Sunday, June 30, 2013

Celebrating the Birth of a Nix-Nootz

When Amadeus became a permanent resident of Ruttville last summer, he had only been a resident of the planet for four weeks.  He was a bonus in the transaction that brought his "older brother" Edison to my home; the feline equivalent of the untested prospect tossed into fulfill the "player to be named later" provision in a baseball trade:  While in the process of adopting Edison, I mentioned that I wanted to find a second cat as well, so that they would keep each other company while I was at work.  The folks I was adopting Edison from mentioned having another kitten they needed to place, and soon sent me the picture to the right.  Who could say no to that face?

Though not as immediately apparent from his appearance as Edison, Amadeus is also part Siamese, on his mother's side. As he has grown, the most telling feature giving that away is his apple-shaped head. It was never fully clear what breed his father brought to the mix. There's some tiger tabby in there for sure, but it would not surprise me to learn that there is more than a little feral cat in Amadeus' heritage.  From nearly day one, he has been the wilder of the two.  Where Edison seems to carefully plan out his activities throughout the day and remains mostly calm and aloof, Amadeus tears willy-nilly around the house climbing shelves, knocking things over, occasionally misjudging jumps.  You can almost watch him get an idea in his head to do something and immediately race off to do it, without benefit of the filter Edison employs to at least briefly consider the ramifications of his actions.

Amadeus is the one of the pair who has actually drawn blood from me - twice! Neither time was on purpose; in both cases he was flying around the house at top speed.  The first time, he was chasing his brother around. I was sitting on the couch watching TV, and suddenly they were both charging directly towards me.   Edison made a last-minute course correction and dashed under the coffee table, but Amadeus couldn't stop himself.  Instead, he used my arm as a runaway truck ramp, and, in his attempt to slow down, gave me a nice little scratch to remember the occasion. The other time, he was sitting on my lap when my brother came by the house to visit.  My brother's arrival on the porch just outside the window by the sofa startled Amadeus, who tried to take off running just as I was trying to pick him up and set him on the floor.  One of his back claws caught my lower lip, and a mildly gory scene resulted.

These events gave Amadeus one of his many nicknames, Slasher.  His previous owners hadn't named him yet, but early on called him Hot Rod; my father bestowed the title of Ricochet Cat to him for his tendency to go top speed until he hit a wall or other dead end, then bounce off that to another apparently random direction.  But it was my mother who gave him the most fitting nickname: Nix-Nootz.  It's a Pennsylvania Dutch term for a mischievous child who is always getting himself into trouble, often despite himself.  Not a bad kid, but one who can't seem to help himself from having a little devious fun when the opportunity presents itself.  And that, in a nutshell, is Amadeus.

He climbs to the highest perches he can find, and then hollers because he cannot figure out how to get back down.  He starts fights with his brother and finds himself pinned to the ground and on the receiving end of warning nip or two.  He's a bit of a thief, known to jump up on the table and snatch a paper towel or napkin and take off running with it, only for me to find it later shredded into confetti in the upstairs hall. He makes people laugh out loud with his antics.

But for all his craziness, he is one of the most loving cats I've ever known.  He throws himself bodily against me and rolls over on his back to have his belly scratched, purring so loudly you can hear him across the room; he always returns the favor by licking my arm. He curls up on top of me or in the crook of my arm to go to sleep, and usually waits until I have fallen asleep myself to leave.  He usually comes running when his name is called, hoping for at least a chin scritch.  He will engage in conversation, mewing responses to whatever I am saying.

Amadeus and Edison have grown into two cats with very distinct personalities, but I am so glad to have them both in my world.  As I've mentioned before, I know the positive effect they have had on my life; friends and family have also commented that I seem much happier having them around.  And now they have each passed the 365-day mark.

Happy Birthday, little Nix-Nootz.  Here's to celebrating many more of them for both you and your brother!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Instant Karma: My Good Deed of the Day

Every now and then an opportunity will present itself wherein you have the choice of two courses of action.  How you choose to respond to these little "tests" that the Universe throws at you are, perhaps, the most honest appraisal of your character, especially when it is obvious that no one but you would ever have to know whether or not you passed the test. one but you and your conscience.  Also, I do believe the Universe keeps score.

This morning was the first Saturday in a long while that I decided to get up early and head downtown to Lancaster Central Market, the country's oldest continuously operating farmers market and a place used to frequent quite regularly on weekends.  There is a Thai stand there that serves up the most amazingly delicious fresh veggie spring rolls; S. Clyde Weaver's deli stand is the perfect place to stock up on sandwich fixin's for the week; there's always something delicious being offered at The Goodie Shop.  More fresh produce and fresh baked goods than you can shake a stick at overflow aisle after aisle of locally owned stands, and I am a big proponent of the buy fresh/buy local concept.  Market is also something of a community gathering place where friends meet for coffee or where you've got a better than even chance of running into someone you know and getting lost in conversation for awhile.  There's a reason it has lasted for over two centuries.  If you're ever in Lancaster, PA, you need to make it a stop on your itinerary!

As I said, it had been awhile since I had been at market.  Having been un-/under-employed for a stretch meant that some expenses had to be cut out.  Now that I'm getting back on my feet, I am happy to be able to add regular Market stops back to my routine.

Despite its heritage, Market makes some concessions to the modern world around it, among them the ATM machine in the southeast corner of the building.  It was there that I was tested this morning.  I needed some cash for shopping and to boost my pocket money for the week, so I decided to take $40 out of my account.  Annoyingly, the machine had a notice on it indicating it was out of receipt paper, and so would not be able to provide a receipt for the transaction, but I needed the money.  I swiped my card and punched in my $40 request, and after a moment of churning the machine instructed me to retrieve my cash.  To my surprise I found four $20 bills.

My first thought was that the machine had made mistake and taken twice the amount I wanted from my account.  Without a receipt, though, I had no way to see what the ATM thought I had asked for.  I replayed the screens I had just walked through in my head: "Did I hit $80 by mistake?"  No, I was certain I only asked for $40.  Then it occurred to me that this ATM  is different from most in that the cash dispenser is not just an open slot where the cash is slid out to you, but rather requires you to open a plastic door.  What if someone had tried to get money out before me and, not knowing to open the door, figured the transaction hadn't gone through - and wouldn't know until he checked his statement that he was out forty bucks?

Either way, something was amiss. I walked over to the nearest stand and explained the situation  to the standholder, who offered to call the Market Manager over for me to talk with.  I shared the story with her, as well as my thought that either I had be double-hit or the money belonged to someone else.  After apologizing for not being more alert to refilling the machine's receipt paper, she offered to bring me back to her office to use her computer to check my bank balance online and see how much was actually taken from my account.  If it turned out that my balance was correct, then she would hold onto the money for a period of time to see if anyone claimed it.  If not, either I could keep it or donate it to charity.

I had just about logged onto my account when another gentleman knocked on the Manager's office door.  He explained that he had tried to take $40 out of the ATM but didn't get his cash, and then had gone to another ATM elsewhere in town. When he took out his $40 there, his receipt showed his balance down $80.  As he told his story, I verified that my balance was correct; clearly the other $40 was his.  He was very happy to get it back, and thanked me profusely before going on his way.  The Market Manager also thanked me, and added, "You've got some good Karma coming your way!"

I walked out of Market feeling pretty damn good.  One person I shared the story with said, "They should have given you some type of reward."  No, no they shouldn't have.  First of all, no one should ever have to be rewarded for doing the right thing, and I believe in this case I did the right thing.  Second, I'd like to think that if I were the one missing the $40, someone would do exactly the same for me.  I've been at points in my life where a missing $40 would be a financial calamity; how do I know that wasn't the case for this person?

I'm not going to lie; there was a time in my life when I probably would have pocketed the cash and gone on with my day happy to have scored a windfall.  Found money, right?  But over the years I have learned that there is much truth to old adage that the Universe pays you back whatever energy you send out times three, so you want to send out positive energy whenever you can.  I also believe strongly in the snowball effect of paying things forward.

Which is why I share this with all of you.  I'm not seeking pats on the back or praises for being an honest person; that's who I am, and trust me, being so can be a double-edged sword at times.  No, I share this because I hope each of you will take the next opportunity that presents itself to you to "pay it forward," and do the right thing.  Then, share it with your friends, whether you have a blog or a Facebook page or just tell the story in person.  Think of it as your little part of making the world a little bit nicer of place to live in.

Now, I've got some delicious veggie spring rolls to dig into, so it's time to stop blogging and start eating!

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