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.