I was born near the end of WWII and raised in a small town in New Jersey, just a little more than a 30-minute drive from NYC. It was a wonderful place to be brought up, feeding ducks and canoeing on the river that meandered through the town in the summer, and ice-skating on that same river in the winter.
My two brothers and I were privileged to be raised in a lovely town that was safe to explore on foot, but close enough to NYC to be taken there on day trips to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily B & B circus, museums, Chinatown, street fairs in the spring and Broadway shows as we grew older. But we thought nothing of it.
Later as teens, we would go into NYC to buy a couple of beers (the drinking age in New York State was 18, and 21 in New Jersey) and hang out in Greenwich Village where we saw singers such as Bob Dylan who were on the first rung of the ladder on their way to fame.
The sixties were a time of speaking out and creating change. I decided to do my part by joining the Peace Corps, an innovative cold war program established by John F. Kennedy in 1961. I arrived in Brazil at the end of 1966, and after an adaptation period, was sent to serve in Porto Nacional, in what was Goias at that time. I can’t say I changed the course of the country, especially as I was immediately called upon to teach English in the local high school.
I have been teaching ever since; high schools, college literature, college language pedagogy, financial English and everything in-between. I married a wonderful Brazilian from Rio and we had 3 boys and moved around some, as he was an engineer who worked on hydro dams. Nowadays I am a widow and live in BH with 3 cats, one of which has extraordinary powers, and I have 4 wonderful and uniquely different grandchildren nearby. Thus far, I have had an interesting life, and this new endeavor called a blog should make it even more interesting.
Baby came to live with me when she was only 8 months old. Before that, she had belonged to a woman who had Alzheimer’s disease. As a matter of fact, she had been adopted specifically for the lovely woman in the photo, Dona Magali, who named her Baby. Pets, especially older ones, can have a calming effect people with dementia and can help them to keep connected when they sleep on an elder’s lap. Cats sleep as much as 16 hours a day, and are happy to sleep near their human or even on their laps, reducing the feeling of loneliness a sick person often has. And when they are awake, they don’t require their human to run with them or throw a ball for them. They are self-entertaining, just like a teenager with a smart phone. Of course, other household members need to like the pet as the elder with dementia cannot be expected to take care of the animal.
Baby is a calico cat, and calico cats are always tricolor. Almost all calico cats are female, and that is something to do with their chromosomes. Every once in awhile a male calico is born, but they are almost always hermaphrodites and are sterile. There are only 3 cases worldwide of a male calico cat breeding, and in those cases they produced orange kittens.
Baby came to live with me the same weekend that Reggae did, and they spent the first week outwardly ignoring the presence of the other and exploring our apartment. I never saw them even sniff each other. But when they settled into a comfortable routine with me and with their new home, Baby was already pregnant. I don’t like to say they were sneaking around behind my back, but they were without a doubt keeping their sex lives very secret. During Baby’s pregnancy I did two things: I worried a lot and I had Reggae neutered. I worried that she was so young that she wouldn’t be able to take care of her kittens. Sometimes very young mothers reject their offspring.
But there was no need to worry. After a normal pregnancy of a little over 2 months, she gave birth to a litter of 5 males, none calico, of course – nobody here was interested in having little hermaphroditic kittens running around. She hadn’t even been living with me for 3 months. But she had accepted me enough that when she decided to hide her kittens from my overly enthusiastic grandchildren, she chose to hide them in my bedroom. It turned out that Reggae was a great father, and always stood by her when she nursed, and cleaned the kittens right alongside of her. He was very protective and probably did not yet understand that he had been neutered and would never be a full time mate for her.
After a little over 2 months of little kittens running all over and mewing to be fed, both Baby and I began to grow tired of them and I printed out signs offering free mixed breed kittens with their cute pictures, and hung them in a few pet shops. Humans love free stuff, even if they are cats, and Baby and Reggae’s love kittens were easy to give away.
But Baby wasn’t happy to live with a male companion who couldn’t/wouldn’t have sex with her, and began to taunt Reggae frequently. Poor Reggae was embarrassed and confused. So I had my oversexed Baby spayed, and harmony returned to our home. (The harmony lasted only until I adopted Charlie, but that is another story for another time.)
When Baby was young, she went through a phase of kleptomania, but after I found her hiding place, it wasn’t hard to deal with. She stole earrings, pen drives, reminder notes and anything else small and guaranteed to irritate a human. But she always placed them in one of my Crocs, and never placed two things in the same Croc. She outgrew this.
Baby is about to celebrate her 8th birthday and nowadays she is a sedate queen cat who enjoys family TV time, sleeps in a sophisticated doll crib, and occasionally grooms the two male cats she cohabits with as if she were their mother. She is discerning and shows this by disapproving of some visitors I have, and greeting others with total approval. We have a strong bond as we both eat a little too much and sleep a little too much.
Reggae was given to me when he was 14 months old, on the very same weekend Baby was given to me. I had recently lost my husband and also a Siamese cat that had shared our home for 18 years, and I wasn’t in an emotional state to say no. I probably would have agreed to adopt any cat that appeared at my door. Fortunately, I live in an apartment, and stray cats are unable to appear at my door.
Reggae, like Baby, already came with a name. As a kitten, a single young man who lived alone in an apartment and knew that cats were lower maintenance than dogs had adopted him. Of course cats, like dogs and most humans, need routine, fresh water, and kibble regularly, plus a clean litter box. I think Reggae’s original owner used to hold a lot of parties, because Reggae is comfortable in noisy social situations, unlike the other cats that cohabit our apartment. Not only did Reggae come with a name, he also came with his own perch (which the young man called a battle station) and he enjoyed sparring with humans from atop his perch. He must have been the life of those parties of his youth. You can see Reggae on his perch in the above picture.
Reggae is a tabby cat, and that is not a breed. A tabby cat is the most common kind of mixed breed cat in the world; they can be many colors, but usually have stripes or swirls and a mark resembling an “M” on their foreheads. Reggae is mostly grey, with white mitts, a white bib and has that “M”. If you observe the streets of BH, you will see hundreds of Reggae look-alikes roaming around.
Reggae was neutered right after his fling with Baby, as there isn’t a big market for common grey and white kittens. I think that if he had been allowed to keep up a committed relationship with Baby, he would have made a good husband, in particular because he helped so much with their kittens. He seems almost sentimental, and that leads me to believe that he never would have forgotten an anniversary or the birthdate of their kittens. But life as a gib doesn’t seem to bother him and he has kept his weight low and his energy high. (neutered=castrated, in the case of a male cat it means the removal of his testes)
He is slightly insecure, which is unusual for a tomcat. But he is the most affectionate of my three cats. If I let him, he gets onto my lap about once a day and stands up to hug me around my neck with both front legs as if he were a child and had arms. He sleeps at the foot of my bed every night, and doesn’t mind if a grandchild shares the same bed. As a matter of fact, he appreciates the smells they bring from their busy days. The other two cats are highly disapproving of grandchildren sleeping over. The three cats have an unwritten rule because the other two never, ever get up on my bed before Reggae does. After he curls up, they sometimes jump onto the bed, but they never stay long. Reggae likes having Charlie around, another guy cat, and they roughhouse a lot. They are pretty good at boxing, but only train after nightfall. Charlie might be stronger than Reggae now, but Reggae has the moves, probably from his experiences on his “battle station” before he came to live here. Baby never roughhouses, but she occasionally slaps one of the guys, always with her right paw. Reggae doesn’t have a favorite toy like the other two cats, but he is the only one who dares to get into the cabinet that holds the container of cat treats and knock it onto the floor, signaling that it is time for a treat. The other two come running eagerly, but never take the initiative to demand a treat. Charlie is the fastest runner of the three and gets there first, but he never eats treats. He just likes the excitement and I guess he just doesn’t eat what he considers junk food because of his special powers and endless obligations.
Reggae is also well informed, because he is always there when I sit down to read the daily newspaper, and disapproves if I read electronically. He really appreciates the crinkle of paper. Unlike Baby, he is respectful of keyboards in general and doesn’t walk across them or lie on them. I would have to say that Reggae is the most companionable of my three cats.
A Betsy é muito mais que uma professora de inglês. É uma conselheira, humorista, terapeuta, amiga! Tem uma qualidade que me encanta: a Curiosidade. Se interessa por tudo! E mais do que isso, procura se inteirar daquilo de novo que aprendeu e acaba te ensinando outro ponto de vista mais interessante sobre aquilo. Está sempre antenada ao que ocorre no Mundo e no Brasil. O melhor de tudo, é que passa todo o seu conhecimento com uma leveza e um humor fora do comum. Estar com a Betsy é muito bom. Acompanhar suas publicações online, vai ser melhor ainda!
Betsy was the my English teacher in Uberaba, a long time ago…. An excellent teacher, a wonderful human-being. She gave me the nickname I gladly adopted ever since. We became close friends and we are still close – in our hearts.
Betsy is my little sister, and I am very proud of her for her amazing language capabilities. When she was just a small girl, she would sometimes make up new words when she needed to, to avoid being slowed down by not knowing the “mainstream” word. Example: her word, “benext”, a combination of “beside” and “next to”, which simple meant “do lado” (but long before she ever encountered Portuguese, of course).
Aprender inglês com Betsy é um privilégio! Com aulas dinâmicas, inteligentes, divertidas, sempre tratando de assuntos atuais, consegue ensinar e cativar! Tenho aulas com ela há muitos anos! Não pretendo parar, pois além de aprender a língua, Betsy coloca assuntos muito interessantes em pauta. Nestes muitos anos, nunca repetiu uma só aula! Grande professora!