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Through an odd series of events, recently I made a new friend. I wont go into the details of how this acquaintanceship occured, but it's quite the interesting story. This new friend and I email back and forth almost daily about the area where we live (we're neighbors apparently) and some of the oddities of the internet, like Craig's List.

Today an email was sent to me by my new friend that they thought would alarm me, but instead actually managed to flatter me beyond belief. I don't know if that would have been the same, had my blog not been mentioned, but the fact remains that I was flattered.

This friend googled my name, saw a picture of me with a name badge on, zoomed in on the name badge, discovered my twitter name, found me on twitter and then clicked the link leading them to my blog. This long and twisted series of events is about as twisted (though several hours shorter) as how we met in the first place.

It started me thinking.... and you know what happens when I start to think. I start to blog! So, here I am.

Back when I used to model, I was splashed on every Google image search for pages with nothing but my first and last name, sometimes just my first name. I had photos that were in the San Diego Tribune, pictures on that came up under different photographers, modeling photos for costumes that Lorianne made (think Ren-Faire) and photos people posted once they received my Harley Davidson catalog with my 'autograph' in it (see photo above). They would snap pictures and put them on Flickr. Others had projections of my face from the Queen Mary shoot on walls behind them durring a presentation on Photography. I was everywhere. I wasn't always ok with that, but I was everywhere. That's mostly the reason I'm so cautious with my personal information. I know how easy it is to find me on the internet. The city I'm listed as living in in Los Angeles - Yeah, I've had stalkers.

These days if you type in Amanda Blackwood, you're lucky to come up with two pictures. The first one would be of me dressed as Mary Jane from the 1st Spiderman movie with my ex-husband as spiderman. This is the photo that remains on the San Diego Tribune website from more than 4 years ago now. Yes, that's really me. And yes, it's really on their site. My face actually made a thumbnail on the front page of that news paper.

The other picture is one from last summer when I went to Twestival and worked as a volunteer. I have a reputation for being well dressed at all the events I go to. This event was no exception, as you can see while going through all of the photos this particular photographer has taken of me. He is, hands down, my most favorite photographer I have ever worked with, and will always be a very dear friend of mine. One of these days he's going to bring his Fiance down to Los Angeles so I can finally meet her in person (Michael).

Michael is easily the greatest photographer I've ever worked with, but that isn't built on sheer talent alone. We are friends and have a deep connection, like that of family. That makes me far more at ease with him than I am with most photographers. With Michael, I wasn't afraid to laugh or be silly and goofy - and was actually expected to be that way sometimes. It was ok for me to laugh out loud and I didn't care if he snapped a shot, where most other photographers didn't want to see my teeth because they weren't straight. The picture to the left here is one that Michael took on one of our many adventures.

I've worked with people like Bravo Magic Imaging for several shoots, though a few photos in particular have lived on in the minds of those who followed my modeling career. (to the left - a shoe ad shot by Richie Bravo)

I shot with Jack Fleming when I first started out. He was still getting his "sea legs" in the world of photography when I first met him, but with raw talent and a lot of people who believed in him, he rocketed into the world of celebrity photography and now gets invited to events like Christina Aguillera's baby shower and Tiger Woods at the PGA a couple years ago. He's been able to shoot Jack Nicholson as well - something I understand isn't easy to accomplish. The picture to the left is from the first shoot I ever did with Jack and remains one of my favorites.

I once dated a guy that had an eye for photography. He hadn't been an actual photographer for many years, but he still loved to do it and I was his favorite subject. We shot THOUSANDS of photos over a couple of weeks time. We never ran out of creative ideas and locations to shoot at, and eventually even shot at the Queen Mary. Though it was some time ago now, the memories made while beeing 'spooked out' on the Queen Mary live on.

I've had a lot of fun over the years. From Bravo Magic Image, Jack Fleming, D'Jef Photography, Michael O'Donnell and several other photographers, I had a good run when I decided to be a model. People ask (not that often anymore) why I don't continue to model. They laugh or scoff when I explain that I'm too old. I'm not bitter over the age thing... I proved that I could be a model. In fact, the age cut off is at 24 years old and I didn't do the Harley Davidson catalog until I was 26 years old.

I have nothing left to prove to the Modeling world. I've done it. I've been there, I've seen it.

But I'll admit - I didn't realize until today - I miss getting Googled.

Gum in the Hair

I learned a trick as a kid from my mother that I will never forgot - though I can guarantee not to repeat the reason I know the secret trick. Did you know peanut butter will dissolve the sticky gluten in chewing gum?

I loved gum as a kid. I can't count the number of times I would fall asleep with gum in my mouth, chewing it as I drifted off to sleep. Most of the time I would wake up with it tucked away in my cheek, where I had stored it like a chipmunk. I had a history of doing this as a kid, too. I would eat and eat, storing anything I didn't want (as an infant) in my cheeks. I would fall asleep with food in my mouth and my mother would dig it out, afraid I would choke on it. That should have been a fear for me at 6 and 7 years old, falling asleep with gum in my mouth, but I just didn't think that way.

One night, rather than tucking it safely into my cheek, it found its way out of my mouth and into my long, beautiful hair. In the morning I ran my fingers through it to get it away from my face, and Lo! My fingers stopped just below my chin. Something prevented them from continuing. I picked up the piece of hair my fingers were stuck in up to eye level and looked. A huge gob of pink gum was smushed wide and flat through a chunk of my hair wide enough to be covered by three of my thumb prints. I must have fallen asleep with SEVERAL pieces in my mouth from the looks of this gob!

I knew I would be in trouble for this one, so I went straight to the bathroom and grabbed my hairbrush. I ran the brush through my hair - or tried. It got stuck immediately. I pulled and my hair pulled. I pulled harder and my hair started to break off. I pulled yet harder and chunks of my hair started to dislodge from my head by the roots. I cried, swallowed hard, and called for my mom.

As I suspected, she screamed at me. She yelled, swatted me, hollered some more, smacked me in the back of the head, and told me that I got what I deserved.

The first thing we tried was ice. She had heard somewhere that if you froze the gum, you could just break it off. It was painfully obviously very early on that this wasn't going to work. I cried harder. She yelled louder. We moved on when the comb she was trying to use broke three teeth off into my hair.

I think we tried mayonnaise next. That was a greasy disgusting stunt, that one. I remember her handing me the wad of hair and telling me to work the mayonnaise into it for a while. I held that glob of mayonnaise in my hands and rubbed that gum for a good 10 minutes. Afterward I felt like I would never get the greasy feeling off of my fingertips. To this day I get a slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach if mayonnaise touches my fingers. I love to eat it on my sandwiches and burgers - but don't dare let me get any on my hands!

Hair moose didn't work either. Neither did olive oil or Petroleum Jelly. Rubbing alcohol, hand lotion, toothpaste and WD-40 didn't work. At this point, my hair looked and smelled like something between a garage and a bathroom with a touch of the kitchen thrown in there somewhere. You'd be amazed at how many hints and tips there are for getting WD-40 and mayonnaise out of your hair. Here I was with a carport bathroom full of NON-hair products on my head, without a clue as to what we were going to do next.

Finally Mom pulled out the peanut butter. She pulled out a big fistful and squished it into my hair, smashing it in deep and pounding it onto the cutting board on the counter as I sat on a stool. The banging of the cutting board on the counter behind me started to give me a headache. It was either that or all the hair pulling.

Finally, after about 30 minutes with the peanut butter and more than 2 hours late for school, I was able to run a comb through my hair. Mom trimmed out the rest of the stuff we couldn't get out, leaving a slightly empty spot in my waist length hair.

I stopped chewing gum for a while after that, and when I did finally start chewing gum again it was NEVER after dinner. That's the rule even now.

So - when your kid gets gum in her (his) hair, skip the WD-40 and Mayonnaise... go straight for the peanut butter. Don't even reach for the vaseline. Just grab the Skippy and have some patience.

The Great Tupperware Fire

As I struck a match tonight, the sulfur flared and the flame burned the tip of my right pointer finger. I blew out the match and let my mind drift back once more to my childhood. I was always a fire bug and could have stared at the dancing orange of a burning flame for hours if allowed to. I learned at an early age how gun powder worked, and that if you hold aerosol hair spray out with a lighter, you have a pretty good flame thrower.

When I lived in Victorville as a kid, I used to run a few doors down to an empty back patio to play. Sometimes I would build little camp fires on the concrete with a rock line around the edges. I would place kindling like crushed leaves or dried pine needles at the bottom, covered by a pyramid of small sticks. One time I took the "mini" idea to the extreme and even roasted mini marshmallows on tiny twigs and tooth picks. I knew it was dangerous, so I never told any of my friends what I was doing. I had forgotten the old adage, where there is smoke, there's fire. It didn't take long for me to be discovered.

The day Matthew wandered into the patio and discovered where the smell of melting plastic was coming from, I had brought out the tall pink tupperware cup. When I finished drinking the tap water from inside, I had decided that I wanted to see what would happen when the fire licked straight up the sides of the sticks. The best way to try that was to put a single stick inside the cup, burning side down. I don't know why, but I didn't expect the cup to melt. I also didn't expect the black smoke and accompanying stench.

"Whoa," Matthew said from behind me. "You're gonna get in sooooo much trouble!"

"No," I argued, "I won't because I'll kick your butt if you tell anyone." Matthew believed me. Instead of running off to the nearest person over 18 to tattle, he sat down next to me on the concrete. Then he did something that surprised us both. He reached into the tupperware cup and picked up the burning stick. He held it straight up in the air, the flame staying near the tip of the stick like a lighted match. Suddenly he screamed and jerked his hand back.

"It's hot!" he screamed a good three octaves higher than usual. I laughed at him as the stick he had in his hand arched through the air, flinging melted plastic as it went.

"Well, duh! It's FIRE, you idiot!" Suddenly, searing pain raced through my right hand and I gritted my teeth, sucking air between them in a deep, sharp breath. Down the full length of my right hand pointer finger laid a jagged line of melted pink plastic, searing my flesh as it began to cool into a gelatin substance. I instinctively tried to flick it off with the tip of my thumb on the same hand, but only succeeded in feeling that same pain coursing through the tip of my thumb.

I thought clearly in that instant. I remembered seeing a kiddie pool in the neighbors back yard on my way over, and I remembered that it had rained the day before. If I was really lucky, there might be some water left in the bottom of the pool. All I could think about was getting my hand to some water source. I took off at a dead run, heading straight for the kiddie pool. I collapsed onto my knees and forced my hand into the tiny puddle of water in the bottom near the edge. A very loud, very audible sizzle could be heard even by Matthew, who was coming up behind me wanting to put water on his own hand. Some of the plastic had dripped from the tip of the stick onto his fingernail. His nail sizzled slightly.

When I pulled my hand out of the water, my finger was still burning intensely. Instinct told me that it wouldn't stop until the now hard plastic was off of my finger and I could get oxygen to the burn. I knew I couldn't just run home and tell my parents that I had been burning tupperware cups in an abandoned back patio where I usually burned just sticks and marshmallows, so whatever I was going to do had to be on my own.

I took the fingernails of my left hand and dug under the surface of the long strip of tupperware fused to my index finger - and yanked. The entire chunk of jagged, reformed 4 inches of plastic came off in one jerk; So did a large chunk of skin, leaving a very wide and deep gaping hole in the side of my finger. I did the same thing with my thumb, removing a large portion of flesh from the tip. The end of my thumb went completely numb right then, and I've never gained full feeling in it again.

I snuck into the First Aid Kit when I got into the house and wrapped a band-aid around the large areas of missing flesh. Since I have always been right handed, it wasn't easy to eat dinner that night, but I managed. Intense pain coursed through me for days if I held anything hot or tried to hold a fork. I worked through it, knowing I didn't dare tell my parents what I had done. I was in enough physical pain to know I had learned my lesson.

I don't remember what excuse I gave my parents for having a bandaid wrapped around an obviously burned finger with an edgy zig zag pattern, but I'm sure whatever it was, they didn't believe it. To this day I carry a scar the length of my index finger to remind me about the smell of burning plastic, the black smoke that accompanied it, the sizzle of a fire that needed to go out and the searing, singeing, fearful burning I can still feel each time that smell reaches my nostrils.

It's far from being the only burn scar on my body, but it was the most memorable, hands down. It was also the last time I ever played with matches.


I worked another 12 hour shift on Saturday and was swarmed by around 1600 honeybees while there. At first, I was anything but scared. I grabbed the camera and wanted a picture of the huge swarming mass of them. I walked right up to the ball of bees in the bush with them buzzing all around my head and ears, landing on my arms and shoulders, clinging to my pants and boots. I took several photos and backed away slowly, all the bees taking off as I did. I wasn't worried about being stung, though I probably should have been worried. It would have meant hospital time for me. It was discovered a few years ago that I'm highly allergic to bees now.

My employees have learned a new respect for me though... They saw me stare fear and death in the face only to walk away without a scratch or sting.

"What are you DOING" they asked me.

"I need pictures for the incident report," I replied.

"We can do that," they said. "We wont get killed for trying."

I smiled, walked towards them, and told them I already had the pictures, it was too late. Then a bee landed on one Officer's arm and he started swinging his arms wildly. The other Officer's eyes grew wide and he backed up quickly. I knew I couldn't get these guys to get the pictures I had wanted. Besides, I often tell them I'll never ask of them anything I wouldn't do myself. They finally saw that first hand.

When the proper people sprayed the chemicals on the bees, they started dropping out of the air like little missiles. The first one that landed on my shoulder didn't effect me, but when a dozen dropped on me at once and got hung up in my hair, that was when the panic set in. I called my guys to handle the closure while I guided people around the area in a great sweeping arc. I hid under an umbrella as the shower of bees continued to rain down on the mall for a full hour afterward.

I spent the rest of the night gagging, having a hard time breathing. At first I was worried I might have been stung, but once I looked closely I discovered that I was fine. While breathing was labored due to the chemicals, had I been stung I wouldn't have been able to breathe at all.

I've had a few run-ins with Bees over the past few years. The earliest I can remember was stepping on one. Mom and Dad told me not to go outside without my shoes on, and me being about 3 years old, learned that lesson the hard way. I went crying and screaming into the house where my parents scolded me for not doing as I was told. Then my mother mixed some meat tenderizer with water into a paste and put that on my sting. She pulled out the stinger with tweezers. I'm not sure who it was, but I remember having a visitor over right then. I think it was our neighbor, who told my mom how she got rid of the pain for her children when they were stung by bees. I laid there and milked the sympathy for all it was worth.

Another time we were visiting my Dad's sister, though I fail to remember if it was Aunt Denise or Aunt Lisa. I remember the house was a large A frame house with an upstairs, and it was out in the woods, so that leads me to believe that it's more likely to be Aunt Denise, since Lisa lives in Arizona where the woods are sparse and consist of mainly shrub brush and saguaro instead of live oak and cedar. Lightening Bugs zapped through the air sporadically at the early evening hours. I would spend an hour catching as many as I could and putting them into an empty, cleaned mayonnaise jar. The jar would glow with the phosphorescence of the lovely bugs for hours after I would go to bed. We would cook marshmallows over an open fire in the back yard and make s'mores. We would play in the tree house close by. My cousins would fight over who got to play with me or my brother. Yes, now that my memory has been sparked, it was my Aunt Denise and her boys, Chad, Shawn and Jason.

I remember when we first got to the A frame house. I wanted to see every inch of it. I ran from this room to that room, looking here, going there, seeing everything I could see. When I got to the french doors upstairs that led out onto the balcony, I asked if I could go outside. As soon as I got the yes, I swung the doors open and jumped up on the chair to get a better look at everything around me.

The doors swung open and knocked down a hornets nest directly behind me. Within seconds, they were swarming everywhere, going inside the house through the open doors and climbing all over my legs and arms. They stung and bit me almost immediately and I screamed in pain. My father ran out onto the patio and started brushing them off of me in droves. They fell as he swatted this way and that. I'm sure he got stung and bitten too, but he didn't care. He picked me up and rushed me down stairs to the couch. He laid me down and picked off the remaining hornets that had continued to sting and bite any flesh they could make contact with. My memory goes fuzzy from here and I have to wonder if I didn't pass out at that point.

When my memory comes back into focus, my Aunt had made another paste with dark colored meat tenderizer and was applying it to my body in every place that had begun to swell into golf ball sized lumps. I shivered from cold and nerves, not knowing exactly what was going on.

I'm not sure if that was the moment my body got an overdose of bee stings, but many years later when I was stung by a honeybee in 2006 outside of my office at work, I was rushed to the hospital. My throat had closed up and my face was turning purple. I couldn't breathe or swallow, and my skin had started to tingle slightly like it was going to sleep. My entire arm swelled and puffed up like a bright red balloon. It was announced later on that I was very allergic to bees and that I should avoid them at all cost from then on.

There have been a few times when I would bail out of my car and leave it abandoned on the side of the road because a bee had flown in through the open roof or a rolled down window. I've left my home for hours on end because one had gotten through a small hole in the window screen. And yet, here I was on Saturday, walking straight into the Lion's Den just to snap a few pictures.

Sometimes I can't help but feel that I do these things in order to prove a point. I want to make sure that I can still be a dare devil the way I was as a kid, riding a jet ski for the first time at top speeds or breaking into an old wooden shack in order to look tough for someone else. My arm was covered in bees on Saturday and I didn't stop approaching the swarming, squirming mass that had accumulated in the bushes and trees near by.

Then again, sometimes I know I don't do these things to impress anyone but myself. It was perhaps a stupid move, but I did it to prove to myself that I could. I'm not the bravest person in the world, and sometimes I fear stupid things - like glass elevators - but I make up for it in my own way.

Brave or stupid - that's me. Sometimes there's a fine line between the two. Sometimes I tread on that line like a child not knowing when fire is dangerous.

I've recently acquired the nickname Honeybee by someone - and to date it's my most favorite nickname I've ever been given. I smile each time I read it or hear it spoken. I remember the times in my life I've been stung and how much it hurt. Bees have their purpose though, just as everything else in the Circle of Life does. They can hurt us if we scare them or approach them in the wrong way, and yet they can provide us with such wonderful things as pollinated flowers and sweet honey. Maybe that's why I like the nickname. I can hurt those around me as a self defence mechanism when needed, but most of the time I go about my life as merrily as a little bee, trying my best to get things done and leave something positive behind once I'm gone.

I live up to my nickname, Honeybee. At least, I'd like to think so.

Manda "MacGyver"

When I was a kid, anytime I ever got sick I would spend my day on the couch watching old movies and MacGyver. I was always amazed at some of the things Angus MacGyver was able to do. He was the first person who made Science fun for me. It took me a long time to realize it was actually the actor Richard Dean Anderson following a script. Even then I didn't want to admit it - I had a crush on MacGuyver for his rugged good looks and natural charm. I didn't know who this Richard Dean Anderson guy was.

MacGyver taught me that there are always things around that can be used in unusual ways in order to accomplish a task at hand. I watched him plug a bullet ridden radiator by cracking an egg into it. The egg cooked and plugged the holes. I saw him carve plaster out of a wall in order to duplicate a hand print on a biometric device. Once, he lassoed a rat with thread in order to pull a small homemade chemical bomb into a wall space and blow it up when he and a female were kidnapped. He could also kick butt when he needed to - but his brilliance insured that those moments were rare. He was smart, funny, handsome and educational... though a lot of his stunts wouldn't have worked in real life. I didn't know that, and even if I had, I wouldn't have cared.

The first time I pulled a MacGyver-ism I was fairly young, around 8 years old. I didn't want my parents to know I was up late reading, so I would sneak down the hallway and steal thread from my Mom's sewing machine and a thumb tack from the cork board. I would push the thumb tack into the wall to hold up a drawing I had done just below the level of the light switch. Then I tied one end of the thread to the door handle and wrap a rubber band around it to hold it snugly in place. If the door handle turned, so did the knot in the string. Then I would bring the string down and under the thumb tack, pull it up toward the switch, and tie the other end into a loop over the switch itself. When the door handle turned, the knot would turn on the door handle, causing the string to grow taught and pull down on the switch. The light would turn off and I would be snug in bed the whole time. The thread was thin enough to not even be noticed as it hung from the door handle. The tack looked like it's only purpose on the wall was to hold a picture I had drawn. Everything looked normal, but everything had a purpose.

Mom got an alarm that had a high piercing scream when touched. It was an interesting device... it had a metal harness that, when attached to any other piece of metal, would act as a conductor for the alarm. If she placed that harness on a door handle, any slight touch to the other side of the door handle would cause the high pitched scream to wail. It was also a motion sensor, but luckily it only did one or the other, not both at once. One Christmas she wanted to keep me in my room so they could bring down the Christmas gifts. I didn't have a bathroom in my bedroom, and I had to pee pretty badly. I knew I needed to find a way out of my bedroom without setting off the alarm. It didn't take much thought.

I loosened the brown leather belt around my waist and looped it through itself. I placed the loop over the door handle, wrapped the leather around the loop several times, and then pulled on the end of the belt, sinching it around the handle. I turned with a twist, the door handle turned with it, and I pulled. The door swung silently open.

I went to the bathroom and went back to my room - and then changed my mind. I walked straight to the Christmas tree, scrawled a note on a napkin, and tucked it into the branches of the tree, fully visible. Only then did I go back to my room, take the belt off of the door handle, and go to bed. My parents couldn't figure out how I had done it.

When I got older I found ways of getting myself into more trouble than I could dream of. I was a rebel at heart. Each time something was taken away from me, I would repeat the offense and have something else taken away. I knew that eventually it would get to where there was nothing left to take away. I was eager to make it to that point because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it - and I did.

I hid my contraband in cardboard boxes in the garage for a while, but they quickly started to smell like gas. It's hard to read a good book that smells like fuel, or eat chips and dip when they taste like a mixture between oil and petrol. I even had all of my clothes taken away from me except a nightgown, one pair of jeans and a shirt, a bra, a pair of underwear, one pair of socks, and my favorite pair of boots. I was told many times that if my jeans were ever found off of my body, they would be shredded into tiny little pieces. I just made sure that never happened. I hid my clothes when I changed into my nightgown.

My parents had a few vices they always stuck to. They didn't drink alcohol, they wouldn't cheat at board games, and they never snooped in Christmas presents. I took a cardboard box from the garage and wrapped it with Christmas paper. Then I wrote on a small card "Merry Christmas Mom and Dad" and attached it to the front of the box. In the back I taped pieces of wrapping paper in two loops, where the box could be opened and closed. Then I slid a pencil between the two paper loops, holding the box closed. Each night when I got home and changed into my nightgown, I would wash, dry, fold and store my clothes in that cardboard box - right along with several other pairs of jeans, socks, underwear, bras and shirts. The box was then placed on the tallest shelf in my closet with the tag facing out, the pencil facing the back of the closet. My stash was never discovered.

Then I ended up getting too much contraband. I needed somewhere else to hide it. Back to the cardboard boxes I went. I brought in two good sized boxes and set them up light nightstands next to the twin sized mattress I had on the floor. I put a lamp on top of one and my only electronic device, an alarm clock, on top of the other. I left them completely empty for a while, knowing my parents would be checking them for items. I tested this by placing a hair over the edges of the closed cardboard box flaps and sticking it in place with a drop of water on each end. For weeks, intermittently, when I came home the hair had been moved, informing me that they had looked inside the box and found nothing. When finally that hair stopped moving after a few months, I began to store items there. That was where I kept my makeup, hair dryer, skirts, high heel shoes, artwork, pencils and paper. Those things were never discovered.

The day I moved out, two days after I turned 18 years old, my Dad handed me a suitcase.

"I know you have stuff hidden, but I want to know where it is. I'm not moving until you're done packing. Whatever you can fit into this suitcase, you can take with you. The rest is ours."

My yearbooks went in first as a flat bottom. I started pulling items out of all of the hiding places in my room, including under the bottom drawer of my empty dresser, behind the empty book shelf, under the pulled up corner of the carpet and small cache spots out in the yard. By the time I was done I had a large pile of items I was going to have to leave behind. I could have filled up the suitcase twice. Not a word was said...

Years later, my MacGyver-isms saved my life. When I was kidnapped and locked up for twenty three and a half hours, my time in front of the television as a kid teamed with the ingenuity I used in my teen years were the only things that kept me from panicking at that moment. I knew because of Angus MacGyver that there was a way out of this, just as he always found a way out of his situations. I know that sounds silly, and somewhat stupid, but that is the case. Several ideas kept me focused and sharp, paying careful attention to my surroundings, and using the items within my reach to set up possible means of escape.

I did manage to escape, or I wouldn't be here today writing this blog. It's an amazing story and one I'm quite proud of. I just don't have the time the story would deserve in order to do it justice. Not today...

but eventually I did. Find chapter 1 here.

The Pets in My Life

It's been an interesting day for me, to say the least. Somehow an employee of mine and I got into a conversation talking about some of the pets we have. I believe it started because he noticed the marks on my hand that the cat left behind. Suddenly we were talking about the pets we've had.

He told me a story from when he was just a child and his dog defended him against two other dogs nearly the same size. It sparked my thought process and suddenly I was alive once more with multiple stories of the dogs in my life.

When I was really little we had a German Shepherd named Shatzi. In German, Shatzi means "my love" and from what I've been told, she really was a love. Unfortunately she was ill, and though I have no idea what it was that made her so sick, she was put down at only 2 years old. The only thing I remember about her was petting her pretty little nose as she lay breathing on her side on a long metal table. A man in a white coat was near by... I'm assuming that was the vet. I was at the head of the table looking at Shatzi, the white coat was to the left of the table, and both of my parents were to the right. Daddy was wearing a light blue polo shirt. Mom was wearing a black and white striped sleeveless sweater. That's about all I remember. Daddy told me it was time to go and reached to take my hand. The rest of the memory is gone.

The next dog we got was Cocoa. She was a cockapoo and I remember I hated that dog, and she hated me. I remember so little about her that her memory is more vague than that of Shatzi. I think Cocoa was a rich brown color with little tiny paws and huge teeth. I remember the teeth most. I remember her biting my foot one day as I sat on the plaid couch (obviously from the 70's era) and I kicked her. I was probably about 4 years old. Clearly I got into a lot of trouble for that. I have no idea what happened to her, but we didn't have her when we moved to Arkansas.

Dad was stationed in Alaska for a year when I was around 7 years old and we couldn't go with him. It was called a "remote tour" for the Air Force. Mom wanted to be close to her family if she wasn't going to have my Dad there, so Arkansas was the natural fit. We moved into a small trailer out in the middle of nowhere, a mile down a back country road. It was the kind of road where you could feel every bump and rock in the path, and only two parallel lines marked the way from the tires killing the grass under them. Weeds, flowers and Bermuda grass sprouted around the edges and in between the parallel lines. My brother and I would often walk home from the bus stop, each of us choosing one of these lines. We would fear the weeds on either side because of the ticks and chiggers that would infest our bodies if we ventured too far into the grass.

One day, not long after we moved there and Dad wasn't gone yet, Mom came to pick us up at the bus station. We climbed into the car, my brother in the front seat and me in the back. We rolled down the road all the way to the trailer that was our new home. As we pulled in beside the house and in front of the wood shed, we saw Dad standing over behind the wood pile.

"What's your Dad doing," Mom asked us.

"I dunno" my brother said.

"Well, why don't you go see?"

Confused, my brother and I got out of the car and walked over to where Dad was.

There in his hands was the tiniest puppy I had ever seen, all black except one white toe on his back foot. We squealed, cooed and awed over the little puppy. He was only 5 weeks old and small enough to fit in my mothers jacket pocket. Because of his coloration, he ended up with the name Shadow. It had multiple meanings later on. He followed my brother around like he was his shadow, and of course, he was scared of his own shadow. Fragile Rock was popular at the time, and there was a little character on that show afraid of about everything he came across. His name was Boober, and evenually Shadow learned to answer to that name, too. My brother liked to joke that he would answer to anything and sometimes called him "come here, Stupid" just to prove a point. Yeah, Shadow answered to that one too. Shadow was adored by everyone in the family and eventually became the reason I love dogs so much today. He and I grew up together.

My Uncle's cat had kittens - the same Uncle who was thrown off Whomp and looked for the gold in the Superstition Mountains - and I was offered one of the litter. I had always loved the movie "Escape to Witch Mountain" and the movie had a little black cat called Winky in it. Because of that movie, I wanted a solid black cat that I could call Winky. He had lovely little yellow eyes. Shadow and Winky didn't get along all that great at first, but in no time they were best buddies.

One day Winky wandered away from home a little too far. We looked everywhere for him and couldn't find him. Shadow moped about for a while, broken hearted. We had Winky about 6 months when that happened, and Shadow had raised him from a kitten. That was his baby, that was my own first pet, and Winky was a member of the family. When Mom finally found him, she didn't tell me for months.

There had been two Dalmations that lived up the road called George and Sissy. They were mean, nasty brutes that would bark at passing cars, bite at the tires, and generally hated everyone and everything but the owner who fed them. Travis, the boy at the house about my age, couldn't control them and nobody else would try. Mom guessed that one day George and Sissy wandered down towards our home and found Winky. He was too young and too little to get away. When she found his mangled corpse on the side of the road by Travis' house, she picked it up and burried it. My poor little kitten didn't even make it to a year old. Since then I've had little to do with Dalmations. They're stupid, ugly, viscious brutes and I'll never forgive George or Sissy. They killed my first pet.

Shadow lived happily once we got the pet chickens though. My Uncle had a chicken farm where he raised them from chicks for Tyson. He would have to kill the defective ones, and when we found out durring a visit one day, we 'rescued' the chicks from a fate worse than death. One had a twisted leg - we named him Roadrunner as a family joke. Another had no feathers on the back of his neck because all of the other chickens pecked at it for some reason. He ended up with the name Peck-Neck, or more commonly, Picnic, also a family joke. The third chicken's name escapes me, but all three were beautiful little yellow chicks. We took them home and raised them.

Shadow loved the chickens. They were good company for him on the hot summer days in Arkansas, and in the winter they would roost near him to keep him warm. They would play wildly together, Shadow chasing them around the yard, snatching out tail feathers each time they began to slow down. They would Bawk loudly and scoot right along. Thanks to Shadow's tail-feather-snatching days, Roadrunners leg eventually straightened out and he could run faster than both of the others.

When we left Arkansas, we couldn't take the chickens with us. I knew a kid at school that had his own chickens in a coop, so we gave them to him when we moved away. Mom knew they would likely end up eating the chickens we raised as pets, but had a last remark about it later on.

"I imagine those were some of the toughest chickens they ever tried to eat, thanks to Shadow."

We moved to California after Arkansas and lived happily with our dog Shadow. He was good company, but we could tell he missed having company of his own out in the yard. Sometimes he would play with the neighbor dog, but most of the time he was just really lonely. Thankfully, my Mother used to talk in her sleep.

"You know what kind of dog we're going to get next," she aske my dad one night while she was sleeping. He woke up and decided to play along.

"What kind of dog?"
"A Great Dane", she replied. "Wanna know why?"

"Why a Great Dane", he asked.

"That way when I get tired of walking it, I can just ride it home."

He laughed and that was the end of that - until 2 weeks later when we had a Great Dane in the back yard getting used to Shadow.

We found Lady in a newspaper ad, "free to a good home" by some people that lived fairly close by. They were being shipped to Hawaii with the Air Force and couldn't take her with them. It was no easy feat to get her in the back of Dad's Ram Charger, but they managed and when I came home there she was, a huge brindle colored Great Dane in my back yard. In contrast to Shadow, she was the biggest dog I had ever seen. I thought we had gotten a pony when I first saw her.

Since Shadow had decided to be my brother's dog, Lady had become mine by default. I would walk her in the desert for hours. She would leave what my father would call "Elephant Piles" in the neighbors back yard when I wasn't looking, and I would have to go pick up Lady's road apples. Sometimes I would strap on my roller blades that I got in the 6th grade and she would pull me down the street. She would even stop at the intersections and look both ways. She would continue on even if there was a car coming, but she would at least stop and look.

One day while walking in the desert with my Mom and the dogs, I spotted something moving off in the distance. It looked like a wolf running across the hills of sand, heading straight towards us. The Akita was looking for an afternoon snack, and Shadow fit the bill. We turned and started to walk away, but Lady kept cutting her eyes around trying to watch the Akita. She was gauging how far off it was.

Just about the time the Akita lunged, Lady spun around and snapped her leash in two. Mom grabbed Shadow and braced for impact. I stood there holding what was left of the leash, and Lady slammed into the Akita with a force that shook the ground beneath my feet. Mom handed Shadow to me and started reaching for a rock. The only thing she could find was a dirt clod the size of her head. As the dogs locked in combat, a snarling mass of glaring white fangs and fur, my mom hurled her clod of dirt at the dogs and managed to make contact. Unfortunately she landed the blow directly on Lady's head. It exploded and the dirt flew into the other dog's eyes. Momentarily the fight was stalled. It was all we needed. The owners of the Akita came from nowhere and snapped the leash on their dog while Lady had it pinned down by the throat.

When the fight was over, both dogs were out of breath. Lady had a single puncture wound on her right shoulder that should have taken a few stitches. I actually cried over that.

We had Lady for the entire time we lived in California. When my Dad got orders to go to Utah, we knew that Lady was too old and frail to handle the stairs of the split level home and the snow in the winter. We in turn placed almost a duplicate ad in the paper to the one that guided us to her in the first place. It wasn't long before we got a response. In the mean time, I knew nothing about it.

When I got home from school that day, Lady wasn't in the yard. I panicked, thinking she had gotten outside again. She would sometimes take herself on a walk to the Grocery Store about a mile away. Once she was picked up by the pound and we had to go fetch her. I was ready to storm out looking for her, but my parents stopped me.

It turned out that the people who had answered the ad had just moved to California from Hawaii. After a bit of a discussion, my parents discovered that the people they had on the phone were the exact same people we had gotten Lady from in the first place. They had been sent back to California. My parents took Lady to them that afternoon, thinking it would be easier on me to take her while I was at school. When they told me the story, they realized they were wrong. I cried from a broken heart. The dog that had saved my life (in my eyes) was gone and I'd never see her again.

My parents bundled me up into the car and we drove straight out there. I got to say goodbye to my beautiful brindle Dane at a strangers home. I never saw her again.

We took Shadow with us to Utah that November, and by January he was starting to act like an old man. He didn't get as much exercise anymore, he walked slower, he didn't play as much ... it was obvious he needed someone to make him feel young again. We bundled up in the car and went to the local Animal Shelter. The first dog I saw was a cute little black cockapoo puppy, but my Mother remembered Cocoa... she tried to talk me out of it, but my heart was set on that dog. I wanted the puppy.

Paperwork had to be filed and things had to be done in steps taking a full 24 hours before we could take the dog home. In that amount of time, someone else had snatched up the little black puppy. Mom went to pick up the puppy while I was at school on January 27th of 1993 and had to make another choice. Since I wasn't there, she did the best she could - and it was a wise decision. She picked out a dog previously named Pixie who had a sister in the pen with her. She hated breaking up the two, but she knew instinctively that the dog she had selected was meant for us. The dog looked just like me, down to the sun burned spot on her nose. I was upset when I first saw her, but all it took was mere moments for me to fall completely in love with her.

Mom discovered the dogs real name before she wound up in the pound was actually Cookie. She asked if the dogs wanted a cookie (which was what Shadow knew as being dog treats) and they both came running. Shadow ate his treat, but the new dog, later identified as a Long Haired Chihuahua, didn't want one. She had responded because it was her name. We had a hard time training Shadow to not jump each time he heard her name.

She was probably one of the smartest dogs I've ever seen. She would pick raspberries off of the thorny vines and place one on the ground before Shadow before eating one for herself. She could jump from one nook in a tree to another to climb up to where I was. She would crack open the walnuts when Dad would run over them with the lawnmower and eat the nut inside. Often, she would share this with Shadow too, by digging out the nut and placing it in front of him like she did the raspberries. She would put her paws into the holes in a chain link fence and climb it like a ladder, balance on the top, and jump to the other side. When she got sick it just about killed us all. She had Parvo.

In the dead of winter my mother would sit with Cookie on her lap each day and feed her a teaspoon of water each hour. We couldn't afford the vet bills to cure her, and even then it wasn't guaranteed. My mother saved that little dogs life. Later on, the dog saved me. She became my best friend and who I could always turn to whenever I had a hard day. She was my everything back then.

Then the neighbor kids kidnapped her and fed her rat poison, thinking it was dog food. When she came back to us, so much as a pin prick would have caused her to bleed to death. She was cage confined for weeks. Somehow, miraculously, she pulled through.

When she dislocated her hip during a thunderstorm by getting hung up in a fence she tried to climb, we were all convinced she was half cat and had nine lives. Unfortunately, being only half cat, she had fewer lives than nine. We had that lovely girl for 8 years.

The dam broke on the hill above my Mom and Dad's house years later. A very muddy Shadow was found on the front porch while 4 feet of mud covered the back yard. Cookie was never found. I've never cried so hard over a pet.

We didn't get another companion for Shadow. He was so old at this point that he had lost most of his vision, sense of smell and hearing. He lasted for another year after that. When he got out of the yard and couldn't remember how to get home, the Animal Shelter picked him up and finally had him put to sleep. He was 17 years old.

I was married by the time I got my next dog. I was driving down a back country road in Arkansas when a muddy little dog came running out of the woods right at my car. Thinking something was wrong with the dog, I pulled over and opened the door to check on it. The dog jumped into the car, mud and all, and bounded over me into the passenger seat. Mud caked her fur to her body and even through the tangles I could see the shape of her rib cage. She was thin, practically starving to death. I looked around for an owner and didn't see one, so I put the car back into drive and started to pull away. The dog stood up on the passenger seat, set her front paws on the dash, and watched out of the windshield like an inquisitive child. The first thing I did was take the dog home and give it a bath.

I named her Cotton. She was another Long Haired Chihuahua and reminded me so much of Cookie. She had brown ears but was mostly white. When she laid down and curled up, she looked like a big cotton ball. She came along at the most perfect moment. The following week I found out I was pregnant, and the week after that I was bedridden due to a near miscarriage. She was the most wonderful company I could ask for, living so far out in the country that nobody could hear me scream. She never left my side.

I worked with her day in and day out. She learned everything I taught her and eventually learned how to respond to basic hand commands, just as Shadow and Cookie had been taught to do. If I snapped my finger and pointed at the floor, she would walk over and lay down on the floor, making sure her nose was exactly where I had pointed. She would come, sit, stay, roll over and even bark on command, with nothing but hand movements.

Finally the scare was over. I was 8 months pregnant then and had no worries anymore. I saw an ad in the newspaper for an ammeter dog show that was going to be held not far from where I lived. I didn't care if she won or not - I just wanted to show off my little beauty. It was hard to think of her as being the same dog I found on the side of the of the road. I also knew that there was a chance someone might see her and know who her real owners were. I had fallen in love with this little beauty, but I was willing to give her back to her rightful home if she were spotted.

We went to the dog show... and she won first place for her size category and then Best in Show for all dogs. I was very proud.

When I started going through my divorce some time after that, I wanted to take her with me and couldn't. I found a friend who agreed to take her and said that if anything should ever change, I would be welcome to come get her back. A month later I landed in a place where I was able to have dogs, so I went to collect her. My 'friend' told me that Cotton hadn't gotten along with her dog, so she gave her away to a friend. The friend of hers didn't want me to know where they were or how to reach them because they didn't want to give up my dog. I was sick over the whole deal and cried myself to sleep for a week. She was precious to me and every day I regret ever giving her up in the first place. I felt betrayed by a friend.

A few weeks later I was driving through town and saw a familiar white and brown head poking out of the passenger window of a green pickup truck. I whistled my old familiar whistle, and the ears perked up. She began to look around. The truck pulled into a gas station and I couldn't slow down in time. I drove right past. Immediately I turned around and went back. I just knew in my heart that was her. She knew it was me. By the time I pulled into the gas station, the truck was gone and I never saw her again.

It was many years before I got another pet, and that one I still have. These stories you've read tonight are the reason I smuggled my cat into the hotel room against all rules. I was incredibly lucky I did... the other option was to leave him in the uhaul overnight, and that was stolen around 3am. I never would have seen Oliver again.

Oliver will be with me like Shadow was - all the way to the bitter end. I'll guard him with my life and I'll never go anywhere he isn't welcome. I've fought to keep him against all odds. I pay more for an appartment than I should have to because I have him, but he's worth every penny. When I adopted him at 5 weeks old, I knew in my heart that I was his guardian and soul support, and he depended on me. No flood, famine, or hurricane, no friend, foe or divorce will ever separate us.

I've loved all of my pets. They've all taught me lessons in one way or another. Some of them saved my life by battling Akitas, others by being the shoulder for me to cry on, and yet others by keeping me sane out in the middle of nowhere. At times like now when I am so desperate for some form of affection, Oliver will suddenly decide to curl up in my life and all in the world is right once more.

I loved them all, yes. I have a special place in my heart for three in particular, though. Lady was precious to me, Cookie was my darling sweetheart, but Cotton was my baby. I think about her almost every day and always with the same affection. I loved her more dearly than I ever thought I could love a pet. She was more than a dog to me. She was my child, my companion, my best friend, my saviour and my saving grace keeping me sane when I needed it the most. She was my pride and joy, the reason I made it through the pregnancy without bleeding to death. She gave me a purpose and reason to keep going on each day. In return, she loved me more than any other pet I've ever had. Cotton was truly special... and I blew it.
I'm sure she's long gone by now. That was so long ago. I only hope she had a long and happy life with people who loved her as much as I did.

cotton 1st placecotton 1st place 2

New Blog Posted

citizen 2

Childhood Pranks

My mind has been just reeling in excitement and energy because of a few conversations I had yesterday and today. Suddenly memories have been sparked within me that have caused me to do something I've not done in a very long time - take notes.

Yesterday I started a notebook of the stories I want to tell, things I've been reminded of, and things I think all of you, my friends and readers, would appreciate. I write them down with two or three words that will remind me of the entire story later on. More likely than not, these will end up being the titles to the blogs. So far, and this is no exaggeration, I have three and a half pages of JUST TITLES, just since yesterday!

One of my favorite memories was a moment of cruelty in my youth. Though I feel bad about it now, I will admit that I still laugh each time I tell this story. My brother doesn't laugh quite so much, though... It still brings back sour memories for him - literally.

I was rotten to him. For a year as children, he and I were very close. We lived at the end of a long dirt road with nothing and nobody around for a mile. When we moved to a more populated area, we made our own friends and moved on. That's when my mischevious side came out. I didn't exactly have a reason to cause him such grief, but I was certainly good at it.

The first time, all I did was put liquid soap in his toothbrush. I say "all I did was" because the story got better as time went.

He walked into the bathroom, picked up his toothbrush, put some toothpaste on the top, wet the toothpased top, and placed the toothbrush in his mouth. He began to scrub and then he froze. His face wrinkled up like an old mans as he stood looking in the mirror. He spat and sputtered and coughed and gagged and choked for a full 5 minutes before my mother came to see what was going on. I'll admit that I got a belt across my backside that night - fully deserved - but not until after both of my parents laughed so hard they had tears streaming down their faces. It was worth the spanking I got that week. I will fully agree that I deserved that one.

It was an ongoing prank from then on. We would do things to one another and not tell our parents. He tried to put soap in my tooth brush, but I rinsed out my brush before I ever put toothpaste near it. To this day I still do that. More often than not, it's completely instinctive.

My next trick was to not only put the soap in his toothbrush, but to take a thin layer on my finger and run it around the inside of his bathroom drinking cup. That way, if he discovered the soap in his toothbrush first, when he got done brushing and went to rinse, I still had him. That one worked, too. He gagged for a while, finally composed himself, and walked past my door glaring at me like he could have killed me easily in that instant.

He tried to set cups of water on the top of the door so they would fall on me when I opened the door. More often than not he ended up wiping up the water on the floor with a bath towel so Mom didn't find out. They nearly always missed me. Nearly.

My next stunt was to take wads of toilet paper and wet them in the sink. Then I would climb over the side of the tub and throw them straight up at the ceiling. They would stick there and linger, waiting for my brother to get in the shower. The steam from the warm shower would then heat the toilet paper wads, filling them with more moisture, and causing them to grow heavier. That's the way it worked in my mind, anyway. Unfortunately it didn't work, the wads never bombed him from above, and I moved on to the next project.

I had a few failures like that. I didn't realize that a person was supposed to remove the shampoo from the bottle before adding the "Nair" product or it would be too diluted to work. My brother still has a very full head of dark hair. The jar of dead bugs in his laundry basket didn't really work, either. The lid was on too tight to stink at all, and the only person who found it was my mother. She screamed at me for a while over that one.

The pranks went on for a while that way, back and forth, constantly trying to get one another. He would hide somewhere and scare me so bad I nearly peed my pants. I would get him back by putting salt in the sugar bowl for his cereal (and end up with it going into Dad's coffee). He would use a pink marker in Barbie's hair (I always hated pink), and I would hide his most prized comics or baseball cards. He would take all of my shoes and I would find another hiding spot for his porn collection.

One day I came home and heard everyone upstairs talking. It sounded like they were in the bathroom, but I hadn't put liquid soap in my brother's toothbrush for a week or more. I went upstairs, wondering what was going on.

"Manda, come here right now," my Mother's voice commanded. I knew I was in trouble, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out why. "Did you do that?"

She pointed at the ceiling over the shower. I had completely forgotten those dried up, crusty wads of previously wet toilet paper were up there. It had been more than a year since I had tossed those up, hoping to have them plop and splat on my brother's head durring a shower. I poked my head around the corner and smirked. My dad was standing there with a broom and it frightened me, thinking surely he would wallop me with it, but I couldn't help it. I broke into a grin and then a chuckle. My ever-so-stern father cracked too. He started to chuckle, my mom snorted, and I laughed so hard I hurt.

The crusty toilet paper had begun to mold slightly around the edges and nobody had noticed because my brother and I were the only two to use that bathroom. We were both fairly short back then. We didn't look up at the ceiling - why would we?

Dad stopped laughing and we followed suit. He handed me the broom.

"I want you to get every single piece down from that ceiling right now, Young Lady. I don't ever want to see this again."

It was a good two weeks before I pulled any other pranks on my brother. Just when he thought he was safe - the liquid soap was back.

Found it on Craigs List

A young man posted a note on Craigs List asking who the woman was drawing hearts in the dirt on the back window of his car recently. I found the note and knew instinctively who it was. Thinking I was doing a 'good deed', I informed the young man of what I knew.

"I'm not the person drawing the hearts on your dirty black eclipse back window, but I may know who is. I believe it's my neighbor in the Xxxxx Xxx appartments on the Island. For privacy sake I won't say which appartment, but I will say the suspect has long brownish red hair."

He responded not long afterward with an excited email.
"You know something!
I know a handful of people on Naples, but no one with brown-red hair. Unless she dyed it... and is also 5'11 and a ballet dancer...
can you say anything more???"

My response was:
"I don't think it's someone you know. She's rather pretty, between 5'6 and 5'9. If you're home, she just walked past and told me she was going to head to Albertson's to get some groceries. Act fast. She drives a black Toyota."

Again he asked her hair color, and this time, ethnicity. I told him.

"As I said, long brownish red hair. She's Caucasian. Blue eyes. Can't miss her. She stands out like a sore thumb. She just walked out the door on her way to Albertson's."

My neighbor did go to Albertson's. She returned within a half an hour though, and I knew nothing good could have happened. I asked her where her groceries were.

"My check card was declined for some strange reason. I have to figure out what's going on now," and she went inside. She didn't mention if someone had talked to her in Alberstson's, or if she got any strange looks...

Which brings me back to the whole Craig's List phenomenon. If someone is looking for a 'missed connection' hard enough to post it on Craig's List, wouldn't they have the courage to walk up to some girl in Albertson's and say hello? My neighbor isn't exactly an ugly girl. It surprises me that this person, after looking hard enough to post it publicly on Craigs List didn't even make a half assed attempt to talk to the mysterious woman he may have possibly been looking for.

It's no surprise, though. This sort of thing happens every day. Men are intimidated by the power a woman possesses when she walks with confidence and ease. If they see a pretty girl, it's automatically assumed that she has a boyfriend or she's married, or worse yet, just not interested in "a guy like that". Unfortunately this stigma means more pretty girls have to either become overly aggressive to get a date, or they remain single for astronomical periods of time. This is exactly the opposite of what today's culture would have us believe.

I'm not exactly the most gorgeous woman out there, but I'm certainly not ugly either. I walk with my head held high and an air of confidence about me that's undeniable. I'm strong, powerful, confident, and not half bad to look at. Instantly I'm either "bitchy" or taken, in the eyes of every man that sees me. The majority of people who speak to me are either slime ball men who make cat calls and dirty remarks, or think "Hey Baby" is a good pick up line, or some elderly woman complimenting me on my haircut. Do you know what that does to a single girl's Love Life? The term "Love Life" can be flushed down the toilet in a pretty girls world... especially if she's shy.

I do walk with that air of confidence I just mentioned - but that's largely a self defense mechanism. Sure, I can take down a grown man without much force and leave him crying in tears that would make a three year old blush in jealousy (but that's just another form of self defense). I have no problem standing up for myself or defending myself.

People should understand that I'm not aggressive. I am actually very shy when I'm alone. I don't make the first move. I smile a lot - that IS my first move. I can hold a conversation with anyone on the planet as long as we are speaking the same language. I have stories galore and I love to make people laugh - but do you have ANY idea how often it is that I actually start the conversation unless it's someone I know well or I have a specific purpose for speaking to them?

So my advice is this - Guys, grow a pair. I'm not the only girl out there who has felt like this. There are SOOO many pretty girls out there that stay home on a Friday or Saturday night because they don't do the Bar thing, or because don't have anyone to go with. Like me, they just don't want to put themselves out there like a New York Strip Steak in a butchers window and go to a bar alone.

And as for the guy on Craig's List - well, he missed out on something really great.

Oliver's Twisted Tale

The day Oliver was born I was giving my coworker a ride home. Louisa got the call from her boyfriend when we were about half there. Selena, their cat, was having here second batch of kittens. My foot found a little lead somewhere in the depths. I hadn't seen a live birth since I worked at the horse farm and helped in the birthing of a beautiful black foal with white stockings. I couldn't wait to see the brand new kittens.

Selena had four kittens beside her when we walked in. By all
accounts, we thought she was done having them. Then, her stomach ceased and we knew there was another on the way. The four beside her were all black and white kittens, beautiful and innocent. When the fifth kitten was born, I saw that beautiful orange head and knew instantly that this was MY cat, come Hell or high water. There he was, just beautiful. It was love at first sight. We didn't know until later that he was the only boy in the litter.

"Louisa," I asked, "where is the father?"

"That's a long story." I waited patiently, wanting to hear the story, long or not. "Selena had kittens before. We couldn't find homes for any of them, and they were already 9 months old when we took them to the pound. Selena was pregnant again by that time, but she hadn't been outside at all. We think Troublewas the one who got her pregnant. But the father of Trouble is probably some stray outside. We aren't sure. She got out one day and when she got back she was pregnant."

"Her own kitten got her pregnant? These cats are inbred?"

"I'm afraid so," she admitted. "Does that make you change your mind?"

"No," I smiled. "You know you can't take it back when you've already named the pet."

"You already named him?"

"Yeah... Oliver, from the cat in the Disney movie 'Oliver and Company'. What do you think?"

"It's cute! I can call him the Oli-nator!"

By the time I picked up Oliver 5 weeks later, she had also been calling him Olie Olie Oxen Free. I wasn't wild about either nickname. I knew the second he was born that I wanted to call him my Ollie cat, born of a pet and an Alley cat. Ollie could be short for Oliver or Olivia. As with all pets though, he eventually decided on his own nickname.

His nickname turned out to be none other than "Cat", nicknamed for the orange cat in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's". He also ended up with the nickname "Boo Boo" due to his confusing family history.

He wasn't much company for the first few months I had him, but I will be the first to admit I'd never seen anything more adorable. He fell asleep standing up, laying on his back with his feet up in the air, laying across my feet, leaning against my chest, and curled up in the magazine rack. He played when he wasn't sleeping, and he kept us very entertained. Still, the thought of his being inbred did cause some fear within me. I needn't have worried. It only made him more special.

Days and weeks went by. He kept us so entertained! I was in a struggling relationship at the time where I didn't feel I was getting the love or affection I needed. Oliver somehow managed to fill that void. I took tons of pictures of him in those first few weeks. I couldn't help it, I had fallen completely in love with this little bundle of joy. He was my pride and joy when I had little else to look forward to.

At six months old, we had him neutered and declawed. The poor little guy had the hardest time with two casts, several stitches and a cone on his head. The first day he came home, he fell asleep on my stomach and didn't move for the rest of the day and all of the night. Occasionally I would have to check on him to make sure he was still breathing.

When Pete and I split up, it was only a couple of weeks after he turned a year old. I bundled my poor little guy up in my fathers truck, and we drove 800 miles from Los Angeles to northern Utah, and with a little protesting in the first few hours, he finally calmed down and slept the rest of the trip. His bed sat on the center console between my father and myself. When he got restless, he would just climb into one of our laps and watch out the window.

Two months later when I decided it was time to go home to California, the bed wouldn't hold him any longer. Driving a stick shift car back down over 800 miles, my lovely little redheaded cat sat only in my lap. Half way down when I was robbed of my uhaul and everything I ever owned, my little Boo Boo was safe and sound in my arms. Even that was pure luck. The hotel wouldn't let cats inside, so I smuggled him in hiding in a duffle bag. I was never so glad at having broken rules before that moment I discovered my uhaul was gone and my Ollie was sitting safe and warm in my arms.

He's been with me through many trials and much turbulence, and yet he's held fast to me. He's managed to move 4 times in a year, survived more than 1,400 miles on the road , and learned just recently how to climb a very thin ladder with no front claws on his feet. He's developed some rather odd habits, including the habit of fuzzing out his tail like a pipe cleaner whenever someone points at him. He doesn't go crazy like some other cat's I've known if you hold him on his back, and in fact he seems to enjoy it. He takes baths, including sometimes I'm not aware of if I don't watch him closely. He would climb into the bath as soon as I got out sometimes and really frighten me half to death. He can't swim!

He's all I have for a reminder of a previous life. Sometimes he's frustrating and I don't know exactly what to do with him, but then there are times when all he has to do is nuzzle me with his little orange and white cheek, and my heart melts.

I've never been much of a cat person. I've had dogs all my youth. I wasn't sure what to do with a cat. I don't know if it's his inbreeding that's made him so unique or the fact that I raised him like I would a dog, but everyone who meets him tells me that he's incredibly unique. I'm still not wild about cats, but my little guy isn't really a cat at all. He's a half breed monkey boy and dog mix. He's part cowardly lion and part brainy scarecrow. He's my pathway home, he's my reminder of where I come from, and he's the reason I keep fighting to make a better life for us.

He needs me... and likewise, I need him.
He's my much needed source of unconditional love.