The Sweetness of Closeness

I must have really awesome feet, because the tootsies are Timba’s latest go-to spot. He used to sleep on the pillow beside me by my head, but for some reason he’s taken a fancy to the feet. He’s never done this before, and I’m curious about the switch up. Cats are enigmas though, so I basically better give up the motive analysis as far as that is concerned. I can only imagine that his motive is to be close, but still, my feet? It’s not like my toes have superior chin rubbing skills, and it’s not like the bony ankle area is the most comfortable spot to rest his face. I guess I shall have to ever wonder and be content with the sweetness of him being close.

The part I do wonder about, however, is the way it makes me feel when Timba does his little one-turn ritual before settling his warm body against my feet and stretching his chin or a paw across them. It warms my heart, perhaps more so than any other cuddling besides against or in the crook of my legs.  What is it about feet that is so touching and intimate? They’re feet! They’re often dirty or stinky (which mine aren’t, they are cozy and rosy according to Timba), and they are among the basest of body parts, literally and figuratively (I’m thinking foot in mouth syndrome here).

In early Christian tradition as well as cultures in that era, foot washing was practiced as a way to humbly serve guests. Sandals were the ‘in thing’ and dirt was in abundance, so it was an honoring gesture to offer water to a guest, have a servant do the deed, or more so to be the one to tend to the guest. In earlier Chinese culture, though not many generations away, foot binding was practiced.  If you’re not aware of this, than bite your lip in anticipation of this mental image: from an early age Chinese girls had their feet broken and bound, then broken and rebound, repeating the process to inhibit the foot’s growth so that the desired approximate 4 inches would remain her foot size for life.  Due to the stench of rot from the binding, perfumes were applied.  The scent of exotic perfume combined with the delicate manner of walking with malformed feet was considered erotic to men and highly desirable.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have my feet washed no matter how humbling that may be. And humbling it is, to have someone care for your feet. It’s amazing how many women are self-conscious or dissatisfied with their feet. Again I say, they’re feet! Maybe it’s intimate because it is humble? The sense that someone would touch your base and possibly smelly feet in such a tender or loving manner. That someone would care enough about you to figuratively stoop to the ground and humbly help you or declare their affection for you.

Maybe that’s what Timba is doing. In two years he’s never cuddled with my feet.  Maybe his sense of affection and loyalty has grown to that point. Or maybe I’m grasping at straws because it’s not like a cat can conceptualize the ‘humble factor’ of feet! Either way, it’s incredibly sweet, not to mention warm.  And a bit risky. He’s mellowing with age and growing in sweetness, but he still has the capacity to dole out a love bite now and then. And controlling my response to the tender tootsies having a sudden sharp pain would be a feat difficult to control.  A reflexive maneuver sending dear kitty flying might make him less prone to cuddle my feet in the future, and I’d hate to miss out on the sweetness of his closeness.

 

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Till Death Due Us Part

On the wings of the WordPress class awhile back I find myself doing the exact opposite of the class goals: posting infrequently and irregularly. I really respect those of you who commit to regular blogging regardless of what life brings your way. If you’ve read My Two Cats recently, you’ve seen that unemployment has had my number and has been a source of irregular posting. I tried to change it, and right when it was taking a turn for the better, life happened again. Or rather, death.

My stepdad passed away in mid-May, and writing became insignificant in the light of that. Instead, I walked through grief with my mother and reflected on the ‘writing’ of the life I’d known for 22 years; on a marriage that lasted until ‘death due us part.’ It is a rare thing these days – commitment.  Relationships of any kind are under attack by culture. We’re a throw-away society.  We upgrade things and upgrade people. We downgrade people. We remove them from our lives because we’ve succumbed to the rhetoric of positivity.  If they can’t serve the purpose of fluffing our ‘happy place’ pillow, if they make us uncomfortable by expressing the hardness of what they may be going through, then we cut loose the strings.

People miss out on people that way.  People miss out on the richness of life and getting to really know someone. If they only knew  how much they are short-changing themselves because of their premature disconnect. Life is messy and so are people. But I say ‘look longer’.  ‘Dig deeper’.  You don’t stand in a museum and hastily move from picture to picture. You don’t find gold by scratching the surface of the dirt. And you get neither the life transformation nor the treasure if you walk away too early.  Commitment, perseverance, determination … these are what yield the true nature of a thing, the obscured value.

I guess that’s why I love my cats so much.  I’ve taken the time to observe them. I’ve persevered through Timba’s terrible biting phase when most people would’ve tossed him to the shelter. He is my cat ‘soul mate’ now, and I would’ve missed out on the gift of who he is had I reacted the way society shapes us to react. I also could have missed out on the gift of Toby. I thought of getting rid of him due to Timba’s early harassment phase.  I thought Toby was so lovable he’d get a great home, but Timba such a hellion that he’d die in a shelter. I honestly considered keeping the difficult cat to spare him, and painfully parting with the well-behaved cat to likewise spare him. But I stuck that out as well, and for over a year now they have become the best of pals and would grieve the loss of each other probably as much as the loss of me.

Commitment. It doesn’t make me cringe. It makes me smile, because it is worth it. I smile that I’ll have my cats until death do us part. I smile that my mother had her husband until then. I hope you smile at the ones in your life you’ve committed to keeping around for the long haul. And I hope that reading this in some way strengthens your own sense of ’till death due us part’, whatever your connections and relationships may be.

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Cats While Growing Up

A Cat’s Whiskers Are Amazing!

I’d always been told that whiskers help a cat to know whether or not it can navigate through tight spots.  They are like feelers gauging the parameters of a space so that dear little kitty won’t get stuck trying to go through something that would accommodate his body half way through – to his utter humiliation.  It turns out that whiskers are feelers in more than just the physical sense.  They are emotional indicators as well, tell tale signs of a cat’s mood or emotional state regarding something.  Whiskers back can mean a cat is in a state of relaxation and is comfortable in his or her environment.  Whiskers back can also reflect fear, in which case other things like wide eyes and flattened ears help to discern.  Whiskers forward (my favorite) show that a cat is alert and highly interested in something.  I never paid attention to the movement of whiskers as a child, but now one of my favorite things to do to Timba, since his whiskers are so long and prominent and expressive, is to take a toy in my hand and move it back and forth towards him to watch his whiskers jut out with piqued interest and then relax.

Cats Play Fetch Too!

Timba was the first cat I ever had or saw that would fetch items when thrown.  I have since learned that this is a typical trait of Siamese cats, so being half Flame Point Siamese, it’s in his genes.  However, after throwing enough paper wads, mice and toy balls, my other cat Toby eventually caught on to the game.  He is half Russian Blue, and they are typically shy and reserved cats.  But a little nurture to conquer the nature, and voila! Toby is now chasing and retrieving just as much as Timba.  In fact, Toby once fetched a toy mouse and brought it back to me a record number of 8 times, no feat that my A.D.D. Timba has yet to perform!  Nothing is so endearing as to feel a little tap at my back by a paw or a dropped toy mouse or paper wad.  When I roll over and see the expectant look on one of my cats’ faces, I melt.  Then I pick it up and throw it and marvel at the oddity that they actually bring it back for more throws!

You Don’t Have To Declaw Cats To Deter Damage!

Many people don’t have cats or get rid of them because of the damage cats do to furniture and fabrics with their nails.  If they can afford to declaw their cat, they will, and contrary to human assumption, declawing is painful and can hinder a cat and even alter its behavior.  No need to get into it, but here is one of many quick articles you can google:

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/declawing.html.

The best alternative to damage is to train your cat, preferably from a young age, to use appropriate scratch boards and posts.  Refresh them with catnip from time to time to re-interest them in using these things.  Growing up, I learned that you can clip a dog’s nails, but I’d never heard of clipping a cat’s nails.  Lo and behold, this is another thing which is best done since a young age.  However, as with anything, a cat can learn to adjust to it.  I had a friend who taught me how to clip my cats’ nails, and now that I can do it on my own I absolutely love it. My cats are so good, minus an occasionally growl from Mr. Sensitive Back Feet, aka Timba.  It really helps lessen unintentional scratches to me and any that may occur when they play with each other.

Cats Are Better In Numbers!

One cat can be plenty for a person or a family.  They can be just as lovable as they would be if you had more than one cat.  However, the fun factor gets a serious boost when you have more than one cat.  At one point, I lived with 8 cats between my roommate and myself.  That was a period of a lot of laughter and a lot of learning about cat nature.  Since then, I now live by myself with my two cats, who provide just as much fun and learning as did 8.  When cats interact with each other we get to observe more of their antics that may not play out in a single cat.  Another benefit of more than one cat is the emotional and physical health of your cats. Having a playmate and companion seems to make for a happier cat.  Not that solitude is bad, but just like us, they are social creatures.  They also exercise more, and while it may mean more trouble (toppled items from romping kitties) it is totally worth it to have happy healthy cats whose frolicking often evokes laughter.

Cats Are Not Disposable!

Growing up I had numerous cats, but very few until a ripe old age.  We moved somewhat frequently, and we didn’t have a lot of money.  Mostly the moving factor was what decided a cat’s next living arrangement.  To a kid, it’s sad, but once it happens often enough it just seems the status quo: animals aren’t humans and sometimes you have to get rid of them.

Not a lesson I adhere to anymore.  Yes, with 8 cats a few years ago, some of them were mine and I found them new homes.  While a season of irresponsibility by taking on too many cats was not good, it did teach me about love, commitment, stewardship, and the priceless, invaluable lives wrapped up in whiskers, fur, and paws.  They aren’t just animals or pets.  They aren’t for our purposes.  They are created by God for his delight, and we get the gift of being their stewards.  I love how the pet-mom and pet-dad concept is growing in America and other countries.  More and more people are calling animals their family or their fur babies.  The bond is irreplaceable, as are the creatures with whom we bond.  Having learned about them through life, growing in understanding and appreciation, I can now say there is nothing on earth that would ever cause me to dispose of my cats.  No new homes ever.  I am their forever home, their mom, their caretaker, their furless companion.  Nothing makes my heart happier than to see other people loving their cats (and dogs) in such a way.  I interact with various Facebook groups of Russian Blue and Flame Point owners, and people literally all over the world are loving their felines in ways that I can honestly say surely honors and reflects a loving Creator.

Yay, A New Blog Award!

Thanks to Playful Kitty http://playfulkitty.wordpress.com/ for nominating me for The Dragon’s Loyalty Award.  I have read that it’s a combination of the Very Inspiring Blogger and the Versatile Blogger awards.  To be honest, the best part about receiving this award is that I’ve discovered a great blog in Playful Kitty, along with a bunch of other cat related blog connections!  I can’t wait to dive through some of these blogs she follows and see what other cat lovers are meowing about 😉

The Rules of Receiving Award:

Display Award Certificate

Announce Your Win With A Link to Whoever Nominated You

Present 15 Or So Others With the Award & Comment On Their Site You Have Done So

Post 7 Interesting Things About Yourself

So in following the rules of the award, here are some blogs I really enjoy (in no particular order) and think they deserve an expansive readership:

In a S(k)nit http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/47893707/

horseofthesun http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/57300882/

Voices In His Head http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/36745882/

Post-It Happiness http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/43985573/

The War In My Brain http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/42477402/

All Those Small Things http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/30222809/

The World’s Top Ten of Anything http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/44388558/

7 Things About Mwa:

  1. I love African music and culture and cherish my friendships with them
  2. Hence, I love the African djembe and will someday buy another one and NOT sell it in a bind, and continue with local workshop drum fun!
  3. Ok, so I love all cultures and wish I had money to travel, but I have the gift of having many international friends and acquaintances here in the U.S.
  4. I have another blog called Coffee With Jesus http://neonfish76.wordpress.com/ that is on the more serious side but hopefully as enjoyable to others as My Two Cats
  5. I am originally from Niagara Falls, NY which is probably why waterfalls are one of my most favorite things in all of nature
  6. I hope to someday be a published author
  7. My top two “love languages” are “words of affirmation” and “quality time.”

There ya go friends! Thanks again to Playful Kitty’s nomination and to all of you who enjoy My Two Cats.

Love to ya;)

I’m Appawlled

Corporate greed has reared its ugly head again.  I would say greed in general, save for the fact that it is a business to which I am referring.

I went to a job fair a couple days ago and spent 2 hours filling out an application and interviewing for a AAA customer call care center.  I had a nice rundown of the history and services provided.  It was impressive to find out that of all membership organizations that exist, AAA has the most members second to the Catholic church!  Nationwide, and including Canada, AAA has 52 million members.  There are 6 locations in the United States, and each of these have a call center to answer incoming consumer questions and provide support.  I don’t know how many people are in each call center, but I think 100 sounds like a decent estimate.

At the end of the interview, ended by me of course, I found out that the position was only offering $8.50 an hour.  Seriously?  So I decided to venture down the road of a little math, taking some liberties by providing my own estimates, and here is what I’ve discovered.

Let’s say each call center has 100 people.  Six centers would then be 600 call center representatives.  At $8.50 an hour, that is an annual salary of $9,792,000. There are 3 plans of membership, costing $85, $123, or $158 depending upon customer preference.  If all 52 million members had the lowest plan that’s an annual $4,420,000,000; if all members had the middle plan that’s an annual $6,396,000,000; and if all members had the highest plan that’s an annual $8,216,000,000.

So a company/organization/membership/whatever brings in between 4 and 8 billion dollars a year, yet only spends 9 million on its employees who are central to the daily operation and success of the business.  How many 9 millions are in 4 billion? 444 9 millions are in 4 billion.  That’s 444 times the annual expenditure in employee wages.  What a profit, huh? Of course there are other business expenses and other salaries such as travel agents, supervisors, various levels of management and CEO’s.  But still, it gives an idea of how unfair the wages are, not to mention $8.50 an hour is not a living wage.  It is poverty level.

I know this is ‘nothing new under the sun’ as they say.  I do know that even the bible says to give a worker his fair due wages.  I’m glad I’m not one of the people who may someday be accountable for this horrible discrepancy, which exists in spite of my estimates and liberties of calculation.

So yes, I was definitely appalled once I got to thinking about things and doing the math.  There’s probably nothing I nor anyone else can do about it, but I do know one thing.  When I do get a job that pays at least a living wage if not more, and I’ve got the flex room to afford a membership card so that I can have savings benefits for travel or shopping or whatever, I will definitely not be applying for AAA membership.  Out of respect for the grunt workers whose backs are aching and wallets are breaking, I will not get my piddly discounts for a piddly annual fee.  It’s simply unjust, and I can’t  justify partaking in it now that I know that AAA’s wealth is so unevenly distributed among its employees.

Cats and Books

Sorry to be incognito for a while.  I’ve been a little distracted and haven’t been able to engage in things I enjoy such as blogging and reading.  I won’t muse boringly upon it, but I would like to say that one legitimate reason for not reading is that I always seem to have an obstacle in my way.

"Oh, I'm not in your way am I?"

“Oh, I’m not in your way am I?”

When it comes to books, cats are on them like white on mice.  Save for the fact that my apartment is (thankfully) rodent free, I’d almost wonder if my cats loved books more than mice.  In fact, I think Timba currently has taken on the official role of mama’s Book Marker.

"Why use your bookmark when you have me?"

“Why use your bookmark when you have me?”

Captured here is my current read, and while not a long Dean Koontz or Stephen King novel, I seem to be taking a longer than usual time to get through it.  I really enjoy it and recommend it, and would definitely read more diligently if, well, my book marker weren’t so prominent and cute.

The Poisonwood Bible is a work of fiction that chronicles a missionary family’s time in the Congo.  While fiction, it is very close to truth.  I can see everything in the book actually happening.  It probably isn’t a Christian book.  It isn’t a bash on Christianity either, however, it does expose harmful brands of Christianity and their detrimental effects upon relationships.

The story is told through alternating the chapters in the voice of the mother and three daughters.  The characters are funny and insightful despite the portrait of a sad reality in Christian missions history: the blending of evangelism and colonialism and the  forceful imposing of one culture upon another.

The father in the story is an overbearing, dominating, self-willed and driven preacher who has no concept of relational or cultural intelligence.  He is bent on staying in the Congo in the midst of political upheaval so that he can ‘do the Lord’s will’ and be the ‘good and faithful servant’, all the while having no idea that he is profaning the heart of Love and squashing the spirit of his wife and daughters.

I am approximately halfway through, and the author foreshadows terrible tragedy as a result of this father’s will.  I get a sense that some form of redemption may come of it despite what loss lies ahead.  It is incredibly well written, with strong and defined life-like characters.  It yields a wisdom that can benefit people on all ends of the spectrum in terms of their perspective on Christianity or religion in general.  It is ultimately a portrait of our common humanity, that lesser and greater which lives in us all, that conflicting duality of good and bad.

So here is my first book review, and I hope some of you will pick up a copy and journey with me into the heart of the jungle.  I am thankful someone recommended the book and even bought if for me, so while I cannot progress through it as quickly as I’d like (ahem, Mr. Timbavati), I will definitely plot out some time this weekend to get a few more chapters down the road.

"I'm better than this book, you know ..."

“I’m better than this book, you know …”

Then I can sift through my bookshelf and get to the stack of Stephen King greats that I’ve purchased over the past several weeks.  I’ve only read one of his novels so far, Bag of Bones, and am completely enamored with his mastery of words and depth of understanding.  But somehow, something tells me I’m going to have to fight my way to the bookshelf, for even from a distance, cats and books are entwined, bound to be together, and always for the better 🙂

Even from a distance, cats pair up with books

Thinking of reading a book over me? Think again!