A Caturday Cattoo

In the name of my cats and their shelters, I’ve bought t-shirts, catnip pillows, spent ridiculous amounts on yearly calendars, dropped off donations ,and petted strange heads. All pretty mild mannered ways to support the kitties.

However last weekend I was offered a bolder option: cattoos!

I really like tattoos and I love cats so…yea…this sounded like the best combination fundraiser ever. (Based on the profit, I’d even propose it for my high school publication if my audience wasn’t 1500 under-aged students.)
Colony Cats & Dogs, former shelter to Sookie and Olivia Wigglebothum, and local tattoo shop Envy teamed up for an amazing fundraiser. All profits went to the shelter; the shop got tips and foot traffic, essentially donating materials and labor. The shop prepared nine flash options-small tattoos that can be applied quickly without variations-at $60 a pop. I was in the chair maybe 10 minutes and most of that time was the artist prepping his station. A couple of lines later and I was on my merry way.img_2948

Miles says it doesn’t look like him, “That cat could be ANYONE.” His classic cat disdain pretty much mirrors Bella’s impression of my back piece which was inspired by her and some artwork purchased on a 17 day road trip. If there aren’t treats, nobody cares.

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While the cats may not have been impressed, the shelter reported an impressive $2600 in the four hours that the fundraiser lasted. The artists cranked out 40 cattoos (there were also a few dog options), and the shelter set up a table in the lobby with pet related jewelry, magnets, stickers, and, of course, catnip pillows.

You know what I bought for the fur kids.

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Supervising and Stranger Things

My home life is a little like that scene from Office Space when Peter points out that he has eight bosses micro managing his existence.

Given, I only have four different bosses, but they are completely up my ass about every thing that I try to do. They question my competence at every turn. I can’t even carve pumpkins without major supervision.

First, there has to be an inspection of the pumpkins. Were these REALLY the best ones?

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Then my top supervisor, the Helper, has to be a part of the whole process. Step by step, he has to put in his squash related know-how. “Back when I was just a feral kitten, we only picked the biggest pumpkins…”

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It turns out that he was mostly concerned with watching the rest of Season 1 of Stranger Things even though he and the other bosses were very upset by the flashback where Eleven appears to be torturing a cat with her powers. They don’t like yowling cats unless they are the ones doing it.

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I think the giant knife really completes the photo.

My at-home bosses don’t realize that at my “real job,” I was told to either watch the series this weekend or be ostracized from lunch discussions. I can’t deal with being ignored at both of my “jobs.”

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Finally, all the bosses had to weigh in on my job performance. I don’t think that this was really my best work, other years have been better. However, none of them have fired me yet or pooped in my shoes.

Kitten Therapy 

The Kitten Room at the shelter is not much bigger than my bathroom; but like the Tardis, the Kitten Room’s power is way bigger on the inside.

In the Kitten Room I am a benevolent tree, an Ent if you will, being climbed by a horde of tiny, squirming creatures, all vying for cuddles. One rooted leg is assailed by a miniature black panther who gives up around my knee. The other leg supports a tiger who may have hit the weight limit for climbing jeans, as his needle-sharp claws dig deep into my hip. Meanwhile a tinier, wiggly tiger is running laps around my neck and periodically sticking his nose in my ear to demonstrate purr potential.

While the slightly larger tiger makes sleepy eyes at me from the crook of my arm, tinier tiger keeps zooming. He stops once in each lap to settle on the convenient shelf my chest makes and nose boop the calmer tiger. Then back to zooming.

Whenever I manage to sit down or bend over, a black and white, cow-spotted kitten gives me “soft pets,”patting at my face with insistent paws. This tears me up a bit as it immediately reminds me of Bella Luna’s possessive paw to my cheek when we first met at her shelter. Cow kitten then hangs out on the elevated foot of my crossed leg.

Forty-five minutes later, I’m covered in strange cat hair and strange smells. I will have to leave my shoes and clothes in the garage when I get home. Windowless, attached garages are essential for extended shelter cat petting. My cats will know I’ve been cheating on them with younger, more enthusiastic versions of themselves. 

Forgiven.

Since I didn’t fall madly in love and bring home a fifth,- this is the miracle of the day– they’ll forgive me.

MomBert makes me pretty things

My colleagues and the people who sell skulls for ridiculous amounts of money ($50, really?) at flea markets, like to remind me that deer skulls don’t NORMALLY show up in your family’s yard.

Deer skull number two begs to differ.

MomBert found this skull hanging out by the BF’s communal dumpster. Who throws away a perfectly good deer skull? Sure, the dogs had chewed on a few antler points, but it was otherwise intact.

She asked me what she should do with it and I said, “BEDAZZLE IT!” Jazz hands!

So she did.

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MomBert has been playing around with stained glass for a few years now. Usually she adheres the glass to old windows,…..old window…found deer skull…same, same.

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She was going for a floral theme. The final product now graces my living room. Cat approved.

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Cats vs. Butterflies: We were bad.

Friday night, the last two chrysalises had just started showing their inhabitants and started to darken. I thought I had a couple of days yet before anyone hatched.IMG_1483

However, when I got up Saturday morning, I had two freshly emerged monarchs. All four have left a red, bloody looking goo behind on the netting of the enclosure. I’ve learned this is called meconium and is waste material.

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Knowing that I would be out for the day and that these two needed time to dry out, I gathered fresh flowers to leave as snacks and planned on releasing the butterflies that afternoon.

Of course, I came home to chaos and destruction. What’s new?

When I left, one butterfly was already at the top of the enclosure starting to open and close its wings. I’m guessing that the second one joined it at some point.

Then I’m speculating that my fur crew could no longer take the unexplained movement high up on the book shelf and took action. I remember Olivia’s fascinated stare when the very first butterfly hatched and started exercising its wings. Two might have been too much.

I’m assuming that, egged on by Miles, Olivia somehow leaped the six foot height of the bookshelf and knocked the enclosure to the floor. Either that or they formed a cat ladder and stood on each other because nothing else was was disturbed.

At any rate, I came home to butterflies on the floor.

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Fortunately, both butterflies seemed to have escaped the pile of objects that would have tumbled off the shelf with them.

At least one butterfly was coherent enough to talk shit to Birdie.

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“Yea, you’re all tough talk inside a net, bug!”

Before even feeding the furred ones, I took my traumatized bugs out for release.

This was the type of goodbye a girl anticipates. Enough time for butterfly selfies.

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The second butterfly just wanted away so it could rest in my maple tree.

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In the end, four of the six caterpillars managed to make it to the butterfly stage. I’m not sure if those statistics are good or bad. Articles said to expect fatalities, but it’s never fun to see a little creature die.

Amazingly, this is one out of many, many projects that I actually got done. DIY butterflies.

Tales of the World’s Longest Yard Sale, Days 3-5, Year 4: The Hobbits head into Mordor, or whatever hot place they had to go to melt that stupid ring

Thursday, August 4, 2016, saw us in the car by 8 a.m., climbing the treacherous (at least to me) switchbacks of 127 up Signal Mountain. I can’t imagine that road as my daily commute, but people do it. We arrived at our first tent city in Fairmount on the mountain by 9 a.m. We’ve never started the sale on the very first day! A momentous occasion.

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Day 3: We’re on a mountain!

There we ran into a vendor traveling in a VW bus and creating her own very cool ” I picked 127″ t-shirts. I went with her racerback for yoga usage.

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We don’t know those women who are also wearing our cool t-shirts.

That day I was also testing my own fashion theory: the fishing/hunting vest. In Ohio the previous year, I had seen two women sporting multi pocketed vests. It seemed like a genius move! They removed the back strain of a purse -a problem for me-and the uber dorkiness of the fanny pack which was what I was wearing to combat back ache. I cruised thrift stores and eBay until I found a vest suitable for experimentation. It had Velcro pockets, snapped pockets, zippered pockets, secret pockets, and pockets within pockets! Unfortunately, the fabric wasn’t very breathable and eventually felt like it weighed 50 pounds. If you find Walter Sobchak attractive then I was smokin’ hot. ( I was also sweating balls hot) The Dude abides.

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Nihilists!

There were plenty of big stops on the mountain, but our increasingly sweaty travels were interrupted by rainstorms. Rainstorms that added to the heat, humidity, and muck.

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Lone Oak Community Center hooked us up with lunch, air conditioning, and an indoor toilet!

Stops with shade were a relief, but then we’d find ourselves hightailing it to the car when clouds and lightning rolled in. aug4thurs_day1sale1

It was the end of a long day as Siri directed us up gravelly switchbacks over what felt the millionth mountain of the trip. Oddly enough, there aren’t a lot of chain hotels in rural Tennessee. The easiest place I could find for us to end the first day of the sale was a state park lodge at Fall Creek Falls. From the outside the place was a cement block, but it was cheap and convenient.

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We opened our door into the cement block and stepped into the lake. The lodge was built along the curve of the lake and each room opened onto a balcony overlooking the water. Who needs modern decor when you’ve got scenery?

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We did a slow drive on a loop through the park, checking out the waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and encountering the local deer and turkey.FallsCreek

Dinner was a just okay buffet, but we sat on the balcony later watching a lightning storm in the clouds over the lake.

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Ick. Gross. So awful!

Friday morning brought sunbeams, no more vest- goodbye, Walter- and a quicker less mountainous route back to 127 and the McDonald’s in Pikeville.

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UUUUUGGGHHH. So ugly! My eyes!

Side note: The summer of 2016 was when McDonald’s started their all day breakfast menu. Items varied restaurant to restaurant, but we were in the South, so that meant biscuits all day, every day. Heat be damned, second breakfasts happened. A lot. 

 

Our first stop in Pikeville had a weird deja vu feel. We realized we’d been there the previous day in rain we could barely see through. Eye roll and moving on.

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This truck of goats were left at the window for an uncomfortably long time. Just watching me eat my biscuit.

Our goal for the day was to make it to Crossville and few points beyond like Clark Range, revisiting points of interest from our very first year. The weather was a repeat of heat and rain.

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G.I. Joe appears to be getting a handy…or something. Only $100

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Much better picture of a hummingbird moth with the pink flowers.

By the time we made it to the mass of vendors at Clark Range, I had to close my eyes and be still for 10 minutes to convince my head and stomach that we could make this work, damnit! Aside from my sweet pickin’ t shirt, Clark Range offered another great purchase. A husband and wife team were crafting chainsaw sculptures. Their creations were spread in a wide circle around the base of a tree where the husband was doing more carvings. I bought a handsome gray squirrel. Ahhhh art.

Our hotel that night in Knoxville was a chain so while there was modern decor and several junior high football players there for a tournament, there were no amazing landscapes or Bambis wandering about. We ate dinner at Blaze Pizza (fancy pizza in like 5 minutes) and tried not to hate how we smelled.

Knoxville was supposed to be the last stop on the road to home, but I made a proposal. Year 1, we naively thought we would eat up the miles and be lunching in Jamestown, the heart and headquarters of the sale. We didn’t make it there until evening when the sale had shut down. In Knoxville, I proposed that we take a route diagonally across country to Jamestown the next morning just so we could say we’d made it there. And maybe buy a t-shirt.

Saturday morning, after battling pre-teen footballers for breakfast, we made it to yard sale ground zero in a little under two hours. The poor representative at the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce was trapped by our enthusiasm for the sale, and our desire to change in to our brand new shirts in her air conditioned bathroom.

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OMG!!! We’re here!

She gave us suggestions for a few local stops. A biscuit and a few stops later, we were yardsaled out somewhere around the Maple Hill RV Campground and truly ready for home and cats.

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MomBert’s stash.

 

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My goods.

I spent $130 on yard sale items. MomBert can’t remember what her total was. Overall, the weather of year four made the a rough endeavor.

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Tales of the World’s Longest Yard Sale, Day 2 continued, Year 4: The Hobbit Life After Lunch

Stuffed on southern cooking and hoping for no more Fat Man’s Squeeze situations, we headed further over the mountain to go into the mountain! Silly hobbits.

It’s always 60 degrees in the Ruby Falls caves which was a relief from the weather outside. We queued up and joined a group to be sucked two stories down into a tourist friendly cave.

Rule one of the tour: TOUCH NOTHING! Some of the formations are still “living” and forming. Human hands and skin oils mess with them. There was one formation that we were all allowed to touch just to get it out of our systems, and we touched the Hell out of it!

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Yea, we’re gonna touch this formation! Touch it!

The tour was a casual 1 mile round trip to the falls with goofily named, unnaturally lit rock formations along the way and moments of intimacy when another tour group had to squeeze by on the way back to the elevators.

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Bacon. 

Not thinking about the amount of rock overhead was easy until the guide started spouting facts and history. In 1828, Leo Lambert and excavators discovered a passage and decided to crawl through it for 17 hours, ultimately making it back to the falls. Their tiny, initial passage was preserved in the wall.

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MomBert has the Cave Crazies! Too much rock overhead!

Ruby Falls is 145 feet high. It’s the largest underground waterfall in the U.S. and, as the guide helpfully pointed out, we were about 1200 feet underground. Roughly the Empire State Building. Over time the pool that the Falls hit has shifted and spread. In 1988, we might have been able to walk behind the water but not anymore.

I find it odd that it’s not enough to see a really beautiful, fascinating bit of nature; there also has to be a light show.

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We retraced our path, retouched the touchable formation, and shot up three stories to pop out conveniently on the upper level at the gift shop. Before hitting the gift shot, we climbed stairs up two more levels to check out another hot, windy view of Chattanooga. It was only 2:30 and we had run through our planned activities.

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A Internet search took us to the Knitting Mill Antique mall. It was the perfect find! a massive old factory building, but unfortunately all the signage said “Going Out of Business.” We cruised the booths and enjoyed the junk. It was too early for more than a snack, but a loud food discussion turned me into an eavesdropper. Two older women were heatedly debating barbecue joints while rearranging their merchandise. It was Purple Daisy versus Nooga-Q and they were literally arguing and assessing every menu item from meats to cornbread and homemade chips. I rarely do this, but I blatantly played tourist and inserted myself into the conversation, asking for specifics and making sure I had the correct restaurant names. Hey, a hobbit’s gotta eat dinner.

Meanwhile we found an adorable, retro-decorated gelato and coffee spot, Milk & Honey , a few blocks away and re-energized. A few local shops later, and we were ready to eat local again.

Nooga-Q was the winner since the Purple Daisy seemed like more of an eat outside situation-not in that heat. Nooga-Q was a tin building in the middle of a strip mall parking lot. Our waitress seemed surprised that we were staying, most of their business was drive thru. We were the lone customers for a little while, but the wall of articles and local awards was reassuring. Tender brisket, fried okra, coleslaw for days, our meal was delicious. It would be the best thing we ate for the next two days.

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To be continued: yard sales on mountains