About a month before I moved to Canada in 2000, I had to put down my beloved cat, Colonel Mustard. He was declared extremely sick on a Monday and I said goodbye to him on Tuesday. I loved Colonel Mustard like no other cat I’ve ever had. He kept me company through the loneliest, most difficult times of my life up to that point. He was an orange tabby and his personality was the best I’d ever seen in a cat.

We had quite a few cats through my childhood and quite a few got squished, since we let them outdoors and we always seemed to live on major four-lane roads. So, I was no stranger to cats dying, but Colonel Mustard’s sickness and having to make the decision to put him down was the hardest on me.

When I moved to Canada, Matt and I decided that we’d get a second cat together. He already had a cat named Delta - a sweetheart, but she was very attached to him and didn’t appreciate my finer qualities in the way that Matt did - he welcomed my moving in; she did not. Just after Christmas that year, we took a little trip to the OSPCA shelter. We looked for a grey cat. I wanted a solid grey cat so that our new cat would be very different from my Colonel Mustard.

As we walked around the room of floor-to-ceiling cages filled with cats, it seemed that all the solid grey cats were already spoken for. Not that the other cats weren’t lovely - they were - but after losing the Colonel, I wanted a different cat. Different look. Different personality.

At one point, Matt tapped me on the shoulder, I turned and he pointed at a cage that was tucked into the corner, so no one was paying attention to the cat in it - a beautiful grey cat. Years later we decided she must be a Russian Blue (with a healthy dose of mutt), though she’s a lot rounder. When she’s a normal weight, she (mostly) has that sleek look of a Russian Blue. 

Sigma’s content face. There’s probably some serious purring going on right here.We jumped at the opportunity to take this beauty home. They installed her chip and prepped her, took our money and we were off with our beautiful grey cat.

Delta was even less impressed about this cat’s arrival than she was about mine. There was hissing, spitting and even a bit of growling from a cat that was usually pretty quiet and laid back. Eventually, they got used to each other and we decided on a name for the new grey cat. We christened her Sigma after deciding to continue on with our Greek theme. (We had three fish - Alpha, Beta and Pi. Alpha and Beta were actually beta fish, Pi was a catfish.) Delta had actually been named after the airline, because I spent so much time on their planes while I was still living in Florida and visiting Matt up here.

For the first few weeks of Sigma’s life with us, we had to feed her warm, canned cat food. There is nothing in the world more disgusting than cat food - until you warm it up. She was underweight and had a respiratory infection, so warming it up made it smellier so she would eat it, despite her clogged noggin. Once she recovered, we 86ed the canned food for good, but we quickly realized that this poor dumpster kitty thought we weren’t going to feed her regularly. If her food dish was empty, she would yell at us.

Yes, cats can yell. Well, Sigma can yell. We’d walk in the door after work and she’d practically scream at us that her bowl was empty. If our breathing changed in the morning, she started more softly, but the yelling was never far behind. Because overnight, that bowl got emptied. And if it was emptied, it need to be filled again.

Loudest. Cat. Ever.

Except she’s also the sweetest cat ever, too. So sweet that she will lick every bit of hair product off of Matt’s head, leaving his hair sopping wet. She loves being petted, especially by people who don’t like cats. She jumps right up into their laps when they come for visits. See? A total sweetheart.

For all her annoying habits (even the yelling), she really is such a nice cat. And it’s seriously adorable how she curls up next to Matt every night in bed. ;)


Mama's Losin' It

This post was based on the prompt “Your pet’s least likable character trait.” from Mama Kat’s writing workshop

I'd like to introduce you to Theta & Sigma - the feline influence in my life.

We’re cat people. I don’t blog much about the cats because my focus is pretty much 100% on Matt and Brandon these days, but I have two cats and they are sweethearts who occasionally guilt me into paying attention to them for about 5 seconds. 

Theta and Sigma get along really well. They are often curled up together in the same position. Siggy likes laying on things, especially Brandon’s soft toys.

She has a thing for soft toys. My giant Winnie-the-Pooh bear has a permanently dirty leg from her snuggling up to him.

Sigma’s a beautiful cat. We couldn’t have asked for a sweeter cat either. She’s snuggly like no other cat I’ve ever known.

See? Super snuggly. Sigma adores Matt. He’s the hero that gives her food every morning. As you can see from the pictures, Siggy loves her food.

We figured out pretty quickly after we got Theta that he was going to be an adventurous one. By the way, if you hadn’t noticed, that’s our dishwasher he’s climbing through about 4 years ago when we first got him.

If it can be climbed, Theta will climb it. He loves to explore everything. Sigma prefers Brandon’s soft toys, but Theta’s all over his blocks and Lincoln Logs - literally. He rolls around in them until Brandon tells him to “Go away”.

This is the same cat who slept on my belly almost every night I was pregnant. He’s so cute and he adores Brandon. You couldn’t find a more patient cat with a child. Sigma keeps her distance from Brandon, but Theta follows him around.So, now you know my feline friends - Siggy Pop (Sigma) and Thug (Theta (Bug)), as I call them. 

Do you have any pets? Do they relate well to your children? 

Seriously, stop charging me for bags

I had an unfortunate experience with a sales associate at the Bay tonight. I went in to look at handbags (because all the ones at Winners were actually losers or just way too expensive, in my opinion). I got lucky and found a great bag and a lovely red wallet - I've been looking for a red wallet I like for years. Since most of the store was on sale (Bay Days! Woohoo!), I decided to look around for a couple of other items I actually needed. Maybe my priorities were a little out of whack, but the fun stuff always takes a bit longer to find. It took about two minutes to gather the rest of my things and I went to the closest customer service area. As is the norm at the Bay, no one was there. So, I waited and watched for someone to emerge from the depths of racks and products. I didn't have to wait too long. A woman trudged out of the purses carrying loads of them, clearly doing cleanup.

She saw me holding my necessities and pointed me to another customer service station - she clearly didn't want to serve me. I have worked in retail in a store very similar to the Bay, in fact, and I know the drill. Normally, I wouldn't have even waited at her register because I'm pretty observant and could tell she was busy. However, my largest purchases were from her department and since my experience with department stores is that they often don't have sale items marked down in the computer, those were the items I wanted to ring up correctly on my bill. She could do that without thinking. The other department would have had to go and check or guess or not give me the discount. I wasn't taking any chances. I held up the bag and wallet for her to see I was purchasing from her department and she grudgingly agreed to come over. When she got there, she stated that she gets people wanting her to ring up items from other departments all the time and that she has to send them away. I was pretty appalled at her candor and unwillingness to serve customers, which is the primary point of most retail positions! If I was a secret shopper, she would have failed for the entire store before we ever got to the good part of this story. That, and the quality of customer service is something I feel pretty strongly about.

While she was ringing me up, she started stuffing everything into my new purse. I thought it was odd, but I didn't say anything. Frankly, I would have preferred it if she'd asked me if it was okay first, but she was not a particularly polite woman to begin with so why change? At the end, after everything was rung up and stuffed into my new purse, she looked at me with her finger poised over a button on the register and asked me if I wanted a bag. I felt like she was daring me to say yes. As if I was going to be solely responsible for the Earth's demise under tons of plastic bags if I chose to take a bag, even though everything was already in a bag. I was suspicious, but I looked at my stuffed purse and said that no, I didn't need a bag after all.

Then I asked if they were now charging for bags. Yes, she said, they had just started this week. I just kind of hmphed and rolled my eyes. Without knowing the reason for my reaction, which I'll get to soon, this rude woman decided to state her own opinion. She emphatically stated that she is quite happy they're charging for bags, because now people don't want to pay and that means less bags will end up in the landfill. She went on to tell me that she shops quite a lot and doesn't mind carrying her things. By this point, I'd really had it with this woman and I was questioning whether I wanted to just return the purse and everything else right then and there in protest of her rudeness and the lecture about the environment. But then I'd have to keep looking for a new purse and red wallet (yes, I'm slightly obsessed with having a red wallet and I don't know why). Thankfully, it was time for me to leave and she was able to go back to doing her cleanup, which she preferred to do over helping customers anyway. I wonder if she needs a reminder that every purchase she rings up actually contributes to paying her wages?

On my way home, I got to thinking about this whole bag thing and the more I thought about it the more I feel I must question these plastic bag reduction initiatives. I'm not saying there's not a valid concern about plastic bags in the landfills, but it strikes me as rather dubious that consumers are being charged for "single-use" bags and I have concerns about the reusable ones too. By the way, I take exception to the "single-use" label for grocery bags - I reuse grocery bags all the time. Yes, I buy them. I have cats and their litter has to go in something. When someone comes up with another way that my cats will also tolerate, then we can switch to the reusable grocery bags.

I have a handful of different reusable shopping bags from various vendors. I bought two of them and one was given to me. Of these three, two are made of some kind of heavy duty plastic-like material. They're both pretty much waterproof. The third one feels like it's made of all natural fibers. That third one is probably going to degrade one day when it wears out and ends up in a landfill. The other two, I have serious doubts about their biodegradability. Isn't that a problem as well? Don't the reusable bags need to be environmentally friendly for them to serve their purpose? I know many are, but I don't think for a minute that one can make that assumption about all of them. 

This isn't necessarily about the environmental impact except in terms of the volume of reusable bags, but every store now carries its own reusable bags now and I'm sure they all want you to use their bag for any purchases made in their store (brand recognition, marketing, etc.). Otherwise, they lose that marketing value. The way the bag frenzy is going, we could be drowning the landfills in reusable bags that are nearly as damaging as the "single-use" plastic ones.

In the middle of all this, I had this pretty amusing (I think) vision of someone walking out of a Coach store with their excessively priced Coach handbag stuffed in a Walmart bag. Not a bad anti-theft measure (because who would guess you have a Coach handbag in a Walmart bag!?), but I'm betting Coach wouldn't be overly thrilled with the potential for confusion and lack of recognition. For the record, I am not made of money and I did not purchase a Coach bag. Actually, I'm not sure the Bay carries them - at least not that I noticed. I wasn't looking for Coach, though, as I am not made of money.

I'm not an environmentalist, but I absolutely believe in being a good steward of the environment. I believe in respecting our resources and not abusing them. I think we should all take steps - within reason - to conserve and prevent waste. I came to the conclusion, with regard to the plastic bag issue, that I wish the stores who charge for bags would just stop providing plastic bags. Quit nickel and diming people to death and just get rid of the bags altogether. You'll make a much more significant impact. People would adjust - even ones like me who have to take care of the litter somehow. Charging consumers for bags is just straddling the fence - "deterring" people from buying the bags is considered doing something to save the environment. I don't think so. How are you doing something for the environment with a big stack of bags sitting there waiting to be bought. And frankly, paying five cents for each bag isn't all that much money. I've never paid more than 50 cents in a grocery trip anyway. If I bought 10 every week (I don't), I'd spend a whopping $26. Sorry, but that isn't enough to stop me buying them. 

A little side thought: Have you noticed that the quality of the bags we pay for now is so much better than what used to be provided? Why is that?

If the government and corporations are truly concerned, then plastic bags should be banned outright and every single reusable bag should be 100% recyclable. Somehow I don't see that happening anytime soon. I feel - perhaps cynically - that this is mostly a PR play to give the appearance of taking drastic action. In the meantime if you're like me and you buy the bags, it's socially unacceptable. Frankly, though, if it wasn't grocery bags, I'd still have to use some other kind of plastic bag to take care of the litter. So, maybe the next thing they could work on is an environmentally-friendly, affordable, cat-friendly way to dispose of their waste. Because we did try to train them to use the toilet and it failed miserably. (Yes, Matt did seriously try to toilet train our cats.)