Category Archives: Random Thoughts

There’s A Mouse In My House

happy_mouse_flowers1There’s a mouse in the house. He’s cute. He’s small and fat and has the kind of face that would make a great Beatrix Potter character. All he needs is a jaunty little hat.

He’s not a new pet. He’s a field mouse, probably an adolescent, who came in under the door using that almost supernatural ability mice have to flatten themselves and squeeze through any space. You’d think he would’ve chosen a house with less cats. Any house in the neighborhood would probably fit that bill – since this house has seven.

And yet, only one cat alerted me to THE MOUSE’s presence. Nonny, my tabby Siamese whose hobbies include chewing up sweaters and pulling bristles out of the broom, spent an entire day staring at the broom closet door. This could mean many things coming from Nonny. It could be that she spies the bristles of the broom under the door and hopes to give them a good tug. It could mean a wolf spider has managed to take refuge out of the way of her grabby little paws. Or it could just be that the door looks interesting today. I would’ve never supposed that when I opened the closet door, there would be a very small, fat mouse sitting on the chess set. But there he was sitting pretty as you please and apparently not deterred by cats or humans. He was cleaning his little face. This is all within spitting distance of Mr. Cat, a reformed feral colony cat who was known in the past to have terrorized chipmunks, squirrels and once a raccoon.

Mr. Cat does nothing. He sees the mouse. He does not care. Perhaps he thinks that there are mice in every closet. Perhaps there are. Nonny peers at the mouse. Now visible to her, he looks very shoddy indeed. He has no feathers or bells. He is not orange or pink. He is small and brown and he just sits. Until I try to catch him with a small box. Then he runs behind the boxes of board games and peers warily at me.

The mouse is not the first ‘critter’ to make his way indoors. Last year, a small garden snake made his way in through the garage, into the mudroom, and took up residence under the laundry hamper. Again, it was Nonny that let me know about the intruder. Of course, after a day of being pawed at by a Siamese cat gone cross-eyed with interest, the snake was in no mood to be caught in Tupperware and relocated to the relative safety of the garden. Relative because the garden is not a safe place for small things scaled and furry. There are feral cats, neighbors’ dogs, neighborhood children, and, of course, Fionna, a tabby yard cat known for tormenting songbirds, mice, and even small ducks. I once saw her chase a Pekinese across three lawns. She is not a cat with which a mouse would like to reckon.

There’s no real way to keep mice (or in my case, small green garden snakes) out of your house. No matter how secure your door or sturdy your door seal. If the glaring eyes (and smell) of seven cats doesn’t deter a mouse from scooting under my garage door, then there is probably little that will. So I’ve decided to buy new door seals and to make sure that my garden is more attractive to wildlife than my den.

There are quite a few ways to make your yard and garden a haven for animals. Here are just a few ideas, but a quick search online will turn up many more:

  1. Plant pet-friendly: Not only do pet-friendly plants like lemon and bee balm, catnip, and thyme smell great, but they are friendly to both neighborhood pets and to wildlife. Bright blooming plants also attract hummingbirds and bees and make your garden a more interesting place for you and your pets. You can find a full list of pet-friendly plants on the ASPCA’s website.

 

  1. Put up feeders for birds and squirrels: You may even want to consider a bat box. I have one and bats are wonderful at keeping down the number of aggressive garden insects, like Japanese and Box-Elder beetles. If you do decide to have bird feeders and houses, be sure to squirrel-proof them. If you don’t, the squirrels will modify them for their own use by nibbling the openings to make them large enough to accommodate a squirrel or pull them down. I’ve found the best way to co-exist with squirrels is to offer them their own feeder with mixes they prefer. They tend to leave the bird-feeder and houses in peace if they have their own space.

 

  1. Toad houses: When you’re creating a friendly space for the small and fuzzy wildlife in your area, don’t forget about toads. It’s easy to create a space for them by burying a garden pot (turned on its side) to the half-way mark in a shaded area. Toads can use it to shelter in the heat of the day – although I find chipmunks and squirrels use them for siestas as well.

 

  1. Mulch: If you use mulch, make sure it is pet-friendly. Cocoa mulch is toxic to some pets, like dogs, and pine mulch is an irritant to many animals if ingested. That being said, a nice mulch bed is a great place for mice and small animals like squirrels or ground hogs to burrow during the colder days of autumn and winter. And hopefully, they’ll find it a more attractive place to build a nest instead of in your garage.

 

  1. Fencing: If you have garden fences, make sure they have a bit of space at the bottom for non-climbing critters, like frogs and toads, to pass through. Of course, if your fence serves as a barrier for a yard-pet, this may not be possible.

 

  1. Consider mowing your lawn a little less: Longer grass provides a nice habitat for rabbits, ground squirrels, and field mice. It is also necessary for butterflies, who lay their eggs on the grass blades. Letting leaves lay through the winter and mulching them in the summer is also a great way to protect your lawn through colder months while providing a place for small animals to burrow.

 

  1. Weeds: Someone once wrote that a “weed is just an unloved flower,” and many flowering weeds are quite beautiful. Native plants are also hardier than most non-native flowers and shrubs, and have the added benefit of attracting butterflies, bats, and other pollinators, as well as being nourishing to local wildlife. Before you hack down that offensive dandelion, you might want to consider that its flower provides food for bees and hummingbirds and that its leaves and stalk are both edible and nutritious.

 

  1. Feeding critters: Some cities have ordinances against feral feeding and some neighborhoods also discourage feeding birds, but I find nothing as satisfying as leaving out seed, corn, and even kibble for the wildlife in my neighborhood during the winter. Sometimes a little extra forage is the difference between life and death for a young animal or bird facing its first winter.

 

There are many other ways you can help the animals who live in your neighborhood. You might want to check with your local wildlife society, ask a neighborhood what kind of things they’ve done over the years, or visit some wildlife appreciation societies online.

Wild animals, birds, bees, and insects are as much a part of a neighborhood as the people who live there. And just as you’d get to know a new neighbor, you might want to take some time to learn more about the animals that make their home near you. With winter coming, the animals could especially use your help. This is the time of year that I harvest my garden and start planning my garden for next year. So it’s a great time to consider changes and to add some wildlife-friendly options.

 

 


Home Is Where The Heart Is

Monday cat2I’ve come to distrust the loyalty of cats. From my desk I can hear George scratching at my back door. The sun is starting to set, so, as usual, I know he’ll be waiting scruffy and desperate on my back doormat. I’ll open the door to find him sitting silently with his tail tucked around his legs meowing piteously for his dinner, the perfect picture of the luckless stray. Indeed, when I first met George and his feline associate in crime, Fionna, I thought they were strays. Of course, it was only a day or so before I discovered that they live only a few doors down from me and, indeed, spend most of their day indoors.

They have homes and plush cat beds. They have a little boy who loves them dearly and a very nice cat tree. I have seen all of these things first hand and as George weaves and mews around my legs, I can actually hear his owner calling him in for the night.

George is a very greedy cat and one of the many indoor/outdoor cats in my neighborhood who show up to beg for treats, sleep on my deck, and wreak general havoc in the herb garden. Ryder was, of course, king of this army of mongrels until he was packed off to Paris with his owners. Now, George is the heir apparent. If I open my garage door, he and Fionna take up residence under my herb table and spend the rest of the day chasing the mole-crickets I can’t seem to keep out. There have been several times that only a quickly placed broom has kept George and Fi from running inside the house proper where my five feisty divas sit brooding and hissing. They peer at The Others from behind the safety of glass and curtain and no doubt are only waiting for the day that George strolls hapless into their carpeted domain.

The most disturbing aspect to George, Fiona, and my other cats’ personalities, I believe, is their disturbing lack of concern for their owners. I know perfectly well they can hear us calling their little kitty names. I can certainly hear my neighbors’ frantic voices and have, on occasion, carried George back to his own yard. George and Fi seem to be, however, nonplussed by their loving masters’ searching and pleading. As they say of cats: Many are named, but few come when they are called.

The relationship between cats and their so-called masters and mistresses is tenuous at best. Anyone observing a cat “owner” might assume that the ownership factor in that relationship was on the other foot. I, for example, am awoken each morning at 5:30 (even on holidays and weekends) by furry feet running up and down my bed. I am, sometimes, allowed to return to bed after new kibble and water has been put out. Sometimes, though, it will be expected that I should also turn on the TV and open the curtains so that cats might be better entertained. At this point, being superfluous to their plans, I will be allowed to go to work or back to bed. I might fall in a hole or disappear from existence for the next seven to eight hours, so long as I reappear around 4:00 or 5:00 to refresh said kibble, scoop the “bad” litter, and close the curtains again. On warm days, I am expected to open the deck door and to bring in interesting plants so that cats might destroy them. One might ask just exactly who is the mistress in this arrangement. I assure you, she must have furry little paws.

Perhaps the assumption that cats are domesticated is a complete fallacy. They seem tame, at times, lounging about, purring contently, and dining from their hand-painted dishes. Dogs, most of whom are the picture of domesticity, are usually happy to lend a hand or paw in any circumstance. They herd cattle, they chase moles, they carry one’s slippers (in a very kind but slobbery manner.) Dogs are glad to be of assistance. If they could, they’d probably go out and get part-time employment for the good of the household. Cats, on the other hand, are meant to be served. It is not they who are domesticated, it is their owners. True, there are some cats who earn a hard days’ kibble—brave mousers in barns, libraries, and bookshops who pave their way by tooth and claw. But, most cats live the literal life of Riley. Since the first cat came in from the desert and took residence under the throne of Queen Ti, cats have been our masters. And, even that cat knew that a throne (albeit under it) was the only place for any feline to be.

So, how is it that these fickle creatures have such a hold on our hearts? They ignore us. They scorn us. They reject perfectly good toys that pet shop owner assure us any cat will love in favor of a cardboard box. They give us mocking looks when we try to introduce a new brand of kibble. And, yet we keep coming back for more. Dog people speak of unconditional love. And, having had a canine companion for many years, I can assure you that it is true. Dogs love. It is the essence of being a dog – to adore, to wait patiently, to ask for nothing. Cats harbor in their tiny furry souls an opposite theory. Good things come to those that demand loudly in the wee hours of the morning and with all four claws.

If any person behaved like a cat, he’d be ostracized immediately. Cats behave like cats and are beloved, petted, and worshipped. It is high praise to be called catlike in grace and manners. Yet, I’ve seen my cats fall off footstools and flip over water bowls in a pique of kitty fury. Grace and manners, in the eyes of a cat, are optional virtues at best. And, yet, when a cat sits quietly purring on your lap, gazing up with limpid blue or green eyes, we find ourselves mesmerized. The shredded curtains, the broken ornaments, and the sadly missing goldfish all fall away. There is only that perfect gaze (perhaps the one that so captives birds and mice) and the soft kneading of tiny feet. Love is not a perfect thing, to be sure. Love is patience and patience is certainly required when you love a cat.

Outside George and Fi lounge and stretch and mew. Their owners call and eventually they’ll turn their furry feet toward home. Home, after all, is where the heart is. Home is the place that you find your bed at the end of the day. Any cat knows that. And, perhaps the fact that they choose to come home is why we love them after all. True, not all cats come when they are called. But, sometimes, they do. Sometimes they hop up in your lap, curl up on your bed, or simply sit idly by you while you read. A cat doesn’t need to prove his or her love. Deep in the soul of the tamest tabby lurks the spirit of a tiger. No cat ever comes in completely from the wild. Loving a cat makes you a little bit freer too.


Humans are Social Animals

Technology makes the world smaller. It reunites lost pets (and teddy bears) with their children. It lets us find our tribe – even if they live halfway around the world.  When I hear people argue that technology (and especially social media) is “bad” for you, I think about all the people who argued passionately that the earth was flat and that ships would sail right off the edge. The world is not a stagnant place. Society (and hopefully thinking) evolves. Refusing to adapt doesn’t make you brave and it doesn’t make the Earth any less round.

Friends are not any truer or realer just because they live next door or down the street. Some of my most meaningful friendships started online.  It’s likely that without technology I would have never met or even heard of many of my friends.  Social media allows us to connect with others who share our passions. That is a gift – not a curse.

Likewise, social media asks us to examine ourselves on a daily basis. Some might see that as narcissism (and in some people it may be,) but I believe that only good can come from introspection. Seeing yourself reflected in the eyes of social media makes you take a serious look at just who you are and what you believe. Seeing others argue against (or for) things in which you believe, makes you consider your own beliefs and that reflection can lead to a deeper understanding of those things you hold dear, as well as your own soul.

All technology – from the printing press to the iPhone – has had its champions, as well as its enemies. There are always going to be those who rail against change – either out of fear and ignorance or some mistaken view that all progress is the enemy of tradition.  It can be argued, if anything, that connecting with traditions, beliefs, and hearing stories from around the world only enriches our understanding of our own history.

After all, there is no faith in dogma and there is no knowledge in rhetoric. Saint Augustine wrote “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  Today that’s no longer true. Technology has opened the world to those who can’t travel physically and opened our minds to a world beyond our own small horizons. Only good can come from taking a step outside our doors – even if that step is virtual.

kitten mouse


As Seen on TV

grumpy cat NOIn case you weren’t aware, and it seems many people aren’t, life is not television and work is not a party. Sure, it’s great if you enjoy your work and you get along with your co-workers. You may even consider many of them your friends – I know I do. But you are being paid to do a job.

What that means, in simple terms, is that you are there to do actual work and not to “have fun.” The two don’t need to be exclusive but a lot of the time they are. No one likes compiling quarterly reports and they aren’t often a joy to read either. But they are a necessity. Reporting is vital to forecasting new campaigns and measuring the success of current ones.  If it makes the day go more quickly, then maybe you promise yourself a Pumpkin Spice Latte if you can finish all the quarterlies by Wednesday or that sweet pair of Frye boots you’ve had your eyes on for the last month.  We all need a little motivation now and again – although, hopefully, you’re as much motivated by your desire to do a job well as you are by a PSL.

The work you do isn’t about you. This is especially true in customer service. Being a CSR (customer service rep) is about the consumer – the person on the other end of the line or other side of the computer screen.  It’s about their experience and not about yours.  If the consumer decides to pretend to be a robot, then, you can roll with it. . .or not. . .as long as you provide them with good service and the information they need.  It is never, ever appropriate for you to pretend to be a robot, a Cyborg, a taco, or a teddy bear.  You may sometimes pretend to be in a good mood – but that should be the extent of your acting skills.  No one wants tech advice from a bear.  Seriously.  They don’t.

If you work at Radio Shack (or apparently Netflix) maybe your boss doesn’t frown on this sort of thing.  But in most cases management, your co-workers, and most of all, the consumer isn’t going to be pleased with you.  That’s because you’re a CSR, not a member of Starfleet as much as you’d like to be.  Leave your dice and RPG manual at home and do some work.  I don’t call Netflix to make a new friend or to hear your viewing preferences, I’m calling because need an issue resolved.  Do your job, do it well, and I’ll be pleased and you should be too.  You should be able to get through the day without pretending to be a robot.  If you can’t, then maybe you need to find a new line of work.

It’s baffling to me that so many people are praising someone that, frankly, should be fired.  You’re not making the experience “fun for the consumer” – you’re making it fun for yourself and that’s bad customer service.  You can crack out your Starfleet uniform in your off hours.  While you’re at work, why not try pretending you’re an adult?

 

 


Self Service

Choosing service is a wonderful thing.  When you choose to devote your life to others – whether you are a soldier, a teacher, a police officer, an emergency services worker, a minister, or one of the thousands of other workers who help others on a daily basis – you’re doing something admirable.  Your work helps others and that is to be truly commended.  Devoting your talents to others through your career or volunteer work is rewarding and kind-hearted.  But it is a choice.

And, since you did choose it, you shouldn’t expect any rewards beyond your pay and the satisfaction you get from doing good.  Threatening and extorting companies for prizes because you “deserve them” undermines not only your service, but the service of others in your field.  Constantly asking that you be given preferential treatment because “you gave” is not only unrealistic, but it’s just plain tacky.

Basically, what you’re saying is that you have more rights than others and that you matter more.  That’s exactly the opposite of service.  If your attitude is that you’re serving to get something, maybe you should rethink your path.  That’s not what service is about.

That service is the noblest which is rendered for its own sake.” – Mahatma Gandhi 


No Cookies for You!

complicatedMaybe no one ever told you this, but life is hard.  And, let’s face it, for some people it’s much harder than it is for others.  This is because in addition to life being hard, it’s also unfair.  That being said, I like life.  I like it a lot and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the alternative. I’m the first person to say you should go for it – even if there’s not much of a chance because hey, life is short (in addition to being hard and unfair) so why shouldn’t you take every opportunity?  But that doesn’t mean that you should be praised for your failures.  For your bravery, yes. For your perseverance, yes. For your incompetence, not so much.

The thing is that there’s a huge difference between being the little engine that could and half-assing your way through life.  Taking on something beyond your current skill set and pushing yourself to achieve is admirable.  Barely doing something and then looking for a cookie isn’t.  You don’t deserve to be praised for messing up something multiple times and then finally getting it right.  This is especially true if the only reason you didn’t get it right the other times was inattention or general laziness.  Most times in life there are no prizes for second place (although maybe there should be.  See the life is hard and unfair disclaimer.)  So, there definitely isn’t a prize for fortieth place.  Do it right the first time and if you can’t (because no one’s perfect), then do it right the second time.  Doing it adequately the fourth time is going to get you a “thanks” from me (because I’m Southern and I’m trained to say thanks even if you let the door fall on face, but then look back with a half-hearted “Sorry.”)  But, don’t expect much else.

You should value excellence not for praise, but because it says something about who you are.  What you give of yourself to the world defines the kind of person you are and who you want to be.  After all, it’s actions (not intentions) that define you to most people.  They can’t see inside your heart, but they can see what you do even if you’re tired, disappointed in humanity, and would really rather be doing something else somewhere else.  Consider it your random act of kindness for the day.  Do your best at whatever you do.   Do it for yourself.  Anything that’s worthwhile is worth doing well and if what you’re doing isn’t worthwhile to you, maybe you should consider doing something else.


Do Some Good.

adora-fuzzy Do Some Good

Have I mentioned how exasperated I am with people? I should say lately, but it’s really an ongoing exasperation, and if you’ve had the “fortune” to stand next to me, then I probably have.  I don’t mind helping people.  Seriously, I like helping people.  I’m Southern and a woman.  I’m fairly certain it’s built into our DNA.  But there’s a certain point in everyone’s life (some later than others) when you become an adult and you need to take some responsibility for yourself and for the world around you.  Good things don’t just happen.  Okay, maybe they do, but they’d happen a lot more often if people actually made a point of making them happen instead of passing the buck.

This is the second time this week that someone has asked me to “help” them because they have a cat that needs placing.  Sure, I’ll be happy to put out the word, provide you with the name of my vet, tell you where you can find resources to help you place a rescued cat or hopefully find the owners of a lost cat, but I’m not going to take the cat.  You might not have noticed, but I’m all full up.  I have multiple rescued cats, foster cats, and I donate my time and money to animal rescue organizations.  I’m not tooting my own horn.  Lots of people do what they can to help others (whether they walk on two feet or four.)  And I wish I could do more.  But dropping a lost kitten at a high kill shelter (76% in Metro Nashville) or calling the number on a collar and then throwing the cat out when you don’t get a response from the “owners” is NOT HELPING.  Doing nothing is bad enough. Wretched, in fact.  But doing next to nothing is, well, just as bad.  The world is a hard place because there are cruel people.  True.  But it’s also because there are a lot of “good” people who do absolutely nothing but sit around wringing their hands and complaining how bad everything is.

You want the world to be a kinder, gentler place?  DO SOMETHING! Alice Walker wrote, “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” And it is.  We all live here on the Big Blue Marble.  The world is not fair.  Some of us have more time or more money or just more luck than others.  But all of us, every single person, can do something every single day to make the world a little brighter. 

Maybe you can light the world, maybe you can just light a room, or maybe you can just light one person’s eyes.  But small things really do matter.  Giving someone in line some change when they’re scrabbling madly to find a quarter, opening a door, making a donation, taking in a lost puppy (and finding his owners or a new home for him) – these things make a ripple.  Maybe it’s a cliché to say that the smallest of ripples can make the biggest of waves, but it’s true.  Nastiness is viral and so is hope.  And each day you choose which one you spread.

Choose wisely.