Friday, January 29, 2010

Built for Fun

I'm pretty basic. To me, it wasn't the date, but the person/persons I was with that made the occasion.

Some special dates I remember from high school weren't dances or a prom (though some were certainly memorable), but rather, things like---my first 'real' kiss during the sailboat scene of The Way we Were (1974 if anybody's interested)*; going on a picnic with another couple that devolved into 'charging' each other in our respective convertibles like jousting and pelting them with left-over food. (You had to be there. At the time, it was crazy-fun); going to softball/football/basketball games and out afterwards; double-dating to movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Robin and Marion or classic film series; playing pool; dinners out; and watching Saturday Night Live. (SNL the first two seasons were a very big deal -- there hadn't been anything like it before).

In college, it was all about getting off the crowded campus and into nature -- rock climbing, rappelling, tennis, canoe trips, camping -- My BF after college made everyday life an adventure, and our travels out west will forever be fondly remembered. By the time Excy and I met, though, I'd been divorced a little more than a year and a half, and occasionally lonely, but I was comfortable on my own and engrossed in my life and career. I had dates, but my perfect BF lived in NY, a comfortable train ride from DC.

But when Excy and I finally met, that was it for me. I was his editor and wrote up a project of his. We met on the phone and spoke every day for two weeks. I enjoyed our conversations and reluctantly said good-bye when the piece was finished. He called the next day and said, "Hello kid, just missed talking to you." He got my home number, and for the next 6 weeks we spoke every night. I put off meeting him as long as I could. (I really liked having a phone pal, and was afraid meeting him would spoil all that). When he finally said this was ridiculous, we were meeting, I told him I couldn't because I 'had' to work that Saturday (he lived in MD). He said he'd meet me for lunch. I was waiting in the lobby when he walked through the revolving door. The first thought that flashed through my mind was Damn! I don't want to get married again!

A few months later he had a client meeting on the weekend and I went along. It was for a house design and we were meeting at the couple's old house. It was summer and I wore shorts. The woman answered the door and two huge dogs lunged at me, raking me with their nails from thigh to ankle. I'm scared of big dogs anyway, so I was horrified, bleeding, and in some pain. Without batting an eye this strange person said, "You shouldn't have worn shorts." I gave Excy a look like, Can we go now??After an hour of discussing house details we decided to order pizza, and her husband and I left to pick it up while she and Excy were hashing out some detail -- as you can guess, she was a caustic client -- and her pleasant husband and I were waiting for our order when he turned to me and asked what it was that made my relationship 'work' with Excy; how did I 'know' he was 'right' for me?

I think I told him that timing is important, though it wasn't everything, and basically I knew I'd always enjoy his company, and I'd have more fun hanging out with him in the parking lot of a KFC** than I would a weekend in Paris with my former husband. He grew quiet. Three weeks later, when Excy had finished the design phase but couldn't get them to call back, we knew something was up. The guy finally called, and said he and his wife had decided to get a divorce. Planning the house made them both realize how different their priorities were in life.***

I was pretty happy for him, though sad Excy lost a design job...

* I hated it, until later that night when we practiced again. Then it didn't seem a bad thing after-all, much to my relief. I was horrified my future dating life/years were gonna be gruesome....

**Not that we actually frequent KFC, or any fast-food chains for that matter, but it was the principle of the thing....And fortunate this is, too, considering our lifestyle!

***Actually not that uncommon - building a house is a great adventure but boy, it is stressful.....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love - Seriously??

No doubt somebody really liked this book and will disagree with me venomously*, but the EPL book, while has proved such a blockbuster it is being made into a movie (with the likes of Julia Roberts as lead, no less, and that ¨uber-yummy Javier Bardem guy), was, to me, a real dud. Such a let-down. (Though the movie, I suspect, will be a cute chick flick. If nothing else, but to feast one's eyes on Bardem. Sigh).

Okay, mooning over. Back to the book: Am I the only reader who thought, when the writer was falling apart because of a failed marriage, 'Oh crimnamy, woman up, buck up and shoulder on.' Maybe because I've gone through a divorce and have lived with 25 years of surgery and chronic illness, I don't have much patience for wading through pages and pages of self-absorbed whining and moaning.

The 'E' part of the book was my favorite. What person hasn't entertained the idea of leaving it all behind and beginning over? To do so in a foreign country as exquisite as Italy must have been a dream come true. Her descriptions and accounts of her life were funny, ironic and marvelous. The 'P' half was interesting -- just. Again, too self-indulgent to fully engage this reader. And I'm fascinated with spirituality, spiritual matters, and different religions. But the killer, to me, was the 'L' ending. She seemed to have learned nothing from her experiences on the road. As soon as she falls for 'F,' all her new-found-knowledge seems to fly out the window, and what hard-learned lessons she learned didn't seem to 'take,' as she once again falls into a narcissist and needy pattern of living.

This is a book I read 2 years ago, but it's newly bugging me because I can't pick up a magazine without seeing a headline blaring her name and touting her new book on, of all things, marriage, which she assures us right away she was 'forced' into by immigration services who would not allow 'F' in the country otherwise. I have read the articles, and an excerpt of the new book, and all I can add to this rant is that I won't be reading the rest of it, and she must have one hell of an agent to garner all the publicity she's commanding.

And I add for the record that biographies and memoirs are among my favorite genres of reading. Bought the newest bio on Louisa May Alcott the other day.

* Do it on your own blog. I reserve the right to reign on this one. Ha.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Little Orphan Annie

Three years ago, a very disheveled, emaciated, but striking tuxedo cat appeared on the terrace wall, staring in at us. She would appear in the afternoon, hang around a few hours, then trot off into the woods. The neighboring property that backs up to our land is a cow pasture, and sometimes A's barn kitties come over, but they are well fed. This little cat seemed to need help. From her regular schedule, we quickly figured out she must be nursing. When we got close enough to inspect her, we discovered she was, in fact, a teen mother. After 4 weeks she was tame enough to rub against our legs and let us pet her, though she still 'talked' constantly, growling while eating a mouthful of food...

One afternoon Excy drove the tractor into the garage and saw 3 horrified little faces -- the tuxdeo and her 2 kittens. He shut the door and for 3 weeks we worked on taming the little family. When it became too hot to keep them in the un-air-conditioned space we moved them into the studio. MC, the studio cat, wasn't having any of it, though, and we were concerned the kittens would be harmed, so we moved them into our guest bathroom, where they lived for 6 weeks while I frantically searched for homes for them.

First to go was the little gray and white male I had named 'Hairy.'
He was the leader -- brave and brash, and cute. The more timid little boy unfortunately looked positively bat-like.

"Bless his pea-picken' little heart," was one of the more positive comments I received from various emails and computer posts.

When dad saw a photo of 'Killer' (she nabbed a baby bird that had the misfortune to flutter down by her), he fell in love.

After she got shots and 'fixed' to prevent future 'surprises' off she went to their house. He named her 'Annie' (as in 'Little Orphan') and put her in their basement guest quarters to get used to the house. Since she had been tame with us, I assumed she quickly adapt to having a 'forever' home.

Mom called later that day to say Annie had disappeared. For about a week, they'd put food and water in the bowls, go in and sit on the bed and talk to her, but there would be no cat. But the food disappeared. Finally dad pulled out the fold-out sofa and found the hole she had dug into the mattress. But she wasn't in it. By then she had figured a way into the ceiling duct. They had a semi-feral cat crawling around the house for about a month before she finally warmed to mom, a bit, and started appearing in the house in public. After a year, she got to where she would sit near them, be petted, and stay in the same room. I told them they needed another cat, a male kitten (so she wouldn't feel in competition with it), that she could play with, who would 'teach' her how to act like a normal cat. Dad, rightly so, didn't want to even think about the possibility of having another wacko cat in the house. But he finally came around to the idea, and Amos was introduced into the household this summer.

Amos is a wonderful kitten, Annie treats him like her 'kid,' and she was come a long way towards acting like a happy, normal, tame house-cat, and now everybody's happy.

I made this needlepoint of Annie for mom for Christmas from the photo.

P.S: We adopted 'bat boy' - named Lenny, out of my admiration for the late-lamented 'Lenny' from Law & Order. Fell in love with him while we were searching for a home for him. Excy just shook his head when I informed him Lenny was our cat, but he's the best little boy in the world, and has me laughing every day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just Listen

"I've never regretted not speaking." -- Abe Lincoln

I've gotten 'in trouble' or 'called out' a few times recently for not speaking up immediately after someone shut their mouth. This seems to happen more and more. You see, I used to be bad about interrupting people as they talked, and so years ago I made a conscious effort to be aware of this and to listen more and speak less. I make a conscious effort to quiet my 'monkey mind' and focus on the speaker and what they're saying to the point that more often than not, now, there is a brief silence before I rejoin and speak my mind.

Speaking mindfully and not saying the first thing that pops in my head, having it spill out my mouth, has saved me from foot-in-mouth-tis a few times, and I'd highly recommend it, except for the fact that lately, I have been accused of not listening Say what?! I explain that I am gathering my thoughts and want to reply to their comment, but some people just can't stand a lapse, I guess. Sometimes, I never get a chance to speak if I'm with several talkative people who, (I was going to say, 'suck all the oxygen out of the room' but I'll be nice and say 'speak freely and easily.') Sometimes I've been chastised, "Now it's your turn to speak."

Pregnant pauses are good things, unless someone never lets you get a word in edge-wise. Over times, I've had to remind Excy that other people may want to interject into the conversation and just may have something interesting to say, for example. Excy has good stories and is a wealth of information, but he tends to 'ramp up' and can monopolize the conversation. If I'm around and he is 'pontificating,' I'll say "Thank you, Professor." Code for STFU, will ya?!

Now, I'm still guilty of interrupting when the conversation gets lively, when others encourage the 'flow,' or if it's the only way to be heard, or if the same speaker and I are on the same wavelength. If I don't get to open my mouth, though, I figure I've learned something -- usually do - about the subject, the person speaking, whatever --and the loss of my comment isn't any earth-shattering deal.

But I really do like to listen - fully engaged listening -- and to do so requires setting your 'monkey mind' on slow -- not pause -- consider, and then respond.

Note: I am feeling pampered. Tonight Excy is going to make dinner -- his famous blueberry pancakes, with sides of applesauce and bacon, and I don't have to worry about what's for supper or cleaning the kitchen, and I can relax and watch "Emma" on Masterpiece on PBS. I am a Jane Austin junkie and my beloved knows it....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lunching at the Zoo

My girlfriend M. and I finally got to meet for lunch the other day. It was a high-end restaurant, with linens on the table and a wine list. It served Mexican food, called itself a cantina, and invested in minimalist decor, with unfortunately, slate flooring and no carpeting or window treatments to absorb the noise, so the sound level was high.

We were seated at a booth, which I like b/c they are more comfortable and apt to be less noisy. But behind us were four of the noisiest people I've ever heard in a restaurant. I was facing them, and I have to admit, they were so obnoxious it was distracting, and I found myself become rather absorbed in studying them.

First of all, it was only noon and they were totally pie-eyed (pissed, to the uninitiated). Two very large frozen margaritas glistened in front of each plate, and they had obviously gone through a third since removed from the table. M and I couldn't drink that day for different reasons, and we both admitted it was a shame. If nothing else, it would've softened their arrogance factor in believing their yelling and screaming across the table didn't bother any other customers in the place. Secondly, the bottle-blonde in their midst had a habit of cocking her head back, showing the world her enormous white choppers, and braying -- I swear, she could've given our dear departed burro, Pompeii, a run for his money. When she brayed, the other three in the group chittered nervously along, a high-pitched vigorous chacahcahiiii-noise, like a group of monkeys might make. Third, they appeared to be playing a game of Round-Robin. They'd pile out of the booth, straighten their clothes and chat animatedly long enough for one to assume they were finally leaving, and then scramble back into the booth, each then sitting in a different spot than before. Maybe it was a new drinking game...or a speed-dating practice or something.

Between the braying and the chittering, it was difficult to hold a conversation. Finally we halfway gave up and ate lunch. Fortunately, we are old enough friends that it didn't matter so much to eat in near-silence, occasionally glancing back at the zoo group. The waiter took pity on us and we left with an extra bag of delicious chips and salsa.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

hilariously sad

You must read my friend's latest post on Letter from Joshua (down among my must-read blogs). It's funny, truest in the finest sense of teenage angst and clouded judgment (judgment?) and a reminder for dads to lock up their daughters and mothers to school them well.....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Winter Activity

Now that the weather is 'just' cold and rainy, the critters have come up for their food at night as before...they hibernated in the 6 and 8 degree nights. So last night I was really surprised not to have any 'customers' at my 'cafe' on the terrace. And the two skunks and one 'coon who did come up early seemed very nervous, watching the woods more than usual and skittish whenever I walked down the glass hallway. I even threw out some coveted pecans and vanilla cookies and hoped for the best that would lure them......

Around 9 p.m I got up to see if any food had disappeared and lo and behold, there was the little gray fox! I hadn't seen him since the spring, and so had assumed the worst. He looked wonderful, and best of all, I could hardly tell his foot had been badly mangled, he was running on it so well -- only when he jumped the terrace wall and ran into the woods could I tell he had a slight limp.

Although they had eaten together before, maybe now that he was healed he became more of a predator again than before. Tonight there is the usual crowd of 5 coons and a few skunks, so I assume the fox has moved on. I can open the door to throw out more food and the skunks will stay on the terrace. They have never gotten into the 'spray' position. When they turn away and 'aim' at you they warn you. When they stamp their front feet, you'd better be retreating. They only spray as a last resort. Contrary to belief, they don't spray easily. They have a certain amount in reserve and tend to use it judiciously!

A flying squirrel has moved back into a roosting pocket near the front door. I had one live there for a summer and fall, but it's been two years since I've seen one and I think they are so cool. Since they are nocturnal, they don't like the activity during the day. The bluebird box has been occupied by bluebirds roosting together at night to keep warm. The blue and green herons are back fishing on the pond.

The mustangs love the cold weather. They are in their element. Burr----I'll stay inside!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sleeping Positions

The past four freezing nights have meant all four cats are sleeping with us in bed. Good thing it's a king. Togo, the tortishell beauty kitty, gets hugely offended if she's sleeping on your stomach and you so much as twitch. She'll tense up and emit a tiny 'mmeww' and stalk away to a corner of the bed. She usually stays there, far away from disturbances such as twitchy feet or people turning over. Phoenix prefers my side at the foot of the bed so no one can touch her. Old man Scat is very Zen about being awakened, because he sleeps curled next to me, meaning he has to be moved at least three times a night when I get up to use the bathroom. (No kidneys you see). He just waits sleepily until I am settled back down and then resumes his position on my stomach or by my side. Lenny is a rogue element. (Or 'elephant.') He isn't nicknamed 'Lardo' for nothing, 'cause he's huge, a real lump. He prefers to burrow under a light blanket. Fortunately he generates a lot of heat. Unfortunately, when he's down for the count, he doesn't move, and when you move, he oozes into your 'spot' and doesn't relinquish it.

But one of my favorite sounds in the world are cats purring, which makes up for a multitude of annoyances. I love having the gang with us on the bed.

The cold snap has meant the 'coons and skunks have been mostly in hibernation. I have seen more skunks up on the terrace than coons. And three frozen turtles in the pond ice. I wonder if they're like koi in that they can freeze and then unthaw and be fine. I have never seen the pond frozen before, save a small place near the shore where the wild ones (mustangs) have kicked in the ice for their drinking water.

For a holiday treat, my friend S. gave me pecans and vanilla wafers to feed the coons, so when they're back they will be really excited. The occasional treat makes a big hit. We found a skunk den in the embankment of the hill leading to the studio. I'd love one of those snake cameras to see into their cozy nest. And yes, they do dig holes around the bird tree where the feeders hang, but I haven't found any other holes in the yard.

Holiday Movies

Because of all the 'medical drama' this holiday we missed all the traditions, the family and friend visits, the parties, presents, church service, and well -- fun. Another thing I missed was my regular screening of holiday movies. Some I got to because over the years I seem to have developed more or less a routine and order to them, and had watched them before poor Excy went into the hospital.

My routine seems to be to watch "Miracle on 34th Street"* on or the day after Thanksgiving, since it begins with Macy's parade.

We wait to buy a live tree around the 14th or 15th, and it's my job to decorate the house and tree, with the exception of stringing the lights and putting out the lighted reindeer on the lawn. I must do this with a holiday movie on in the background. This varies according to whim. Either "The Bishop's Wife," "Holiday Inn" or "Holiday Affair."

During Christmas week, L. comes over for an afternoon screening of "Christmas in Connecticut," and I will catch up on "White Christmas" and the others I haven't seen yet. I also like "Meet John Doe" and "It's a Wonderful Life," but I got burned out on watching IAWL every year and put it aside. On Christmas Eve I watch "Scrooge."** I am also sentimental about "Meet Me in Saint Louis" mostly because when Judy Garland sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas I tear up every time, but I don't have it on DVD and it's usually on TCM while we're at Christmas mass.....

This year, I spent New Year's eve watching "The Thin Man" movies and doing a mountain of laundry while Excy slept down the hall. On New Year's day we watched his favorite movie, "Harvey."***

Do you have holiday movies you must watch? Surely I am not the only one as anal as this??

* Please! Only the original classic versions! No remakes equal the quality of the classics.
**With the exception of "Scrooge" -- I prefer the 1950s version with Allistar Sims to the '30s movie with Reginald Owen......if only because of the haunting song they use throughout, Sarah Owen....
*** I hope Spielberg doesn't f--k it up -- why he feels it needs to be remade I have no idea.....

Friday, January 8, 2010

Elvis's Birthday

Woweee, it is so cold here -- 9 degrees last night, 24 degrees today -- projected 8 degrees tonight. Our little old electric cooperative can't keep up, and the heat shut off and on all night and morning and we kept faucets dripping so pipes don't freeze. The raccoons and skunks are mostly hibernating - we are only seeing a few early evening. The wild bunch love it though -- lots of racing up and down the hills and playful frolicking. Personally, I hate severe cold -- extremes of any kind. If I wanted to live in Alaska, I'd live in Alaska. But there's not much you can do about the weather.

Excy's cardio appt. today was as expected. Once he's recovered from his colon surgery he will need heart surgery. We'll schedule it around my kidney schedule this spring. He's feeling somewhat better, though, so we prowled around Barnes & Noble and I used a holiday gift card to buy the new biography on Louisa May Alcott. Yesterday he filled horse troughs and battened down the house for the cold spell. We watched 'New in Town' and felt marginally better that at least we weren't living where it gets insanely frigid as the norm.

I'm hoping when he gets up from a nap I can get him to bring the boxes down from the attic and I can begin clearing away Christmas decorations. Our live tree is very brittle and ornaments are beginning to droop . Today's the King of Rock and Roll's BD. TCM is running his movies and tributes all day, which isn't a bad way to spend the afternoon in the living room.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Up and Running

Excy is home, and is recovering. How do you even get a twisted colon, you ask? It's a mystery. Seems it happens to taller people, and he had an usually long colon (yeah you can say it, I've accused him of being full of shit on occasion myself). Once it 'twists' it will keep happening until it's taken care of surgically. It's a long and slow recovery.

Now my body is saying 'enough!' and I'm feeling exhausted. Guess I was running on adrenalin. The animals are glad we are home again. The wild ones took off racing over the hills -- always a beautiful sight. My oldest 'coon came racing up to the glass door and when I placed my hand on the glass he reached out and put his paw over my outlined hand and kept it there a few seconds looking at me. Phoenix (my problem child-cat) marked a present under the tree (she was mad).....I will visit you all and resume bloggie life this week - thanks so much for all your thoughts and comments.....