There’s been a lot of kittens born lately (it being spring and all)- in fact,  one could say that my neighborhood is overrun with kittens. The neighbors across the street have two litters, and the neighbor next to me rescued a litter of kittens born to a ferral mother who had abandoned them.

I am not a cat person. I am, in fact, allergic to them. So, I never rush to seem new kittens. I haven’t seen any of those born in this neighborhood to date.

But, I was taking a friend home two weeks ago. And lo and behold, there was a kitten. A tiny, tiny kitten much too young to be away from its mother. She was starving, near dying, and weak. I couldn’t walk away from her. And so I brought her home. I stopped on my way to buy her milk replacement, dishes, some canned kitten food, and wormer.

My boyfriend washed her, and she came out being beautiful. Big blue eyes, soft black and white fur. All she wanted was food and sleep. It took her two days to get enough nutrients and water in her so that she could use the bathroom. By day two, instead of just wanting to cuddle, she had the energy to explore. I took her to the vet after days three and four were punctuated with explosive diarrhea- she had an intestinal infection and tape worms. After a week of medication, she is free of both and I no longer have to worry about allowing her around my dogs.

She’s been an absolute delight. I cannot keep her because I have three dogs who are convinced that their Mom has brought home a tiny, tiny monster, besides the fact that I have allergies. Allergies are secondary because typically they adjust over time. I’ve had five families back out on me for various reasons- she doesn’t have her shots, she isn’t spayed (she’s too young for both, especially at 4 weeks old), she doesn’t come with a litter box and carrier, etc. In short, people are apparently wanting no-assembly-required pets. I never pushed the issue- if they want all these things to come with her, then they want someone else to do all the work (and spending) for a pet instead of doing it themselves- and I cannot give her to such people. I’m taking her to see a college student tomorrow, to see if she wants her and can actually take care of her. I keep searching for her a “forever home”, and I wonder if she was not meant to be here. That’s just emotional attachment talking, I’m sure. But, for someone who doesn’t like cats, I sure do like her.

I named her Lucille after B.B. King’s guitar and the actress Lucille Ball- she purrs so loudly and it’s emotionally pulling (like his guitar) and she has huge blue eyes like Lucille Ball. She and I go “kitty fishing” every night, which means that I dangle a hoodie string off of a bamboo fishing pole and play with her. Sometimes, she catches it. We play with paper soccer, too, with balls of Post-It notes.

I am sad to see her leave, but I know it’s probably for the best. I hope this girl will be just what she needs- and Lucille will be what she wants and needs. She’s so social for a cat- she just wants to be friends with everyone (except my female dogs- the male she’s fine with for some reason), and she wants to play and have a good time. She was also turned down for that reason- they felt she’d want too much attention.

After talking to some of these people, I hope they don’t have children. If they don’t want to put the time, energy, and investment into a cat, they definitely don’t have any of those things for a kid.

It’s disheartening in some ways. But in others, it’s good. I’m going to find her a place where she can live happily forever, and she most certainly deserves that.

 

My good friend Abla* moved this morning.

I met Abla when I started going to business school. A mutual friend Anna* and I went down to the bagel shop to get some breakfast, and we got in line behind her. The first thing I noticed was her tunic, which was beautiful and brightly embroidered, the second her bright kind smile, and third her habib (head scarf). My friend, ever bubbly and never meeting a stranger, of course said “Hi, Abla!” and began talking to her. When we had all gotten our coffee, tea, and bagels, Anna and I went to and found a table and invited Abla to sit with us.

I learned that she was from Saudi Arabia, and she had a daughter. They had been here for an entire year without her husband, (which indicated to me that they had a lot of respect and trust for each other, and that they weren’t hardcore traditionalists) while he waited on his visa to go through. I ended up doing what is called “cultural brokerage” with Abla, who’s English is just okay, and Anna, who knew little to nothing about the Muslim world or Arabic culture. It was a relief for Abla to know that someone knew something about her country, which she so loves, and it was such a relief for me as well, to know someone who wasn’t Southern. There are many, many different people from different places here- in fact there are over 50 languages represented in this state- but they stay away and stick to themselves. People who were born and raised her prefer it that way, honestly, and they make no attempt to be friendly with non-native people, even their own countrymen.

This place is also very anti-Middle Eastern. While they would never say it to someone who is of Arabic descent,  I’ve heard more people say “blow em up and let God sort them out” than I’ve ever cared to- and often I am the only one who is offended by this sentiment. I once worked with a Turkish man here, who did not want to tell me he was Muslim at first because he had learned it’s safer to keep it to himself. After I point-blank asked him (just so that he could have some peace and quit speaking diplomatically) he said to me “Yes, I am Muslim. But I’m not a terrorist. I condemn them. Murder is not God’s work:”  I smiled at him and said “C*, I know this. You’re safe. I know the difference.” And relief came across his face because someone knew the difference. He moved back to Turkey once his visa was expired.

Abla left this state for the same reasons that C* left. Both love America- Abla said to me “There is such greatness here, and I cannot wait to take it back to my country. I want it to change, I want it to be better.” But both lived constantly on the fringe and with people looking at them with thinly veiled contempt. Abla feared for her small daughter after a classmate called her a “sand nigger”. They sure do teach them to hate young, don’t they? And they justify their hatred with “well, they teach their children that we should all die”. Because, you know, two different peoples doing the same wrong bullshit makes it all okay and justifiable.

And Abla was tired of the way most other adults treated her. She said “I am often tired of loneliness. No one wants to speak to me, everyone stays away. They ignore me when I try talk to them. My classmates don want to work with me.”

Abla is beautiful. Abla is kind, with a sweet and quick smile. Abla is soft-spoken and wears her goodness on her face. She is a good friend and a woman to be respected. She speaks relatively good English- she forgets words, but you can understand her and what she is saying to you. The only thing that could keep you from loving Alba is fear and hatred.

So, when Abla told me she was leaving, I was sad, because I knew why she was leaving and I would miss my dear friend. She texted me and said “I am leaving on Saturday. I wish for you to spend time together with me before I go.” I immediately responded that I would come to her on Friday (she doesn’t drive yet, as women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to, and she’s had no time to get her driver’s license here), and asked if she needed help finishing packing or cleaning up her apartment. She had already finished packing but had not cleaned, so I told her I would come and help her clean and then we would go have dinner together.

When I got there, her husband (who had only recently come to America) and she were cleaning the apartment, and I jumped right in. I taught her how to use a carpet steam cleaner, and I brought him my Shark steam mop and taught him how to use that. After conferring in Arabic, Abla said to me “we love these things! We buy our own when we move.”  Together, we cleaned, and her husband, who I had only met briefly before, told Abla (who later told me) that he thought I was a good friend for her. We sat together and had tea and baklava when we finished cleaning.  Afterwards, we went to dinner, and Abla and I talked for hours before I took her home. She told me how it was that she came to be married to her husband, and how much Saudi Arabia was changing. Soon, she thinks, all women will be allowed to drive and how women are becoming equals to men. “My husband and I, we respect each other. I no walk behind him- we don’t have to walk behind our husbands. At the malls, they have to keep up with us!” She asked me why I wasn’t married to my boyfriend after I told her about him. She said to me: “I hope you marry him. He sounds like good man, and he make you happy. If you marry him, you must tell me. It is only way I come back to this place!” she smiled when she said the last part, and we had a good laugh.

 She refused to allow me to pay for dinner, and insisted to our waiter that it was “one bill, and it comes to me”. When I brought her home and we said our final goodbyes, she fished a beautiful blue bag out of her purse and said “This is from me and my husband. We thank you for all your kindness and we miss you. You are my true good friend.” And they insisted that I must come out to visit them, and that from their new home we could take the train to Chicago because they had never been. I hugged her one last time, told her husband how glad I was to meet him, kissed her daughter, and left. When I looked in the bag, they had given me perfume and money.

I will miss my Alba. I hate that she was chased away. She tried so hard to let people know that she was okay, that she was a good person. But, if no one else knew it here, I certainly did. I cannot wait to see her again.

 

When I was a little girl, I looooooved the show Happy Days. I thought Fonzie was the coolest, and Richie was nice, but what I noticed most of all, what I wanted more than anything, was Joanie’s hulahoop.

I expressed this desire to my mother, how I wanted to hulahoop like Joanie, and could I please have one? My mother, as was customary, said she’d think about it if I were really, really good. This was a challenge for me- not necessarily because I misbehaved, but because I had a short temper and was even shorter on patience.

I was also very curious. It was sometime around when I asked my mother for a hulahoop that I first encountered a kid with Downs syndrome. I was about four years old, mind you, so I was really starting to notice a lot of things about people. But, this kid looked like no one I’d ever seen before, and I was studying him, not out of rudeness but curiousity. My mother noticed how intently I was looking at him (some people might call this staring) and distracted me quickly by taking me aside and telling me that it was embarrassing to stare at people. Embarrassment was a catch word in my life at that time- it meant shame and disappointment in me from my mother and grandparents, and it was something to be avoided at all costs. I actively avoided looking in that boy’s direction until we left.

When we got in the car, my mother asked me “Why were you staring at that little boy?”

My reply was something on the lines of “He looks different. Why does he look different? Josh doesn’t look like that.” (I do remember distinctly wondering this, as my cousin Josh was my point of reference as far as boys look).

“He has a disease called Downs Syndrome. It makes him look different and he doesn’t think or act like other kids.”

“What is Dowes Syndrum?” (I called it this until I was in the second grade and a kid that had Downs corrected me.)

“It’s a disability. It’s not nice to stare at people with disabilities or make fun of them. It’s shameful and embarrassing. Don’t do it, okay?”

“Okay.” It was as simple as that. I knew what was wrong with that kid and that I was not to look at him or laugh at him. I didn’t like embarrassment, and if I embarrassed Mom she wouldn’t let me have a hulahoop.

I think perhaps it was the next day that Mom went to buy groceries. It was later in the afternoon, and my grandmother was home from work, as was my grandfather. I wanted to look for buried treasure in the yard, so they came out to watch me do it. I was digging dilligently in the yard with a spoon when Mom drove up. I was so excited- ice cream, and maybe she got my hula hoop! I ran out to get bags of groceries, hoping to catch a glimpse of ice cream or a hulahoop. Mom handed me a bag for each hand- neither one had ice cream in it. I was disappointed. I looked in the car- no hulahoop in the backseat or the front seat. Even more disappointment, but I knew better than to say anything. So, I carried in my groceries and came back for more. Two more bags, neither with ice cream, and no hulahoop still. I have never been good at hiding the emotions in my face, so I’m sure I looked at forlorn as I felt. So, when we brought the groceries in, my Mom made an extra special point of letting me find the bag with ice cream sandwiches in it (my grandfather had brought it in). My face lit up because I knew that meant we would sit outside and eat them later, after Granny made supper.

And then: “Oh, I forgot something. Why don’t you help me bring it in?”

I raced out to the car. I was so excited, but I didn’t want to show it, just in case I was wrong.

But I wasn’t wrong. My mother produced, from the trunk (I’d never thought of that!) a blue and silver hulahoop. I squealed with delight,, remembered to thank Mom, and ran to show off for my grandparents.

I put the hulahoop around my waste, and flung it around, gyrating wildly. It fell to the ground. I picked it up, and did it again. Once more, it went to the ground, but now my grandparents were absolutely howling with laughter. My mother was too- she was laughing so hard that she sat down on the ground. I felt shame and embarrassment creep up my face and sting my eyes. I threw down the hulahoop and ran in the house, screen door slamming so they knew how mad I was. I went in the bathroom to cry, and slammed that door too before I locked it.

My mother came to the door, trying to hide her laughter. “What are you crying about? That was funny!”

‘It was not. It’s not nice to laugh at people, Mama.” My tears came harder, faster, that awful gulping cry that kids have when they’re really heartbroken.

“I wasn’t laughing at you, I was laughing at what you were doing.”

“But, but….*gulp gulp you said it’s not nice to make fun of disabled people!”

My normally quiet mother absolutely roared with laugher. “You’re not disabled, you just don’t know what you’re doing.”

“YES I DO! I WAS HULAHOOPING LIKE JOANIE!”

“No, you weren’t. How about you come out here and let me show you what you did? That way, you’ll know why we laughed.”

It took a while to get me out, but she did get me to come out. My grandparents were still giggling, though they were trying hard not to. My mother went over and picked up the hulahoop that I had wanted soooo badly and now didn’t even want to look at; she put it around her waist and flung it around her. The way her body moved I can now only describe as looking like a woman with epilepsy that had put her hand on a live electric wire. It was hysterically funny, but I didn’t want to let her know that. My grandparents, though, couldn’t help themselves, and soon they were howling again, as was my mother. Laughter is as infectious as a stomach virus, and soon I was giggling against my will.

Once she got her breath, she came over to me and said “You see? That was funny. Don’t be so serious all the time. You need to laugh at yourself. And just because you don’t know how doesn’t mean you’re disabled because you can always learn. Now, would you like to learn how to hulahoop like Joanie?”

And that’s how I learned how important it was to laugh at myself….and to hulahoop.

I am a rare bird- I like comic books. Comic heroes make me get giggly-stupid like most tweens get over Justin Bieber. My favorite is Ironman- there’s something about his brain. I love a brilliant mind, always have. So, when Avengers came out, and there was a midnight premiere, there was  no way I was missing it. I found out at five in the morning, when my friend excitedly texted me “are you going to the midnight show?!?!?!” And I said “why yes I am”.

Well, the boyfriend punked out on me, talking about how he had to go to work in the morning. I had an economics final, so I weighed his excuse and found it wanting. I started not to go- he said we’d go on Friday. But I found this a sad excuse for a midnight premiere. So, I called the friend and had him reserve me a ticket in the same theatre so I could see it with him, and informed the boyfriend that, with or without him, I was going. He was cool with it (which was nice because it wouldn’t have changed anything if he hadn’t been), and I left for the theatre thirty minutes away. I honestly can say that his unwillingness to go angered me since just a few months ago, he nagged me for THREE weeks to go to a bar to watch the Alabama v LSU BCS game, and continued nagging me until I agreed to go- even though I had to study for a test, go to work at 8 in the morning until 5, and then go to class until 8 pm. But I did it- because it made him happy. It didn’t seem very fair that he wasn’t willing to do the same for me, and I told him so.

Avengers was amazing. The crowd was great- everyone responded appropriatedly. I do allow whistling as an appropriate response when it comes to Scarlett Johannsen’s very shapely….well, I digress. The movie, though, was stupendous. It was so stupendous that I got together a group of 12 to see it the next night- including myself and my good friend that had gone to see it with me. I even invited my nephews, who are only five and six years younger than me, and their girlfriends to come with us. It was a grand, grand time. And I became the supernerdy girl that saw Avengers twice in less than 24 hours.  

The kicker, though, was my friend brought his five-year old daughter- and she was dressed like Thor. Cape, helmet, and hammer, long blond hair and blue, blue eyes. ADORABLE. When he came on the screen, she threw up her arm with the hammer in it and roared with him. Absolutely adorable. She’s a really awesome kid- she likes science and art, and she asked for a telescope for her 4th birthday. She got one, needless to say, and she and her father spend the weekends looking at stars and planets and doing experiments and making art. He’s a great father- his entire world revolves around her. It’s rare to see such devotion- a lot of fathers love their daughters, but they don’t know what to do with them. Even when she wants to play with dolls and Barbies, he plays along, and he does it well, without awkwardness. He is not ashamed.

Was it grown up of me to get that excited over a movie- so excited that I was willing to risk a fight and bumming out the boyfriend? Maybe not in all categories- but I wanted it so bad, and the risks and costs were minimal. Sometimes, you gotta make that call to do something for you, even if someone you love doesn’t support it. You don’t have to agree with someone all the time to love them- the two are mutually exclusive. I also don’t find my boyfriend’s attendance in something to be compulsory- he’s allowed to not be there. In fact, sometimes, I don’t even want him there. You have to have “me” time and “friend” time.

My friend A spent the weekend at my house, too- she just needed time away. The reasons are hers, though, and thus I won’t disclose them here. Let’s just say, I loved having her here. We had a good time, and watched The Godfather. On Sunday, we cleaned up my house- she’s six feet tall, so I had her dust because she can reach all the places that I have to get a ladder for. It’s all about doing things that you’re best suited for.
Taking her home, though, proved to be an adventure…..one in which I came out of with a starved kitten. She’s a beautiful little thing, maybe 4 weeks old. I stopped and bought her milk replacement on the way so that she could eat. She was having troubles standing, she’s so weak. But, she’s already acting like she feels better. She’s laying on a towel, purring in her sleep. The thing is, I can’t keep her- I’m allergic to her, and my dogs think I brought home a scary monster. They don’t know whether to flee- which is what the pit bull did- or to play with her, or to eat her. I’m going to get her healthy and find a home for her.

I have a habit of collecting strays- stray dogs, puppies, (apparently) kittens, and boys and girls. I told a friend of mine that I should just go ahead and open a shelter- that’s how my house is anyway. It’s how I ended up with three dogs- two of them I just loved so much I couldn’t give away. I have been rescuing strays all my life- it started when I was four and I rescued a baby rabbit whose mother had been killed. Over the course of my life, I’ve rescued other dogs, mockingbird babies, rabbits, baby field mice (my mother could’ve died when I brought in those tiny, tiny little things), turtles, frogs, and so on. I saved a cat once from a badger trap, and it became my outdoor pet for a while.I started rescuing people when I was about 14- I’d bring home these disenfranchised kids because they hadn’t eaten good food in forever, their moms and dads didn’t take care of them, didn’t want them and told them so, locked them out of the house, etc. They always stayed as long as they wanted or needed to, and we helped them get on their feet. Some of them stayed through high school and became like best friends/brothers/sisters to me. I still talk to all of them, and they still ask about my mother if they don’t talk to her directly.

I have a special hatred for people because they are so capable of endless and senseless acts of useless cruelty. They have children they have no intention of caring for, they put dogs and cats on the streets to die, etc. But, my mother raised me to not turn away from reality, to accept it if I must, change it if I can. It fills me with rage to see these things happen. This sounds strange, but when I think of real life and people I have to remember why I love to read Holocaust literature- it is because it is full of unfathomable monsters, angels of the highest order, and a people who were hellbent on surviving. I live it on a much smaller, less disasterous scale. I can’t save them all- I have lost a few along the way, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort. It was nevertheless heartbreaking- but I don’t know that it can in any way overshadow the successes. My pit bull is one such story- a guy put her in a cardboard box on the side of the highway when she was just a few weeks old. When I got her, she was almost dead. For three days, she and I lived in a bedroom, and every two hours I fed her goat’s milk. She was so weak she couldn’t get up to feed, so I would pick her up for it. On the third day, when I brought her the milk, she got up herself. That’s when I knew she’d be okay. Today, she is 50 pounds of excited, endlessly loyal, retarded love.

A lot of the kids I brought home now have their own jobs, homes, and families. They’ve never forgotten our “kindness” or mom’s cooking. I just hope someday, when their kids bring home children like that, they will not forget that it was once them that stood in a stranger’s house in need.

So, now I have this kitten, who needs love and food. And she’ll get it. She’s not my first. She will not be the last, I am sure, for as long as people consider other beings disposable, I’ll be finding them and taking them home. It’s amazing- these creatures that no one wanted turn into magnificent beings. The assholes who meant to kill them may have gotten rid of a problem, but they lost a worthy companion. I avenge them by reversing the wrong that was done to them, by outthinking them so that I can save what they’ve discarded. The funny part is, I don’t believe in charity. I don’t even think what I’m doing is charity, I don’t even think about not doing this. I could have never left this kitten in the road, or Lilly the pit bull puppy in the box, or Ashley on the side of the road in the snow.

Sometimes, being a big girl means that you’re going to have to play Mama. Most of the time, that means being sweet- but sometimes it means showing your teeth. Sometimes, monsters have to be vanquished, problems require some genius, and things must be protected and avenged. .

 

 

I’ve been thinking about that myself lately.

“Big girl” is used in a lot of different ways- most commonly to describe age (if you’re a child) like when your mom says “you gotta act like a big girl now”, or weight (if you aren’t a kid) “whoa, man, that’s a biiiiiiig girl”- because fat is only considered cute when you’re a baby. It’s the only time in your life that someone may be concerned that you don’t have enough rolls and think that “cankles” are adorable.

I think both may apply to me. I’ve done a lot of living like a young adult- you know, madder than a march hare, no money, no real direction (just use your instincts to find the nearest good time), no goals other than to live to fight another day. I’ve traveled all over the country, deliberately put myself out of my comfort bubble so that I can know more about life than listening to someone else’s stories, I’ve made it a point to talk to people that seem terrifying just so that I might know whether or not they’re really an enemy at all. I went to college, I’m still going to college- the first in my family of nomads. And I’m a big girl, weight wise. I haven’t always been. I honestly don’t know exactly why I am now. I’m not one of those girls you see in knit pants and an Adidas t-shirt, though- I take care of myself. Just because you don’t fit the mold doesn’t mean you’re not worth taking care of- it just means you’re gonna have to pay for that extra fabric. If I had a “big girl” hero, it would be Mae West- she wasn’t skinny, but she was smart and fun and looked lovely anyway. Men used to fall all over themselves for her for those reasons, not of her size. I don’t tie my self-worth to pounds- I tie it to how capable I am. She did that too, and made a lot of money doing it.

Weight, however, is not the point to all this. The point is: what is a big girl life?

It’s becoming independent- totally, irrevocably independent and not apologizing for it. Making your own choices, taking your own risks, and blaming no one when you fail (which is inevitable). It’s figuring out how big your own world will be, and what kind of furniture you want in it. It’s about trying to find where you’re going to have that world. For me, it’s also trying to remember that life is not an event, that you shouldn’t allow any ONE thing to be the single deciding factor in life. And for me, it’s also about finding different kinds of joy in the most crap-tastic of situations.

It’s a trying time, learning to have the big girl life. Some people never make it. Some people never have the chance

.One person you’ll see come up again and again is my mother. She’s a smart lady, and my best friend. There’s been no one in my life that has imparted more wisdom and more happiness than she has. It’s rare to hear people say something like that about their mom- but just keep reading. You’ll understand why I think my mom is so great that I have to share her with other people. In fact, that’s something I regularly do in “real” life- I send people to see my mom when they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t know how to do something, or don’t know why what they’re doing isn’t working. If you’re reading this, then most likely you’re nowhere around so that I can send you to my mom- but I can tell you what she’s said to me. 🙂

I’m writing this blog so that maybe, when I tell stories of my life, that it may help the person that is randomly clicking through blogs because they’re also randomly clicking through life. Maybe they don’t want to anymore, but they don’t know what to think or what to do, and they’re terrified. I’ve been there- if we get honest, I still end up there from time to time. I’m hoping it’ll help me- sometimes, I can’t think through things as well as I can write them down. It seems like when you put a story or a situation down in black and white, all the murkiness you’re experiencing disappears. I’m hoping I can also make people laugh, if anyone ever reads this, because life is funny, if you can see the humour. I’m a strange person in that I’m funniest when I’m mad. Part of it is delivery, so when you read my stories, imagine that it’s a woman’s voice, kinda low in pitch, with a lot of “black” swing to it, and a halfway Northern accent.

Anyway, you should know the rule I have with guests- after you’ve been here the first time, and I’ve showed you where everything is, you’re on your own for the second time. What is mine is yours while you’re here- help yourself to food, tea, the couch, whatever, but you don’t need my permission for anything if I let you in the second time. I’m going to treat this digital space like I treat my home- it should be a place you come to enjoy yourself, to have a friend, to have some tea and a good conversation, maybe get a little direction and insight while you’re at it.

 

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