Stories from the Cat House

Stories from the Cat House

My wife and I foster kittens several times a year. Here are some of our recent guests. I know, they all look so adorable. Don’t be fooled. They’re non-stop eating, pooping machines that will turn your house into utter chaos, or as my wife calls it, “happy pandemonium.”

My wife and I foster kittens several times a year. Here are some of our recent guests. I know, they all look so adorable. Don’t be fooled. They’re non-stop eating, pooping machines that will turn your house into utter chaos, or as my wife calls it, “happy pandemonium.”

My wife and I run a cat house. We take in girls – and boys – who were living on the streets and require them to do tricks in exchange for room and board. We’re not proud of this. But we can’t help ourselves. Oh, it’s not what you think. No, we’re not running a brothel. Heavens, No! My wife always reminds me, “We’re never doing that again!” 

What I meant was that we rent cats. Okay, some people might call it “fostering.” We take in orphaned kittens and we feed them, cuddle them, and teach them tricks like how to chase a string. Our guests stay about five weeks, after which, having (temporarily) satisfied our craving, we send them back to the local animal shelter. But it is an addiction, and withdrawal is no laughing matter. So, after a couple months, we give in and get another fix of furry toddlers.

Our two adult cats, Zippy and Buddy (former fosters themselves), graciously allow us to invite these occasional intruders. I want to keep them all, but my wife says zoning laws prohibit more than two permanent feline residents per household. Apparently, any more than that would cause a level of chaos and destruction that might threaten world peace – not to mention our marriage.

Make no mistake, my wife likes cats – a lot! If she and I were on a rowboat in the middle of the ocean with Zippy and Buddy, and a big wave washed our cats and me overboard, and she could only save two of us – let’s just say, my wife would probably be remarried by now.

While she likes cats, my darling wife absolutely ADORES KITTENS! That’s why she likes to rent, I mean foster them. Our job as a foster family is to play with the kitties and get them used to humans, so that I can fall in love with them and get my heart torn out when they inevitably journey back to the shelter to find permanent homes.

I’ll be the first to admit, fostering kittens is a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work. That’s why my wife and I divide up the tasks evenly. I’m responsible for feeding, scooping the litter, replacing said litter, cleaning the ubiquitous poop skid marks off the floor, sweeping the strewn litter bits, and picking up countless bits of shredded paper the kitties create. The above tasks need to be done roughly every 30 minutes. My wife willingly shoulders the arduous chores of patting and nuzzling the kittens and posting adorable photos of them on Facebook.

If I may, I would like to circle back to the part about feeding and scooping. The kittens are often only two weeks old when we receive them. Sometimes they are so tiny we must bottle feed them. But once they can consume solid food (around three weeks), their appetites are insatiable. A litter of six kittens can easily go through eight cans of moist cat food and three cups of dry food in a day. But they poop out roughly five times the volume they consume – something scientists have never been able to explain. With any luck, by the time they are ready to leave us, most of the kittens know how to  dutifully excrete their poop within a foot of the litter box.

Our temporary house guests typically overcome their fear of us very quickly. By the second week, they’re routinely navigating up my pant leg, headed for my shoulders. Which brings me to the topic of claws. Did you know that kittens don’t know how to retract their claws? Me neither. I like to wear shorts. Imagine, if you will,  self-propelled razor blades covered in fur scaling your unclothed limbs. In no time, I look like a badly abused scratching post – only with far more blood.

Things tend to get a bit complicated when Buddy realizes we have visitors. Everyday it’s the same pattern: He stands outside the door to the guest quarters and whines incessantly until we let him in. He looks at the kitties with an approach-avoidance mixture of fascination and fear until eventually several of them start chasing (and biting) his tail, at which point Buddy freaks out and bolts. Then 30 minutes later, he wants back in again. Go figure.

Kittens are naturally curious and adventurous – especially as they reach four weeks of age. This is when they develop an urge to go walkabout and explore EVERYTHING. They climb, leap, and knock over anything they can get their mouths on. They will play with anything they stumble into – except cat toys, of course. They will entertain themselves for hours, batting around an empty toilet paper roll, a rubber band or a twist tie. And they are masters at chewing on electrical cords, scratching the wood furniture beyond repair, and getting stuck underneath the couch and other impossible-to-extract locations. At this age, they have only two modes: Total pandemonium and coma. There is no in between.

When our short-term residents reach two pounds (around eight weeks), it’s time to take them back to the animal shelter to find forever homes. And this, for me, is by far the most difficult part. Because every time we foster, I get emotionally attached. I always want to keep some. My wife rationally insists we have plenty of cats already. Our negotiation sessions typically go something like this:

Me: Let’s keep all six of them. They’re soooooo adorable. Can we, sweetie?

Michele: No. We already have two cats. That’s plenty.

Me: Okay, you’re right. So, how about we just keep two kittens?

Michele: No. We already have enough cats.

Me: I hear you. Final offer: Let’s keep just one.

In the end, we reach a compromise, by which I mean we don’t keep any. We go through this dance whenever we foster. Every time, I tell myself I won’t get attached, and every time I fall hopelessly in love with every one of them.

By the time you read this, our house will probably be teeming with our next set of furry visitors. I already know my wife is going to say no, we can’t keep any furballs. But I have a plan. I know some embarrassing details from her past that I just might “accidentally” post to her timeline on Facebook – unless she agrees to let me keep one. So, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s totally up to my darling wife. Meow.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

It was a dark and stormy Halloween night. My two young daughters, Rachel and Emmy, could not wait to get started. Earlier that week I’d spent an evening helping them come up with their costumes. Emmy could not decide between a fairy princess or Barney the dinosaur or Hello Kitty. So naturally, the only solution was Barney the Hello Kitty dinosaur princess. Whatever makes you happy, my little angel, I mean, dinosaur kitty princess.

Rachel’s outfit was easier. She insisted on being Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak. So I drew a lightning bolt on her forehead, put a sliver of duct tape on a pair of my black-framed glasses and found a blanket to which I affixed a big sign that read: INVISIBILITY CLOAK.  YOU CAN’T SEE ME!

The girls kept asking, “Daddy, when can we go trick or treating?” To which I would respond, “It’s only Wednesday. Halloween is not for another three days. Be patient.” This went on every few hours until the big day, at which point, the incessant questioning accelerated to every 5 minutes.

Finally it was time for the main event. They looked so cute – Emmy in her princess tiara, sparkly gloves and Cinderella flowing gown, with the matching kitty ears, whiskers and a long purple dinosaur tail. Meanwhile Rachel was almost completely hidden underneath her Mighty Morphin Power Rangers invisibility blanket. Of course, once we ventured out into the 42-degree drizzling weather, it was actually hard to make out their costumes beneath their winter coats and Thomas the Tank Engine galoshes.

Everywhere I looked, there were pirates, super heroes, princesses and scary monsters – some of them in strollers – all in search of one thing: SUGAR! As soon as Emmy noticed all the other kids racing ahead for the same candy she was after, she started to panic, fearing all the good stuff would be gone by the time we got to the door, and people would be handing out pennies – or worse yet, toothbrushes. Like every year, we came upon a house with a sign next to a large wicker basket that read, “Please, take just one.” It was empty – of course. The time was 4:57 pm.

My girls rushed from door to door for what felt like three hours, but a check of my watch told me it had only been 35 minutes. It occurred to me that they might as well rename this Holiday “Disney’s Halloween”, because, as I looked around, it seemed that every girl under the age of eight was either Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Ariel from Little Mermaid, Jasmine from Aladdin, or Pocahontas. Although now that I think of it, there was that one seven-year-old girl dressed as a Zombie Princess / Egyptian Mummy carrying what looked to be a dead snake and a hula hoop. Not sure what her parents were thinking.

As we went from house to house, Rachel kept asking me to walk further away from her. She was only eight, but already she was embarrassed to be seen with her dad. I agreed to stay at the sidewalk while she took her sister by the hand to each door. Emmy got up the nerve to bravely demand, “Tick or Teat.” (She had not quite mastered the concept of the letter “R” yet.)

I looked at my watch again – and at their sagging, over-stuffed pillow cases. It was almost 7:30 pm. Over howling protests about me being a mean daddy – and their claims that all their friends’ parents let them stay out till dawn to trick or treat – I finally bribed them by promising not to eat all their candy after they went to sleep, if they agreed to come home now.

Then came the most important part of Halloween: The trade negotiations. Rachel and Emmy spent the next hour trying to outmaneuver their opponent.

Emmy: I’ll give you a Necco Wafers AND a Smarties for your Twix.

Rachel: Are you nuts? I’ll give you a box of Nerds if you give me your Nestlé Crunch.

Emmy: No way! My Nestlé Crunch is twice the size of that box of Nerds. I’ll give you all the candy corn in my bag for two Butterfinger bars.

Rachel: Nope. I’ll give you this box of Junior Mints for your Kit Kat Bar.

Emmy: Are you insane?

Halloween - bucket of candyIt went on like this for quite some time. In the end, I believe the only trade actually made was two pieces of bubble gum for a tootsie pop.

After they were asleep in their beds, I did what any loving father would do. I pilfered through their haul to collect my Dad Tax – you know, my fair payment for having spent almost three hours standing guard 30 feet away at the sidewalk when I could have been home watching the game. I doubt they’ll miss a couple boxes of Milk Duds or that Clark Bar. And don’t worry. I didn’t touch their Kit Kat or Twix bars. I would never do something so cruel. I settled for an Almond Joy because Emmy didn’t like coconut.

The next morning, I woke up to see my kids having breakfast together. Quietly. Calmly. No fighting. No name calling. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then it became clear. They were too busy stuffing their pie holes with Gummy Bears and Reese’s Pieces.

I thought about intervening and shouting something about getting a healthy breakfast. And then I thought, why ruin this rare moment of tranquility. Emmy even gave me a Kit Kat bar (I think she stole it from Rachel) and invited me to join them. That breakfast with my two kids, scarfing down all that candy – yeah, that was the best breakfast I’d had in a long, long time.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2015

How I Got Crabs

How I Got Crabs

Yum, Yum. Look at this crab pot filled with so many mouth-watering Dungeness Crabs. At the grocery store, it can cost up to $9 a pound. That’s pretty darn expensive. Save money by doing it yourself. All you need is a $3,000 boat and $500 in crab pots, rope and buoys.

Not long ago, my wife and I moved to Camano Island, a tranquil, semi-rural community with lots of retirees. People here love four things: God, country, family and crabbing – but if they could only pick one, for sure it would have to be crabbing. People here are seriously into this activity. Just how serious? As you arrive on Camano Island, you’re greeted by a giant metal crab sculpture. The local newspaper is called The Crab Cracker. And if you confide in someone, “I’ve got crabs”, they won’t recoil in disgust. They’ll reply with, “Fantastic! Mind giving me some?” 

Having lived here for two years, I’d never bothered to find out what all the fuss was about. But after relentless pressure from neighbors whose constant nagging included questioning my patriotism, in the end I caved. Last week I finally went crabbing.

Most “crabbers” own their own crab boat and equipment. To get started you need the following essentials:

  • A motorboat – or if you’re cheap, then a rowboat
  • At least one, and ideally two or three crab pots
  • A buoy marker and approximately 100 feet of rope for each crab pot
  • Bait – typically chicken or turkey legs, or if you’re in a pinch, Lifesavers candies – the crabs grab onto the little hole in the middle and get stuck. Let me know how that works, dude. (This last bait option should only be used if you’re a complete idiot.)
  • A case of beer, to dull your senses and help you forget about what in the hell possessed you to take a rowboat instead of a motorboat with 25 mph headwinds out there
  • A sharp knife to kill your small crustacean victims in cold blood – or to take your own life if you have rowed out too far and you suddenly realize you’ll never make it back to shore before nightfall

Continue reading “How I Got Crabs” »

A Story of Sex and Debauchery from My Youth

A Story of Sex and Debauchery from My Youth

This is the steamy story of Leonardo – and his many romantic conquests. His sexual desire was insatiable. The fairer sex was no match for his animal magnetism.

This is the steamy story of Leonardo – and his many romantic conquests. His sexual desire was insatiable. The fairer sex was no match for his animal magnetism.

When I was a young child, I had a very unusual friend who, how should I put this delicately – had some rather strong urges. His name was Leonardo. I met him when I was in seventh grade. Leonardo was the unemotional, quiet type. But there was one thing I noticed that was a bit odd about Leonardo. He seemed to have an unusual sexual appetite, particularly for someone so young. He fooled around a lot. When it came to romance, Leonardo was an animal.

He pursued sexual relationships with too many partners to recall. There were Lucy, Angel, Daisy, Chloe and Pepper, to name a few. But Leonardo didn’t always stay in his own lane. There were also Charlie, Toby and Max, and many others. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up with Leonardo’s endless series of objet’s d’amour.

His relationships never seemed to last very long. As soon as he got bored with one partner, Leo, as I called him, was off to his next roll in the hay. This went on for years. From what I could tell, he never gave these dalliances a moment’s reflection. Before long, Leonardo was off in search of his next Mona Lisa.

To be honest, I never said anything to Leo about my disapproval. I had no idea what his appeal was. What was his magnetic power over all these girls – and guys? What exactly did they see in him? Even at his youthful age, it was obvious to me that Leo had no discernable skills of any kind – other than his apparent sexual prowess. Not to be judgmental, he never came across to me as being very smart. It was not like he had six-pack abs or a killer smile. And he never cleaned up his place. It was always a total pigpen. But none of that seemed to matter in his relentless pursuit of sexual partners.

Then one day, a few years into our friendship, I introduced Leo to a new friend – Alexander. I thought they might hit it off as buddies. When I first saw them interact, I noticed that they just stared at each other, completely speechless, almost like they knew each other from somewhere but couldn’t place it. Then Leo whistled at Alexander. I have no idea why. But I could tell that they seemed to connect in some odd, almost intimate way.

As time went on, Alexander and Leo hung out together every day. They were almost inseparable. I never could quite figure out the nature of their friendship. Leo never talked about it – at least not with me. But it became clear that he had feelings for Alexander.

Then one day, I stopped by to find Leo and Alexander lying together – with a baby. And not just any baby. It turned out to be Leo’s baby! That’s when, to my shock, I discovered that Alexander was in fact Alexandra – a girl!  But she had never once corrected me when I called her Alexander. I had no idea. Leo was way too young to be a dad, I thought.

I am not one to judge, so I tried to be happy for Leo and Alexander, er, I mean Alexandra. But I wondered quietly, how long would it be before Leo abandoned Alexandra and their offspring? I was 18 when this happened. And it was time for me to head off to college.

I remember the day I finally said goodbye to Leo. I was at a loss for words. He couldn’t speak either. As I headed out the door, Leo just looked back at me, silently, with those impenetrable dark eyes. He too must have been sad because he couldn’t even muster up a smile. He just whistled and turned away. Then he started eating a carrot, something he always liked to do. Because Leo loved carrots, just like any other guinea pig.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Note: This is a true story. Leonardo was my guinea pig. I got him for my birthday in seventh grade. He routinely had sex with any guinea pig placed in the same cage with him, including Alexander, who I purchased (thinking it was a male) at the pet store to keep Leonardo company.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Trying to Go Offline

Trying to Go Offline

I’ve been told that I have a hard time unplugging from work during vacation. That’s an unfair charge. As you can clearly see, I’m all set for snorkeling. Sure hope my laptop is waterproof.

I’ve been told that I have a hard time unplugging from work during vacation. That’s an unfair charge. As you can clearly see, I’m all set for snorkeling. Sure hope my laptop is waterproof.

Life is short – especially for my wife, who’s  barely five feet tall. The years race by, we waste time, and before you know it, we discover we’ve missed out on what’s important in life: pizza.

Add to this reality our obsession with technology, which is constantly at our fingertips. It can be hard to break free from the bombardment of texts, social media and emails constantly vying for our attention. I can easily pull an all-nighter just watching Randy Rainbow videos on YouTube.

That’s why my wife and I have decided to get away from it all. Right now, we’re vacationing on a pristine island paradise thousands of miles from any major city. I won’t reveal where we are, because we’ve chosen to unplug from the hectic pace of our lives.

In the spirit of getting off the grid, I even left my laptop at home (because, frankly, who needs a laptop if you have a smart phone – just ask anyone under the age of 25). For one week, we’re going to focus on slowing down, breathing in the ocean air, and smelling the roses (though I’ve yet to spot a rose). We plan to take long hikes, kayak, and –

… Sorry about that. I just got a text from my sister. Thought it might be important. She’s been going through an issue at work with her boss… Like I said, for the next seven days, I’m committed to getting in touch with myself … just as soon as I get in touch with my broker. Hold that thought….

… Again, my apologies. I realized that there was a voicemail from my broker marked “Urgent.” Had to check it. He advised me to sell all my Sears stock while they’re still worth 15 cents a share.

…. Now, where was I? Oh yes, being totally present with my wife during our special 168 hours alone…. So, this evening, I’m surprising her by taking her to see … a penguin playing the piano! OMG, that’s hilarious. Oh, sorry. Someone just posted on FB the funniest clip of a penguin. You really need to see it. Soooo cute!

… My point is that I really want to slow my life down and be totally here, in the moment, with the most special person in my life… The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Hey, Season Two is now streaming on Amazon! There go my plans for a nature walk this afternoon with my sweetie.

This man is on top of the world, totally present with nature. What’s he thinking in his moment of Zen? If I had to wager a guess, it’s probably, “What the F? No internet? “

This man is on top of the world, totally present with nature. What’s he thinking in his moment of Zen? If I had to wager a guess, it’s probably, “What the F? No internet? “

[Nine hours later] … I’ve just finished binge-watching the second season of Mrs. Maisel. Fortunately, we have six more days here on Fantasy Island to smell the flowers and feel the ocean … BREEZ!!! Are you kidding me? The Saints are seriously considering trading Hall of Fame QB Drew Breez for a 1st round draft pick? That’s what my ESPN alert message just notified me. Unbelievable.

I know what you’re thinking – Tim, you are clearly incapable of unplugging. You need a 12-Step Program. I admit, I got off to a bumpy start, but now I’m even more determined to turn off all devices and concentrate on some us time with my lovely wife. She puts up with so much from me, standing by me through even the most stormy … DANIELS hush money lawsuit against Trump might get tossed – according to Politico. Thank goodness I’m on their email list or I’d have missed this crucial news story.

Speaking of emails, there are 78 new ones in my inbox – mostly from work. Hmmm…. I can power through them in a flash, send out a blast “Out of office” message, and still have time to chillax the rest of the trip. That’ll work.

[Three hours later…] There! Job done! I am SO looking forward to lying in a chaise lounge on the beach, sipping a Mountain Dew from a frosted mug, and reading a good book. Ugh! I can’t see the screen on my Kindle with this blazing sun! Alright, I’ll just close my eyes and listen to the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shore …. on Pandora. Or how about some Calypso music? That conga beat makes me feel like I’m on a tropical island – oh, right, I am.

That’s it. No more distractions. From now on this week, I’m only going to think about what really matters (other than pizza) and ask myself the important questions, like how to be a better husband and how to do my part to tackle global warming … how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? And should The Wall be built of Legos? Sorry, that last one was an insta-poll question from Buzzfeed. How embarrassing. I thought I had unsubscribed.

Look at this businessman. Oblivious to the beauty around him as he checks his email. So ridiculous - using all that data. Doesn’t he know the hotel has WiFi?

Look at this businessman. Oblivious to the beauty around him as he checks his email. So ridiculous – using all that data. Doesn’t he know the hotel has WiFi?

Anyway, I can’t wait to take windsurfing lessons – something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a quick study when it comes to sports, so mastering this should be a snap… chat from our elder daughter. She sent an adorable video of her two kitties chasing the laser pointer. Never seen that before!

Like I was saying, it’s all about the here and now. In a minute, I’m going to take my wife out on a bicycle built for two. Won’t she be surprised when she learns that … Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France! Okay, I don’t know who he is, so I guess I could have ignored that alert.

Hmm, I think I should just leave the phone in our room, so it can’t distract me anymore. Time to get some fresh air and enjoy the warmth of the tropical sun … which reminds me, my friend Elizabeth has an amazing Pinterest site with tons of photos of tropical flowers and beaches and even videos of wind surfers. And I can view them all from the comfy couch in our hotel room.

Ah, it’s wonderful to unplug for a change.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Mr. Popularity – The Early Years

Mr. Popularity – The Early Years

This is my high school senior yearbook photo. I know what you’re thinking: Tim, you look so cool – not the least bit nerdy.

This is my high school senior yearbook photo. I know what you’re thinking: Tim, you look so cool – not the least bit nerdy.

I am often asked, “Tim, were you always so popular and beloved by all who know you?” Admittedly this question is usually posed during a recurring dream in which Scarlett Johansson presents me with the Pulitzer Prize for Bad Humor Writing. You may find this hard to imagine, but in my younger days, I was not nearly so popular with the girls or envied by the guys; nor was I as comfortable making verifiably false claims as I am today.

The truth is, before college, where I assumed a totally new identity and back story, I was rather shy and nervous – especially around the fairer sex. I blame this on attending the Albany Academy, an all-boys’ school, for twelve years and being a late bloomer (I expect to start blooming any day now).

In addition to these impediments, I was one of the lucky teens who wore braces, was afflicted by acne, and was slightly overweight. I also lived nowhere near any of the other kids in my school, so getting together with them was a no go. Then sprinkle in a large dollop of parental disapproval from an extremely strict father who perpetually described me as “a disappointment,” and you have the perfect recipe for an awkward young man not exactly brimming with self-confidence.

At the Academy, a private military school, there were the usual cliques – the cool kids, jocks, theater guys, and stoners. I belonged to a very small and eclectic group consisting of one member: me. I was the pleasant enough but somewhat serious “straight arrow” who was considered too much of a bookworm to invite to parties. On most Saturday nights, while the majority of my class was getting drunk at Woody’s house or Hayward’s or Robb’s, I was typically at home, falling asleep watching Mannix at 10:00 on CBS. 

Truth be told, I didn’t really care that I missed all the parties, in part because I did not drink (still don’t), and also, I just was not into that scene. I found meaning in studying – all the time. There’s a word for someone like me who routinely got good grades and devoutly completed all homework before allowing himself to play: A Nerd.

I guess, if I’m being honest with myself (something I try to avoid as much as possible), I was a little behind the curve in a few areas – like what to say on a date… or what to wear on a date… or how to get a date. Continue reading “Mr. Popularity – The Early Years” »