On Animals, Lovingly

About a year ago, I came across a list of reminders for pet owners. The one thing from that list that has never left my mind is the reminder that while you may have a lot of things/people/events/places in your life, you are the world to your pet. You are all that they have – they rely on you for food, for love, for entertainment, for adventure, for comfort.

black cats, carlos, chicago, paws chiago, cat,

He kills me. I never thought I’d love something so much. Every time I see him, my heart expands to accommodate all the love I have for him.

He’s just discovered bath water. He’s always been curious about baths, but his curiosity finally bested his fear, and lately, he’s been hopping up onto the side of the tub, where he’ll sit and then tentatively dip his paws in the water and swirl them around. Sometimes, he’ll hover with his nose just above the water, whiskers barely skimming the surface.  It’s the cutest thing, even though I’m frozen by the fear that he’ll fall in and I’ll suffer the wrath of a wet cat.

One thing I’ve always loved about Carlos is how demanding he is when it comes to affection. When I go away, even for a night, he’ll let me know that he’s upset with me by rubbing up against my legs and then ignoring me. He’s very aggressive about the silent treatment, and his faces are priceless. He’ll rub up against my legs, then walk a few feet away, and then, sitting with his back to me, he’ll look back over his shoulder and give me the big sad yellows, as if to say, “You? Oh, I hadn’t noticed you were there” and after a while, it becomes “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME!?” but in cat-speak, complete with frantic meows and very clingy cat-cuddling.

(His snaggle tooth is the cutest thing.)

I’ve noticed that when I come back, Carlos gets very possessive. He’s jealous of any visitors who come over. When I get home from work, if I lay in my bed, he’ll hop up and hop onto my stomach and lay down, curling into a position that renders me immobile but assures that we’ll have some time to snuggle. I watch his little body, his stomach rising and falling as he breathes, I listen to his adorable feline sighs.

They’re far more complex than we give them credit for. They hold onto grudges – as evidenced by his distrust of my brother – and they are capable of giving unconditional love in ways that we could all learn from. The idea that to them, we are the world is humbling and terrifying – we are so responsible for them and their happiness. How can we ever live up to that?

We are their world. Don’t we owe it to them to love them madly and completely? I have grown accustomed to sharing about 60% of my bed with 13 pounds of cat. He manages to situate himself in such a position that he has the best parts of the blankets, or that you can’t lay completely straight. My usual waking position is one leg straight, then one leg bent with foot resting above the opposite knee (hey, sleep yoga!), and cat in the space where my legs should have been. Or he sleeps on my stomach, or snuggled into my arms.

As much as he aggravates me with his demands for wet food and sleep positions (how dare I try to be comfortable until he’s situated?), I wouldn’t trade any of this. We’re coming up on three years now. Three years of accidental cat ownership. I can’t fathom not having him around. Chicago street cat turned spoiled Colorado house cat. Who’d have guessed?

I read this article in the New York Times about a woman who runs a sort of cat sanctuary – she knows their names, she knows what they like, she knows what they need. The last part identifies a few of the cats, and talks about one cat who was found snuggling his owner after the owner died, and how the owner was a musician, and how the cat comes to sit by the radio every time he hears music. It just breaks my heart to think about how many people neglect and abuse their pets, given their capacity for love and the strength of the bonds that we create with them.

Of course, I recommend adopting a shelter animal. I get that they may not be the newest, or the best looking, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are the most deserving of love and good homes.

This year, I’m going to make sure that Carlos knows how much I love him. I’m going to make more time to play with him – I’m going to make sure we have a steady supply of catnip-infused things to hunt and “kill.” I’m going to try to keep him entertained by letting him do more jumping and perching (while also discouraging property destruction caused by his careless disregard for fragile things). I’m going to snuggle him and make sure that he’s never lacking for attention.

And in return, I expect him to finally wear his special occasion neon green bow tie long enough for me to get a decent picture.

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On Breaking-Up and More Broken Record Bullshit, Mournfully

When I’m sad, I listen to this song over and over again. It calms me.

Apparently six weeks is my new limit. It’s happened twice now: take a trip to the Southwest, be happy, have everything suddenly unravel, wonder what the hell went wrong. Usually, it’s nothing.

We spent the weekend fighting over nothing. Literally, things I don’t even care about were suddenly huge deal breakers. He left me to decompress on Sunday afternoon, and I laid in bed and cried before falling asleep with my arms around the cat. It was a hard, needy sleep.

I know that I’ll eventually have to face the issues I have with fear of abandonment. I realize this because I got drunk last night (wine and earl grey tea ice cream and pineapple curry and friends to soothe my broken heart) and texted him. (Madeline was right when she said that drunk break-up texting should be illegal.) My drunk, desperately sad texting centered on asking him why he left me (even though it was me who ended it without warning yesterday afternoon).

I do this over and over again, and I’m starting to recognize it as a pattern. (Of course, you’re thinking, Finally!) I fall hard and fast, and it’s wonderful. It’s insanely wonderful. The vision of the future gleams in front of me, and I can almost taste it. But then shit gets real. My need to escape is so ingrained that I don’t even see it sometimes. The fear of getting hurt overwhelms me. He made a few fair points. I can only push people so far. I make excuses about why relationships aren’t going to work. I’m too focused on what might go wrong in the future. I panicked. I got too happy and too comfortable and I panicked because those feelings terrify me.

Right now, I hurt. And I’m hung over, so that’s not helping anything. But I hurt everywhere. My heart. And I can’t stop the stupid tears. And I know it’s me and I wonder why I’m so broken inside.

I don’t know if I did the right thing. I just don’t know.

On Rage and Authenticity, Quite Happily

As much as I dread the thirteen-and-a-half-hour workday, I find that it is a reminder of many things, including strength, dedication, commitment, and so on. Mostly, it’s a reminder of the lengths that I’m willing to go to ensure myself a solid, stable future and to keep Carlos in the style to which he’s become accustomed (which is basically just fat. Wet cat food is not cheap, but since it delights him so much, it’s worth it – and I benefit indirectly because the amount of snuggling I receive correlates to his enjoyment of his wet food).

Lately, as I struggle yet again with a lingering resentment for a part of my extended family, and as I work long days, I am reminded of the opportunities for gratitude in everything that I do. Today at my real job, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with my lady boss, a woman I’ve come to respect and admire for both her spirit but also her ability to keep everything together in the face of immense pressure. She’s funny, strong, and intelligent: all things that I aspire to be.

After that, at my night gig shelling out ice cream, I was grumpy because a couple came in and made fun of the way I said “food laws” by way of an attempt to explain why we no longer offer a certain product. Excuse me if I get offended because you find my use of “food laws” so immensely entertaining that you need to say it eighteen times. I’m exhausted, annoyed, and perfectly capable of using correct language, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. “I misspoke,” I said simply, glaring at them, hurt and embarrassed. I swear, “cross-contamination” and “regulations” are words that do exist in my vocabulary, even if I’m not always capable of injecting them into conversation. I was determined to let it bother me all night, holding onto my repressed rage at the indignation I felt.

But of course, life had other plans and I was treated to some of my absolute favorite customers. A mother and her son came in and told me that they were delighted to see my face behind the counter. A father and his son came in – they were in for ice cream last night so I made a quip and we discussed our own personal limits for enduring Journey songs on the radio. Another guy came in who knows my boss, and so we talked about the neighborhood and the church and parking tickets. Yesterday, I had a conversation about the American habit of rushing through eating, and the idea of savoring a meal and appreciating the experience. These are all totally strange conversations, but they’re the kind of conversations that I want to be having. They show me so much about people.

These are the moments when I’m reminded why it’s so important to forge wonderful bonds with people, even if those interactions are infrequent, or based solely on introduction to free Blizzard punch cards. The people who may have the most profound impact on you are the people you may know the least, and that’s why it’s so important to present your best self at all times – not your best fake self, but you, entirely. The people who came in tonight revived my spirit and my mood. They have no idea they had that affect, of course, but I can only hope that I did something similar for them.

As I think about the version of myself that I put forward, I think back to a conversation I had with my mother this week about my frustration with an issue that I’ve done everything in my power to resolve, but to no avail. She told me that no matter where I go in life, and no matter what tax bracket I find myself in, I’ll never lose my grit. (I immediately saw myself wearing dusty cowboy boots and clenching my teeth while smoking a Marlboro.) But she must not be wrong, because the sentiment was echoed by someone who means very much to me who told me that my authenticity shows in everything that I do.

And the more I think about it, the more it’s true. Living my life guided by three simple principles – “don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal” – has allowed me to be my most authentic self at all times. I’m not always right, but at least I’m always me. And leaving out all deception, theft, and malicious intent has allowed so much love and happiness to grow inside of me.

Consistency and adherence to my core values allows me to experience so much that others can’t, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve found myself in many situations this year that have tested me in ways that I never imagined – both professionally and personally – and yet they’ve allowed me to flex my honesty, my drive, and my intuition.

Things are going swimmingly – I’m happy. I’m happy discussing conspiracy theories with my Dairy Queen co-workers; I’m happy writing press releases at my real job; I’m happy in my new relationship; I’m just really happy.

Of course, I’m overworked, exhausted, and prone to bouts of melancholy. Of course I’m panicked and stressed and overwhelmed, but even through all of that, I’m happy with myself and with the person that I’m becoming, which is far more important than anything else.

I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve experienced in life, because it’s made me so much stronger. I’m no wilting wallflower. I believe it was Courtney Love who said, “I’m not a woman; I’m a force of nature.” I aim to embody that. And as my mother said during our conversation, no matter where I end up, I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ll never forget the hard work I’ve had to put in to get here, because in the end it’s all worth it. Along the way, there are little bits of encouragement, reminding me that the path I’ve chosen is the right path.

When I wonder why I’ve been rejected by an entire section of my extended family, I can’t help but take into consideration the fact that perfect strangers are excited to see me. I can’t help but think about how much I care about the people I love, and the things that I’d do to help my friends. I can’t help but think about how much of my personality gets to shine through at all of my jobs, at family events, on dates and adventures and through literally everything that I do. I can’t help but think about the person that I am today, and the person that I was yesterday, and I realize I’m still exactly me; I always have been.

What was my advice to adolescent girls dealing with people who are assholes? Oh yeah, “fuck ’em.” Here’s another piece of advice: if all of the evidence points to you being an authentic, awesome (oh, totally modest right now, too) human being, fuck the people who can’t wrap their heads around that. Fuck the people who don’t respect you, or value you, or care. You can find new family; you can make you own – and you can find the respect and value in tiny places like a pair of customers at Dairy Queen who express joy at your presence. That’s enough to remind you that who you are can’t be all bad.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right. Everything is better than all right. Everything is amazing. Life is beautiful. It’s complexity and it’s pain, but it’s insanely worth the journey.

My authentic self, chilling on a rock in the desert:

He does take the best pictures, doesn’t he? (He’s editing, more soon.)

On Fall, College, and Debates, Randomly

I’m totally embracing fall today. I’m wearing my lumberjack plaid shirt (which got complimented at the grocery store by two really burly-looking dudes, so that made me feel pretty badass), I drank a pumpkin spice latte (work perks), and I’m relishing the leaves that are suddenly everywhere (Colorado got really windy last night, so now there are leaves on lawns, leaves in the streets, leaves on the sidewalks, and so on). I even changed my Gmail theme so that the background is a wonderful vision of red, yellow, and green leaves.

Yay, fall! It’s still sunny and bright, so I’m not even thinking about the ice scraping hell that is yet to come. Right now, I love the weather. I love the leaves. I am craving a pumpkin carving session. I want to make spiced cider and wear striped socks.  It’s still warm, so I’m still looking forward to wearing my coat – although somehow between last week and now, I’ve managed to mislay my brand new black pea coat. Hrm…..looks like the hunt is on.

Where does one leave a pea coat? It’s not in my car (although my gray one is, along with the black one that I am dissatisfied with. I keep it in there to wear when I go to bars so in case someone steals it, they’re actually doing me a favor instead of ruining my evening). It might be in my house (this is a constant problem since 80% of my clothing is black – I can never find anything when I need it). It might be at my mom’s house. It is. It’s hanging in her kitchen closet because I didn’t get it after dinner last week. Boom! Thank you, logic and desperate recollection.

***

I fall asleep while watching tv on my computer, usually. It’s my way to calm down after the day, but also my way to keep abreast of current pop culture stuff. I usually choose The Daily Show or The Colbert Report because they’re 21 minutes (ish), they’re light-hearted, and I don’t have to follow anything other than the sound of their voices as I drift off. Also, Carlos seems to enjoy them, too. He curls up with me and lays his head so he can see the screen. I have no idea if he’s watching or if he’s just comfortable that way, but I won’t complain.

But the other night, I chose one of the new episodes of Modern Family. I’ve written about the show before, mostly because if it’s a good episode, I will have cried at least once by the end. (Not cried like melted down and sobbed, but teared up and/or felt at least one tear drip down my cheek.) The show is silly, but I do think that they have some really poignant moments. And that’s what I’m all about – the humor blended with the absolute certainty of reality of life.

So….the oldest daughter is going to college. The move-in process was really not one of the show’s finer moments, but the scene where the parents have gone really got to me. The daughter is shown wandering around the cafeteria, alone, as the parents drive home. She calls her parents later, when she’s back in her room. And the parents are holding back tears and so is the daughter. Of course, my heart just cracked and spilled over and tears ran down my face – enough to annoy the cat.

I’ve written about my college drop off a hundred times. It was horrible. My uncle and cousin were kind enough to accompany my mom and brother to Chicago. We got my stuff moved in. And the first night, they were still in the city. Over breakfast before they left – at a place that did not have sides of fruit available for purchase – I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I’ll repeat, just for emphasis, it was horrible. I’m not even embarrassed. My uncle does a really funny impression of me begging, “I’ll go to DU, I swear! Take me with you!” (Funny now, not so funny then.) And then I cried for the next three days. The first night, my roommate came back into our room and declared – oddly gleefully – that there was a bulimic on our floor because she’d heard some girl throwing up. (That girl was me. Not a bulimic. It was tear-induced vomiting.) After those first few days, I was more or less fine and proceeded to fall in love with Chicago. But watching the tv parents drive away in their van, and the girl alone in her room brought it all back, just for a minute. That’s how you make good television.

I also laughed out loud at the gay/lesbian Venn diagrams they made with their arms. I laughed hard enough to annoy the cat, who apparently doesn’t find gay/lesbian human Venn diagrams amusing at all.

Last night, I fell asleep while watching Breaking Bad. Then the boy/man/romantic interest – ugh, we’ll just call him by his actual name because I am sick of writing “he” – Then Matt called, and my sleeping self told him that it was very windy and then went back to sleep. (Sleep Katie is very productive – she answers the phone, she responds to emails and texts, and she talks. Last week it was about towels and cat food – obviously very pertinent and totally normal things.)

***

The debate last night. I don’t care what side you support, or who you think won, but I’ve been very much enjoying all of the internet uproar about the whole thing.

Like this, which made me laugh out loud:

Binders full of women My roommate got pregnant our freshman year of college, and now has an adorable five-year old daughter. She’s single, a teacher, a mother, and a beautiful human being. She was indignant about Romney’s answer to the AK-47 question (as was I), and rightly so. It reminded me of my junior year of high school when our Morality teacher told us that single parent households were against God’s plan…I told him that I was being raised in a single parent household (at that point, I was living with just my mom, and it was by choice). His response? “Would you want your kids raised that way?” Personally, I think I turned out just fine. And I don’t own any weapons, assault or otherwise.

Also, the best facebook status of the night, posted by one of my brother’s friends: “Apparently, guns don’t kill people, single parents do.”

On the Weather and the China, Pragmatically

Winter is coming.

(God, can you tell that I’m impatient for new Game of Thrones? I’m about to dive into the books, so wish me luck. I’m usually a book-before-television kind of girl, but when they’re as complicated as this story, it’s usually a good idea to be able to visualize characters and general plot trajectories.)

But seriously, winter is coming. The cat is eager to snuggle against me, stealing my warmth and reminding me that I’m only good as a food provider and occasional attention-giver. The windows have been closed, but if you aren’t quick enough to grab a towel when you step out of the shower, the air feels crisp and cold through the windows. The plus side to all this unease about winter is that there will be snow for potential snowboarding (I still haven’t figured out about that this year) and that I will be able to drink hot tea without feeling silly. During the winter, I order tea by the case and drink it all day.

The thought of hot baths is a welcome one, but it’s also interspersed with images of standing on the busy street next to my house trying to scrape off my car in between spurts of traffic. It’s interspersed with ice chipping and sliding and being late because I forget that you have to warm up your car before you can command it to warm you. I’m excited, I swear. I love hot cider (with rum!) and crunching leaves and snowboarding, but I hate being cold. Unfortunately, those things are a package deal.

Colorado is one of those magical places where it can be like 40 degrees in the morning and then 85 in the afternoon, so there are at least two months a year where I’m just plain uncomfortable. I’m cold or I’m too hot, overdressed because I was concerned about being too cold. It’s terrible. And while the answer is layers, layers, layers!, I still haven’t found tearaway pants that don’t make me look like I’m about to play basketball or a stripper. (That’s a joke – I don’t want to own tearaway pants.)

(Hilarious [to me] story about my brother: When he was in 8th grade, he was at the high school to play basketball, and in front of the entire girls’ team, he ripped off his snap-away warm up pants only to realize that he hadn’t put on shorts.)

Yesterday was one of those days. I knew that it was going to warm up, but I was cold. So I wore jeans and a t-shirt and managed to nearly melt into the pavement a short time later. I hung out with a friend that I’ve not seen in a long time, and after grabbing lunch on Saturday, we headed to the local farmer’s market on Sunday and then off to the flea market.

I had never been to Denver’s flea market before yesterday. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I found that it was a lot like the Maxwell Street market in Chicago and the Muizenberg market in Cape Town: lots of pure junk and then some awesome stuff. My friend was looking for furniture for her house – she has lots of space and a small budget. And of course, Pinterest has made us all believe that we are DIY-masters. (We’re not.)

I wasn’t looking for anything specific, but since I love shiny things, I knew I’d want to buy something. As we wound through the aisles – just like Muizenberg – clothes, and tires, and clothes, and auto parts, and clothes, etc. – I spotted them. Dishes, laying in a pile on a blanket.

Salem China Company English Village Flea Market

I knew I wanted them. I have loved the blue/white china patterns since I was a little girl (thank you, Grandma, for always having blue dishes – I think your taste in plates led to a subconscious love of blue that I will carry with me forever. You’re not wrong to love the color combination).

I failed miserably at bargaining – something I’m usually really proud of. Africa taught me a lot of things, and one of them is the art of negotiation. The approach, the feigned disinterest after initial interest, the offer, the rejection, the walking-away, the wait!, the agreement, the deal. Yesterday went like this:  $50, they’re worth a lot more. Will you take $40? No. I’ll be back. $45? No. Fine, I’ll take them. Do you have a box?

My friend, on the other hand, had someone much more willing to negotiate and ended up with a record player/cabinet thing (I’m sure it has a name) for well under the initial asking price.

Both of us walked away satisfied. I got home and Googled the dishes. They’re antiques, made by a china company that stopped making stuff in the early 60s. They’re worth a lot more than $50 – replacement pieces start at $5 each and go up to $25 for a teacup and saucer and much higher for the plates, so I’m thinking that even though there was a breakdown in bargaining, I made out all right.

All in all, I got more than 25 pieces: 6 dinner plates, 6 teacups and 7 saucers, 6 fruit bowls (dessert bowls?), a serving platter, and a large(ish) bowl. Somehow that counted out to 29 last night as I was washing them, but now it doesn’t seem to add up. 27? Whatever. I’m pleased as punch about the whole set, even if I’m now going to have to start taking my tea and coffee in delicate cups instead of massive mugs. (When did I start “taking” tea?)

Now, I’m on the hunt for mismatched bowls. Instead of trying to find a cohesive set of dishes, I’m just going to find ones I like and end up with an eclectic array. We have more plates than we know what to do with and like 2 bowls. So Goodwill and Target, I’m coming for you!

Release notes:

Totally cried about this new Google Chrome commercial called “Jess Time.” Growing up is really painful sometimes, and I love how the Google people manage to capture so much human emotion in their ad spots.  The Love Story one gets me every time. 

Friday Drivel, Nonchalantly

Work this week was wild. Every now and then, one of our consultants who works remotely flies in and we have company meetings. Even though I’m in a department all by myself (which is the best and worst thing ever), I still find myself distracted and unproductive during these weeks, regardless of whether I’m attending every single meeting or not. Now that it’s Friday, I’m finding myself able to settle down and focus on setting my schedule for the week ahead.

***

In Kaiser-related news: I passed my drug test with an A (for amphetamines, which we entirely anticipated since I take them most days. I had a good shock when I saw that on the results list, but quickly realized that it meant Adderall and stopped wondering where I might have accidentally come into contact with meth or something related).This is the best news. (Not that I was worried.)

***

I have been trying to curb my internet shopping habit. Having to slowly purchase a new wardrobe is so much easier when it can just come to your office, but it’s also expensive and annoying as all hell when you have to return something. But when I saw boots on sale on one of my web sites, I had to buy them.

Every year, I try to buy a pair of boots that I like. Every single year, I go for black riding boots. Every single year, I am disappointed. Last year, I bought a pair to try at Target and ended up wearing them all year. The only problem? They didn’t last and I won’t be able to stretch their life through this winter. So after Christmas, I treated myself to a pair of wonderful boots. They arrived, via mail, at which point I discovered that they looked worse than the Target boots, so they were sent back.

I got the new boots today. I get so excited to get mail, particularly when it’s a package. I tore it open, and tried them on. And they did exactly what I knew they’d do: they gaped around my calves. Gaped. They looked like rain boots, which I hate more than any other kind of boots for the simple reason that they’re just so large. The boots have been returned to their packaging and will find themselves back in the mail tomorrow. I’m dejected, but determined. There must be a pair of tall black boots that isn’t going to cost me tons of money that will fit my calves (or at least not swallow them into a dark abyss). I will find it, although I’m starting to give up hope that I’ll ever find a pair of black riding boots with a small enough calf circumference to suit my chicken calves. Instead, I might go nuts and get some Doc Martens, something I’ve wanted since I was like 13.

***

I wore a white shirt to work today, which means that within five minutes of making coffee (I can make coffee now! I realize that seems stupid, but I learned this week and I’m incredibly proud of this), I had a coffee stain on my shirt. Of course.

***

I pride myself on being very even keel. I’m not usually girlish or overly emotional (although lately, I’ve been questioning whether or not this is true. Last night, I cried at the end of one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.) I’m usually pretty consistent when it comes to assessing my own emotional needs and doing what I need to do to ensure my own happiness and well-being.

But I’ve been uncharacteristically moody this week. I should have realized what was happening since my skin started to get grumpy, but I was hit with an assault of hormones that threw me into an irrationally angry and pathetic state. Like, “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?” needy, which is a very rough place to be, especially when that’s the last place you want to find yourself.

Trying to explain to Britt why I need to be reassured and snuggled was like trying to speak Esperanto to deaf penguins in Antarctica. It went like this:

“Since we started hanging out, you haven’t once told me that you care. I realize that even if you said it now, it’d be under duress, but I just need some reassurance from time to time that you don’t hate this.”

He laughed. “I spend time with you! I see you all the time! Do you think I’m a masochist who would spend so much time hanging out with someone I hated?”

“I just need some reassurance sometimes. You’re always so sarcastic about everything.”

“So if I don’t ever see you but tell you that you’re pretty and that I like you, that’ll be enough?”

“NO!”

“That’s exactly what you just said you wanted.”

Men are very frustrating creatures, particularly when they don’t speak your love language. Especially when they aren’t aware of the concept of love languages. I think everyone should have to grow up with sisters, so they’re prepared to enter adulthood with a good idea of how things work.

I was complaining to Mike last night (while he was kind enough to make me a turkey and avocado panini on his beloved panini maker), and he said, “You always jump into things without realizing what you’re getting yourself into.” He’s not wrong, but I’m too stubborn to give up until it’s beyond saving. Based on my pushing and his non-response, it may be sooner rather than later. Ah, well, such is life.

***

If you’re a pet owner, you will love (or at least appreciate) these two sites:

Dog Shaming | Cat Shaming

The beast would get a shaming picture because when we play, he loves to attack my hands instead of his toy. Or because he always runs into our Saw basement (think of the movie Saw. Then you’ll know what our basement looks like. Dark and full of crazy rooms and clutter.) the minute I open the door and has to be coaxed out by shaking a bag of wet food. Or for once attacking a dog.

***

Happy Friday!

On the Weekend Adventure to the Grand Canyon, Impressively

I didn’t think he was serious. I think we were watching Donnie Darko when it came up that I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. “Let’s go,” he said. (For the record, they all say that. We make tentative plans and then we don’t go.)

Friday night, I left work, went to babysit, and then flew home to shower and pack. By 10pm, we were on the road, headed west. He drove until Vail – where we encountered the full force of the law, so I drove until Moab, where we switched again, and then I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, it was 7am and we were somewhere in Arizona.

We got to the gates of the park at 8:30. After a quick change of clothes in the parking lot, we went. And for the first time, I saw the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful.

We climbed around on rocks. Neither of us had brought an insane amount of hiking gear, so we stayed near the top and just looked around. Wandered through some ruins. (Not really ruins, more like signs pointing out trees and what things might have been. Underwhelming.)

(We were staring into the sun. Terrible idea. Both of us are squinty and look miserable.)

By noon, the awe surrounding the immensity of the canyon was wearing off and the annoyance caused by fellow tourists was beginning to wear on us, so we decided to bail on the park (and the already purchased camping reservation I’d purchased).

We had lunch. (I’ve been eating salami, cheese, and bread for weeks on end and it still tastes just as good every time.) 

I asked that we find water, and he pointed to Lake Powell on the map. So off we went. Driving past the North Rim area of the Grand Canyon as you head toward Page, Arizona is like viewing the Wall in Game of Thrones. It’s amazing. It looms over everything.

We got into the park, wandered around looking for a spot to swim, and landed at a very sandy beach. We crossed a very nasty looking inlet and then hiked through some spiky bushes to an empty sandy beach area. It was empty, and so it became ours.

We decided to camp there, so we hiked back across the muck and got our stuff. And hiked back across the muck and back through the spiky bushes and down to our beach spot.

Swimming and a sunset walk rounded out our evening. We finished off the meat and cheese by the lake and fell asleep just after the sun went down. (I am a little bummed about that – I was looking forward to night swimming.)

I usually don’t fall asleep very well when I’m camping. I’m too jumpy and nervous. As 1:00 am rolled around and I was awake for the fourth time, I finally pulled out Mike’s sleeping bag and threw it over me. Snuggled into that, I fell asleep and stayed asleep. I woke up to an empty tent and a beautiful sunrise (ish).

Britt swam out to that giant rock you saw above, and I nearly had seven heart attacks once I stopped being able to see his head above the water. (I used to be a strong swimmer, but am really out of shape now and couldn’t have gotten out there even if I’d had to.) My consolation was a boat floating near the side of the big rock. In my mind, they’d give him a ride back, and that’s exactly what ended up happening. The boat came directly at me, someone yelled “Man overboard!” and he jumped to swim back to me. I waved, yelled, “Thank you!” and felt my heart start to beat again.

We packed up camp and headed home, but not before getting the car stuck in the deep sand and being towed out by a shirtless man with a cigarette dangling from his lips. “You kids have fun,” he said before climbing back into this truck and heading back to the beach. There was even a shower involved! It was outdoors with no warm water, but it may have been one of the best showers I’ve ever taken. I was so happy to stand in the spray and feel the soap slide down me and drain away into the sand.

The redness of the rock and the blue of the sky reminded me of our road trip through South Africa and made me miss the country. The Native American land that we drove through made my heart ache. Handwritten signs spelling out “Tire Shop” looked just like the ones in the South African townships. If you could replace the tract housing with metal sheets, it could have just as easily been Capricorn or Vryground. Even the roadside markets, with their handmade stalls and hand-painted signs were similar. I could sense the rawness of the whole thing, and I felt simultaneously moved and unmoved. It was interesting. It was the same mix of emotions I felt in Cape Town. Respect for the situation but understanding of the complexities that have made it so. Realization that there can be no swift change, and that the emotions that haunt those involved will not fade for generations to come, if at all.

I drove while he slept. I threw my phone on shuffle and listened to music and just let the road take me. I was happy. Once I started to ache, I pulled over, got food and gas, and then switched spots with him. I didn’t sleep on the way home – he’d brought me his Kindle to read since I mentioned that I wanted to read The Hunger Games. I got engrossed in the book while we still had daylight.

We landed in front of my apartment before 10. I hauled my stuff in and made noodles while Carlos yowled and rubbed against me, apparently surprised to see me return home. Instead of falling asleep immediately, I read a few more chapters of the book and then finally turned out my light.

The weekend was fun. I’m surprised that we traveled so well together and I genuinely enjoyed myself. I was stressed before we left because of my natural pre-trip stress and the fact that I felt like we weren’t communicating well, but as soon as we were on the road that all melted away. This continues to unfold in an interesting way, and I am quite curious to see where it leads.

On the Zoo, Over-Heatedly

My mom’s five-year old neighbor is one of the most adorable human beings I’ve ever met. (Last summer, while playing Capture the Flag, she came to let me out of jail – an overturned boat in our shared backyard – and she informed me that “that’s what best friends do.” My heart cracked and overflowed.)

For the last six months or so, she’s been reminding me that I promised her that we’d go to the zoo and have a picnic in City Park and that she’d get to meet Carlos. “I’ve never met a cat before; I’ve never met Carlos,” she tells me.

So on Sunday, my mom, my neighbor, and I piled into the car – she wanted me to sit next to her in the backseat, so I did – and headed to the zoo armed with a picnic lunch. It was too hot, so we didn’t last very long at the zoo. We were able to get about 100 feet into the new elephant exhibit, and we didn’t get to see any penguins.

I’m heartbroken – penguins are my absolute favorite things. Here are penguin pictures from Boulder’s Beach in South Africa:

(Can you tell I’m missing South Africa? Always.)

Anyway, the zoo.

We saw lots of sleeping animals – lions, tigers, kangaroos – it seemed like everyone just wanted to be left alone to sleep in the heat. We rode the zoo train. We had ice cream, and our little friend desperately wanted popcorn, so we had some of that too.

After we left the zoo, we went to my house so she could meet Carlos. I was nervous – Carlos is skittish at best around new people, and he’s never been around a 5-year old.

Carlos loved her. At one point, she kissed him right on the nose. He didn’t flinch. We fed him some wet food (is there a better way to get a cat to sit still?), and she got to scratch his back while he ate.

Then we had a picnic in the park, under the big arches.

We had turkey sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, leftover popcorn from the zoo, and gummy bears. Then we chased each other around with squirt guns and played frisbee until we were exhausted and ready for sleep.

All in all? A great day. I hope that it was everything she imagined it would be.

On Hot Cats in the Summer, Vigilantly

It’s been a while since I’ve subjected you to cat pictures, but I didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten how much you all just love to stare at pictures of cats.

black cat

I realized last night that I’ve become the stereotypical female cat owner. Sure, he’s adorable, but I’m way over the top with how much I love him. I ordered him a cat bow-tie off the internet, which he wore for about twenty minutes one day. (In all fairness, the bow-tie was $3, including shipping, and it was twenty minutes of adorable, so I don’t regret it.) I catch myself referring to myself in the third person when I’m talking to him, as in “Mommy doesn’t have any wet food for you.”

I also realized that I don’t care whether or not anyone thinks that is ridiculous. He’s my son. I rescued him and I will love him. Seriously (and so incredibly selfishly), I love that he loves me.

In college, my roommate Emily used to call all cats “chicken nuggets”, so it was only a matter of time before it was shortened to chicken. Last week, Swisher said the word “chicken” and Carlos turned his head, confirming my worst fears that he may think his name is actually “chicken.” But then again, maybe not. It’s not like he responds to anything that isn’t “tsk tsk tsk” or the sound of a can or package of wet food being opened.

Wet food is like crack. He can’t resist; it gets him every time. Now that he knows that we have wet food in the house (it’s hot, and I like knowing that he’s getting a little more hydration and also some good protein), he won’t even run. He’ll bound out the door, but once he realizes that I’m not following, he’ll sashay back in and start the begging.

Swisher accidentally shut the door to my room one night, locking Carlos out and forcing him to sleep in the living room. Mike said that when he got up to go to work, Carlos was scratching at my door. Since then, he won’t sleep in my bed when Swisher is over. (But the minute Swisher leaves, he’s right back on his side of the bed, stretched out territorially, his head cocked back as though he’s wondering when I’m going to come keep him company.)

long black cat

The one drawback to loving a cat in the middle of summer? The shedding! Everywhere! White sheets? Don’t even think about it. (Yes, those are white sheets. The bottom, where Carlos likes to sleep, is no longer white. It’s cat-gray. It’s unpleasant for all of us.) Since all of my friends are allergic (except Jacob), I have to change my sheets or put new sheets down when anyone wants to sleep on our giant bean bag or on the couch or on the futon mattress. I have been doing so much laundry! I started to say, “On the plus side…” but then realized that there really isn’t one.

Until Colorado decides to cool down, I have a very hot, grumpy chicken on my hands, and I am one stressed out cat mother (the thought of heat stroke or dehydration, etc. is terrifying). We have fans everywhere, so hopefully when we’re gone, Carlos just parks himself in front of them and gets some good air. He has fresh water, food, and a dark closet in which he can look for quiet, cool spaces to hang out. But I can still tell he’s miserable. I gave him a cool bath the other day – just barely warm water, and he was dry in less than a half an hour. Maybe more cool baths are in store for us.

Cool baths and wet food are going to get us through the summer.

Side note:  I remember one of the vets at some point telling me that Carlos just looks like a feral cat, based on his facial features. I don’t remember what it is, and can’t verify to be sure that this statement is correct. I was doing some Googling and came across this link, in case any of you are curious about feral cats and the TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release program) that took the tip of his ear.

As I read more and more about these sorts of programs, and especially since I know that he’s FIV+ (Cat AIDS!), the more it sinks in that we are both incredibly lucky. Carlos is lucky to be alive – had he been tested earlier for FIV and found to be positive, there is a high possibility that he could have been euthanized. He ended up at the no-kill shelter that is PAWS Chicago, whether it was through the TNR program or through other means, I’m not sure. After waiting for six months to be adopted (by me!), he’s a sweet, sassy, spoiled house cat who hopefully has a much better life than the one he had before. I could not have asked for a more challenging or entertaining companion.

If you’re looking for a pet, please look at the shelters first. There are some amazing used animals just waiting to find great homes. (I use “used animals” because I think it sounds cute, and not because I think the animals have any less value. Trust me, Carlos would not be the lovable smart-ass he is today without his street experience.)

On Las Vegas

I won’t lie, I was apprehensive because this was our first “Cousins Trip.” I have known these people my entire life, but hanging out with them has been relegated to family events, not adventures.

And this was most certainly an adventure. There was a lot to fit into three days, and since it was Ginger’s and my first time, I didn’t expect to do much more than the typical touristy stuff.

Oh man, my feet are sore. I wanted so badly to wear heels (who wouldn’t?), but due to the broken toe, it appears that any closed-toe shoes are impossible. (I still haven’t heard the final read on the toe x-rays taken last week, but regardless of the doctor’s decision, the pain is way too real to ignore – which I thought I would be able to do for beauty.) We walked and walked and walked. We saw so much more than I thought possible.

There was pool time, eating time, show time, sleep time, alone time…all in all, it was a really great vacation with some really great people.

On the way home, there was a girl traveling alone to spend the summer with her dad. Her mom was trying to hold in tears at the gate as she said good bye and her little sister ran up to give her one last hug. I saw the girl try and be brave with a “Don’t cry, Mom, it’s only two months.” But as soon as she was headed down the jetway, there were tears welling up in her eyes.

A woman a few years older than me was standing right by the girl and asked her if she wanted to sit together. They ended up talking for the entire flight. I think it was incredibly selfless and sweet of that woman to spend some time making a girl feel a little bit more comfortable and a lot less scared.

Quickly, some pictures:

Beetle at the airport, DIA

(This Beetle is on display in the Denver Airport. It was hand-beaded by several families over the course of many weeks. It’s beautiful!)

(The security guard after the Blue Man show. He was pretty much amazing, and I told him so.)

(I liked this flower.)

(my grumpy face. By the time we got to the airport, I was exhausted and more than ready to be home. Finding out that our flight was delayed was more than frustrating.)

Wynn, Las Vegas

(The Wynn, Las Vegas)

Black cat

(I’ve never left Carlos alone for very long. Three days was the longest. I was nervous, especially since he got out and ran to hide in the basement during our 5:00 am departure on Sunday morning. We got back to a very grumpy Carlos, although I was thrilled that he was very much alive. He had taken his collar off somewhere along the way and i still haven’t managed to find it. – old picture)

(The Las Vegas Strip)

(Sorry Ginger, the eyes looked so creepy when I tried to fix them!! I still think we both look beautiful!)

(Caesar’s Palace)

(Mike and I thought it’d be fun to wear hats. It wasn’t.)

(I touched a Blue Man!! Better yet, my favorite Blue Man! Something about his eyeballs was super cool.)

(And of course, there was pool time. Mike said he felt like Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall because of the fruit we started collecting. It was cute.)

And now, I’m off to work! I am so late, so I expect to be there quite a bit later than usual tonight. I have a giant project that absolutely must be completed by tomorrow night  I am hoping that I can overcome the exhaustion and rock today.