Introducing . . . Squeeky Rhino.

A few months ago Monika went to get a haircut with her godmother. I had finally found an evasive parking space and they had already gone in to the salon. As I walked toward the salon, a young girl and, presumably her mother, exited. The young girl was carrying a critter ball that contained what looked like a guinea pig. She was in tears as her mother admonished her for reasons I wasn’t aware of.

I entered and was immediately accosted by Monika who loudly declared that she wanted a hamster. I nodded and said she would have to talk about that with her dad.

“You’re okay with hamsters?”she asked incredulously.

“I’m okay with a hamster, sure. My brother and I had them when we were your age.”

In previous attempts in asking for a pet, it usually involved a cat. Don’t get me wrong. I love cats and had one as a teenager, the bestest cat in the world, Leopold. Leo never meowed unless on the way to the vet. Leo was not a lap cat. Poldie was not affectionate. But he liked to be in the same room as the humans and occasionally graced us with his presence on the couch as we watched TV. And I loved that about him. Pold actually ruined me for other cats because now I can’t stand cats that always want to be on my lap and meow relentlessly. I’m also ruined for cats because it turned out that I am horribly allergic to them. And I’m a terrible housekeeper.

If I were better at keeping house, sure, I’d love to have a cat. But. I learned this horrible “teach kids responsibility” thing from a co-worker (whom I actually loathed, but no matter, it’s still a great idea): if the kid wants a cat, the litter box goes in the kid’s room. This is genius. Evil genius. The stink and the mess will eventually get to the kid. The kid HAS to clean the litter box.

This didn’t go over well with Monika, so she quietly gave up her campaign to have a cat.

Then she wanted a fish. She had a fish once. Which she named Fishy-Poo. She’s not the most original when it comes to naming her animals. All her stuffed animals have some adjective in there that describes their texture or color. “Snowy” the baby harp seal, “Fluffy” the pink dog she also uses as a pillow, “Pinky” the over-priced pink cat with sound effects.

I digress. Sorry, I do not know how to edit myself in some cohesive way.

Anyway. She had a fish once. That her grandmother fastidiously took care of. Which Monika admired when she happened to notice it (once a month) next to the television set. It seems the fish’s bowl was being cleaned one day and Fishy-Poo was in a temporary habitat next to an open window. In winter time. Fishy-Poo departed for warmer climates. Oh well. He had a really tiny bowl so I hope he’s swimming in warmer, larger and open waters in heaven.

I should add that Monika’s mother gave her a pet fish for Christmas. The fish is pink and she calls it “Sparkles.” So because she has a fish at her mother’s house, she wanted one at home with us. I reminded her of her track record of fish. She tried to convince me that she was terrific at taking care of fish.

“But, who takes care of Sparkles when you aren’t home with your mom?”

The silence was deafening.

Which brings me back to Monika’s just-begun campaign for a hamster. As I was saying, a girl with a guinea big in its transport ball had just left the salon in tears with her parent/guardian. Monika’s godmom, Lily, told me that the mother was looking for someone to adopt the guinea pig. Apparently the guinea pig had escaped one too many times and mom had had enough, the rodent had to go.

I find it rather strange that Monika’s campaign for a hamster was stimulated by such a sad and negative event.

Later on with her dad, we discussed the possibility of getting a hamster. He was not keen on the idea, but the fact that hamsters are small was appealing. They do not need to be walked so long as they have a wheel and a hamster ball. They don’t really need a litter box. Yes, they pee and poop everywhere but the hamster will spend a lot of its time running in its wheel.

So it was a go with the hamster as a pet. But Monika had to face the trial. Which her father initially set for one week, but I told him he was out of his mind. This was an animal dependent on a human for food and water, we needed to be sure she would take proper care of the hamster.

One shoe box, some shredded paper and a stuffed hamster later and the trial began. Marbles were the “food.” I even had yellow shredded paper to represent the pee. Once I took the hamster out of the shoe box and put him in a corner behind the door and called Monika to change the “hamster’s food”. She came out of her room, hands clasped tightly together, “Umm, Emily, uhh. What if something . . . OH!” She scooped up the escapee and put him back in his shoe box.

After a month long trial, Monika and I went to the pet store to select a hamster. We had looked at Dwarf Robo hamsters in previous weeks and decided upon that particular breed.  They are pretty small–I’d say about the size if not smaller than a large chicken egg. After much excitement on her part, excited squeals and clapping: $102 dollars later, we brought the fluff ball home with the hamster accoutrements necessary.

So here is Squeeky Rhino:

The name was inspired by the guinea pig/hamster/gerbil rodent of some type from the movie “Bolt.” That’s where RHINO comes from anyway. As for SQUEEKY, this is what she pre-ordained him three weeks before we actually purchased him. This poor thing’s name is an oxymoron.

Squeeks’ cage has a wheel that sits on top of the cage, but is fully enclosed. He climbs up a tube/slide to get into the wheel, and the wheel itself not only spins, but the thing as a whole rotates. I hope he enjoys the change of scenery. He’s not terribly bright, however. He started dragging bedding and fluff into the wheel. And food. What had briefly been a quiet hamster wheel now clinked and clanked with all the stuff that he had dragged in there–and yes, it hits him in the butt and has occasionally bumped him enough that he needs to stop.

We thought Squeeks’ cage was great. Until we noticed that bits of seeds and droppings were actually escaping from the wheel. Air holes, you see. Which we now cover with tape. Don’t worry, he still has holes on the side of the wheel that give him plenty of air–not to mention the hole for the access tube.

Squeekers likes raw pumpkin seeds. This is what I’ve been luring him with to sit in the palm of my hand. I think he has gotten used to me because now he scurries across my forearms and has gotten onto my back somehow. He did bite me once. (Note to self: get tetanus shot.) I will admit I was teasing him with a pumpkin seed and I don’t think he liked that. There was no blood, but it freaked Monika out. So she’s now afraid to pick him up.

And as a result: guess who’s really taking care of Squeeky Rhino?

Well, okay. I don’t really mind. That much. He is awfully cute.

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Right.

So sometime ago in March the gardening bug struck on a warm 70 degree day and I got to work banishing azalea bushes from my yard.

Several weeks later, I realized I had really neglected the yard and it was completely overrun with weeds. The lawn we knew would be bald. The flower beds on the other hand . . .

I left one azalea bush behind and it was getting choked by some mysterious vine weed that’s been wrapping itself around the branches of the bush.  But the bush itself has been surrounded by weeds itself and I haven’t been able to attack it quite yet.

But there’s a problem here. Some weeds are obvious, like dandelions. No problem identifying those. Others looked vaguely plant-like, but were so plentiful it was obvious. And then there are the plants that aren’t weeds, but get out of control so quickly some people consider them weeds.

I’m getting to my point.

After 28+ years of urban apartment life, I didn’t know what I was doing. I eyeballed one bit of greenery with suspicion. It was growing quite well and seemed to be taking over. So I pulled one out to realize it was a bulb of some kind. Oops. Hmm. Maybe there were some more plants that the previous houseowners had stuffed into the soil that I hadn’t noticed.

Nope. Those were the freesia bulbs I had planted in April. Forgot all about them! Oops. I intentionally and ignorantly yanked out one, and I think I yanked out another two by accident. But the rest are doing fine! I saw a stalk the other day that clearly had buds on them.

Day Lilies, Jasmine (what a sublime perfume), cilantro, basil, a grape tomato plant appear to be doing well so far. There’s a fox glove in the front that I bought purely for color. Gerbera daisies I am worried about, as I didn’t pot them straight away and with the heat of the recent few days they aren’t looking very lively.

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Have you read JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte?

I haven’t read Jane Eyre since high school, and I’m pretty certain it wasn’t for required reading. I actually liked reading old English, fuddy duddy writers my peers considered “high fallutin’. ” I still do.

I absolutely despised Wuthering Heights, by Charlotte’s sister, Emily. So much so that I can’t even really remember what happened in that god-forsaken book. There are moors, it’s dark, it’s dreary and everyone’s miserably unhappy. It took me a really long time to realize that Cathy wasn’t crazy–she was just pregnant! And I really have no desire to re-read it and remember.

But back to Jane Eyre. I have enjoyed re-reading this. I’m about two-thirds of the way done with it. I have to agree with my pop–despite enjoying the actual story, she does go on so! Oh my god. The dialogue goes on forever, sometimes, and she had this weird habit of inserting narrative within the dialogue–which is a little distracting. I have definitely been guilty of skimming the dialogue until I get to the good bits.

What a weird character Jane herself is, though. A withdrawn, shy girl and then woman. She has so much control over her emotions it’s a little bit . . . off-putting.

Mr. Rochester, on the other hand, has no problems expressing his feelings–to the point that I realized he acts like a woman. There I said it: Mr. Rochester acts like a woman.

Here’s where I am in the book.

Jane has just learned that Mr. Rochester is, in fact, already married to an insane woman stashed away in his attic. (This is the same insane lady who has tried to burn Mr. Rochester in his bed in many earlier chapters.) Shocking and very sad news, indeed, when one expected to be married to him, only to have her hopes dashed. She has finally emerged from her bedroom, and is now in the drawing/living room with Mr. Rochester, and he is the more passionate of the two. She has made up her mind that she has to leave and told him so. This of course has him upset.

Starting around page 367 of my lovely, linen bound Penguin classic edition (or, somewhere in chapter 27) . . . verbatim:

Withdraw then–I consent; but remember, you leave here in anguish. Go up to your room; think over all I have said, and, Jane, cast a glance on my sufferings–think of me.”

He turned away; he threw himself on his face on the sofa. “Oh, Jane! My hope–my love–my life!”, broke in anguish from his lips. Then came a deep, strong sob.

I was at first embarrassed to read these particular few sentences. I rolled my eyes as the train lurched to a stop at 34th Street. Then I actually sniggered.

Rochester is a woman!

And Jane. Jane is very much like a man. She is removed, she is logical, she refuses to allow her feelings to get the better of her lest she end up in another unwanted, orphaned situation.

Am I the only one who thinks Rochester acts like a woman?

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Thoughts on living in a house . . .

Last weekend, as I sat basking in the warm sunlight in my yard, I had a thought.

I could go indoors and outdoors at any moment if I wanted to.

It was a weird realization. It was almost like being in my private little park.

Keep in mind, I’ve been living in apartments for the last 28 years of my life.

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Azalea Bush–be gone with you!

The last week or so has been rather warm here in Da Bronx. I went to Home Depot with visions of Gerbera daisies and peonies dancing in my head. I settled for some peony roots and some basil seed instead, along with a rather large bag of soil and a couple of containers.

Today I decided to attack the azalea bushes. I don’t understand why, but I hate azaleas. They look pretty for a little while, but after that they’re just kind of there. There were about five of them in the yard. Don’t go thinking I have a large yard–I do not. It’s rather small. It’s about the same size as my living room. One of them was definitely quite old–the root system was amazing. Thank goodness I do not have any rhododenrons–hate those too!

I have no focus. Can you tell? I was bouncing all over the  yard. One minute I was hacking away at the bush (I vanquish thee, Azalea Bush!), the next I was trying to pull up weeds, or I was raking furiously. When raking would not loose dead leaves, I went in with garden-gloved hands.

And now my hands reek of cat pee. Reek. Of. Cat. Pee. Six hours after the fact.

I have poured pine sol on. Bleach. Vinegar. Ajax. It’s all I can smell–cat pee!

But my garden looks ready to be plundered now. I didn’t think to take any photos, sorry.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to eat tonight.

I couldn’t figure out where the odor might have come from and then I remembered my neighbor said that there were kittens hanging out in his yard behind the shed–and he commented on the smell. I didn’t notice anything at the time–I was digging, rooting, raking and destroying.

The vinegar has helped a little bit, but every few minutes or so ammonia wafts over. I may have to soak my hands in pine sol for five minutes later on.

I’m beginning to wonder whether I ought to plant honeysuckle after all. Cats like honeysuckle, by the way. I’m horribly allergic to cats but like to pet them, and wanted to be able to attract some kitties. My grandma used to have a honeysuckle in the front yard by the door. There were always two or three cats hanging out there, and I never understood why until my uncle gave me a branch cutting. Leopold didn’t quite go nuts over it like he did with catnip, but he was hugging the branch and rubbing his face all over it!

But if it means they’re going to pee in my yard I may just do without the honeysuckle. Why should I reward them for turning my yard into a litter box?

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Why do I hate beige carpeting, you ask? Or: Ode to My Vacuum

Ever seen little kids? Ever seen how they kind of run around, aimlessly, without direction or purpose? Denis Leary put it best. Kids under the age of 5, they are drunken midgets in movement.

When last we had one of Chris’ nieces over, she was given two or three Oreos to munch on with a glass of milk.

Which resulted in a connect-the-dots of sorts all over the dining room and living room beige carpeting. It resembled no known star constellation, if you were wondering.

That‘s why I hate beige carpeting.

But I have a brand new vacuum cleaner. It’s odd, it really is. I have this tendency to do a lot of research on the things I’m interested in. I buy the object of my desire, and then. The item I just purchased is discontinued.

It’s an Electrolux Oxygen canister something or other. Hepa filter and all that jazz. After just three weeks of ownership the bag was actually full. No surprise really. The carpeting was new-ish and the roller brush was picking up loose carpet fibers.

Did you know that the Electroluxes in the market are not the old-school, it still runs 75 years later Electroluxes? It’s true! The name Electrolux was bought/licensed out by Hoover/Eureka folk. So the old-school canister vacuums that still run 75 years later are now called Aerus Electrolux and they are difficult to find. I believe you can only buy one of these machines through certified dealers. The basic Aerus Electrolux model starts at $700. Let me say that again: $700. For $700 I expected that it would also do my laundry but that’s not the case.

Anyway. I love my new vacuum cleaner. It’s satisfying to hear the crinkle/crackle of whatever being sucked up into the waste bag. It’s also satisfying to see the carpet treads resulting from a fresh vacuuming. Yea, yeah, I know: next I’ll be donning my best pearl strand and wearing high heels with an apron covering my Christian Dior-esque “New Look” dress. I actually look for excuses to plug in the vacuum and create new carpet treads.

Chris has a roomba. Which he really loves but I hate. One of the selling points for the roomba was that you could turn it on and then, hey, you can leave the house while it vacuums for you! Well, actually the roomba is more of a sweeper and it is impressive what it sweeps up. But it has a tendency to get trapped and tangled in things. Which is why Chris never runs the thing when we’re getting ready to leave the house. So I have to listen to the dang thing growl as it proceeds to sweep a 14′ x 14′ room for 40 minutes. No. Not 10 minutes. 40. During which time it gets trapped or entangled in something. And you do have to move the furniture around just so that this thing gets where it should and should not. Chris has created mini-forts of sorts out of chairs when he hasn’t been able to locate the laser sensor things that the roomba picks up–the laser tells the roomba “You may not pass!”

Oh hey.  Look at that. I can vacuum that same room in about ten minutes. And my machine is quieter. And I didn’t have to rearrange furniture or employ lasers. I guess the one thing about the roomba is that it sings a little jingle when it’s done to tell you  “I’m done! Love me!” Oh, and it’s small and takes up very little real estate.

But I could do without the roomba. I’m sure Chris feels the same way about my non-old school, still running after 75 years Electrolux canister vacuum. He sheepishly admitted, though, that he too liked seeing the vacuum tracks in the carpet.

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