Everybody remembers their first pet very fondly and I am no different.  However with my first pet, everyone in my family has a Missy story to tell, and I mean everyone.  Some are good, and some are…hmmm…evidence that she wasn’t so sweet to everyone.

When I was a kid, dad had a dog named Sparky and mom had a cat named Precious.  I grew up with the two of them, but neither was mine.  Precious avoided me like the plague; due to my ill advised pulling out of his whiskers on one side when I was pretty young.  I got into deep, deep trouble over that.  I have no idea why I did it, but after that incident I was not one to harm the hair on the head of any other animal; unless it was suffering.  So, whatever punishment I got (probably a spanking, grounding, and chores) was enough to scare me straight.  Precious and I did make up once I was older and had a nice warm water bed. 🙂

Anyway, by the time I was thirteen, I had earned the trust of my parents that I was responsible enough for a pet.  Or at least mom was up for another cat; dad was still a dog person at that time and did not want to live with two cats.

Mom called the humane society on my birthday and a guy had just brought in a mommy with 6-week old kittens.  His apartment on campus wouldn’t allow pets and it broke his heart to take them to the shelter.  Dad and I met mom there and I was told I could pick out one kitten.

It’s there that my dad’s life changed because I picked out Missy.  And when I say his life changed, I mean big time.  Missy was the most stubborn, affectionate, fast, nimble, playful, protector, hunter, etc cat that I and my family have ever met.  Part of why my dad likes cats now is because of Missy.

When I held Missy, something set her apart from her sisters, and I decided on her.  Her first act was pulling a stitch out of my sweater. 🙂  Missy was half Abyssinian and half Siamese.  She looked like an old tabby cat, but her voice had the dialect of Siamese.

From day one Missy was a talker.  She would talk to you or wander through the house looking for you crying for you to answer.  She was really funny with hide and seek which was one of her favorite games.  I’d lose her somehow in our house and head over to dad’s bathroom (only named that because that’s where his stuff was).  He had a shower that we rarely used in there.  I’d quietly open the door and get inside.  Then I would holler as loud as I could “MISSSSY!!!”  She’d come flying through the bathroom.  When she got to either the bedroom or kitchen (depending on direction) she’d yell “MOM!”  I’d quietly say her name the next time “missy”.  She’d fly back through and would holler “MOM!” with urgency because she couldn’t find me.  I’m telling you she would have been a good mouser with as good of hearing as she had because the next time, I’d whisper “missy”.  She’d be right at the door.  Only the first time, did I have to step out to show her where I was.  After that, it didn’t take her long to figure it out.

Along with having awesome ears, Missy loved her tail.  Oh my, how she loved that tail.  It was the scrawniness tail you have ever seen, but she was quite proud of it.  It was the one thing that if you grabbed onto would get you bit.  She never broke the skin on the first bite; it was more of a warning.  If you continued to persist, she would go deeper until you got the idea that touching her tail was not the greatest idea in the world.  Missy would bite any kid that touched her tail.  The kids could pet her and pull her fur, and she wouldn’t say a thing.  As soon as the kids touched her tail though, there were words and usually teeth involved.  As far as I know she never bit a kid and broke the skin.  She definitely scared a few though.

What’s funny is that scrawny tail is why she was so nimble at walking on ledges or narrow fences.  She was very coordinated at maneuvering her tail to keep her body balanced.  So far, she is the most nimblest cat I have ever met.  Skip and Mason aren’t even in the same league they are so poor at being nimble and Oreo, well he’s better, but he has so much fur on his tail that he loses out.  Missy wins by a long shot.

Missy was leash trained and this time by leash trained, I mean you could walk around outside with Missy and she would follow.  Now she was a little slower than a dog because she had to smell everything, but just a little tug would get her moving again.  My favorite thing to watch was her jumping after a bug in the yard.  I’d be holding the leash, but she had plenty of slack.  The bug would jump and so would Missy.  Missy would have both paws out in front of her landing where she thought the bug would be.  She could play that game for hours.  Her other favorite outside activity was laying on a wood swing that we had.  I would tie her off on the swing; she’d climb up in it and lay across it.  When the wind blew, she was swinging.  🙂  She loved it.

One of the unfortunate things that did happened when Missy was really young was she got into some ivy that mom had up on the counter.  Ivy is poisonous to cats.  We came home from Christmas Eve at Grandma’s to a mess.  Missy knowing that she had a problem after eating the ivy started eating the real Christmas tree we had until she did what cats do and expelled the Ivy.  Not knowing what the problem was…Christmas tree or Ivy; Dad promptly placed the Christmas tree on the deck outside.  That’s how we celebrated Christmas next day with the tree lit up…outside.  On Christmas Day, Missy couldn’t keep any food down.  Mom suggested Second year Baby Food Meats because the food is already processed to try and get her system to relax.  Dad and I headed out and found the one grocery store that was open.  Missy loved the food.

It only took a week to get her back onto real cat food.  To this day, if a cat of mine is having trouble eating for whatever reason, we get the second year meats baby food.  Usually, it only takes a day or two for kitties to heal enough for regular food.  I don’t recommend the baby food for long term use because it’s baby food and has high sodium, but short term use, it works great.

Missy was rotten, but in a funny way.  🙂  One of the things she used to do was knock over the trash can for the dog.  Missy had the size and strength to do it where as our dog was little.  As far as I know Missy never actually ate anything out of the garbage, but merely assisted the dog.  My dad would be the first one up and in his bare feet (after walking through it in socks once) would walk in coffee grounds.  Sometimes he cleaned it up (it was his dog) and sometimes I was awoken (my cat) to clean it up.  Not too long after, mom and dad just bought a wood trash can that Missy couldn’t knock over.  You see we were human’s in training by the cat.  Some things were just easier to change rather than try and catch the stubborn cat in the act.

Missy was also a meat thief.  This is totally another story and funny, but as my aunt and uncle learned when they watched her once (only once as she was told she could not return) when we warned them about putting meat in the microwave when you leave the kitchen…we were serious.  This story is also where my dad got his big training and I think came to really respect Missy as more than a cat.  So, for now I will leave it that she was a meat thief. 😉

Another part of our training was to put the toilet seat down.  Missy loved water! And spray bottle containing water were play for her.  Before we got her, my parents and I rarely put the toilet seat down.  After finding Missy playing in a toilet which got her a prompt bath, we started putting the toilet seat down.  Any visitors were given instructions to put the seat down.  One of us would go and make sure they did when they were finished.  They probably never realized it as we did it by stealth.  She was the easiest cat to give a bath to and a single person could do it right in the kitchen sink.  She wasn’t running anywhere, she liked the water.  You could also blow dry her on the slowest setting.  Being vacuumed with the brush attachment was another of her odd favorite things.

The other thing Missy (she was really long) could do, that very few cats can do was open doors.  When we moved to our new house, Mom thought the lever handles on the doors looked nice and so she had dad replace all the round door handles with the lever kind.  Missy was smart enough that she figured out how to open them.  Obviously, if she was on the side where the door would open inward, she had no trouble.  But she was smart enough and worked hard enough at opening a door that opened inward from the opposite side.  It was really funny to watch because it took her several tries to get the door unlatched.  Once it was unlatched she’d work the door from underneath until it opened.  She loved standing on her tip toes to see over things.

Missy was really intelligent and you could see it in her eyes as she figured out how to get what she wanted.  Of course, what she wanted wasn’t necessarily what she should have or what she should do.  For example, Missy could not stand to see me pay any attention to Mechant (mom’s cat).  Mechant would pay the price for me even talking to her.  Missy would get into trouble for hitting Mechant.  And then the funniest thing would happen (funny now), whoever would tell her to go to her room for timeout.  She’d go trotting back to my room with a human following her to shut the door.  She’d be put into timeout for 15 minutes.  If Missy came out with a bad attitude which resulted in Mechant getting hit again, then we’d send her back to her room for another timeout.  The next time she came out, she wasn’t happy, but would avoid any confrontations.  For the record, there was a difference between her playing and just plain old hitting Mechant.  You’d have to be there, but we knew the difference.

Now I don’t want it to sound like Missy was a mean cat.  She wasn’t; even if she had the vet scared of her. 😉  Missy was more vocal (read Siamese which sounded really scary) than she was physical.  Her bark was actually way worse than her bite.  She was very sweet if you were dad, mom, my grandma (mom’s mom) or I.  All of us knew that to control Missy you had to get the upper hand and could not allow her to be alpha over you.  Most people (even dogs) would shy away which gave Missy power.  She once hit a German Shepard so hard that it ran tail back to its owner.  She would not back down, but would hold her ground.  If you stood up to her, she respected you.

I really miss her and some of the things she pulled.  Today they are funny, but boy she could get dad’s blood boiling.  He’s since been fully trained by Missy and our boys today don’t realize how good they have it.  We still enjoy telling Missy stories which usually begin with “Do you remember the time she…”  Everyone has a story to tell, and if I haven’t seen my aunts, uncles and cousins in awhile, they will ask about Skip and inevitably a Missy story is always told…usually with affection.  She touched a lot of people and even people who are dog people could appreciate and respect her.

Missy was the ultimate first pet and there will never, ever be another cat like her. 🙂  May everyone have a first pet that is as memorable as mine was.  Rest in peace, Missy!

Cable TV

My grandma (mom’s mom) was an awesome grandma who loved me and the Cubs very much.  Back when I was a kid, many people just used antennas to get cable channels.  There were three main channels that you could get ABC, NBC, and CBS.  If you were lucky on a clear day you might get a fuzzy picture of another channel, but for the most part, it was just those three channels.

My parents at some point when I was young decided to get cable.  It was the thing to have because you could get 12 channels with cable and the channels were so clear.  Later on, cable companies added cable boxes which started the influx of more channels until we are where we are today with way too many channels.

My parents worked different shifts, so that for the most part one was home with me at all times.  A really good friend of the family used to come over for the hour between when one had to go to work and the other was one their way home.  My dad worked nights.

Once he was home and the friend of the family had left, I was taught how to watch my shows on TV.  There was no remote control, so I learned to turn the dial to specific channels. 🙂  My shows were Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  This gave my dad some time to get some rest while I watched and played quietly.  This is something that many parents today probably couldn’t do, but my dad could because I never bothered anything other than my own toys.

At some point, my dad was switched to days and both of my parents worked the same shift.  I was in early grade school at this point and my parents had to find someone to watch me during the summers.  My grandmother was chosen and one of the few my mother trusted with me.  She was a Tupperware salesperson (and a really good one at that time), and she knew that I wouldn’t bother anyone at the parties she had to host, so she agreed.  Besides when I was older I was free labor to help load and unload the car. 😉

In the mornings, I was taken to grandmas and dropped off.  There was only one problem…they didn’t have cable.  I couldn’t watch my shows.  Before the people who say kids shouldn’t watch too much TV, at the time, those two shows were my TV.  I only watched these two shows during the day.  The rest of the time I played outside/inside or I helped grandma out.

Now my grandma was an avid Cubs fan.  She listened to every game on the radio.  Listening to the radio just wasn’t the same as watching it on TV.  She knew that my grandpa couldn’t stand to see me cry.  People tell me that I would get big ol’ crocodile tears in my eyes, but wouldn’t make a sound while crying, and it just about broke their hearts to see any tears from me.

One day, while grandpa was at work, grandma asked me if I wanted cable at their house.  Of course I said yes.  She told me that when he gets home that I needed to crawl up in his lap and ask for cable TV.  When he told me no, I was to start crying and tell him that I couldn’t watch my shows and I really wanted to.  She said that will get cable TV for you to watch your shows and for me to watch the Cubs.  Grandma was adamant that I had to be the one to do it and that she couldn’t ask for me.

Now some might say that this is a bad habit to start with a little kid, and I’m not real sure if grandma thought I’d go through with her plan or not.  I was a really shy kid, so she probably figured that I would back out.  But we made a deal, so in my young mind I couldn’t back out.  Plus I wasn’t just doing this for myself; I was doing it for grandma, so that she could watch the Cubs.

Grandpa finally came home from work and gave me the gum from his lunchbox.  Grandpa always bought a pack of gum from the vending machine at work.  This was back when it only cost a quarter for 5 sticks of gum.  Whatever gum was leftover at the end of the day was mine.  I think he bought the pack everyday for me.  Sometimes there would be 3 sticks and sometimes, he never even touched it.  It was just something little that he could give me, and he knew I would light up with happiness that he had thought of me.

I took his lunchbox from him and into grandma, so she could clean it out and get it ready for the next day.  Grandma looked at me and motioned to the living room with a wink.  I nervously turned around and quietly went into the living room.

Grandpa was in his chair cooling off.  So, I crawled up onto his lap.  By this time, I was so nervous about what I was to do, that I already had tears streaming down my face.  I had never manipulated anyone in my life to get what I wanted.  This was my first time, and I was scared that I would get into trouble.  Even knowing that grandma would come to my rescue couldn’t stop my tears.

Grandpa scooped me up and asked why I was crying.  I said in a very garbled voice “I <sniff> ca <sniff> <sniff> n’t <sniff> wa <sniff> <sniff> tch <sniff> <sniff> my <sniff> s <sniff> <sniff> ho <sniff> ws <sniff> <sniff> be <sniff> ca <sniff> <sniff> ca <sniff> use <sniff> <sniff> you <sniff> <sniff>  do <sniff> n’t <sniff> <sniff> ha <sniff> ve <sniff><sniff>  CA <sniff> BLE <sniff> <sniff>”  Of course my grandfather couldn’t understand me.  He asked me again which just made it worse because I was worried this meant he was onto me.  Finally grandpa hollered into the kitchen “What’s wrong with this baby? She’s crying and I can’t understand what’s wrong!”

My grandma came in and said “She’s upset because she couldn’t watch her shows today or any other day.”  Grandpa replied with “Her shows? She has shows?” An exasperated grandma said, “Yes, her shows: Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  They are on cable and she can’t watch them here because we don’t have cable.  She’s upset because she found out that she can’t watch them all summer because we don’t have CABLE.” She really stressed the word cable.

Grandpa looked at me and asked if that was why I was crying.  I nodded my head while looking at him with the crocodile tears welling up in my eyes.  It’s the last part that put him over the edge.  He gave me a big hug and said, “It’ll be ok.  Grandpa will fix it. How much is cable?”  Now if he were thinking, he’d realize that grandma answered a little too quickly.  He pulled the money out of his pocket and told grandma to go down to the cable company tomorrow and get the cable installed for this baby.

My tears turned into a big smile!  It worked!  My grandma just winked at me and said to grandpa, “Whatever you say.  You know you spoil that child too much!”  🙂 I spent the rest of the afternoon on grandpa’s lap.  When I went to leave, my grandma gave me a big hug and told me that I did great.

And that my friend is how my grandparents got cable.  My aunt who was still living there at the time was livid.  She had been trying to get them to get cable for a long time, and all it took was little ol’ me to cry and get what I wanted.

My grandmother and I had an agreement.  I got to watch what I wanted in the mornings and she got to watch the Cubs in the afternoon.  Back then all games were day games, so I became a huge Cubs fan growing up.  I usually watched the game with her, but some of the time, I did 50-50 between watching the game and playing outside.  In the mornings, I usually only watched a couple of hours of TV (sometimes while helping her bag Tupperware) before heading outside; unless it was raining of course. 🙂

Today my grandfather tells me that I owe him for the years of the cable that he has had to pay for.  At some point, someone told him about grandma’s scheme.  Of course, he came to enjoy watching cable and decided to keep it even after he found out.  You just never know what you want until you have it. 🙂

Leaving the Nest

This is a story about me, my mom, and a doctor that my mom worked with. I apologize for not referencing the story that the doctor tells. I honestly do not know where he got the story/analogy from, but if you know the story and who should be referenced; let me know.

Way back when computers were really becoming a common household item, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Technology. I had been interviewing like crazy trying to find a job. It was difficult, but luckily it was very popular for companies to hire employees straight out of college. This was a time period that when someone got a job, they traditionally stuck with the employer until they retired. This practice has changed over the years and more and more people leave companies for “a better job/company”.

I was at home watching my dad iron his clothes in the kitchen and just chatting with him. At that time, there was no TV in the kitchen. I know it was a radical time. 🙂 I still lived at home, but was anxious to find a job. The phone rang and it was the recruiter from Great American life Insurance Company (GALIC) in Cincinnati, OH calling to offer me a junior developer position in the company.

I was ecstatic. I took down the information regarding the job, benefits, and his contact information. I told him that I would call back with in the hour with an answer, but that I wanted to think about it. Basically, that was all front…I just wanted to talk to my dad about the offer.

After talking it over, I decided to take the job. There really wasn’t much question about it; I was just confirming with dad that he felt it was a fair offer as well. Dad had way more experience than a green kid out of college and I knew that. I didn’t want the recruiter to know that’s what I was doing because I wanted to show that I was self-sufficient. So, I called the recruiter back and said that I was going to accept the offer. I received the information as to when my first day would be and where to go.

Once I got off the phone, dad says, “Don’t you think you should call your mom?” Excitedly, I called mom and gave her my awesome news that “I got a JOB!!!!” All I heard was silence on the other end. She finally asked where and how much I’d be making, but was very sad. I told her all the details ignoring the sadness I heard. We hung up and dad took me out to lunch to celebrate. Dads are great about things like that. He was just as sad as mom, but knew how much it meant to me. So he masked his pain to let me enjoy my moment.

I heard this part of the story later on from mom once she knew I was fine in Cincinnati. After mom hung up with me, she broke down crying because I was moving 3 hours away. I grew up an only child, so I was very close with both of my parents. Unfortunately, where I grew up, there just weren’t a lot of jobs at that time in the computer technology field. This was before the tech boom occurred.

Everyone tried to comfort her, but it wasn’t working. They were saying that I would be OK and she’ll come back to visit. All of the standard “make you feel good comments” were doing nothing for mom. Finally, a doctor in the practice came over and gave her a hug and started to tell a story out loud to everyone. He said:

There is this mommy bird and she has 2 little baby birds. She
nurtured the baby birds from the time they were an egg by
protecting the egg from predators and the elements to the time
they were getting ready to leave the nest. The mommy bird loved
her two baby birds with all her heart.

The day finally came where the baby birds were ready to leave
the nest. The mommy bird was very sad, but knew that it was time.
The first baby bird hopped out to a clear place on the limb,
tested her wings a bit, and jumped spreading her wings. The baby
bird flew back up past the mommy bird to show that she could fly
and soared off out of sight. The mommy bird was extremely happy
that her baby bird flew.

Next came her other baby bird who like the first baby hopped out
onto a clear spot on the limb. The little baby bird also checked
her wings, and jumped off the limb and seconds later went SPLAT
onto the ground below.

The doctor then pulled my mom away and asked, “Now do you have a flier? Or is your baby bird going to go SPLAT?” Mom replied that her baby bird was going to soar above everyone else. The doctor then asked “Why are you so sad then when you know that this is the first step to you baby bird soaring. You should be happy for her because you know you have a good egg and a good flier.”

Mom wiped her tears from her eyes and said, “I know you’re right. I have a flier and I should be happy for her.” Mom then went into a patient room with a little baby. As she was working up the physical on the little baby, she said, “You’re never going to leave your mommy for some job, are you?” The doctor she actually worked for started laughing and explained to the patients’ mom what was going on. The patients’ mom immediately gave my mom a hug and told her she understood.

When mom came home, she gave me a hug and told me she was proud of me. Then she suggested that we go out to dinner to celebrate and plan my move to family members’ house that lived in the area. Moms are great too!

So, to all you parents who are letting your kids grow up one way or another…Do you have a Flier or one that will go SPLAT?