Saturday, June 26, 2010

Introducing Tabbouleh

The “weekend”—something humans have but cats don’t—was winding down. Cheese was lazing in the front window; dozing off, but keeping one eye slightly opened in case those fascinating finches came back to the feeder.

Banana was in the basement with Karen, ready to advise Karen on her ironing technique if asked. Suddenly, there was a lot of noise coming from downstairs; Cheese made ready to dash to a place of safety, but realized it was just family noise. Family noise was OK, but add in one unfamiliar sound, and Cheese was going under—under the bed, that is. He saw Gale dash by, heard a door slam, then turned his attention back to the feeder.

A few minutes later, as Cheese watched a small bird pull a thistle seed out of a hole in the feeder, Banana came running into the room. She slid to a stop on the carpet and breathlessly shouted, “Cheese!!! Come quick!! There’s something…something….well, something….OH!!! Just come!”

The two cats rushed to the kitchen, where they saw Gale hand Karen something tiny and brown and wiggly. The something in Karen’s hands was crying, and the cats’ ears pricked up at the sound. It was a cry they both recognized, because they had cried that cry before—this KITTEN was scared and hungry and wanted its’ mom RIGHT NOW!!! The women talked a minute, then hurried outside with the kitten; Banana and Cheese rushed to the door too, straining to see if the mother cat would appear and reclaim its baby. Surely it would hear the kittens’ cries—it was pretty loud!

“Cheese, do you think it’s one of Twitch’s kittens?” whispered Banana.

“Hmmm….I’m not sure….I thought her babies were older. Maybe?” Cheese didn’t like this feeling; he was scared for the kitten, who seemed so sad, and his insides were flopping because he didn’t know what he was supposed to do: was he supposed to hide? Go out and find the mother himself? Take charge and carry the kitten to its mother?

Before he could think of an answer, Gale and Karen were back, with the kitten. Banana and Cheese followed them into the kitchen again, where they watched Gale pull open drawers and open a big book. She picked up the phone, and dialed. After a few minutes of conversation and a lot of “I don’t know” responses from Gale, she hung up the phone. The cats watched Karen grab her keys, and then the women and the still-crying kitten were gone.

Time passed. Cat time is not the same as human time; for instance, time went slowly for Banana every morning when she waited for Karen to get up and feed her, but seemed to speed up when a squirrel moved from tree to ground to tree, but tonight it seemed like a very, very long time before Banana and Cheese heard the garage door opening again. Doors slammed, bags were dropped on the kitchen counter, and then, for a few moments, it was quiet again. That’s when the cats heard the kitten crying….still. But, maybe it seemed a little less afraid, or maybe it was getting sleepy—it’s so hard to tell with kittens that little. More drawers were opened and shut, utensils clanged, and there was a great business throughout the house. Cheese decided this was no place for him, so he found a nice quiet corner in Peter’s room. Banana watched the activity for a while, but was at a loss for what direction to give, so sat by the window with her ears pricked, listening…just in case.

Before long, it was close to midnight (at least that’s what Gale said), and the kitten was asleep in a box with a towel-covered heating pad. Karen and Gale were slumped in chairs in the living room, surrounded by an array of things that smelled like kitten—bottles, syringes, paper towels, toilet paper, cotton balls, and the kitchen looked like a cook-who-isn’t-quite-a-good-cook had been mixing things in bowls and pans with whisks and spoons.

As Banana and Cheese surveyed the chaos, they could tell something had definitely changed in the house. It wasn’t just the kitten smell; it was having the kitten there. This little creature needed this family, all of them—for food, warmth, protection. It needed kindness and gentleness. It needed love. Banana and Cheese weren’t quite sure what all of this meant for them, but they were sure of one thing—having Tabbouleh in the house meant a new set of adventures were just beginning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BST(Banana Sleep Time)

Have you ever tried to get the attention of someone (“Mom!
Mom, Mom, Mom! MOM!” or “Boss, boss boss boss boss!”) and then completely forget, once you have their attention, why you wanted it in the first place?

Banana does this at least eight times a day; when you respond, “What, Banana, what,” she pauses, as if trying to remember what it was that was so important. And then she thinks of something new to tell you.

At 6 a.m. (or BWT—Banana Wakeup Time) EVERY morning, Banana begins to talk . She stands, or sits, outside the bedroom door and whines (I would say, “Like a dog”, but I don’t want to offend her). Translated into human language, I think she’s saying, “Hey. Hey. Heyyyyyyy…” If she hears even the slightest creak, she keeps it up. Otherwise, she wanders off to doze on Peters’-but-really-the-cats’-bed. It’s almost as if the humans push her Snooze Button, because 30 minutes later, she’s back at the door.

There is much joy, rubbing of legs, and talking if Karen gets up first. If Gale comes out of the bedroom on her own, well, that’s just not right and Banana throws herself onto the floor in a sulk.

Banana continues to talk to Karen as they walk to the kitchen. Under no circumstances are there to be distractions along the way—food bowls are empty, and at least one cats’ tummy is rumbling.

The only time Banana is quiet in the kitchen is when she’s eating. She loves company at mealtimes, but really must focus on her food. Exactly 15.6 seconds after the human leaves the kitchen, Banana does too. It’s lonely in the kitchen without her people! The best days for Banana are when the people are home all day—then she has the potential of 67 or more trips to the food bowls, as the people make breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee, tea, wash dishes, take laundry through, go in and out to the garage, bake, talk on the phone, and any number of other human activities. Most days, Banana is lucky if her people are in the kitchen long enough to make breakfast, pack a lunch, and then leave for the day.

When they’re gone, Banana spends part of her day perched on a table by the front window, watching for the return of Karen.

As soon as she sees Karen’s car in the driveway, Banana runs to the back door, for she has much to tell Karen: about the birds that came to the feeder, the funny way Cheese was sleeping today, the squirrel bathing outside on the back step, the way Twitch taunted her from the backyard by jumping up on Banana’s favorite chair and cleaning herself! Karen politely listens, but just in case Karen missed anything, Banana repeats all the stories, from the beginning, until bedtime. She does break for snacks, and for the much-needed scratch-behind-the-ears-and-down-to-the-tail-oh-that’s-good sessions that occur nightly at 6:46, 7:29, 8:14, 9:03, and 10:37.

BST (Banana Sleep Time) dictates a quiet house by midnight, otherwise a sleepy-headed Banana will place herself between any human and any thing they are looking at—computers, television, magazines, books.

After all, tomorrow is another day, and Banana has so much to tell them!

Cleanliness is Next to Cheesiness?

Cheese is a very affectionate being—in the bathroom.

Most of the time Cheese ignores the rest of the family, and “tolerates” the occasional head rub. He has strict rules though, and will allow no other touching (unless it’s really cold outside, and his paws get chilly—then one person (and one person only) is allowed to warm his feet on their lap). However, act like you’re shedding your clothes and preparing to shower, and he’s suddenly Mr. Affectionate.

If Gale is in the bathroom, she recognizes his need for cascading water to watch, play in, and….occasionally…drink, so she fills up “his” cup and leaves it in the sink. Whereupon there is water, dripping into the cup and then into the sink—not quite “fountainesque” by any definition, but what’s a poor cat to do?! It entertains Cheese most days, which makes Gale happy—otherwise he would be rattling the door in an effort to escape his boredom, which is quite unnerving when a person is approaching the Zen phase of a nice, hot shower.

Cheese knows that when the water stops running in the shower, the cleansing process is complete, and the people inside the shower are now decontaminated enough to be allowed to touch him. If he is outside the bathroom at this point, he will push the door open. Cheese is clearly not a cat for the modest or easily chilled. After all, it’s
HIS needs that are to be considered here—geesh!

Before the person is even dry, Cheese jumps onto the tub and pushes the shower curtain open. After all, there is petting and stroking of THE CHEESE to be done—no dilly-dallying with unimportant matters such as drying off!! Besides, the longer Cheese waits, the more likely his clean person will become contaminated again. These precious moments are Cheese at his affectionate best. He purrs, he head-butts, he walks back and forth on the tub, to maximize the amount of head and neck that are to be caressed.

But please!!!! Do not be so gauche as to pet him anywhere but the head and neck (OK, the occasional tail swipe is tolerated—but just once, or maybe twice. But that’s it—no more than twice). Anywhere else is just wrong, and he will withdraw his affections quite quickly if you have treated him with such disrespect.

After all, it’s very important to be strict in the training of your people. They forget the rules so often, and it really can take years for the proper behavior to be achieved.

However, once the lotion bottle appears, Cheese disappears, making a graceful exit. He takes his still clean, very adored body out to the hallway. Training is complete for another day, and both person and cat have a warm, fuzzy feeling inside (and on the towel too—do you realize how much cat fur comes off on a wet hand??).

For more on the pleasures of the “simple” water fountain, please enjoy Regarding the Fountain by KateKlise.
Drinking Fountain Joe by Justin Mattot

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Girls of Summer Explained

The first “Girls of Summer” were the all-female baseball teams of the late 19th to mid 20th century. But the “Girls of Summer” the cats were referring to are the Indiana Fever, a WNBA team based in Indianapolis. Karen and Gale are big fans of women’s basketball; in the winter they follow their local university team, and in the summer they travel to Conseco Fieldhouse to cheer for the Fever. The Fever, who lost in the league championships to the Phoenix Mercury in 2010, will begin their 11th season on May 7th.

It may seem odd to some, who consider basketball a winter sport, but for fans of the WNBA, summer is the perfect time for basketball. For the owners of large arenas that would otherwise sit empty most of the spring and summer, a women’s professional basketball league has been a good fit. These games are very family-friendly events; the tickets are affordable and readily available, and there are a variety of pre and post-game events geared toward children. Best of all, it gives these athletes a chance to compete in their own country after college, although a large number of the women also compete overseas during the winter months.

A few words about Title IX: Title IX was enacted in 1972, and declares that no educational institution that receives federal funding can discriminate on the basis of sex in its programs. This simple declaration threw open the doors of opportunity for generations of women; 38 years later, grandmothers are still in awe at the number of sports and other activities their granddaughters take for granted that they will be allowed to participate in. Just recently, Vice President Joe Biden announced the Obama administration would be closing a loophole in Title IX, which since 2005 had allowed enforcement of Title IX to be somewhat watered down. I’ll let Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, explain the impact of the new ruling (she’s much more eloquent than I am):