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Friday, 30 November 2012

A Big Relief, but Baby Still Got Back

I had to take Stimpy to the vet yesterday.  For those who haven't been following  my blog, Stimpy's one of my two ferrets, and he's just the biggest sweetheart in the world.  There's never been a more gentle creature.  The problem is, he's been experiencing nausea for some time now.  I've been trying for the last year to narrow down the cause, seeing as even a vet has difficulty with something like this in ferrets.  It can be anything from a food sensitivity to cancer.

The upshot is, she didn't seem to think it was an emergency, although there are some tests now that need to be done, seeing as I've already ruled out a large number of things on my own.  (Anyone with ferret experience can tell you "ferret-parents" often have to do this to some extent.)  The vet could feel an enlargement, which is either near his kidney, or it is his kidney.  If it's the kidney, he may have an infection that's pretty easily dealt with.  If it's something else, that means there's a mass there that's pushing the kidney out of position.  I'm really hoping it's the former.  A lump on the back end is never a good thing.  He has a hump, a hump, a lovely lady lump...or not so lovely.

I also need to take my other ferret in to have him neutered, as there have been complaints about his pungent aroma from neighbours in my building - the same neighbours who are poisoning us with cigarette smoke, mind you.  Between Stimpy's check-up, Pepper's check-up, and then Pepper's surgery, we're talking about $500.  The additional testing for Stimpy is almost $400, so this means things have to be spread out a bit in order for me to pay for everything.  The fact that the vet said it might be best to concentrate on getting Pepper fixed gives me hope, though.  If she thought it was urgent with Stimpy, she wouldn't have been likely to say that.

People complain all the time about the cost of vet bills, and considering the fact that I live on disability maybe I should be one of them, but actually I fully understand.  It's harder to get into vet school than it is medical school.  The reason?  Well, a vet needs to know the anatomy wide range of species, and understand the varying conditions of such.  Even the different dog breeds vary drastically with respect to their anatomy.  You can't tell me a wiener dog has everything in the same configuration as a Great Dane - they may be the same parts, but the size and placement won't be the same.  Different species mean different parts altogether in some cases.

Vets deal with cats, dogs, ferrets, turtles, lizards, snakes, parrots, horses, chickens, cows, goats, gerbils, etc.  Granted, vets will usually pick a couple of key species and stick with them as their specialty.  Not every vet will know how to treat a ferret or have any experience with them.  There's simply too much to know.  It's up to the ferret's caregiver (such as myself) to find a good vet that works specifically with ferrets.

You may have noticed that I don't use the term pet-owner or ferret-owner.  I really do not feel I own them.  They're a family member that I'm responsible for, much like a parent is responsible for a child, and parents do not own their children.  They may think they do, but they find out very quickly that they don't - somewhere around the age of thirteen in most cases.  So, instead of 'owner' I try to find other words for it that fit better.

People in the ferret community use the term "ferrent", which is basically ferret-parent mushed together.  The problem with that term is that it's not used by the general public, so nobody would know what I was talking about.  Kind of like the term ferret-proofing.  If I say that to a...um...civilian, they laugh at me.  However, it is a very real term.  Parents have to child-proof their homes.  "Ferrents" have to ferret-proof, and it's actually a lot more work than child-proofing.  An inquisitive toddler has nothing on a 2-pound ferret that can get through a one-inch hole.  I know what I'm talking about, as I've had both in my life.

Ferrets are very strong for their size, they have claws designed for digging, and they're probably the most persistent creature I've ever met.  Their teeth can tear apart raw meat, which means wire insulation doesn't stand a chance if they decide they want to have a nosh.  Carpet fibres are easily shredded, and a closed door is like a digging invitation for them.  Now you're probably wondering why I would even have them in my home.  People have cats, don't they?  At least my ferrets haven't destroyed a sofa lately.

Chair mats used in offices easily protect carpets near doorways, or if you have properly finished hardwood, ceramic tile, stone or linoleum floors their claws don't get very far.  My ferrets have no real interest in wires, although sometimes Pepper will grab the end of one in his mouth and try to run away with it, whether the other end is attached to something or not.  I hear everything they do, though, so I see it happen.  It's one of the reasons they make me laugh so much.

In order to survive with their sanity intact (not to mention protect their ferrets), "ferrents" usually cage their ferrets, particularly when they won't be supervised.  I agree with this for most people, actually.  The cages are large and meant specifically for ferrets.  I don't have a cage anymore, because I don't need one.  I'm always home.  If I have to go out, either my daughter is home, or they're put in my bedroom for their own safety.  There is nothing they can do in there that will hurt them, except maybe fall off my bed, but it sits directly on the floor so it's not very high.  They can catch their claws on things, especially if they're split for some reason, which might break a toe or a leg, but there's really only so much you can do to protect an animal from their own exuberance.

This is what I meant in a previous blog entry when I said I can't stop talking about them once I get started.  I opened the floodgates, though, and here we are.  Far too many paragraphs about something that should have been a quick note about the results of Stimpy's vet visit.  What can I say?  It's an addiction I have no interest in curing at this time.  They just make me too damn happy.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Thank You for the New Confidence in My Work

It was quite by chance that I started submitting articles online.  I was doing research for my book, which is to be the beginning of a crime novel series.  I was looking for information on homicide reports, and what they're supposed to look like, when I came across wrytestuff.com.  One of the links I found on Google led me to an article on the site.  I read the article, not paying much attention to the site itself at first.  When I noticed the name of the site I wondered if that meant I could submit work there.  It turned out that's what the site was all about, so I did the online registration and filled out the application.  My application was approved and I've been writing for them ever since.

Shortly after I started submitting articles, I came across another article on there about Google Authorship, so I went through the process of setting up a new Gmail account for my writing, and dealt with all the technical stuff involved with making sure your work is properly showing up in their searches.  All that went fine when I read yet another writer's work, which was a blog on Blogger.  So, I thought, why not?  I should probably start a blog, too.  I have things to say sometimes that don't fit into the parameters of a typical article.  I honestly didn't think a blog of mine would generate any real interest, seeing as I'm just your average person writing about things having mostly to do with myself.  If I don't think of myself as all that interesting, I didn't figure anyone else would either.

I was pleasantly surprised when my work on wrytestuff.com started generating search engine referrals, and I became one of their top 100 writers.  A week or so ago I hit the top 50 for a few brief moments, which was rather nice.  I'm getting a higher number of readers on average with every article I write.  I've also noticed that my blog is starting to generate some traffic from websites having nothing to do with wrytestuff.com, and that it's getting a bit more popular.  I have to say, it feels terrific that people actually want to read the things I write.

Having your 'voice' heard by others is a very gratifying experience, particularly for a writer.  Believe me when I say that I cherish every page view that shows up in my statistics, no matter what site it's on.  I'm nearing 12,000 page views on wrytestuff.com, and there have been hundreds on here.  That's kind of a big "WOW!!" for me.  I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to find out what I have to say.  Thank you all for that.  I 'Tweet' a thank you on Twitter whenever I hit a milestone, but I have almost no following on there, so I thought the least I could do is say thank you where people might actually read it.

Feeling validated as a writer has also been very encouraging.  I travel in new directions that I wouldn't have had the confidence to travel in before.  I've gained enthusiasm for my fiction work, and have been back at that, as well.  I'm writing at least something every day pretty much, and it feels great to be out of the non-productive rut.  So, there's a thank you to all of you here for that, too.  The more people read my work, the more I want to write it for them.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Weirdness of Paid Bills and No Bills

I don't have a lot of bills, which is definitely a good thing, because I don't have a lot of money these days.  I'm only on temporary disability, which doesn't pay out anywhere near permanent disability, and even permanent disability isn't exactly a cash cow.  I know better these days than to overspend my budget, because there's a deep-seated knowledge that there just isn't another source of income that I'll be able to tap if things get bad.

In my younger years I would allow myself to go into debt.  Sometimes it was with credit cards, sometimes with car loans, and sometimes with *gasp* payday loans.  I would put off paying a bill until the next month, not really caring if something got cut off on me, because I knew I could make it up next month.  Or, at least, I thought I could.  I wasn't always right, and I paid for it through the nose.  Payday loans kept going up like a house on fire.  Every payday the amounts got higher.  We eventually got rid of them for good.  To this day I don't think there was much choice at the time, but now when faced with a bad financial situation I figure out something else so maybe the other options were there for me before and I just wasn't savvy enough to realize it.

Unpaid monthly bills were punished with interest at first, and then disconnection and reconnection fees later, unless I chose to just forget about the service.  You can't really do that with utilities, but things like internet and television subscriptions can be lived without, no matter what anyone tells you.  Try living without heat for a month in winter, and see where your priorities shift to.

Becoming satisfied with very little in life was the key for me, to being able to finally get a handle on my finances, despite being more broke than I have ever been in my life.  If I can't afford to pay cash for something, then I simply can't afford it, because monthly loan payments of any kind are out of the question.  For the first time ever, I have exactly four things to pay for:  Rent, hydro, food and internet.  In my case the internet is necessary.  My daughter needs to find a job, and in order to do that you have to be online and have a phone.

We get our phone service free online, so it's a double-feature for us.  It's available to all Canadians, but I'm not sure about the US.  There's probably an equivalent down there.  If you find it necessary to have internet, it's always better if you don't have to pay the second bill of a phone line.  It has its limitations, but there's voice mail that is sent to your e-mail, as well as 911 service and everything.  There's a small download to use the software, but to use the phone program itself is kind of a memory pig, so I never have it on while I'm running other things.  I'm not big on phone calls anyway.  If you're curious, it's www.freephoneline.ca.  They have other services, as well, but it really is free to have their phone line.  I'm not here to advertise for them, though, so I'm not going to promote their paid services.

My point is, we've cut down our bills to almost nothing.  We've learned to live without everything, almost.  If there's something I want to see on TV, it's almost always available for free online, and quite often it's the networks themselves that will stream their shows.  Other sites stream shows, and they pay for the rights through advertising.  It's not illegal, by the way.  I'm not referring to pirating anything.  I'm referring to free services.  The quality isn't always the best, and you have to watch that you're not going over your bandwidth limits with you internet service provider, because streaming uses a lot.  Anything graphic-intensive will do that.  It's kind of like video or computer games when there's water graphics.  If your computer or console has limited memory for graphics, that's the part where it will lag.

Now, when I have money, it seems the first thing I do is take care of the bills, and then figure out where the rest of it will be going.  Maybe I shouldn't be putting food last on the list, and maybe other people wouldn't do that, but I've never really cared about food.  I'll eat generic chicken wieners on regular bread, flavoured with generic ketchup, and it doesn't bother me in the least.  I've gone hungry, and don't care to again, but it taught me another lesson about priorities.  When you've only got a few dollars, you don't spend it on gourmet anything.  You buy the cheapest thing there is, so you get quantity versus quality.  Be a food snob if you want to, but everyone changes their tune when there's nothing left in the cupboard to eat.  A package of 8 name-brand wieners costs the same as 4 packages of 12 of the chicken wieners (48 in total, for those who don't want to do any math, which is 6 times the amount).  Would you rather eat for 2 days, or for 12 days?

I'm sure people look down on people in my situation.  However, there just isn't anything I can do about what I'm going through financially.  I'm disabled, and since I worked for myself at the time it hit me I did not have any medical insurance beyond what is provided by the province to everyone who lives here.  Disability is not covered by OHIP.  I'm more than a little proud of the fact that I manage to make it through, and I know very well that those same people who are silly enough to look down on me would never survive what I've been through.  There's a great deal of strength in that.

I've been a worker for a long time, and when I was laid off quite a few years ago I decide it was time to work for myself.  I figured I had more control over my job that way.  Well, I did have more control over the job, just not my physical well-being.  The job I had when I was laid off had terrible benefits anyway, so there's no reason to bemoan losing it as I wouldn't be any better off now even if I hadn't.  My company wasn't in a position to consider a benefits package, since I was the only full-time person, and my daughter was the only part-time person.  The costs for benefits were prohibitive.  I know, because I looked into it.

Still, despite that fact that I'm living at a much lower level of income, I'm actually better off financially.  The bills are getting paid, and I'm not paying for anything that isn't necessary.  There are no interest payments to anyone so I'm not getting double-dipped anymore where I pay for the item, plus I pay interest on it.  It feels really strange, actually, to sit at my computer and know that I have nothing more to worry about for at least another month.  In the case of the hydro bill it's more like two and a half months, since we only get one every two months, and I actually paid it a little early.

Christmas will be lean this year, but we expected that, and it's not going to be anywhere as lean as it was last year.  This year my daughter and I have our own place again, our bills are paid, and we can have a decent dinner with maybe a small gift or two.  Last year we had none of that.  Not having to make a choice between having electricity and having food means a great deal in this world, and I've learned gratitude for that in a big way.  I'm also grateful that I've learned these lessons so that I stop being as idiotic about money as I used to be.  You really never know what can happen from one week to the next.

Many years ago I read that most people are a paycheque away from poverty.  Financial advisors tell us that we need to have three months' expenses saved to protect us in case something happens, like the loss of a job, but there are two problems with that.  One, how many people really believe it's going to happen to them?  Two, if you lose your job it's quite likely it's going to take a lot more than three months these days to find another one.  In my case I was without income for a lot longer than three months.

The best advice I can give to anyone, and the advice I intend to follow myself, is to become financially independent.  I'm not talking about being rich.  I'm referring to not relying on a single source of income that's provided to you by someone other than yourself.  I'm also referring to being as self-sustaining in your lifestyle as possible.  400,000 jobs were lost in Canada in 2008.  Most people don't know how to grow their own vegetables and rely on the utility companies to provide them with power and heat.  If you can learn to exist without utility companies, and learn to grow your own food, you'll be about a hundred steps ahead of the game.

Solar power is completely feasible, even in Canada, for running your entire home.  Radiant in-floor heating that's electrically powered is the most efficient way of heating your home, and it's free when you have solar power.  Tankless water heaters are the most efficient that I know of, they provide instantly heated water, use very little energy, and are available in electrically powered models.  So, that's your heat, your hot water, and your electricity to power every other thing in your home, including all your appliances.  A well provides water, and a septic tank provides water-based waste disposal.  If you live in the city you may have zoning difficulties with some of this stuff, but check into it to see what you can and can't do with your home.  Maybe you'll decide your city is too restrictive, and you'll move out to the country.

A small vegetable garden provides a very large quantity of vegetables.  Most people who have gardens are always giving away the food because they end up getting too much.  Meat is a different issue, that has moral questions involved regarding the humane treatment of animals.  I plan to have chickens in order to have a steady supply of eggs, but I know very well I'll never be able to kill the chickens.  I don't even like chickens, actually.  We had them when I was growing up, and they were more than a little vicious.  Still, I have empathy for every living creature on this planet, including insects, so I'm not going to kill the chickens.  I plan to treat them very well, and provide them with better-than-humane living conditions, as animal cruelty is something I'm dead set against.  I won't even buy from companies if I know they test on animals.

Imagine your life without monthly bills, though.  Imagine the freedom that comes from knowing almost everything you bring in that month will be yours alone.  Sure, property taxes are a necessary evil.  I don't want to live in the dark ages, so paying taxes provides services I will still need.  Roads, for example.  Garbage pickup for anything I can't compost or recycle.  Armed forces to protect the country.  Health care and emergency services.  Those sorts of things are necessary and I'm agreeable when it comes to paying for them.  Property taxes are usually the smallest bill that people pay, though.  If their property taxes are $3,600 a year, that's $300 a month, and people paying taxes that high are likely paying a mortgage that's more like $2,000 a month.  They also likely live in the city.

So, how is it that I seem to think a mortgage isn't a necessity?  Well, in my case I plan to buy property and put up my own steel structure.  I'm not looking for pretty.  I'm looking for something that will withstand nasty weather, is well-insulated, has an arch structure so I can do what I want with the interior and not have to worry about support walls, and that I can pay for with cash.  With all the money I won't be paying to a bank every month, I can add a lot of 'pretty' as I go.  Living in a home you know you could lose with a downturn in the market is terrifying.  Ask anyone who has lived through it.  The recent financial crises throughout the world probably clued a lot of people in to that.  It's time to head back to a world of self-reliance.

In my case I had these truths sneak up and whack me in the back of the head with a two-by-four.  You can't, and shouldn't, count on anyone but yourself.  Not your government, not your family (who may be in a worse situation than yourself, or simply not care what you're going through), not your friends.  If you are caught unawares, the price is very high indeed.  I was lucky in my darkest financial hour, because I had people that did care about me.  My daughter and my ex were there for me in a way I still find amazing, but it doesn't mean I intend to count on that sort of thing again.  It wouldn't be fair to them, and being a grown-up means taking full responsibility for everything that happens to you, even when you have no control over it.

Now all I have to do is live up to my own hype, and keep these promises to myself.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What I Don't Talk About

There are things that are intensely personal to me, so I haven't shared them.  Not because I don't want to, but because I haven't figured them out enough yet to really talk about them.  Today, however, one of those things popped into my head and I thought that maybe I was ready to share it.  It's about my origins in a general sense, but mostly it's why I stopped talking to my mother.

I'm not going to give you the background first, because if most people read that first they might wonder why I was even speaking to my mother at all, during any point in my life.  I'll start with the current situation.  I stopped taking my mother's calls about a year and a half ago.  It wasn't really a conscious decision, but whenever the phone rang and I saw who it was, I just couldn't force myself to answer it.  She was absolutely the last person I wanted to talk to.  I was angry, or irritated, or something.  I was at about the lowest point of my life, particularly financially, and as much money as my mother and step-father might have to spare I just could not stomach the thought of ever asking them for another cent, or them knowing how bad things were (okay that part might have been pride, but if they'd offered I'd have had to refuse and it would've made me angry enough to tell them exactly why I didn't want their money).

You might think it was pride, but it wasn't that at all.  It was disgust, and it wasn't with myself.  I would really rather have been homeless than take money from them, because I knew the attitude that lived behind it.  It was an attitude of a total lack of understanding for anything anyone else in the world went through.  There was a sense of smugness that they weren't afflicted like others in this world, and the opinion that they owed the world absolutely nothing.  A few hundred thousand dollars tucked away, and great benefit plans, along with a house that's completely paid off can, apparently, give you a lot of smugness.

I could no longer run my business when my body started to work against me.  It's not just that I physically can't run it, because with a lot of painkillers I could probably do that.  The problem comes with the painkillers making me sick, and then the load of anti-nauseants I have to take to counteract the painkillers.  Between the two of them, my will and ability to do anything lasts about half an hour before I'm in Neverland again.  So I'm now on disability.

It was shortly after my first surgery that I stopped talking to my mother.  She got all gung-ho about coming out when I had the surgery, which was absolutely the last thing I wanted from her.  (They live pretty much on the other side of the country.)  She hadn't been there for me in the year preceding the surgery, and I wasn't going to be any worse off after the surgery than I had already been, so what was the point?  My daughter was the one who got me through that time, and quite frankly my daughter can't stand my mother or step-father either.  It didn't take much convincing to get my mother to change her mind, either.

I say 'first surgery' because I still require two more, which will entail me being completely unable to walk for about six months after each surgery.  Yippee.  The first surgery was nothing.  They just had to remove my tailbone so I could sit in a chair again.  I still have to have both hips repaired.  There are tears in the joints, as well as misshapen bones, caused by really bad training techniques while I was a competitive figure skater as a child.  Each hip has to be done separately, so I can at least use crutches to get to the bathroom.  Otherwise I will require complete immobilization, and most likely a lovely little catheter or something.  Another yippee.

So, back to the weird situation with my mother.  Shortly after I stopped taking her calls we moved.  It wasn't by choice, really, as the situation had gotten pretty bad.  My ex, who is my friend now, asked us to move in at his mom's place until we got on our feet again.  It took a while, but we're in our own place again and have been for a few months.  Things are still really tight with money, but we're getting by.  The rent is cheaper here, and my daughter and I are somewhat miserly anyway.  Sure, there are things we want, but until the financial landscape improves we're not stupid enough to spend money on them.  We're happy to be able to get a space heater at the end of the month, that kind of thing.

My mother started looking for me, despite my obvious lack of interest in talking to her.  She called the cops, who for some reason felt it was okay to violate my rights as an adult not to contact her.  They weren't intrusive as far as speaking with me, but they did go to my daughter's former place of work to ask regarding her whereabouts.  All that might have been understandable, until she sent a letter to my ex that was more like a thinly-veiled threat.  She must have watched too many shows about ex-husbands killing their formers spouses or something, because she made it clear she was looking for me and had called the cops.

She called the house where I was staying numerous times, asking my ex's mother to get in touch with her to tell her where I am, etc.  Neither my ex, nor my former mother-in-law, was inclined to give her that information, especially after that letter.  Now, if there was any reason whatsoever to suspect that I was in any danger, or had been subjected to homicidal action, the police would have dealt with it accordingly, but the fact that my daughter's former workplace gave them the information that we'd been alive and well long after we discontinued communications with my mother was enough to convince them it was by choice.  I also changed the address on my driver's licence twice.  I wouldn't be doing that if I were dead.

As for the background, well, my mother left me at my grandparents' when I was four.  She said she'd be back to pick me up 'tomorrow', and then I didn't see her for a few years.  Knowing the nature of my grandparents, as she was raised by them, she had no reason to think I would be properly cared for, and would in fact likely be abused, as I was throughout my entire time living there.  Every few years my mother would show up bearing gifts, and I would ask her when she was taking me back to live with her.  I can't remember what her answer was, as it wasn't quite as traumatic as the first leave-taking, but it was basically an answer to the effect that she couldn't. Time after time my mother chose her men over her child.  The first was some idiot running from the cops, and she ran with him rather than look after her own flesh and blood.

At the age of thirteen I was angry, yet still vulnerable to the idea that my mother might want me around.  Her and her husband came to visit, took me shopping, and then they talked about whether or not I could come live with them.  There was some talk of making arrangements to kidnap me, because my mother had apparently signed over custody of me.  I was thrilled at the idea she might want me back that badly, and willfully ignoring the fact that she wanted me so little she'd actually signed legal documents throwing me away.  In the end my grandmother agreed to let me move away, as I'd become quite the handful, and rather hateful toward them.  Since she'd spent a good portion of her time hitting me, and he had been doing nastier things, it wasn't really surprising that I hated them.  I was already experimenting with drugs, and self-hatred had invaded my life, too.

The three (intermittent) years I actually lived with my mother were not exactly sunshine and roses.  I had issues, unsurprisingly, and despite having hoped my whole life to be reunited with my mother, I also had a great deal of unresolved anger toward the one person who should have been the most protective toward me.  She left me with monsters.  She betrayed me unforgivably.  The fact of the matter is, I was never able to trust her again, no matter how much I pretended otherwise.  Nor could I truly love her.  I didn't have to capacity to love anyone as a mother.  I didn't know how, or what it felt like.  I'd only ever known the twisted feelings I'd grown up with, in a childhood fraught with suicidal thoughts and constant physical and psychological danger.  She taught me how to be a mother, because I knew I could never do to any child what she had done to me, and as much as I wanted to give my daughter the security of extended family, the damage was too severe.  It just took time to catch up with me consciously.

I still haven't sent her a letter, or communicated in any way.  What is there to say?  I could tell her everything I've said here, but my intention isn't to hurt her further, assuming she really has those feeling and isn't putting on a show for her husband or her guilty conscience.  I'm not trying to punish her.  Not now.  I wanted to many years ago, deep in my heart, wanting her to suffer for the pain she caused me, but I mostly just want her to forget I exist now, as she did when I was a child.  I want her to not recognize me if she ever runs into me in person, and I'd rather not run into her at all.  She gave away her children (yes, plural), and so she needs to let them go.  You can never get back what you've thrown away.  During one particularly bad fight with her as a teenager, she told me it was my fault she chose men over me.  Well, I guess everyone's got to have an opinion, even if it is the most self-serving one I've ever heard.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Introducing the Obsession

It occurs to me that I've never written about my ferrets on here.  I try to avoid writing about them too much, because I'm absolutely insane about them.  There's no reason or logic, and the limits disappear so that I ramble incessantly.  Still, they have to be known.  There is a reason I'm so crazy about them.

Stimpy weighs two pounds.  He's tiny for a boy, as they're usually between 3 and 5 pounds.  He's soft as can be, and the sweetest, most adorable creature on the planet.  Every time someone asks me if he bites, I have to laugh.  Even at his most playful he will touch me with his teeth, but never even close his mouth.  He's what they call a sable mitt in North America, which is to say he has the typical ferret markings, with dark guard hairs, white under-hairs, and white mitts.  He has the bandit mask, and occasionally lives up to the reputation of his species by stealing things.

Stimpy in a Basket
Pepper is a sable, and a dark one, who probably weighs 3 or 4 pounds.  He's also not fixed, so he has a pungent aroma when he's in season (generally spring and fall), and he has not been de-scented, so occasionally he 'poofs'.  That's where he got his name, actually.  He poofed while we were still trying to think of one, and it reminded me of Pepe le Pew, so he became Pepper le Pew.  He has a V-shaped mask now, with a mostly white face.  He's not typically a gentle boy, to say the least, and when we first got him he bit us a lot.  Painfully.  Drawing blood occasionally.  He's calmed a lot since then, despite not being fixed yet, and he's gotten rather affectionate, so the biting is few and far between, but when he's really playful he can get in a good nip.  Mind you, he's playing, and that's how ferrets play with each other.  Their skin is thicker than ours, and protected by fur, so they think nothing of chomping on one another, or being chomped, unless it gets out of hand.  They'll drag one another around the house, too, which you wouldn't think is all that much fun, but apparently they enjoy it.

Pepper as a Kit

I got Stimpy a few years ago when a friend of my ex bought him for his daughter, who proceeded to ignore him.  I'd already told him I'd take him if they ever wanted to get rid of him, because there was an instant connection there.  They were keeping him in a fish tank at the time (very bad for them, by the way - no air circulation), and he would instantly climb up my arm if I put my hand in.  He was still a kit when I brought him home, although he was almost fully grown.  They called him Stewart, but I doubted he knew his name if they were ignoring him, so I changed it to something that seemed to fit better.  My ex came up with the idea of Stimpy, and it just seemed perfect for him.

Pepper came to me through my ex again, but long after we'd split up and become friends.  Someone owed him money, and they were talking about getting rid of their ferret.  Either because he was attacking their cats, or their cats were attacking him.  Either is possible.  He's a feisty little boy.  Of course, they thought he was a girl.  About five minutes after my ex dropped him off, I was holding him and looked down to see the tell-tale nubbin in the middle of his belly, often mistaken as a belly button.  It's not.  I laughed and laughed, and then called my ex so he could let his friend know he was a boy.  He joked that they'd probably been playing with his 'belly button'.  It happens, more often than anyone would admit to.  He'd originally been named a very girlish name, which just wouldn't do, and wouldn't have been a name I'd have kept for a girl either.

Ferrets are very intelligent.  Apparently more intelligent than cats or dogs.  It wasn't long before they recognized their new names, and were answering to them.  They can be taught tricks and commands, but I thought that was kind of undignified.  I don't do that with my cats, so I'm not doing it to my ferrets.  They have their own little tricks and habits, which are extremely endearing, and they make me laugh all the time.  For anyone who knows me, in person, they know it's not easy to make me laugh, and the furry little buggers manage it all the time.

Cat-tipping is a favourite hobby of ferrets - well mine at least.  Especially with my one cat, of which I have two.  Rabbit (he's a cat - yes, it's a weird name), who is the wimpiest of the two, despite being the biggest, is constantly getting knocked over by the ferrets.  He's gotten to the point where he just lets it happen and then moves on with his life - once the ferrets are at a safe distance, of course.  My cat probably weighs close to 15 pounds, but somehow the ferrets find the speed and leverage to land him on his side every time.  He'd like to think he's letting them win, I'm sure.

War dancing is another entertaining activity they engage in.  Similar to a Native American war dance, you would almost think they were angry, but it's their tried and true happy dance.  They bounce around on one spot, or move around a bit if they feel extra happy.  Often they'll make a noise that's called dooking, and sounds like a cross between barking and chirping at a low volume.  Ferrets all have different voices when they get going, however, so it's hard to describe a typical dooking sound.

Aside from snakes, I don't think there's a creature alive that's as agile and flexible as a ferret (and their relatives in nature, of course, like minks and mongooses).  They roll and twist, nearly tying themselves into knots because that is, apparently, the most comfortable position in the world to sleep in.  I have dozens of pictures of Stimpy sleeping in really weird positions.  Pepper just curls himself into a ball with his face tucked between his legs.  Once his testicles descended it didn't make for great/appropriate pictures.

One of Stimpy's most endearing quirks is when he gets to have a tiny amount of a drink he goes crazy for Pepsi and iced tea are like a drug to him, and he can smell them from the next room, but the sugar is really bad for them, so I can only let him have a little.  When I take the cup away after a couple of licks, he kisses my hand almost every single time.  It's like the sweetest little thank you I've ever gotten.  He'll do the same for 'the stuff', too, which is what we call ferret laxative in our house.  Ferrets get blockages easily, so ferret laxative is a staple.  They absolutely love 'the stuff', though, so to them it's a huge treat.  Stimpy will stand on my lap every day, if we have it, pointing his nose at the top of my dresser repeatedly (where he knows I keep it), until he gets his daily dose.  You can't tell me these guys aren't smart.  I have to limit the laxative, too, as it has sugar in it, but I don't feel as guilty giving it to them as I do with a sugared drink.

Pepper's most endearing habit is kissing, too, but he kisses my nose when I'm holding him.  Not always, and not even every day, but if he's in the mood I'll get kisses from the little man.  These are melt-the-heart gestures that make me thankful in the deepest part of me that I decided I could handle having a second ferret.

The love I get from these guys has gotten me through some of the most difficult times in my life.  The break-up of my marriage, having to put down one of my cats a few years ago, ending up disabled from improper sports training as a kid (the disabilities only hit a few years ago), and finding myself flat broke after no longer being able to run my business - these were all things that could have destroyed me completely.  I can't say my life is great, as these problems still exist, but two or three pounds of furry love and entertainment have made things better than bearable.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

It Rains, It Pours, So I Write Some More

I'm definitely a fits & starts kind of person.  It's one of the reasons I write, and also work for myself.  I have successfully worked in the corporate world, but it was an uncomfortable fit for me.  I like to do things as the mood strikes.  Maybe that's self-indulgent, but then I don't really care.  I've structured my life in a way that makes me happy, not in a way that others approve of.  I feel it's my duty to contribute to the world, but that doesn't mean I live my life for everyone but myself.  As long as I'm doing something to make the world a better place, I don't feel anyone really has the right to complain about me.  After all, most people seem to live their lives without contributing anything at all, so who are they to judge me?

So, when I start into writing mode I tend to hit all the bases at once, and then take a full break from everything.  Today is apparently a writing day, seeing as I've posted an article on wrytestuff.com, and here I am on my blog.

(On a completely different topic, I would like to know why the spell-checker for this blog actually flags the word 'blog' as incorrect spelling.  Yes, I know it's a shortening of weblog, but it is actually an entry in the dictionary now, so it would make sense that a blogging site such as Blogger would be using a dictionary that includes that particular word.  Not everything in this world makes sense, though.  If it did, I probably wouldn't have anything to write about.  Man, I'm going to get so many errors appear when I do the spell check this time.)

Anyhoo...

I must be in a kind of strange mood.  Strange for me, I mean, which might actually be normal for everyone else.  I'm feeling my humanity today for some reason.  A connection to the world, brought on by the article I just wrote about culture.  Normally I'm an anti-social curmudgeon.  I don't like being around people.  I'm not comfortable in crowds at all.  I care a great deal about people, strangely enough, and my life's ambition is to help improve the lives of people and animals everywhere.  I just can't deal with being around them physically.  My verbal communication skills are extremely limited, in that I have to think about everything I say.  I don't do snappy come-backs.  Part of that may be fear that I'll say something I'll regret later, as that was known to happen in my youth.  However, I'm aware of my limitations to the point where I know even my written words are often misconstrued.

Language is such a tricky thing, particularly when you don't feel educated enough.  I have what I feel is only a basic grasp of grammar.  I'm unsure of my punctuation.  Punctuation is extremely important, too.  I struggle with it, to make sure the flow of words is as I meant it to be.  I remember someone I know illustrating this with a simple phrase, its meaning taken two completely different ways depending on the punctuation used.

The first way:
     "A woman without her man is nothing."
The second way:
     "A woman - without her, man is nothing."

Vastly different meanings, aren't they?  I'm not up for a debate on the political correctness of the phrase.  It's just an illustration of my point.  The sad thing is, as much as I fret about my grammar, punctuation and spelling, I see it as a dying art.  I'm a voracious reader, and I'm constantly seeing terrible mistakes in the books I read.  Books written by authors who've published dozens of books.  In one case an author I read has written two hundred books, and still her books are grammatically incorrect.  She admits to being a terrible speller, but where did her editors go?  How can they call themselves editors when even I know how many mistakes there are?

Someone once told me that publishers leave a couple of mistakes in on purpose for copyright reasons.  It makes it harder for someone to steal the work, or something.  I'm not sure whether or not I believe that, but even if it were true, they certainly wouldn't need more than two or three in a book, now would they?  A couple of errors in every chapter are a bit of overkill, aren’t they?

I spend a fair bit of time wondering how it is that I know the difference between to, two, and too, and yet most people don't seem to.  How hard would that have been for English teachers to properly explain to their students?  Okay, I get the inner city school issues of guns and the like, but it's absolutely the most basic knowledge of our language.  There, their and they're, are words that have very simple definitions regarding their appropriate use.  There is a place, their is possessive, they're is a contraction of they are.  A contraction is two words mashed together with an apostrophe in place of the missing letter or letters.  Sadly, a lot of people even put the apostrophe in the wrong place.  Every one of those errors could have been avoided with a simple definition and explanation by teachers.

There are confusion exceptions in the English language, and that's where I understand the errors people make.  They write in a way that seems logical.  We use an apostrophe 's' as possessive for almost everything except the word 'it'.  When we say, "A dog wags its tail," there should not be an apostrophe, however.  The reason for that is the contraction of 'it is' takes precedence.  It uses 'it's', and therefore, apparently to unsuccessfully avoid confusion, the possessive form of 'it' became 'its'.

These confusing exceptions are what make me feel inadequate regarding grammar and punctuation.  I will look things up if I don't know the answer, but even then I often have a hard time imprinting the information onto my brain.  It's like the old joke, "Why isn't phonetically spelled phonetically?"

Strangely, there was an error when I ran the spell-checker on this..  It told me to try again later.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Not So Talkative Lately

As anyone can see who happens to glance at my blog, I haven't been very chatty lately.  I haven't been doing a lot of writing, in general.  There's a reason for that, but I'll get to that in a minute.  I did finally submit an article on my usual site (wrytestuff.com), and the biggest surprise was that this particular article was twice as popular as my other highest-popularity pieces.  It was just a small piece about Thanksgiving in Canada and the ways in which Canadians differ from Americans, so I don't know the reason it was comparatively such a big hit.

I touched on something in the piece that one day I'll write about in further detail, though.  Those differences between Canadians and Americans are rather interesting.  One reader pointed out to me that he's always being reminded by a friend of his that we are not at all the same.  Ain't that the truth!  I can think of a few ways in which we're completely different up here.

I did another piece at one time about Canadian weather.  Of course, I barely scratched the surface there.  Canada is gigantic compared to the US, and there's a huge different in latitude between our southernmost regions and our northernmost.  There are no generalizations that can be made about Canadian weather.  I live in a area that barely gets any snow most years.  This would be one of them.  I haven't seen a single flake this year, and it's almost the last week of November.

Now, as to the reason I haven't been writing, and that's the belligerent behaviour of my laptop.  It decided to have power-supply issues.  Not only is the adapter shot, but the internal power jack is, too.  I've spliced an old adapter to the male end of my adapter, checking the voltage/amperage/ohms of course, so I have power again. but the internal jack will have to be replaced.  The great thing is, I can get both a new adapter and a new jack for about $30, including shipping.  In the meantime I'm having to keep my laptop on power-saver mode in order to keep it from switching over to the battery.  It's simply not pulling enough juice from the AC supply, and as soon as it switches to battery I have maybe an hour before I'm shut down - depending on what I'm running.

The funny thing is, in order to jury-rig a fix for my laptop, I had to delve into my "I'll probably need those later" box of electronics crap.  Stuff people will pick up from the box, handling it like it's a dead fish or something, voicing the typical query, "Why on earth would you keep this?"  The adapter I used came from an IBM Pentium laptop.  Yes, a Pentium.  Not Pentium II or III.  Can you guess how many years I've had that adapter in that box?  I tell you, though, it was an absolute lifesaver.  I'm lost without my laptop.  I can't take it.  Everything I do is on my computer.  Music, games, movies, business, paperwork, communicating with other people, writing (obviously), and pretty much anything else you can think of that doesn't involve plumbing in some way.  I don't watch actual TV shows, except The Big Bang Theory, and I watch that on my laptop.  I also watch basketball games live streaming on my computer.  Pretty handy little device.

I've had the machine back up for a little while, but didn't actually trust it to run properly, so I've been avoiding doing any writing.  One of the worst feelings in the world for me is to lose my writing.  I back up my work, and my recent stuff is all online right away, so I can't really lose that stuff once it's been published.  If I happen to be in the middle of something, however, and my computer goes down, or I'm working on my novel and haven't done a backup in a while, I lose whatever I was inspired to write, and it's like being gut-kicked for me.  I've lost my work a few times, and when I've had to do re-writes I never felt like I wrote it as well the second time around.  There just wasn't any passion for the work itself, only the anger from the loss.

So, I haven't been saying a whole lot.  It's kind of like not wanting to repeat myself, I guess.  Once I've written/said something, I really don't want to have to say it again.  I'm just now getting back into writing, tentatively, trusting that my computer will hold on until I can get the part I need to fix it properly.  I desperately need to have a backup computer, with an external, redundant hard drive.  Redundant, so that I never have to be again.