The Time to Help a Friend

This hasn’t been a great summer.

There is something about being out of work that just demoralizes a person, even though I know I’ll most likely have classes to teach in the fall. And even though I’ve been busy, I somehow don’t feel I’ve been busy enough or doing enough constructive things.

I dragged Scout the Feral Kitty to the vet yesterday, even though I can hardly afford to do something like this right now. Scout is the last survivor of three brothers that were born in the barn last spring–thanks to a woman who feeds all the cats in the area, we wind up dealing with this kind of thing all the time. And since I have a hard time letting anyone go hungry in my barn, I contribute to the problem right along with my neighbor.

Scout developed a terrible eye problem about ten days ago. I was able to get ointment in his eye a few times, but I had a sneaking suspicion there was a cheatgrass seed in there.  (For the uninitiated, cheatgrass is an invasive grass that is the bane of just about every animal owner in central Washington. The seedheads are so sharp they can pierce flesh, so cattle and horses get the seeds embedded under their tongues. Dogs can get the seeds embedded in their ears. Nasty, nasty stuff.)

Evil seeds from hell

And so I dithered about what to do about this poor cat for days–until I finally realized that I was probably suffering about as much as he was because I felt like I couldn’t do anything for him.  Scout’s only been letting me touch him for a couple of months, but he progressed from a skittish I’ll-let-you-scratch-my-back-only to climbing in my lap and rubbing his face on mine in such a short time that I’ve been a little astounded. I had assumed that I’d missed the crucial human socialization window with him and that he’d always be freaked out about being petted. His brothers both disappeared (probably coyotes) so I’m guessing that’s part of the reason he’s been so desperate for companionship.

But even though he had become super friendly, he was naturally bewildered by my grabbing him by the scruff of the neck to cram medicine in his sore eye…I had violated the terms of our friendship. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get him into a carrier, so I had to haul him to the vet in a (slightly skunky-smelling) live trap–after he spent the night in said trap in my pantry without any food.

My sister says she thinks that smart cats kind of know when someone is trying to help them–I know that horses do–but that’s a lot to ask a young half-wild cat to figure out.

Scout is the one on the right.

Anyway. The vet said it was indeed a cheatgrass seed. Scout is now downstairs in my pantry, deseeded, de-flead, and de-testicled.  He finally decided this morning I wasn’t trying to kill him after all, and I almost cried when suddenly stood up, arched his back, and begged to be petted.  After about ten minutes of frantic purring and ear-rubbing, he took his first bites of food in almost two days.

My next problem is that he’s bonded so tightly to me I probably won’t be able to convince him that everyone else who lives here is OK. A few of our cats have popped in to touch noses briefly, but the dog is also going to be a big obstacle for him.

Scout all grown up. Hopefully that eye will be able to heal now.

Last year after the newspaper went under,  I had to prove to the state I was looking for work. I had to attend an interview with the WorkSource folks to prove I had actually holding up my end of the bargain. I was terribly nervous about the meeting because “job opportunities” in my line of work are so scarce out here that I was having a very hard time meeting the “three contacts a week in your line of work” requirement.

Anyway, I sat down with this nice woman from WorkSource for my job search audit.  When asked me what my last job was, and I told her I was an newspaper editor.

“What’s that?” she asked. (No, I’m not kidding.) I have to admit I was at something of a loss to explain it to her. I have to laugh at the irony–there I was, nervous about having to prove that I was “searching for work in my field”, and then I get a baseball bat to the head like this that reminds me that I really have no “field” at all anymore.

“Uh…have you seen the movie Spiderman?” I asked her. “Remember that guy who chomps on cigars?”

“Oh, yeah! Really? Wow, that’s cool.”

Last week I got a letter from the state telling me I have to attend a mandatory three-hour meeting on Tuesday in Moses Lake–apparently it’s intended to school me on the proper way to keep/search for a job. I’m supposed to bring a form that I fill out regarding my “job strengths” and “job weaknesses.”

I didn’t have to do this last year. Apparently the state’s computer system has decided I’m a crummy employee who can’t keep a job, because I was on unemployment nine months ago.

Although I know that none of this is my fault, I still feel tainted somehow–like there really is something wrong with me. It’s depressing as hell when you spend twenty years getting good at something only to wake up one morning and find out you need a new career.

Last night at the barn I was dabbing fly ointment around the mares’ eyes (black flies have finally made an appearance) and spent some time brushing manes and tails. The girls were so itchy that Friday even asked me to use the hairbrush on her nose. We all stood quietly for a while–there is something so restoring about being with the horses it’s almost like a drink of water for the soul.

It felt weird to be out there without Scout, though–he’s such a part of the landscape at the barn it almost felt like the sun had stopped shining–but at the same time, I was deeply grateful and relieved that I’d been able to catch him and they’d been able to get that horrible seed out of his eye. And I don’t know if I’m imagining things or not, but it didn’t seem like the vet charged me very much for all the work they’d done on him.

I hope when I’m sitting through that agonizing meeting next week being “trained” about how to keep a job I remember to remind myself that I at least had the time to help a small friend of mine this summer.

That might not be worth anything to the state of Washington, but it’s worth something to me.  Welcome home, Scout.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Time to Help a Friend

  1. Scout is a beautiful cat, what with his blue eyes and orange coat. He’s also a smart cat to have hitched his wagon to your star, despite what the state might think about your job history and your prospects. I will be thinking good karma thoughts for you next week. I also firmly believe that what goes around, comes back around* and that the good deeds you are doing for Scout will pay you back. The vet’s bill being less than you expected is proof. Fingers crossed for more good things to come your way.

    *If I didn’t believe this, I would give up hope and hide under a rock. And now I will find out if html markups will work in this comment. Fingers crossed.

  2. And html markups don’t work, for if they did the text wondering about it would be much smaller. Live and learn.

  3. Thanks, Kathleen. I’m an html idiot myself–still learning how to make things happen in WordPress (or NOT happen, as the case may be…ha ha ha).

    I hope you’re right about the karma thing–sometimes I can actually convince myself that’s true. I have finally given up trying to harden my heart, even though it would make my own life a lot easier sometimes.

  4. So many people are out of work, my husband for one, that the state tries hard to retrain, repurpose, and refocus. Unfortunately the only people with jobs seem to be the ones whose job it is to retrain and repurpose people!

    Try to enjoy this time. I have a friend who spent all her off time from work worrying. I think this may be a bit of a gift of time. Open it and wear it for a while. Work will come…

  5. This meeting you have to go through sounds to me like they just want you to jump through hoops. Someone ELSE needs a job — so they give that person a job spewing some rehearsed mumbo jumbo at you that is supposed to “teach” you to find a job and be a better worker. I really doubt they keep much watch on the specifics of the people who have to attend such meetings — just that X number of people who aren’t working need to go. They have nothing else to do, so let’s send them to a meeting so we can create a job for someone else. Then when you find a job, they will add that to their tally and say you found a job because the
    meeting “helped” you (maybe they need to hire another speaker — rolls eyes). At least that’s my take on it.
    My sister was laid off and out of work for the better part of 2 years and the stuff they made her do had me rolling my eyes several times. I remember she had to apply for an SEVERAL jobs per week to keep her unemployment. It was kind of crazy. After awhile my sister said she would apply for jobs she really had no interest in having just so she could meet their crazy quota (it was something like 5 jobs per week. I can understand 5 per month…or even every TWO weeks — but every week? You’d run out of jobs in your immediate area very quickly :-/ ).
    I also remember there were times my sister got down about not having work too……My parents and I kept reminding her that there were (and still are) a LOT of people out of work. It really has nothing to do with how good of a worker you are. I’ve even heard of people with more than 1 degree having difficulty finding work. I think in some cases it boils down to the fact that either your not qualified for something or you’re overqualified for something. It’s frustrating.
    I think like Winter said…..the best you can do is keep looking (no matter how discouraging it is — trust me you are NOT alone) and try to find little things every day that you can enjoy. At least “try” to enjoy the time you have….in between the stupid meetings Grrrr.
    I must also add — it really is sad when a noble career such as yours (I think it takes a certain sort of pinache to be a good editor) ends up thinning out because our society has become so obsessed with computer use (I still don’t own a computer myself. When I need a computer for something, I usually use my mom’s, as I am doing right now….or the one at work after my shift is over).
    I also heard something on the radio earlier this week that made me shake my head. They commented that some schools now are no longer teaching cursive writing….but instead teaching “keyboarding.” Technology is great sometimes, but I also think that there are times when it just isn’t the best answer. I think a decision like this will create a lot of sloppy writers in our future generation — that is…if they can write at all.
    Just keep in mind — it isn’t YOUR fault if you are unable to find jobs in your field. There are a lot of hands in that equation and NONE of them are yours.
    Sending ((((HUGS)))) and lots of luck you’re way 🙂

  6. Carol, I laughed several times when I read your note. I’ve accomplished a lot around the house so far this summer, but I find the idea of being on unemployment really distasteful.

    I know I’m not alone regarding the work situation–I work with quite a few people who are from the “private sector” who are teaching due to lost or nonexistent jobs. I work with a delightful guy who taught English for 30+ years at a local high school–he’s as old as my dad, but he can’t afford to completely retire, even though he’s a cancer survivor and he’s had other health problems.

    I wish our state had some sort of work-for-unemployment program. I have plenty of hard-won skills that I could be putting to good use, but instead I get to go to this class to learn how to proofread my resume.

  7. My husband has been out of work since January, and with Ireland in the state it’s in, the odds of him finding another job are about even with us winning the lotto! I’ve been at home since April so that has had a serious impact on our situation too. On the plus side, my husband and I still haven’t murdered each other, and our kids are learning the value of money!

  8. I’ve never heard of those evil seeds but they do sound like a miserable experience. Glad he’s doing okay now.

    I can’t believe that woman didn’t know what an editor was, how do people like her have their jobs if they don’t know what other jobs entail. This whole going to class to learn about jobs is ridiculous. I guess some states are in denial about the work situation in this country. Unfortunately, it seems that newspapers aren’t as popular as they used to be because of the internet and I’m of the opinion that there are a whole lot of people out there that don’t bother to pick up a paper to read anymore but rely on TV news instead.

    At least you have your horses and other animals to make you feel better during this tough time.

  9. You may be a newspaper editor by day, but at night you are a Super Hero! Scout must be so grateful to have that awful seed out of his eye.

    I was laid off a number of years ago. At that point in my life, I had worked 25 years without a break accept for holiday time. To keep myself busy, I painted my kitchen….then my family room…then one of the bedrooms upstairs. I actually love painting and it was so therapeutic – it’s creative and almost instant gratification when you can see the results of your labour. It was so good for me that I helped my sister paint her living room and kitchen and then I moved on to my parents house and painted two bedrooms, their family room and living room! I didn’t have the healing powers of horses available to me at the time. 🙂

    I hope your meetings give you an opportunity to make some contacts. I have a friend that is trying to get a book published and she hired a free-lance editor to help with it. They don’t live in the same cities, and their business is done via email, instant message, etc. Food for thought??? 🙂

    I am sending positive thoughts your way!!

  10. Your interactions and relationship with Scout remind me of the story about The Starfish (you can Google it). You’re right, though. You are making a difference and no, losing your job and having difficulty finding a new one is not your fault.
    And you’re also right about time spent with horses feeling so restorative. Very true…

    ~Lisa

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