Bad Time for Cleaning Closets

Poor Clay. He sure picked a bad week to finally come out of his closet. (And thank god he cleared that up, because I had been wearing my sheets thin with all my tossing and turning at night wondering why Clay Aiken hadn’t snatched himself up a pretty lady yet).

Seriously though, for him this was probably a gut-wrenching decision. Not only to announce it publicly, but to do it from the cover of People magazine. I fully acknowledge that coming out is a huge deal. It may provide relief to some, but will ostracize many (or most) from the social and support network they once knew and thought they could rely on. So poor Clay probably braced himself for the fallout that he imagined would happen. How will this impact my career, my relationships with others?

He braced himself for awhile when People hit the stands until he heard about a little scuffle going down on Wall Street. He may have peeked out the door wondering where his media frenzy was around the time The Maverick swore off debates and rode off to Washington. By the time House Republicans were storming out the negotiating door, I envision poor Clay was probably standing on his curb, hands on hips, looking up and down the abandoned street and listening to the chirping of crickets.

No, Clay probably wasn’t counting on other mind-boggling, nerve-wracking, fear & loathing events to happen during his week to shine.

But now that the first debate is under our belts, I’d like to take a break from the battleground to give Clay a little shout out. Way to go, man! It’s a hard road but you came through (and out). And congrats on being a new parent (and you thought coming out was tough)  

But the critical question here Clay, is do you have stock with WaMu? 

Fantasy Football

After bursting out of the Packer closet with my green and gold #4 pasties on, I find myself quickly picking up my confetti-littered clothes, and tiptoeing backwards into the closet, quietly mumbling a few “excuse me’s” and “pardon me…” along the way. 

I’m not going to get into it because plenty of my fellow fans have. And I know everyone is getting a liiiitle sick of the story. At least, they should be, my God. 

All I’m sayin’ is the warm feelings of contentedness that I had envisioning Mr. Favre riding off into the Mississippi sunset on his riding lawnmower have been caught in the blades and splattered all over the flower beds.

Ok, I’m not in that much pain, (I mean seriously, it’s a game played by millionaires, my woe about his trade only cuts so deep), but I had to work with the lawnmower reference.

So after some reflection, I have come to a decision as to what I want to see this season. I want both Rodgers and Favre to do incredibly well. Rodgers will be the New Coming, a football messiah with freakishly magical skills. Favre will prove to be a modern-day William Wallace, pumping life and blood and grit back into the battle-weary Jets. It will be a riveting, nail-biting, adrenaline-pumping, exhilarating season watching both men claw their way to the top of the pile. Yes, it will be the Best Season Ever in the History of the World. Both teams will make it to the SuperBowl for the final showdown. Everyone will be on the edge of their seats. 

And then Rodgers will kick Favre’s ass. My apologies to my sweet baboo, but no matter how much I enjoy watching Mr. #4 and his well-formed posterior, I will always root for the Cinderella story. Especially one that is seasoned with a little sweet revenge.  

Besides, I gotta live here. And there ain’t nuthin’ worse than spending a long Wisconsin winter with a bunch of crabby cheeseheads.

Emailers Anonymous

Our Internet has been iffy lately. I have had access to my hotmail and could read my messages, but lately it has decided to take it’s smoke breaks during my attempts to reply. It would always return, however begrudgringly, back to work. 

The other day, I trudged upstairs, balancing my daily cup of joe in one hand, reaching for my chair with the other before my bounding, and obviously more-of-a-morning-person-son, could beat me to it. I turned on my computer with my toe and waited for it to warm up, feeling jovial enough to scoop the wiggling child onto my lap to wait with me.

I was completely denied. My husband troubleshot here and there, clicking on all sorts of updates and Internet cleansers, but to no avail. He shut down both computers, rambling on about changes to a firewall something or other and declared, “Don’t even bother trying to get on, you’ll just get frustrated.” He left for work, leaving me standing there with an empty mug and a cold heart.

My name is Amy. And I am an Internet junkie. Hello Amy. It’s been ten years since I started using. Since then, I check my email daily, if not three or four times a day. Ok…maybe more…I’m still in denial. And its not just email. I do it all. I MUST check my blog stats, do a little bump of research, take a sip out of my Wetpaint pages, a couple hits off other’s blogs, oh, and the shared photos Snapfish account, free base the news headlines, maybe lace it with a little celebrity gossip…and ohmigod, the weather, WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER? I may start convulsing.

I have always had an obsession with communication. Plain and simple, I am a highly communicative person. I am, at times, overly communicative. Just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of my company. Before computers, it was the phone. When I was in junior high I began to fixate on the telephone. I could talk for hours. If I was waiting for a call, or even thought I should be getting a call, I would stare at the phone, willing it to ring using my highly untrained Jedi mind tricks. Limited or no access to the phone left me uneasy and incomplete. In need of a fix.

I didn’t listen to my husband. I had to confirm at least three times (okay, maybe more…) that day that yes, indeed, I still had no access to any of the above. He knows me well, I became frustrated. I was listless, incomplete. It was a full Day Without Access.

Obviously, in reading this, you can see we are back in the land of the surfing. (my husband still has “Wind Beneath My Wings”  ringing in his ears) I could tell you all the things I got done in The Day Without Access. I could go on about the quality of family life without the distractions of technology. How The Day Without Access served as a little wake-up call as to how reliant on the Internet I’ve become. That I now spend the days doing nothing frivolous, but improving myself, my household and my community. 

OR, I could be grateful for the tool that allows me to start projects, write, keep in touch with friends and family who live thousands of miles away, educate my son with interesting facts at our fingertips, provide me with a much-needed escape, and help us prepare for rain.

Yes, I think I’ll pick the latter. Why deny who I am? My name is Amy, and I am a proud and proficient user of the Internet.

Now I better go check the weather. There’s an exciting front moving in.

Podunk Wisconsinites and the Feral Cat

In April 2005, my fine state supported a proposal to make feral cats an unprotected species, a classification that would allow them to be hunted and killed. Despite the fact that 51 of 72 counties in the state voted in favor of the proposal, Gov. Jim Doyle dampened our kitty killing spirits by claiming it was making Wisconsin a “laughingstock”.

A feral cat is a free-roaming, unowned and untamed domestic cat. These are not to be confused with stray cats, previously owned and lost, or the 80’s rockabilly band with pompadors. Raised without human contact, feral cats (not Brian Setzer) revert to a wild state and form colonies wherever food and shelter are available. One source cites that nearly 2 million free-range cats call Wisconsin home.

I would say approximately 10% of the WI feral cat population has established a thriving colony in my backyard and intend to become a fully independent state.

We enjoyed their presence for a brief moment in history. We spotted one fluffy guy venture into our backyard and named him Sergeant Tibbs. We mused how he and our tortoise shell cat shared a forbidden loved despite the confines of her impenetrable window. The skittish black one with glowing eyes became Sneaky Pete. But wait, is that another Sneaky Pete? That’s Sneaky Pete’s son, my child explained. Are there two or three orange cats? Five? We would crouch behind the lilacs like Dian Fossey in the bush, noting the habits and behaviors of about thirteen primitive cats.

But my husband lovingly built me two raised beds one Mother’s Day so that I could support my family’s diet with chemical-free vegetables. Upon digging, I soon came up with a handful of cat crap. My beds had become giant litter boxes. The amount of cat shit found would trigger any normal gag reflex. Those with tender tummies would be vomiting by now.

I love cats. I normally don’t seethe with rage at Little Whiskers. But after flinging one last pile of poop into my neighbor’s yard, (my only logical military strike against the woman who’s been feeding them all winter) I was ready to start picking those critters off one by one with a shotgun I don’t even own. But I don’t live in South Dakota or Minnesota, where they are allowed to shoot feral cats. I had to resort to chicken wire to exclude the colony from full citizenship rights to my beds. My lovely little seedlings are now incarcerated.

Which led me to rethink this kitty huntin’ proposal. The Humane Society’s answer of Trap-Neuter-Release returns the feral cat back to its colony under the watch of a designated “caretaker”. I support this, as it works to some degree, but it doesn’t cut down on the number of birds killed in my backyard (in WI, 39 million per year perish in the jaws of the street-wise tabby) nor does it eliminate the dumping of toxic waste on my vegetables.

The Humane Society and Alley Cat Allies argue that the logic behind “if you don’t feed them, they’ll go away” is faulty. Feral cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food (!?!?) They tend to encroach closer into human habitations as they grow more desperate. Their malnourished condition makes them more susceptible to parasites, which they will spread. The cats will continue to reproduce despite the effort to “starve them out,” resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens. (Aaggh! Kitty deaths!) Keep feeding them, they say.

On the other hand, others say feeding strays maintains high densities of cats that kill and compete with native wildlife populations. Cat colonies will form around sources of food and grow to the limits of the food supply. You can’t realistically trap and neuter all wild cats to the point where you control the population. Colonies can grow to include dozens of animals, who will then eat smaller native species and dump on my vegetables. Ever hear of toxoplasmosis?

In reflecting on my feral cat situation, I am riled by the thought that Doyle was worried about being a “laughingstock”, insinuating the proposal was created by backcountry simpletons. So what else is new? As a Wisconsin native who lived outside of the motherland for eleven years, I experienced a widespread, ignorant opinion that most Wisconsinites were less civilized and unintelligent, usually based solely on our accent. The movie Fargo, although not even filmed in Wisconsin, did nothing to help my cause. Even my closest, most liberal friends think its hilarious to point out how “incorrectly” we speak, but wouldn’t dream of doing so to any other ethnic group. 

Are there ignorant rednecks in Wisconsin? Absolutely. But believe me, yahoos are alive and well EVERYWHERE. I recall finding it annoyingly humorous that my Californian hippy dippy friends would cut me down for the way I said “bagel” (and try to correct me as though I were a child learning to speak) in the same breath that they’d tell me they don’t listen to or read the news because its just The Man talkin’. But you didn’t find me driving all the way from Santa Cruz to the Grand Canyon only to find the park closed during the federal government shutdown of 1995. Hey, I warned them. I read it in the newspaper. Now hand me my baaagel.

But I digress. Back to feral cats. When taking this proposal out of context, you may find the Conservation Congress, the independent group that advises the state Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources, seem a bit like podunk fools. But some quick research on feral cats, (what fun!) and any educated reader would see the proposal was an attempt to educate and alert cat owners. Congress Chairman Steve Oestreicher, clearly stated that people are overreacting (surprise, surprise) if they imagine hunters are going to grab their guns and go hunting cats willy nilly. “We are not advocating a hunting season or the shooting of cats,…this is really to get the attention of the pet owner that when you get tired of your cat, don’t take it out into the woods and dump it.”  Makes sense to me. Eight of my childhood cats were acquired through neighborly cat dumping, not to mention the four or five we took to the Humane Society because we were at our household feline limit. Never have to pay money for a good cat in these parts.

And the U.S. spends over $50 million a year to shelter wild cats. Hmmm…and that ’05 education-oriented  proposal was idiotic?   

If this proposal would have passed, I doubt I would be the person sitting on my back porch with a rifle across my lap waiting for the little buggers to get into close range. But these days, I ain’t going to blame the person who would like to exercise their right to grow shit-free lettuce. Family health trumps wild kitty.  

So time will tell if feral cats will rule the world. If you are a feral cat lover, I suggest on October 16th, National Feral Cat Day (yes, there is one) you take a trip to Rome, (its population has been estimated to be between 250,000 and 350,000, organized in about 2,000 colonies), or a Greek holiday, where the affection for the stray feline remains strong. I’ve been there. Its not cute. Its gross. And watch out, if the origins of our modern civilizations started there, why can’t theirs?

Terrorists be damned, it’s the dawn of the feral cat. They are organizing, I tell you, revolution is near.