In the Land of Cotton (or Clay)

My family is Southern. I’ve tried and tried to start this story without a declaration, but there you have it; I’m at it again. My family is Southern. They hail from the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, but mostly Georgia and Alabama. I’m sure some slipped into Mississippi and Louisiana along the way, but if they did, they didn’t stay long as they made their way to Texas or they were disowned. Who’s to say? (Yes, there’s a Southern hierarchy and no, we’re not even going to talk about Arkansas.)

In researching my family and chasing down all the branches, twigs and stumps, I found I couldn’t hit the early 1860’s without discovering every able-bodied male – every “great” (from grandfathers to uncles) fought for the South in the Civil War. It would be more challenging for me to find someone between 14-60 who didn’t. I have relatives who were injured at Shiloh after their regiment was nearly cut down to the man, relatives at almost nearly every major engagement, and then a relative who died at Ft. Delaware as a POW. After the war, there was a great who named his son John Wilkes Booth (+ the family last name) and then I see John Wilkes ooth went on to name his own son John Wilkes Booth, Jr. I believe there’s even a III. I guess the song “Let it Go” hadn’t hit the charts then. Needless to say, I cringe a lot when I do my research, and each time I come across the JWB’s anew, I cringe like it was the first time. (Then I announce it to my husband like it’s new news and usually get, “you’ve told me that before”. “Oh? Well, can you believe it? John Wilkes Booth?!?” Then I let time slip by so I can repeat it again.)

With relatives from Atlanta, I’ve grown up with stories like the time the Union soldier approached my great-great grandfather as a boy and asked him about the shoes he was so proud of. My great-great took those shoes off to show him and the union soldier dumped them down a well. Then there was the time that Sherman took over one of our family’s homes and marred the wooden secretary as he wrote out his orders before burning Atlanta. That secretary is still in the family. To the older Atlanta relatives, Gen. Sherman wasn’t just Sharman, he was Sherman and a little spit – like that was his full name. Gen. Sherman Patooey, and you could only mutter or growl it out. I can use scalawag correctly in a sentence. FYI, it’s also followed by a patooey when correctly used. Various members of my family had slaves (just like Ben Affleck’s family only a Sony leak isn’t how you’re finding out, and Henry Lewis Gates, Jr.’s job isn’t on the line because of it – great job there, Ben). I can’t answer to this other than to say it bothers me to the core, because I want to believe my family stood up and said, “this is wrong, this is unjust,” but the truth is they didn’t. They named their kids “John Wilkes Booth.”

But, let me stop here a sec and make the declaration that I’m not Southern, I’m a Texan, and more importantly, I’m a US citizen. Which brings me to this weekend. We have a family cemetery and church out in East Texas; it’s well into the piney woods where the earth becomes a soft red clay. (Not the most ideal earth to bury someone in, but hey… it’s what we got.) Every year, for decades and decades long before I was around, the families have come together over Memorial Day (and Labor Day, but that stopped who knows when) to clean up the graveyard, which used to just be dirt. We’ve got grass now! At these events there’s usually a ceremony of some sort to talk about cemetery business, then there’s sometimes a raising of a flag while music is piped through a tin-y sounding speaker system, there’s often a speech or two (sometimes by the more upstanding family members like that one gal who was a dentist) and then we can get to the real business – the potluck. While it’s a bit amateurish, it has its own charm and it brings us together. I expected this year someone would raise the US flag, we’d recite the Pledge of Allegiance, talk about the upkeep of the grounds and then, you know, get to the food bit. I’d at some point brave the port-a-potty and then swear off of it, trying not to take in any liquids for the remainder of the hot day. (Hey, it’s at least better than the outhouse, which is also available.) You know, the usual Memorial weekend day routine. Then this happened..

The Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, one of the Confederate Flags and most commonly associated with the Confederacy.

..

and that’s when my jaw hit the floor. I was gobsmacked, because “gobsmacked” is the best way to describe my reaction. Oh, Dorothy, we’re out of Kansas, girl. This isn’t the same ol’ Star Spangled Banner, saluting the flag of yore.

The Black Roses (part of the Daughters of the Confederacy) in the Texas heat and humidity (you may have heard we got a little rain recently)

Black Rose bowing to the grave of one of the soldiers.

Now let me back up and say that I think it’s wrong to not honor and recognize Confederate soldiers. They fought, bled and died for what they believed was right at the time. But I can’t deny how uncomfortable I felt nor how that feeling skyrocketed after we were asked to honor the Confederate Flag after we had pledged allegiance to the US flag and the Texas flag (hey, I’m a Crockett). At “now face the confederate flag” my hands dropped to my side and I stared at the reenactor. I’m never saying, “…and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands.” Maybe I’m taking it too seriously (I have that habit, ask my friends; I’m the unfun one), but to me you get into this funny little grey area where you’re pushing treason. Did I mention I’m not Southern, I’m Texan (and that’s only on days when our governor isn’t threatening to secede or you know, openly talking about how we’re all going to be round up into Wal-Mart detention centers). Still, this gal broke into Dixie and started doing a little dance when she picked up the tempo and all of what I see as craziness became “the best cemetery clean-up day ever”. And they did honor the three Confederate veterans with a 21 muzzle loading gun salute who did fight the fight they felt was just.

21 Gun Salute

But holy cow!

A photo, because I just liked him best…

(Complete aside – I posted one of the photos on Facebook with the comment “So, this just happened”  to comment on the surreal nature of the event, and immediately one of my cousins responded with the best line, “OMG. There is grass.”  Which is truly one of the craziest things to be seen in the photo and made me burst out with laughter.)

Texas Proud

I’m a Texan. By all accounts (or just the more reliable ones) I’m a “proud Texan”.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if my lack of motivation and drive persists, I’ll die here.  I’m good with that.  As a Texan I was indoctrinated at an early age to love Texas – the good and the bad.  A bit like I love my momma, apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet.  Ok, I don’t actually care one way or the other about Chevrolet – I’m indifferent – that’s the word! They’re fine and all, I’m sure.  I mean no offense to anyone driving one.  Oh, and while we’re at it if we could turn apple pie to some sort of cobbler and maybe replace baseball with tennis, that would be swell.  Now the love of my Momma still stands, except let’s call her “Mom” or “Mother”, that would be more fitting.  Whew.  Got all of that out of the way.  I love Mom, peach cobber, tennis (if I have to pick one) and car companies ending in “a”. And Texas! Don’t forget Texas.

As a Texan, I get to defend Texas to my out-of-state friends more times than I’d care to.  Yes, in education we rank among the lowest, but many of us are fairly state-aware, despite what you were taught in whatever place you came from. And hey, we rank low in a lot of areas! TEXAS PROUD! We’re # (shoot, I don’t have that many hands)!

I feel like I’ve beaten this dead horse before, but let’s face it, I’m too lazy to link back to some post where I defended Texas.  It’s out there.  I’m sure my ire was up.  I probably typed a few sentences using heavy, angry keystrokes. No, I won’t link those two adjectives with a contraction, and I’m aware that I’ve now ended a few sentences with prepositions, but that’s how I’m rolling today. I’ll make 32 other egregious grammar errors before I get through this post.  Blame the Texas education system and a poor attitude.

Here’s the thing – Texas is my family.  I can pick on it, but God forbid someone outside of it start – thems fightin’ words.  Until last week…

Normally, I don’t like to get into my politics on my blog.  I ust like to throw random anecdotes at you until you cry for mercy. Those cries herald an extended blogging sabbatical while I wait for the next thing to inspire me.  Normally, I shrug off what comes across the national news about my state.  It’s rarely good. It’s never an “atta boy, Texas” with no trace of sarcasm. Normally, I don’t cringe.  Did I mention, “until last week”?

Let’s talk about Operation Jade Helm 15. You know that thing where Obama was planning to come to Texas to institute martial law.  I think we were going to be rounded up into Wal-Marts and then who knows what would happen next.  That story.  The one where Governor Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to keep an eye on the US military.  State officials from both sides of our state government sent the Governor notes basically saying, “what the…?” This played out in the media for a bit.  Towards the end of last week we were notified by Gov. Abbott that he’d been briefed by the Pentagon and he now felt assured we Texans were not in peril.  Whew! I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart.  Bullet dodged!

I was gobsmacked..

I can handle being called out for my drawl.  I can even handle my out-of-state friends being stunned that some Texans have had book learnin’ and can keep our drool from spilling down the front of our shirts.  But this… this… I’m at a complete loss of words.

So, where I normally would avoid politics and in turn avoid posting other people’s thoughts on politics, I felt I had to be called away from couch sabbatical and post something – sometimes – other people’s words – people who are better at expressing themselves about this lunacy than I.

Strong Language Warning:

From the Stonekettle Station Blog:”Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas”

“Paranoia is a mental Illness, not a super power.”

And Jon Stewart, who is always brilliant:  You can start at 4:45 if you just want to cut to the Jade Helm chase.

I’m such a proud Texan….

No, We Can’t Be Facebook Friends

When I first joined Facebook my criteria for accepting friend requests was fairly simple: Would this person attend my funeral?  Ok, would they attend it if they didn’t have other pressing, out-of-town commitments like being stuck in Malta, or Barcelona (typed with a lisp), or out hiking in the middle of the Badlands, or you know trapped in Waco in some death cult? Ok, would they at least kind of make a sad face that the average person could read as sad and then send a sympathy card to my husband or my parents? Ok, would they at least avoid hitting the “Like” button if my husband posted my obituary?   If I could answer “yes” to any of those questions, they were in – unwittingly signed up for my media shares and occasional thought burps.  When I looked at the final count I was confronted with an awful truth – only a tiny handful of friends and family would actually show for my funeral.  I made a mental note to suggest my wake be held in the backyard shed.  That could be nice, and with three people it might make the space look like it was bustling with mourners. (Mourners are universally known for their bustling.)

As Facebook grew, and more people joined, I had requests from folks like my former Girl Scout troop, high school and college friends, old roommates, people I met in improv, people I knew solely online, friends of friends, former co-workers, and that one girl who claims we went to the same school, but I haven’t a clue who she is. My “Friends” list quickly jumped from 3 to over 3 in no time. Then invariably came requests from current co-workers. I was rather careless in the beginning by accepting any request that came my way in an effort not to appear rude. Once I realized the mistake I quickly discovered the security settings and created a friend limbo which limited their access. I didn’t want to run the risk of having a meeting room meltdown should I actually “unfriend” one of these folks.

There are now only a few co-workers who can see my entire feed (weekly drivel). These carefully selected folks went through a rigorous screening process – the Vegas Vet – or “what happens on FB stays on FB”.  Basically, we don’t talk about each other’s latest post – a knowing nod in the hall suffices.  A simple head gesture that says,  “I know you have a camera, oh and you also have photogenic cats, two fierce Bengal plastic mouse chasers – keep it cool, I’m just walking on by casual-like, ‘’Sup!’”  The day I get one, “I hate that picture of you” “You look weird.” “Why would you post that?” the offender is either removed completely or moved to the special FB purgatory where they can only see my profile picture, but hey we’re still friends – that’s nice right?  (For the record, those are actual remarks I’ve received in the hallway at my office.)

After some careful thinking, I finally resolved to make my life easier by not accepting new friendship requests from current co-workers.

Now here’s where I need to state that I don’t see a FB “Friendship” as a real friendship. If I did, we’d be back to the three people at my shed wake. I see it as a way to find and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a great way to have very superficial interactions, to catch up with George Takei or Mike Rowe, and it can be a solid personal PR tool –  you can promote yourself, your latest achievement, your business, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t have real friends there, but our friendship is strengthened by our outside interactions (unless they live in Japan)  – not by the latest photo meme being passed around. I accept I may be alone in this assessment.

So back to the co-workers.  I received a new request a couple of weeks ago and realized we were going to have to talk.  I didn’t want to talk.  Talk is perilously close to confrontation and could end with someone getting upset. I talked the situation over with my friends (the three wake shed-ders you’ve come to know and love), and with their advice in hand I politely explained that I liked to keep work separate from home. This is actually true. I’m that person who doesn’t tend to talk about personal things at work. I’m the person people throw proverbs at like, “well, I guess still waters run deep” (which either means I’m quietly treacherous or I take sketch classes, and occasionally show up on stage with a puppet in hand). Plus, my friends might post that awkward picture of me not drinking (because I’m a tea-totalling, uptight prude), and how awkward would that be?

PedroPoopsJoy_Beth

At the end of the brief chat I felt good, I felt adult. I had handled a particularly awkward conversation with great aplomb and it went, in my mind, really well.  Of course it went really well until it didn’t, and that’s when I received multiple texts about how embarrassed they were and how they’d put me in a bad situation, which they hadn’t. They said they hoped we could still be friends. I was at a complete loss and ended up spending the better part of my evening texting them off the FB ledge which included sharing my philosophy about FB not being an actual friendship.  I explained that we were “real” friends and that was more important than any one line blurb I might throw out there or any #TBT baby photo (no Tori, you may NOT go back in time and squeeze my little fat baby cheeks – whoops, sorry I digress).  I eventually got them to a place where they were reasonably ok with the situation.  At least, I think they were ok with it, but you see how well my thinking goes.

I guess Jay shouldn’t count on her showing up at the shed.

The Commercial

Last September our little gang got together to hang out and goof around (I mean work hard and shoot a few commercials). Our friends Janet and Steve had recently opened up a computer repair shop in their town and had asked all of us  (Richard, Topping and myself) to write a few commercials.  We all ran off and started typing away.  I came back with this vague idea of a Fox and Mulder (X-Files) or Sam and Dean (Supernatural) bumbling detectives spoof – where sadly technology always gets destroyed in one way or the other.  There’s actually a series of these featuring our head slapping heroes and our favorite cackling bad guys (unshot – but they live on in MY MIND!).  I was able to wrangle my friend Jonathan (the James Franco to my Seth Rogen? The Bruce Campbell to my Sam Raimi? (I flatter myself, go on me)) involved and then managed to trick several of the cast from our Batshyt Crazy puppet gang to come and play, too. HOORAY!

It will never air anywhere except my video feed, but it makes me happy. Plus, I have a running Hutto gag in all of my sketches, so the fact this was actually in Hutto and my actors say “Hutto” makes my heart dance.

From the director’s commentary on the never-to-be-released, because it would be less than a minute long DVD, and well, that seems kind of silly to make a DVD that short:  One of the best parts for me when I’m pulling together a shoot and creating my prop list is to add ridiculous things that you may or may not see in the scene.  There are a few here (not all of them were caught on camera).  However, some you can see live behind our intrepid detectives.  The “most wanted” pictures are made up of pictures of several cast,and crew members who worked on all of the commercials (there are four). Oh yeah, before i get shanked, some very dangerous puppets are also up there. (Of course, to see them in their commercial acting debut our folks need to get to editing and posting for the world.  This is a hint, people!)

As always a huge thanks to everyone who works for food and agrees to be part of my goofiness.

Cool

“You should really thank The Big Bang Theory for making geeks like you cool.”

I stammered in response and finally offered up a fairly well thought out, “uh huh”  right after I did a quick age check to confirm what I already suspected, that I really was too old to care about whether I’m cool.  The fact is that I’ve never, at any age,  been particularly driven to be “cool”. (All of my friends and family just nodded in agreement with that statement.) Call it what you will – a character flaw – a love of Lee when no one could get between Brooke and her Calvin Klein’s – the ability to quote Monty Python or the willingness to argue that yes, Han did shoot first. I’m simply not cool.  And I’m ok with not being cool. Cool isn’t my thing. (Guys, you can stop agreeing.  Sheesh.  I can feel it.)

You see, there’s this implied idea that “cool” is “fitting in.” If you’re “cool,” then  “fitting in” is clearly something every person who has been labeled a geek is surely hoping to achieve, but hasn’t quite figured it out yet. I’m here to tell you “cool” has never been my personal goal (and I’m really quite well-accomplished at not being cool).  On the other hand what is popular shouldn’t be how we define cool in my opinion.  Look at any past trend – old photos from any generation. (You know the ones that show you wearing that bejeweled glove with the neon top and those parachute pants. Are you going to tell me you still feel cool?) To me cool is being comfortable enough to be yourself.  A TV show won’t give you that.

I would love this to be a piece about “how to be comfortable with yourself;” however, I’d be misleading you completely if I said there weren’t time that I’ve wanted to be something different, something more, something better than…

I remember the first time I really thought about labels and contemplated the big “who am I?” question.  “Am I cool?” It was around 1980.  It was the summer before I entered 7th grade and The Dallas Morning News ran an article about teen groups.  There were little summaries about preppies, ropers (which when I moved back to Austin were known as “kickers”), freaks, and I’m sure there were a slew of additional labels like “geek” that I can’t quite remember because I’m old (and kind of cranky).

I also don’t remember much about the actual definitions. I do remember preppies were “cool,” but “freaks” sounded closer to the group that best fit me. They were described as wearing jeans, sneakers and concert t-shirts.  I mean, I did wear both jeans and sneakers all the time and I did own that one “Wings” t-shirt from a show I never attended.  How could that not be me? Preppie certainly wasn’t me. My reality didn’t include anything bearing the name of Izod, Polo, Gloria Vanderbilt or Swatch, so that was out of the picture. Later I did own some Jordache and OP things. I stand by those clothes.  We will discuss this no further. I couldn’t name a single country group other than Alabama at the time, so “Roper” was out. “Future president of the orchestra/bookworm nerd” wasn’t a listed choice. That left me with being a “Freak” if I had to choose a category (and the newspaper seemed to think that this had to happen – all teenagers identified themselves by one of these, a journalist wrote it!). Also, at that time I was really working on being a proper delinquent (which the “Freak” title seemed to embrace), but unfortunately my natural prissiness and penchant for a good rule ultimately got in the way.  I did briefly join an all girl gang in name only, but was always “busy” come fight days. “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go out of town for the rest of my life and during all of my free time. Maybe next fight?.”  Keep in mind this was a Dallas middle-class girl’s gang.  We’re not exactly talking east L.A. and yay, they did go about intimidating my bullies, which made hallway walking much more pleasant.

Still I didn’t truly embrace any label – freak, geek or otherwise.  I was me.  A me who liked math, science, orchestra, German club and reading books.  When a person would suggest I change who I was (fall under a different label) like my grandmother (the former president of her college sorority, president of various ladies clubs, a socialite – you get the idea) when she pulled me aside and declared, “you need to change how you act or no boy will date you.” (She wanted me to play dumb in this case.) My response was, “if someone doesn’t like me for who I am, then I guess I won’t date,” which was a lot like sassing and sassing was a big no-no and earned my grandmother’s immediate disapproval.  Her message of “be different than who you are in order to be more accepted” was never me.  Of course, I didn’t really date until I was a senior in high school, so she clearly read the omens and was onto something there.

During this time one of my fundamental characteristics became apparent – I really wouldn’t change who I was to gain other people’s approval – to be cool – from how I presented myself, to whom I chose as my closest friends, to what my interests were (and continue to be).

Ok, I lied a bit there.  I did drop out of the math club (don’t tell Dad – it was something I was drafted into and didn’t go to willingly) . Though I loved math (and still love it, it’s really quite beautiful). I already had the stigma of being an academic nerd. The idea of competing with the math club was just too much.

Mu Alpha Theta

If I were to “thank” a TV show, it wouldn’t be The Big Bang Theory though I suppose kudos to them if it helps people be ok with someone else’s love of Star Trek. Just be warned you’ll lose a finger or three if you come at me with your “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock” (may Leonard Nimoy rest in peace) or if another person says, “you’re a lot like Sheldon.” I may not watch the show, but I do know what you’re saying.  The show I would actually thank is Freaks and Geeks, if I were the thank-y sort.  It’s the one show that got my 80’s right.  In fact, Lindsay is the closest I’ve come to truly identifying with a character (if you threw in a lot more orchestra).

What makes me feel cool? It’s not a TV show saying I’m ok.  It’s being me – doing the things I love and enjoying the things that I do. Sometimes that’s standing on a stage with a puppet.  Sometimes it’s taking improv or sketch classes. It’s watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, playing spoons while waiting for the opening of The Wrath of Khan, and sometimes it’s just singing “Bad Romance” in a karaoke room with all of my friends.

What makes my friends cool? The ones you would label “geeks”? It’s that they do what they love without worrying about what you think.

We never needed a TV show to say it’s ok to be who we are.

Give Me These Moments Back

Hodi

The day I met her she burst out of a crate, puffed up into a large 1 lb. ball of defiant fur and hissed her displeasure at a very surprised German Shepherd.  Thelma remained curious though a bit taken aback by the sheer hubris of this uppity, fluffy snack.  Her sister, who later became known as Sage stood meekly behind her looking on.  This was Hodi 호랑이 (Holang-i) or more accurantely 검은 호랑이 (geom-eun Holang-i) – the black tiger – named by an ex who spoke Korean fluently and clearly wanted to trip everyone up who happened to possess a tongue

After trying to pronounce the name time and time again (which to me always sounded more like Hodang-i) a friend suggested “Hodi” – much much easier.  And that was the first of many names for our little fussy fuzzy 호랑이.

Hodi was an oddly shaped girl – a type of Manx called a “rumpy.” She was rather round with two oddly placed tiny back legs.  We finally saw an x-ray of her spine last week and some of the way she moved (which was to hop more than run) was due to a compressed lumbar vertebrae right near her teeny tiny tail. Not a big problem when you’re an agile kitten, but something that affected her more as she grew older especially over the last year.

As the fluffy one, people gravitated towards her – hands outstretched.  She got to the point where she really couldn’t be bothered with strangers and tended to hang back on top of a chair lest those hands muss her fur.  Quite the opposite of her sister Sage who merrily greeted each new person at the door, letting them know, “hi! I’m available for all petting! Right here! I’m down here! Hello, I’m very friendly! Nice lap! Hey there, do you have hands? – psst, please take me away from here.”

Where Sage would go insane for a laser pointer, Hodi would only dain to slap it a bit if it were directly in front of her paws.  No need to get worked up for a light that’s impossible to catch.  Although, sometimes she’d forget and move a whole foot or two just in case her “it’s just a light” theory was wrong.  She wouldn’t want me to mention this, but on rare occasion she’d roll over trying to catch that light.  Of course, she’d quickly realize how undignified that was and then defiantly stare directly at me as I tried to entice her to roll one more time.

For her first two to three years she couldn’t quite figure out laps. They were oddly shaped  and seemed to come apart at unpredictable times or be positioned in odd ways.  They appeared interesting, but the best she could do was put two paws on my leg and lay her head down.  Then one day a fluffy lap blanket appeared and that’s when we learned she loved loved loved fluffy blankets.  If a fluffy blanket presented itself, she’d hop over to my newly fluffied lap and go to sleep.  It took a bit longer for her to realize that legs were the things supporting fluffy blankets and once that light bulb went off, she became a lap cat (though a blanketed lap was preferred and the moment she’d see me lay a blanket in my lap, she’d perk up and start angling for quality lap (blanket) time).

She was funny.  Her favorite pastimes included: stealing the dog’s beds (yes, beds – all of them), trying to steal the dog’s crate, stealing the dog’s under-the-desk cave, blocking the dog from going down the hall or approaching me (this latter pastime would cause serious protests in the form of pitiful whimpering and pleas for me to escort said dog around the kitty roadblock).

She was gentle.  I could bathe her (something long haired rumpies need help with on occasion),  I could pill her easily and I could drive her around without much complaint other than a mrr of protest.  She never bit and rarely swatted (swatting was reserved for when humans would tease her with waggling hands).  The vet and their assistants always said she was super easy to handle (like her sister); she just had a really pleasant temperament.   If something unpleasant was happening, I only needed to extend my hand and she’d rub her face for comfort and I’d rub her forehead.

She would tuck me in.  In fact, the whole house tucks me in and they wait until I fall asleep before clearing the room.  If she was still hanging out on the bed and I was in the middle of tossing and turning, she’d gently pat my hand (how she’d tell me she’d like kitty rubs) and purr me to sleep.  If I paced around the house, which I do sometimes at obscene times in the morning, she’d hop into my lap, pat me and in turn get her pats until I could settle down enough to sleep.  And then my favorite, those moments where she’d rest her forehead against mine.

I miss her pats.  Pats said, “I’m here.” or “I’d like you to lift me to my bowl” or “I just want you to stroke my face for a bit, please”.  A pat followed by a mrr was her way to emphasize the importance of the request.

I miss that gentle paw softly tapping my leg  – softly reaching for my hand.

I didn’t realize that the Monday before last would be the last time she’d hop into my lap at 2:30am and purr us to sleep; I wish I’d stayed in that moment a bit longer. By Friday, she was no longer able to move – unable to reach her bowl that was strategically placed next to her muzzle – all related to complications from her recently diagnosed diabetes that mysteriously almost sent her into an insulin coma (possible pancreatic tumor) with a glucose level so low it was “barely able to sustain life.” The incident left her so weak she couldn’t use her back legs (initially), which they believe led to her injuring her back.  She appeared to be in great pain.

I rubbed her face on Friday and urgently explained that I really needed her to get up – that I didn’t want to be in a world that she wasn’t in, but she laid there looking vacantly towards the door, occasionally closing her eyes as I’d find that perfect spot on her nose. Gone were the days where we’d sit and quietly contemplate one another.

On Saturday we took her into the vet one last time and stroked her fur.  The vet promised to give her kisses.

Kitten, I will miss stroking your nose until you fell asleep. I will miss your gentle paws and the way you’d nuzzle my head while sitting on the back of the chair.  I will miss you stealing all of the pet beds and walking behind you – the world’s worst drum major in the slowest hall parades.  I will miss sharing string cheese. I will miss sharing all the fuzzy things.  I will miss your mrrs and the way you’d come to me for reassurance when you were nervous. I will miss wrapping my arms around you and stuffing my face into your fur; thank you for being tolerant. I’ll even miss your indifference as you’d block the dog from coming down the hall, or coming in from the back porch, and your refusal to move despite her pleas; you were funny… and beautiful… and fussy… and stubborn… and absolutely lovely.

I hope for a “What Dreams May Come” heaven where I will find you.  I hope you’ll look for me, too.

A woman gleefully declared on Monday, “it’s time to find a new cat!” and my response, “the only cat I want to find is Hodi.” 16 ½ years just wasn’t nearly long enough for me.  It will never have been enough.

The Dare of a Dream

March from Selma to Montgomery – 3/25/1965 William Lovelace—Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Something I read recently stuck in my craw, and after much meandering in circles, muttering to myself, and scaring people in public places I was finally able to put my finger on what it was and why it bothered me.  It was the suggestion of “if you don’t like it, then leave”.  That battle cry for conformity.  Now as a Texan, you’ve probably picked up that I’m not always keen on those of an out-of-state persuasion with their carne asadas when we all know it’s guisada, their boosting the economy, their insistence that “oil” contains more than one syllable, but in truth the real issue is mostly with the mocking of the natives.  Sure, I’d like them to pick up and head out, leaving of course their boons, but that’s mostly that Texas pride rearing it’s incredibly gorgeous crown.  My personal cry for conformity is more of a “stop picking on Texans and accept that sometimes when you throw up condos where our favorite haunts used to be it makes us twitch considerably – it’s ok if we remember (with a considerable drawl) a time when you weren’t here and Armadillo Headquarters was.”

That being said, I’ve never seriously called for people who do not conform to my particular way of thinking to leave and here’s why.

We, as a global society, are at our absolute best:

  • When we do not conform
  • When we question established institutions
  • When we refuse to accept the status quo
  • When we demand change

As a nation our very foundation is based on those very ideals.

Those ideals:

  • Rid us of a monarchy
  • Put an end to slavery
  • Put an end to the notion that there could be 3/5ths of a person
  • Recognized Women’s Rights
  • Recognized Civil Rights
  • Established laws around hate crimes (to protect people who do not always conform to our personal race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or other prejudice)

And while we as a nation occasionally misstep, we keep questioning and we keep striving for the common goal of creating a better world.  Our first amendment gives us that right – to continue to have a public discourse, to disagree, to demand change.  We are not a hive mind.  We are a melting pot of individuals who bring to the table our distinct cultures, our distinct views shaped by our backgrounds.  We should celebrate our differences and how each of us, with our unique perspectives, add to our strength as a community.

And on this day I am reminded of people who challenged the establishment – who dared to have a dream.  And I am awestruck by their courage in the face of adversity that violently demanded they accept the status quo.

People who “didn’t like it” and chose not only not to leave, but to fight for change.