215: Stinky cheese

Cats have an interesting habit: when they poop, they prefer to dig a hole first, poop in the hole, and then they neatly cover up the stinky stuff. It is a rather pleasant habit, unless they are digging the hole in one of your potted plants – then it’s a problem.

My husband and I went to Spain some time ago, and I bought a piece of goat cheese, which I put in the fridge when we got home, and promptly forgot. I found it last night, or rather I went looking for whatever it was in the fridge that was not smelling fresh and pleasant. It was the cheese. Goat cheese increases in strength and aroma over time. For real cheese lovers, this is a desirable thing. For me, it isn’t. Ever smelled a male goat? Up close and personal? I used to have goats – we raised, and milked, Toggenburg dairy goats. We loved them for their personalities, not the smell of the male buck, who liked to stick his nose into the pee stream of the lady goats: judging their readiness to mate (supposedly) and wearing the smell, like goat perfume, which I guess it was (to him). This cheese was REALLY aromatic. My nose voted no when it came to eating it, and my husband agreed. So we cut it into pieces for our cats, who generally get anything edible we don’t want, or are forced into sharing.

Timinia, our husky ten-month old male, came running eagerly into the kitchen for the treats, and encountered one of the cheese chunks on the floor. He sniffed it, backed off, stared at it a minute, and then carefully, and with great concentration, he began making the covering up motions he would normally be making after pooping. He covered, and covered, and covered, all around the chunk of cheese, occasionally stopping the determined covering-up to sniff and see if the stinky stuff was still there. Since he was trying to cover it up on the bare floor, it was, so he kept doing his very best to cover it up.

I laughed so hard I cried. I wish I had not laughed so much, maybe I could have gotten a picture. I guess Timinia’s nose voted no, too!


212: Being Too Nice

Busted windscreen

Busted windscreen

We just discovered that the windscreen on the car has been hit, a really gook lick, with some object that broke it into a bunch of cracked pieces. It’s still there, it’s just not in one piece any more. Next month’s money, which was supposed to go into savings, now won’t be. It will be going into a new windscreen.

We stopped off at the police to report this, the second vandalization of the car in a month. The first time, they broke the taillight into tiny little pieces. While we were there, we also reported the lady who stole over a thousand US dollar’s worth of my jewelry, while she was in our house, working as a housekeeper. Right. Well. The police acted surprised that we had not automatically known that this woman was a criminal when she was hired. Right. It’s not like they wear a sign around their neck, dude. Right. *sigh* That’s what happens when you are too nice, and it is also part of learning, especially in a new country. Right.

Still, I have a clear conscience. I was doing the right thing, and it is between God and her that she did not. God gets even WWWAAAYYYyyyy better than I do, trust me. I have watched Him do it. I trust that it will all work out in the end.

214: wordy durds

I struggle with dirty words. Not so much hearing them, my problem is saying them. I am not shocked by hearing them, though I do chide my students when they use one (since nobody is allowed to use a dirty work in school, ya know). My problem is in not using them myself. *gasp* I know that you are shocked at this confession.

I don’t mean the ones that slip out when you smash your finger with the hammer, either. Those are marginally understandable, even if still not nice words to say. I also don’t mean the ones that come out when you get monumentally frightened (like nearly getting run off the road) or hugemongously angry and furious (like nearly getting run off the road). My problem is using them casually, even when I am not mad. Why do I do this?

Like biting my fingernails, this is not a habit I am proud of, and I’d rather not be doing it. I want to stop doing both. I am going to stop doing both. I will stop doing both. I HAVE STOPPED DOING BOTH. There. That should help.

213: Trinity

One of the things I used to do (in my other life) was teach Sunday School, or Children’s Church, which is just regular Sunday School, but taught in front of the entire congregation. One topic that kids (and grownups) had trouble with sometimes was the Christian concept of the Trinity, or the God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit. Muslims have so much trouble with this concept, that they actually think Christians are polytheistic (worshipping many Gods). That was a surprise when I got to Morocco and got into my first theological discussion, because the concept was perfectly clear to me, and I had never before actually considered that the Trinity made us look like worshippers of many Gods to those who don’t understand.

The way I taught the Trinity to children was to use an apple. Most apples come in three colors: red, yellow (or golden), and green. If you cut the apple in half width-wise (the direction that nobody ever cuts it), you will see that the growth marks around the core, where the seeds are, is shaped like the Star of Bethlehem. The Trinity is like an apple – how?

The outside of the apple (the colorful peeling) is the part we see first. That is Jesus Christ, the Son, who was sent to Earth for us to see and touch God. Red apples remind us of His sacrifice of Himself for us upon the cross. The peel helps protect the apple from bugs and other bad things in the same way that Jesus protects His children. Golden apples remind us that Jesus is the King of Kings, who will one day return in glory. And green apples remind us that nothing grows and flourishes without God.

The core of the apple, containing the seeds, represents God the Father. He is the center of everything (the core) and He is the great creator. All the apples of the future are contained in those seeds. God could have just made apples, but He didn’t….he made seeds that grow into trees, and the trees make the apples. His wisdom, and patience, for this process He designed is one of His hallmarks: we must wait on God’s process, HIS timing, to see the fruit.

The meat of the apple, that we eat for nourishment? That is God the Holy spirit, that nourishes us in our spiritual growth and journey through this life. All the three parts of the apple are different and distinct, and they all have different functions, but they all are apple: parts that make up the whole in the same way that the three parts of the Trinity make up the one God.

211: Gardening

new spinach

new spinach

Gardening is a soothing activity, most of the time. When there is a stubborn root to dig up, or a stone, then it’s not too much fun, but otherwise, it is soothing, rewarding and intensely satisfying to see rows of healthy, weed-free plants growing, blooming and producing. It is a deep down satisfaction similar to when one of your beloved fur children comes to your lap, and raises a soft paw to touch your chin, just because they like you, too. Then I know I’m a good cat mom.

Cats like the garden, too – a little too much. They view it as a big kitty potty, full of interesting bugs and dangly things to play with. Still, they are good company when you are on your knees, weeding. They come to see you for a few pets and cuddles, and then they wander off to explore interesting things. Those are great times to think and ponder the universe, when you are on your knees, weeding in the garden. Even when your ‘garden’ is a series of flowerpots, you can still grow herbs, spinach for fresh salads, tomatoes and various other goodies (including catnip), and the pots still need tending, just like any other small garden.

I found myself thinking about weeds, and bad habits, and how much they are alike. The both start out small, and are easily uprooted and controlled, if you keep up with them. Let them go for a few weeks, and you will discover that the roots have grown deep, and that they have multiplied, too. Then, getting rid of them is a real problem, without uprooting the plants you wanted to have there in the first place. Bad habits are just like that. Let them go, and they are the devil to get rid of, too. Uproot them when they are small and just starting, they are a snap to get rid of. I’ve quit biting my nails about a thousand times. I’m STILL working on it. *I* don’t like it, and I still don’t seem to be able to get it stopped. I do it when I am distracted and not thinking about it, like when I am reading (which I do a lot for my job). Really aggravating. If it happened just by making up your mind about it, I’d already have inch long nails.

Plus, the garden teaches you some patience – and lets you see what happens as a reward when you let things take their natural time. Planting seeds is an act of faith in the future. It takes a little time for those seeds to stop being seeds, and start being what they were intended to be: plants. It’s a process, and it does not happen overnight, kind of like kids. They have to grow into what they are going to be, too – and they have to decide to stop being kids to do it. Not stop enjoying life, but stop being children. Grownups are not childish, but they can still have a child-like wonder at the beauty and majesty of life and the world we live on.

Besides, just-picked tomatoes are worth whatever little bit of trouble it takes to grow them. And fresh spinach is lucky if it lasts long enough to make it to the salad – YUM!!

210: Country People

I just got a response to a job application I put in for – a job in Mexico. This international school’s query letter back to me had some interesting information. They have about 800 students and about 60 teachers, only 20 percent of whom are foreign hired, like I would be – If my math is correct, that means about 12 people. They provide medical insurance and paid, furnished housing. They report that their teachers claim to be able to save between 30 and 60 percent of their salaries. They also state that they do not hire teachers who have non-teaching spouses. I wonder why?

Firstly, if someone can save 30 to 60 percent of their money, it appears that there is sufficient income for a dependent who does not also work at the school. Mexico’s laws don’t allow someone to work in their country without express permission from the visa that the government grants. I expected that – I will support my husband on the money I earn, just like I do here in Morocco.

Secondly, my husband does have a TEFL certification to teach people English-as-a-second-language, but he does not have a teaching certification like I do. He also has a US driving license to drive big trucks and passenger vehicles, especially school busses, which was what he got it for, plus several years of experience. Additionally, he is a certified heating and air conditioning technician. He has served our current school as a youth sports coach (mostly soccer, grades 2-6) and as a summer camp activities counselor. So, he COULD be of use to the school as a teacher.

I expect to pay for his medical insurance, his eye and dental insurance, his life insurance and his other needs. In return, he handles the full-time job of running the household. I know this to be a full-time job, because I used to do it when my children were small, during my first marriage. For six years, I did not work outside the household, because inside the household took all my time. I remember!!

I also expect to provide housing for us, outside the furnished apartments that the school offers, just like I do here in Morocco. Why do you want to go live and work in another country, only to live in a guarded compound with all the other foreign-hired teachers?? You wanted to go there to immerse yourself in the culture, language and people, did you not? Besides, we have an apartment outside of the guarded, furnished, free University housing here in Morocco (unusual for foreign hires), and they could not PAY me to move back. We LIKE it outside with real Moroccan people. I thought that’s part of what we came here for. Besides, we are both rurally raised, and handy, so the fact that Moroccan (and apparently Mexican, too) apartments come with four walls, a floor and a roof and not much else did not faze us. In the US, we ourselves finished an 1800 square foot basement with three bedrooms, a bath and a kitchen, we managed a farm and raised our own garden and livestock (goats, chickens, rabbits). We know how to live a little more simply than most Americans, and we don’t have to have all the creature comforts that many people have come to consider essential in America.

Anyway, I am still interested in them. We’ll see if they are still interested in ME.

209: Rest in Peace, Number Five



Yeah, I know some people would say, Jeepers, creepers, lady, it’s just a CAT – as if that makes the loss hurt any less. We lost sweet number five last night to his automobile injuries. Yes, I know that I have eight other cats that I have brought home, but each and every one is a special personality, just like my human children are individual people. They are all my fur children.

Humsa (Arabic for number five) isn’t hurting anymore, thank God, and I sure do want to believe that Heaven is a big enough place for all those special creatures who make human life so much sweeter. If being loved on Earth is a qualification for an animal getting into Heaven, then he’s there.

Yes, we could have saved him from the car if we had kept him inside the house all the time, but he loved going out. He’s the one who would go next door to the mosque at prayer call and wait by the door for the people to come to prayer, graciously accepting pets from everyone coming in to pray. Then, he would make the rounds of the street vendors who also come to the mosque because of the people coming in to pray. Yes, he had some close calls with cars before.

Once, my husband and I had been to the weekly souk (the Moroccan version of an old-fashioned flea and farmer’s market). Mojo was wearing his favorite khaki shorts, and we both heard the ominous ‘rrriiipppppppp’ when he squatted down to check out the quality of a freshly-dug pile of potatoes offered for sale. He’d split the seat out, pretty thoroughly, too. I gave him my jacket to tie around his waist for emergency modesty (for some reason, he was also commando (of course). If you are not wearing underwear, that WILL BE the day you split your pants wide open. We quickly finished our grocery shopping for the week and walked the block to our car repair shop, where we’d left the car for a minor repair while we shopped. Since we finished the shopping too quickly because of the shorts, the repair was not finished. so Hafid, one of the two mechanics we take our car to, gave us a ride home once we explained Mojo’s predicament. Muslims understand modesty very well.

When we were almost home (at the noon prayer time), we saw Humsa crossing the street, dangerously in front of a car that was not slowing down in the street that was also crowded with people. Moroccan drivers are famous for their disregard of life and limb when they are behind the wheel of a car. Mojo was incensed, and shouted to Hafid to stop the car, and he got out and yelled at the driver (who was also endangering PEOPLE), and bent to scoop number five into his arms to safety. What he forgot, in his concern for sweet-natured Humsa, was that his shorts were split wide open. I quickly got out of the car and attempted to shield my husband’s bare behind from the view of about a hundred people who were coming to the mosque to pray (not to get a free peep show). He was so worried about Humsa, he didn’t even notice, and I walked closely behind him (and the kitty in his arms) blocking the view of his trim and compact, but hairy behind as we made it the few feet to the door of our apartment building. Hafid was laughing, and shaking his head from side to side at the same time. He met my eyes, and we both shrugged – what can you do? At least Humsa was safe, that time.

He was the one little Honey Bunny danced up to and swatted the first day I brought her home. Humsa was a husky, eight-month old boy – and she was a tiny little scrap of a kitten, but fearless all the same. Humsa was immediately charmed, and he played with her (gently) for quite some time. Everybody else hissed at her, for weeks, but not easy-going Humsa.

Humsa and Caruso iinvestigating snow

Humsa and Caruso iinvestigating snow

When I got him, some of the apartment children were playing with him, and one of them announced loudly when I showed interest in the kitten “He’s MINE!” so I didn’t interfere. Two days later, I saw him at school, alone, and figured that mama had seen the kitten and had said “NO!” Since he was not claimed then, I brought the hungry little boy home, and we found out he had a tummy problem (which was probably what got him evicted). He also had ringworm, so we began treating him, and feeding him. He was so used to being hungry that he had what I call a “poverty belly” for weeks and weeks. Remember the pictures of famine children? When you don’t get food, your stomach swells. Humsa, who was our fifth cat at the time, ate every chance he got. I was sure that he was thinking: at least if THESE people throw me out, too, I’ll have a full belly. Eventually, he began to get used to having food, and he didn’t stuff himself every chance he got anymore. I figured he came to the conclusion that he could stay.

We had thought he was getting better from his final, ultimately fatal, meeting with the car. It appeared to the vet and to us, that he’d just taken a powerful whack to his hind end, and he was limping, but no broken bones. We gave him pain meds, and kept him inside, and he seemed to be doing OK. When we finally realized that he wasn’t doing OK, it was a Moroccan holiday weekend (Thursday, Friday, Sat. and Sun.) and the vet was not in town. We bought him antibiotics, and started them right away, but whatever was wrong inside was just too much. We made him a pad of towels in front of the heater so he would not be cold – he would often lie there, like his house mates do, in a warm kitty pile, basking in the warmth of the fire, like all kitties like to do. We petted him a lot.

Humsa and friends

Humsa and friends

Rest in peace, sweet boy. I miss your big golden eyes already.