Midnight’s Gift is a Poem

Midnight the Barn Cat is a good hunter.
Midnight caught this mouse, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, Midnight brought us a present.

After feeding him dinner, there was something next to his water bowl. What was it? A mouse? But wait–ewww–it was only half a mouse!

Wasn’t that thoughtful? Though we aren’t fond of half-eaten mice, we recognized that Midnight thought this was a grand gesture. In honor of the deceased, I wrote:

Mouse Eulogy

 

Mouse, fleet of paw,
Loved to eat weeds.
He never broke the law,
and followed seed leads.

 

He built a warm den,
and watched for foes
But Cat stalked, and then
Chomped tail and toes!

 

Now resting on a mat
Next to the back door,
Mouse is a gift from Cat
To us, the Kibble Store!

 

 

According to info on Pet First, cats don’t “do this because they are mean, vicious creatures.They do this based on instinct.”

Cats have sharp teeth, retractable claws, cushioned paws, night vision and the ability to sneak up on prey quietly. All of these qualities are adaptations which allow them to efficiently capture prey. Even after all of this time, these adaptations and instincts are still fully intact. These are instincts, they are not actions which can be taken out of them. This is who they are.

Cats are often raised by their mother who teaches them essentially how to survive on their own. Catching prey is one of the acts learned from their mother. The mother will often begin teaching them by bringing back dead prey for the kittens to eat. Then, she will bring back a harmed mammal, still alive, to teach her offspring how to kill for themselves.

Once the kittens are old enough, they will go outside with their mother to learn how to hunt on their own.

They see us, the humans, as rather inexperienced hunters. This is why they are bringing back their dead animals to us. They are trying to teach us how to hunt like they do. Sometimes, they may also be bringing you a gift so you are able to eat the good raw meat like they do.

Next time your cat brings you a dead animal as a gift, although easy to do, do not become angry. Your cat is doing what he thinks is best for you. This is essentially his way of telling you he loves and cares for you.

Awww-sweet Midnight…unless you’re a mouse!

Dog, Cat, Mouse–Caught!

The Immobile Mouse!

The temperature was dropping, the water in the bowl had turned into a block of ice, and Midnight-the-Barn-Cat was looking skinnier than usual despite being fed twice a day. So, just like in my post “Cat and Mouse and Chipmunk,” I played cat and mouse–I became the cat and the cat became the mouse. Caught!

Outside, Midnight wants to be seen and acknowledged, but not picked up and pet. He’s like a tiny jaguar:  prowling, pouncing, hiding and hunting. He’s a very good hunter! Inside, Midnight turns into a mush, lifting his chin for scratches, cuddling contentedly on my lap, and squeaking when he’s had enough. Purr and squeak!

Insert the mouse.

Living in an historic house, you get used to mice in the winter and insects year-round. Good thing I’m not afraid of little animals and won’t kill a spider. If the lifespan of a field mouse is a few years, then the mouse in our house should get a world record because it’s been wintering here for about eight years. When Lucy spots the mouse, she does nothing! Her nonchalance says, “Oh, it’s you again. Please, help yourself to my food,” which is why I thought bringing Midnight inside would accomplish two things:  he’d warm up and the mouse would high-tail it out of here. Wrong!

I started composing a poem in my head about the dog, cat, mouse situation. I got as far as “Dog peeks, cat squeaks, and mouse sneaks.” “Can’t resist” and “coexist” were floating around along with “warm house” and “cheeky mouse,” but then…

there was the mouse being watched over by Midnight! Caught!

Upon inspection, I couldn’t tell if the mouse was immobile because it was in shock or because it had internal injuries. There were no bite marks or scratches. My guess? Midnight thought it was a toy. Then again, he is a good hunter. I picked up the mouse, warmed it, pet it, talked to it–eyes so shiny eyes and paws so tiny–and set it free outside. Poor thing! 

I thought the mouse matter was put to rest, but then…

…A DIFFERENT mouse was rooting around in Lucy’s food bowl!

“Midnight? Where are you!”

Bandit Alert! Raccoon Caught Mid-Theft!

Midnight at the Suburban Watering Hole.

In my recent post, “Suburban Watering Hole,” I was unsure if wet paw prints on the back deck belonged to an opossum or raccoon. It turns out they belong to both! How do I know? I happened to witness a raccoon eating from Midnight’s bowl! The bandit was caught red-handed–or should I say kibble-handed?!

Five funny things I observed:

  1. The raccoon didn’t eat from the bowl; instead it scooped up pawfuls of kibble and then brought them to its mouth to eat. So people-like.
  2. When I opened the door and said “hello,” the raccoon paused to check me out. It wasn’t really afraid, but then it was unsure and ran off. So curious. 
  3. The minute I closed the door, even though the raccoon could see me through the window, it returned. So determined. 
  4. Midnight wasn’t afraid of the raccoon at all! He sat and watched as it ate the remainder of his dinner. And the raccoon didn’t feel threatened by Midnight. So neighborly. 
  5. The raccoon was fluffy and many shades of gray. It’s “mask” fit perfectly over its eyes. So pretty.

You never know what you’ll see in the Wilds of New Jersey! 

Books Bandwagon

The new year started and I noticed a trend I’ll call the Books Bandwagon. It’s a listing of all the books someone’s read in the past year, and I decided to hop on. Looking back at the books I read in 2019, I realized I enjoy a variety of genres: middle grade, fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and self-help. Not listed, but even more important to me, are the picture books I read and studied.

Hon, have you read any of these books? Do you have any favorites?

Planet Earth is Blue by  Nicole Panteleakos

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Tatooist of Auschwitz:  A Novel by Heather Morris

Dopesick by Beth Macy

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Educated:  A Memoir  by Tara Westover

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

The Joke Machine by Theresa Julian

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine:  A Novel by Gail Honeyman

Eat, Pray, Love:  One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro

The Path Made Clear:  Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Inspirational (and Funny) Poem for Picture Book Writers

Shout out to Derick Wilder, founder of Fit Lit Kids (Its mission is to “provide the highest quality in educational programs that are focused on Fitness and ​Literacy… and sometimes both at the same time!”) for allowing me to post his inspirational  poem for picture book writers. He shared it on KIDLIT411, a Facebook group/website with sources for Kidlit people.

Favorite line: “umm…giant anteater!” 

HAPPY KIDLIT NEW YEAR

May there always be time

to write and revise.

May you learn from the lows,

and rejoice in the highs.

 

May your stories be stuffed

with laughter and smiles.

May then end up on top

of all the slush piles.

 

May the right words emerge

and flow like sunshowers.

May your plotlines engage

and sprout like sunflowers.

 

May your narrative soar,

in verse or in prose.

May your “yesses” outweigh

your “maybes” or “nos.”

 

May your characters teem

with humor and heart.

May you never forget–

leave room for the art.

 

May your rhymes (unlike this)

be perfect in meter.

May your couplets make sense

umm…giant anteater.

 

May your journey be long,

response times be short.

May critique groups provide

advice and support.

 

May your misses be few,

your hits be plenty.

May your kidlit dreams bloom

in 2020!

 

Suburban Watering Hole

Midnight at the Suburban Watering Hole.

One water bowl. So many sippers!

Who knew Midnight’s water bowl would attract so many animals? On any given day, I expect one, two, or even three stray cats to stop by. And sure, Lucy our barking, rambunctious beast (Midnight’s view of her), laps Midnight’s water, but why does she have to inhale the cat kibble, grab the dish, take a bite out of it, and scatter it willy nilly in the yard? Hon, I digress.

Back to the bowl.

I suspected extra visitors when the water in the bowl started, mysteriously, appearing dirty every morning. Who was washing paws or taking a bath in the bowl? Not the blue jays, who squawked and fought for a nibble of kibble during the day. Could it be mice? Chipmunks? Groundhogs? Foxes? Wild turkeys? Our neighborhood coyote?

Then, one morning, footprints were imprinted in the planks! “Aha!” I said, “Raccoons! So, I turned to authorities on the subject–umm, I mean the KidLit Twitter community–and asked,

“Are those footprints more than circumstantial evidence?”

“That raccoon was framed! If the pawprints don’t fit, you must acquit!” answered @BrobergMatthew.

(Hmm…much chin scratching.)

Later that night, I attempted to catch the culprits by flicking on the outdoor light. Who did I see but two opossums circling the food dish?! Not just any two opossums, but one enormous opossum mommy and her joey. The mommy was about the size of a twenty pound dog! Looking up the size of female opossums, I found out females aren’t that big. So, now I wonder…

…Do daddy oppossums take their joeys out for a midnight snack?!

BOYZ II MENORAH VIDEO, Fresh, Funny and Filled with Holiday References!

Hon, if you haven’t seen the new “boy band,” BOYZ II MENORAH, check them out! So funny!

MTV.com’s  wrote about this season’s hottest Chanukah song.

CHARLIE PUTH, JOSH PECK, AND ZACH BRAFF COLLABED ON THIS SEASON’S HOTTEST HANUKKAH SONG

THE TRACK? ‘A WEEK AND A DAY.’ THE BAND? BOYZ II MENORAH. YOU’RE WELCOME.

When it comes to Hanukkah songs, well, there aren’t many. But thanks to a hilarious new boyband formed by none other than late night host James Corden, we now have a Jewish boyband called — wait for it — Boyz II Menorah. Furthermore, the group — which consists of Charlie Puth, Josh Peck, Zach Braff, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and yes, Corden himself — just dropped the hottest Hanukkah track maybe ever. Sorry, Adam Sandler.

The song, titled “A Week and a Day” premiered on last night’s (December 19) episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden. And along with it came an epic music video that celebrates the joyous holiday in all of its eight-night, latke-filled, gift-giving, dreidel-spinning glory. “Girl, it’s that special time of year, the Festival of Lights,” James begins in a soft R&B whisper. “But ain’t no light shine brighter than the one in your eyes.”

It wasn’t long before the rest of the guys chimed in, wearing matching all-white outfits reminiscent of some our our all-time favorite ’90s boybands. “Got a week and a day of love for you this Hanukkah, girl,” Peck sings. Then, the Superbad actor takes over. “Got a week and a day to show you how much I care,” he croons. And of course, there’s nothing quite like hearing Puth’s silky smooth voice singing about how the girl that he’s into “shines brighter than any menorah.”

The rest of the video is full of a variety of other references to Hanukkah (and even Judaism, in general), including bagels and lox, Manischewitz kosher wine, checks written out for $18 (the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai,” which means “life”), and even a shoutout to Judah Maccabee from the original Hanukkah story.

The bridge is arguably the best part, though, when each boyband member puts their own twist on the traditional Hanukkah blessing.

BuzzFeed Brisket Battle

Hon, guess what…

…I’m going to be in a BuzzFeed video where the subject is Jewish moms rating each other’s brisket. OY!

When it comes out in a couple of weeks, I’m either going to be laughing hysterically, crying with embarrassment, or both! If you never hear from me again, it’s because I’m hiding under a rock. Permanently! Here’s the skinny on the experience.

I heard about the opportunity for Jewish moms and brisket, and since my youngest and I have laughed while watching many a BuzzFeed video, I figured why not reach out? After learning that I had to bring a cooked and sliced brisket with me to the set, I called my mother-in-law for her recipe and the butcher for the meat.

I’ve cooked many briskets in my life, but none were as good as my my mother-in-law’s. Cecile makes a delicious brisket (along with many other dishes), but there’s one problem when asking her for a recipe—measurements! She knows the right amount of ingredients to use by eye, so you have to ask, “How much paprika should I use? A cup? A tablespoon? A teaspoon? A pinch?” Then there are the steps! So many steps!

When the brisket was cooked and cooled, Hubby got to work slicing. I carried the very-well-wrapped dish with me on the train from NJ to NY. I thought, if the train breaks down, I’ll have food for a bunch of people, but no forks!

The BuzzFeed office is cool. Really cool. Funky murals-large snack area-red-walled conference room-signs I wanted to Tweet-cool. I was older than every single employee, so when a woman walked in who looked to be about my age, I said. “You must be one of the Jewish moms!” She was.

Soon, five of us along with accompanying hubbies, uncle, and a friend were kibitzing (Yiddush for talking.) Shout out to the other moms, Helene, Jen, Marci, and Shannon, who were as nice as could be. We were called to the set one at a time to try each other’s food, but here’s the rub. The thing that makes the videos funny is when you’re a little mean about the food you’re trying.

Some of the questions asked were:

  • Do you agree to be completely honest?
  • What does this piece of brisket say about the person who made it?
  • What is this dish missing and what would you add to it?
  • What rating between 1 and 10 would you give it?
  • Would you serve this to your family?

I felt so bad after saying I would not serve one of the dishes to my family* that I said to the director, “Wait! Stop! Can I make a disclaimer?!” 

“Sure, make a disclaimer,” he said.

I looked straight into the camera. “I like everyone I met today! Please don’t take any of this personally!” 

*What I didn’t say and maybe should have, was that when my triplets plus a younger child were little, and I was perpetually exhausted and running around like a chicken with no head, any food made by someone else was wonderful! So who am I to be so picky? OY GIVALT!

I thought about the whole experience some more and, you know what? If the other moms didn’t like my brisket and wouldn’t serve it to their families, I’m okay with that because:

  1. This was all in good fun,
  2. each of our families loves our cooking and,
  3. it’s not like the winner gets an all-expense-paid vacation. You know what the winner gets? Bragging rights!

A Fat Cat and a Big Ego

Midnight, my petite cat.
Oliver, my sister’s oversized cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you hear about the 22-pound cat who was smuggled onto a flight? 

Not all news is bad news. Some of it is downright funny. Take, for instance, the story involving a man, a plan, a cat, and a rat (the man himself). On 11/13/19 in The New York Times,  wrote: His 22-Pound Cat Was Too Fat to Fly. So He Called In an Understudy.

The funniest line in the article…
“Mr. Putin said that the Kremlin did not comment about cats.” Ha!

A man who tricked his way into getting his overweight cat into the passenger cabin of a plane has been penalized by a Russian airline.

Aeroflot stripped the passenger, Mikhail Galin, of his air miles and removed him from their frequent-flier program after he bragged on social media about sneaking his hefty pet onboard by switching him for a lighter cat during check-in.

When airline employees told Mr. Galin that his 22-pound cat, Viktor, was simply too heavy to fly in the passenger cabin on a flight to Vladivostok, in eastern Russia, he devised a plan to ensure his kitty did not wind up in the cargo hold.

Mr. Galin said in a post on Facebook that he delayed his flight and used air miles to secure a business class seat for himself and Viktor. After asking friends for help, he then sourced a 15-pound feline called Fibi, describing her as an “understudy cat.”

When he presented the slimmer pet at check-in, she came under the airline’s limit of eight kilograms, or about 17 pounds, for animals flying in the passenger cabin. Mr. Galin and Fibi were approved for takeoff.

But unknown to Aeroflot and its staff, Mr. Galin swapped Fibi for his real pet, Viktor, before boarding the plane.

Mr. Galin, unable to resist the temptation to capture the moment, took photographs and posted them on Facebook and Instagram.

Viktor, a brown cat with black stripes and long white whiskers, was snapped in a pet carrier in front of a glass of what appears to be sparkling wine.

He was also shown being held up to the plane window by Mr. Galin, with Aeroflot’s branding clearly visible on the headrest.

Those images eventually played a role in his downfall.

The airline told Agence France-Presse that it opened an investigation after Mr. Galin’s post caught their attention, and that it eventually found video surveillance footage of the cat swap at check-in.

“Aeroflot has taken the decision to take this passenger out of its frequent flier program,” Aeroflot told the agency. “All of the miles collected during his time in the program will be annulled.” According to news reports, Mr. Galin had nearly 400,000 miles on his account.

Aeroflot did not respond to requests for comment. In a message, Mr. Galin confirmed that his frequent flier account had been blocked, and said he found out about the penalty through news reports.

The story of the cat swap became so widespread in Russia that it was even mentioned on Wednesday in a daily call between President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian journalists.

Mr. Putin said that the Kremlin did not comment about cats.

Mr. Galin justified his actions in his social media posts, saying that Viktor had become ill on the first leg of his trip, from Riga, Latvia, to Moscow.

Two days later, before the second flight, from Moscow to Vladivostok, a fastidious employee weighed Viktor and declared him too tubby to continue to fly in the cabin. Mr. Galin was then offered the chance to check the cat into the hold.

He said he had engineered the swap because he feared Viktor would be traumatized by such an experience and might not survive the eight-hour flight.

Last year, a French bulldog named Kokito died after a flight attendant placed the animal in an overhead compartment on a United Airlines flight.

The same airline faced questions in 2017 when an apparently healthy giant rabbit died in the cargo hold.

Mr. Galin said he had spent the last two years working in Latvia and was flying home to Vladivostok with Viktor.

He explained the cat’s unusual size was because of its breed, though he did not specify which one. And added that he had asked the person sitting next to him if they had any allergies.

At the end of his post, Mr. Galin rewarded the thousands of people who had followed the story with a throwback snap to when Viktor was a kitten.

“A photo of young Viktor,” he wrote. “When his weight still met the requirements of the airline.”

 

The Verdict’s In: The Rooster Can Crow!

Maurice the rooster with his owner, Corinne Fesseau, at her home on the southwestern island of Oléron, France. Photo Credit Kasia Strek for The New York Times

Good news for the rooster. Bad news for the neighbors.

Best quote ever! “This rooster was not being unbearable,” Mr. Papineau added. “He was just being himself.”

Hon, remember the trial of Maurice the Rooster? The judge made his decision!

  

PARIS — The most famous rooster in France can continue to crow.

So ruled a French judge on Thursday, rejecting a claim by neighbors on the southwestern island of Oléron that the fowl, named Maurice, was a nuisance and made too much noise.

The judge found that the rooster, being a rooster, had a right to crow in his rural habitat.

“Maurice has won his fight,” his lawyer, Julien Papineau, said after the court decision in the small coastal city of Rochefort. “The judge recalled that, where Maurice is singing, it is in nature. It is in a rural town.”

“This rooster was not being unbearable,” Mr. Papineau added. “He was just being himself.”

The court also awarded the rooster 1,000 euros, about $1,100, in damages — more than enough for a luxury redo of his simple green chicken coop, though the money will go to a fund for the families of those who have perished at sea, his lawyer said.

Maurice, a modest bird with magnificent plumage, did not let out a triumphant cackle at the news of his court victory in Rochefort. His celebrity has not gone to his head.

The rooster and his owner, Corinne Fesseau, had been sued by a retired couple, Jean-Louis Biron and Joëlle Andrieux, who have a vacation home in the area and claimed that Maurice’s crowing had made their holidays stressful.

The rooster’s case had been taken up by thousands of people across France as a symbol of rural values — eternal values in France — that they say are under threat.

Other neighbors staunchly defended the chicken, and the mayor passed an ordinance protecting his rights.

The judge’s decision was soundly based on French law, the lawyer said. In these “fights between neighbors, the nuisance has to be excessive, or permanent,” Mr. Papineau said.

The court found that neither was the case.

“This is a reaffirmation that people of bad faith don’t always win,” Mr. Papineau said, “and that we’ve got to accept nature’s sounds.”

Video from my post on Maurice the Rooster.