Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Time

I really need to find the time to play with Theo a little bit each day. He's got so much spunk and energy and is being so mischievous. He's driving the other two boyz batty- chasing them around, pouncing on them at the most unexpected times.

I'm sure it has to do somewhat with my long work hours and lengthy absences from the household. I'm also assuming since he's only two, that he'll outgrow all this eventually and one day become the calm cat that Diego and Thompson usually are.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Different Rules

It's funny how Diego-san definitely has a different relationship with the other two boyz. At night Diego knows it's his time to be combed. He loves being combed and I think he loves the one and one attention.

Thompson sometimes comes and sits right by and cleans himself. Often by the time I done combing Diego, Diego will be prone on his back, paws dangling in the air, completely content. Thompson lies by looking quite content as well.

The times Theo comes by during Diego's combing time, Diego will often jump up at attention all prepared for a possible attack. Something tells me this isn't all irrational behavior- there's experience and precedence involved.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Momentary Hissy Fit

Yesterday Theo got Thompson backed into a corner and was relentlessly moving forward toward him. Thompson began hissing- causing Theo to stop in his tracks. Diego-san just happened to be strolling by to see what all the commotion was about. Thompson feeling that Diego was joining Theo- hissed at Diego too. Diego looked at him and just kept walking on by.

Being a witness to all this I felt bad for all three boyz. Thompson was feeling trapped and he tires easily of Theo's need to play. Theo thought he and Thompson were playing (and they were just moments before) when Thompson turned serious on him. And Diego was just satisfying his need to see what was going on when his allie in understanding the tiresome antics of the youngest member of the trio suddenly vented at him.

Ten minutes later though I'm sure all three had forgotten it all or at least had moved on.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Smarter than Your Average Bear

Theo has got the dinner routine down.

I feed the boyz their last meal right before I go to bed. And before I feed them, I brush my teeth. Thus when it is getting close to bed time, every time I get up Theo dashes to the bathroom I think in part to encourage me to brush my teeth so he can be fed.

Sometimes I'll get up a half dozen times before the real event and Theo will make a mad dash each and every time.

You'd almost have to think the boy never gets fed. Or it could just be a lot of enthusiasm for his dinner.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Now What? Once Again...

I was formally offered the position I applied, interviewed (and was aggressively recruited) for. I'm impressed how thoroughly my potential employer made sure I was the type of employee they were seeking. This latest step was a psychological (aptitude) series of tests. I passed. I actually registered a personality.

It's a wonderful opportunity and offer. Yet it isn't exactly a crystal clear decision I now have on my hands.

I have a great deal of loyalty toward my current employer and boss. And this is absolutely the worst time to leave my position in the cycle of things. I truly really haven't made up my mind although I 'm definitely leaning one way. Just which way not even my boyz could reveal.

Friday, August 25, 2006

My Life as a Sitcom

I got home late last evening and was preparing some dinner at the stove. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two blurs of black fur come racing around the kitchen corner.

Those black balls of fur zoomed on by between me and the stove downstairs to the basement. Soon after a clomping third ball of fur, this one grey, hopped on by and down the stairs. I don't know what happened after that but all three boyz remained in the basement as I finished up my dinner.

I wish someone had all that on film. It was like a scene straight out of a Disney movie from the late 1950's or so.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stormy Weather

We had some bad weather last night. I was at my softball game and it was clear being outside and away from home maybe wasn't such a good idea what with the grey, swirling clouds above moving from the east to the west.

Sure enough it started to rain and by the time I was headed home the streets were flooding and the sheets of blowing rain gusts were making it very difficult to see.

I got home a little over an hour later and I was quite frazzled. Diego-san of course, was his calm, friendly (yet aloof) self. He's like animal valium in times of stress.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Single Mindedness

Once Theo gets something in his little head, he pursues it with a determination that is as impressive as it can be a tad annoying. We play catch and I'll eventually tire of the throw the ball chase the ball routine long before Theo does. He loves to follow me around right after I get out of my morning shower and lick my legs. He won't stop until I get my pants on. If I close a door between us he'll sit in the hallway and mew nonstop as if he's afraid I've disappeared altogether or he just has to know what I'm up to. In other words he isn't much of a multi-tasker.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Dog Days of Summer

The boyz have been pretty restless the past few days.

I usually check my personal emails before I head off to work as I gulp down a pot coffee in lieu of sleep. Diego has taken this time to come up and hop on my lap and cuddle.

Thompson has taken to coming up late at night and standing on my chest as I try to fall asleep.

Theo has taken to running around like there's an important race he's late to.

And I've taken to appreciating the boyz more than ever.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Easily Distracted

Kurbie is apparently OK.

His person, who also happens to be Thompson's favorite person in the world (she is the only one who when she is over he'll come hopping out to greet. Usually he stays in the hallway or runs away...) gave a presentation to our board last week. The presentation was televised and played on a local cable access channel so I had my Dad tape it.

I finally got around to watching the tape yesterday evening. Thompson was sitting underneath the living room coffee table. Diego-san was sitting on top. When Thompson's favorite person's voice began playing over the television speakers I watched him to see if he'd react. When he didn't I mentioned that his girlfriend was on TV.

Unfortunately he got a little distracted by Diego's tail which was hanging over the edge of the coffee table and swishing back in forth. Thompson couldn't ignore the distraction and soon was trying to grab Diego's tail in his mouth...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Get Well Kurbie

Our friend Kurbie has been sick the past few days and is going to the vet this morning. We hope he's OK.

Kurbie is a crochety old dog but has personality coming out his trademark ears. He's wise beyond his years and loyalty beams from his royal twinkling eyes. A true kindred spirit.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Round 2

My second interview for the position I applied for went very well. I was the only person called back for a second interview and I got to meet the main boss. He was very impressive and I walked away impressed by the entire organization.

So now what? It's not that I don't like my current job and I think I'm fairly good at what I do. It's nice to be wanted and the opportunity is tremendous- the type of job I could see myself doing for the next twenty years until I retire.

Am I ready for the move? And are the boyz?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Long Hours

I've been putting in a lot of long hours at work. My not being around has different affects on the three boyz.

I think it's hardest on Theo because he has so much energy and needs to play. I tend to come home and plop down on the couch. I think Theo may be chasing Thompson and Diego around during the day but it isn't enough (judging on the knocked over furniture and askew rugs). He still races me up the stairs and tries to jump up and run away when I walk by him.

Maybe I should adopt another young kitty to play with Theo. Maybe not.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Life of Thompson

Often times I often forget about Thompson's handicap. That's easy to do because like the other boyz, it's Thompson's personality that defines him. He can be such a friendly cat, yet he often is reserved as well.

There are moments too when I see how hard losing his front leg is for an animal that would usually rely on flexibility and stealthy moves to get around. Sometimes it seems like such a chore for Thompson to get from here to there. Other times he has so much determination (usually around dinner time) where he'll tear off like he's been shot out of a cannon.

What I never forget is how Thompson has learned to cope with his lot in life. He may be more cautious than Theo or Diego but his desire to learn and explore is at all times inspiring.

Monday, August 14, 2006

D Showed Me

Diego-san showed me.

Apparently not happy that all I got him for his designated birthday was fresh kitty litter- yesterday he made his own gift. I had a box in the kitchen- it was what a coffee carafe that I ordered arrived in- full of styrofoam peanuts. I had folded the top shut but Diego hopped on top and since there was nothing but the peanuts inside he quickly fell in and disappeared from sight.

He made his own toy. Of course I was a party pooper and I pulled him out because I didn't want him to snack on the stryofoam. I guess next year I'll have to make sure and get him an actual cat toy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Diego-san's Birthday

Today is Diego-san's designated birthday. I selected this date for him because it's the birthday of his favorite person on this planet, my friend A-. It also happens to be the birthday of my mom and my sister.

One of the hard lessons of life is that as you get older your birthday stops being a day of excitement and celebration and turns into a day where you have to realize how quickly things fly by.

I taught Diego this lesson today. On the youngster Theo's birthday I bought Theo one of his favorite toys, a crinkly ball. What did I get Diego on his birthday? A box of kittly litter. We've badly needed a box of kitty litter all week. I have three litter boxes set out for the boyz and all three have gotten pretty low on litter. Since Diego is the one that seems to appreciate fresh litter the most (he makes it a point to follow me downstairs and use the litter box first after I pour fresh litter into it) I thought it only appropriate that on his birthday I finally do my cat owner's duty and make sure the litter boxes are all taken care of.

Happy birthday Diego-san!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Change Around the Corner?

I had a job interview with the 13th largest city, a western suburb, in Minnesota. I think it went fairly well. It was one of the few job interviews that I've participated in where I felt I had a message I wanted to get across about why I was right for the job, and when I left I actually felt like my message was fairly well articulated.

I haven't broken the news to the boyz yet because I don't know what I'll do if I'm offered the position. It probably would eventually require a move in that direction since it would likely take me 20 to 25 minutes more to get to work.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Still Buddies

Diego-san has found a new favorite spot to park himself. I have a computer table at the foot of my bed- the top is completely clean so he has taken to lying there whenever I'm working on my laptop upstairs or even when I go to bed.

Of course after awhile Thompson wants to see what Diego has discovered so last night he hopped up on the computer table and sat as I worked on my laptop. Diego came running up the stairs all prepared to take his new favorite spot only to look up and see Thompson already there.

To his credit Diego didn't try to make Thompson move (like Theo no doubt would have) and he spent the next few minutes circling around the table and finally decided to hop up on top of the TV. Thompson eventually got down and Diego took his place.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Old Blue Eyes

I've been in a Frank Sinatra mood recently. The late great Mr. Max didn't so much appreciate Frank since he is the one artist that inspires me to sing along.

Diego, Thompson, and Theo don't seem to mind my warbling however. I'm constantly yammering around them so a song or two probably seems more the same to them.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When I'm Gone

I really wonder what the boyz do all day when I'm gone at work. Do they wonder where I am? Do they worry that I'll never come back? Do they just think about their next meal?

Does Theo torture Thompson and Diego with his relentless energy?


Monday, August 07, 2006

Four Games

I survived our all day softball tournament on Saturday. We ended up playing four games (no breaks). By the end of the last game I don't think I had a whole lot left in the tank. My legs were quite sore.

I've been playing softball in this league for around 16 years. The all day tournament has always been a physical challenge, but as I've gotten older it's noticeably harder.

This year the weather was ideal. It was in the 80's but it rained very lightly in the morning keeping it feeling fairly cool. The boyz were a little bit excited about the unusual schedule of the day; up early, out the door quickly, back shortly thereafter (I forgot my spikes) and back home in the afternoon.

If only Theo could watch me race around the bases- still something I do better than most. I'm sure he'd be impressed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My Last Cheapo Newsletter

We started all this on June 23, 1992 or 722 weeks ago (not that I'm counting). Gas was 25 cents a gallon; you could get a good cup of coffee for a nickel; and you could stand in a public line without hearing the annoying chatter of somebody on a cell phone. Al asked me if I was interested in starting up and editing a weekly newsletter for the company. He wanted a 10 page newsletter to include store information, technology and competition related news, and other tidbits that employees might find useful.

This seemed a daunting challenge but a great opportunity. Al knew that I had a journalism degree and was feeling a tad frustrated that I hadn't up to that point been able to get into the only field that I wanted to get into not counting Major League Baseball. One of the things I've long admired about Al is his ability to put people into situations to take advantage of their talents and thus giving them a better chance to succeed. That's not something that those in leadership positions often do.

My mindset at the time wasn't exactly brimming with confidence and sun. I think the best way I can convey where I was at during this time occurred during the Halloween blizzard of 1991. I was working weekends at the 80 N Snelling store and living in a small efficiency on Goodrich a few blocks off of Grand Ave. in St. Paul. The day after the storm I had a 12-8 shift and I somehow managed to plow my Honda Civic through the poorly plowed streets. The snow had continued to fall all day.

By the time my shift was over my car was buried beneath the snow. I knew snow emergencies had been called and knew that I'd never find a spot close to my efficiency. So I decided to walk home. Now this would have been quite the pleasant two or three mile walk on a spring day but since few of the sidewalks were plowed and traffic was at a standstill the easiest thing to do was to walk on the streets. I was wearing my boots but my boots were not meant to handle walking though thigh high snow drifts. By the time I got to Grand and Lexington my feet were blistering. And it was too late to turn around since it was just as far back to the store as it was to my efficiency. So I trudged on.

When I eventually made it back to my efficiency and the unhappy because it was well past his dinner time, Max the Cat, my feet were torn up and burning. I was out of breath, and my fingers and toes felt beyond cold but not quite frost bit. I also realized I faced the daunting challenge of back tracking the next morning to get my car out of the Cheapo lot. I realized I had done a stupid if not dangerous thing and I felt like if I hadn't hit rock bottom I must be pretty darn close. I also realized I couldn't keep keeping on like I was. I needed to change something, accomplish something to get myself on track. And so the following June when Al offered me the newsletter job, I was if nothing else, determined to give it my best.

Al sent me to a newsletter seminar somewhere in Minneapolis- my failing memory (722 weeks!) doesn't quite remember the exact location. I remember a small group of people (around a dozen) had signed up for the seminar and the instructor went around the room and asked why we were there. Most people said they were assigned a task of doing a newsletter for their organization and either were struggling with the startup of the publication or were struggling with keeping the publication going either because of lack of contributions or just the overwhelming task of putting out a worthwhile read.

The instructor also had us share how often we were publishing and how many pages our newsletters were supposed to be. Without exception everyone in the seminar said they were doing a monthly or a quarterly newsletter and the length of most were either one or two pages. That's when I chirped in, "I'm doing a weekly 10 page newsletter." I think I heard an audible gasp or two.

When I reported back to Al, I suggested we cut back to eight pages and he agreed. And that's what we've done ever since without missing a single week (that would be 722 for those of you scoring at home).

I was quite nervous when the first edition came out. All I could think about was what happened with the ABC TV newsmagazine 20/20 whose first show was so awful that the network immediately fired the co-hosts, Harold Hayes and Robert Hughes and replaced them with veteran broadcaster Hugh Downs. I hoped Al would give me a longer rope than that.

My goal was to create an effective publication that was fun to read, in hopes this would encourage people to contribute articles. I also set a goal of printing at least 50 percent original material and not having to rely mostly on non-Cheapo generated articles. I figured I would write every now and then, as needed, since one of the major issues I was grappling with at the time was trying to figure out the role of writing in my life and how what I wrote affected my friends and family.

It wasn't very long though when I saw that I was going to have to write a lot more than I originally had hoped. Soon I settled into taking the last page of the newsletter to write a weekly column. Through the first few years though, this notion of not wanting to write unless I had to was at the front of my mind. I never began compiling the newsletter thinking that I was going to write a column. Instead I started each Saturday evening compiling all the articles for the week and then after I was done editing stuff and laying out the pages I would realize that I was going to have to write a column to approach the 50 percent quota I had set.

Since I hadn't thought about writing until that point I never really thought about what I was going to write about. For that I relied on what I had learned in my writing classes- write about what you know. Over the years I have come to know less and less so this strategy has led to many rambling columns about essentially nothing (not that any of you must have noticed...). I really have tried to keep my whining to a minimum and there have been times over the years where something I have written has cracked me up (not that I needed further cracking).

Write what you know. It's always meant a lot to me when a reader has told me how much they liked a particular column. It means just as much when someone tells me they like when I wrote about specific things I truly love like Bob Dylan's music, Max the Cat, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sandra Bullock. (OK no one has actually told me they like my Sandra pieces but didn't you all feel the love?)

Producing a newsletter for 14+ years has probably been the hardest thing I've done in my professional life. There hasn't been a Saturday all that time where I haven't had this gripping fear of "how the heck am I going to get the newsletter done?" Thus it's also my proudest professional accomplishment that we never missed a week. I realized early on that it wasn't going to be possible given the resources and time to produce a great publication. What I decided to do instead was to be consistent and reliable. Some would call that predictable and boring. I would only counter that as I move on in life I've learned it's nice to have some things in life that you can count on being there week after week. Nothing wrong with dependability.

It hasn't exactly been a secret that one of the major inspirations keeping this publication going over the years has been Dylan's "Never Ending Tour" where Bob has essentially played close to 200 shows every year since 1988. I've always loved how Bob seemed to have come to the conclusion all those years ago that the only way to get past his past was to hit the road and perform and just keep creating something in the moment every night. As Bob continues the tour he has expanded his canvass to a new venue- his delightful XM satellite radio show, "Theme Time Radio Hour." Wow. What I have learned is that to be a writer means nothing more than being willing to write something. It isn't about angst, glamour, fame or understanding. It's just as simple as putting words to paper. That's all it takes.

When Al told me of the end of my tenure as the editor I was of course a bit sad. But truthfully part of me felt some relief as well. I essentially haven't had a weekend off in fifteen or sixteen years. Writing a column week after week has probably changed not only the way I write, but the way I think since my natural way of processing feelings and thoughts used to be to ruminate over them. Now I just get them down and out and move on.

I have so many fond memories due to the newsletter and my Cheapo employment. The first couple years of publication were produced pre-PC on a typewriter with a memory. I'd retype the submitted stories on a Sunday morning in St. Paul as I'd munch on a McDonald's breakfast burrito. I'd copy it all off next to our shrink wrap machine. Then along came the Internet that eliminated the need to re-type interesting media articles and allow me the ability to search news services throughout the world for stories I thought might be interesting to all of us. I remember all those Saturday/laundry nights busy typing away as Mr. Max was in another room, in his favorite window and he'd come on by on occasion just to check up on me and let me know what he was up to. I'll go to my grave cherishing those memories.

Since my original fear was about Hayes and Hughes it also doesn't escape me that I'm leaving this job within a year of Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings ending their long tenures as the most visible journalists in the country. Not that I'm exactly in their league or even in the same sport but like them I know I've been lucky to have a job for so long that I loved doing, that also made me a better person. I'm proud of my long association with Cheapo, and proud all our company has meant to this community. This job has literally taken me around the world (to Japan) and back and I know because of that I'm much better prepared for whatever it is that comes next.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Nice to Be Wanted

Rough day at the office. So it was nice when I got home that Diego-san, as he sometimes does, let me know that he actually missed my presence.

On occasion he'll greet me with a big bellow of a meow and he'll start trying to climb me- hooking his front claws on my mid section until I lift him up and give him a hug.

Such enthusiastic greetings are nice every now and then.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Free at Last

Yesterday it cooled down enough (and stopped raining) to open the windows for the first time all week. Thompson immediately took to his favorite spot and spent all evening and night perched in observational mode.

Unfortunately it is supposed to heat up again today and through the weekend. Bad news for Thompson and those of us who have an all day softball tournament on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

St. Elsewhere

Just about everything I know about Autism I learned by watching the TV show, St. Elsewhere. On the show, Tommy, Dr. Westphal's son, was Autistic. In fact, in the finale it turned out the entire series took place in Tommy's active imagination.

Those who have met Theo have commented on his spaciness. My friend M-'s theory is that Theo is deaf. But I have evidence to the contrary: one of Theo's favorite activities is playing fetch. We do so with these crinkly cat ball toys so whenever he hears me pick one up or unwrap aluminum foil he comes bolting into the room all ready for our next game.

I suspected he has vision issues since there are times I'll put a treat out in front of him and he can't located it until I literally hold a piece in front of his noise and place it right in front of him. Yet when we used to play with a laser pointer Theo would chase the little red dot all around even trying to leap and get it when I pointed on the ceiling.

I never get a sense that Theo is really with me when we're together. The exception is when he's sleeping on my chest, and in those little moments I can tell when he adjusts to my movement and vice versa that we are truly sharing a moment together. Most of the time it's like he's in his own world making me wonder if there's such a thing as an Autistic cat.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bucky the Fish

Last night as I got home from work it occurred to me that I hadn't fed Bucky the Beta fish I have at work. Since Bucky didn't get fed over the weekend, this meant three whole days without any food.

I felt bad enough that for a brief instance I thought about driving back downtown just to feed Bucky. But I didn't.

Thompson as he does most nights, of course let me know the minute I walked in the house that his dinner dish was empty. So I tried to explain how lucky he is in comparison with poor Bucky. I don't think he much cared especially after he finally got his dinner.