She is not particularly interested in being introduced to you, but since I’ve insisted, she’s allowed me to post a few photos. She knows she is beautiful, you don’t need to tell her. (She’ll listen happily if you do say it, it’s just that she already knows.)
She was a stray – a dilute calico with Scottish fold ears; the vet says she may have been bred by someone. She has really bad teeth, which are the only reason we can imagine that she ended up at the Humane Society.
When we got her, she was skinny and so sick that the vet thought she had a deadly virus called FIPS. They told us she would die within months. She had other ideas, and perhaps out of sheer willfulness, she lived and then thrived. She now looks at each day as a potential new adventure – or a time to sleep. Kind of depends on her mood.
We got a cat!
Her name is Tippy!
Her early adventures might also explain why she turns into a crazy cat at the vet’s. They call her a “fractious kitty” and she’s only allowed to go to the vet for emergencies. Ahem. Oh, and she will knock anything she can possibly move off of any surface she can possibly reach. Paper, mugs, plants, containers of all sorts and more have met untimely ends since Tippy moved into our house.
She really, really likes children. She likes to play with them. (I swear this video is worth 10 seconds of your time.)
We cannot let her out in the mornings because she will go from bus stop to bus stop to wait with various children – then she will ignore traffic and walk into the street as though cars just aren’t a thing. She goes into the home of the neighbour girls. Just waltzes right in and hangs out with them. She once spent the night in an apartment nearby. They told us she just came in. When she was younger, she ended up on a community Facebook page because she was laying about in the street, reveling. People were worried about her. They also wanted to adopt her.
We tried to turn her into an indoor cat, but she was not interested in that plan. Now, she goes out and then knocks when she’s ready to come in.
Quiet. 10:56 am on the last weekday of March Break and the house is quiet.
I woke up just before 7 and came down to enjoy a little quiet before I wrote today’s slice of life. I fed the cats, put on some water, opened the computer and started to read. I’d read two other posts when the first child joined me and took advantage of our alone time for a long snuggle before he went off to find his ipad. A friend who slept over last night shuffled into the kitchen a few minutes later, bleary-eyed and happy, and was soon followed by my older son, who arrived complaining that a loud noise “like a radio and a crash” had woken him up. I surmised that my husband was also awake.
Before my husband materialized, my mother-in-law came downstairs. She arrived late last night for a week-long visit, and I had been hoping she would be able to get a little more sleep. Unlikely once the kids were up. Hugs and exclamations filled the kitchen. “You’re so tall!” “I missed you so much!” “I’m glad you’re here!”
We settled in for tea and conversation as the children went to play. I adore my mother-in-law and had been looking forward to this morning chat, so we luxuriated a little. Not long later, my husband appeared, dressed and ready to go to coffee with a colleague. More chatting before he left. It was 8.
I made the kids English muffins with cinnamon sugar for breakfast. We finalized the details for a trip to the trampoline park this morning. Our guest’s mother called to figure out when she should swing by with appropriate (and clean) clothes for trampoline jumping. The neighbour from down the street rang the doorbell to ask if he could borrow our ice chopper, and we chatted for a few minutes about the weather, mutual friends, and his impending move to a different apartment.
I called the doctor to set up one appointment and then the hairdresser to set up another. I made a second round of cinnamon toast and harried the kids up to brush their teeth and get dressed. The mother showed up with appropriate clothes and came in for a visit. We double-checked on that whole “brush your teeth and get dressed” request and reiterated its importance as a life skill. Another friend texted to let me know that her son, who recently stayed over, has lice. As I gathered up the sheets from the potentially problematic bed and put them in the laundry basket, I realized that I had not brushed my own teeth; I was already keenly aware that I was still in my bathrobe – I hadn’t been able to get to my bedroom since my husband woke up.
I managed to brush my teeth while checking my son’s head for lice. Looked clear. The other family going to the trampoline park arrived, and everyone tumbled out the door into the minivan. My friend stayed for an extra minute, and we were able to locate her spare keys, which we had recently realized were not hanging on our key rack where they should have been. I transferred them to their proper place, and hugged my friend goodbye.
And then it was quiet. I sat down in the kitchen and looked at the blank document I had opened just before 7 so I could write today’s slice of life. A twenty to thirty minute commitment, more or less. Four and a half hours later, I’m done. I smiled and sighed at the same time: I will find more than a little relief when our regular routine resumes on Monday. Life just keeps happening, doesn’t it?
We have a multi-part problem in our house and it is driving me crazy.
Part 1: I am sensitive to noises. I can’t stand repetitive music from the on-line games the kids play, music played on a loop in a restaurant, or slow drips and other ongoing pings and dings. They make me a little nuts. I also startle easily at loud sounds, a truth which delights both my children and my students.
Part 2: Our adorable cat Tippy *loves* drinking from running and fresh water of any sort.
Part 3: I believe that we should be conserving resources of all sorts. You know, environmentalism and all that.
Part 4: My husband, in particular, is a sucker for making creatures happy.
This is generally a wonderful trait, but…it leaves us, all to often, with this:
And now it’s March break, so we’re all home together and it’s happening all the time. Help! We need a solution asap.
He copied the phrase into his agenda Wednesday, February 6 “Décris la joie.” Describe joy. After Math. Before Reading.
Décris la joie. Describe how wonder is suddenly more necessary than air when I check on him before I sleep. The silk of his hair The satin of his skin The even slip of his breath.
Décris la joie. Describe the way my heart seizes and jumps when they bound in after playing outside. The whirl of the air The whoosh of their hugs The carefree wildness of their laughter.
I ask Have you done your homework? Yes, he says, It was easy.
Reflection on my process:
I originally jotted this exchange down when the assignment came home. I kept coming back to it, and tried to write it as a humorous piece because it made me laugh out loud when it happened. It sort of worked as a funny bit, but there wasn’t much to it.
I hesitated to turn it into a poem, but decided to take the plunge because Slice of Life writing is, in part, about learning to become better writers. If I can’t try new things in this supportive community, when will I try them? Also, it’s the weekend, so I had some time to work on this if I wanted.
The first and last stanzas came easily because they are what literally happened. I nearly published the poem like that, but I know I tend to cut my poems off at the knees by not offering enough development. The middle two stanzas then, were my attempt to show how hard it is for me to describe joy. I made some of the lines longer because I wanted them to reflect the complex nature of the task. I let the sensory details be shorter because, in the end, they seemed to me to be the essence of the feeling.
In the end, I don’t love it, but I like it. I’m still a nervous poet, but I like how this combines the humour of the initial situation with the complexity of the thought behind it. I’m not sure I love the middle two stanzas, but I’m glad I pushed myself to add them. And hey, maybe I’ll try another poem or two this month. We shall see.
An astute observer might notice that my posts do not go up at the same time every day. In fact, some days I get something written and posted first thing in the morning, and other days, like today, my posts go up much later. Every now and then – though not yet this month – I don’t post until after 10pm.
I’m a teacher, so the rhythm of my days is relatively predictable. I mean, sure, there’s the occasional before or after school meeting and whatnot, but mostly I live by the mindless monotony of minute hands and bells. Given this predictability, I feel like I should be able to write and post pretty much at the same time every day. But I can’t.
In 1929 Virginia Woolf published her (long) essay A Room of One’s Own in which she argues that in order to write, women need money and space, both literally and figuratively. 90 years later, I have much of what she argued is required for women to be able to create. Sometimes when I read her words, I feel encouraged by how much things have changed. Sometimes I want to cry at how much things are the same. I would guess that I more or less have the money and the room that Woolf was looking for. What I don’t have is an hour.
I understand why I don’t have this hour. I know the statistics on how much time women spend on housework, and how we spend as much time with our children now as in some other decade but we work more, and how we get paid differently, and how and how and how…. I know that we are helicopter parents and that we use our cellphones too much while we do or don’t sufficiently supervise the children at play. I have learned that what we do is necessary/ damaging/ laudable/ laughable. I know that I should manage my time better, discipline my children differently, organize my family efficiently. And I know that if I could just do all of those things, I could get the extra hour of sleep and I would have an hour to exercise and I would have an hour to write. I understand that this is, undoubtedly, my fault. And if it is not my fault, I understand that it is the fault of women or, at the very least, the fault of society. I have been so well socialized that I even feel badly about writing this.
But one way or another, I don’t have an hour. Not at work, where my job involves constantly responding to the desires and needs of others and not at home where my job… wait, same thing. And it’s fine, really, usually, mostly. And, you know, I love my students and I love my husband and I love my children and I swear I am a nice person and I’m only just barely complaining because who wants to listen to a whiner, but I’ve written this post a few sentences at a time in my head over the course of several days, occasionally jotting a phrase or two down and sometimes managing to get some sentences into the computer and, as it turns out, that’s not really the best way to write.
Sometimes I imagine what I could do with an hour to write every day. A magical hour that doesn’t mean I sleep less or that dinner doesn’t get made. A magical hour where the kids aren’t looking for me and I haven’t simply shifted work on to my supportive partner. A magical hour where I can gather my thoughts, put them down, and elaborate.
Next week is March Break. Maybe I can make it happen.
Tonight, my son’s friend stayed for dinner because we were having homemade pizza. Afterwards, the boys played on their devices for longer than I meant to allow. As I shooed him out the door – homework! bedtime! – I filled his arms with his iPad, the book he wanted to borrow, and a dozen fresh eggs for his mother. I asked if he had gloves. No. I reminded him to be careful. Ok. Could he manage all these things? Yes. Say hello to your parents. Goodbye!
A few minutes later, my phone buzzed. His father:
I’m blaming the enticing snow banks, not the 10-year-old. After all, winter will end before the kids grow up.
This summer my sister and I stayed at my dad and stepmom’s lake house for a week while they went camping with our children. It was delightful. I have been a city girl for a long time now, so I relished my time in the “country.”
Since the grandparents had all the kids, my sister and I generously did a few chores during our week off. We watered the plants, tidied the house, fed the cat, did all the laundry we could find, even went through old canned goods and got rid of the ones that were seriously expired.
But no one had said anything about the chickens. And clearly living creatures needed to be looked after. So… how much do you feed chickens? How often? We didn’t want to bother our stepmother, the main chicken keeper, and we really didn’t want them to come home early with all the kids, so the internet was our friend. At no point did we pause to realize that our extremely competent stepmother probably did not leave her beloved chickens to starve while she was gone.
Once we’d finished our basic research about chicken feeding, I let myself into the coop, confident that I could handle this chore. As I entered, I noticed that the top of the wire mesh roof was covered in rotting leaves, and I decided to clear the leaves as an extra bonus to my super-daughter work. I started poking and pushing at the decaying debris and, of course, it rained down all over my head, into my eyes, onto my shoulders, and right down into my bra because, of course, I was wearing sundress. As I stood there, covered in itchy, smelly leaf rot, the thought “I am not stupid. Why did I do this?” ran through my head.
I probably should have just left the coop then, but I was worried about those chickens, so I brushed off what leaf pieces I could and continued with my mission. It turned out that the chickens had a feeder, so I assumed they had enough food, but what about water? I looked around the coop – my stepmother is no slouch: these chickens have multiple rooms – and eventually found a small water bottle. It honestly looked like something I’d put on a hamster cage, not nearly big enough for four chickens, but I filled it anyway. Still, I continued to worry: there was no way that was enough water. I noticed the chickens milling around a white bucket precariously perched on some cement blocks. A water bucket! When I looked in to check the water level, I noticed lots of green mold growing inside, so… I decided to continue my super-daughter act and clean it. I was still wearing my cute sundress.
How hard can it be to clean a water bucket for chickens? I looked up at the mess of hoses attached to the garage spigot. There were at least five along with some sort of crazy thing that you move around to make water flow out of one hose or another according to your needs. But, they were just hoses, how hard could it be? About five minutes later, after some curses and some water spraying in unexpected directions, I finally managed to get water into the bucket. The mold did not come off. I made the hose spray harder. The water rebounded out of the bucket and all over me, but the mold held on.
At this point my city thinking clicked in, and I went inside, got a kitchen sponge to clean the bucket, noticed the dish soap, and grabbed that, too. And, voila!, my city solution worked: the bucket was clean. Hooray! I stood back to look proudly at my handiwork and had a terrible thought: Are chickens sensitive to dish soap? I had no idea. I did a very thorough rinse of the bucket.
This process took at least 15 minutes, and the chickens glared accusingly from their coop the entire time. They knew that I had no idea what I was doing. I had taken their water and was clearly incompetent. They clustered around the door, watching, waiting, judging.
Triumphantly returning the chickens’ glares, I returned to the cage and placed the now-clean, thoroughly rinsed, and completely refilled water bucket on the uneven cement blocks. And it leaked. A lot. Water went everywhere. The chickens were visibly delighted, clucking and pecking at the wet ground, at the stream of water, at my toes. I repositioned the bucket. No dice. I fiddled with the spouty-bit that was supposed to let the water out only when they pecked at it. More water flowed, and the coop turned into a muddy mess.
Finally, soaked, rotten leaf debris still in my hair and bra, sweat running down my back and cleavage, and flip-flops covered in mud from the mess I’d made in the coop, I gave up. My stepmother was returning tomorrow. I would just have to ask how to take care of chickens.
P.S. She had left the coop completely prepared for her absence, and I had broken the water bucket beyond repair. She made a new one and I haven’t been in that coop since.