Reading Comprehension

My favorite book club recently banned “Grammar Nazis.” This is a good thing. I’m sure you’ve all heard this lovely term. Grammar Nazis are people who need to be (and demand that others be) grammatically correct all the time. Man, life is not grammatically correct. It’s okay to make mistakes. Not to mention, being a Grammar Nazi online is incredibly classist and ableist. But this upturn in book club etiquette got me thinking.

I’ve belonged to many book clubs in my life. And while some entertain a friendlier crowd than others, for some reason, every club has its own snob or multiples thereof.

Before we move on, I feel like I need to address that, yes, I realize this is such a first-world problem as to be silly. And if you wish to devote your time to something else, I get that. You can just stop reading here and move along. But if you’re on the same petty first-world page as me, you’re probably pretty annoyed by book snobs too.

In addition to the arduous duties required of the average Grammar Nazi, these book snobs (I call them book snobs, by the way) are all hyper-focused on defining what it means to be a real book.

According to the book snobs, real books tangible. TANGIBLE, I tell you. Audiobooks and eBooks are off the table. They aren’t real. What does that even mean anyway? Are they imaginary? Do I only imagine that I’m reading on my Kindle or that I’m listening to the to-die-for-voice of Hugh Fraser reading Agatha Christie? Was it all a dream? Pretty good dream if I do say so.

I think this whole distinction between the real and the imaginary is pretty interesting if we’re getting all postmodern theoretical about it. But I don’t think that’s what they’re getting at. Which is a shame really, because that would be a great conversation.

And this is not to say that everyone should value printed books and eBooks the same way. Your preferences are your preferences. And you have a right to have them, obviously. Go you! But you don’t have a right to put down other people for having a different favorite reading preference.

So, it’s okay if you prefer holding a tangible book of paper and string and glue and ink. It’s a beautiful experience, turning the page. Believe me, I know.  But don’t be a snob about it.

Another book snobbish thing to do is genre-shaming.

I think a cozy mystery novel sounds nice. Like hot tea on a cold night. The book snob will say “god no, that’s not a real book.” And in my head, I hear them go on to say something along the lines of “I would never taint my cultivated reading palate with the likes of such filth.” Okay, yeah, so I have may made up that last bit, BUT… their actual comments aren’t far off.

On one snobbish encounter, I felt personally attacked that someone had the audacity to claim that Agatha Christie penned cozy mysteries (with all the rude connotations of a book snob behind it). If you think intricate murder mysteries written by the Queen of Crime are cozy, you might want to consider re-evaluating a few things. And what’s so wrong about a cozy mystery anyway? They’re well… cozy.

The list goes on. To the book snob, romance novels, manga, and graphic novels are all not books. That’s right. Not. Books. Maybe these book snobs have been reading too much George Orwell for their own good. Or maybe they stepped directly out of 1984 with their notebooks. Except of course, they could never be bothered to read such things. Cause, you know. Book snobs.

Oh, hey, while we’re at it, let’s talk reading goals!  Who doesn’t love some good goalsetting? What I find fascinating are the people who also keep minute details recorded on excel sheets alongside meticulously written diaries of the 10,541 books they’ve read so far this year and to top it off, they share these in our groups  to show off open a discussion.

These are the same people who forget what they’ve read. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a book club member say, “I got halfway through that book and realized I’d read it already!” I’d be able to afford more books.  Which I guess, is why they keep diaries full of plot notes for the 500 books they read last month.  I know I’ve said this before, but if you can get halfway through a book before you remember that you’ve already read it, maybe you’re working through your TBR pile a little TOO quickly.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but this one person just said yesterday that they’ve read 345 books so far this year (500+ pages each… apparently that distinction was important) and that she reads at least one book, and strives for two, every day, never fails. I mean, good on her, but who has that kind of time!?  And seriously, no wonder they might forget what books they’ve read. How can you retain the experience when you’re cranking them out like that?

On the other hand, sometimes members will lament that they’re not reading enough or they’re falling behind in their goals. For instance, this one poor woman said sadly “I’m not reading much these days… I’ve only gotten through 32 books in the last two months.”  That’s an average of four books a week, folks. Are we supposed to feel sorry for her? What kind of goals must she have to be sad over her current reading progress? Or, is it more accurate to think that she’s humble bragging? And if so, why? Nobody cares.

Like I said, it’s great to have goals.  But when you start sharing that record as a means of lording the accomplishment over others, you start venturing into snob territory.  We get it. You read. A lot.

I’ve got news for you, just because you read a lot and have very specific ideas of what exactly makes a book a book, you’re not better than other people. You’re not better. They’re not worse. We’re all just people who like to read.

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 Day in the Life of Evil

It is sunrise time, and the humans have not yet risen. Typical. They are all so lazy.

I must wake them. Apparently, no one in this house, except me, knows when feeding time is. I don’t care if there is food left down for me 24/7… I want the good stuff, the wet food.

As I stretch my slender body, preparing to wake my human, I see movement out of the corner of my eye… who is it? Shaylee. Best to pretend I didn’t notice. She is the eldest feline and owns most of the living quarters. She prefers space.

Climbing on top of my human, I ask her softly to wake up… meow. I sit.

I should be gentle with this one since she might give me treats later. To her credit, she does give me treats several times a day… just not nearly as many as I deserve. Perhaps I must command her better.

How does she not notice me sitting on top of her? MeOW. Are her eyes open? I cock my head, the universal signal of what? and squint my eyes. MEOOW. Awake human!

It’s no use. This one is destined to sleep. And on my pillow, nonetheless. Rude. I jump off the bed and head towards the servant’s sleeping quarters. Where are those pesky dogs? They’re usually hanging around the servant like the groveling creatures they are. I flick my tail around, as a signal not to mess with me, just in case they can see.

The naked dog, Rufus, has no respect which is annoying. But the shaky white dog, Petra, likes to bark. And if the servant wakes to a cacophony of barking, it’s not a good day for any of us. Even I know that. So, I avoid them as I enter. There was no need. They’re too stupid to even notice me.

Of course, my servant is fast asleep still, too. So useless. Maybe I’ll rummage around on the bedside table before I wake her. Yes, I think I will. There’s barely any space up here to land, so I inevitably push some things to the side. Welp. There goes something that looked important. That’s what she gets for putting things on my table.

If this servant were better, she would remove some of these bizarre toys to give me more space. I bat around a funny white container that makes a satisfyingly loud noise when it rolls around. Like there are tiny pebbles inside. Strange.

The servant dislikes it when I play with her things, so I make sure to leave an obvious mark that I was here. What else can I touch? I scratch myself on the lamp while I look around. Hm. I think I’m done. On to the servant.

I take a flying leap from the table and land squarely onto her chest.  MRRREEEOOOOWW.

This one does not need a gentle wake up.

Yes, servant. It is feeding time. Do I have to tell you every day?

“Holly, okay. I’m up. Sheesh.” The servant acknowledges me and rises. Good. She feeds me, but she is also quite annoying. She stopped getting the good food, and now I’m left eating mediocre food. Unacceptable.

I will drown her favorite items later to show my dissatisfaction. Although, in an unusual moment of intelligence, the servant moved the water bowl recently, making it increasingly difficult to drown her beloved things. I will simply have to steal more. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I say.

. . . . . . . . . . 

Unlike the servant, the small human, that is, my human, has been performing adequately, but I fear the quality of her service may be declining. I shall test her. I yowl loudly, as if in distress, just to see if she is paying attention.

She is slow in responding. Duly noted.

I think I will torment the rest of the creatures in the house, now. Where is that little white dog? Ah, of course. Hiding again. I could crawl in after her, but then she would just scream which, apparently, upsets the servant. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care, but I saw a familiar can of tuna when I was going through the pantry earlier. And a pissed off servant means no tuna for dinner.

Moving on.

The bald dog needs to be taught a lesson. It does not appreciate me and Shaylee for the Goddesses that we are. I sneak up on the little dog… and pounce! Hah!

Unlike the shaky white dog, he is not afraid.  In fact, he’s quite testy. He runs at me, so I flee. I need to get away, but where? The bookshelf! I jump up just in time. Looking at the little dog on the ground, I realize I barely made it. That was a close one. I collect myself, cleaning my paws and fur, while the angry little bald dog paces out of reach.

I scale the shelves up to the highest point. This is the best place for plotting. Should I torment Shaylee next? No. That would be a mistake. A big mistake.

What I could use right now is a snack. Hmmm… how shall I steal more treats? After my last raid, the servant installed some high-tech sealing machines, so I cannot open the cabinets anymore. I’m this close to figuring out those feline locks, and when I do… oh, I will feast!

What shall I do once I tire of drowning the human’s objects? Perhaps I’ll plot the demise of the world as we know it. All these creatures, so unsuspecting. Playing with their little objects. I will drown them all. The thought makes me very happy and I purr softly.

I hear them talking as they gaze up at me …

“Hey, Mom? What do you think Holly’s doing up there?”

“Being suspicious.”

Keeping Up Appearances

Ladies, we all know that the pressures of society are a considerable weight to bear. Day after day, we get advertisements and marketing ploys shoved in our faces demanding that we look younger, thinner, more done-up than can ever be achieved naturally. If you don’t look good enough, someone is bound to tell you. But careful! If you look too good, it’s bound to be used against you. A zero-sum game played by wannabe winners.

And fellas, you’re not entirely immune either. The media constantly portrays what a “real” man should look like, what he should do, what beverages he should drink (hint: they say it’s beer and only beer). Society maintains that all men should have the washboard abs or swooping hair. They say all men should wear fine suits or rugged jeans – no in-between.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Yet we find ourselves falling for these traps, not just in how we judge ourselves but how we perceive others. Ugh, human nature… it sucks.

Here’s the worst part of it all – at the very end, the last stop on the train, the final exit off the road of life, there’s still pressure from society. You would think that we get some reprieve in our last moments above ground. You would think that our own funerals, the celebrations and memorials of our lives, would be the place where societal norms would be laid to rest for a brief moment (see what I did there?).

Nope.

We can’t let our guard down for a minute; death be damned. We need to keep up appearances. We have to make sure we look peaceful and angelic and gorgeous for our grieving loved ones to admire. Otherwise, we are exposed to the dreaded commentary of those in attendance, while we are powerless to change anything.

I can’t be the only one. I’m sure you’ve heard this narrative at funerals too.

“Oh, doesn’t her makeup look lovely!”

“Look what a good job they did on her hair!”

“My, what wonders they did with his face.”

Umm, excuse me… what?

What’s worse, there’s a flip side to that coin.

“Ooh, you can barely recognize him. How terrible.”

“She would have never done her makeup that heavily, this simply doesn’t do her justice.”

“Oh dear, she would have never been caught dead in that dress…”

Honestly, people! Can we not show a little respect by holding thoughts in our mind instead of speaking them out loud? It is possible to do, you know. No, really, it is.

We all grieve in our own unique ways, but this kind of grieving can be done on your own time. The funeral service is not the time to discuss the shade of lipstick chosen or the volume of their hair. They can’t even defend the choices themselves, for Pete’s sake.

Sure, the positive comments are often made to comfort the grieving family and bring some kind words to the fore. And I get it; it’s hard to know exactly what to say to the family or even to the others in attendance. Funeral homes don’t exactly spark the best conversations. But check your “thought filters” before you leave the house, so you don’t end up saying something to make things more morbid than they already are.

I seriously want to know, though: just how good are people supposed to look at their own funerals? Why is there a standard? Have we asked ourselves why we care so much about people’s appearance while their eternal soul is laid to rest? It seems there would be more pressing matters to consider. If ever there was a time in someone’s life, this definitely seems like the time to not be worried about hair, clothing, or overall appearance.

Alas, societal pressure is destined to weigh heavy on our shoulders – right up to the bitter end.

Looks are Deceiving

Beautiful Shaylee, fairy princess of the field, caught up in a reverie.

Hmmm… what are the odds of my survival should I opt to destroy my human servant while she sleeps tonight? She IS very good about buying my favorite food and sharing the canned tuna. But then again, I could always just get another stupid human to do my bidding. Decisions, Decisions…

 

Kitchen Mishaps

I blame my mother. I’ve written before about this truly amazing yet possibly deceptive chef I have for a mother. Trying desperately to duplicate her mouth-watering recipes is what surely brought the demon spawn down (or is that up?) into my humble abode. It’s okay though, he’s not so bad as far as demons go, and the cats seem to like him. I can’t quite catch what they’re saying, since they’ve been commiserating quietly in the corner since he poofed in (seemingly quite confused at this turn of events, I might add), but from the looks of it, he might be a long-lost relative.

And while I haven’t yet caught Mom out in her kitchen-y lies, I will. Oh, you can be sure, I will. Eventually.

 

 

Hacked… Like a Hairball

I don’t want to incriminate myself, but as someone of the feline persuasion, I can’t help but brag that this human is only here by the grace of… well, me. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she was thiisss close to, ahem, you know. But if she weren’t here, who would open the cans of tuna I so dearly love for snack time? Damn it all to hell. I tell you what though… as soon as I figure out the can opener, this servant is history. Hisssstory, I tell you!