History’s Mysteries

Here is a link to a way cool news story that you might be interested in. Then again, maybe ancient local history isn’t your thing. If so, roll ahead to the section about “a tip from a reader.” That reader? Yours truly!

Because, people, I know where all the bodies are buried.

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/427940.html

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We Are SO Predictable

Okay, let’s see a show of hands. How many of you are surprised that we have decided to keep one of the kittens? Anyone? Anyone? No? Yeah, I think we all saw that coming. Okay, so let me ask you this: how many of you are surprised that we’ve decided to keep two of the kittens? That’s right—one just isn’t enough for us; we gotta take on two. And, people, that’s a special kind of stupid.

That will bring us to a total of four cats and the biggest dog in the world. But on the plus side, the hamsters died last year with a punctuality that was truly admirable, and the parakeets have moved on to greener pastures courtesy of Craig’s List. On balance, this is about one animal more than I would prefer to have in the house, but if you’re going to get a kitten, I think you should always get a pair. Watching them beat the snot out of each other all day and then curl up in a single fuzzy mass of contentment at night is well worth the extra litter box duty. Plus, our incumbent cats have retired to the second story where the dog is not allowed to venture. We barely see them anymore. The goal now is to raise the kittens from scratch in the company of canines. And by the way, does anyone have any advice on that topic?

This is Luna. Isn’t she darling? She is the runt of the litter, half the size of her largest sibling. She sucked down so much kitten formula the first day we had her that she came to resemble a softball with a head, tail, and legs attached. If she falls over on her back she has the same challenge that a turtle has in righting herself again. Her figure’s starting to even out now, but she has have the sweetest little cat face. We’re also bringing home her brother Elvis. He’s just your basic b-flat gray tabby cat, but he’s got personality up the ying-yang. He flips over and demands tummy rubs. You’ll know he’s done when he attacks your wrist like a rabid demon. And then he stands up and arches his back to better accommodate being petted and scratched under his chin. He clearly has no idea he was ever a feral cat. And that was the whole idea, really.

Give Us A Sign

This is one of my favorite signs on the Green River. It reminds me of my 14-year-old daughter.


Me: “Mamie, dump no materials!”
Mamie (with 14-year-old attitude): “Whatever.”
The other thing I love about this sign? It replaced an earlier sign that also admonished people not to dump but also included a big “No Trespassing” message complete with skull and crossbones. When the trail reopened, the “No Trespassing” part was no longer applicable, so they replaced the original sign with this sign. And what did they do with the first one?

Why there it is! Right on the ground. At the base of the new “No Dumping” sign.

Dumped.

Whatever.

Feral Children

You’ve heard of my neighbor Judith before—Norse Goddess of Snowshoeing Judith? That’s right. She owns a bookstore down in Kent. She’s my friend as well as my neighbor, and we have adventures.

For example, Sunday night we started a new joint venture. I’m going to spare you a lot of the details (and y’all can celebrate that later), but we ended up on the side of the road, down by one of the local parks, with a flashlight and a live animal trap. That night we caught us three feral kittens (about 8 weeks old). We brought them home and set them up with a potty box and food in Judith’s spare room. The next day I bought kitten milk replacement at the local feed store and we started pumping kitty milk into them. They got used to being handled pretty quickly. That night we returned to the park, hoping to get their mother and the other two kittens we’d left behind.

At the park, we encountered a couple who were initially horrified at what we were doing. It turns out they had been feeding the mom cat since she was born last summer. They didn’t have the resources to bring her home or get her spayed, but they made sure she always had food. In other words, they had a very proprietary attitude about the cat they called “Pink Nose” and her kittens, and they were shocked at the way we barged in with our plan to take them all away. To their credit, however, they soon realized that what we were offering was certainly a better option than life within 8 feet of a busy road, where the cats would be vulnerable to coyotes, dogs, raccoons, teenaged sadists, and the climate. We talked for a long time, and they actually picked up the mom cat (she would have never let Judith and me handle her) and put her into one of our carriers for us.

We all went back to the stump that served as the cat family’s home base to see about the kittens. We spotted them on the top of a stump where they could remain behind the protection of blackberry brambles just out of our reach. But there weren’t two of them. There were four.

That poor little 10-month-old cat had produced a litter of seven kittens before her first birthday. Amazing.

Since the kittens were not cooperating, we took mom-cat home and put her in with the kittens we caught Sunday. She jumped onto the windowsill and refused to come down to tend her babies. On the other hand, she didn’t attack them either (which would have been a possibility under the circumstances), so we left them alone to get reacquainted.

The next morning, Judith and I were back at the park with our trap. Unfortunately, the remaining kittens had already seen the trap in action and would not go anywhere near it. We decided the best thing to do would be to cut back the vines and try to remove the kittens from the stump by hand. Judith put on her long, leather, rose-pruning gloves and went to work. The aging stump had hollows and holes—it was quite a puzzle box—and the kittens might be in any of several nooks and crannies. Once we had the blackberries under control, plucking out the kittens was actually fairly easy. They were too weak to make a run for it or to put up much resistance as Judith pulled them out by the scruffs of their necks. We caught three of them, but we never saw any sign of the last kitten. We went back later that day—twice—and never saw any sign of her. We went back on Wednesday too. And Thursday. We had no choice but to tell ourselves that rescuing seven out of eight cats was still a very good score—it would have been nice to get them all, but probably not very realistic. We started getting the second batch of kittens caught up with the first (weight-wise), and encouraging the mom cat to relax.

Last night I had several urgent messages from the couple who had helped up capture the mom cat. They were still checking on the strays that populate the park, and they had spotted the last kitten. It was still living in the stump. Crying. Wanting her mom. The couple asked us to please, please get this kitten too.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to accomplish this. I was glad to hear that Kitten 7 was still alive, but it’s not like we hadn’t been trying. Still, at least we knew now that she was still there somewhere. Jay (my son) and I packed up our cat supplies and made yet another trip down to the stump.

Once again, we saw no sign of Kitten 7 whatsoever. I kept poking around though, knowing she had to be in there somewhere. Finally I stopped cutting brambles and stood quietly, trying to think of something new that we could try. I looked at my boy and held my finger to my lips, “Shhhh.” He nodded and waited patiently. I turned back to the stump and meowed. I meowed just like the woman who captured the mom had meowed to that cat. And darned if, from the stump, I didn’t hear a mew in reply! I kept meowing, and the kitten kept answering until I could tell exactly where she was hidden in the stump. I started clearing the brambles from that area and, as I was pulling them away, Kitten 7 decided to make a break for it. She popped up right into my hand. I grabbed her and popped her into the box that Jay had at the ready. And kids, you’ve never seen a happier reunion than when Jay and I reunited that final kitten with her mom and littermates at Judith’s house. I can’t believe we did it. All eight family members accounted for and thriving!

So far, we already have homes lined up for three kittens and the mom. Four adorable kittens to go. And they make us feel so good!

Values

I spent a maudlin Sunday afternoon pushing the lawnmower as my husband was busy inside shooting down aliens on whatever game console he’s obsessed with these days. This led to a bit of a self-pity party wondering why no one I live with appears to share my values. Perhaps, I thought, wiping the sweat from my eyes, they simply don’t know what my values are (which really, gives them far too much credit, but I guess I was in more of a charitable mood than you would have guessed judging from the hot fumes of irritation visibly rising from my forehead. Or maybe that was just lawnmower exhaust). So I started composing a list. And at the risk of sounding like a nun singing in the Swiss mountaintops, I decided to share the first draft.

I value:

A lawn neatly mown, if not immaculately weeded

A rocking chair on the front porch with home-made seat cushions

Children raised with equal shares of responsibility and affection

Books that are good enough to forge their own path from friend to friend, sister to sister

Rooms that are cleaned regularly, even if my notion of “regularly” is more sporadic than my mother’s

History

Especially genealogy

Fully owned 10-year-old cars that are still reliable

Pets who die of old age after living full and happy lives in your care

Daily trips into the near world for a change of scenery, fresh air, and exercise

Completed quilting projects

Knowing the words to every song that will ever play on my car stereo

Feeling pretty smug about my finances after watching Suze Orman’s show

Bees celebrating in my volunteer catnip

Gardens, any garden

Old family photos that are copied, labeled, and distributed to the relatives

Halloween parties

Knowing exactly what I want to do for my children, and what I want my children to do for themselves—at least financially speaking (for the next 20 or so years)

Bosses who know how to give compliments and/or encouragement

Knowing that answering the phone or the front door are options, not obligations

Finding unexpected emails from old friends buried in my “junk” in-box

Living within our means

Knowing where I will be buried

Planning meals that will be prepared at home for minimum cost, maximum nutrition, and which garner universal acclaim in the flavor department (yeah, good luck with that one!)

Dentists who offer up the nitrous without having to be asked

Ed Troyer, still

Check marks on to-do lists

My children’s company

Just reading over this list makes me feel happier. And, having started it, I suspect this might be just the beginning.

So Goes July

Well, here we are. One of the most beautiful days of the year–sunshine, birdsong, and enough shedded pet hair to knit a whole new dog out of. In fact, Jazz got her first bath (yes, ever) just last night. It’s not that we’ve been neglecting her this past year, it’s just that she goes swimming almost every day. Until recently, the lakes and ponds have been refreshed almost daily with new rainfall, so she’s been a pretty clean pup. With summer finally here, we’ve had a reprieve from rain, but it’s left our local waterways stale and swampy. So, with the use of the backyard hose and most of a bottle of sour-apple deodorizing pet shampoo, Jazz got cleaned up last night. Thankfully, she hasn’t yet rolled in anything rank to counteract the results. Having now washed the dog, I hope to not have to do it again for another year or so. It’s an unpleasant business for all of us.

I’ve been out of commission most of the summer so far, mostly due to an infected tooth that tried to kill me over the course of a single weekend. But there was also the jury duty factor. Here is a conversation I was looking forward to having during Voir Dire for our local district court:

Judge: Although we anticipate completing the trial today, there is a possibility that it will continue into next week. If it does, are there any jurors who would have an insurmontable conflict in reporting on Monday?
Me: (Raises hand enthusiastically)
Judge: Yes, Juror 26, is it? What is your conflict?
Me: Your honor, I have been summoned to report for jury duty on Monday morning at 8:00 am. By King County Superior Court. If I fulfill my jury duty requirements here in district court, I will be in violation of my summons to Superior Court. The Superior Court will release me from my jury duty obligation based on completing service in another court during the preceding 12 months, but, if the trial continues on Monday, I will not have completed my service. And the Superior Court has been less clear about what happens in the case of overlapping service, as is the case here.

I don’t know how the conversation would have gone beyond that point, but I was looking forward to finding out. Yes, I am a jury duty savant, called for service by multiple courts at the same time. None of whom have ever actually want me, by the way. The last time I made it to Voir Dire, it was for a child molestation case. The prosecutor wanted to know if we jurors would understand how difficult it would be for a 13-year-old child to give testimony in such a case and if, therefore, we would be able to find that child more credible than an adult in similar circumstances, because of the inherent stress on the witness (can’t remember quite how he phrased it, but it was something like that). My response was something like, “Are you asking if I’d grant a lesser burden of proof in a case where the chief witness is 13? Of course not. I’m not even sure such a thing would be considered constitutional.”

“Juror 26 is excused and we thank you for your service.”

So much for that.

The only bright side of the whole infected tooth episode is that it got me excused from my final day of District Court jury duty, and, having completed that obligation, I was then excused by Superior Court, saving me a trip to downtown Seattle at the height of Monday morning rush hour—at a time, as it turns out, I was desperately trying to contact an endodontist, dentist, or surgeon to put me out of my misery.

Good times. Good, good times.