Sunday, August 11, 2019

The cat in the trap

OXY is still missing. It's been two months.

We borrowed traps from MEOW Cat Rescue the first day she was gone and started setting and baiting them immediately, putting in catnip and the smelliest food we could find. We set and checked traps around the neighborhood for weeks. We reported Roxy as missing to the microchip company. We put up huge pink LOST - PLEASE HELP posters all through the neighborhood so that no one could miss them. We put up "Lost Cat" alerts on social media sites and in specialty groups on Facebook (Lost Cats of King County, etc.) We bought an infrared camera to try to catch sight of her next to a trap. We tried to hire several pet detectives to come out and help us search (none of them would come to our part of Washington). We hired a man with a cat-sniffing dog ($300) who could not find her. (If you have a lost cat, we strenuously do not recommend this service -- he will probably end up chasing your cat further away, which is what happened to Roxy.) We performed two house-to-house searches, one in our neighborhood and one around my friend Wendy's house where Roxy was spotted. We put out traps and food near Wendy's house (Roxy didn't touch them). We borrowed a drop trap and stayed up two nights running with it trying to catch Roxy (she didn't come near it). We printed more than 1800 flyers asking people to help us find Roxy and hand-delivered them to every single house in the neighborhood. (If people had "No Soliciting" signs up, we took note of their addresses and mailed the flyers to them, so nobody was missed.) We went through the neighborhood at night looking for her, sometimes silently, sometimes calling softly. We bought an e-book from a pet detective in Texas to try to figure out things we weren't already doing. We changed our voice mail message to mention we are looking for Roxy and checked the phone multiple times a day for leads. We followed up on every lead every time someone called to say "I think I saw your cat." We asked people to check their security cameras for signs of Roxy. We offered $50 to anyone who could provide a verifiable picture of Roxy within the last 24 hours. (So far, no one has.) We created a Pawboost alert for social media that went out all over the greater Seattle area. We put up "lost cat" ads on Craigslist. We checked and continue to check the shelter websites every night and morning to see if Roxy has been brought in. We gave flyers to local vets, pet stores and MEOW Cat Rescue. We let all the local shelters know we were looking for Roxy. We left water and a little cardboard "kitty house" next to the door in case she found her way home. We left the door open all day and night in case she found her way home. We prayed, had many others praying for us, we fasted for Roxy, and I put a cat's name on the temple prayer roll. (I'm not sure if it's allowed, but I did it anyway.)

All in all, we have spent nearly $2,000 so far to try to get Roxy home. We've also lost many hours of sleep and I dropped about 10 pounds from constant worry. And nothing has come of it. Roxy remains missing, and we are trying to come to terms with the fact that we may never see her again.

Yes, it hurts. Every day. And yes, I'm bitter about it. If you went to this much trouble to find a lost pet and had absolutely no success, I guarantee you would be too.

While the traps didn't work as we'd hoped, they did yield some surprises. We caught two different opossums in various locations. We also started leaving a trap baited in our front yard in the vain hope of catching Roxy if she found her way home again. And while we didn't catch Roxy, on the morning of July 11 we found something interesting in the trap.

First picture of Charlie the cat
It was a young cat (the vet estimates 10 to 11 months old), a brown tabby with a white ruff and socks and green eyes. The cat was relatively small and underfed, but had the long legs and big paws of a lerpy teenager. He had no tags or collar, no microchip (we checked at two vets with three different chip readers), had never been neutered and probably never had his shots. He was also ravenously hungry and would eat almost anything, he had fleas and showed other signs of having lived on the street for months. But the most impressive thing we noticed about him was the level of fight in him. Somehow, after having followed the siren call of sardines into the trap, he managed to pull the entire heavy oilcloth trap cover into the trap with him -- probably while trying to escape. He then vented his frustrations on the cover, which was pretty mangled by the time we found him. (We're going to pay for a replacement... sorry, MEOW.)

He appeared to be a little street cat, but he wasn't feral -- he didn't hiss when humans approached his cage...

Charlie does his best kitty smile
... he liked being close to us, and he loved being petted and brushed, so we knew that at some point in his past he'd been around people. Our best guess is that this cat was part of an unplanned litter of kittens from someone's unspayed pet. He was obviously played with and socialized, but when he grew past the "cute kitten" stage he was probably taken to a neighborhood far from home and dumped out to fend for himself.

A level they reserve for cat dumpers and people who talk at the theater.
I'm just gonna leave this here
All the signs pointed to this being an unwanted cat. Nobody had given him an indoor home, no one had chipped or even collared him, nobody seemed to be looking for him. I guess we could have decided it wasn't our problem, opened the trap and let him run away. But that's not what we did. We know firsthand what anguish it is to lose a pet. Besides, we've seen coyotes in our neighborhood. We weren't about to let this kitty run headlong into predators, no matter how much fight he had in him.

"Hi! You got treats?"
"Hi! You got treats?"
Also, he was really cute and a huge flirt.

Now, our county has laws about what to do if you find a stray cat. You can't just say "o well, finders keepers" and merrily yoink him off the street. The law stipulates two options: either you take him to the county shelter, where they try to find his owners for THREE WHOLE DAYS and then put him up for adoption, or you can keep him in your own home at your expense for A FULL MONTH, advertising him as a found cat on local bulletin boards and on the shelter website so that his owner -- if there is one -- has every chance to come forward and claim him. Once the month has passed, you're then free to pay the licensing fee and keep the animal if you want. Because we're kinda dumb (and because he was really cute), we chose to do it the hard way and foster the cat in our home. (And if you're reading this, it means a full month has passed with no contact from an owner.)

So was this a cheap way to get a cat? Well, not the way we did it. This kitty has already been to the vet five times -- to scan multiple times for a microchip, to find out why he was coughing, to check up on an enlarged heart (his heart is unusually big, but it works just fine)...

Alas, the Cone of Shame.
Alas, the Cone of Shame.
... to get him neutered, microchipped, screened for FeLV and FIV (negative on both), given all his basic shots and treated for fleas. You know, all the stuff owners are supposed to do for their pets.

Charlie in the tunnel with a Rollie toy (rubber bands, best cat toy ever)
And since he's going to be an indoor cat, we also put a bright orange collar on him and a tag that says "I'M LOST!" If you'd like to know why, read this.

This cat has been through several name changes. Because we trapped him on July 11, which in the USA is 7/11 (aka Free Slurpee Day at the 7-Eleven convenience store chain), we first called him Slurpee, but we soon decided that was an insufficiently dignified name for a masculine cat. Then, as the call of the wild began to tug at him and he came up with novel, loud and annoying ways to attempt egress from the house at 2 a.m. ...

Charlie at the window
"Some day, window. Some day."
... we toyed with the idea of calling him Hairy Mewdini, Escape Artist. But one day I just realized he looked like a Charlie cat. So we started calling him Charlie, and it's stuck.

It's still possible that Roxy will come back. If she does, we'll need to find a good home for Charlie. While we think Charlie is social enough to tolerate another cat, Roxy is far too timid to handle other animals in the house. But if she remains missing, we intend to keep this guy. He's stopped trying to escape (well, mostly), he's well-fed, well-groomed and flea-free, he gets to play with toys, randomly attack the sofa, and chase Tigger (a catnip-filled knitted tiger toy)...

Charlie asleep on the bed
... he sleeps anywhere he wants, and he has people who give him lots of love and attention and who think his occasional naughtiness is more endearing than it is annoying.

Charlie under the bed
Local street cat makes good. Film at 11.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Roxy is missing again - July 14 update

Recent picture of Roxy, a tortoiseshell cat with yellow-green eyes
Domestic shorthair mix, 5 year old spayed female, weighs about 10 pounds, black and light reddish-brown tortoiseshell with "split-face" markings, yellow-green eyes
Microchip number: 0A13737525
Date missing: 9 June 2019, 10:30 p.m., in the 6200 block of 156th Avenue NE, Redmond, WA (near the Meadows subdivision)
Last spotted: 25 June 2019, around 1 a.m., in the lower section of NE 59th Way, Meadows subdivision

Roxy is an indoor-only cat. She has been lost once before and was gone for the better part of a week before we were able to trap her. She was wearing her collar and tags and is microchipped. She is very timid and will probably not come when she is called. We hope she is hiding somewhere close by in the neighborhood, possibly under a deck or tarp, next to a house foundation, or in a shed or garage.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you live in or near the Meadows subdivision and you have a motion detection security camera, you may have footage of Roxy. Please check your logs for the past week, and if you see her, contact us immediately.

We borrowed a humane trap from a local cat rescue organization on Monday and have set and baited it every day since. Although there is some indication that some animal is eating food near the trap, we have seen no sign of Roxy.

Please help us find our kitty! We are heartsick at losing her.

If you have found or seen Roxy, send an email and reference her microchip number.

And if you pray, please pray for us, and for Roxy to be found quickly. Thank you.

UPDATE: June 28

We have seen Roxy in the Meadows area, but have not been able to trap her or lure her with food. Not only is she naturally timid and prone to hiding, but there are predators in our neighborhood, so she's a smart kitty. While that timidity probably keeps her alive, it also makes it really hard to get her back.

It's been three weeks since Roxy disappeared, and the experience has been physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. CM and I haven't been sleeping well and we can't focus on anything else. We just want her home.

UPDATE: July 14

It's been nearly three weeks since the last time we saw Roxy in the neighborhood and a total of five weeks since she was last home. We've distributed fliers through the entire neighborhood, letting them know our neighbors should call us at any time of the day or night if they see her. We've asked people to look for her on their security cameras. We've been keeping all the websites of the local shelters hot, checking and rechecking to see if she's been brought in. We've offered $50 to anyone who can provide a verifiable photo of Roxy taken within the last 24 hours. But there's been nothing. It's as though she just evaporated.

If anyone knows what happened to Roxy, please let us know. Even if you have awful news for us. We want to know what's become of our sweet, shy kitty.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Dance like nobody's watching! (Freak.)

Ah, internet aphorisms. They're always fun, aren't they?

Within my lifetime, the phrase "Dance like nobody's watching" has passed into aphoristic immortality. (You can tell a particular affirmation has achieved this level of notoriety when it gets attributed to multiple wits, and this one has been pinned to both Satchel Paige and Mark Twain -- I guess it isn't quite smooth enough to be believable as an Oscar Wilde. For what it's worth, the phrase originates from the lyrics to "Come From the Heart," a country song written in the '80s by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh.) Despite the wild popularity of this phrase, I suspect a lot of people don't understand it very well. Too many people seem to think that this phrase assumes your ability to channel your inner Michael Flatley -- that if you dance like a spaz in public, people will be impressed by your sweet moves, whoop and rise to their feet and cheer you on like that scene in Napoleon Dynamite.

Not even sorta.

Truth is, if you dance like a spaz in public, most people will raise their eyebrows but say nothing. Others, Nelson-like, will laugh and point at your mad gyrations. A few will be mean and call you a freak or worse. So why tell people to do it at all? Why encourage them to boogie down like a complete goofball and endure public humiliation for it?

Polychrome dances and is thought a freak by passing rabbits.
Well, I'm going to make the argument that the public humiliation is not a bug, but a feature of this advice. Goofball dancing in public (or other forms of gotta-be-me silliness -- about which, see more below) isn't necessarily going to win you lots of new friends. But it does work pretty well at winnowing out the people in your life who don't "get" you, or who are too concerned about being cool to put up with your unique weirdness in public. And it helps you build up the mental toughness to handle that rejection (which is inevitably going to happen) and keep being who you're meant to be.

No, it doesn't have to be dance specifically. I don't usually dance in public or private, since dance is not my preferred form of creative expression. But if I'm in any public place and they play Billy Joel's "Tell Her About It," my life will temporarily turn into a musical as I break into song for the next 3 minutes and 52 seconds. If you have to make yourself scarce during that time, I'll try to be understanding -- but it's still gonna happen because nearly four decades on, that song (and pretty much everything else on the Innocent Man album) is still A BOP. #sorrynotsorry

The other day I picked up an oversized bubble wand for $1.10 at a craft store, because reasons. I was set to pick up a few groceries and go home, but it was a nice cool evening, I didn't need to be anywhere right away, and the bubble wand needed breaking in... so for about half an hour, people got to laugh at this crazy middle-aged lady randomly blowing bubbles in a grocery store parking lot. Some just sped past me not making eye contact, and I thought, "Welp, there lies the man with heart so dead." Some, such as the Francophone couple who didn't know or care that I could understand what they were saying, got into their car making arch comments about "the idiot blowing bubbles." A few teenagers laughed, pulled out their phones and filmed me from a safe distance. (No, I don't want to know if I ended up on social media.)

But most people got it. Their eyes lit up. They smiled. They sang "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" at me. They giggled and chased floating bubbles on the wind like sugared-up kindergartners (and not just the kids, either; a couple of big, beefy, heavily-tatted guys who looked like they could have been in a gang were grinning and popping bubbles like it was going outta style). Or they just walked by to say, "That looks like fun!" At the least, I made their Monday night grocery run a little more interesting. And how many other fun things can you do in public for just $1.10?

Yeah, I live in my own little cosmos. So do you, probably. And doing silly stuff that makes you happy, in a place where other people can see, helps you decide who you can trust inside that cosmos and who gets denied entry. That's what I think "dance like nobody's watching" really means. Because people do watch... and the ones who like you anyway, even after seeing you flail about like a dork, are the ones who deserve to get in on the fun.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

What does Soozcat do all day, you ask? Here we go.

Making semi-homemade baked beans today. (This involves rough chopping a small onion and cutting up some pork product -- some days it's bacon, others it's kielbasa, depending on what needs using up -- sautéeing them in a medium-hot pan until the onions start to get soft, then opening up a couple cans of pork and beans, adding them to the pan along with a good squirt of ketchup, some spicy brown mustard, a shot or two of Worcestershire, a bit of liquid smoke and some kind of sweetener -- this time it was apricot preserves instead of brown sugar because I'm all fancy-pants like that -- putting everything into a casserole dish and cooking at 200 degrees for a couple hours, or until it's thick and bubbly and delectable. Nom.) I'll whang together a green salad later, and that'll be dinner done.

Heinz beans advertisement
No, I didn't use these. Though they are pretty tasty.
Also running a hot bleach load fulla whites and some fabric yardage Miss V wanted preshrunk before it was sent to her. I'm hoping I cut enough of it to account for shrinkage, but we'll see. And later I need to unload the dishwasher.

Meanwhile, in errands, my Doomed Quest for Packing Peanuts continues. You'd think packing peanuts would be available for sale everywhere. Nope. I've been to four different businesses today, with no joy. The only glimmer of hope so far was at Staples, where they had a tiny bag for inflated prices. I AM DISAPPOINT, but I'm also tenacious. I'm certain U-Haul or the UPS Store will have what I need, at a price I'm willing to pay.

Also on the list today: 120 grit sandpaper, Mountain Dew, kitty litter, replacement shovel (ours did a bunk a while back when someone borrowed it for a Boy Scout Eagle project) and ice cream sandwiches. Hmm. I'm pretty sure I know who added that last entry.

I'd be off to Git Stuff Dun, only Roxy-cat jumped up onto the desk while I was typing and has settled down between my arms to take a nap. AAAAH PINIONED TO THE SPOT BY FUZZY CUTENESS. I must gnaw off a limb and flee!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Blessings of Obedience (a Sacrament Meeting talk)

[I gave this talk back in January. Although it didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped, I was fortunate to have a kind and supportive congregation who were willing to overlook various mistakes, nervous verbal tics, etc. Yay for kind audiences!]

Y mother, Karin Buck, is probably the best budgeter alive. She's had to be. As a widowed schoolteacher with six kids to feed -- four of whom were teenagers at once, and we did NOT eat lightly, either -- she always made sure every incoming penny did full duty for our family. So one day in the early 1990s when an unexpected envelope from the IRS arrived in the mail, Mom felt a little rush of apprehension. That apprehension turned to dread when she opened the letter. See, in the previous year Mom had unwittingly made an error on her tax return -- and that had triggered an audit. As a result of this error, the IRS had determined that Mom would have to pay a sizable chunk of back taxes. As in "we'll let you pay in monthly installments."

As mentioned, Mom budgeted everything down to the last penny. She knew there was no extra money left over to pay for taxes, no one to whom she could go for a temporary loan, and no easy way to bring in extra income. But she did have some money put away for tithing, which she intended to pay that coming Sunday. It happened to be about the same dollar amount as the first payment the IRS required.

So think about this for a second. Imagine you're my mom. You have consistently taught your children by example to pay tithing first, and learn to live on the 90% left over. But you have also taught them to obey the laws of the land. You are the sole breadwinner for your family, and if you don't pay the government right away, BAD THINGS are going to happen. What would you do?

Well, I'll tell you what my mom did. She didn't hesitate -- she paid her tithing first. She contacted the IRS and asked them for an extra grace period to come up with the money. And then she sat down and wondered how she was going to make those payments.

We'll get back to what happened to Mom after that, but maybe you're wondering why it was so easy for Mom to decide to pay her tithing first. That's because she'd already been through a similar experience. When she and my dad were young parents, they'd had to learn to live on the unsteady income Dad made as a freelance graphic designer. After the birth of their third child, they'd received a hospital bill that was much higher than what they had anticipated. At the same time, they had set aside tithing money from several of Dad's recent graphic design projects, and again, the tithing money and the hospital bill amounts were roughly the same. Should they pay the hospital, as they were legally obligated to do, or should they pay their tithing, not knowing when or whether the next paying job would come in?

Mom and Dad didn't know what to do. So they knelt and prayed together, asking for guidance. And they both received a strong spiritual prompting that if they obeyed the Lord and paid their tithing, the Lord would prepare a way for them to meet their other obligations. So they set their teeth and paid their tithing. And within weeks, Dad was offered a full-time job at what was then one of the largest advertising agencies in San Francisco. Not only were they able to pay their hospital bill, but with the steady income Dad was making they were able to put together a down payment, move out of their tiny apartment and buy a house of their own.

Mom remembered that previous experience of being obedient to the law of the tithe, and how Heavenly Father had blessed our family before. So she was certain that if she paid her tithing first, the Lord would help her take care of that unexpected tax burden -- even though at the time, she had no idea how He would do it.

And you know, it's funny. Over multiple months, and through a series of unrelated events that you might be tempted to call sheer coincidence if you weren't paying attention, Mom was able to save, find and make all the extra money the IRS wanted from her. But it didn't surprise Mom at all. Her previous experiment in obedience had given her an unshakable faith that if she obeyed the Lord, she could rely on His help. Or as Mom sometimes says, "I can't afford not to pay my tithing. I can't do without the blessings."

In an April 2015 General Conference talk entitled "Stay By the Tree," Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy said, "Obedience builds faith in Christ. Faith is a principle of action and power. Consistently following the Savior's example produces spiritual power and capacity." Certainly in my mom's case, her obedience over the years has produced a strong and abiding faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, an understanding that not only do they expect her to obey the commandments, but that as she proves herself obedient in small things, they will bless her with the means to obey in larger capacities.

When we obey the commandments we are given, we receive numerous kinds of blessings as an encouragement to continue to do right and as a sign of our Heavenly Father's love for us. In his farewell speech to his people, King Benjamin recognizes this correlation between obedience and blessings: "[H]e doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you." (Mosiah 2:24) Blessings can sometimes be subtle, as when my mom somehow managed to gather enough money to render unto Caesar, but sometimes they come as a clear and unmistakable Godly response to our obedience. Seeing these blessings in our lives helps strengthen our faith in God and Jesus Christ, knowing that they love us, care about us as individuals, and delight in blessing us.

What kinds of blessings do we receive from being obedient? Well, how much time have we got? I imagine that if I went around this room and asked everyone here, we would hear numerous stories about how someone made a choice to be obedient, and how many kinds of blessings followed that choice.

Elder Norman Seibold received a remarkable blessing. He had been serving the Lord as a missionary in the West German Mission until the summer of 1939, when war broke out in Europe. Some 31 missionaries were trapped behind closed national borders, with no easy way to find or evacuate them. Elder Seibold was instructed by his mission president to head west by train and to find these lost missionaries, relying on the promptings of the Spirit. So he followed the example of Nephi in being "led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do." (1 Nephi 4:6) Elder Seibold was prompted to know when he should get off the train, where he should go in crowded train stations, and how he should gain the missionaries' attention without also attracting the interest of Nazi officers. (He did this, by the way, by whistling the mission hymn -- "Do What Is Right, Let The Consequence Follow" -- in public places, and the missionaries heard it and approached him.) All 31 missing missionaries were eventually accounted for and evacuated from Europe.

Obviously, not all the blessings that come from obedience are going to be as spectacular as Elder Seibold's. But our daily decisions to follow the commandments will, if we are paying attention, draw down numerous small, sweet examples of heavenly aid, blessings sometimes described as "the tender mercies of the Lord."

Jesus Christ himself was a blessing -- not only in the sense of his life and teachings, but in the sense of his great atoning sacrifice for all our sins, and his subsequent resurrection that promises immortality to all who have ever lived. The gift of Christ to the world is the greatest blessing God could bestow on us in mortality, giving us the ability to repent of our sins and mistakes. Without this precious gift, no sin could be expiated and thus no one could be saved.

Each time we take the sacrament, we re-commit to the promises we made at baptism: to always remember Jesus Christ, to take his name upon us and keep his commandments. In return, God promises us that He will send the Holy Ghost to always be with us. As Elder Seibold discovered, the constant companionship of the Spirit is a special blessing that builds our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, as the Holy Ghost prompts us to make choices beyond our own wisdom, and testifies of truth directly to our minds and hearts. His friendship and influence make it possible for us to draw near to every member of the Godhead, even while we are physically separated from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ here on earth.

As we obey God's laws, we also receive the blessing of becoming spiritually mature. We come to resist the rebellious urges to nit-pick at spiritual things or to treat the commandments as though they were a salad bar -- obey the ones you like, and leave the rest. Instead, years of practice in keeping the commandments and in drawing closer to God bring us to a point where we trust our Heavenly Father enough to do His will even when we do not completely understand it. Our experiences in obedience over time lead us to believe, as it once led Adam and Abraham to believe, that we should first act in faith -- and that as we experiment upon the word, God will eventually provide us with the insight and understanding we seek.

I am not suggesting that obedience guarantees a trouble-free life -- remember what happened to Job -- but as we obey, we will find ourselves meeting adversity with grace, knowing this too shall pass, and our lives will be filled with greater joy as the Spirit confirms to us that we are making choices that please our Father in Heaven. Adherence to God's commandments will not always be popular, either, but in a world filled with confusing distractions and constantly shifting beliefs, we can experience the inner serenity and peace, like the eye in the hurricane, that comes when we keep our sacred covenants. As President Thomas S. Monson taught, "when God speaks and we obey, we will always be right."

Finally, obedience fits us for eternal life -- the same kind of life our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ enjoy. We are taught in the scriptures that our level of adherence to God's laws creates in us the proportional mental and spiritual strength to receive His power and glory in eternity. This is borne out in Doctrine & Covenants 88:22: "For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory." Becoming as God is requires adherence to the celestial law, which requires a tremendous amount of personal discipline. For example, think about how the world on which we stand was created in part through divine verbal commands that organized the elements. Think about Christ when he told his apostles that all his words would be fulfilled. Then think about why Heavenly Father might command us to choose our words carefully; if every word that came out of your mouth had Godly power to create or to destroy, would you perhaps think carefully before you spoke? Every commandment Heavenly Father gives us, whether spiritual or temporal, is designed to direct us on the path to Godhood, to give us the level of self-discipline we need to become as He is.

Giving a talk about obedience is pretty much guaranteed to make one feel like a hypocrite. If you know me well, you know I'm not always obedient, and that when I do obey I sometimes drag my feet getting it done. (Do not ask me or my husband, for instance, at what hour I finally put the finishing touches on this talk.) But while I am not and probably never will be a perfect example of obedience in mortality, I do have a testimony that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us -- that they offer us commandments to provide us with a clear and effective method to navigate life's tests and return home to them. And I know that as we practice our obedience, not only are we blessed, but we draw even closer to God and Christ -- so that our increased desire to be with them strengthens us to do all things they ask us to do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The magic coffee table, or A Woman's Work Is Never Noticed

(Trying not to go full ranty-pants here, but We Gotta Talk About This, right? Right.)

Some of you may have seen this before. It's a bit by Australian comedian Troy Kinne, and it never fails to make Captain Midnight cackle.

Yes, it's silly. It's meant to be. But like most comedy, it's also truth writ large. And the truth is that, in our society, domestic maintenance -- the work traditionally done by women -- goes largely unnoticed and unappreciated.

A few months back, Robin Schaer observed one real-life version of the Magic Coffee Table on Twitter: "My friend & her husband lived in an apartment that had a soap dispenser installed on the edge of the kitchen sink. When they moved out after two years, he marveled to her: '[I]t's amazing how that dispenser never ran out of soap in all this time.' Women's work is truly invisible."

Responses to this tweet ranged from hilarious to alarming.

For my part, I shared an experience from my extended family. My maternal grandfather, who lost a leg in WWII when he was in his early twenties, always took pride in his ability to get as many things done with only one leg as other men did with two. It wasn't until my grandmother died that he discovered the full extent of the illusion under which he had lived his entire adult life. Grandma, who was a registered nurse, had done practically everything for Grandpa in a way that rarely drew his attention, so he was able to take most of the credit for being "independent." She died a mere month after being diagnosed with uterine cancer -- as quietly, tidily and efficiently as she'd done everything else in life -- and it was instructive to see how quickly Grandpa succumbed when she was no longer there to support him.

As for me, this blog is called "Confessions of a Laundry Faerie" for a reason. I hope not to be a huge martyr about it, but there are some days when people appreciate the myriad things I do to maintain a household, to run it smoothly -- and there are days when they don't. I'm not alone in this; most people who run households have had similar experiences. The continuous work of maintenance, so critical to a happy and comfortable life, usually isn't important enough to be noticed -- unless and until it stops happening.

Forgive this minor slip into misandry, but thanks to my experiences, and further because of my faith in God, I can't help but assume that the current prevailing theory about the cosmos -- that the universe and all its wonders spontaneously came into being with no need for a higher power to cause or direct it -- must have been thought up by male scientists. Specifically, male scientists who were able to focus their time and efforts on this theory and its implications, never noticing the person(s) in the background who emptied their trash cans, cleaned their coffee mugs, washed their lab coats, got their cars' oil changed and did all the other countless quotidian things that needed doing. (I'm not wrong about this. Read the names of the greater lights of M-theory, for instance, and you won't see many Sophias or Marcias or Jennifers on the list. You will, however, probably notice the name of Stephen Hawking -- a man who required near-constant physical support by a caretaker just to stay alive and thinking, and who nonetheless averred that the universe went on ticking along with no divine maintenance work whatsoever. The irony there is so thick you'd have to cut it with a blowtorch.)

About a fortnight ago, the United Nations dropped a bombshell summary of a report that, among other things, warned that up to a million species on Earth face extinction within the next five years unless human beings work together in concert to turn around the biodiversity crisis. And at the time, I couldn't help thinking (although I believe God isn't this petty, and indeed is a lot more patient and loving than most people give Him credit for) of a deity who, after having all his cosmic maintenance work ignored for millennia, finally gets fed up: "You humans don't appreciate or recognize all the things I do for you? Don't even think I exist? Fine. Have a crack at taking care of your own biosphere for a while; let's see how you do!"

So what's my point?

Domestic maintenance work is real, it's important, and unless you do this work yourself, you rely on it more than you probably think. So please, practice looking around you. See not only where you are now, but also the people who helped get you there and the work they do. Notice that work, appreciate it, and maybe, occasionally, take the initiative to do some of the heavy lifting yourself. Because you know what? I don't know how the universe works, but I can tell you EXACTLY how the laundry gets done. And I can assure you, no magic coffee tables are involved.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Kitty dreamtime

Sometimes our cat, Roxy, dreams. We see her trying to run in her sleep, or she'll twitch and make little noises, and occasionally she'll wake up in full fight, flight or freeze mode and bite whoever's closest to her. After she went missing outside for nearly a week, Roxy showed signs of having nightmares for many days afterward. I've often watched her moving in her sleep and wondered how cats, dogs and other domestic animals experience dreamtime.

Certainly we have experiences in dreams which don't make logical sense in reality, but which seem perfectly reasonable while we're having them. If the dreams are vivid and realistic enough, we may awaken from them unable to shake the feelings we experienced, and we sometimes spend minutes to hours afterward convincing ourselves it was only a dream, it wasn't real.

If fully sapient beings such as humans, with logical, rationalizing brains, have a tough time telling the difference between dreams and reality, what must the dream experience be like for our pets? Do they think of their dreams as being of a piece with reality, as "that one time I floated through the kitchen and attacked a giant piece of kibble?" Or do they remember dreams at all after they have them? We're not really certain how animal memories of real events work, whether they fully remember past experiences the same way we do; we certainly have little inkling of how they experience dreams or whether they remember them afterward. It's an aspect of our domestic animals' lives that is largely opaque to us, even though they've lived and worked alongside us for centuries -- a reminder that, as much as we think we've discovered about the world around us, there are still plenty of mysteries to explore within our own households.
Roxy hanging out in one of her favorite places, Fort Paper
In any case, I hope at least some of Roxy's dreams are happy. She's a good beastie, even when she bites.