Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Shave Your Cat

We used to be good pet-owners. We paid lots of attention to our cats, brushed them often, gave lots of scritchies, and played with them all the time. It is deeply shaming to admit that we kind of suck now. We had kids and they ended up occupying the majority of our thoughts and time. We kept our cats fed and still doled out scritchies, but a lot of other things fell by the wayside. Brushing them is definitely one of them. I'm referring to our cats, plural, but we only have one cat now. Our big fluffy Olaf had a thyroid tumor that was causing him to waste away and we put him down shortly before moving back to Montana. We have Mia. Mia is also referred to as "Princess Prissy Pants" due to her overall personality. Despite the prissiness, however, our Mia is absolute crap when it comes to self-grooming. She's even too high-maintenance for herself. Because we stopped brushing her as often as we once did (and because she turns into a furry cyclone of teeth and claws whenever we tried to), she turned into a mass of matted fur - an absolute mess. For a couple of years now we have tossed around the idea of taking her to a groomer to get her shaved. The other night, though, I decided enough was enough. I declared that Clyde and I were going to shave her and it was going to happen IMMEDIATELY. I grabbed our old pair of clippers and mentally prepared myself for the task at hand.

Cat-shaving is definitely a two-person job. One person needs to hold the cat still and ensure that teeth and claws are not able to be implemented while the second person does the shaving. A third person would be preferable, I think - one person to confine the front end, one for the back. We didn't have a third person. The kids, by the way, were put to bed so as to ensure the fewest number of possible casualties. Clyde restrained our unsuspecting beast. The sound of the clippers sent a tremor of terror through her and I approached with extreme caution. I located the first clot to be removed and fully expected an explosion of furry death when I touched the clippers to Mia's fur. No explosion - just a discontented grumbly noise and a deeply incredulous look. Cats are so good at that look. The clot, though, put up one hell of a fight.

The above image shows how much fur was removed upon the first shaving. I like to think of it as the most raggedy Tribble, ever.

Mia was far more stoic than I ever would have anticipated but that's not to say that there weren't a few moments when I thought I just might end up with a bloody stump where I once had a hand. Clyde's Kung Fu grip proved very effective. We shaved off most of her fur on her back and sides but decided we all needed a reprieve. I put the clippers out of sight and pet Mia to show that there were no hard feelings. "See Mia? It's okay that you were restrained, shaved, and humiliated. Who's a pretty girl? You are!" Shaving would commence on Day 2.

This is Pretty Prissy Princess Mia shortly before Round 2. She knows something's up.

Once again, on Day 2, the children were put safely to bed before all the shenanigans. Mia was located and brought downstairs to the scene of the previous day's torment. She knew that something was fishy, though, and made a couple of bids for escape. Poor baby. This was the round of shaving that Clyde and I were dreading most - her belly. Any cat owner will tell you that Touching Of The Belly is a pretty capricious thing. Some cats love belly rubs while others will swiftly end you should you even try. And then there are cats like Mia who vacillate between those two extremes willy nilly. While belly rubs may be sometimes welcome, clippers on the belly is a clear act of trespass.

Belly shaving involves a more creative restraining method. During the first shaving day, Clyde just held her to the ground, belly down, while holding her head and neck still. It was relatively easy. Do you know why cats usually land on their feet? Because they can twist like a corkscrew in seconds. Cats want their feet on the ground. They need their feet on the ground. So putting Mia in a belly-up position was no easy task. We burrito-wrapped her hind legs so she couldn't strafe us with her claws while Clyde tried to hold her in a way that kept her as still as possible and minimized the bite risk. I imagine that attempting to snuggle a badger would be a wildly similar experience. Mia had a lot more flexibility of movement so the shaving happened in short bursts. The burrito wrapping was, I guess, more effective than nothing at all but only just. We both had quite a few more near-teeth experiences than Day 1.

It's worth noting that the belly is not the only area that inspires The Rage when it is touched. The base of the tail and the area around the legs is also pretty dangerous. Mia was like a fuzzy minefield.

The shame!

"God, I hate you"

Raggedy Tribble #2. My hands are in the Tribble pics to give you some scale.

It was not an immaculate shaving job. Her fur is uneven in a lot of places and she looks pretty ridiculous but the important thing is that she is now CLOT-FREE! I have resolved to keep this from happening ever again. We're starting over. I will groom Mia regularly and she will be soft and lovely again. And in case you're wondering, she doesn't seem to be harboring any resentment. She was back to her usual self this morning - meowing at me insistently as I scurried about to get ready for work. Her need for attention has outweighed her pride. That's my girl!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I want to go home because everything is different.

Ok, not really. I AM home and everything is startlingly the same. I took the little monkeys to a local park to play on a splash deck, then to ice cream, and now home again (home again, jiggety-jig) for dinner and Ni Hao Kai Lan. The tiny monkey named Ho Ho said "I want to go home because everything is different" and Kai Lan turned earnestly to the viewers and said "Do you think Ho Ho wants to go home because everything is different?" I don't know what to tell you, Kai Lan. I really don't. But this brings me to why I'm blogging this evening in the first place.

I made the very difficult decision to quit my job and stay home with Ben and Ethan. The decision was validated rather quickly when my already horrendously expensive daycare provider went and upped their prices again to the point where I wouldn't be making enough for even a week's worth of groceries PER MONTH. It's not just the money, though. Ben is going to be 5 next year and starting Kindergarten and Ethan is rapidly on his way to full-fledged toddlerhood. I don't know when the hell this all happened. The last 4 years have been a blur and I just know that I'm going to blink and Ben will be picking colleges and Ethan will be asking to borrow the car and they'll both be surly and angst-ridden. Right now, Ethan still squeals with delight when he sees me and Benjamin has no problem with hugging me and holding my hand in public. I must horde these moments while I can so I can store them in my brain and pull them out and admire them when a bedroom door is being slammed in my face.

Another reason for quitting is that I'll finally be able to spend time with my husband or, as I have come to think of him, That Guy Who is Sometimes in My Bed When I Wake Up. I'm looking forward to figuring out who he is. It'll be good for the boys, too, to spend time with both of us. Holy crap, we could go camping! Clyde can teach the boys to fly fish! We could actually experience the things about Montana that drew us back here in the first place! My mind is just all a-dither with the possibilities!

However, I'm drawn back to Ni Hao Kai Lan. You see, I'm a terrible person. Or maybe just a lazy person and therefore a terrible mom. I'm beyond frightened that I don't have the imagination and energy that is required to keep two small children and myself entertained day in and day out. I'm afraid my kids will be glued to the TV while I sit on my ever-expanding ass as my eyes glaze over and the children turn into zombies. I can't let this happen! I can't be That Mom - you know her. You've seen her. She wears a mumu and Crocs for every occasion. She can be seen crossing the street - troupe of children in tow - as she heads to the gas station to pick up some more beer and Sunny D. Her voice is hoarse from screaming at her unruly children all day to "sit down", "shut up", "stop runnin' with scissors", "get mama a pop from the fridge", "hand mama the phone book so's we can order a pizza", etc. Her kids are filthy, half-clothed, rude, embarrassed, and lost.


I need a routine. I need to have a few places lined up for entertainment, sanity preservation, and education. They must be cheap, family-friendly, and not a tremendous hassle for a mom with two energetic and small children. I am asking you, Missoula, to help me with this. Where do we go? What do we do? How will I make this work?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some honesty.

At some point in my life, I knew I was going to be an artist. In high school, I loved my art classes. I signed up for as many as I could and relished the time that I spent molding clay, "throwing" pottery, drawing, painting, etc. I felt free and happy and alive and I thought that I was doing something that was built for me. Then I went to college with no clear idea of what the hell I was doing. I wanted, at first, to go to Portland State University and see if I could hack it as a starving artist, dedicated to the trade. I was convinced through logic, loyalty, and good ol' common sense to apply at the University of Montana. Apparently, I had a Fine Arts scholarship but I'll be damned if I ever saw a cent of the money that I was supposedly awarded. No matter... I applied and was accepted. Seriously, it's no biggie to be accepted as an undergrad to the U of M. They'll take you as long as you have a pulse, funds for your education, and a social security number. I started out as Liberal Arts and was then convinced that Fine Arts was where it's at. Good, good. I'll fulfill my romantic adolescent dream of being a starving artist, struggling against the fearsome Dominant Paradigm to showcase my soul in the form of pencil sketches, oil paint masterpieces, and symbolic shouts in charcoal or conte' crayon my rebellion and unbridled talent. Oh yes, I was going to purge all of my angst and the years I spent silent yet angry onto a canvas or any medium that could stand up against my fierce passion.

Except... Only... If not for... Etcetera.

I'm a pretty good artist. At least, I was back in the day. I remember drawing a self-portrait back in 6th grade that drew the attention of my classmates who hated me as a matter of principal. Even they had to admit that I just might have some talent beneath my shy, awkward, grandma's-hand-me-downs-wearing exterior. That had to have been a big step for them. In high school, I wasn't the most talented but I'll be damned if I wasn't passionate. I had ideas and dreams and I was going to exhibit them for the world if it killed me. I took the "advanced" classes and attended a workshop for those who were supposedly the most gifted. It was at that point that I discovered that I wasn't the bee's knees. I was in a room with 3 to 4 more people vastly more talented and passionate than myself. Damn, these people could draw/paint/pastel circles around me. Well, fuck you! I'll keep at it! Through sheer will I will surpass you. You will be saying "I knew Sarah when..." I'll be brilliant and beautiful and my creations will be coveted the world over...

... only... not.

At some point in college, I learned the earth-shattering truth that to be an artist, I would either have to be mind-bogglingly talented or a great bullshitter. I was neither. Don't get me wrong, I can B.S. pretty well but that's not what I wanted to be. If I was going to Make It, I wanted it to happen because I possessed something beautiful and undeniable. I wanted to be able to show people their own naked and vulnerable souls staring back at them through my work. I wanted to be able to cause inspiration, create life-altering moments, uncover truths. I couldn't do this, no matter how much I tried. I had to do a ridiculous performance art piece for one of my first art classes in college and I freaking poured myself into it. I threw out all the ideas I had and was determined that it was going to be actually meaningful instead of pretentious and ridiculous like so many performance art pieces before me. Yes, I was going to turn something absurd into something important. Only, I didn't. I never did. I sketched and I painted and I sculpted but it wasn't breaking the ground I wanted it to. I wasn't shining. I wasn't special and important. I was just one more [fill in the blank] in a long line of [fill in the blank]. I experienced a soul-shattering moment at 19.

Enter Creative Writing. I remember back in the day when friends and even enemies (or those I perceived as such) said in one way or another that I was a good writer. A girl that I had always thought of as "one of those girls who hates me/doesn't know I exist" said to me "I wish I could write like you.". I remember when she said it, I remember her name, I remember how it felt to hear those words. A friend once told my mother that I was a far better writer than she was. My mom told me this out of the blue and indicated that this was information that wasn't supposed to be passed on to me. I could have flown. This was important. This was, maybe, what I was meant to do. All of this came back to me when I decided to switch my major to English. Mind you, I had done poorly in grade school English classes. I couldn't diagram a sentence to save my life nor identify the participial phrase. It wasn't until my English classes became focused on stories and novels that I was able to pick up on just what the hell was going on here. Thanks to the transition, I earned the award of "English Student of the Year" in 8th grade. That's right.

So I spoke with my Art advisor and tried to make clear that this relationship just wasn't fulfilling my needs, blah blah blah. I don't think anyone was sorry to see me go. English was going to provide me with everything my soul needed to thrive. I took a fiction workshop that I think I must have mentally blocked for my wellbeing. My stories were utter crap. At one point, I animated a bowl of tomato soup. It was that bad. Switch, quickly, to poetry. My goodness, how it fed me. I felt like this was everything that I needed and everything that I was missing. It challenged me and nurtured me. I could do this. I was meant to do this. If I couldn't create art with paint and pencil then I could do it with words, god damnit. I was nowhere near the best in my classes, I struggled all the time, sometimes I just couldn't do it. But I always tried. I wanted this. Somehow, I was going to make it work. And I did and I graduated.

And that's it. I haven't written a single line of a poem since 2005.

I'm not sure what did it. At some point, I must've convinced myself I was being silly or unrealistic. I was fooling myself if I thought I could do anything with this. I got married and had babies. That's really no excuse at all and it's horrible to even think of my life at this point as an excuse. If poetry exists in anything, it exists in the struggles of my husband and myself to reconcile our love for each other with our daily compromises. It exists in every musical note of laughter that sings out of the throats of my children. It exists in every single second of my trying to rediscover just what the hell I'm doing with my one and only life. I don't want my kids to see me as a cautionary tale. I don't want them to grow up, thinking "don't be like mom". I still believe I have something in me, else I wouldn't bother with this fucking blog. I wouldn't even try. I just don't know how to find that part of myself again. I see glimpses from time to time but the image always fades quickly and I'm back to sitting at a desk, doodling on MS Paint. I'm back to doubting. I'm back to sitting at my home computer at 11:19 PM on a Thursday night, tipsy off some Riesling, listening to a song that I never thought I would love, typing away into the chasm of the internet, relying on the one or two readers that I might have picked up along the way. There is more than this and I will find it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spewing some existential crap

I am irritated by the widely-held demand that we all must either believe in something or entirely disbelieve something. I have been told on many occasions throughout my life that I either need to admit to myself that I believe in God (of the Christian variety) or admit that I believe in nothing at all. However, there's a tremendous gulf of gray area in between those two options. In my Quote of the Day email that I received this morning (yep, I'm that lame) I read this gem:
"Confusion is always the most honest response" - Marty Indik. I have no idea who Marty is but I agree with the guy on this point.

The Universe has conspired this morning to present my sleepy brain with all kinds of nifty little articles about the vastness of itself. The first five websites that I Stumble(d) Upon were all related to Space and Time and Quantum-y goodness. Basically I'm an infinitesimally tiny little speck, living on another infinitesimally tiny little speck of a planet, which is part of an infinitesimally tiny little speck of a galaxy that is part of a universe that is so vast that if I had any inkling of the actual vastness of it, I would probably either implode or explode. Either way, there would be 'ploding. How can I NOT be confused? How can I possibly imagine that I know anything about anything? Maybe there is a big bearded man up in the sky, shaking up this little ant farm of his and doling out reward and punishment as he sees fit. Maybe we are all possessed by alien spirits and subject to a false reality created by a meanie-head dude who controlled our solar system billions of years ago. Maybe my cat is actually a benevolent unicorn demigod in disguise. I DON'T KNOW! And I don't think there's anything that is fundamentally wrong with not knowing.

I personally believe that there is something that is truly beautiful and yes HONEST about not knowing - about admitting that we're part of a universe of strangeness that we can't comprehend but, damnit, we're going to try. So I do have beliefs but they are vague and ever-changing and I like it that way.