Monday, November 11, 2013

My cat, the door licker*. (And other reasons he's an asshole.)

In the spring or maybe summer of 1999 (because after this long, who can remember?) I got a call from one of my very oldest and best friends. She had a cat that she, at the time, couldn't keep at her apartment because the landlord didn't allow pets. While she lived at that place, the cat lived at her parents' house. Sometime while it was there (or maybe before), it had gotten knocked up and at the time of the call, had had a litter of eight tiny kittens.

Eight tiny kittens that her mother was pissed about having in her house.

Eight tiny kittens that needed homes - like NOW.

Our conversation went something like this:

HER: "Hey, you want a cat?"

ME: "No."

HER: "They're free!"

ME: "No."

At the time, I was 21 and my life felt like I was riding on top of a hot air balloon. I was free to do pretty much whatever the hell I wanted, which was exhilarating and also slightly scary. For the first time in my life, I had a little money to spend and was *just* adult enough to be able to do things. The options were endless, and I remember realizing, "Oh my god. I can do WHATEVER. I. WANT." Which, you know, meant that I chose to come home on my lunch break from my full time office job and watch Days of Our Lives.


Three days later she called again.

HER: "Hey lady! We only have three kittens left - I know you want one!"

ME: "Um...NO."

HER: "Please?"

ME: "No thanks, dude."

My logic here was this: What if I wanted to pack up and go away for the weekend? Adults do that! What if I'm gone for a week on vacation? What if I have to travel for business? Who'd feed my cat? I obviously thought a lot of travel was in my future for some reason.

But because she had known me for so darned long, she knew that as a kid I had begged for a cat. Pleaded and argued with my parents the point that I needed a cat. I had felt, as the only girl in the family, that I deserved a cat. (A ten-year-old's logic, man. I didn't say it made sense.) I had badgered them for a cat for years, continually getting shot down because they were already stressed out with the four of us kids and our springer spaniel Casey.

I finally got one once. I had that cat for a total of about six weeks, but I loved the hell out of him. He was all gray and I'd named him Tabby. (Original, that I am.) When my parents' marriage finally fell apart, I think it was my mother's way of trying to do something nice for me when everything else was crap. The problem was, just like my friend, after the divorce we had to move, and the new landlord wasn't all too keen about having four little kids in his rental, let alone a cat. My mother had told me she sent it to live on my aunt's farm, which in my pre-adolescent heart break I accepted completely, not questioning how it got to the farm, a six hour drive away. (Who knows what really happened to that poor cat...)

She was damn persistent, my friend. Another day or so later she called again.

HER: "Dude. You should totally come pick up your cat."

ME: {sigh} "No."

HER: "I know you want it. He's all black and playful and you'll totally love him. Besides, I'm keeping his brother**. We'll have brother cats."

ME: {sigh} "Well, maybe I'll come look..."

And of course I went home with a little ball of black fur that I named Zeke.

Zeke is...original. I guess I should have figured that if I ended up with a pet I'd end up with one who refuses to fit into a mold of what's expected for a cat. If you're making a sandwich? He will beg for a piece of lunch meat. His favorite is salami. Pudding cups? All-time favorite. It doesn't matter to him that he will get chocolate pudding between his eyes, he will lick the inside of that cup until it shines. He's known to play fetch with his Angry Birds stuffed toy and when I come home at night he's always sitting at the door waiting for me.

As much as these quirky characteristics have made him a loving member of our family, he is also an asshole.

He learned, long ago, that one of the most effective ways to get his owner's attention was to lick a hollow door.

Pretty much any piece of wood will do -- a cat's rough tongue will make quite a bit of noise on any wooden surface -- but the loudest sounds, by far, are made when licking a hollow bedroom door.

And they sound best at 4:30 in the morning when he wants to be fed.

Now, to be fair, somewhere along the line my pleading and mental threats*** must have worked, because in all honesty he only busts this one out every once in awhile.

Like last night.

Yesterday was an extremely long day and after my kids were in bed at 8:30, I found my house was quiet and tidy (enough) and I decided any remaining chores could wait for another day. I had a killer headache and I was freezing, so I put on my coziest sweatpants and burrowed under my fluffy down comforter and set the morning alarm for a bit later than usual, just to get a few extra winks -- maybe kick this darned headache to the curb.

I don't know about you, but for some reason, Sunday nights are the hardest for me to shut my brain off and go to sleep. I don't typically feel stressed out on Sunday nights, and never seem to have this problem on any other night. I don't consciously contemplate all of the events I have going on that week, or worry about all the things I have to bring with me when I leave the house the next morning. But somehow, when I'm near that in-between state of awake and asleep, when my mind starts to drift, that's all I think about. Things I know I have to do (because I do them all the time) will pop up in my head, like, "Don't forget to sign the boys' assignment notebooks for school!" or "Don't forget to pack their lunches!"

Well, duh. I know how that shit goes. I'm not new for God's sake.

But my brain doesn't listen and keeps right on listing crap out for me to not forget.

Finally. Finally. Finallyfinallyfinally last night my brain starts to shut down. I can feel the stress leaving my body. I can feel the muscles in my face and neck start to relax, and with them, my headache starting to ebb. My feet, in my favorite cozy socks, are finally warm enough for sleep to be possible.

And then...

...the noise all cat owners know and all cat owners DREAD.



I whipped upright from my state of semi-slumber, frantically searching the dark for my black cat.


I found his retching little body on the opposite corner from my feet. Again, not your typical "sleep on your face" type cat, he simply can't conform and must sleep (and hork) in the most inconvenient and hard to reach place possible.


I picked him up and tried carrying him to the door of my room.

Only in my attempt to be warm and also curl up into the fetal position and somehow make my headache better, I had wrapped my giant comforter around me, and it was coming along for the ride.


I had to drop the poor cat when the open end of the duvet cover, the end that buttons closed, got caught on the post on the foot board of my bed.

As soon as his paws touched carpet, he threw up more food than I believe it's possible for a cat to eat. (Not to mention what looked like more than I'd fed him that entire day.)



Damn you cat. You so totally suck.

So, you know, fast forward twenty minutes or so, after I clean up hot cat puke, spray the carpet with carpet cleaner, wait for it to soak in, then scrub the carpet again. I've then scrubbed my hands with soap and climbed back into my warm cozy bed, willing my brain not to be on full-blast mode so that I have to start the "get ready to really sleep" process all over again.

What do you know, but my bastard brain won't listen to reason.

Again, I lie there, head pounding, brain running on all cylinders. I try to quiet my mind, imagining myself floating on an inner tube on a lake in the sun. I try to imagine the sun on my face, a gentle breeze in my hair. I try to remember doing that very thing just a few short months ago.

It started to work. I felt the stress leaving my body...the muscles in my face and neck headache started to memories of lake floating becoming the start of a peaceful dream...


Cat, you are an asshole.

*No, that is not a euphamism.
**She named hers Dopey and I actually did bring my cat over to her place once so that the "brother cats" could have a play date. I think they pretty much looked at each other, yawned and lay down to go to sleep. Ten feet away from one another.
***mental threat = one sent by telepathic means, so as to bypass any English-to-cat-language translation barrier

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I broke my blog.

Well, not exactly.

A long long Internet time ago, I bought a custom domain for my blog. For years, you could find this little space at

Every summer, the URL would come up for renewal and I'd pay roughly $30 to renew it for another year. A few years ago, I splurged and renewed it for a longer time period - two or three years, I can't remember which - because not only did I get a discount by doing so, but then I wouldn't have to worry about it for awhile.

Only in that interim "awhile" lots of life happened. I got divorced. I changed my name. I moved...three times. So as to distance myself from that married name that I didn't have any longer, I also changed my email address. (Plus, you know, they were tied to his account so I technically had to change them.)

And you know what else?

I totally and completely forgot about it.

Until last week when I got this strange email from Google. Apparently some Googlebot (which? that's a real "thing"? Really?) couldn't find my site or something. The error code it was throwing suggested there was a problem with my domain.



By my guesstimations, my ownership of that URL expired months ago.

So I went to the GoDaddy site to check it out. I clicked the little "Log In" button and gave it my best shot -- I filled in a user name and password that I use for a lot of online sites.

No luck.

I filled in an old email address and a password I often used with it.

No luck there, either.

I tried another old email address/password combo.


Next I tried the "Need login help?" link. It was asking for a user name or customer number and the email address on file. I wasn't even sure which of those old email addresses I might have used.

So I called their tech support line. A very friendly support person asked me for my call-in PIN. Um, I had no idea a PIN number even existed. Well, do you have your account number? That's a big no, chief. How about the email address on the account? Well it could have been this one, or it could have been that one. But you're not sure? No. And all the while I was saying things out loud like "Is it Mommy Always Wins seventy-eight?" and "Mommy Wins underscore two eighteen?" and "Or how about Mommy Wins underscore seventy-eight?" which must have all made me sound like a complete lunatic to my co-workers, who were probably all wondering why in the HELL I kept calling myself Mommy.

So the super friendly helpful support guy directed me to a page on their site through which I could make a change request. With only 78 pieces of data and a color photo of my government-issued photo ID, I could apply to have a person manually review my account to ensure I was indeed it's owner. Within three business days my request would be processed and in roughly two weeks' time this might all be ironed out.

Only...the name I have now is not the name that was on the account the last time I paid to register this domain.

Oh that? That's simple.

I can just attach a copy of the documentation showing proof that I changed my name.

Which is, you know, a 78 page divorce decree with a small note on page 65 showing I can opt to go back to my maiden name.*

There's no way THAT could be confusing. Oy.

So for now, until I get this domain URL stuff worked out, I'm going old school and back to the good ol' URL.

Too bad Geocities went belly up.

*There might only be 64 pages in that document, but let's keep this 78 theme going, shall we?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I love my mother, but...

One day, I'll write a book and give it this title. Or maybe it'll be a compilation of stories from various people about their mothers. I don't know. Big giant great title kudos to a writer friend of mine I'm lucky to get to have lunch with just about every day at work. muah. I'll totally link to her blog if ever she has one.

Every story I ever tell a friend about my mother starts with those words.

I've never really written here very honestly about her, simply for the fact that I'd hate for her to find something I'd written one day and be crushed by what I'd said. Never mind the fact that I'd only write what's true, and never mind the fact that she and I don't have a very close relationship anyway, and a half dozen other true never minds... It would still make me feel bad to have hurt my mother.


My entire life has been shaped by her. I don't know many people who can't say that. Whether it's positive or negative, whether your life is shaped by your mother's presence or absence, I think there's just some bond there that sticks. Defines who you are. Gives you your YOUNESS.

In the case of my mother, I've been driven by every bad decision she's ever made, every crazy thing she's NOT BE HER.

That sounds really harsh, and I guess it is. Maybe in some ways I realize she did well. Somehow all four of us kids are decent human beings who own homes and have jobs and children and we all care about other people and even have a sense of humor. (Though, as an aside, I suppose maybe I should take some credit for that, as for a good chunk of my brothers' lives I was the sole caregiver, all while being a kid myself.)

But overall, my mother has always been the victim of her life. If you call her on any random afternoon and ask how work went, you'll most likely get a response along the lines of, "UGH it was just EXHAUSTING." Followed by five minutes of commentary about how her body aches and the people at work are just NOT NICE and how she sweetly does her job that she's so lucky to have when all anyone else ever does is sit around and gossip and not pull their own weight. Which is kinda hard to take when you know she was sitting at a desk in a heated and/or air conditioned office on a comfy ergonomic chair with regularly required breaks and a half hour for lunch. I repeat, not rescuing people from burning buildings or working in a sweatshop in southeast Asia.

And if you happen to get her on her cell in those after work hours? She will also be sure to tell you all about how she is "fighting traffic -- it's just HORRENDOUS." Traffic in the Milwaukee suburbs? Even those words on a screen look like a joke.

But I digress. The point of this post is to tell you a story that happened just last week. It's a sad that we all know is so common among women. And is a very super clear indicator as to why I am the me I am today.

Let me start by giving you a bit of backstory.

In the summer of 2012, my mother lived with a boyfriend. We'll call him Don. And actually, before I can go on you should know my mother has an awful way of running her mouth and letting it get her into trouble. I guess that sounds contradictory -- someone who constantly paints themselves as a victim doesn't also seem like the type to bully people, but I've long since stopped trying to understand the logic inside my mother's head. She can be downright nasty when she wants to be, and has done it to me on more occasions than I could ever count -- it doesn't matter how glaringly obvious it is that she is wrong (either about the facts that she's arguing or for arguing the way she is in the first place) she has absolutely no problem shouting to be heard regardless as to where we are or who we're with. Especially if she feels she's been wronged. 2012 she's living with Don. And Don, by this point, has seen her at her finest several times and does not care for it. Only one day, it's Don's daughter she chooses to, shall we say, "express her opinions toward in a loud manner." Things escalated. I was not there, so I don't know exactly what happened. I do, however, know my mother had bruises from the altercation because I saw them afterward.*

My brothers, also knowing full well her, um, well let's just say it...her crazy ass way of screaming at people all the ways she feels they are WRONG...are also good men. If they see evidence of their mother being abused, they will step in, offer her a place to stay and escort her to her old home to help her move her things out safely. (Even as the one of them taking her in has a days-old newborn baby at home.)

Wouldn't you know it but three escorts nearly weren't enough to keep another physical altercation from happening.

I fucking kid you not.

So that was August of 2012. In October she got her own apartment and moved out of my brother's place. While it was a tiny one-bedroom with an even tinier kitchen, it was all hers. The time she spent living in that place was literally the only time she has ever lived on her own in her entire adult life.

It lasted about a year.

I was so proud of her. Finally, finally...she wasn't relying on or expecting some man to take care of her. It was her life to live on her terms. It was almost as if living on her own made her finally see that while small and nothing fancy, that place was something to be proud of. It was a cute little place. She bought some frames for the artwork my kids gave her, and furnished it with hand-me-down items from Goodwill and Craig's List. She was proud of that place -- I could physically see it in her.

Only not long after she moved in she lost her job.

This is really nothing new. It's happened numerous times in my life..."Mom's been let go again..." That's what happens when you have no education and no real skills. Over the past several years she's bounced from one menial desk job to another, always in different fields. She's done entry level accounting for a travel agency, was some sort of office assistant at an optometrist's office and was an appointment scheduler at an oncology clinic. If only she'd stick with one field...and maybe take a class or two...hone some sort of skill at something...

This all happened just before Christmas last year, which is right around her birthday. Yeah, you know what? That REALLY SUCKS. But the four of us kids called and texted each other and talked about how we might be able to help her out. We decided that even with our own kids and jobs and babies and our own financial stresses that we could pitch in and help her with rent for a month or two so that she didn't have to jump at the first crappy job available. We thought that after all of these years of false starts it might be great for her to take a few weeks and decide what she really wanted to do.

We talked to her about our offer. In the end, she started getting unemployment benefits pretty quickly, so at most one of my brothers paid her car payment for her that first month. We never had to pay her rent for her, but made it clear that the offer still stood firm.

She was unemployed for ten months.

I mean, I know. The economy. Yadda yadda. I could link here to articles about "the hiring gap" or whatever crap they're calling it. Companies are hiring...but skilled employees, of which we've already established she is not. (I could also point out that a lot of classes can be taken or at least started in ten months, but I'll let you draw those conclusions yourselves.)

Long story short, I don't entirely understand how unemployment benefits work, as I've never been in the position to have to use them. (Thankfully, I will add -- it's important for me to be clear how thankful I am to be in the position I'm in...) I don't know how long you're supposed to get them, what percentage of your pay you get, et cetera. But one day a few weeks ago she was saying that she got a check for nine dollars instead of her regular weekly amount.

Try as I might, no matter what questions I asked her, I got no real explanation as to whether that was some sort of snafu, or whether that was the last of her benefits dwindling away. I only got the feeling that she didn't really understand it, either, and when I suggested she dig into it further, she got offended.

Not long after the conversation about the nine dollar check, the clouds parted and rays shone down and angels sang.

She got a temp job. (Somewhat ironically, that job is to call people and provide some sort of assistance regarding the new government health care plans.) This is a contract position, so she knows it will last a few months, and the company can choose to hire her on in some capacity or another after that.

Here's where my real story starts. If you've skimmed over all of my blabbering above, here's where you should stop fake paying attention.

So last week Thursday I call her while on my way home from work. A friend was having a birthday party at a bar Sunday night and I was wondering if she could come over to watch my kids and put them to bed so I could go for a few hours.

"Oh, well, I should be able to," was her reply. "If I'm not busy moving stuff around."

Here's where you picture me doing that thing dogs do when you talk to them and say a word that kinda sounds like "treat" or "outside" but isn't exactly that word. My head kinda tilted to the left and my ears went up.

"What do you mean, Mom? Moving stuff around?"

Shortly after this point in the conversation I think my brain went into shock at what she was saying because I don't entirely remember how it went. But in a totally round about way, she told me she hadn't paid her October rent and wouldn't have enough money for a few weeks to pay for November. She had completely forgotten her kids' previous offer for monetary help and jumped straight off the deep end into an empty pool full of hungry sharks who were pissed off that there was also no water in their pool because she went on to tell me that she was moving back in with Don.

Like I said, a lot of this conversation turned into that MWAH-WAH-WAH that the teacher does in the Charlie Brown cartoons because I was so stunned (his name hadn't even come up in a year's time) but when she started to say the stereotypical things that victims say, such as

"Oh but we've been talking and I know it'll be different this time..."


"It was totally my fault and he didn't mean it..."


"Really it's so much more sensible to have two incomes and split the cost of living..."

I straight up began to cry.

Even after knowing her my entire life. After understanding her brand of crazy. KNOWING her shortcomings.

I never thought that she thought so little of herself -- had such a lack of respect for herself.

I went on to tell her -- pleading with her -- not to do that. I said, "Mom - I know I have a shitty little apartment, but PLEASE, before you move back in with him, PLEASE consider moving in with me instead. Don't worry about your things if you need to get them out of your apartment -- we'll all talk and we'll figure it out. PLEASE know that you can move in with me -- any time, day or night. We'll make it work. I mean, he got physical with you."

She brushed me off.

I reminded her of our previous offer of money. She made it clear she felt she was too far gone...too far in the hole. (Mind you, her rent was just over three weeks behind at this point. Not three months. Three WEEKS. She needed only about $550.)

"Well thanks, honey," she said, "but I think this will be for the best."

I can't even imagine a world in which that might be true.

*I in no way intend to imply that what Don did to my mother was justified because of the way she verbally attacks people. Acting the way she does isn't right, either, but the right thing to do would have been to walk away, not push her around. It is NEVER OK to hit your partner. Fuck that - it's NEVER OK to hit anyone, ever.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


That seems to be the theme of our lives lately.

I think anyone with school-aged children can relate. There are lunches to make, homework to review, twenty minutes of reading that was supposed to be done the night before to squeeze in during the car ride to school.

There's Cub Scouts and flag football and delivering the fundraiser popcorn they sold. There's a new baby in the family we should go see, and I'd love to get a family portrait taken one of these days, and somehow in the midst of it all I haven't vacuumed my living room since Saturday.

Simply put, often I feel like a chauffeur, shuttling my kids from hair cuts to the Taco Bell drive through with seventeen minutes to spare before the older boys' den meeting. (By the way, shouting, "CAR PICNIC!" only makes eating in the car seem novel the first five or so times.)

So this morning I totally cheated. I hit snooze when the alarm went off, then ten minutes later, still in my PJs, went to the boys' room and crawled into the bottom bunk with Will. Nick climbed down a few minutes later and before I knew it even the cat was on top of me, fighting for prime Mommy real estate. We giggled and snuggled and woke up right.

"Get dressed," I said, when finally untangling myself from the knot of gangly limbs that had wrapped around me. "We're going to Starbucks for breakfast!" Instead of being met with groans and, "But I don't wanna..." I got a "YAY! Best Mom EVER."

Yeah, I spent 12 ungodly dollars on a few donuts and drinks, but that time with them? With no whining or fighting or rushing?

Was worth it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happiness is...

I love these types of videos:

SoulPancake: Happy Hundred
I saw this one the other day and wasn't totally surprised by the overall consensus of what folks feel
they need to be happy, but it's good to have a daily reminder that really, I have everything I need.

Below it, because this was on Oprah's page, she suggests writing a haiku about what happiness is to you. Here is mine:

Lots of laughing friends
Children giving lots of hugs
"I love you, good night."