Cat vs Christmas

Christmas Eve day, we got rain all day long instead of the promised snow. Rain, rain, a lot of rain. The problem with rain in the winter is that as the temperature goes down as the sun does and the rain that came down all day begins to freeze.

At 3 am, The Boy came to Hubby and I with the itching need to shovel snow. It’s his Zen activity. Out there in the cold, alone, with his headphones and music and no one to bother him as fluffy flakes fall peacefully around him. He keeps our driveway clear most of the time, and some of the neighbors as well. Since it was still snowing, and 3 am, we told The Boy to go back to bed and tackle it in the morning.

Wow, the morning.

The only snow day I had as a kid wasn’t because we got a lot of snow, which we did, the problem is that it drifted. Snow drifts covered doors and windows at the school, blocking them so the fire department closed school until the snow melted or blew away enough to keep the doors cleared. I mention it because looking out my back upstairs window demonstrated those neighbors aren’t using their back patios, doors, or some windows. It looked familiar.

The snow is deep enough that the two Yorkies at one house and four Chihuahuas at another won’t be using their backyards for their daily business. I’m mildly curious how their owners plan to handle that, but none of the solutions that come to mind encourage me to dwell on the problem.

So The Boy is out shoveling like the wind, before the wind blows it back, and watching neighbors’ SUVs get stuck as they try to leave for family outings. It reinforces the decision that we’re at home today. The Girl bundled up and went for a short walk. Apparently the snow is up to mid-thigh in some areas and, considering how long as she was gone, she didn’t get far.

As pretty as our winter wonderland is, a white Christmas isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Ask Darth Jingles. Note the return of her Sith name. “Jingles” is a bit too festive to describe the ball of dark malice pacing the house at the moment.

It’s not that I disagree that she has a reason to be upset, but the cat had a decent Christmas. She has her own Christmas tree on her kitty-condo. Yes, I decorated and balanced a four foot tree on the top platform of her play house. The top branches keep the tree balanced by keeping wedged against the ceiling. It has lights, and only a wide sparkly ribbon for to sniff. No breakable or potentially shreddable ornaments for the cat. Jingles wouldn’t eat them, she’s a picky eater.

That being said, she discovered a new kitty-treat. Sort of. I’m fond of salmon-shmear, but we were out of the brand I usually get at the bagel places and took a chance on Philly salmon cream cheese. Not that I’m spoiled, but I would rather have plain than take another bite of that stuff. The Boy likes it fine, however, and Jingles loves it. Seriously. She won’t drink milk or eat moist cat food. Salmon or salmon juice from a can isn’t happening, although drained tuna juice is a favorite. Cream cheese shouldn’t even be open for consideration, but Jingles will lick big globs of salmon cream cheese off The Boy’s fingers. Ew.

Courtesy of Christmas, Jingles also has new boxes of judgment placed all over the house. She’s tested them all, they’re appropriately judgy. Bits of paper, ribbons, and bows also serve as new toys for her amusement.

Because of yesterday’s rain, Jingles wasn’t outside long. I let her out early in the hopes she’d get some wiggles out in preparation of the forecasted storm. Mother Nature had other ideas, and clearly hates me. The Girl bowed to the cat’s incessant demands to be released to the elements this morning. Jingles sat patiently while The Girl put on the collar that grants her permission to be outside because she’s not naked, smacked the bells hanging from the knob, and launched as soon as the door opened. She got two feet.

Our entry is covered and sheltered, so the landing and top steps were clear. The good news ended there. Jingles usually races out the front door, bounds down the steps, and pauses at the corner of the walk and driveway. A small black cat stuck in snow up to her whiskers at the bottom step is an amusing sight. The Girl walked out in her slippers, plucked her from her frozen prison, carried her back to the family room, and snuggled her in a thick blanket in front of the fireplace. It dried Jingles, but didn’t improve her mood.

I have blinds and shutters thrown open all over the house so Darth Jingles can oversee her domain. It isn’t enough. She keeps hovering around the front door, so we open it and let her see for herself that the situation hasn’t improved.

We’ve taken turns playing with her. Earlier I heard the amusing warning from The Girl:

“Dad, I’m going to torment the cat, so she’s going to hate you.”

“Okay.”

Everything that is wrong with Darth Jingle’s world is laid on the shoulders of my husband. That said, he gives the best chin scratches, and she prefers his tuna-beverage to anyone else’s. He heats it slightly, adds just the right amount of water, and lightly salts it. I can’t duplicate his success. Jingles still hates him – demands tuna when he lingers in the kitchen, and will even rub up against his legs and meow, but hates him. I lost count of the bitter glares the cat’s cast Hubby’s direction today. The snow is clearly his fault. Also, the disappearance of her Boy to take on the snow issue is some sort of inconvenience for her and therefore also Hubby’s fault. It’s true Hubby picked up the wrapping paper, that’s legit. I picked the ribbons out of his bag and seemed to condemn his actions further in his eyes. Using the ribbons to play with her didn’t help.

The winter storm alert was extended from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning. Maybe Tuesday we’ll be able to kick the cat out and have some peace. Until then, I’ll grab another ribbon, some Neosporin and band aids, and go play with Darth Jingles some more. It’s my turn.

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Life Is Like This Sometimes

I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking from a mighty nap and realizing how much his To-Do list has grown. When last I blogged, it was near the end of November, I had almost 10,000 words to write for the NaNoWriMo challenge, and the cat was driving me a little nuts. The next day, my uncle’s post-operative care took a nasty turn and he was put on a morphine drip to “make him comfortable.” That ruined my morning. Calling my mother and uncles to tell them was an unpleasant and generally disappointing experience. I’m the only one in the family still talking to my uncle, which is a long story unto itself, so I’m on his contact forms. He never married (I’m grateful there) and everyone’s sympathy seemed to be more for me having to deal with his final days than for his actual loss. Writers, keep that gem in mind for character development.

Losing my uncle wasn’t a surprise, but it was still upsetting. Dealing with all the nonsense afterward is possibly worse. And you know how bad things happen in threes? It’s an old superstition and I keep reminding myself that it’s unfounded, but I still get nervous waiting for the other shoe(s) to drop and eying everyone in the family over seventy or with health problems. That turned out to be more people than I was comfortable with, so I was a nervous wreck for a few days.

The thing about superstitions is that they’re self-fulfilling. Bad things happen in threes? The rules didn’t say it had to be in my family. A close friend/neighbor of my uncle lost two family members shortly after him. I was appropriately apologetic, but it’s horrible that I feel better knowing someone is having a worse month than me.

That aside, I missed my NaNoWriMo deadline, although it took me two days to realize it. Also, everyone in the house got sick. Even the cat sneezed on me, although I suspect it was a protest sneeze for no one catering to her whims amid their self-centered misery. The Boy used all his sick days at school, making me ever more anxious on his behalf. He also flunked his English segment on The Crucible, which I’m tempted to “press” him for. I glared at him and whispered “more weight” and he totally failed to get it. That shouldn’t have surprised me, he didn’t read the book, or even watch the movie or play, and flunked the entire section. Why would he catch that reference?

Grrr.

And now Winter Is Here. Yup, woke up December 21st and BAM! Snow. Hubby woke me earlier than I anticipated for my monthly infusion (MS, I mentioned it before) and I didn’t want to get up yet.

Poke, poke.

“What!?”

“Infusion. Get up.”

“Not for another hour.”

“We need to leave early.”

“Go to hell.”

He leaned over and whispered in my ear. “It snowed.”

Funny how that short, simple sentence caused such an adrenaline rush. The Boy has his driver’s license now – my blood pressure didn’t skyrocket for that announcement. There is clearly something wrong with my fight or flight response. Oh yeah, MS.

As if I needed another jolt, Hubby opened the blinds by the bed and I saw snow-capped roofs. I got up, got dressed in record time (make-up is overrated and pony-tails are always an option), and checked the traffic on my phone.

“Honey, the roads are a little … um.”

“I assumed. That’s why I woke you early. What’s Big Step-Brother say?”

“A completely different and unexpected route.” I showed him Google’s bizarre zig zag of the proposed route as it slid along frontage roads, through industrial areas, and doubled back through a residential area to get to a belt route that should take us downtown.

“Huh.”

“Yeah, right? I wouldn’t have thought of it either.”

We passed a parking lot of cars on two highways as we zipped along the frontage roads and over an overpass I didn’t even know existed. At first I thought “Hey, look at all the iPhone users,” but then decided there were too many cars to attribute it to Apple Maps and attributed the number to absent-minded drivers failing to check their route before pulling out of the driveway.

We made good enough time to stop for bagels and coffee, a tradition for my infusion days. I had enough adrenaline pumping that I shouldn’t have needed coffee, but it’s sort of habit.

The thing about the bagel place is that they have the worst staff ever. They have great bagels and it’s convenient; apparently that’s enough to keep the place in business. The breakfast sandwiches are great on the rare occasion they get the order and bagel assembly right. Most of the time I look at what they give me and wonder if the nice young man behind the counter considered looking at the menu to see what the sandwich is supposed to look like. For example, the asparagus & mushroom egg white sandwich has been on the menu for years and has both asparagus and mushrooms on it. In theory. I’ve had any number of creative variations with the standard order I’m terrified of what I’d get if I tried to add any special instructions. It’s sort of like the lottery when I get one that has everything it’s supposed to and nothing it’s not.

There’s a girl who’s worked there awhile and Hubby swears she messes up everything she touches. She doesn’t make my breakfast sandwiches, so that makes her talent and Hubby’s recognition of it particularly impressive. This young woman has yet to figure out the automatic bagel slicing machine, for example. Her unique ability to mess things up extends to her hair, make-up, and wardrobe – which are all painfully tragic. Tragic as in “you’re going to end up on a Walmart-fashion-fail website” way.

Personal appearance decisions aside, we have little choice but to work with the delusional young woman. When it comes to my coffee, I’m a little less easy going about it being wildly wrong and Hubby watches her carefully. And repeats every single time that I don’t want whipped cream, and it’s not iced. Honey, if you want ice, go shovel the sidewalk. Leave my coffee out of it until it’s warm enough to wear shorts again.

As we left, we discussed her brittle, over-processed hair and whether the splotchy blue-green tint was on purpose. You never know, it sort of matched her eye shadow. Hubby and I decided it was just as well she worked the counter at a bagel shop instead of, say, a nuclear power plant. By calmly tolerating her repeated mistakes, we were saving the world. Someone can’t do much damage putting ice in hot coffee, poking extra holes in bagels while slicing them, or mixing up shmears.

Then we reconsidered. There are safeties in power plants and, while this poor girl would almost certainly irradiate herself, it was unlikely she’d be permitted to do any damage to the community or environment. There are men out there with plummeting standards and rising desperation, however, if one of them crossed her path she could breed.

A sad and ugly way to view the world, admittedly, but the snow I accepted on the 21st as being ultimately beneficial because I enjoy a white Christmas has melted. Not to worry! I woke this morning to a winter storm advisory in effect Friday through Sunday. There, that should do it. White Christmas covered, the cat is out working some energy off before the storm hits and she’s trapped inside all weekend by either weather or The Girl demanding she be cuddly. She also wants to put a small dog Santa costume on Jingles, which I suspect will not go well. I, at least, learned from the “kitty sweater” incident a couple years ago and have the route to the emergency room already entered into Google Maps. I just need to wait for The Girl to act on her plans, refresh Maps to get driving instructions modified for the weather, hand the keys to The Boy, and we’re off. The Boy will get to drive as a reward for keeping the driveway and sidewalk clear all weekend. That’s my motivation. His is that he drives now and his sister (while she has a license) doesn’t. Ah, sibling rivalry. Trade on it when you can.

So that’s it. I’m done with everything but a couple of pies that can wait until tomorrow. I should write, but I’m thinking nap time. The cat’s going to have me up all night, I’ll write then.

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10K, Tossing The Cat Out, & A Nap

There are a couple of days left in the NaNoWriMo challenge. I think this is the first Thanksgiving in years that I didn’t write at all, which sucked because I had to make up for it the day after and felt completely brain damaged by the attempt. I have almost 10,000 words left to write. It’s doable, but I’m not used to cutting it this close on my goals. It makes me uneasy, and that doesn’t help the creative process.

Another thing that doesn’t help the creative process is The Boy getting his driver’s license. Add to that his plans to add some pep to my old car that has been kept around for the kids, and I’m fit to be tied. I thought the car was fairly peppy before, so I shudder to think what he means by “add more pep” to it. Something I think I’d rather not dwell on.

Darth Jingles has taken on a couple new habits that caught my attention. She likes to sneak outside when The Boy heads off to school. Being a black cat, she hides well in the shadows and she has the sort of pep in her tail The Boy is probably shooting for in the car.
Generally, Jingles has her collar on, but The Girl likes to take it off when the cat comes in. It’s a treat and Jingles loves to be Ninja Cat without her bell on. Plus she enjoys her humans’ pets and scratches more when we can rub her neck for her too. Spoiled cat.

When Jingles goes out without her collar, lately she’s come back in within a couple of hours. Then begs to go out again. It’s like she realizes she’s “naked” and gets the cat version of self-conscious, prompting her to come home. Our cat is a prude.

That’s one new oddity. The second is now that the weather’s turning, and we have regular frosts and even light snows, she’s delaying her pleas to go out until the sun comes up and melts the frost. Really? She has a black fur coat but she’s waiting for that little temperature boost? This is particularly annoying to me because I get up to boot The Boy out the door, then I go huddle up in bed again and write or read. Having the cat interrupt me either when I’m furiously typing to document some transient inspiration, or at a really good point in my book, is really irritating. It’s never when I’m staring at a blank page and trying to figure out what to write. It’s never at the end of a chapter when I’m reading. And she never has figured out how to wait patiently for me to finish typing a sentence, let alone complete a thought.

To that end, if Jingles doesn’t leave the house with The Boy now, she gets booted to The Girl’s room. Or that was the plan as of a week ago because of my late start to the NaNoWriMo challenge. The problem with that popped up the day after I initiated the new policy: The Girl.

I mentioned Jingles isn’t patient when she wants something. Food, her collar, attention, whatever. Neither is The Girl. She came stomping into my room at something like 730 in the morning, upset that I shoved the cat in her room and Jingles woke her wanting out. My train of thought immediately derailed, inner peace escaping for hours to come.

Now cats can be trained to a certain extent, and people accept that there are some things that are simply beyond a cat’s ability to process. Appropriate hours to eat, sleep, and play, for example. I think most people are also of the opinion that an 18-year-old college student should be trainable, at least more than a cat. I assure you this isn’t necessarily the case.

Plan C was to simply close the doors on Jingles, mine and The Girl’s. This left her free to roam the house and if she really wanted outside, she could approach Hubby with her request. You’d think I beat her. Jingles wasn’t cool with this plan. It left her with Hubby and no witnesses. Sure, she had the entire house (minus two rooms) she could wander and hide in to avoid Hubby, but that’s not good enough. He’s in her house and she doesn’t have anyone to cater to her. She could walk up and meow at him. He’s pretty fluid in bratty cat and would understand the request. No, it doesn’t work like that in her walnut-brain. Her interaction is with her family, not the “Great Furry One” and she won’t budge on that edict.

We like to imagine Jingles styles hubby “The Great Furry One” because he has an enviable beard and an even more enviable ponytail. Seriously, it’s sickeningly thick with almost perfect waves. One of The Girl’s friends calls him Fabio.

Moving on, I think the biggest relief from the end of the month won’t be the end of NaNoWriMo, it’ll be the end of the battle with Jingles. She gets a little, um, bitchy when she doesn’t get her way. I know that’s technically a canine term, but it applies to this particular feline. Also, then I’ll have time (in theory) to start Christmas decorations.

First, another 10,000 words. Then a nap.

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A Writer’s Need

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

NaNoWriMo is well underway. It has been for twelve days, and the participants should be somewhere around 20,000 words written, if they’re on track. Many aren’t and that’s okay.

I wasn’t going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year because I’ve simply had too much on my plate and I need a break. I switched The Boy from home school back to mainstream high school, then discovered I still have to babysit him, plus he has his learners permit and I have to take him driving. Getting The Girl to choose a college, then change her mind twice was fun. She finally started school and got hit by a car. She’ll recover, but her injuries make attending even some of her classes hard so Hubby and I are helping her out. He drives her and carries her backpack to the classes she absolutely can’t miss, and I’m now playing teacher for The Girl instead of (mostly) The Boy for the classes she’s missing. It’s like a horror novel.

On a related note, I’ve taken up reading horror in my spare time (AKA long bubble baths). I didn’t like it before, but now… If I can survive a teenage boy, what’s a little death and carnage? Bah.

Oh, and we’re moving Hubby’s parents from the large house they’ve lived in for 40 years to a small apartment in a retirement village. Everything we pack has a memory and a story that must be relived at that precise moment before I can put it in a box. This will take forever.

And then NaNo came around again. I seriously have no time. Except, courtesy of stress and time constraints, for the past year I haven’t been writing much. I used to be able to sit down and knock out 1000 words in an hour or so and 5000+/day wasn’t anything worth celebrating. But I haven’t been writing 5000 words/day; most days I don’t write anything. I should have finished my work in progress by the beginning of the year. It’s November and I’m maybe 2/3 of the way through.

I don’t have time for NaNoWriMo. (Sound familiar?) I need to pack my inlaws, help my son with a math assignment, then study for a chemistry test. I need to make him actually read The Crucible because he’s trying to fake his way through the assignments. I also need to help my daughter study for two upcoming tests, clear out the garden and compost the tomato plants that refuse to die, winterize the yard, cover the air-conditioning unit, and get a new battery for the second car. Also take The Boy driving for Driver’s Ed. See? No time. Too many other things I need to do.

No, I’m a writer. What I need to do is write, and I haven’t been. Not blogs either. To a novelist that’s just not the same, and besides, I haven’t even been good about staying up to date there. Too many things are being pushed aside. I’m going slightly mad and I need to pull myself together. How? Write. I’m a writer, the need is pervasive and as essential as breathing to my overall well-being.

Back to NaNoWriMo then. It’s day 12. I have written exactly 0 words in my manuscript so far this month. I counted. (Actually I looked at the last day the file was updated and it said October 28.) I don’t need to add 50,000 words to this book. It’ll take far less than 50,000 words to finish, but I need to finish it. I’m going to stick with the 50,000 word goal of the challenge anyway because it’s tradition. Once I finish she novel, I can start something else. But to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month means 2635 words/day. So? I used to do that regularly when I competed in NaNo. My personal goal was 2500 words/day and I usually exceeded it, so no sweat, right?

No. There will be a lot of sweating. Probably swearing too. I’m out of practice with less free time than usual and more stress. In short, I’m in about the same mindset as someone doing this for the first time. I was better than this my own first time which makes my position particularly embarrassing and uneasy for me.

The upshot? I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo again this year because I need to get my butt in gear and head back in the game, and this is part of what the challenge is about. For new writers or those who haven’t established regular and successful writing habits yet, NaNo is about making you stop daydreaming, procrastinating, or overthinking your project and just do it. I thought I was done needing NaNo years ago. When I participated it was for fun not the actual challenge of it. I lost my way over the past year and a half and now I need NaNo again to whip me back into shape.

The challenge is ready and waiting, now it’s up to me to rise to the occasion.

 

 

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National Cat Day

National cat day! We love our cat.

We mostly love our cat.

You know what I’d love even more? For someone to invent a cat-remote.

This is not a remote for cats to use, it’d be a remote to use on cats. I’d like a button for “no paw prints on the car,” “hairballs excreted outside or in litterbox only,” “you have four scratching posts, nothing else is acceptable,” “don’t climb/jump on ____” (this would need to be customized, but I’d like this available as several different buttons please), and “don’t fight with ____” (again, needs customization and needs to be available on multiple buttons for some households). Maybe a “don’t eat ___” for homes with prey-type pets or delicious plants. Jingles is self-trained, but I bet a lot of cat owners would love a button for “don’t bring kills home,” “don’t hunt birds,” or some other options. “Rodents only” maybe. Remember, “hunting” does not equate to “eating” for many cats. Since most cans have pull-tabs now, cats aren’t trained to come when they hear an electric can-opener anymore. It doesn’t matter because I don’t know anyone who has one. A “search” or “find” feature might be useful here, or some other way to program your cat to come when called. Heavens knows mine never have. It’s a new use for a “home” button.

Oh, volume buttons would be lovely but we can skip “mute” because we love our feline friends and don’t want to be cruel.

Very important would be a timer feature for “lovies.” You know that super cute snuggle time when a cat purrs almost non-stop and seems to be dead set on pressing her face through yours? Yeah, I’d like to restrict that to waking hours. Human waking hours. Along those lines, can we have a simple “claws retracted” button for when they do that kneading thing? It’s super cute on a blanket, but considerably less so on a sweater that you’re currently wearing. It’s more than a convenience, it’s a safety issue.

I’d also like the option, even for an upgraded price, to map out where on a human a cat is permitted to walk when climbing over us. Jingles brought this feline tendency to my attention again this morning, somewhere around 630 am. Normally I don’t sleep on my back. There are reasons, not the least of these is my loving cat’s uncanny ability to walk up me and put her paws in all the wrong places. I’m sure men are crossing legs in a fit of subconscious discomfort. It’s no less an issue for women, The Girl has the exact same complaint. Jingles (and Nimoy too while she was still with us) consistently sits on the rib cage and places at least one paw directly on a nipple. I’m not sure how a two to four pound cat can place twenty pounds of pressure on one square inch, but she manages. I’m also not sure how she never misses. My daughter is petite, and not to be crude, but Jingles has about a one in nine chance of hitting the nipple there. I’m guessing. I’m somewhat more endowed. A greater breast surface area should mean the odds are more in my favor. The Girl and I agree the laws of physics and statistics are broken when considering this problem. If an option to map out “no walk” areas on a body isn’t going to happen, can I at least request some sort of malicious sitting weight limit? This is another safety issue, for both me and the cat. One of these days she may go flying.

A choice of modes would be convenient also. Jingles comes with two main modes: housecat, and feral. If she’s inside or on the porch and it’s nasty weather, cold, or late, then she’s in housecat mode and you can pick her up and treat her accordingly. Feral mode means you can’t touch her and she will ruthlessly torment or hunt anything she sees. Feral Jingles teases us by calmly wandering toward us while we’re outside, then turning and running like hell at the last minute before she’s in reach. Or go racing by as if to say “you’re a pathetic human and can’t match my swiftness and agility” when we appear outside of our own yard. Not that I mind feral mode, it’s fine and keeps Jingles from getting extremely antsy in the middle of the night, but I’d like some input. Like when we’re leaving the house and won’t be home until late, or know it’s likely to start raining while we’re gone. I’d like to be able to override the feral setting and return her to housecat mode. I promise not to abuse the privilege.

I won’t ask for on/off, that’s taking it too far. We’re talking about cats; 90% of the time they’re off anyway and if you can’t take it that the remaining 10% of the time without fail is inconvenient to your schedule, you need to cowboy up. Having parameters for “play time with humans” hours might be acceptable. Incorporate a customizable night mode maybe. Something that let’s us (between 10 pm and 6 am) uncheck “play with children,” “sing,” and “race helter-skelter through the house.”

Remembering Princess, our fat Siamese of seemingly long ago, The Girl suggested some sort of food amount or type limit. Considering the same cat, then Nimoy, I’d like some sort of “Alpha-cat” designator so we don’t have to deal with them fighting about it. It’s not about who’s most loved, just better suited to the role. Some cats are good rulers – patient and forgiving to their subjects regardless of species, age, gender, or size; others are brats.

Naturally it’s important to have a “restore original settings” option, but I suggest a two-step confirmation process. Something that requires thumbs.

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My Missing Cat Says Your Vote Counts

The hunt for Nimoy is over. Not because we found her, but because the hunt largely consisted of The Girl going out running/Pokemon Go-ing in the area Nimoy ran off and periodically calling for her. Our local pet shelter puts pictures of their new additions online as well as recovered bodies. Checking that is my job. No sign of Nimoy yet, so I’m taking the upbeat position of she’s found a house of suckers to take her in and baby her like we did. If it was Jingles that went missing, I’d at least consider the position of her going feral, but Nimoy isn’t that kind of cat. She’s an example of humanity interfering in the whole Darwinian Evolution theory by thwarting “natural selection/survival of the species” as a mere inconvenience to be overcome by looking pathetic and meowing.

So Nimoy’s presumed to have a new home and she’s happy and snug somewhere. I’m firm with this position because it relieves The Girl from needing to continue searching for her. Why the change? The Girl got hit by a car a few weeks ago and running is now firmly outside of her skill set.

She’s okay. Sort of. Being 18 and extremely fit meant she mostly bounced so she escaped with no broken bones, only some scrapes, bumps, nasty bruises, and a few torn muscles. Her leg, knee, hip, shoulder, neck, and back hurt and she’s in physical therapy. As a result she lost her job at a local gym, which she loved and is really upset about. That incident has produced a lot of stress and swearing in our household, partially because my little girl is hurting and unhappy in her recovery, and partially because it’s interfering in her freshman year of college.

The Boy is back to regular school from homeschool (yay, that sucked) but now I’m playing fill-in professor and helping The Girl with her “baby” biology assignments and math. Hubby has to help her with her toddler-level psychology because I really hated psychology and it showed. Her professors are pretty understanding of her newfound limitations and missing almost every class because she can’t walk, sit, or carry books. I’m grateful she’s taking classes Hubby and I can help her with. Basic biology? Cake walk. Math has changed, which amazes me considering this stuff has been around, largely unchanged, for thousands of years. They have some seriously weird ways to solve some of these advanced algebraic equations now, and that’s been interesting.

That’s my last month in a nutshell. Now onto more interesting things: arguing about the elections with my 18-year-old. Ah yes, I remember my first time voting, it wasn’t nearly this ugly. My kids have grown up knowing how the government was designed and would work (absent the corrupting influence of politicians), but we’ve debated historical instances and the many ways this election could play out. The end result? I’ve been repeatedly reminded that Hubby and both kids have dual citizenship with Canada and wouldn’t it be awesome to move north and live closer to the bits of family we never see? Um, have you ever visited Calgary or Edmonton, Alberta in the winter? OMG life is not worth living. No. British Columbia I might bite on, but not anywhere you have to plug your engine block in to courtesy outlets in the parking lot to keep it from freezing while you run into the grocery store for a gallon of milk. No.

Okay, so a car’s engine block won’t usually freeze that completely, but that it’s a reality instead of a “hey, that’s weird” concept is enough of a warning sign to me to stay away. I can deal with temperatures dipping below freezing, but not that far and that often. No.

With that, my family is in the same position as most of the country in that we can’t just leave for the next four years. Unable to escape the consequences of the upcoming election, we have to face it.

To be honest, I’m in a state of semi-denial. Looking around, I’m not alone.

There are a couple of things that really bother me about the upcoming election. Only a couple? Okay, a lot of things. I can sum it up as the Democrats and Republicans, that’s a couple of things. No, seriously. Aside from some die hard fans out there that won’t be swayed away from their chosen party/candidate (even if said candidate got up on the dais, slit the throat of a commentator, and started lapping up the blood on national television) a growing number of voters are what I conservatively will call concerned about the outcome this election. Many are concerned that the country may be screwed no matter what the outcome is. Others are disheartened to the point of convincing themselves there’s no point in voting.

Your vote does count. When you slip into that booth on Election Day, I trust you will do more than vote for a presidential candidate. Senators and representatives, on a state and federal level, will also have elections to be determined. Governors, mayors, sheriffs, judges, and more – there is always more than just a single issue on the ballot. Your vote most definitely counts in all of those instances! In fact, some candidates are counting on poor turnout from a disheartened population to keep their opponent’s supporters from casting votes. Don’t play into their scheme.

In a Presidential election, your vote is … complicated. The Electoral College elects the President, not popular vote. A lot of people who realize this thinks it makes their vote worthless. Not exactly. In 2000, President George W. Bush won the electoral vote but not the popular vote. It happens. If a candidate wins 11/12 specific states, they have the required number of electoral votes to win the country. Easy. Well, no. Neither major party candidate has a lock right now and the third party candidates aren’t even close.

When you vote, you’re not technically voting for the presidential nominee of your choice, you’re voting for the elector for your district that represents the presidential nominee of your choice. Popular vote for your district determines the elector, then the elector casts a single vote for the presidential nominee. Whichever candidate gets the majority of the electoral votes for the state gets all the electoral votes for the state (Nebraska & Maine are the exceptions to this rule). It takes 270 electoral votes to win. While federal law doesn’t require the elector to vote according to popular vote of the district, state law sometimes does. You can look here to see if your state requires the elector to vote with the party/popular vote of the district. Third party candidates have electors too, and anyone campaigning to be a write-in candidate (where allowed) should have electors selected.

So your vote for a president does count, it’s just needlessly complicated and indirect. Well, it mostly counts, it depends on the circumstances and your point of view. The value of each vote is diluted, but they add up. But wait, there’s more!

I’m not an overwhelming fan of sports, but I want to make a point so we’ll look at a baseball game. Let’s say the home team scores 3 runs in the first inning and the visitors score 5. Okay, good. There’s time, no big deal. Come the 8th inning, the home team has 14 runs and the visitors have 15. Every run is now of critical importance. There are 9 innings in a baseball game, FYI. So the spectators are all on the edge of their seats and the players are putting in extra effort. Or maybe it’s the 8th inning and the score is 5 to 15. The spectators all start filing out and the players are just going through the motions.

In an election, this is the importance of the media. If the media reports a landslide, a lot of registered voters who are planning to vote after work won’t bother. It takes time and they’re tired, and what’s the point? But if they report it’s close, people who shrugged it off earlier in the day pull on their shoes and wander down to a voting site. Die hard fans (of the candidate or process) still tend to go vote, it’s the average person who may shrug it off – but there are a lot of average people. It’s an ongoing argument for why the media shouldn’t release the results for the east coast until the polls close in Hawaii and Alaska. At least California since it’s one of the critical states in terms of electoral votes.

Media interference in the process aside, let’s return to the baseball game. Okay, game over, the home team lost 15 to 16. Damn. You’re playing for the home team (don’t read anything into it), and you contributed one of those 15 runs. Did it count? Well your team lost so you could argue your contribution was wasted. But if you didn’t play and didn’t achieve that run, it definitely would have been worse and you would have forever wondered if your participation would have made a difference. Maybe if you played you would have achieved two runs and tied, or three and won the game, or stopped the other team from completing a run. You don’t know if you don’t play.

So sometimes your vote, well, it isn’t so much as it doesn’t count as it isn’t part of the winning team. As long as you played, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

The other situation where your vote is lost is if you’re a Democrat in Utah. Or Idaho, Wyoming, or Kansas. None of these four states have granted their electoral votes to a Democrat since 1964. The point is, if you’re a Democrat in one of these states, I’m sorry but your vote for a Democratic Presidential Candidate isn’t going anywhere. Probably. Utahns aren’t enamored with Trump, to the point that when Sanders was an option he could have wrested the state from the Republicans. That’s saying something. Republicans don’t campaign in these states and neither do the Democrats, it’s that much of a lock so why spend the time or money? Although Independent Candidate Evan McMullin is leading the polls in Utah. I’m not kidding. I would love it if an Independent would take a state and it blows my mind that it’s possible. Think of the message that would send to our leaders in D.C..

I don’t mean to leave the Democrats out, but when I went looking for the most Democratic-leaning states, I couldn’t find one with a long standing history like these four because of Reagan’s monumental landslide in 1984. These four all were subject to Johnson’s landslide in 1964 or the red streak would have gone back further.

I digress. Let’s wander back to that popular vs electoral vote issue. President George W. Bush won the electoral vote but not the popular. I suspect we’re going to see some funny numbers in this election also. Not necessarily with the President-Elect, but with the third-party candidates. Here’s where I’m waffling, along with a lot of other people:

Can a third party candidate become president?

Lincoln did.

The election of 1860 was the first victory of the Republican Party, formed to primarily address the controversial issue of slavery. Lincoln only received 40% of the popular vote and won because he was popular in the densely populated northern states with a lot of electoral votes. Plus California. There were four candidates and dividing the vote almost certainly helped.

The Republican Party was formed by ex-Whig Party members, much like the Green & Libertarian & Constitutional parties draw some members from the major parties now. It was founded for the previous election, but without much success. If you look to history as an indicator of what’s possible for the future, it means that fledgling third parties need only keep trying. That’s an important concept. Don’t give up on the smaller parties just because it doesn’t work out this election. The Republicans took a couple tries to get their candidate in the White House.

As Election Day grows closer, I’ll be watching the predictions to see how things are leaning in my state. I’d like to vote third party and right now see no reason why I can’t. If it looked borderline where my vote could be necessary to – I’m not even sure, then I’d lower myself to choosing the lesser of evils. I’m not even sure who that is. But I understand my area and how the process works. My vote is my own and I’ll use it to send a message.

The media is largely ignoring the third party candidates, so they may throw a curve in the election numbers when they tally finally comes in. With multiple third party candidates, I have no hope one of them will gather enough disenfranchised people to win. But the numbers they do gather gives power to those fledgling parties and sends a message to the mainstream parties.

I understand every vote for an independent is robbing one of the main candidates, but I don’t see that being a big issue. Like the 1992 Bush-Clinton-Perot election, one candidate could lose so many votes to a third party (Bush lost supporters to Perot) that the other candidate (Clinton) gains an accidental advantage. Perot had no chance of winning the election, but his participation ensured Bush’s loss. How can I say that? The breakdown of votes show Perot drew more of the Republican votes than the Democrat votes.

The independents will have a similar effect, but members of both parties are disenfranchised this time. The Democrats would have been in serious trouble if Sanders gave his support, and voters, to an independent candidate. That might have guaranteed a Republican victory, which is why he didn’t do it. Trump is unpopular enough that the Republicans are having essentially the same problem the Democrats have with independents withdrawing support for other options, so I doubt there will be a huge impact like Perot had on Bush and Clinton.

There is a slight possibility, however, and it sort of makes me giggle so I’ll mention it. Evan McMullin could take Utah. It’s not a lock, but it could happen. You need 270 electoral votes to win. What if McMullin takes Utah and its votes? Probably nothing. To take the scenario further, what if Clinton and Trump are neck and neck, to the point neither gets 270 votes once Utah’s paltry 6 are off the table? Then the House of Representative decides. Oddly, popular vote will once again be important, although they’re not required to follow it. Suddenly it’s a matter of who has sway in the House. It’s unlikely, but sort of amusing to consider.

Here’s the other way your vote counts. Regardless of who wins the electoral vote, popular vote sends a message. Having a mismatch between the popular and electoral vote gives support to the idea that we don’t need the Electoral College anymore. When the country was huge, communication was slow, and technology didn’t exist to count millions of votes in a night, it was needed. Now, communication is instant, the size of the country is irrelevant aside from the media swaying attendance on the west coast by prematurely calling the election in the east, and we can count the entire population’s vote in a timely matter. The Electoral College means some votes mean more than others, and aren’t we trying to do away with that concept as a country? If the Electoral College was gone, candidates would have to cater to the population as a whole, not to a dozen specific states. Isn’t that the way it was supposed to be anyway?

The other way popular vote matters is that the more people who vote for a third party candidate – any third party candidate – the more power it gives to the people. It tells the parties and the media that the people are tired of the big parties’ extreme behavior. Most people in the U.S. aren’t as extreme as both major parties cater to. They need to understand that. Unfortunately for us, the donations come to these parties from some very extreme special interest groups. Money doesn’t buy votes so much as PR and marketing firms. If we ignore what the candidates want us to believe and make our own decisions, the parties would be in trouble. Politicians don’t need the votes from their PR and marketing companies, or even the media; they need the votes of the people, the average people. That’s the majority of the population in the U.S. and that’s where the power is. But only if we think for ourselves.

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Chocolate Mint vs Jingles

Jingles is part of that 20-30% of cats that are immune to catnip. We didn’t think to test Nimoy before she took off, so when/if we can get her furry little butt back, I’ll toss her in a bush of catnip. She’s already borderline insane, I can’t wait to see what she’d be like high. Anyway, while Jingles doesn’t care for catnip, and The Girl has grown chocolate mint and spearmint in the garden for years, this last week Darth Jingles suddenly noticed the mint. Sort of.

The Girl has sprigs of mint growing in pretty little bottles to pass on to friends. These are chocolate mint, if you care at all. Also, catnip is in the mint family. I imagine you see what’s coming.

She had them in her bathroom window, up out of the way where no cat ventures so they weren’t an issue. But one rainy night when Jingles was in her room comforting her with cat-like reassurances that she doesn’t need another cat and we should just stop looking for the one we lost, The Girl had her mint in her window for some undisclosed reason. It probably had something to do with her brother.

Anyway, this cat walks by and through the chocolate mint in my front flower beds nearly every day without paying attention. Celery (our adopted stray) does too – no notice of it, other than a passing appreciation perhaps that it’s a decent place to hide. By the way, mint is advertised as a great ground cover. Why yes, it is! It also covers the lawn and the chocolate mint has launched an attack on the juniper that used to be nearly two feet away.

Back to the other night. Jingles wanted to look out the window and brushed against the mint. I should mention the mint barely has any smell until you touch it. Touching it is what releases the scent, and wow!. This plant engages in chemical warfare. So when Jingles brushed up against a tender sprouted leaf – the young plant released a puff of a sort of mint smell. (Other people say it smells like mint, I personally think chocolate mint smells a bit like a nice strain of marijuana, but that’s me. Wishful thinking perhaps.)

Back to Jingles. She brushed against the mint, stopped, sniffed, squinted, sniffed more, brushed against it again, sniffed again, and settled down to make herself comfortable by her new best friend. The Girl was in giggles when evil kitty wrapped a protective paw around the bottle and nuzzled the plant. The giggles ceased with the experimental nip. Not that it mattered, Jingles isn’t a vegetarian and this didn’t change her opinion on the subject. One nip was enough to satisfy her curiosity and she resumed the occasional whisker-brush to keep the scent coming.

I don’t know how much scent one small cutting can produce, but The Girl rotated through her cuttings so each had a chance to be fondled by her cat. It wasn’t so they’d keep producing the aroma for Jingles, she just wanted to be able to tell her friends when she presented them with their new little plants that each had been personally approved by pure feline evil. Now we have to hold each up to the idiot cat for some attention and hope they survive. I can totally see Nimoy eating them. I suspect The Girl had the same thought because the mint bottles are back in her bathroom window – with the bromeliad – out of sight/reach while we wait for the return of the little idiot who took off a few weeks ago. The Girl is content to keep Pokemon-ing and looking for the missing feline. Maybe she should take a sprig of mint with her.

How catnip gets cats high:

http://www.seeker.com/how-catnip-gets-cats-high-1792496502.html

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