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Remembering Scout the Cat

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When my, now fiancée, Jessica moved in a little over a year ago, she naturally brought her clothes and toiletries and others things she had, but she also brought a very special friend: An old, deaf, little lady named Scout. Scout made herself at home right away, sleeping on my face, mewing with her gritty gargled voice day and night . . . In short, she was a tough animal to get used to and I think my initial thoughts were along the lines of "I'm glad she's so old, I'm not going to have to worry about her THAT long". But that quickly past. She endeared herself to me. Her presence, sleeping on my legs every night, became a comfort. She always wanted to be on our laps or at least touching us and she would often bring gifts to us - a pair of mittens or a little stuffed animal lamb - to prove her love and win affection. What started as a terrible cat roommate, became one of the most profound animal friendships I have ever had. Of course, Jessica had this type of relationship with Scout since her mother brought her home way back in 1997 and she had Scout perched next to her from the time she was 10 all the way through into high school, college, adulthood, relationships, different dogs and other cats and pets. Scout was a constant for her.

But there was a problem.

A few months prior to my meeting Jessica, she lost her beloved dog Bogart to cancer. She made the hard decision to end his life before his suffering was unbearable. Only and few days after that, Scout went into shock herself and Jessica was faced with putting a second family member to sleep in less than a month. Miraculously, on the advice of a coworker and vet of Jessica's, Mike, Scout recovered, but she had issues with her thyroid and possibly other issues. Jessica didn't know how long she would have with Scout after that. When she told me this when Scout first arrived in our little apartment, I was worried about the poor thing crashing again. What would be the cost, monetarily and emotionally? How could I prepare for the sadness that would encompass Jessica when her friend of 19 years finally expired?

I dealt with Scout's impending doom the same way I have been trained to deal with many of life's dilemmas: With dark humor. I would commonly Snapchat our friends pictures of Scout peacefully sleeping with the word "dead" nearby. I created some creative poses. Not everyone was amused all the time, but for Jess and I, it was a fun inside joke that we could share.

The problem was, the more time that went by, the more I cared and grew closer to Scout. She was there for every moment we had in our room, almost always on top of us or in our lap. She was there for my birthday party and Halloween and our roommate Christmas and our couch proposal . . . She was there for it all. So when we both noticed that she was losing weight, those thoughts of her crash the year before kept coming up in the backs of our minds. She began periodically throwing up her food after eating too quickly and drinking too quickly. It was a sign that her thyroid and perhaps other organs weren't working the right way. An inconvenient truth about cats is that they are programed to hide pain. Pain is weakness and the weak are often killed or at least marginalized. Scout hid her pain, but we could see it every so often. She was deaf, so we would surprise her more often than we would like. Sometimes she would be jostled from a deep sleep and not be able to get up. In another instance, she just fell over without provocation. It was funny, but sad. This was the end for this tiny, fuzzy cat.

After a little time, Jessica and I made the decision that I think all animal lovers should make: To make sure that the last moment of Scout's life was on our terms and not a situation where she was in pain and suffering. On top of that, she was suffering at least a bit even though she was able to hide it.

We called up our vet Mike and set an appointment. The week that followed was quietly torturous for both of us. For Jessica, she made some artwork using Scout's paws and ink. She also makes origami boxes for all her animals with special personalized notes and trinkets that are interred with the body. For me, I just tried to remember her touch and recorded her voice. I tried to spend as much quality time as I could with her. The night before, Jessica took Scout into her arms and told her what was going to happen the next morning. It's really hard to know if a cat understands you or not, but that night, Scout decided to sleep by each of our heads, Jessica's and then mine, for a few hours. She didn't eat all night and leave the bed to go do cat things. In that, I felt like she understood.

A few hours later, we were in the car to McGrath Animal Hospital. It was a sunny and warm day. birds were just returning after the harsh snow a few weekends before. It was hard, but we did it and saw it through and her suffering was over. Possibly the greatest friend and presence in Jessica's life and a creature that had crawled into my own heart was gone. Today, I think I still hear her sometimes, her awful smokers mew or see her in my periphery. We still mourn, but I can't help but think we did the right thing. I'll never forget Scout Sinatra, the greatest cat in the world.

Scout Sinatra was brought home to Jessica sometime in 1997. Named after Bruce Willis' daughter, Scout spent the next 20 years accompanying Jessica through all her ups and downs. Just this last year, Jessica found the love of her life, Evan, and the two of them made sure Scout was well loved up to her last breath. Many will debate the fact, but all who knew her have donned Scout the Most Greatest Cat Who Hath Ever Lived Lifetime Achievement Award!

The Adventures of Mr Norbert Waggles - Part 1

Mr Norbert Waggles Esquire came to us on a chilly day in March. This is an entry from his journal regarding his new life with the Perry Family

11 March 2017 - I am embroiled in a conflict of wills: My people have seen my cheerful demeanor and hearty energy and deemed it unacceptable. Whereas my personality and deep moral convictions took me far in Tennessee, these New England humans find me overbearing and even a poor guest in their home. They called me Jasper and I certainly feel as if their job description for Dog of the House falls within servitude. Am I not a person? Am I not deserving respect and attention? They see me as a mutt and not as an educated and cultured individual. However they came to their decision, I find myself on the move once again. I sit in the rear of their auto back to the shelter from whence I came and then onto fosterhood. Again. I would say I'm bitterly disappointed, but if these people don't have use for an intellect such as mine, then why shed tears? Someday I will find a permanent arrangement.

Cont'd - This is interesting! We returned to the holding facility, but I was ushered right into the back of a waiting auto. The driver, a lovely person, spoke highly of me and seemed to have an unlimited supply of affection. I waited to see where this person was taking me. Perhaps back to my stomping grounds in the South? It was in that moment that I remembered a quote from the immortal Dr. King: "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed". In that spirit, I made sure that the lovely person driving knew my presence lest she decide to chain me in another facility someplace or bring me into another narrow-minded family unit. I am in the prime of my life and need to find a place in a home where I'm treated with respect. It would also be nice to have benefits and a retirement plan, but that could be negotiated later.

Cont'd - The lovely person pulled into a driveway after our ride, and gestured widely. This apartment belonged to her and it was where I would be staying until she could find another position in another family. The place was nice: Lots of windows, a little space to run around, warm. The person owned a small cat slave named Scout. She was deaf and not at all welcoming, but like all slaves, she demurred to the will of her master. Cats are foolish creatures who believe that defiance is equivalent to freedom and control, but it is they who are closely controlled and confined into little worlds. It was but a few minutes before a man came to the house. He was dressed in a black uniform and cold from the negative temperatures outside. He saw me and introduced himself with an outstretched hand. My background and experience with people has made me quite nervous and skeptical of newcomers, but I knew right away that he was a kind person and unassuming. It became obvious that he lived in the apartment with the other human woman, the lovely one. For now, this would be my people. How long has yet to be seen. 

The Big 30 and What it Means

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At about noon this past Thursday the 4th of February, I officially lived outside the womb for three decades. Yep, I'm now elderly, but interestingly, as every birthday that came before, the day came and went without too much fanfare. I certainly don't feel any different. I have been blessed with my mother's genes: A thin build, energy, elasticity . . . Compared to some of my friends who struggle with a few pounds or climbing a steep staircase, I am doing really well and besides playing hockey several times a week, being an event videographer, and walking in the New England elements, I haven't really 'earned' my body. Mentally, I feel as sharp as ever, although the further from college I get, the more useless trivia and high-end math skills I no longer need slip away. That's normal, right?

Despite feeling pretty good and looking fabulous, much has happened over the past 30 years. When I was born, the Internet was not around and personal computers were a luxury item. The Digital Age was just beginning, but I feel like everyone expounds on how much and how fast life has changed technologically since the 80's. So how about what has changed when it comes to turning 30 years old?

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Since I was born, life expectancy has gone up almost 4 years in America. At the same time, through fitness and surgeries, it seems like all our 'role model' celebrities don't really age or even get younger. Have you seen JLo? We have a social media presence that allows us to connect with people like never before. The average college debt is over $30,000 and it's hard to find a paying job in a field after college. All these factors form the archetypal millennial, who goes to college, accrues crushing debt, takes years to find a job in their field, and lives at their parents house longer than previous generations because they can't afford to move out. This person has all the ingredients to mature slower than previous generations. I mean, if you leave home at 18 to get married, buy a house, and start a family, there are certain skills you need to exist independent of your parents, but those skills don't need to be acquired as fast for kids who will definitely stay at home until at least the end of college. A millennial mind is well educated, but might not have the 'common sense' skills they need to survive on their own right away. Thus, true maturity comes a little later in life for these recent generations and, like me, people might not have the sense of purpose or know what they want out of life until thirty or even a little after.

There is also a sort of melding of generations where definitive boundaries once existed. A common theme from the 60's on up to the 90's in music, TV, and movies: Parents just don't understand! And there still is a gap between Parents and kids, but it seems to shrink every year. It makes sense, as parents are in their children's lives, directly, longer and longer and media is so easy to access and consume. I know my mom is far more updated on the pop music scene than I am and she also uses Instagram, Facebook, and other social media once reserved for young whippersnappers. Parents are easier to talk to, less hard nosed, more understanding (in general). I mean gender, race, and other barriers seem to fall everyday or at least inch closer to total equality. There are so many people willing to question authority or take a rationalist point of view (Most times to their detriment), that parents and grand parents are able to comprehend issues with greater tact and understanding than ever before. And so, in today's world, when generations are growing similar, age becomes of less importance.

When I crossed into a new decade earlier this week, it was by no means the end of my youthfulness by my own standards, but also by the standards of society. I'm 30. So what? Life is harder than ever, so it takes longer for some of us to truly find ourselves.

Time will tell if I am treated differently for being 30 or the same. For instance, as an online dating user, will potential matches think twice about me now that I'm not in my twenties? Does age matter and if so, when? Are there certain expectations that come with being a certain age? I look forward to finding out. Until I am truly old 'though, I will continue to eat Fruit Loops for breakfast, laugh at fart jokes, and send frequent snapchats secure in the fact that while I might be 30 years old in official terms, I'm definitely still mostly a child at heart.  

Happy Halloween!

Yo! Happy Halloween, y'all!

It's that time of year again, my personal favorite: Fall! In one week's time from the posting of this blog, it will be Halloween, one of my favorite holidays (behind Valentines Day) and it just so happens that this coming Hallow's Eve is an important one for me as it will mark one calendar year since I became a freelancer. And so, allow me to recap the year a bit! The struggle, as they say, is real.

When I decided to leave my previous position as an executive producer, I planned to accomplish two things right off the bat.

First, I connected with a successful photographer friend, Brit Perkins, to start laying the groundwork for a wedding photo/video venture. This was something I had been interested in pursuing and would definitely provide stability. Indeed, Brit lined up a wedding for me right away and it came out fantastically. Building a wedding business, as I knew from helping to build one for almost 5 years at my previous job, takes a lot of time and hard work. Despite the limited samples, we were able to book several weddings this year and next year looks like it will be great.

My second order of business was to just stop.

At the time, I didn't feel fulfilled. I didn't feel like I was moving in a positive direction personally. I guess the right term here would be stagnation. I wanted to break the glass ceiling of life and really blossom: Discover my 'authentic' self as the hipsters would say. For most people, this means getting lost in some foreign country and visiting some temple to find the answers they seek. For me it was the opposite. I needed to simply stop everything that I was doing and think. I needed a slight reorganization in the way I thought of the world and how I approached each day. To that effect, I honestly did very, very little those first two months except write (I use personal writing to work through just about everything) and create this website. I spent my entire savings (Just on rent, payments, bills, etc). I stripped myself down to nothing. I looked inward and asked myself who am I and who do I want to be?

It was January 1st when I executed one of my first decisions and oddly, it has become one of the biggest instruments of change: I decided to grow a beard. I have changed my physical appearance at many critical points in my life and, as stupid as it may sound, it helps you to change internal characteristics if you look physically different. Luckily, I can grow a mean beard!

In February or so, I was out of money. When I say out of money, I mean my checking account had the minimum it needed and my savings was in the hundreds. I even resorted to counting my box of loose change and it looked like I was not going to pay my next month's rent or anything else for that matter. I divulge this not provide the proverbial 'rock bottom' moment. I consider 'rock bottom' to be the time before I set out on my own and really, I had brought myself into the awful monetary position I was in. Nevertheless, I had to get to work and execute my plan.

I took part time work, but was very choosey about it. I wanted jobs that, while many would consider them well beneath me (I won't deny that), actually helped advance my goals of self-improvement. I settled on a few hours a week doing janitorial duties and working in a local sub shop.

The janitorial work afforded me time to simply work hard. Manual labor had been missing in my life since I was in warehousing throughout high school and college. The best part was, I could clean any time I wanted over the weekend as long as it was done before employees at these small businesses came to work Monday morning. Nothing helps you rebuild yourself from the ground up like scrubbing toilets. Ironically, the pay was great, but it was only a few hours a week.

Next, I found work at an independently-owned sub shop in their Woburn location. One thing I discovered really quickly was that sitting and thinking at home without human contact is a very bad idea for morale and counter-productive to self-improvement (to say the least!). The janitor job was fantastic, but I needed to work with people. So, on a part-time basis, I joined the lunch rush, making sandwiches and salads. For only 3 or 4 hours a day, I got my fill of people, learned some new culinary skills, and even helped to reestablish their social media presence. If scrubbing toilets helps ground yourself, putting on a bright yellow shirt and playing servant to hungry mobs does it better. All that, and I got to bring home a free lunch everyday.

Once I had some money coming in to pay bills, I needed to take the next step, but unfortunately, like all best laid plans, things derailed quickly. First, I had an unexpected car bill early in the year (the impetus for my shrunken bank account) and very quickly after I had secured my part time jobs, my roommate and I were told we had to move. As many of you know, moving sucks, but especially, due to fortunate circumstances, when you are paying a fraction of the market value of your apartment. We lived in a great neighborhood in Woburn with parking. A few minutes south was Boston and a few minutes any other way were a variety of fun things. It was a fantastic and central place to live and we knew that we could never afford to live there in a different apartment.

Here's where I got lucky: I booked a wedding which gave me an instant windfall and my roommate and I decided that we would look for a place together, eliminating the stress of finding a place just for myself or moving in with new, strange people.

Here's where I/we got unlucky: We found a suitable apartment in North Andover, but right before we were going to put down money on it, my roommate had a car accident (Slid on ice into a parked car) which meant he had to pay for a rental and repairs while he argued with the insurance company about fault. We weren't going to be able to move unless we came up with that money, and fast. 

It's in these moments in life when you second guess yourself and start to flounder around. I was and still am more than qualified to take a job as much as $75,000+ a year and I knew this from both comparing myself to my college friends, experience as a manager, and the level of work (skill, execution, writing skills) I was doing in my past job. The only thing is, I'm not motivated by money. I wanted to create my own destiny and see how I could do on my own merit. Prove to myself my worth as a professional and a human. I wanted to just be unlimited and without structure for a least the foreseeable future. I wanted to be an artist and do things that are worth while. However, in making those decisions, I destroyed my security blanket. Every little problem gets magnified when you are facing the potential of missing car payments and other bills. For both my roommate and myself, we had parents (and friends) that would happily take us (indefinitely, if need be), but we both decided that circumstance was a last resort.

Fast forward to today, and I'm still not done reinventing myself (despite having an absolutely sexy beard), but the game plan is in place and I have been executing. Through a small loan, timely bonus checks, and other kindness, my roommate and I were able to move and never miss a bill. It took him a while, but my roommate was absolved of fault for his accident. I started editing videos for various people, helped shoot some great events for various companies, I continually write, and even did some stints as a data wrangler on a local German-language production (Thanks Craig!) among a great deal of other projects.

As October draws to a close and a full calendar year has elapsed since I've held a 'real' job, I have paid off my car, I am working consistently, I am dating (word to the fine single ladies out there), and I am well on my way to the happiness I set forth for myself. I need to spend more time with family and friends, and that is something I look to do moving forward. It's worth noting that I had tremendous support from all sorts of people in my life, even some I didn't expect, and that has been a terrific motivator. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. I was lucky enough to try and, so far, succeed beyond my expectations. Let's see what spookiness next Halloween brings!