Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home again, home again

Against long odds, our flights didn't get canceled yesterday and we are home, In about an hour, we'll be able to fetch Eddie from the vet's where he's been kenneled. Then Wally will hiss at him for a couple of days because he will smell like the vet's which Wally hates (he even hisses at himself when he gets back from there).

And oh yes, we did get snow in Boston.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Back next week

I shamelessly stole this image from Jeanne's blog--it's perfect. I'll be back blogging next week.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

She works hard for the money

In an email to Jeanne yesterday, I told her I was struggling with the whole work/personal life balance thing. I can tell I’m not getting enough time at home because when I do get home, all I want to do is hibernate. I’m not interested in running errands, seeing friends, sewing or doing anything except just being at home.

Some of this is from the travel; it’s been especially heavy this fall. But mostly it’s the commute. When close to three hours of my day are spent in the car, I have no time for doing the things I like to do. Typically I get up, work out if I have the energy and/or time, pack my lunch, shower and off I go to work. I get home 12 hours later, throw down dinner (which we’ve either made on the weekends or it’s take out) and fall in bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m not looking to be unemployed again. Along with the financial crunch, that’s still not striking a good work/personal life balance—it’s too much time at home. But I miss a lot of what I did do when I was home more. I sewed a lot of things for Alison and I’ve made exactly one outfit for Eliot. I like cooking but I need to be home on the weekends to cook, which has been rare this fall. I also like the house to be clean (darn cats!) but again, I have to be here to clean it.

Aside from the obvious need to earn money so we can have food and a place to live, I think humans are wired to want to work, to do something we find significant. Notice I didn’t say I’m looking for my job to give me my purpose in life. I get that elsewhere, at home or with my friends or family doing the things I love to do. That’s what I need more of right now and I’m not entirely sure how to get it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Of cats and toys

I forget where I heard or read this: people who buy cat toys are wasting their money. Cats love boxes, milk bottle rings, paper bags and so on and those things are free. Too bad that one of my cats eats cardboard boxes, but they all love to play with the rest of the free stuff.

I'll come clean. We’ve also bought a few toys. I found some “mice” stuffed with something that rattles a little bit and the boys love to bat them around the house. They’ll usually end up swatting one under the file cabinet between our desks (it sits on wheels) and then they'll cry at Kent to slide his CPU to one side so they can fetch the mouse out again.

But what really cracks me up is when Eddie picks up a toy and carries around the house—meowing all the way. We can tell by the sound that he’s got something in his mouth because he can’t fully form his normal sound. Usually he’ll bring the toy to wherever we are and then drop it at our feet. That’s our sign we are supposed to pick it up and throw it so he can chase it and bring it back again.

Here's a picture of some of their toys:

Monday, December 20, 2010

A restorative day

You may think I’m nuts but yesterday was very restorative. I/we:

  • did four loads of laundry
  • made chili for lunches
  • organized packages for mailing
  • walked to the UPS store and got the packages all sent out (and for less than I feared)
  • walked further to Foodies and picked up a few items to tide us over till we fly out again Thursday
  • processed pictures from Thanksgiving and the around-the-world jaunt (Kent)
  • played WoW (me—which is why I’m a little zombie-obsessed at the moment)
  • pulled together an off-the-cuff pasta dish with ingredients on hand and enjoyed it with a decent bottle of Chianti

I would like a few more days like this, please.

Edited to add that Kent just reminded me that he also scooped the litter, which while not restorative does bring harmony to the home.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Comfort food

When every meal is in a restaurant, then eating out is no longer a treat. In fact it becomes a chore because of the additional time required to have a meal. Think about how long it takes to get seated, get water and menus, hear the specials, read through the menu and decide what to have, order, get the order, eat the food, get the check and finally pay the bill. Sure, you can avoid a lot of that by going the fast food route but there’s a cost there as well since healthy food options are rare.

So when we are both home, we prefer to cook ourselves. Last night I knew Kent would be very tired and completely done with humanity so I pulled together a comfort food meal: meatloaf, baked potatoes and asparagus. And I baked brownie and also got a bottle of wine. We ended up not having the asparagus because Kent really just wanted his meat and potatoes.

When comfort food is what’s needed, I like soothing noodle or pasta-based dishes. I also love soft boiled eggs on saltines, a dish my mother used to make for me when I got sick as a little girl. Kent thinks they are utterly vile but that’s OK. He likes some things I find gross too. Edited to add I also consider Edy's Grand peppermint ice cream a comfort food. But it's generally only available in November and December.

What are your comfort foods?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Tale of Manners

This story is from Tuesday when I flew through JFK on my way to Philadelphia. JFK isn’t my favorite airport to fly through for three reasons.

First, JFK usually means I’m on a small plane which means no jetway. Instead, passengers walk down the cramped, tiny steps of the airplane, and then walk outside for a bit to get to the terminal. These planes are so tiny that all bags bigger than normal-sized purses are gate checked, and passengers have to collect their gate checked bags outside at the bottom of the plane stairs. When it's cold as it was on Tuesday, being outside is just awful.

Second, I’ve had one out of the last four flights there leave on time. Two were entirely canceled and the one I’m writing about was 90 minutes delayed.

Third, the gate serves multiple planes at multiple times so you can have four or five flights’ worth of passengers milling around the gate area and shoving forward with their boarding passes in hand. The crowding just adds to the annoyance and confusion.

On Tuesday I initially noticed this woman partly because of how she was dressed (red cowboy boots, black skirt, red sort of fleecy-capey-drapey thing—very distinct) and mostly because she was sort of high strung. She paced a lot, and told everyone around her tired she was, she’d just returned from Europe and was eager to get home. She wasn’t belligerent (yet) but she was agitated.

Then our delays started. They weren’t announced over the PA system, they just appeared on the flight status board. This board stands on the floor and also displays 15 to 20 other flights and it’s in the same area where all those passengers were milling around. So it’s hard to see.

Once the cowboy boot lady realized we were delayed, she got pretty aggressive with the gate agent, demanding more information and a reason for the delay. All the poor gate agent knew was that the flight crew hadn’t yet arrived from their inbound flight. That wasn’t good enough for the cowboy boot lady and she just got louder and angrier, and started infecting others around her. The gate agent had probably six to eight irate people berating her within 15 minutes. At one point, I seriously thought they might turn violent.

Finally the cowboy boot lady took off and announced to us all that she was going to go have a drink at the bar while she waited for the plane. I happen to know this bar pushes double shot drinks by offering a slight discount, and based on what happened next I’m pretty sure she took advantage of that.

We finally boarded and taxied forever out to the runway (another feature of flying through JFK). We were second in line for take-off and actively taxiing and here comes cowboy boot lady stumbling up the aisle to the lavatory. She made it in there and from the sounds of it just puked her guts out. She’s lucky the pilot didn’t go back to the gate and kick her off the plane.

I think she filed a complaint with Delta because I got a survey asking me about the delay and the ground crew. I was happy to fill that one out since what happened was not their fault and in my opinion, they showed admirable restraint in dealing with an out of control illogical screamer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitties everywhere

Yes, I saw another kitty.

Well actually this one was a kitten. Turns out there’s a small feral colony near the New Jersey program and a female had a litter not all that long ago. One of the kittens got stuck in a storm drain during a heavy rain storm, and one of the employees slithered down and around and got that kitten out. He took her home where his mother nursed her back to health.

The mother is very allergic to cats so can’t keep her, but someone else at the program has a sister who wants another cat. So the kitten was at the program yesterday, zipped into the guy’s jacket with her little head poking out. She’s a solid black cat with amber eyes and didn’t mind people gathering around and petting her behind her ears. I have a soft spot for the black or tuxedo kitties.

No sign of the feral kitties behind the Days Inn here in Bordentown. But it's very cold in NJ, so I'm sure they are all tucked away someplace out of sight and hopefully a little warmer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I wish I’d . . .

**WARNING** sap alert

Yesterday I saw an ad that used the tag line “I wish I’d . . .” or something similar. I had to look closely to figure out what the ad was all about. Turns out it was for the Peace Corps. The tag line got me thinking about the missed opportunities in my life. I don’t have a lot of them and I’m thankful I acted on one of the biggest ones that ever came my way.

After getting divorced, I was terrified to date anyone who might truly be long-term, rest-of-my-life material so I didn't. I dated a lot of sort-of-OK-for-right-now guys. I’m beyond glad I got over that fear and dated Kent. Yes, it took me three years and yes, that’s a really long time. I finally realized that if I didn’t try, I would always wonder what if . . .

You’re stuck now, Kent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

They see fairies

I forget where I was, probably the grocery store, where the cashier commented on the cat food or litter I’d gotten for the cats. I mentioned that Wally had been in one of his ZOOMING moods that day and she said, very seriously, “Well you know they see fairies.”

I don’t know about fairies but sometimes I think they leave things in different dimensions just to watch me try to find the missing item. Case in point, we have a small metal hair catcher/strainer thingy for the tub that was mysteriously gone on Saturday. When I defurred the house Sunday, I searched under everything with a flashlight but couldn’t find it. I’d resigned myself to buying a new one until Wally brought it out from wherever he’d stashed it and just set it down by me last night.

On an unrelated note, it’s been a little cool to see the new locations pop up on my visitors map to the right and know they are from Kent. You can see the stars for Sidney, Melbourne, Saigon, Paris, Warsaw and Gdansk. The rest are probably the traffic I sometimes get from Southeast Asia. When I named my blog, I took the lazy way out and shortened kitties times three. I suspect those readers think kittiesx3 means they’ll get some sort of weird, kinky cat sex. I'm sure this blog is a huge disappointment to them and they don’t stick around.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A new favorite perch

When Chloe started having accidents, she didn't limit her activities to the area by the litter boxes. She also peed on the rug. It's been rolled up and leaned against a wall for over a month now, until we can get the salvage company out to pick it up. We need to be home to get that done.

When we are gone, the cats get bored. And when cats get bored, even super heavy rugs aren't immune from their attention. So they knock the rug over. I really don't know how they do it, the rug weighs a lot and I can't move it alone. But they manage to do it just fine; this is the second time they've knocked it over.

Right now it's on the floor and the boys have decided it makes a great place to loll about or take a snooze. If one of them isn't on my lap, then he's on that rug.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What a greeting

I’ve been swarmed and draped on from the moment I set my bags down in the house. Last night they stayed close to me and followed me from room to room, nearly tripping me as cats often do. Once in bed, I ended up having to throw off most of the covers because all three had to be touching me, and those little cat bodies make great heaters.

The Cat Nanny dropped by last night (thankfully before I went to bed). She wasn’t positive what time I was scheduled to get home and wanted to make sure the cats’ routine didn’t get disrupted which I appreciated a lot. So I got a chance to visit with her and even better, the cats got to see that I was A OK with her being there. Eddie hissed a few times as did Wally but they’ve always done that. The Cat Nanny tends to forget that. So I reminded her, and mentioned that they hiss at anyone who has a male cat. Plus I told her how they act normally, which is pretty bizarre. She sent me a note this morning thanking me for the insights into how they are wired and said they truly are complicated cats.

None of the cats is Siamese although the rescue place where I got Chloe said she is part Siamese. Her markings back that up although generally she’s not as chatty as the Siamese cats I’ve had in the past. Well this morning, I’m rethinking that notion. She will not shut up! And Eddie—who I know doesn’t have any Siamese in him—talked for about 30 minutes in the middle of the night last night and only settled down after I pulled him close and petted him vigorously.

Today is all about laundry and defurring the house. And petting stressed out kitties, which also has a calming effect on me. Win/win all around.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Despicable Me

One of my absolute favorite movies is Monsters, Inc. I love that movie partly because I looked like Boo as a little girl and also that movie does an end run around my protective barriers and I always cry at the end when Boo says "Kitty!"

Well on the HNL > SLC flight last night I (finally) watched Despicable Me. Jeanne liked it and I like Jeanne and generally check out a lot of things she recommends. I must confess, I teared up at the ending.

In my family traditions (the ones I established with my children, not what we had growing up), we include movies in stocking gifts--by the way, DVDs fit better than VHS movies, so thank God for technological advances. Anyway, if a copy of this movie showed up in my stocking, I wouldn't mind. Yes, Kent, I am so very subtle.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tick tock

I changed my ticket and I'm flying home tonight. I was originally staying through tomorrow because with Kent in Australia, why kill myself getting out of here. Then Eddie's behavior made it clear this kitty is struggling.

I feel a little stupid worrying so much about a cat, and I know dog people would roll their eyes at me. But if Eddie were a dog, you know they'd do the same thing if they could.

The last three nights, I've gone walking through the park next to the hotel just to get a glimpse of the feral kitties. It's comforting in a way.

To keep things lighthearted, here's a new Simon video which Jeanne had shared on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You know you travel too much

In 2007, I traveled 100% for my job. It didn’t start out that way—I was supposed to travel 75% but the client requirements changed that pretty quickly. Those who haven’t traveled a lot for work tend to see the glamorous parts of it and not the tedium of eating every meal in a restaurant, always having to sleep in a bed not your own, and the boredom involved.

I’m not traveling 100% for this job. It nets out at about 50% although it’s sort of clumped up. So I traveled once in August but then was gone most of September. I traveled once again in October, a longer trip in November and now I’m gone about half of December. So it averages out.

I found a funny thread about traveling too much on FlyerTalk, a forum dedicated to those of us who fly a lot. So many of these posts rang true for me and made me giggle. Some of them made me glad I don’t travel as much as they do.

I've traveled enough to Hilo that the front desk folks at the hotel know me as does the Hertz rental agent (he gives me nicer cars now). I guess that's good since I'll be back here next month and in March and then again in June. For someone who never really cared about going to Hawai'i , I've sure come here a lot.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pearl Harbor

On my flight to Honolulu last Wednesday, we had a passenger who was a survivor of the Pearl Harbor raid. He wore his Navy uniform with all medals and was in a wheelchair. Turns out this 90 year old survivor was heading over for the 69th anniversary of that attack.

I tried to buy him a drink (with my credit card, not a voucher—I have a lot of vouchers because I fly so much but the point of the drink would be that I paid for it for real, if that makes sense). At first he was asleep and then later, someone in first class had already sent drinks back. After that, the flight attendant refused to let me buy any of my own drinks. He told me later he believed he’d missed his true calling to have a military career.

It’s weird. I am very proud of having served although I do not consider myself a blind follower of all US policies. And I really truly wanted to honor this survivor of what was a horrible attack committed without warning. Yet I, who never saw combat, ended up getting honored by this flight attendant because of my service and because I wanted to honor the Navy veteran. I was tempted to refuse because I am no survivor of acts of war; I realized to have done so would have diminished what that flight attendant was trying to do.

Back to fluffy kitty stuff tomorrow, I swear.

I met one of the cat ladies

As I drove back from a very late lunch yesterday, I saw a car parked with probably four or five cats perched near or on it eating their kibble, and a woman putting food into various dishes. So I dropped my co-worker off and walked back to a point across the street and just watched a bit. I didn’t want to scare the feral kitties so I didn’t get any closer.

She told me she makes eight stops and feeds about 60 cats each day. If one is sick, she or the others take it to the vet. She also told me how many cats they’ve had spayed or neutered but I don’t remember the number (it was impressive though).

The whole time a pair of mongoose (geese?) kept trying to slither in to eat the food. She’d just calmly squirt them with a water bottle and off they’d go. She did dump some food out back away from the street and I suspect it was for the mongoose.

The specific colony she was feeding when I saw her has about seven or eight cats. The one I saw across the street and made a video of last month has about 20.

No update today from the Cat Nanny. I can only hope no news is good news.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

An indulgent day

Yesterday while worrying about how to solve Eddie’s behavior changes, I also took a drive up the coast of the Big Island. I’ve seen the road signs for Honokaa, which is in the district of Hamakua. The name of the town piqued my interest. I didn’t look up anything so I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d even see anything interesting.

Honokaa is 42 miles from Hilo and further back from the ocean. That’s because the mountains are pretty steep on that part of the island. Take a look at this map to see the geological features. This map shows the towns.

So I didn’t have a proper destination in mind and kept thinking I would turn around soon. I got to Honokaa and then took the turn when I saw the sign for Waipio Valley. I’m glad I did. Check out the picture gallery to get an idea of what I saw.

Then I came back to Hilo and treated myself to a massage. I should have spent the day prepping for next week, but I didn’t. I'll probably regret that tomorrow. I told you it was an indulgent day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Could use some advice

OK fellow cat lovers, I have a serious issue with Eddie (the one whose picture is at the top of this blog). Over Thanksgiving he started trying to attack our Cat Nanny although he did simmer down after the first day. This morning I got another bad report. She wrote:
Bad news re. Eddie. I got viciously attacked almost the entire time I was at your place today. Neither Wally or Chloe would come out at all. Eddie kept attacking my feet and ankle area...baring teeth, hissing and screaming like a banshee. It's really bad. Luckily I wore heavy corduroy trousers and boots so he couldn't harm me, but that didn't stop him from continually trying. His ears go down and he just shrieks. If he acted like that at the ARL he'd be put down no questions asked. I cannot figure it out. He was so sweet to me when we met and even though he took to hissing it was always benign. He's acting like a feral cat or a cat that's been abused. I can't fathom how to deal with him. I always speak softly and gently and coo his name but that has no effect. I show him that he can't really get me through the boot but he doesn't back off. I don't dare expose my hands. He only quieted down to eat but it was sad that the 2 other cats were probably afraid to come out. I can handle it and am not afraid...the boots are my armor, but were it July and I was wearing flip flops...well I'd have shredded ankles. Any advice or ideas what's going on with him? I deal with alpha cats a lot but Eddie is just plain vicious. His behavior is the worst I've encountered.
Any advice or strategies on how to solve this? I’m gone for the next two weeks so this is especially frustrating for me. And that it’s Eddie, who is the biggest lover cat I’ve ever had, is especially baffling.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I'll take some cheese with this whine

Plane rides are usually benign for me. I read or listen to music or get some work done if I’m in first class where I have the room. I was tickled to get the upgrade for my BOS > ATL leg of Wednesday’s trip because Google Chrome has sponsored free internet on planes wired for it. But I couldn’t get into work email, my password was rejected.

Then the guy next to me, who’d been chatting me up a lot out in the gate area, wanted to talk more. Um no thanks, I’d rather read. He wasn’t super creepy, just creepy enough to make my Spidey senses tingle.

The flight from ATL > HON was almost 10 hours of awful. My in flight entertainment screen in the back of the seat ahead of me flat out didn’t work—the flight attendants rebooted it probably five times but it never worked. I couldn’t watch any movies or even pull up the follow-the-plane feature on the map options.

Plus there was a 15 month old baby with huge vocal chords who screamed pretty much the entire way. His mother was super patient with him, and tried anything and everything, but that baby would not be consoled. He was so loud that if I'd turned my music up loud enough to drown him out, I would have damaged my hearing. I complimented the mom a couple of times on how calm she stayed. I just wish her baby had followed suit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On my mind

A comment Jeanne made yesterday on my blog got me thinking about self-worth, identity and how we define ourselves. I was far too tired and brain dead to write a response last night, and realized this morning I had more to say about it than just a “me too” comment.

She wrote:

You and I are in such opposite situations right now... I'd love to have a job that matters and be able to go places.


Guess we should each use what the other one writes to feel luckier about what we currently have.

I started this blog for two reasons: first to have a place where friends and family could keep up with our news as we transitioned from the Midwest to Boston, and second to keep my brain active. Full employment was a dream at that point and I felt as though my brain were turning to a bowl of instant oatmeal.

I wrote a lot about jobs and how my self-worth was so tied into what I did and the amount I could contribute to the family bills. In fact I was a little obsessive about it because for me, the act of writing about anything is also how I process it. I’ll be honest, my self-worth is still tied into that. I was pretty proud that I was able to support our little family when Kent was unemployed.

And yet I miss the quiet days, the time I had to sew all sorts of things, the baking and stuff I did. And I feel terribly bad that the cats are freaked out now because Kent and I aren’t around a lot. I’m probably weird thinking about my kitties like that and yet I still feel bad.

Jeanne’s comment made me stop and own up to how I’m feeling, all the not quite so positive niggles in my brain about the current situation. I don’t plan on running back to New Hampshire and saying I quit, but I am realizing that this pace is probably not sustainable for me.

Go take a look at this post from Jeanne on Wednesday. She knows I’m not a poetry person at all but I like this one a lot, especially the opening lines:

Will it last? he says.
Is it a masterpiece?
Will generation after generation
Turn with reverence to the page?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't really want to go

It's 3 AM, and I've been up for 30 minutes already because I catch a super early flight to Hawaii again. I've got big ol Eddie squeezed in my chair behind me and Wally is perched on the back of the chair. Kent's snoring  er sleeping away in the bedroom and Chloe is nibbling on some kibble. While the weather in Hawaii trumps Boston this time of year, I'd rather stay home.

I love my job and think I do work that actually matters. But at heart I'm a home-body and there hasn't been a lot of home time this fall. It looks like things aren't going to settle down until midway through 1Q 2011. So really this is a mid-game whine.

I'm sure by the time I get to my hotel in about 24 hours (groan) I'll be fine.

Here's a bonus Wally picture from the other day. He's very proprietary about my desk.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A montage from last week

The one thing I didn't get either a picture or video of was the fire I mentioned. The next-door neighbors used a deep fat fryer for their turkey and it was out in the back yard.

What you can't see in any of these pictures is how very wooded the neighborhood is and how many trees still have a lot of dead leaves on them. When the fryer caught fire, the neighbors weren't home because they'd finished their cooking and meal hours ago and were taking food to friends. They had house guests who were home and came outside when they noticed the fire but by then, a tree in the back yard had also caught fire. Fortunately this is a very friendly neighborhood and several others had noticed and brought over hoses, including a fire fighter who'd just finished his shift. We heard him telling the house guest that no, the danger wasn't over and that they did need to keep water on the burn area.

This is a montage from the trip and will probably be interesting only to those who were there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home again

We had a great time in Virginia; this is the first time I’ve gotten to see both sons with their wives/families that wasn’t tied to a wedding or family reunion.

I did, in fact, get selected for the backscatter machine and opted out. It was a strange situation because Kent went through first, and was sent through the metal detector. The agent stopped me, asked if I were traveling with anyone and then told me I was selected to go through the backscatter machine. I was very polite when I said I opted out; I’m not interested in getting into any sort of argument about the whole process. I’m just not going through that machine.

Anyway, we eventually got through security and after a lot of delays at JFK (flight was canceled, and we were rerouted through Atlanta to get to Norfolk) we got to Virginia.

I’m still pretty tired since we didn’t get home until after 10 last night; later this week I'll write more about our trip (bonus teaser: we saw a HUGE unintentional fire). In the meantime, here are a few pictures for you to enjoy.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The feeding frenzy

Now that we've added canned food to the cats' diets, mealtime is a lot more interesting to all three of them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chloe

She doesn't usually go near the tube; that's been mostly the boys' toy. Plus the tube is made of some crinkly material that makes noise and I think Chloe gets nervous when she hears it. I'd put the tube on the couch so I could sweep the floor. So the tube is on the couch.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why I will opt out every time

Disclaimer: Parts of this post may get more personal than you care to read. Come back tomorrow for fluffy cat posts if that’s the case.

I fly a fair amount for my job; the travel is a requirement and the locations I have to go to mean I must fly in order to do my job. It’s just not practical for me to drive from Boston to San Luis Obispo, CA—never mind Hilo, HI. I knew that before I accepted the job. Along with the travel, that means I accepted the screening processes put in place by the TSA and I accepted all risks associated with air travel.

You’ve probably heard about the new backscatter machines being used in a lot of the major airports and if you watch TV, you may have seen the pat downs now being used for people who either won’t go through the backscatter machines or who trigger some sort of alarm.

As things stand, travelers who are picked to go through the backscatter machine can choose to opt out and receive a hands-on inspection. I will be one of those who opts out every single time. I’m well aware that I’ll receive the new pat down, which is from all accounts a lot more hands on and personal. For me, that’s the lesser of two evils.

I have a couple of reasons for this decision.

First, I haven’t seen peer-reviewed research on the long-term effects of this machine to determine that the risk is worth the results. In fact, what I’ve found so far was published by the company who makes the machines and the TSA. That’s a little too self-interested in my opinion to count as objective research. So for my health, I’ll opt out. Yes I know I receive radiation every time I fly—that’s just another reason for me to avoid additional exposure when I can.

Second, I am intensely uncomfortable with the images that are displayed using this machine. If you have not yet seen what those images look like, I urge you to take a look. Pretty much nothing is left to the imagination. Here’s the personal part for me: I was sexually molested as a little girl and part of that molestation involved voyeurism. Now that I am an adult, I have the ability to say no and enforce that boundary. So forget the backscatter machine.

There’s a lot of chatter about Fourth Amendment rights and charges of abuse at the hands of the TSA. I’m not much of a political animal—I vote, read up on the issues and so on but I’m not the ranty type when it comes to issues. I think there may be some merit in the Fourth Amendment rights talk but honestly even if this screening process is found to be OK in those terms, it will still not be OK for me.

I really feel for the folks who would choose to go through the backscatter machines but can’t because they cannot hold the proper position. That means they must get manually searched—I, at least, am choosing that option.

Let me say that I do believe that we need a screening process; I just don’t think this is the right way to go about the screenings. Other options include metal detectors, the millimeter wave machines (although given my personal history, I would still not go through them), and the apparently-no-longer-in-use puffer machines.

Those who fly once or twice a year or who have a different personal history than I do may reach a different decision, and I can respect that. I ask that my decision also be respected.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When I'm gone

Kent's struggled with his allergies and/or cold this week (poor man has wicked bad allergies, I've never seen such snot production) so he worked from home a couple of days. I'd left my robe on my desk chair because Eddie was curled up on it and I didn't have the heart to disturb him. Apparently it became the place to congregate that day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The new water dish

A few weeks ago, Chloe had some accidents outside the box, which is completely out of character for her. We took her to the vet who found nothing wrong with her kidneys or overall health. But the vet couldn't test her urine because he couldn't get a urine sample from her. He said that she might have started going outside the box because she wasn't drinking enough water, which could make her urine super concentrated which in turn would be painful to pass. So he suggested we look at ways to increase her water intake.

All three cats are on the fussier side regarding water and will drink from the water bowl when I first fill it and put it down. After that, they prefer the water left over in the tub from our showers. In the interest of better cat hydration and accident avoidance, we ordered a Cat It water fountain which got here last night. The slight hum you can hear in the video is the water fountain; it's very quiet and the water doesn't make any noise. We put it in the bathroom since the floor in there is slate tile. The boys can splash away and not ruin anything.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cracked

Lately we've been on a boiled egg kick. We'll cook up enough for the week and each take one in our lunch boxes. Thanks to Joy of Cooking, the eggs turn out perfectly cooked every time (I used to cook them far too long and they'd be really rubbery and gross). The only time I have issues with the eggs is if one cracks when I slip it into the water.

Usually one of us will eat the cracked egg while it's still warm. But last night neither of us were hungry so I pitched the cracked egg--but not before taking this picture. Doesn't it look like a chicken in a chef's hat?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A tutorial

On how to tell the difference between Eddie and Chloe (with a little bonus Wally sighting as well).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fur monsters

If you have indoor cats or dogs, then you have the same fur problem we do. We sort of noticed it in Kansas City, especially because our dog was a stress shedder. When she got nervous, you could see the fur fall from her almost like snow. It was oddly compelling.

Now that we are in a place 1/3 the size of that house, we can't escape the fur and we have to work much harder to control it. We sweep, dust mop and vacuum a couple of times a week and the hand attachment on the vacuum isn't just nice, it's a necessity to get the fur off the furniture. We regularly use the Furminator on the cats. And I also have a special secret method which, while low tech, is quite effective. I put on my dish washing gloves, get them slightly damp and then pet the cats from head to toe, ruffling their fur as I go. It's amazing how much fur comes off that way.

The cats love to sleep on our bed. So in the summer, we use a washable bedspread which is washed at least once a week. In the winter, we use the amazing quilt my mother made, which we don't wash. The colors are vivid and I want them to stay that way. To help keep the fur off the quilt, we use a washable lightweight blanket on top.

Kent had washed the blanket on Sunday but by Wednesday, it was super furry again. So I washed it Thursday. This picture shows how much fur was in the dryer lint trap after just five days of use:

Friday, November 12, 2010

By your command

Wally has two very special fans in Indiana. They are daughters of a virtual friend of mine who provided words of wisdom last fall when the shit hit the fan. They requested ordinary footage of Wally and so I present to you the following 3 minute movie:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thwarted

The scene: we are sitting in our comfy office chairs. I have my legs resting on Kent's lap because he's (very kindly) rubbing my feet. Chloe is sitting on my lap as the interloper approaches.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day

It's not until tomorrow but I scanned a couple of pictures of me from my active duty days. I'll be using one as my profile picture on Facebook. I am 20 in both pictures. The thing you see in my mouth in the second picture is my oboe reed and the reason I look like I feel awful is that I did feel awful. I was pregnant although I didn't know it yet. I threw up every day for five months with that pregnancy; if I'd known then how long I was going to be sick, I might have chewed that reed in half.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Little pyro kitty

Since we have just the one bathroom, we use a candle to help remove certain unwanted odors. That keeps things a little more civilized. Right now we're using a candle that smells like pumpkin pie, although normally I'd just get a vanilla one.

At any rate, Wally is thoroughly obsessed with the lit candle. He likes to get on the counter and just watch it. I hope he never gets too close, he could really singe his whiskers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More about the feral kitties

I apologize in advance for the graininess and the wobbles; I'd just finished running and wanted to get shots of the feral cats before I went inside. I also removed the sound because it was just traffic noise and wind, and also pretty annoying.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What I did with an unexpected day off

I drove up to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.



I wasn't really dressed for hiking around (skirt and flip flops) but I did walk down the pretty steep path to see the Thurston Lava Tubes. What the website fails to mention is how HUGE that tube is--it's easily 20 feet tall.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A room with a view

Here's my hotel view in Waikiki. It's a lot noisier here because I am, after all, in Honolulu and the number of tourists roaming around is truly staggering.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I actually took

Here's what I actually packed this week (items I wore are still italicized, removed items are struck out and new items are bolded):

Suitcase:
  • Suit jacket
  • Suit pants
  • Five short-sleeved tops
  • One dress tank top
  • One very light-weight wool sweater
  • Dress pants
  • Underwear
  • Running shorts
  • Exercise top
  • Sports bra
  • Running socks
  • Yoga pants (also sleep in them, hey I don’t sweat THAT much)
  • Sleep top
  • Running shoes
  • Black dress shoes
  • Dress sandals
  • Flip flops 
  • New lace up dress shoes
  • Hair dryer
  • Two brushes
  • Cosmetics
  • Shampoo etc (in the 3-1-1 bag)
  • One large scarf (like a pashmina)
  • Zip up fleece jacket for the hotel room
  • My Circa notebook
  • Small purse (empty)
  • Probably my yoga mat although I’m thinking about taking a yoga class or two there
  • Via and sweetener (this hotel gives you ONE free day of coffee--the rest cost $2 each)
  • A casual skirt for at night when I'm actually NOT on a mountain and am near the beach
  • A bathing suit.
Backpack:
  • Netbook
  • Kindle
  • Camera
  • All power cords
  • Baby extension cord
  • Wallet
  • Small bag for things like lip balm
  • Zune
  • Noise-canceling ear buds
  • Phone
  • Folder with boarding passes etc in it
  • Pen
  • Two granola bars
  • An apple
  • Carrot sticks
  • A boiled egg
  •  
Everything fit just fine and the only thing I would change is I miss having my slippers. They are from LL Bean and look like terrycloth covered flip flops. The flip flops I brought are OK but I like my slippers better.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wally the nut

He loves to get into things.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How I pack

Apologies for how the size sort of hoses the page but if I don't use the extra large picture size option, you can't see the text on the pictures.

My mother was curious about how I pack, given that I use a 19" suitcase and very rarely check my bag. I will say it mostly comes down to being willing to reuse clothing and also the luck of the draw--I'm not very tall and I don't have large feet. If either were true, packing would be a lot tougher.




Edited to add my packing list for this trip (I’m wearing the italicized items on the plane):

Suitcase:
  • Suit jacket
  • Suit pants
  • Five short-sleeved tops
  • One camisole
  • One very light-weight wool sweater
  • Dress pants
  • Underwear
  • Running shorts
  • Exercise top
  • Sports bra
  • Running socks
  • Yoga pants (also sleep in them, hey I don’t sweat THAT much)
  • Sleep top
  • Running shoes
  • Black dress shoes
  • New lace up dress shoes
  • Hair dryer
  • Two brushes
  • Cosmetics
  • Shampoo etc (in the 3-1-1 bag)
  • One large scarf (like a pashmina)
  • Zip up fleece jacket for the hotel room
  • My Circa notebook
  • Small purse (empty)
  • Probably my yoga mat although I’m thinking about taking a yoga class or two there
  • Via and sweetener (this hotel gives you ONE free day of coffee--the rest cost $2 each)
  • A casual skirt for at night when I'm actually NOT on a mountain and am near the beach
  • Maybe a bathing suit. We'll see. 
Backpack:
  • Netbook
  • Kindle
  • Camera
  • All power cords
  • Baby extension cord
  • Wallet
  • Small bag for things like lip balm
  • Zune
  • Noise-canceling ear buds
  • Phone
  • Folder with boarding passes etc in it
  • Pen
  • Two granola bars
  • Probably an apple
  • Definitely carrot sticks

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Today's shenanigans

Cats love boxes and bags. Who needs to buy toys when we have those on hand?





Cats are also good for inducing sleep.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An anniversary

I am the family historian; significant dates in the family tend to mean a lot to me and I remember those events each year. So it's not surprising that I'm marking this anniversary too. One year ago today, I took this picture after I'd wrangled cats into their carriers and hauled them up the front stairs to the foyer.



My mom has asked me how I thought to take that picture (which I took from the bottom step because as you can see, the apartment was already pretty flooded). I took it because somewhere in my chaotic thoughts, I feared that the insurance company might not believe we had gotten flooded. I know that sounds silly now but that's why I took it--to prove we'd sustained water damage.

I wrote a lot about the flood over the course of reconstruction; if you search on the word flood, you'll find those posts.

What happened on October 28, 2009 sure opened my eyes to how devastating water damage can be, and how pervasive it is. Today I find myself identifying with people whose homes get flooded in a way I never did before.

I'd love to say this whole thing is behind us, but it's not. I am still jumpy when I hear unexpected water sounds. and Wally is far more skittish than he was prior to the flood.

I think I wrote about what he did that day. I was in the bedroom trying desperately to stuff unwilling cats into their carriers. He got free of his and ran out to the office area which is right by the back door. I know he wanted to get to his safe spot, our cat perch. But it was out in the deepest parts of the water near the door, which meant he ran ran through the rising water. (Quick aside, yeah that sounds like a cliche but honestly our house was filling like a bathtub.) He came tearing back into the bedroom with wet legs and tummy, all wide eyed and freaked out. I have never seen a more terrified animal than Wally was that minute.

So the event is over but the effects linger on. It's that way with any significant event, I guess; over time the immediate intensity of emotion fades but it probably never goes away entirely.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I shave my legs every day

A true story

Warning! Ben, you won't like this post.

I am a pale woman with dark, dark hair. I’m also practically hairless except for my head but because my hair is dark and my skin is pale, things show up a lot. My sister has a lot more hair than I do but she’s blond so it doesn’t show unless she’s backlit. Then it looks like she has a nimbus around her legs. For years I shaved every other day only because the little that grew was so dark.

Anyway—I was having dinner with Kent in 2001 (NOT a date, this was two years into the three years I wouldn’t date him). We’d put a large dent into a bottle of wine and out of nowhere he reached down and felt my calf under my pants. I was VERY taken aback and asked him what on earth he thought he was doing.

He said, “I was checking to see how seriously you took having dinner tonight.”

Well, dear reader, I had not shaved that day because that day wasn’t a shave day. I was mortified. That should have told me that I was more interested in Kent than I knew, but no, I still made him wait another year. I did, however, start shaving my legs every day.

The end.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who needs an alarm clock?

Not me, that’s for sure. In the last 10 years I seemed to have developed the ability to tell myself what time I want to wake up—and that’s when I wake up. In fact, I’ve gotten so good at this, that I rarely set an alarm. Even when I do set one (as I did last night because 4AM is sure early), I wake up before the alarm goes off anyway. So far this ability has worked in all the US time zones I’ve been in, although I haven’t tested it in Europe or Asia.

We also have Eddie as an alarm clock. I wish I could get a recording of how his meows change when he’s trying to get Kent up. He has a very different meow that’s just about impossible to ignore. Kent has told me he does wake up when Eddie comes in to wake him up; usually he just rolls over and goes back to sleep. That’s what he did just now, I’m sure, because Eddie was hollering away in our bedroom at Kent. He probably head-butted Kent, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lazy, sure

But also entertaining. I was looking back at my blog and picked out some funny (to me anyway) videos of the boys.

Are they parrots?

Addendum

How Wally attacks things

We are mean

Merry Christmas

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's complicated

Kent says he doesn't know all the rules, he just knows that I have rules. So for your amusement, here are a few of the Rules According to Elizabeth:
  • Coffee is meant to be drunk only in the morning and only before brushing your teeth.
  • Peppermint ice cream is the best ice cream flavor in the universe.
  • Breakfast can be served for dinner; the reverse is not true.
  • Toast and bacon should be nearly burnt.
  • Fruit should almost always be eaten raw; the exceptions can be counted on one hand.
  • Also fruit and chocolate are an unnatural pairing—both are great separately but combining them brings ruin.
  • Brussel sprouts are disgusting in any form.
  • Always clean from the top down.
  • Toilet paper should be pulled from under the roll, not over the top—this is so you use less of it. Not that we do this since we have a cat who destroys the roll no matter how it’s hung. We keep ours in a storage canister by the toilet.
  • Dust after vacuuming.
  • Meat is a condiment and not a major portion of the meal.
  • Dogs are good but cats are much, much better.
  • I can’t eat restaurant pizza now, thanks to Kent. His pizza trumps any other pizza in the world.
  • Steel-cut oats makes for a perfect breakfast; just add a little brown sugar and enjoy.
  • Most comedies are stupid.
  • Chick flicks are too.
  • The book version of something is almost always better than the movie. The only exception I can think of—and it wasn’t better although it was as good—was Name of the Rose.
  • And because of the books and movies rule, I rarely watch movies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hawaii, Youth Challenge version

<----This picture is what most people think of when they think about Hawaii. And yes, I did see this part of Hawaii when I came down the mountain each day to my hotel.







But this video is the Hawaii I see at work. The site is located up a mountain at just over 5,000 feet elevation, and used to be a correctional facility. The Youth Challenge program is scheduled to open in January, which is why I've gone there twice and have two or three more trips planned.


Monday, October 18, 2010

I think I was missed

I have Wally sitting on my desk with his face up against the exhaust fan of my laptop (he likes the warm air blowing on him). Eddie is pretending to be a monorail cat looking something like this across the top of my chair. And Chloe is milling around at my feet.

It’s good to be home. It would be even better if Kent were here too but he’s in Detroit this week and some of next week also. Then I leave for Hawaii. Rotten timing, huh. But this beats unemployment by a long shot.

Edited to add that last night when I went to bed, I got swarmed and then Eddie insisted on getting under the covers with me. He does this by yelling (there's no other way to describe it) and head butting. Then he snuggled me. There's something very comforting about a warm kitty body pressed up against you purring away. At least it is to me; I know others who would be horrified at the thought of a cat under the covers. Your loss!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stories

I’m not sure that I can write well enough to say what I want to say without this devolving into something maudlin and sentimental. If it goes there, please pretend it didn't happen because that’s not my intent at all.

People tell me things. Kent says he’s never seen anyone get strangers to talk about themselves the way I do. I don’t agree with him that I have a particular talent in this area although I do make connections with people and they do tell me things. Everyone has a story and almost everyone wants to tell their stories. Mostly I like making those connections because I’ve talked with a lot of exceptionally interesting people. Conversation like that makes flying go by faster.

Yesterday was one of the rare times I sort of wished I hadn’t started a conversation—although as I think back, I’m pretty sure he would have said what he did anyway. On the flight from Minneapolis to Boston, I got the first class upgrade which was perfect timing for me. It’s a lot easier to sleep in first class than in coach. I think the man in 1C also got an upgrade because he came up from coach. I asked him if he lived in the Minneapolis area (he did), and asked what was taking him to Boston. Business, he said, although it was going to be a very short trip. In fact he was returning on Monday, because he needed to go see his son in the burn unit.

Turns out his son is in the burn unit because he’d gotten notice that the bank was foreclosing on his house. The dad said he flipped out and threw himself onto a fire in the back yard. It took four male fire fighters to pull him off.

I know from personal experience that this recession is really bad and affecting a lot of people. Kent and I have both had long periods of unemployment, I have friends who also need jobs, and my younger son had to sell his house in the Detroit area as a short sale which meant he lost everything he’d put down on the house and also lost money on the improvements they made. But I haven’t talked with someone who has been so affected by the recession in the way this man’s son has. And to make things even more horrible, his other son is also losing a house to foreclosure.

Who knows how or why both sons face financial disasters. All I know is that yesterday I sat next to someone who needed to tell his story. The least I could do was listen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My favorite things and other observations

Here’s a random list of things I miss when I’m gone:

  • Kent (this is a no brainer but true nevertheless)
  • Eddie sitting on the back of the toilet trying to swat the water as I brush my teeth or wash my face
  • Wally chirp-meowing at me in the middle of the night so I’ll roll over on my left side so he can flop on me (the right side doesn’t work for him)
  • Our coffee in the morning—Via beats the crap in the hotel rooms but I do prefer to have fresh-brewed stuff in the AM
  • Our shower
  • Our bed—even though it’s a cheap mattress and topper from Ikea, it’s really comfy
  • Taking my lunch to work—we’re good cooks and I like what we make

Weird and/or interesting things I saw on this trip:

  • Saw a man with a whole lot of ink, which isn’t unusual. But the tattoo at the base of his neck sure was: it was a very pink lipstick kiss mark.
  • Sat near three burly construction guys carrying three enormous boxes of fresh bread from Hilo to Honolulu—plus they had several bags of chocolate
  • Got introduced as the only white person in a meeting while in Hilo (it’s true, I was, everyone else was of mostly Hawaiian or Guam or Philippino descent)
  • Watched the feral kitties hunt in the exposed rocks at low tide around 4 AM the first day
  • Heard a 35-ish year old man call his wife “mommy” (yes they had two children but EW) (apologies if you call your spouse "mommy" or "daddy")

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The perch

Our cat perch has three levels; the bottom level is a tube that runs horizontally and the cats do use it when they are in the mood to zoom. Then there's a larger tray for the second level and a smaller tray on top. The top tray is usually, but not always, Wally's domain.

Last night Chloe did something she rarely does: she got on the perch. That triggered Eddie's bullying instinct (and yes this cat can be a bully). Here's what happened.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My mother will be so proud

Last night Kent and I celebrated our anniversary by having dinner at Tremont 647. We opted for the Chef’s Tastings (five course) with the wine pairing. As Kent said, there was remarkable freedom in not deciding what we were going to eat or drink. All we had to do was inform the chef of any allergies. Given my recent throat closing experience with shrimp and my previous, known, issues with scallops, shellfish aren’t in my diet anymore. Otherwise we didn’t put any restrictions on what we were served.

My mother (and to be honest, my husband) will tell you I’m a picky eater. It’s true, I’ll own that label, although I do my best not to inflict my pickiness on anyone else. So I put a lot of trust in the chef's selections and to be honest, I wondered if I would regret it.

I’m pleased to say I ate—and liked—almost everything we were served. I gently pushed the braised spinach with garlic aside (I cannot abide spinach in any form or at any stage in the growing process). I also gave Kent all the bananas in the banana cream pie—I grudgingly eat bananas but they have to have a fair amount of green on each end and not taste like bananas. Honestly the only reason I do eat them is because they are a cheap, readily available source of potassium. Otherwise I find them vile and can’t understand why anyone would eat them or put them in banana bread.

Anyway.

The best part of the meal, aside from being with Kent (and I mean that so don’t roll your eyes), was the wine pairings. We are not particularly good at pairing wine with food; we tend to drink big, bold reds with everything even after reading Food & Wine for years. The pairings worked for me for all five courses although Kent didn’t think the port with the banana cream pie worked. It’s probably because he actually ate those bananas, silly man.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The way they sleep

Over the course of the last year, we’ve realized we’re sharing our bed with all the cats. That wasn’t always the case because they’d cycle through or one or the other would stick to a favorite place in the living room but nowadays you’ll usually find all three with us for at least part of the night.

Eddie prefers to sleep in the hammock between Kent’s legs. Since Kent sleeps on his stomach and hogs the bed I mean sleeps with his legs far apart, there’s plenty of room for a big cat to make himself comfortable. He also likes to crawl under the covers between us when it's cooler so he's started doing that again recently. It's sort of like having a fur covered purring electric blanket.

Wally favors a couple of different places. He likes to sleep directly on feet and sometimes he can do this and kitty pile with Eddie. But sometimes he prefers my feet. And the third position is pretty sweet: he will come up to my face and meow at me (I guess he knows I wake up easily) until I roll over to my left side to pet him. Then he sort of throws himself down so that his spine is plastered firmly against my front. I usually pet him for a bit but because his purrs are so soothing and I can feel the purrs through his body, I generally fall asleep pretty quickly.

Chloe likes to perch on Kent’s back or come up to me and pat my face with her paw. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty startling way to wake up and I’m not a fan of it. But all she wants is to be pulled in close to me and petted. She purrs like a maniac and then we’re all happy.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Slightly obsessed with bags

Not handbags, nope, those don’t really interest me in the least. Oh I have a few but I don’t really much care about them and when we flooded (holy cow almost a year ago), I guarantee you I didn’t give them a passing thought. They all survived as it turned out, despite being under water.

Laptop bags are a different story. I am irresistibly drawn to the laptop bag section of any store that carries them. I look at them online, in magazines and catalogs and I’m always positive that this bag, ah this bag will be The One That Solves My Laptop Storage Issues. I have plenty of bags I've tried and discarded (usually to Goodwill or to someone who wants it). Here are the ones that are still in the house:

I have a Franklin Covey pseudo-messenger bag that looks like an oversized purse (got it at Costco so at least it wasn’t pricy). I like the interior but the bag has two handles and one is always falling off my shoulders. Plus I've realized as much as I like the look of a messenger bag, I find them very awkward to carry through airports when I'm usually walking fast or outright running. So it sits in a closet waiting for us to take a picture of it so we can sell it on Craig’s List.

I have a Targus backpack laptop bag that is pretty close to perfect (you can't tell by the pictures but this bag has annoying yellow pulls and the logo is yellow, too). I can shove everything in there, all cords and mice and extension cords plus my toiletry bag and my Kindle and still have room for a water bottle and my wallet. I’ve used it for almost four years and love almost everything about it. The flaws are few but they are fatal. First, when it's full, it doesn't really fit under the seat in front of me because it's too wide. Plus it looks like it belongs on campus.

I found another very strong contender at Levenger (the Higher Ground Laptrap) and managed to get it on sale for a ridiculously low price. Again, I love most things about this bag including the way it looks. However, it's a messenger bag (note to self, never ever buy another messenger bag), and I can’t fit everything in well because the pockets don’t expand at all; there’s no way to stuff anything in there. It's a great bag if I need to haul a laptop between home and office but it's fairly useless on my trips.

But I think this time I really have found the perfect bag. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Booq Squeeze Bag. Even though it’s a backpack, it looks clean and tidy with not a hint in the world of college backpack to it. And the interior slots and spaces are amazing. Even if you aren't obsessed with laptop bags the way I am, click through to the link and check out the pictures of the interior.

I’ll be field testing this bad boy on Wednesday when I fly to Hawaii. Stay tuned for an update after I get back.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The problem of pain

With apologies to C. S. Lewis regarding the title, this is a slightly different blog entry for me. By the way, he is my favorite author ever; if I could take the collected works of just one author with me into banishment, I’d take his.

A few years ago, I ended up with chronic pain in my abdomen as a result of all the surgery I’ve had. I am apparently a scar tissue growing machine and I’d also developed an incisional hernia from having had six major surgeries. Long story not quite so long, after being on a pain management plan for close to a year, I had a seventh major abdominal surgery to fix that hernia. Post-op, my surgeon told me the reason that surgery took twice as long as he’d anticipated was because he’d removed massive amounts of scar tissue from all parts of my abdomen before he could proceed with the repair.

I’ve had pain off and on since and figure it comes with the territory of being me. Some people get bad joints, others bad backs and I just happen to grow a lot of scar tissue after surgery. Since I’ve had so many, I’ve been able to grow a bumper crop. Last week, I returned to the pre-seventh surgery levels of pain. I’m confident that this pain is from that scar tissue yanking things around inside; I had an unusually physically demanding week in New Jersey doing a lot of movements that require twisting around. Those kinds of movements are no longer kind to me and simply walking was next to impossible.

I’ve been reading the blog of a woman I know from high school; she understands pain from a perspective most of us will hopefully never experience. Returning to that kind of pain last week made me think about something she'd written about pain, how I handle pain, and why I do it that way. Here’s an excerpt from what she wrote:
I started thinking about how poorly in general, society handles people in chronic pain and the glib ways we expect people to deal with it, usually based on our experience with minor or major aches of short duration. There are societally appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with pain--1) Silent grimaces or pained smiles are good manners; yelps or verbal expletives are poor manners, 2) Complaining is being whiny, suffering silently is being stoic, 3) Working through (or exercising through) the pain is lauded as admirable; barely functioning (or not functioning at all) is seen as lazy, 4) Taking pain killers for pain means you are morally weak; being proud of not taking pain killers means you are morally strong, and 5) Continuing to have pain and not being able to control it by force of prayer and mind is a sign of poor character; overcoming pain is a sign of good character.
I find that I judge myself most harshly of all when I’m in pain. I feel like I’ve failed to if I admit I’m in pain—even when I’m throwing up because of it. How stupid is that? So most of last week I beat myself up mentally while hurting physically. That is not the kind of woman I want to be.

Now, a week later I am as close to pain free as I ever get these days. The lesson for me is pretty clear: I need to pay attention when things start flaring up and even more, I need to remember that feeling pain isn’t a sign of weakness or moral failing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kitties in Seattle

First: the picture is the view from my room. We're here to evaluate potential locations for our client's annual workshop. Last year we held it in San Diego and next year it will be in Seattle. I'm staying at the Grand Hyatt and because they want to impress us, I'm in an executive suite. I'd like my apartment in Boston to have these views.

Now to the blog stuff.

I've always been surprised by how many homeless people stay in Boston year round to beg and panhandle, especially given how nasty the winters can be. So I wasn't surprised that Seattle has as many people begging and panhandling as Boston; this climate has got to be a lot better for anyone who stays outdoors a lot. I was very surprised at how many had dogs with them. You’ll see that a little bit in Boston but in Seattle it almost seemed like having a dog or three was required in order to beg for money.

Generally I don’t give money in that situation. I’d rather donate money or goods to groups that can do a lot more with my money, and help a lot more people. Until yesterday, I’d given money once to a guy who was out of work and desperate. He hit a strong note with me, and I cried a bit after I left him, both for him and for me.

Yesterday as I was heading back to the hotel from a fruitless mission to find a Washington state bear, I saw a guy with what I at first thought were two small dogs. You see where this is going, I’m sure. Yes, they were two kitties and looked to be in good shape with glossy fur and not skeletal at all. I petted one of them (a small gray tiger, not a tawny gray tiger but a white/gray tiger—very striking) and admired the other, out of reach, tuxedo kitty. And yes, I gave him money.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The sandwich box

I got this sandwich box when we lived in Kansas City; we’ve been what a former boss of mine called lunch bringers for a long time. But the sandwich box doesn’t actually work all that well. The bread doesn’t stay fresh in there, and peanut butter tends to rub up against the sides of the box and make a sticky mess. While it’s not good for the environment, I prefer to use a sandwich bag.

I took this box along on one of my business trips a few years ago. I put a half sandwich (in a baggie, natch) and some carrot sticks in it and had a decent enough lunch that day when I was traveling. I gave myself permission to toss the box if it became a pain in the butt during that trip but as you can see, the box made it home. I’ve taken it on probably a dozen trips since then and each time I think that trip will be the one where the box doesn’t make it home. I came this close :: to tossing it in New Jersey; I’m a little surprised I brought it home.

Now I’m off again—Seattle this week—and I’ll be taking it with me. We’ll see if it makes the journey home. Chances are good; I go to Hawaii next week. Hawaii is a very long trip and healthy food is nice to have.

Right this second, the cats are circling my suitcase in the living room. I had to get up at 2:30 AM (did not know there was such an hour) and in the interest of letting Kent sleep, all my things are out in the living room. The cats are not pleased. Fortunately Kent's in town this week so they won't be entirely alone. They have Pinky.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Busy, busy bees

Today marks the first official day both Kent and I are employed and at home at the same time. Yesterday we had to be very productive—the house was a dusty, furry mess, laundry threatened to overtake us and we didn’t have any food in the house. Here’s a list of Sunday's activities:

  • Clean the bathroom
  • Wash, dry and put away all clothes (that last bit is essential in a small place like ours)
  • Make a menu list for the week
  • Make a grocery list
  • Get the groceries & stop by Target
  • De-fur the house (never-ending process with three cats in 1,000 square feet)
  • Bake bread (Kent has turned into a fantastic baker)
  • Make spicy vegetable soup for lunches
  • Make curried chicken for later in the week
  • Steam rice for same
  • Make steel cut oats for my breakfasts
  • Make pizza for dinner tonight
  • Make boiled eggs for lunches
  • Fix the toilet (it tended to run a bit after flushing)
  • Hang a new shower curtain (old one was G-R-O-S-S)
  • Install a new shower caddy (old one got rusty)
  • Wash dishes about five separate times

This is also the first day we'll both need to cycle through the bathroom within a short amount of time. Fortunately we got a bigger water heater when we had to replace all the appliances. It's amazing how much difference 10 extra gallons of hot water make.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kitties in New Jersey

While New Jersey is an expensive state to live in, the actual area I was in last week is about as reasonable as you’ll find in the state. That meant my per diem for hotel was a measly $70 per night (I work on a government contract). You can’t find much for that price and so the best of the bad lot was the Days Inn in Bordentown.

Directly behind the hotel, the land fell away into a ravine with a creek at the bottom. It was pretty wooded and overgrown, plus people used it as their personal dumpster. It was also the home of at least three cats.

I saw them when I drove in and out of the hotel parking lot, and got slightly close to one of them before the rain drove me inside (the picture is from the hotel and I'm pretty sure that "feature" isn't supposed to be in the middle of a moat). But I didn’t get any kitty pictures; they were feral and wouldn’t let me get very near them. They were interested in me, and would stop moving away if I stopped moving toward them. I think the gray tiger with creamy blotches was the mother, although she had to be a pretty young cat herself. The other two were tuxedo kitties; those two were about the same size and smaller than the first, and all three sort of hung out near each other. They had tiny bodies with small heads, much like the feral cats I saw in Hawaii.


Our kitties bring Kent and me so much joy by living with us; when I see feral cats like these in New Jersey or the ones in Hawaii I get a bit sad. I can guess that someone somewhere dumped a cat who got pregnant by another feral cat and boom! You have a feral cat colony, living short lives, getting run over or killed by equally feral dogs or whatever and generally becoming a nuisance.

I don’t understand people who don’t get their animals fixed and I definitely don’t understand people who just dump pets somewhere else if it doesn’t work out for them. At least the person who dumped Wally and Eddie did so at our vet’s which gave them the chance to be found by someone who wanted them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random NJ observations

I’ve found three diners within ¾ mile of each other—not cool retro diners but just plain ol diners. I’ve eaten at two of them already.

People in diners talk to mere acquaintances about the most personal things. Last night I heard all about someone’s colon cancer (in remission), someone else’s son (couldn’t tell if the son was doing well or in trouble) and speculation about hunting season.

Diner food may be plain but I haven’t left hungry. Tonight I couldn’t come close to finishing it all. I had planned on having dessert (chocolate lover’s cake; the word choice made me giggle just a bit) but there’s no room in my tummy.

The Jersey accent is very different from Boston (which I already knew). It’s also different from the Philadelphia accent. Even so, I’ll probably bring some of it home with me.

Also my allergies are kicking my booty. I think it’s the ragweed but it might also be mold since where I’m training is both old and very poorly ventilated. They’ve gotten inspection reports citing the air quality as an issue. I believe it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Heading to NJ

And apparently Wally wants to go too:




Eddie got frustrated because he couldn't fit in there too, so he picked on Chloe:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A never before seen event

Yesterday, Kent said that he had both Chloe and Eddie on his lap at one time; you have to understand that Chloe doesn't kitty pile with the boys, ever. She may end up having one sleep near her but that's only because she's asleep when they edge closer to her.

Eddie was apparently racked out as only Eddie can be (just look at the picture in my blog header for a perfect example of how he sleeps). Chloe jumped up on Kent's lap and managed to find a way to have lap time with Kent--even if it did mean snuggling with Eddie. Kent said this historic event lasted about 10 minutes.


I think they look a little bit like Siamese twins.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frequent flier

The next three weeks will be a whirlwind for me. I am (unexpectedly) heading to southern New Jersey for all of next week, returning on Saturday. Then I leave for Seattle on October 5 and return on the 7th. I conclude this little bit of jetting around by flying to Hawaii on October 13 and flying home the night of the 15th although I won’t actually get home until the 16th. I’ll have two weeks at home before I head out again, almost certainly back out to Hawaii.

I just got a new smaller suitcase. I’m a pretty good packer, although truly ultra-light packers would sniff at some of the things I bring and that I use a roller bag. But the bag I was using—a 21” suitcase which meets Delta’s carry on standards—was a little bit too big and my things would fall down in the suitcase and wrinkle more. So I got a 19” bag instead.

We’ll see how it goes. I prefer to carry what I need and no more; the difference for this trip is that I also need to bring a great big honking binder, so the new suitcase may not get a debut until the Seattle trip.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In other news

I just got an email from Kent. He wrote:


Dear Elizabeth,

With this email I resign my position as house husband effective on 9/29/2010

Love,

Kent


Those words mean we are returning to a two-income family and I'm not ashamed to say I teared up reading them.

This picture isn’t actually from today but it’s pretty typical of how the cats react to news that doesn’t net them tuna water or a new toy:


If only they knew, they have a huge change coming up in their kitty lives. The boys have pretty much had a hairless one keeping them company since we got them three years ago. Well that's changing now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our rug

In addition to floating during our flood last October (and sparing the coffee table from utter ruin) and acting as a sponge during the second water invasion in July, our rug has other benefits. I think we could sleep on it like a bed because it’s very thick and since it’s 100% wool, it also blocks a lot of the cold that seeps in from the floor. I don’t think the store pictures do the rug justice, the colors are a lot more rich in real life.

But what’s really funny is to watch the three cats with the rug. Even when we brought the 12” x 12” sample home, Eddie loved the rug. He was the first to get on the full size version and today he still digs in it with his front paws almost like the rug is dirt. He also loves to roll around on it and often takes long kitty naps on it.

Wally will nap on it but not out in the open; he has to be under the coffee table and usually he prefers to nap up someplace high.

Chloe hates the rug. She’ll walk across it if I’m in the middle waiting to pet her but she lifts her paws high, almost with distaste, and doesn’t stick around long. She would much rather sleep on her back on the hard floor than touch the rug.

I offer you pictures of the two kitties who do enjoy the rug (to varying degrees).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Frugal fatigue

I thought I’d finish up the original frugal series from my tome by including this part about frugal fatigue. I didn’t invent the term and I don’t recall where I read it first, but essentially after being good for so long, we’ll start to feel deprived and get tired of the restrictions. That’s when we’re more likely to end up having dinner out a second time in a week, and then a third time because we deserve it or are so tired or we’ve been so good etc. In the early days, we lost financial ground because we didn’t actually see the damage we were doing to our savings. Now that we review our financials every month, we see the trend right away before it becomes a budget buster. This recession isn’t over, Kent doesn’t have a job and us choosing to eat out more often just hurts US.

We’ve also learned that we have to find ways to treat ourselves within our budget or else we will fail catastrophically. For us, those treats include buying an ice cream cone (or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream), or deciding that yes, this week we will eat out once and then have take-out because take-out is still cheaper than sitting down at a restaurant. The key is spending with a plan—my dear friend Cindy has the same philosophy about her diet. Six years ago she was over 100 pounds overweight and now she’s a personal trainer, certified in yoga, Pilates, spinning etc. Her tag line on her blog is “eat intentionally,” and I’ve changed it to say “spend intentionally.”

Kent pointed out that where we made the most severe budget cuts were in the areas that brought us the least pleasure (cable TV, new clothes for the non-working spouse, and minimal clothes for the working one). That’s brought us the most bang for our budget buck. Rather than spread the cut-back pain around everywhere, we completely cut some things out. Living without these low-pleasure items was easier than we thought. Even if we wound up bringing those things back into the budget, we had a very clear idea of how much we wanted to spend.

We’ve also cut out making big house purchases that fall into the want category rather than the need category. This got tested when we had to buy all our furniture again after the flood, because pretty much all of it was ruined. That was a chance for us to decide which items we really did need (not want) and hold off on the rest. So we didn’t replace my sewing cabinet, we didn’t replace the bed even though it’s got a tiny bit of rust on it, and we share one dresser (which required paring down our clothes).

If you are living on a restricted budget, where are your pitfalls? What’s likely to trip you up despite your best intentions?