Saturday Surprise — Guest Post by Colette!!!

Happy Saturday Surprise, Friends!!!  Last week, I asked (shamelessly begged) readers to volunteer to do a guest post this week, as several of the suggestions when I first started this feature included making it a more interactive feature.  Friend Colette generously offered to write a true and funny story for our enjoyment today.  It is a win-win … I am getting a bit of a break, and we are all getting a great story!!!  Many thanks, Colette, for your contribution!


‘Animal Magic’

A visit to Cat Hell 😾

The ad was innocent: ‘Mad Cat Lady,’ requires house sitter for one dog, one indoor cat and approximately nineteen outdoor cats and a few strays. And the email to my husband and me asked if we were available? The house looked nice enough on photos and although we didn’t know the location, it was only about 40 minute drive from Malaga Airport. We said ‘yes.’

We got stopped by La Guardia just outside the nearest village and the two officers demanded all our papers and passports and then grilled us for 20 minutes about where we lived in Spain (so they could charge us with incorrect documentation) and eventually asked where we were going? As soon as we mentioned the destination, they decided that we were indeed, as claimed, British tourists. They had rolled their eyes at the mention of the address…Mad Cat lady also ran a B&B. But it was not a successful one…it was remote (more so than advertised) and a long way from any tourist area.

Arriving twenty minutes late, and just a little harried, our host opened up the gates for us and then closed them behind us.

As my husband got out of the car, three cats immediately jumped in and started rummaging through our stuff, causing him to duck back in again to root them out. His bum greeted our host, Mad Cat Lady.

A muscular Spanish Water dog bounded up as I exited the car, and growled. Looking at me with wild eyes, he jumped up and caught my free bare arm in his mouth, and chomped away excitedly on his new toy (me). I pushed him away with a hand up “Off!” My command had no effect…he just launched himself at my other bare arm. Our host said, (laughing nervously), “he’ll be alright in a minute, he just gets over excited.” My arms sprouted capillaries of minuscule blood flow. I frowned “I’d rather you called him off now!”

I should have known at this point that we were entering into pet sitting hell, but I have a real soft spot for all animals and so I smiled at Mad Cat Lady.

“I can’t,” she said apologetically. “I’ve had three different trainers, and no one can do anything with Badger.” Her eyes sparkled, “but he was rescued and he is such a charmer…he speaks you know?” Mad Cat Lady had a wistful adoration in her eyes, as her monster dog chewed his way through what was left of my skin.

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Badger

I later found out that Badger’s conversations (usually initiated by him) occurred when he would jump on to the table where one sat to drink tea. He would stare at you face to face, growling and generally showing his superiority as he tried to make you ‘blink first. Then, mission accomplished, he’d lay down and proceed to chew his paws, his wagging tail threatening to remove your teacup from the table! The Mad Cat Lady always laughed adoringly!

My husband soon banned Badger from our separate  accommodation in a Casita, after Badger had upset all the contents on a coffee table and smashed my husband’s phone to the floor, breaking the back off it. Mad Cat Lady had said, “but Badger must have company,” so now I had to stay in the main house on my own for much of the day with Badger.

It was only day one, and my husband didn’t want anything more to do with the ‘pets.’ He couldn’t abide going into the house. Only 29 days to go then!

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Clary

Badger was only the tip of a big iceberg…Clary, was the owners tiny black house cat. Tiny, yes, pretty? No. She was slightly cross-eyed, covered in scabs and looked suspiciously like a vampire with a temperament that went with the image. The rest of the cats were feral…and untrained, but they didn’t stay outside at all! Nineteen feral cats came and went in the house that always had an open door. They did exactly as they pleased twenty four hours a day. The house was a nightmare.

Clary_2.JPGEverything inside the house had the strange mixed odour of  cat pee and something resembling cockroach spray. Diatomaceous earth filled the air when ever I sat on the couch, or walked over the living room carpet (supposedly controlling ticks and fleas). Mad Cat Lady lived holistically, organically, and without any apparent need to clean. Cats roamed in dark corners and glared at me with glowing green eyes before raising hackles and backing into cupboards.

It was an interesting mix of The Adams Family meets The Fockers!

The worst room was without question, the kitchen. I almost gagged at the awful odour when I walked in to a small room full of mewling cats to learn from our host, what I needed to know about feeding her brood who now sat atop of the counters, shelves, and the wooden table in the centre of the kitchen. The table legs looked in danger of collapse as they had become favourite scratching posts and were perilously worn away.

Badger’s food was easy (except that I was warned he might refuse to eat), the rest of the gang had a complicated schedule. I had to know each and every one of the cats by name, so that I didn’t get their diet mixed up. Most of them ate two different special meals (as well as dry food that was put down in the kitchen, an ensuite bathroom and a disgusting laundry room filled with ants and pillows infused with the dainty aroma of cat pee and hair balls).

The refrigerator and freezer were filled with containers full of liquidized raw liver (a gut-wrenching smell), gazillions of prawns, and a range of weird meaty bits for Badger.IMG_20171015_140037_628.jpgI was given a menu for each kitty and strict instructions on how to feed “this one liver, and a bit of packet meat n’ gray, and that one prawns only, and stop that one coming back for seconds (this particular Ginger, was identical to her two sisters and a brother looked very similar – so impossible to know if I’d fed her or a sibling). This little girl, ‘Blondie,’ needs extras, as of course does Clary. And the latest addition, six-month old Dora, will eat everything but liver and will usually throw it up again. Be careful of George (the blonde son of an old Siamese called Maisie) he will steal prawns,”…I learned quickly that he has sharp claws indeed. He was a beautiful cat though.

The instructions went on for an hour as we tracked down each cat to feed them ….”Throw Dek a prawn… he won’t come near enough to take it. Cuckoo will have two prawns, don’t give him the heads…he’ll choke. Fez has double helpings of liver, and Maisy has one plus half a packet of moist cat food…” I scribbled notes furiously on a piece of paper next to each name and tried (in vain) to memorise the appearance of each feline menace who either tried to snatch the food from me or run like hell for cover. It was a bit like trying to pet piranha fish! And just as frantic. ‘Chaos’ doesn’t really describe it!IMG_20171015_140230_930.jpgAs I placed two prawns (shelled and cut up) in front of a fiesty male Siamese called ‘Majesty,’ I noticed a ragged ear and a firmly attached tick. ‘Majesty’ indeed. He looked like an ancient warrior king of a feline dominion; ‘Planet of the Cats.’

We drove Mad Cat Lady, and her sister, to the airport in her car (ours was much too small). I inadvertently sat on a warm wet patch… fresh cat pee. I squirmed! The whole car stank. On our return, my husband opened the five doors on her vehicle, vacuumed out all the filth, removed everything loose and then turned a water hose on and blasted all the upholstery, the floor, the ceiling…everything…. It really was that bad! It took a week to dry out (windows cracked open so that the cats couldn’t get in).

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Badger & Majesty

Our month turned into a steady routine of me doing all the pet work and my husband doing the gardening. He cleared drainpipes, dug out clogged outside shower trays and repaired broken stuff. We both cleaned vigorously. He transformed the laundry room while I bleached the kitchen into a sanitised condition (only to have an anonymous cat redecorate the kitchen counters when I wasn’t looking)!Badger on table.jpgBadger soon got used to the new routine. A steady use of training treats (never leave home without them), stopped him attacking and biting my feet on stairwells (a particularly aggressive act), and aided in the abolition of ‘growling’ conversations. He began to behave normally and trotted after me happily as I made my rounds of the feral brood. I became quite fond of him. I could not touch his feet though…he would really go for me. However, I was able to brush him (something that Mad Cat Lady said he didn’t like). And he ate his meals. When Mad Cat Lady’s ex showed up to make sure that we hadn’t run off with the family silver, he was amazed that Badger stuck to my side and wouldn’t engage in the ‘growling’ conversation of old nor jump up at him. In fact, Badger ignored him altogether. This man was Badger’s rescuer??? But Badger came and put his head in my lap and then lay at my feet ignoring his former buddy!

Badger’s walks were quite short by necessity. We were positioned between two farms, both with aggressive packs of dogs. The mangy dogs in each pack outnumbered Badger at least 6 to one. He would have been torn to pieces (as might I). However, there was enough space for a short 20 minute constitutional, and yes, more feeding of other ferals along the way. One of them, a shy grey Tabby, was pregnant. She would come when I called,  and then gobble the food madly so that she could run when the other, territorial moggies showed up! Mad Cat Lady went through at least two 20kg sacks of dry kibble a week.IMG_20171015_135453_305.jpgI got used to days filled with removing ticks, coaxing, feeding and playing with the brood. They were not the healthiest animals though, and would eat all wildlife that moved (despite the spoiling by Mad Cat Lady). I came across lots of dismembered bodies everywhere. One morning, I found Dora with a huge gash in her side…claws had made four neat holes where blood oozed. I patched her up and put her on a clean blanket to sleep. I guessed that one of the Gingers had caught her…they were always chasing her. She was a quick getaway, but obviously one of them had outwitted her and taught her a lesson. I nursed her back to health and she started to attach herself to me… I felt bad that I would leave and it wouldn’t be fair, but it was unavoidable. She needed to heal up, and I had to protect her from the Gingers. She became my shadow. She and a few of the others would be waiting by the Casita door first thing. Badger would be waiting too on the other side of the terrace gate and he no longer jumped or growled. He would sit happily waiting for his morning treat and then follow me and all the others into the kitchen for breakfast.

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Dora

When Mad Cat Lady came home, all the old behaviours came back in the brood (including, alas Badger) except for one. Tiny Dora had lost her heart to me. She ate properly now, no longer threw up everywhere and as we packed our car, she tried to get in with us. As we drove through the open gates, that one lone little cat watched us go and tried to follow. I felt such a lump in my throat as we watched her figure fade in the rear view mirror.

Cat Hell was gone…or was it Cat Heaven? I felt a real pang at having to leave tiny Dora. Poor little bullied girl! 😿

Brought to you by …

  • Badger (Spanish Water Dog)
  • Dora (a tiny calico)
  • Clary (a tiny black vampire)
  • Ant & Dek (wild Tiger cats)
  • Fez (black with a white feather)
  • Maisie (long hair Siamese)
  • Majesty (Medium hair Siamese)
  • George (Blond mix Siamese)

FAMILY …

  • Cuckoo (Large Black)
  • Sharon, Sherri, Sharma, Sugar (The Four Gingers) SIBLINGS
  • Blonde (Blonde, Ginger mix)
  • Big Tom (Large Tabby)
  • Little Tom (Small Tabby)
  • Milo (Ginger and White)
  • Micky (Black & White)
  • Monkey (Black & White)

BROTHERS

  • Grey Ghost (Light Grey Tabby)

Many thanks, Colette, for sharing this story!  And congratulations for surviving you Cat Hell or Heaven … a little bit of both, I think!

I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend doing fun things!  Happy Saturday!!!

weekend.gif

Saturday Surprise — Friday The 13th!

friday-13th-maxine.jpgWelcome to another Saturday Surprise!  If today is Saturday, then yesterday must have been Friday, right?  And not just any ol’ Friday, but Friday the 13th!  Now, a lot of people think if the 13th of any month happens to be on a Friday, they will run into some bad luck.  I have never been victim to this phenomenon, knock on wood, and I am not what I would consider superstitious.  I’ve walked under ladders, shared a house with several black cats during my lifetime, and I don’t throw salt over my shoulder. In fact, I was brave enough to get married on a Friday the 13th!

Anyway, I thought it might be a bit of fun to take a look at some of the history and mythology surrounding Friday the 13th.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia: a fear of Friday the 13th.  Who knew there was a word for it?  Not that I can pronounce this word … I have been trying for 5 minutes now and I give up.

broken mirrorThe sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. Their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to phobia specialist (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia) Dr. Donald Dossey, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today.

Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on that date (oops!).

 

black-cat-2One theory for why the number ‘13’ is considered unlucky dates back to primitive man.  Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, this explanation goes, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition. Which begs the question: did primitive man not have toes?

Ancient civilizations weren’t unanimous in their dread of 13. The Chinese regarded the number as lucky, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs.

One of the myths I found that I enjoyed was this …

“Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, the god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party anyway, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki incited Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods.

Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.”

I do know that thirteen people in my tiny house would definitely be bad luck, for they would be tripping over each other.  We have had as many as nine before, and that was definitely more than enough!

ladder.jpgIn pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman’s Day in Britain).

The name “Friday” was derived from a Norse deity worshiped on the sixth day, known either as Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility), or both, the two figures having become intertwined in the handing down of myths over time. Frigg/Freya corresponded to Venus, the goddess of love of the Romans, who named the sixth day of the week in her honor “dies Veneris.”

Friday was actually considered quite lucky by pre-Christian Teutonic peoples— especially as a day to get married — because of its traditional association with love and fertility.

All that changed when Christianity came along. The goddess of the sixth day — most likely Freya in this context, given that the cat was her sacred animal — was recast in post-pagan folklore as a witch, and her day became associated with evil doings.

witches.jpgOne legend has it that the witches of the north used to observe their sabbath by gathering in a cemetery in the dark of the moon. On one such occasion the Friday goddess, Freya herself, came down from her sanctuary in the mountaintops and appeared before the group, who numbered only 12 at the time, and gave them one of her cats, after which the witches’ coven — and, by “tradition,” every properly-formed coven since — comprised exactly 13.

There are many interesting tales and myths surrounding Friday the 13th, some fun, others not so much.  But either way, as Terri Bonebright, assistant professor of psychology at DePauw University, says, “It all revolves around superstition.  In the case of Friday the 13th, people have been told it will be a bad day, so they selectively remember all the bad events that occur throughout the day.” Makes sense to me.

But then there is this …

In a provocatively study titled, “Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?” published in the 1993 British Medical Journal, researchers compared the ratio of traffic volume to the number of automobile accidents on two different dates, Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th, over a period of years. Their goal was to map “the relation between health, behavior, and superstition surrounding Friday 13th in the United Kingdom.”

Interestingly, they found that while consistently fewer people in the region sampled chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicular accidents was significantly higher than on Friday the 6th.

Their conclusion?

“Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

Now, I have a bit of a confession to make.  I am gullible.  More so when I am tired, and as I haven’t been sleeping well of late, I am very tired.  Look at the meme below …

I fell for it.jpgI’m sure all of you see the irony here, see the lie.  I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.  I was telling my girls about it … I said, “Hey, guess what … last year Hallowe’en was on Friday the 13th!”  They both looked at me to see if I was joking, but when they saw no grin (I cannot lie straight-faced) they both burst out laughing.  Finally, they had to explain to me … and now I have egg on my face.

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So, if you are reading this, then you must have gotten through Friday the 13th without landing in the hospital or worse.  And now, it is Saturday morning and time to start enjoying this lovely autumn weekend!  Do something fun this weekend!  Oh … before you go … one of the suggestions for this feature was to host guest posts, and I would like to do that next week, if anybody is interested in writing a bit of something fun for us all.  Colette?  I know you have some ideas.  Bushka?  How about one of your lovely poems?  If anybody is interested in taking a turn for next Saturday’s post, drop me an email dennisonjill@aol.com.  Please put “Saturday Surprise” in the subject line, in case it goes to my spam folder, so I will recognize and rescue it!  Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday-13th

Saturday Surprise!

Good Saturday morn and welcome to Saturday Surprise!  I am still working on a way to make this feature more interactive, at least once in a while, but this past week has been filled with so much detritus that I have barely come up for air, so I hope to bat 🏏 some ideas around this weekend.  Meanwhile, I have a few fun surprises to start our weekend right.

I will start with a confession.  I am rapidly losing my sanity, if in fact I ever had any.  Two points in case:  I thought I had left my cell phone in the kitchen one evening this week, but after dinner when I went to retrieve it, it was gone.  I looked upstairs … in every room … even those I had not been in all day.  I looked downstairs in every room.  I checked the freezer.  I checked the laundry.  No phone.  So finally I asked Chris to call me so that I could trace it by the ring (which was dumb, since I cannot hear it ring unless it is within reach anyway).  Suddenly, there was a vibration and an annoying ringer that goes “wah wah wah” coming from … you guessed it … my pocket. embarrassedAnd the second episode was equally telling of my sanity loss.  I went to the grocery on Thursday evening, purchased enough food for our family of three for two weeks, placed it all neatly on the conveyor belt at the checkout aisle, and while I was patiently waiting for the lady ahead of me to finish paying for her food, it suddenly occurred to me that I had left home without either cash or credit card.  Nada in the pockets but two sets of keys, a cell phone and inhaler.  Fortunately, I live less than a mile from Kroger, so it was a fairly simple matter to resolve, but still … who does that?embarrassed-2And then there was the third, but … I cannot remember what that one was …

Anyway, moving along before I lose my train 🚂 of thought again,..

In Japan, once the rice is harvested around this time of year, the rice farmers are left with fields full of straw.  In Niigata Prefecture, they have found a unique and fun way to deal with it … they build animals!  It is called the “Wara (rice straw) Art Festival”, and just look at some of the results of their efforts!

wara-1wara-2wara-3wara-4wara-5wara-6wara-7The festival is held every year on August 31st, and local artists build the statues over wooden frames, allowing them to build larger, sturdier statues.


Our friend Keith planted this ‘ear worm’ last week, and it has been stuck in my head all week!  So, I am sharing it here because a) I like the song, b) I am hoping that by sharing it with you guys, the ‘ear worm’ will leave me and stick with at least a few of you!

And finally, because it’s late and I am too tired to be any more creative … how about a few adorable critter pictures …

cute-1cute-2cute-3cute-4

And I’m sorry, folks, but that is all I’ve got for this Saturday!  I’ve enjoyed spending a bit of time with you this morning, but it’s a beautiful autumn Saturday morning, and I know you have things to do, places to go, people to see, and life to enjoy!  Have a great weekend all!

saturday

Saturday Surprise — Coffee!!!

I missed it again this year.  I missed it last year, too, and the year before that, and … actually, I have never not missed it.  Sigh.  What’s that?  What am I talking about, you ask?  NATIONAL COFFEE DAY!  Sorry … didn’t mean to yell … I haven’t had my coffee ☕yet. Yesterday was National Coffee Day, when coffeehouses, donut shops and the like give out free coffee.  Well, except Starbucks, that is … but more about that in a minute.

coffee-4Now, I am a bit confused.  Yesterday, 29 September 2017, was National Coffee Day, but Sunday, 01 October 2017 is International Coffee Day.  So, does this mean I still have a chance to go hopping about from place to place and score multiple free coffees?  Even more confusing is when, precisely, this holiday came into being.  It was either 2009 or 2015 or 1997 or 2001.  I don’t suppose it much matters … I have either missed it 9 years, 3 years, 21 years, or 17 years.  Either way, I missed it this year.  Sigh.

coffee-5It’s rather a nice thing that some companies do to celebrate this day:

  • Dunkin’ Donuts offers a buy-one-get-one-free for medium or larger
  • Cinnabon offers a free 12-ounce coffee all day
  • Krispy Kreme offers free coffee, any size, for three days through October 1st. There is hope after all!
  • Tim Horton’s is playing one-upmanship with Krispy Kreme and says they will offer free coffee for an entire week! I don’t think we have one of those around here, though, so I shall have to shoot for Krispy Kreme.

And then there is my favourite coffee joint, Starbucks, who is offering free … nothing.  😞  But there’s this …

Starbucks“Instead of free coffee, Starbucks will replace its menu board with signs detailing the company’s ethical sourcing and remind customers that they support farmers by purchasing coffee.” – Fortune, 29 September 2017

I somehow feel cheated.

According to Wikipedia …

“International Coffee Day is an occasion that is used to promote and celebrate coffee as a beverage, with events now occurring in places across the world. The first official date was 1 October 2015, as agreed by the International Coffee Organization and was launched in Milan. This day is also used to promote fair trade coffee and to raise awareness for the plight of the coffee growers. On this day, many businesses offer free or discounted cups of coffee. Some businesses share coupons and special deals with their loyal followers via social networking. Some greeting card companies sell National Coffee Day greeting cards as well as free e-cards.”

Greeting cards?  Seriously?

coffee-3Here are some cool ways to celebrate National (or International, if you prefer) Coffee Day:

  • Bake some cat shaped cookies
  • Paint your face and wear kitty ears
  • Give your cat a calming massage

coffee-2Huh???  Something is fishy … Ohhhhh … Mr. Booker T. Washington (Boo for short) pulled up a tab on ‘20 Cool Ways to Celebrate National CAT Day’!  Hmph.  I know better than to leave the lid to my laptop up when I step away. One time he wrote an entire post for me!  Sorry, Boo … that’s not until October 29th!

A few little known facts about coffee …

  • Next to oil, coffee beans, which are actually the seeds inside the fruit of the coffee tree, are the most traded and sought after commodity in the free world.
  • Before coffee was ever brewed, creamed, stirred, and drank, it was actually eaten. It is believed that a shepherd in Ethiopia, upon seeing his goats eating the coffee cherries, decided to give the fruit a try.
  • New York City, also known as the Big Apple, is commonly referred to as “The city that never sleeps” and for good reason. According to health care company Massive Health, New Yorkers drink nearly seven times the amount of others!
  • An ancient Arab woman could legally divorce her husband only if he didn’t provide enough coffee. (Seems like good enough reason to me)
  • In 1674, the “Women’s Petition Against Coffee” said coffee was turning British men into “useless corpses” and proposed a ban for those under 60. (I wonder how they could tell?  I can’t believe I said that … I didn’t mean it, honest!!)
  • Finland drinks the most coffee per capita in the world. (Probably because it’s so damn cold there! They use the cups to keep their hands warm)

Well, I now know more than I did before about coffee, but I still didn’t get my free cup of java, so I suppose I might as well just pop another pod into the Keurig and be happy.  Next year, somebody remind me a few days ahead of time, please? My friend Bruce, a minister, posted on Facebook, “Coffee is evidence that God loves us and wants us to experience life wide awake. Happy National Coffee Day!”  Too bad I didn’t see it this morning!

Does anybody know when National Wine Day is?🍷

weekend

Saturday Surprise … On Stolen Cars and Stolen Hearts

Happy first official weekend of autumn!  Although here it does not feel much like autumn. With temperatures in the 90s and high humidity, it feels more like mid-July.  But, I know that it is autumn, for the leaves on the trees are beginning to display their beautiful show of oranges, reds and yellows.  And I can tell, also, that it is no longer light until after 9:00 p.m. as it was just a short time ago.  Sigh.  This is what I miss most … the longer days, the opportunity to go walking after dinner …

One suggestion when I first started the Saturday Surprise feature came from Erika of Dorky Mom Doodles, who said, “I’d love to hear more about how your experiences/life stuff has shaped you and your beliefs.” Now personally, I don’t think my life has been all that interesting.  No doubt the experiences of the past 66 years have contributed to who I am today … but again, not all that interesting.  However … since I am very tired at the end of a very long week, and since Erika is a good friend from long before, I thought I would give it a shot this Saturday.  So, I present you with two somewhat humorous glimpses into my past … one from 50 years ago, the other from less than 12 hours ago.


My First Car Theft …

I was a really ornery child, and an even ornerier teen.  You guys thought I was always a real sweetheart, right?  Well, I joined the workforce at age 13, and my parents, who traveled frequently, decided that if I was old enough to have a job, I was old enough to look after myself, so I had a great deal of  autonomy at a very early age.  Oh sure, the neighbor was supposed to ‘check in’ on me, and my father’s secretary would call once in a while, but otherwise, I was on my own.  So, I learned to drive.  I worked with a lady who had a ’57 Buick, stick shift, and though I probably almost ground her gears to a nub, she did teach me to drive.

Now, my parents were trusting souls, and the keys to the family car were left atop their dresser in their bedroom.  Whenever they were out of town, I took the car keys and went out.  Let me just intersperse here, that I wasn’t really bad … I did not do drugs, nor alcohol, nor sex … I just liked to drive and feel free.  So, I took the car out, went to visit friends, went to the library, sometimes a movie … and then I went home to bed.  This went on for several months, and I wasn’t too bright, for I didn’t think they would ever find out … I mean, I put the keys back just so every time.

vista-cruiserBut apparently some of my parents’ friends saw me toodling about town in the ol’ Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, and reported my transgressions.  Nothing was said, but the next time they left for the other coast, the keys were nowhere to be found.  So, I did what any self-respecting ornery teen would do … no, I did not stay home and watch Dragnet … I had a friend teach me to hot-wire a car, and off I went!  Unfortunately, the car was low on fuel, so when I stopped for gas, I then had to pop the hood and cross the wires to re-start it.  I guess someone thought that was a bit odd and called the cops.  So ended my first experience in grand theft auto.

behind bars

Shortly thereafter I bought my own car, a ’56 Chevy, for $50 and never needed to steal one again!

56 chevy


A Cute Kid and Expensive Popcorn …

This evening I needed a few things from the store … salad fixings, since Chris is out of town until late Sunday night, so Miss Goose and I are on our own.  So, I borrowed (no, I did not steal it … I asked for the keys and she happily handed them over) my neighbor and friend Maha’s car, and set off for Kroger.  Upon entering the store, there were a gaggle of Boy Scouts in the lobby, and the cutest, most adorable little guy came running to me immediately.  He was maybe 5-6 years old, curly sand-blonde hair, and thick, horn-rimmed glasses.  I think he may have reminded me of myself at that age, for I fell in love with this little guy.  He held up a bag of something … backward, so I had no idea what it was … and said, “Please, please, please buy some?”

I asked him to turn the bag around, and it turned out to be white cheddar popcorn.  Now, I love white cheddar anything, and I always try to be supportive of the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, so I told him I had just a bit of shopping to do, would be back out in 5 minutes and would then buy some.  When I came out just a few minutes later, li’l cutie came running up to me, grabbed my legs, and said “you came back!!!”  Oh be still my heart!

cute-kid

So, I proceeded to the table where the scout moms had the goods on a long table, along with a calculator and a cash box, little guy still clinging to me.  I picked up a bag of the white cheddar popcorn and saw a bag of caramel corn, so I picked up one of those too.  Now, best I recall, last year those were each around $5.  So, waiting for scout-mom to use that calculator and tell me a total, I pulled a $20 from my pocket.  Yeah … you already see it coming, don’t you?  Guess … just GUESS how much?

$35

Yes, $35 for two bags of not-even-very-great popcorn!!!  Me being me, I would normally have explained to those scout-moms what they might do with their overpriced popcorn … but there was my little guy with the thick glasses, looking up at me with what I can only define as love … and so, I sighed, pulled another $20 out of my pocket, and left with 2 bags of salad, some crispy onion straws, and $35 worth of popcorn.  It does occur to me that I should have had the opportunity to bring the little guy home for a day or two, for the price.

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So now you have seen both my extremes … the car thief and the softee.  Hope I did not bore you beyond tears or cause you to re-paint your image of me in a darker shade.  Now it’s your turn … share with us, if you will, a funny story from your past in the comment section!  And then go out there and have a terrific weekend!  Love and hugs to you all …

 

Saturday Surprise — Cool Places

I had written a story for today’s Saturday Surprise post, but then I came across something that gave me another idea, and I rather meandered off the path, as I am wont to do whenever I allow my mind to roam free.  Recently I had a conversation about bucket lists.  For most people, bucket lists are comprised of places to go, things to see & do.  Personally, I do not have a bucket list, for I am fairly reclusive and quite happy staying home.  But if I did have one, I would seek out unusual places, unique things to see and do.  Today I shall take you for a virtual visit of just a couple of such places, and we shall see more on some other Saturday.  I love this free-style feature that allows me to go wherever my mind takes me … thanks to Bushka for suggesting this!  And now …


You’ve heard of the Rainbow Bridge, the Rainbow Connection, but how about …

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… a Rainbow Tunnel!!! Just off of Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway is an old railway tunnel, officially dubbed the Rainbow Tunnel.  Originally painted in 1972 by a Norwegian teen, B.C. Johnson, as a memorial to a friend who had recently died, the tunnel was almost immediately painted over in grey by the North York parks department.  I guess they weren’t into bright, colourful, cheery scenery.  But Johnson, who would become known as the  “Caretaker of Dreams”, persisted and kept on repainting it.  According to one story, he repainted it some 40 times, was arrested four times, and suffered a broken leg once when a train went over the bridge, severing the rope from which Johnson was suspended.  Eventually the community took up the cause, and the parks department gave up the fight.

In 2012-2013, artists Rob Matejka and Anthony DeLacruz, with the help of members of the community, restored the fading rainbow back to its original glory with funding provided by the City of Toronto.

Artist Peter Doig painted a painting of the Rainbow Tunnel which sold in 2014 for $15.5 million!

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Most all of us have, at one time or another built a snowman, right?  Some maybe even a snow fort.  But every January, people come to Breckenridge, Colorado to participate in the annual Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships.

Sixteen teams of four people each are selected to carve giant blocks of snow into fantastic creatures, scenes, or shapes.  Each team is given a 12-foot, 25-ton cube of snow packed by local volunteers. The snow blocks are created by stomping atop the snow in a town-wide event called “Stomping Week.”

The teams are given 65 hours over a five-day period to create their works of art. Teams use home-made tools, for example, a modified cheese grater from their kitchen cabinets, but power tools are forbidden.

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January 2018 will mark the 28th year of the competition.


Ever have the desire to sleep inside a wine barrel?  No, me either.  But … if you ever do, then head over to the Netherlands where the Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren has created a unique hotel experience that is equal parts junk recycling and rustic chic.

wine-barrel-1Each of the four wine barrel rooms at the hotel was made using wooden storage casks that have a volume of over 14,000 liters, more than enough room for the two cozy beds that are placed inside each one. All of the hobbit-like round rooms are also adjoined by a small living room and bathroom that is connected to the barrel from the opposite end of the front door.

wine-barrel-2All things considered, it is reasonably priced, at $50 – $150 per night, depending on season.

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And, as I am out of time, this concludes our Saturday Surprise for this week.  A couple of people, notably Colette and JB, suggested an interactive Saturday Surprise, where readers could contribute music, stories, limericks, etc.  I love that idea, but am still working out the best way to go about it, so hang in another week or two while I do some more thinking and testing.  Meanwhile, have a safe and wonderful weekend!

 

 

The NRA Wants You(r money)

In early 2016, President Obama proposed certain minimal gun regulations aimed at reducing gun violence.  It was mainly aimed at making sure gun sales via the internet and gun shows followed the same regulations for background checks, etc., as those who had a physical nexus.  But, of course, the nation went ballistic, claiming that Obama was trying to ‘take their guns away’.  And what do you think happened?  Gun sales, which had been on the rise for the past decade, soared, of course.

Jeb Bush said Obama’s plan would take away the rights of someone “selling a gun out of their collection, a one-off gun”. Marco Rubio says Obama’s plan is to “take away our guns.” And in the light of all this mis-understood rhetoric, gun sales soared.

gun sales 2005-2016.jpgAnd then came Donald Trump.  As I wrote in a July column under Trump, gun sales declined by 17% during Trump’s first two months in office.  This, despite the fact that women and minorities were feeling less safe under Trump and therefore buying more guns!

American Outdoor Brands, alias Smith & Wesson, saw a decrease in revenue of $100 million, a 40% drop. This drop in gun sales has led to the gun lobbyists, specifically the National Rifle Association (NRA) resorting to scare tactics to try to stimulate the sales of guns.  One such method has been through a series of despicable video ads.

The text of the above ad:

“They use their media to assassinate real news.  They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again, and then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance, all to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia to smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness and when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage.  The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fists of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

gunsThe ad was played at the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum in April. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s speech to thousands of members was characterized by a similar type of ‘us-versus-them’ rhetoric. “It’s up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.”

LaPierre.jpgIn addition to the ads, the NRA is pushing for dangerous legislation, such as revoking silencer safety laws and making it easy for anyone to buy a silencer without a background check. Oh yes, we don’t want the neighbors to hear and call the cops when you shoot me in my home for writing against the NRA and advocating for gun safety!

The NRA also conjured up mythical threats from the so-called “alt-left” in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, suggesting that conservatives take up arms to fight back. “For those of you progressives out there on the far left who wonder why guys like me, conservatives like me, have an AR-15, the answer is, I have an AR-15 to protect myself and my family from you. From you.” – Television host Bill Whittle, 06 September 2017  Hello??? It was the uber-conservative, white supremacists who held the rally, stirred the violence, and were responsible for the death of a young woman, Heather Heyer!

So, the question comes to mind, after seeing the hateful videos, rhetoric and ads of the NRA … who, exactly IS the NRA?  Do they represent gun owners?  The answer is complex, but the short answer is that no, they represent nobody but the gun manufacturers.  Big businesses who manufacture weapons of mass destruction.  They pay big bucks to members of Congress to put forth their agenda, and they play on the fears of gun owners and advocates, always presenting a perceived threat to 2nd Amendment rights by those of us who see guns as an unnecessary evil.

I have given you the statistics a number of times in the past, so I shall not bore you with them again.  But the reality is that the U.S.’ gun regulations are virtually non-existent as compared to other western nations, and our gun-related crime rate is our eternal shame.  Since Trump took office last January, there have been moves to remove the restriction on gun ownership by mentally challenged individuals, revocation of the ban on assault-type weapons, and now silencers no longer will require a background check.

We know what the NRA does with its money, it makes donations to members of Congress who are in a position to knock down gun regulations affecting gun sales, and even strike down or reverse previous regulations.  Last year, the country’s most powerful lobby gave Donald Trump more than $30 million in campaign contributions.  He is now in their pocket.  Federal campaign finance records show that much of the NRA funds are used to keep pro-gun lawmakers in office

But where do they get their money?

People like you, perhaps.  Some donations, of course, come from the gun manufacturers and other companies who stand to gain from the NRA platform. But much of their funding comes from private individuals. Since 2005, the NRA Political Victory Fund has received nearly $85 million in contributions from individual donors. After the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, donations to this political action committee surged as gun owners worried that their rights to buy and own guns were at risk.

And now gun sales are down, and gun manufacturers are looking to the NRA to stimulate a renewed interest in purchasing guns.  And so we will continue to see obnoxious, untruthful ads such as the one above, as the NRA strives to convince the nation that they are not safe without their damn guns.  With the current level of divisiveness, with white supremacists and neo-Nazis coming out from the rocks every day, the last thing we need in this country is to increase gun sales.  If the NRA truly represented We The People, they would not exist, for We The People stand to gain nothing by increased gun sales. It’s all about money … not rights … money and power.

Think about that … remember that, in November 2018 when you go to the polls to vote for your senators and representatives.  Do your homework and find out just how much in donations your representatives have accepted from the NRA.

Saturday Surprise!!!

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SURPRISE!!!!  It’s a Fred-in-the-Box!!!

Well, folks, it’s been a long week … what?  You say it was actually a short week, since Monday was a holiday?  Sigh.  Then it’s been an even longer week — a long, short week, as it were.  I don’t know about you guys, but I am t-i-r-e-d.  So, I’ve decided to take a little break from doing much writing today and just show you some cute/funny animals.  I like animals.  They do not waste their days (and nights) arguing over politics, climate, sports, the opposite sex, or anything.  If they have an issue with a fellow critter, they duke it out, maybe eat their nemesis, then get on with whatever business they were doing.  A simple, straightforward approach to life.  Humans, however, think they were endowed with a ‘superior’ brain, thus they spend all their time proving just how inane they really are.  And on that note … let us view some furry dudes and have something cute to start the weekend with a smile.

Hugs ‘n kisses … now who wouldn’t love these?

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These are ‘pygmy marmosets’, and they are actually the smallest species of monkey, found in the Amazon rain forests.. Don’t they just melt your heart?

SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  BRING IT ON!!!

Baby-bear

“Guys…guys….hey guys, i cant see you, are you home?? I’ve been trying to call all day but no one will answer.”

I posted the bear pic on my Facebook timeline yesterday, and people just started writing captions.  So, I decided I would use the best caption on this post.  Caption credit goes to my friend, James (Jimmy) Schrauder.  Thanks, Jimmy!

Bengal-cat

This, folks, is a Bengal cat.  No, not a tiger, a domestic cat, developed to look like exotic jungle cats such as leopards, ocelots, margays and clouded leopards. They typically weigh between 8-15 pounds.

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You know I couldn’t resist including a panda!

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Or a couple of snuggly koalas …

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Awwwwww …. say ‘hello’ to these adorable Japanese Dwarf Flying Squirrels.  They are native to Japan, where they are said to be relatively common.  They grow only to about 8 inches.

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Brrrrrrr …. this baby elephant looks rather cold, don’t you think?

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And last, but not least, a sleeping baby deer.  BAMBI!!!!!

And now, we’ve had our share of cuteness to start out the weekend.  I hope you enjoyed the animals.  Now it’s time for Filosofa to do the thing that I have been putting off for the entire summer, and clean out the storage closet out back.  Sigh.  Fortunately I have a helper … Miss Goose will be doing the heavy lifting and carting off to the trash, while I supervise and determine what stays and what goes.

I hope you all have a great weekend!  Hugs ‘n love from Filosofa!

Saturday Surprise — In Pictures

One of the suggestions for the new Saturday Surprise feature came from Eschudel of Zombie Flamingos who suggested a ‘Snapshot Saturday’ with unusual or interesting pictures from the week.  Sounded like a good idea, so I went in search of and found a hodge-podge of unusual, touching pictures, but as I was loading them onto this post, I concluded that there needed to be a theme.  So, I sat down and ate dinner, responded to comments from the day, chatted a bit with the family, and then when I came back to work, a theme hit me!  (No, it didn’t hurt … at least not much.)  What about unusual animals?  So, I once again went in search of … and I found some really, really strange creatures (no, I wasn’t in a bar!!!).  So … sit back and take a look at some of these guys!

The Panda Ant

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The Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasps (despite the names) whose wingless females resemble large, hairy ants. Found in Chile, they are known for their extremely painful stings, hence the common name cow killer or cow ant. Black and white specimens are sometimes known as panda ants due to their hair coloration resembling that of the Chinese giant panda. (Image credits: Chris Lukhaup)

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth

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As this hawk-moth feeds on flowers and makes a similar humming sound, it looks a lot like a hummingbird. What’s interesting is that it is surprisingly good at learning colors. (Image credits: Jerzy Strzelecki | unknown)

Glaucus Atlanticus (aka Blue Dragon)

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Also known as the blue dragon, this creature is a is a species of blue sea slug. You could find it in warm waters of the oceans, as it floats on the surface because of a gas-filled sac in its stomach. (Image credits: unknown | unknown | paulhypnos)

Venezuelan Poodle Moth

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Discovered in Venezuela in 2009, this new species of alien-looking moth is still poorly explored. Waiting for more info about them! (Image credits: Arthur Anker | imgur)

The Blue Parrotfish

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This bright blue fish can be found in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and spends 80% of its time searching for food. (Image credits: imgur | depalmadise)

Okapi

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This mammal is native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Despite the zebra-like stripes, it is actually more closely related to giraffes. (Image credits: marylandzoo.org | baynews9.com)

Sea Pig

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Scotoplanes live on deep ocean bottoms, specifically on the abyssal plain in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean, typically at depths of over 1000 meters. They are deposit feeders, and obtain food by extracting organic particles from deep-sea mud. (Image credits: imgur | thedailygreen.com | realcoldfish)

Aye-aye

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Due to its bizarre appearance and unusual feeding habits, the aye-aye is considered by many to be the strangest primate in the world. It is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. Unusual physical characteristics include incisors that are continually growing (unique among primates), extremely large ears, and a middle finger which is skeletal in appearance, and is used by the animal as a primary sensory organ.

Aren’t they all just adorable?  Which was your favourite?  I am torn between the Okapi and the Aye-aye.  I had fun finding these guys … there are many, many more, so we shall do this again sometime soon.

Stay tuned for next week’s Saturday Surprise!

Saturday Surprise — 1917

I am sorry I did not get a Saturday Surprise post scheduled last Saturday as I had promised, but I simply ran out of both time and energy before my trip.  One of the suggestions for Saturday Surprise posts came from Gronda, who suggested time travel – what was it like when …?

The year is 1917, and I think you will find life was just a little different back then.

If you woke up in the morning, you could consider yourself lucky, for the average life expectancy in 1917 was 48.4 years for men and 54 years for women.  Once out of bed, you likely built up a fire in the woodstove to cook breakfast and heat water to wash your face with, for only about 24% of homes had electricity.  Then, if you were a man, you likely headed out the door to either walk to work or take the streetcar. The cost of a car was a mere $400, but since you likely only earned about $0.22 per hour, it is unlikely you owned one. However, 1917 was the first year that traffic counts in New York showed more cars than horses. Oh, and if you did own a car, you would want to watch out for those speed limits which were 10 mph in most cities!

streetIf you were a woman, most likely you did not work outside the home, but if you did, you were probably a elementary or high school teacher. School boards preferred female teachers not only because they were seen as more loving, but also because they would do what male principals told them while accepting less than a man’s wage. The world literacy rate was only 23%, and only some 6% graduated from high school, as most dropped out to either help on the family farm or enter the workforce.

It is doubtful that you owned your home, but if you did, it probably cost around $5,000 (about 14% of what a new car costs today!).  In fact, you probably lived with one or more older generation, if they were lucky enough to outlive the average life expectancy.  Oh, and speaking of the elderly … there was no Social Security, Medicare, etc. Since the women were outliving the men by some six years, widows moved in with their adult children and children lived at home until they got married, at the average age of 21. Made for a crowded household sometimes.

Now, on the weekend, if you could afford it, you might take your family to the beach for the day.  Beach attire was just a tad different back then …

A trip to the grocery … remember you are only earning $0.22 per hour … could be a difficult proposition with food prices so high. You would have to work three hours just to buy a pound of butter and a dozen eggs!

Bread (1-lb loaf)                $0.07
Butter (lb)                           $0.36
Eggs (dozen)                      $0.34
Ground coffee (lb)           $0.30
Potatoes (10 lbs)              $0.15

And speaking of food … 1917 saw the invention of the hamburger bun, and thus the hamburger was born.  Today, the average American consumes 3 hamburgers per week!  My family and I are definitely below average on this one. And to go with that hamburger … it was in 1917 that Coca-Cola introduced the formula that is still popular today. And where did you buy that food?  The first supermarket opened just the year before, in September 1916 – Piggly Wiggly.  No, I am not calling you a piggly wiggly … that was the name of the store … honest!  Actually, I think these are still around in the south.

piggly-wiggly.jpgIt is doubtful that you were among the 8% of people who had a telephone, and by telephone I mean

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Not …

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One person who could afford a telephone in 1917 was John D. Rockefeller who became the world’s first billionaire on September 20th.

Not everything was rosy in 1917, for it was on April 6th that the U.S. entered into what would become known as World War I.

War-nyt-April 6.jpgThough women would not get the right to vote for another three years, they did score in 1917 when Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives!!!

Today we should be grateful for Mr. Gideon Sundback for his 1917 invention of the … zipper! Early on, zippers were mainly used on boots and pouches that held tobacco. It would be another 20 years before the fashion industry began to use zippers on clothing. So … how did pants stay … oh, never mind … not going there.

zipper.jpegAnd what music were Americans listening to on their ipods … er, um phonographs?

phonograph.jpgNora Bayes had the number one selling hit record titled “Over There”.

A sampling of the lyrics:

“Over there, over there

Sent the word, send the word over there

That the Yanks are coming

The ear drums rum-tumming

Everywhere

So prepare, say a prayer

Sent the word, send the word to beware

We’ll be over, we’re coming over

And we won’t come back till it’s over

Over there”

Others in the year’s top ten included:

At the Darktown Strutter’s Ball by Original Dixieland Jazz Band

Poor Butterfly by Victor Military Band

For Me and My Gal by Van and Schenck

And what were you watching on television in 1917?  Nothing, for television was still 10 years in the future.

Most of us have said, at one time or another, how we would love to go back to a simpler time.  We get frustrated with the hustle and bustle, with our electronic toys, and long for “the good ol’ days”. But when you think about it, life was hard (and short) 100 years ago.  I think I shall remain in this, the 21st century!

 

I hope you enjoyed today’s Saturday Surprise as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Quite honestly, I have been in a royal funk for a couple of days, but once I started researching for this post, I found I was having tons of fun!  Thank you, Gronda for this marvelous idea … one which we shall do again soon!