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.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oops I forgot to mention

That I watched two movies on the plane coming home. Folks, that may be a personal record right there because I'm really not much of a movie watcher.

For those who are curious, I watched The Avengers, which I liked a lot. I also watched Snow White and the Huntsman, which was OK.

Have you seen either? If you have, what did you think of them?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The rest of the story

We weren't able to see my sister and her younger daughter because Eilish had gotten really sick with a very nasty stomach virus. In the interest of not spreading germs around, we all agreed we would have to skip visiting them. But we still saw Avalon, our older niece.

We sort of overslept Sunday. I can almost always wake up at whatever time I tell myself to wake up, but without cats or street noises, I slept clear through until almost 8 AM. Factoring in all the trains and cab rides, we had a nearly two hour trip to get to Avalon’s school, Marlborough, and needed to be there by 11:30. But we made it, and got to have lunch with her. After lunch, she showed us around her school, and then we had to go.

On the way back, we took a minicab from the train station to our hotel. Minicabs are unregistered and this web site warns you of the dangers involved in using them. As you can see, we survived. The driver didn't really know his way around but he had a GPS so he didn't get lost. His GPS route took us through some neighborhoods with really narrow streets. On one street, we drove around a very dark skinned man wearing a Superman bathrobe, complete with the giant S emblem, and nothing else that we could see, not even slippers. He was bent half into a car sitting in the middle of the street talking to the driver. Our cab driver and Kent both thought we might have interrupted a drug deal.

The next morning, we flew home. So that was the extent of our quick, fun trip to London.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I had three goals while in London last weekend:
  • Shop for fabric
  • Eat Indian food
  • See my sister and her daughters
On Saturday we checked off the first two. Let me tell you, we weren’t misled about the amazing fabrics to be found. We looked at Cloth House (two locations on Berwick, which were quite closes to each other—we found that a little confusing that there would be two shops within blocks of each other) and Misan, which also had two locations. I could have spent hours in Misan. We both were overwhelmed by the huge selections in all the stores. The prices played a role in that too, I’m sure, since so many of the fabrics started at £35 per meter.

Those prices were still better than what we found at the Liberty store. Those lovely cottons (cottons!) also started at around £35 per meter. Kent uses three yards to make a shirt, so he’d need just under three meters which would bring the cost for only the cloth to £105. I just used a converter, and in dollars that shirt would cost about $169. Oh but what a shirt it would be.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to get an old phone unlocked to use a prepaid phone card with data, so we couldn’t access the maps we’d carefully prepared. So we missed a whole group of stores we’d planned on seeing but that’s OK. We were both overwhelmed by everything we did see.

We had an early dinner of Indian food here in the Seven Dials area and then caught the train back to our hotel and crashed hard. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nine years isn't nearly enough

I'm not sure if 90 would be either.

It's our anniversary today and I'm a lucky, lucky woman.

Photo by Rob James.

I will tell you more about London later this week.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So much to say

Because we board early, I’m always able to indulge my love of people watching as they parade down the aisle to find their seats. The trip from Atlanta to London was no exception, especially because international flights generally take much longer to board. Our plane had a two-three-two seat configuration, and we had the two seats on the left side. A mid-20s woman sat directly in front of Kent and the seat in front of me went empty for a long time. Then he walked down the aisle.

This man was at least 6 feet 6 inches tall, and had not an ounce of fat on him plus he was good-looking. His upper arms were bigger around than my thighs and almost bigger than Kent’s thighs. The guy had muscles on his muscles, enough that we speculated perhaps some supplements were involved. When he sat in his seat, his shoulders extended beyond both sides by at least four or five inches. He wore his sunglasses almost the entire time and we figured it was partly to avoid making eye contact with guys who might want to try to prove how manly they were by taking him on. He took them off shortly before landing and was very pleasant, talking with the man across the aisle from him. Turns out Muscles is Welsh and lives in the US.

I felt for him though. The poor guy got hit by everyone boarding the plane and by every refreshment cart that came by. It's not like he could lean away from the aisle enough to avoid getting hit the way I can. Even if he'd known his seatmate, that would have required a serious invasion of her personal space. The guy was just huge. And I'm sure his size is why he waited to board until the very end. If I were his size, I'd have waited too.

We also had a man removed from that same flight. The pilot made an announcement about 10 minutes after we should have taken off and said "A passenger won't be making the flight with us today." Turns out he was massively drunk. Delta sent another giant of a man onto the plane to act as the silent enforcer to back up the three female flight attendants. Kent and I joked that Delta could have just asked Muscles to stand there. I know that would have been more intimidating than the man they did send because while large, he was clearly not fit. The removing process took a while because his traveling companion (girlfriend? friend? don’t know which) had to figure out if she too would leave the plane. She did, and of course then their luggage had to be identified and removed before we could take off.

At KCI, one of the tugs that push back the planes was painted in the breast cancer pink. I mean the whole thing was pink. You couldn't miss it, and I wondered if they would paint it back at the end of October.  Then on our return trip, we noticed that part of the housing under the wings of our plane was pink. Our pilot later told us we were flying on Delta’s signature Pink Plane.

And all of this happened before we even got to London! More about the rest of the trip later.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tell me why you're going again?

"For fun," I said. I was talking with my mother during one of our regular Saturday morning phone calls.

We're leaving today for a very quick trip to London. How quick? We fly home Monday. We've been before so we're not trying to see and do everything in two days. That's a good thing since we'd have to stay up the entire time and we'd still miss things.

Our goals for this trip are three-fold:
  • Shop for fabric
  • Eat Indian food
  • See my sister and her daughters
It's a quick trip, but we'll have a good time and we're really looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tired of politics?

I know I am. So here’s a political story of a different stripe.

Kent’s been working hard on his photography and in addition to taking a class this fall, he’s also submitted some of his work to various Flicker groups – local groups, genre groups and also a high resolution group. For that last group, he submitted these two pictures:

Wally’s picture was selected but Eddie’s was not.

OK, maybe it's a stretch to say it’s political. But one got chosen and the other didn't and besides, it’s all I could come up with the day after a debate I don’t care about.

You can see more of Kent’s work here.

Edited to add that Kent just told me both pictures eventually got selected. Now that's what I call win/win.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

He's been sleeping in my boots

Click the picture so you see the larger image. See all that yellow fur? That's from Wally, who apparently thinks the insides of my boots makes a great cat bed.

Cat fur, the new accessory?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Picture this

The scene:

It's night and we are both asleep. 

I am awakened by the sounds of gentle snores. I reach over to the right side of the bed to nudge Kent so he’ll shift his position and stop snoring.

I touch fur where I expect to touch his shoulder. I wake up just a bit more. I realize I've touched a cat. In fact, it’s the cat who’s snoring. Specifically, it's this cat:

Last night she slept up between our heads with her body aligned like ours. I think I touched her rump, but she never stirred. She turns 12 this month—possibly 13, she was between one and two years old when I got her. I guess she’s entitled to her snoring.