Thursday, September 21, 2017

There’s a Noob Around Here, Again

Regular readers will know, because I’ve mentioned it like three times, that I lost a cat recently. I still feel sad every time I check my Facebook memories (why do I do this to myself?) or accidentally scroll too far back in the pictures on my phone.


The silver lining in this cloud is that it gives me an excuse to get a new kitten.

I let the manfriend pick him out, although I’m not sure he actually understands how serious that makes us. You know things are getting serious with a person when I’m letting them pick out kittens.

The manfriend wants to name him Connor, but I’d like to name him Trip Hazard, Trip for short. I’ve actually been calling him Little, because he’s sooo little, and also he seems to respond to it.

I brought him home on Monday, and he’s starting to settle in.

Fatty is only mildly irritated by this situation.

Max is still afraid of him, bless his anxious little heart, but Fatty is starting to show some interest…or possibly disinterest, considering that he hasn’t started biting him yet.
For the first two days I had Little here, he refused to get off my lap/chest/shoulder, which was kind of annoying, for two reasons: 1) he’s got the foulest freaking gas I’ve ever smelled, and 2) it’s hard to get any writing done when a kitten is tromping all over your keyboard.
I thought, He’s young and freaked out. He’s in a new place and wants comfort. Also, I’m the only other living thing in the house that’s being nice to him right now. So, I tolerated it and tried to make time to cuddle and hold him. He’d usually settle down and go to sleep on my boob-shelf after a while, leaving me free to do other things with my hands.

He's a monkey.

But then, yesterday, I went out for a while and came home to this:

My sweet, loving, affectionate, tiny kitten with the huge purr…has been using me for my chair. Just like the other two little bastards. But here’s the thing – he just got here. How does he already know about the chair!? 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

On Flying the Confederate Flag in West Virginia (of All Places)

Once, I was driving, slowly and carefully, down the dirt road that leads to my house. I always drive slowly and carefully on this road, because this is a family neighborhood, and children play all over the place around here. One in particular has been known to pop out of the trees on his dirt bike, right in front of my car, but I digress.

I was, as usual, driving carefully down the dirt road when some pimply-faced teenager in a broken-down, rusted-out sh*tbox of a truck came flying out of a side street, nearly slamming into the front of my reliable, barely-scratched-and-dented-at-all Subaru. A large Confederate flag on an honest-to-god flagpole flapped over the bed of his truck. This probably happened about three years ago, but I’m still pissed off about it, because of that Confederate flag. Sure, you're free to fly your Confederate flag, but I'm just as free to make several assumptions about your character, and let me tell you, none of them are good.

There’s been a lot of debate lately about whether or not individual Americans and/or state and local government agencies should be flying the Confederate flag. I’m going to come down firmly on the anti-Confederate-flag side of this debate. I don’t think anyone has any business flying the Confederate flag in this day and age. “It’s heritage, not hate!” you say, but the flaw with that argument is that it pretty clearly is a heritage of hate, though. If your heritage includes committing treason and owning human beings as property, well, those are parts of your heritage that I'd think you'd want to downplay, not brag about. I mean, people sidle nervously away from me if I mention my abusive ex or that time my mother castrated a dog, but you're allowed to strut around literally waving a racist flag AND get all bent out of shape when people ask you not to, like they're getting offended on purpose just to piss you off? It's all about you, isn't it? No. No it's not.

But, even I have to admit that it’s one thing flying the Confederate flag in Virginia or South Carolina or some other state that was actually part of the Confederacy. If your family’s lived in Atlanta for the past twelve generations and General Sherman personally burned down your great-great-great-great grandmother, then displaying the Confederate flag on your property at least kind of makes sense. Mind you, it still makes you look like someone whose dog would get “inexplicably” nervous around black people, but it’s more-or-less logical if you leave out the fact that the Civil War has been over for 152 years. Flying the Confederate flag in states that were not a part of the Confederacy, such as West Virginia, takes a special kind of disrespect for your culture and your ancestors. Were you not paying attention in your West Virginia history class? West Virginia formed its own government in 1861 and was recognized as a Union state in 1863. We did this specifically because we didn’t want to secede from the Union. We didn't want to join the Confederate States of America because we didn't share their culture or values. The rugged territory in what was then called Trans-Allegheny Virginia made the establishment of large, profitable plantations – and the slave labor required to run them – less practical than in the eastern Tidewater and Piedmont regions, and early settlers consisted mostly of poor German and  Scots-Irish immigrants who supported their families via subsistence farming in some of the country’s most remote communities.

Many Trans-Allegheny Virginians always wanted their own state; efforts to establish an independent state west of the Alleghenies date back to the American Revolution, when Appalachia was considered the frontier. The Virginia State Constitution of 1829 established property qualifications for suffrage that many of the poorer farmers in the western part of the state couldn't meet; when you factored the three – fifths compromise into this, it disenfranchised almost everyone who lived in the mountains. The eastern planter elite controlled the state legislature and served their own interests while ignoring the needs of the underrepresented west. So, when we saw an opportunity to ditch those a—holes, we took it. Immediately.

And now you have the gumption to fly a Confederate flag anyway. What's that funny sound I hear? Oh, right. It's your great-great-great-great grandfather spinning in his grave.

Monday, September 11, 2017

So, It Turns Out I Might Actually Be a Cat Lady

What I came home to the other day.

About five years ago, when this blog was young and I only had one cat, who was also young, someone called me a cat lady. I felt the need to rebutt this accusation with a list of reasons why I’m not a cat lady.

But, despite what every single one of my former romantic partners, my current romantic partner, my mother, and my friends believe, I am not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. Mistakes were made, new information has emerged, and it turns out I might actually be a cat lady. Here’s why.

I Didn’t Want the Cat, Except I Actually Secretly Wanted the Cat

When I first got Fatty aka Shoe aka El Gato Terrible1, I didn’t really want him. He was a gift. You know how they say you should never give animals as gifts? Yeah, you should never do that. I felt very put-upon about it at the time, to the point where I even made arrangements to give the cat away, but then I backed out of those arrangements at the last minute, because I’d already gotten too attached.

How could I not?

I Stopped Letting the Cat Out, Because I Worried About Him Too Much

When I first got Fatty, I used to let him out. I live in the country, on a dead-end dirt road, so I figured it was probably fine. Fatty is confident in his ability to bite the sh*t out of anything that might cause trouble for him. But after letting him out several times, I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore; I would have to hold him hostage inside the house. Why? Because every time I let him out, I would just sit and worry about what could happen to him out there until he finally came back. There are hawks, coyotes, and rednecks out there. Also, I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, which may have had something to do with it, but who needs prescription medication when you can just deny a living thing its freedom?

But, five years later, Fatty hasn’t given up hope. He still asks to go out every day, sitting at the door and scratching it furiously. He tries, often successfully, to slip out when we open the door. When I realized he knew how to open the screen door, I started leaving the main door open with the screen door locked, just to laugh at him when he keeps pushing the handle and getting more and more frustrated.

Recently, the manfriend looked down at Fatty waiting to make a break for it when he opened the door and said, “Fatty, when have you ever been allowed to go out?” and I had to say, “Well, actually…”

Fatty has the heart of an explorer, as opposed to his brother, who has the heart of a Jello mold. Which brings me to…

I Have Multiple Cats

I had to get a second cat to give Fatty someone else to bite instead of me. Don’t get me wrong; he still bites me, but at least he no longer sneaks up behind me to jump up, sink his claws and teeth into my butt cheek, and hang there.

I had to get a third cat because three cats is the perfect amount of cats. With three cats, there’s always a cat asking for cuddles when you feel like cuddling one.

I Spoil Them, Too

My cats have a cat tree that’s bigger than some apartments I’ve lived in. I screened in my back porch so they could go out there and sniff the breeze. They drink from a cat fountain that provides filtered water, or at least it would if I bought more of the filters. I give them treats every night. I bought them a feeder puzzle just in case their normal food dish was too boring. I spend more money on their medical care than I do on my own, which I thought was normal until I discovered that some people never take their cats to the vet at all. I buy them Christmas presents. I have even taken them out for walks, although this gives Max panic attacks and I get the sh*t bitten out of me every time I try to put Fatty in his harness, which is actually a dog harness because that’s how big he is.

One of My Cats Died, and I Made a Tombstone for It

1. I don't speak Spanish, but he does.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to Make a Grave Marker for a Cat

If you’re a regular reader or a real-life friend, you know that a couple of months ago, one of my cats died. She was a sweet, friendly, affectionate cat who’d only brought herself to start sitting on my lap about five or six months before her death.

I buried the body at home, but I wanted to mark it in some way for multiple reasons. Not only did I want to honor her memory, but I also wanted to remember where I buried her, and, if I end up moving and someone else buys the house, I’ll feel better knowing that they’ll know she’s here and, on a more practical level, that they won’t accidentally dig up a dead cat some day.

At first I thought I might buy a pet memorial stone, but they were all expensive, cheap, cheesy, and impersonal. I did some further research and found this blog post by a lady who made her own cat headstone out of quick set mortar and I thought that project just about matched my haphazard DIY skill set, which, as it turns out, it pretty much did.

Having read the instructions, I gathered my materials:

The larger bucket is for mixing the mortar. I added an appropriate amount of mortar before I took the picture, because the bag of mortar lives in the garage. I used the time-honored method of eyeballing it to determine how much mortar I would need. I used this same mortar once before to erect some trellises next to my front porch, so I was familiar with it. The smaller bucket was for adding water to the mortar mix, because that previous experience taught me that if I try to add water directly from the spigot, I will add too much. The garden trowel was for mixing the mortar, and the taping knife was for smoothing it in the mold; I chose an old shoe box for a mold. None of these were the proper tools, but I made do with what I had.

I made sure to buy actual mortar rather than Portland cement, because a previous experience with Portland cement taught me that it will give you chemical burns if you get it on your skin. Thanks to this same experience I also learned that it will be okay if you wash it off quickly enough, but I wasn’t in the mood to take chances. I also wore gloves, but I recommend wearing an old pair of gloves because you will probably get mortar all over them.

You should also really wear a face mask while working with the mortar, but I didn’t because they make me feel like I’m being smothered with a hot piece of raw meat. I tried really hard not to breathe in any of the dust.

The first step was adding water to the dry mortar mix. I added too much, so I had to go back down to the garage and add a few more trowels of mortar to get it to the right consistency. It needed to be thick so the letter impressions would hold.

While not unbearably strenuous, mixing the mortar was the hardest part. I had to keep scraping the bottom of the bucket to get at clumps of dry mortar that weren’t mixing well. Once it was all mixed, I put it in the mold, then used the trowel to spread it more-or-less evenly over the bottom of the box.

I then used the taping knife to smooth the surface of the mortar.

Finally, I used my set of stone stamps to create the inscription. 

They don’t carry stone stamps at Michael’s, or at least they don’t in my town, so I ordered them on Amazon. After reading several reviews of different sets of stone stamps available, I splurged on a set that has little handles on them so you can more easily press the stamps into the mortar and pull them out. They were about $12, but I figure I’ll be using them again in the future the next time a pet dies.

Someday I'll miss this chocolate starfish.

At this point, the mortar was starting to set and it became increasingly difficult to press the letters into the surface as I went along. I didn’t really plan the design in any way so it’s pretty crooked. Because the stone stamps came all jumbled up in a bag, I had to spend more time than I would have liked finding the letters I wanted, so I probably should have sorted them out before I began mixing the mortar. I accidentally used an upside-down A instead of a V in “beloved,” but happily, the medium allowed for some mistakes; I was able to refill that letter with a scrap of mortar scraped from the bottom of the mixing bucket and smooth it back out with my finger. I also went a little bit overboard with the inscription, deciding at the last minute to add onto it at the bottom of the stone. All things considered, though, I’m happy with the results.