45 || creative commons photo by Seth Tisue

Happy About Nothing

Personal
45 || creative commons photo by Seth Tisue

45 || creative commons photo by Seth Tisue

I have long since given up on the idea of posting regular updates here, on my personal blog. I’m busy enough with client work and keeping up with Italy Explained, and – let’s be honest, here – I’m not good enough at time management to get all my work done quickly and use that leftover time to write something on this blog.

(Lately, I’m using that time for knitting.)

And yet? Every year, on my birthday, it’s a thing that I do. And, before I sit down to write said birthday blog post, I review the past few years’ worth of birthday blog posts to see what I said back then. It has become one of my favorite parts of my birthday which, if you know me at all, is basically my favorite holiday after Thanksgiving.

(A whole day dedicated to wishing me well? Oh, yeah, I’m in.)

This year – 45! – seems momentous. Any multiple of five seems momentous, for reasons maybe only mathemeticians could explain, and I certainly don’t expect to live past 90, which means my mid-life was probably a few years ago. Still, 45? It feels like it should be a big deal.

And yet? I banished the word “should” from my vocabulary years ago, encouraged by my mother, who sagely warned it’s a bad word that only serves to make us feel bad.

Which is why I’m telling myself – and you, since you’re here, I mean, and can I get you something to drink? – that if 45 continues on basically like 44 then I’m good. That’s fine. I don’t need momentous. I’m not really sure I want momentous. I had momentous a few years ago, and that might just be enough for me for one lifetime, thankyouverymuch.

I liked 44. I mean, 43 was a big deal – it felt like a big deal, back then, to be honestly, genuinely, optimistically happy – and then 44 was a sort of stasis. Which was… Fine, really. Desirable, in fact.

When you get to a place you like, doesn’t it make sense to just, I don’t know, stay there?

I am in an exceptionally sweet and comfortable relationship with a man I love deeply. I feel like I’ve been in this cozy spot my whole life, rather than just the past few years, but it helps that we’ve known one another for more than two decades.

I have settled into the role of being a step-parent to an incredible kid, a kid who loves food (even the weird stuff) as much as I do, which makes her a pretty kick-ass travel companion, especially for someone who’s only 11.

I’m still never going to get rich doing what I do, and – one of the hazards of being a freelancer – I lost a big client just last month. And overall I’m still doing just fine, loving my day-to-day work and not missing a full-time office job in the least.

I’m saying “yes” to more suggested outings, when before I might have stayed in because I didn’t feel like showering or putting on outside pants. (It’s a thing, ask anyone who works at home.)

I have started reaching out more in my community (thanks, agonizingly depressing 2016 election!) so as to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of being too isolationist, and it feels way more energizing than I expected it to. (Bring an apple pie to your neighbors, you guys, it does your heart a world of good.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if nothing much changes in my life this year, I’m really okay with that. One could say that’s a bit boring as far as mid-life crises go, but it turns out “boring” might have been my ambition the whole time.

Back in 2014, when my pal Casey and I were in Pittsburgh, we spent a couple hours in the fabulous Andy Warhol Museum. I left with two souvenirs that, it occurs to me only now – some two-plus years later – not only beautifully capture the same concept, but that also speak to this place I am currently in. It is not where I was in 2014 when I chose a mug and a photo (both with Warhol quotes) from the gift shop, but evidently a part of me knew that this was my aspirational goal. I present the quotes to you now, without further comment.

warhol happy about nothing

warhol little things

A Week With My Mother Post-Back Surgery, By the Numbers

Family
  • Hours spent at the hospital: 9.5
  • Horrible excuses for bulgogi beef eaten in the hospital cafeteria: 1 (which was 1 too many)
  • Staples in my mother’s back: 16
  • Disposable hospital gowns & pairs of gloves I went through: 5
  • Trips to Burgerville: 2 (twice as many as I typically make in a year)
  • Minor fainting spells (hers, not mine): 1
  • Fuzzy caterpillars seen: 7 (2 were squished)
  • Hours at the DMV: only 1 (seriously, if you have any DMV needs, go to Corvallis)
  • Profanities yelled at the TV during the second presidential debate: all of them
  • Bags of apples picked: 6
  • Times I was vaguely threatened by a rooster: 3
  • Times I was leered at by a cow: 2
  • Trips down memory lane: 12
  • Gilmore Girls episodes watched: 28
  • World problems solved: so many… if only people would consult us first
  • G&Ts consumed: oh crap, was I supposed to keep track?

with thanks to my pal Katie Hammel, from whom I swiped the “by the numbers” idea

The Great Smoot

The Great Smoot

Family

“Have you ever seen Totoro?”

“The animated movie?” I asked, “No. Why?”

“He looks like – what were they called? – little black puffballs in that movie – something like Smoots, maybe?”

The boyfriend and I both looked down at the cat, and I started Googling things. It turns out the creatures to which he was referring were not called Smoots, but Soot Sprites. And an image search of “Soot Sprite” turns up the fact that other people think their cats look remarkably similar to the puffballs, too.

soot sprite vs smoot

It’s hard to tell the difference, I know.

Once uttered, however, Smoot could not be unheard. And so it came to be that our newest cat has finally revealed his true name to us. I’d like to (re)introduce him as The Great Smoot.

Of course, first he was just Smoot. Then Wee Smoot (he is so little, at least in comparison to the great monster cat), but this little guy has an outsized personality. And that’s putting it mildly. So, it was only natural that the name would evolve.

As it turns out, a smoot is a real (if somewhat farcical) thing. Our Great Smoot is far smaller than an actual smoot, but – at the same time – so much bigger.

The Great Smoot

winston c underfoot

Introducing Winston C. Underfoot

Family

After we had to return Tallulah to the shelter when she turned out to not be a good match for Aloysius (or our busy, travel-loving household), we knew we would have to be really careful about choosing another cat. With lots of help from Animal Aid – where we got Aloysius – we now have a new kid in town.

Everybody, meet Winston.

winston c underfoot

Winston C. Underfoot, né Cole

Winston is a playful guy, though he’s not as instantly gregarious as Aloysius. He’s notorious among the people who know him best – at the shelter and his foster home – as a lover who purrs and drools copiously when happy, and who even hugs like a koala. I’m still waiting for a hug, but he’s already been really affectionate. His fur is super fine and silky. He’s not as easygoing about manhandling as Aloysius is, but he does like being petted.

At the shelter, he was called Cole, so his middle name is now Coltrane. (He will no doubt have 17 nicknames in no time, of course.) He’s had a bit of a rough time of life so far, having been in the shelter system for two years before we brought him home (they think he’s about 3.5 years old). He had a family before that, but they had to give him up when they lost their house due to a fire (no one was hurt, thank goodness). He’s got one cloudy eye that doesn’t alter his ability to see, and the shelter didn’t know if it might have been because of the fire.

So, yeah – it’s understandable if he’s a little slower to warm up to people. We haven’t always been reliable.

Winston is a little guy – he last weighed in about 10 pounds – but there’s a lot of personality in that little package. The more he warms up to us and gets comfortable, the more playful and spunky he is. I’m excited to have a lap cat around, and also one who may just give Aloysius a run for his money.

When we first visited Animal Aid to meet Aloysius, we were looking for one boy cat and one girl cat. When we realized later that Aloysius’ big personality was going to require a certain kind of buddy, the folks at the shelter pointed us to Cole. The two of them had been friends at the shelter, so it seemed like a good fit.

So far? It’s going well, though it hasn’t even been a week. Fingers (and paws) crossed.

winston c underfoot

44 || creative commons photo by Jesus Solana

Forty-four. Fancy, that.

Personal

Every year for the past few I have written a blog post for my birthday. A few of those years were pretty grim, so last year’s was a welcome change.

On the eve of my 44th birthday, I’m wanting very much to put together one of my annual blog posts while simultaneously feeling extremely guilty that – sitting in front of my computer – I am not working. See, I leave for Italy in less than two weeks, I’ll be gone for a month, and I’m doing as little work as possible during that time… Which means I’m cramming undergrad-style right now.

(Okay, not quite undergrad-style. I’m actually sleeping. Or trying to, at any rate.)

So, in brief…

44 || creative commons photo by Jesus Solana

44 || creative commons photo by Jesus Solana

Work is going very well, I got to travel quite a bit last year, and I’m looking forward to even more stateside jaunts after the Italy trip (which I am crazy excited about). I now have two ebooks published in conjunction with my Italy travel guide, and more in the works.

I remain happy, and even a little more settled than I was last year. I’m no longer in my transitional apartment. I am building a home and future with a wonderful man and his fabulous daughter. We aren’t a normal family, but it’s a sort of family. I never pictured myself as a family person, but now that I’m here there’s much about it that I genuinely love.

Fancy that.

A little anecdote from the other night demonstrates a bit of how much my life has changed, I think.

At dinner, the boyfriend was talking to the 10-year-old about impending adolescence, and how it’s almost her job to be surly due to body and brain changes, but that he hopes she’ll buck the trend and still be nice to her parents.

“And me,” I chimed in, as a joke.

“You’re a parent,” she said, not as a joke.

Years ago, that comment might have given me hives. The other night, it made my heart swell.

Once upon a time I lived in a town surrounded by wealthy families, and thought the only way I’d be happy was to have an entire Esprit or Benetton wardrobe like my classmates did. Once upon a time I sang in a struggling rock band, and thought the only thing that would make me happy was to be signed to a record deal. Once upon a time I was thisclose to living in Italy, and the achievement of that goal seemed the only thing that would make me happy.

Turns out there are many roads to happiness, and some of them might start out looking like that weird back alley your mother told you never to take even though they may open up onto a glorious field of flowers just around that corner.

Life takes us in funny directions sometimes, you guys. And I’m finally learning to not only follow that weird back alley, but listen more closely when life is practically yelling directions in my ear.

(44 and still learning. They say learning new things is good for the brain. That’s my excuse this year, anyway.)

A Note from Tallulah Underfoot

Personal

I drove back to Animal Aid this morning to drop Tallulah off. It wasn’t an easy decision. Here’s what I just posted on her Instagram photo… (And shaddup, of course the cats have an Instagram profile.)

12747319_10153593057168020_4492787767155341774_o

I’m a sweetheart, but I’m shy. I’ve got anxiety issues. I like the humans in this house just fine, but even they scare me sometimes. And it doesn’t matter that Aloysius is just trying to be playful – when he “stalks” me, it really freaks me out.

I was *trying* to adjust to my new life. But it’s been *really* hard, you guys.

I peed in a couple of places that aren’t litterboxes a few weeks ago, but the humans thought it was just a transition issue. So when they went away for a weekend and had a friend staying in the house, I decided to let them know in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t working out: I used their bed as a toilet. Three times.

The humans made sure I wasn’t sick, which I suppose they had to do, except I really hate being shoved in that tiny little carrier box thingie. (The humans didn’t know how strong a little cat could be until they tried to get me in there, hoo boy.) The shelter said I should probably come back, so this morning I got manhandled into that stupid carrier box again and I’m now back at Animal Aid.

I know my humans are sad. One of them cried a lot the other night. (I tried to tell her it was okay, that it was for the best, by being super cuddly and purring more than normal. I hope she got the message.) They *really* tried to make me happy. I know this is best for me, though. I need a home where there isn’t an abnormally large and rambunctious cat around. I need a home where I can be the princess. I really need peace and quiet.

If you’re the right human for me, I’d love to meet you. And I wish my humans (and even that big oaf Aloysius) all the best.

Mark & I will look for another cat when I’m back from Italy. We’ll need one with a big personality like Aloysius, but not so big that they antagonize one another. It could be a challenge. He was adopted once before we got him, & had to be returned to Animal Aid for sort of stalking one of the existing cats in that house, so he’s got a history…

We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, we’re hoping our little girl finds the perfect home.