and this is why i should not have kids

I think I may have screwed up one of my cats for good.

Wait, wait, wait. Let me back up for a moment. I would like to warn you, fair reader, that if you continue to read these silly blog posts, you will likely read a decent amount about my cats.

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No, I am not a crazy cat lady. I have two of these obnoxious creatures and that is where I have drawn the line. We all know that acquisition of a third feline is when you start wandering the streets with an empty baby carriage and mumbling to yourself. I am also not a “cat person.” I am an “animal person.” In my lifetime I have also befriended dogs, birds, mice, rats, frogs, lizards, rabbits, fish, and a very unfortunate hamster by the name of “Princess.” Cats just happen to fit my lifestyle. And by lifestyle I mean that I can leave town for a few days if I provide them with an extra bowl of food and they are none the wiser.

The reason that I own cats and not a plethora of other more dependent animals, like I wish I could, eerily mirrors the reason that I am 99% sure that children are not in my future. Don’t be sad. I’m not sad. I really think it is just best for everyone. I rarely make responsible decisions in my own life, so how could I be trusted to properly guide that of someone else? Let‘s put it this way: Sometimes, when my cats are being loud and batting at my face in the morning to communicate that their food bowls are empty, I pull the blanket over my head and pretend they don’t exist. I mean, I know they aren’t going to starve to death.  Plus, I was up late last night and do not feel like standing up yet.

Back to the matter at hand. Now and then I forget that I am my cats’ whole world. Gideon (aka Babyman, Supermodel Kitty, Tiger, Mittens) just turned 16 in February. Raven (aka Fatty Boombatty, Midnight, Asshole) is somewhere around 12ish. Come on, we all know that the second kid’s baby book is never as good as the first‘s. They are both indoor cats and have been ever since I took away their freedom and domesticated them. They have nothing but the environment I have created for them. That can get to be a lot for a girl.

This past week I bought them new food bowls and an automatic water dispenser. As cats get older their bodies start to do mean things to them, as do ours. Their organs don’t function as efficiently. They are thirsty all the time and peeing all the time. My vet calls this “old man’s syndrome.” I call it “I have to remember to fill the water bowl and clean the litter box twice as often.” Hence, the water dispenser was necessary. The food bowls? Well, they were purple.

After setting up the new café for my furry roommates, I go to work. When I return, it doesn’t seem as though they have eaten as much as usual. But the new bowls are smaller, so I figure it is just an illusion. I go to bed. I wake up and go off to work a double. When I come home this time, same deal. But it’s been so hot and humid and I refuse to turn on the air conditioning, so perhaps this is a protest.

As I go about my usual business of post-work decompression, Gideon is being annoying as fuck. He is always pretty needy, even more so now that the “old man’s syndrome” has taken hold, but this is excessive. I go to change the laundry and he is right on my heels. I run to grab something out of my truck and he waits at the door for me as if I will never return. He clambers onto my laptop. I walk to the kitchen for a snack and he practically climbs into the refrigerator. Hold on a second. I think he’s hungry!

Not for one second did it occur to me how monumental of a change I had made by altering the eating and drinking habits that had been developed for over a decade. Those creepy little bowls with the faceless whisker and paw print designs had been a ritual for these cats in this tiny world of theirs, and I just walked in one day and changed shit. No warning. No memo. No democracy.

No lie, I cackled a little at the thought of my power. The psychological implications seemed limitless. And then I immediately felt like a jerk and pulled a rotisserie chicken out of the fridge. I bribed my little beggar to eat out of the new bowls, and it worked. Then I splashed my hand around in the water bowl of the dispenser so he could see that it was his friend and not some alien being that had taken the place of his life source. I got another laugh when he jumped because the jug of water bubbled while he was gulping away. I’m only human. But I think that my training an old cat new tricks shows that I can also use my powers for good. Occasionally, it may just take a day and a half.

What about Raven, you ask? Oh, don’t worry about him. That fat boy will eat out of a paper bag if I let him. He will be just fine.

vacation with a side of ethics

I am easy to please when it comes to vacations. I don’t need a lot of activities and adventures. The last thing I want is an itinerary. All I ask for is a beach and a good book, healthily interspersed with fruity cocktails, good food and lots of napping. I recently returned from my second trip to Jamaica and I gotta tell you, that place does not suck.

All-inclusive resorts are the ultimate in relaxation for lazy vacationers such as myself. Eat whenever you want at one of five different restaurants. Drink whenever you want from a bevy of beach, pool or club bars. Go snorkeling, get a massage, play beach volleyball. Or don’t do anything at all. Sit on your ass and ignore the world. Nobody cares. The only schedule you need to know is when the jerk chicken shack on the beach opens and your nose will figure that out. Take off your watch. You’re on island time now.

This trip doubled as a much needed technology detox for me. Hi, my name is Kim and I am an internet addict. I can easily spend an entire day sitting in front of my laptop, only standing up to go to the kitchen or the bathroom. I am a time-waster extraordinaire and have the butt-shaped indentation on my couch to prove it. If you see me without my cell phone in my hand, it is probably because the battery is dead. No mobile device on the market can keep up with my addiction. I am constantly texting and checking Facebook to see what I could possibly be missing at any given time. It is a serious problem.

International roaming rates are ridiculous and even my level of dependence could not be justified at that price. The resort where I stayed offers 90 minutes of free wi-fi per day. Somehow, I managed to survive. I sat in the lobby for sometimes less than an hour a day just to get my fix and let my mom know that I was alive. It was, dare I say, refreshing. Unplugging from the online world gave me time to socialize with real live people. Gasp! I walked the coastline and took in the beauty surrounding me. I read half a book in a day. I slept better. I felt energized. Damnit, this is the part where I am supposed to learn a lesson and apply it to my daily life, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, a Caribbean vacation does not come without a cost, and I am not simply talking about the credit card bill.

The moment when I stepped off the plane, I was smacked in the face with the fact that, despite the booming tourist industry, Jamaica is a third world country. The roads are poorly paved and planned. The flow of traffic seems like chaos. When I first saw the windowless shacks propped up on cinderblocks that litter the countryside, I assumed that they were abandoned. Well, we all know what happens when we assume. This is how most of the locals live. A majority of these hovels are without power or furniture. They serve as shelter, and shelter alone.

Many of the homes look unfinished with rebar jutting from the roofs and half completed paint jobs. Our tour guide explained that the people of Jamaica do not borrow from banks in order to construct their living spaces. When they have some money saved up, they build until the funds run out. Then they work toward saving more money so they can build some more. Doesn’t sound like a horrible plan, really, until you realize that the majority of the locals, especially the resort workers, make around $50 USD per week. And to think, I get pissy if I don’t walk out of work with over $150 in my pocket after a single night.

The town center is jammed with ramshackle shops advertised with hand-painted signs claiming “cold beer joint” and “hair braids.” Every produce stand vendor and jewelry maker alike vie for my attention. They want my American money and they are willing to show me things I’ve never seen before in order to get it (That is a direct quote). Buying from the locals is a nightmare for me. I want their handcrafted goods. I want to support their local economy. However, between my guilt complex and my severe bartering ineptitude, it is just best that I smile and walk away.

When we get to the resort, my conscience kicks into overdrive. Here I am, about to be waited on constantly by a staff of people who seem more happy to be at work than I am about being on vacation, and all I can think about is how spoiled I am. The people employed there have no other goal than to make me comfortable. Service with a smile is an understatement. They literally break into song while serving what must be thousands of frozen concoctions a day. I, too, work in a resort town, and I promise you that I have never been happy to pick up a blender.

I tipped generously over my four days in paradise, but I didn’t see many other tourists following suit. I would not have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t given twenty bucks a night to Dalton, the bartender who was happy to serve 30 woo-woo’s at a time. He is a better man than I. Of course, that means I got preferential treatment from most of the bartenders: Some things are universal. It made me feel good to know that I was helping out individuals who deserved respect for their hard work and long hours, but it also made me wonder where all the money we vacationers pay to stay there is going. Straight to the top, I guess. The rich get richer… Boy, that sure sounds familiar.

Don’t get me wrong, Jamaica is a diverse place scattered with mansions and ghettos alike. Just like America, there are the affluent and the underprivileged, and I am definitely one of the lucky ones. I have worked hard to be able to own a house and countless other “things” that are considered purely luxury. Perhaps when visitors travel to Ocean City, they consider me one of the unfortunate ones who is forced to meet their every demand for a couple of beer-soaked dollars left on the bar.

I will definitely be returning to Jamaica in the future and I urge everyone who can to do the same. Despite the moral conundrum, I could not have asked for a better breather from my daily life. There is a peace and friendliness there that I have never found on beaches in the states. I could have done without the excess of Speedos and saggy boobs, but I think I have our European neighbors to thank for that.

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