Madison Cereal Killer

My husband, a well known Madison pantry archeologist rang in the New Year by discovering and excavating a 1998 box of Cap’n Crunch …with Extra Crunch Berries, from the unexplored part of the cupboard over the microwave.  “Eureka”, he exclaimed, or was it “Holy shit”, when he dug into the cupboard and found the out dated treasure. He got even more excited when he saw that it was purchased from a store in a town that we have not lived in for almost 16 years. He could have simply allowed it to ‘live’ another day, but wanted to mark this auspicious occasion, January 1st, 2015, by bringing its shelf-life to an official close. “It’s time”, he announced as he held up the box before a cheering crowd…(of Cats).

Carefully, he pried the box open, which added to the excitement, confirming that he is indeed the first to make the find. Why stop there, he concluded, and made his way to the refrigerator and resurrected a box of outdated heavy cream. He had been carefully monitoring the box of cream, sniffing it every day past the October expiration date stamped on the carton, deciding that, “it’s fine” and putting it back. He filled a bowl with the still crunchy Cap’n Crunch…with Extra Crunch Berries, and said how rare it is to find. “They only feature the Extra Crunch Berries once in a while”, he noted.  The pantry archeologist explained that he enjoys living on the edge as he added a bit of the ancient, but “still fine” cream to the bowl. He declared, “it makes this fat free crap more like whole milk”, as he put back the half gallon of skimmed milk whose expiration date is still well into the future.

Having completed his landmark consumption of an ancient food source, he is resting comfortably on the sofa and reading, ” The Death of  WCW”.  I will continue to monitor him for signs of side effects throughout the afternoon and evening. We intuitively stocked up on Alka-Seltzer, Tums and 2 bottles of magnesium citrate in preparation for holiday feasting, but all of these remedies will prove themselves to be invaluable should things get critical. Worst case scenario, we make an unscheduled trip to the UW emergency room in the middle of the night where I will be forced to explain the circumstances under which we paid them a visit. They might even remember him from the night of the kidney stone, when upon entering the building, the desk nurse asked, “how can we help you?” and he announced, “I have to vomit”.  If we do have to make the trip, if it’s the same nurse, she will most likely dispense with the pleasantries and simply point to the restroom.

We’re almost 2 hours post consumption and there are no visible signs of distress as he is still reading comfortably and has no idea that I am adding him to the annals of history by making this account available for all posterity.  He is a brave man who makes no apologies for his pantry archaeologies. Goddess bless him…Goddess bless Cap’n Crunch…with extra Crunch Berries.

Advertisements

Look Ma, I’m Cleansing

Is there anybody on the planet who has not heard of the ‘Master Cleanse’? Is there anybody on the planet who has not tried it? Is there anybody that has tried it and not found it to be the life altering experience that it promises to be? If so, will somebody stop me.

For readers who are not in the United States, we have a holiday that is centered around a sacrificial turkey. The fact that it is customary for the turkey to be ‘stuffed’ should give you some indication as to the prime directive of this event which is known as, “Thanks Giving”. It always takes place on the last Thursday of November, when we gather around a huge table laden with more food than most people are expected to eat in a week, much less, a day. This also serves to kick off the Winter holiday season in the form of ‘Black Friday’ when people don riot helmets, and go shopping for once in a lifetime ridiculous bargains, but that would be a whole other post. Needless to say, there is nothing that would entice me to join them.

This year my husband and I didn’t host the feast, but my brother and his lovely wife did. We were joined by their two daughters and my mother. The company was wonderful, the mood joyous and the food was exquisite. The great part is, we had no leftovers to contend with like you do when you host the party. My sister-in-law tried to send us home with some, but we managed to escape with only a bag of dinner rolls. That way, we are not tempted to extend the feast until the leftovers run out, thus pack on a few more pounds of fat, which is needful to keep you warm in the cold days ahead should you find yourself stranded on a glacier.

Since my husband and I have four days off as the perk of the whole thing, we find ourselves with more meals to prepare and share. This is a departure from our having separate meals, due to conflicting schedules, Monday through Friday, with the weekend being the only two days a week that we make ‘linner’ a joint effort. ‘Linner’ is the only main meal that we consume together. I get up at my usual time, around 3 AM and have breakfast in the vicinity of 5 ish. He gets up when the day is half over, like ‘normal’ people….you know, when it’s light out. This means that his breakfast takes place when I’m ready for lunch. However, I usually bypass that and we combine lunch and dinner around 3 in the afternoon. This is when we exercise our culinary muscles and have fun making something adventurous and luscious.

However, with the extended weekend that included Friday, we also extended the feasting. This had me wide awake at 2 AM this morning, still full from last night’s chicken alfredo and garlic bread. If I mention that I also enjoyed ‘cocktail hour’, before dinner, which consisted of two saucer sized martini glasses full of ‘salad’…an array of pickled things and olives marinated in about 5 ounces of dry vermouth and gin, will you think me to be deserving of a belly ache? What’s a drink without a ‘noche’ so a plate of crackers, sausage, cheese and a tablespoon or three of caviar filled that requirement. Thank goodness my generous husband shared his box of donuts with me for dessert or I’d have gone to bed hungry.

Is it any wonder I felt the need to ‘lighten up’? I had read about the ‘Master Cleanse’ but didn’t really have the desire to actually give it a go. It consists of consuming nothing but a concoction of water, fresh lemon juice, real maple syrup and a dash of cayenne pepper. Served hot or cold, you are supposed to drink this throughout the day in lieu of food. It is recommended that you do this for 10 days.  There is  also something called  a ‘salt flush’ that is supposed to blow out your colon of ‘toxic waste’. Considering that this mixture of sea salt and water is also used to induce vomiting, I am not going to test its effectiveness.

So, I’m 12 hours into this and I’ve had two mugs of hot ‘lemonade’. I’m not hungry in spite of making the fried chicken wings that my husband requested for his ‘linner’. Apparently, I have the fortitude of a ‘grand’ master cleanser because I love chicken wings and would have dug in faster than you can say, “ranch dressing”. The only other thing more difficult to abstain from would be the half mile long sushi bar at my favorite Asian buffet.

Considering that tomorrow is a work day and my job requires me to be able to think clearly, I will be doing this only until  Tuesday evening. Besides, stealing food from coworkers is a  crime. If I am not sufficiently ‘detoxed’ in three days I will just have to remain a biohazard. My main objective is to break the cycle of holiday over indulgence and jump start a return to healthy eating. I’m starting to feel a  bit self-righteous over having made it this far without postponing this until I complete my bucket list or find some other excuse like,”I’ll  wait until  after New Year’s Day when my system will be really toxic”.

Time for another dose of ‘lemonade’ and a heapin’ helpin’ of determination.

Mac, Hmandu, And Ridley Too

After the hissing subsided and Hmandu figured out that he was not being replaced, he decided that, “the kid is ok”. Just as we had hoped, Mac and Hmandu are best buds.

We decided to get a Kitten for our Kitten when our two older Cats insisted that something had to be done. Also known as ‘the ‘ladies who nap’, seventeen year old Rhiannon and fifteen year old Astarte are no longer amused by getting chased, swatted at or being put in a random headlock by an adolescent male Cat with a testosterone problem. There was much growling, hissing and ear flattening, not to mention that the ladies’ stress level was at the point that I was going to ask the vet for Xanax…for them and for me.

Mac’s arrival was greatly anticipated and did not fail to live up to our expectations of producing a high level of fun. Exploring the house, playing with a large assortment of toys and the joy of discovering the never empty food dishes had him bouncing around like a furry super ball. Hmandu watched all of this with a mixture displeasure and caution that, when thrown to the wind, would result in a Gorilla Glue kind of bond.

Mac had no reservations what so ever. He was used to being accepted solely on his masterful skill of being adorable. Encountering not only one, but three ‘tough sells’ was a totally new experience for him. The ladies made attempts at filling a tandem mothering role of keeping him in line and spit taming any tufts of unruly fur as most mothers do. Hmandu soon dispensed with his posturing and allowed his inner frat boy free reign. That was when the real fun began and I had to make peace with having a few cherished possessions smashed beyond repair. Boys will, indeed, be boys. Everything was just as we had anticipated and expected. What we didn’t plan on was Ridley.

I had actually wanted a polydactyl. We would have had one when we began the adoption process for Mac if we had not lost Millie to pneumonia. Lauren, who runs Underdog Rescue, and I tearfully dealt with her loss. It was unexpected, painful and fast. One day we were making plans to pick her up and the next, things were delayed due to Millie having pneumonia and then the phone call to say that the measures that were taken to save her had failed. However, when Lauren sent me a picture of a male poly, who was considerably older than the ‘Kitten’ we were looking for, we decided to take Ridley too. After all, how could I say, “he’s too old and not the right color.” We wanted a very young black Kitten, but orange and white six year old Ridley needed a home.

He had to get neutered and had a few dental issues and excessive ear wax, but after seeing the rescue’s vet for all of those things, he was ready to come home. I, again, had an image of everyone settling in without mishap. Introducing an adult male Cat into a household that already had one, was not going to be without issues I know, but I wanted so desperately for Ridley to be happy. He had been through a lot between coming from a distant humane society and a foster home and I was eager to assure him that he had found his ‘forever home’.

For the first two days Ridley hid under the bed in the guest room and any amount of coaxing him out resulted in his being bullied by Hmandu. This really upset me. I can’t handle seeing any animal cower in fear and it broke my heart. By the third day, he came out and sprawled on the sofa demanding, “what’s for dinner?”.  Hmandu found himself on the receiving end of a number of well placed swats and, even though they still have that macho dominance thing from time to time, there is peace in the valley.

In the midst of the chaos and frenetic energy that bounces off the walls most days, we celebrate what has become life in this house of joy. My husband and I agree that a house is only a home to us when it is shared with multiple felines. When we had lost four of the six we had, some for twenty something years, there was a void. The pain of grieving runs deep and sometimes, you just don’t feel that you can go through it again so you think, ‘no more’. Having animal companions, except when you adopt those who will outlive you, comes with a knowing that at some point they will leave you. However, the attempt to protect your heart from pain by denying that which brings you joy is no way to live.

So, we are owned by five Cats and for the most part, they keep us in line, spit tame any stubborn tufts of ‘fur’ on us and each other, and allow us to spoil them rotten. We laugh and smile a lot and pretty much fashion our lives around their needs. Rhiannon was recently diagnosed with diabetes so she needs injections twice a day, but considering that a month ago she was badly dehydrated and near death due to a bladder infection, it’s what we have to do to keep her healthy and alive. We nursed her back with IV fluids and antibiotics and celebrated every bit of food or water she’d take in. Now, at seventeen years old, she looks great and is thriving.

When you open your home to animals it requires that you also open your heart. Then the love flows in and out. Somehow, we always find room for one more.

Anticipating A Mac Attack

The relationship that a person has with Cats is as mystical and mysterious as they are. Dogs however, live to please and have you at “woof”. It’s common knowledge that Cats are natural born hedonists and for that reason alone, it makes them less popular. Sure, they will seek to charm you with their antics and take some pleasure in putting on a show, but even then, they have to be in the mood and the feedback they get from you needs to be something that they find rewarding.

After my daughter and her husband became Dog people, one of the Cats they had, Jake, just could not adapt the way that their other Cat, Peanut did. He hid under the bed and lived in fear which was very sad because Jake was a burly brute, twenty one pounds of black and gray tabby. He was also what’s known as a  Hemmingway or polydactyl, with seven toes on each foot which made him look even larger. To see this gentle giant cower in fear was too much for me to take so I convinced my daughter to let Jake live with ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’.

The move was confusing to Jake, and although he had shared our home when our daughter was on Summer break from college when she first acquired him, it was all strange to him. Trying to blend in with our four Cats was also difficult. Micro was the only male and the three females had roles that consisted of Isis the Queen, Rhiannon the Princess, and Astarte the Duchess. Micro was definitely the court jester and he was fine with that, until he needed to confirm his masculinity. A few slaps to the head made him think that his appointed position was quite acceptable.

Jake was slow to come to grips with the fact that his parents were not going to take him back to what was familiar, though unpleasant, and the transition was hard on him. He obviously was not going to dethrone the monarchs and he had too much dignity to juggle balls for tuna. He kept his distance from the ladies, and reestablished his relationship with Micro, though the two had been apart since our daughter returned to school and took Jake with her.

I remember it so well and think of it often, even though Jake crossed the rainbow bridge about 4 years ago. I was sitting on the sofa and Jake was sitting on the floor about ten feet away. I looked at him and he looked at me, but this time when our eyes met they seemed to lock onto something that up until then, had been separated by invisible distance. Suddenly, he got up, jumped up onto the sofa and enfolded himself in my arms. His purr was as deep as what he was feeling and was so strong that he made a chirping sound between the rumbling, resonant tones. In that moment he totally accepted his new home, and me.

You have to earn a Cat’s affection. It’s not done with food, toys, or constant petting. It develops with a blend of love and trust that builds just like the bonding relationships that grow with others of our own species. Maybe that’s why people who dislike Cats find them to be distasteful. For one thing, those people see a distinct separation between animals and humans and for that reason, feel that they should have the upper hand. Dogs are fine with this and except for the instances of having their owners having to establish themselves as ‘alpha’ to keep them under their control, they find their place in the pack and contentment within it. That bond is not something they have to work for like a person has to do with Cats. No one successfully ‘masters’ a Cat. If a person needs to be the one in control and dominate when it comes to an animal companion, then a Cat is not for them. It will be a relationship fraught with contempt and aggravation. If the idea of sharing your life with a smaller, domesticated Lion or Tiger still appeals to you and you don’t want to deal with the behaviors and mindset that are part of the equation, best get a virtual version on the internet.

There are different aspects of the relationship so it depends on what an individual wants from a Cat, be it free spirited side-kick, rarely seen roommate, or doorstop. I prefer the symbiotic relationship that occurs on their terms. It’s so much more rewarding. I don’t ‘have’ my Cats, as in ‘own’ them. They are my companions, confidants, and equals. They are family. They are independent enough to not ‘need’ me, they ‘want’ me.

Last year over Labor Day weekend we adopted Hmandu…yes, as in Kathmandu. It just seemed as if the grief over losing Micro had softened enough to want to fill the space that he had left. I chose his name because he looked rather exotic with his Bengal markings, and he had a spiritual countenance about him. However, the more comfortable he got with his new home the more curious, adventurous and raucous he became. The little guru went juvenile delinquent and began to test my patience as well as that of the former Princess, now Queen Rhiannon, and Astarte, still the regal, long haired, blue eyed Duchess.

Hmandu is a teenager now, and would take dad’s little red sports car if he had Jake’s ‘thumbs’. I wanted another polydactyl like Jake had been, but Hmandu has the skills to crack safes without the extra ‘fingers’. That being said, he is bored with the ‘ladies who nap’ and they’re tired of his attempts at making them forget they’re fifteen and seventeen years old. So, we contacted the rescue that we adopted him from in search of a playmate.

There was a polydactyl female, but she was a year old and I was concerned that there would be turmoil in the castle. However, after we met her, I fell in love. She was gorgeous and had a sweet and quiet temperament so I knew that there would not be a plan to overthrow the Queen. However, we still needed a Kitten who could keep up with Hmandu and one of the new arrivals to the foster home was all that and a bag of Catnip. He and his brother took turns climbing us like trees, snuggling and purring like little jet engines. Obviously, they knew how this game is played.

My husband gave me that look when one of the boys, Macaroni, clung to him with all fours. He’s the same shade of tan that Micro was so this little weasel was clearly fighting dirty. Brother, Mick, circumnavigated my head and wound himself around my neck like a toffee colored fur scarf. Clearly, we were about to adopt two, the female polydactyl, Millie and Macaroni.

Millie had to be spayed and we were to officially adopt and bring her home the day after. However, there was an illness among the new Kittens and the foster mom wanted to put Millie on medication too so the date was postponed for a few days. Then I received an email that Millie was having trouble breathing. This was followed by another email that she had pneumonia and had to be taken to an emergency vet for oxygen therapy. I kept a vigil by my computer as the foster mom kept me updated on her progress. Hope and plans to still share our home with her ended with a phone call that brought the news that Millie had passed away in the oxygen chamber.

The grief was not lessened by the fact that we had not spent more than a few minutes with her. In my mind we were ‘family’. I was going to change her name to Skye, Celtic and lovely, and I wanted nothing more than to shower her with love and adoration and make a forever home for her that would more than make up for her lonely disjointed life thus far. It was not to be and it was so hard to understand why and what had happened  to a seemingly healthy one year old Cat.

Macaroni, aka Mac, is big enough for his surgery now and will be getting ‘fixed’ this coming week. We will officially have the honor of giving him a forever home a week from today. We inquired about brother, Mick, but he got adopted last week. There is part of me that still morns the loss of his new ‘sister’ and that will shade the event slightly, but I’m sure the excitement of welcoming the new baby and watching the interaction between the ladies and Hmandu will make this a happy event.

Hmandu is getting tired of promises of a playmate and sits by the door with anticipation in his eyes only to have us come in with groceries instead of his brother.  The ladies, on the other hand, are enjoying the peace before the storm. Interrupted naps, teaching him where the back of the line is at the food dish, and the impropriety of chasing the tails of the royals will be the norm until little Mac finds his niche in the pride.

And we will, once again, find that there are hiding places in this house that we never anticipated. Closets and cabinets will need to be checked before closing doors and the clothes dryer fully inspected before hitting the button. The food dish will empty faster and the litter boxes will need scooping more often. And I will lose my heart, once again.

Break It Up

Lifestyles are remodeled one habit at a time. The urge to take on too much, too fast can be so overwhelming that the whole process is soon abandoned entirely. Most patterns are actually comprised of various components that have a domino effect. If we attempt to eliminate the pattern without examining how it is constructed we might miss something. Deconstructing a pattern begins with the last domino that fell and ends with the main trigger. Working our way back to the starting point and discovering the trigger is the only way to create a lasting change.

A trigger is born of the senses, so it can be visual, auditory or kinesthetic, but some people are literally lead by their noses. Have you ever suddenly caught the scent of pit smoked barbeque and found yourself sitting at a table, up to your ears in sauce? If the impulse was intense enough you might not even remember how you got there.

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a real eye opener, in that when asked, the children that delayed immediate gratification and held off devouring the marshmallow replied that they didn’t look at it. They distracted themselves in various ways until the 20 minutes were up and they were rewarded with a second marshmallow. That concept has saved me from the compulsion to react to impulses on many occasions. Having the ability to delay gratification is the key.

Once we excavate and discover the root cause, we can find a way to distract ourselves and stop automatically reacting by reinforcing a habit that has become an ingrained pattern. Start with one pattern, one habit and one change. Keep at it and you will have that newly renovated lifestyle.

 

Like A Rock

Today after assisting a co-worker find a solution to her challenge, she thanked me and said, “Don’t ever let me take you for granite.” Doing my best Mae West impersonation, I replied, “I like granite just fine, but if ya ever wanna take me for diamonds or emeralds, I’ll be the first one in the car.”

Love And The Potato

WP_000165
During the planning stages, May 17th, 1986 was expected to be a delightful Spring day. Not too hot, with a crisp bite still in the morning air that was not quite ready to surrender to the humid soggy gulp of Summer. However, Mother Nature had other plans. It was cold and rainy with the occasional sharp sting of sleet pelting our skin like stray buckshot. Had I acquired my current reputation as a dependable ‘weather Witch’ back in those days, I certainly would have transformed the day into one fitting an outdoor wedding in the park. However, I was a borderline Lutheran back then and slid in and out between the cracks of my traditional upbringing and resisting the feeling that I was just going through the motions.

I had been divorced for seven years and went the whole shebang route with wedding number one. Considering that that marriage lasted one month past the two year mark, the church, the white gown and reception at the country club is no insurance of it lasting. I did some unsuccessful dating, due mainly to the fact that I was city born and raised and the relocation to a spot somewhere between rural and redneck America was an awkward move that never really resulted in my transformation. My wardrobe consisted of disco glitz which properly reflected who I was and no amount of stacking wood and picking wild asparagus was going to send me to the local mercantile for bib overalls.

Being solitary is not something I fear or dread. I was a single mother, I had my career as a hairstylist, a few close friends and frequent trips back to the city on weekends so finding husband number two was not high on my list of priorities. Besides, I was becoming somewhat commitment phobic. However, I did long to converse with a male companion that didn’t focus on the subject of agriculture and cows. The main activity in a small Midwest town revolves around working all week and having a stool in a local dive bar that conformed to your ass on the weekends. Not my idea of a good time. I loved concerts, plays, going to nice restaurants and yes…dancing ’til the wee hours in clubs.

When the marriage fell apart I had moved back home with my parents. My father died shortly after I filed for divorce so that left my mother, my daughter and me to fend for ourselves in rural Wisconsin in what had been our Summer home. This got old after 6 years and I got the itch to at least meet someone who I might have a future with. Selecting one of the local good ol’ boys was not an option. In January 1984, in a moment of ‘what the hell’ I placed a personal ad in the Sheila Wood column of the tabloid, The National Examiner.

His was the second letter out of 40 that I pulled from the manila envelope I received in about a month after placing the ad. What fun! Some were too eager, some were too good to be true and some were looking for a means to a green card. But, Randy’s letter was different and subconsciously reading between the lines of our mutual Star Trek interest and chit chat was the knowing that he was the one.

Letters lead to phone calls and finally in December, almost a year later, that first face to face meeting. If anyone doubts that the ‘Universe’ will find a way to connect you with your destiny let me dispel that. Randy was living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A place to which I had no plans of going, much less even being aware of its existence. We spent a week together, during which he proposed. He flew back to South Carolina for a few months before he packed up everything he owned, left his home and his family to be with me. I had found him a near by rental cottage, he quickly got a job and throughout that year we planned the wedding.

Nasty weather aside, the rest went off without a ‘hitch’. A Lutheran minister was willing to marry us without the classes that my church required. The reception was to be held at my home on the lake so we just moved the ceremony there as well. About 25 people, several cases of champagne, an array of food that my mother and I prepared and a cake that I decorated myself thanks to a class I had taken, made up the deliberately private affair. My 8 year old daughter was my ‘maid of honor’ in a lavender floral print dress I had sewn. I also made my outfit, a soft silver gray skirt and jacket with a lavender satin camisole. My bouquet was white roses and my favorite wild violets. The groom wore a rented tux in a coordinating shade of silver gray. We were married in the warmth and glow of the large fieldstone fireplace in the living room instead of the park on the mountain.

After the luncheon and reception we left for our honeymoon in the closest small city with a Holiday Inn. On the way we stopped at the convenience store where I worked to see my coworkers who were not able to attend the wedding. One of my favorite customers was there so he made a brief fuss over my being there on my wedding day. He went up to my new husband and said, “I don’t believe I caught your name, young fellow”. Randy, in his tux seized the moment, stuck out his hand, and stated with confidence, “Bond, James Bond”. The man shook his hand and replied, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Bond”. We still chuckle over having Mr. Pemble think I married James Bond.

More important than the vows we exchanged 28 years ago, I assured my man that life with me would never be boring. His usual response is, “That much is certain”. There have been rocky spots, but none so difficult that we couldn’t see our way to navigate through them. He is and shall remain for all time, my knight in shining armor. How blessed I am to have found someone like him. We’re both Leos so I said we would either have the greatest love or kill each other. Happy to say, we’re both still alive.

Time has a way of putting a burnish on things and marriage is no exception. Once you’ve passed the test that time puts before you, it rewards you by giving you a taste of nectar so deeply sweet that you never want to come up for air. You complement each other to the point that the two of you even breathe as one.

So to you, my Highlander, thank you for 28 glorious years. Your appetite for adventure and the fact that you admittedly love ‘crazy women’ has proven to be advantageous as I continue to evolve and transition since we met. Laughing and loving with you has been the stuff that Faery tales are made of. How blessed am I that one was written that included me because there was a time I doubted that they were true. You made a believer out of me. Happily ever after.