, pick up post-surgery katz. Head to MA for the 9:15 time to drop off/pick up katz. He learned the hard way not to show up early at either place — they’d make you wait. The he released post-surgery katz, cleaned up the traps and resetg them, switching them to different places and putting them all over the yard.

Thursday, December 21: “It was a busy morning and a busy night last night. By morning there were 5 katz waiting for surgery. [Agent My Sharona had visited on Wednesday night, and Sir Mark declared her a katz magnet.] There were 2 bonus, heavy, tom cats in the bunch that were not planned on. They could be someone’s pet, but in the training Commander Caroline had said, if the owners didn’t want their cats nuts cut, they should have kept them indoors!” So be it.

This was the hard reality of Operation Krazy Katz. Just due to their size, you could safely assume the two toms were pets. It turned out that one of them was already neutered, so the vet just notched his ear. That’s how they mark a spayed/neutered feral cat — with a surgical notch. The other kat got free (for its owner) surgery. Commander Caroline said that if the owners were not happy about the situation, the law was on Sir Mark’s side. Of course, his quest was Just and True.

His entry continued: “The tally as of today is 15, 2 of which were kept for adoption in Springfield. We are still missing 1, possibly 2, of the little fur balls. I saw one late last night, and the villager said he saw the same one with another escapee this morning while I did the katz shuffle loop between the vets. We got the most productive mother, and what looks like the 2 of the fathers, so that’s good. Looks like male/female ratio was fairly even.”

Such an incredible success, and yet, there was no rest for our brave, diligent Sir Mark. “Today and tonight are the last shot at getting the last 2 footloose and fancy free varmints! Right now all is quiet. I’ve got 6 traps out with different menus. All we can do now is wait.”

Indeed. To be so close to the goal. But out there were 2 wiley creatures, just scared enough or smart enough to look beyond the tasty food down that long tunnel and sense all may not be as it seems…

Sir Mark’s log, Friday, December 22, 6:20 am: “Unbelievable! Caught 1 of the 2 stragglers last night, and found the last 1 in a trap this morning. Mission accomplished!”

We all rejoiced, and yet, just 1 hour later this: “Ah buggah, just saw a gray striped one that doesn’t have a notched ear. Apparently there were more katz than the villager thought. Hopefully, it’s a male. As the Grateful Dead said, ‘What a long strange trip it’s been…’ ”

Sir Mark finished the day by picking up 2 katz in MA. He hosed down and disinfected most of the traps to bring back to the rescue organization, and then picked up 2 other cats in CT.

Yes, my friends, there are still heroes in this world. 17 katz fixed, dewormed, and defleaed in 5 days. It was the work of a fearless and valiant man, Sir Mark Beocat. Long may he live, and may the epic that is written about his deeds and courage be sung throughout the ages.

 

Beocat Ate Beowulf for Breakfast: Part 2

Last week, we learned of a legendary quest undertaken by Sir Mark Beocat, a fearless and valiant man who spent several months (that’s several years in Olde English, armor-laden, horse-riding time) meticulously planning and executing a dangerous mission, battling nature herself and saving a village and one particular villager who had been feeding said cats. Despite the great odds against him, Sir Mark Beocat had set his sights on, er, “fixing” the problem of a full load of fertile feral cats and would not be deterred. He lives in Maine, 300 miles from the village in Connecticut, and so planned to spend the week. His months of relentless, heroic preparations came down to this: 1 week, 13 cats, 16 humane traps, 1 cat trapping boot camp, 1 helpful pet rescue organization, 2 willing veterinary clinics in 2 states, and pounds of the stinkiest bait food you can imagine.

His first stop was Our Companions Animal Rescue, which had agreed to lend Sir Mark 16 humane traps, train him how to use them, and connected him to 2 vets who were willing to spay and neuter the cats on a walk-in basis. Here’s what happened next; quotes are from his log book.

Sir Mark’s log, December 17, Sunday: “Looks like we’re clear for liftoff on Operation Krazy Katz. Cover me troops! I’m going in! I’m heading down at O dark hundred to ground zero Sunday and will be at Our Companions Headquarters for a 10:30 am briefing on the details of the operation. Agents ‘My Sharona’ and ‘Mighty Martman’ [our sister and brother-in-law] may accompany me if they so chose for the briefing, and we have been instructed to stay focused as Commander Caroline will cram a 1-hour briefing into 20 minutes, distribute a truck load of secret conTRAPtions, and send us on our way by 11 am.”

After the briefing, Sir Mark sent an update:

“The blitzkrieg training at Our Companions went well, with all three of us graduating Katz Cum Loudly! We threw our mittens into the air and did what graduates do, go to the liquor store and head to the beach. We didn’t get far before realizing: (a) It was too dang cold for the beach; (b) The liquor store was closed; (c) We’re not that wild and crazy enough any more for that sort of thing! Instead we somewhat reluctantly did the mature, responsible thing and got ready for the Mission Inkatzable. We picked up extra supplies [sardines and other stinky foods Katz can’t resist!].”

Later Sunday: “I will stake out the territory, do some reconnaissance, ready the traps, and start Operation Krazy Ol’ Koot on Monday. Then I’ll collect fur ball specimens to be spayed or neutered Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”

The two vets that agreed to take on whatever cats he could trap had very strict rules around when and how to bring in the cats. They were also about 50 miles apart, one in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts.

Sir Mark reported: “Chippens Hill Animal Vet Hospital has agreed to take at 8 am, 2-3 Kats on Monday, 3 on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday, and possibly 2 on Friday.  Should I trap more than that on any given day, I can run 3 more a day up to the Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, MA. They accept cats at 9:15 am. Hopefully I will get some leads on finding places to unload a few of the Katz, and we can work on thinning the herd down to a more manageable number. Probably wishful thinking! I’ll be sure to give daily updates and call for backup if I get in over my neck in flea bags!”

Sunday night, Sir Mark recorded this entry: “The Katz were getting familiar with the open unsprung traps in the afternoon. Commander Caroline suggested we put them out without food to get the Katz used to them. I was surprised at how some had enough curiosity to check them out and even go into them! This is very encouraging! The traps were set to stay open so that the they wouldn’t close on the curious felines while they explored. Today we will set them up and see how many we can get.”

The traps were in place. Everything was set. Would the Katz be too skittish? Would they find a way to steal the food and get out? All we could do was wait it out for Sir Mark’s next update.

Monday, December 18: “We had a successful first day, trapping 5 Katz in the first hour, and 1 more in the afternoon.” Success! They had reached their daily limit of 6. On Tuesday morning, the katz-feeding villager took 3 cats to the CT vet and Sir Mark drove up to Springfield. “We will try more enticing bait tomorrow, sardines and chicken.”

But later that day, there was a worrisome development. Commander Caroline had told Sir Mark to limit the Katz access to other food so they would be more likely to go into the traps to eat. The neighbor agreed not to feed them, but a social club in an adjacent property dumped a load of fettuccine Alfredo out their back door. Would Sir Mark get derailed by some person’s party food waste? Would his efforts come to naught? Would the Katz learn that the fabulous smelling sardines and chicken in that cage thingy leads to a really, really bad trip and a hangover and stay away?

Find out in the thrilling conclusion next week!

 

 

Beocat Could Eat Beowulf for Breakfast: Part 1

In days of old, my brother’s successful quest a few weeks ago would have been immortalized in song. The court poet laureate would have been summoned to hear the heroic tale of the fearless and valiant man who spent several months (that’s several  years in Olde English, armor-laden, horse-riding time) meticulously planning and executing a dangerous mission, battling nature herself and saving a village.

The poet would be sent off to pen the enduring lines that would be recited for centuries in the royal court, then sung enthusiastically by drunks in taverns, and finally forced to be painfully memorized by bored high school kids in freshman English.

It started with a few of those wily creatures found around witches and James Bond villains: cats. The local villager (aka our dad) started feeding strays. And, for a few years, like a cute dragon that has hatched from an egg and isn’t very big and hasn’t yet learned to breathe fire, it was all fun and games. But then a funny thing happened on the way to mother nature. This year several batches of kittens were born, and said villager started feeding them all. Suddenly, a few cats became 13. In addition to the possible risky things that can happen when there are 13 feral cats about, even a word girl like me understands enough about math and exponents to know that next year, we’d have 50 cats and a lot of ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy.

The siblings batted it around for most of the year. It was part of a bigger discussion around caring for my aging parents. And since my dad reads this blog, I will also say they are doing amazingly well, but they are pushing 90, so no shame in getting some help. And it really was my siblings — they were great about letting me launch the kid this year, so for the cat thing, I looked up a few feral cats websites, got nowhere, and declared the problem intractable.

And this is why a legendary epic will never be written about me.

My 2 sisters also looked into the issue, but over months of research, they came to that often inevitable red tape dead-end: the feral cat organizations or city wouldn’t touch them because they had been steadily fed, and the legit pet people would charge as if it were one beloved house pet with a big pet health insurance policy. Also, my sisters were distracted by those other pesky things like our parents’ medical procedures and doctors appointments.

But Sir Mark Beocat, as he will henceforth be known, had set his sights on, er, “fixing” the problem of the fertile feral cats, and would not be deterred. His months of relentless, heroic preparations came down to this: 1 week, 13 cats, 16 humane traps, cat trapping boot camp, 1 helpful pet organization, 2 willing veterinary clinics, and pounds of the stinkiest bait food you can imagine.

What happened next? Tune in next week!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 6 Posts of 2017

Well, kids, looks like we made it through year 1 of the Cheeto flea, and that alone is worth celebrating. But even better would be to forget about him altogether. As you run the highlight reel of the past year in your mind, acknowledge the not-so-great stuff, but give priority to the good things — the people, places, and events that gave you a lift. I’m reminding myself as much as you on this one. I think of myself as a positive person, but I’ve been noticing that I can get focused on the one bad thing sitting amongst all the good stuff. So I’m going to try to keep an eye on that in 2018. I’m also feeling like my tank is empty, and, yes, I had a big year (as the posts below will attest), but most of the big things are past, so I also wonder if it’s real or a habit? I will keep an eye on that, too.

But for now, it’s time to look back a bit, take a deep breath, and head out to 2018.

6. The big news of the year was getting the kid launched, and it was official with this post. In the process, there were highs, lows, lots of wine, and a few moments of full-blown panic. But the deed got done with Mission Accomplished.

5. I reread this one, and thought, damn, that’s good! I’ve been feeling less than inspired lately to write. In keeping with my positive theme, I’m going to recall the words of a painter friend many years ago, when I was hit with my first case of writer’s block. I had just finished a bunch of essays and thought, now I’m ready for the next thing. But I wasn’t. The faucet had nary a trickle. He told me not to worry — I was merely filling up again. So, I’m going with that. Don’t know how long the filling will take, so be prepared for reruns if you’re a long time reader and for cool old stuff if you’re new. In any event, this piece reminded me that, yeah, I still have some writing mojo. Happy Anniversary.

4. That this one is in the top 6 makes me laugh. I thought it was just me, but apparently this was something a lot of people could relate to. For the love, Leave the Curtain Rods.

3. Because I have memory issues, er, I mean, I live in the moment like Eckhart Tolle. I’m a super advanced human, I swear. Anywho, I thought this one was about Cheeto flea, but it was more subtle than that. Either way, it never hurts to remember It’s a Marathon not a Sprint.

2. I just reread this one, and it reminded me I have a blog to finish about bystander intervention. Also, it reminded me that Life moved with me to my new apartment and is still sitting in my chair, giving me the look, and motioning me to get her another drink. Happy new year, bee-atch! Dammit!

1. Oh, Celine. I hope where ever you are, you have all the happiness you deserved when you walked among us. Goodbye My Friend.

So there it is, friends. I wish you all you healthy, hopeful new year. We can totally do this. We always do.

Same as It Ever Was, Sorta

I FaceTime with my 87-year-old mom nearly every Friday night. Pretty cool, right? Lately she’s been telling more stories from the past, some she hasn’t told me before. What struck me about some recent stories is how, at the core, they are similar to what people experience today, only back then there were a lot fewer resources to help.

Take job hunting. My mother talked about how hard it was for her to find a job in her early 20s. Sound familiar? It was the early 1950’s, so the economy was fine. Yes, she was a woman, so that was a strike against her. But she wasn’t looking for a career, she was just looking for a job. She was turned down at a little general store in town because she had the same last name as a cousin who’d been fired from the store for doing something bad. My mom wasn’t sure what. There were easily 20 or more cousins in town with the same last name, so that seems somewhat short-sighted, judging a whole family based on one bad apple. The fact that there was a high probability that there was more than one bad apple in that bunch is inconvenient to my story, and therefore irrelevant.

Also, it’s ironic because if they had bothered to get past my mom’s last name, they would have learned she had recently left the convent. What more validation of an honest person can you find? And, no, she wasn’t discharged because of rosary grand larceny or embezzlement of the priests’ sundry fund.

Of course, it was the convent thing that was really messing up her search. At that time there weren’t too many career counselors and coaches to help. Heck, there weren’t even resumes. Just my mom filling out applications and trying to explain where she’d been in the past several years. You’d think that the nun gig would have been a more common thing back then, especially in a town where there was a Catholic church for each of the town’s immigrant groups — St. Stanislaus, St. Anthony, St. Anne — you get the picture. But apparently employers found it just as weird as they probably would today. But today she’d have an army of online and in-person career coaches and websites telling her to emphasize her loyalty, passion, and commitment to her work. And how about “excellent ability to take direction”? She left the convent because she got very sick from the physically demanding chores of hand-washing priest vestments, praying for hours, sleeping very little, and Oliver Twist-like food. The first time she got sick, she returned home to recover and then went back. The second time she got sick, the Mother Superior told her it was a sign she was meant to do something else. She would have stayed if they had let her, so I think you could add “ability to follow through.”

She finally landed a job in the office of a car dealership, but then there were other male shenanigans to contend with. Here’s hoping the starts to change, 60 years later.

The convent thing of course followed her into the dating scene, but the few dates she told me about seemed a lot like the letters I read in a daily relationship column. There was the guy who took her out once, but when she was kind of clueless about the goodnight kiss thing, she never heard from him again. She connected with another guy on the 1950s version of eHarmony — a Catholic pen pal club. That helped make the ex-nun thing less of an issue. They wrote a number of letters back and forth and my mom got excited and thought things were going really well — until he told her he found someone. At least he didn’t ghost her.

So all as a way of saying, sometimes I like to think I  have it harder than others. But, I really don’t. Not only can I learn from those who came before me, I can Google “ex-nun resume tips” and “how to give a kiss.” And that’s pretty cool.

 

Writing Excavation

Before I get into my blog proper, I need to detour one second for this brilliant tweet from @DrAndrewThaler: “Folks, I think we need to start coming to terms with the idea that the rapture happened and only David Bowie and Prince made the cut.”

And now back to our regularly scheduled shenanigans: While packing and decluttering before I moved, I went through my filing box of writing. Oh what a treasure trove of the good, the bad, and the incomprehensible, masquerading as mastery. Here are some of the more interesting (humor me) highlights:

This one I like — I’m not a natural-born poet, brevity being rather foreign to me. However, I do have my moments. I used to take a bus to the train to get to a 7 am meeting in Boston. One thing writers are good at is turning an unpleasant obligation into art, or at least something more palatable.

Early spring bus ride, 6:20 am
The light is so nice
It’s the planet and the sun
We’re doing the tilt.

I found a lot of random notes about possible essays from when Lucas was little. Which either shows my unbridled optimism or delusional tendencies — I had no time or energy to write an essay, but as they say in yoga, intention counts. This one made me smile:

When Lucas was about 8, he played soccer. His coach Giuseppe was from Italy and had a pretty heavy accent. We used to laugh that his son who was also on the team and a great player was the ringer — the kid probably had been kicking a ball around before he could walk. The rest of Lucas’s team was pretty much what you’d expect from a group of rag-tag, half-hearted 8-year-olds. The better teams always thought they had the game in the bag until Giuseppe’s son started weaving his way around them as if they were standing still. I also loved the way Guiseppe told the kids that “practeeks” would help them win. Short of having a wine flask to help take the edge off sitting through 8 am practices in 35-degree fall weather, the Italian imported ringer and the practeeks got me through.

In an unmarked manila folder I found a thin, plastic see-through record, a 45 size, but a 33 rpm. If you are younger than 35, this sentence may make no sense to you. Kind of like this one makes no sense to me (randomly found on a celebrity gossip site): Javi and Briana rub their romance in Kailyn’s face. Who are these people?

Back to my see-through record. It does play on my record player. (Yes, I have one, read all about it here: Put the Needle on the Record). The record is called “Star Track: Stephen Saban’s Greatest Hits,” and has excerpts from interviews by the “hottest” 80s stars, with a slant toward comedians: Judy Tenuta, Julio Iglesias, Bruce Willis, Debbie Harry, Steven Wright, Emo Phillips, Lily Tomlin. I listened to it, and it’s pretty incomprehensible — there is no theme or organization, just famous people saying random things. It says “Details” at the top, which I think means it was from the hip, happening 80s magazine of the same name, which I did not subscribe to. So the mystery remains: why was this (presumably) in a magazine, who the hell is Stephen Saban, how did I get this weird thing, and for the love, why did I keep it? Was it one of those, “Oh, this will be worth a lot on eBay in the future!” moments? We may never know as I threw it away, but was fun to find.

There were many painful attempts at fiction and interview notes from when I spent a few months as a stringer for a weekly local newspaper. Neither genre is my forte, so that’s part of the pain. But it’s not a bad thing to be reminded that being a young writer is what it is — bombastic, obvious, overly earnest, and just plain bad. But I had to write all that stuff to get where I am now: bombastic, obvious, underly earnest, and less bad.

And I’ll leave you with a deliciously bad piece of writing. Here is the winner of the 2017 Best Unoriginal Sentence: Hers was a beauty that was best seen through drunken eyes.

Thank you very much.

Now I’m Worried 

You’re only getting a short tease this week, because I’m packing up to move, and a bunch of other things are going on, including I got to see the kid for parents weekend at his school this weekend. It’s 4 hours away, so I stayed at a Days Inn, a cheap, but clean, no-frills kind of place. But maybe it was too clean. I found this little gem sitting near the TV:Hotels these days have all kinds of messages they place around the room to either tell you how efficient and all saving-the-planet they are with solar energy and washing things in a cup full of rain water collected from the green roof. Alternately they berate you to use less energy by choosing to use your towels and sheets multiple times. But I hadn’t seen this little number yet, so I took a closer look. Turns out this remote is built to allow for full disinfecting. 

Um. Eww?

I appreciate the effort, but 1) the rule of hotels is to work to make me think I’m the only one who has ever stayed there. Ever. So referring to disinfecting the remote very much violates that little fantasy; and 2) now I’m thinking about where that remote has been that it requires disinfectant. And believe me, as I sat staring at it from across the room, I went waaaaay past, sneezing and germ ridden kids. 

Suffice to say, I did not touch the remote or the TV. So maybe that’s actually how the disinfecting works. 

See you on the other side of the move!