Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Take This Job And..

Thanks, y’all, to those who’ve commented on the job mess I’m in. I really appreciate your support!

As for the terms of my transition (to whatever might come next), I'd like to think getting fair treatment was a simple as following the letter of the law and otherwise threatening a lawsuit, but I happen to know the company counsel - I worked across the hall from her for five years and am friends with her assistant - so I know she is wily, heartless, and never loses. (Also? A big, giant closet case who is fooling no one.) Anyway, who has the time and money for a lawsuit? No, my best bet here is to suck it up and behave as nicely as I can to try to get semi-decent terms from the powers that be.

Ay, there’s the rub, too, because it’s not the fact of being “restructured” that bothers me – heck, I’m the one who was asking them to figure out a way to lay me off not a year ago. It’s that they have so much power over me that makes me crazy. I know that it’s for the best that I get out of this job and find a career that makes me happy, but they’ve taken away my opportunity to do it under my own terms. I was looking for a new job without the duress of possible lengthy unemployment hanging over my head, and now I feel just that much more panicked and stressed to find something now, now, NOW – even if it means just accepting what comes along next.

What’s more, I’ve let them get to me again. The announcement put me into a state of shock yesterday, and triggered my low self-esteem and fears that I don’t have enough qualifications to get a job where people are treated like human beings, again. That’s what I’m mad about: not the loss of the job, but the degrading treatment. Now I find myself having to ask them in writing for the terms in writing, while I keep one eye peeled over my shoulder to see if security is coming to my desk to unceremoniously escort me from the building at any time (trust me, that’s par for the course, here).

Oh, and yesterday afternoon, I got to go to the endocrinologist, who had a distinctly Russian bedside manner (i.e. blunt as an boxer and no sense of humour or gentleness) and kept informing me how very fat I am. To her credit, however, she’s the first doctor who’s ever told me straight up that I clearly was born with a crappy metabolism, and although it’s unfair and will be harder for me than it is for most people, I just have to deal with the cards I’ve been dealt with and work harder accordingly. You’d think that would be depressing, but I already knew it, so it’s nice to have it confirmed and addressed, rather than getting some kind of saccharine pep-talk about how I can do it and things will be great in no time. (Saccharine because it’s sweetly false, but also a diet-related pun. See what I did there? Ah, I’m a genius.)

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit better and clearer today. I’m setting up a list of things I have to do, goals, etc., which gives me a better handle on it. Mrs. Nator has been wonderful, reminding me of how it was when the same thing happened to her, and letting me know that she fully expects me to have episodes of anger and crying jags, and it’s okay to do that, even if I also believe this will end up being a good thing.

Also, apparently Qenny has invited us to live with him and his Lovely Husband in New Zealand, so that’s nice. “Alternative families” are always cooler with with non-American accents. ;o)

I swear I’ll blog about something else, soon. Thanks for “listening” and being kind, gang. Kiss, kiss!

Monday, January 29, 2007


Well, I just got called into my old boss' office. In the hugest coincidence ever, three weeks after I asked for a raise, they have decided to "restructure" my job. This means that they are creating a new job - essentially my job with a few other things thrown in - and eliminating mine. Surprise!

I am told that I am "welcome" to apply for the new job, but that it probably won't pay as much as what I was already dissatisfied with for my present position. Well, draw a line down my forehead and call me Fanny. If I don't apply for it, I'm out of here sometime in February.

I suppose I should be happy, since I've been trying to engineer my way out of here for some time, and have started looking for something else. My outrage, however, stems from the duplicitous, eeeeviiil way they do things around here. What's more, now I have to dick around with the lying liars who lie in HR, to find out if I don't apply for the new position if they will try to say I quit and deny me severance or jeopardize my unemployment pay. So, where I realize that, overall, this is probably a good thing that will get me out of here and moving towards a career I actually like, I am, for the moment, consumed with anger and hatred for the entire administration of this organization. Not surprised at their behaviour, which is business as usual for them, mind you - just enraged.

Meanwhile, I just discovered these on Friday, and now I am going to the endocrinologist and nutritionist today to try to set up a weight loss plan. Life just isn't fair.

On the other hand, at least I wasn't born into a culture that hunts for days to happily consume the delicacy of unwashed warthog anus.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thursday Thirteen – Things About Living With My Stepfather

This is an extra long one, folks, because I'm trying to write more, and it's hard for me to be succinct about this topic. You have been warned!

1. The first thing I say to anybody who asks what my childhood was like is “did you ever see “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka?” They invariably say “no,” and I have to try to explain a scene where a dashiki-wearing black activist hauls out his white wife (played by Eve Plumb, no less!) and her impossibly blonde children and makes the kids read from their book report about how Abraham Lincoln was a “white capitalist swine”. I always lamely finish, “because, see, that’s so much what our family was like,” and the listener is confused.

It isn’t exactly true that life with my stepfather and his kids was like this – but it’s only a slight exaggeration. My stepfather was an extremely intelligent, charismatic, and complex human being, who deeply cared about the plight of his fellow African-Americans. He also was a dashiki-wearing, occasionally bombastic activist who tried to counter white racism with some seriously twisted rhetoric, which could be very confusing to a little Caucasian child who had hardly known that people were of different “races” before she got to know him. Case in point:

2. The second example I usually use to humourously encapsulate life with my stepfather is the Toilet Paper Incident. I’m not sure what instigated it, but one day he started exclaiming with frustration and called me and, I think, my two youngest stepsisters into the bathroom.

“Let me show you something,” he said, plucking the roll of paper from the holder as we all tried to cram in between the pink-tiled wall and the sink. “Do you know what the difference is between the African-American way of hanging toilet paper and the European-American way?”

Was this a trick question? We all looked at each other for a moment. At an age still in the single digits, even the term “European-American” was confusing to me. I somehow got it into my head that European must apply to toilets actually in Europe - then the land of knights and fairies and fauns that came our of wardrobes - and images of gold-and-velvet royal Victorian loos and fancy hotel ladies’ lounges danced in my head – not that I’d ever been across the Atlantic.

My stepfather, seeing our blank stares, began to rotate the roll in his hands in illustration.

“The European-American way is to hang it backwards, with the loose end hanging down the back, like this. They think this looks better, but what happens is the paper gets caught there and it bunches up, or you can’t get a good amount because it gets all stuck. It’s fancy, but it’s stingy, and it makes a mess. It doesn’t make sense.”

He reversed the roll and brandished it, putting it into the holder.

“The African-American way is to hang the paper like this, hanging off the front. This way, you can get as much paper as you want at anytime, without it getting stuck. Now, you don’t go pulling and pulling and get too much,” – here he yanked on the roll to allow several sheets to puddle on the floor – “you use your head. But I think you now know the right way to hang the toilet paper, and how to use it so you don’t make a mess.”

I have to say, this whole speech stands out in my mind as one of the most nonsensical and unintentionally silly monologues I’ve ever heard in my life, but he was dead serious. I never did buy that there was an “African-American” way of hanging the toilet paper, although it was illuminating to discover that even the direction of a paper roll could be used as a tool of oppression. Still, I also have to say I never forgot to hang the toilet paper the “right” way again.

3. To go back to dashikis, they will always be emblematic of my stepfather to me. Although I think they were fairly popular in the 1960s and early 70s, by the time I was of an age to notice, my stepfather seemed to be the only person I ever saw wearing them regularly. In fact, the only times he ever wore anything else were doing farm or yard work, which usually involved changing to denim overalls, or at his oldest daughter’s wedding, just shortly before he died, where he deferred to her wishes and actually wore a tuxedo. Everyone who knew him was slightly agog – and fairly delighted – to see him looking so dapper in that tux, especially since it had been a real possibility that the side effects of his cancer would keep him from the wedding altogether.

As for the dashikis, my mother made every single one. I remember long afternoons at the fabric store with her, rooting through piles and rolls, looking for busy, African-looking or vaguely exotic patterns for his daily or semi-formal wear. It makes a strange, oddly romantic picture thinking of her, a white woman in the racially charged 70s, up at the attic sewing machine, cutting and lovingly sewing the fabric she’d chosen for him, imagining how it would look on him as a completed “African” shirt.

4. In addition to being an activist, my stepfather was an educator. When he and his former wife had found out that their son was in the lowest reading group in his elementary school class, they decided to do something about it. They ended up creating a phonics-based reading program for children that used tape recording of their own voices, along with drawings, games and crafts materials, to teach him to read – and it worked. Within a few months he was in the highest reading group, and they knew they were onto something.

That home-made program became my stepfather’s life work, as he adapted it for use by parents and schools and did his best to get it sold or donated to every child struggling with reading. Although it got picked up briefly by Encyclopaedia Brittanica, creative differences with my stepfather and his dissatisfaction with their marketing and distribution made that union short-lived. In truth, the program probably never got beyond the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, with strong emphases on the poorer sections of New York and Philly, but the difference it probably made is mind-blowing. To this day I wonder how many children learned to read with the help of my stepfather’s program, which was extremely effective. Although I was halfway to learning to read on my own by kindergarten (and fully convinced that I could read and write properly, a bit of an over-reach, if you look at the little “books” I made), by the time I finished taking the program I was reading everything I could get my hands on fluently, including adult fiction and the newspaper.

Although the effects of his work as an educator bettered my life as well as many other children’s, there were some down sides. For one thing, he was not a good marketer – he was intimidating and stubborn – and although a good many people found him charismatic, others found him overbearing. This meant his dedication to selling his program his way not only limited its distribution, but it kept those of us who lived with him in a fairly constant state of financial anxiety. It was bad enough living through the 70s recession, with my dad struggling to maintain a decent job and lines forming at the gas stations. With my stepfather, although he dreamed of being wealthy and that one day he would be vindicated, sticking to a strict vision of marketing for a product as unsexy as a reading program meant that growing vegetables, hunting and fishing were not just pastoral pursuits for us, but insurance that we’d have something to eat.

Then there was the time I, as a child, was made to appear on national television, in my blue velour shirt and with a giant rat’s nest sticking out of my hair, to semi-embarrassedly intone the opening monologue of Our Town in an incongruous New England accent. This was meant to display the efficacy of his reading program, somehow. The less said of that, the better.

It wasn’t until a short while after he died that “Hooked on Phonics” became a big deal. Although I think he’d be glad to see people learning, I’m glad he was gone before that happened. It was just too unfair.

5. Besides teaching us to read, my stepfather was always teaching us something. Having grown up black in a poor, rural area in the depression, he’d become quite handy, and found it important to pass down all sorts of skills, whether we wanted to learn them or not. He taught us how to grow and can fruits and vegetables and tend a garden, hunt and fish, drive, do various car repairs, chop wood and build a fire, install drywall and numerous other practical tasks, and not all of them had a particular “African-American” method.

He also would, frequently out of financial necessity, teach us how to deal with being in situations where neither the electricity or water worked, it was below freezing outside and, say, there was a family of mice trying to take shelter in our beds. Although at times it was fairly miserable, a warm brick at your feet can be a great comfort in times of trial, and I always really liked mice, anyway.

Although at times his manner was stern and we’d get tired of being taught, preached at, worked and subjected to roughing it, (a common mantra when garden-weeding time came was that they’d only had us children to use as slaves), many of these lessons came quite in handy later. Even if I can’t always remember exactly how to do the things he taught us, I have, at least, always had it in the back of my mind that if I am in a scrape, I can use my ingenuity and some of the basic skills he taught us to get out of it. I, for one, spent several days alone in a roach-infested studio apartment in the East Village (right behind the Hell's Angels' house) with no water or heat and a collapsed bathroom wall during my sophomore year in college, and, rather than running home to mommy, was able to cope with a laugh. How many Americans don’t even know how to change a tire on their car for God’s sake?

6. He also taught us about music. Having toured Europe as an operatic concert singer in his youth, with his then-wife as his accompanist, my stepfather had a great love for music. As a consequence, not only did he sing around the house, but he encouraged us all to listen to music – mainly the disco, funk and r&b of the time – and even perform it. Frequently at his farm in upstate NY we would have mini-talent show nights, with all of his kids (and the occasional addition of me and/or my brother and sister, who were more shy and easily intimidated by the others’ uncanny abilities to mimic The Sylvers) demonstrating dance moves, acting out improv scenes or singing pieces from The Wiz.

These performances carried over into how we amused ourselves. Since the reading program used a tape recorder and drawing materials, we were encouraged to create radio plays and record them, or draw our own board games and comic books. (This segued into my best friend/youngest stepsister and I making anatomically correct paper dolls, but I digress.) Although I enjoy sitting in front of a computer or television as much as the next person, I will forever hold up some of those standards for creativity as prerequisites for a well-formed childhood.

7. Art and writing were also important, and while I was a bit older, I remember accompanying my stepfather on a visit to the studio of Romare Bearden. In truth, I didn’t know anything about the artist, much less that he was famous – just as I didn’t know Dick Gregory, a friend of my stepfather’s, was a well-known comedian. I just could tell that my stepfather’s bond with him went far beyond being two artistic, light-skinned black men of a certain setting and era – that he really respected the artist’s work. We had some signed prints of his around the house from then on. I don’t know what happened to them – perhaps they went to his children.

He was also friends with Audre Lorde, particularly later in his life, when they were both struggling against cancer. I remember at the time that my older stepsiblings had been whispering some kind of rumour that she was his mistress, which at the time did not strike me as implausible, even though I knew that it was likely wishful thinking due to their lingering resentment of my mother. It was only when I got to college and started doing some reading on lesbian feminism that I realized the full hilarity of this plot. It also made me realize that my stepfather was perhaps more liberal than I thought, and he might have accepted my homosexuality, had he lived long enough for me to come out to him.

8. Along with my stepfather, of course, came my stepsiblings: five stepsisters and one stepbrother, ranging from three months to ten years older than me. Although we knew each other before our parents connected romantically – we lived a few blocks from each other, and my mother worked with him to put together an alternative school for the older kids, because the local schools were so bad – it did not follow that we would be closest of friends once that happened. Indeed, their father left their mother for mine, and my mother left my father for theirs, leading mostly to a lot of pain and resentment among us.

Much like their father, most of his kids could be clever, intimidating and quick-tempered. Although I wanted to fit in with them, I feared all of the siblings except the youngest, who eventually became my best friend. Before that happened, I distinctly remember one of the most torturous afternoons of my life, as she and her Lucy-Van-Pelt-ish older sister paraded home from elementary school calling me “Spooky the Spooky Ghost,” a lá Casper, and refusing to explain why or answer me with more than insults. Typical people-pleaser that I was, I followed them hither and yon beseeching them to tell me why they were doing that and what I’d done wrong. Years later, of course, they had no answer but “it seemed like fun at the time.” This was to be indicative of most of my relationships to come, at least through my twenties.

9. We did, however, have our pleasurable interludes, and often these occurred while fishing. My stepfather loved to fish, and he would frequently take us to local stocked ponds or the nearby lake. Before I came up against a sudden squeamishness at puberty that took away my ability to skewer a worm or kill a fish sans remorse, I greatly enjoyed fishing. I was actually fairly good at it, and, compared to weeding the garden, pruning the vineyard or pushing for deer, it was relaxing and fun. I particularly remember our delight at the times when we’d get store-bought crayfish, or “crawdads,” as my stepfather called them, as bait instead of compost-heap dug earthworms. Besides not being slimy, the crayfish were fascinating, wriggly, slightly threatening little creatures who popped on the hooks with a satisfying crunch when their time came – a fair comeuppance for threatening us with their tiny claws, we children thought.

Beyond the usual sunnies and bass, sometimes he would wake us in the dark of the early morning to rush to a local creek for the running of the smelt. Smelt are fish that grow to be a maximum of about six inches long, and run in huge schools on certain days in certain seasons. There is nothing like stepping into an icy cold, rushing river, with the deep dark of the night punctuated by fishermen’s flashlights, and trying to spread a net while thousands of tiny fish zip around and carom off one’s legs. Then, when you get home, dip them whole in batter and fry ‘em up for breakfast. Them’s good eatin’.

The most memorable fishing experiences, however, have to be the few times we went blue fishing on the ocean. Because they were expensive, these trips were rare, and one of them I spent mostly seasick, but I have always loved being on the ocean, and the accomplishment of hooking, wrestling with and hauling in a fish nearly as large as I was thrilled me.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t had sudden onset sympathy, and could still fish with relish. I do appreciate the times that I did, though.

10. I would be remiss if I did not mention one major facet of living with my stepfather, as it has influenced my lifestyle (and waistline) to this day. The obsession with food.

Growing up, as I mentioned, poor in the depression, my stepfather’s family frequently lacked food when he was a child. At one point, it became his job to make the rounds of the local restaurants and dumpster-dive for edible refuse. Because of this, as well as his culture, food never ceased to be an imperative symbol of caring and nurturance for him, and the skill of preparing it thriftily was highly prized, as well.

As a consequence, although he introduced us to such raptures as bouillabaisse and Indian food (an introduction that scared me away from it for years, actually, as he ordered the spiciest vindaloo in the restaurant, which I couldn’t stomach normally, much less while being nervous that the Vice President of a major television network was dining with us and I thought I saw Nick Rhodes out the window – but again, I digress), he also insisted that we eat his many variations on “garbage soup”, which usually contained, well, anything he could find, plus copious amounts of hot peppers – enough to make us cry. Many was the time I’d be pouting, my bowl turning cold, as my stepsister sobbed that she just couldn’t eat it, and he insisted that we’d never leave the table as long as we didn’t finish our damn dinner.

But that wasn’t the end of it. As I said, he liked to fish and hunt, and he also liked to trade. He was not picky. He’d trade vegetables for the disturbingly beautiful and bloodied pheasant I came across in the kitchen sink one day. He’d pick up a deer on the roadside that recently been hit by a car and butcher it – one time filling the entire house with a sickening stench when the deer’s intestines had burst in its abdomen. He’d sit on the porch swing with his feet up on the railing, a beer in one hand and his rifle in the other and watch over the garden, until- BAM! Rabbit for dinner! I can even say that I am among those unfortunate few who have eaten raccoon, and let me tell you – they are waaay cuter than they are edible, and how.

That said, he cooked some things excellently, and everything in large amounts. Cornbread and fried chicken were specialties of the house. And there was always dessert afterwards – cake, ice cream, strawberry shortcake with biscuits or “paradise pudding,” a mixture of fruit, Jell-O and whipped cream that we’d all spoon up from bowls bigger than our heads. Yes, if he loved you, my stepfather gave you lots of food, and it was frequently delicious, and always fattening. It is somewhat ironic that I was of a normal weight until some time after his death.

11. My stepfather loved to make a fire, especially since the farmhouse was surrounded by woods, and heated mostly by the potbelly stove and the large fireplace he’d built. He was exacting about getting it just right, and would instruct us on the finer points, until he got inebriated, and would begin just chucking shit in to make the flames higher, brighter, multicoloured. Sometimes I’m glad that we didn’t have explosives around the house.

I will say that, unfortunate discovery of multi-flavoured marshmallows for roasting aside (charred lime marshmallows? Oog.), I have fond memories of sitting by these fires. Whether on the rocky shore by the lake, roasting hot dogs and singing campfire stories, or settling down on the carpet with a book in front of the main fireplace, I found a deep contentment, for a while. I’m sure he did, too.

12. Unfortunately, alongside of all this, life with my stepfather was life with a chauvinistic alcoholic. Sometimes, his preferred drinks of bourbon and cheap beer would mellow him, and he’d get friendly, wanting to laugh and give everyone a hug.

Other times, it was sleepiness that would set in. This was particularly the case when we were making the 5-to-6 hour trip (longer, if there’d been a blizzard, which wasn’t infrequent) to the farm. Round about hour three or so, a beer in his lap, his head would start dipping, and frequently he’d fall asleep for seconds at a time while driving, before snapping awake. Being chauvinistic, he would often take my mother’s requests to let her drive as an affront, and insist he was fine, remaining alert for some time thereafter, but eventually nodding again until I was repeating prayers to myself in the back of the station wagon (usually pressed up against the rear wheel well, while the other eight or so children sprawled out asleep over the back seat and the suitcases in the “wayback”). To his credit, however, although he scared the bejebus out of me, I don’t think we ever got into an accident.

However, when the belligerence came out, it was another problem altogether. There was the time he was actually pulled over – he said for no reason – and after refusing to comply with the police officer he was arrested while us youngest children huddled in the back seat. I still remember him pressed against the side window while being cuffed, exhorting us to watch what was happening carefully, because this was how the police were treating a black man who had done nothing wrong – evidence of the bigotry rampant in the system. He may have been right – but having had a few beers and refusing to exit the car did not work in his favour.

And he would get mean and disoriented. My mother doesn’t remember him falling asleep at the wheel, or the time they had a screaming argument upstairs in the middle of the night, where she yelled at him for hitting her with a stick. I do. I wish I could forget the times he stumbled down the stairs to the main floor at night, only to not make it to the bathroom, and piss in the hallway. I wish I could forget the constant second-guessing and self-defensive analysis of another person’s possibly dangerous moods that go along with being a child of an alcoholic and an enabler. But as much as my stepfather taught me, unfortunately, that will always be one of the most haunting of lessons.

13. Sadly, any remembrance of life with my stepfather has to include his illness and death. I have blogged about this before, and I could say more about how terrible it is to see a proud and vital man become weak and vulnerable. I could talk more about the panicked flights he took to Germany in search of some miracle cure, the guilty revulsion I felt at the constant presence of colonic equipment in the bathroom, the anger and sadness I feel at knowing more could have come to him, that he, finally sober, could have grown, and that I could have better resolved my relationship with this aggravating, frightening, yet smart and caring man.

But I think the thing that strikes me most is that I constantly dream about him, and in my dreams he is always alive. Sometimes I am reliving childhood angst around him, sometimes he is merely matter-of-factly there, and part of my current life. But though his personality is always there and vivid, it is often more understanding than I felt it was in life. It is as if, in my adulthood, I understand and forgive him more, and thus can see him as accepting of me, as well. Some might say that he was even communicating with me in spirit. Whatever the case, it is in this way that life with my stepfather continues, even though his life does not.

Monday, January 22, 2007

BrrrrTTT. grrRRRizzBANG- tink! tink! - rrRRRuummm...

Such is the noise of busy things being done by busy little minds and busy little hands in Natorland.

I've been socializing with people! People who actually like me and make me feel good about myself, rather than making me feel like a big loser!

I've been getting creative! I wrote the first draft of a story this weekend, and took a number of photos!

I've been looking for a new job! I've got some leads, and I'm hammering out my resume and cover letters, as well as some pro bono web projects I can put online to demostrate my skillz.

I may be more devoted to this than blogging for a little while. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Friday, January 19, 2007

What Colour Is My Parachute?

I was finally supposed to meet with the Director of my department to ask for my raise today. Instead, I got a note this morning, saying my old boss would be meeting with me. Although we still primarily work together, she is in a different department, and thus has no connection to my department's budget. To top that off, as I think I've mentioned, we've grown somewhat tired of each other and butted heads before. Therefore, I found this change foreboding.

I was right to feel that way. Although my old boss was courteous and charming, she told me it was her duty to inform me that there was no room for a raise for me for the indefinite future. She did say that I was "in good company," in that many people are frustrated of late by the increased workload and lack of raises, but that, unfortunately, there was nothing that she could do about it. She also said that she does hope I'm looking for something else. She didn't sound mean about it - she actually sounded slightly encouraging, as if I could probably do better elsewhere. Still, her words very much formed a steel wall that I smacked into. There appears to be no hope of career or salary growth here in the foreseeable future.

So, what next? I've been combing job listings, and found a couple potentials to apply for, although I'm naturally nervous about it. I've been hoping that going to the writing workshop would help me focus and figure out if I want that to be part of my career, but that's not for a few weeks, and is not exactly a clear path to a fabulous worklife. I guess it's time to actually hire a career coach, as I've been contemplating, and work some things out. I'm a bit skeptical about it, as 1.) it's not cheap and 2.) I have a feeling that most of what's holding me back is the kind of personal emotional baggage some job listings and a Myers-Briggs test can't conquer, but at least it would be an attempt to do something concrete about my employment dissatisfaction.

More anon, I'm sure. Thanks for woooon-ing for me, and keep your fingers crossed.

Friday Cat Blog - Ol' Bald Belly

Somebody has to go to the V-E-T.

Yep, The Shmoo, who was due for a check-up, anyway, has suddenly started licking her lower belly bald. There's still a short covering of fur there, but where there once was a prodigious sea-urchin puff, there is naught but a peachy-fuzzed pink protrusion. Oh, the shame of it all!

Naturally, Her Shmoopiness threatened to gnaw my face off if I tried to get a photo of it, so you'll have to trust me on this one - at least until I catch her asleep, exposed and defenseless. The Buddha belly is fetching in its own way, but a little troubling. I suspect a plastic bag I found her sitting on last night is the culprit, and this is akin to an abdominal version of The Dreaded Chacne, as we call it (AKA feline chin acne caused by a reaction to plastic). If this is so, then removing any plastic bags she has managed to arrange on the floor for her lolling and licking pleasure should remedy the problem.

Of course, this sounds more simple than it is, as her plastic addiction leads her to expend much of her formidable wiliness and force of will on acquiring the forbidden material. It also may be noted that we are not the most vigilant nor neat of kitty caretakers. But, we will have to try, for her health and comfort - to say nothing of the fact that the Betty Ford clinic is way too expensive for our budget.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen -Wherein We Begin A New Era

Greetings, gentle freaks. I have a bit of a slow week, and I figure I’m going to be starting my writers’ workshop soon, so why not kill two tofu-based bird substitutes with one stone and practice writing under assignment while letting my adoring public know just a little bit more about me?

Actually, three tofu-based, etc., because in order to counter my recent spate of self-loathing and try to be positive for once, this thirteen will be all about talents you may or may not know I possess.

This is my first foray into the Thursday Thirteen, so it may be a bumpy (or boring) ride. Comments, as always, are appreciated.

1. I am a pretty good singer. No, I’m not planning on going on American Idol any time soon – too old and jaded for that, fortunately – but I’d hazard to say I’m better than most of the people who compete on the show (yes, I’m aiming low, here).

I have always had a good musical sensibility – I memorized most songs I heard and began writing my own (rather prolifically) at a very young age, was in an award-winning a cappella group in high school and had some well-received coffeehouse-type acoustic performances in college. I majored in sound and have a good awareness as to recording and mixing techniques, as well as having learned to play the guitar and drums a bit. So, when I say that I’m a good singer, I have a certain amount of knowledge that allows me to make that a somewhat objective statement.

This is not to say I think I’m a great singer or musician. That knowledge also informs me that I am no Aretha Franklin, honey, nor my voice suited to the kind of melisma-heavy music that tops the charts today. Not to mention, if I’d had the patience, work ethic, skill, charisma and self-confidence to fulfill my teenage dream of being a musical performer, I’d have done it by now. I’m not kidding myself – that’s not my path. But I can at least allow myself a bit of pride now and then for being better than average.

2. I can make people laugh. Not everyone, all of the time, but most people, with a good frequency. And not just laughing at me, thank you very much, although I’m not above that. Some people might even find my sense of humour off-putting. But most of my friends would tell you that I am funny. Look, I can show it to you in my 30th birthday slam book right here!

3. I am a pretty good writer, this blog notwithstanding. I’ve had some people I respect as pretty good writers, themselves, tell me so. This does not excuse the self-promoting radio show on young queer poets I produced in college. I don’t think anything ever will. But I know a good turn of phrase or two.

4. I have a knack for remembering obscure trivia and inserting it into conversation. Some might consider this a curse or tic, actually, but let’s just call it a blessing, shall we?

5. I am good at comforting people. I’ve always felt unsure about this, and it seems a strange attribute to promote, but when I was an animal communicator, I frequently dealt with people who were upset, afraid, angry, distraught or in mourning. They always told me that they felt a lot better after our sessions. Some of it could just be having someone they thought was knowledgeable and sympathetic listen to them, but I suppose being that person is a skill in and of itself, isn’t it?

6. I make a mean chimichanga. Actually, I just made that up, because I just love the word “chimichanga,” and don’t get to use it frequently enough. Plus, they’re yummy. But I am a pretty good cook, when I put my mind to it. Even the kitchen perfectionist, Mrs. Nator, says my omelettes are to die for.

7. I’m good at learning. That is, I tend to grasp new skill sets pretty quickly, when I need to, and also like to learn new things. Of course, there are areas, like mathematics, the hard sciences, etc., where I am more limited than others. But I’m generally a quick study when it comes to learning new programs for work, how to program or fix household appliances, conjugate a verb in another language, etc. This also goes along with…

8. I’m a good researcher. Seriously, if you need to know about something, I will hunt down all the information available on the Internet, make phone calls, peruse books, you name it, to get what you need to know, if I deem it a worthy investigation. Neither this or number 7 necessarily means that I am great at retaining all this information for long periods of time – that brain space seems to be taken up by number 4. But, want to know where to see a scarlet macaw or a brief history of the construction of the New York Subway system by the end of the day? I’m your woman.

9. I speak cat fluently.

10. I have a pretty good artistic eye, which comes in handy in everything from house decoration to designing a website. I used to fancy myself something of an artist, but I’m not under that illusion, now. Let’s just say that’s more of a raw talent I’ve not fostered.

11. I can talk in all sorts of funny voices, and will do so at any given opportunity, whether you like it or not. I’ve thought about pursuing a career as a voice-over artist for cartoons, in fact. Apparently, however, all those spots have now been filled by Robin Williams.

12. I can knit baby hats and booties. I made some really cute ones last year. They may have been beginner level, but they were cute, dammit. And we all know that I don’t even really like babies.

13. I can make a list of thirteen talents I have! Is that a cop-out? Listen, I was thinking of making insinuating comments about my skills in the boudoir, but I refrained, and I’m sure you’re all relieved about that, so let’s just quit while we’re ahead, yes?

Well, that’s that. It was harder than I expected to think up thirteen talents. Whether that’s due to low self esteem, a learned value of modesty or an actual lack of talents, I’ll let you judge. It also could be that my attention span has become so short that writing thirteen things just got boring for me. Writers’ workshop, here I come!

Have a pleasant Thursday. Y’all come back now, hear?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


This worst thing that could ever happen to anyone in the scheme of all things has happened to us!

Our TiVo has stopped working!!!


O God, Why hast thou forsaken us?

[Curls in fetal position and sobs softly]

Oh, and I have too much media to fit on my 30GB iPod, so clearly I need a 60GB.

Who says North Americans are spoiled?

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Think I'll Go Eat Worms

1. It's rainy and gross out and I am very tired.

2. Mrs. Nator is off for the MLK, Jr. Day holiday, at home all cozy in bed with the kitties, and I most definitely am not.

3. I still haven't heard back from the Director about a meeting to discuss my requested raise, so clearly she thinks I am of Very Little Import.

4. I've been going through a severe, protracted period of low self esteem, wherein I think I'm crap and don't want to even be in public.

5. Add this all together and it means I am looking at job listings, but feeling I don't want to do any of it and I'm pathetic and not qualified to do anything, anyway, so why bother?

Don't you wish you were here to hang out with me?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Plumbing and Porn

Wednesday night, 8:30 PM.

Whew, what a day! Well, at least we're home and... oh, dear. Look at our bathroom.

I think we'd better stay here, instead.

Oh, look! Even the TV is welcoming us.

Let's see what's on it. Oh, look - porn.

YAWN. Gee I wonder what that "sensuous... plot geared to [straight, vanilla] women" entails? Does a Fabio clone come out dressed as the Phantom of the Opera, and tickle her with a feather for 3 hours before they make sweet, sweet love? And "Velvet Thrust?" Gag. What's next?

Darn, honey. I was trying to select this sassy "girl on girl" video, but my long nails got caught in your bleached hair, and the remote fell under my implants, where we can't find it, even if you nuzzle them awkwardly while thinking about the pizza boy's giant member. Next...!

Now we're talkin' - those gay boys really know how to do it. And look, they have implants, too! On second thought, the idea of trying to fit several steroidal muscle boys into a tiny airplane bathroom is not all that appealing. Keep going...

Well. You can't get a much more literal title than that, can you? Nope, you know exactly what you're getting from this one. At least it's a nice break from the 20 different versions of "husband comes home to find wife with another guy". What is it with that, anyway? Don't get any ideas. If I come home and discover you in flagrante delicto with that skanky plumber, I am not going to hide behind the curtains and wank myself, much less join in. Be prepared to kiss half you own and the cats goodbye, is all I'm sayin'...

Oh, yes! This must be the one. Look, it's guaranteed "plot free!" Thanks for telling us what we want to know, marketing guys!

You know, let's just watch The Daily Show and go to sleep, instead. Goodnight, hon.


Epilogue: The plumber was still at our apartment until after 9 PM last night, but Mrs. Nator berated him into finally "finishing up," so we could sleep at home. We now have a toilet, running water and a functional stove, but it took two hours for Mrs. Nator to clean up the mess, and then when she tried to take a shower this morning, the downstairs neighbours' bathroom flooded.

Our landlords' reaction on seeing the damage to both bathrooms was: "oh my God!" So, the good news is it looks like we'll be getting repaired ceiling and floors, plus new walls, sink and fixtures. The bad news is, we can't shower now, and all that means a new troop of plumbers and contractors will be coming in and taking over our lives, soon. Joy!

Friday Cat Blog - I Must EEEEAT EEET!

Who doesn't love it when a cat gets all gnaw-y, at least when they're not chewing something important? You get to see that little bundle of fluff turn into a naturally perfect carnivorous killing machine. Cases in point...

Annie's cup runneth over when she is set upon by TWO string toys.

"Things are not going according to plan..."

Maurice gives new meaning to the phrase "eat my shorts."


Now we can rest assured that if any unauthorized fabrics - natural or man made - invade our homes, our cats will be there to protect us! Kind of brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

Sadly, It's So True

You Have Low Self Esteem 80% of the Time
You tend to blame yourself when things go wrong, regardless of whether it's your fault or not. You're anxious to please others and rely too much on their opinions. Learn to please yourself first, and your confidence will soar.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Special Times of Specialness!

Guess what we got last night? Can you...?


We got to spend the night in a hotel! Want to guess why...?

Because when we got home, our bathroom was completely dismantled!

Yes, we knew our landlords had hired their usual "plumber"* to make some unspecified fixes, but we were told he'd be done yesterday evening. We purposefully stayed at work until late, to give him room. Evidently, it wasn't enough, because we entered to find debris and supplies all over, the bathroom baseboards and parts of the wall and floor removed, the bathtub moved into the middle of the floor and broken, and a nervous-looking "plumber"'s assistant peering through the hole where our toilet had been into the apartment below.

Mrs. Nator was Not Amused.

She commenced the Stomping Downstairs and Chewing Out of the landlords, who actually were quite apologetic and reasonable, and agreed to foot the bill for a car service, dinner, hotel for the night and breakfast. So, after administering to our very confused and unsettled cats, we threw together some things and zipped off to the scenic Holiday Inn Express of Park Slope, Brooklyn, which we had not previously known existed.

Actually, the hotel was just fine. Very clean, newly refurbished, comfortable bed, decent shower and lots of porn on the pay television (more on that, later, perhaps). Not much space to spread out our delivered Chinese food, but quite reasonable for a room in NYC (somewhere around $170 for the night, after the requisite ridiculous taxes). Definitely a place to keep in mind, should anyone have visiting relatives.

I didn't get enough sleep, however, and would be quite put out that this had to happen on the night before my big raise-related meeting - hadn't said meeting been put off yet again. So, there you go.

Another adventure under our belts, with only a bit of whinging and some slightly disturbing hysterical giggling in reaction. We have been told that our home should be fully habitable again this evening, but we shall see if that is true. We haven't much hope that, even if it is functional, it will be clean and put back together by our return. We just pray, and we hope you'll join us, we don't find that the "plumber" has opened the gas line, or walled in the cats, when we get home.


* I use plumber in quotes, because the gentleman in question has rarely demonstrated any ability to wash himself or brush his own teeth, much less carry out complicated pipe repairs without major errors and lengthy, extremely inconvenient delays. I believe they hire him consistently because he is cheap, which just reinforces the adage about getting what you paid for, etc. I'd decribe him further, but I am generally so captivated by the combination of the ecosystems flourishing in his interdental crevices and his incomprehensible Liverpudlian mumblings that I retreat in panic, patent drawings of composite oral irrigators/subtitle display systems dancing in my head...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wherein, Once Again, I Prove I Am "Special"

I got a blocked, infected tear duct this weekend. According to Teh Internets, this usually only happens to infants or elderly people. Way to burst those boundaries once again, me!

So, I was still all swollen and a bit feverish yesterday, and had to postpone my raise-request meeting, myself. It's now going to be on Thursday. Antici... pation!

Meanwhile, I am suspicious of the sudden influx of young interns at my job. I wonder if they are thinking of replacing me with one. If so, get on with it, please. Don't deny my raise so I have to quit and then hire one.

Two more reasons I am special?

  1. I've signed up for a writing workshop! Which means I'm going to have to write! More than just this blog! Gasp!
  2. Mrs. Nator wants to have children with me. Um, like, soon, she has now made it known.


If this happens, I'm expecting that this means either my brain will explode, or we will take over the world.

Who, me? Dramatic?

Friday, January 05, 2007


In a development that is indicative of... well, so many things at my job, the Acting Director of my department has postponed the meeting I set up to ask for a raise for the third time this week. So, three times I've gotten myself all prepped and psyched up, and three times I've gotten a call from her assistant at the last minute saying she's too busy right now.


I didn't want it to go this way, but it looks like I'm going to have to give her a formal letter today asking for the raise. She said we could meet on Monday, but since there's no guarantee of that and I want the raise to start in February, it looks like I'm going to have to make my case in writing before I mesmerize her with my mad charisma and professional interpersonal skillz (ha).

Fortunately, I think I'm a pretty good writer of this kinda thingamajiggy. I'll letcha know what happens.

I'm off to the wilds of New Jersey to do belated xmas with Ma Nator this weekend. You be good, kids, and keep wwwoooonnn-ing my way, mmkay?

Friday Cat Blog - HRH Maya, Queen of All She Surveys

Today's Cat Blog is dedicated to the one, the only, Maya the Shmoo. She may be getting older and wider, but she is also getting plusher and more snuggly as time goes on. Maya is the kitty with serious attitude - the one who gets what she wants when she wants it, or you will fear her wrath. Her tones are far from dulcet, as she is both deaf and cantankerous, but she lets out the cutest little snorfling purrs when she licks our ears at night before we go to sleep. She is the cat who sleeps between us, and the one that we most pine for when we go away. In short, Mrs. Nator and I are both deeply in love with Ms. Maya, in all her bizarre, cranky, chacne-infested glory.

Thank God she's not a person, however. The world would tremble!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The End Days Are Coming

The local news weatherman informed me this morning that the cherry trees in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are blooming and turtles are basking. In January, people. No wonder Mrs. Nator & I are having crippling headaches. We've got spring and fall allergies in winter!

Tranquil natural beauty? or A SIGN OF CONSPIRACY AND IMPENDING DOOM?!

I'm beginning to wonder if the Bushies, et al, are destroying the environment on purpose. I mean, what better way to bring around the fundies' beloved End Days than causing the Earth to destroy itself though fires, floods, landslides, species die-offs, and all the other accoutrements of global warming? They're playing that they don't believe in it, but at the same time rubbing their hands togather in glee, thinking that between these disasters and getting some damn red calf into the Holy Land they'll for sure bring Jeebus back. Oh, yeah - and provoking the heathen Arabs. Let's not forget about that.

Anyway, poopy poopy grumble-pants. And also, my meeting to ask for a raise got postponed, so I'll be asking for it tomorrow. I just hope a particularly crusty mood is conducive to persuading higher-ups to pay me more. If I don't get blowed up, fried or washed away first, that is.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Welcome to the New Year

I am asking for a big raise today. (gasp!)

I have set an appointment with an endocrinologist/weight-loss specialist for the end of the month.

I am looking into hiring a career coach.

I am also looking into attending a writing workshop.

What will happen? Send me good thoughts, and keep tuning in to find out!