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):

  • 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. 
  • 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?


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


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.


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.