My Family Has A Language Barrier

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We have a language barrier in our house. Or we could call it a communication problem. It’s not new to me. I grew up in a household where there was a communication problem because of language, but I didn’t think it would extend to my adulthood.

Boris and Natasha, my two shyster cats, refuse to learn English so we can better cohabitate. I get tired of trying to decipher the tone of their meows. It is hit and miss. I think they’re tired of it too because as they get older, they’re stretching their vocal fold cords to new heights. I must not be getting their new commands right. In the early years, they were quieter, ignored us when we spoke to them, and yet we did what they wanted. Apparently, we were better trained ten years ago than we are now.

Early morning and late evening Boris sits by his bowl and glares at me. That means he wants to be fed. Natasha, on the other hand, gets my attention early morning by putting her paw on my face and waking me up so I will administer her a morning massage. We had our routines down. The minute there is a hole peeking through at the bottom of the food bowl, Boris demands vocally that we fill it. If they think we are going to forget, they open and then slam shut the cupboard door a few times to get our attention.

Lately, they have been directing us more often with their meows. We have a hard time figuring out the new things they want us to do. “There’s a mouse in the basement, let me down there.” We missed that one. The mouse is gone and the meows at the basement door has stopped.

“I want a treat, not my regular food.” as the meowing starts at another cupboard. And then of course, there is the… “You are sitting in my chair.” It took me a while to realize the meow at my head and the push at my back meant I needed to get up and let Boris or Natasha in the chair. The older they get the more demanding they are.

Boris saying, “I want my chair. Get up!“

I tried to teach Natasha to nod yes and no. After all, if my son could train his cat to use the toilet, I should be able to make my cats learn yes and no and to shake their heads. Natasha just blinked at me that she loved me, but she was adamant that nodding was beneath her.

I think of all the arguments we’re having about language these days. Recently, I saw a post that said if you’re going to live in America you needed to speak English. While I agree learning English may be a good idea, I thought of my grandmother.

My grandmother lived in America from the time she was 19 or 20. She never learned to speak English. I have no idea why. That’s what I mean when I say I am used to language barriers in my home. We lived with my grandmother. I never had a conversation with her that I could understand. For some reason, they never taught me Polish. I could understand a few words but that’s it. When my relatives would visit my dad and I would laugh because we couldn’t understand a word. I can’t say I was ever bothered by it because the one thing I did understand was that she loved me.

We are still having language barrier arguments all these years later. I wonder if some of what we are arguing about, only having people speak English, isn’t because of fear. I remember waiting on a couple of customers that spoke Spanish. They spoke English to me and then when talking to each other, spoke Spanish. I must admit I was a little fearful or paranoid because I had no idea if they were talking about me or making fun of me, or were planning something else. Media had put fear in my mind of a different culture. I no longer feel that way once I recognized it for what it was.

Different cultures view language different ways. Young people in other countries and now too here in our own, are learning to speak many different languages. I have friends whose children know how to speak Chinese because they went to language camps in the summer. Knowing each others languages breaks down barriers.

If you’ve ever had teenagers you know that may create a language barrier in your home. They speak teen-speak. The hard part is their language changes with each generation and now…it’s a language with letters and emojis. I can translate LOL but anything more my grandkids text me, I have to ask, “What does that mean?” I think I need to hit them with some shorthand or cursive, although my one grandson can read cursive.

I would like to think if we look someone in the eye and see them, really see them, the language barriers would fall away. If we take away the fear of insecurity of what we don’t know when they are speaking, maybe we wouldn’t be so judgmental.

As I grew up, I knew people who spoke Polish, German and a few other languages. They were the immigrants that were here during my generation. Not all spoke English. The argument was the same as it is now and so was the judgment. Guess what? We survived it and we integrated these people into our culture. I would not be here today, living in America if it were not for my Grandmother who never learned English. Yet in those days their culture was not accepted either.

My family kept their traditions alive by speaking their language and keeping close to the rituals of their heritage. Their roots were important to them. Perhaps it’s hard for those of us that were born in this country to understand that. It took me until my later years to get it as I sort through the things that were important from their native land. Though my mother was born in this country, her roots and heritage mattered to her. She never forgot where she came from and she never neglected to try and teach me their traditions. Sadly, I never realized the importance of keeping another culture’s heritage alive in family until she was gone

I find it exciting to learn about different cultures. The next time you eat Lasagna or Chinese food or take part in a tradition of another country, enjoy it’s richness. I am learning more about my Polish heritage and I am proud of it.

I think Boris and Natasha are proud of theirs too. I am sure Natasha is meowing Siamese and Boris is meowing Alleycat, and both are going to be stubborn and hold tight on keeping their language skills to meowing in their language. How lucky are we that our love for one another transcends those language barriers so we can bask in the purrs and blinks they give us on a daily basis.

Traditions, roots and culture remain important no matter what nationality we are, especially if it connects us to another country rich with history of our ancestors. It doesn’t make us less of an American to embrace our lineage.

Barriers can be created by closed minds and hearts. I am lucky love always won with my grandmother and my shysters. My life is richer because of it.

Bedtime is Party Time for My Cats!

Today I am sharing my column from the Albert Lea Tribune. This blog is in transition and if you are looking for more about Authors and my writing, please visit my website at http://julieseedorf.com to view my blog there. Today I feature Author Jessie Chandler who I interviewed about her book Operation Stop Hate, Operation #1. My website will be where I am sharing my writing adventures. This blog will be about whatever hits my heart. Today it is my cats. I hope you enjoy both blogs. At the bottom of http://julieseedorf.com there is a place to sign up for my newsletter and to be notified when my site has changed.  Enjoy.

Today’s column:

Natasha and Boris

Natasha and Boris

Do you remember the cartoons and movies where the toys came alive at night after their owners shuffled off to bed? Thoughts of the toy cartoons pass through my mind every once in a while when I think about my shysters, Natasha and Boris, who are our cat babies.

Boris entered our lives first. He was a rescue my daughter found for us. He was approximately seven months old and a pretty laid back guy. He loved to snuggle and wasn’t prone to getting into much of anything. As long as he had a warm body and love he was content.

We spend time visiting our children, and I felt bad that Boris had to live by himself while we were gone. I thought he might get lonely, so we adopted Natasha who is part Siamese. She was not the typical noisy Siamese. In fact, she and Boris had the wimpiest meow ever, and they didn’t use it much. But Natasha changed our household.

In a matter of days she showed us she could get our folding doors open. She could jump through the opening between the kitchen and the porch if we locked her out of the porch. She could open cupboard doors. If she wanted to be petted she would flop sideways down on the floor for us to pet her. Boris watched all of this from the sidelines. He was still content to be a laid back and stay-out-of-trouble cat.

We have had them both about three years now. Natasha is a great teacher. Boris now can open doors and climb in closets. He too has become a jumper and can jump on the highest shelf. Doors are not a problem for him either. And after about six months of watching Natasha take a dive on the floor on her side to be petted, he now does the same thing. We never know what the two of them are going to think of next.

In fact, I have an old chair that is toast, so I let them have an entire chair as a scratching post. This chair also has a hole in the bottom, and Natasha loves crawling in the bottom of the chair when she is teasing Boris. Because he is 17 pounds, he usually can’t crawl under the chair. However, one night he managed to get under the chair and into the hole. The problem he had — he couldn’t get out. I might mention if we haven’t seen the two of them for some time we start looking, because we know they are in trouble and got locked in somewhere. Don’t worry, when we go away we barricade all the closet doors, and we also have child locks on the cupboard doors so they can’t get in and get locked up while we are away.

My thoughts of toys in movies waking in the night, and causing havoc, were brought about by my two cats. Boris and Natasha spend most of the day sleeping. Natasha’s favorite place to sleep while I am watching television in the evening is right in front of my computer screen on the Tivo box so she blocks my view. It doesn’t matter how many times we move her, she goes right back, and she isn’t afraid of noise or water spray. She is fearless.

Boris sleeps in my husband’s arms or anywhere he can find a soft spot. He is not fearless and is easily directed.

The minute I and my husband start our journey to bed for the night they wake up. First they meow so I remember to put food in their bowls even if they have food. They can’t stand a hole in their bowl. It is a crime if I let the bowl show. Then they sit at the door to our bedroom waiting for us to leave the room.

The party begins. The chase goes up the stairs, through our upstairs bedrooms and into the living room. You can hear the stampede going on for hours. Occasionally we hear thumps from jumps or mischief. Once in a while Natasha lets out a curdling meow. The first time we heard it we thought she was dying, but it was only her attacking her play mouse.

In the morning I will find drawers opened, socks from one of the drawers strewn around the room. Rugs will be out of place, the food dish will be showing through the food, blankets will be on the floor and once in a while in their foraging they find an old candy wrapper or some of their toys I have not seen in a long time. Did I mention Natasha hides toys and other things?

As a child, I would always dream I had a secret toy room at the end of the hallway in my grandmother’s house, and the toys would come alive at night. Who knew this many years later part of my dream would come true — only it is my cats that come alive at night and make me smile in the morning while surveying their playtime damage. And for some reason my cats missed this tidbit of wisdom.

“Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures and cats like authors for the same reasons.” — Robertson Davies

 

Natasha The Notorious!

 

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I love the shysters that I have created in my Fuchsia Minnesota Series. What many people might not know is that I have two shysters at home, Natasha and Boris. Natasha likes to sneak and get into trouble. From the first day we got her we realized we were had a problem, nothing was safe, because she could unlock the heavy bi-fold door into my porch office. We had to put a hook on the door to keep her out.

Her love of trouble continued in the kitchen when she mastered opening the kitchen cupboard doors. We put heavy Velcro on the doors so she couldn’t open them. One day she got herself into the drawer next to my bed. It isn’t unusual for her to open the door on my closet in the bedroom. In this video it was all the way closed and latched. She already had it open by the time I got the camera out. I was interested in seeing how she had done what she had done a few days earlier. She repeated the act in this video. I am a novice but I hope you enjoy Natasha’s How To Video for her cat friends.