Cats&Grammar

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As the administrative manager of a small law office, my responsibilities are varied. Pretty much anything except the practice of law can and often does fall within my purview. From time to time, I conduct searches for part-time administrative assistants. I don’t have a lot of time to review scads of resumes; therefore, I have crafted my advert in such a way that I can tell by the initial response whether a candidate has what it takes to warrant an interview.

Honestly, I don’t want to waste your time any more than I want to waste my own.  I’ve provided all of the details about the job that are pertinent: it’s part-time; it’s morning hours; it’s Monday through Friday; and it’s mostly reception, light admin duties. Its purpose is to support the attorneys and the admin manager\paralegal for 20 hours a week. I’ve even included a description of the person I’d like to hire.

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I also require that a properly addressed and formatted cover letter accompany an applicant’s resume. This is an important detail. Think you can send me just a resume with no cover letter? Forget it. If you can’t take the time to provide what I’ve requested, I’m not taking the time to consider you, let alone call you for an interview.

Now I know that properly addressing the letter is difficult without a little assistance, so I provide the information necessary: my name and title. Proper format – now that one can be tricky – who determines what the proper format for a standard business letter is?

Well…. In ancient times when I went to grade school, my English teacher taught us that the basic parts of a business letter are sender’s address, date, inside (recipient’s) address, salutation, body, and closing.

A Google search of “proper business letter format,” shows that it hasn’t changed. Given that you’re applying to a law office and that the law is steeped in precedent and tradition, attorneys and their support staff tend to be sticklers for form. Details matter.

Here are a few samples of things that make me hesitate to consider you or, worse, just reject your submission outright.

  1. Letters addressed to: To Whom it May Concern, Dear Sir\Madam, Dear Hiring Manager.  Why?  I’ve given you my name and title in the job posting. Please follow directions
  2. Letters addressed to: Dear Victoria (or better yet a nickname variant of that, usually misspelled)- Excuse me, have we met? The proper salutation for a named, but not personally known individual is “Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Last Name.”
  3. Reference the wrong field: I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve received for people wanting to work in a, “busy medical practice.” That’s nice, but you won’t find that with us.
  4. Reference to afternoon hours. Too bad, this is a morning job.
  5. Failure to use standard grammar and usage. Seriously, please make sure that nouns and verb tenses match, that pronouns are appropriate, and that punctuation is correct.
  6. Typographical errors.

There is an old idiom that a former manager of mine used to use, “The devil is in the detail.” Details are important. So is following directions. Your submission forms the first impression I have of you. Make it a good one, and you’ll get an interview.

 

 

 

“Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary–and terrible elegant. ”

― Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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The Domesticated Hedgehog (a\k\a white-bellied or four-toed hedgehog), is a species much smaller than its European cousin.  In the wild, members of this breed are found scattered from Senegal in western Africa to southern Somalia and Tanzania on the east. Sometimes referred to as African pygmy hedgehogs, owing to their size and origin, they became a fad pet in the 1990s. Utterly adorable, these odd little creatures can make wonderful companions.  But, hedgehogs are not for everybody. Even the most experienced pet owner should carefully consider whether to welcome one of these little urchins into his or her home.

Luckily, I did not practice what I now preach.

My entrée into hedgehog parenting came about in December 2013. My best friend had decided to give one to her daughter, J, who had been wanting one most of her life.  Her mother, wisely, held off until J was nearly 17 years old. The promise of a hedgehog was all wrapped up under the Christmas tree.

Now, I have to admit, I was just teensy bit jealous. I have adored hedgehogs since my mother read me The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle. Of course, because my mother had been raised in Britain, she was able to add little details about the European species.  I believed that hedgehogs were the most magical and enchanting of creatures. (There are no living species of hedgehog that is native to N. America. I had no idea how charming they are in real life.) So when the opportunity to go with the family when it was time for J to collect on the promise, I couldn’t resist.

A tiny bit of background: December 2013 was less than two months after my mother passed away. She and I had been very close, especially near the end of her life.  I found myself overly emotional about a lot of things… including hedgehogs.  The moment I laid eyes on the three little lads from whom J was to pick, I was smitten. I was pressed into service to hold one of the boys whilst J made her choice. My heart filled to bursting when he snuggled into my jumper and fell asleep. I hadn’t felt that kind of joy – well, let’s just say, the sudden break from mourning grief was overwhelming. Rashly, unexpectedly, I decided to adopt (read purchase) the little prickly dude. I named him Thistle, honoring his spikes and my Scottish heritage.

Having a new “someone” to focus on was a balm for my heart.  The learning curve, however, was steep. I was used to cats and dogs – hedgehogs, well….

Hedgies are solitary creatures in and by nature. Males especially can be rather territorial. However, they will bond with their human companion provided sufficient time and care is taken to build that connection. They have excellent hearing and sense of smell.  Their eyesight leaves a lot to be desired, but as they are nocturnal, it made sense.  I had to be very careful about letting him wander on the table. Having no depth perception, Thistle would step off the edge into thin air giving us both heart-stopping fits. And he could move! One minute he’d be bumbling along and the next he’d be halfway across the room.

Thistle made little, if any, noise. He had a gentle whuffling sound he’d make when curiously sniffing about.  An indignant HUFF!! would accompany a small jumping motion if I startled him or tried to pick him up without his permission.  He’d emit the funniest little growl\grunt if I persisted on bothering him, which nearly always had me giggling and him huffing even more!

We gradually grew used to each other. Neither of us liked bath time. Bonding time was special, though. I looked forward to our evening sessions: quiet time spent watching TV or reading a book while he nestled in his blanket (or, more often than not, in my shirt.) The cats would curl up next to us and feign indifference.  My therapist had suggested meditation to help with my grieving process, and I discovered that Thistle was the perfect partner. He had a very “zen” personality – always living in the moment.  He could sit quietly for ages just breathing.  He also provided useful biofeedback.  If I were too restless, he’d bristle. That was a sure cue to refocus and stop wrestling with my mind monkey.

Hedgehog lifespans average about 3.5 years. Unfortunately, Thistle and I didn’t have that long. He developed a stomach cancer, and I had him euthanized a few months shy of his second birthday. He was the most rewarding pet I have ever spent time with, so much so that I happily, and mindfully, adopted his successor, Bramble, a happy, healthy little boy.  We’ve recently celebrated our first anniversary together.

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Much like The Doctor, I, too, have always had a companion. Mine, however, tend to be of the furry, four-legged variety – namely cats, although dogs and other critters have played their parts as well.

My earliest real memory of our cats is of a handsome tuxedoed boy named Ralph; whom I insisted was really “Henrietta”. I was under the influence of the Mr. Rogers show and adored Henrietta Pussycat. Despite constant gentle reminders that Ralph was a boy cat, I insisted.  I vividly remember my brother (in the extreme exasperation only an eleven-year-old can muster) saying, “He’s a boy! Ask him his name, he’ll tell you.” I would look at the cat in question, and he would obliging croak, “Raaah-lllfff!)  Never mind.  He was Henrietta to me.  I was stubborn even at two.

The childhood cat I truly remember was a regal Siamese queen named T’ang.  She joined our household when neighbors of ours couldn’t keep her. I later found out that the couple in question had divorced and, rather than decide who should take custody of this beautiful girl, they decided to give her up.

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Our only cat to have her portrait painted; surely proof of royalty, no?

 Painting ©circa 1978 MEConway; photo ©2017 VLE

T’ang was a smart, funny-yet-dignified, gentle cat.  Gentle, that is, unless you were one of the neighborhood birds. My mum used to tell a story of a very pregnant (picture a small beer barrel with legs) cat launching her self from a sitting position on the ground, straight up eight feet into the air to narrowly miss a passing blue jay.  Mum knew it had to be eight feet because the cat came level with the pantry window….

She gave us two litters of kittens.  Both were planned (or so we though) matings  with a neighbour’s Siamese tom, Kimba. The first litter yielded six kittens including Sam, who went to live with my Auntie Ruth and Uncle Maurice.  Sam shared his mother’s looks and his father’s curiously endearing habit of nibbling one’s nose. The second litter yielded three charming Siamese kits and … three tabby cats.  Yes, folks, at the tender age of five, I learned about superfecundation (my mum was brilliant and didn’t believe in hiding facts\truth about nature.)  We named the three boys Ike, Mike, and Monkey Face.  Though I begged for them to remain with us, they were ultimately given away.

After that litter, we had our beautiful girl spayed, but her mothering days were not over. She became the surrogate mom for all the pets acquired in her 18-year reign.  To cats and dogs alike, she was the non-human monarch of our wee kingdom.  She especially fostered My-Lin (called My-My because of his funny little meow.)  My-My came to us as a barely weaned kitten – and I mean barely, I don’t think he’s actually been weaned – from a friend of my brother.  He’s worthy of his own post, so I’ll stop his story here for now.

I adored T’ang.  Her elegance and grace has not matched by any feline companion since. She is, for me, truly an ancestress of Bast.

 

Lots of credit and a heartfelt “thank you” to Samantha of samanthamurdochblog.  Her blog is an enjoyable, special treat.  Her style is bright and clear – a positive oasis in this peculiar world we live in.  Vivid stories of her “girls” – cats Charlie, Lily, and Tooty & Ting combine with interesting information about crystals, reminiscences, short stories.  A remarkable place to visit. Through the comments, we have shared our kinship of cats among other things. She encourages me to tell my pets’ stories, and my own, with a generous, graceful spirit.

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