Scents that Evoke Memories and Incite Inhumanity

I have a sense of smell that borders on being scientifically freakish. I could tell you, with pin-point accuracy, where you’ve been since you rolled out of bed, just by smelling the lapel on your jacket. No man has or will ever cheat on me because they know I’ll smell their mess 10 miles away.

I spend a small fortune every month on Febreeze plug-ins. A few years ago, my family had to intervene and send me off to addiction camp because I was spending all my money at Ye Olde Candle Shoppe every Friday. (That’s when their votives were on sale for 50 cents.)

So due to this mutation, I have strong reactions to olfactory hiccups. Sometimes I’ll catch a whiff of the cinder-block shower room from summer camp and get the strong urge to put on my $1 flip-flop shower shoes that my mom forced me to take so I wouldn’t catch the Foot Funk. Bowling alleys give me the dry heaves. And don’t even LET me smell a foot… I’ll come undone. Then I’ll commence to berating you for being a nasty person and suggest you go bathe. Immediately.

But the smell that evokes the strongest reaction is……*drum roll please*… poop. They say these olfactory memories can go back as far as infant-hood. Even after an exhaustive search, I can’t determine where the initial cat poop smell originated. Maybe someone threw it on me as a child. Or forced me to eat it. Or something. All I know is that I go Charles Manson crazy when I catch the slightest whiff of feline fecal matter.

I start by finding the perpetrator and dragging her to the scene. Then I start smacking her in the face, while gritting me teeth…”God! You filthy animal! What is WRONG with you?! It smells like cancer up in here!”

Then I stick her face in it and tell her to knock it off before I throw her out the back door. This is highly disturbing for someone to watch. I’ve seen family and friends get up and walk out…no, BACK out of my house with a frightened look in their eye.

Most of my cats have been mentally challenged or hookers in heat, so the cat poop smell is like lighting an already-festering fuse of angry madness.

My current cat (New post for a different day) is all of the above plus a few more…depression being her Achilles paw. I’m not exactly sure WHAT is lurking in her colon, but it’s not fit for man or beast. I don’t know how she can walk around with that toxic mess up in her like that. About a year ago, the proverbial straw knocked the camel down and paralyzed it. I’d had it. The cat’s life was in jeapordy and something had to be done before the Humane Society showed up.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened because I was caught in a haze of hate…but I housebroke the cat. She now goes to the door when she has to make an environmentally hazardous waste deposit. Then when she’s done, she jumps up on the back door and hangs by her claws, bobbing up and down like a muppet until you see her.

When I let her in, I tell her how stupid she looks hanging on the door like that.

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A Bird Named Bing

Five years ago I stood in a petshop and picked a bird out of a bin of about 100 Budgies.  “I want THAT one.”  The clerk tried to catch him with her hands, but the bird was Charlie Manson crazy and wouldn’t let her anywhere near him.

“Ma’am are you sure you want this one?  I mean, they’re all the same anyway.”

I assured her that THIS was the one I had to have.  With a huge sigh she went and fetched a fish net….you know, the kind you clean out an aquarium with.  After about 5 minutes of struggle, she finally trapped him under the net.

It was an early birthday gift for my husband because he’d mentioned he’d always wanted a bird.  But it became quite clear that the bird was to be mine.  Not necessarily because he preferred me….more like I was the one stuck doing all the cage-cleaning and feeding.

I didn’t know a thing about birds.  Quite frankly, pet birds have always scared the beans out of me….with their sharp little beaks and feet.  After about a week of his incessant singing, we decided on a name.  Bing.  As in Bing Crosby.  I sat by his cage for at least an hour every single day…for close to four months.  Talking to him, easing my hand into his cage.  I can remember the day he stepped cautiously onto my hand, his eyes skeptical.

I’d read somewhere that Budgies were very smart birds, so I set about testing this theory.  He had hanging bells in his cage….so I started telling him, “Ring your bells, Bing!  Ring your bells!”  After about a week, dang if he didn’t start ringing those bells!  When he saw how we reacted, he started showing off even more….putting this bells on his head and squawking like an avian comedian.

My daughter has taken Bing to school for the past two years…and Bing never failed to put on a show for the kids.  He would actually pout when it was time to go.  Yesterday morning, he joined Cali in singing “Oops, I did it again” and kissed her hand through the slats of his cage.  His happy singing filled the house all day yesterday…just like it did everyday for the past 5 years.  I always said, “How can you have a bad day when a bird is singing in your house all day?”

This morning we found Bing….dead.  He lay peacefully below his bells….eyes gently close, his wings wrapped snugly around his body.  He must have died in the early morning hours.  I fell apart.

Bing was more than just a bird to me.  He’d come into my life just as I was beginning to fight this bipolar.  He taught me patience.  He taught me about trust.  He taught me that fear was unnecessary.  As my five year old sat on the floor, wailing right along side of me….all she kept saying was, “Bing brought me so much happiness!  He made me happy!”

But then to hear her begging God to make Bing alive again…I mean, what do you say?  Cali immediately grabbed her crayons and paper and began drawing a picture she wanted Bing to have when he was buried.  A couple of weeks ago, a squirrel got fried on the transformer behind our house, and it nearly traumatized Cali.

I was so unprepared for the whole “Death” conversation.  So I just told her what I believe to be true.  That every living being has a soul.  And each soul is here for a purpose.  We may not always know what that purpose is.  We may go to our graves still not knowing.  We may shake a fist at God at the unfairness of certain deaths.  So I tried to explain that even though the body gets sick or hurt, the soul continues to live.  Always.

We lived in a mint chocolate green house before we moved to our new one.  Cali loved that house.  She took her first steps in that house.

“You know how you loved that green house?  It was sad to leave it, wasn’t it?  But even though we’re not in that house…we’re still alive aren’t we?  We just live in a new house.  Well, Bing lives in a new house now.”

That seemed to make sense to her.  But then she promptly pointed out that she was able to still drive by the green house to make sure it was still there.  She couldn’t do that with a dead bird.  No.  You can’t see Bing with your bare eyes.  But when you have a happy memory of Bing….he’s there.  Or when you see another bird hop up onto your window sill and give you a knowing look…he’s there.  When you hear bells ringing…he’s there.

In explaining this to my child, I realized I was also telling it to myself.  Because I’m just as lost and sad as Cali.  I don’t understand it either.  I’m angry that our beautiful bird is dead and our stupid mean cat is still alive.

As the three of us sat huddled together on the floor beneath Bing’s cage, my husband said, “Bing finished what he was here to do.”

So all morning, I’ve been thinking about how far we’ve come in the past five years.  I’ve successfully kicked bipolar’s butt and become a published writer.  Cali is starting Kindergarten in the fall…a whole new world.  We’re in a beautiful new home.  In a failing economy, Matt has a thriving and stable job.  And through all of this, Bing stood singing.  He never once stopped singing.  And maybe…even though we didn’t know it….it was Bing’s song that gave us hope when we felt like we were drowning.  Maybe Bing’s wordless song urged us to get up and keep going.

Today is Ash Wednesday and across this nation, people are kneeling in front of their priest and are being reminded, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”. A painful reminder of our mortality.

We plan to bury Bing later today under our Dogwood tree….with his bells and Cali’s pictures.  The Dogwood tree has historical symbolism.  That being divine sacrifice, triumph of eternal life, resurrection and regeneration.

Like a child, I’ll be watching to see signs of Bing’s presence.  Because even though I’m pissed and in pain right now…I know Bing’s soul is still with us.

His final lesson?  Teaching me that I don’t need eyes to see….I need vision…and a fearless trusting heart.

Pet + Costume = Owner on Borrowed Time

It’s that time of year when all the pet owners out there decide it’d be a good idea to take their pets and shove them into ridiculous costumes whilst snapping photos and laughing like intoxicated hyenas.  Never not ONCE have I seen a pet smiling or looking remotely humored in these pics.  And the ones that DO look like they’re having a good time are obviously “touched”.

A few years ago, I shoved Willard, our pet Chihuahua, into a witch costume and laughed so hard I almost soiled myself.  However, that night a wave of guilt washed over me and I hightailed it to mass the next morning.  And I’m not even Catholic.

So for all of you who have no conscience and can look at yourselves in the mirror each and every day, then here’s some stuff to make you laugh like the irresponsible human being that you are.

The Great Puppy Hunt

It’s no secret that every pet Matt and I have ever owned has been….well…I don’t want to say “defective”…but there’s always been something not quite normal.  We’ve grown used to this.  We’re not sure if they start out normal and then become stupid after entering our environment…or were just born on the weird side of the tracks.

So Cali has been BEGGING for a puppy for the past couple of years and we’ve told her, “Wait until you’re 5.”  Well…the big FIVE is only a couple of months away and we still haven’t narrowed things down.  We know we want a tiny dog…like a chihuahua.  Or a yorkie.  So we found a breeder that makes chorkies.  That’s right.  A mutant hybrid vanity breed for those with no conscience.  We actually stumbled upon the dogs and their owner (not literally)…we didn’t go out hunting for one.  So that’s probably the route we’ll go.  You should see these dogs.  The one we saw looked like that ugly dog that hissed at folks.

*Shudder*  Gawd, that dog is hideous.  The thing I’m terrible at is the potty training part of things.  I’m really bad at it.  I think it’s because I have no clue what I’m doing.  So I need to read up on things before a hairy squatter becomes part of this whack family.

Here are some chorkies for your viewing pleasure.

Naturally, we’ll let Cali name the dog.  It will no doubt be bestowed with something like Pestigus or Veenucka.  God help us all.