Sunday, February 05, 2017

Simple Pleasures

A cup of tea on Sunday morning

                Waking up to cat cuddles

Clean bed linens

                                    Sleeping in

Singing along

                  Receiving a text from a friend

        Finishing a To Do List

                                        A satisfying nap

           Not being in a rush

                                                  A favorite mug

                        A good book

     Time to read

                                      Having plans

Having no plans

                                           A clean home

                  Lazy rainy days

    The opening chords to a favorite song

                               Fun socks

            Cozy pajamas 

                                        A hot shower

Home-cooked meals

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to Be a Condo Owner, Part Four: Don't Fear the Oven

When I took possession of Casa Meg, it was with cash in hand from closing to buy a new oven range.

Just in case you have forgotten how disgusting the stove was--I have not--here is a photo reminder:

And this wasn't even why I demanded a new oven out of the deal--the oven on that piece of filth didn't work.

With the old one disconnected and hauled off by The Junk Kings, I bought my new one at Sears, where they are always reliable with household appliances. It's not very fancy, just your standard Kenmore with gas stove. But when it went in, the difference was astounding. No more filthy stove staring at me, and finally I could cook.

Except for one small, annoying detail--the smoke detector.

For a nine hundred square-foot home, I have a lot of smoke detectors. I know there are laws and regulations, so I don't complain. Still, it seems excessive to have that one on the ceiling about six feet away from the oven when there's another one just on the other side of the bedroom door. And another one about six feet away in the living room. And one about fifteen feet from the living room one in the get the picture.

The kitchen one is particularly temperamental.The first time I turned my new oven on, it went wild from the chemical smell that happens any time you use a brand-new oven for the first time. I ran around opening windows and running fans and waving a dishtowel over my head, and it just kept going off.

In September, I had my parents over for dinner. They offered to bring a take-and-bake pizza, so before they arrived, I heated the oven...which promptly set off that damned smoke detector again. After that, I was simply afraid to use my brand-new oven because no one likes loud, high-pitched screeching while they're trying to cook dinner. So I stopped using it.

I have a stove and a microwave, and I eat a lot of salad.

But come on. I like to be able to bake, too.

It was Dad who had the idea to use a food storage cover. Bless Zip-loc for creating those little dish covers that look like shower caps. Mom gave me a small one from her store and I brought it home several weeks ago. Today, I finally gave it a go and whaddayaknow, I heated my oven to 400 degrees and have had a quiche in there for half an hour now with not a peep from my smoke detector.

I've missed quiche.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I Can...Chopin

I've been playing the piano for well over twenty years...and while I'm hardly a concert pianist (my hands are tiny), and I can't accompany to save my life, I can play some fairly advanced-intermediate tunes and my knowledge of theory isn't too bad. I know all my major and minor scales, etc. etc.

I remember as a child being extremely excited when I finally learned my first Beethoven piece (the way-easy "Ode to Joy"), and later, being even more excited to learn a sweet little Beethoven sonatina and eventually, Für Elise.

My piano lessons stopped when I left for college, and while I played for fun and as a music teacher over the next several years, I focused more on clarinet and singing. I tested out of the two-semester piano requirement in my major program.

Fast-forward to a year ago, when I decided I ought to play my piano more. Even just ten minutes a day. After all, I've had this particular instrument--an electric piano--since high school and it has now lived in Chico, Folsom, Port Ludlow (WA), Lincoln, Antioch, Stockton, Lincoln again, and Antelope. If I'm going to haul it everywhere I move, I might as well use it.

So I fulfilled a long-standing goal of learning the theme song to "Hill Street Blues," and re-learned the lesser-known bits of Für Elise. I played some favorite Clementi sonatinas and practiced my scales. I learned more chords and sang Keane songs.

A week or so ago, in my daily practice, I decided it was time to learn a new piece. I flipped through my ancient book of classical pieces and landed on Chopin's Minute Waltz.

I had never played Chopin.

Frederic Chopin was known for writing lush, beautiful--difficult--piano pieces. Friends at Chico who majored in piano struggled with him. I stared at this short waltz for a moment. Four flats (not too terrible). A lot of left-hand leaping around. Eh, I can manage.

Why shouldn't Chopin be accessible to me?

So I started, slowly. Very slowly. It did not in any way resemble the typical ONE-two-three of a proper waltz, but I was putting mostly right notes together.

Fast-forward a week, and I'm hearing improvement. When I play the hands separately, I can get that waltz time. Together, they still hesitate a bit. The leaping left hand part doesn't scare me anymore, though, and the right hand knows exactly where to go.

With ten to fifteen minutes a day after a full day of teaching, time at the gym, and scooping litter boxes, I'm hardly on my way to being a concert pianist...but there is so much joy in making music that is just for me, and so much satisfaction in taking something difficult and slowly putting it together.

Monday, January 16, 2017

One Month With The Boys

Watching Mom raise a bonded pair of cats helped me understand that cats really do enjoy having company--and when I added Harley to my own home, I noticed immediately that Millie thrived on having company during my long work days. When it came time to adopt again this year, I was determined from the get-go to bring home a pair.

Best decision ever.

Archie and Popcorn have been with me for a month now, but they've been together since they were in their mother's womb. Dumped together in a Rubbermaid bin, fostered together while sick with upper respiratory issues, and adopted together into their first home, they've never been apart. When they came back to AFC several weeks ago, there was no way Marian would have separated them.

Enter Meg.

In the month I've had them, we've bonded beautifully. I absolutely adore my boys (usually said out loud with an over-emphasis on the "oi" part). They are both quick to cuddle, quick to purr, and eager for any attention I can give them, but at the same time, they are content to be with each other when I'm away, or busy doing things around the house. They mostly sleep on my bed with me at night, though sometimes one or both will move over to the window ledge I put up to watch the goings-on outside.

There are lots of goings-on, too. Birds, squirrels, passing traffic. They seem to be used to the various traffic sounds and the sounds from the nearby fire station.

Archie is my investigator-in-chief, always wanting to know what I'm up to and what I'm into, and what's in there? While both boys are playful, Archie definitely takes it further and is The Cat Most Likely to Pounce on Mom's Feet in Bed. Actually, I don't think Popcorn has ever pounced on my feet in bed. He is also about 75% more likely to start a wrestling match than Popcorn is. He seems fond of butt-biting, and of tackling Popcorn from above while chomping on his neck. Popcorn takes it in stride and gives as good as he gets.

Archie loves attention and is glad to cuddle, but his attention span can be short and if I shift my weight around or move too much, he's off to sleep alone--but never too far away. If I'm on the sofa in my usual spot, he'll be at the opposite end on a the soft throw blanket, napping away and just waiting for me to walk by, lean down, and kiss his soft little head.

Then there's Popcorn, my cuddle-bug who can happily sit on me or pressed up against me for hours. In "my" spot on the sofa, I've given up about six inches of space between me and the arm, so Popcorn can squeeze in there (and at 12 pounds, it's a squeeze) and nap for hours with his head on my lap. If I get up to refill my tea or go to the bathroom, it wakes him up, but he doesn't go anywhere. I can come back, sit down, lift him while I get back into place, and he doesn't bat an eyelash. He just re-adjusts himself and goes right back to napping, purring to let me know he's happy.

They both love their food, especially Tuna Time, which is starting to sink in with them. They're more likely to respond to the sound of a can popping open than the words "tuna time," but they do seem to understand my tone and they come running to the kitchen. There, the both stretch their bodies out, front feet extended and braced against the cabinets, trying to reach the counter without actually jumping up there as I serve up their food. I feed them on one plastic plate, and they happily share with no growling.

This weekend, we went to Grandma and Grandpa's house. I'll be babysitting Mom's Bella in a few weeks, so Mom and I wanted everyone to meet and get the lay of the land (short edition: Bella is Boss). The boys didn't love getting put in their carriers--I got an accidental claw to the face from Archie and had to lower him butt-first into his box. Popcorn quietly walked into his with a resigned sigh. All three cats were very curious about each other--we mostly kept them separated but there was some supervised time where everyone had free run of the house. Bella did a lot of growling and posturing, and the boys mostly just looked at her like, "What?" Overall, however, the visit was a success, and both boys were happy to accept attention from my parents, happy to use Bella's scratching post, and very well-mannered while they were there.

I post about the boys constantly on Facebook, and my Instagram has been taken over by pictures of two gorgeous Orange Creamcicles. They just give me so many cute moments, whether they're napping or playing. And they make me happy. Every time I arrive home from work, as I walk from my car to the front door, my face lights up as I recall anew that two sweet faces will be peering up at me when I open the front door, always happy to see me. I've taken to throwing all of my stuff on the floor and just spending my first few minutes at home sitting, scratching ears, talking nonsense, and listening to their rumbling purrs as they rub against my legs and tell me in their own language that they're happy I'm home.

And so it goes. Where a month ago this place was just becoming home, now it truly is. It is filled with cat hair and sometimes I can't escape the smell of a fresh "job" in the litter box (though I am proud to say that daily scooping means this place does NOT smell like a litter box 24/7), but it is also filled with a lot of joy. There are cat toys scattered about and it makes me smile to see them, knowing my boys are secure and happy in their forever home. Getting young adult cats was a great move for me, and having a bonded pair is the sweetest part of all.

After doing a big clean of the rest of the place, I came into my
bedroom to find two passed-out fuzzbutts in my bed. 

This was taken during Winter Break, during a very long lie-in
where none of us was in any particular hurry to get up. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Boys

A week or so ago, I got my trusty Canon out and took some pics of The Boys in all their glory. I've had them four weeks tomorrow and I'm absolutely in love with them. They are sweet, affectionate, playful, inquisitive little creatures and they make me laugh daily.

Popcorn (left) and Archie in their cat tree.

Popcorn is pretty laid-back, for the most part. He has his moments, but he's
mostly pretty chill.

On the other hand, Archie is only still when he's sleeping.

Both have white feet.

I know this is Archie's foot, because he had it draped across Popcorn's back.


98% sure this is Archie's back and Popcorn's tail.

Archie has a slightly narrower face than Popcorn. 

Can you guess who this is?

(Above pic: that was Archie.) Popcorn has orange front
legs (so he's the one looking up) and Archie has white.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Moments 2016

For a few years now, I've ended each year with a post highlighting the moments that made the year what it was--not just the happy moments, but the sad ones, the wild ones, and everything in between.

I could wax poetic about 2016, or I can take the advice I got from Professor Metzger at Chico State in 2000, in a writing class I took. "Be concise."

So, yeah. 2016?

It was a doozy.

A Grown-Up Moment

Of course, the biggest thing to hit my blog this year (and, you know, my life) was the whole home-buying adventure. On July 28, I took possession of a two-bedroom, two-bath condo and all of the maintenance, surprises, and guinea pig poo that came with it.

I knew going in that this particular home would need some elbow grease...and some money. But on my salary, this was an excellent opportunity to get in the market, and so I bit the bullet, signed the papers (so many papers), had a few panic attacks along the way, and become a homeowner.

Have I had moments where I wished I'd rented instead? Certainly. But this is home, and it's mine. I like it here.

A Moment of Pure, Overwhelming Joy

The picture at the right was taken from the window of a Virgin Atlantic San Francisco-London flight right as the rear landing gears hit the ground. I was already crying--those quick, unstoppable tears that just come out no matter what you do. As the plane jolted to the ground and began its quick slow down, I cried, and I smiled, and I celebrated coming "home" again.

Eleven years is a long time to be gone, and goodness knows I missed dear England in those years. It didn't matter that it was the middle of winter, that I would spend the entire trip bundled up in a fleece-lined coat. No worries that jet lag would keep me from getting a full night of sleep the entire time I was there--I had too much to do, too many people to see.

And what a wonderful trip it was! There were a lot of happy tears, a lot of joyful reunions, and I was overjoyed to find that even though I am very much a California Girl, I'm also still an Honorary Brit.

A Proud Moment

Back in our Chico days, my friend Sarah had a baby--a wee tiny girl named Julia. Somewhere in her photo albums is a picture of nineteen-year-old Meg, holding two-day-old Julia and marveling at how perfect her tiny little finger nails were. She was six pounds and change then, so tiny I was afraid I might break her just by breathing.

This year, a young woman--now taller than me--graduated from high school, and I was so honored to get one of the few coveted tickets for the ceremony. Julia has grown into a smart, kind, awesome woman who will do wonderful things in this world. Sarah has done an wonderful job raising her to be compassionate and kind.

Pardon me as I tear up a bit.

A Moment of Awe

One lovely weekend morning, I was reading on Mom and Dad's patio, enjoying a cool breeze and a cup of tea, when I heard the tell-tale buzz of hummingbird wings.

Mom's garden is attractive to hummers, so it didn't surprise me to have one buzz by--what surprised me was that she landed so near to me, on one of the wind chimes.

It took me a moment to realize she'd landed on a nest. 

We dubbed her Henrietta, and we watched anxiously, from a respectful distance, as she faithfully guarded her tiny nest. Before long, we could see her poking her long beak into the nest, and then, finally, her babies grew big enough that we could see their wee beaks sticking out.

When the last one left the next, we were all a little sad...and yet happy to know that they were out, making the world a more beautiful, amazing place.

A Moment for Tea

When I left England in August 2004, I couldn't quite find room for my favorite purple mug in my luggage, so I left it at Kathy and Derek's.

"You can drink tea from it when you come visit us!" Kathy said, as I put it back in the cupboard.

When Derek offered me tea on my visit in February, I wondered, in the back of my mind, if they'd forgotten...but he turned around with a smile and held up a familiar purple mug. "Will this do?"

Tears sprang to my eyes. "Yes! Yes, that will do."

It's still there, in their cupboard. I'll drink from it again...this time, it won't take so long to get back.

A Moment to Love Again
Meeting Archie. 

When I lost Millie, I knew that I'd adopt again--but living with Mom and Dad, it wasn't good timing. Bella and Duchess were getting older, and bringing young cats into the house would be upsetting to them.

So I waited.

Then I bought Casa Meg and...waited some more. One does need to be settled in first, and each month brought on more financial obligations.

But finally, this month, the timing was right. The money was available. And the universe presented me with two beautiful boys in need of a new forever home. So Archie and Popcorn came home with me, and I immediately fell in love.

Millie would approve.

A Moment to Clash
"But what if you want to wear green?" asked one of my parents' friends at a birthday dinner for my mom. Two days before, I'd had half my hair died purple, and I loved it.

"Then I suppose I'll clash!" I said with a grin, and we all moved on to something else.

I turned thirty-eight this year, and I suppose I'm tired of feeling like I "shouldn't" do something. When I first mentioned the possibility of purple hair, many friends immediately asked, "What will your school say?"

I have a colleague with colored hair already and there is nothing in the employee handbook about dyed hair. I wear my hair in a bun a lot at work anyway just to keep it out of my face (and if you worked in our old classrooms on a hot day, you would, too), so after the first week or so, no one really noticed or cared that the VAPA teacher had purple hair. But I knew it was there.

I cut all the purple off in October because my hair was getting too long, but I can't wait to color it again in the next few months.

A Moment of Fangirling 

My England trip was quick--just five nights and six whirlwind days of fun--but I did manage to make it to the towns of Battle and Bexhill-on-Sea, where three-quarters of my favorite band, Keane, spent their youth.

Because of time, I wasn't even sure on Thursday morning that I would even go to Bexhill, but in the end, seeing the Sovereign Light Cafe, made famous by a song of the same name, was irresistible. What surprised me, however, was how excited I was when we came upon the building itself--a tiny little seaside cafe that isn't anything particularly amazing...though it is the star of a music video. Daryl and I stopped in for a cup of tea and some biscuits, watching the English Channel and looking at the pictures of Keane on the wall. I'm glad I made the time to go.

Moments of Friendship

From local friends to friends far away, from people I see regularly to people I see almost never, but keep in touch with via social life is enriched by the people I have in it.

In February, I got to see a long-time British friend, Libby, and it was marvelous to catch up in person. We had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant, finished off a bottle of wine, and chatted until we realized that we were the reason the restaurant wasn't quite closing yet. It's lovely to go back after all that time and find that friendships don't just end because you leave a place.

And of course, there was a new Duck Lady meeting, when I met Sarah at the train station and we started off on a day of adventures in London. We are probably the only people to ever take a Platform 9 & 3/4 picture with rubber duckies.

"They can be our Patronuses!" exclaimed Sarah. "Or is it Patroni?"

"That's a good question..." I replied. "But YES OF COURSE WE MUST DO IT!"

My life is richer for having Sarah nearby. We met through a mutual friend in our freshman year at Chico, and grew closer in our sophomore and junior years as she started the adventure of being a mother, and I experienced the events that would send me running to London for a semester. We mostly do fun stuff, but this year has also seen her help me clean and paint the new condo. If that's not friendship, I don't know what is.

And of course, there's Summer, who ended her 2016 by moving to Arizona. I am, of course, happy for her and Ben, but sad for me, because I just won't see her as often. But of course, being us, we're already planning for a springtime adventure, which will likely see me heading to Arizona for a quick road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.

We had one last tea date at Linde Lane in Dixon before she left, and we finally got to sit in the tea cup table.

And I have to shout-out to Matt, who was, of course, my trainer, but is also a friend. He fixed Sylvie's broken side mirror after I broke it backing out of the garage, and he helped me move my piano from my parents' house to the new condo. Just a few days ago, he put up the laundry closet doors for me. In return, he's accepted homemade tacos and goodies from England, but honestly, I feel like he's helped me with more than I really have the right to ask for from any of my friends.

And...Cat Moments

Popcorn on the left, Archie on the right.
Oh, Archie and Popcorn.

We're not even at three full weeks yet, but already, I love these boys and can't imagine not having them. They are bright-eyed and curious, but also incredibly sweet and given to long naps with each other, and even better, with me. Having a bonded pair is lovely, because while I'm at work, they're good company for each other, easing any separation anxiety. I look forward to many more moments with them as they continue settling into my home...which, frankly, they've pretty much already done.

The best part is that I'm calmer having them around, which has been great for my anxiety battle.

2016 was a difficult year in a lot of ways--celebrity deaths, an incredibly stressful U.S. Presidential election, and an incredibly stressful "Brexit" vote in England. I've read stories of the civilian deaths in Aleppo, of terrorist (domestic and foreign) acts everywhere, and we all put up with months of ugly, ugly campaigning that culminated in a contentious Election Day.

Friends have faced their own ups and downs, and I myself finally went back on meds for anxiety because my go-to response to everything was to just sit down and cry. I was constantly on edge. I went to the dentist last week and there's even the beginnings of signs of it affecting my teeth (grinding, clenching). It's no way to live, and I'm learning ways to handle it, to not let it take over my life. Working out helps--has always helped--but it's not a cure in and of itself.

Still, among all this, 2016 had it's great moments--the stand-outs, of course, being my London trip, buying a home, and adopting the boys. Anxiety aside, I am in excellent health, my parents are doing well, and I have a good job that I enjoy. Here's to 2017 bringing more moments, big and small, that make life the Wild and Absolutely True Adventure that it is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Year That Was...A Total Bitch.

2016 took way too many icons--some who were more important to me than others, but still, it's hard not to get caught up in the collective public grief. This post is to honor a few of those people, and their contributions to the world that touched my life.

David Bowie

I don't have memories of listening to David Bowie as a kid, but as an adult, I've come to know his music and it's bloody brilliant. From "Space Oddity" to "Starman" to "Golden Years," so many of his songs are just timeless and amazing.

Harper Lee

I have loved To Kill A Mockingbird ever since my first compulsory reading of it in high school. It's a beautiful story, and I won't hear otherwise. I re-read it every couple of years, and finally watched the classic movie a few years ago.

Alan Rickman

Goodness, but this one punched me in the gut. Aside from his amazing turn as Severus Snape, shared here, Alan Rickman was a prolific stage and screen actor who amazed and delighted whether he was a villainous Sheriff of Nottingham in the horrid "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" or the noble Colonel Branden in "Sense and Sensibility."

Morley Safer

My dad has long watched 60 Minutes, and growing up, the familiar tick-tick-tick was the soundtrack of my Sunday evenings. I particularly loved Andy Rooney, but sometimes I'd watch certain segments if I was interested, and the name Morley Safer was a big part of that.

George Michael

Of course "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" was a staple of my childhood soundtrack, as was "Father Figure" and "Careless Whisper." But the George Michael song that stands out for me most is "Too Funky," which had a lot of play on MTV in my young teenage years. I loved the absurdity of it, and still do.

Carrie Fisher

It wasn't until I was in college that I truly began to understand how awesome the Star Wars trilogy was--they were first released before I was born! I remember seeing them on TV growing up, but when they were re-released on the big screen in the late 90s, I was excited to see them. Carrie's Princess Leia was a princess like no other.