The Ballad of Monster the Cat (Or, I am a Dirty Liar)

A couple of months ago I posted the following to Facebook, without preamble:

Please advise: This really ugly stray cat has shown up at my house. It’s kind of deformed. But really, really friendly. I named it Monster because it’s so ugly it’s kind of cute.

Do I take in the new cat?

I then helpfully added a photo to show off the ugliness of said cat.

monster

My friends’ reactions ranged from amused, confused, and a few well-meaning people who told me that possums are not cats and I should not let it into my house. But I went on, talking about how my indoor cats weren’t necessarily taking to the outdoor cat, attempting to fight my newest pet through my sliding glass doors.

Then Monster disappeared, and I was sad that I hadn’t seen him for a few days. My mom, in particular, gave the completely unhelpful tip that she’d seen Monster dead on the side of the road. So callous, I tell you.

But then there was a real Monster sighting, as I spotted him as I was driving (very much alive) and I recognized his ugly mug instantly! I was, relieved, of course, that my new cat was alive and kicking.

Then the news got even better, as Monster showed up in my yard and it was revealed that not only was Monster not a he, but a she, but she also had kittens!

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I offered them free to a good home, once they were old enough, and even provided a photo from a coworker of a newly adopted kitten crawling up her husband’s arm. It was glorious.

Meanwhile, my mom was trying to figure out if one of my coworker’s had really come by my place to secure a “kitten” of her own, and wondering just what I was up to.

All was revealed on Mother’s Day, when I gifted my mother a beautiful, homemade card.

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Because yes, I convinced my mom that there was a possum and her babies living in my backyard, just to play the not-so-long con myself, as retribution.

After all, why not?

So! If you were following this saga on Facebook, and wondering what in the world ever happened to Monster… sorry? I meant to write about this sooner.

Also, you’re all amazing for just going along with my unexplained weirdness. I love you.

When the Devil Makes You Examine Your Non-Belief

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 Over a decade ago now, in an attempt to rescue my floundering faith, I set about reading the Bible cover to cover. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, the last vestiges of that faith left during the book of Exodus, when Pharaoh, overwhelmed by the plagues repeatedly repents, only for God to harden his heart each time until at last the Egyptians lose their firstborn children and livestock, just so God’s power is made known.

We’re taught that story in Sunday school, I’d known it for years. But even though I kept reading after that, I knew then that I no longer believed. And at the time, it made me terribly sad, but like I said, that was over a decade ago. I now consider myself an agnostic atheist. I don’t believe that there’s a god, but I also realize that I cannot know that as a matter of fact.

There’s a show currently airing on Fox called Lucifer that’s loosely based on a comic book, in which the devil takes a break from ruling hell and vacations in Los Angeles, cause where else would he go than the city of angels? The show is part cop procedural, part supernatural and never really takes itself too seriously even while dealing with religious themes.

I love it.

So I think that’s why I felt sucker punched during this Monday’s episode when Lucifer delivers a glorious rant towards God, questioning that divine plan that many believers hold onto, and how everyone seems to come out on the losing end. I was instantly transported back to my reading of Exodus, wondering how I was supposed to hold onto faith when God brought upon the slaughter of the firstborn children even after Pharaoh was willing to relent of his own volition.

I imagine that people who were never religious to begin with might not have felt so strongly about it, and well, there’s a group of people who are religious trying to boycott it off the air, but for a non-believer who once believed, I knew that beautifully melancholic feeling.

So there’s a certain irony to the fact that a comic book show about the devil managed what a couple dozen Christian movies have failed to do; made me think about faith.

I hope to hell it gets renewed for a second season.

(And yeah, I know what I did there.)

How (Not) to Draft a Fantasy Soccer Team

Back in 2010 I was working at a bookstore and my coworkers decided to start a fantasy football league, which they immediately attempted to get me to join. I told them, no, I didn’t know anything about football, except that my team, the Detroit Lions, never did to well.

They were undeterred, and eventually I relented, drafting my team based on important qualities such as who they played for (the Lions ranked number one in this case) or their resemblence to giant teddy bears (Arian Foster) or having an amazing name (Legedu Naanee.)

I won the league.

Flash forward a few years, and I don’t expect to repeat that success playing fantasy MLS, but my goal is really to get into the United States’ version of professional soccer, which is difficult. Especially when compared to say, the Premier League of the Brits with its promotion and relegation that keeps the league fluid. But I’m going to give it a shot.

I chose my team a few years back, the Columbus Crew, because their colors are black and yellow and match my Hufflepuff scarf that my mom made me. I’ve never truly followed them, however, so I was pretty surprised last year when they made it to the finals in the playoffs. Didn’t win, but I’m not the type of supporter who gives up on a team for not winning championships. I’m the sort of supporter who just doesn’t pay attention.

Until this year.

Some friends created a fantasy MLS league, and in an attempt to learn more about the players and teams, I immediately began my research. This is my team. We’re decidedly average in points thus far, but who cares about points? There are more important characteristics to a fantasy soccer team.

Team Shipp Happens

Goalies

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Steve Clark, Columbus Crew

I figure that if Steve Clark can get the Crew to the Finals, he can be my starting goalie. This strategy isn’t exactly paying off yet, as the Crew are 0-2, but they’re sure to turn things around. I hope. Regardless, Clark has eyes that make me trust him in net.

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Josh Saunders, New York City FC

Between his smile and that jersey, Josh Saunders is a ball of sunshine, and a worthy backup goalie.

Defense

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Brandon Vincent, Chicago Fire

In Fantasy MLS, you draft a team based on salary, rather than an actual draft like Fantasy Football. Vincent was an affordable rookie defender who’s starting for the Fire. He’s also adorable.

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Nat Borchers, Portland Timbers

Once I saw Nat’s glorious, glorious beard, he was going to be on my team. I mean look at it. Legendary.

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Robbie Rogers, LA Galaxy

So Robbie Rogers is one of a select few professional athletes who have come out. So he is one of a select few of MLS defenders playing on my team. It doesn’t hurt that he has a beautiful smile as well.

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Tim Parker, Vancouver Whitecaps

When in doubt about how to round off your defense, add a Weasley. There’s also the fact that I’m trying to include as many teams as possible, to spark my interest in as many games as possible.

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Tommy Redding, Orlando City SC

Orlando’s first homegrown signing, Tommy Redding is currently sitting on my bench so that I can play more midfielders. But he pulls off purple well, I think.

Midfield

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Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution

Diego was the first player that I saw in my research that was a must-have. It was the hair.

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Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew

If I had to pick a favorite player on the Crew, it would be Finlay, so he made it onto my team. There were a few others in the running, though, after the team made a video responding to mean tweets about their uh… colorful new kits.

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Harry Shipp, Montreal Impact

When I first started my research, Shipp was playing for Chicago. A hometown hero who was a bright spot in a terrible season last year. Then he got traded unexpectedly to Montreal, and my team name, Shipp Happens, came to be. He penned an emotional letter to fans of the Fire, and he quickly became a favorite of mine.

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Julian Buescher, DC United

Currently a sub for both DC United and Shipp Happens, Julian Buescher has been warming the bench. Hopefully he gets a chance to start for both teams.

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Razvan Cocis, Chicago Fire

So, I had Razvan and his neck beard on my team last week, but transferred him out last minute. He scored a goal. I apologized and transferred him back into the team this week. He didn’t start. I was sad, but y’know… it happens.

Forwards

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David Villa, New York City FC

By no means was I going to draft David Villa, one of those players who an expansion team signs right away to launch their team. Then I saw his smile, and he won me over.

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Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City

So Sporting KC launched their new kits during the Super Bowl this year, and suddenly Dom’s photo was all over Twitter, and I remembered that when looking for players. But then I found out he was married to Sydney Leroux who played for the US National Women’s team, and there was no question.

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Khiry Shelton, New York City FC

I really didn’t expect that I’d have three players from NYCFC on my team but I also didn’t expect them all to have beautiful smiles. And Khiry’s hair is almost always fun, from what I’ve seen.

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Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC

And last but not least is Sebastian Giovinco, my tattooed team captain who led the league in goals last year. 68% of teams have selected this Italian wonder, and I’m hoping he lives up to expectations after a crazy season last year. If not, his tats are still fantastic.

So there’s Shipp Happens, my first attempt at really playing Fantasy MLS. (Kind of.)

Badass American History: Mary Bowser

It’s funny what I remember from my pre-college educational experience. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget an American government teacher who described in great detail how ball bearings would eventually be made in space, or an American history teacher who pointed out that one of the Cold War targets of a nuclear attack was right next door to my hometown, or how my fifth grade English teacher complimented one line of one poem that I wrote, to the point that I still remember that opening stanza.

I’m pretty sure I recall nothing of trigonometry.

And seeing how it’s February, I can remember how even back in elementary school it puzzled me that every year we studied the same few notable people during Black History Month. I mean, there’s no escaping the fact that Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr, and Rosa Parks were all giants, and worthy of recognition. And as I got older, Malcolm X was thrown into the mix, as well as excerpts from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the movie Glory. I’m just saying that my studies were a bit narrow in scope.

Fortunately, it’s 2016 and the internet exists in far more splendor than it did in 1998, so educational sites such as Tumblr have helped filled in the gaps of my early education. And before you say Tumblr isn’t at all educational, let me tell you that it introduced me to the badass slave turned free woman turned Union spy, Mary Bowser.

Bowser was born into slavery, which is ridiculous in and of itself, to the Van Lew family in Richmond, Virginia. Upon the patriarch’s death, his surviving family freed his slaves. Bowser remained with the Van Lew household, however, working as a servant only now she was presumably paid for her work.

Elizabeth Van Lew noticed the girl’s intelligence and sent her off for an education, and while the details are murky, it was more than likely a Quaker school in Philadelphia, and it seems she left the country for a while to be a missionary, was miserable, and eventually returned to the family, and became a huge asset to Elizabeth’s military intelligence efforts for the Union.

See Mary Bowser chose to return to slavery in order to spy for the Union. And she did so in the somewhat important household of one Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Given the idea that people didn’t expect slaves to be educated and generally disregarded their presence as long as they fulfilled their duties, Bowser was able to gather information and report it undetected for quite some time. She was also said to have had a photographic memory, so her location gave her access to documents that no one in the house would have suspected she could even read.

When suspicion finally fell on Bowser, she was able to flee, and she may have attempted to burn down the Confederate White House as a final act on her way out. Whether that’s merely legend or has some root in fact we’ll probably never know, because many of the records regarding spies were destroyed for the protection of the spies and their families in a post-war nation that was still very much in a state of unrest.

In 1995 Mary Bowser was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, and finally recognized for her work. Yet I’d never heard of her until someone on Tumblr decided to post about this incredibly brave woman who was willing to forsake her freedom and risk her life to report from the very heart of the Confederacy.

History is full of such stories that get lost in time, or even right after the fact. And with textbooks attempting to rewrite history to make it sound less ugly, we risk losing even more. However, I mostly wanted to share this story because I think Mary Bowser was a total badass, and worthy of recognition.

 

Sources or it didn’t happen:

One. Two. Three.

I am my Mother’s Daughter

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My mom, well before she was my mom. Clearly.

When I was a kid, first learning about the Civil War in school, my mom dropped a bombshell on me. “Your grandmother worked for Abraham Lincoln,” she told me, suggesting that I ask her what it was like working for the President. I was astounded. I may not have known the term “primary source” at that age, or for that matter had any concept of time whatsoever, but I sure wanted to know what the White House was like.

So, at my mother’s urging, I asked my grandma for her own recollections of the time. And that went about as well as you would expect it to when you ask a woman to personally recall a time period over 120 years prior to the current date. What I remember most though was being disappointed that I wasn’t going to hear a firsthand account. I imagine I was probably excited when I asked, only to have that enthusiasm fade very, very quickly.

* * *

Of course, for having been so willing to age my grandma by quite a bit, my mom wasn’t so eager to age herself. I was taught as a child that if anyone asked me how old she was, I was to say 28 and leave it at that. We practiced.

“How old am I?” she asked.

“28 and leave it at that!” I dutifully replied, a little smartass in the making.

I have since learned how time works.

* * *

I suppose I was a gullible child. I mean, my mom did have me referring to her as “Beautiful Mommie Dearest” for quite some time during my youth.

We would be at the grocery store, and if I asked if we could get some cookies, I had a much better chance of those cookies ending up in the cart if I phrased the question, “Can we get some cookies please, beautiful mommie dearest?” I have no idea what other people thought when they heard me, or my sister, or my childhood best friend referring to my mom as such, but the experience taught me two important things about my mother:

  1. My mom has a twisted sense of humor.
  2. My mom can be a very, very patient woman.

I didn’t learn who the Mommie Dearest was until I was in college, at least ten years after the idea had first popped into my mom’s head to have us call her that. I came home one weekend, absolutely boggling at the revelation.

“Mom, do you know who Joan Crawford was?” I asked, rather naively. And my mother, who had waited a decade, finally got to see the look of abject horror cross my face as I realized that yes, my mom did know all about Mommie Dearest.

Once I saw the humor in it, my mom reached legendary status in my eyes.

* * *

I’ve inherited that quirky, twisted sense of humor, something that I’ve always been grateful for. I’d like to believe I’m slightly less gullible these days, but if there’s anyone who can get me going for a while, it’s my mom.

A few years ago, while maintaining an old blog of mine, I suggested to my mom that she start blogging. Eventually she decided to, and now she keeps her own blog going as she researches our family history. (It’s sadly lacking in stories of my grandmother working for the Great Emancipator, however.) Her blog has well outlasted my previous one, and the other day, as I was rambling on about how I was getting ready to play fantasy soccer for the first time, and my criteria for choosing the players who will be on my team when the season starts, my mom said, “You should really blog about that.”

And so I will, now that I’ve started a new blog.

Also, today is my mom’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mom!

She’s 28, and we’ll just leave it at that.