Just Another Day

Don’t you just love those mornings where you wake up peacefully – and rested – before the alarm starts blaring in your face?

I do, too, except I don’t get them often.

My sleepy eyelids resist opening to the harsh sunlight, and I think “the world seems too bright.” Wait. It is brighter. What time is it!? Am I late?

Suddenly rushing from peace to panic, I check the time. I’m late. Again. I roll my eyes instinctively. What else is new? Now that I’m rushing to get ready for work, I’m sure that everything that can go south will go south. You know, Murphy’s Law and all that.

Even putting on pants feels like a nightmare, and yes, I am wearing pants. But hey, at least there’s coffee.

Apparently, the Keurig is in a mood today, because it seemed to say “yeah, you thought there was coffeeas it malfunctioned. Again. Instead of receiving the large cup I desperately needed, the machine offers me an uber small cup that tastes (and feels) like a gelatinous espresso.

The concentrated dose of caffeine in that elf-sized cup of Joe motivates me to get out the door, finally, where it’s raining? Seriously? After running back inside to fetch my umbrella, I rush to the car – that needs gas. I could’ve done it yesterday on my way home, but I naively thought Oh, I’ll get it in the morning. Procrastination always comes back to bite me, but somehow, I still haven’t learned. At this point, I probably never will. And I’m okay with that.

Except when I’m running late for work in the pouring rain, the car’s gas tank is nearly empty, and I’ve only just realized I left my lunch on the kitchen counter.

I let out my anger on the road… as usual.

The Keurig’s makeshift espresso from this morning gifts my coworkers with a second-hand buzz that may cause some serious suspicion over my substance intake. With a fast-talking attitude and fidgety movements, I barrel through my work with superhuman speed and a not-so-mild caffeine-induced anxiety.

It sure made the morning meeting pass quickly; I’ll say that much. Although that may be due in part to my lack of attention – which I only realized when I was unexpectedly called on. Instead of answering the question with any form of coherence whatsoever, I was instead dealing with a series of traumatic high school flashbacks. George Washington! No? Oh, wait, 42! Mesopotamia! The Battle of 1812! Wait, what were we talking about again?

Well, once that was over with, I remembered my lunch sack, sitting sad and alone on the kitchen counter. I guess I have another lunch date with the vending machine while Holly, the ne’er-do-well, is no doubt snacking on my tuna salad sandwich. The vending machine isn’t the best date, though – it ate my money, again. I think it was even hungrier than me this time.

As the crash from this morning’s coffee begins to seep its way into my psyche, I am less than elated to run into Karen coming out of the ladies’ room. I’ve done my best all morning to avoid the office gossip as best as I can, but when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

I just want to shout NO KAREN. I’m not interested in Kathy’s marital problems. And you shouldn’t be either.

Even though I did my work with the speed (and disregard) of a tornado, I managed to leave work late. As the last one out, I set the alarm behind me.

And as soon as I heard the click of the lock as I shut the door, I realized I left my umbrella on my desk. It is now pouring rain, and my car, having also been one of the last to arrive, is not nearby. Just go back in and grab the stupid umbrella, I hear you say. Ahhh… you see, while my employer trusts us enough to set the alarm, they do not trust us enough to have a key to get back in once we leave. But as someone who loves to see the positive for every negative, I think at least I won’t need a shower.

Once I got home, I was finally able to have a home-cooked meal… even if I did burn it. Last time I summoned a full-on demon, so this is still a step up from that one.

The rain must have been worse than I thought because the internet went down. It wouldn’t be an issue, except for the fact that I began a very serious Friday the 13th marathon yesterday. Without the tools to finish my binge, I suppose I’ll read instead. Not a bad alternative.

Or so I think until I realize halfway through chapter 5 that an entire section of the book is MIA. Don’t ask me why or how, there are no answers here. And no mid-book chapters either, apparently.

Well, I read on, hoping context clues and even some small leaps can help me navigate my way to the ending. After chapter 10, I realize that missing section must’ve been pretty important because I have no clue what’s going on anymore.

I sigh, putting the book down and feeling like that might just be the best metaphor possible for my life.

Never Lonely

Who’s watching
Tell me who’s watching
Who’s watching me
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
And I have no privacy 
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
Tell me is it just a dream
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
And I have no privacy
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
Who’s playing tricks on me? 
 
 
 
*song lyrics: Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell
 
 
 
 
 

The Cat in the Car

Is it true that all cat owners have lost their minds—or is it just me?

We choose cats because they’re supposedly less work than dogs. Cats are independent (which means they almost always come with an attitude). Cats don’t need as much attention as dogs to stay happy. Like introverted humans, they’re happy with alone time. You think they’re less demanding than other pets, until you have one, that is.

And then we do outrageous things that our cats didn’t sign up for in any way shape or form. We might dress them up in little socks or costumes. Or buy them harnesses and take them for walks. Or… ahem… put them in cat carriages so we can push them in a stroller while we walk.

As a cat owner, I can testify that we are all, in fact, at least a little bit crazy. Some of us more than others, if I’m being completely honest. It’s me. I’m some of us.

Well, the other day, I did something a little bit crazy for my evil feline friend, the ne’er-do-well. To be fair, this was my daughter’s big idea, not mine. I really don’t want to take any credit or have any part in this whatsoever… other than, you know, putting the plan into action so to speak. The ne’er-do-well is really my daughter’s cat, after all, and I think her fondness for humanity may stop there. I’m certainly not included in that benevolent bubble, that’s for sure. To say she is spoiled is an understatement. Of course, I mean Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well) and not my daughter. Um, yeah, right, of course Holly.

So, what was this grand adventure, you ask?  A car ride.

It may not seem like a huge deal, but this car ride was Holly’s first time in the car where a visit to the vet or a household move wasn’t the final destination. Instead, we stopped at Starbucks for a Puppuccino… for our cat. Did I mention I haven’t seen my mind in a while?

Usually, Holly is content riding in her crate. Well, content isn’t exactly the word, but at least she remains civil. It’s all we can ask for, really.  But this time, my daughter’s big idea was to let her roam around the car so she could look out the windows and enjoy the ride. And by all appearances, she did enjoy the ride. She LOVED the Puppuccino. Yeah, I know. I did mention a certain someone was spoiled, remember? It’s up to you to figure out which one.

And hey, who knows, maybe this will create some good karma for me. I mean, I know that Holly has been plotting my demise for quite some time—hopefully, that Puppuccino will make her think twice.

These were taken as we were parked outside of our building… Holly sat/was held quite contentedly and out of the way in my daughter’s lap for the actual ride.

A Reflection on Mornings

My phone buzzed from across the room. And it buzzed, and buzzed, and BUZZED.

I cursed the alarm for waking me up, myself for putting it too far away to hit the snooze button from my bed, and the universe for creating a concept as off-putting as mornings.

After five minutes of mental grumbling, I began to fear the abrasiveness of the next alarm which would inevitably arrive in five more minutes. Then my eyes closed, again. Drifting back into sleep, I wondered about my hungry cats, the banality of my work week, and a strange desire for candy.

WONK-WONK-WONK. Shit. I fell asleep again.

With groggy eyes, a cloudy brain, and a stiffness in my body that takes too much time to shake off, I shuffled across the room turn off my alarm.

Without this system, I would never get to work. Without the need to get up out of bed to turn off my panic-inducing alarm, I simply wouldn’t.

I hate mornings. With a passion.

I have never been a morning person, and I never will be. And that’s okay. Unless you ask me right after I wake up. Then, nothing is okay.

After feeding my two cats and two dogs, I empty the cat litter, pick up after the dogs, and wonder why I have so many pets. Oh, that’s right, I love them, and they add meaning to my life. It’s a lot easier to remember that after I’m fully awake, which won’t happen for another hour at least. I don’t know why people say that having pets helps with stress. It doesn’t.

I’m late for work. Again. No matter how early I wake up, something always eats my time and gets me off schedule—a sick dog, an escaped cat, an imploding house.

I may have mentioned that I live in a condo, which means I have lots of neighbors. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I just personally can’t stand having nothing conversations. You know, small talk. You listen to someone talk about nothing, respond with a limited acknowledgement of the nothing, and then you might go back and forth about nothing for a while, before exiting the conversation and never thinking about it again, because there was nothing to think about in the first place.

Did you feel the pain of reading that sentence? That’s how I feel during nothing conversations.

Yet, somehow, I have them every day. And it’s always in the morning.

My elderly next-door neighbor loves nothing conversations. I still haven’t been able to find a way to politely exit the conversation early on (and trust me, I’ve tried), so I usually end up getting caught in a 20-minute long exchange that drains me emotionally and makes me (even more) late for work.

My most effective strategy so far has been to leave my condo like a teenager sneaking out to a late-night party. I used to be good at it, but apparently one grows rusty as one gets older. No matter how quiet and careful I am, I often meet a worse fate than nothing conversations — the creepy old guy down the way.

On some days, I’m unlucky enough to get zinged by both of them.

Once I finally get to the car, my morning still isn’t looking bright. I’m already tired physically and emotionally. From my frenetic morning chores, my neighbors, and my impending doom. It’s in this state that I take to the streets, which is where you can see my true morning colors.

I’m an introvert with road rage.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in kindness, consideration, patience, human decency. I consider myself to be a person with values that enact positive change in the world.  Just not on the road where the assholes apparently live. And what makes it worse is the fact that every time I drive to work, it’s the morning. I think I may have told you how I feel about mornings.

Once the morning passes, socialization is a hell of a lot easier. But I won’t lie to you and say everything is all wine and roses. Oh how I wish there was wine… wouldn’t that make the morning go by much more pleasantly! But, yeah, no. You see, my office consists of characters from The Office except way less funny and more exasperating.

It’s a miracle that I can get through one eight-hour day without needing bail money, let alone an entire week.

It’s not that I don’t like working with others. I do. Sort of. Okay, well, not at all, but, I can work with others just fine, thank you very much. It’s just that my office is filled to the brim with overconfident type-A personalities who are more than happy to tell you the right way to do things even when they have no idea how to do said things. Yeah, thanks for the advice Dwight, but no one asked.

So, after a jam-packed day of Zoom meetings that could very well have been emails requiring no human interaction whatsoever, I inch closer and closer to my sacred wind-down time.

I always notice that my evening drive has a lot less rage than my morning drive. Once I get home, I tend to the pets again; giving everyone dinner, taking out the dogs and the cat litter, emptying and refilling the water bowls, and then I can finally focus on myself (Masked Singer and Great British Bake Off here I come!). And look at that. No bail money needed!  For today at least.

But as Scarlett said, “after all, tomorrow is another day.” And with it comes, you guessed it, a morning. Ugh.

 

Got Inspiration?

Is there a film or a book that has stayed with you? Sure, there are some images from Stephen King and the like that I’ll never get out of my head (no matter how much I love horror), but for me, it’s the novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Yes, it’s dated, it came out in the late 1800’s, and no, I wasn’t around for the first publication, but it’s still a fantastic read today, and relevant. People are still monsters and animal cruelty and apathy still run rampant.  To those of you who are unfamiliar with the piece, I’ll sum it up for you.

The story of Black Beauty is told from the first person (first animal?) as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse who is, as the title would indicate, named Black Beauty. Starting off with his early days as a colt growing up on an English farm alongside his mother, all the way to his later days and his eventual happy retirement to the country. Throughout the course of the story he encounters trials and tribulations along with many tales of abject cruelty and suffering as well as true kindness. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you give it a shot.

This book – and the story of Ramses from Lad of Sunnybrook, opened my eyes to the depths some humans were willing to sink, but there were also examples of compassion. In fact, these stories inspired me to become an animal advocate.

Maybe you’ve watched a movie or read a book that impacted what career choice you made, or as in my case, what types of organizations you join. I’d be curious to hear your stories in regard to what books, movies, tv shows or other forms of like media, inspired you to do certain things, or join certain groups, or even work in specific fields.

Have you ever thought what forms of inspiration may have served people throughout the course of history? What prompted Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch to paint the popular painting most commonly referred to as, ‘The Scream’? It was painted in 1893, and depicts a man holding onto his face like Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone.

Obviously, he wasn’t inspired by a movie. In this case it wasn’t a book either, but as my google search tells me, he wrote in his diary,

“One evening I was walking along a path; the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.”

I know. Cool, right!?

It’s just interesting to think about what inspires people. Maybe reading Lord of the Rings inspired you to write your own story, or maybe you became an expert in mythology thanks to Neil Gaiman or a history buff courtesy of Lin Manuel Miranda.

If I asked you to tell me about a movie, book, show, comic, play, or any other form of media that impacted you in some way, what comes to mind first?

 

Young at Heart

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before or not but living directly next door to me is a cute little old lady, nice as can be and maybe 500 years old. I’m kidding, of course. I have no idea how old she is, she might only be 250 years old for all I know. I’m bad at guessing these things.  I’d be a horrible carnival guess-your-age-and-weight barker. You’re 72 and 300 pounds!  Oh? Really?  25 and 120?  My bad.

But I do know that my lovely neighbor is elderly enough and frail enough that when I don’t see her for a few days, I’m concerned for her wellbeing.

Yesterday evening I saw her meandering up the sidewalk with her cane from wayyyy on the other side of the parking lot where she had parked her car. We spoke and I asked why she parked so far away when there was a spot(s) right up front, where, ahem, my own car was parked.

Welp.

Apparently, she likes to park as far away from our building as she can… she does this everywhere she goes as a means of walking and getting exercise and generally staying healthy. Evidently, she even exercises at home (which explains the catchy old school aerobics music wafting through the building’s foyer).

Meanwhile, my lazy fat ass parks as close as humanly possible to every building I visit to save myself the effort of walking even the smallest distance, or, you know, expending any energy whatsoever.

I think maybe the wrong person is keeping an eye out for the wrong person in this scenario.

 

On Guard

After sharing a day from the life of Holly aka Evil Incarnate aka The Ne’er-do-well, I thought it was only fair to give equal time to the guardian of the house, Rufus.


Dear Diary,

I was a good boy today! I protected the family, and we are all safe, now. Well, let’s start from the beginning. Mom fed me breakfast, and it was delicious! I couldn’t wait to have lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again.

Mom left home, again. So, it was just all the pets and the girl today. It’s not so bad, except for the cats. They’re the worst. I swear… if Shaylee rolls her eyes at me one more time… And don’t even get me started on Holly! She annoys me to no end. No end, I tell you! No matter how much she may have deserved it, I didn’t kill her today, so I think Mom should give me extra points – and treats, for that.

Other good boy things I did today include letting Petra cuddle with me (even though I don’t like it or her), leaving mom a present in her sleeping spot, and not peeing in the house.

I always leave my favorite chew toy in Mom’s bed under the covers while she’s at work. I make sure that it’s all nice and slobbery and chewed too.  That way, she’ll come home and see that I protected her spot all day and that I was thinking of her.  I’m a good boy. Mom never seems happy to find my chew toy, especially if she gets into her spot before finding it. She makes an odd noise when that happens. Sort of sounds like Petra before she throws up in a shoe. I don’t understand why Mom doesn’t always appreciate all the things I do for her. I know she loves me though, that much is very clear, so that makes me happy. And she feeds me breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again. I wonder when I’ll get a treat. I haven’t had one for a long time, at least an hour.

I also tried to teach Petra the importance of protecting hearth and home. There are monsters all around us.  Outside. Above. Today I saved our girl from a FEROCIOUS lizard that dared to crawl onto our patio! I might not have been able to get at him, but I did give him a stern talking to through the patio door and he was duly frightened and chagrined at his transgression. The girl didn’t seem too impressed, but I did my duty regardless of her disdain. I am a good loyal boy.

But that Petra… I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her. I tried to teach her how to bark at the people in the parking lot across the way. We need to tell them to stay away. Petra just doesn’t take her job seriously. She doesn’t know what it means to be the protector of the family. Not like I do.

Before Mom comes home, I always sniff under the front door to see if she’s close. Today, I got nothing. She must have been very far away. I wonder where she goes every day. Anyway, I took a nap so that I could be at my best before she came home. And I was.

Today was a great day. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Rufus