Random Musings of a Woman with Too Many Cats

And a field of study that few people know much about...

Monday, August 1, 2011


I recently found myself in a position that I really didn't want to be in.  A friend of mine had told me about some rather serious issues involving the neglect of some children of a mutual friend.  This woman had gone from being a very tolerant Catholic to one who was extremely dogmatic in her beliefs after a family tragedy.  Her husband was going off the rails in his own way.  (Possibly due to the scary economy of the last few years-- a lot of people don't seem to be quite logical as far as who they blame.)

As I said, the mother is a woman I consider a friend.  I'm very worried about her, and scared that something very bad will happen to her (like death in childbirth, and I have reason to worry about that), and now I'm also worried about her kids.  But this information was now in my hands.  And the first friend, although scared and worried, was not quite willing to report to the proper authorities. 

What is a person supposed to do, when he or she has information that might be the difference between a happy well-adjusted life, or one that is not, or-- possibly-- no life at all, should the right (or wrong) circumstances come together in a certain way?  What would you, my readers, do?

Keep in mind, I had been worried about what was going on with these children for a while.  One of them is a friend of my daughter, and, I think, potentially gifted.  Yet she is isolated, far from any outside influence, and is being home-schooled by a mother who has very little formal education herself.  This child has also  made several decidedly odd statements over the last couple of years to me as well as others that honestly have me quite worried about her state of mind.  Obviously, the home schooling is perfectly within the rights of her parents: anyone who wants to can home school their children in this country, and although I sometimes have reservations, I would agree that many home schoolers do a pretty good job.  A fellow mother at Natalie's dance school home schools her children, and the older son is doing amazingly well, to the point that he is planning to start college courses a year or two early!

The problem is: I know as a teacher in training that this child would, if she were in a regular public school, or a private or parochial school; first, be exposed to other, saner, points of view besides those of her parents, and would also be flagged by school authorities as a child whose family circumstances needed investigation.  The same goes for the second child in the family, also school age.  Because they are home schooled, they fly under the radar of the authorities.

My first friend was frightened to contact child welfare.  She had merely shared second hand information with me and one other person.  I had independent information: it wasn't very new, but that, plus what my friend had told me convinced me that the children were in  danger, both psychological and physical (from neglect-- NOT abuse: these are parents who love their children and, I'm convinced, wouldn't knowing hurt them).  I made a call to child welfare.

Ultimately, I think that children must be kept safe; and that even if one is not their parent, and their parents are someone one considers friends, it's important to do what's necessary to protect the child, or children.  I hope no one else who reads this is ever put in a situation where it's necessary to call the county; where a conversation (or ten) with one or both of the parents or another relative is enough to resolve the situation.  That wasn't the case here.  I may have blown up a friendship I valued-- and I still hope that my friend goes back to being the person I used to know-- but I think that I did what needed to be done, and I hope that those children are rescued from their situation.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16, 1945

Sixty-six years ago today, the scientists of the Manhattan project tested the first atomic bomb. Here, Dr. Oppenheimer compares his feelings to a passage from the Baghavad Gita: Vishnu, the God of Destruction. The quote dates from 1965, two years before Oppenheimer's death.  There is a look that passes over his face as he talks about the bomb and Vishnu that I find simply haunting. 

This is John Adams' treatment of the same quote in his opera, Dr. Atomic.  Subtitles are in Dutch, but the opera is in English.  Oppenheimer was a German Jew, and I can imagine that Adams and the librettist, Peter Sellars, were correct in assuming that he found his work less morally questionable when the primary target was Hitler's Germany.  In the opera, however, which centers on the preparation for the Alamogordo test which took place on July 16, Oppenheimer is a highly conflicted character.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Metella Porcia is my old handle on a now-defunct social website called AncientSites that I belonged to ten or so years ago .  It allowed people with an interest in ancient civilizations (well, at least some of us had an interest in them) to meet online and discuss our interests, play online games, and-- well, essentially it was similar to Facebook .  I chose the handle I did as a sort of joke-- the Metelli and the Porcii (Portii--the family name was off of a list and whoever chose that one misspelled it) were two of the most hidebound conservative families in late Republican Rome.

 My own political inclinations are pretty far to the left: I think one of the main functions of a good government is taking care of those who most need protection, and that those include the poor, the victimized, the sick, the young and the old.  Although I strongly believe military spending is vital for the protection of a country, I do not believe that spending several times as much money as any other country in the world on the military is likely to do anything other than encourage military adventures abroad.  I also think that continuing to throw money at the very rich has very little effect on job creation, at least job creation in the United States, and I don't believe continued refusal on the part of the Republicans to consider restoring tax levels to pre-2001 levels for the very wealthy will make the fiscal crisis any better.  I do think that continuing to disassemble the social safety net will eventually lead to societal instability and unrest, and that defaulting on our government's loans will cause the economy to collapse completely.  I wonder if people like Ryan and McConnell have thought at all about what they might be creating.

I think that how our country taxes needs to be more equitable, with corporations and the very wealthy paying a greater share, and perhaps --just possibly!-- tax credits being tied to job creation in the United States!  I think also that we should cut back on military spending, and use the savings to fund programs that help more of the lesser privileged people in this country: programs like WIC, more money for education--including grants (less emphasis on loans!) for higher education, retraining for jobs, and healthcare for all (yes, I do mean single payer!).  Right now we have a privileged upper class that is doing very well indeed, while the majority of people in this country are not as well off as they were thirty years ago.  I find this a frighteningly unstable situation, and I think we need to get it fixed.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I got interested in Classics because of Walt Disney's Fantasia.

 I saw the movie when I was five or six, and really loved the segment with Beethoven's Sixth Symphony (a piece of music I still love, by the way).  Of course, now I find it amusing how the Disney animators mixed actual mythology (thunderbolts forged by Cyclopes for Zeus) with pure fancy (a whole family of winged horses when Pegasus was the one and only)! 

Whatever.  My five year old self was captivated, and I wanted to know more.  A few years later, I found D'Aulaire's Greek Myths at the library, and really started learning about mythology.  As I got older, my interest spread to other cultures besides Ancient Greece and comparative religions as well.  In high school and college, Joseph Campbell was my hero.  I'm still interested today, and honestly the interest in comparative religion has done much to inform my own (rather unconventional) religious views also.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I should have said that we were down to five (from six) when poor Phoebe disappeared about three months ago.  I really can count, I promise!

Why "Cats and Classics"?

I chose this title for my blog because I spend a great deal of time thinking about both of these subjects.  They also have a rather nice alliterative quality...

I think about cats because I live with five of them, which is really a little crazy but it's not my fault.  Last year when I moved to Frederick, I didn't know that my house came with a feral cat, and that she had produced a litter of kittens days before we moved in!  My boyfriend Gerry, with whom I live in two places (more about that in another post!) had two cats, Phoebe and Jade, and I had one, Spots.

I had just lost a dog, and really intended to get another, but then, we discovered our surprise residents.  Being tender-hearted types, and also thinking that my daughter, Natalie, who lives with us half the time and with her Dad half the time, would enjoy raising some kittens, we borrowed a trap from the local no-kill shelter and brought everybody inside.  We thought we'd keep one or two kittens, but ended up with three for a total of five cats, and no dog.  Such is life...

Why Classics?  Why indeed...

I got a BA in Classics from the University of Oklahoma, and I enjoyed getting the degree quite a lot.  Unfortunately, one of my former husband's Electrical Engineering professors had the most typical reaction to my course of study.  First, he asked me what instrument I played, and then when I told him I was, in fact, studying the language, history and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, he said, "Don't worry dear, stick with Ben and he'll support you."

Personally, I think I'd make a great Founding Father, but there isn't a great demand for those right now.

Never-the-less, I love the Classics, especially the history and mythology, and I'm glad that I have studied them in some depth.  Now that I'm no longer "sticking with Ben" I'm working on a degree to teach English in high schools however.  It's much more likely to result in an actual job.

About the instrument: I don't actually play an instrument, but I do sing, and I like classical music too.