Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How the Long Weekend Has Been

Someone asked how my (long) weekend has been. A Twit known as @The_HelpfulHand shared this thought, which helps me summarize it:

The way you respond to difficult situation is an outward reflection of your inner relationship with Christ, and your reliance on Him.

Now, my weekend, in numbered paragraphs. I'm trying to keep this as short as possible:

1. July weather: predictably miserable. Ninety-degree days, ninety-percent humidity, those unpredictable thundershowers that don't relieve the heat or humidity in any way.

2. My personal exposure to the heat was greatly mitigated by house-sitting for vacationing friends. Whenever I felt my brain starting to melt, I walked into town and cooled off in a house that had a heat pump set to 77 degrees. The barter included some much-needed laundry, from them, and some furniture moving, from me.

3. On Monday, another raccoon visited the Cat Sanctuary. I'd suspected that one was contemplating moving into Rackety's old hangout in the cellar for a week or two; its visits to the cellar sounded just like Rackety's, which made me suspect that it might be one of her offspring, copying the way she used to behave. (Regular readers will remember that the neighbor who killed Rackety, at her den in the woodlot, killed her spring kits too. Raccoons grow up in (at most) two years, and have (at least) a litter a year thereafter, like cats. Rackety and her mate probably had at least one litter who would be mature raccoons by now.) A big mature male raccoon, possibly Rackety's mate, was killed near the Cat Sanctuary last winter; call it Big Daddy for reference purposes, not that I saw or named it while it was alive. The one I saw on Monday night, shortly after dark, is at least as big as Big Daddy was. It was not a frightened half-grown animal begging for sanctuary, the way Rackety was. It was an adult raccoon trying to claim my property. It came right up on the porch and attacked the biggest cat it met there, which, at the time, was Inky.

(Previous posts about Inky identified her as a little late-summer kitten. Now she's about a year old and, being a true Manx type rather than a mixed breed who carries the Manx gene, she's bigger than Irene--who is a Mature Cat of Substance and Dignity. She's not yet longer, but is heavier, than Heather. She won't be as huge as Graybelle, but may be bigger than Mac or Tickle, when she's full-grown.)

4. I'd gone in for the night but was still awake when I heard Inky screaming and hissing outside. I grabbed a flashlight and the handiest weapon, which was not the machete but the pruning hook-and-blade, and charged out into the fray, following the sound. Heather hadn't challenged the raccoon on her own, but she was right behind me; Irene and Tickle stayed close to the house--and to little Violet. I didn't find any of my cats. I did find the raccoon. I could see it clearly, but couldn't reach it--it had ducked through the rosebush into the blackberry brambles. It stood there, for a full minute or longer, and glared straight at me (and at Heather) while I was assessing the possibility of reaching it through the brambles while wearing what I wear before bedtime in July, which isn't much. Animals who stand in front of humans for that long either have learned to trust humans, as it might be because their mother was fed and tolerated by humans when they were babies, or are sick and dangerous. I went back to the house for clothes and shoes suitable for tracking animals through blackberry brambles, and of course Evil Raccoon took this opportunity to retreat. Heather, Irene, little Violet, and Tickle were unharmed. Inky disappeared.

5. On Tuesday, after I'd searched and failed to find Inky's body, part of the furniture moving was accomplished. Naturally the thundershower followed us all the way from the site where the posh upholstered furniture was loaded to the site where it was unloaded. (In the Xanth novels, the part where the thundercloud talks out loud to the people "he" is giving a hard time is fiction, but I'm not sure about the part where "he" has a mind and does these things on purpose.) Naturally the big, strong, handsome Dobyns-Bennett Tribesmen who loaded the furniture on the truck scored full points for anchoring the tarp in such a way that only one small tear allowed only one small wet patch to form, even though they (and I) lost a few points for allowing pale-colored silk to make contact with the dry but dusty truck bed. However, the grandmother of the house, with whom I unloaded the furniture, scored full points for not using any really unladylike language as she and I moved the hardwood-based, silk-upholstered, slightly spotted furniture out from under the wet tarp, through the puddles, to the store from which it should soon be sold.

(Advertisement: Matched pair of HICKORY armchairs, valued at $1000, for $500--E-Bay and/or Craigslist links t.b.a. when the child of the house gets'em up, chairs currently stored in town, view them by appointment. If anybody out there wants posh pale-colored silk armchairs, run don't walk. Legitimate local shoppers may e-mail salolianigodagewi @ yahoo for directions. And if you want to own posh pale-colored silk armchairs while living with children or pets, I recommend that you commission me to knit washable, toddler-friendly, color-coordinated slipcovers to slip over the silk when you're not showing it off to adult guests. I custom-fit slipcovers to any chair for $75, any sofa for $100.)

6. Now, where did these people get such a deal on HICKORY ARMCHAIRS? They got them at the Habitat for Humanity resale store, of the biggest and best charity department store in Kingsport. I remember finding lots of great deals at the Habitat Store back when it was a crowded little store on Dale Street and enjoyed the opportunity to check out its new building complex on Main Street. I would have inserted a link to their web site here, too, if their web site hadn't used nasty location-tracking cookies to force this browser directly to a site for the Kingsport store rather than having a search page where youall could find stores in your neighborhoods, which I don't want to encourage...but that's a separate rant. My point is that these are bon bourgeois types, antique store owners, who not only find fantastic deals on furniture at a store that advertises that all profits go to a legitimate charity, but regard spending money at this store as their Christian "tithe" to a real humanitarian cause.

7. And I mean to say, Gentle Readers...if you want to see rich and poor Americans rubbing elbows, just stand in line at Habitat, Salvation Army, Amvets and other charity department stores. When I hopped out of the furniture store truck in the parking lot at the Habitat store, we were in between another battered old truck and a battered old Mercedes-Benz. When we moved the truck to the pickup site, the other pickup truck had moved on and what was parked on the other side of our truck was a Lexus. In the store I heard yuppie and preppie Middle Atlantic accents, Yankee and Caribbean and all points between. I also saw some young working parents and retirees, and heard some very working-class hillbilly voices. I did not see anyone who appeared to have been homeless, recently, although the whole point of Habitat is that the disaster survivors and employable ex-homeless people who move into Habitat houses don't look as if they've been homeless all that recently. There was a time when shopping at charity stores might have identified people as poor. That time is over. All true Bobos shop at charity stores first for things they don't buy from artisans or from friends' stores.

8. So, while we were there to pick up last week's fabulous deals, naturally we found more fabulous deals. I had my Michaels card from in one pocket and $8 for two days' groceries in the other pocket, and was not shopping in the Habitat store. My friend found it necessary to hint, "I'm sure you can find some books in there," pointing out the bedroom-sized corner of a showroom on which the 25-cent books are displayed--about 75% Christian books, 25% a mix of comedy and cookbooks and genre fiction and literary novels and schoolbooks and antique books and other things Kingsport's upper class read. I found $4 worth of books and added $1 worth of candles. I suppose you could count that as my donation to the cause. And I mean these were good books, books I'd wanted to add to my collection and not found elsewhere, not a lot of last year's bestsellers. I found books by Liz Curtis Higgs, Stormie Omartian, and other living Christian writers whose recent books were new or unpublished when I was thriftshopping regularly a few years ago. Not a mold spot or a musty odor in the place, either, so far as I could tell with my Highly Sensitive nose. This is not a junk store; it's run by people who know what they're displaying, and can pick the best to attract their affluent and knowledgeable clients. I almost felt bad about taking these nearly-new, clean books into the massive-mold-index air of Scott County. And meanwhile some more show-quality furniture was being unloaded, and my friends with the antique store were going, "We must have this, put it on the credit card, come back on Thursday to load it," and the people at the Habitat store--the older of whom are on first-name terms with my friends with the antique store--were going ka-ching, ka-ching.

9. And yet these people aren't funding my project--yet. Well, they have only so much money to donate, each month, and they'd spent it. I know approximately what they have and what they spent, so I can not only trust but verify that they did their bit to help some local poor people. I just wasn't one of those people, although there's a high probability that my income in the month of July was lower than most of theirs. (From sponsors, knitting, and raspberries I've raked in a little over $200 so far this month. It's been a record-breaking year for raspberries, for nuisance cinnamon vines, and for nuisance centipedes, and a poor year for other orchard crops.) And the grandmother, who had hinted at sponsoring this site, voiced some conscience-smitten thoughts on the way back. "I don't know how you're going to get your store off the ground in Gate City," etc., etc., ad nauseam. (Note to all local readers: the point of nauseam for that kind of thought is one word. Don't say it. If you buy a $1 paper or a $5 hat instead of making a three-figure contribution, you've said all that you need to say. If you don't make a purchase, but you keep your mouth shut, you're telling me that you may be dirt-poor, and that that's probably due to bad choices, but you're not obnoxious.)

10. Note that I have absolutely no problem with the idea of donating your ten percent, or maybe more, of your income to a charity that offers you something in return that may be more profitable to you than an advertisement at this web site, or a book at a price from which ten percent goes to the writer if s/he is still alive. I'm not laying a guilt trip on friends who are paying their tithe to Habitat rather than me; I'm actively helping them make that choice, because I have a home and want others to have homes too. Habitat is a legitimate charity--though I will note that, when he was an active construction contractor, Adayahi refused to build Habitat houses because they don't allow adequate space between houses and he didn't do future slums. Disaster survivors deserve to be able to shop in the same places smart storekeepers and frugal richies shop. This is America, and we can have that kind of stores, and we do.

11. How can bookstores coexist with libraries? Well, how can my friends' upscale antique store coexist with Habitat stores? They know their market and I know mine. (Foreign readers, please note that this is how real democracy works: Americans who belong to the same social class, who have similar backgrounds and education and friends, can be in different income brackets during any given year.)

But "the way you respond to difficult situation[s]" includes the difficult situations facing your friends as well as yourself. We rely on the Christ who lives in this world in us, not on the antichrist of Big Government, when we commit to earning our own money through honest work and helping other people earn their own money through honest work.

I couldn't afford to keep either of my parents from depending on Social Security pensions when they became disabled; I couldn't even afford to keep Mother from depending on her pension to pay the mortgage while she was able to do part-time jobs (which, for the record, she's eager to do again now). I can't even keep my wretched depressive sister off wretched food stamps; although I think her even getting them, rather than being told to get out on the street and start hustling some sort of legitimate product the way I do, is an abomination, I'm not earning enough to feed her. I do, however, let myself see that this dependency on unsustainable tax-funded handout programs is as bad for those who take as it is for those who give. Reliance on Christ, Who fed the poor by blessing their contributions, means offering more fair trades and fewer handouts to more people every year.

12. Inky came back, showing only surface wounds, this morning. She was promptly transferred back to the quarantine cage in the mud room. She says she's just fine, thank you, but who knows what may have been wrong with Evil Raccoon or whether it's contagious to cats.

I'm not sure whether Heather consciously meant to protect Inky or protect me. Nor am I sure whether Inky consciously risked her life to protect little Violet, or was Evil Raccoon's original primary target. Either way, that little thrown-away Manx kitten is with my Social Cat family.

[This book contains the poem from which we get the slang phrase "in like Flynn." It has been used to mean "in office for as long as an official wants to be," but it originally meant more than that.]

Reminder: Inky gave birth to five kittens this spring, and she watched all five of them stop growing and die, crying in pain, before they were two months old. Mention having her spayed in your contribution (postal money orders to the P.O. Box, or e-mail Saloli for the Paypal address) and funds will be used for that purpose and no other. It seems the least we can do for a cat who's just as lovable as she would have been if she'd been able to have healthy kittens.