Thursday, January 18, 2018

If you plan to get neutered, wait until spring. I almost got hypothermia at the animal shelter!

Maybe it's the teacher in me or perhaps my nonconformist writer's attitude (well, except for grammar---I conform to grammar rules), but I seem to notice poor communication and bad business practices when people around me don't.

Today, I came within minutes of getting hypothermia at a "shelter." Uh-huh. Read and learn. Go on, get mad, but you know you agree.

~ ~ ~

A little background...

Sometime in September, an unknown predator dropped a kitten in Delicious's backyard. I suspect a hawk or coyote, but I'm a writer, so let's go with American Bald Eagle. The kitten was malnourished and sported an open wound. Delicious, a suppressed veterinarian for many years, cleaned out the wound (gag), and "doctored up the kitten." Gnome was present during all this critter drama, and in his sugar-minded fashion, named the kitten Lollipop — Lolli for short.

In October, Delicious went to Panama City Beach, and I babysat Lolli and mama's Yorkie, Gypsy. Tall Child fell in love with Lolli. I was shocked at his immediate liking to Lolli since he hated my deceased Yorkie, Buzz, and always said he, "Couldn't wait to dig that hole."

Don't worry, readers. I held him to that. He dug the hole.

Maybe Tall Child likes Lolli's self-cleaning cat habits, the ease of a litter box that he never touches, or prefers soft meows over obnoxious yaps. Who knows? She probably likes Tall Child because he doesn't move around much and doesn't threaten her cat independence.

She tolerates Gnome, and is even polite when he picks her up by the armpits, which causes her body give up and droop til her fuzzy toes drag the hardwood.

Sharky and she were tight, until one night in November when she began to howl and fuss like a coyote. She filled our long hallway with distress, and I thought something terrible was wrong with her. Remember, she was a furry grab bag delivered by an unknown animal from an unknown location. For all we knew, she was RABID!

I watched her closely the next day. She would whine, then move her tail to the side and back up.


 I called Delicious and told her the symptoms.

"Bug, as many animals as you had growing up, you should know she's in heat."

I explained it to Sharky. A month or so later, it happened again. He said, "Uh-oh, Mama. Lolli's heating again." Some events are too powerful; they must become verbs.

Folks, I do not like animals having intercourse. I saw two horses at my Uncle Trout's farm when I was about twelve years old, and, well, let's just say I have issues. I also don't like animals wearing people clothes. Too much of that in books and movies makes the regular real-life animals look exposed. Issues...

Anyway, I Webbed up the humane society to find the cheapest route to having a nun-cat. Knoxville's Young-Williams Animal Shelter would do the trick.

$45 = no kittens and no coyote sounds

I made the appointment for January 18, 2018. Instructions came via email:

Drop off is at 8:00 AM and pick up is at 4:15 PM. Please come to the back of the building for drop off. Cat owners: Please bring your cat in a carrier, or pillowcase. FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY, CATS MUST BE CONTAINED AT ALL TIMES!

Pillowcase? She's not a rattlesnake.

So, I got up early and left my snowed-in-from-school boys asleep to take Lolli for her surgery. I warmed up the car, laid a soft towel in her carrier (NOT pillowcase), and consoled her as we rode to the clinic.

I followed the instructions and drove to the back of the building. I parked, got her out, and followed a dozen or so other people with boxes (NOT pillowcases) up a walkway, and into...


There were two chain-link fenced cages. The left cage had an outdoor heater. I felt sorry for that overpromising, under-delivering heater. Naturally, we humans circled the heater, and waited for a shelter employee to open the door.


A lady opened the door, and said, "Take a clipboard and fill out your form. Also, ALL the people who were scheduled for the Adair Clinic [closed because of snow and icy roads] need to stay on this side [heater side], and ALL the people scheduled to come here need to go to the other side [no heater side]. Well, two people stayed by the heater. We humans are such rule followers. The rest of us morons picked up our critter boxes and moved to the other cage.

Here ya go:


I wore leggings, an undershirt, a sweatshirt, and a fleece coat. Lolli had fur and a towel. I stood in line and watched the humans attempt to complete charts, but the pens wouldn't work. Why? The ink was frozen.


I wanted to yell, "This treatment is inhumane, humane society!"

Poor Lolli in the plastic box with way too many air holes cried out to me.

"I'm sorry, Lolli. I know. Surely we won't wait long."

I asked the crowd, "Why aren't we waiting inside? This is ridiculous." 

That chic in the colorful get-up said, "There probably isn't enough room."

Room? Here's a blurb from the shelter's website (my emphasis in bold):

...a campaign to build the new center as a partnership with the city and county along with private citizens who shared a passion for animal welfare. The city and county provided funds for the kennel holding areas while a newly organized Board of Directors raised funds for the adoption floor and upgraded amenities throughout the building.

As a result of these efforts, Young-Williams Animal Center moved into a new $3.7M facility in May 2004.

Hmmm, $3.7 million, and I'm in an outdoor cage? I have an idea for an amenity: a waiting room.

I counted the people in line, and timed the first check-in. The first pet's process took five minutes. I multiplied 5 minutes by the 9 people in line ahead of me.

Math doesn't lie. I would wait at least 45 minutes.


... a temperature of 0°F and a wind speed of 15 mph creates a wind chill temperature of -19°F. Under these conditions frost bite can occur in just 30 minutes.

The temperature in that cage?

At least it was sunny, not foggy, so I could easily see how stupid we all were. 

From some other site:

...hypothermia still takes about 30 minutes to set in, and between an hour and two hours to kill you. Before this, if death does occur, it will probably result from complications due to something called cold shock.

I was shocked all right...shocked at the stupid situation.

I figured out that it would be hard to carry that cat box with frozen fingers, or at least hard to let it go.

I looked down at Lolli.

Not okay.

I picked up her box and walked into the shelter's front desk. I interrupted (YEP) the worker, and asked, "Is there any way we can wait inside?"

He said, "No. We don't have room."

There was room.

I said, "Sure you do. Make an exception."

Then he replied with a statement that, as a former manager and current business owner, I despise, "We can't do that."

I said, "The temperature outside is ONE digit."

He said, "We'll hurry."

I said, "It won't matter. We'll all still suffer. Five minutes of this is miserable."

In businesses, we often hear, "I can't/We don't/That's not how we do it/It [the computer] won't let me/That's our policy."

Translated into reality-speak, those phrases say, "I don't care/My boss is a control freak jerk/I have no imagination/I have no power/I have no initiative/I can't think."

Well, Lolli and I CAN think.

I gave him the form (which I had completed with my own, warm pen while the others in line struggled) and said, "Cancel this cat's spay appointment. She shouldn't suffer at an animal clinic. We'll be back in March."

To the caged animals and people, I said, "I did the math. Good luck."

I apologized to Lolli on the way home. Once inside our house, I let her out of the cage and heated some cat food for her. Sharky walked in and said, "That was a quick surgery."

Well, Sharky, she'll be "heating again" soon, but at least she'll be warm. And so will her impatient human.

Ahhh, much better now. Sort of.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We shouldn’t suffer alone, especially at the grocery store.

You know how frustrating it is when you are suffering, and everyone else is just be-bopping along?

Well, they aren't.

Reader beware: Yes, I am a humorist. No, this blog post isn’t that funny. On this blog, I “free fall” and lay down my burdens—whether they be academic, cynical, laughable, or painful. Endure/enjoy, but at least relate?

I got cocky, and endured two unnecessary weeks of anxiety. Here’s a tip for the rest of you who suffer from anxiety disorder, situational depression, seasonal affective disorder, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder: If your doctor offers same-day screening results, STAY and get them! I have dense breasts with lots of cysts and scar tissue, so I always must get an ultrasound after my mammogram. It causes me to be at the medical office ALL DAY LONG. Well, this year, I had a lunch appointment at 11:30, and did not want to miss it. Plus, I felt like I “knew the drill.” So, I got a little overconfident and told the mammogram lady that they could call me with my results. Bad idea. (Ironically, my lunch date was with my buddy Baton Swiper, who is the chief fundraising guru for our local Susan Komen office.)

Writers love irony, yes, but this writer HATES anxiety. It is my constant companion and arch nemesis. I believe the Bible 100%, but anxiety/depression are real, too. Sir Winston Churchill referred to his bi-polar disorder as his “Black Dog.” Anxiety growls at my brain’s gate daily. I memorized these verses long ago:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27

They help. My Black Dog growls. They help. He growls. I recite and pray. He growls. I pray. I live. He growls. I pray.
So, the nurse called me back and said, “As you know, you have dense breast tissue, so we typically do an ultrasound.”

“Okay, yes.”
“Also, [he growls] the doctor saw a change from last year on the right breast. We need more pictures in addition to the ultrasound.”

I thought, Matthew 6:27. Geez, why didn’t you schedule this all on one day, Bug? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I’m dying. I’m dying. Matthew 6:27.
Why in the helk would I put myself through that? Because, reader, I exalted myself thinking I knew my future and would be fine. Here’s another Bible verse.

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12
Before my “abased/humbled” self began to rough draft my eulogy and instruction book for life for Sharky, Gnome, and Tall Child, I did call the doctor to make the first appointment possible, two weeks away.

Does anyone else out there imagine her own eulogy? I think it’s dang thoughtful. I offer my writing services to help others write them, so why wouldn’t I write my own eulogy to help MY family avoid the arduous task? I already gave them my funeral plan in my last book, Theories: Size 12, Go On, Get Mad, But You Know You Agree. Maybe I’ll do the eulogy as a blog post, but I don’t want to tempt fate. See? There I go again, trying to control my life.



Anyway, I humbled my mind for two weeks, and certainly did NOT add one day to my life. I texted my “inner circle” of friends: Lifestar, Frisky on Water, and OMGG. Frisky actually had breast cancer. She brought that hell home to all of us 40+ ladies. She rallied and recovered and set a stellar example of guts and faith for all of us. She replied to my text with a picture message that said:

Not once does the Bible say, “Worry about it,” “Stress over it,” or “Figure it out.” But over and over it clearly says, “Trust God.”

Good stuff. I cried. She helped me. The growls sounded less frequently. I told God I trusted Him, but as Margaret Thatcher once said, “I’m extraordinarily patient, provided I get my way in the end.”

Those 14 days gave me ample time to reflect on anxiety and pensiveness. Where do you do your best thinking? I do mine three places:

1.      Exercising (I don’t work hard enough to lose my thoughts)

2.      2:30 a.m. – 4:00 a.m. Every DAMN morning. As my favorite doctor and one of the best daddies ever says, “Mama’s wake up in the middle of the night and try to solve every problem in the world. Do you need Ambien?” He’s awesome, and the father of two of my Owls (as in squad). In his office for my first time, I looked up to see their photos on the wall. I said, “You know I am best friends with [Daughter 1] and [Daughter 2].”

He said, “Oh, I can’t discuss them. HIPAA LAWS."

Huh? Their picture is on HIS wall in his office. I think HIPAA prevents him from discussing me with them, not vice versa. Still, I was there to see about Sharky’s hearing, but the super doctor turned and asked, “Okay, we’ve got him figured out. How about mama?”

Folks, my father died in 1993. In that moment in the doctor’s office, I couldn’t remember the last time a man asked me how I was doing. I immediately got emotional, and said, “I’m tired.” He talked to ME about ME for a while. I’d tell you what he prescribed, but he’s big on HIPAA, and I’m big on him, so you’ll have to guess.

3.      Hands down, I do my best thinking in the grocery store.

My office is in my home, a ’56 rancher with quirky parts from the crazy lady who lived here before Tall Child and I bought it. My office contains hundreds of books, hundreds of photos, Tall Child’s desk from grade school, tables, bookshelves, paintings, stuff, stuff, stuff. NO curtains on two huge windows. A Bird feeder I can see from the inside is suction cupped to the left of my computer. There is almost no blank space, except for the floor, where I roll my estate sale $40 leather chair from corner to corner to expedite my work and keep my train of thought intact. In more concise terms, I need LOTS Of stimulation to think.
So, anywhere I go that has lots of stimulation helps me think. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. During those two reflective, self-loathing weeks, I went to the grocery store twice. I thought of this theory. Whatever we carry, we carry into the grocery store, so: We shouldn’t suffer alone, especially at the grocery store.

I took my self-pity and a list to Kroger. I also carried something “different in my right breast.” I’m on a low-carb diet with Tall Child, but I was starving, so I stopped at the deli. When I’m in one of my “states” my appetite leans toward easily digested carbs. I am sometimes too dang sad and nervous to chew. Amen? Is that why, at funerals, we eat casseroles and cake?

Anyway, I got a small container of forbidden pasta salad from the deli. And a fork. And a Diet Coke. I ate that as I shopped, then threw away the slimy container in a trash can over near frozen foods. I kept the top of the container so I could pay for the now digesting food. Not only was I cheating on my diet, I made a dumb move. I threw away the part of the container with the price tag on it. Ugh. So, when I finished unloading a week’s worth of groceries that would feed three gobbling guys and me, I said, “I also had this pasta salad. Here’s the lid so you can scan it.”

The young cashier said, “There ain’t a tag.”

"Huh? I saved it."

“No. There ain’t. Where is it?”
I said, “Dang. It’s in the trash over by the frozen foods.”

She said, “What do you want to do?”

I said, “Well, I could go to the deli on the other end of the store and ask them to make a new tag. Or, I could go dig through the trash. Or Kroger could just give me a cup of pasta. What do you think I should do? Dig through the trash?”

Reader, remember, my nerves are raw because I had that “different thing from last year” in my right breast. And, if you read my last blog post you know I was FIRED from my corporate gig (finance, not writing) in May. My life and self-esteem feel fragile these days. I wasn’t rude; I was sad and needed help. I didn’t have the energy to go to the deli. I dang sure wasn’t going to dig through the garbage. She said, “They can’t make a label without something in the box. I guess you’ll have to get it out of the trash can.”

I said, “I’m not doing that.”

She said, “I don’t know what to do.”

I said, “I think Kroger’s doing okay. I think you should just GIVE me that food so I can go home. I’m really tired.”

She sighed and walked off toward the deli. I looked at the bag boy, who was an old man. He shrugged, “She’s young.”


Meanwhile, the chick behind me is pushing her buggy right up my A$$. I did not make eye contact. No way. That would not be good for anyone. Cashier girl came back and said, “How much was your food?”
I pounced on this ridiculous opportunity, and said, “One dollar and 85 cents.” Reader, I have NO idea how much that pasta salad was. It was like impromptu Price is Right! Pressure! She punched it in the register, and finished checking me out. I guess a non-kid employed his/her autonomy to my benefit.

I keep making mistakes. I keep embarrassing myself. Maybe I’m losing it, or maybe my Theory “If folks think you’re crazy, you can breeze through life” was bad karma.

I teared up on the way to my car. I tasted emotional defeat almost as strongly as the basil pesto from that salad. I don’t like basil. Why do I keep eating it?

Other people struggled through the grocery store that day. Let’s go aisle by aisle and think outside the barn. Every aisle contains triggers.

Flowers: Carnations scream death. Or, worse, wedding. Or, disappointment in men. When I finished graduate school, I bought myself a huge bouquet. The last time Tall Child bought my flowers, I was pregnant with Sharky (now 15) and it was TC’s mother’s idea anyway, so it didn’t count. Yep, I said it.

Deli – Divorced/Widowed, thus the appeal of single servings.

Diapers – Infertility or worse. Been there. Sucked at it. Wrote a book about it.

School supplies –Struggling student? Teacher who can’t get hired?

Candy – Diabetic? Fat? On a freaking diet again?

PASTA – Diabetic? Fat? On a freaking low-carb diet again?

International – Illegally living in the USA? I bet you think our American version of “ethnic foods” are terrible. I’m sorry. I know you are homesick and doing the best you can, more than most Americans can comprehend.

Meat – Broke? Been there. See you on the pasta aisle where you can feed your family for $2.00, but you’ll wreck your blood sugar and your low-carb diet.

Soup – Old? Taking care of someone old?

Wine – Alcoholic?

Family planning – Husband committing adultery? Should you make him wear condoms? Was your teenage daughter just here?

Cigarette/express lane – Bad habits suck, huh? Especially when you pass by a smorgasbord of temptation every time you need cat food.

If I sound winy and privileged and negative, forgive me. As Delicious likes to say, “No one is immune to tragedy.” I’ve either already dealt with everything above, or likely will, except cigarettes. I can’t afford them.

I pondered this as I searched for snacks in the olive area and almost head-butted a college kid. An overweight man (likely there for the same foods), saw my flustered attempt to apologize to the kid, and said to me, “Ah, the humanity of it all!”

YES! Humanity is all up in that grocery store. But, there’s good news! Always.

We do not suffer alone. Once, years ago, when I was in one of my “states” after taking yet another negative pregnancy test (I took 65 negative tests altogether), I sat in the parking lot and cried for a good half-hour before I sucked it up, put on lipstick, and left my car to enter the store. When I returned, I saw a white paper on my windshield, and, of course, thought it was an advertisement. It was no such thing.

It was this note from a stranger, and it immediately changed my spirit.

That was at least nine years ago. I keep it in my wallet. That scrap paper helped me then, and does so now.

LUCKILY, my mammogram results were good. I had another cyst, probably because of the toxic combination of items from all the aisles listed above. I informed my circle; we all praised Jesus.

The news could have been drastically different, and I respect that. Reader, if I could put that note on your windshield at the grocery store, I would. You do not suffer alone.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

And, to whoever wrote that note, I thank you.