The New Cat, an Update

So, while everyone else was learning this crazy cruise news, I was busy taking the new cat to the vet. Here’s what I learned. Pumpkin (who will need a pseudonym) is probably two years old. She is free of feline leukemia and fHIV. She doesn’t seem to even have worms. She’s missing the very tip of one ear, but it looks to be healing up nicely. And she’s way too thin, but the vet thinks she’ll fill out nicely. She is probably pregnant, but we’re spaying her tomorrow. I was concerned they’d think I was an asshole, but they thought it was for the best, not only because the world has enough cats looking for good homes, but also because a pregnancy would be very hard on her, considering how malnourished she is.

They could not get over how sweet she is. And I admit to being completely tickled, too, by how friendly and laid back she is. Even when the pit/lab mix “Crank Bait” (actual name) was sniffing at the carrier, Pumpkin just sat there like, “Eh, okay.” And she willingly ate her worm medicine.

So, the Butcher will go pick her up on Wednesday and then we’ll work on integrating her into the household.

Um, So, Folks Weren’t Kidding About This

I just got an email from Jim Ridley asking what they could do to help me win a cruise and I was all “A cruise? What?” And then I remembered that this came up on Twitter. And it seems that someone mentioning it on Twitter was enough to put me at 13th place.

I don’t know what this means other than that the online community in Nashville is fucking awesome.

And that I should maybe be a little more proactive about asking people to vote.

So, here’s the deal. First, it is highly unlikely that I’m going to win. Fucking Digby is on the list, people. Not to mention Markos Moulitsas. Digby deserves to go just as a matter of course (as does Pam Spaulding, Christ) and Markos has a little thing called “Daily Kos.” I write about my cooter and yell at our Democrats for not being good enough and yell at Kos for yelling at our Democrats. It’s a circle of stupidity and yelling. Much like Thanksgiving at the Phillips household. And even if Mike Turner had every firefighter in the state vote for me, it’s still not going to trump Kos’s numbers.

Still, I think it would be fun to go and, if I do, I swear to you right now, I will make a complete and blubbering ass of myself over Rachel Maddow. Do you think any of the other folks on that list are going to promise their readers that they will go total fan-girl on Rachel Maddow? I don’t think so.

I mean, four thousand entries and I made it to 13? How could a girl not die of delight over that?

So, if y’all would head over there and vote for me, I promise smooches for everyone!

Going from Two Cats to Three

Okay, internet, assuming the Butcher tracks down the new cat so that I can take her to the vet, we will be in possession of three cats. So far, the two cats we have have responded thusly to the new cat in the garage–the orange cat (who my nephew calls “Garfield” which cracks me up) hurries past the new cat as quickly as possible in order to get outside and the tiny cat just refuses to go into the garage at all.

So, what will happen when we bring her into the house? Will the tiny cat move out?

What can I do in order to ease the transition for everyone?

Fox Ran Out on a Chilly Night and Prayed to the Moon for to Give Him Light

In my head, these two things are connected–“The Fox” by the Waco Brothers, which you can find on this awesome CD (Let me tell you, if you have kids and need music that won’t drive you to drink while you’re driving them around in the car, this CD will be your salvation. And “The Fox” is probably the best song on the album.), and this rumination on the moon, which kind of tugged at my heart.

On a Lighter Note, I Have Some Questions

Look here (I think this is SFW, but it may cause you to look perplexed all day).

1. Is it weird that a werewolf doesn’t at least have arm pit hair?

2. He looks like he’s 14, right?

3. Is that a weird, subliminal face in the tree right over his shoulder?

4. Speaking of subliminal, “My crotch is the open, moonlit road?” WTF?

The Phone Call After I Went to Bed

I still pray. It’s a habit I haven’t given up. I don’t know if my gods are used to being prayed to, but I tell them that this is the way that I know and so that’s what I know to do. I pray, though, to all of my loved ones, friends, family, and gods, living and not living.

Sometimes, I think Christianity never stood a chance with me, because I cannot experience God in any way other than as my Dad’s boss. And it’s really hard to have a reciprocal, caring relationship with Someone you know can send your family off to stupid little things, without seeming like He’s acting against you, and with whom you have no recourse.

But I have a metaphor for my loved ones. They are, after all, my loved ones. We might have different ideas about what constitutes “best” but we all want what’s best for each other.

And so I was saying again what I said to y’all, about how I want to be a better aunt, about how I want my brother to get his act together, about how I am afraid for my nephews and want them to have better lives than they do. I was saying how I feel like I need to do something, but I wasn’t sure what.

And then I went to bed.

And then the phone rang.

And it was my brother, calling from the road, on his way home to Georgia from North Carolina. He talked for a long time about how miserable he is and I said, I know and I said how I can’t stand to see him take it out on his kids and I told him that he’s got to get his shit together. And he told me about how he’s been feeling and I said, “Yeah, because you’re clearly depressed, and who can blame you, with as hard as your life is?” And how it’s like this vicious circle of stupidity, and like he’s constantly shooting himself in the foot. And I told him that everyone is ready to support him, but it’s on him to actually do some shit to change his situation.

And he asked why I never said this stuff to him before and I said that he wouldn’t have listened to me if I did. And he admitted that he wouldn’t have, but he thought it would have at least sunk in later. And I said, maybe, but it’s not that much fun to lecture people who don’t want it (okay, it is, but that’s what the internet is for!) and then he said that I had always been the person in the family that lectured people when they were off track.

And I am still kind of laughing at that, of course, because, yeah, that’s true. It’s also true that I’m also the person who gets called bossy all the time. It tickles me this dynamic of “do this for me and then let me hold it against you.” I mean, I laugh because it sucks as far as dynamics go. And yet it never occurs to them that the second half of that dynamic might be why I stopped doing the first half.

So, it was a good conversation.

It also seemed particularly well-timed. And I told you all the woo-woo story at the beginning because I’m putting seven of my dozen eggs in that basket. The other five are still in the “this is most what you needed to hear in order to not have a long talk with Dad about this brother that might end in the money spigot being redirected.”

And I’m sorry and heart-broken that I need that second basket at all, but there you go.

Hope for the best, but be real.

I should get that made into t-shirts we can wear at Christmas.

Fire and Chocolate Milk

After my parents left, I got in the car once today, to get some chocolate milk. The Butcher played video games and I sat next to him shouting words of encouragement. After he left for work, I built a big fire in the fireplace.

I haven’t seen the new cat today. I hope she comes back.

Some days you just put one foot in front of the other, one word after another.

I’m trying to decide how I feel about David Rawlings’s new CD. I think it’s good, but I’m not sure if it’s great. Maybe I would say this: it’s maybe not a CD you want to listen to all at once, but it sure as hell is full of songs you’re going to be glad to have on shuffle on your iPod.

Things Wind Down

My brother and nephews left this morning. My parents leave tomorrow morning. It’s been a nice but rough visit. The dog behaved and we may have acquired another cat. There is, at any rate, a cat curled up in the garage, who has not been allowed in the house until it can visit a vet.

It’s hard to talk about them. Especially as they get older and my name becomes more firmly attached to Tiny Cat Pants. But it’s hard. Especially when the nephews are here and it seems like my brother just pushes off all parenting of them on my parents. And everyone yells all the time and no one listens to each other unless there’s yelling. And I just start to feel like there’s some kind of equivalent of the Taos hum when we’re all together, a background level of noise that just starts to work on your nerves.

I wish I were a better aunt, but I feel like I have no patience for what are probably very normal kid things. And I also feel very heartbroken and weirded out by my nephews who clearly have no parents. They are good kids, better, really, than we could have hoped for considering that they effectively have no parents. But it weirds me out, how self-sufficient they are, even emotionally, as if they have learned there never is any comfort coming. And I have trouble relating to them. They don’t do what they’re asked. They don’t do what they’re told. But they do what they like, which is often what you’d like them to do.

Their interest in their Native American heritage is interesting, considering the philosophical underpinings at least one of them has been given.

My brother all but asked my dad to drive the youngest nephew back to North Carolina, because he didn’t want to do it and I’m afraid it left such a bad taste in my mouth that it kind of soured the last part of their visit. I keep trying to tell myself that it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but it pisses me off so much that he is not considerate of them. I mean, I don’t know where he was supposed to learn this, but he’s a grown man.

And I don’t think that he gets that my parents are old people. Not that it would ever be okay to try to ditch you kid with your parents and leave them to drive 24 hours while you drive 4, but to ask people almost 65 to do that, when one of them would have to do the majority of the driving, it just makes me so mad.

And then I heard him this morning telling my dad it cost him $200 to get from Georgia to North Carolina to Nashville and was going to take him another $200 to do the reverse trip.

I don’t care if my dad wants to give my brother $400. My dad can give my brother four million dollars, for all I care, as long as my parents have enough money to do what they want in their retirement.

But I just don’t think it costs $400. I mean, I know it doesn’t cost $400.

And the ease with which he lies in order to get as much money as he can out of my parents irritates me. Because it makes me feel like he either doesn’t get that whatever money they have is what they have to live on for the rest of their lives, may they be long, or he doesn’t care. And that really, really bothers me.

Oh well, what can you do?

I feel like it’s both my business and none of my business and that just sets me ill at ease.

And I wish my nephews were having easier lives and I don’t understand why the person I know who is most responsible for making that happen is not doing it. And the fact that this is someone I love and care deeply for makes it very hard to accept.

Is the New Cat Really that New?

People, if I could have gotten any picture for you yesterday, I wish I’d gotten the picture of the Butcher, gone into the garage to check on the new cat, when he was squatting down to pet it while it ate and he looked up and saw me looking at him out the kitchen door window and he didn’t smile, but his left dimple got so deep that I knew his heart was stolen.

So, believe me, it was no surprise today when I saw the new cat sleeping in an afghan-lined box top, tucked between the steps and the dryer, protected from the cold and nestled in the best spot to take advantage of the heat of the house. It looked up at me from its Butcher-made nest, as if to say, “The only way this could be any more awesome is if you let me in the house.”

I have to admit, I don’t quite understand the concept of “buying” a cat. That’s not to say that I don’t blame people for doing it. But in my whole life, I’ve hardly even ever set out to get a cat, let alone buy one. Cats seem to come into your life when they’re ready for it, and it doesn’t have much to do with what you intend. They howl at you when you’re down at Love at First Sight, thinking you’re going to get a dog; or they howl at you from your garage when they’re ready to come in the house. They just wander in and make themselves at home, usually when you’re completely unprepared.

The Butcher and I think that the new cat might not be very new to anyone but the humans. We’ve known for some time that someone has been eating the dog and cat food in the garage. That’s why we moved the cat food into the house. Though, we thought it was raccoons or dogs, not a kitten. So, bless its heart, it’s probably been trying to subsist on dog food, which is just not, as you know, nutritionally balanced for cats. And then when we ran out of dog food and I brought a little bag and put it in the house? Well, that must have been the crisis situation.

So, there’s the missing pet food.

And there’s the complete disinterest the other cats show in the new cat. They walk right by it in the garage, no problem. Even the dog didn’t bother to come into the kitchen when the new cat snuck in last night, as if the new cat was a smell Mrs. Wigglebottom was already familiar with.

And, hilariously, when the new cat snuck into the kitchen, it made a bee-line for the dog food.


This morning, we heard a meowing the likes of which we had never heard before. My dad was all “What’s going on with the tiny cat?” And I looked out and saw a tiny cat, howling, in the garage. A cat not ours.

People drop all kinds of animals of out in the country assuming… I don’t know, honestly. But let me tell you, if you think, for a second, that, if you let your pet go out in the country, it will somehow make its way in the world, you are very, very wrong.

This poor cat is very, very friendly, and nothing but skin and bones. So, I fed it. How could I not? It’s hard not to appreciate the guts it takes to approach a house full of a scary dog and demand food, but, if you could feel the bones on this poor cat, you’d understand why it was so desperate.

Will we keep it? Who knows.

Otherwise, things are going fine. The turkey took a little longer than I thought and I managed to set the bottom of the oven on fire with my sweet potato casserole and I’ve had to yell at grown-ass men not to tug on each other’s nipple haris and the nephews had to have an argument over which Indian tribes they are descended from (Cherokee for the older, Lumbee for the younger).

But over all, it’s been calm and nice, for us. I’m including some of the shots for my parents’ Christmas letter, because I thought you’d get a kick out of them.

In Which I Spill NM’s Pie Secret

People, I was at nm’s house this afternoon watching her make pie crusts WITHOUT A FORK!!!!!! I think I literally stood there slack-jawed.

If I were not forbidden from making my world famous apple pie* for Thanksgiving, I would have totally come home and tried making pie crusts nm’s way.

She mixed it with her hands. Then she smooshed it with the heel of her palm.



*Some people I am related to are giant babies about tart apple pies. But I ask you, world, if you don’t fill your pie with tart apples, a.) aren’t you just eating not-quite-done apple sauce and b.) don’t you need the tart to pair with the sweet of a good vanilla ice cream, which you scoop over the hot pie? I shake my head at the babies in my family.

Thanksgiving Blues

There’s nothing particularly stressful or weird going on with my family, but I am still down this holiday season, lonely for people who are long-gone and not coming back. I think it’s a side-effect of ancestor veneration, frankly, that you feel the in ability to be together face to face because you are acutely aware of the ways we are together all the time. It’s like if I only ever saw your words on this screen, of course, it’s better than not hearing from you at all, but it sucks if I think too much about how awesome it would be to have you at my table.

I continue my search for Luke Phillips, who, as you remember, appears in the public record in 1850, full family in tow, living in Pontiac, Michigan. His daughter claims he came to Michigan in 1828, from New York. In 1880, he claims his parents were from Connecticut. There are no Luke Phillipses living in Michigan counted in eithe the US census or the state census between 1828 and 1850. There’s a Luther Phillips, but he’s not the right guy. There are only two Luke Phillipses the right age, one in New York and one in Rhode Island, but both seem to have lived in those places their whole lives.

I did find, courtesy of Google Books, that his daughter gave some of his personal belongings to the Michigan Historical Commission–“workbag, razor, brush, whalebone, piece of counterpane.” I wonder if he was a barber? Or a really misguided whaler, trying to work the Great Lakes? Just kidding.

There is a “Luke Phillips” you will find all over Google Books. Not my guy, but a young Indian, at school, learning to read and write his name. He has a “regular” name, unlike his classmates who have “ridiculous” names like “Sally Running-bear.” It’s just so fucking depressing to read–this mocking, haughty tone. And in other books, we learn that Luke never went back to his family.

And it is reported as fact, which it was, but it’s still just depressing.

There is a Luke Phillips that served in the Revolutionary War. And I wonder if he’s the grandfather of my Luke, but it doesn’t seem to be.

And I found another Luke Phillips, the right age to be my Grandpa’s uncle, living as a “farmhand” from the time he was ten in other people’s homes. I found another uncle of my Grandpa’s in the same situation–Barlow. I wouldn’t have known he was one of us, except my Dad told me that his Dad talked fondly about his Uncle Barlow. That got me looking through all unaffiliated Phillipses in that county, and I found Ole Luke.

I don’t know if he’s one of us, but I put him in the family tree anyway. Shudder all you want, true historians, but you shouldn’t be trusting as fact anything you find on that isn’t backed up with primary sources. I have, for instance, given my Grandma Doris two sisters named Margarete, one by my Grandma Teck and My Grandpa Herb, and one by my Grandma Teck and an unknown spouse and I can’t figure out how to undo it. I like to think that Aunt Peggy would get a laugh out of that, though.

And Luke is the right age in the right place to be one of us, and being named Luke would make him named after his Grandfather, and that seemed fitting.

The Phillipses have been in Michigan since before it was a state and they have never had an easy time of it. I don’t know. Maybe the mysterious Luke did, but no one in my line since him. Luke’s son, Oscar, was born deaf and mute, and was sent to the Asylum for the Deaf and Blind, even before it was completed, in order to learn a trade, given his age at the time (about 20), but probably also to learn to read and write. The annual report from the Asylum that I read talked about how meaningful it was for families to get letters from their deaf children, no matter how poor the spelling (which I found to be a charming touch), because before then, they could only guess that they were interpreting the deaf person’s signs correctly and the deaf person had no way of communicating with someone outside the family who didn’t know the meaning of that person’s particular set of signs.

Families were often surprised to discover that their deaf children were particularly bright.

Bah, that makes me tear up, too.

After he met his wife, he took up farming, first near his people and then near hers. I think he was fairly shitty at it. As long as her dad was alive, their family stayed intact. But after her dad died, their kids seemed to not stay in the household consistently, ending up with relatives or with neighbors. It’s hard to say with certainty what went on in that house, but I know what went on in other Phillips households, and why other Phillips children went to stay with relatives, so I’m going to guess it came from somewhere. And I suppose trying to keep order in a house where both parents are deaf at that time would have limited the resources they had to draw on for successful child-rearing.

Oscar’s son, Frank, was working as a farmhand when he married Ina Mae. I don’t know how long he had been working as a farmhand, but my Grandpa was born in a house that was also functioning as a chicken coop/barn, out by Marshall, because that’s where the farmhand and his family lived–in the barn.

My Grandpa managed to bust his ass out of poverty, by selling insurance to whoever would buy it from him. He was, for a long time, the only insurance agent who would sell insurance to the black people of Battle Creek (or so the family story goes). He told my dad that he never earned below $10,000 a year, the whole time he sold insurance, and I’m sure, when he was just starting out, $10,000 a year was a shit ton.

It was not enough to protect his progeny from the chaos, his chaos. And so, we all spin out from him, like fucked up stars on our way out to our own galaxies, where we, too, will fuck up. You like to think we could come to some understanding–“We all will stop hitting our kids, because the line for us between ‘spanking’ and needing to break you down so far you won’t dare come back up is too thin.” for instance–or something,  to try to move away from the things that keep us mired in troubles, but we don’t.

Oh god, well, this is depressing the shit out of me.

And I have grocery shopping to do and laundry to finish and dogs to walk.

The past is an interesting place, but it also fucking sucks.

And, probably, the same can be said about all these winter holidays. All these ghosts you were so freaked out and happy to see at the end of October are lingering and growing stale by now. No wonder there are so many holidays of light in December. You need something to encourage the dead to back off.

People, This is a Real Thing!

I was driving to work today and I saw two people walking down by Whites Creek and I craned my neck over and saw that they were walking on a path!

So, I looked and god damn it if there’s not a Whites Creek Greenway! Right where I thought there should be.

I don’t know who at Metro is responsible for this, but thank you.

That is awesome.

Plans A & B

Okay, so Plan A is to find a small publisher who might be interested in the project.

If that doesn’t work, Plan B is to self-publish.

In the interests of Plan A, I have three packages to go out in the mail tomorrow.

In the interests of Plan B, I read this.

Suck My Butt, Kleinheider

So, Kleinheider has his column up today and in it, he writes this:

That, in fact, may be what this is all about. There is a segment of elite opinion out there that believes arguing for reduced or restricted immigration is necessarily racist. But that’s an article of faith, not proof.

I invite you to give three guesses as to who holds this segment of elite opinion.

Yes, me.

I, apparently, an an elite. I am also wearing underwear with holes in it. So, make of that what you will. Who knows? Maybe Ariana Huffington also wears ratty underwear that she pulled out of the dryer on her way to the car. Maybe that’s the sign of a true elite, when you can’t be bothered to dig a little further for some underpants in better shape.

If I had to count for you all the times I heard last week, “What if you lose your job?” I would not be able to complete this post without crying. If I had to recount for you how I was told I should have three to six months’ worth of savings “just in case,” I couldn’t make it through this post without laughing and then crying.  I’d  like to have savings that would last me longer than six days, at this point, but I don’t.

“Elite” is such a nice word, though, isn’t it? Like I have separated myself from ordinary people and sit up on high making pronouncements about shit I’d feel differently about, if only I lived like real people live, ordinary people. Such an easy word that signals to Kleinheider’s readers that I’m not really one of them. I’m like those rich, well-educated people who just don’t know anything about how real life works.

Like those, rich, well-educated folks who went to, oh, say Vanderbilt, Kleinheider? Like those fucking elites?

Is it “elite” to think that people who came to this country when they were not even in school yet should have a way to become citizens of the country that is their home? Is it “elite” to think that our immigration system is so fucked that good people are crushed by it?  Is it “elite” to think that giving speeches with topics like “The criminal elements among immigrants,” when you have to acknowledge that yours is the only study that finds such evidence, is xenophobic bullshit? Is it “elite” to have empathy for people who can be blackmailed by their bosses into putting up with all kinds of terrible circumstances because the threat of having them deported is constantly hanging over their heads?

Is it really motherfucking “elitist” to have some fucking sympathy for people having hard times?

“Elite,” like I have chosen to remove myself from the rabble, somehow.

Listen, you can disagree with me. You can think I’m wrong. But if you think I have the opinions I have because I just don’t know what it’s like to live in the real world?

All I have to say in response to that is “You wish.”

(see also Chris Wage.)

Edited to Add: Kleinheider has apologized. I will return to referring to him as Tiny Pasture. Tiny Pasture, that was very nice of you. Thanks.

“Life Partner”

I was all ready to complain about what a stupid phrase “life partner” is and how we all ought to support gay marriage so that when a dude wants to talk about the dude who’s been his “life partner” for decades, he can either say “spouse” or “husband” or we can all click our tongues about what a shame it is that so-and-so won’t make an honest man out of so-and-so, when they toss out the word “boyfriend.”

But “life partner”?

Ugh, I hate it.  It makes it sound like a business arrangement or something so cutesy I about can’t bear it. It’s like, “Oh, gay people, they’re so different from us, even our ‘normal’ words can’t stretch to fit them.”

I was all, “Can’t the Nashville Post come up with some other phrase to use?” I don’t know what, but life partner just sucks.(And clearly, there’s room for innovation, as the writer says at the end of the story that they will have duel state citizenship, which is just a metaphor for them splitting their time in two different states, since states have residents, not citizens.)

And then I read further into the story and it’s worse than just that the phrase “life partner” sounds like a constant reminder of the fact that, here in Tennessee, you can’t have a real, recognizable phrase to describe your relationship. It’s that these guys got tired of living in a state where it seems like most folks don’t see your relationship as real.

The ultimate outcome was tailored for both partners. “Brent was recruited by more than one children’s hospital, but L.A. Children’s made a concerted effort to recognize me and recognize our relationship. And they were very food-savvy,” Carr-Hall says.

Anyway, straight folks with kids, keep this in the back of your mind when you wonder why you should give a shit about gay rights, since you aren’t gay. Gay people with expertise you need when your kid is in the hospital like working places where their partners are recognized and the importance of their relationships is recognized.

If that’s not happening in Tennessee, they will go elsewhere.

Mrs. Wigglebottom and I Find the River!

First of all, apparently either Mrs. W. and I walk at a pace of one mile an hour or I didn’t pay attention to when we got to the park or the people at Bell’s Bend have vastly underestimated the length of the loop that goes along the river. Because we were at the park for literally eighteen years this morning.

But listen, if you want to go along the river, the trick is to go out of the back of the nature center, and take the first left and then, take the second right. When you get to the conflagration of three roads, take the gravel road back to your right. If you go straight out from the nature center the other way, the last half of your walk will be up hill.

Also, there are a few disturbing pictures in here of racist graffiti, which I took for Pith.

The Butcher Keeps Me On Track

Well, the Butcher cleaned the house from top to bottom, so I had no excuse but to work on my book proposal. It is done. I have some sample photos from Chris Wage. So, all I have left to do is print the stuff off and send it out.

I’m already planning my book trailer. “Oh, hi, you just caught me NOT French kissing my dog, because my dog eats poop. Also, she is a dog. And as much as this is a book about ghosts, it is also a book about family. Families with grandmas who will feed me. Okay, not really. Still, you should read my book. Thanks.”

A Vague Woo Hoo!

I don’t blog about work, normally. So I will continue to not blog about work except to say that a project I worked on and loved just got a review in one of the top journals in its field describing it as invaluable and gutsy.

I want to be all “in your face” to yesterday about this, let me tell you.