Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cool Link

Live feed of a wild female barn owl.


According to my niece, Michele:

One owlet hatched Sat. night and 4 more are to hatch yet... we've seen the male, McGee, bring her countless rats, mice, etc. to eat and to feed the 1 owlet. They eat fresh meat from day one! The owner of the box has been on several times telling about her and how he came to build the box on his property several years ago. It has been awesome to see how they live. I leave it up on my computer so that when I hear sounds in the box, I know to look at the screen.

In Lieu of Writing, More Puppy Pictures

It's Spring Break and as I normally do on break, I'm trying to catch up with the piles of grading that have accumulated.

Thus, the puppies. Thanks to Emily and her family for letting me exploit the cuteness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guess What Color the Daddy Is

These golden retriever puppies are the new arrivals at the home of my nephew's soon-to-be inlaws.

They are ridiculously cute, no? Really almost unlawfully cute. And how dare that third puppy from the right show off his pink belly, and put him widdle back paws in a sickeningly adorable position like that.

I'm calling the authorities.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


I spent all day grading papers by freshmen. I must say, this cluster of kids is pretty smart. They don't provide me with as many catastrophic sentences as some classes have.

The sentence that won the prize as my favorite, today:

Life is something that everyone alive can relate to.


One of my all time favorites is here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Candy's Very Bad Cat Mistake, Part Two

As it turns out, when Mom was leaving for the nursing home to see Dad, around 10:30, she and Scott were listening attentively, out in the garage, as she started the car. No cat sounds. Scott stood near the car and told her to back it up about 6 inches. She did.


Oh no. Otto really had hidden somewhere inside the car. Mom backed up a few more inches.

"MEOW!" But not a "Dear God I'm being ripped apart in here" kind of meow. More like an annoyed, scared sound. Or so they hoped.

As the mailman came and went, turning around at the end of the street to be on his way, he eyed the situation with a perplexed look. Mom was driving down the road a few feet at a time, and Scott was walking alongside the car, in no coat, in his slippers, listening for the meow and trying to figure out if they could get the car to a mechanic who could help.

Jump ahead to when the phone woke me up.

Scott: We're at the mechanic's place. He's taken a bunch of parts off the car and the cat is still stuck up inside it. We need you to come and take your mom to the nursing home because this is going to take a while.

I try to process what he has just said as I'm throwing on some clothes. The cat was stuck. In the car. All night long. And I am a moron for making it freak out so severely that it had to ram itself up into the dark bowels of the car to escape me.

When I get there, Mom's Lincoln is up on the lift and Tony, head mechanic, is still removing pieces of the car. He is sweating his brains out. His wife, who works in the office, is standing nearby and so are two or three other mechanics and my mom and Scott. There is a feeling of amazement in the shop, and no one can believe that "Otto" has managed to get himself lodged so far up into the guts of the car. With all the frantic deconstruction of this Lincoln Zephyr, the cat still cannot even be seen. Scott, always prepared with a camera, has been taking photos of the whole process.

More pieces removed. More sweating. Everybody concentrating.

There it is. A paw. A pitiful little paw wrapped around a pipe as though it is the side of a life raft.

This cat is as much a captive of this monstrous Lincoln as Gulliver was of those rotten little Lilliputians and their tiny ropes and metal spikes.
And we are a captive audience.

More work, more unscrewing things and trying to get to the frightened cat.

And there it is. His face. His poor face squeezed into a grimace, the way a child's face is squeezed by the pushy great aunt with the orange lipstick who smells like gardenias and who wants "a little kiss."

Otto looks absolutely miserable. Scott's camera flash probably doesn't help, but seriously, we had to have pictures of this.

I have brought a large cardboard box with me, so if and when Otto is extracted, I can put him into it (yes, trap him again) and take him home to his own neighborhood. Or to the vet, if he's hurt when they get him out of the car. IF they get him out. Tony is saying things that are terrifying me.

Tony (sweating and looking for another tool): I gotta get some pressure off his head.

I don't have the presence of mind to think "Well, if he's still alive after all this time, the pressure on his head probably isn't life threatening." I feel as though I'm in a cat E.R. and at any moment I will hear someone yell "CLEAR!"

Then Tony says "Now we need to get the pressure off his chest." I have never seen a mechanic sweat like this. His forehead is in full-blown furrows and he is rushing around like an army medic in the field, grabbing another instrument, making another try to save a life. Even if the soldier is just a cat.

I can tell that Tony and his wife are not "it's just a cat" people. They are both talking to Otto and trying to comfort him, even though it seems to comfort only the humans in the room. The cat is in SqueezeDom and has very little interest in our stupid words. He is more concerned with the occasional hand that tries to push or pull him, to loosen him just a little from the Lincoln's vise grip. Tony's employees do what they can to help. But Tony finally just wants everyone out of the way. He has now removed the back left wheel, dropped half of the suspension (which, Scott tells me, consisted of loosening the springs, shock absorbers, and control arm).

Either Scott or I have to leave to take Mom to the nursing home. She needs to feed Dad his lunch. All of us want to stay. Scott is a good husband in many ways, and at this moment he proves it again by letting me be the one to stay. He hands me his camera. "Get a picture of when they get him out!"

I take the camera and put it in my pocket. I know that my job has to do with the box, not the camera.

Finally, Tony is able to grab both of Otto's back legs. Otto wants them back. Do not grab my back legs, Otto is thinking. But there is no way on God's white, frozen, Indiana earth that Tony is going to let go. One of his assistants reaches in a hand from the other side of the wheel and pushes Otto's head. Another person pries Otto's paw from around the pipe. He does not want to let go. But he does.

I feel my body moving closer, holding my giant cardboard box. I am the midwife, and the baby is coming. And it is breach.

As I slide the box directly under the furry tug of war, Tony gently but firmly pulls the legs one last time and a long stretch of cat comes out. Plop. Into the box. I rub my hands gently over the poor, traumatized cat body, and he seems fine.

I close the box and pretty much throw my body across it. Because this cat is not getting away. He is especially not getting away right under the car that just birthed him. Tony would then take me and ram my ass up into the car guts, and then he would weld me in just before he set the car ablaze.

Scott returns from shuttling Mom. And no, I wasn't able to get a photo of the birthing, I tell him. I was not going to flash a light into Otto's eyes just as he was emerging into the world again, and cause him to push off Tony's face with his hind feet, like Michael Phelps on the final lap against the Australian.

Mom is calling my cell phone. She is with Dad and wants to know if the cat has been pulled from the car yet.

"Yes," I tell her. "And it's a boy."

It takes Tony an hour to put the car back together. He has gotten behind on all his other jobs, and is exhausted from the Otto Birth. I offer him fifty bucks (a pittance for what he's managed to do) and really try to get him to take it. But he won't.

"Don't do that," he says. "I did my good deed for the day."


Scott and I take both cars back to Mom's condo. I have the Box o' Cat in my backseat and Scott drives the Lincoln. He stops at CVS to buy an expensive little can of cat food for Otto.

I get home first, and have not yet opened the box. I'm waiting in the garage and have left my car in the driveway. Scott is tired and also traumatized. Which explains why he pulls up in the Lincoln and says "Want me to pull into the garage?"

My head explodes. I grab a mop and clean it up. Then I close the garage door and the three of us (Scott, me, and the box of cat) congregate inside. I gingerly lift Otto out of the box and pet him and tell him how very sorry I am for being such a rotten moron. I offer him the food and some water. He doesn't want anything but his freedom, and perhaps a few minutes in a dark alley with me and several of his gangsta friends.

OK, I get it.

One more check over his body. It is amazing that after all that, he is not even dirty.

So as not to freak him out with the sound of the garage door, we take him outside via Mom's front door, and let him go.

Goodbye, Otto. Whatever your name is. I'm sorry. At least the chicks will dig your story.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Candy's Very Bad Cat Mistake, Part One

When Scott and I went to visit my family two weekends ago, we expected our usual peaceful time in small-town Indiana. When we got to Mom's condo at 8:00 Thursday night, we unloaded our car. While Scott was inside and I was outside, I was caught off guard by a loudly meowing cat sitting on the sidewalk next door. All I could see was a silhouette.

It had been a long time since I'd held a cat. Hankie has been gone for a year and a half, and we still aren't ready for another cat. But every time I see one, I turn into a 5-year-old who drops everything just to try to have a chance to pet it and talk to it and pick it up and ask it what it thinks about life and about its paws and about having a tail.

This cat comes right over to me, and I bend down to pet him. It is just light enough outside that as he gets closer, I can tell he is a yellow tabby, like Hankie was. I see his face and he looks just like Hankie. My ribcage melts into a big white flower pot around my heart and I lean over to pick him up. I have to make sure Scott and my mom see him. He's a little squirmy and uncertain as I hold him, but I am hellbent on showing him to them, and maybe feeding him, which is the second most unwise thing you can do to a roaming neighborhood cat. (He is not skinny or unhealthy looking, so I think he has an owner.) Let me tell you a story about what is FIRST on the list of unwise things to do with a roaming neighborhood cat.

I walk into the garage, still holding the cat. Let's call him Otto. Scott opens the door that leads into the garage from the condo. Otto startles.

Candy: LOOK at this kitty, Scott!

Scott: Wow. (He sees the resemblance.) That's uncanny!

The cat really wants to be let loose now.

Candy: Close the garage door so I can put him down and get him some food.

Scott pushes the garage door button. Otto goes apeshit. He claws my chest through my down coat and gets in a good swipe on my neck. This causes a combination of goose feathers and blood to blur my vision as the cat jumps down and shoots under my mom's parked car like a bottle rocket. Completely undeterred from my goal of befriending Otto, I run into the condo and beg my mother, in the kitchen:

Candy: MOM! There's a kitty out here who looks JUST. LIKE. HANKIE. What can we feed him?

Mom, Scott and I scramble around the kitchen to pour some milk into the lid of a Wendy's to-go container. The lid has a tiny hole in the middle and as the stream of milk follows me around the kitchen, we try again. OK, ready to go. I'm so happy that this cat will have a treat!

Back in the garage, Otto has vanished. I am perplexed. Oh please, God, don't let him have crawled up into the engine of the car. I know cats do this. In fact, when Hankie was a stray neighborhood kitten, before I ever laid eyes on him, he had crawled into a warm car engine, seeking shelter. Thankfully, my neighbors heard him and let him out.

I go back inside.

Candy: MOM! Do you have a flashlight? One that works? (I am skeptical because the last time I tried to arm her with functional safety gear, her flashlight had fallen apart like ash in my hand when I unscrewed the cap.)

Mom comes out to the garage and says "Here's a flashlight!" It is one of those intense halogen lights and the beam hits me in the eyes and for a moment, I no longer think of the cat because my retinas melt into my skull. I go toward The Light. But then I see Jesus coming toward me in a long white robe saying "You can't come into the light right now. You need to find Otto. That is one of my favorite cats. Get back at it." Before I can ask him if he's seen Hankie around lately, my sight returns and I take the dangerous flashlight from my mother's hand.

I am like a C.S.I. detective. I shine the beam all around me, even though the fluorescent lights are on full blast. I look in every corner of the garage, behind the upended gardening utensils, behind the to-be-recycled newspaper pile, behind the trash cans, even inside the trash cans. Nothing.

It is time to face the possibility that this cat did find his freaked-out way up into the car. I lie on my back on the garage floor, shining the light up and around each tire. I stick my face as far under the car as it will go. I meow. I shine the light. I meow.

It's time to look under the hood. I pull the hood-release lever on the dash. Scott opens the hood and I peer inside the engine's every nook and cranny with my C.S.I. light and still, I am catless. Scott and I decide to open the garage door and see if the elusive Otto comes bounding out to run down the street. We open it. We wait. No cat appears. We close the door to keep from heating the entire neighborhood.

I mull over the idea that the cat could've been a ghost.

Refusing to give up, I go fetch some chicken lunch meat and put that on a little plate next to the lid of milk. We go inside to leave the bashful cat alone, hoping he will come out to dine on the irresistible fare we've left for him. I spend the evening going into the garage every twenty minutes. Sometimes I turn the light on; sometimes I use only the flashlight. I inspect the plate of chicken to see if even a molecule of meat has been moved. Nothing. I get close to the car, I lie next to it, I beg it to return the cat to me if it has indeed schlarped him up. I may as well be asking a volcano to cough up the virgin.

The committee of me, my mom, and Scott comes to the hopeful conclusion that the cat did dart out of the garage when the door was open, and we just weren't watching closely enough. There is nothing else to be done. But I keep going out to the garage, meowing and "kitty-kitty"-ing and keeping my vigil.

I finally go to bed, way later than everyone else in the condo. When I wake up at 11:00 a.m., it is because the phone is ringing nonstop. I ignore it the first few times it goes to the voice mail. I doze again immediately. Then it occurs to me that someone may be needing me to wake up.

PART TWO: Coming soon...

Thank You

I was awake until 6 a.m. thinking about Dad. I just got out of bed at 12:30 p.m. and called Mom. She said Dad is back to his "old self." And although his "old self" is long miles and a dark walk through unfamiliar terrain from who he was originally, it's another phrase that has broken off its outer shell and become a relative term. He's not the Dad we used to have, but he's the one we can love and comfort now.

He is not agitated today, and we are filled with gratitude. Thank you for your part in the prayers.

Monday, March 01, 2010

If You're the Praying Kind...

I would really appreciate prayer for my mom and dad. So far, in this past year of Dad being in the nursing home, it's been tough in many ways. But overall, compared to what some of the residents are going through, Dad has had it easy. ("Easy" has become a completely relative notion.) He has not been agitated more than a couple minutes at a time, and has been pretty calm.

Today, agitation set in, big time. Mom told me that out of nowhere, Dad thinks he needs to get his shoes and uniform ready, and needs some money, because the bus is coming to pick him up to take him for Army service. He is panicky and upset, and nothing has soothed him. My sister was there with Mom this evening, at Shiny Meadows, trying to talk him back to the present.

My sister emailed:
I showed him a picture of him and Mom (with him in his Army uniform). I pointed out that he was wearing his uniform and had already done his time in the Army. I asked him how long he was in the Army and he didn't remember. Mom and I did, however and we told him over and over he had already been in the service. Mom finally told him the Army was not that desperate yet - they did not take 91 year old men. He said "Am I 91 - are you sure?"

And on it went. He also thinks the son of old friends has been killed. (This did not happen, even way back.) With the aid of some Ativan, they did get him to settle down slightly.

There is a vicious storm going on inside his head, and we are all powerless. God isn't. Please, if you will, keep Dad (and Mom) in your prayers.