Monday, March 19, 2012

Cry Havok, and let loose the Kitten of Khaos!

Over the course of the months that I've had this blog, I've had various 4 footed family members in and out of my home.  2 have remained consistent -Merlin and Stormy, my pound rescue cats who have been with me for 6 years now.  In the meantime, I've had a few dogs who came and then went again, a couple of kittens who weren't hardy enough to survive even with good care, a lot of love, and plentiful food.

Even when I was short of it myself, I always keep the furbabies fed First.  I can go without for a lot longer than they can, for the most part, and being domesticated rather than feral, they have been bred to be dependent on humanity.  Merlin & Stormy both tend to "supplement" their cat food diet with mice and birds, but all of the kittens I've had during this time were too small to be allowed outside.  And the dogs - well - they were dogs, and catching their own supper simply wasn't going to happen in the space of my rather limited back yard.

I have once again succumbed to my love of all things 4 footed, furred, and domesticated (at least that don't fall under the category of Rodentia) and have once again taken on a kitten.  Actually, I took Havok on several weeks ago, but this is the first time I've had time to sit down and write anything concerning the whole thing.  One of our regular customers on the shift I work had a pair of litters during the holiday season - 1 on Thanksgiving, the other on Christmas Eve.  9 kittens total between the two litters, of which exactly 2 were male.  Not being a Complete idiot (and not wanting the hassle and expense of either an unwanted litter, or taking one in to have it spayed before such could happen while living on my rather limited budget) I opted to take on one of the two males born in the Christmas Eve litter.

It took me a couple of days to decide on a name for the little guy.  Nothing really seemed to fit, and I'm not much of one to pick names randomly or because they're popular with the rest of the world.  So I waited until he started showing his true personality, after he got comfortable with the idea that this was now his home.  And as expected, a name presented itself in short order.  His playful tendency to lie in wait and stalk the older cats - and strings, the catnip filled mouse which Merlin has abused so greatly over the years - my ankles - made me decide he has a bit of a warlike nature.  He's aggressive, in that cute, baby, kittenish way.  So I was sitting here a few days after getting him, nursing the bleeding wound on my foot and ankle from another sneak attack, and muttered to myself, "Cry Havoc and let loose the dogs of war."  Then I paused, blinked, chuckled, and amended myself to "kitten of chaos."

Now back in January (Jan. 2nd, to be exact) my boyfriend James dropped me off after work and went home, only to find that his very pregnant Wolf / Husky hybrid Rayne was going into labor.  We had 9 kinds of hell this time Last year trying to get rid of all of the unexpected and unwanted litter she had at that point, and had tried to keep her from getting tagged again This year to no avail.  Best laid plans of mice, and all that after all.  She ended up with a much smaller litter this year than last - only 5 pups rather than 9 - and only 1 female out of the group rather than nothing But females like we had to contend with before.

The lone female out of Rayne's litter, along with one of her male sibs (the one who looked most like her - go figure) were claimed and picked up by the time the group was 6 weeks old and 90% weaned.  The other 3 males - all black furred with various small portions of white markings - were not so easy to find homes for.  And the longer they were around over at James's place, the more attached to them *I became, even though I'm only over at his place one day a week. 

Don't get me wrong - he and I see a lot more of each other than simply once a week.  We work in the same place, on the same shift, with the same days off.  He is my ride to and from work every night that we're on the clock.  We simply do not live together, and on our days off, I spend 1 day with him, and the rest here at home catching up housework and laundry and errands.  It works well for us, since it means we get to spend a lot of time together without it being Too much time together, and still leaves each of us our own space and alone time.  We agreed when we started seeing each other than living in the same house isn't an option at this point, while we work at the same place on the same shift.  Every couple needs time Away from each other, even if it's just that 8 or 10 hours a day while they're at work.  Otherwise it rapidly becomes too much of a good thing, and you really begin to get on each other's nerves.  So we maintain our separate spaces, and spend on of our days off together doing stuff as a couple ranging from mutual foodie explorations of the 1600+ restaurants in the OKC metro area (we have some surprisingly good places to eat around here!) to movies to prowling through antique stores together to watching Food Network cooking competition show marathons since we're both spectacular cooks.

But I digress.  Back to the point about Rayne's most recent litter born in January. 

By this point, the remaining 3 males had all gotten old enough to be completely weaned and to have developed rather distinct personalities, giving us an opportunity to start thinking about naming them.  Necessary, really, when we're (still) looking for homes for 2 out of the 3 remaining pups so that we aren't constantly having to do the whole "the fat one" or "the aggressive one" or "the blue eyed one" to refer to them to each other.  Speaking of which, if you happen to know anyone who would like a puppy - 98% wolf, the other 2% split between Husky and Sheppard - please, feel free to let me know.   PLEASE?

I basically fell in love with the blue eyed scamp who was the calmest - and most people oriented - of the trio.  He has the most stunningly blue eyes that I've seen on a dog (wolf hybrid or otherwise) in years, and I took to calling him Blue because of it.  Which set James and I discussing names for the pups.  Which brought up "Ole Blue Eyes" or "Sinatra" as a final name for this lil guy.  Of course That got us into a discussion about names for the other two as well.  One of the two is a food dish bully, and semi-vocal, with a rather wide white strip down his face, a bit of white on his belly, and 2 white paws.  The other is completely black except for 4 white paws, with no markings on his face or upper body at all, rather aggressive (he's the alpha of the 3 when they're all together) and particularly vocal all the time.  He howls, he barks, he growls, and he yips.  Almost constantly.  He's the talker - or singer - of the group.  Based on markings, personality, and the fact that I got the ball rolling with calling my lil furball Frankie, Blue, or Sinatra alternately, the other two ended up with the names DeanO (for the fat one) and Sam.  Depending on how old you are, how much of a music buff you are, and how much of a 40s to 60s trivia buff you are, you should recognize the references.

So my house is, once again, a menagerie.  But that's OK with me.  I like animals more than I like most people on any given day.  I can Trust animals.  They offer unconditional love, loyalty, companionship, and amusement, all while asking nothing of us except to be loved and kept fed.  They offer comfort when we're sad or depressed.  They keep us from being lonely.  They are always happy to see us when we get home from work or going out, without expecting us to sympathize with their rotten day if they had one.  They listen to our hopes, fears, and dreams without judgement or rumor mongering or gossiping about us.  They'll never lie to us, cheat on us, betray us for no reason other than being evil - after all, pets only tend to get Mean if they're abused or Raised to be that way - By Us - and it only comes as an instinctive self protection response if WE do something to Deserve it.

Anyway, Merlin and Stormy seem to have become rather stoic about the parade of other cats and dogs in and out of my life.  They're both very laid back, and accepting of sharing their space - and their human - with other 4 footed foundlings.  Havok hasn't been quite so amiable about sharing space with a DOG of all things, though he gets along well with the older cats, and he's beginning to realize that Blue isn't going anywhere, so he might as well get used to a smelly dog being part of the family.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Upping the Status Quo

When most people use the word "normal," I believe they mean "Status Quo".  After all - normal is supposed to be the median - somewhere near the middle of various statistical outliers, right?  So you have to sort of ask yourself, what IS the median for here in the US these days?  I know what the "Dream" was while I was growing up.  I know what the median was during that time as well, and how things have changed from then to now.

So.  For the past - oh, 15 to 18 months - almost 2 years of my life - things have been quite removed from both the median, and what I consider "normal" or "status quo." 

Life has changed for me significantly since I started this blog a little over 2 years ago.  Granted, things were what Most people would call "normal" for me at the start of this lil venture.  I had a live in (abusive) boyfriend, a (unstable, unhealthy) relationship with what remains of my blood relatives, a couple of (semi-psychotic) pets, massive debt, and the "standard" stuff that we all consider "necessary" for living - electricity, hot water, ac in the summer and a working heater in the winter, a running vehicle, the standard amounts of insurance coverage for same, home PC, and a few "extras" to make life a tad nicer.

That all came to a crashing halt during the course of 2010, and it's been a long (and frequently frustrating) road to recovering something that at least Remotely resembles "normal" in my life. 

What happened to change everything?  A lot, really.  A nervous breakdown.  Jail time over an unpaid traffic ticket.  Betrayal by the abusive ex, followed rapidly by that non-relationship flushing itself down the toilet.  Followed far too closely by a twit roommate (no longer a roommate, or considered a friend) who ran my electric bill up to over $1000 in the course of 2 months during the summer of that year (while I was still unemployed), only to jump and run like a rat leaving a sinking ship when the electricity got cut off rather than helping to pay down the bill that she caused.  Fortunately for me, I started work within 48 hours of her jumping ship.

There are a lot of things we tend to take for granted in middle class America.  Working lights.  Running water.  A working car to get us where we need to go that isn't within easy walking distance.  (And in some states, such as here in Oklahoma, that's practically everywhere - there Is NO real public transportation system to speak of, and the Oklahoma City Metro area covers a Lot of ground!)  A hot water tank that doesn't leak to the point of self destructing when you can't afford to replace it.

Being without all of those things for several months really caused me to take a step back and examine my priorities.  No electricity doesn't just mean living in the dark or by candle light.  (Trust me, while most folks consider dinner by candlelight to be romantic, when you do it Every Single Night - simply because you have No other light source, and the sun has gone down - it looses it's appeal rapidly.) 

It also means having no Safe heat in the winter.  Why?  Because even with a natural gas heater, that heater has an Electric Thermostat.  No electricity = no thermostat = no heater.  Hope you don't mind wearing lots of layers, and have plenty of spare blankets.

It means no TV, no computer, no games, no way to plug in that cell phone (which has become your only means of contact with the rest of the world when you aren't specifically at work - so don't forget to take the charger with you TO work, so that you can plug it in while you're there!) 

It means using a laundromat to wash clothes, because the washer & dryer in the garage require electricity to run.  And since you have no Car, it means only going when Every Stitch of clothing in the house requires washing, within a day or two after payday (so you haven't blown the laundry money on other necessities - make sure you save your quarters for the machines) and you can cadge a ride to the laundry from a friend. (Better make sure you budget yourself to pay their gas, it'll make them more amiable to helping.  And consider throwing in lunch on you as well, just to make sure they don't balk or find something else to do - after all, not many people will pass up a meal on someone else's dime, right?) 

It means not having company over, because no one really wants to sit around in the dark with nothing to do - not you, and certainly not your friends. 

It means cooking on a Coleman camp stove, with a window cracked open for fresh air (yes, even in the dead of winter when it's 15 degrees outside) and making sure you don't waste the propane before you have a chance to get more next payday, unless you happen to have a gas kitchen.  (Unfortunately for me, my parents were fond of electric, so they converted the kitchen to all electric shortly after buying this house.  If I ever manage to dig myself far enough out of the hole, I plan on converting at least the stove top back to gas - or maybe I'll simply add a second, gas, stovetop area in my workshop space.)  It means only buying food for 1 or 2 meals at a time, unless it's dry goods that don't require any sort of refridgeration (except in the winter, when the whole house is one giant deep freeze, and you end up wearing 4 layers of clothing And keeping a blanket over you when you're not huddling under 6 blankets in bed because that's the warmest spot in the house.)  Yeah - that's right - all those convenient microwavable things that you love so much?  Kiss those goodbye completely.  Between the lack of a freezer, and the lack of electricity to run the microwave, they're Right out.

That is what my life has been for most of the past 2 years.  While working, paying off the outrageous bill left by the ex-roommate, trying to keep the phone bill, gas bill, water bill, grocery bill, laundromat use, pet food, and tossing what help I could towards gas for the friend who most frequently took me to run my absolutely necessary errands that couldn't be done on foot in places within 2 miles of home.  I'm not out of the hole yet.  Things are improving - a Lot - but I still have a ways to go before it's back to what Most of you call the Status Quo.  

I finally managed to get the old electric bill paid off (mid-February) and get that turned back on.  With the electric back on, I found out that my old fridge died in it's long sleep.  So right off the bat, other things got delayed so that I could replace the fridge with a working one.  Fortunately, the same friend who has been kind enough to make sure my various errands got run found me a good one on the cheap at a second hand place, and brought the truck so myself, my current boyfriend, and he could go pick it up and get it in here at the house. 

As of Today, I finally have TV and Internet back on here at home, via Cable.  (Hence this blog update! LOL)  Being as addicted to the web as I am, I think being without a consistent, convenient way to get online has been as much a trial for me as any of the rest of it.  I spent a lot of hours up at IHOP and McDonald's, filching the free wifi - and spending so much money eating out, to justify same, that honestly I could have had everything back on probably 4 months earlier had I not been eating out so much just so I could log on to the web.

I ended up switching phone services for my cell during all this trial.  I had Sprint for a long time, but it simply became way to expensive and too much of a hassle.  I've gone pre-paid again, but it's not the same old pre-paid that it used to be in the past.  I get the same unlimited calls, texts, and web access via my cell for $45 a month through this pre-paid that I was paying Sprint $150 a month for.  I think that change, as much as anything else, helped me finally get myself dug out as much as I have.

It hasn't been all bad.  Don't think for a second that it's been all bad.  I caught up on reading that I kept telling myself I was going to do, but never getting around to.  (You do a lot of that, when there's literally nothing else TO do, other than read or do housework.) 

I managed to find an incredible man who I have a fantastic, Healthy relationship with.  (The first Healthy relationship I've had in more years than I care to count!  Perhaps my picker finally readjusted itself from it's chronically broken state.)  He has been a true gift from the gods, supportive and encouraging.  Gainfully employed at a job he's had for a long time (same company for the past 13 or 14 years, though not always at the same location) prior Navy service, intelligent, sense of humor (rather warped, which is good considering how warped My sense of humor can be) with none of the ugly bad habits that some of my former partners have had like alcoholism or drug issues. 

I've learned who my friends are - and who they Aren't.  (Which, honestly, can be an important step in life - not to mention extremely eye opening!) 

I've learned to appreciate what I have, to keep my expectations of both myself and others realistic, that despite being daddy's lil girl until I was in my 40s (and he had a stroke) I AM capable of taking care of myself and standing on my own two feet - even when I don't necessarily Want to.  I've learned that sometimes life isn't about what we Want or Think we need - but about being creative and doing much with little.  I've learned that while daydreams are great, and games are fun - burying your head and playing ostrich in the hopes that problems will just go away isn't a game that has any winners.  The problems are still there when you quit daydreaming or playing escapist games.

And mostly I've learned about myself.  Where I lost myself, what it's taking to refind myself, and what sort of road is in front of me to become once again the person I'm capable of being.  So far the journey promises to be interesting.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Am I just getting old, or what?

So yesterday afternoon (it's currently 6am, and I'm sitting in IHOP with a cuppa that's kept filled by one of the waitresses here who know me by name because I'm That much of a regular at this place on this shift) my buddy Eric comes by for a few minutes to see how things are going, borrow my washer & dryer long enough to toss a couple of things in rather than take 'em to a laundrymat (can't say as I blame him on that one) and simply hang for a bit.  While he was over, he did a bit of internet searching via his smartphone. 

First, I keep thinking about how things were when I got my very first ever home computer.  Things were not like they are now.  I feel like a dinosaur a Lot these days, when watching (or listening to) the 20somethings and teenagers.  There were no Smartphones with touch screens and more computing power in your POCKET than what we used to take us to the MOON when I was still an infant.  Hell, there were no Cell Phones at all - it was a land line or nothing at all.  I remember when Car phones first hit the market - actually hooked To the car, piss poor reception which only worked in city limits - but didn't work downtown because the tall buildings interfered with the signal. 

Anyway - first computer?  Oh yeah.  Commodore 64, external 1200 Baud modem, hard drives didn't even Exist, black and white monitor, 5 1/4 floppy (again, external) and a cassette tape drive which I eventually Upgraded to an external 3 1/2 floppy.  I even Eventually managed to upgrade my modem to a blazing 2400 baud just around the time that 9600 bauds were first being introduced for IBM (only - not clones, just the real thing.)  I remember all the raging debates that took place on the local BBSes when the first 20 Meg hard drives came out for IBM, and then Clones shortly after that.  We all SWORE that no one would Ever be able to fill a Whole Twenty Megs!  OMG that's just more space than anyone will Ever need, Right?  RIGHT??

The switch from Car phones to bulky backpack "Mobile" phones.  Crappy reception, expensive enough that you felt like you were mortgaging your firstborn, but a Huge symbol of Status and being Up on Tech for it's day.  It was a few years before we went from that to what started eventually looking like current Cellphones.

And all this has been during my Adult years - not simply my lifetime.  Oh no, this has all taken place since I was in high school.  And it just keeps going apace, forward ever forward.

What brought on this particular bout of nostalgia?  It was what Eric happened to stumble across while searching the interwebz for something completely unrelated.  It seems that yet another musical icon of my infancy and childhood is gone.  This time Davey Jones, face man and lead singer of the 60s group The Monkees.  I grew up lusting after him - before I even knew what "lust" was. 

The Monkees were a rather Unique music group from that era.  Rather than being comprised of a bunch of friends who all happened to play and sing, and one of them being a halfway decent songwriter and/or lyricist - none of the members of the Monkees knew each other at all until the group was formed.  They each auditioned for a part in a TV comedy series, which was meant to poke a bit of fun at the Beatles and other such 60s icon groups who were so incredibly popular at the time.  They were chosen, and actually met Because they were part of the show.  What no one expected, when the group was thrown together for the show, was that they would all be so incredibly talented, or mesh together as a single whole quite so well.  Nor did anyone expect the group to become so wildly popular on the stage as a music group in it's own right, rather than simply as part of the cast of a TV sitcom.

Davey's death hasn't been the only loss of one of my childhood icons during the recent past.  More and more of them are going the way of the dinosaur, dying off in what seems to be a mass extinction event during the past 5 years.

My childhood is rapidly dying and becoming a thing not even of memory - just half forgotten fairy tales and pleasant myths of the past.  Technology is moving at a pace I can barely keep up with - and I'm at least moderately tech savvy, for someone over the age of 25 who isn't specifically in a high tech computer field for work. 

When did the clock move forward so far?  When did all this Grey start showing up in my mirror?  (For that matter, when did I start looking in the mirror and seeing my mother, rather than ME?  She was a wonderful, witty, intelligent, strong, capable woman - but I never wanted to be anyone other than Myself.  She's dead and gone this past 10 years, and long since turned to wormfood.  She needs to stay that way, and let me start seeing ME in the mirror again rather than echos and shades of Her.)

Am I getting old?  Naaaaaaaaaaah... couldn't be.