Thursday, December 27, 2012

Double feature

The first video is a montage of how the kitties reacted to their new, ultra swanky lounger from Kerry and Brad. We sprinkled cat nip on it because at first they were pretty wary of it.

And you can think of this second video almost as an outtake, or perhaps just more proof that Eddie can be a bit of a bully.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A kitty rumble

First, merry Christmas from all of us to you. I hope you are spending today with those you love.

Second, Eddie and Wally aren't so good at the whole brotherly love thing. Even though they're litter mates, they sometimes fight like . . . uh cats and dogs.

Here they are yesterday, on Christmas Eve:

Told you  Eddie gets piggy with the cat perch.

Monday, December 24, 2012

He's not fat, he's . . . fat

Another cat in a box picture:

And just for context and so you can truly see that no, no he doesn't fit in this box at all:

That box is missing part of the side, the part where you see Eddie's body coming out. Kent cut that bit out to put over the power strip he uses for his desk computer and light because Wally has figured out how to turn off the power.

You may think I'm exaggerating that cat's intelligence, but I'm not. He gets bored and will first try to get our attention by pawing at the front of Kent's CPU. If that doesn't work or he doesn't like the results (he's usually looking for a specific toy and we don't always get it right), he's been walking to the back of the CPU where the power strip is on the floor and then turning the power off. Well as you might imagine, that gets him attention right away . . . although I'm pretty sure it's not the kind of attention he's looking for.

And here are a couple of pictures that show how Eddie will try to force Wally off the top perch by way of his size:

The top perch is the smaller of the two perches -- you can see the second perch under Eddie but he doesn't want the bigger, lower perch. He wants the top perch.

Wally looks pretty squished, doesn't he?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Utterly random

First, a cat in a box:

And second, my hair's been long enough to braid for a while although I just got around to having Kent take a picture:

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Is losing the last 1/8 cup measuring cup from my set of Foley cups.

You may remember I wrote about the search for Foley cups. Since they are out of business, finding those measuring cups was not easy. And now we've lost both of the 1/8 cups. The handle on one cup just flat fell off, and this one didn't survive a close encounter with the disposal.

Alas, poor measuring cup!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pigs on parade

When we were in Smithfield a couple of weeks ago, we saw some of the pigs that make up their Porcine Parade. Gotta say I was tickled by the piggies and it reminded me of the cows in Kansas City (Kansas City participated in the cow parade in 2001).

So enjoy and maybe throw in an oink or two.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas decorations

If you celebrate Christmas, do you decorate your house? Put up a tree? Maybe use different plates?

I’ve written about this before, I know. But for someone who usually decorates, I haven’t done much in the last six years.
  • In 2007, we’d put our house up for sale so no decorations were allowed.
  • We spent our first Christmas in Boston in 2008, and did manage to find a ceramic tree that ended up getting knocked off the table and breaking. That’s cats for you.
  • 2009 was a challenge all the way around because we’d recently flooded and were living in a temporary place while our home underwent extensive renovations. Kent convinced me we should spend money we didn't really have to get a little tree made of Christmas decorations. 
  • In 2010, we went to Oklahoma for Christmas, I was traveling pretty much 100% and didn’t see any point to put up things only the cats would see and probably destroy. And apparently I was so swamped, I didn’t even write a blog post about Christmas that year, except my not-very-subtle hint to Kent about Despicable Me.
  • Last year, Kent surprised me with a tiny live tree which had little colored lights and teeny tiny decorations. That was pretty cool. We put up other decorations too but couldn’t hang our ornaments on the tiny tree (it was about 18 inches tall).
  • This year, we figured we wouldn’t put up the tree we bought after Christmas last year.* We’re moving in the middle of January and thought we’d save ourselves the hassle. We also feared  that Wally and Eddie would either eat the tree (remember, Wally loves plastic) or knock it over or both.

But after the events of last week in Connecticut and China, I realized I really truly did want to celebrate almost as a way of defying such evil events. I asked around about cat deterrents, found the recommended product and sprayed the snot out of the lower third of the tree. We strategically hung decorations no lower than about 18 inches off the floor and used soft ornaments at the lower levels. So far, Eddie’s tried to eat a branch just once, and both have stayed out of it.  

And now we have a place to put our presents. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

*Yes, I like live trees too, but I'm also aware of my own limitations. I remember to give the cats fresh water every day but they are quite vocal in their reminders. Trees don't really have that ability.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Boring stories of glory days

I’d already posted about my favorite Christmas music when Harriet decided to host this holiday blog go round; if you'd rather read about my four favorites plus a bonus fifth song, they're right here. Otherwise, I'll tell you a story.


So far, we've heard from:

Harriet at spynotes
Hugh at Permanent qui vive
Jeanne at Necromancy never pays
Cranky at It’s My Blog!
Readersguide at Reader’s Guide to…
Freshhell at Life in Scribbletown

Over the years I've played so many Christmas or holiday concerts that I feel a little immune to the wonders of the music. It's like watching a show from backstage, you see all the less glamorous stuff that goes on behind the curtains. And really, once you've played Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride 100 times, it gets pretty old and it's just not as much fun (unless the percussion section screws up the whip sounds, in which case it's fun in a painful sort of way).

Years ago, when I was still an oboist but could see the end of that thanks to my arm, I'd started singing more frequently although I avoided the so-called serious genres of music. I stuck mostly to rock or pop music unless specific music was requested for the gig. Although I’d been an oboist for a couple of decades, I didn’t have nearly as much vocal training as I’d had on my instrument so I was intimidated by singing anything more legitmate. I’ve watched plenty of singers who aren’t well trained try to do that, and to me it’s like putting on clothes that don’t quite fit. I was also still adjusting to not having the instrument to hide behind, and on top of that, my voice teacher refused to let me sing alto any more. "Like most women, you're a chickenshit soprano," she said.


That particular year, I'd done all the usual Christmas concerts both for the military, college and church. But we'd also scheduled a Sunday evening recital at church with the vocalists choosing what they wanted to sing. I figured I'd been studying voice for a while and my voice was in pretty good shape and besides, I wanted to try something new (and above the staff). So with my newfound vocal bravery or perhaps it was just pure foolishness, I picked an aria from The Messiah, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth. Then another singer asked if I’d sing a duet with her, also from The Messiah, And He Shall Feed His Flock. I was very flattered, she had some serious vocal chops so I said yes. 

Please don’t think for a moment that I believe my voice sounded anything like what you’ll hear in this clip or the next one. Because it most certainly did not. But I didn’t shame myself.

And I didn’t shame myself in the duet either.

That recital was a pivotal event for me. I was in my early 30s, and had been told that fall that the tendonitis I'd developed from being an oboist wasn’t going to go away, that the damage I’d already sustained was probably permanent and that I needed to stop playing. I’d been so nervous, felt so inadequate as I started doing more singing but that night showed me it would be OK. Even though singing would never be as satisfying as performing on oboe, I realized there was life for me post-oboe and my fear needed to go. So that recital marked the beginning of the end of my deep sadness over losing something that had been part of my life for a couple of decades. 

This is the eighth blog post about holiday music. Next up is My Kids' Mom at Pook and Bug. After My Kids' Mom, we have:

joyhowie at The Crooked Line
Magpie at Magpie Musing
And the bow on the package will be  a wrap up by Harriet at spynotes

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Only partially dead

I took this photo Monday morning before I left for work. I love that both of the greys are curled up in such strange, dead cat poses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Family history

We flew to Virginia Saturday for a surprise party for Ben. He's completed seminary and in fact took his oral exams that day (he passed!).

About six or eight months ago, when it was clear he'd be finishing this year, I knew I wanted to give him my grandfather's childhood Bible. For the most part, I'm the family historian among my siblings -- it's not that they don't care about our family history, it's just a lot more important to me. So I've collected various family odds and ends and as I've had the appropriate occasion, I've passed them along. For example, I saved both of my mother's childhood tea sets and gave one to my sister Amy and the other one to my sister Martha.

I'd gotten G'Pa's Bible after he died at age 95 in 2005 and just hung on to it. It's in remarkably good shape, only the binding is damaged. It's clear that this Bible was intended for children, but not because it's in some simplified language. It's not, it's a King James version, but it's got illustrations sprinkled throughout. And at the very end of the Bible, after the Book of Revelations, there's a page that says "End." That just tickles me.

Anyway, I had Kent take a picture of the inscription page. I'm pretty sure that G'Pa's sister is Anna Margaret  Wood. She was a few years older; G'Pa would have been seven the year he received this. Now it's in Ben's hands, which is where it belongs. Not only has he completed seminary, he also collects old books and Bibles, and he too is the family historian of his generation.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Brown paper packages

We shipped some things from Virginia since we didn't bring extra suitcases. The packing paper was of great interest to the cats. I love the bit at the very end when Eddie tries to groom Wally.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A big milestone

And I almost missed it.

Take a look at our family photo from two years ago:

Here's last year's picture: 

And here's the photo from this year:

Do you see the difference? Miss Alison is a big girl now, she wasn’t held by anyone.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A few of my favorite things

One of my friends on Facebook asked what our favorite Christmas songs or carols are. And I couldn’t just give a title. There are reasons these songs make my tops list,

Little Drummer Boy. In 7th grade, I switched from playing flute to oboe which was probably the best musical decision I ever made. I know I’m not the only one to believe that personalities and instruments have to match. If you like being in a group, you should play something like flute, clarinet, violin or viola. If you don’t mind standing out, or even positively want to stand out, then consider the double reeds – oboe, English horn, bassoon. So the oboe was a good fit for me.

Every year, the junior high advanced band would play Little Drummer Boy at the Christmas concert (this was when Moby Dick was a minnow so the concerts were still called that), and that arrangement had an oboe duet right at the beginning. Now I’d only been playing oboe for about six or seven weeks so I was still really learning what it meant to be a double reed player, and I wasn’t in the advanced band, I was in the beginner band. But the advanced band had just one oboist so I was tapped to play second oboe in that piece. I’m sure we sounded like dying ducks but I was so exhilarated by playing that piece and so convinced of my pure awesomeness on the oboe that I never looked back.

Breath of Heaven. I heard this piece about 20 years ago on Amy Grant’s second Christmas album and along with most CCM listeners, was captivated by the words and the melody. Amy has said before that she’s not the best singer and knows there are other artists out there who are far more talented than she, but to me her voice fits this piece perfectly. I love that she’s singing from the perspective of a young, scared, very pregnant Mary wondering why she was picked to be the mother of Christ and whether or not she can actually do it.

‘twas da Night: Take 6 did an amazing version of this old favorite which made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it and hasn’t stopped being entertaining since. Plus they’re just amazing vocalists.

Carol of the Bells. I flat out love this song whether it’s done as an instrumental or vocal version.

Chant Noel. OK, this isn’t one song, it’s an entire Christmas CD put out by the Benedictine Monks about 20 years ago as a follow up to their first CD. I don’t know Latin at all but I still love this CD and it’s on my Christmas playlist.

And here's something I posted on Facebook yesterday, which is well worth the four minutes it takes to watch:

What about you? What are your favorite Christmas songs?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A new hiding place

This time it's Wally in there, but I've seen Eddie do the same thing. Whichever cat wants to hide will go in our closet, knock over the hamper and then make himself comfortable in the dirty clothes.

(I finally deleted enough photos to post a new photo. Whew.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


OK that title dates me. But yes, it's the end of the world as we know it or at least it's the end of the amount of free storage I have with Google for my photos. I had a cute little cat post all ready to go with a picture but boom! I'm out of free storage.

So I need to go through all my bazillion and one photos and prune out what I can, because frankly I'm reluctant to pay to store more.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We are family

We had such a great time in Virginia—so glad we went, so very glad Jordan and Sophie could be there also and very grateful that Ben and Jen are willing to host all of us.

We met Colin. Just look at those eyes! They aren't exactly brown (sigh) but they are also very different from Alison's eyes and Eliot's too. Both of those kids have crystal blue eyes. Colin's eyes sometimes look gray or navy blue.

Alison has changed so much. She's looking very grown up, not like she's in kindergarten. Some of that is her height (she's nearly four feet tall at age five), but a lot has to do with her new sense of confidence. This visit, she got to make cake pops with Sophie; watching her break the eggs and use the mixer was a lot of fun.
This picture shows perfectly how Colin is--a little love bug who grabs on tight and likes to cuddle. He's really fond of clutching hair in his little fists and can get a death grip you wouldn't believe. I'm not sure how Jen still has any hair left on her head.
Isn't this a great picture of Jen, Alison, Eliot and Colin? I swear Jen stays calm through anything.

Sophie posted this story yesterday about Jen:
The best mommy quote this holiday was definitely when 2 1/2 yr old Eliot asked his mom to get him out of the highchair. Jen, who had a baby in her arms, said "I can't get you right now Eliot, how about you sing a song to yourself."

Jordan and Sophie are just the coolest, always upbeat and looking to make sure everyone else is having a great time too. Kent took some great pictures of them "dancing" with Alison and Eliot and you should see the grins on the kids' faces.
OK, bear with me. Yes,it's another picture of Colin but this one is pretty cute even if he is crying.
Kent and I had gotten Eliot probably three different sets of train tracks from Ikea last spring before we left Boston.

I'd protested that three were too many plus the package said they were for children ages three and up and that Eliot would only be two at Thanksgiving, all to no avail.

I'm here to say that Kent was right.
Eliot loved his train tracks and splitters and whatever else was in there and so did everyone else.

Finally, here's our annual family picture. We clean up OK, don't we?

Running on empty

There can be only one
When we moved to Boston, I could not find my favorite brand of deodorant anywhere. It's not like I use something unusual, it's just Arrid solid unscented. Apparently the only unscented solid deodorant available in the Boston area also had to be the kind that isn’t supposed to leave those white deodorant streaks. That sounds like a great idea, only whatever is used to make the deodorant streak-free seriously bothers my skin.

That year, we’d gone to visit Ben and Jen for Easter. Kent picked up probably half a dozen sticks of my deodorant at the local store, which left me in good, non-smelly shape for a while.

About six months later, we flooded and poof – no deodorant. At the time, I wasn’t sure if the remaining sticks had been ruined or tossed but either way, I only had a single sad little stick. So the next trip we made, which happened to be to see Jordan and Sophie in Nashville, I bought another six or so sticks.

That last deodorant purchase was in December, 2009. As it turns out, the deodorant involved in the flood had not been ruined, only packed away by the restoration company. So by April, 2010, we had about 10 sticks of deodorant.

Today we’re down to one in use and one left in stock. I haven’t bought deodorant in close to three years. I was a little afraid my brand wasn't around any more, but I did a little scouting and I think I'm in luck. 

So much to say

I learned to type on an IBM Selectric II in high school.  Once I got over how weird a QWERTY keyboard was, I got really fast as long as I used an electric typewriter. A couple of times I was forced to use a manual typewriter while in the Army; I learned that my hands, especially my pinky fingers, just weren’t all that strong and I gratefully returned to the world of electric typewriters.

Later on in my early 20s, I used word processing machines which I absolutely loved. Those early programs used command key combination to move the cursor, they didn’t use mice. I was all about those combinations and couldn’t see why on earth you’d ever need a mouse. The combos just seemed so much more efficient and I got even faster with the keyboard. At the time, I thought that mice were rather like Betamax videos. Boy was I wrong. So of course I learned to use a mouse and stayed super-fast with the keyboard.

Fast forward to the last five years or so and now we’ve got smart phones and tablets with touch screens, which I mostly love. But I don’t do so well typing on a touch screen. I find it slow and frustrating and unless I’m typing something short, like a Facebook update or a quick reply to an email, I stay away from them.

But it’s killing me. I was gone eight days and had some things I wanted to post, longer emails I wanted to write and I was stymied by the lack of a keyboard to go with my tablet (I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1). I bought a non-OEM Bluetooth keyboard, which paired with my tablet easily . . . only the (, 9 and . keys didn’t work. That’s sort of a problem, don’t you think?

Other than that gap, I love my tablet. But it’s a pretty big gap. I’ve been looking at the Microsoft Surface but don’t care for the operating system (Windows RT). They’ll release another version of the Surface sometime early next year with Windows 8 on it and I’m intrigued. Kent's intrigued that I'm intrigued because he'll get my tablet if I do switch.

What kills me is that I know the kids growing up using touch screens will look back at keyboards the way I did at those clunky manual typewriters. They'll wonder how we managed to get anything done with physical keyboards. I'll just shake my cane and tell them to get off my lawn.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still alive

But we're traveling, so posting is spotty. Plus I need to solve some technical issues (portable keyboard struggles with a period and parens, plus my camera's SD card is too big for the tablet). So right now, I type the periods with my touch screen and most of the words with the keyboard. Apparently I'm not the only one to have this issue. I may  just need to break down and call customer service, I guess. Or just get used to using a combo approach to typing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A sweet story

We’ve been ordering Christmas presents and having them sent to Ben and Jen’s house (we have a small Christmas celebration there after Thanksgiving with Ben and his family and Jordan and Sophie). Kent’s address entry in Amazon for Ben et al says “Ben, Jen, Alison, Eliot, Milo and Smoochie.” Milo and Smoochie are the cats.

When one of the gifts Kent ordered arrived in Virginia yesterday, Alison was very concerned because Colin’s name wasn’t listed. She noticed the omission and said, "I guess Nana doesn't know about Colin."

We know! I promise, we know and can't wait to meet him.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pics please

Here are pictures of the fabric we got in Italy:

Kent's orange/black houndstooth woven wool.

My lambswool woven wool.
It's kind of difficult to sew in our current place. I think it was easier in some ways to sew in our apartment in Boston, only because getting everything out was slightly easier and we both had a routine in how we got things done.

We will almost certainly use the front room in the new place as our sewing room. We use our dining room table to cut out patterns and the sewing cabinet will look nice in there, not like there's a sewing machine hanging around in the room at all. Plus the built-ins at the end of the room will hold all sorts of things, including fabric, supplies, equipment and so on. Kent's bummed we don't move until the middle of January because he'd like to get cracking on that shirt right now. Oh well.

Easy like Sunday morning

Lional Ritchie, cat style.

He looks worried, doesn't he? But he was actually very content to stay in the bag for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pictures at an exhibition

OK not really--pictures at an inspection is more accurate.

Take a look.

And here's a video of the back yard:

More about Stuff

A couple of days ago, I caught up with the blogs I missed while out of town and ran across this blog entry about storage. Her post tied in nicely with the way I’ve been thinking lately about things or stuff.

I’ll never be one of the minimalists who owns just 100 items or less. I’ll probably never participate in the 333 project (although I could pretty easily). But I do subscribe to the idea that whatever I have in my home should serve a useful purpose and be pleasing to the eye. What I don’t find pleasing is seeing stuff cluttering horizontal surfaces, or a house stuffed to the gills with things.

I’ve also always thought that paying for storage at one of those U-Store places is nothing but waste. Get Rich Slowly wrote an excellent article about paying monthly fees to store things you aren’t even using.

I feel the same way about buying home storage solutions only to accommodate more things. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about having some containers to put your lunch in. Or a case for a laptop or some other electronic device. I’m talking about boxes and bins to keep things you’re not using, almost certainly will never use again and yet those things have to stay in your house, weighing you down, taking up space in your home and your mind. That kind of stuff.

One of the most freeing experiences after we’d rebuilt our apartment and our clothing came back from the clothing restoration place was realizing a whole lot of them, in fact, were ruined. We tossed about 2/3 of our clothing, including shoes and coats. Kent says that he missed a couple of pairs of shoes and his winter boots because winter boots and good, comfortable shoes you can walk in are a necessity, and it's really hard to find shoes to fit his size 11 1/2 wide feet. I was luckier in the shoe department or I'd have felt that way too, but otherwise we didn't really miss anything else.

What I learned from the entire experience, not just losing the clothing but losing the furniture and being out of our home for five months, was that my things are not me. They aren't what makes my living space a home. Even more, though, I realized that my things own me as much as I own them, and they take up mental and emotional space I'd rather use elsewhere. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There's no place like home

We started looking at houses a couple of months ago. I'll spare you the long, drawn out process and not tell you about how awful a lot were and how odd it was to have sellers turn down opportunities to show their houses to buyers. For being still in the middle of a housing sale melt-down, people have some strange ideas about what their properties are worth and how accommodating they should (or shouldn't) be.

It's enough to say we looked at well over 30 houses and probably closer to 50. Some had floor plans that didn't work for us (too chopped up for our taste), or were much too big, or too dated in a bad way (I'm looking at you, mirrored walls in dining rooms), or clearly had had water damage in the basement (first thing I checked). Some had real potential for us (an amazing Brady Bunch-style California split level that was horribly overpriced and someone else bought it at that crazy high price, or a great split entry ranch that was just wonderful except for the neighborhood), and of course we saw a couple owned by smokers (although two out of all those houses is not bad).

About three weeks ago, I ran across one that seemed to have everything we wanted: cozy but not a chopped up floor plan, high ceilings in at least one of the living areas, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and small enough (just over 1600 square feet). The price was a bit high but the neighborhood is fantastic and homes have sold well there for years. We saw it the Sunday before we left for Rome and put in an offer the next day. Although it took the entire week, and involved three rounds of counter-offers, the seller accepted our final offer on Friday.

If you click here, you can see some not very good pictures of the house. I pulled these from the listing and I hope to get better ones on Saturday during the inspection.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Veni, vidi, vici

What a fun trip! We unexpectedly got upgraded to first class the entire trip—including the overseas route—which meant we could actually sleep from JFK to Rome because the international first class had the beds that lie flat. Plus the food was good.

If you ever go to Rome, you should know that much like Boston, Rome is a walking city. And just like Boston, the sidewalks and streets are as likely to be made from old cobblestones and very uneven. Good, flat walking shoes are a requirement unless you want to take bus tours. We prefer to walk so we caught the hotel shuttle into the city after we’d landed, cleared immigrations and gotten cleaned up at the hotel.

Last time we were in Rome, neither of us fully grasped just how many Roman ruins there are in the city. Sure, we’d seen the Coliseum but only at night, and we never did get over to any of the other ruins. I can’t tell you the name of these ruins but as you can tell from this picture, they go on and on. We didn’t walk down through them but instead kept on going and found the Coliseum, this time in rainy daylight. After that we split a bottle of wine and had pizza for what ended up being both lunch and dinner. Let me tell you, the house wine in Italy is pretty tasty.

We also ended up seeing the changing of the guard at the President’s palace. The band played in the rain for the whole ceremony and then played a little concert. I was freaked out that the oboist marched with his oboe and wondered how many reeds he’s broken doing that. I never marched with my oboe, I played piccolo when we marched.

I am quite proud I stayed up until 7 PM that night although I slept the next 13 hours.
We had two goals on Monday: see the Sistine Chapel and find two fabric stores we’d read about online (Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti and Fatucci Tessuti).

I’d foolishly thought that a rainy Monday in November would reduce the number of tourists at the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel but boy was I wrong. All I could think was how awful it must get in the summer, what with the crowds and the heat. I also thought it was worth braving the crush of people. Pictures don’t tell the entire story of any part of the museum or of the chapel. Fortunately we didn’t need to see St. Peter’s again because that line was over two hours long—the line for the museum and chapel was at most 15 minutes.

We did find the fabric stores and I’ve never been so overwhelmed in my life. But I wasn’t leaving Rome without some cloth, doggone it, and so I got two meters of a lovely lambswool woven fabric that is just wonderful to touch. It’s a sort of purple/wine color and I’ll make a skirt out of it. Kent picked up an orange and black houndstooth woven wool (trust me, it does not look garish or Halloweeny at all); he's got plans to make a long-sleeve shirt. We wandered around some more, had more pizza and wine and then headed back to the hotel.

So that’s Rome. I’m not sure when we’ll do another quick jaunt like this one or the one to London last month. Maybe in the spring after we move.

Oh right, I didn’t tell you about that yet, did I? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let's go to Rome

We are off for another short trip, this time to Rome. We went there the day after Kent asked me to marry him and got to see pretty much everything except the Sistine Chapel (couldn't see it because we got to Rome really late due to massive snow in London).

Rome was in the grip of a crazy, record-setting cold snap then and we froze our butts off. This time it's supposed to be in the upper 60s/low 70s but rain the whole time. Oh well. Apparently we aren't supposed to see Rome in good weather.

See you on Wednesday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Take the long way home

Unless you live under a rock, you already know that New Jersey got hit pretty hard with Hurricane Sandy. What you might not know is that I lived there while I was in the Army, and before that I went to the Jersey shore pretty frequently when I was a little girl.

I’ve mentioned before that my father and step-mother lived in Bryn Mawr, PA. We’d head over to Atlantic City or another town on the shore and spend the day playing in the Atlantic Ocean. I remember one drive back when I was about four, a wasp flew in the open window, landed on my knee and stung me. I started to cry and my step-mother hushed me because my brother was napping beside me and she didn’t want him to wake up.

I got stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey when I was 20. I also got married there at the chapel on post. I listened to Supertramp's Breakfast in America album over and over again that first summer as I drove to the shore after work pretty much every day (a 15 minute drive away). I was very close to Long Branch, and Red Bank, too.

New York City took about an hour and every Monday I drove there and took lessons from another oboist who was stationed at Fort Hamilton. At the time, I owned a manual four-speed Civic, and I had a bad habit of keeping my car in second gear as I went through the toll gates on my way to Fort Hamilton. One time, though, I left it in third gear, didn't pull my arm back in fast enough and damn near broke it on the netting on the right side of the coin collector dealie. I had a bad bruise for weeks. Still made it to my lesson though.

This week, I've been reading all the stories out of New Jersey (and New York too) and remembering how it was to live in the area. It's as though part of my younger years has been washed away along with all those houses, the shore, the roads, the bridges, everything is devastated. Fort Monmouth was decommissioned last year, so no one was there for the hurricane. But Monmouth County was hit pretty hard, which makes sense when you look at a map and see exactly how close it is to the ocean. I can't imagine what Sandy Hook looks like now, although I was fascinated by it when I lived there.

I feel for the people who live there and I wish for quick repairs and restorations to all who were affected by this hurricane. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I used to love to read Real Simple, and so did Kent. I had a subscription for a few years and we’d both read each issue cover to cover. We especially liked the gift suggestion issues that comes out in November or December. But I let the subscription lapse four years ago because we were living in Boston on one salary, no easy feat, and that was an unnecessary expense. During that same time, we stopped looking at the bazillion catalogues mailed to us. We just tossed them in the trash, unread.

I noticed an interesting side effect from those two small changes—we quit wanting so many new things. Our purchases became more driven by an identified need rather than the allure of something shiny and new in a magazine or catalogue. Building on that, we quit walking through the Pru or Copley, figuring window shopping would have the same effect as leafing through catalogues or reading magazines.

I’m not saying we don’t buy things, because clearly we do. But I find it interesting how much we've reduced impulsive buying. And when we do buy, it's after we've figured out what's missing and what would really fill the need or want.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Exercise buddy

I’ve very rarely belonged to a gym; I work out at home.  I started getting video workouts in the 80s and thanks to my mom I had a pretty good collection. She’d find a new one or get really bored with one she had and she’d send it off to me.

Ben was a little guy then and he was completely fascinated whenever I worked out. He liked it all: free weights, stretching, abdominal work and even aerobics. He really couldn’t do sit-ups very well—his legs would go up even though his tummy muscles seemed quite strong. I always suspected that was because he’s long-waisted but maybe that’s normal for little kids. And I ended up buying a pair of 1/2 pound weights just for him to use.

Well, Ben is all grown up and does his own workouts. In fact, he could run circles around me these days. But don’t worry, I still have a workout buddy: Chloe. Yes, Chloe the cat. She loves to flop down in what I call her dead cat pose whenever I’m on the mat and she’s especially fond of walking under me when I’m in downward dog. She generally purrs the entire time, although she’ll fuss if my movements get in her space. It's simultaneously cute and slightly annoying.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tornado vs hurricane?

My Boston friends thought Kent and I were crazy to voluntarily moved back to Tornado Ally. They were horrified by the capricious randomness of the tornado -- you may get warning but the path a tornado takes isn't exactly on a road map. All along, I told them I thought a hurricane was a far worse disaster to face because of how enormous it is. My friends maintained that you get plenty of notice with a hurricane and can evacuate. I pointed out that when you do return, the ruins will be there waiting for you.

Last night I scoured the internet, watching all the pictures online of the flooding and damage caused by Sandy. Everything I saw just reinforced my opinion that I'd rather take my chances with a tornado.

Think about it. Hurricanes are often hundreds of miles wide and there's just no way it will miss you if you are in the path. The widest tornado on record was two and a half miles wide. So hundreds of miles vs under three miles? Yeah, tornado. Well really neither but you get my point.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Third anniversary

I can look back over my life and pull out a handful of events that have profoundly, permanently affected me:
  • Some events in my childhood including this one
  • Getting married at 19
  • Getting pregnant six months later
  • Starting college at 29
  • Getting divorced at 35
  • My first date with Kent
Some of those changes were good, and some were less positive.

Today’s the third anniversary of the water main break, and that event belongs on the list above.

I know now in a way I didn’t before that really bad things can happen to very ordinary people. You just never know when your home might burn down or a tornado or hurricane or tsunami might hit or a river might flood. Those events are pretty random and capricious and all you can do is manage once it happens.

I also know in a real, not theoretical, way that what I've got with Kent is rock solid. The water main break was just one in a string of awful things that happened to us in 2009. We never once turned on each other and I’m confident we can handle pretty much anything (although I would greatly prefer we would never need to demonstrate that again).

I’m still incredibly gun shy about homes that may experience flooding of any kind. That extended to me insisting we pick a top floor apartment so that the only water risk we face is from the roof, not from anyone’s pipes. As we've been house-hunting, the first thing I check is the basement. If there’s a whiff of water damage, I’m done with that house.

Unexpected water noises still get me jumpy. Wally, and to a lesser extent Eddie, are still pretty nervous in general, far more nervous that before. I still have the cat carriers nearby should we need to get out of here in a hurry.

Have you had life-altering experiences, either good or bad? What were they?

I've written about the first and second anniversaries too. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oh Google extensions

How I love you so much. Thanks to you, I am ad free on Facebook. And now and even better, thanks to you I don't see any political rants on Facebook either. Instead I see calming photos of kitties.

What am I talking about? This link! I installed the extension yesterday and secretly wondered if it would work. This morning I have kitty pictures with a "content blocked" tag. Success!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All by myself

Kent's out of town so the cats and I are adjusting to one less pair of hands to wait on the cats.

Generally Eddie sleeps between Kent's legs and usually when Kent's gone, he'll try to do the same with me, only I'm a side sleeper. Tuesday night, though, he stayed on Kent's side of the bed about where he would normally sleep. In the morning, he cried and cried -- I think for Kent but maybe not.

Chloe sleeps perched up near my left shoulder. I'll wake up and she'll have inched closer so she can plaster her furry little body against me. It's quite sweet except when she pats my face with her tiny paw. That's very startling in the middle of the night.

I think Wally has been sleeping in the cabinet under the sink. He's come in once or twice to meow at me -- that's my cue to wake up and pet him so he can curl up under my chin. But otherwise, he's MIA on the bed.

Last night, he kept a close eye on me as I surfed the web. Guess he knows it's a big bad world out there and I might need help.

He's on my lap right now, supervising me. Apparently I need a lot of supervising in the morning too, because he does it every morning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It always feels like

Somebody's watching me.

(Kent's deboning a chicken.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Words matter

I believe that politics tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, and as my friends know, I really dislike the entire long, drawn-out political process with all the hateful ads and endless, pointless debates.

I didn’t always detest politics. In fact, when George McGovern ran for president, I was pretty active and vocal in my school’s election activities the way only a 12 year old who is trying to become her own person can be. I had gotten a POW/MIA bracelet*, and was fervently anti-war so I supported McGovern 100%. I don’t  remember who my parents supported in that election, but my younger brother was an avid Nixon supporter as were most of the kids at his school and mine (just like their parents, I guess).

That year I attended a junior high school kind of known for violence. We had a lot of race-based fights, enough so that forks and knives had been removed from the school cafeteria so we could only eat with spoons. I saw girls wearing the giant hoop earrings so popular then, the kind that touched your shoulders have those same earrings torn out of their ears during fights. That's one of the reasons I’ve never worn big earrings.

We also had a lot of bomb threats, one or two a month most months. I’m pretty sure those were tied to test days, but the police department and the school had to take them seriously. Clearing the school would always take about an hour so we’d stand outside in the heat or cold and just wait.

The bus ride to and from school was similarly challenging. The bad kids, the ones I feared, always sat in the back of the bus. They’d yell or throw things and generally just act intimidating toward the rest of us, so I made sure I got to the bus line early so I could sit up front.

One day during the election season, I was late boarding the bus and had to sit in the back, smack in the middle of those boys. I kept my head down and hoped they would ignore me, but that wasn’t the case. They started saying mean things about me, about me supporting McGovern, and calling me names. Then they started spitting on me. Yes, spitting on me. The bus driver either didn’t notice or didn’t care and so I sat, getting spit upon for that endless ride home.

I managed to hold in my tears until I got home. I ran in the front door dropping my coat and books as I headed for the bathroom to wash my hair. I remember telling my brother that this was how people who believed the way he did behaved. I don’t remember anything else ever happening as a result of that ride.

That incident didn’t dissuade me from voting. In fact, I’ve voted in every election I’ve been eligible to vote in ever since. But I remain very private about my political beliefs and wish others would too. If you start ranting about your beliefs, I’m likely to just walk away, and I will most definitely ignore everything you're saying.  

*As an aside, my POW was an Air Force officer and I got to see his return on TV. I lost the bracelet when my house was burglarized so I no longer have it, and don't remember his name. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

School spirit

I have some friends who don't understand why I don't share their enthusiasm for one of my alma maters, Kansas State University. It's true I got my MS there, and probably spent more money there than I did for my undergraduate degree at Kansas University. But I cheer for KU, not K-State.

Part of the reason is how much more time I spent at KU. I got my BA on the extended plan due to real life interfering with the four year plan; I earned the MS in two years. I also got more involved in campus life as an undergrad, and went to basketball games, theater, and all sorts of concerts either as a participant or audience member. That didn't happen at K-State.

But the main reason I can't cheer on K-State is the ridiculous, slightly offensive and exclusionary phrase used by K-State: EMAW (scroll to the bottom of the page for the slogan information). Guess what that stands for? Every man a Wildcat. Yes, every man.

You might have noticed I am a woman, not a man.

Contrast that with KU, where the school chant (page has a link to an audio file of the chant -- go listen) is about rock formations and the school mascot is a mythical bird.

Since I am not a man, I'd rather cheer on a mythical bird with a really cool Gregorian-based chant. Somehow that seems more real to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Smoke gets in your eyes

We’ve been looking at houses for sale for the last six weeks and have seen between 20—30. Yesterday we saw our first home owned by smokers.

That’s a pretty big change, I think. I remember when my ex-husband and I were house hunting in the late 80s/early 90s, many of the homes we looked at were owned by smokers, including the one we bought. In that situation, we had to rip out all the carpet and pads, paint all the walls and remove the faux paneling in one long hallway in order to get rid of the smell.

I’m not sure the smell in the house we saw yesterday can be mitigated so easily. The sellers had a note in the kitchen saying they were moving after 46 years of living that house. That’s a lot of smoke in the walls, carpets, drapes, and wallpaper. It’s a shame too, because the floor plan was pretty interesting and the price was really good (although not good enough what with the smoke).

But think of the ratio – one home owned by smokers in the 20 to 30 homes we’ve looked at. That’s a real, positive change in my opinion.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bond, James Bond

I have always loved James Bond movies. I am pretty certain the first one I ever saw was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and it’s been my favorite Bond movie ever since. I know George Lazenby was not well received but really, who could have followed in Sean Connery’s steps and not been criticized?

I remember my mother taking me to Live and Let Die and I loved, loved, loved the title song, especially the piccolo part. I had not yet switched to oboe so still played flute and dreamed of being that piccolo player.

But mostly I loved the glamour  the romance, the merely hinted at violence. In a phone conversation this morning, my mother said that the Bond movies had gotten too violent for her and I agreed they are no longer hinting but rather showing far more than they did in earlier movies.

Still I love them. Right now Kent and I are re-watching some of them in honor of the 50 years of Bond. I’ll probably skip Man with the Golden Gun since I watched that one to death in the early 80s when we had an early version of a laser disc player (a hand me down from my folks, who were always early adopters) and only three movies to watch: that one, Winnie the Pooh (still know every word by heart) and I don’t remember the other one.

Do you like the Bond movies? If so, who is your favorite Bond? I’m still awfully fond of George Lazenby and like both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. I wanted to like Timothy Dalton as Bond but the movies were pretty weak through no fault of his. Roger Moore . . . well, no. Let's just not talk about him. Sean Connery—at least in the first few movies—is still the gold standard, though. He typified how Bond should be. 

Can't remember all the movies? Go here

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hiding spot

Wally has a new one. He opens the cabinet under the guest bathroom sink with his long, agile paws, and slides right in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I feel justified

I heard a story this morning on NPR about how lack of sleep can contribute to gaining weight (it has something to do with how our bodies respond to insulin). So now, in addition to the study that indicated insomnia may be associated with dementia as we age, we also run the risk of getting fatter while we lose our minds.

I have always needed a lot of sleep, and I've always been wired to wake up early. Because I get up early and need a good eight or nine hours of sleep a night, I also go to be early. Really early, like most nights I'm in bed around 8:30.

Let me tell you, morning people get no respect. Oh I hear people say they wish they could get up early the way I do. But I never hear anyone say they want to go to bed as early as I do. Plus everything fun and entertaining is held at night, and by my standards quite late.

Last weekend we went to a birthday celebration for a friend that started at 8 PM, a mere half hour before my normal bedtime, and we got home around 11. The next night we had some friends over for dinner. We didn't eat until after 7 and they didn't leave until after 10. The really sad thing is even with those late bedtimes, I still got up pretty early (7:30 on Saturday, and 6 on Sunday). It's just the way I'm wired.

But now I'm going to revel in it. It's really just a matter of good health because I can reduce my risk of dementia and weight gain, all by getting the sleep I already crave. I'm proud of my early bird status and even more proud that I do generally get those eight or nine hours of sleep I need.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rip Van Winkle

We were only gone from Kansas City for about five years so the changes here haven’t been tremendous. Some have been surprising—areas that got really built up or buildings that got torn down, businesses that changed hands or just disappeared, those kinds of things. So it’s still really familiar here, mostly.

Yesterday I called to make an appointment with the accountant we’d used while living here. Turns out he is no longer with that practice. I found that odd since he was the only owner as far as I knew. After I made the appointment, I asked the receptionist if he’d retired. “No,” she said. I waited, thinking she would add more information but she didn’t.

After I got off the phone, I turned to Google and learned that my accountant had been charged and convicted of two counts of federal tax fraud. He’s been in prison since 2010 serving a four year sentence.

I guess it wasn’t big news in KC then, which is a little surprising. He had a large practice, something like 4,000 clients, but all I found online were a couple of short articles.

This change is the one that’s made me feel like we were gone a really long time. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn leaves

These are for Harriet because she said that the leaves are not yet changing in NYC and she feels a little cheated. All pictures were taken in our apartment complex, which won a landscaping award several years ago. It's quite lovely.