The Story of Buffy

Buffy came to me about 12 years ago, via the humane society. My friend Sabrina first spotted her while doing some volunteer work at the center; she saw there was something special about the grey-striped kitty with the chill disposition and told me that I really needed to go and just give her a look. I had recently lost a cat to old age and my heart was broken–I was pretty sure that I wasn’t ready for a new critter. My Sophie had been a gift from #1 many years ago, when we were still in South Carolina, and the spunky little cat was the only thing I still had from that previous life. Losing her after 18 years together felt like I’d lost a part of myself, but I finally gave in and decided to go and check out this ‘special’ girl.

I met up with Sabrina at the animal shelter and we walked over to the living room set-up that is the showroom for about 20 cats of varying shapes, colors and sizes. I noticed a smallish, silvery-striped tabby lying stretched out comfortably on her back….on top of another cat. I laughed and Sabrina said, “You see her, huh?”

“That’s the one?”

“Yep…she’s something, isn’t she?”

I wasn’t gonna be had that easily though, and insisted that we do a walk-through to check out all the other available cats. Sabrina went along with it, but she obviously thought it wasn’t necessary. We started down the looping hallway lined with glass-fronted cages, stopping at each to read the placard put there to explain the idiosyncrasies of its resident (Pookie doesn’t like to be held, or Mittens is a quiet girl…etc.). Most of the cats were sleeping or playing, oblivious to our presence, and as we got farther along I could feel myself being pulled more and more strongly back to the fake living room where the uniquely relaxed tiger kitty was. Then it hit me…what if someone else saw her while I was dilly-dallying, pretending that there was any other cat there that I’d even consider? My saunter turned into a faster paced hustle, and Sabrina smiled as we rushed back to the cat she knew should be my new friend.

We asked to see the lounger and were led to a small side room to meet her. We sat and waited on a bench, and shortly the attendant came in with a box. She opened the lid and a sweet, curious cat face popped up. It was then that I noticed a pink, heart-shaped nose outlined in black, and two smiling green eyes with a crazy amount of personality. Within a few seconds I had two sets of claws lightly scraping my leg. “Say hello to Buffy,” the volunteer laughed, “I’ll leave you folks to visit for a bit.”

I swear it was as if that cat was auditioning for me…after she finished the ‘clawing disguised as a stretch’ against my legs she purred, stretched some more, rubbed her face on my hand and did all the adorable things cats are supposed to do, finishing up with her butt up in the air as an invitation to scratch her back quarters. I was totally smitten. Sabrina and I did note that she wasn’t afraid to use those claws, but she wasn’t rough or wild about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I was sold.

In the years since then, the Buffster and I went through a lot together. I learned to handle her occasional sofa clawing, and she loved me with an aloof but wide-open heart that made my world a much better place. She charmed everyone she ever met and was loved so much by her Aunt Linda (a fellow cat lady friend who house-sat for me and always treated Buffy like a princess). They played for hours with a special ‘cat fishing’ toy that I keep behind a glass door in my entertainment center, and Buffy would run to that cabinet whenever Linda came through the door. She knew a sucker when she saw one!

We also made it through a few human boyfriend types–Buffy tried to warn me about one of them, but I was oblivious (Note to self: When the cats don’t like ’em, back away). She was notorious for using her ‘butt in the air’ trick when she liked someone, begging them to scratch at the base of her spine, and my latest boyfriend was graced by this gesture more times than we bothered to count. (He obviously wasn’t the one she tried to warn me about!)

Along the way Buffy and I lost a cat friend–Zoe, the beautiful but dumb one that I called my “Anna Nicole Cat”. After that we endured the somewhat chaotic entry of Pickle into our lives. We barely saw him for the first month he lived here…he hid in the basement, petrified of both of us…but he finally cozied up to her, and the two eventually became buddies. After about a year they were inseparable; her favorite thing was to cuddle with him and let him groom her…and then turn around and box his ears. She was the boss, and he adored her.

After Pickle gave in to Buffy’s charms, he even started sleeping with us. He liked to snuggle up with his head on my pillow, and his sister would circle up into a ball right behind my knee. I was trapped, but happy with the arrangement, and I slept soundly.

Pickle and I are both sad right now. Our Buffy left us almost a month ago, and neither of us has yet figured out how things are supposed to work without her. He cries and looks for her, and usually tries to sleep on top of me these days. I toss and turn and wake up just enough to pat him and tell him it’s going to be okay. Eventually, it will be.

The afternoon after Buffy’s last trip to the vet was quiet and empty in our house. I sat on the couch, neither noticing nor caring about the few shredded areas of sofa material, scars from my girl’s errant claws. I turned on the TV but wasn’t watching it…I just felt alone. I shifted my gaze to see what Pickle was up to and, when I turned back, the previously closed glass door to my entertainment center was suddenly wide open. The same door that houses the favorite cat fishing stick and feathers, the toy that had been idle and untouched for some two months. That cupboard hadn’t even been open in a long while, but it suddenly just…was.

I smiled and picked up Pickle, holding him to me whether he wanted to be cuddled or not. He snuggled back against me briefly before he squirmed his way out of my arms, jumped to the floor and ran.

It really is going to be okay.

Sweetest. Cat. Ever.

Book ’em!

I have a friend who just finished writing his second book. I edited it for him, and I now have a much better appreciation for what a huge task it all is…frankly, I’m in awe.

I continually tell myself that I need to write more, and I get lots of love and encouragement from those who read what I do manage to get in writing. However, being a dues-paying member of the Procrastinator’s Guild, I’ve pretty much just been poking a stick at the process for quite a while. Not a lot of actual writing going on, but I have been jotting down a few initial sentences and notes. In a tentative, half-assed way, I guess I’ve finally started making the first attempts at beginning to write my own book.

One thing that’s been a big challenge for me is feeling like I don’t have a crystal clear vision of what my first book is supposed to be. Hell, I don’t know that I even have a muddified Portland fall morning’s notion of what it’s supposed to be. I keep worrying at it though and (in fun) here are some of the titles and ideas I’ve been throwing around in my head…

curlicue

Lessons From Losers

The diary of a middle-aged woman as she reflects back on the more entertaining choices in suitors that she’s made. Not for the faint of heart. (Look for the upcoming sequel   —   Go Ahead…Date the Drummer.)

curlicue

The Know-It-All Life

(sub-title: A Professional’s Guide to Pissing People Off Without Even Knowing It)

curlicue

Don’t Wear Your Hoochie Mama Dress to Court…The Tammy Kelly Story

A racy coming-of-age tale with just enough bluegrass, booze and jury duty to keep you on the edge of your bar stool. (Come on, you know you’d buy it.)

curlicue

Big Hair…Will Travel

She came into town with a can of Aqua Net and a dream. (Soon to be a minor made-for-tv movie…see your local LifeTime channel listings.)

curlicue

 

It’s obviously still a work in progress, but I’m feeling better about it every time I put fingers to keyboard. Stay tuned for further developments!

Teacher’s pet on steroids

"Come on, you know you're just projecting..."

“Come on, you know you’re just projecting…”

I was wandering through a Goodwill store the other day when I ran across one of these dinosaurs. For those of you not from the era of mimeographed handouts (with that weirdly addicting, shiny-blue chemical smell that couldn’t possibly be good for you), or if the fun of turning the egg-beater-like handle of the requisite manual pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom is lost on you, this contraption ———> is an overhead projector.

 

These beauties were used to share super important information…like this:

Important stuff

Hey Jimmy…we can’t see THROUGH you!

 

 

 

School was pretty different back then. (And yes, I’ll see that bet and raise you a, “Hey you kids, get outta my yard!”)

 

 

One thing that probably hasn’t changed in the classroom though is that annoying kid who sits in the front row and seems to always have their hand up…you know the one. hand up

Well, let me just tell you, it’s not EASY being that kid! I would keep that hand up in the air until I sometimes thought my arm would fall off!

Eventually, that eternal hand in the air syndrome morphed into all of the telltale signs of a geeky teacher’s pet: refusing to cut school (even when threatened with bodily harm), being the kid chosen make bulletin boards or run to the office to deliver messages, and the one most likely to be left in charge when the teacher left the room on business (smoke ’em if you got ’em, boys).

In case you ever wondered what happened to those annoying kids, well, this one just recently found out her Myers-Briggs scores during a training event at work. It turns out that the Extrovert part of ENFP can be somewhat…um, I think the word the Introverts used was EXHAUSTING. They also mentioned something about having to fight to get in a few words during classroom…, um, I mean office discussions. Of course, I was so busy trying to get the instructor’s attention that I may have missed a few details. Maybe I’ll be able to do some extra credit follow-up…or at least buy the boss a latte.

 

 

 

 

Whatdya mean I have to wear pants?!

Big news…I’m finally going back to work at an honest-to-God 8 hour a day so-called normal gig. For the past four years I’ve done free-lance project management which (somehow) paid the bills, but it was never very dependable. There have been quite a few sleepless nights — sometimes because I had to work all night to meet a deadline, and sometimes because I had no idea where the next insurance or mortgage payment was coming from. The best part was that I got to work from home and, while it can get boring not going into an office, at least you never have to work with a nosy office mate or smell anyone else’s lunch being nuked. Best of all though…PAJAMAS! There were some times when being dressed certainly added to the experience, but sweats and yoga pants were usually fancy enough for even the most formal conference call.

Six months ago I took on a second job, doing some part-time front office work for a small heating and air conditioning contractor. It was fun having an office to go to again, and since almost all of my work was computer and phone…no dress code. To top it off, there were regularly dogs in the office, which is a definite perk.

Buck happens to like my 'style'...

Buck happens to like my ‘style’…

Working the two jobs simultaneously was challenging, often requiring me to get up early for my freelance job to take client calls and then stay up late to meet a deadline…squeezing in 6-8 hours of phone work in between. I could no longer wear pajamas all most of the time, but jeans were standard and no one even cared if I bothered to wash my hair (scrunchies were practically encouraged). As you can see from the photo, my office mates were very non-judgmental.

My wonderful new job won’t have fun puppies to pet, but it will have a regular schedule (no more over nighters!), a 401-K with matching funds, insurance that will only cost me a small percentage of what I’ve been paying, and lots of other exciting benefits. I’m really happy about the whole thing, but there is the (unfortunate) requirement that real clothes be worn. Welcome back to the world of business casual, Tammywhich typically does not include fuzzy pj bottoms with bunnies or super hero logos on them, and where yoga pants just won’t cut it. I’m hoping that the extra time I’ll now have will make it easier to do more writing…assuming that I don’t have to spend the whole weekend doing laundry!

 

 

 

Put a fork in your… WHAT?

I like to think that I’ve had a pretty interesting working life. These days I manage projects from home and write as much as I can, but in prior iterations of my life things were a little, um…different. I was doodling today and started to make a non-chronological list of some of the jobs I’ve had. A few are bizarre, some are pretty cool, and some are just…well…you be the judge.

Car wash attendant – This was my job the summer I graduated from high school. Let’s see…it was always at least 100 degrees, we had to wear long pants, I was the only female who worked there, and I couldn’t drive. You do the math.

Western Union clerk – Oh yeah, a great idea to put the gal who can’t balance a cash register to save her life in charge of all those funds going to Mexico around the world. I still have nightmares about this one!

Comic book shop owner – BEST. GIG. EVER. If you read the previous post about this, then there’s not a lot else to say…other than it’s something that almost no one (except that fat guy on The Simpsons) has done.

Gold miner – To be accurate, a very POOR gold miner. (And seriously, besides my #1 ex and those guys on TV, who else do you know who can say they’ve done this?)

Costume maker – Not Halloween costumes, but those fancy big-headed Ice Capades and Disneyland animals kind. This was another one of those, “You did WHAT?” positions. In truth, there were a lot of fumes, and I learned that I’m not nearly as artistic as I thought. About the only good thing at this job was the wonderfully creative, fun team that I worked with. Oh, and they let me (badly) use a dremel…so I got to break my No Power Tools streak. Unfortunately, one day while in an acetone-fume-fed rage, I stomped up to my boss and told him to, “…put a fork in my ass…I’m done.” (I’m so proud.)

Graphic artist – I worked for a television station and then a bunch of printing companies. These would have been a really great jobs if I’d had any idea of what I was doing. At least when I worked for the TV station I got to do some cool stuff like go on commercial shoots, record voice-overs and (shakily) run a camera from time to time. My claim-to-fame was writing, directing and voicing over a tire store commercial with bootlegged footage of The Little Rascals. There were, needless to say, no tears from my employer when I left that job.

Call center representative…then supervisor – Thankfully, I was originally one of those folks who answered your catalog order call, instead of the kind who call to interrupt your dinner with questions about what kind of computer or toilet tissue you use, or worse, to sell you something. Every once in a while, someone interesting would call in…I got to talk to Harry Shearer (of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons fame), Nancy Sinatra’s mother (size 6 panties, please), the famous director Billy Wilder’s widow, and Dan Ackroyd’s manager (who ordered him a pair of men’s XXL tummy control briefs). There was also that guy who liked to talk a LOT about ladies’ shoes…but we’re not gonna go there. Later I got to hire the kind of call center employees who DO call to ask you annoying survey questions during dinner (“But if you HAD to choose between Charmin and Angel Soft…?”) My job was to tell those callers how to do a better (aka more irritating) job. (Well, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I enjoy being bossy!)

Waitress – You know that really sweet waitress who makes you feel right at home and is fun to talk to? She’s perky and chatty, but gets (visibly) freaked if more than three people sit at a table, and then she manages to mix up the orders and doesn’t remember that you asked for the dressing on the side? Yeah…that one. She (thankfully) figured that shit out and got out of the biz. (Thanks for the 32 cent tip.)

McDonald’s employee – Not great even if you don’t mind smelling like a french fry 24/7. I do take some pride, however, in knowing that I made quite the scene when I made my exit from this job. A Friday-night high school football game left our store jammed, with a line around the building. Everyone was waiting a long time for their food when a guy in the crowd started yelling at me because his hamburger was taking so long. Then a few more joined him…like I was the damn Hamburglar or something! I got flustered, dropped a milkshake on the floor and, before I realized it, there was no turning back! I screamed, “I QUIT!” and threw my hands up in the air as I stomped out. I remember it something like this (apologies to the memory of Mr. Wilder…whose wife ordered a tasteful button-down collared shirt):

"I am big...it's the shakes that got small!"

“I AM big…it’s the shakes that got small!”

 

Don’t mind that…it’s just part of my crazy

I’ve written before about being bossy, but I’m afraid that this signature trait of mine is, once again, raring its (not so attractive) head in my life.

So, here’s the thing…I like to be right. I mean, I really, REALLY like to be right…is that so WRONG? (You should read that last part in the über whiny voice of Harvey Fierstein.)

After all, being correct (i.e. in control, the boss, perfect…you get the picture) has served me well often enough in my life that it makes it pretty damn hard to give it up! It’s saved me from any number of situations for which no one else could have possibly come up with the (obviously) right answer/plan/idea/annoying suggestion/condescending instruction…and the list goes on. However, as you might guess, it doesn’t always seem to be very much fun for those around me.

I once attended a mock trial…a bunch of fake jurors in a pretend jury room, discussing a case…the object of which is to give the lawyers a chance to better develop their argument. Since I’ve never actually been on a jury, it was an interesting experience (made even better by the fact that they were paying us). I’m not sure at what point my natural bossy tendencies leadership skills kicked in, but I was (naturally) chosen to be the head juror. Before long I was contributing so much that the moderator eventually asked me to shut up so that others could have a chance…I guess those fools just didn’t understand the democratic process! (I cashed my check really quickly after it was over…didn’t want them rethinking things.)

Who's the bossAs you can imagine, a trait like this can also be…shall we say… a bit challenging in a romantic relationship. As it turns out, 50-year-old men don’t actually like to be told where to park, or how fast to drive, or what to wear or say or think…SHEESH!

I did have one boyfriend who, upon meeting Bossy Tammy, just grinned and said, “Well honey…someone has to be the boss!” That was right before he decided that he needed excessive amounts of ginkgo biloba to try to keep up with what I was saying…he didn’t last long after that.

I read recently that there is a campaign to ban the word bossy, claiming that it negatively labels little girls who exhibit leadership abilities. I’m not sure that I agree with their entire spiel, but I’m really hoping that there’s a clause in there somewhere that might help out a 50-something-year-old woman with extra special talents in that area!

I could be the boss of you…just sayin’

I have to admit that I might have been told once or twice (ahem…) that I might be just the teeniest bit bossy. Now, I’m not going to argue with that because…well, because it’s undeniably true. However, in my own defense, that bossiness comes from a genuine, deeply rooted place that has been there since I was just a little girl.

My sister and I shared a best friend growing up. Her name was Cathy and she and I were both a year and a half older than my sister. When the three of us played together I usually ended up being mad at one or the other of them…sometimes running home crying because they wouldn’t do things the way I wanted them to…didn’t they know that I knew best? My favorite games were school (so I could be the teacher), or office (so I could be the boss). Duh…it was pretty obvious to me that I had the skill sets needed, so why not just give in and let nature take its course?

Chuck knows

Who messes with Chuck?

Later when I started getting ‘real’ jobs, I learned that I wasn’t necessarily always entitled to tell others what to do. It was a bit of a shock to me, and I did everything I could to move past that phase of my career ASAP! The first time I got to be a ‘real’ boss was when husband #1 and I owned a comic book store. Granted that we didn’t have any employees, and we were BOTH bosses, but it was still much better than having other people controlling my work world and my destiny…and telling me what the hell to do!

After #1 and I sold our business and moved to the West coast, I had to go back (kicking and screaming) to being a minion. Unfortunately, it turned out that I just wasn’t suited to un-bossy jobs any more, and I got myself booted from a job waiting tables within just a few months. It seems that mouthing off to the manager of the hotel restaurant (because I thought I knew more about my job than he did) wasn’t the best plan for career advancement…who knew? In truth, I was a terrible waitress, but I would have made a better boss than he did…in my own humble opinion.

I moved on to bigger and better jobs, and before long I was supervising phone room employees, and then managing teams, departments, vendors, husbands, potential husbands…and just about anyone else who would listen. From time to time, when someone says, “But you’re so bossy!” I just smile and nod…and I know that what I really am is so competent. I then smile sweetly and instruct them to hush up and let me handle things.

I now work from my home, so my ‘work bossing’ is done via email and phone calls. To top that off, I’m single, so my ‘hands on’ bossing is reserved for these two – at least they don’t fuss when I give them the ‘Do as I say, and not as I do’ speech. I’m considering promoting them, but Pickle (the black one) needs some remedial kissing-up training.

2013-06-20 14.40.10

Obviously in need of some serious supervision!