Cat House

You gotta love neighbors. One of ours is very particular about his property. VERY particular. I'm being diplomatic here, so work with me. Our neighborhood is transitional. It was once quite nice, and then quite scary, and now is seeing a very welcome resurgence due to some significant investment on the part of the nearby University and the inherent charm of the era in which the neighborhood was built... think gumwood trim and leaded glass and beautiful hardwood floors. This particular neighbor and his wife have lived next door for forty years or more, are older (about retirement age) and they are very alert to all things going on in the vicinity. Are you getting the picture?

There are quite a few stray cats around here, and while the Mr. and I don't feed them, we are happy to have them take refuge in our yard. We've never had a mouse in the house and that's saying something up here! Our neighbors all around seem to feel differently. Some even set traps and take the captives out to the country to get them away from the neighborhood. Now... over the last couple of months, we have come to realize that someone in the house next door has taken to putting out plates of food for a litter of kittens that cropped up over the summer. This behavior is definitively out of character and really kind of sweet.

Imagine my surprise when I looked out of my bedroom window last week and see this sitting in my neighbor's driveway:

Less "Build it and they will come" and more "If you keep feeding them, they'll never go away so you might as well build them a tiny house for the winter." What you are looking at there is a kitten house, custom constructed in the same yellow vinyl siding and black shingles as the house and the garage and the storage shed. It has since been moved to the side of the garage where it sits like a proper little addition. I wonder if they got planning permission for that?


Other People's Nightmares

Obviously, the big news from the last week was Hurricane Sandy, eclipsing even the election insanity. Having lived in Florida, and having a number of close friends who lived through Katrina, I will admit that I thought the lead-up to Sandy's landfall was over-hyped. It most certainly was as far as OUR city is concerned (though we did have some potentially serious situations resulting from power/phone outages, all seems to have resolved quickly and smoothly). Clearly, the coast is another story. 

In spite of the severity of the situation, our friends in the NYC/NJ area appear to have been fairly lucky. As often as I think of them while they begin putting things back in order, I'm thinking of my friends who lived through Katrina and the aftermath in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What has it been like for them to watch this unfold?  

In the midst of all this, one of my coworkers' husband is dying. She is older than me, but too young for this. I have only seen her twice since he went into hospital, but both times I was struck by how lost she looked. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to NOT hug someone who is crying? I can't help but think how I would feel in her shoes and I find it hard to fathom the depth of that loss, or perhaps I simply don't want to. 


My Father, Fearless Wanderer

Occasionally we find cause to stop and think about the important people in our lives in a way we don't do every day. Like suddenly seeing the forest rather than just the trees. I don't remember what prompted it, but some time ago, I had one of those moments when thinking about my Dad. And the realization I had was that one of things I admire most about my Dad is his sense of adventure, and that adventure needn't mean bungee jumping or trekking in the Andes, but can be as simple as getting out of your comfort zone. Some of the ways he has mastered this include:

  • wandering Dallas or any other place he happens to land in "just to see"
  • traveling the state, the country and the world
  • making new friends in a breath
  • immersing himself fearlessly in new technologies (even if they bite him in the ass)
  • trying new restaurants or just new menu items at frequent haunts
  • taking pictures, endlessly taking pictures

I, on the other hand, am solidly planted in my personal comfort zone. I barely leave the house, to say nothing of leaving town. I can count on one hand the number of true friends I've made since leaving school (largely because I find socializing to be excruciatingly exhausting), the only time I ever try out a new technology is when the Mr. presents it to me ready to use and I generally do my best to avoid photo-ops out of instinct.

I have decided that I need to work harder to emulate some of of my Dad's sense of adventure. Making new friends is tricky, but I could certainly do better at keeping up with the ones I already have, which means actually setting a date on the calendar when a friend says "We should get together!" instead of just agreeing vaguely. I also should be buying tickets when I see an event I want to attend instead of just thinking about how fun it might be (the cemetery tour was my first effort here). One of my projects for this year was to get at least one photo of myself and the Mr. every month. So far, so good... we'll try to get a slideshow up for you after the New Year.


I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost

We've had quite the weekend, the highlight being that the Mr. and I went for a torchlight tour of the Mt. Hope Cemetery (something I've been wanting to do for years now).

The cemetery tour was really quite fun... and surprisingly well attended. The trees are turning here and with the last couple of fronts that came through, many of the leaves have already dropped, so that there was a persistent rustling as the group made our way between the tombstones and monuments by the light of strategically placed torches. The weather was perfect... just cold enough that we were glad of our long johns and jackets, a crescent moon peeking through patchy clouds and the predicted rain notable only by its absence. Our tour guide was an older gentleman who I deemed a "local history geek", full of 150 year old gossip and scandal. Incest, adultery, murder, suicide, politics, activism and so on. Some day we should really go back during daylight hours, but I'm glad we got to experience it this way.


Leaf Peeper

Not ashamed to admit it... I'm an amateur leaf peeper. This tree is in a park near my office and how could I not pause to absorb the moment, the transitory play of setting sunlight on leaves at the height of their turn and capture this blaze of glory, this last gasp?


And Then I Turned 40


Apparently, I am stressed about this. My neck feels like someone stuck a needle in and left it, my teeth hurt from the constant clenching and this morning my right eye developed a twitch. I know I don't look forty. Just last month, I got carded when I ordered a glass of wine with dinner. I certainly don't FEEL forty (most of the time). I'm suffering from a serious disconnect here.


Mother's Day Out (A Day at the Races)

In other news, my Mom finally retired in June and she is enjoying it so much! When she came up for her yearly summer visit, we decided to surprise her with a retirement gift. Something many people do NOT know about my schoolteacher Mom... she has a serious lead foot. My Dad likes to tell the story about waking up while my Mom was driving a late night stretch through Kansas and looking over to see the speedometer over 100 mph. He was afraid she was asleep at the wheel, but she was just driving at a "comfortable" speed! I remember her mentioning on multiple occasions how she should have been a race car driver. When I was a kid, we called her Mommio Andretti.

Naturally, I decided the best way to kick off her retirement would be to put her in a REAL race car. After much combing of the Internetz, I found a racing school about an hour from our house that was offering a variety of racing experiences during her scheduled visit. Of course when I went to make a reservation, there were a few points on the form that gave me pause (namely the reminder that she would need to crawl through the car window, iffy knees and all). I decided it would be in everyone's best interest to spoil the surprise, so we told Mom what we were planning and she got the all-clear from her doctor.

My Mom is usually pretty reserved but she was so excited, and she obviously had so much fun. Adam designed a super cool Tshirt and we had it printed for her to wear for her race. The workers at the race school thought she and her shirt were pretty cool! There was a nice young man who basically picked her up and slid her through the car window and her driver went faster than all the other cars on the track. She even got a professional photo of herself in the car, mounted on a keepsake plaque. She had an absolute BLAST and we had a great time watching her!


You Can Never Go Back

It's true.

When we went back to Sarasota for the New College 50th Anniversary in 2011, I felt this. I didn't just feel it. I was staggered by it.

Funny, most of the people I was so excited to see again were people I've seen since leaving Florida anyways. And there were a surprising number of people I saw that, when confronted with their face, I realized I could have happily never seen them again. So many people that I saw through the crowds and thought, "Good lord, I forgot about YOU" with varying degrees of joy and horror. And then there were the strangers I saw chatting with "my friends" who turned out to be people I knew quite well once upon a time. Shock upon shock upon shock. As a group, we speculated about motivations... for people who made the trip to come back and for people who stayed away, as well as those who never left.

The campus was so familiar and so different all at once. Keeping in mind, this was the first time I've been back to campus since leaving Florida in 1998. Ham Center, Pei dorms and the Library bridge were all competing against newly blocked roadways, new science buildings and new dorms where once there was open green space. Drinks could still be had at the Bahi Hut, though surrounded by a very different sort of clientele than I remember from back in the day. It was actually more than a little painful to see.

Being in such familiar places and wandering among so many unfamiliar faces, brought back some of my less pleasant memories from those years and I was surprised by them. I don't know why. I suppose we do that though, don't we? We remember the good stuff and sweep the bad things under the proverbial carpet. We remember things "better" than they ever were to begin with. College was fun and I made my very best friends there, friends that to this day mean more to me than I can express. But looking back, I can see that I spent too much of that era suffocating under the weight of my own insecurities.

I can't really say whether or not I'm glad we went. I almost wish we had simply arranged our own gathering of friends somewhere that wasn't New College. I'm not sure if I will attend another reunion. Because you really can't ever go back.


Je Parle, Tu Parles

I've been spending some of my down time on the weekends brushing up on my French. Once upon a time, I was pretty good. I even went through a period where I dreamed en fran├žais. Of course, that was years ago. Our weekend at the New College 50th Anniversary celebration in 2011 (another thing I failed to make note of here) brought home just how long ago it really was.

I periodically get a bee in my bonnet about how sadly lapsed my French skills are, usually when we've been for a visit up north and I've been caught out at a cash register by a french speaking cashier. I tried podcasts and iTunes University and the BBC free language tutorials. Nothing quite hit what I needed.

The Mr. came across Duolingo a few months ago in his internet travels and pointed me to it. It's still in Beta, but you can request an account and it's free and really quite good! It's been amazing to me how much I actually remember and how quickly it comes back. I'm still much better at reading/listening I am at writing/speaking, but the Duolingo method feels sustainable so I think it will be a big help.


The Fourth

Continuing with our "Time Flies" theme, the Mr. and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. Yah. I KNOW. The fourth anniversary is the fruit/flowers anniversary, so we decided to splurge on some of the more exotic items we find in the legendary Wegmans produce section as a special treat. What more appropriate moment to spend ten dollars on a single piece of fruit?

Pineapple, mango, kiwi, cherries, plumcot, feijoa and dragon fruit. We even bought a cherry pitter to commemorate the day.


Smells of Summer

As I was walking to my car tonight, I walked into a wall of the aroma of woodsmoke and barbeque. The air was warm and humid, but the promise of a cooler evening was there. And suddenly, there were so many memories. Family gatherings, cookouts, summer camp and bonfires. Wow.

And I wonder, how much effort did my parents put into creating those memories? How much planning, and scheduling and arranging did that require? And where did they get the energy?

I hope there comes another time in my life when I am surrounded by family and close friends. When parties and gatherings seem effortless, not exhausting. When I have the energy to do more than just recover from my day at work.


Time Flies...

Life has been, well... life. Probably no busier for us than it has been for anyone else, and yet I still failed to find time to post any updates here going on two years now. I have at least kept up personally with most of the folks who were visiting this blog, but I've been feeling like the time has come to make more of an effort here.

To be honest, there isn't really any news to report. I'm still working the 9-5 job, though perhaps liking it a little less than I once did. The Mr. is still doing the independent contractor thing. It's amazing to me that he's been self-employed now for nearly as long as he was with the U. Time does indeed fly.

Our biggest achievement in recent months is the completion of our new driveway. I haven't even killed anything in the garden in the last year (not even weeds, as you can see above - sorry Moms)! Thrilling stuff, I know. But it's the little things that make life what it is, so that's what will be appearing here.

I've also revived my Etsy of the Week in the sidebar. If you're looking for something a little different, check it out. Treat yourself and support a working artist into the bargain!