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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

Carlito

Sadness can be a palpable thing. It can fill up a whole house like dense fog. Days ago, it drifted around our apartment in thick curls of scentless cloud until it had permeated every inch of air and the only way to breathe was to get out of there. I felt sorry for my mom, who is mainly confined to the apartment since she left rehab, but then I realized, her sadness probably follows her around anyway. And will for awhile. You see, on Monday, we put her sweet cat, Carlito, to sleep.

Well, wait. If I’m going to do a proper remembrance, Carlito wasn’t exactly sweet. Not to anyone other than my mom anyway. He would just as soon hiss and take a swipe at you as look at you. I rarely even pet him. Except during his declining days. He grew mellow with age as even the grumpiest old men will. Or perhaps he just didn’t feel well. Being mean takes more energy.

Maybe he was just used to being alone, a cranky, forever-bachelor, when Bella and Frankie came along to pester him like rambunctious youngsters. Ugh. Maybe he could’ve gotten used to the girl. After all, she was his kind and a little more mature, but the boy? Always bouncing around the place like a happy idiot? Always sniffing butts, stealing food and trying to play? No, thank you.

My friend Matt and I used to joke that Carlito was out of sorts because he was in the minority. He was clearly a foreigner (being brown, with a name like Carlito) and stuck with a matched set. Matt said I needed to lecture Frankie and Bella on the importance of not bullying Carlito just because he was different. He laughingly warned them of the dangers of showing intolerance and feeling superior in their whiteness like white supremacists.

Kidding aside, I think Carlito preferred Frankie. I caught him grooming Frankie on several occasions. I’m not sure what Frankie thought was going on, but he tolerated Carlito’s sandpaper tongue raking over his ears with only the occasional twitch.

Bella and Carlito never groomed each other or slept together. The closest they came was eating out of the same bowl, but really that was probably just stealing each other’s food. It didn’t matter that they were eating the exact same thing, whatever was in the other cat’s bowl was better. Then Frankie would get in the mix because there is little he loves more than cat food (except, sorry to gross you out, umm … cat poo). Mealtimes would quickly dissolve into a game of musical bowls, with me rolling back and forth yelling at and trying to seperate everyone.

There was a problem sharing the water bowl, too. At first, I thought the reason there was water all over the floor instead of in the bowl was that I must have backed into it. Then, after this seemed to occur in several different locations, I decided the often bone dry bowl of water must be evaporating. Again, I tried repositioning the bowl away from all the air conditioning vents. Still empty. I was in the kitchen one day, when I heard all the splashing. Apparently, Carlito preferred to stir his water. He didn’t like to drink from a stagnant bowl. No, his water needed to be in constant swirling motion as he drank it. Of course, then he’d take his wet paws traipsing out on the porch, through kitty litter and what have you, all throughout the house.

The mess he made was only rivaled by the amount of noise he made. He would cry when he was hungry, which was pretty much all of the time. Therefore, being an early riser, I would try to be as quiet as possible getting up on the opposite side of the house. Not closing doors, not flushing the toilet, etc. It didn’t matter. I would inevitably run into something or need to turn the water on, and then there he was, suddenly appearing with a loud, demanding cry. Then it was just minutes before a sleepy-eyed Frankie and Bella would appear, the whole house then awake at five a.m. Only Mom slept through it. Or pretended to.

Sometimes I’d see the dark shape of him looming in the hallway and be able to get to him before he cried. I’d quickly set a bowl of dry kibbles down that I had left on the counter the night before. I called it hush money. Presented hurriedly to him like bankroll to a mafia boss.

In the end, it was determined the old man had diabetes, along with other unknown ailments. These days, I still awake and look down the hallway, expecting to see him there. I flush the toilet freely now, in the early morning hours. There are no litter paw prints tiptoeing throughout the house and the water bowls are always full. Life is a lot easier, cleaner, quieter. But we loved him. And we miss him.

 

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Leave of Absence

Yesterday, I wanted to be a professional fisherman. Or not even a professional. Just a half-ass, novice, part-timer fishing for my dinner. I’ve been known to fall victim to “grass-is-always-greener” type thinking and these past months have been no different. I think it’s safe to say, that with my book finished and almost all subsequent marketing efforts put to bed, I’ve been a little depressed.

I’ve been warned about this. I remember my writing coach talking about it. It’s a real thing! Look it up. A kind of postpartum depression happens. It’s even listed in Urban Dictionary as Post-Series Depression for readers. But if readers can feel sad about an ending and miss the characters, then just imagine how the writers who gave birth to them feel! Granted, I didn’t create my mom, Frankie or myself, but the kind of self-examination required for memoir writing can leave you with a little self-doubt at the end of the process. And, much the same as anyone prone to even remotely deep thinking, I’ve been going through a “what’s-it-all-for-and-what-the-hell-is my-purpose” thing.

Yes, even me. Who, on most good days, feels my reason for being put on this earth is to impart my innermost neuroses and embarrassing foul-ups through the written word so that my readers (whoever remains anyway) can feel not so alone. Trouble is lately, there haven’t been all that many good days. Hence, my record-breaking hiatus from writing and daydreams of becoming a fisherman. Err … fisherwoman.

In the beginning of this unpaid leave of absence, say around May, I simply decided I needed another project. I dwelled on an idea for a children’s book starring a particular Pekingese pup, but that never got any traction. Then, I wondered if it was a relationship I was missing. And while my foray into the world of online dating provides lots of humorous inspiration, I’ve decided most of those mishaps are unpublishable under my real name, even for a self-deprecating writer like myself.

Then, in July, my mother took a tumble, hit her head and temporarily lost her mind. I mean for real lost her mind. At one point, she couldn’t have told you her name or how many kids she had. Long story short, it was a urinary tract infection. Turns out they can make older women crazy. I had no idea. Google it. Drink your cranberry juice, people.

Needless to say, my depression lifted. I now became consumed with hospitals, rehabs, medications and moving. The tables had turned. Or to borrow another cliche’, we had come full circle since my own debilitating ordeal. Now, my mother and I share a three-bedroom apartment. This is the important thing to remember about depression. It’s pointless. It’s futile to worry about the current state of affairs because things can always get worse.

I’m hopeful we’ve gotten through the worst of it. My mother has gotten most of her marbles back, but as many of you know, she wasn’t exactly playing with a full set anyway. And before any of you start feeling outraged on her behalf, just know I have her complete consent to write what I want. Which is good because there are some funny stories from rehab – where my mother, cooly and above it all, remarked from her wheelchair, looking at all the other old people in wheelchairs, “this is not my crowd.” She knows she is my greatest muse, just as I know and am grateful that she’s my biggest fan.

But as her fog lifts, mine begins to return. Truth is that aside from handling her finances, managing medications and removing the occasional dirty dish from the pantry, there isn’t all that much to do. I like the way my friend Matt theorized about it. My smart mind needs stimulation!

And as I gazed at the fishermen and took in the whole scene, I realized I was trying to come up with phrases to describe the way the sections of tattered seawall served as cutting blocks to their bait. Or to explain the impossible way the sun glints and sparkles off restless water using an analogy other than stars or diamonds. And so it came to me. I don’t really want to fish. I want to sit here and take it all in. Frankie relaxing on the park bench, snapping at unseen bugs, sniffing the coffee-filled breeze that rustles through the trees, the occassional train whistle or ambulance siren piercing the air.

So, I’m writing again. For now. And maybe it’ll help.

Still Speaking

In honor of this past weekend’s People’s Climate March, I’m re-running an old post. Or maybe I should say I’m re-re-running it.  It appears it’s such a personal favorite that this will be a third time viewing for long time readers. Nevertheless, now more than ever, it bears repeating…

Speaking for the Trees

I come from a long line of tree huggers.

Both my father and aunt were officers in local chapters of The Audubon Society. You know — the bird-watchers? Or, as I’ve been corrected — the birders? My grandmother is an avid birder. She has over 3,000 different birds on her master “Birds of the World” life checklist. This should impress you if you know anything about birding. I don’t. I was disappointed to find out that number is well below half of the 9,000 some odd total. Then she informed me it would raise a birder’s eyebrows. I guess I thought she’d have more. I mean, she is 94. And she’s been all over the world. Literally. She’s even looked for birds in Madagascar. The real place, not the movie!

The point is, my family likes birds. I’ve been in the car any number of times when my grandmother (or any family member, really) has hollered for whoever was driving to pull over so everyone could pile out and count the number of winged things flitting about in some ditch.

But it’s not just birds. It’s also bobcats, timberwolves, gopher tortoises, sea turtles, manatees or any other creature of the wild, particularly if it’s endangered. We like to save things. My father saved manatees attracted by the warm waters into power plants and relocated hawks or eagles off power lines when he headed up the environmental department of Florida Power & Light years ago. My stepmother is the director of a local nature center. She educates children at her nature camp and leads sea turtle walks on the beach so the public can see nesting females. She and my father have an owl cage in their backyard and frozen mice to feed it in the freezer. They were married in a swamp (nature preserve).

So with roots like these, it’s no wonder this past week’s DVD rental, The Lorax, had me in tears. A girlfriend called partway through it. “Are you watching a cartoon again?” For the record, it’s not a cartoon. It’s an animation.

And, in truth, as far as animations go — it’s no Pixar. The techniques weren’t new or unique, the writing wasn’t particularly clever and there were no catchy musical numbers. But, the message got me. I was boo-hooing by the time the last truffela tree was chopped down and the sad bears, hacking birds and oily fish were sent away by the Lorax (voice of Danny DeVito.)

I’m passionate about the environment, yes. But, unlike most of my family, I don’t feel it’s what I’m here to do. So, I’ll do the next best thing: write about it. The power of the pen.

The reason your children or grandchildren (or you yourself) should see this environmentally themed film is so we’re not raising a bunch of uncaring, money-hungry citizens of Thneedville. I see it coming in the recent Play 60 campaign done by the NFL. Children are so busy playing with Game Boys and Wii dancing that they have to be reminded to go outside! We had to be told repeatedly it was time to come in! I remember entire imaginary rooms where I played for hours in the giant ficus trees that surrounded my childhood home. How many trees are there in your neighborhood that are even climbable?

I promised myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t get too political. But, since Superstorm Sandy, most sane people have accepted global warming as fact now, right? Even the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek reported, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

So, I’ll end this post with a call to action. Get on the “going green” bandwagon. I’m not the Lorax, but I do what I can. Educate your children, change your ways. Volunteer your time or give your money. There are some great organizations like The Nature Conservancy or Environmental Defense Fund that are dedicated to protecting our natural places and its creatures. And remember the wise words of the good doctor…

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

~Dr. Seuss

Back to Balance

That’s it! I’m out!  Being outraged is exhausting. Last week’s baseless wiretapping accusation just about did me in, but this week’s clean up – Kellyanne preaching the dangers of kitchen appliances and Sean Spicer explaining the use of quotation marks – is finishing the job. Politics is becoming less must see, addicting TV and more like an episode of Jerry Springer. Pure ridiculousness.

Now I watch with the same sensation I used to experience when getting sucked into a storyline of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, that feeling that I’m wasting the day and rotting my brain. I long for the days when politics were dull and politicians were as professional as they were stuffy.  Maybe then I could go back to worrying about the routine of my day instead of the fate of everyone and everything on the planet.

But there I go, another melodramatic liberal, running around with her hair on fire. So, I want to wash my hands of it. I’m trying desperately to return to my zen, to life as I knew it before my political awakening. I want eight hours of sleep again, not late night news and Saturday Night Live. I want to focus on marketing my book, not organizing a grassroots Resistance group. And I need to get back to the gym instead of waving around signs at marches.

But here’s the thing. You can’t unring a bell. I’m like Leonardo Decaprio in Titanic, unlacing my boots. It’s too late. I’m involved now. But instead of saving Kate Winslet, I’m out to save the world. (Just kidding. I don’t really consider my involvement that important. Sort of. At least I think.) But I’m not ready to stick my head back in the sand.

So, once again I’m striving for balance. I’m trying to incorporate my new politically active and outraged self into my existing peaceful and “positive input only” self. I gave up a leadership position in my Resistance group for a membership role. I’m still involved, but not bogged down. I’m keeping my “first 100 days” commitment to be a thorn in the sides of my members of congress, but after April I’ve got my eye on a yoga class at the local YMCA. And I’m hanging on to MSNBC’s Morning Joe, but at night I’m back to vegging with The Voice See? I can admit it. I’m a work in progress. I can grow. I can change. I’m an adult. (Insert Trump dig here.)

So for those of you out there feeling worried, angry or anxious: yes, be outraged. There’s energy there that can be put to action. But don’t forget to switch off the news, too. Revel in your grandbabies, walk your dog in the park. Take a walk and just breathe. If all else fails, pop some popcorn and watch an episode of Real Housewives. Just remember not to look directly into the microwave.

 

 

Activism for Dummies

resistViva la resistance!

For those of you who don’t like loose ends, this is a follow-up to prior political posts. One was called “What To Do” and had a picture of a yo-yo. I think it’s safe to say, I’ve decided. And this picture of good ol’ Greenpeace’s stunt is self-explanatory. Resist.

Resist, not fight. For me, it’s an important distinction. Fighting implies militant violence. Resistance implies remaining peacefully on the defense. Maybe it’s a six-year-old’s argument (he started it!) but I like it. Trump’s infantile behavior seems to goad my inner child and I have to keep from chanting “liar liar, pants on fire!” When he goes low, I want to go lower.

But instead, I’m taking action beyond the recent Women’s March. Here’s how:

Dive in. I’ve started an action group with some people from my building. I’ve called the offices of congressional members and sent emails and postcards alike. I have no idea what I’m doing, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s too important. I’m making it up as I go along. It’s best not to think too far ahead, about the more daunting aspects, like what the hell I’m going to say when all these people are sitting in my living room next week. It’s the passion and motivation of it that matter. Go where the energy is. Sometimes you need to act first and think later.

Don’t be afraid. It’s scary to stand up and speak out, especially to friends or family members who might have different views. But I know you’re out there, you who’ve gone politically silent on Facebook. You know who you are. Come out. You’re not alone. I remember physically shaking as I stood by myself on a corner, a young twenty-something, handing out flyers to protest the circus. I wasn’t ready. I think my heart was in the right place, but P.E.T.A. was a little too radical a choice for trying out my activist’s voice. It was either the flyers or a bloody tiger suit. Geez. Start small instead. And find like-minded people. There’s strength in numbers.

Put on selective blinders. If you’re a sensitive soul who winds up too upset or too angry reading the opposing views on social media – well – don’t read everything. You know whose posts or tweets to avoid. The likelihood of changing anyone’s mind is very slim. As a writer, that’d be a plus, but I don’t see that as the point. But stirring people into action, people that already feel the same way as me, might be. And don’t review or count your contacts to see who has unfriended you. Who needs the heartache? Let it go.

Don’t live in a bubble. Try not to only surround yourself with people who think exactly as you do. I have some friends with whom I can still have polite, civil discourse. My cleaning person and I have an unspoken war with the television channel. When I leave the house, it’s set to MSNBC. When I come back, it’s on Fox News. One of these days, I’m going to offer to watch an hour of Fox if she’ll watch an hour of “liberal, dishonest media.” It’s good to know what the other side is saying.

Educate yourself. Understanding what’s going on has been like time traveling back to my tenth grade American Civics class. I read somewhere that I needed to call both of my senators and one house member. (Two? I have two senators? Who knew? Well yeah, I guess I remember learning that.) It’s okay if you need a refresher course. Take it from someone who’s never followed much politics. And if you remember my writing that I’d get a hold of my addiction to cable news after the Inauguration, I lied. I was wrong. I’m an adult. I can admit that. But I can’t stop watching now. I still can’t follow most arguments for or against the electoral college and I had to look up xenophobia, but for the most part, I can now hold my own in a political conversation.

So, my mom is almost giddy with pride at finally being able to pass the baton to me. In my defense, my generation and the ones adjacent to it, grew up taking a lot for granted. We’ve always had the right to vote, attend public schools and watch and let our children watch Sesame Street. We’ve lived in a time when racism was properly in the closet and gay people could come out of it. We listened to your stories of the sixties and some of us felt envious. It’s not that we were uninterested in fighting, we just never had anything to fight for. Not like this.

Critics of the march and some media wonder if the protestors can last, organize themselves into a movement. They say there are too many individual groups resisting for their own reasons. Civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration rights. We need a unifying message, a solidarity of purpose, a simple soundbite. Umm, this is just me taking a stab at it here, but a single word? How ’bout … democracy?

 

Must See TV

thStay tuned …

for a tweet from your president-elect.

Okay, despite that small dig, I’m not going to be contentious. Or I’ll try hard not to be. Instead, I’ll attempt to unite my readers with something that surely we can all agree on: this is some good entertainment.

As you may know, I never used to watch politics or the news. Even innocuous stuff like the weather. I made fun of my mother for watching it 24/7 and then wondering why she thought the sky was falling. She’d come into my apartment, raining all over my sunshine about some “Storm of the Century” and telling me we needed to head out for supplies before the lines got too bad. And, of course, barely a branch came down.

It was last week sometime before eight in the morning as I cackled in delight over Mitt Romney’s dinner of cooked crow and the possibility of Republican in-fighting when I realized I might be hooked. Women always become their mothers. To resist is futile.

Next week is the finale of The Voice and I haven’t tuned in since the debates. What’s the world coming to? My guilty pleasure doesn’t even involve guilt anymore. It’s a marathon of Real Politicians of the United States and I’m making popcorn at 1:00 in the afternoon and pressing pause when I have to go to the bathroom. I’ve even started staying up late for SNL. I get all the jokes now.

And I’m smarter, too. I don’t shy away from political conversations. I’m all too happy to show off my new found knowledge. If Mom blanks on the name of some perfectly qualified billionaire cabinet pick, (okay, second dig) I’m right there supplying the name like a smug teacher’s pet, waving her hand about wildly. (Pick me! Pick me!)

There is one person clearly loving this more than me, though. Donald Trump. As evidenced by his “I told you so tour” … a-hem … I mean, “thank you tour.” (Okay, I’ll stop counting.) But really, can anyone doubt the sheer satisfaction derived from having “never-Trumpers” doing their walk of shame past the press pool up the gleaming elevators of Trump Tower? Air Force One may have a “ridiculous” price tag, but that is priceless.

I’m still the same person, though. I believe in balance and meditating and not watching too much TV, even if it is Top World Leader instead of Top Chef. I want to accept the things I can’t control and not make myself nuts yelling at the TV like a crazy person. I strive towards Zen.

So like any good addict, I’ve given myself a deadline. The inauguration. I promise I’ll stop then. I mean, I can’t stop cold turkey! It’s my duty as a citizen to stay informed! Besides, you know the creator of Celebrity Apprentice is said to be involved in Trump’s big day. The mere thought of the next president flying in by helicopter has me giddy with excitement at the absurdity. Besides, in the words of a favorite cable news anchor, “This is not the time to stop paying attention.”

 

 

 

What To Do

yo-yo_coloring_pageDeal with it. Move on. Fight. Stand up for what you believe in. In the wake of the 2016 election, many people are wondering what to do next. It’s a conundrum. Every day I vacillate.

I’ve considered turning off the cable news that has become the background noise to all my activities. (I’ve become my mother.) But it’s pointless. The addiction has already taken hold. Last night, I watched politics instead of The Voice. What’s the world coming to?

I’ve even contemplated staying off of Facebook. Or becoming a lurker. You know, reading all, but posting nothing. It’s painful to realize that friends or family feel differently than we do. When the people with whom we shared a daily motivational quote or a funny cat video suddenly make their political beliefs known. Oh, we think. She’s one of them. People are hurt or angered by the unfriending going on. Don’t be. It’s natural for people to want to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. People are hurt and emotions are running high.

I can feel my own stress building. The distance between my ears and shoulders grows shorter every day. Never underestimate the toll stress takes on your body. Particularly, if you’re paying attention. Particularly, if you’re in the losers corner. My dad reminded me of the dangers of getting too wrapped up in things. “There’s no point in worrying about what you can’t control.” He lectured me. Wait. That’s my line! So this afternoon, I had a massage from a 19-year old handsome latino named Louis. That helped a little.

Writing helps too. Having to put things into words helps clarify my own feelings. A group of comedians were on the news the other day. They felt all artists had a duty to use their talent to shine a light on the situation, to give voice to the masses who felt as they did. Woah. A duty? I have a few writer friends who aren’t going to like that one. I think, instead, what you do – Democrat or Republican, artist or not – is up to you. It’s personal. I remember trembling all over just to hand out brochures protesting the circus. Conflict and confrontation are hard. Maybe you feel motivated. Maybe you keep your mouth shut. Maybe you need to unfriend some people just to have the strength to turn on the computer. Let’s try not to judge each other.

Personally, I’m curtailing my Facebook activity. Which is not to say I won’t be active in standing up for what I believe in. But I’m not going to be sharing any “in your face” posts. I think I’ll leave that to the people who are comfortable with the “in your face” approach. The people who can stick a flyer “in your face” without shaking.  And the world needs them. I’ll do my part by giving money to the organizations I feel are threatened by the incoming administration. That and sharing the feel-good stuff. And funny cat videos, of course.

Accepting and Protesting

solIt seems the world is falling apart. With the election of Donald J. Trump into the White House, protests have broken out across America and family and friends aren’t speaking to one another.

I’m grappling with this myself, I am. A Democrat and supporter of liberal ideals, I woke up Wednesday morning, donned all black, plastered a homemade sign on the back of my power chair with the words “not my president” and headed out to Memorial Park to walk Frankie. I saw no one. It was a quiet, drizzly morning and it’s safe to say, true to the grief process, much of the left-leaning world was still in shock and denial. I was my own one-woman protest. And I had no followers except a dog and he was more leading anyway (and not even donning a cute shirt like ‘Mutts Against Mitt’).

Then I came home and tearfully listened to Hillary’s concession speech (unfortunately the best and most authentic speech I’ve heard her give). “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that, we cherish it.” Yes, I thought. And in the spirit of that speech, and not wanting to add to the divisiveness, threw away my sign.

Then the protests started, some of them chanting the very same words I had printed out on my computer, and I felt compelled to get back in the fray again. Cher and Madonna say I need to fight! The wonderful thing about living in a democracy is being allowed the freedom to disagree – loudly even.

But here’s the thing – it’s turning violent and ugly. They are also chanting F*** Trump. I would never be comfortable chanting that no matter how much I dislike the man.

So here’s what I’ve decided today. I’m going back to what Hillary said and what rings true to my own heart. I’m focusing on the peaceful transfer of power. What I’m having a little more trouble with is owing Trump an “open mind and the chance to lead.” Really? Do I really owe him that?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m watching it unfold just like all of you. I’m emotional,  sleep-deprived and struggling with my civic responsibilities and friendships.

But I will also exercise my freedom of speech and cherish the fact that I live in a country in which I am free to object and stand up against any would be leaders. So, my presence on Facebook may be just a little more political. I have dear friends, Republicans or even Trump voters, who read my blog. I have tried (sort of) to remain publicly neutral for the sake of my writing. I guess I don’t feel I can anymore. If I lose readers, so be it. Not only is writing wonderfully cathartic, it is my peaceful protest.

Frankie Goes to Riverside

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