Saturday, August 25, 2018


I'm visiting friends out of town. My friends have twin boys. They're turning five today. So I'm here for the birthday party this weekend.

Prior to leaving yesterday for the four hour drive, I called my friends to let them know that I was about to hit the road. My friend answered the phone. We chatted a little before she proudly declared, "I've taught the boys how to behave like gentlemen. You'll be impressed!"

"Ok," I said.

My friend somehow took that as me not believing, "I'm telling you, they'll behave just like they do with you! You'll see!"

My friend is referring to the fact that when her kids hang out with me, they listen when I tell them to do something. They even say "Please" and "Thank You" when I talk with them. Even more surprising, the first time I babysat them, the boys were sound asleep before their parents got home.

Usually, their Mommy and Daddy tell me the boys are loud, hyperactive, and stubborn little balls of energy. It's bad enough hearing them scream and tearing through the house, knocking things over. It's even worse when they're suddenly quiet for a while, and it's not nap time; it usually means they're coloring on the walls, smearing the lipstick on the dresser mirror, or they've found the lighter for the BBQ and are playing with fire. And it's a struggle sometimes, when they cry "No" and refuse to eat veggies, pick up their toys, or get ready for bed.

So my friends are often flabbergasted to see their rowdy twins behave well with me. They swear I must have some Pied Piper power that makes their kids follow me and do what I say. It's no special power. Just knowledge gained from raising a lot of nieces and nephews and babysitting lots of kids when I was growing up.

Kids are energetic. And that's a good thing. The key is to redirect that energy to do things. It's not enough to tell them to do chores. You have to make the chores into a game, make it fun. Offer them a reward, like going to the park to play after all the work is done. Or have them pick out some fun tunes and have a dance party in the living room. Let them tire themselves out. Then it's meal time, bath time, and bed time soon after.

Music is a powerful tool. I play dance music when I'm cooking with the kids. We dance while we wait for the food to cook and while we wash dishes after. I play easy listening when I put them to sleep. And classical music when we clean house.

Once, my friend called me at work. He wanted me to know that he took his boys for their check up. As they waited to see the pediatrician, the "Blue Danube" played in the waiting area. Recognizing the tune, the boys exclaimed, "Dad! It's cleaning music!"

When their father gently tried to correct them, "Boys, it's called 'Classical' music."

One twin resolutely replied, "No, Dad; it's cleaning music."

The other added confidently, "It's the music we play when we clean Uncle's house!"

Upon hearing this response, my friend and the rest of the parents and staff in the waiting room laughed out loud. To this day, classical music is known as cleaning music to the twins. And that makes me smile. Raising kids is never quite what you expect. The lesson you hope to teach isn't always the one they learn. Sometimes, they surprise you in the most wonderful way.

My friends are stunned at my ability to get their little picky eaters to eat. To get kids to try new foods, give them a choice: Carrots or celery? If they don't like either, then introduce them to small bites along with their favorite foods. The boys loved carrots after I cut them into baby pieces and introduced them to ranch dressing. Kids really like dipping and ranch dressing. And thousand island dressing and caesar dressing. They also love melted cheese dips and spinach dips.

I got them to try celery by adding crunchy peanut butter to that celery. Kids love peanut butter. When I added raisins to the peanut butter celery and told them it was called Ants on a Log, they got a kick out of it and enjoyed it even more.

I find that if they help me in the kitchen make meals, they're more likely to eat and enjoy those meals. Kids love fried foods. It's how I got the twins to enjoy fish, shrimp, broccoli, and mushrooms. And they love helping me make desserts, like cupcakes, pies, and pudding--they get to lick the bowl and mixing spoons as a reward for their help.

And sometimes, if you show that you really like the food, kids will get curious and want to try some. That's how I shocked my friends when they saw their boys eating sashimi, mussels, and liverwurst with me on different occasions. If the food tastes great, kids will eat it.

As far as behavior goes, kids will imitate what they see. So I'm always polite and courteous when I talk to them. I say Please and Thank You and You're Welcome. I say Excuse Me and Pardon Me and May I in our conversations. Sure, I'm playful with them, but I make sure that I'm always on my best behavior. The kids will follow what I do and repeat what I say. So I make sure to set good examples and speak well in the kids' presence.

Model good behavior. Be consistent. Acknowledge, praise, and reward the kids good behavior, and they'll keep doing that good behavior. I suppose it's no different than training animals.

It's not easy to raise kids. But I'm fortunate in that I've had a lot of experience babysitting and raising little children. Babysitting and raising kids is just like any skill. The more you practice, the better you are at it. Even after I left home, I never missed a chance to babysit or help out someone look after their kids for a few hours. I like the noise and crowd and energy of small children.

Being around the babies and small kids made me feel like I was back home, looking after my many nieces and nephews. It went from feeding, burping, changing diapers, bathing, and putting babies to sleep to helping them walk, teaching them the alphabet, doing chores, helping with homework; then watching them become teens and help raise the younger ones.

Raising kids is challenging and stressful. But it's also a rewarding and wonderful experience. They grow up so fast! Too fast, it seems. It blows my mind that a few of my little nieces and nephews that I helped raise as little babies are now married with babies of their own! I wasn't even ten when I was bottle feeding them and burping them and changing their diapers. Making them laugh, comforting them when they cried, watching them grow up safely and helping them find their way in this world.

And now they're doing that with babies of their own, and it makes me so happy to see life go on, even when I'm surprised how fast time has flown. And I'm a little sad to realize that my babies are all grown up now, doing things on their own. They don't need me to watch over them and take care of them. They're adults now, not little kids or clueless teenagers, stumbling though growing pains and finding themselves. They're all grown up. Where did the time go?

Time flies. So cherish every moment you have with your loved ones. That's why I try to see my little twins whenever I can. I love taking care of them and enjoy spending time with them. I arrived after a long but safe drive. I knocked on the door. I could hear the twins shouting that they got it. They opened the door, and I was greeted with hugs and huge smiles. Then I heard their mother call out from the kitchen, "Boys, what do we say to our guests?"

The boys stood tall and the first one said with practice, "Please come in and take off your pants."

"Take off my pants!?!," I quizzed with a smile.

"Coat, baby! Take off his coat!," yelled my friend.

The first twin started again, "Please come in and take off your pants and your coat."

The second one quickly added, "And make yourself comfortable!"

They both beamed so proudly that I couldn't help but return their smiles.

I could hear my friend sigh from the kitchen. I couldn't resist laughing. Kids don't always act the way you expect them. Sometimes they surprise you and make you laugh and see that life is wonderful and funny sometimes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mortal Coil

Nobody likes to come home to bad news. I had just arrived home. I had spent the night out with friends. My next door neighbor, who was taking her dog out, greeted me with the bad news. One of our residents had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.

We aren't exactly sure what happened. The neighbor with the dog, a young home care worker, said she had just gotten home from work, turned into the parking lot and saw flashing ambulance lights and police vehicles in front of our building. From her car, she saw them take our elderly neighbor down in a stretcher and into the ambulance. The ambulance and police cars then left the area.

I worry about my elderly neighbor. Though truth be told, until tonight, I never thought of him as elderly. Yes, he was older--a retired veteran. I thought he might be in his sixties, but I'm terrible at guessing ages. I know he was older, but definitely not elderly.

I don't like this at all. I've all ready lost the Old Bird who lived next door. She was 90! And she lived here the longest. The Veteran and his wife had lived here the second longest. And I am hoping they will live here even longer.

The Old Bird and the Veteran and his wife were constants in a building where it seemed like we had new neighbors every six months or so. Having these two around made the place feel like home. I kept polite and courteous conversation with them. We were neighborly. We looked out for each other's car and kept an eye out for each other's place, especially when new or suspicious people showed up. It's a nice neighborhood, but it's open, no gates or walls. And there were incidents of cars being broken into in the neighboring places.

Plus, there was a rough period a few years ago, when the quality of tenants was poor. The place got loud and filthy--new tenants blasting music from their homes and cars, littering and just being nasty and dirty. Fights broke out from loud drunken parties, and cops showed up frequently. It culminated in a stabbing and suicide. The place had gone downhill in less than two years!

I seriously thought about moving then. But my two neighbors weren't moving anytime soon. Like I said, it was a good neighborhood, close to shops, hospitals, schools, and there was this empty lot next door that was full of blossoming wild flowers and wildlife.

And having lived here for so many years, and through several management companies, the two constant neighbors, the Old Bird and the Veteran and his wife, had been very active, and vocal, and proactive in the neighborhood. They speak up and they take action. They make the management work to keep up their end; do their duties; and improve our place. So I had faith things would get better.

With new owners and management later, things did get better. All the riff raff moved out--or were evicted or arrested. And the place started improving again. So long as I had my two constant neighbors, I knew that things would be all right.

I took it for granted. And then the universe reminded me that nothing ever stays the same. Earlier this year, the Old Bird passed away. I was shocked. I knew that she had lots of illnesses. Most conversations with her were progress reports on her diseases, and what the weather was going to be like, based on which parts of her body were aching. Honestly, she was much more accurate about rain and snow than the weather forecasters. If her knees were aching, I'd take an umbrella and windbreaker to work, because there'd be a thunderstorm later on in the day.

The Old Bird had been in and out of hospitals before. She always came through, tough and resilient as ever, back to doing her health updates and weather predictions in the neighborhood. I could always count on her sitting by the front window, calling out to passersby, starting a conversation--about her health conditions and what the weather was going to be like later on.

A lot of times, if I was in a rush, I'd hop the back fence to get to the parking lot the long way around the building, just to avoid talking to the Old Bird. I had places to be, and I didn't want to get held up listening to the Old Bird go on and on about her many diseases. I didn't have time.

But with her gone now, I wish I had made more time. It feels too quiet and strange not hearing her say hello when I leave or come home through the front door. It's been half a year no since she's been gone, but I still look for her and expect to hear her voice. But she's gone now, and it feels sad not to have her around.

She was one of the kind souls who fed the stray cats that live in our area. It was she and the Veteran and his wife who inspired me to feed the strays, that it was okay to do so. And with the Old Bird's passing, the neighborhood had changed. It was the end of an era.

Now with the Veteran rushed to the hospital, it seems like my ties to this place may be coming to an end. Truthfully, I've lived here because it felt like home, especially with the constant neighbors. But losing one, and on the verge of losing the other, I feel like my world is about to undergo another fundamental change. If I lose the last constant, I lose an essential reason to stay. I think I may have to move.

And it's both a frightening and exciting venture. I fear the loss of my neighbor, because I don't want him to pass on. I want him to be healthy and live many more years with his loving, strong, and brave wife, who shows more than enough kindness and thoughtfulness and bravery to make up for the Veteran's gruff exterior and sometimes foul language when he is ticked off. But rough as he is on the outside, the man is a diamond for always doing the right thing and looking out for the neighborhood. This place will become lost and forlorn without him. It feels like I'll lose my bond to this place if the Veteran passes on. And that's an unsettling thought.

I've deliberately tried not to get close to others, because I like my privacy and try to stay out of the drama. But somehow, my constant neighbors had become important to me, and they made me feel at home. Losing them both would leave me with no excuse to stay. And I can't help but worry if I'm ever going to find another place that feels like home again.

Yes, I miss the road. I miss travelling for work and for fun. And I'm ready to just go! But I can't now. I've got things I need to take care of. I've got obligations I need to meet. There are things that I must do. But they aren't going to keep me here forever. And I'll be done soon enough.

Hearing that my tough Veteran neighbor was taken to the hospital in an ambulance is an awful reminder of just how fragile life is. Everything can change in a second. I just hope that things get better soon. Life is too short. I don't want to end up regretting the things I didn't do. Honestly, thinking about death has made me think of all the loved ones I have lost. And that makes me sad. I don't want to deal with death again so soon. I hate permanent goodbyes. And I'm not ready to say goodbye yet to the Veteran.

I didn't get a chance to say farewell to the Old Bird. And her family kept her funeral small and private. I guess that's why I still can't accept that she's gone, because I didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

I don't want the Veteran to pass on. It's not time yet for goodbye. I want him to live long and healthy and happy with his wife. But I'm going to visit him at the hospital tomorrow, if it's allowed. I at least want one more chance to see him and hear him, if possible. And if it is his last days, then let him go in peace. I want to pay my respects and honor his life and his work.

Life isn't always easy. It isn't always beautiful. But life is a lot more precious and wonderful with people who care and love and show kindness. I want my Veteran neighbor to know that he's made the world better, and in our place, he's made it feel like home. I hope he gets to come home and live healthy and happy for many more years to come. And if he goes soon, I want him to know how much I respect him, and I wish him a safe journey to the other side.


Today, I learned both the Veteran and his wife were on their porch. My other neighbor has reported to me: The wife had just got out of surgery and she was released yesterday. She picked up her husband who was released today. Both are recovering and are in good spirits and show remarkable strength. It is good news! I am happy for them!

Monday, August 20, 2018


This post was inspired by a recent Delores Delargo Towers post on Coco Chanel. It stirred up a long forgotten memory.

Once, I was part of a historical Civil War reenactment. I was with the Southern army--Spoiler Alert: We lost. The North wins. Slaves are freed. Yay! Part of my job on guard duty was to challenge individuals coming into the camp.

The second night, I had three people approach. The first was the Company Commander. I challenged him, he gave the password, and I let him enter. The second was the Sergeant Major. I challenged him, but he gave me the wrong password--off by a few letters. I had him arrested. He was pissed off, but since he couldn't remember the right password, I had him booked. Even though I knew who he was, I still summoned the camp General to verify the identity of the Sgt Major before I let him go. He could've been a spy!

A third person approached. I waved them in. That set the Sgt Major off, who demanded why in the hell didn't I challenge that person. I replied, "It's Ms J***, one of the cooks."

The General asked, "How did you know it was her in the dark?"

I said, "Because I recognize her strut, and I can smell her perfume. She's the only one in the camp who wears Chanel No 5."

The General and my squad laughed heartily. Ms J*** gave me a resplendent smile as she sashayed away to her tent. The Sgt Major was in charge of assignments. I'm guessing he was still ticked off at me, as I was assigned to kitchen duty for the next five days--peeling potatoes and washing pots and pans.

I didn't mind. I liked kitchen duty. I worked in the shade while everyone else was sweating, burning, and exhausted from the blazing sun and humid conditions. They got filthy crawling in dirt and hauling heavy cannons and artillery, while I was able to stay clean and swim in the creek during my break.

Plus, I got to eat before everyone else, and I had lots of free time in between meals and after my work was done. There's a lot of waiting and downtime in wars, even reenacted ones. And I got to spend that time with the ravishing Ms J*** and her intoxicating scent, enjoying her company, making her laugh, and getting to know her better. We found fun ways to spend all that free time. And when my five days of kitchen duty were over, I smelled like Chanel No 5. War is hell, even the reenacted ones. Makes people do all sorts of crazy things--and if you're lucky, they're really fun things!

I still love Chanel No 5 to this day. It still brings a smile to my face, and it makes me think of all the gorgeous women I've known who wore this scintillating scent. It is a most enchanting and elegant fragrance!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Service Project

I hate it when headquarters executive officers visit the company. Not because of the extra work involved or the disruption to normal operations that it brings. Rather, I hate the idiots that usually accompany the visiting executive officer. That means regional officers and managers from nearby branches often flock to my company for a chance to suck up to the visiting head honcho.

Ordinarily, I stay out of sight and avoid the circus. But my manager was out of town for a work conference. And as the person with the most experience and seniority on staff, I was the de facto leader, left in charge. I suspect my manager has delayed hiring an assistant manager, because he enjoys having me run things in his absence.

I was hoping to avoid the side show of the visiting head executive and all the sycophants who buzzed around him like flies on crap. Unfortunately, my staff meeting was invaded by the head honcho, who wanted to see us in action, and the parasites that fed off him crowded the conference room.

I was irritated at the intrusion. I was discussing our staff's progress in our community service project. This time of year, we raise money for school supplies and clothing for kids in need. We have bake sales, garage sales, even BBQ sales, whatever we can to raise funds. And the head honcho was curious about our project.

No sooner had I begun summarizing our efforts so far, when I was interrupted by a manager from a neighboring branch. He wanted to know why we were focusing on just children instead of something bigger for the whole community.

That pissed me off. First off, that mofo cut me off as I was speaking. Second, this was my staff meeting, and I sure as hell didn't ask for any input, especially from outsiders who had no clue what was going on. And thirdly, if this jackass thinks he can hijack my meeting as an opportunity to suck up to head honcho, think again! I'm going to annihilate him for daring to make himself look good by trying to make my department look bad!

That jackass started throwing out ideas about how we could do something bigger for the community, like start a literacy program to encourage reading and help others learn to read. Even better, promote a book exchange, where members of the community can read different books for free. We could buy and donate books for the community to share. Everyone from kids to the elderly can benefit from learning how to read.

Other suck ups began building up on the concept, saying maybe we could provide a safe space where these book exchanges can take place, a centralized location that the community can easily access. It would make a positive impact on the community. That location could also provide a space for community meetings. They reasoned that we ought to provide a system that lists which books are available and which ones can be taken, kind of like how Craigslist advertises which stuff is for sale, and which stuff is being sought out, to keep things organized and efficient.

Meanwhile, I was fuming as these interlopers were using my meeting as a stepping stone up the corporate ladder. Suddenly, the head honcho, who was quiet the whole time and scrutinizing the proceedings, asked me, "What do you think?"

Everyone was silent. All eyes were on me. So I said, "It sounds like a good idea."

All the suck ups were smiling and nodding, pleased that I seemed to acquiesce that their idea was so much better than mine. I continued, "In fact, it's a great idea," at which point that jackass and his cronies all started smirking and congratulating themselves.

Until I said clearly and emphatically, "Unfortunately, that idea's been done." I paused to quickly skim their confused expressions before continuing, "There all ready exists a place in the community where free book exchanges take place and anyone can use it...It's called a LIBRARY!!!"

I pointed out the window,"And there's one just down the street! And they've been serving this community for decades! You passed by it on your drive here. There's a big sign in the front that says "Library"! I hope you can read that. And if you can't, don't worry, the library has a free adult literacy program! They can teach you how to read! Anyone can use the library."

"And guess what? They even have an ingenious system for organizing their books to find out what's available in their collection. It's called a card catalogue! And they've got rooms set aside specifically for meetings and gatherings in the community. Furthermore, they even have computers to access to the internet and wifi for all visitors to use for free! What a wonderful and amazing place the library is! And what an amazing service the library provides for the community!"

"But you know what, even the library needs our help every now and then. And this time of year, they ask for donations and funds to help with their annual drive to provide school supplies for children in need. Which is exactly the type of help this department had been giving for years! And that's the project that were about to discuss until this meeting was disrupted by sudden influx of all of you unexpected and unaffiliated visitors."

Gasps from the outsiders competed with the suppressed giggles from my staff. I could've stopped there, but I was ticked off, so I continued, "I don't know how you all operate and run your meetings, but here, we follow a procedure. And I'm going to explain that procedure so you'll know. We start our meeting by explaining the purpose of the meeting and discussing what our goals are and what action we need to take. The person who leads the meeting is the moderator. Everyone gets a chance to speak after the floor is open for discussion. And no one interrupts the speaker, except the moderator in order to clarify or keep the discussion on track. In other words, you wait your turn to speak up, and you don't cut anyone off!"

I glared at the suck ups. Then said, "If you can't follow these simple rules, then there's the exit, make like a tree and leave. If you feel the need to run your mouth needlessly or preach, find a street corner or pulpit, because this is neither the time nor place to spout crazy or convert souls."

Some defiant boob spoke up, "Are you saying we can't express our opinions?"

I replied, "You can have an opinion. Just don't blurt it out unless I ask for it. You know what they say about opinions?"

The head honcho amusedly chimed in, "Opinions are like buttholes. Everyone has one!"

I couldn't resist adding "And some of them are full of hot air and crap! And this is neither the time nor the place to let loose and dump them!"

My staff and the head honcho busted out laughing as the interlopers looked stunned.

I continued, "We've all ready wasted too much time on distractions. And we've got work to do. I don't need the disruptions. There's only so much oxygen in this room and the a/c can only handle so much hot air before it breaks down. I will not waste any more time on drama or diversions or insipid interruptions. If you can't abide by the rules we use to run this meeting, then there's the door, get out!"

"And if you have any questions or concerns, now is the time to ask. Speak now or forever hold your peace. Because the next person who rudely disrupts the proceedings will get treated like the disgusting garbage they are and sent straight to the dumspter! I will haul you out myself and throw you out like filthy, fetid trash!"

Stunned silence from the visitors, my staff trying hard not to giggle. I continued, "Now, does anyone have any questions before I proceed?"

I glared at the interlopers who avoided my gaze. Silence. The head honcho surprised us by chuckling and asking, "Your school supplies fundraising project. How much do you need?"

I couldn't resist replying, "How much have you got?"

That was last week. Before I took off early from work today, my manager pulled me aside. He congratulated me on our fundraising project. The library was very grateful, and we helped so many kids, many more than in years before. We raised four times the amount we raised last year, a record! Not hard to believe, since the head honcho forked over a large check, and all the suck ups handed over funds to make themselves look good in front of the Big Boss.

Then my manager surprised me by giving me my work evaluation early. It was pretty good. Excellent, actually, boosted by an unexpected high praise and commendation from the Big Boss who visited last week. There was a strong suggestion that I take up some of the open manager/leadership positions in the company.

But I declined. I don't want staff calling me at all hours for the stupidest things they consider "work emergencies", like running out of printing paper/ink (Get some from the supply closet! Or borrow from another dept!). Or trying to balance work schedules and getting multiple projects done on time. Sorting out the office politics and bullcrap and tension that arise from coworkers infighting and drama. And I sure as hell don't want to deal with whiny, wasteful staff asking for more resources while upper management hassles me about using less resources and being more efficient and finding ways to cut more costs and be more profitable.

No way. No thanks. Been there. Done that. Not interested. Not at this time, anyway.

But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I got a raise! I wasn't expecting one til next year. So this was a nice bonus. I don't know if it's a reward for all my hard work or if it's the manager's/company's way of trying to placate me. It's no secret that I've been getting restless and ready to hit the road again, maybe with a different company. But for now, it's nice to get a raise. Even better to get kudos for doing good work. But the best feeling is knowing that we helped a whole lot of kids get the school supplies they need, and hopefully, that puts them on the path to brighter futures.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Storm Shadow

My morning started out terrible. As I was about to drive onto the road, I saw a horrible sight. A dead cat, evidently run over by car, sprawled out in a pool of its dried blood. I was deeply upset, because it was a gray tiger striped cat. It was a familiar coat pattern and color. I feared that this was Storm Shadow, one of the strays that I have been feeding all summer. And it made me sad and feel heartbreak over the sudden, terrible loss of a friend.

I first discovered Storm Shadow at the end of spring. I was taking out trash late one night, during a lull in the rain storm. I was surprised to see movement in the darkness by the half full dumpster. Two glowing golden eyes came into view. My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I soon made out a juvenile, gray tiger striped cat with a square face. He had one front paw up, poised and ready to bolt, but bold enough not to run away. He was cautious yet curious, and I suspected that he may have been raised by humans or used to contact with them.

I called out to him softly, not wanting to scare him. I cooed and cajoled him to follow me. And it took a while, but he followed me home, or at least hid under my car as I entered my apartment and left the door open, to see if he would come in from the restarting rain. He didn't.

I didn't have any cat food. But I did have some cans of tuna. So I popped one open, put the tuna in a pet bowl and filled the other bowl with clean water. I placed the bowls on the porch and called out to the juvenile kitty. Then I went inside, closed the door, and peeked out the kitchen window, just in time to see the little juvenile chowing down on the tuna. That made me smile. It made me happy to see the little kitty eating. He ate everything, had some water, then returned to the shadows from whence he came.

And since I first noticed him between rainstorms and in the shadows, I called him Storm Shadow, after the GI Joe ninja, because he was stealthy and bold and fast. After he ate all the tuna and had some water, he quickly darted into the darkness and disappeared.

Over the summer, a few other strays would visit my porch. When I get home from work, I clean the bowls, refill one with clean, cool water, and put food in the other. Two other strays would visit after midnight and finish the full large bowl. But Storm Shadow was a constant. Every evening, he appeared, sitting on my porch, waiting for me to refill the bowl with clean, cool water, and to fill the other bowl with food.

And I was pleased to see him grow big and strong and healthy. I liked seeing the strays thrive as I kept feeding them. It was a wonderful sight and made me happy to know that they weren't starving. And on my porch (or on top of my car), they had a safe place to rest and rejuvenate before going on their adventures or whatever secret missions they undertook in the dark mysteries of the night.

As the summer progressed, Storm Shadow got close enough to let me talk to him. Close enough to brush up my legs after eating, then disappearing into the night. It got to the point where he would calmly let me walk or stand by him, and he wouldn't budge from where he laid down, unless I had the food ready.

I still couldn't get him to come indoors. I still wasn't able to pick him up and hold him. Not yet. But that was all right. For a stray, he let me near him close enough, and he did brush up against my leg before vanishing into the shadows after eating. And that was enough.

But seeing that corpse in the road made me realize that it just wasn't enough, that I wanted more time to spend with Storm Shadow, to enjoy his calmness and independence and pleasant company. I mourned his loss, and I hoped he went quickly.

I put him out of my mind and focused on work. There were lots of necessary tasks to complete and problems to fix and projects to complete. Busy, but the company and pleasant, productive interaction with coworkers was welcomed. I found myself laughing a few times as we shares jokes and stories as we worked or took a needed break.

But in the rare, brief quiet moments between the rushes and flurry of activities, I would suddenly think of Storm Shadow, and I was saddened to realize that he was gone, like all strays, much too soon from this world. It's a hard, rough, and dangerous life for strays. I just hope Storm Shadow had some good moments in his all too brief existence, and I hoped he was in a better place now.

In the last few hours of work, I was able to accomplish a lot and found myself ahead of schedule on several projects. That made me feel good. And I was on a high from getting so much done and smoothing out the wrinkles and unexpected kinks that happen from time to time in all projects. I felt good. And I left work smiling all the way home, listening to the radio and singing along to the songs, glad for a great end to a productive work day.

Then I got to the turnoff to my home, and I was suddenly reminded of what had happened that morning, and seeing the dried blood stains on the road was a harsh reality check. I was sad again at the unexpected, awful loss of Storm Shadow. And my smile and good mood were gone. Oh, what a terrible, unfair, and horrible, vicious world we live in. Oh, how cruel and uncaring life can be. I felt melancholic and upset...right until I pulled up to park and witnessed a miracle!

Lo and behold, resting on the porch was a most welcomed and resplendent sight: Storm Shadow! He was waiting for me, as usual, to get new clean, cool water and bring out food! I was ecstatic! He was alive! Storm Shadow was alive!

So it wasn't him that was killed this morning! It was some other cat! That still made me sad, but I was just happy that my little friend was alive and well. Or maybe it was Storm Shadow, and he was now down to 8 lives. I wouldn't be surprised if he came back from the dead. He was all ready mysterious and magical when I first met him, passing from this world into the world of shadows and beyond.

It didn't matter. What was important was that he was alive and healthy and patiently waiting for me to feed him. And since it was fantastic to find him alive, I decided to give him a treat, his fave: A can of tuna!

And he ate it all, had some water, purred as he rubbed up against my legs, then took a few steps off the porch and away from the light, and he faded into the night, off to do whatever secret and mysterious and important work that cats do in the dark of night. I was just happy my little ninja friend was all right. And as I refilled the cleaned food bowl to feed the other strays whom would come later, I hope that I would see Storm Shadow return safe and sound.

I hope all my strays return safe and sound, and I hope other people show them kindness. And if my strays do leave this world, I hope and believe that they go on to some place better, a place where they will find happiness and love and contentment. I wish us all the same.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


I don't like the self service checkout. I usually run into a problem with more than one item. I prefer the cashier. It's nice to have the human interaction. It's good to say 'Hello' and 'Thank You' to another hardworking human being providing an excellent service.

Plus, if I've got five to ten items, the cashier usually rings it up faster than I ever could at the self service checkout. And it's nice to have someone bag your groceries and offer to carry them to your car, even if you prefer to do that yourself.

But since I had only one item to buy, and I was much closer to the single self service checkout than the cashiers on the far end of the store, I opted to use the self service checkout, especially since there was only one person standing there. Meanwhile, the cashier lines were long with shoppers pushing full carts.

At the self service checkout, I stood a respectable distance behind the lady wearing mirrored sunglasses and a trendy summer outfit and a large hat. All designer labels, all expensive, all for show. I waited for her to finish her single purchase. And waited. And waited. Two other shoppers with a few items had formed a line behind me. Still, that lady wasn't making a move. After five minutes, I asked the lady if she needed help.

She huffed, "That fellow over there told me that I could pay for my item here. But he hasn't come here yet!"

I looked to see where she was pointing at. A young fellow was busy serving customers at the bakery counter. I didn't understand why she needed him, unless she couldn't figure out how to use the self checkout.

So I told her, "If you'd like, I can help you scan your item."

To which she indignantly replied, "Scan what? There's nothing to scan!"

I paused, then said, "If you'd like, I can show you where to scan."

She was still for a moment. Then she handed me her item. I took the handheld scanner and scanned the barcode under the item. Then I directed her to use the card reader to pay for her item using her credit card. She grumbled the whole time as she paid for her item. Then she got even more flustered when I showed her where the bags were to bag her item.

She bagged her item and harped, "I can't believe that we have to ring up and bag our own purchases! What kind of service is that?"

To which I replied, "It's the self service kind, ma'am. This is the self service checkout."

Her head snapped up quick and she asked disbelievingly, "This is the self service checkout?!"

I pointed to the large lighted sign just above our heads that stated: Self Service Checkout.

The lady sputtered, "Well, how are we suppose to see that when it's so dark in here! It's hard to see anything in this darkness!"

I replied, "I totally agree, ma'am. I also have trouble seeing indoors with my sunglasses on."

She exclaimed, "Is that why it's so dark in here?" She touched her shades, then her faced turned red, and she stomped off as I scanned my item and the two shoppers behind me were guffawing.