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“Is My Cat Happy?” And Other Crazy Cat Lady Thoughts

Happy Cat 1           I’ll be upfront and honest here: I’m a crazy cat lady. I love cats. All cats. I’ll even run haphazardly across a busy street in pursuit of a stray kitty because I want to pet it.

I have two cats. Truffles is 15 years old, a geriatric and squeaky-meowing calico. She loves to lick like nobody’s business. I’m not sure that any skin could possibly taste good enough to lick for that long, but she’s a strange bird anyway. She’s also scared of just about everything—especially the outside. She will not go outside even if you carry her. She’ll wiggle and growl and scratch out of your grasp and race back inside.

And then there’s Finn. His full name is Sir Finnegan the Knight Cat. He’s supposed to be a Knight at least, but I usually call him Sir Finnegan the Jerk Cat instead. He’s two and half years old. He’s a white cat with grey tabby spots on his face and back and a striped tail that makes him look like a raccoon. He’s much bigger than Truffles. He’s long and athletic with a loping stride, and he very rarely walks anywhere. (In contrast, while Truffles is a little pudgy in her old age, she’s very petite and light-boned.)

Finn is my favorite though. He has the biggest personality of any cat I’ve ever encountered. He’s a jerk, yes. But he’s also hilarious. The faces he makes. The silly things he does. The innocence he tries to portray. And because he has such a big personality—it’s almost like a person, really—I always wonder to myself, “Is my cat happy with his life?”

You see, my cats have a relatively limited life. They live primarily in my family’s unfinished basement. They have a laundry basket that holds a kitty bed for them to snuggle in, but not much in the way of toys or amusement activities. We let them upstairs when we’re home and not eating (because Finn can’t be trusted around food.) There they have a huge basket full of every cat toy imaginable which Finn particularly likes to turn over and strew everything around the house like a two year old who doesn’t yet understand the concept of putting away one’s toys.

But would he be happier somewhere else? With someone else? Does he even like me or is tolerating me just a requirement of getting feed that he’s resigned himself to? Can cats even really be happy? I know pets can be stressed and even depressed if their owner or another pet in the household passes away, but happiness for a cat seems like a really hard emotion to decipher. Dogs tell you if they’re happy. It’s pretty obvious if a dog is happy or not. But a cat kind of looks like this most of the time:

Happy Cat 4 pt 1What does that face even mean?

Now tell me which dog is happy and which dog is sad? A lot easier right?Happy Cat 4 pt 2            Then every now and then you get cat faces like this and BOTH are terrifying in their own way.

Happy Cat 4 pt 3            I imagine cats operate under an umbrella of “contentment” most of the time. Just finished breakfast and lying in a sun patch on the bed? Super content. Hear the can opener and run to the kitchen for food only to discover that it was just a can of corn. Not very content. Seeing you come home from work. Indifferently content.

Cats are weird. Being a cat lady is weird. When I look at Finn and he gives me that “indifferently content” look, I just think “Love me! Why won’t you love me more! I need to know! You need to show me you love me somehow. Just a little sign!” And then I realize how ridiculous I’m being. He’s a cat. He doesn’t even really care all that much. If I went missing for a year, but he still got fed every day, he probably wouldn’t even really notice, would he? I’d come back all world-weary and he’d just lead me to his dinner bowl and meow like “Oh good. You’re back. I need dinner now.”

But he can be sweet too. It will be during the most unexpected moments that he’ll cuddle up with me while I’m taking a nap or roll around on my bed like a little cuteness overload monster when I’m trying to get dressed for work. That’s when I think, “He loves me! He’s the best, cutest kitty in the whole, wide world! He’s got to be happy if he’s doing this!” And then a few minutes later he’ll have chewed through a bag of rice and strewn it around the house or peed off the side of the cat box and I’ll be yelling about how much of a scoundrel he is. I guess there isn’t really a happy medium.

So I guess my conclusion is that you can’t really tell if your cat is happy. Basically if you have a cat, you’re probably going to be a bit of a weird person, and you’re going to want to know the answer to weird questions like “Is my cat happy?” If you had a dog, easy! You’d know in an instant. But since you have a cat, you’re going to have to resign yourself to not knowing anything about your cat’s contentment level and just go with the flow. Unless he’s clawing and growling at you, you should probably just accept your cat’s generally indifferent mood as happiness if it makes you feel better. Happiness is overrated for cat people anyway. So says Grumpy Cat, I’m sure.

Happy Cat 5

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The Time I Was Called “A Work of Art” and Other Alcohol-Fueled Party Stories

Party Image 1  I’ve never been a “partier.” I was a bit of teetotaler for my first three years in college so I had no interest in going to a party where entertainment centered on drinking alcohol. I started to open up a little more during my senior year and drank minimally in social settings (although I can count the times I consumed alcohol during college on one hand). Up until that point I viewed parties and drinking games and general drunken debauchery as a kind of strange “otherworld” of experiences I could never fully comprehend. And honestly, I still pretty much have that same view.

During my junior year, my creative writing class decided to have an “end-of-the-year” shindig. I had this fanciful view that we’d sit around eating cookies and chips talking about novel ideas and watching film adaptations of our favorite books. It’s comical how naïve I was. Or perhaps I just view the world through a rosy lens too often. Regardless, my boyfriend at the time and I arrived to find Jell-O shots, a beer pong table, and alcohol centered card games.

I was a little in shock. These people who I’d spent all semester with, these quiet, inquisitive and introverted-seeming people had a beer pong table set up in the kitchen of their on-campus apartment!? The next thing I know we’re playing round after round of card games with shots of vodka (or rather water for my boyfriend and I because we had a strict no-alcohol policy of which I’m not entirely sure I know the origins). Fortunately, they took kindly to our desire to remain sober, but sitting there while the rest of the party got more intoxicated and we just wondered about overhydrating and full bladders, I felt really silly. Eventually the party moved to beer pong and Jell-O shots, which I declined. I finally made my escape around 1 AM since I had to sing at church the next morning, and I was so relieved. Looking back now, I know that party wasn’t really all that bad of party. It was a little disappointing because out of the 15 people in my class, only four people showed up. I mean two of the four people weren’t even drinking. There was a fifth attendee but she came early, brought cupcakes, and left before we even barely started the drinking games. (Sometimes I wish I could have been her; nonetheless, those cupcakes were delicious!) So other than being somewhat flat of a party, I could have definitely experienced worse for my first official party.

Party Image 2 part 2 Party Image 2 part 1 Party Image 2 part 3           My second party occurred during the end of the semester my junior year as well, but I wasn’t invited. (Yeah! You read that right! Kaitlyn is a party crasher!) I spent a lot of my time Junior and Senior year at the BCM or Baptist Collegiate Ministries’ house on campus. Across the street from the BCM house was a building that may have had an official name but I only ever knew it as the “Soccer House.” It had a reputation for wild and raucous house parties, but I hadn’t experienced it until the last Saturday of the school year. Exams were halfway over, and I was spending the evening by chilling with my new BCM friends. We’d just made a WaWa run and come back to the house for a movie marathon or a game or something that didn’t stick in my memory as well as this party when we were assaulted by music so loud I’m sure Revolutionary soldiers were rolling over in their graves.* Lights were flashing, people were screaming. It seemed insane even from our vantage point on the BCM house front porch. A large hedge blocked our view, and a part of me really wanted to see what was happening on the other side. I was so close to a “real” party, and I wanted to know how it would stack up against my own views which all stemmed from movies. My friend Katherine and I had been discussing how we’d never been to a raging party like the one we seemed to be witnessing and somehow we decided we’d sneak over, crawl through the hedge and catch a glimpse. One of our other friends, Andrew—ever the valiant knight—decided that we couldn’t complete this mission alone and ran across the street after us. I imagined Mission Impossible music playing as we nimbly skipped across the pavement and burrowed through the hedge.

We came out near the house in the next lot over from the Soccer House but that didn’t diminish our experience of the party because it extended from the back deck of the Soccer house all the way to the back deck of this house, an entire lot over. (I’m still unclear as to how or why two side-by-side lots had houses with backyards facing one another but it made for an impressive party scene. The backyard was packed solid with writing bodies. There were strobe and colored lights from a second story balcony flashing down onto the masses. There were kids doing keg stands—people actually holding others up by the legs as they chugged from a huge keg! I felt like I’d dropped down into a movie or an alien world because of how unbelievable the scene before me seemed. Because while I’d seen movies with this kind of debauchery displayed I always thought that it was just hyperbole. And even if there was some kind of truth to it, I certainly wouldn’t witness it at such an academically nerdy school as William and Mary! We stealthily slipped back through the hedge undetected after I recorded a dark and grainy clip of the scene on my phone.

Senior year in college, I wouldn’t say I ever went to a “party.” I drank Pepsi-spiked rum once with my girl friends while we watched the Jungle Book. (That was kind of awesome actually). The closest the thing to a “party” would be when I decided to hang out with my ex-boyfriend’s friends a few days before graduation. Looking back, all of that was probably a mistake, but it was like “well, we’re all sort of friends, but he’s better friends with them, and he and I were still on friendly terms so we still try to do things together since it was ‘the end’ anyway.”

Party Image 3The party consisted of lots of drink mixing and watching old Disney Channel Original Movies (e.g. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and Alley Cats Strike) and playing drinking games to them. It was the first time I’d ever officially played a drinking game with alcohol and I learned quickly that I couldn’t actually drink for every rule or I’d be so smashed. I didn’t want to be drunk. I only barely wanted to be buzzed. I wasn’t with my best friends so I felt uncomfortable to begin with, and I definitely didn’t need to be out of control because of my intoxication level. That was the day I learned to fake drinking.

After graduating and moving back home, parties weren’t really a thing anymore. I didn’t have friends in my area. My only acquaintances were at church, and I could safely assume any “parties” that would be had were the introspective and sober kind. But that fall, as I’d accepted a graduate assistantship at Lynchburg College in the Sports Information department I was invited to my first post-William and Mary party. It was also my first party where I didn’t know everyone. In fact, I barely knew anyone. The girl who invited me was another graduate assistant who sometimes worked for my department to make extra money so we weren’t exactly BFFs or anything. But I thought, “Why not?” How else was I going to make friends if I didn’t show that I wanted to socialize by going to the things I’d actually been invited to. It was a Halloween party, and I made sure it was actually a costume party. I didn’t want to reenact Mean Girls or anything.

Party Image 4At this party, I came with the intention of drinking. I actually tried an eyeball Jell-O shot (it was less painful than straight hard liquor, but not as pleasant as real Jell-O). I tried the punch, which I probably annoyingly asked a hundred times what was in it because I didn’t want to be drugged. I guarded my drink like a hawk because I didn’t want to be drugged. I watched a few games of beer pong (the only activity available that night). I was hit on by a third of the guys there, including on dressed in a full-on cow suit who drunkenly (and seriously) asked me at the end of night if he was following me home. Overall, it was the most boring party I’d ever been to. I don’t know if it was just because Halloween is supposed to be about getting smashed and I just missed the memo, or perhaps W&M students are such nerds we even have to have relatively intelligent conversations at parties, but I felt a significant difference between this party and the few others I’d attended.

Finally this brings us to my latest party experience that took place this past weekend. One of my best friend’s Alanna turned 25 and had a house warming/birthday party on Saturday. I wasn’t going to know most of the people there, but it’s Alanna! So I was going. I’m not actually sure what I was expecting. I knew there would be drinking. I’m much more chill about it now. I really love hard cider and drink it for fun by myself or with my boyfriend on a somewhat regular basis. I knew there’d be games. I knew there’d be yummy food. What I didn’t realize is how loud things can be when you get a group of 15 or so people in a relatively small apartment with music turned up so everyone decides to talk over the music and if anyone turns the music down so they can hear better someone yells to “Turn the music back up!”

Party Image 5I’m an introvert. I like quiet. I like chill. It was too much. But it was also fascinating. I love to people watch and parties are the perfect place to do it. Unlike the sad Halloween party, this party wasn’t boring. There was always a conversation happening around me. A new game being played. Or a new person being introduced. It was EXHAUSTING. And I was so ready to escape to the quiet when it was over, but I also really enjoyed it. I got to do my fake sipping because I’d had all the alcohol I felt comfortable with. I learned how to play some interesting drinking games that I probably won’t need to know again. I got to meet all the unique people that Alanna calls friends all the way from Elementary school! And I got to be called a “Work of Art.”

I always wonder how much alcohol it will take before (hopefully) single guys start hitting on me. I’m not being conceited or cocky in saying this. It’s just a fact. I feel confident in saying that I’m the kind of person that guys don’t usually hit on sober (unless they naturally have no inhibitions because I think I’m kind of intimidating. I’m so different that most guys just don’t openly go for it without some liquid courage). But man, when they’ve had a few drinks, they throw down. I was pretty safe in this instance though because the girls highly outweighed the number of boys and my boyfriend was there too. You’d have to be pretty ballsy (or stupid) to do it in front of him. But this one guy, let’s call him Alex, spent the evening drinking straight from the vodka bottle which washed away any inhibitions he had. As we were leaving the party around 1:30 AM, he told my boyfriend that I was “a work of art” and he needed to “lock this down and marry that girl.” It was very flattering mostly from the way my boyfriend responded to it, which was sweet and humbly so that the compliment felt like it was really coming from him and not the drunk guy. He then proceeded to compliment my boyfriend on how awesome and humble of a person he is. It was weird and funny and awesome all at the same time.

My conclusion from all this intoxicated madness is that sometimes parties happen. You don’t have to drink at them to have fun. You don’t even really have to enjoy the “party atmosphere” to have fun. Even introverts can enjoy parties (in small doses) because people watching is fun. And people with lowered inhibitions can be entertaining in a safe environment. So whether you’re the one that goes to parties to get smashed or you’re like me and just a causal drinker and observer, raise your glass and three cheers for the silliness that the combination of human beings and alcohol brings!

 

*If this seems like a weird reference to you, I went to William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA where Colonial Williamsburg and Revolutionary War reenactments were within a stone’s throw of the campus. From this experience, I have the very strange “skill” of not flinching if there’s cannon fire.

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Color Me Stress Free: A Mental Health and Art Initiative (A Special Preview!)

Color Me Stress Free Blog 1

Today is a very special day for you Imagining Happenings blog readers! I’m going to give you access to an unlisted video on my channel and a preview of an initiative I’m really excited about doing but am not quite ready to launch into the world just yet. It’s called Color Me Stress Free, and you can here more about it in the video below.

Color Me Stress Free is a mental health and art therapy initiative that I started as a club while in college. Everyone I talked to thought it was an innovative and inspiring idea, but after I graduated I no longer had the easy outlet within which to operate it so it fell untouched in the dusty corner of my imagination. However, as I’ve built my YouTube channel over the last 4 years, mental health and creativity spring up in my vlog topics again and again because I have a passion for helping people overcome their trials and find happiness in every day life. I do that on my channel now (iIMAGINEblank), but I’d love to reinvent Color Me Stress Free to further that mission.

The goal in bringing Color Me Stress Free to the online video world would be to create an engaging online community featuring live stream coloring sessions, user submitted artwork, community driven and written short stories that I’d illustrate, and animated mental health awareness videos. Ultimately, it would inspire people of all ages to be mindful of their mental health and diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. However, it could also bring awareness to the benefits of having a creative outlet in life since many people find it can be therapeutic or an important part of self-care.

At this point, Color Me Stress Free is a conglomeration of ideas. I can imagine how I want it to function and the kinds of content I want it to include, but to be as successful and inspiring as I’d like it to be, it needs a lot more than just me working on it. I’m a one-woman-band on iIMAGINEblank most of the time so I’m limited in how much content I can realistically produce on my own and the types of content I’m capable of producing. For example, I’m not an animator (I wish I was!) so I could write and do voiceover for the fun mental health awareness animations, but I’d need to find animators to collaborate with. Similarly, I’d love to feature artists and musicians by coloring their work during live streams and using their music as a soundtrack for community coloring page round-up videos. Essentially, I’m proposing a new channel or branch off of my own brand, but I need help finding the resources and collaborators to make it happen.

I’ve put off making Color Me Stress Free a real thing because when I launch it, I want to do it right! But I also don’t want to wait forever. It has the potential to be awesome, but sometimes I fear that I have lots of good ideas but very little time to commit to them and make them a success. So I just don’t try most of the time. I let my ideas fester in the back of my mind, aching and crying to be let out. I don’t want to do that with Color Me Stress Free. So I applied for Vidcon’s new Creator Mentorship Program where if you’re selected you get 10 to 15 minutes with a leader in the industry to pitch your idea and get feedback and advice. I’d love that! My general problem is that I don’t know everything. I don’t even know where to look to know everything I need to know to be successful, and I get discouraged before I’ve even looked in half the places I know to look. I’m really hoping to get selected for this Mentorship program because although it’s only 15 minutes, one-on-one time with an industry leader would be invaluable to me as a digital media creator in general. I’d love to know how an industry leader reacts to my pitch to compare to all of my friends that I’ve pitched to so far. I want to know if it would work on the large scale I’m hoping for.

But right now, I want to know what YOU think. You get a special pre-preview of my idea, and I’d love feedback from you. As I ask in my video, would you want to be a part of an initiative like this? Can you think of ways to incorporate artists into this initiative? Do you think people would actually want to color with us? Do you think it has the potential to change the way we view mental health and illness?

Let me know below in the comments!

Color Me Stress Free Blog 2