Monday, December 31, 2007

The Sun Sets on Another Year. Was it all Bad?

We all know what a god-awful year this has been politically and in so many other ways, natural and manmade, but it hasn’t been all bad I’ll bet. I know there were bright spots for me in my personal life.

So what were some of the good things that happened to you in your personal life in 2007?

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Beachin’ Christmas

First of all allow me to thank you all for the wonderful Christmas wishes I came home to find here. It was so much fun to read them all.

We got home too late yesterday to pick up the fur children at the vets, so Fred couldn’t post anything today. Hopefully he will come home with good cheer and a pleasant personality as far as dealing with us humans with whom he shares his home most of the time.

We had a terrific time at the beach. The weather was warm enough for sunning in the daytime and cool enough to feel seasonal at night. Walking under a full moon and stars on the beach while wearing jeans and a sweatshirt was indeed a Christmas treat.

We both took pictures and as soon as we have a chance to download them and see what we have, I’ll post some.

Here’s one of the gifts Santa brought to me this year. Santa knows me so well.

Of course yesterday morning as we headed home we heard the news about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I’m still trying to come to grips with this and what it means in the long run. I fear it isn’t good. For whatever else she may have done in her lifetime, she was a damned brave woman.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas Murphy. From Fred the Cat.

Hey, Fred the Cat here!

This will be the last post here for several days. Pop won’t be here to carry her weight in this posting spot until probably next Thursday or Friday.

My Christmas gift to Murphy the Dog is putting his picture at the top of my post today instead of one of me. Murphy is on in years now, but I know he’ll appreciate my showing you his sweetness in his younger days.

Before we start reading the last of the Christmas stories, I want to wish all of you the happiest and merriest of days next week, no matter what you do. That message also comes from Murphy the Dog, Mr. Pop and Pop too.

Let’s all raise our glasses and cat bowls as we toast to one day experiencing Peace on Earth.

Ps, Here’s hoping Santa brings lots of Cosmic catnip.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Love to All!

Fred the Cat (the cat who loves you guys)

My Christmas Dolls

When I was a little kid, the most beautiful thing I ever saw were those big dolls they sold in grocery stores at Christmas. They were almost three feet tall and were displayed in boxes with one side having a cellophane window so the dolls were exposed. Oh my goodness the feelings I felt as I gazed up at them on the shelves. There were brunette dolls and blonde dolls. I’m telling you, they were treasures to my eyes. There they stood in their beautiful boxes smiling down at me. Sometimes the boxes were almost as pretty as the dolls. I don’t know how much they cost but I knew that they were way beyond anything Santa could ever deliver to my door. But, but gosh they were beautiful.

Santa did sometimes bring me a doll and I loved whatever he chose for me. It’s probably good that I never walked into the living room on Christmas morning to see one of those big beautiful dolls under the Christmas tree because I would have probably had a little kid heart attack. I never expected such a miracle and it never happened.

My family was never in a financial position to splurge at Christmas time. There were some ugly holidays during those years. One year my mother took a doll I already had, made it a new dress and put it under the Christmas tree to make me think it was a new doll. I wasn’t as dense as she had hoped. I figured out the ruse in about five minutes, but I did like the old doll’s new dress.

There was another Christmas when I was ten and my sister was three that we got several fun things from Santa in December, but they were taken away in January by the repossession people. It was hard for me to understand what was happening but it was harder yet to try to explain these events to my three year old sister.

Then there was the year of the Barbie doll. We were in a store and I saw a Barbie doll for the first time. Oh my goodness! Damned if these dolls weren’t perhaps even more beautiful than the big dolls in the grocery store. These small dolls with the most amazing detail and unimaginably beautiful clothes. I would have gladly allowed someone to cut off my right arm if it meant that I might possess one of these dolls.

When I discovered Barbie my mother told me I was too big to be playing with dolls. Of course I was. Hell, I was eleven years old. But my mother didn’t appear to understand this doll was not to play with, this doll was to admire. This was a goddess doll that must be kept in her beauty and perfect condition.

That Christmas we were beyond Santa so we opened our presents on Christmas Eve. We were living in a not so attractive house at the time and things were near their all time most pitiful. My sister and I sat there on the floor and tore into our meager little pile of gifts. We took turns opening our presents. I opened one of mine and about fainted. There among the ripped up wrapping paper was a Barbie doll. Not only a Barbie doll, but an outfit for her too. It took my breath away. I was the owner of this beautiful doll. I went bananas with gratitude. I jumped up and hugged the hell out my mother and I turned around to do the same to my dad but he had had too much to drink, again, and had passed out in his chair.

It almost didn’t matter that he was drunk again. It almost didn’t matter that at the time we lived in a trailer connected to a concrete block structure that served as a living room, bedroom and bath. It almost didn’t matter that daddy’s drunkenness that night would continue for a couple of weeks. It almost didn’t matter if we were, as my grandmother used to say, “poor as a church mouse”. I was the proud owner of a Barbie doll and her outfit.

I still have that Barbie doll and I still have the outfit and all the accessories. I still have the box she came in, and she’s in perfect shape. Not a hair is mussed on her head. Each Christmas I carefully take her from the box and dress her in that gorgeous pink outfit. I place her, along with my grandmother’s old doll, in a position of honor. And every Christmas it almost doesn’t matter that I never had one of those big beautiful dolls in the box, the big dolls that smiled down to me from the shelves at the grocery store.

I have left my days of yearning for dolls behind me now. I’m now a “big girl” and much too old to be playing with dolls. I don’t want or need them anymore. But you know what? They have those big dolls in the box at the grocery store this year and when I see them, just for a tiny moment, I shrink down to that little girl who used to look up at them with such awe. That’s when the little girl tears well up in my adult eyes. But, you know what? It almost doesn’t matter.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

When traditions are broken, do they make a sound?

This Christmas we have broken just about every tradition in the book.
We didn’t put up a Christmas tree. We bought several boxes of Christmas cards but only sent out a handful. We did buy gifts for Mr. Pop’s family members.

What we decided to do this year, instead of buying one another things we do not need, is go to the beach for Christmas.

This weekend we will be heading over to the west coast of Florida to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. We’ve rented a little cottage and we’ll be walking on the beach Christmas morning searching for seashells.

This is something I have wanted to do since the Christmas after hurricane Jeanne and Frances so rudely came to visit. That Christmas our house was still a mess. Half the carpet was pulled up and tossed, due to water damage, so we were padding around on bare concrete floors. Nothing was where it should be and everything seemed wrong. Plus we had quickly purchased a Christmas tree that was way too Charlie Brown-ish and it just looked about the way the rest of the house did.

That Christmas morning I was in my kitchen beginning to cook enough food to feed many more than two people. There was no Christmas cheer anywhere to be found. Just short of beginning to cry, I turned to Mr Pop and said, “I want to spend a Christmas on Sanibel beach some day.” That Christmas and that day will be next week.

Don’t tell me that there is no Santa Claus. There sure is and I married him.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dear Santa Claus, I want a Snowman

I have been a fairly good girl this year. Here’s what I would like for Christmas. I would like for anyone who is reading this and who has snow in their yard, to build a snowman for me. It doesn’t have to be a great big snowman, just a snowman for me with a sign beside it saying it’s mine. They can take a picture of my snowman and let me know how to find it on the internet or send me the picture and I’ll post it and a credit to them. Santa, this is all I want for Christmas.

Now Santa, there are some people in our country who I feel deserve no gifts this year, but only coal and sticks in their stocking. Here’s the list.

The entire bush administration

The guy who almost hit us last weekend because he was talking on his cell phone instead of paying attention to his driving.

The company who calls my house everyday and leaves a recorded message for someone I have never known or heard of in my life.

The person in the grocery store who failed to put the sauerkraut we had purchased into our bag. We didn’t discover this until we were about to put together corned beef Rubens, Sunday night.

Santa I’ll leave the usual chilled martini for you on Christmas eve.

Commenters, feel free to add anyone you would like to this list of the not so nice folks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gut feelings

Here’s the way it looks to me. Unless someone or something drastically changes, the republican presidential nominee will be John McCain and most likely, as I have been saying for a long time, Joe Lieberman will be tapped as his running mate.

Why McCain? Because basically, he is all the Republicans have left. Let’s just say at this point he looks to be the sanest one running amongst a lineup of bizarre folks. Even though most Republicans strongly disagree with his stance on immigration, I think they might hold their noses and vote for him.

I’m sure there are better Republicans out there who would make a much better candidate for their party but they are sitting this one out for at least two reasons. First, whomever becomes the next president will have a humongous pile of problems to deal with, thanks to the crimes and errors of the present administration. Second, it seems a strong wind might be blowing in the Democrats favor.

Should Hillary become the Democrat’s nominee, I fear the Republicans won’t have to hold their noses as tight as they come out in large numbers, not to vote so much for McCain, but to vote against Hillary.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are you ready?

I know lots of you are busy these days getting ready for your holiday of choice. So, what have you done so far? I’ll tell you what I have done, I purchased one freakin’ gift. I really do need to get with the program.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fred the Cat with another Story

Here I am, Fred the Cat, sitting here reading another of Pop's Christmas stories with you.

Before we get into Pop's story let me tell you my experience this week. Pop bought two Cosmic Catnip fuzzy mice toys. She only gave me one. I had it exactly one and a half days before I flipped it right into the pool. The silly thing could float, but it couldn’t swim. Now I have the other one, at this rate I’m gonna need more before Santa comes.

Okay, on with the story.

The Christmas Rhythm Band Minus Me

I told you once that I grew up in a self-inflicted (by my father), financially challenged household. We never had a lot, and due to my father's drinking problem, we moved so very often, town to town, home to home, always either unpacking or packing up.

When I was in the second grade we lived in yet another rented house, and again we had little to no money. We had only been in this particular town for a short while and already the job was lost and my father had relocated to a different town. We couldn’t afford to move yet, so my mother, my sister and I were left behind for the time being.

Christmas was approaching and just like all elementary schools at that time everyone was gearing up for the big Christmas show. My teacher sent a note home to all the parents informing them that she would need about five dollars per pupil to cover the costs for the show. My class was going to be the rhythm band and we would have little outfits to wear. My mother sat me down and explained to me that there was no way that we had the money for this event. I couldn’t be in the Christmas band.

I wasn’t mortified. I was too young to feel that emotion. I was hurt. How could I not be in the Christmas band with everyone else in my class?

I had to tell my teacher that I couldn’t be in the band and I had to tell her why.

The first day of practice, all of my class was on the stage in the auditorium learning their songs, as I sat out in the audience seats with my teacher. Just me. Nothing to do but watch and wish.

The next day of practice I was once again sitting there all alone except for the teachers. I just sat there. Then my teacher got up and walked over to some other teachers and they were talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, because I was listening to the Christmas band practicing with their shining triangles, their gorgeous big jingle bells and their pretty little wooden sticks.

My teacher came over and asked me to come with her. We went outside the auditorium and she knelt down in front of me. She told me they needed me to sing a special song for the Christmas program. She said the name of the song was “Bow Wow wants a boy for Christmas.” She wrote down the words for me and the next practice day I went up on the stage and practiced singing. To this day, I know all the words to that song.

Hey, now I was no longer sitting out there with the teachers, I felt I was the star. I had my very own song to sing. Who needs those silly triangles and bells and wooden sticks. I didn’t need any of it. I had my own special part.

Finally the night of the show arrived. I can’t remember if my Mother was there. As I sat back stage awaiting my moment in the spotlight, I felt like a million dollars. Just before it was time for me to walk through the curtains, my teacher came to me and she was carrying a little beagle puppy. She asked me if I would like to hold the little puppy while I sang my song. I mean does it get any better? Not only did I get to sing the “special” song but I would get to hold this little puppy too. Star quality and puppy breath, what a wonderful combination.

I vaguely remember singing the song and cuddling that little puppy. I vaguely remember the audience clapping. But to this day I have never forgotten that teacher and what she did for me that Christmas. Now I realize that she created that “special” song for me. She found a way to include me. She took me from loneliness to inclusion and happiness. She saw what was happening to me as I sat there watching the others participate. She probably did more for me than I have ever really realized. I don’t know what my attitude would have been had I not been given the gift of that song. Maybe it would have sowed the seeds of ill content in my little head. I don’t know. I do know that, that night I felt so very special and it was due to the thoughtfulness of my teacher. Okay, and maybe that little puppy too.

Mrs. Cantrell, if by some quirk of the internet, you should read this, please know that this adult thanks you so much for what you did for that little girl that Christmas a long time ago

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is it worth selling your soul to win a war?

I must preface this post by saying I know there are wonderful religious people who I feel do the things Jesus would choose for them to do. They feed the hungry and provide what they can for the needy. I know there are people like that and I admire them for their efforts.

Then there are the other religious people. These are the troubling ones. These are the ones who seem to hide behind religion as they do deeds which seem contrary to the very religious views they claim. These are the ones who seem to welcome the fear of terrorism as it gives them an excuse to do things most of us find repugnant. They would appear to sell their righteous souls in order to torture another human being, all in the name of a claim of feeling more secure and more safe.

George Bush said he would be a “uniter”, and to some degree he has been. He has united much of our country in fear. As a result, much of our country has been willing to give up their soul, their purpose and their core beliefs if it makes them feel safe.

Why are so many willing to sell their soul to win a “war”? When you surrender your ideals and yourself and your soul, how can you say you have won anything?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You might agree

Yesterday the Palm Beach Post published a list of people who should be banished from cable TV. Can you guess who was their first selection?

Overall, how did they do? Do you agree with their choices? Did they miss someone?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Betcha didn’t expect to see this

Back during my days of working for the local wildlife hospital I raised this opossum from a tiny orphan. She was an educational animal and I would take her to schools to show kids that they were truly valuable little creatures. The kids would be afraid of her at first but she won over their hearts every time.

She was gentle as a lamb and would let anyone pet her and hold her. I never bathed her, didn’t have to, she was a stickler for keeping herself clean and tidy.

One Christmas a pet supply store here advertised they would make a Santa available to have his picture taken with your pet. So I decided to take my gentle TCO (pronounced “tee-coe”) to visit Santa.

I put her in her carrier, the size you would use for a small dog, and off we went. We had to wait in a short line as other regular pets posed with the old guy. Finally our turn came. I put the carrier on the floor, opened its door and took TCO out. Santa was a lot surprised but a great sport.

As you can see from the photo, TCO was more interested in exploring than she was in having her photo taken. The first time Santa tried to hold her, she became very inquisitive about his hair and almost exposed that indeed, Santa was wearing a wig.

Monday, December 10, 2007

How I spent last Saturday evening

Last Saturday evening while half of our country was out feverishly Christmas shopping, Mr. Pop and I were onboard the tall ship, Denis Sullivan, taking a sunset cruise. It was a complimentary occasion by invitation only. How did we get so lucky? Beats me. Seems the lady who organized the event used to be an employee at Mr. Pop’s lab.

The second and third picture are shots taken onboard the ship.

During the cruise we saw numerous shorebirds, several dolphin gliding through the water and as we were approaching the dock on our return, a curious manatee surfaced to see what was going on.

It was so nice to leave the hustle bustle behind, not think about the woes of the world, and just enjoy the beauty and peace of the natural world. It was a time for healing the soul. It was lovely.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fred the Cat with The Stories

Well, it’s that time again, fellow felines and you animals who walk upright. It’s time to start posting Pop’s Christmas stories again. I will post one each weekend from now until Christmas, just like I did last year. So grab your cosmic catnip and snuggle up with

Christmas and the Snoopy balancing act

A couple of years ago we were invited to a Christmas party, but this one had a little twist. Instead of bringing a dish or your own adult beverage or anything like that, each party attendee was asked to bring new, unwrapped toys that would later be delivered to a local charity and they in turn would give them to children who would not be getting much for Christmas.

Oh what fun Mr. Pop and I had buying toys. You see we have no children of our own and all of our nieces and nephews are too old for children’s toys. We bought dolls and dolls and kits for boys and lots of stuff. We filled that cart right up to the top. Even when we got home and took all those treasures from their bags we just stood and smiled thinking of what the kids would feel when they received some of this fun.

The night of the party arrived. Feeling a wee bit like old Santa himself, we loaded our car with gifts and headed out. When we got to the home of the hostess we walked in and added our toys to the giant pile that had already formed. It truly was a mountain of happiness and promises. There were tricycles and stuffed animals and just about any kind of toy you can think of. Everyone was smiling with Christmas cheer and just general all around happiness.

After the party we drove home feeling that we had not only had fun at the party but we had contributed to some unknown children’s Christmas. As we rounded the corner just before our drive way we saw something. Our big plastic Snoopy Santa light-up figure was not by our front door as it was supposed to be. It was laying down in the middle of our yard. Mr. Pop pulled into the garage and I flew out of the car to see what had happened to our sweet Snoopy. Sadly I discovered that someone had batted Snoopy around and cracked him all up. He was split in the middle and on his face. I brought him inside and tried my best to sort of pop out the dents and force the cracked parts back into position. Poor Snoopy would never be the same. After I did all I could for him I decided to try plugging him in again to see if he would light up. He did.

I was so hurt and angry. Here we had been out giving presents and toys to kids in need and while we’re doing our good deed, someone had mugged Snoopy.

Being as angry as can be that some jerk enjoyed beating up a plastic Christmas decoration I wrote a letter to our local paper bitching about what had happened. The letter was published and damn it, I felt better for whatever reason.

A couple of days after my letter was published I received a small parcel in the mail. There was no return address on it so I had no idea who or where it was from. I gingerly opened the package and discovered a note along with something wrapped and taped up in bubble wrap. The note began with, “I hope this gets to the lady who wrote the letter that appeared in the paper”. The note went on to say that this person’s mother had recently passed away and as is often the case this person had had to clear out her mother’s house. When going through her mother’s possessions she had come across her mother’s Christmas decorations. In these decorations was a little porcelain Snoopy Christmas ornament. The writer said she was sure that her mother would want me to have it. She remembered the day she and her mother had purchased it.

I carefully unwrapped the little ornament and yes, I sure did cry. There was this little Snoopy wearing a Santa hat and driving a little blue car with a Christmas wreath painted on the front of the car. I knew at that moment I had to thank the person who sent the little gift. Since I had nothing but a first name and no address there was only one thing to do. I had to write another letter to the editor.

My local paper has a rule about letters to the editor. They will only publish one letter per person every thirty days. It had not been near thirty days since my last letter was published. I began my letter by acknowledging that I knew I was asking to break the rules but this was certainly cause for an exception. Then I proceeded with my letter of gratitude. The editor must have been in the spirit of the holidays because my thank-you letter was published the day before Christmas.

The big plastic Snoopy will never be outside again, but he is plugged in, lighted and smiling and greeting anyone who enters through my front door. He hasn’t been put aside since the night he was mugged. During the rest of the year he sits proudly in our garage. The little Snoopy ornament is never packed away with the other decorations. I keep him out all year to remind myself that somehow, things always seem to balance out. For every jerk in our world who would beat up a plastic Snoopy, there is one sweet person who will share a little porcelain Snoopy. That’s a nice thing to be reminded of all year long.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Happy Bistro Day!

We all wish the weekend could last a little longer, right? Mr. Pop and I are no different, so a few years ago we decided to try and make that happen.

We decided that since Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are celebrated, why not make Friday Eve a day of celebration? Friday marks the onset of the weekend and already has it’s TGIF moniker. We didn’t call Thursday, Friday Eve, we named it Bistro Day. On Thursday night of every week, we have something special for dinner and celebrate Bistro Day.

I have several funky little lights in my kitchen and on Bistro Night, they are all turned on until we go to bed. We have cocktails and toast to the special day. It’s all part of the grand celebration as we anticipate the beginning of the weekend.

Hey, you might want to start your own Bistro Day. No cards or gifts to buy, just fun to have. So, having said that, Happy Bistro Day to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

School lunches and dodging dinosaurs

Yesterday I caught the last bit of a story on the news about some group wanting to take vending machines and junk food out of public schools. Sounds okay to me and it sounds like the plan could save parents some serious change as well.

You see back when I went to school, during the days when we had to dodge the dinosaurs on our way to and from school, there were no vending machines, save maybe one Coke machine for the teachers. We either ate the cafeteria food or brought our lunch from home. You could buy a carton of milk or drink water at the water fountain.

You bought a lunch ticket at the beginning of the week, if you planned to eat the school lunch. The lunch lady would punch your ticket for each meal they served you. It was all so plain and simple. No choices of foods, you got whatever was on the daily menu. Plus it was considered affordable most of the time, even to my parents.

There was another plus to the plain and simple routine. I learned to eat just about anything they put on my plate. It was either that or go hungry until you got home.

I remember loving Fridays because that was the day we had fish out of respect for the Catholic kids who had to eat fish on Friday, or something like that. You could smell the fish cooking about mid morning and it smelled so wonderfully good. Same with the days the lunchroom ladies would bake peanut butter cookies. My mouth waters now just thinking of those aromas.

Yeah, I know, I’m sounding like an old crab, but seems to me if they remove the snack crap out of the schools, the kids would be healthier and their parents would save some bucks to boot. Plus, this problem with so many obese kids might change. The fastest way for a kid to lose weight, other than running and dodging dinosaurs on their way to and from school, is to stop eating junk food.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Questions about Religion

Regardless of your own attitude toward religion, do you think that the human mind can and will evolve beyond the need for and the belief in religion? If in the future religion is a thing of the past, will that be good for human beings?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Democratic Campaign Oopsie

A funny thing happened in my email last Friday. I received an email from a lady who I didn’t know. I clicked it open and what a surprise. It was from the campaign site of one of the lower tier Democratic candidates for president.

But this wasn’t just any campaign request for money, this was a personal note from the campaign manager to someone on their staff. Apparently the staffer had sent the campaign mgr. a first draft of a letter he intended to send everyone on their email campaign fundraising list. The campaign manager had made some changes in that letter and had attached a personal note to explain her changes. Trouble was that she didn’t just send it to her staffer, she apparently sent it to everyone on their campaign fundraising list.

Here’s a quote from her personal note.
“I know you're concerned about sending another fundraising email, but we're only $40,000 short of hitting our November goal, and that money will help keep us on the air and talking about ending the war in Iraq and the Constitution.”

The wording of that quote might lead some to believe the campaign wants to end the war in Iraq and end the Constitution as well. I am positive that isn’t the intended message and besides, the bush administration is well on their way to doing as much damage as they can to the constitution, aren’t they?

So as not to embarrass the hell out of the campaign or the sender of that email I will not identify her. I did send the entire email back to her with the subject heading. “Did you mean to send this out to everyone?” I don’t think she did.