Earl-the-Cat with daughter Mindy.  She is one of the reasons his table manners are so bad.
Personal Notes from Mike
  • The marathon toward Easter Sunday begins.  I always look forward to the worship services this time of year.  But the planning, organization, improvisation, and communication make me wonder if we are trying to pull off a moon launch.
  • Too muddy to get in the garden last week.  Perhaps this week.
  • Reading bits and pieces of the 950 page Coles County History, since it is my first time to live here.  The limited edition book, published in 1976, was a gift to me from Marta Ladd, a colleague in the Writer's Cafe, my Friday afternoon writer's group.  She was co-editor of the book.  Also on my reading list this week is a publication not out until Tuesday, American War, a futuristic novel about a second American Civil War, on the heels of environmental catastrophe, a presidential assassination, and drone attacks run amok. It is the debut novel of Omar El Akkad.

April 2, 2017
The Birthday Cat
Yesterday was Earl-the-Cat's birthday.  It's hard to know what to get a cat for a birthday that doesn't make me look stupid.  So, I cleaned his litter box and gave him some of my breakfast roll.  It was originally his idea to eat the breakfast roll.  I had turned my back on him to go fill my coffee-cup when he jumped up on the table and started nibbling. I yelled and chased him into the living room. And that's when I suddenly remembered it was his birthday.  So I got some cardboard for a make-shift cat dish, put in on the floor, and tossed down the part where he had slobbered.  We both had a quiet breakfast after that.  

Earl-the-Cat is now eight, in case you are wondering.  His mother must have had one-too-many litters for the Neighborhood Watch because one day the authorities rounded up the whole family and deposited them in the Champaign County Humane Society kennels. His papers say they were all brought there on July 13, 2009 (my birthday!) The whole family was labelled as "stray,"  similar I suppose to being an undocumented immigrant.  Earl was reckoned to be about three months old at the time. 
In our family, pets are always born on April Fool's Day.  Since all our pets are either strays or Humane Society residents, and we are never quite sure of their precise birthdays, we always assign them April 1.  So yesterday was a big day in the family.  Mindy's cat Jack was 10, Alison's dog Fitz was 9, and Earl-the-Cat was 8.  It's an easy way to remember.  Scarlette used to have turtles, also born on April Fool's Day, but now she has a son.  The whole family decided to let him have his own separate birthday, the day he was technically born, December 26. (But it turns out that he has to compete with Jesus for the honors, and I'm thinking he might actually get more mileage out of his birthday if we just alter his birth certificate and let him be born on April Fool's Day too.)
Earl-the-Cat has been a bit depressed since we moved to Mattoon. After we moved he stopped fetching milk rings when we'd throw them across the floor.  He also stopped wanting to go outdoors and chase squirrels and birds.  And he started getting fatter. But having Dora-the-Administrative-Assistant watch him when we are out of town has helped a little.  She is like the grandma he never knew.  

Birthdays are times for memories.  So I am remembering Earl in his younger days, when he would jump up on the counter, use his paw to slap Scarlette's pet turtle out of his dish onto the counter.  Then he would knock it on the floor and wait to chase it around the room.  Chasing turtles is quite boring, however, and Earl would soon lose interest.  Meanwhile, it would take us about three days to figure out where the turtle had moseyed off. 

We still see evidence of the old Earl.  There is a fountain in our living room, the base-bowl filled with seashells.  And each morning we find the room strewn with the shells, Earl-the-Cat having liberated them while we slept.
We didn't name him Earl.  Some volunteer at the Humane Society did.  Whoever would name a cat "Earl" probably didn't work there long.  After snickering at his name, we finally decided that it was such a good a conversation starter that we would just leave it.  

Plus, our family has never been very good at coming up with pet names.  When the girls were little, we once let them name the kittens of a stray cat who hung around the house.  We fed the mother (she ate the mice) and decided to adopt the kittens.  Unfortunately, the names they came up with were Blacky, Whitey, Blacky-White, Whitey-Black, and Two-Face. 

The cat had three or four litters before we got around to dealing with the facts-of-life. And every time there was another litter, the kids kept using the same names, over and over.  At least they all sounded like the same names to me. Back in those days we were trying to build up our daughters' self-confidence, so we didn't want to upset them by vetoing their choices.  But it sure was embarrassing to take the cats to the vet. I am still traumatized from the time the vet tech walked out to the waiting room, boomed out in a loud voice, "Two-Face Smith," and everyone watched me get out of my chair and walk forward.  
To finish Earl-the-Cat's birthday off with a flourish, allow me to regale you with a few cat facts.  Keep in mind that these are mostly off the internet, so it's not a good idea to quote me if you need a reference for a scholarly paper.  

In a contest of the pets, in the U.S., cats are ahead of dogs:  88 million to 74 million.  If most towns didn't have leash laws for dogs, those numbers might be reversed.  

Cats sleep over 70% of their lives, almost 17 hours a day.  That only leaves 7 hours a day for doing things.  The town of Talkeetna, Alaska decided to elect a cat to be their mayor. With very little "awake time" (in order to waste taxpayer money, accept bribes, give favors to cronies, send tweets, insult everybody in the country, etc.,) this cat hasn't had time to do the town much damage, so he keeps getting reelected.  He's been in office 15 years now.  

In 1960, the CIA tried to deploy a spy cat, equipped with a microphone chip and transmitter.  Unfortunately, the cat was hit by a taxi on his first day of work. I think the guy who came up with that idea was later put in charge of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  

Cats evidently have lower social skills than dogs, but a higher IQ.  In other words, they are more capable of solving rational problems, if they feel like it.  

So, there you go.  Happy birthday, Earl-the-Cat, Jack-in-the-Cat, and Fitz-the-Dog. And may God bless all the beasts, great and small.          -- Mike-the-human

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


Quick Links