“That Cat Needs a Job!”

Years ago, Mom and I were writing together, reading to each other and laughing our heads off about ideas for children’s books. This was long after our children’s book, “Shopping at the Ani-Mall,” was published in 1991.

We always liked funny story lines, and came up with the following story about an unemployed cat. I hope you enjoy it.

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That Cat Needs a Job!

Everybody said it: “That Cat needs a job! That Cat does nothing but eat, sleep, and stare at the wall. He clearly needs something to do.”

Having heard this for years now, That Cat thought it over. “Maybe they are right; perhaps I should get a job. I’ll take a look at the Classifieds in the newspaper today and see what jobs I should apply for. After all, how hard could it be?”

So after he had eaten his dinner, taken a long nap on the Classifieds, and stared at his wall for an hour or so, That Cat decided that this was the day he would get himself a job.

He applied for a job as a plumber’s assistant and was given a large wrench and a white cotton hat. He looked at himself in the shiny wrench and admired his new hat. However, after a whole day of leaky faucets and clogged-up drains, he realized that plumbing had too much to do with water, and he had never cared for water or wet paws.

Next, he found a job in a restaurant as a chef. He found that he loved cooking, and thought that this indeed might be his dream job. The only problem was that he put tuna in everything, even the chocolate pudding. The customers all said, “That Cat has got to go!” So that was the end of his cooking career.

Walking by an office building, That Cat noticed a Help Wanted sign. After a short interview, he was hired as a secretary. While he was very good at licking stamps and envelope flaps, he was clumsy using the computer. All his business letters looked something like this: “BimMVOT Sln so whymmmmmmmmmm #$%@!*&?*!” Needless to say, his employer didn’t care for that.

Some of That Cat’s friends suggested that, since he was so good-looking, he might be able to get a job on television. Sure enough, That Cat was hired as an anchor person on the nightly news for that very evening. Unfortunately, he chose to sit under the chair instead of on it, so all the people watching at home were puzzled by an empty chair reporting the news, and thought there was something wrong with their television sets. Needless to say, that Cat went off the air.

The next morning, That Cat followed some children to school, and decided he would be a teacher. Because the principal was away at a meeting in Cleveland, That Cat was able to teach for a whole week. All the children loved him. He taught them how to nap on top of their desks, chase bugs, and wash their faces. Even though he was fired, one of the mothers gave him a big kiss as she had never been able to get her son to wash his face.

“Perhaps I am not trying out just the right jobs for me,” That Cat said to himself over dinner that night. “I think I will try something completely different. After all, I am a cat and cats are very different than anyone else.” Satisfied with his decision, That Cat stared happily at his wall for a whole hour, and then took a long nap.

The next day, That Cat strolled into the circus that had come to town. He walked around and watched everyone working at their jobs and considered each one. First he saw the lion tamer with his whip and chair. Although That Cat admired the lion tamer’s shiny high boots and safari hat, he frankly thought that making a lot of big cats jump through hoops was beneath him.

The lady with the trained dog act bored him, and the clowns annoyed him, especially after one spritzed his tail with water from a big fake flower. He did like the ringmaster, who told everyone what to do. He was all set to ask for his job when he discovered that one of the duties of the ringmaster was to pay everyone. Since That Cat knew he wasn’t very good with numbers, he decided to look at some other circus jobs.

Finally he saw the bareback riders, trotting their ponies around and around the center ring, and doing all kinds of exciting tricks. He ran right up and asked for a job on the spot. They tried him out on one of the ponies, and, because of his superior sense of balance, he was quite good at bareback riding. He was performing wonderfully until in his enthusiasm he dug his claws into his pony’s back to get a better grip, and that was the end of his circus career.

That Cat decided he would try jobs that weren’t quite so glamorous, and went to work for the local telephone company. He was given a chair at a big switchboard with a lot of wires sticking out of it. While he enjoyed the comfortable chair, all those wires bothered his sense of neatness. He carefully tied all the wires together in a big bow, and, satisfied with his work, went to sleep in the comfortable chair.

Shortly after this, a lady trying to call her sister across town got a very angry man out of bed in another state. An old man calling the automobile club got the City Zoo instead, and the local police station kept getting calls about dance lessons. The problems were quickly traced to That Cat’s switchboard, where his big bow had mixed up all the calls. That day, That Cat was fired.

Undiscouraged, That Cat went to a large department store and got a job in the shipping room, where he was responsible for packing up items in boxes. There were hundreds of boxes in all sizes, rolls of string and plastic bubble wrap, and bins of plastic peanuts. He managed quite well on his first day, and packed up sets of dishes, ceramic angels, glass figurines, decorated baskets, and brass pots.

Then temptation got the better of him, and he had a fine time jumping in and out of the boxes, pulling all the string off the rolls, popping all the plastic bubble wrap, and scattering the plastic peanuts everywhere. Needless to say, he was asked to leave.

That Cat thought he might try his luck at selling. It looked easy enough; you just knocked on peoples’ doors and sold them things. He received his sample kit and looked it over. In it were dozens of toothbrushes, dental floss, and toothpaste. That Cat never brushed his teeth or used dental floss, much less toothpaste, so he couldn’t understand why anyone else would. So he left the sample kit sitting on the sidewalk, and quit sales work then and there.

That Cat thought about jobs while he stared at his wall. As he washed his paws, he noticed a mailman delivering mail from door to door. He didn’t think that looked too hard, so he went to the post office to sign up. He was disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t be a mailman right away, but first had to remove all the letters from the mailbags.

So he made the best of it, and spent the day happily digging all the letters out of every mailbag. Soon he had a nice big pile of empty mailbags, so he jumped up on top of them and went to sleep.

Later on, he was told that he was supposed to sort out the letters so that everyone would receive their mail. That Cat thought that was pretty stupid. All the cats he knew would have been delighted to receive a letter, and it wouldn’t have mattered what name was on it.

As he walked back to his wall, That Cat noticed a white truck with “FBI” in big blue letters printed on the side parked on his street. He wondered what the letters stood for, then decided it must mean Feline Bureau of Intelligence since he knew so many smart cats. He jumped up on the hood of the truck and tapped on the windshield with his paw. The startled driver stared at him for a moment, then opened the door. That Cat walked into the truck, and decided he liked what he saw, and asked for a job.

The driver explained that the truck contained lots of expensive spy equipment for listening to secrets. That Cat nodded; he knew all about secrets, having told many of them himself. The driver explained that, since That Cat was small, he might be able to work the tiny switches on the radar equipment in the truck. So he fitted That Cat with a tiny headset (which That Cat thought made him look very dashing indeed), and showed him how to work the switches.

Pretty soon That Cat was having a great time listening in on everyone’s phone conversations. He got so comfortable at it that he stretched out on the console, and in doing so, he accidently pushed the switch for the loudspeaker.

In a second, everyone’s conversations were blasted out over the neighborhood. The driver hastily grabbed That Cat, flipped the switch back, and put him firmly back outside on the sidewalk. That Cat watched as the white truck drove away, and said goodbye to another job.

That night That Cat watched television and saw the Major give a speech. All he did was stand in front of a big flag and talk. When he was done, he waved to everyone, and they waved back. He didn’t think that looked too difficult, so the next day he trotted down to the Major’s office and asked him for his job.

The Major was on his way out for a much-needed long weekend, so he told That Cat he could take over his job while he was gone. He figured that nothing much could happen over a weekend anyway.

That Cat loved the Major’s office. He settled into the Major’s nice brown leather chair, put his paws on the speaker phone and asked the secretary to please bring him a tuna sandwich and a glass of milk. Since the Major always yelled at her and made her run lots of errands all day and never said ‘please,’ the secretary was very happy to bring That Cat his lunch.

After finishing his sandwich and washing his face, That Cat noticed a very important-looking paper on the desk. The bottom part of the paper was empty, so he turned over
the Major’s inkwell, dipped a paw into the blue ink, and decorated the empty space with a neat line of his paw prints. That done, he took a long nap in the leather chair. When he woke up and stretched, he looked around for something else to do.

The longer he sat there, the more bored he became. So he called the Major’s secretary again, told her to give everyone the day off, and went home.

That Cat said to himself, “Well now, I have tried very hard to get a job, but so far not one of them has worked out. Worst of all, trying to get a job has kept me so busy that I have missed a great deal of naps. What’s the point of having a job that keeps me away from the things I like?”

After staring at his wall for two hours, That Cat decided that the jobs he was best at were these:

• Eating dinner
• Chasing bugs
• Washing
• Napping
• Staring at his wall

That Cat knew that no one could do those things as well as he could, so that’s exactly what he decided to do for work from then on. So the next time anyone said that he needed a job, he just smiled at them and told them that he was already hard at work.

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Beauty Everywhere

I hope that you saw the sunset last night. I was driving home from visiting a friend, and the sunset was incredible. It was as if the sky was on fire; the clouds were tinted gold and saffron and fire-y pink against a china blue sky. It was, quite simply, amazing.

When I pulled up in the driveway, the Crankee Yankee was leaning on the bannister on the deck, gazing up at the sky. We both said, “wow! Some sunset, huh?” Then we both smiled and kept on looking up.

This time of year the leaves are turning their gorgeous autumnal colors. In what we call “the williwags” (the small ponds surrounded by trees and brush by the side of the road), the swamp maples are a deep garnet red. Many of the summer flowers are still blooming, and our neighbor’s red and pink roses are still magnificent. Even down around the pond where I walk is a riot of golden rod, orange-y jewel weed, milkweed pods bursting with silver-white fluff, ecru Queen Anne’s lace, blackeyed Susans, daisies, pink clover and more.

The pond itself is a deep azure blue, and the ducks and cormorants still bob on the surface, occasionally going under to snack on the foliage below. The turtles lie out in rows along the logs, blinking slowly as they soak up the warm sun. In the reeds by the pond’s edge there are always a few dignified long-legged blue herons, standing in the shallows and watching for lunch to swim by.

There are beautiful monarch butterflies everywhere now. I remember that during one of Mom’s and Dad’s summer vacations in Maine, there was a rare monarch butterfly migration. Mom said that they were everywhere, and it was really something to see. Dad told her that they looked like “Halloween kites.” I remember that each time I see one.

Our garden is still bursting with tomatoes and green peppers and small sweet ears of corn. The tomato patch looks like Aladdin’s cave of jewels; all rich reds and golds. The pepper vines are heavy with emerald green peppers, and still there are creamy white blossoms on the vines, signaling more to come.

A New England fall is a singularly beautiful time of year. No wonder all the city folk like to visit and take in the sights. Years ago, when Ruggles Mine in Grafton, NH was still open, a friend and I went up for the day. After we went through the mines, we found a sunny spot on one of the bluffs and stretched out in the sun. It was in the fall, and down in the valley the trees were all in full color. From where we were, it looked like endless scoops of red, yellow, orange, umber and gold.

During this beautiful season, be sure to look around. Take in the sights, smell the flowers while they are still blooming, check out the trees for colors, and look up at the stars at night against a velvety deep blue sky. It’s a feast for the senses, so eat it up while you can!

People Who Talk to Themselves

Don’t get me wrong; I talk to myself all the time. When I’m at home, I can tell myself that I am only talking to the cats—even when they are sleeping. But I don’t always do it out in public; at least not so much.

However, I notice that a lot of people DO talk to themselves in public, and loudly, too. Once I was in a bathroom stall at work, and two stalls over I could hear a woman muttering to herself. Now she had to have heard me open the door and walk in. But there she was, talking away. At one point she exclaimed loudly, “GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!” I did not want to know what that was all about.

While food shopping, I hear a lot of people muttering to themselves. I would, too, if I didn’t bring a list of stuff I need. But for the times when I forget to bring the dang list, I have to quickly make up a mnemonic so I can remember what I need, such as ASPIRINS:

  • Apples
  • Spaghetti
  • Peanuts
  • Iodine
  • Rice
  • Ice cream
  • Nasal spray
  • Soap

Of course, even using that, I have to keep muttering ‘aspirins, aspirins’ to myself.

Then there are those people who not only talk out loud to themselves, but they look right at you while they’re doing it. I can never figure out if they are really talking to me or just using me as a sounding board.

All this talking to oneself thing seemed to me to happen around the time of Blue Tooth technology. I would see people talking animatedly, with no one around. Once I saw their earpiece, I knew that they were not crazy, just plugged in.

Like anything else, talking to ourselves becomes a habit; it becomes so ingrained that we don’t even know we’re doing it. In my case, I often have to go into “public mode” when I leave the house so that I don’t start yapping to myself.

Back when I was living in the Carolinas, I noticed that a lot of people talk to themselves. Even when you catch their eye, they don’t look a bit ashamed; they just go right on with their one-way conversation. Early on, I was still too Yankee to appreciate the difference of living in the south. But you get used to it, even to the point where you sometimes answer back to the talker, or at least make a joke about it with them.

If anyone reading this used to watch “Designing Women” back when, you will remember the fabulous Delta Burke, who played Suzanne Sugarbaker. In one episode, the women were talking about craziness in general, and someone said that, in the North, they hide their crazy relatives away so that no one knows about them.

Suzanne just laughed and said, “well, here in the South we-all are proud of our crazy people. In fact, we put ’em right out on the front porch so that everyone can see them!”

Talking to oneself out loud in public does not always mean that the talker is crazy or off their meds. Sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism like rattling keys or whistling (the latter is my own coping mechanism; I whistle soft and low and try not to look nuts when I’m doing it).

The older I get, the more I notice things like this. I realize more than ever that we all are just trying to get through the day, and we all have our own ways of doing it.

So to all if us who sometimes talk out loud in public places, occasionally or all the time; I say this: “crazy is as crazy does.”

 

“Your Right to Swing Your Fist Ends at Where My Nose Begins.”

For the better part of my life, I have avoided discussing two topics: religion and politics. They are private matters (at least to me). I don’t wish to offend anyone, especially family or friends. Everyone has their own opinions and their own views, beliefs and values. I certainly don’t wish to beat someone over the head to make them agree with my way of thinking, and I don’t want it done to me.

Speaking only for me, I don’t like arguing or trying to get someone to agree with me when they clearly do not want to. It’s a form of bullying in my opinion, and I’d just as soon keep my opinions to myself. I can count on one hand those I feel relatively comfortable with about sharing my political or religious views.

The acrimony, disrespect, and the sarcastic and downright rude behavior that some have shown in public forums appalls me. I fail to understand the celebrities who, upon receiving a coveted major award like an Emmy or an Oscar, turn it into a platform to shout their own political agendas. Yes, they have a right to their opinions, and they can believe and say whatever they choose to; it’s a free country.

However, there’s a time and a place for personal agendas. It used to be that the award ceremonies were a pretty class act, and brought some grace and gratitude to the podium. Taking over the mike with your award clutched in one fist and spewing your personal political rhetoric is a lot like going to someone’s house and throwing garbage in their living room.

America is a wonderful place to live. We have freedoms unheard of in many other countries. We are fortunate enough to have an abundance of so many things other countries and their people lack: fresh water, fresh food, personal freedoms, schooling, and so much more.

That said, our country and also our leaders are not perfect. Neither are we. For the most part, we are all doing the best we can and we often fall short.

We also have the right to our opinions, which is granted to us by our system of laws. In many countries, citizens who show disrespect or speak out against their leaders are summarily jailed or killed. They do not have the rights that we enjoy in our country. In America, everyone has a voice.

However, we in America might despise some individuals and groups for what they stand for, but they have a right to speak their minds, to assemble, to protest, and so on because we live in a free country.

Politics and religious views can turn inflammatory in a second. Whatever happened to “live and let live?” In my own lifetime, there have been some presidents and politicians I did not agree with or like. However, every morning and night I prayed for their safety and sanity because I respect the offices that they held. I follow the same practice now.

It is this divisive trend and behavior that makes me think that, sooner or later, we will fall as Rome once did. At this point in time, it appears that we are rotting from the inside out, as Rome did. It’s not too late yet, and I hope that we can pull ourselves out of the mire we have created before things have gone too far to recover.

So in these times of so much vitriol and hatred shown to our elected officials, government and others I would respectfully remind the “haters” of this credo: “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

Our Ava Goes to First Grade!

I never had children of my own, but I am lucky enough to have two amazing step-daughters. The first, from my first marriage, is now married and has a new baby girl, Tia Grace. The Crankee Yankee’s daughter has 6-year old Ava and 17-month old Juliette. Three beautiful and amazing granddaughters!

Ava, our first granddaughter, just started grade school this week. She is smart, funny, kind, generous, and in all ways completely loveable and adorable. Her mom kindly sent us pictures of her first day at school, and already she looks right at home.

As I looked at that beautiful face, smiling that gorgeous smile, I can only imagine what she will be in this world of ours. I also wonder how just a little while ago, she was only a baby. How in the world did she get to be six and in grade school?

The plain fact is, kids grow up. We watch a baby’s first steps, hear their first word, and they go on and on from there. Sometimes when I am with Ava, coloring or making things, I tell her, “don’t grow up too fast!”

She looks up at me with those big brown eyes, laughs and says, “*Lulu, you’re silly!”

Yes I am. I am impossibly older than she is and I wish with all my heart that she has a good life and that nothing will ever hurt her or break her spirit. Where does the time go?

All I can think of is that heartbreakingly beautiful song, “Sunrise, Sunset,” from “Fiddler on the Roof:”

“Is this the little girl i carried?

Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older,

When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?

When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly flow the days,

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,

Blossoming even as they gaze…

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset!

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness and tears…

One season following another,

Laden with happiness and tears.”

*”Lulu” is my grandma name.

Stand Tall

Does anyone remember Burton Cummings song, “Stand Tall?” One of the main verses is this:

“Stand tall, don’t you fall oh, don’t go and do something foolish
You’re feeling it like everyone, it’s silly human pride
Stand tall, don’t you fall. don’t go do something you’ll regret later
You’re feeling it like everyone, it’s silly human pride.”

I think of this often when I feel bowed down with worry or grief or doubt. When my inside feels burdened down I stand as tall as I can, hoping that my outside will override my inside. Amazingly, it helps.

I had a very short grandmother (my dad’s mom), who, when I was a teenager, used to grab my shoulders from behind, put a knee in my back, and exclaim, “stand up straight! Be proud of your height!”

So when I let my body sag, I remember her, and straighten up. I find that walking tall helps my confidence, too. When I’m in public I tend to stand as tall as I can; shoulders back, stomach in, and chin up. I may look like an ostrich in a kimono doing it, but it makes me feel better.

When we stand tall, we are standing up for ourselves and our right to be here, and to follow our own course. Whether we are caretakers, biologists, teachers, nurses, actors, truck drivers, doctors, writers, nuns, vets, parents, etc.—we are here for a reason. We are here to be fully who we are, no matter what that might be.

Standing tall is a reminder to ourselves every day that we matter, that we count, that we care and that we have a purpose. For me, it’s that knee in my back that reminds me of who I am and who stood tall for me.