Random grateful thoughts – Thanksgiving edition

It occurs to me that I’ve never sat down made the traditional “what I’m grateful for” list on Thanksgiving itself. So with no rhyme, rank or reason:

— I am very grateful that my cat Fred is okay. We had a last-minute run to the vet’s office yesterday and as always, I fear the worst. Just an eye infection, which means he’ll like me a little less for the next week or so while I have to put drops in.

— Tangentially, I’m always grateful for my husband, who took Fred to the vet, and takes care of so many other things. You know, I almost said, “I don’t know what I’d do without him” but that’s not true, because I spent a lot of years without him, so I do know what it’s like. It sucked.

— Good health in general is always appreciated. This year I had not-actually-appendicitis adenitis, had an unnecessary cancer scare, and struggled with my back issues. But I think I’m very lucky to be relatively healthy, especially compared to some, and I’m grateful for that every day.

— I am grateful for Chipotle, for cupcakes, for glop, for the best burgers in the world (I’m looking at you, Amherst Ale House), for chicken parm, for spaghetti parm, for anything that stands still long enough to be parm-ed, for peanut butter, and for chocolate. (Wow, my whole mouth just filled up with saliva, there.) Today I’m grateful for turkey, for stuffing and cranberries and sweet potatoes and pie. I’m grateful for the commitment we have made to eating healthy, of course, but I’m also grateful for the days we enjoy our favorite things.

— I am grateful for my friends, and the family I have that are also my friends. I see all of them less than I would like, and contrarily I see people I like less more than I would like, and that doesn’t seem fair. But I’m grateful to have them, wherever they are, nearby or out in the ether.

— I am grateful for stories and books, old and new, for authors who write the things that I read and devour, sometimes over and over again. Thank you for putting the stuff in your head out there and sharing it with me. Similarly, I am grateful for Netflix and all the storie I can find there for keeping me entertained while I’m at the gym.

— Lastly, I am grateful for science, for logic, for the fact that facts are still facts, that math is the same in any language, no matter what politics, religion, or the ignorant may say. It drives me to distraction to witness people earnestly arguing that their opinion negates reality, but at the end of the day those facts are still there, unmoved by such shenanigans. As Sam Seaborn once said, “There are certain things you’re sure of — like longitude and latitude.” Cartography aside, I’m glad that’s still true.

probably not cancer

daymammoSo while I haven’t mentioned it much of anywhere, or to too many people, I’ve spent the past six months in various states of anxiety over my last mammogram. To give away the end of the story, everything is fine. The problem is, everything was always fine, and those six months of panic could have been avoided by a better system.

I’ve had mammograms before, so this wasn’t my first trip to the rodeo — but it was my first time having one here on Long Island. Back home in Buffalo, I used a particular lab group that had a different way of doing things. We’ll get back to that later. Here, I made my appointment, showed up, put various bits of me in a machine to be squeezed (while it’s not something I’d do for kicks, I don’t find it all that painful), and that’s when the technician said, “Oh, looks like you’ve got a cyst.”

“A cyst?!” I asked, instantly freaked out.

“Or a nodule or lump or some kind,” the tech replied, as if we were talking about a weather system moving in later that day, or a sale at Target. She didn’t elaborate, and I was ushered into the ultrasound room. A different technician directed me to lie on the table. She was taciturn and didn’t respond to my questions. I asked what this all meant, and she told me to hold still and not talk. At this point I started crying, silently as ordered. When she finished she left the room, came back, and said I should get dressed and go home. I asked, again, what was going on. She said my doctor would contact me. I asked to see the radiologist. She said he wasn’t available.

I went out to my car and cried out loud this time. I called my husband at work — something I *NEVER* do in tax season — and talked until I was calm enough to drive home. This was a Friday afternoon, of course. There was no reaching my gyno all weekend. By the time I finally spoke to her on Monday, it wasn’t really much help. She said she hadn’t had a chance to look at my report but had it in front of her now. She rattled off a lot of medical terms that made no sense to me and did say she wasn’t worried so far. I should go back for my recheck in six months and then if there was anything I’d be referred to an oncologist (which is one of the top ten most frightening words in the English language, imho).

And that was it. That’s all the information I got. For six months all I had to hang my ramped-up worried, concerns, fears and panic on was that and a form letter from the lab that said, “We found something abnormal on your last mammogram that we believe is probably not cancer.” There’s something not very reassuring about that phrase. I mean, of course it’s better than hearing “it probably IS cancer”, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing to make you sleep well at night either.  “You’re probably not going to have a fatal accident on the way home tonight.” “You probably won’t fail your final exam.” “The guy who just moved in next door probably isn’t a serial killer.” It’s technically positive, but it whiffs a bit too much of the possibility of the negative.

For six months I worried, I fretted, I told myself it would be okay, I told myself it wouldn’t. I clenched my jaw so hard I gave myself shooting headaches. Dave was there when I was up and when I was down, of course, always, reassuring me everything would be okay. And of course it probably would be, but I still worried. I couldn’t help it. And that worry and anxiety colored everything I did and everything we planned.

Last Tuesday, I went back for my recheck. I started off the day doing relatively alright, but as the morning wore on, I got scared. I spent a half-hour in the waiting room with a locked jaw, focusing on the boring repetitive news reports on the TV, afraid I would throw up if I lost focus for even a second. Finally, they called me in. I apologized to the technician — a different one than last time — in advance, and said I was so anxious I was shaking a little, and would try my best to hold still. She asked why I was so concerned. I told her about the cyst or nodule they’d seen on my last scan, and how worried I was. She frowned. “You didn’t have a cyst, or anything,” she said.

I’m going to make what’s already a long story short and skip past the next 45 minutes, where we did the recheck and I put my foot down and insisted on seeing the radiologist this time. He was actually very nice and did, in fact, bring me in to look at all of my scans, went over everything with me, and answered all my questions. I’m fine. I was always fine. I don’t have a cyst or a nodule or a lump or anything. There was a spot on my mammogram six months ago, so they checked it with an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed there was nothing there. This happens because of something called overlapping tissue. In blunt layman’s terms, when they squish your breast in the machine, sometimes you’ve got a flap of skin or some tissue or something that makes a spot on the mammo. They do the ultrasound to see if there’s anything there. When there’s nothing, they send you home. You have to (and by have to, I mean by law they are required to tell you you should) come back in 6 months  for a recheck, just to make sure they see the same thing.

The nice radiologist told me that yes, he saw the exact same nothing this time. I made sure I understood him correctly and asked the same question every way I could think of. He didn’t waver. But I also asked a lot of apparently unanswerable questions about why this happened this way. Why did the first technician use a word like “cyst” or “lump” to me at all? Why didn’t the ultrasound technician tell me that the radiologist said they’d found nothing? Why didn’t the radiologist himself just explain this all to me six months ago? And this is where I’m giving Buffalo one, Long Island zero, because at the lab I went to in Buffalo, you ALWAYS spoke to the radiologist before you left — unless you didn’t want to. So the person reading and analyzing the scan was the one who went over it with you. The best we could make out what happened here six months ago was that someone wrote a report somewhat badly and then sent it to my gynecologist, who clearly didn’t understand what she was reading and therefore conveyed the information to me very badly, if not incorrectly. I was scared and terrified and confused unnecessarily. The system let me down. Mind you, I’m VERY grateful for my results. I’m lucky, and aware of that. But I’m still downright pissed about the negative effect this bad process had on my life for half a year.

To maybe turn that negative into a positive, thuogh, I’d like to share two articles I found that every woman should read — the first is a PDF about “The Dreaded Callback“, and the second is titled “Abnormal Mammograms Often Terrify Women Unnecessarily“. Neither of these articles minimizes the importance of regular breast cancer screening — it’s incredibly important. But there’s often no reason for it to be as frightening a process as it is. I wish I’d read them before all this happened, but at least from now on, I’ll be informed, and possibly someone else reading this will be too.

cleaning lady

cats sweeping broomWhen I was in college, I lived in a dorm. Dorms can be great equalizers. It’s hard to tell who’s as poor as you are or as rich as Midas when everyone’s living in the same building, schlumping around in sweatpants and pajamas. Hardly anyone at Cornell had a car (the campus isn’t vehicle-friendly) and this was way back in the day before cell phones, laptops and even computer ownership might have given some clue. One telling factor was Spring Break plans — if you were off to Prague on a moment’s notice, that probably meant you weren’t down to your last two dollars, as I often was. The more economically challenged among us often stayed put for Spring Break (and had a fun time, too).

Another thing I noticed was cleaning ladies. Every now and then, one of my friends would mention their housekeeper, or the cleaning person that came to their house, back home. I couldn’t fathom such a thing. We’d never, ever had a cleaning person. Quite frankly, at the time, my mother was working a second part time job *as* a cleaning person, to keep me in school. You can imagine how galling I found it when a fellow student protested to me that having a cleaning person wasn’t a luxury; his mother worked, after all. She didn’t have time to clean. Meanwhile my mother worked all day, worked cleaning offices at night, and cleaned her own house with whatever energy she somehow had. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, but I still think having someone come to clean your house, unless you’re physically incapable of doing so (and a lot of those people can’t afford help, sadly), is a luxury.

You have to imagine, then, how weirded out I am by the fact that we have cleaning people coming to the house this week.

I mean, this isn’t a regular thing. We had a Groupon, and it’s a spring cleaning kind of deal. Dave’s super busy in tax season. And I have a little trouble doing certain things, especially when there’s bending involved. It’s still a luxury, though, and I feel strangely guilty about it.

I’m a lousy housekeeper. I didn’t inherit the Leonard cleaning gene, the one that guaranteed my grandmother’s basement floor was safer to eat off of than most people’s kitchen plates, and the one that made my mother stress about dust bunnies in the storage closet. Yeah, I missed that. I don’t have it in me. But I grew up with it, so I end up looking around my reasonably neat house and seeing nothing but dust and dirt and feeling ashamed.

So as a result of all that matriarchal genetic pressure and guilt over economic divide, I’ve been desperately restraining myself all week from cleaning the bathroom ahead of time, because I don’t want the cleaning people to see that my bathroom is dirty and think I’m lazy. I haven’t succumbed yet, but there’s still more than 24 hours to go. I’d say it’s 50/50. At best.

how did I get here?

yearbook1

With my name spelled wrong and everything.

This is me, in high school. I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. I’m not mentioning that to brag — the opposite, really. It’s more that I sometimes ask myself, how did I get here, from there? Wasn’t I supposed to end up doing something, I don’t know, important?

Honestly, I started out on the wrong foot: the only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an astronaut. This, despite a fear of heights, speed, fire and airless places, also no aptitude for science and an utter lack of the physical skills needed for astronaut-ing, made that particular goal a pipe dream. So when I graduated from high school, despite a resounding endorsement from my peers, I had no particular idea what I was going to succeed at. I’d been on Debate Team, and I was pretty good at it too, so my yearbook is filled with a lot of “good luck in law school” comments. I have not, however, ever in my life entertained the idea of attending law school. Too dry. Too dull. (Though, I will say that when I was in about third grade I told my mother I didn’t want to be President someday, I wanted to be a Supreme Court judge. Presidents only get to keep their job for 8 years at most. Supreme Court judges get hired for life. This future union member already knew the value of job security.)

During orientation in my first week at Cornell, I wandered into the open house for the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. Four years later I graduated with a background in costumes and directing. Three months later I quit graduate school before I’d even started, and for the next five years or so I worked at mostly meaningless jobs that didn’t quite pay the bills.

Sooner or later I decided I needed, you know, a career, or something. And in 1998, believe it or not, Library Science was a good field to study if you wanted a job. When I graduated with my Master’s from UB, there were recruiters at the school every semester. I had three job offers to pick from. I chose Amherst Museum. And that’s where I spent the next decade as a solo librarian. I had a great time organizing my library, processing the archives, getting involved in regional professional organizations like WNYLRC, where I spent some time on the Board. It was a terrific experience. I’d be lying, though, if I told you I was following my heart’s desire. Being a librarian mostly appealed to the OCD part of me that liked organizing things. That still likes organizing things. But I saw people who had passion for librarianship. I wasn’t one of them. So when I stopped being a librarian, I missed my colleagues, but not the rest.

So I never did get around to deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now, to be frank, Dave and I both try our best to work as little as possible. 🙂 I have a job but it’s not anything worth mentioning; it’s just a job, not a career. I’m not really anything, professionally, and probably never will be. I’m just a little surprised that doesn’t bother me more.

You know, it’s twenty-five years since that picture was in my yearbook, and I look at it now and think, if I’d done a few things differently, maybe I would have fulfilled that promise and done something “important”. There were few times I believe, objectively, that I made the wrong choice. I should have picked a different major in college, or a different graduate school for theatre, or a different library to work in. Those were turning points for me. And it clarifies things for me to see that now, definitely. But in the age-old tradition of everyone who’s lucky enough to be happy, it doesn’t mean I’d go back and change anything now, if I could. Because whatever I did, right or wrong, I ended up somewhere I want to be. I didn’t succeed the way I thought I was going to, or the way my high school classmates apparently expected I would, but I wouldn’t trade my life for the world, wrong turns, failures, and all.

the best and worst Christmases

Xmas-Garfield-TreeOur days-until-Christmas chain is almost gone. I’ve been looking forward to this Christmas very much — the celebrating, the presents, seeing friends and being generally festive. And I was thinking this morning about the best Christmases I can remember, and contrarily, because I’m a glass-half-empty kind of gal, about some of the worst.

We were really poor when I was growing up. Thanks to a father who’d decided he wasn’t responsible for the kids he’d had, nor was particularly worried about his nine-year-old daughter having a roof over her head, my mother struggled a lot. There were some years where it was hard for her to keep up with the bills and the groceries, let alone presents. I never felt like I went without, though, so lord only knows how she managed. I remember one year about a week before Christmas, when I was 11 or so, she gave me twenty dollars to shop for presents to give, of my own. She said, “For the person who loves Christmas and loves to give gifts more than anyone, you should have a chance to do that this year.” I don’t remember any of the gifts I received that year, but I remember that twenty bucks, and buying little trinkets for my family, feeling so thrilled. It was barely anything but it must have been hard for her to scrape that together for me, and it makes me sad thinking about that now. Was that one of the worst Christmases? I worry it was — for her. But for me, it was one of the best.

Norman Rockwell and a legion of retailers’ advertisements aside, some families fight during the holidays. It’s the heightened emotions, the gathering of people who often aren’t together, the complicated traveling plans that make you anxious. My family was no exception, and I can remember a few humdingers over the years. I mean, only once did someone throw a punch. 🙂 Some people have never experienced this, and I applaud your relatives’ self restraint and mastery of passive aggression. For most, it’s just the occasional rolled eyes and those awkward, mildly ugly moments. That kind of thing is worth overlooking. But in my opinion, when the words (or fists) get too harsh, though, it’s time to make different plans for the holidays.

There’ve been some really nice Christmases in there, too. The Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls was always so beautiful. I would go with family, later with friends; they stopped doing much on the US side, but the Canadian side still has amazing displays that Dave and I went to every year we could. My cousin and I used to go to Fort Erie, enjoy Chinese food at Happy Jack’s, then drive up the Canadian side to look at all the gorgeous houses and their decorations. Christmas concerts at school (once our chorus sang backup to Andy Williams on “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”; let’s just say Andy’s personality wasn’t very wonderful) and nice festive times shopping, meeting friends, having fun.

The nicest Christmas I remember was in 2002. Mom and I went to Wegmans to do our grocery shopping for the holidays, probably on the 20th or so, a few days before Christmas. While we were still working hard to make ends meet, things were a little better. We’d moved into a nice duplex a year or so before, we both had steady jobs and benefits. We had debt and we couldn’t afford a lot of luxuries, but we were okay. And we were looking forward to having a great Christmas feast at home (ham? roast? I don’t remember) with a yummy dessert for just the two of us. We were at the Wegmans on Alberta Drive and it was packed with holiday shoppers, but it was wonderful. Everything was decorated and festive, there was a band playing Christmas carols at the cafe, and everywhere you looked there were treats and tidbits and holiday concoctions, families getting ready for gatherings, everyone in a cheery mood. We shopped and lingered and later agreed it was the nicest thing ever, just being out in the holiday crowd, together, getting ready for our Christmas at home.

Right around now, everyone from your co-worker to the guy driving next to you with his bumper sticker to Linus wants to tell you what the true meaning of Christmas is, but I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon. Christmas is what you make of it, good or bad. It can be about your faith, about your family, about presents or egg nog or about the Grinch. My only advice is to spend it just the way you want to, and not the way you feel you should, unless those two coincide.

Merriest of merries, to one and all.

kitty anniversary day

On this day, five years ago, I brought two orangey furry guys home with me. While we of course celebrate their birthdays each year, I also like to commemorate Kitty Anniversary Day.

If the preceding paragraph isn’t explanation enough, you should go into this blog post knowing that whatever kind of crazy cat person you think you are, or have met in the past, my crazy catness is well off those charts. I am happier in the company of my boys than I am in that of almost every other human I know. They are two bright spots in my existence. They’re family. If you’re scoffing already, get out now. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Five years ago I was looking for two boy kittens to bring home. One day, I visited the Buffalo Animal Shelter. It must have been fate because I took one step into the cat room and saw them there, the two best-looking cats in the world, brother kitties, waiting there for me.

George and Fred at the shelterI quickly found a volunteer and said I wanted to meet them, but I already knew  we were meant to be together. This meeting was just a chance to spend time with them right away. They took me to the little room used for meet & greets and then brought the cats in. One of them (George) ran onto a kitty tower, looking a little afraid, distracted by newfound freedom and toys. The other sauntered toward me, confident and calm. He sniffed my finger then allowed me to pet him, and that was how I met Fred.

I went to finalize their adoption and learned that the shelter only accepted cash. The nearest ATM was a mile or so away. I left, begging them to keep those kitties for me until I came back — I was worried that someone else would swoop in at just that moment, see the two most wonderful cats in the world, and steal them away. Excited, I hurried back, and we signed all the forms, and they were mine. One last goodbye and they were whisked off for their snip-snip surgeries, and the next day they were ready to come home.

They were a little scared in the vet’s office, I remember, and cried a little in the carrier (back then, they both fit in — and preferred to be in — one). But I took them out to the car and the smooth noise of the engine and the last dregs of anesthesia calmed them down; first they were purring, and then fast asleep. It was snowing lightly all our ride home. We have been together since, and I love their company. They were there through long lonely times between visits with Dave, two surgeries and then a scary big move to Long Island. They’ve done wonderfully adjusting to their new home and I hope we make them happy here.

Some things have changed over time: they used to cuddle with each other, always, like two peas in a pod. Now, they will only occasionally sit near each other, and there is sometimes a skirmish of swiping and chasing, like two bickering teenagers, instead. They’re bigger, of course, and very different from each other. But still each perfect.

IMG_1570Georgie is a sweet, sweet boy, the prettiest cat I’ve ever seen (I’m biased, I know), and full of affection. He spends most days on my lap and sometimes will cuddle between us in bed at night — though he’s often too restless for that. He purrs and kneads and cries little kittenish cries for attention. He’s never grown up and remains a baby, and I know he thinks I’m his mother. He can be incredibly cute and loving, and he can also be a bad bad kitty, knocking things over just for attention, eating everything in sight, and generally wreaking havoc. He never learned his own name and doesn’t understand a thing I say to him, whether whispered or yelled — I actually came to the conclusion that he likes when I yell (“mommy making the shouty noise yay!”) and stopped bothering. He thinks squirt guns are a fun at-home water park activity and he’s climbed in the shower with me on more than one occasion. He’s a big doofus but he’s clever; he loves playing with Dave more than anything, and I love him in spite of, or maybe sometimes because of, his badness.

IMAG0143Fred is a more serious cat. He hates to be picked up and never sits on my lap, but he’ll climb onto me or Dave while we’re laying down, hunkering down on your chest with his face an inch from yours. And he climbs into bed with me every night, sometimes for hours at a time, his head on my pillow, purring, wrapped up in my arms. He comes when I call him and he understands what I say to him. Sometimes he purrs just when I look at him. His love is unrelenting, steadfast, and uncompromising. He takes care of me when I need him and I protect him from all his fears: grocery bags, strange neighborhood kitties, and the world outside his four walls. We have a special bond. No one in the world loves me like Freddie does, and no one but Freddie ever could.

So happy anniversary, Fred and George, of the day you came into my life. Thank you for choosing me. Belly rubs of celebration tonight.

this is 41

The other day my good friend Rose posted a link to a blog post titled, “This is 45,” written by Emily Mendell. A great deal of it hit home with me, despite my being a few years short. I’ll be 42 this year, I just realized, and Dave confirmed. My inability to keep track of my age makes him laugh, but it makes me happy, too, because the numbers have stopped mattering.

You begin to realize that granting yourself permission to just “be” is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt.

That’s true. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve spent all of my life trying to be something: smarter, thinner, prettier, more successful, richer, better liked. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those pursuits. I worked hard at them. Right now, though, I’m learning that it’s a lot harder to stop trying to be something I can’t. There are some aspects of my health that I can’t control, and I have to let myself be what I am. And in general, I have to love myself the way I am, even if it isn’t as good as I want to be. It helps to have a very wonderful man who says he loves me just the way I am; it really does. There are times I still struggle. I second-guess decisions I made years ago, I berate myself for bad choices. I agonize over decisions already made. But as Ms. Mendell says, there’s also a certain acceptance I have now, that this is the way life is, and that it’s okay.

I hope it’s also helped me to be more accepting of the world around me. If there’s one thing I know I’ve said more in my forties than I did in any other decade, it’s, “I don’t understand why you’re choosing to do that, but I accept it.” Friends, family, people we know — we can have opinions about what they do, of course, we can’t help it, if we care about them at all. But we can’t make their decisions for them, right or wrong. I hope that I’ve learned to simply accept that with or without my approval, people will choose to spend their lives a certain way. I won’t always agree, but I can respect their decision.

Acceptance doesn’t mean being a doormat, though.

At 45 your tolerance for mean people hits rock bottom. Life is too short to spend any energy on bullies. They are easier to eliminate from your life, while also easier to understand. You can’t help but pity people who hurt so much they have to make others feel badly, but you are smart enough to do so from a distance.

It’s true that I can understand, now, why someone is hurtful more so than I would have as a younger person. I know how hard the world is, and I know there a lot of people walking around in pain every day, inside and out. Sometimes I can see just how they got the way they are, and sometimes I can feel sympathy, or pity, but all the understanding in the world isn’t a good enough reason to stay around a person, a situation, that is toxic to me. And when I realize someone can’t seem to help but hurt anyone around them, I finally know enough to stay away.

It’s like the part of the Serenity Prayer that everyone knows says: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” The prayer goes on to talk about a pathway to peace and learning to be reasonably happy in this life, and that’s what I think being 41, or 45, is about — finding your way there.

Quietly folding laundry on a chilly Sunday afternoon as your family happily co-exists in this home you have built together trumps pretty much everything.

Now, that sounds exactly right. Those moments are well worth whatever it took for me to get here, new gray hairs, tiny wrinkles, forty-two candles and all.

****

(please read Ms. Mendell’s original blog post, as I have only quoted several of the truisms she provided and the full piece is well worth your time.)

home sweet home

I very much love my new home. For one thing, it has Dave in it.  🙂 Of course, I missed my old home a lot when I moved; it was a good place to live — I lived there thirteen years, and had the best neighbors anyone in the world could ask for (our new home, btw, comes complete with a downstairs neighbor who apparently has super-hearing… it’s not at all as cool as living near a superhero should be). But I’m very happy here. I like it because it’s ours, I like it because we made it our home together. And a few other things, specifically:

IMG_19061. The closet.

I mean, it’s enormous. You could fit a Manhattan apartment in there. There are lots of shelves (including one for our stuffed animal residents) and then we got these great cloth bins as shower presents, and those keep the Wildebeest from kicking everything over.

I’ve never loved a closet before but sometimes I just want to hang out in mine and revel in all the spaciousness. You could take a nap in there if you wanted to, or sublet to a small family, or conceal a passage to Narnia somewhere. Which might explain where Freddie disappears to sometimes.

IMG_19112. Laundry.

I grew up with laundry in the basement, and that’s where it was in my old house — all thirteen years of climbing two flights of stairs each way just to do a single load of laundry. Add in a back injury and it’s nothing but torture. And the shame of it all is, I like doing laundry, in general. I like getting everything nice and clean and folded and put away. But not when it involved mountain climbing. Here, we’ve got this great little laundry closet off the kitchen, and it’s easy as anything to do. Add in the laundry sorter we got and it’s downright nifty. George likes to ride it from the closet to the laundry, though that might have something to do with the many twist ties he’s already managed to stash under the dryer.


IMG_00193. When it snows, it’s someone else’s problem.

Mind you, it’s not like there’s generally much to worry about — I have a hard time not giggling over anyone calling this little bit of snow a blizzard. I’ve driven through white-outs where you can’t see the tail lights of the car ahead of you at times, and dug out my driveway and sidewalk with snowbanks so high it looked like the ice planet Hoth. It’s nowhere near as much, in comparison, out there today — but it could have been. It could have been ten feet of snow, instead of maybe about ten inches, and it wouldn’t have mattered, now that there are nice people who come and plow and shovel it all away. I can just enjoy the nice wintry view instead.

IMG_19124. And, most of all, Freddie has laid claim to new territory.

I worried about my Freddie adjusting to his new home. George, as predicted, has become a mighty hunter, intent on exploring his new jungle and taking out prey. But Fred seemed to take it harder. At first he often seemed kind of lost, not able to find his way around. But I think he’s got his bearings now. The back of the living sofa, in front of his fireplace, and here at the end of the bed, on his pillow, he appears to be right at home again — we all are.

 

year in review: 2013

So I’m a sucker for quizzes, surveys, memes, all that stuff. I think these are usually more fun to do than they are to read, though — so you should feel free to just skim my answers and do your own, if you like. If you do read, though, I warn that there may be some snark along the way. That’s my traditional new year’s gift.

Year in Review: A 2013 Survey

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Well, I got married, which I definitely have not done before, to the best of my knowledge.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes, and no. I made a resolution to stick to a particular diet plan and I did stick to it; it wasn’t successful, but that’s not the fault of my willpower. I don’t think I’m going to make any for 2014. Lower expectations, greater rewards, and all that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not yet, and probably not by the end of the year, but soon. 🙂

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not really. My grandmother died this year, but in truth we were not close. I am sorry for the family members who were close to her, though.

5. What places did you visit?

The Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls, and, of course, Long Island, a lot. Though it doesn’t count as visiting anymore.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Nothing. I just want to keep everything I have now.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched in your memory, and why?

I think I’ll remember our wedding date, November 9, pretty much forever.  But there’s also October 26, which is the day Dave came to Buffalo and we stopped being apart. That was the best day of all, really.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Making it to October 26.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Weight loss. I tried a new method and it didn’t work for me. I’m disappointed to have not made any real progress this year. I’ll keep trying some other way, but I had high hopes for this.

10: Did you suffer illness or injury?

Unfortunately, as has been the case the past couple of years, I still struggle with my back. Recovering from surgery was long and hard, and only partially successful. Not to sound corny, but if you have good health, value it. I feel I didn’t do that enough, before.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Last month I bought an iPad mini (and sold the 1st-gen iPad I bought way back in the day in 2010) and I’m really thrilled with it. Steve Jobs was thoroughly opposed to a smaller iPad; in general I think he was a true genius and Apple will never innovate as it did under his direction again, but I think he might have been wrong about this one. The mid-size between an iPhone and a full iPad is perfect, at least for me.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My niece Rebecca makes both Dave and I incredibly proud just to be related to her. She’s awesome.

13. Whose behavior was not so exemplary?

Georgie is a bad, bad kitty, and he knocks things over all the time for no reason at all. I still love him, though.

14. Where did most of your money go?

FredCo’s offshore accounts. Also, rent and moving. And a wedding.

15. What did you get really excited about?

Well, the wedding. Also, in no particular order, bingo, marriage equality, Catching Fire, and spaghetti parm.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Probably Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a. happier or sadder? Happier.
b. thinner or fatter? I think almost exactly the same.
c. richer or poorer? Well, I’m unemployed now.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

At home, with the kitties, our tree, and cheeseburgers.

19. Did you fall in love in 2013?

From now on, I fall in love every year.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

How I Met Your Mother. But we also love Modern Family. In a surprise move, I’ve also gone back to both Glee and Top Chef.

21. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?

I hate all the same people I did before, plus our downstairs neighbor, who once complained about the noise we were making when we were out of town.

22. What was the best book you read?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I didn’t read a ton this year, though I started a lot of books I never finished.

23. What did you want and get?

A husband. Also, a Supreme Court ruling (two of them actually).

24. What did you want and not get?

Marriage equality everywhere. A cure for AIDS. A totally non-broken back.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

Catching Fire

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Dave says I was 41 this year (I never remember). We were in the Finger Lakes at our favorite bed and breakfast, The Hayward House.

27. Which celebrity/public figure did you admire the most?

I don’t think about celebrities much. But I like Sir Patrick Stewart, and not just for his ability to moo with different accents.

28. Whom did you miss?

I missed Mom a lot this year.

29. Who was the best new person you met?

Michael & Mindy Shedler, Dave’s former and sometimes boss and his wife, who came to our wedding as well. Also Uncle Norman and Aunt Jane, and a lot of other new relatives.

30. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

From the Goo Goo Dolls, “Come to Me”

Today’s the day I’ll make you mine
So get me to the church on time
Take my hand in this empty room
You’re my girl, and I’m your groom

Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
Take you back where you belong
This will be our favorite song
Come to me with secrets bare
I’ll love you more so don’t be scared
When we’re old and near the end
We’ll go home and start again

movin’ on up

wheelmudSo, we’re here. On Long Island, and home. As I write this, Dave is finishing up one of our last tasks, hooking up the TV in the living room, and with that, we’ll have everything almost set. Not too bad, right? Less than two weeks later and we’re done with the move and everything. Did it all go off without a hitch? Not exactly, but in the end it all worked out.

The morning after our wedding, tired and headachy from a hotel room with the worst ventilation ever, we said goodbye to a lot of people: out of town guests traveling back home, friends hitting the road, people from home I would be leaving in a few days. And I did not handle it well. The excitement of the wedding, I think, kept me from thinking too hard about the fact that I was moving away from everything I know. There were a lot of tears.

Also a lot of manual labor. There was still some packing and cleaning to do, and on Monday, a giant U-Haul truck to load. That eventually went really smoothly, but not before we drove it back from the rental site, pulled up to the house… and promptly got really stuck in the mud. And when you get an enormous 26′ moving truck stuck in the mud, even a little, there’s really no simple rock-back-and-forth solution. The more you try that, the worse it gets. You’re stuck. I mean, we had a trained archaeologist on hand, and even she couldn’t dig us out (thanks for trying, though, Jen!). But an hour or so of panic, a tow from a slightly smaller U-Haul truck later, and we were back in business. Everything got loaded up and the guys hit the road, and Dave and I spent one last night in an empty house, said goodbye to some good friends, and got up Tuesday morning and left, kitties in their carriers, car loaded to the gills.

IMG_1805It wasn’t that bad of a drive. The cats didn’t like it, and didn’t eat or use their litter box, or drink anything other than a few drops of milk, but they were calm the whole ride. And we made decent time, and kept each other company. It was okay. We arrived home in Smithtown in one piece, home to a house already full of furniture and boxes, thanks to our amazing family and friends who’d unloaded the truck, and a nice welcome home surprise from my new mother-in-law.

IMG_1818The days since have been busy. We’ve taken some breaks here and there, but I think we both felt the sooner we could get rid of the boxes and get everything set up, the better. We went room by room and got it all done, including moving in The Couch That Almost Wasn’t — if it wasn’t for a terrific new neighbor, that couch would either still be stuck in the hallway, or gone in sawed-apart pieces.

The cats in particular have calmed down a lot now that the boxes are gone. I strongly suspect they don’t know the difference between packing and unpacking, and this has just been a continuation of the disarray their life has been for a month. Georgie is very okay now, exploring and playing all the time. He’s a little too excited and won’t settle down to snuggle, but he will eventually. Freddie has taken a little more time. Spatial relations have never been his strong suit, and there have been times he’s forgotten how to find his water bowl, or even me. But he loves his fireplace, just like I knew he would.

And me? I’m okay. I’m happy, of course. I waited for this day to come for a long time. I love our new home, and I love Dave, and everything is good. But if I’m telling the truth, I’m a lot more homesick than I thought I’d be. I miss everyone. I miss everything. I keep picturing my room in my house, my yard, my driveway. My ride to work. My neighborhood, my stores, my familiar places. It’s not anything against here, but I find myself wishing I could just do the aisles at the NF Boulevard Wegmans, go to bingo, and then come back home here again. And I wish I could do that whenever, and not once in a long while. I love the changes I made, and I love it here, but I miss the things and the people I had to leave behind, maybe a little more than I’d planned on.