Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm feeling very sophisticated and connected lately.

My friend, Carolina Marrelli, is releasing her new CD on the 29th - Come Away. It's rock and it's cool and the message within and behind the music is incredible. She's gorgeous and gifted! To learn more about Carolina, go to her webiste, Click here to get a sneak listen to the newly released single, Facing the Giants.

On Saturday, Barry and I will be going to Carolina's CD release party. Woo-hoo, look at us! It's in the Design District in Miami, at Awarehouse. Despite all my Red Carpet glamour visions, this is a great, down-to earth, everyone-is-welcome event. Carolina is donating a portion of every CD sale to International Justice Mission - a "human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression".

I've been so impressed and moved by Carolina's radio and television appearances. Her passion for her art and social justice is contagious. The Holy Spirit's presence is this endeavor is so obvious, it's intimidating. I read a great book by Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock. Kreeft talks about the electrifying effect of a real encounter with Christ, and if we allow ourselves to entertain the supernatural and reach out, we too will experience this life altering "shock".

I see in Carolina the effect of Christ's powerful voltage and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I know some of you are non-believers - or maybe uncomfortable with the idea of spirituality - give the music a listen! It's not your "usual" Christian fare and you may hear something...well...something shocking!



One of Christopher's friends came to school with a story about his neighbor's chicken.

I won't elaborate, since the story involves carnage and clandestine activity.

What I find interesting is the number of people in a very suburban area who keep farm animals.

Where I live, the lots range from smaller than 1/4 acre (Stucco McMansions crowded onto a single original lot) to an average 1/2 acre to larger old Florida homes with "estate" property. Still, all of these homes are in neighborhoods - Miami's suburban sprawl. It's just house after house. Unlike Chicago, the "neighborhoods" in South Miami-Dade county don't have downtowns. The commercial district stretches along U.S. 1, and, on either side, after the stores, are home upon home. A few miles out is the "Redlands" where there are many farms and much of the Florida produce the nation enjoys is grown.

In the homes around mine, in ordinary backyards, people keep a variety of animals.

The aforementioned chickens are not unusual. While on one of my longer runs, I have heard or seen chickens clucking and pecking in several front yards. They don't seem to be kept in big enough numbers for Sunday dinner treats, so I'm assuming it's fresh eggs the owners are after. Maybe I'm unaware of the companionship and affection offered by a group (flock? clutch? coop?) of chickens.

A house in the next neighborhood section has a tall privacy fence, but there is no mistaking the "Nehhhhh" of goats. Milk? Cheese? Meat? The goats' playful and engaging nature? Who knows!

In December, 2009, I went on a tour of some lovely Coral Gables/Pinecrest homes. Two of the homes had bee hives! I have since seen newspaper notices of bee-keeping classes. Our yard is adequate, but not terribly big. I'm interested in the bees, but even if I tucked the hive in a corner, I ABSOLUTELY guarantee my dog would knock it over and get viciously stung within 48 hours of construction and habitation.

I can't leave out the sweater-wearing pig I taking his owner on a placid walk. I'm SURE the pig was for companionship, not bacon, but in a pinch, like a bad hurricane...that's a pet investment that could pay off.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cat Capers

WARNING: This blog is less blog-length and more chapter-length, so get a cup of coffee and prepare to read how willing I am to bare my idiocy for your amusement...

I began this blog entry several months ago. It was an evolution, both in events and composition. The saga, I believe, has come to an end with recent events.

I have decided to reveal my oddest activity (and among my activities and obsessions, to be the oddest is odd indeed).

For over a YEAR now, I have been trying to cat-proof my yard.

Yes, a cat corral if you please. An outdoor, open air cat cage.

Can't be done you say? Read on....

Why would I want to cat-proof my yard?

The why doesn't seem as defensible as it did a year ago...but I'll put my rationale out there - be gentle in your mockery.

When we moved to Miami, it was a very lonely time, especially for Chris. He entered high school - no friends, no mutual history, no activities. We went to the animal shelter (that story deserves a blog entry of its own) and picked out a four month old kitten.

Every time we've gotten a pet, the pet has become mine. The cats have avoided warm, rumpled kids' beds to sleep on my head. MUCH better. I've been the alpha dog twice for our beloved puppies, though Barry likes to declare himself "The Alpha DOG!" most often when playing with the dog, but sometimes randomly after a beer or two.

Paco was different. Paco bonded with Chris. To this day, Paco lets Chris carry him like a baby, cradled face up in his arms. He runs to the front door when the car lock "beep" sounds and Chris arrives home from school.

So as a Mom who saw her son suffer for a long year before friendships formed, I feel a great deal of gratitude and love for Paco.

Paco is a 15 plus pound, four year old orange tabby male cat. Paco was a sweet biddable kitty until November-ish, 2009. My neighborhood (like many Miami locales) has an large colony of feral (wild) cats. Our kind-hearted neighbor feeds the cats, increasing their presence around our yard.

Evidently, some (or all) of the female cats went into heat during this period. Despite the fact that Paco is neutered, the sweet lure of love made him...psychotic. He began to spray, pace, and yowl throughout the night.

Why not let him out?

Our first cat, Spooky, was an "in and out" cat. He hunted, most memorably bringing home a rabbit and tearing into by the front door as my neighbors came over for a morning coffee.

In general, the arrangement worked well - we'd call Spooky in the evening, and he'd come trotting home.

However, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Spooky was killed by a neighbor's dog who came onto our property and mauled her.

Since then, I've not let any of our cats roam.

Another consideration was the feral cats. They are not vaccinated, fixed, or clean. Territorial fights abound. Paco was front-declawed - how would he defend himself? And, while it was the least of my concerns, we had struggled with fleas for several months and I didn't want to repeat trying to rid yard, pets and home of the pests.

To wear Paco out, I took him outside in the fenced back yard. Two sides are chain link with a large ficus hedge cover - two are wood and smooth. Clever and strong, Paco found several areas to dig and push and pull the chain link fence away from the ground, and so escape to meet his amor (sss).

And so began my quest. LET me say in my defense - these measures took place over many weeks, and were mostly casual efforts while I was outside. Do NOT picture crazy Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) from Caddyshack (oh, now you are! ARGHH).

First, I tried filling the holes with heavy rocks, but Paco was able to pull them out with his man-hand size paws.

THEN, I wired the rocks to the holes, but rocks are hard to wire (duh) and the cat could evidently wiggle them aside and escape.

THEN, I wired bricks (leftover from drive-way paving)(much easier to wire securely)(consider that a helpful household tip) to the areas, which DID defeat him...but he dug new holes along the same line of fence.

THEN, I bought wooden garden edging, and wired THAT to the entire vulnerable fence line and VOILA! Cat contained and happiness reigned...da da dum...from March until this December. The intervening months were fabulous. We have a dog door, and Paco (as well as the dog, Aiden) would go in and out at will, enjoying the yard, catching lizards and watching the birds. We closed the dog door at night, but the cat rested well after his energetic jaunts.

Cat owners are probably scratching their proverbial chins at this time... how did I keep Paco from CLIMBING out of the yard???

When Paco was about a year old, he had a freak cat-accident. Jumping from the bar island to the sofa, he missed and fell awkwardly on the hard tile floor, breaking his front paw/leg. He had a cast on for 6 weeks, and limped for a long time. Paco hadn't climbed in so long, he didn't know he could - until one of the feral cats SHOWED him how EASY it was!

The floozy wiggled her alluring tail, jumped into the yard, caught Paco's manly eye, and then demonstrated how easy it was to escape from the dog and I.

Paco bided his time. I hoped for the best.

The day I found him on the top of the gate, yowling for help, I thought, "Hey, maybe he'll be too scared to try again!"

Nope, he had learned - the fence was conquerable. Up and out he went.

The dog door was locked and anytime Paco was outside, someone had to watch him.

If we don't take Paco out in the yard, he paces, yowls and marks up the house. It stinks. I hate it. If it were my cat, I'd let him out and the heck with it.

But it's my son's. And Paco was his special gift and gave Chris the happiness to make it through the hard awkward time.

When the fateful fence climbing occured in December, I had a brainstorm (sort of like a stroke) and went to Home Depot and bought plastic chicken fence (I included the link in case you want to try this useless trick yourself!) - 36 inches high, and rigged up blocking sections on the climbing corners (has to be relatively branch free for Paco to climb). This work was effective - Paco couldn't get a grip on the pliable, small grid fencing - for all of eight hours, when Paco realized he could move to another area and climb up and out.

For a moment, I pictured rigging the whole perimeter in the fencing....

What was I doing???

I have to laugh at myself - or cry that I went this far without quitting. All this plotting, planning, devising, and designing for a fruitless, impossible mission, all to try to accommodate this animal - and my love of my son. I have no ground to mock ANYONE who obsesses about her pet, carries it in her purse, dresses it in Gucci, or hand makes the animal's dinner.

As some of you know, last week Paco got out. Chris was searching for the cat in our neighbor's yard (a frequent haunt) as I watched the exits.

Paco exited on a run.

I chased.

Paco sat quietly as I approached, but when I tried to pick him up, he bit my forearm (like, the WHOLE forearm in his mouth) and used his back claws to scratch me, then ran off.

Here is devotion (or thick-headedness) for you...

I ran AFTER the cat, clutching my bleeding, screaming arm - and when I caught up, I used my own version of "Dog Whisperer" voodoo techniques to quiet the cat, pick him up, and bring him in (Zsst! Zsst! Calm. Calm. Zsst!). Oddly enough, this worked! Why I don't have two bitten arms, I don't know.

I ended up with a deep tissue infection, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and an overdue physical scheduled with my physician.

SOOO...You think I would have learned.

TODAY, during our half hour early out time, I went in to get a glass of tea (run in, get ice, pour tea, run out)...I see the cat's bottom going over the fence under the bougainvillea.
Bougainvillea, while beautiful, is covered with thorns. I'm NOT reaching in there.

However, I insanely reasoned that if I found the cat early in his forays, there would be no problems grabbing him up and bringing him home.

That HAD been true in the past.

It is NO longer true.

Within 5 minutes, I found Paco. Paco allowed me to pick him up. I carried him toward our house - as I approached the front door, he began to yowl and struggle.

I thought I had a good grip on him - but he is a strong, strong kitty.

He twisted, and yowled, and twisted and flipped...and I dropped him after he bit my belly, and scratched my arms.

To add insult to injury - more accurately to add injury to injury - Paco skittered about three feet from me, then attacked, biting the back of my leg before running off.


This afternoon I'm talking with Christopher about Paco becoming an in and out cat.

I'm still worried about the fleas - but not about the territorial fights.

I'm pretty sure Paco can handle himself.

I unlocked the dog door (locked since December as Paco uses the door as easily as the dog)(we bought one of those high-pitched sound emitters to keep him from the dog door - made for cats, guaranteed. Can you say "she got her money back"?) and did not bother looking for the cat.

And, just this moment, as I finish this entry, Paco came in through the dog door, went straight to his bowl, finished his delayed breakfast, and curled up for a nap.

Cats rule.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Should I read books 2 and 3???

I like to read.

I read a lot.

I read all sorts of books.

I like to recommend those I like - for example, although it is disturbing, I enjoyed Room, by Emma Donoghue. On a lighter note, I also recently read I Still Dream about You by Fannie Flagg. It's comfort reading - like a nice stew on a cold night. Extremely different book styles, but both well written with great character development.

On Saturday, I picked up my hold queue books at the library.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was in the group, as were several critical essay volumes addressing Robert Browning - Chris has to write a research paper.

If you loved this book, you need to stop reading immediately.

I did NOT love this book.

The Washington Post claims it was "wildly suspenseful". REALLY? Wildly?

I was barely intrigued. I did finish the book, because some of the story's bones were interesting...but WILDLY?

What book did they read???

Characters: The Girl with the Tattoo - her I liked. Well developed, intriguing, beyond quirky character. Blomkvist, a journalist, yawn, yawn, yawn. Everyone else in the story was either extraordinarily superfluous OR a sexual sadist.

Apparently, Sweden is overrun with sexual sadists. They are everywhere. They are breeding. The poor dragon girl falls prey to a sexual sadist guardian. The journalist uncovers a family of murdering sadists. We get IN DEPTH descriptions of their acts and tools. GREAT. I'm skimming, skimming, skimming...the "sneak peak" at book two appears to reveal that the poor Girl was the victim of ANOTHER sexual sadist and abuser when she was 13. What is going on??!!

Sorry, Board of Tourism, but this has knocked Sweden off my European tour list.

Also, the story is rife with casual, casual sex. Random people meet, say "hey, how about sex?" and most often the answer is "great." I realize I've been married a LLLOONNGGG time, but really, it was just too much, too easy, and too frequent. Maybe the casual Swedes are motivated by extreme gratitude for sex offered without whips, burns, and restraints.

Twice the author used a character to note with discomfort that a young person had "got religion", as if it were one of those trying adolescent choices, like drugs or anorexia.

The plot has two parts. Part one was BORING. I started skimming with the lame, long, tedious description of Blomkvist's article about a Swedish financier. I like a great corrupt financier story as well as the next guy, but not dictated like a school report. Get me into the story! Make it speak!

Due to his article, Blomkvist is found guilty of libel against the financier. Plot 1's purpose is to serve as a vehicle to make a major investigative journalist available for private hire. Eventually Blomkvist has the opportunity to re-address this slur on his journalistic reputation and plot #1 re-emerges in new form, but the story on pages 21 - 30 is irrelevant to the conclusion of plot #1 and I give you permission to skip them.

Blomkvist begins work on a mystery with the Dragon Tattoo girl. At one point, he finds a picture showing someone taking a picture, and he needs to find that photographer in order to find her pictures because it shows the opposite viewpoint. MASSIVE skimming as he drives to a Swedish town and finds a person who says "No, I do not know them." Drives to another town: same response. Drives to another town "Maybe so-and-so knows them". Finds So-and-So - "YES!". Gives directions to photographer's house. Suspense finally builds....but NO!

The person is NOT HOME, and we get to read about the journalist driving to a hotel, sleeping, having coffee and returning.

This is WILDLY suspenseful???

With optimism, I picture the screen writers (the author, Stieg Larsson, has died)(I'm sorry Stieg) tearing page after page from the book. OR, the movie could be terrible like Angels and Demons, where we see Tom Hanks running from location to location to location to location until we want to scream and throw our drink at the screen (or is that just me?).

I pictured Tom Hanks as Blomkvist the reporter, simply because of the parallel between his running, running, running and the driving, driving, driving scenes.

The book picks up at the end. We get a better picture of the Tattoo Girl. Plot #2 ends at the 2/3 point with a not-so-surprising result. There's a torture scene that ought to make great cinema. Yay-rah Hollywood. Plot #1a is revisited and the Girl shines. Again, I didn't connect to the writing style, but I could see this working well for the screen writers.

SO, my question to you is - do I read/skim books #2 and #3, or give it up? Are the next two worth the time?