Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Crazy Cat Lady

We all know a "crazy cat lady." The stereotype is ubiquitous. She is the "old maid" bachelorette. She is the saucy "old lady." She is the woman who just couldn't say no to "just one more." She is the myth that all women of a certain age want to avoid.

But, the reality is, she is within us. Within many of us. And while we may be happily married with children, she lives and reigns within and even with only two feline babies, I mean cats, she dwells happily in the realm of our home on S. drive.

And so, I can share with you my tale of cat mommy-woe, because you will have sympathy on a confessional cat woman, a story I have withheld for lo these many weeks because, well, it shamed me as a cat worshiper to have to tell this tale.

Cooper, that would be my 21 lb. plus (I mean who counts the ounces really...) tomcat and I had a little, well let's call it an "accident" recently. I was sitting on the couch, having just fed the real baby in this house (that would be Grayson, not the miniature dachshund), when Cooper happened to wander across my lap, and noticing his vast array of matted fur spots, I decided to do what I often do, which is to cut them out with my kitchen scissors (which I must mention I've done at least 437 times before). I pulled the hair on his back up to make the process easier, grabbed a hank of it and cut. Success. He changed position, I repeated the process, but Cooper turned and hissed. I shushed him, shamed him for hissing at Mommy, and he quickly walked back toward me to be groomed again. I lifted the hair on his back to finish my task and noticed a gash, oh, about half an inch deep. No, really. I had cut into his back quite deeply, and all he did was hiss.

And then return to the scene of the crime.

Did I mention Cooper was not, well, not so bright? He was, after all, hit by a moped in his early years, but that's another story.

But, let's remember that he did come back when called. What a good boy is he?!? Robert calls him less than good, more stupid, but I prefer to reflect that my cat simply follows directions well.

The bleeding was, surprisingly mild, and Miss B. came to the resuce with a towel immediately. R. stayed home with the baby boy and Cooper and I were off for the Emergency vet clinic, where Cooper ended up between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and midnight on a certain June night with seven staples and emergency surgery to the tune of approximately $200.00. I, of course, cried throughout the emergency vet visit, apologizing profusely while the sweet young thing of a vet reassured me that I was still a good a good cat mommy, but, I wanted to insist to her, "You didn't see how trustingly he walked back to me when I already had the shears of death in my hands...You don't understand how I suck, I truly suck."

Yesterday Cooper had his stitches removed by his regular vet who love, love, loves him and has been through multiple cat sagas with him (i.e. the broken hip of 2005, and the notorious cat-bite situation shortly thereafter where he mistakenly confused me with an evil predator out to deceive him and bit me viciously requiring an ER visit [by me, not him]). Dr. F. gently educated me about grooming tools, lest I ever decide to tear matted fur off my boy again, and she stroked and petted Cooper until he was hypnotized. The moment of ecstasy came for me when the veterinary assistant whispered that his staple removal and grooming was "on the house."

Today I came home with a new tool for Cooper...the "underbrush grooming rake," as recommended by Dr. F. As promised, big hunks of tangled fur came off my shedding boy, and Cooper purred in ecstasy.

So, my title as "Crazy Cat Lady" will be unchallenged for at least the next few months.

And we'll hope that Grayson's sneezing fit as I groomed the cat was completely unrelated to cat allergies. Because I simply can't go there yet.

Monday, July 09, 2007


So, you've been married for four years. You're used to the little idoscyncracies of your spouse. You love that he has this quirky habit of having to load the dishwasher a certain way, and that the remote controls must always remain in the same place. He loves that you wear his T-shirts to bed and say "grocery" in a white-trashy, showin'-your-Appalachian-roots-kinda-way, making the "ce" sound like "sh."

In that four years you think you know each other pretty damn well.

And then one night, out of the blue you hear him read, "Is Your Mama a Llama?"to your 3-month-old son in a rap-style reminiscent of a young Rev. Run from the early years of Run DMC and you think, "My God, I never knew he had it in him..." And, alas, you fall in love all over.

Such are the joys of enduring love. Baby board books elicit passion. Who would have thunk?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Standing Outside the Gate

I keep having this dream. The same dream for the past week. In it, my college roommate, the one who I thought would be my sister until we we were at least 93 and dyed our hair blue and drove under the speed limit the three blocks to church, and I are back in college. But time has passed and we are the grown women we are now, and in the dream I keep looking for her as she was then, a girl of 20, and realize that she is purposely avoiding me, and when I find her she is standing with some of her family around her, and she is whispering at me, and pointing at me and tells me emphatically that she cannot be my friend anymore, for I am not right with God.

This is the recurring dream. Although sometimes we're in our college dorm's lobby, and sometimes we're in Kohl's Department Store, and sometimes we're on a beach, and sometimes we're in an airport. The location changes but the dream stays the same. The recognition and then the shunning.

This roommate of the dream has, indeed, for all intents and purposes shunned me from her life. When I divorced my first husband she was angry, and she had a right to be angry on his behalf. However, her anger led her to abandonment and the nail in the coffin came with a letter several months after R. and I were married in response to a letter I wrote her asking her whether we could ever be friends again, and telling her how angry I was at her for not listening to me. Her response was this, "
You eloquently express your anger and I guess I can't blame you. But the only thing for which I apologize is a lack of clarity in my witness." Her 'witness' meant that I was the woman who was to be abandoned, and that our relationship, the one which sustained me for lo those many years meant nothing and was a big misunderstanding on my part. Her witness meant that she could not continue to associate with a woman who sought a divorce, a woman who sought to find her own path, a woman who, she believed, had failed to fulfill her marriage vows.

I have come to understand as I have grown and changed and analyzed more of life that in my dreams she represents not just that woman who abandoned me, but the conservative church which she has come to represent (and I believe would claim), a church which has seemed unwilling to allow
me to change and grow with it, a church that, it seems is afraid of the questioning and questing I have needed to do, and which I believe it might need to do too.

I pastored a church for six years. I gave my heart to them. I was married more to the church than I was to my husband at the time. When I divorced it was greeted with some reluctance, but ultimately accepted. When I remarried, I was suspect. My sins were too transparent, questions were too rampant, not enough time had passed. These were valid concerns, and perhaps I deserved the disapproval which I received. Perhaps I didn't deserve to pastor a church anymore. Perhaps I am paying my penance now by being an outsider, merely staring in as I wonder if I will ever have a home in my denomination again. Perhaps, like Eve, I have been cast out of the garden of Eden.

The dreams, they continue to plague me. The insommnia lately leads me down the hall away from my sleeping husband to read, to write, to fill the dark hours with my crossword puzzles. Perhaps I will always stare longingly through the gate's bars at those who are welcomed into the bosom of my denomination, or perhaps I am a better prophet outside its walls where I am allowed to speak freely, and ask questions honestly, and voice my anger appropriately without fear of what others will say, without fear of the promotion that may or may not come, the church that may or may not call me to pastor, the questions about my intergrity for what I write, or the irreverence with which I face life, or the intoxicating beverages I choose to drink.

I long to be a faithful servant. I struggle to be a disciple of the radical teacher who preached love at all costs. I am learning to internalize the grace that God so abundantly offers, even if it has been denied by those who I thought loved me without question.

I read somewhere that each voice in our dreams is part of our subconscious mind speaking its own truth, and so there may be buried within me a voice, critical of my path, condemning of the pain I've caused others, aware of my weaknesses and my sins and my inadequacies.

I still stand at the gate, and wonder what it would be like to feel like an insider, to have been born and bred Brethren, to have turned away from the fruit that was offered and to be content in the garden of Eden forever. But perhaps my truth is clearer on the outside, and perhaps there is the model of a prophet who could not be heard in his own town to whom I must attend. And perhaps I do more good outside the garden, with others like me who have survived the pains of exclusion and still found grace.

I still don't know. And the voices in my dreams at night still haunt me. And while I know God offers abundant grace, I know that in the fiber of my being, I obviously have not allowed myself to accept it just yet. Because the condemnation, it still echoes too loudly in my skull.

My college roommate ended our correspondence by telling me she would pray for me. I hope those weren't just empty words.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Moses's Wardrobe

Today, on my day off, I finally got around to catching up on details that had been lagging for months...thank-you notes for baby gifts (if any of you gift givers are reading--I'm sorry, sorry, sorry for being so late in responding...it's just that there's been a baby and all...), leftover Texas trip laundry, scooping cat litter boxes, making a trip to the credit union, drinking my weight in chai tea, you know...the same old, same old.

But, there was this little niggling thing that has been hanging over my head since about January...the issue of the fundamentalist Christian resale store and the state of my maternity clothes. You see, in mid-January I dropped off a whole shit-load of maternity clothes I had grown out of and which had been worn about, oh, once before I grew out of them. I dropped them off that day when it was snowing and now, you see, it's near 90 degrees. So, it's time to do something. For lo, it is now summer.

In my defense, the official little form they gave me when I dropped the clothes off to be considered for resale said (and I'm quoting directly here...) "Once we have evaluated your items, we will then call you with two purchase offers, consignment or store credit. At that time you may choose the offer that best fits your needs. If we do not reach you, we will leave a message or continue calling until one or the other has been achieved. Therefore, it is not necessary to call regarding your items. We happily take this responsibility in an effort to make the process less complicated for you and your family."

So, you know, I got fatter. And then I had a kid. And then I took good care of that kid. And winter turned to spring and spring turned to summer and, lo and behold, I never heard from fundamentalist Christian resale shop (where all the proceeds seem to go to wacky Christian sectarian groups). And, they did say they would "happily take on this responsibility." I imagined the little fundie ladies with their hair in tight buns, wearing modest clothing and whistling as they sorted and tagged and labeled my merchandise and then anticipated a chatty, friendly phone call in due time. So, today...today on this 6th of July I placed a little call to the business which I shall refer to as Moses's Wardrobe, the happy place which had, sadly, never taken their appointed responsibility as promised.

Mr. Moses himself answered his phone and when I explained my dilemma, the not hearing from them, and the wondering what happened with all my shit, I mean stuff (cause I care about not hurting a fundamentalist Christian's ears), Mr. Moses said, "I have no record of it." When I explained that I had the little "Buying Policy" receipt thing and that, certainly, they must have SOME record, after all I did fill out that little 3x5 card with my name and address, I was told quite unhappily, "I have no record." I took a deep breath and asked Mr. Moses to please look through his records. And I was put on hold. For a long time. A long time.

And...Mr. Moses, he did come back on the line and ask if I, was "Christian." I figured, being a fundy establishment it wouldn't hurt to answer to that misnomer. He said, "Well, I talked to you and you said we could sell the following items..." and he named about a third of what I dropped off. I politely told him that he never spoke with me. And he said, "Oh yes I did." And I said, "Ah, no, we never spoke." And he said, "Yes, I did" with an oh-so-certain tone. And I said, "I would have remembered, and would have picked up the items you did not want to sell." This led into a firm and emphatic, "No, I spoke with you." I paused, thinking, "What the hell happened to 'the customer is always right?'" There was silence on the line. "Ma'am," Moses said, "I talked to you." And the way he said it insisted that he, Mr. Moses, who has never given birth but who owns a maternity store was right. Finally, in exasperation I said, "I am not crazy!"

We were getting nowhere. Grayson was crying loudly for a bottle. The dog was whining in her cage. I had to pee. Universes were colliding. I couldn't fight the patriarchy anymore. "Fine," I said. And that was that.

R., overhearing our little exchange, overhearing my voice rising higher and higher (and I swear, I am by no means a hysterical person) said, "You want me to call?" I think R. knew by then that when dealing with conservative men who think that they can win in a verbal argument by simply speaking louder and with more emphasis, having a penis might have its advantages in the patriarchal world.

R., having aforementioned necessary penis and deep voice, phoned and said three important words. Better Business Bureau. And mean Christian man seemed to perk up a little bit. We'll see what unfolds.

It was only later that I realized my problem. I didn't remind Mr. Moses of how much Jesus was crying about the way he was treating a fellow Christian. Or perhaps I didn't walk into the shop in a prairie skirt with my hair in a Nazarene french braid. Or maybe he just whiffed the scent of the secular humanist within me and knew I voted for John Kerry in the last election. Maybe he saw my "Peace is Patriotic" bumper sticker, or had an inkling that I once volunteered for NARAL and decided it was easy to write me off since I would certainly burn in hell in due time.

Moral of the story: Moses's Wardrobe sucks.

And Jesus doesn't like liars, Mr. Moses. And he may even have voted for John Kerry. So there.

And now, Mr. Moses, I need to go to bed so I can ask forgiveness for my mean thoughts about you. And compliment myself on not using your store's real name in this post, 'cause even those of us without penises do have some integrity.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Letter to Grayson at 3 Months-Old

Dear Grayson,

I should have written this letter to you on June 28th, but as your mommy spent her vacation lugging you around from hill to valley, and indulging in the tenderest steaks ever devoured and the smoothest scotch every to slide across ice-cubes (when aforementioned mommy was absolutely not driving, just so we have that clear ahead of time), this letter got delayed. But, I'm glad because something happened today which I wanted to make sure was recorded for posterity.

Today, your Grandpa and GramBee and I drove to Warsaw to visit Great-Grandpa Miller. We took him from his assisted living facility and drove him out to Chapman Lake, to the home which he loves and to the lake where both Mommy and Grandpa swam as children. We sat on the porch and looked at the water and I asked Great-Grandpa how many hours he'd spent just watching the lake and he smiled and told me he reckoned it was a whole lot. While Great-Grandpa napped, Grandpa and I walked you down to the swimming hole and dipped your tiny toes into the water in what Great-Grandpa named, appropriately, "The Miller Baptism." You screeched at first, because the water was cold on this 4th of July, but you quickly calmed and seemed hypnotized by the waves as they broke near the shore. I whispered in your ear the mysteries of this lake which has cradled me all these years, this lake which calms your great-grandpa now in his ninth decade. I promised you that I would teach you to swim in this swimming hole and that we would watch minnows and collect clam shells, and huddle near one another in towels on the pier.

You smile so much now. Your daddy and I call one of your smiles your "Dick Cheney" look, it's a half-smile where you don't seem to be entirely committed to the idea of smiling. The difference between you and our illustrious VP, however, is that your smile lacks all sense of guile.

Grammy wonders if you might be a leftie...as in your hand-coordination (we are already convinced that your politics will lean that way, and if they don't, well...we'll let your big sisters apply appropriate pressure where need be). You seem to be favoring your left hand as you bat for objects and shake your rattle and rub your ears. We'll see what unfolds, as with so much in life.

This month you met your Mamaw Amy and your Texas kin for the first time. Grandpa and GramBee flew with us and you sat quietly in the baby carrier, resting near Grandpa's heart, your face nuzzled into his chest where he worried you were suffocating as you snuffled and snorted contentedly. You were an impressive traveler, even more impressive than Mommy who needs Xanax to be lured onto an airplane. 92-year-old Mamaw Amy remarked that she never thought she'd live to see the day that after four granddaughters she finally had her grandson. She had reason to wonder, as your oldest cousin is in her 40s and expecting her own child to arrive from China sometime soon. You cooed contentedly at your Mamaw and were ultra-fascinated with her glasses and sparkly eyes.

So many people love you. I am honored to be one of them--honored to be your mommy and can't wait to continue to watch you unfold, my sweet, sweet boy.