March 26, 2015
Posted by Valerie Bonham under Germany
| Tags: cats
Today’s blog-topic came up because I saw a query on an email list for tips on leash-training a cat. Our family has had many cats, but only some of them have been leash-trained.
The first cat we walked on a leash, Screech, seemed happy enough to do so because it got her out of the car during the rest stops we took while driving over Christmas vacation from the east coast to Missouri and back. My husband and I were young, and lucky, and didn’t realize that most cats would rather lie immobile, perhaps until forever, rather than walk while wearing a harness. Screech didn’t object either to the harness or to being walked while we stopped at a rest area along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Screech was a trooper.
My husband and Screech, taking in the Pennsylvania Turnpike in December.
The second cat we had that we leash-trained, Pippin, took to it as if he’d been born to walk on a leash. It helped that Pippin loved traveling in the car and he associated the leash with going on car rides. Again, we lucked out.
Me and Pippin near the border between West and East Germany.
[The above photo will look odd to military personnel who were stationed in Germany before 1989. Part of my husband’s job at the time, though, was to keep an eye on changes along the border while not looking like a soldier. Odd, but that was the way it was. With Pippin, he definitely didn’t look like an American soldier.]
Pippin’s ‘sister,’ Merrie, apparently took her cue from her older ‘brother’ and tolerated the harness-and-leash setup. (yes, that’s a Lord of the Rings theme going on there with the cat names) The leash-training was probably easy because Merrie was a tiny kitten when she joined the household. Harness-wearing was something she grew up with.
Pippin meeting Merrie
After the death of Pippin (the old guy made it to 19) Dinah joined the household. Dinah was a stinker, an adorable stinker, but a stinker nonetheless. Like Merrie, Dinah was introduced to harness-wearing when she was a kitten. Both Merrie (18) and Dinah (just missed 20) have joined Pippin.
Our daughters at a motel in South Dakota. Merrie is behaving herself, as she usually did, but Dinah is being a rascal and trying to get down.
Dinah, probably scheming.
Dinah’s ‘siblings,’ Foofie and Pudding, were adult strays when they came to us. They didn’t appreciate harnesses.
Foofy, our white cat, after rolling in the dirt. That’s what outdoor cats do.
Pudding, the junk yard thug.
The current crop of cat-friends–mama Minka with her youngsters Rusty, and Audrey–don’t wear leashes, probably because we aren’t traveling with them. Our previous cats all joined the family during my husband’s military career and traveled with us in the United States as well as in Europe. Now that we’re a retiree family, no one is going to show up at the house with cardboard boxes and pack away everything to take all of it somewhere else, so the cats have no need to travel. They occasionally mosey out into the back yard, but that’s about it for their vacationing. One of our daughters is a veterinarian so even their health care (so far) comes to them.
I wish I had some useful tips about leash-training cats rather than just pictures, but other than starting them off with the harness as kittens, I think a lot has to do with the cat’s temperament. That and luck. Lots and lots of luck.
March 18, 2015
Posted by Valerie Bonham under Military
, Non-fiction day
| Tags: United States Flag
Comments Off on Bye, Baby Bunting: A tale of a baby in a flag
Bye, Baby Bunting, daddy’s gone a hunting.
To get a little rabbit skin, to wrap his Baby Bunting in.
This lullaby, surprisingly, has many elements of a current nine-day-wonder, the controversy around the picture of little Landon Clevenger suspended in the flag of the United States by his sailor father. The lullaby has the baby, the daddy, daddy’s “hunting” (his military job), the container for the baby, and wrapping up the baby.
One not-so-obvious element, at least not to modern ears, is the bunting. In the lullaby, it is a wrap for a baby. In patriotic parlance, it is the red, white, and blue material used decoratively. The entire controversy could have been avoided had the baby been suspended in bunting.
But that didn’t happen.
What did happen was that, apparently, the person behind a now-removed Facebook page commented negatively on the photo and that drew in many defenders.
To sum up many of the complaints about the complaint:
Yes, a federal law governs the use of the flag. Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code. The law is not merely guidelines.
Yes, there are many violations of that code, but, to quote Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, “The law is on the books, but it would take all their resources to enforce it.” This is why we’ve wound up with stars and stripes bikinis, flag napkins, flag clothing, and flag anything else. This particular law depends on a populace that respects this law enough not to violate it.
Yes, the sailor has rendered service to the country. Despite that, if I informed my Drill and Ceremonies instructor in Army Basic Training that I was able to use the flag of the United States for my own purposes because I’d enlisted — freedom of speech — I can just hear her asking me who I thought I was. Then I’d have been on my hands and knees for a day, scraping up floor wax with a razor blade (a more useful activity than pushups). A Navy-version of flag etiquette is provided at Navy for Moms .com Flag etiquette, sailors and women
Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that disrespect of the flag of the United States is protected speech. But even that ruling was not unanimous.
Writing for the dissent, Justice Stevens argued that the flag’s unique status as a symbol of national unity outweighed ‘symbolic speech’ concerns, and thus, the government could lawfully prohibit flag burning.
Yes, the photograph contains much symbolism.
a. From birth Americans are wrapped in (whatever imagery you apply to the flag)
b. Fathers are strong protectors of babies.
c. Military men are hot dads (those strong protectors).
d. Family pride
e. That military service members are protecting the country for future generations.
f. Hope for future generations.
g. The child’s involuntary sacrifice of a parent being away from home.
The symbolism acknowledged, I read the dissent by Justice Stevens as meaning that the flag belongs to all of us, not to each of us. As people who respect the meaning of the flag, if we want to set a good example, following the law would be a good place to start.
Yes, protesters exercising their First Amendment rights have used the flag disrespectfully for their own purposes: To quote a commenter from somewhere on the Internet: “If we have the freedom to burn it, we have the freedom to wrap our babies in it.” Is the worst example of free-speech usage of the flag — burning it in protest — the example we ought to use? Is this what we strive for?
A “troll” commenter made the example of the inappropriateness of the image: “It would look cuter with a cat.”
If substituting another object for the baby, would the image still be appropriate? This freedom-hating-Pharisee who is an Obama-loving keyboard-warrior (I think those were all the slurs I attracted elsewhere) doesn’t think so.
I don’t think the Old Guard would agree, either.
March 10, 2015
Posted by Valerie Bonham under Belgium
, Non-fiction day
| Tags: English languages
Comments Off on Separated by a common language
One set of my many teapots shown in an inventory photo taken before moving from Germany to Belgium.
1st generation digital photo
The other day while I was catching up on email digests, a conversation on a writing list caught my eye. Someone asked about “tea” and I gave a quick response because I have a passing familiarity with it, although more as a drink than as a meal. My Air Force dad was assigned to a military unit in England when I was little and, while we lived there, the daughter of my mom’s cleaning lady was my babysitter. Occasionally I was sent over to their house and would play with my babysitter’s younger brothers. Despite this vague familiarity with English family life, and later exposure through all the English mystery novels I’ve read, my language training would prove to be inadequate.
1951 Mom pouring me milk while we’re having our tea.
Fast-forward a long ways from my childhood but not quite up to the present.
Before my husband retired from federal service, we lived in Belgium where my husband worked closely with others assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, NATO’s military headquarters, otherwise known as SHAPE. SHAPE, like NATO, is multi-national so the possibility of having friends who weren’t American was high. I expected communication difficulties with the non-English-speaking people — I certainly didn’t speak all the languages of NATO, and I didn’t think everyone else would speak English — but I didn’t expect any problems communicating with the British.
Our daughters, sitting on the haynets they’d stuffed, at the SHAPE riding club when it was at Bauffe, Belgium.
1st generation digital photo
Our daughters were members of the SHAPE riding club, so I was out at the stables a lot. I helped out, too, doing little chores not requiring expert horsey-knowledge. I could fill hay nets, put saddles away, pick hooves if no one else were available, and even stay on top of a horse although I’m not an expert rider. One day, one of the English women asked if I would be around that afternoon. As I petted her black Labrador, I said I would be. She then asked me if I would give her mare, Anna, her tea.
I was perplexed. I knew that some of the horses had special feed, but I didn’t know that Anna also had a special drink. As far as I had seen, all the horses drank only water. I looked at the woman and said, fine, I could do that, but that I didn’t know where this tea was kept or how to make it. She looked at me as if I had suddenly gone simple. Maybe petting dogs was the limit of my talents?
“Her tea.” she said, emphasizing the word “tea.” “At about five o’clock?”
It took a minute, in which I’m sure I fell in her estimation of whether or not I ought to be let out on my own, but then, with her emphasis on five o’clock, roughly the time when the horses were given their evening meal, it clicked. The woman wanted me to give the mare her supper.
While we Americans think of “tea” (as a meal) as something frilly and fancy — such as, afternoon tea — apparently, in general usage in England, it is meant as “supper.” For horses, that would be a cup or so of oats and a nice net of hay, a task well within my capabilities.
I’m sure that once the linguistic light dawned on me, I stammered a bit, then said, great, I’d give Anna her “tea.” The woman gave me a look as if she were reconsidering, then turned, and calling her dog, went on her way.
In my life overseas, I had yet another language lesson, but, more importantly, Anna had her tea.
Me, in 1999, performing one of the riding stable tasks for which I am qualified — poop scooping.
1st generation digital photo