Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Raining Cats

I've mentioned before how important Brozhy has been for me.  He was there for me at night before my surgery when things were still terrible.  He was there for me to calm me down when things were crazy at school or with Sam.  And he was good for Sam too, who never liked cats until now, never wanted one, and never understood anything about them anyway.  In a way, Brozhy's kind of like a child, or a close companion, something.  When he goes, however that may be, it's going to be really hard for me.
Ach, just a wee thing then...
Maybe all of you don't know this, but before Sam & I got Brozhy, he was feral (with only a couple of weeks of socialization).  He was mellow and calm (as much as a kitten can be anyway), but a few months later he started getting a little aggressive.  It got to the point where it went past playing stalk/hunt for fun and got to the point where I couldn't walk anywhere without him leaping out at me and digging into my calves with his teeth, or lying quietly on the bed and without a warning he'd lash out at me again.  He does it sometimes with Sam, but more often than not, it's me he attacks.  Why?  No idea, but we came up with all these theories:

He's spoiled.

He's lonely.

He's not eating right.

He thinks I like it.

He thinks he's higher in status than me.

He does it to get attention.

Sam plays too rough.

And on and on.  Brozhy's behavior is actually a common topic of discussion in our house and out.  So we tried things:

Better discipline.

Don't let him sit above your head.

Find the right food.

More frequent & active play.

Don't act afraid.

Ignore him (ha! Better stock up on bandaids)

Try socializing him.

The socializing was hard.  The first thing we tried was to let in a lost cat that wound up on our porch one cold night.  Brozhy flipped.  The other cat walked in and Brozhy hissed and spat and booked it into our bedroom.  I decided the cat couldn't stay, even though it was cold, so I turned him back out, washed my hands, and went to go check on Brozhy.  He was sitting on the dresser growling.  I calmly approached him, but when I got close, he hissed and lashed out at me.

Obviously that wasn't a good way to go about introducing Brozhy to new cats, but I wanted to gauge where he was (which I've learned is negative bajillion) in his desire to meet new cats.  So we thought maybe if it was done slowly, or something, it would work.

The next try was when we went to Connecticut for the summer.  We left him with my sister, who has two cats.  He seemed okay at first.  By the time we were at the terminal, things had gone way, way south.  I wasn't there, obviously, but apparently he was hiding in the littler box, he hissed and attacked anyone who came near, and wouldn't eat.  They took him back to our apartment after one night and decided to check on him periodically for the two months we'd be gone.

As you might imagine, he went a little crazy having to be alone all the time.  We came home to chewed-off paint on a spot on the wall, a ripped up cloth lantern, and a general mess.  My sister told stories of how he was "Demon Cat," leaping from afar to attack her husband's face, biting viciously whenever anyone went near the door, and who knows what else.

We knew he was feral once.  We knew he had issues.  But when we got home, he calmed down a bit.  A day or two later, it started again, worse.  His "welcome home" gift was four nasty gashes on my right shin (from his teeth, mind you) that are still healing.  Every time I got on the phone or sat quietly too long he would attack.  My mom told me over the phone when she heard it happening that I needed to get rid of him.

Something had to change.  I was scared of him.  I was scared for any future babies we might have.  So we decided that maybe, just maybe, we could try introducing a young, small kitten, who would not be threatening, who Brozhy could adjust to at his own pace, in his own territory.  And then they could play together and Brozhy could redirect his attacks to something that wouldn't mind.

So we got little Addie.
Briefly calm...
She was an adorable grey and orange tortoise shell with a white dip on her tail tip and a voice like a megaphone.  We got her off of KSL from a nice family who hadn't spayed their cat in time and came back from vacation to a litter of kittens in their son's hockey bag.  She was 6 weeks old, eating solid food, but still relying some on her mother's milk.
From the second we brought Addie inside, Brozhy went postal.  I'm not going to recount everything, but over the next four days, there was very minimal interaction between the two, and yet they both hated each other.  Brozhy hissed, growled, hid under the couch, hid in his litter box, jumped and hissed when people came into the room unannounced or startled him, and bit and slapped.

Once I went into the bathroom to hang up towels and he heard me too late, leapt up from behind the toilet where he was hiding, hit the toilet paper roll and sent it flying everywhere, slipped around and landed in the shower behind the curtain-- all in a two-second period.  I looked at the floor and saw it was covered in urine.

Another time when Addie was out, he ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed.  When I went to check on him later, he hissed and latched onto my arm and wouldn't let go.

I must add that during all of this, Addie, the most vocal and dramatic kitten I've ever encountered, was having her own issues.  She would hardly eat (Brozhy was barely eating either).  And when she wasn't asleep, she was screaming.  If she was alone locked in the bedroom she would scream and scream like she was being killed (I am not joking) and ram into the door.  I've never known a cat to do that, especially not a 6-week old kitten.

Monday afternoon I was at my wits' end, I had a huge list of chores and things that needed to be done that I couldn't do because I had to juggle that in addition to checking on Brozhy every few minutes, and, if she wasn't asleep, sitting and playing with Addie until she got tired and fell asleep so she would stop screaming and ramming the door and making Brozhy freak out more.  It felt a little like having an infant during that stage where all they do is cry while simultaneously trying to take care of a sick toddler throwing a tantrum and clean the house, on little to no sleep because the kitten kept us up at night.  But what do I know about that?

We'd put up a listing on KSL when we got Addie just in case things didn't work out and we had to give her away.  But after 4 days, we hadn't had any serious calls.  When Sam got home Monday evening and saw me in tears from the stress of the situation and heard Addie still screaming and found Brozhy again cowering in the litter box, he suggested we got to the Humane Society and give her up.

I'd considered this, and had for some reason posted a question regarding our situation on Yahoo Answers (a note about Yahoo Answers-- don't ever post a question unless you want to be publicly ridiculed with no way to retaliate).  All I got were people yelling at me about my ignorance to the ways of cats, how cruel I was to consider "ditching" Addie at a place where she'd be euthanized in 3 days, how stupid I was for not just putting them in the same room together and letting them figure it out (really?), yada yada yada.  Awful stuff.

Sam reassured me that she would find a home quickly because she was cute and young and impressionable.  So we put her in a basket and set out on our way.  A little way down the road, Sam decided to double check the shelter hours, and saw that we had missed the time by 45 minutes.  Addie started screaming louder, in that murderous-cry way.  And loud enough it was hurting my ears and making me crazy.

Poor Sam.  He has to deal with all these crazy people and animals all the time.  And no doubt he felt a little guilty because pushing the kitten idea was his thought the other day.  After sitting in the car for a minute, he decided to call the woman who had originally given us Addie and tell her that Addie wasn't eating and it was possible she needed to be with her mother a week or two longer, and besides that, our cat was getting sick with the stress of having her around.

Thank goodness people in Utah are so kind.  She agreed to take Addie back without question, so we made the drive back.  It was the longest 25 minutes of my life, with Addie still screaming and the stress still ebbing.

In retrospect, I know we should have considered the kitten idea a little longer, but it had to be done at some point.  Now we know that Brozhy can't be socialized.  He is still attacking me today, but I've found that as long as I talk quietly and calmly to him, myself, Sam, and inanimate objects, then the likelihood is lower that I'll end up with bleeding welts on my arms and legs.

We've talked though, and know that if things don't get better over the next few months, there's a good chance Brozhy will have to go, and that upsets me most.  But for now, I'll just (softly) stroke the sleeping dragon by my side and hope that things will get better, and that somehow he'll be my cuddly, purring Brozhy again.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Je Suis un Singe

You know that feeling of hopelessness you have when you're speeding down your friend's hilly driveway on a razor scooter at 50mph and it's the first time you've ever used a scooter and you don't know how to stop and you know that no matter what you do, you are inevitably rushing full-speed and head-on into a painful situation?

That was me today.  And all of yesterday.  Also me when I was 15 with the scooter, but that's another story.

Here's the sitch:  

Wednesday evening I got a call from a man at one of the places I interviewed but didn't get the job.  He said that a friend of mine (who did get the job) had recommended me for a job involving customer service for Canadians, and that they needed French-speakers.  During the course of the brief phone call, I heard myself agree to an interview and he gave a bunch of information, all of which leaked out my ears except "And part of the interview will be in French."  Of course.  What did I expect, Swahili?

Now, aside from the two years in high school and the one semester I took in college, the only French-speaking experience I have is a day in Paris, and random conversations with my mom.  While I can get by in basic conversations, I don't really speak French.  I speak Franglais.  You can't do customer service with frustrated customers whose native language is French when you speak Franglais.
Tra la la... c'est moi, c'est moi!
No speaka-de-Fronch!
The moment I hung up the phone, I dashed to the bookshelf that (thankfully) contains all kinds of readers, stories, dictionaries, and grammar exercises for learning French.  I planted myself on the couch and yelled in slight hysterics for Sam not to bother me (which was irrelevant because he was quietly studying in the other room).

The next day I woke up and decided it had been some kind of weird dream, and I didn't actually need to interview for a job.  I thought "Heck, I just won't go."  But instead I dragged myself again to the couch to do pages from a review workbook.  All day long.

By bedtime I was on the verge of panic.  It wasn't so much that I wanted the job and I knew I would fail, it was that I felt that by accepting the interview I had led them to believe that I spoke French super well and then I was just going to go in there and stare blankly at the French guy's face with my mouth hanging open and drool hanging from my chin.  And that's just embarrassing.

This morning I wasn't hungry for breakfast and went through the morning routine like I was preparing for a funeral.  On the way out the door I freaked out one last time, and Sam tried to reassure me by saying that, for arguments sake, Lamarckian Evolution is a scientific truth, and that this interview was the leaves at the top of the tree, and that I, as a short-necked giraffe, needed to stretch and stretch to reach them.  I probably wouldn't reach them now, but if I kept stretching and trying, eventually I would get the leaves I wanted.  (Get it?  Get it?  Geez, my whole life is obscure.)
Let's fast forward.  So I got to the place and, despite wanting to barf and run away, I went through the motions.  Most of the interview was in English, which was awesome.  Finally, the native speaker (from Paris) asked me to tell him what I put on my resume/CV, so I told him a few things.  Then he asked where I learned French, and I told him about school and my mom.  Then he asked where my Mom learned French.  I wasn't sure of the answer, so I said she learned it from a friend (safe bet, right?).  He then asked if I'd been to France and I said yes, Paris.

I thought I did okay.  And then he asked me to write some stuff from my resume in French.  Yikes.  Let me tell you, writing a resume in French is different than English.  And I tend to use big/persuasive/whatever words in resume to make it sound awesome and impressive that I can't even think of close synonyms for in French.  And I don't know how to say "database" or "volunteer" or "intern" or "inventory" or anything relevant, really.

I think that was the only way I really felt that I made a fool of myself, because I'd talked up the writing skills.  Shouldn't've done that, eh?  (HEY! I speak Canadian!  Ok yeah, that was lame.)

I don't expect that I'll get the job.  I don't even think I want it, really, because then it'll be the same thing as today every day.  But I've stretched my little neck, and I'll keep stretching, and one day (soon I hope) I'll get the job I need and want.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hie to the Post

The past couple of days have been really interesting.  I had my first day of training at that new job.  This morning I quit.  It wasn't because I had to talk on the phone or ask people for money.  It's because I had to lie to them, and to make people in a very dark place already feel even worse.  I can't do that to people, not for a million dollars.  Then last night was a surprise party for my sister.  It was so great to have family together laughing and eating and having a good time on a day that wasn't Sunday.

Today was a little rough, despite feeling better that I'd quit.  I am bored again, and I hate being bored.  My cat keeps attacking me.  There's nothing to do or clean or organize.  I went to lunch with my sister and spent some time haunting the museum where I used to work.  And now I'm eating cookies.

I read a post that my sister-in-law wrote about her September 11th story.  It was interesting to read her perspective as an east-coast transplant to Texas.  It got me thinking about things though.  And since I've been wanting to write down an "in retrospect" post for a while, I figured I'd do it today.  One thing I want to say, though, is that as you read this, I know you'll be thinking about your own story.  That story is just as interesting to me.  I want to hear it.  Because everyone's experience, unless you were literally under a rock, is important, and adds to the fabric of emotion that was that day (too prosaic?).  Anyway, the point is, think about it, because at the end I want you to share yours with me.  Do it in the comments, post on your own blog, email it to me, I don't care.  I want to hear it.  And here we go:
Tell your kids to keep a journal, seriously.
I was in 7th grade on September 11, 2001.  I remember what I wore to school that day.  Khaki overall shorts, if you're wondering.  That morning, my parents had the TV on during breakfast, which never happened.  My dad watched the news before we got up and then that was it.  Not only was it on, but my mom was watching it, which never happened in the morning.  My sisters went off to seminary.  Later on, my mom told me she'd be taking me to school, which normally my dad did.  We picked up my older sisters from seminary and once all four of us kids were in the car, my mom told us that an airplane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in NYC.  It was suspected it was a terrorist attack.  She wasn't sure about the status of the other tower, but she thought she'd heard it'd been hit too.  We went to school.

In every class I went to, the TVs were on.  We did nothing in any of our classes.  The teachers just sat and watched the news, as mesmerized as we were.  We watched the towers fall over and over.  At lunch my friends and I speculated.

"It's a terrorist attack.  And we're next."

"Why would we be next?  You're crazy.  What are they going to do, bomb the avocado groves?"

"No, stupid, Fallbrook is practically on Camp Pendleton, and that's like the biggest marine base on the west coast." [side note: is it?]

And on and on.

In band, one of my friends (actually just an acquaintance at this point, but I still remember it vividly, and she later became one of my very best friends) was pulled out to go home.  She had family in New Jersey that worked in New York and hadn't heard either way about their safety.  In my next class, another girl got pulled out, told something, and burst into sobs right there in front of the classroom windows.

Finally school ended and we went home.  We were allowed to watch TV for the rest of the day.  I remember the CNN newscaster looked scared.  He was disheveled and had the hiccups.  There was a stack of papers and a bottle of Tums next to him.  They showed recap footage all night, including people jumping out of the buildings.  Those particular images scared me the most.

I don't think I had ever felt more grown up as a 12-year-old than I did that day.  I wrote in my journal how tragic and awful it all was, but I may not have entirely understood everything that it meant.  It meant that people would lose members of their family in our town for a while as hordes of troops were shipped to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, everywhere; for years to come.  Test bombings would shake our windows far more often than they had before.  No one would be allowed on base without military ID.  Travel by plane would become far more difficult.  The news would be on far more often in our house, in peoples' cars, and I would start to pay attention.  For me, September 11th was a realization that there was a huge, enormous, and scary world beyond the hills of Fallbrook, and it was brought right there to me, and I had to learn to deal with it.


PS I just got a phone call from the Prophet Manasseh Jordan, telling me he knew how hard times were but that I could find salvation in God.  I feel so blessed now.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to Keep Your Kitchen From Resembling Gollum's Cave

You may have been wondering what I do with all my free time (more likely not, I can't see you sitting, brow-furrowed, contemplating my possible activities, while your tots tear apart your living room for the twelfth time this week).  Well, stop biting your nails in anticipation-- I have been organizing and cleaning the apartment.  Yaaaaaaayyy...

The biggest beast was the kitchen.  I haven't really touched it (aside from the weekly cleaning of visible spots) since we moved in.  And it developed into rather an unpleasant place to be.  It was dark and dusty and smelled vaguely of lurking onions.
They know where you eat...
I made it my personal crusade to make the kitchen once again a pleasant place to bake, cook, eat, and be.  Heretoforth, the steps, in case you want to do the same:

1. Organize the cupboard under the sink.  Get rid of rusty old dish rags, that broken ceramic bowl you thought you might make into a mosaic someday (never mind you've never made a mosaic in your life), and old cat things.  It might help, if you have plastic bags taking over, to take an old milk jug, cut a hole in the side, line the sharp edges with tape, and thereby create a plastic bag holder that you can have easy access to.  If you are curious about this, I can give you further detail, but it's really simple.  Anyway, get a box or tub and put all your cleaning supplies in it, in order of which you use most often (front to back).  Done.

2. Tackle your food cupboards.  Put all the cans in one cupboard, all the breakfast/bread/cereal stuff in another, all the baking mixes/dinner things in another, etc.

3.  Organize your other cupboards.  All the pots should go together (plus I did it by stick and non-stick) and all your frying pans together (same same).  Take that expensive Fontagnac pot from above the fridge and put it with the other pots so you will actually use it.  All gadgets should go together and all bakingware that doesn't make sense to go under your oven should go together too.

Excellent progress, fellows!

4.  Do the dishes.  Yes, the dirty ones in the sink.  Then put them away.  Then go into those places and get rid of the 37,000 mugs that you will never use, and the extra colanders, and limit yourself on what you keep for sentimental value.  I saved three mugs, two bowls, and a handful of plates from my childhood.  That seems excessive, but trust me, it's improvement.  And your friendly neighborhood greasy/dusty thrift store will be glad to receive them.

5.  Next go through your utensil containers and drawers.  Aside from getting rid of doubles, melted things, bent things, things you never use, etc, rearrange drawers so that like things are together and everything makes logical sense.  I'm still dancing around trying to remember where I moved the silverware, but it really does make a lot more sense where it is now, promise.

6. Organize your junk drawer, your trash drawer, your towel drawer, whatever.  If you need to (like for the junk drawer), buy organizers.  They're cheap at Target.

I forgot to mention that this organization and such took place over the period of a few days...

7.  Move counter appliances around.  We got a Kitchenaid when we got married.  It's very pretty, but it has, until now, been hiding in a corner behind the fridge, wasting its pretty green color and not getting much use because we didn't want to lug it to the other side of the kitchen where the counter space was.  The microwave was sitting skiwompis (does anyone even know how to spell that word?) in a corner with the toaster shoved behind it.  And it was ugly.  And the outlet it was in wasn't a high-power outlet, so every time we used the microwave it sounded like the fuse box was going to burst into flames, and the lights flickered like we were in the middle of a haunting and I hate hate hated it.  So.  Sam came home and did the heavy lifting.  We moved the Kitchenaid temporarily, then picked up the microwave and moved it behind the fridge where the Kitchenaid was.  And there, behind where the microwave had sat... A FRUIT MUMMY!!!
While I stood there yelling about how disgusting it was that there was something so creepy and gross sitting in our kitchen this whole time (yes, I'm very mature), Sam picked it up and threw it away.  It was essentially a dried up, desiccated fruit thing.  Sam thinks it might've been a plum.  We've never bought plums.  The mystery deepens...

8. Put heavy things where you can reach them.  I am not a short person.  But I am a weak person.  Therefore, it was ridiculous to put our 50lb sacks of stuff on the highest shelf (above the fridge, no less).  It got a bit embarassing every time I needed something up there to call out sheepishly, "Sammy...can you get down the flour/rice/ten-ton weights for me please?"  I'm sure he has better things to do when I'm not in the room.  And so down they came to the bottom-most shelf.

9. The spice cupboard.  Ugh.  I put this off for ages.  But eventually I pulled everything out, consolidated or threw away duplicate bottles (trust me, you will never have reason to own three bottles of poppy seeds), and when I was done, EVERYTHING FIT! And you could actually see every label!  And I don't have to live in fear that whenever I open that cupboard I will be buried in an avalanche of scented plastic bottles!

10.  I might've done other stuff too, but this post is already too long.  Pour some vinegar down the garbage disposal and run it, light a scented candle or something, hide the broom behind the fridge, organize your bulletin board and hey-ho your kitchen is actually nice!  The lighting is still bad so you probably still have shadows, but you know nothing is growing--or mummifying-- anywhere.  Also we have a lot more counter space now (and have room to make yummy things like this!), which makes me very happy.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Conundrums Abound

Sometimes Sam thinks he's Antonio Banderas dancing a flamenco.  He's not.  After I had convinced him of this and he set about finishing getting ready for school this morning, I got a phone call.  It was a woman from DLG Law asking if I'd like to come in for an interview.  An interview!  Me!  My very first since losing my job at the museum and applying to every job known to mankind.

I dropped Sam off at school ("Make good choices!") and headed to about 4 different stores looking for interview-appropriate attire (threadbare jeans and flowery skirts don't cut it).  Let me tell you that apparently the size 0-10 work force is very well-dressed.  At the first few stores I went to there was NOTHING smaller than a size 12.  At the last store I found that most people apparently believe that leggings are pants, and everything in the size 2 section showed it.  Until Lo!  Three pairs of grey trousers, and only one a little ugly.  I snatched them up and ran to the dressing rooms, only pausing to scowl at a row of discounted knit (as in needles, not that stretchy/flowy stuff) garments passing as shirts.

The first pair fit alright, albeit loosely.  The second pair came to a few inches above my ankles ("city fit" my foot).  The third pair was a size 6 masquerading as a 2.  I decided the first pair would have to do, overly long inseam and baggy rear aside, and it was only $20.  I then wandered the store considering discount scrub brushes (TJ Maxx has great deals on scrub brushes guys) until I realized it was almost noon and my interview was in two hours.

With a little safety-pinning of the hem I was in the car and on my way.  The interview was in Draper, just past Ikea.  Once inside the building and announced, I sat down and stole furtive glances at the employees I could see.  Nose rings.  Threadbare jeans.  Hm...

I interested myself with an oversize encyclopedia of horse breeds where most of the pictures showed horses with alternately majestic and surprised (yes it is possible) looks on their faces.

See?  Nevermind that it's a statue.
I was snickering to myself when my interviewer walked in-- in cargo shorts and a polo.

The interview was easy-- he asked the usual questions about what my strengths are and why I deserve the job and how good my water cooler chatter is and yada yada yada.  And then he offered me the job and asked me to pick a shift, right then and there.  I sat there hemming and hawing before picking a 9-6 shift and agreeing to show up for training on Monday.  He then shook my hand, mentioned that the dress code was very relaxed (thank you Captain Obvious), and showed me the door.

On my drive back home I got to thinking, as Daddy Yankee provided philosophical input.

"Ok, so it's a full time job at $10 an hour, with benefits after 3 months..."

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na Daddy Yankee!

"But it's all the way up in Draper, that's a lot of gas money.  Plus, to be there at 9am I'd have to leave at like 8:15..."

Rompe rompe rompe!

"We really, really need the money.  And I get weekends off!  And they buy us lunch once a week..."

No escondas todo eso que traes; Yo baby, que es la que hay?

"Ugh but it's 100% on the phone, all the time.  All incoming calls, but still.  I'm so awkward on the phone.  And that headset would give me a headache..."

The way she move ella lo; rompe rompe rompe; break it down; go go go go

"Thanks Mr Yankee, you're a real pal."

So it pays the bills.  And it's a good paycheck.  And Sam and I have decided it's time I weed out the awkward phone bit.  What better way to do it than work in a call center?  I just wish it were a lot closer.  I'm showing up for training on Monday, but in the meantime, I'm praying real hard something better will come up in the next couple of days.  If not, at least I don't have to go hunting for any more dress pants.

PS Our new manager just came to collect our rent and indirectly insulted the painting I did for our kitchen.  Harumph.  Maybe I should take it down.