Sunday, July 18, 2010

Us Mainers Stick Together

Yesterday morning, my nieces accompanied me to a nearby animal shelter to find a new kitty. I've been missing Wilbert terribly these past few weeks...although the feelings are apparently not mutual. I've visited him several times at my sister's and the pattern is always the same: he walks into the room, looks at me as if to say "What the hell are you doing here?", and stalks off. Excellent. Glad to see he's adjusted well to his new/old surroundings and all, but geesh! This is what I get after two years of being woken up at 5:30 in the morning?!?! *sigh*

During the weeks since Wilbert left, I spent quite a bit of time online looking at various shelters - there are several in the area that have websites with photos and sometimes little bios of their available cats. Sort of like for pets :-). I knew I didn't want a kitten, but didn't want an old cat either; one shelter had a beautiful, part Maine coon cat up for adoption, but she was 8 years old and I just had serious reservations about bringing home a "senior" cat. Before we went in on Saturday, I had pretty much decided on a cute 2-year old black and white cat named Nelly. When we met with the adoption counselor I explained that my one criteria was that I needed a cat that would be okay being the only pet, and she agreed Nelly would be a great fit. However, when we were let into the cat room at the shelter Nelly made it quite clear she had no intentions of going anywhere with us.

Enter Calypso.

The adoption counselor suggested we spend some time with another cat while waiting for Nelly to come out from deep underneath the cages where she was hiding. She opened a cage door and out jumped Calypso -- the 8 year old part Maine coon. I spent the next HOUR holding her while she clung to me and purred, rubbing her head on my neck, while my nieces entertained the kittens. She was so sweet and cuddly, and let the girls pat her while I held her. During this hour I had many thoughts to myself, YOU SUCKER being the most prevalent one, but as the minutes ticked along it became more and more of a done deal. (Not the least of which because Nelly never budged from her hiding spot.) The clincher, as they say, was this: there was another couple in the cat room, and the husband said to me, "You know, they say that the person doesn't choose the cat, the cat chooses you"...and that's how I wound up the proud (if a wee bit reluctant) parent of Calypso:

On the way home, we talked about whether we should change her name. The girls insisted she get to keep her name, and I agreed even though it means I'm going to be spending lord only knows how many years singing John Denver's "Calypso" song ("Aye Calypso I sing to your spirit, the men who have served you so long and so well"). It is a bit of a mouthful, though, and I've found myself calling her Caly ("callie"). She doesn't seem to mind what she's called as long as you keep scratching her chin.

It's been just one day, but she seems to have adjusted quite well to her new surroundings. She has an incredibly sweet and affectionate disposition, clearly well trained, and a little bit playful. She's using the litter box and is eating, though I'm a little worried she's not eating enough - the shelter said she'd lost weight during the month she was there, but that that was not unusual. She was only at the shelter a month, and they seem to have done a fairly thorough exam and found nothing wrong with her, but tomorrow I'll call and make a vet appointment to get her checked out just in case. She's a small cat, much smaller than Wilbert, so it may simply be she just doesn't eat a whole lot compared to him. Her file said that her previous owners gave her up because she didn't get along with their other pets; it sounds more like they got a couple of new cats and a dog and she couldn't cope. After having Wilbert for two years and knowing how hard it was to give him back to his family, I can't IMAGINE having a cat for 8 years and giving her up to a's hard not to be judgemental, even though it appears they did the right thing. She seems pretty content - when she's not sleeping in her bed or under my bed, she's purring and cuddly. There's no one to steal her toys or block her from the food dish or the litter box, and I am perfectly happy to have her cuddle up and purr in my ear.

I do worry about the vet bills with an older cat...I am crossing my fingers she is as healthy as she seems. I also must confess that I worry too about getting attached to something that might not be around for a long time, although she's so sweet there's no way I couldn't get attached to her. As an indoor-only cat she could very well live to be 18 or 20, which means we could have a decade or more together, and the very real truth is nothing's sticking around forever, and better a few short years with a wonderful kitty than no kitty at all.

So thank you, Universe, for sending me what appears to be a great match for a job, and a great match for a kitty. Can I maybe just say, though, that things kind of like to happen in three's, and I don't like to seem greedy, but...well, if you happened to have any great guys you could send my way, it would be deeply appreciated?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Navel Gazing

I’ve spent the past few days revisiting my 2010 plans - partly because it’s now JULY and officially the second half of the year, and partly because it’s been so hot that contemplating one’s navel is about all there is to do around here without risking heat stroke.

My biggest plan for 2010 was that after reading The Happiness Project book, I had intended to follow it religiously throughout the year, focusing on a particularly area of my life each month. And then March came in like the proverbial lion and blew the whole thing out of the water.

As you may recall, the Happiness Project focus for March was work. And, what do you know, I found that the more attention I paid to work the more I was forced to confront the fact that I really wasn’t very happy at my job. To tell you the truth, it was never a great fit, and by all rights I should have quit after about 3 months...but it was the fall of 2008 and the economy was in full-on tank mode, and if there’s anything that will keep you in a job it’s a big ol’ recession on the doorstep. And it wasn’t a bad job – it was just sort of like wearing a pair of expensive shoes that juuuuust didn’t quite fit right, and rubbed your heel the wrong way, and you wound up with this annoying blister/callous thing that just bugged you until you had to finally admit you needed a new pair of shoes. I comforted myself with reminders that it is a great organization (it is) doing great things (it does), and I had a few coworkers I would truly miss if I left. Believe me, I know that for lot of people I’ve just described their dream job – but that ill-fitting shoe kept rubbing me the wrong way.

The more I thought about work the more I found myself wallowing, which mostly manifested itself in me sitting in the dark watching a lot of Dr. Who and Torchwood, and bemoaning the fact that “time traveler” and “alien wrangler” were not legitimate employment options. I also spent a lot of time looking at internet job posting sites, which pushed me into a minor depression. I could see that there were an increasing number of jobs out there, but most of the positions that interested me would have required a significant cut in pay for me (and I had stupidly taken a significant cut when I took my job in 2008). I did ultimately interview for a few positions, most of which I walked out of thinking “same crap/different people” and declined further interviews. One job I really, really wanted – until I found out what the job actually was, and it became painfully clear I was overqualified for the job. By May, I was already burned out on my job search – I’m honestly not sure how people cope with long stretches of job seeking, because after six weeks I was ready to throw in the towel; looking for a job even in the best of circumstances is EXHAUSTING and SOUL SUCKING and DISCOURAGING. As a last ditch effort, I did some research and made a list of several organizations I thought might be good places for me to work…and of course none of them were hiring.

A few weeks later, though, I stumbled upon a job posting for one of those organizations on my list that seemed like a perfect fit. Quite frankly, it felt too good to be true, but I sent in a resume anyway, with one of the longest and most personal cover letters I’ve ever written; I figured I had nothing to lose, and should just put it all out there. Fast forward through a couple of interviews…and I start the first week in August! It still feels a little too good to be true, even though I kicked the proverbial tires pretty hard, but I’m really looking forward to it. I am looking forward to it even though it will require me to take the early train to work, even though I will have to upgrade from “horrifyingly casual” to “business casual” dress, and even though I am going from a 35-hour work week to a 40-hour work week. All this means that I have to resurrect the Happiness Project in full-force, as I will need to take much better care of myself in order to have the requisite amount of energy to do this work I so very much want to do.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

There Has, In Fact, Been Knitting

Granted, 99% of my knitting these days has been happening on the commuter rail, but lately it's all I can sneak in (more on that later). But I find that my fingers get twitchy if I go too long without knitting, and even a few rows on the train will take the edge off.

So, first up: socks. This is Fannie's Fingering Weight Yarn in Purple Rainbow, from Farmhouse Yarns. I got this back in May when I visited Purl in NYC - S. was with me, and he was kind enough to climb the ladder to reach it. I've never seen this yarn in any stores in MA, and I really like knitting with it. And it holds up really well - I knit another pair of socks with this yarn over 2 years ago, have worn them a lot during the fall/winter/spring, and they are still in great condition. This yarn can be machine washed and dried, but I still opt to hand wash and air dry as with my other handknit socks. Given the ugly heat, these won't be worn for quite some time, but they are DONE. (Pattern, by the way, is the Yarn Harlot's "sock recipe" from this book.) Also, Farmhouse Yarns does make sock yarn, but I find this weight works quite well.

Next up: still on the needles, but about 3/4 done is a scarf using the beautiful Malabrigo Silky Merino in Caribeno. I bought this yarn last fall at Windsor Button, which is my work LYS (my home LYS is the Franklin Mill Store, which also serves as my home fabric store). Now. I love knitting with Malabrigo merino so much that once upon a time I started knitting a boyfriend an afghan out of the stuff, and kept on knitting it even after he dumped me. However, I find that it pills something awful and had vowed to avoid it, but this yarn was so incredibly beautiful that I caved. Happily, it's been great to work with, and it has a lovely sheen to it. I don't yet know about the pillage factor, but the project has been living in my purse for the past few weeks and seems to be coping just fine.

This scarf pattern is the Pink Aura scarf from One-Skein Wonders, although I needed two skeins of this yarn to have the adequate yardage (and I prefer my scarves long anyway). I've knit this pattern before, and I highly recommend it - first, it is very easy to memorize so you don't have to lug the book around, and second because it seems to work with pretty much any yarn at any gauge. In other words, it's pretty difficult to screw up, and depending on your choices you can wind up with two very different-looking scarves. I am admittedly on the fence about how this yarn is patterning - in some places it's pretty stripy (see photo below), and in other places the dark blue is almost turning into big polka dots. I'm pretty sure it will all be fine once wrapped around my neck, though. I did intend this to be a scarf for spring, but it seems very warm and so I'm thinking it may see some use later this fall and winter. Assuming, of course, that I finish it by then...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pig and a Poke Cake

It was an odd bit of a holiday weekend, which included:
Snip, Snap, Snorem
2. Huge Cadbury chocolate bars my brother-in-law brought back from London
Cow Racing
Poke Cake
5. Visiting my grandfather’s grave, which later resulted in my niece G. suggesting we leave some poke cake there since it was his favorite
6. Late-season strawberry picking
7. ATV rides through the woods, courtesy of my dad (wearing a helmet a la Snoopy’s Red Baron

8. Much talk about pigs – to wit:

G. (almost 8) has always liked pigs. Ever since she was little she has slept with a pink stuffed pig (named Piggy, of course), and a few years ago she acquired a smaller pink stuffed pig (named Piglet, but it’s not the Winnie-the-Pooh sort of Piglet) that gets lugged around a lot. Recently, G. decided that what she really wants most in this world is a REAL baby pig to keep in her bedroom. She plans on winning this pig at the local fair’s upcoming pig scramble. (To the uninitiated, a pig scramble is where they take a bunch of baby pigs, grease them up, let them loose in a big muddy pen, then let many more children than there are pigs loose with burlap sacks. You catch a pig, you keep it.) G. witnessed this event last year and has apparently spent a lot of time strategizing, much to the chagrin of my sister who has vowed that no real piggies will ever darken her doorstep (or her yard, for that matter). And, while I will happily cat-sit, there are no piggies in my future either.

This whole thing has disappointment all over it – her name might not get chosen to compete, she might get to compete and not get a pig, and even if she does get one it’s simply not going to be allowed to take up residence in the corner of her bedroom. She is undeterred by any of it. My own suggestion that the potential winning pig be allowed to live out its days with our cousin, who owns a farm and has taken in several other pig scramble pigs won by relatives over the years, was met with the utmost disdain that can be marshaled by an indignant almost-8 year old: “My PIG is NOT going to a PIG FARMER.” (stamps foot)

Well, okay then.

But it gets better. Or worse, depending on one's viewpoint. Like many kids, there are about five things G. will eat, and her parents have been trying to walk that fine line between cultivating good nutritional habits and trying not to make a big deal of what is probably a phase she will in all likelihood outgrow. Getting her to try new things has been a challenge, but for some reason this weekend she conceded to try my mother’s pork ribs. By this time there had been so much talk of pigs that the last thing I wanted to do was eat one, and I was pretty surprised to see G. dig in….at least until she brandished a rib she had picked clean and said, “Wow, this is tiny, it must have come from a really small cow!”

And then we passed around the poke cake.