Sunday, February 24, 2008

Knitted Brow

It is extremely disturbing for me to accept this, but... books lie. Especially the covers of Do it Yourself books or manuals. They are the worst - almost as bad as the tabloids in the supermarket check-out line or the endless parade of women's magazines that promise, I mean PROMISE that you will lose weight if you just follow this simple little formula buried on Page 183.

If you look closely at the print under the lying-through-the-teeth title of the above book, you will see, on the left side two little words that simply suspend belief: Simple Instructions. There is more but I really don't need to include any more because this is a simple enough little promise, isn't it?

The instructions are NOT simple. They are not clear, self-explanatory, easy to read, simple to understand, or broken down either! They are deceitful. There ought to be some kind of regulation about this blatant disregard for the truth here.

My intentions are completely ordinary. I want to learn to knit, again. I have these fantasies of creating knitted masterpieces for every member of my family - future heirlooms, treasures to be stroked lovingly with fond memories long after I am gone. I would like to throw together little scarves and sets of mittens, and sweater dresses for a few of my closest friends.

"Oh, you MADE that?" they will gush, when the handmade and exquisitely detailed garment is pulled from the coordinating tissue out of the carefully selected box. "Yes," I will say modestly, "I did."

So, maybe I got a little ahead of myself. First, I need to learn to "cast on." This is the process of actually getting the yarn onto the knitting needles. When the instructions were clear as mud the first time I read them, I decided to roll the skein of yarn into a nice ball, just like the professional knitters do - one must always start things off the right way.

Then I read it again.

"Do you know how to make a slip knot?" I asked Dan, who can actually tie fishing lures with needle nose pliers and both his thumbs. "No," he replied, looking quizzical. After all, I was a Girl Scout and should remember how to tie a slip knot. So I just played around with the yarn for awhile and then suddenly made a slip knot. I couldn't tell you how I did it - I was just ONE with the yarn. My fingers have muscle memory.

My guess is that you are then to create a series of slip knots all down the knitting needle. I say this because the book takes time to congratulate you on the slip knot, "it counts as your first stitch."

In Lesson 1, there is the "Thumb Method" and the "Two Needle Method" for casting on. I appreciate the variety, but I think they should have taken a little extra time to make at least ONE of these methods crystal clear to the novice user. They could leave the other method out.

After making the slip knot and placing it on the needle, you are to hold it with your right hand. Then...

Place short end of yarn (measured length) over the left thumb from front to back, and bring yarn from ball up and over left index finger, then hold both yarn ends in left palm with the 3 remaining fingers.

There is a picture. It took me 20 minutes, but I finally got what was in my hand look kind of like the picture. But then it gets worse.

Insert tip of needle under yarn on left thumb from front to back. Bring needle over and under strand on left index finger. Draw needle and yarn back through loop on thumb. Slip thumb out of loop and gently pull loose end to secure new stitch on needle.

One question: What new stitch?

I tried again. And again. I decided to let the whole thing "cool" for a couple of days.

I called Dustin over to help. He can take apart and reassemble a car engine. He can figure this out, I thought. Dustin furrowed his brow and read and looked at the knitting needles. Then left me for a date with some cute little Asian girl he met at work.

"Give up on knitting, Mom?" came his smart-aleck voice from the couch the other day. To my credit, I did not say, "Shut up!" to him. I bit my tongue and then replied, "No. I just time to figure this out."

"Oh," says Engine Boy, running upstairs to do something productive that I am pretty sure won't include knitting.

I took the whole "Learn to Knit" kit with me to bed the next night and sat there trying again to get this right. I didn't.

I am not stupid. I have two master's degrees and I was accepted into a Ph.D program for gawd's sake. I can write a perfectly-formatted APA-style position paper. I win big bucks on Jeopardy! every night. But I don't get this and I have to blame the book people. "Simple Instructions and Clear Diagrams" my smart toe! They lie, lie, lie! Just so they can sell their books and more yarn and silly little accessories, knowing you will be too embarrassed to bring the whole thing back for a refund.

The worst part isn't that I can't figure out how to knit using a lying and cheating book. It isn't the money or the embarrassment over the whole thing. The worst part is that the Lovely Brandine figured it out with a book on Christmas night. She called the next morning, very proud of herself.

Her book didn't lie. She just picked up those needles and did it.

I am sure I will be fine once I get past the "casting on" part. With all the muscle memory in my fingers, I am sure to just begin to knit - one stitch at a time, needles clicking away.

I either need Brandy's book or an empty drawer.

Save a tree: Invite by Phone

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One Package embossed and perforated, printer-ready wedding invitations: $5.95

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One package matching lavendar envelopes: $6.95

One permanent marker, silver: $2.25

Blessed privacy as you plead with printer and hurl epithets at computer: Priceless

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Missing: One Public Outcry

Our governor, in concert with the California state legislature, has announced an unprecedented $4.8 billion dollars in funding cuts for education. The day this happened, I waited for the outcry but it never came.

Are we so overwhelmed by big numbers that $4.8 billion dollars means nothing to us? Are we so complacent that the mere idea of such a shortfall, in the world's eighth largest economy, means nothing? Are we so used to the appalling mismanagement of public money by elected officials that we barely yawn before flipping the channel to something more "interesting?"

We were collectively appalled by budget cuts to public health. The remedy, say public health officials, is to cut back on public health services. We were indignant when the governor threatened to close down state parks. Several media outlets carried the story of the Will Rogers family threatening to take the park back if such a thing happened. Then it was quietly announced that the state would merely increase admission fees to state parks. No cuts in services needed.

Other state services will also feel the knife. It stands to reason that cuts in services will occur or prices for such services will be raised. There will be grumbling, perhaps, if not an outcry.

What about public education? Where is the outcry for the 107,000 layoff notices being printed for almost a third of California's teachers? I am not hearing it.

Public schools cannot cut services. We are mandated to give each and every child who arrives at our schools a free and appropriate public education. We do not charge admission. We don’t invoice for the countless extra hours devoted to students and their families. School employees never begrudge providing that most basic gift of an enlightened society: an education. We take our students in, we care about them, and we teach them.

So, California’s mismanaged state budget will be balanced on the backs California's teachers, auxiliary staff, and school children. Teachers and remaining classified staff will be expected to shoulder an increased workload - adding hours to the typical 9-12 hour day. More family and personal time will be spent grading student work, planning lessons, preparing and evaluating assessments, and completing progress reports. (Contrary to popular opinion, the school day does not end when the students leave.) There will be more extra-duty assignments, more committees, more meetings, and more mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Why? Because most teachers are not satisfied with "good enough" and will continue to work harder than expected in order to give our children the best.

What about our students? Do you think an increase in class size won't affect them? Think again. This isn't the good old days when most discipline problems were handled at home and the parental rank and file stood firmly behind the teacher when a student misbehaved. This is the era of entitlement and litigation. This is the era of parents defending what the previous generation would have called abhorrent and abysmal behavior - sometimes at all costs.

An increase in class size means the likelihood of behavior issues directly impacting the quality of the education of every child in that classroom. Time spent dealing with inappropriate, rude, and disrespectful behavior will be at the expense of quality instruction. This means less time teaching and less time learning. The research is clear on this one, folks: Time spent learning is important. The quality of instruction is critical.

My school district has three schools. We stand to lose 29 teachers, according to the worst-case scenario put forth by our superintendent. Wilsona Elementary School has, through hard work and extreme commitment, raised its Academic Performance Index (API) to an unprecedented 762. This means that Wilsona Elementary, a Title 1 school that serves at at-risk and geographically isolated community, is ranked #10 in the Antelope Valley. Almost half our student body does not speak English as a native language. All of our students qualify for free lunch.

Now, we will be punished for doing an outstanding job. Along with every other public school in California, we will lose a third of our staff, be required to shoulder a disproportionate share of the collective burden, and be expected to maintain this API score with no additional assistance forthcoming.

I keep waiting for the outcry. I pray it is brewing into the “perfect storm” of common sense and a re-evaluation of fiscal and ethical priorities.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Ubiquitous Doctor's Visit

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is a certain ubiquity to visiting a doctor's office. While some procedures, office decor, personalities, and competencies can be found along a predictable spectrum, it all boils down to the commonalities - the sameness of each and every experience.

This struck me yesterday as I waited for quite a long time to see a doctor at a local walk-in clinic. I avoided the Urgent Care I was familiar with because I knew it would be horribly crowded and I would need to take provisions. I didn't feel strong enough to haul provisions.

I have a "real" doctor. But in all the occasions I have visited his office, I have never actually seen him. I saw his colleague when I had pneumonia in 2001 and the nurse practioners when I visited with minor ailments, but never the man himself. I didn't go there yesterday because they were "closed" for two hours for "lunch." I knew from previous experience that I probably wouldn't get an appointment anyway, due to the flu bug going around, and tendency of his office to over-book. Time and again I have sat there, wedged in between other hopeful and weary patients, competitors for time and attention. There was a time or two when I visited and there was nobody there - yet I waited at least an hour to see somebody. I couldn't help but wonder if the "somebody" I would see was piddling around back there, ensuring and maintaining the balance of power. The balance of power here will never, ever, be in favor of the one seeking medical care. Unless you are President Bush or Leonardo diCaprio.

So I went to this clinic with the tentative hope that I could see a doctor. I have been sick with the flu and its plethora of unpleasant symptoms for two weeks as of tomorrow. The traveling virus lodged itself over the weekend in my ears - probably migrating from my throat, where it had moved in and set up camp, in preparation for colonization.

There were few people in the waiting room and they all had appointments. As I waited, I reflected on the things that make these visits, although conducted rarely, familiar and predictable.

1. The procedures: There is always a clipboard with paperwork attached. This paper work requires signatures and information. It asks all kinds of irrelevant questions that I doubt the doctor actually sees. I think the answers serve as fodder for the morbid curiosity of the staff member who inputs the stuff into the computer. You have to fill out the paperwork on the clipboard if you haven't seen the doctor in awhile. I can understand this to a degree, but really - the dates of my childhood apendectomy and gall bladder surgeries never change. I make the effort to make the appointment and keep it - surely they can make the effort to keep that information in some sort of permanent file. Ask me if I hemoraged last week or had any major collisions with immovable objects. That makes more sense. Ask me about my aversion to needles.

2. The Waiting Room: Doctors with decent cash flow often hire decorators to spruce up the waiting room. The best feature of my "real" doctor's office is the fish tank. It is a saltwater wonder, filled with beautiful fish, exquisite hardscape, and clear, clean, bubbly water. It sits on a shelf that separates two waiting rooms. Other than the fish tank, the decor is interchangeable, dark, and lacking in warmth.

Most of the decor from "decorators" looks like it came from the same stash used in hotel rooms. The furniture, the bland "artwork," the shelving, knick-knacks, wall-mounted television - all the same. The color scheme is a variation of pastel with little to no interest or texture whatsoever. One of my doctors has a mural on the wall, which is interesting but loses flavor after about five years. I am past that now and really wish I had the nerve to offer my decorating services. But this doctor has access to needles.

Most doctors seem to just have a family member or a staffer add "daycore" to the waiting room. Off-balance pictures are placed willy-nilly with medical supply posters suggesting we ask the doctor about this drug or that treatment, and some variation of potted or artificial plants. The magazines are spotty in variety and not recent. It is all I can do, at times, to not get up and fix things. "How 'bout some color on this wall?" I want to shout.

3. The appointment: The cardinal rule about appointments is that they are merely suggestions or guidelines. God help you if you are late for the appointment. The punishments vary but suffice to say that there will be one. But for the staff, appointments are merely a mechanism for adding you to the pool of waiting applicants. There is a point of "critical mass" the scheduler will not exceed. They don't want you waiting outside, for example, because they don't want to be to be viewed as "tacky." Which is humorous when you juxtapose the condition of the waiting room.

They think nothing of giving you a time, expecting you to be there, and then closing the little window with an invitation to "have a seat" so you can develop bedsores while you wait. And wait. They open the door and call a name and for the longest time the name isn't yours. Sometimes it belongs to somebody you didn't realize was there. You wait. Nobody talks. You adjust yourself in the seat, pulling up the legs, crossing and uncrossing ankles, slouching, jerking upright, and perhaps getting up to peer at something.

4. The second wait: This occurs once you have been weighed and measured and led to an examining room. The weighing and measuring always occurs, even if you are coming in for an infected hangnail. The fact that you are wearing five pounds of clothing is never accounted for by the staffer who does the weighing. The disapproval and barely masked glee that registers when your weight comes past the point of social respectability, oozes as the staffer records it on the chart. Don't bother to bring up the heavy clothes thing or the fact that you ate before arriving. The patronism just oozes. The ironic thing is that they are usually housed in scrubs or clothing that disguises their less-than-perfect physiques. If the staffer is obese, the irony fairly drips.

In the examining room you wait. How long you wait is variable because sometimes the staffer stays with you and continues with the measures and terse questioning about why you are here today. Sometimes the tone of voice is a kind of boredom verging on hostility. You carefully explain but for naught because you have to tell the doctor all over again. Clearly, the doctor has not read or heard any of this - which makes you wonder why the staffer asked in the first place. Maybe it is triage.

Then you wait and it is not comfortable. Sit here, lay there, perch on this chair, it doesn't matter. You will wait. The doctor rarely comes right in and this is a fact. You are moved from the waiting room just to keep the assembly line moving. There are mild diversions, if one is brave enough, like the rolling stool, the drawers and countertops, the posters on the walls ("The Amazing Knee;" The Circulatory System;" "Advanced Heart Disease.")

In the veterinarian's room, there are cross sections of dog and cat anatomy, kitchy plaques about dogs having owners and cats having staff, and posters explaining obesity in dogs or the importance of regular teeth-cleaning. This doesn't distract the dog or cat of course. The dog or cat is too busy dropping hair and fur all over the floor, in anticipation for what is bound to be animal cruelty that borders on abuse.

5. The knock: The knock comes after you are finished with all the diversions in the examining room. Rarely, the doctor will catch you looking at the poster or sitting on the stool. Sometimes they look bemused. I think you garner a few points if you look like you have used your time productively. If you had to disrobe for the visit, there is always fear that "the knock" will come while you are in a state of nakedness. This never happens, but the fear remains.

6. The protocol: You must never complain about the long wait or the discomfort of the room temperature, or the tackiness of the waiting room decor. This just isn't done. You are free to go elsewhere and this is understood. Doctors have emergencies and some patients don't arrive exactly on time or require more attention than the time allocated. You won't get an apology for this - it is just understood and accepted. This protocol shows up on the final examination in medical school. Any inclination to do things differently is beaten out of them by the fourth year.

I made the mistake once of questioning the nurse practicioner about the long wait, which was almost an hour, when I had made the appointment more than a week earlier. She looked appalled. "We have patients!" I felt like a third-grader questioning WHY the cursive "Q" looked like the numeral "2."

I explained my rationale for asking but her countenance told me I had crossed a line. Their failure to properly plan somehow constituted inconvenience on my part and the fact that I questioned this was simply beyond her comprehension. It was lucky my visit didn't require a needle that day.

7. The aftermath: The visit itself is a nanosecond compared to the wait time. Questioning, examining, perhaps another question, brief discussion, diagnosis, protocol for treatment, and follow-up. Then, like a flash, off the doctor goes and you won't see the likes of him/her again - unless you are brazen enough to catch him/her in the hallway with a new question. The staffer completes the visit and you either leave or schedule another appointment.

I am often tempted, when I look at the appointment books they keep, to ask the scheduler to block out the appointment in front of me - so I won't have to wait so long.

But one never knows if the next visit will will require a needle.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Needful Things

The kids in my class need some things. I don't mean material things, I mean experiences.

I came up with a list because I am a great list-maker. I love marking things off a list. Sometimes I will put something on the list that I've already done, just so I can mark it off the list. What an accomplishment!

My kids need things that suburban kids get without a second thought. Suburban parents think about signing their children up for something and then they do it. The cost is there, but it won't be at the expense of groceries next week or paying the electric bill.

I am not defending the choices some of my parents make when it comes to money - but people in generational poverty think about money differently than people in middle class. That doesn't make it right, it just explains it.

I have a list of things I want my kids to have:

1. Music lessons: I want the kids to learn how to play an instrument. The latest brain research about music shows that it uses some of the areas in the brain used for mathematics. Music enriches life and it is a skill that nobody can take away from you. I haven't met ONE person, ever, who complained about having music lessons when they were younger. This is not to say that they didn't balk at practicing or try to get out of a lesson or two or three - but the payoff in adulthood is priceless. I get all goosebumpy just thinking about all those extra neural pathways that get built when one learns to play a musical instrument.

Here's the catch and here is why I can't mark this off my list: I don't know how to play a musical instrument. Other than "Silent Night" by numbers (9, 10, 9, 7... 9, 10, 9, 7...) and the two-fingered version of Chopsticks, I can't play a thing. And singing? I am the reason God invented CDs.

2. Art: All of my children have such potential. The directed drawings we do on a regular basis are getting better and better. Their recent portraits of President Lincoln are breathtaking. They are so good I am mounting them and laminating them. If money were no object, I would mat and frame them.

They love painting but get so few experiences that most of their attempts are filled with the enthusiasm that results in repeated applications of paint. Then they wonder why everything looks brown and their masterpiece resembles a Brawny paper towel. This same problem occurs when they use chalk, water colors, and tempera.

I don't know the first thing about properly teaching children about art. They need real lessons from a real teacher of art, in a setting that doesn't rush them because of all the academics we are forced to cram into our school day.

3. Dancing: They love to dance and so do I. But having no formal training, and being only lukewarm-successful on any dance floor, ever, the only thing I can do is move around with the rhythm and hope for the best. I loved Tap Dancing as a child and teenager - so much so that I still "tap" when the urge compels me. But, here's the thing - I remember about five tap steps. That's all. The tap shoes I could get - I could find used shoes online and rassle up some music. But 5 dance steps does not a dance teacher make.

4. Sports and P.E.: I need to teach them how to play certain games. This I think I can do. But I need to learn how to be a P.E. teacher for my kids and I learn best by doing. My sister shows me stuff and then I forget most of what she said by the time I get back to school.

5. Gardening: This I can do but you would think the school was being asked to excavate graves or something with the tepid support I get when I broach the subject. We can't compost because of mice. Never mind that mice won't bother a properly maintained compost pile - somebody once told somebody else that mice are attracted to compost piles. With mice come snakes and that is something we don't need. We can plant - but there is no water supply and no promise of a water supply and the dire warning that NOBODY will maintain what we plant in the summer. This I was told in an eMail.

The school will create a sprinkler lake in the front lawn every third day, allow sprinklers to cover sidewalks and driveways, fail to collect rainwater, throw out perfectly compostable food and let trash accumulate all over the campus - but no support for a teacher's effort let her children work with the soil.

That is my short list.

I would like to cross something off.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Missing: One Voice

I am staying home today, on orders from my colleagues and principal. I have been sick with this virus that is bringing down about half the school and local population and I just can't seem to shake it. Other people shake it. But I am not shaking it. It is shaking ME.

The symptoms are varied and they take turns being prominent from day to day. The sore throat usually lays low, but for several days in the past week, it has been at the forefront, making swallowing and eating difficult.

The coughing joined the symptom group around Sunday. This I could have done without. Coughing encourages the aching, which goes along with the fever and sore muscles.

Every morning I have to check around the bed to make sure I haven't coughed up any necessary body parts, whole or in chunks. My cursory knowledge of human anatomy tells me I might need them - if not sooner, then later.

This morning, I awoke with no voice. This became apparent when the brown dog, relieved that I was FINALLY awake, began his usual face-kissing routine. I had no voice to order him OFF me. I finally had to fling his rather dense and beefy weinie-dog butt off the bed so that I could get up.

If I try really hard, using deep breathing and strong exhaling, I can croak out a voice that will last for 4-6 phonemes before giving way to the hoarse and vague whisper that has become my verbal communication for today.

The cough is also nasty in that it makes my muscles sore - I hurt in the core area and lower back from trying to bring up my left lung. Fortunately, the left lung is fastened securely in place and doesn't come up too easily.

Last night I finally slept most of the night. I think it was because I was dead tired and so achy I fell into bed after Jeopardy! ended didn't wake up until 10:45am, much to Seamus's relief.

I always feel guilty missing work. But word of my suffering made it around campus and finally, somebody took action. I went into the lounge for some coffee after my lunch, and found the entire third grade team, the custodial staff, the reading coach, and one of the Instructional Assistants staging an Intervention. Not only did they call me in sick and order me home, they went, enMasse, to see Ann and tell her I could not take her home and that one of THEM would be doing that duty. Then they went to the principal, who actually came by the classroom to reiterate the order.

I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Especially since they have all had it or shook it off quickly. Maybe there is collective guilt there, I don't know. But nonetheless - I feel loved. Did I mention warm and fuzzy?

Maybe it's the fever breaking.

Or, maybe I am having a hot flash.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Safety First~

During my first year at my current school, I was a fish out of water and miserable with the change. I was teaching a first grade class when I had been hired for Kindergarten, and wasn't exactly 'feeling the love' from the Queen of First Grade.

I focused on these kids and worked late hours to ensure they got exactly what they needed academically. I tried to ignore the climate of the school and tended only to my own classroom. This is how I got through the year.

One day, the kids did a wonderful job with an art project. The pictures were beyond awesome and I told them so - then I decided to hang them up. It was one of those afternoons in which everybody was working quietly and on-task - so I took advantage and began pinning up the artwork.

There was a spot over the window PERFECT for the remaining pictures but very inaccessible without breaking every safety law ever enacted by a school. But I was adamant about getting those pictures up so I decided to step up on the chair and then up onto the table.

Then came the part next to the "over the window" section - it was above the sink.

"Teacher, you be careful!" warned Stephanie. I think she even wagged her finger.

"Yeah," echoed several of her classmates. I assured them that I would, of course, be careful.

I stepped onto the chair, up to the scooted-over table, and then up onto the sink area. I hung the last of the pictures with a grunt of satisfaction. They were all watching me at this point, so I hammed it up a bit, throwing my arms up and shouting, "I'm King of the World!"

Most of them laughed but a few just shook their heads and kept working. My silliness was a constant source of embarrassment to those few - although I often found them cracking a smile when they thought I wasn't looking.

I stepped down to the chair, but missed it - whacking my back on the sink area, hitting the table, and landing on my a$$ with a huge "umpft" - the wind knocked out of me.

I lay there stunned - the children didn't miss a beat. They rushed over to me, and knelt down. They were noticeably upset, and a few of them tried to tug me upright while others clambored onto the table to peer over at me and make sure I was alive.

I kept hearing, "Are you okay, are you okay?" from the group. The room was dead silent. I struggled to sit up and say something teacherly.

Then Stephanie pushed her way through the kneeling students, put her hand on shoulder, peered into my face, waved her free arm and said, "I TOLD YOU TO BE CAREFUL, didn't I?"


Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Quail Family

We are lucky to have a covey of quail living in our neighborhood. They used our backyard as a nursery last summer - all the little baby quail running around were sight to see.

I strongly suspect it was a Mama Quail who pecked Otis in the head to protect her babies. It worked - Otis never went back outside until the Quail Family moved to the front yard.

Several times a day, the family returns to the backyard to eat. Keeping them in birdseed is becoming quite the chore - there are at least 20 members of this covey right now.

After filling the feeders, I noticed that the quail cannot get onto the swinging versions. Their body-types don't allow for the balance needed to sit there and eat. "I'll have to put some feed on the ground for them," I said to Dan, "I want them to get enough."

Dan looked at me strangely. I guess the fact that these quail appear ready to hibernate with plenty of "storage" had something to do with it. "They eat what the little birds knock over," he said.

A few days ago, when the weather was decent, Duke spent the afternoon lounging around the backyard. The quail got used to the littlest dachshund and came to feed once they ascertained that Duke's bird-hunting days were over.

Today they are roaming around out in front, looking for eats and trying to remember how they get into the backyard.

Cat Drool

As Otis's Chief of Staff, I am in charge of his health issues and make all decisions pertaining to his comfort and care. In return, he sits on my lap occasionally and impresses my friends with how "friendly" he can be.

He also throws his entire body down, sideways, across concrete when he sees me and we are sharing concrete space. I would like to think that, like the dogs, he is showing me respect by doing this, but I sense that he is really showing me that HE can throw HIS body down on concrete.

Lately, Otis has been drooling. At least, I think it is drool and not a runny nose. My suspicions were confirmed last week when I heard my husband, the cat's most-favorite person, yell out in digust, "Did you just DROOL on me?"

This got me to pondering WHY the cat is drooling. As a rule, I don't think cats drool. Dogs drool - nothing is beneath their dignity - but cats? I am not thinking it is a normal turn of events.

I am worrying that, after all these years, Otis's lack of oral hygiene has caught up with him and he needs dental work. The dogs get their teeth cleaned regularly but not Otis. It is hard enough to get Otis into his travel crate for shots on a yearly basis. There have been years he has gone without shots because drawing blood from the hands that feed him was preferable to a trip in the CAR in the CRATE. Feline leukemia, parvo, and rabies were preferable to a trip in the CRATE. Not that he understands the nature of disease, but he acts like he does.

Do I feel guilty that, as a pet owner, I have neglected my cat's teeth? Yes. But Otis has sharp claws, a tenacious temperament, and he really, really, hates the CRATE. The path of least resistance was easier and didn't hurt as much.

Otis won't let me examine his teeth without a fight. The rare glimpses I get of his front fangs assure me that they are not show-cat quality. But the drooling has to be coming from somewhere - and I am suspecting that all is not well in his mouth. Plus, and this is a big clue, Otis has terrible breath.

Otis never USED to have bad breath. Rare whiffs near his mouth area have always been rewarded with the pungent aroma of Fancy Feast, never yicky ol' Cat Breath.

I am going to have to call the vet tomorrow and make THE APPOINTMENT. This will most likely be within a week's time - enough time for planning HOW to get him into the CRATE without great bodily harm. All adult members of the house will have to help. We may need to call in neighborly reinforcements.

Or - I can hold out hope that he just has a runny nose.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Ointment Flies

It's tough to decide who to vote for on Tuesday because each of the candidates have flies in their respective ointments. It's hard to see the ointment for all that fly.

Obama: It rhymes with 'Osama,' 'llama,' and 'Not Your Momma.' "Barak" sounds like something you do after a good meal. How do you keep a straight face with a name like that?

Hillary: Her voice grates on my last nerve. If she were president she would be talking all the time. My nerve would be shot. I would be a wreck.

McCain: He has a trophy wife. He looks ready to drop dead any minute. He also gets this rash on his face that looks angry. Angry rashes upset me. And what happened to the original wife?

Romney: He's from a church that thinks women are second class citizens. There are a lot of women in congress. Will he even TALK to them? Will he ask them to serve coffee during important goverment meetings? This would grate on that last nerve AND upset me.

Huckabee: He tied his dog, in a crate, to the top of the car for a family vacation. He told the media that the dog "loved the wind in his face." At 65 miles per hour? Head ON? He used political pressure and got his son "off" on animal cruelty charges when he hung a stray dog at Boy Scout camp. Apparently mistreating animals is okay with him. Don't serial killers start out that way? That's all we need - rumors of a serial killer in the White House. Any person from the DC area could be a victim. We just can't take that chance. And if he had a "first dog" like all the other presidents, I would worry about it all the time.

Ron Paul: Who IS this guy? He reminds me of Pat Paulson's many runs for the presidency. Pat Paulson never won. That should say something. Ralph Nader doesn't win either. And Ron Paul ain't Ross Perot.

Guiliani: He was a good mayor. He needs to stay that way.

It's hard to get fly wings out of ointment. Your nails get all ointmenty.