Thursday, June 29, 2006

Good Peggy | Bad Peggy & Catnip Kitty

Last week was one whopper of a week.

On Tuesday, June 20th, I came home from work to a pile of lumber in my front yard. Not just in the yard, but on the grass. That was the last straw. I’d had it with National Deck and Patio (NDP). I can’t believe how stupid they could be.

This pile consisted of the correct size fence boards that they were supposed to install the previous week – (actually, the previous month, per our contract, but Maryland vendors ignore minor details like delivery dates, end dates, etc.).

So, despite my strict instructions about leaving materials at the curb instead of in my driveway or on the grass, NDP still didn’t get it right. I called the salesman, who said he’d have it taken care of. But he wasn't what I'd call the brightest lightbulb in the chandelier and hadn’t kept one promise yet, so I moved the fence boards off the grass and onto the sidewalk myself – at 6:30 the next morning.

NDP – which really stands for No Damn Productivity - was also aware that my HOA doesn’t allow materials to be left in front of my home for more than 24 hours. So, did they move them in that time period? Heck no. It was a week later that I left the operations manager a voice mail saying to move the materials around to the back of the house. When I came home that evening, the fence boards were gone. I mean gone. Completely. Some NDP delivery guy had actually hauled the boards off. I wondered if I'd ever get my fence.

After that, things just got weirder, and that's not counting the torrential rains, the ear-drum-busting thunder cracks in the middle of the night, the mudslide that appeared in front of my driveway the day the wood disappeared from my sidewalk, and other unexpected acts of nature that occurred last week.

On Wednesday, June 21, I received an email from Madison’s new guardian. Although her name is Peggy, I prefer to call her Miss Piggy, a.k.a, Bad Peggy. You see, Good Peggy lives down in Florida. Good Peggy is a true cat lover and one of my dearest friends, despite her neurotic fear of baby birds. Bad Peggy, on the other hand, is a Marylander. Need I say more?

This email from Bad Peggy, which arrived in my Inbox nine days after I regrettably gave Madison to this woman, simply stated, “What time will you be home this evening?” I replied and told her “After 7:00.” I didn’t know what she was planning. And, believe me, all day long I wondered what was to happen that evening.

Wait, let me back up nine days. There's a history to receiving that email from Miss Piggy.

On June 2, I had a 6:00 appointment with this Peggy woman to come over and pick up my sweet, adorable cat Madison and take her home. (My other beloved kitty, Martin, had grown extremely anxious over Madison's 2-month presence and had resorted to neurotic behavior. Essentially, he was living in fear, so I had to find a new home for Madison, which was sad.)

I'd sent out an email to a bulletin board alias at work that morning, and a co-worker (whom I didn't know) forwarded it to her friend Peggy, who responded with a note about what a "beYOOtiful" cat Madison is. I felt sorry for this woman, because according to her friend she’d lost a cat to cancer a couple of months previous.

To make a really long story not nearly short enough, this Peggy (Bad Peggy) was supposed to arrive “just after 6:00pm” that Friday. But she did not, and the time kept getting later and later – with no phone call from her. This inconsiderate behavior worried me. And I was agonizing over giving up Madison as it was. Every minute that passed was painful.

I wondered, Is this stranger responsible enough to take home and care for this expensive and precious Maine Coon? Why hasn’t she called? Is she going to show? Should I call Shannon like I promised I would if this woman didn't show?

Several other people had expressed interest in adopting Madison (one woman named Shannon, in particular, whom I’d promised I'd call at 7pm if the other woman didn't show). By 7:00PM, she still hadn’t shown, so at 7:10 I put a note on my front door saying that I’m sorry, but I promised Madison to someone else if you didn’t show.

I didn’t have a phone number to call her. In fact, I didn’t even have her address.

Well, BP finally arrived an hour late, at 7:15 and started ringing my doorbell, despite the note that nicely said, Go away you wicked witch. I just wanted her to leave; I was no longer comfortable giving her my precious Madison. I got on the phone with Good Peggy to discuss the situation further. About 10 minutes later, I looked out the window, and BP was still parked in my driveway! I figured she’d be long gone. I hung up from Peggy, and the phone started ringing. I didn’t pick up. This woman left me a long-winded message, begging me to call her and give her Madison. I didn’t call back.

But Bad Peggy stayed outside my house and kept calling. I finally decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and picked up the phone. I decided to "do the right thing," or so I thought at the time. Miss Piggy carried on like a kid in a candy store, begging me to let her have Madison. I told her that not showing and not calling led me to doubt that she was responsible, blah, blah, blah. But she went on and on about how she “drove all the way from Silver Spring,” (a whopping 20-25 miles) and how her friend could vouch for her.

I got sick of the whining and let her and her friend into my house, against my better judgment. She asked to see Madison, and I let her. That was my mistake. She insisted on taking Madison home and did everything in her power to make me feel bad because she drove all the way from Silver Spring. And I did feel badly. And when Miss Piggy insisted on taking Madison’s brand new pretty pink carrier, despite bringing her own cat carrier with her in the car, I even gave in to that. Dang!

I totally caved. I let Madison go with Bad Peggy. When BP put the cat in the car, I said, “You’re going to belt her in, right?” She nodded but didn’t move toward the car to do so. I walked over to hug BP and thank her for taking the cat, but she stood stiff as a board and didn’t respond to my gesture at all. That was weird. She drove off, and I immediately wondered if I’d just made a huge mistake.

This decision ate away at me, day and night. I couldn't sleep. My gut told me that Madison did not belong with this woman. I realized that this woman had never even mentioned her cat that had died. Had that story been true? She never mentioned anything about taking good care of Madison. She never showed one bit of concern about the cat. Everything out of her mouth was “Me, me, me.” It was all about Peggy. Peggy, Peggy, Peggy. Even Good Peggy thought that this woman only wanted the cat because of her looks and the fact that she’s a full-bred Maine Coon (worth about $600).

Several days later, I emailed the woman to ask about Madison. Bad Peggy sent me a flaming email response at my work, stating that I’d been disrespectful to her when she showed up an hour late without calling, and that she’d “held her tongue” when she was at my house and that this is why she didn’t ever want to communicate with me again, and other B.S.

I thought, Oh my GOD, I don’t want this hateful woman to have my cat. The thought of Madison living with this selfish, hateful woman tore me up. At that point, I was bound and determined to get Madison back and give her to Shannon instead. So I devised a plan. A plan that I’m ashamed to say I carried out, but happy to say, worked.

The long and short of it is, starting the next day (Tuesday, June 13th), I emailed Miss Piggy every single day, begging to get this cat back, saying I was sorry, I’d made a huge mistake, I couldn’t live without the cat, I’ll give you as much money as you want, just name your price, etc. Since she’d already played the God card with me once, I threw it right back at her in my emails, with statements like “I think it’s God’s will that you return Madison to me so that you can rescue another cat,” and more crap like that (which was actually partly true). I never got one response from her. Although I had her cell phone number (from my Caller ID), I didn’t call her. I gave her the opportunity to call me. She did not.

Finally, eight days later, out of the blue, I got the email from Miss Piggy asking when I’d be home.

That evening, a few minutes after 7pm, my phone rang. The mousy voice asked, “Susan, are you at home?” I was like, “Yes, who is this?” She said, “This is Peggy; I have your cat.” On the advice of Good Peggy, I gushed with gratitude that she called me to work something out with the cat (blah, blah, blah). Then she said again, “I have your cat. I’m outside.” I said, “You’re at my house??”

Sure enough, I hung up, went outside, and there was Miss Piggy with the ugliest scowl on her face, setting Madison’s carrier down on the driveway and throwing down the bag full of Madison’s stuff next to her. I said, “I am SO SORRY. . . ,” but instead of responding, she gave me an ugly look. (If looks could kill.) She slammed her car doors and drove off.

I was SO HAPPY that I was able to save Madison a second time. I took her up to her room to get her settled in and fed, set up her litter box and food, and brushed her. Poor cat hadn’t been combed in days. A ton of hair came off of her (and the next day she spit up three huge hairballs, so I knew that Miss Piggy hadn't fed her the right hairball management food, as instructed, much less combed her).

As I was digging Madison’s items out of the bag, I saw a stack of multi-colored index cards with handwriting on them. I was on the phone with Good Peggy as I read the first of the yellow cards out loud. It said, “This is not about a cat. You need help. You need to read [such-and-such book.]” We both started howling!! I said, “Man, I could’ve won an academy award for that performance!” (Besides, everyone who knows me knows I need help. That's a no-brainer.)

But Bad Peggy's note hit the nail on the head, as Good Peggy said – “It was never about the cat. It was about her.” There was another yellow card that said, "Indoor cats don't need to wear a bell." I noticed that Madison's pretty pink collar was missing from her stuff. So she'd thrown the collar away. The reason that Miss Madison wore a bell was for Martin's sake. I'd read that it was a good warning method for two cats trying to get to know each other.

She also left another note stating that "Laser lights are bad for cats and dogs." Man, this woman was a real freak. The laser light was gone too. No great loss. Martin didn't play with it anyway.

Finally, there was a stack of green index cards, each with a passage from the bible quoted on it. I flipped through them without reading a single quote, then threw the whole pile of index cards in my recycle bin.

I was glad I got Miss Madison away from this religious hypocrite. I called Shannon.

Shannon was happy to take in Miss Madison, but there was one problem. Her family was going out of town the next day for four days. Ugh. I was devastated. By this time, Martin had completely gotten over the whole Madison ordeal. Now I’d have to hide Madison from him and keep them separated again for four long, painful days—which was also just enough time to get attached to Madison again. I honestly wasn't sure if I could take any more emotional stress.

But I agreed to keep her those four days for Shannon because the alternative was putting her in a shelter in the interim. After what she’d already been through, I couldn’t bring myself to even consider such punishment for this poor cat who’d been tossed from place to place.

So we did it. Poor Martin. Although he never saw Madison, he suspected she was there behind the closed door of her bedroom. And he started sleeping under the bed again – but only part-time. He didn’t go completely nuts this time. He behaved fairly normally the whole time except when he was upstairs (and except for a couple times when he hissed at the air in the basement and ran off!) Another reason I was worried about taking in Madison because Martin had a vet appointment June 22nd. After the way he’d fallen apart at his last vet visit, I thought this was going to ruin it again. But I’ll have to tell you later how that went.

Shannon came over Sunday night, June 25th, in a torrential, flooding downpour, and took Madison home with her family. I cried again. But this time I was over it by the next day. Shannon sent me a lovely email telling me all about the ride home and how Madison was doing. She’s stayed in touch ever since, so I know Madison can finally be in a happy, loving home.

And Martin is, once again, back to normal. Today he finally braved a walk into Madison's old room, so I know he's going to be just fine. That's my boy!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Harpers Ferry Nat’l Historic Park

June 25, 2006

Wow, is it June 25 already? Just six more months to do your Christmas shopping, folks.

Yesterday was my friend Rashmi’s 29th birthday. (I told her it’s all over for her now.) Man, to be 29 again. . . .

Anyway, for her special day she wanted to go to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia—a town rich with history. Harpers Ferry is nestled in a beautiful valley where the Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia borders meet. The small town is surrounded on two sides by rivers – the Potomac and the Shenandoah. Driving there on Route 340, one minute we were in Maryland, the next minute we passed a “Welcome to Virginia sign,” and immediately thereafter we found ourselves in yet another state.

This might have been my first time in WV, I’m not sure. But I must say, my visit there shattered my stereotypical illusion that this state is not worth seeing - you've heard all the jokes about WV being nothing but a hillbilly state with lots of inbreeding. Me, I always thought of it as that place on the map to the left of beautiful Virginia. But, from what I saw and learned yesterday, WV is a beautiful place that played an important role in this country’s formation and the establishment of “free states.”

This little town was once a booming metropolis, famous for its role in the Civil War as one of two armories in the nation. Thomas Jefferson wanted to preserve its natural beauty, but President George Washington had an opposite plan when he established the U.S. Armory and Arsenal there in 1794. The armory employed up to 400 men who worked 10 hours a day for 20 cents per hour. Eventually the town was heavily polluted by coal smoke from arms production. It was plagued by disease and an astounding number of floods.

Harpers Ferry is also famous as the location of John Brown’s raid in 1859, when the abolitionist and several of his cronies holed up in the tiny fire engine house in an effort to steal weapons from the nearby arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Much blood was shed and, although wounded in the neck by the slash of a Marine’s sword, John Brown survived the ordeal—only to be hanged for treason and other crimes less than two months later.

The event is considered to be one of the major precipitators of the Civil War and Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation. And although many men were killed or murdered as a result of John Brown’s actions, his efforts contributed greatly to the freeing of the slaves.

So, I learned a lot yesterday. Rashmi is quite the history buff. Later she wants to visit Antietam (just 20 miles north of Harpers Ferry), the battlefield that saw the bloodiest of Civil War battles, as described on the Web:
“To view the magnitude of the losses, consider that Antietam resulted in nine times as many Americans killed or wounded (23,000 soldiers) as took place on June 6, 1944--D-day, the so-called "longest day" of World War II. Also consider that more soldiers were killed and wounded at the Battle of Antietam than the deaths of all Americans in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, and Spanish-American War combined.”
In Harpers Ferry, we toured the town. Most homes were built in the 1800’s, and interns walk around in period dress performing reenactments—like the musket demonstration given by a bright college Senior working on his History major and Civil War minor). Unfortunately, because it was such a muggy day, the actors were unable to get the musket to fire, even after three or four attempts. No spark, no fire.

Can you imagine being a soldier in a ground war where you couldn’t be sure your rifle would fire? And then, if it did fire and you managed to hit your mark, it would still take you another 60 seconds to reload and fire the next round? Man, you’d feel like a sitting duck most of the time. I’d be petrified.

It was interesting learning how the guns were made and used, how a disgruntled ex-employee of the armory shot and killed the Superintendent in his office when he was denied return to employment, and other historical facts.

We ate a birthday lunch at the Hilltop House Hotel, where they serve a buffet complete with dried coconut cake (and a hostess who acts like you're impositioning her by dragging her away from her dishwashing duties so you can be seated: "Ugh, can I wash my hands first?")

The restaurant view of the Potomac, with its kayakers, tubers, and rafters, was just gorgeous.

Happy Birthday, Rashmi! :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cat Scan

It was June 2nd when prancy little Miss Madison left our unhappy little family (with Martin in distress and me in shambles over his anxiety attacks). And it wasn't until June 20th that Martin had a "breakthrough" (as shrinks call it) and was cured of his overwhelming anxiety of the previous two months.

Up until that point, he was very careful when upstairs (in the vicinity of Madison's old room). He still wouldn't go near her room, despite my pathetic attempts at trickery to lure him in. And every time he entered or left my room, he did the whole slinking, neck-stretching, head-bobbing with eyes dilated routine, carefully scanning that doorway down the hall to see if Madison would suddenly appear and chase him down.

Is she under the bed?

Behind the door?

On the bed?
Over here?

Over there?

Is it really safe in this room now? I don't believe you. Bye.

So that's how he was for nearly three weeks. Then, on June 20th I was working in my home office (adjacent to Madison's room) when I heard a thump and saw Martin had jumped off of something and was in the hallway behind me. I went into Madison's room and checked for his body heat on the ottoman and the bedspread. Sure enough, he'd been sleeping between the pillows, right on Madison's bed!

That's when I knew he was cured of his mental ailment. My Martin was back to being his old self again. I was so happy I picked him up and hugged him.

(Meanwhile, I'd been begging Madison's evil adopter via email to please return her to me. She was such a hateful, selfish woman. I wanted to make sure that my precious baby was placed in a good home instead of with the wicked witch of the east, and I couldn't live with myself until I'd accomplished that. What an ordeal. But that's a whole other store for another blog. . . .)

New York: The Most Polite City

This is what I’ve been saying all along: New Yorkers are wonderful people. See for yourself. The results of an undercover poll completed by Readers Digest are posted in this article: New Yorkers are polite? Yes, says mag. The article also mentions which international cities have the rudest residents. (Not including Maryland - ha!)

One of the things that amazed me about New York was that, even with all the hustle and bustle and everybody being in a hurry to get where they're going, 95% of the time, a man would step back to let me step off the elevator first. It's true. I used to think that maybe chivalry wasn't dead after all.

And yes, in the Big Apple people routinely hold doors open for other people, and whenever you need directions, usually someone will offer before you have to ask.

I love New York. Maybe one day I’ll get to live there again. Or within a short drive. I'll keep buying Lotto tickets. . . .

Friday, June 16, 2006

Maryland: the "Put-Off" State

“Free state” is a misnomer. In Maryland, you’re lucky to get something that you’ve already paid for.

Just to name a few of the things that I waited months for and gave up on: chaise from Ethan Allen (ordered 2/26), washer/dryer from Sears (due 3/11), sideboard from La-Z-Boy that came in missing a shelf and brackets, entertainment center from Whats In Store (ordered 2/25), deck, patio, and fence (ordered 4/6), sofa from Jennifer's Convertibles,… and the list goes on. The worst part is the exhausting, repetitive efforts I've had to put into getting my money back after finally giving up on some of these merchants. I've sent four certified letters this past week alone.

The only place I’ve ever lived that I disliked strongly was eastern Tennessee. (Near where my sister lives – but I can get away with that statement because she doesn’t have time to read my blog, what with jetting off to Paris and Italy....) New Orleans ran a close second to Tennessee. But Maryland takes the cake. It’s not the state, either – it’s the people. It’s as if everyone here skipped the day in kindergarten when you learn the Golden Rule.

National Deck and Patio (NDP) finally started work on the deck, patio, and fence that I gave them a hefty deposit for nine weeks ago, with a promise of a “four-and-a-half week turnaround” from the sales guy. Sales Guy still hasn’t been able to offer me a valid excuse for the repeated delays, and neither did my Homeowners Association. It took the HOA six weeks (with me begging and kicking) to finally approve my “architectural change” request.

[Note to self:
Do not buy another home that is involved with an HOA. You've broken that promise twice already and look where it got you: stuck in the Put-Off state.]

Our HOA is temporarily being run by a management company called Riden-Bringhurst Associates (RBA), headed up by a woman named Judy whom I'd met at our first HOA meeting, that glorious day in May when I was elected to the board by the "cool" people in Montjoy.

Judy told me the architectural change approval would take 2-3 weeks. First, they sat on my application for three weeks. That's when I started calling them about it. Much later, they finally came back and told me that I owed them a plat drawing. But the plat is so tiny that drawing the deck on it would only take up a quarter inch. They instructed me to blow up the plat and resubmit my drawings—via email. Faxes would not be accepted. As Judy said, “We can’t sit here and take faxes from homeowners all day.” I'm thinking, "...and we're paying your salary for....what?"

They also would not approve the fence, even though my paperwork stated that the fence would be “the exact same fence” that the builder had already installed on several properties. My contractor (NDP) had referred to this fence as “shadowbox” in my HOA paperwork. Because the HOA calls this same fence "board-on-board," they denied my application. Worse, they argued with me over the name of the fence, despite the fact that I had expressed in writing, in a drawing and with a photograph exactly which fence would be installed. They kept saying, “It’s called board-on-board, not shadowbox.” It was like a broken record that I couldn't stop. I really didn't care what it's called.

So Sales Guy wrote up an addendum for my HOA, expressing that NDP was putting up the "exact same fence" and that “this fence is sometimes called shadowbox, or board-on-board.” Meanwhile, I spent half a Saturday enlarging the notarized plat given to me by the builder (which took several iterations using the copier at Staples), and then doing the drawings myself. To scale. I scanned in every single document, saved each as a file, zipped them up, and emailed them to the HOA. I also put them all in an envelope and drove to the post office to mail them that Saturday so that they'd have them Monday. I'd already waited five long weeks.

On Monday I contacted the HOA late morning. First the woman (Maryann) denied receiving my mail, and said that all my emails came with corrupt files. (I’d cc’d myself on every email, and the files opened up fine for me.) Later she changed her story and admitted to receiving my U.S. mail that morning, but said she didn’t receive the plat. I told her that the drawings I mailed to her were done on the plat. She said, “That’s not a plat.” (I'm thinking, and maybe the Wizard can get you a brain, Maryann.)

I'd followed their special instructions exactly: The plat I used was a photocopy of the notarized plat that the builder gave me at settlement – the exact document they told me to use that I spent an hour photocopying and enlarging.

Beyond that, she had the gall to once again deny my application because “shadowbox fencing isn’t the same as board-on-board." Oh my god. All my paperwork clearly stated that I was putting up a board-on-board fence "identical to the panels already up" on each lot. I even included a photo of the fence, but because NDP wrote that this fence is "sometimes called shadowbox" they wouldn’t accept my application.

“We can’t even consider shadow-box fencing” Maryann (who doesn't know a fence from a curb) insisted. I said I didn’t want them to consider it, that I fully intended (as indicated in writing) to put up the exact same fence that is already up in the community. Which part of that didn't she get? It was clear that she wanted to argue semantics with me, further delaying my application. This was all happening over email, and it didn't seem like Maryann had a grasp of the issue, so I asked her to please call me instead. But she responded in email. Aaaaaaaagh!

So I called RBA and got Debbie, whom I asked if I could please speak to Judy. She said Judy was out. I said, then I need to speak to someone else who can approve this application. But there was no one backing up Judy who, it turns out, was home sick. I said I don’t want someone who is out sick to call me. But they had her call me anyway.

I told Judy that the continued denial of my application based on semantics was unacceptable. I had already waited patiently for weeks. My neighbors sided with me 100%. I suggested to Judy (as a board member myself—and the only elected member, at that), that we get this thing straightened out and avoid treating the rest of the homeowners this way because it will only make the homeowners unhappy. She responded snidely, “Well if you’d turned in the right paperwork to begin with…” I said, “Whoa!” She was like, "Whoa nothing [young lady implied]... blah, blah, blah...."

She jumped down my throat big time. (They do that a lot here in Maryland.) That’s when she started calling me names and insulting me (not unlike Saab bitch who can park anywhere she wants "because it's a public street," despite HOA rules to the contrary that she signed off on at closing).

Seriously, RBA was being absurd about the whole thing – for no apparent reason other than the fact that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I was rightfully protesting their illegal relentless denial of my application. So Judy told me in her motherly tone, "You're being belligerent.” Belligerent?! OH. MY. GOD. Then she went on to accuse me of “bullying” her staff. I was stunned.

I didn’t know what to say for several moments. I would’ve defended myself, but she suddenly had to go - because she was home sick she "shouldn't have to deal with this." She obviously resented me because she chose to call me on her sick day.

My god these people are from another planet. I’m telling you, passive-aggressive behavior is the norm here.

Rule #2 for surviving life in Maryland: When faced with a conflict, use name-calling as an attempt to gain resolution. And then run away before the other party can respond.

The next day I researched fencing on the Internet and sent Judy and Maryann a matter-of-fact email containing links and photos showing that shadowbox and board-on-board are in fact the same fence. In the email I also mentioned that I’d spoken with “my attorney” about this ridiculous fiasco (when really I’d only spoken with my attorney’s paralegal, who's just as smart).

And that’s all it took. Three hours later the HOA emailed me my architectural change approval.

Rule #3: Remember that two most effective words in the human language are “my attorney.” You will need them here.

My next-door neighbor Dan didn’t submit his contract and application until five weeks after I submitted mine. Dan's deck was started yesterday morning and finished today, before mine, which had been started over a week ago. Funny, Dan's fence guy had also used the word "shadowbox" to describe the fence on his proposal - but I guess by then Maryann knew better than to argue with another homeowner over something she was clueless about.

To make matters worse, yesterday when I tried to leave for work, I discovered that some elves had mysteriously dumped a load of decking materials on my 7’-wide driveway in the middle of the night. My driveway was blocked. Jesus, what next? And, of course, no one is available at NDP at 7:45AM. I was dumbfounded that anyone could do something that stupid. And I was certain to make mention of that on the voicemail I left them.

I need to go back up north where the intelligent people live and work.

When the deck workers showed up at 8:20 (twenty minutes late), I went out and asked, “Who’s idea was this?” I got a blank stare. “Why would they leave these materials in front of my garage?" Nothing. My voice was rising, "When were these left here?” No response. “Do you speak English???”

“Non. No Englais.”
Great. I have no idea how to yell in Spanish.

To make matters worse, today I noticed something weird. The fence boards didn’t look as wide as the HOA-approved fence boards. So I went outside with a tape measure. Sure enough, NDP is installing the wrong fence. They are using one-by-fours instead of one-by-sixes, even after all of Sales Guy's blatant promises that he would put up “the exact same fence.” At this point, I had no reaction. I am numb to the whole concept of "exact same fence." It surely does not exist in the universe I inhabit.

I called NDP and told a woman in the office that they were installing the wrong fence and needed to come out, tear it down, and put up the right fence. (Sales Guy had the sense not to call me back at that point, I grant him that much.) They need to remove each and every slat (over 200 of them) and replace them. The loss to the company is $2 a board, according to Rudy, one of the workmen.

Maybe one day something in my life will go right. It hasn’t happened in recent memory. For ten straight months I've suffered serial bad luck. We're talking non-stop Murphy's Law speeding downhill with no brakes.

At least Martin finally has his deck and can go outside for the first time since we left Seattle in October 2004. (My nine-thousand-dollar present to my sixty-thousand-dollar cat.)

He's a happy camper again. No more Madison and now a new deck to replace her!! "Yay. Thanks, Mom! Meow."

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Too sad to blog. Momentarily, I thought I’d come up with a new word , but as it turns out, slog is already in the dictionary:
1 : to plod heavily : TRAMP
2 : to work hard and steadily : PLUG

The truth is, I miss Madison. Although I adore Martin, losing one kitty of two isn’t unlike losing one of your two children. Having a second child doesn’t make losing the other any easier. I wish there was some way we could have worked this out where both kitties could live in harmony. I can’t help but wonder, should I have given it another month? Should I have put Martin on Paxil? (Believe it or not, several folks suggested anti-depressants for my cat.)

So, on top of my grief, I’m struggling with the cognitive dissonance of whether or not I made the right decision.

Meanwhile, Martin is on the mend. He acts like his old self whenever he is on the first or second floor of my town home. But on the third floor, he is still fearful of that room – the guest room that became Madison’s. He won’t go near it. And, even though the staircase is at the opposite end of the hall from Madison’s room, Martin won’t come all the way up the stairs by himself, meaning he doesn’t sleep with me at night unless I carry him up to bed.

Earlier in the week I tried coaxing him toward Madison’s old room with treats and a plastic grocery bag (he loves to eat plastic). He considered it and stepped closer, but in the end he stayed away. Today I picked him up and slowly brought him toward the open door of Madison’s room to show him that it is empty. He hissed, and the rear claws came out. So, clearly he is not convinced she is gone.

You know, I read somewhere a while back that cats are “very emotional” animals. I didn’t know how true that is until now.

Remember when you were a kid and you’d pitch a tent in the living room? Well, I guess cats share that same adventurous spirit. Here is Martin in his new kitty tent from IKEA.

(Note the look on his face that says, "You think you can buy me. Think again. But I'm still going to enjoy my new tent. So there.")

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bye, Bye Madison

This was a bad week. I was forced to give Miss Madison up for adoption yesterday, a decision I'd struggled with for weeks, and I miss her terribly. My sweet, sweet little girl. Last night was my third night without sleep this week.

Last week, on Tuesday I think, I’d decided to try a new tactic to help Martin get over his fear of other kitties. When I went to work, I let them both out in the house to fend for themselves. I thought maybe the lady at Animal Control was right – they needed to finish a fight. Boy was I wrong.

Everything seemed fine when I got home that evening, Martin staying in his bed behind my easy chair in the basement. Madison hung out with us in the same room and did a lot of sitting and looking at Martin, but nothing else.

That night when we went to bed, I left the bedroom door open a quarter of an inch and locked Madison up in her room down the hall. At midnight, Martin hissed at the door as if Madison was out there. He went under the bed and basically stayed there for 24 hours. Same thing happened at 2:00am the next night, even though the door was fully closed. It's as though Martin was hallucinating.

Under the bed became Martin’s new haven. I was heartbroken. And the rare times that he came out from under the bed, he stepped lightly, crouched, and slinked. He wouldn’t wander the house freely and hardly ate. I was devastated. I couldn't sleep at night, especially without Martin on my pillow.

I debated whether to take Madison back to the pound that Saturday, but I just didn't have the heart and decided to give it one last try. I went back to square zero and kept them separated 24 x 7. But Martin didn’t get over it. He stayed under the bed most of the time. My vet told me that if he wasn't over it by now, he'd probably never get over it. I decided I’d have to take Madison to the pound this weekend. I was emotionally spent. Even though the thought of giving her up made me cry, it was the best thing for Martin.

My friend Jasmine suggested I post an ad on the electronic bulletin board at work – which I didn’t know about. I did that, and within minutes I had several potential takers. The woman who ended up taking Madison had lost her kitty to cancer two months ago and I could tell she was a true cat lover who would love Madison as much as I do and take good care of her. Madison and I had truly bonded over the past eight weeks. As painful as it was, I gave my baby up last night after work.

Man this is hard. See, this is why I gave up dating years ago. The breakups are just too painful!

Oh, I did learn from several people who saw my posting that Madison is a quality breed cat – she is a Maine Coon. In fact, the photo of “Triple Gr. Ch. Cajun Coons Brun Matou of Blazers” at could be a photo of Madison. Maine Coons are beautiful cats with wonderful dispositions. It’s a shame I couldn’t keep her.

As of this morning, Martin is already starting to come around. He still isn’t convinced she’s gone, and is afraid of that door to the guest room, even though he witnessed her exit out the front door in her pink bag. But I don’t think it’ll take long. He’s already “out and about” in the house today, more so than any time over the past few weeks. This morning while I was tossing and turning, he finally got in bed with me for the first time in days, snuggled up and purred. That’s the Martin I’d been missing.