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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Week With My Boys

I've been meaning to blog, but this week was so busy, and I got a cold. Besides, who wants to blog when you can cuddle with your new boys?

It's officially one week since I met Archie and Popcorn and brought them home. By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was so ready to meet my boys that I was pretty much bouncing around this place. Mom arrived a little before ten, and we set off for Lodi, about a forty-five minute drive.

It was great to see Marian--she's a fierce advocate for cats in the Stockton and Lodi communities, and gives so much of her time and her heart to Animal Friends Connection. After we climbed over some just-walked pups in the dog part of the sanctuary and into the cat room, we exchanged a quick hug and then she pointed to a closet with a screened door. "Your boys are in there," she said with a smile.

Mom and I squeezed in and found Popcorn lounging in the cubby part of a large cat tree. Above our heads on a shelf, another head poked out of a small cubby--Archie, checking us out. While Popcorn stayed in his cubby and allowed us to pet him, Archie came rushing out to greet us--in the week since I've learned this is very typical for them.

Archie and I getting to know each other.

Popcorn wasn't stand-off-ish, he's just quieter.

Popcorn holding his grandma's hand. 

Popcorn, coming out a bit more.
After a few minutes of cooing and petting, it was time to do paperwork. Both boys are up-to-date on all shots and Marian had them micro-chipped in the days before I got them.

Finally, it was time to load them up in their carriers and start the drive home. I was nervous about how they'd do, but both were very quiet with only the occasional confused "meow" from the back seat (which always prompted Mom and I to start a chorus of, "It's alright! You're such a good boy!!")

Mom helped me bring them up to my condo, and we got them unloaded. Then she left so I could settle them in and start getting to know them--but they were already showing signs of being incredibly friendly.



"But how does Santa Claws fit?!"

Popcorn was the first to do some serious cuddling. 

Later, I had both on me.

Nearby fire station? Not a problem. Traffic noises? No worries.
My printer? OMG HIDE!!! 

This was Day 1. Obviously they're lovebugs. 

In the week I've had them, they've proven to be generally laid-back and very, very sweet. They're clearly a bonded pair and separating them was never an option, so it's good I was looking for two cats. They've been staying in my bedroom when I'm not home, and when I sleep.

Archie is the slightly smaller of the two (by about one pound, but you can see a size difference in them visually), and definitely the more outgoing and curious. He's the first to explore a new space and wants to know everything that's going on. He's also the escape artist who got out on the balcony on a rainy evening this week, making me chase after him in my socks, which promptly got soaked. If I'm in the bathroom, he's in there with me, and shows great interest in the shower. He loves the catnip mouse toys and getting attention.

Popcorn is also curious, but he's a bit quieter about it. He's more likely to be behind Archie, watching the goings-on from a foot or two away. It's like he wants to know everything, but he lets his brother do the work and report back. When they cuddle together, I see Popcorn grooming Archie more than I see the reverse (though it does happen). Popcorn is also extremely affectionate and when I settle in on the couch or in bed, he's usually the first to join me (in the pic above, he's the one half on my lap). He was named because he would jump up like popcorn popping when he saw his bottle coming, and indeed, he's the first to line up for wet food. He seems to be starting to understand the words "Tuna Time!!" and will rush into the kitchen and meow at my feet.

Is it love?

Yes. Yes, it is.

It's funny, I've thought of Millie quite a few times this week and how much I still miss her. She was one-of-a-kind, and you never replace someone you love. But it's possible to love again, and to open your heart and home to new, and it has been wonderful to do so. Something about these boys, when Marian sent me their picture two weeks ago, called out to me. I don't really feel like I chose them, but, as happens with cats, they needed me, and the universe made it happen.

I worked out from home on Monday, and Archie, of course, was
the one checking out my kettlebell. 

Popcorn grooming Archie.

Sweet, sweet Popcorn.

They LOVE the Cat Dancer and it's fun to play with them.

Serious snugglers. 

Popcorn at bedtime.

On Thursday I spent about fifteen minutes just lying on my bed
when I got home from work. Archie was off exploring, but
Popcorn just settled in and accepted all the cuddles. 

Archie cuddles, too. 

I've had a cold this weekend, but my boys are taking excellent
care of me. (That's Archie.)

They're not a fan of the little vacuum. 

I finally put their new collars on yesterday. 

Who needs meds when you've got a blanket, a book, and two
adorable boys?

Popcorn, you slay me.

Melted. Meg Goo on the floor.

Santa Claws (aka "my parents") came by today with a cat
tree for the boys. Archie was the first to check it out.

And he was the first to get in it. 

Popcorn was still thinking about it and waiting for Archie's
report. (You can see him in the background.

Archie gave it a four-purr rating, so Popcorn joined him. (Archie
on top, Popcorn below.)

Then this happened and lasted for about an hour, with some
mutual grooming and then some serious napping with heads
together. I melted again.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Archie and Popcorn

Around the time that Millie was starting to show signs of illness and decline, the volunteers at the cat sanctuary for Animal Friends Connection Humane Society found a Rubbermaid container outside a rarely-used door.

It was a warm morning, and would later be a very hot day. In the container, nestled among a bunch of warm old jackets, were seven tiny kittens. They all had colds and infections and they were infested with fleas.

I remember my friend Marian posting about it on Facebook--I used to volunteer for AFC, and they are the group from which I adopted the late Harley Dude. Marian and I have kept loosely in touch via social media, and I even commented on her post about the abandonment.

A couple of weeks later, Millie was gone. I saw occasional updates about the seven kittens and thought it would be sweet if I could adopt a pair of them...but circumstances were such that I couldn't adopt again just yet. It bothered the hell out of me that while my heart broke at losing Millie, someone else in the world could dump seven helpless kittens like so much garbage.

Meanwhile, three kittens went with one foster mom, and four went with another. The group of three were named Archie, Angel, and Popcorn.

Angel later passed away, and the boys struggled a little, too, but persevered.

Eventually cured of their maladies and with fleas washed away, they grew into healthy, adoptable cats. Eventually they were adopted, by a couple.

Fast-forward to this past summer, when papers were signed and a condo was closed on. I sent a message to Marian on Facebook, letting her know I'd be in the market for a pair of kitties within the next few months. AFC has a hard time with overpopulation and finding homes for their animals, so she was ecstatic to hear from me. Even though I no longer live in Stockton, it's an easy enough drive and I know the people of AFC well and believe in what they're doing.

August was full of painting and cleaning and new floors. September was move-in time, as I unpacked boxes and found places for everything, and purchased furniture. October and November had some added financial burdens--my car's registration, a plumbing repair--that made it impossible to spend money on adoption fees and litter boxes and everything else cats need to get started.

Through all this, Marian sent the occasional "how are things going?" message, and while I was chomping at the bit to find a pair of sweeties, it just wasn't quite right yet. I eyed December with a lot of hope.

Last week, another message. It had two pictures in it, of a pair of boys.

Turns out Archie and Popcorn's couple are divorcing. There's a baby, and the mother can't afford to keep cats. Nothing has been said about the father, so I assume he doesn't want them.

Marian convinced the lady to keep Archie and Popcorn in a sort-of foster situation because the sanctuary was full, and so were all the foster homes. And she sent me two sweet pictures, while I was out drinking wine and painting with a bunch of work friends.

I looked at the pictures. I cooed. I showed my friends. The next day, I showed Mom. "I'm thinking about it..." I said. I thought about "the boys" and how sweet they looked. I thought of how a young-but-not-tiny pair (they'll be two in April) would fit my current lifestyle very well. They're completely bonded to each other, which is perfect.

So I messaged Marian again. "I'm really considering Archie and Popcorn." By the time she called me on Sunday evening, I was telling her, "Really, meeting them is a formality. I want them."

And there you have it. We spoke on Sunday, and on Wednesday, she took them out of the lady's house to visit the vet for shot updates. They're now waiting at the sanctuary, where I will meet them on Sunday morning. This week has felt excruciatingly slow, as I wait and wait for Sunday to roll on so I can meet my boys.

Popcorn wears orange striped pants. Archie wears white. They're so flippin'
cute with those pink noses, I am about to start bouncing off the walls. 

I shared my news on Facebook, and Marian, in turn, shared it with her friends, including the boys' foster mom. Everyone is very excited to see them get a new home--apparently they're known as being very sweet boys (shy initially, but totally unable to resist cuddles). Their pictures show them to be bright-eyed and healthy. Their journey thus far has had its ups and downs, but they're about to embark on one last big change--a drive from Stockton to Antelope with a very excited lady (and her mother, who is coming along) to settle into their forever home.

Their former foster mom shared baby pictures with me, and the story of how Popcorn got his name.



Being me, I've gone a little overboard with the toy-buying.

Yes, those are Star Wars break-away cat collars and Star Wars mice.

Anyway, this rambling blog post is all a way of sharing my news that I'm finally adopting a new pair of sweeties. I'll never replace Millie, or Harley, but I have a lot of love to give and rather think my sweet babies would approve. There are far too many homeless kitties in the world, and I'm in a position to help. These boys need me.

And I need them.