Monday, February 28, 2011

In the forecast: more severe weather, plus the butterfly effect

We had one of those long rainy days today.  The kind of day that makes you want to curl up on a sofa with a dog and a book.  There were no dogs nor sofas at my office, and the books make dull reading.

I realized I couldn't remember the last time we'd had a day like this here.  We tend more toward summer afternoon thunderstorms.  The climate keeps changing, bit by bit.  Everybody is talking about how different the winters have been, how much windier it's been.  In my head I nod and say "Yup, that's the global warming thing" but out loud I usually don't say much because very few people know anything about it other than the words "global warming".  And you can't say those words without somebody pointing out how it's chilly today.

This drives me bugnuts so I leave it alone.  But for the record?  GLOBAL does not mean in your backyard or even in your state.  It's worldwide.  Worldwide water and air temperatures.  A rise of a few degrees doesn't seem like much but can have dramatic effects on weather, populations of plants, insects, and animals, and who knows what else.

So the next time you're saying how windy it is and it's weird for this time of year, and I don't say much?  Global warming, pal.

PS I'm not trying to make out like I'm an expert here, but could you just please read a LITTLE about it?  And stop saying "Global warming my ass" every time there's a cold day?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If I was hiking alone, who kicked my arse?

Am I ever feeling my age this evening.

Most recently, the husband I cradle robbed is turning 38 tomorrow.  Living with a younger, healthier man is sometimes annoying.  Especially when he's all "I exercised for ten minutes so I get an extra five hundred calories today!"  Like it wasn't annoying enough that there is actual visible proof of his weight loss, while I look (and feel) exactly the same.  And then once a year I am forcibly reminded that I am, in fact, the older one.  Just what every woman wants.  And I don't get carded anymore so I don't even have that consolation.  Although I admit it is nice to finally get alcohol without a hassle.

Nevertheless I wish him a happy birthday, and a happy Mustang, tomorrow.

Anyway he'll get what's coming to him when I'm 83 and he's 80 and I'm too feeble to do anything so he has to wash all the dishes.

The other part of why I feel ancient is the ~10 mile hike/run I went on this morning.  Ginny Owen suggested I hike around Rosaryville State Park as a close by alternative to Greenbelt Park.  It didn't have any killer ascents, but it was more mileage than Greenbelt, and a lot more ups and downs.  I can't really get New England quality climbs without driving quite a distance, so I'll take what I can get.  I'm trying as best I can to get in shape / stay in shape for backpacking, so when I go out I don't feel like a wet noodle.  Ten miles of up and down ravines isn't strenuous enough, though, so I ran part of it. 

Well, technically I ran because I am insane.  And I am insane because I signed up for Run Amuck.  It's a 5k race, up and down hills, with obstacles.  It's in two months.  I *really* have to start training.  I guess I did already, I just don't feel very trainy.  Well, maybe now I do.  I'm not sure how much I ran.  My GPS app was totally flaky so I have no idea what happened where, and there aren't mileage markers on the trail (as there so conveniently are in Greenbelt.)  I know that I ran most of the last mile.

I'm kind of proud of that, actually.. hike/run nine miles, then run the last.  I think that proves that I am not made entirely of lard and noodles.  Also, maybe it proves the insanity thing.

And why did I sign up for Run Amuck?  It sounded good at the time.  I completely forgot that I am an unathletic schmo.  I am a sysadmin, for goodness sake!  We don't DO exercise.  We certainly don't do crazy five k races with walls and mud crawls.  (Well, maybe John Hord or John Anderson would.. or Fredrik Nyman.  I'm not really proving my point very well.)

The problem is that I don't do flabby very gracefully.  Also, I am too dumb to give up horseback riding and backpacking, both of which are MUCH MUCH EASIER if you have an intact musculature.

Not that I'm sure I have one, after today.  My neck hurt on the ride home (might have been watching my feet while I ran) and my hip hurt after dinner (... because it's angry at me?  I have no idea.)  And thus I am reminded that while I am still mentally fifteen, my body is actually forty.

Pete, JD, Larry, and Susan celebrating JD's birthday

Me, Delee, and Liza.  Shirley was taking the picture. 

A charming accident

Did I mention the freakily artistic collections of found items along the trail?

Bottle/bucket graveyard

Thank goodness the park was there to help me forget the bustling city

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A collection of extended neepery

Gosh, what a wonderful day I'm having!  I'm going to stop and describe it now while it's still fresh in my mind.

I had a ride scheduled with Tara this morning, so I got all bundled up in my warm winter riding gear and headed out.  I found Pluto with mudsicles sticking to him, so I got busy with an extended grooming session.  Fortunately I got there before Tara so there was no rush.

That boy is shedding!  He apparently doesn't care that it's only February.  He is starting over on the coat issue.  The ground was not as white around the grooming area as it will be in a week or two, but he made a good start at it.  I brushed him in every possible location, and the hair never stopped coming out.  I got hair stuck to my riding pants, my fleece top, my lips, my eyes.. definitely shedding season.  I ended up spitting out hair as we walked to the arena.

But before we walked over, I swapped out the stirrups on the saddle.  I finally broke down and ordered jointed stirrups.  I can't remember who recommended them to me.  Possibly multiple people.  Over the course of multiple years, maybe.  (Possibly I am stubborn.)  Anyway I put them on the saddle.  They look huge compared to the old ones, and are definitely heavier.  The rubber tubes covering the joints make the stirrup leathers stick to them, which is nice - they stay tied up as we walk to the arena, instead of slowly working loose.  And I left out Pluto's super-cushy sheepskin pad today.  Lately it seems like it's been hindering more than helping.  I think his back has changed a bit such that the pad now takes up too much room under the saddle.

Also I swapped my cozy helmet liner in for my mesh helmet liner.  Niiice.  Just the right amount of insulation to keep my ears from freezing.  Although it turned out that even though it was only 40 degrees, I felt pretty warm.  I think this is the first time in months that there was no wind when I rode.  It felt closer to 60 out there in the arena.  I was surprised when I got back in the car and it said the temperature was 42.

Let's see.  Oh!  He was very good about being bridled today.  Woot!  I spent several minutes before tacking up just touching his ears, head, and neck.  And feeding him cookies.  Positive reinforcement or bribery, your choice.

Okay, so:  grooming: check.  Helmet liner:  check.  Flexible stirrups:  check.  I'm ready for the good part.

I woke up with a back spasm today.  (That's not the good part.)  I took some advil with my vitamins, and my back was feeling better by the time I got to the barn.  But I wanted to do a lot of walking, because that is a very nice way to get back muscles to relax.  It's almost like a massage, but of course nobody is touching your back.

What we do on a given day depends on Pluto.  He is not one of your agreeable pushbutton horses.  He has Opinions, and he is not shy about asserting them.  Like last week was canter week.  No way around it.  He wanted to canter.  He wasn't mean about it, but it was going to happen one way or the other.  Best to just go with it and enjoy.

So, I wondered how he would be this week.  I hoped he would be amenable to walking.  He seemed like he might.  He was attentive while I groomed him, and relaxed as we walked to the arena.  I took off his reins when we got there, as I usually do, to police the arena for fallen branches.  And to get all the pebbles out of my shoes.  I have GOT to start wearing gaiters when I don't wear my half chaps.

While he was reinless he followed me around, and when I sat down to empty out my shoes he was nearly catlike in his ability to interpose his nose between me and the shoes.  He was very, very interested.  And, he knew I had a pocket full of cookies.

I hopped on (have I mentioned how awesome he is about this now?  People who knew us two or three years ago would be astonished.)  We started walking around, doing leg yields, shoulder ins, halts, and just generally practicing all the things one can do at a walk.  He still sucks at backing up (maybe I should install one of those beeping things?) but he was into all the rest of it.  We walked for half an hour.  We did circles, we walked over poles, we did serpentines.  He was a sport.  At that point, I thought my back was doing pretty well so I decided some trotting was in order.

Tara came over to watch and provide advice, knowing how into the C-word he had been the previous week.  Her spot on advice was to drive him forward but half halt every stride.  He made two half hearted attempts to canter, but mostly he gave me a lovely, light and floaty trot.  It felt good and I'm pretty sure it looked good.

I try to do some sitting trot with him every ride.  He is not a fan, but he is getting used to it, and/or better at it.  Part of the problem is that his giant Lipizzan butt gives him a big trot.  It is just not like sitting the trot of any other horse I've ever ridden.  And I am not the world's most experienced rider, but I've worked at several barns and ridden friend's horses.  I counted up a while back and it was over a hundred horses I've ridden.  That should give me a pretty good idea of how a trot should feel.  And the only other horse who has a trot like this, that I've ridden, was a full blooded Lipizzan.  They just aren't like other horses.

My point is that sitting trot is not easy on this horse.  I taught his Thoroughbred predecessor to do a nice little Western jog, which was pleasant for both of us.  I may or may not be able to do that with Pluto.  But he is at least figuring out how to do a super collected trot that I can sit.  And he did that today.

Not using the sheepskin pad today meant that I had a lot more feel for his back than I've had, and vice versa.  So while we were doing this sitting trot, very slowly forward, I accidentally added some lateral movement.  And I got a few strides of shoulder in, which I quickly straightened out because that wasn't what I wanted.  In retrospect I should have gone with it.  We are usually charging ahead at the trot, and I have not spent nearly enough time doing lateral work there.  So I got it by accident, but I was happy with it and hope to do it some more, real soon.

I was reasonably happy with my riding.  Of course I didn't have the eagle eye of an instructor picking out faults, but it felt good to me.  My legs and back felt strong, and I felt connected to the horse.  Why now?  I don't know.  Time, I guess.  Trust in the horse.  (People told me I needed to trust him way back when, but those people were not riding that ticking time bomb.  )  If you have not spent years with a temperamental horse who gradually became trained and fun to ride, I probably can't accurately describe this feeling to you.  All I can say is that it is a VERY GOOD FEELING.

Pluto was having a lot of thoughts today.  I can't tell you what they were, but I know he was having them.  I know because he was licking his lips.  A LOT.  I don't know what he will retain from today, but I hope it will be the good parts.  (Also, I was never sure how aware he was of his own hair, but after he rolled today (which he always does when I let him back in the field) he was still licking his lips.  And then he shook and was enveloped in a cloud of white hair.  He stopped licking and shut his mouth until the cloud drifted away.  Then he started licking again.  So he knows.  Which means he's been getting me hairy deliberately.)

That's pretty much it for the neep.  I mean, I could go on indefinitely, and JD will probably never hear the end of it.  But I expect you've probably stopped reading by now, Internet.

Too bad, I had a couple of other things to say.

After riding, I headed up to Delee's and we planned our next backpacking trip.  I was happy both to spend time with Delee and to have a trip planned.  Love me some Delee and some backpacking.

Also I realized that I still have plenty of energy this afternoon.  I attribute this to the beer and pizza blowout at Shirley's last night.  I can't do that all the time, but I sure do love the extra energy I get from extra food..  If only my body didn't store it all in my gluteal region.  Also, my knees didn't hurt after riding.  Those jointed stirrups really do work.

So, that's my day so far.  Definitely a good day.  Maybe one of the best days.

Pluto and Mystery wondering if there any cookies left

Pluto contributing to the nests of birds favoring white interior decorating

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things I cannot stop thinking about

So you may not know this about me, but I like to hike.  A lot.  I like to hike for months at a time.  Time during which I do not work, which may or may not have an effect on my enjoyment of said activity.


I'm pretty excited about the hikes I have planned this year, even though they don't involve taking off for six months.  First I'm going out for a weekend in March.  I'm getting together with Delee tomorrow to start planning that.

Then I'm going somewhere in April and I haven't even started thinking about that.  It'll work itself out.

In May, I'm hiking southbound into Trail Days and I am SUPER EXCITED.  I am starting to plan food for this hike, which has two hikes between it and me.  My other two hikes are poor orphan hikes that nobody cares about.  But a week off?  In May?  During which I get to see the Grayson Highlands AGAIN?  That is exciting.

Also at the end of that hike I will see many hikers who I know and love (Hello Cody!) and I am looking forward to that too, but apparently I am more looking forward to a week with trail food and no showers, because that is what keeps coming to the fore.  With luck it will be warmish.  I am more of a warmish weather hiker.

June and July, similar to April, will have overnight hikes.

And then.  August.  I get to take THREE WEEKS.  MAYBE FOUR.  But probably three.  Three weeks is a good long time to enjoy a hike.  Sadly, it will be a solo hike.  And I probably won't see a lot of people, because I will be behind the Sobo hikers, and ahead of most of the Nobo hikers.  I think it will probably just be me and the Maine wilderness.  And I'm cool with that.  Sometimes me and the wilderness need to have some quality time.

And then in September, October, and November I have a few more overnights planned.  Those are also orphan hikes, because at the moment I can't think past Maine.  I'll go somewhere, I'll walk.  It'll take care of itself.

Maine.  Man I love Maine.  Pretty, and all northern-like, with the fir trees and the moose.  And the black flies.  Don't like the black flies as much.  But Maine!  I can't wait!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A notable moment in my life at NASA

Today kind of sucked for me.  It was like yesterday part two.  But I didn't spill nearly boiling liquids on my ladyparts, so I'm going to say it was an improvement.

I'm attempting to reshape my upper body into something containing fragments of actual muscle, so I have started going to the gym.  Accordingly I stopped by after work today.  (Now, I don't want you to think that I have become a gym rat.  I have no desire to strain anything, and so I am starting out slowly.  One set each of a variety of exercises with weights, hopefully to the point of muscle failure.  And as many situps as I can stomach.  (See what I did there?) The whole exercise takes about fifteen minutes at the moment.  That will ramp up as I get stronger, but not too much I hope.  I really want maximum gain for my minimal time because I don't find being in the gym entertaining.  At all.)

Today as I entered the gym I noticed it was unusually empty, but I didn't think much about it.  I stomped off to the women's locker room, divested myself of overgarments, and stomped back out.  And I found a crowd staring up.  The Shuttle was launching.  They were watching it in real time on the gym's tv.

You have not seen a more serious, somber, but hopeful crowd in a gym than this bunch of NASA employees watching the Shuttle go up.  It's personal for us.  I didn't ask the guy next to me, but I know my own chest tightens up whenever I watch, in anxiety for the crew.  I don't breathe easy until the big rockets burn out.  As soon as they fell away, I nodded and moved off to my first machine.  I noticed that most others stopped watching at the same time.  So I guess we were all nervous about the same thing.

Nobody cheered.  Few people talked.  We just watched, tensely, until it was okay.  And then we went about our lives.  It's a little sad that we have very little triumph any more.  What we hope for is lack of disaster. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I keep checking for banana peels and falling pianos

I'm only writing because my mom is still in the hospital and if she gets the chance to look at a computer, she might want to read.

Not that it's good stuff to read.  Sorry Mom.  I kind of had a bad day.  But now that I think of it, probably better than yours.  Although you probably didn't spill hot soup on your crotch.  Hah!  And you thought you had all the problems.

I went for a walk, trying to clear my head and get some energy flowing, and neither happened.  In fact I felt more lethargic, and kind of nauseated.  I even decided not to go to yoga.  I said I DIDN'T GO TO YOGA.  This is kind of a big deal.  I love yoga.  More specifically I love how I feel afterward, and I love how it keeps me from getting backaches. 

On the way home from work I stopped and bought spinach so I could make my favorite "I don't feel good" soup.  It's an awesome soup, BTW.  Chicken broth, (and it turns out if you get the low sodium, no fat chicken broth?  you might as well use water), capellini, steamed fresh spinach stirred in, and a beaten egg cooked in it so it's kind of egg-droppy.  It is a *wonderful* soup, very good for comfort food purposes.  Plus, spinach!  It's good for you.  Nutritional-like.

I ate about half of the soup, and then somehow dumped the bowl on my crotch.  Fortunately I'm female so all I did was mildly burn my thighs.  Had JD pulled the same stunt we'd probably be seeking medical care right now.

JD, who was right there when I did it, ran right upstairs and got me a dry pair of pants to change into.  And I told him I wasn't washing any effing dishes tonight.  (Not that he'd mentioned it.)  And then he cleaned the litter boxes and got me some chocolate.

Because I married well, people.  You can't buy that kind of care.

After the soup debacle, and some chocolate, I told him we were going to watch some tv, dammit.  The good stuff.  And I marched right into the living room and watched two episodes of Castle.  And I only spent about half an hour of that coughing up the mint tea I had managed to choke on.

Yup.  It's been that kind of day.

Oh, and JD guessed what was in the box that was delivered today.  Jelly beans.  His special pectin jelly beans, that I ordered for his birthday.  He could tell from how the box rattled.  Who memorizes what jelly beans rattle like?  Seriously?

So now I am going to go upstairs, holding carefully onto the railing.  And I am going to take a shower (not too hot) and then I am going to get into bed and hope I don't manage to knock the lamp over on me, or choke on my own spit, or get a papercut on my jugular.  Because these are the sorts of things that are liable to happen on a day like today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My weekend in pictures

A very happy JD at the Melting Pot

A view of people viewing the view (looking down onto Harper's Ferry)

My beloved, taking pictures of the scenery.  I liked this view better.

A historic view.  From where we were standing they could use a cannon to hit nearly everything in sight.

JD climbed up to find out what was going on with the funky holes in the rocks. 

Beauty looking alert while waiting for the doc.

Beauty is none too certain of her position up on the table.  Being up never leads to anything good.

Beauty wearing her tough guy vest at the vet's.

How did I have two year old jello in the fridge?

Monday, February 21, 2011

I was going to work on my position

but Pluto had other plans.

I thought today was going to be the day.  He was calm, mellow, and seemed like he was ready for a quiet ride.  Until we actually got started riding, that is.

I have spent most of the last two years walking him.  Some trotting, and more trotting as time has gone on, but mostly walking.  It was for a variety of reasons, but the end result was no cantering under saddle for the stinker since our trainer left town.

So last time I rode I just kind of casually asked for a canter and  he said "!!!!" and he cantered and was pretty good.  And I said good boy and figured it was business as usual.  However he apparently lit up that one cantering neuron and it hasn't gone back off yet.

So he was not interested today in me noodling around, playing with changes to my posture and leg position.  Though he did agree to letting me do some two point.  But after that he said it was time for business.  And by business he meant cantering.

He lulled me in, a little.  I asked for trot, we trotted.  But he started aiming himself at things.  I'm trying to get a nice circle and he veers toward the cavaletti.  WTF?  Is what I said.  So I brought him to a walk, collected myself (and him), and asked for the trot again.  I got two strides of fairly normal trot and then suddenly we were cantering.  Not out of control, not running off, just.. cantering.  As if I had asked for it and he had acquiesced with a gentlemanly transition.  Except I hadn't.

I had two options.  Be firm, bring him down to the trot, pursue my own agenda.  Or go with it.  And I guess I am not a harsh taskmaster, because I went with it.  He was just so dang happy to be cantering.  It felt good.  Or at least, it felt good to me.  I felt like I was velcroed to the saddle, and my legs felt solid, and it basically felt like I was riding rather than being taken for a ride.  If you don't count the part where it was his idea, not mine.

The thing is, every so often his butt would come up.  And I'd wait for the rooting and the crowhopping to start, except it wouldn't.  Tara yelled "He's not bucking.  He's trying to change leads!"  And I brought Pluto to a halt and stared at her.  Why would he be trying to change leads?  We were on the correct lead. 

And then I looked down and notice the saddle was offset about an inch to the side.   I tried standing on the opposite stirrup to move it back into position, but that sucker was on *tight*.  I'm not sure when or how it happened, because I don't think it started that way.  I had checked my stirrups before I got on and sure enough they were level.  And by the time we got to the cantering half an hour later, my left stirrup definitely felt shorter.  So at some point the saddle shifted and I didn't notice.  And couldn't change it back.

I had gone on a pretty strenuous hike the day before, and with sore thighs and calves just couldn't face hopping down, adjusting the saddle, and climbing back up.  So we called it a day.  I was happy just to have gotten on the horse.  Tara was happy because Timber was using his bad side properly for the first time in a while.  Pluto and Timber were both happy because they knew I had a pocket full of treats.

All in all, despite my saddle issue and my horse's brain issue, I'd have to say it was a good day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I love Double Bag so very much

Today we walked the block, trying to get people to sign our petition to put speedhumps in on our street.  Thanks to years of unwelcome visits from proselytizers (if I never see another Seventh Day Adventist walking down our street, it would be too soon) pretty much nobody opens their door anymore.  We left a lot of "Sorry we missed you!" notes on doors.  One of those folks pulled the note off after we passed by and called us, but so far nothing from the others.  We'll have to go back on Monday I guess.

So from the people who actually opened the door, we got 7 signatures and 1 angry old man who started yelling at us.  A pretty good average, really.

This evening JD made a wonderful meal of vegetable gyoza, chicken apple sausages, and asparagus.  It was better than most of what we could get in most local restaurants, and tastier too.  Why do we eat out again?

JD picked me up some beer because I was stressed out yesterday (thanks to Mom and the dog being in the hospital, not that it was the fault of either.)  I did the calculations and I could afford three beers in my diet today.  Corridor Wine and Spirits now carries a couple of northeastern brews, including Geary's Pale Ale and Long Trail Double Bag.  So I'm a well lubricated blogger tonight.

I also cooked some today.  I put together a bunch of ingredients I had on hand (onion, garlic, ginger, a figlet, thai chili flavor tuna, curry, black beans) and fried it up.  It made a delightful and filling lunch.  To figure out the calories I put it in Sparkpeople as a recipe.  You have the option of sharing it with others or not sharing it.  I figured what the hell.  It was good.  I shared it.  I named it "Petitioning Day Goulash".  I bet there isn't a duplicate of it anywhere. 

Tomorrow we're going hiking in Harper's Ferry (well, Harper's Ferry adjacent) and then out for fondue at the Melting Pot.  It was all JD's idea.  I knew I married that boy for a reason.  Fondue and hiking.. is there any faster way to a hiker chick's heart?

Friday, February 18, 2011

I don't have a catchy title

Today was pretty stressful.  I was fine until I got the dog to the hospital and then had to leave her there.  It brought back bad memories of leaving Paige for surgery and never seeing her again.  (However Beauty is now home safe and sound.)  Poochie had an ultrasound today.  The results were, of course, inconclusive.  She has thickening of intestinal walls but they don't know why.  So next week she gets to go back for endoscopy and biopsies.  If that is also inconclusive I am going to have a small but vigorous hissy fit.

Those hours when I was home and there was no dog in the house were not happy hours. 

Also, Mom is still in the hospital.  She is having unexpected complications.  Today's was hallucinations caused by Percoset.  Note to self:  no Percoset for Mom.  So now she's on a different drug but until she's basically stable she stays at the hospital.  Dad went out to get her something worth eating, as the hospital food is predictably horrible.  I must say that she sounded a ton better on the phone today, though.  It was good to hear her sound like herself.

So anyway JD and I are both looking forward to the weekend very much. Sleeping in sounds good, for one thing.  And maybe a non-vomiting doggie (we think today was her bad day so we should have a couple of good ones ahead of us.)  Of course, this is also "try to get neighbors to sign the speed hump petition" weekend.  But a couple of hours should take care of covering the block.  I hope.  I've never tried getting someone to sign a petition before.  Does it take long?

After that there's hiking near Harper's Ferry, and finally the afterwards:  Fondue Hut!  Or the Melting Pot, as some people call it.  I can really only justify a visit to that place after an activity like hiking.  There's no really good way to go low calorie at a fondue place.  :)

If the weather isn't too horrible I might even get to ride my horse.  Make that "if the weather and the horse aren't too horrible".  He may still be punishing me for not paying enough attention to him over the winter.  He does that.  He has too much character, especially in the jerk department.  So wish me luck.  Think forgiving horse thoughts for me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I hate you, world. Better give me a coke.

I kind of hated everything today.  I overdid it yesterday and it shows.  I was tired and hungry.  So, I slacked on the exercise and I ate. 

This could have one of three effects.  1) No effect.  Tomorrow same as every day.  2) I will gain a pound as my body objects to the abuse.  3) I will lose a pound as my body unclenches from its famished state.

I should find out tomorrow.  :)

I was craving a cold coke so I got one with lunch.  This is kind of a huge deal.  I don't really do caffeine, nor do I normally do real sugar.  And the soda tasted like syrup.  I don't remember it tasting that way!  I drank it but it didn't really hit the spot like I hoped it would.  The caffeine helped though.  I could feel its effects throughout the afternoon.  Also?  The Reuben I had for lunch was just what I needed.  Morally, anyway.

Then I came home and had half a pizza for dinner.  Yay diet.

So.  Things learned today.  A)  Cokes really only taste good when I'm hiking.  B) It is tough to beat a Reuben.  Actually I knew the second one already.

Dad put Mom on the phone for a few minutes this evening.  She is pretty fuzzy with all the pain killers, but she knows she's hurting.  I feel bad for her, but she says today is better than yesterday so I figure tomorrow will be better than today.  Prior to the surgery she wasn't worrying about the pain (which is good, worry solves nothing) but I figured she would be in intense pain afterward.  And indeed she is.  Throwing out your lower back sucks because everything but your eyelids is attached to it.  And she effectively had the worst back sprain in the world inflicted on her.

With luck, therapy, and good drugs, she'll be feeling much better in a week or two.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Newborn kittens may have more muscle strength than yours truly

Yoga kicked my butt with a size large boot tonight.  Everything hurts and I feel limper than a dishrag.  I may have picked the wrong day to start lifting weights.  And if I were going to start lifting weights on yoga day, I should have done it more than an hour before class.

I think there's a good chance I won't be able to lift my arms over my head tomorrow.  But it's all for a good cause, right?

I was reading a piece about thruhiking and insulin sensitivity last night.  It proposed several reasons why hikers get fat after a thruhike.  One is that your insulin sensitivity goes way up.  So like the body of a non-civilized person, your body doesn't deal well with lots of sugars, and without the huge amounts of exercise it's used to, it just piles on weight.  Also, most of your non-leg muscle atrophies when you hike because you're not using it.  (True.  It is funny to see all the T-Rex hikers at the end.)  And you need muscle to burn energy. 

Whatever the reason, it is VERY COMMON for hikers to get fat when they're not hiking, although they don't tend to eat extravagantly when not under the duress of hike-induced calorie obsession.  I never had a clue why.  Now I have a clue.  Maybe not all the information, but a clue.

Here's the link:  Why Hikers Get Fat  Enjoy.  Or, you know, don't.  Whatever.  I'm too busy staring at the tire around my middle to care.

Also, the quivering in all my muscles is really distracting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Community enforced humping

We had a community meeting tonight regarding speed humps.  Somebody on our street requested them.  The county will put them in, but only if 60% of the residents on our street agree to sign a petition in favor of speed humps.  JD and I volunteered to petition one of the blocks, so I'm going to be meeting some neighbors soon. We won't be petitioning on our block, unfortunately.  Other neighbors on our block also volunteered, so our block is taken care of. 

I doubt I've ever met most of the people on the next block, because a busy thoroughfare divides our blocks.  I hope people come to the door when I knock.  At least they probably won't think I'm proselytizing.  I don't dress that nicely.

I would be really happy if traffic on our street were less.  And if it obeyed the speed limit.  And if trucks obeyed the "no trucks" sign.  Speed humps will likely accomplish all of that, to a great extent.  And if not I might start requesting occasional enforcement of the "no trucks" signage.  Many many of them go down the street every day, and I've never seen a ticket given.  Not for that, or for the speeding.  The vast majority of cars are going at about 40 mph on a 25 mph street.  The two days when they came out to see what conditions were like, the road management guys found cars going over 60 mph!  And that's on a narrow street with no shoulders, no curbs, no sidewalks, but WITH ditches so you can't even step off the road easily.  So dangerous.  Sigh.

Ah well.  If I wanted to be safe I could have moved somewhere with sidewalks.  But I had to have my dang Victorian with the prettiness and the character and the no uniform anything.  Because who wants life to be easy?

PS Mom's surgery went well.  Thanks for the positive thoughts.

PPS Meeting neighbors wasn't all good.. one of them got right up my nose.  What a dillhole.  Fortunately he doesn't live on my block.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I always thought an out of body experience would be more pleasant.

I am damn tired.  The dog was quite ill last night with her chronic pancreatitis last night.  I didn't fall asleep for hours, listening to her moan as she tried to rest.  And then when I finally did sleep I don't think it was particularly restful.

In the morning I didn't eat breakfast, as I had fasting bloodwork to get done.  Or so I thought.

As it turns out, tomorrow is fasting bloodwork day.  Two days in a row without breakfast.  Please nobody shoot me.  I only look like a zombie.

As everybody knows, food = sleep.  If you can't sleep enough, you eat to compensate.  But if you don't sleep enough AND  you don't eat, everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

I had an out of body experience for most of today.  And I don't feel so hot tonight.  I am going to go to bed and sleep like ... something that sleeps very well, that's what.

PS My mom is having surgery tomorrow.  Yall think positive thoughts toward Arizona.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We have a mustard problem. Is there a twelve step program for that?

I'm tired, Internet.  I tried to sleep in this morning but I couldn't.  Apparently with or without an alarm I get up at the same time every day now.  In theory I could just turn off the alarm but I assume if I did that I would immediately start oversleeping on work days.

So I got up and tried another of my AlpineAir meals this morning.  Strawberry honey granola with milk.  This one was actually quite good, but I'm not convinced it's worth the expense and the weight of the packaging to carry it.  Maybe if I'm in a serious cereal mood on the trail.

I went and walked and jogged around the park today.  Gotta start getting in shape for Run Amuck.  Not to mention some backpacking trips.  Unfortunately I can't really train for both at once.  I don't think I can jog with a full backpack.  Too bouncy.

While I was there I finally went down the trail I always wonder about.  FYI (Tara) it does come out at the intersection of Kenilworth, Good Luck, and Paint Branch.  No more wondering required.  It had quite a few downed trees on it.  I'd say it doesn't see a lot of maintenance.  Not that the rest of the park is that much better.  I'm glad we took the horses out on it before this winter's blowdowns.  It isn't passable for horses now without extensive backtracking and bushwhacking. 

We performed a refrigerator winnowing yesterday.  We now have far fewer condiments.  Many of them were jars with years-old contents.  Gross.  Some of them were just things we tried, didn't like, and just stuck back in the fridge.  Also, I keep telling JD we have a mustard problem but I think he really viscerally got it after sitting on the floor looking at the shelf full of different mustards.  And that doesn't count the unopened ones in the pantry.  The thing about mustard is it's delicious in small quantities.  We don't go through it very fast.  But we keep seeing more that looks good and we buy it.  It's a problem.

This evening I'm watching Olli and Nazca.  Olli has figured out that you can play catch by yourself if you throw the mouse up in the air.  Nazca is more of a grappler.  The two of them are growling and rucking the carpets and generally making a mess.  They're hazardous to walk around.  I opened the fridge to put leftovers in and I nearly shut Olli in, as he had raced in during the three seconds the door was open.  Dory on the other hand is sitting quietly.  I think she's planning something.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Windy, freeze dried, and pupusas

We made it to Papi Chulo's in Lanham for dinner with the neighbors, who didn't realize the restaurant was there.  I got a different pupusa this time (still delicious) and one of the Saturday-Sunday-only dishes.  It was WAY too much food, but good.  We had a good time.  There were several patrons at the bar and one eating at a table, which was more than last time.  I asked and they've been open for three months.  I guess it takes time to build a clientele.  We got carryout menus so I can now send JD out for pupusas, should I get a (non-pregnancy related, don't get your hopes up Mom) craving.

Earlier I went out to see Pluto, who claimed he couldn't remember who I was and wanted nothing to do with me.  He was so resolute that his pasturemate Mystery actually got a cookie first.  When he realized I was giving away his treats, he changed his mind about whether or not I was a stranger.  He wasn't super cooperative, however.  And with the gusty winds he was on High Alert.  The only way I would have ridden him today was if  there had been some sort of national emergency in which no motorized vehicles were moving, and I desperately needed  to get somewhere.  Say, my husband was out of his theoretical insulin.  As there was no emergency and JD is not diabetic, I just patted the pony on the nose, groomed him, and gingerly led him back to his field.  Where he immediately rolled into the dirt until he reacquired a nice patina of grime.

I also tried out an AlpineAir freeze dried meal this morning.  I got 25 of the things in the hopes of using them on my section hikes this year, all of which have poor resupply options.  The one I tried this morning (Roast Beef Hash) didn't reconstitute well.  The potatoes remained al dente.  And the sodium level was ridiculous.  1000 mg per serving, 2 servings per package.  The one bite I tried left my mouth tingling with salt.  Definitely a no-go.  The granola breakfasts look more promising, though.  I may try one of those tomorrow.

I'm hoping to get out to Greenbelt Park to hike tomorrow.  In theory I could also go see Pluto and try to ride, but I'm guessing that after the hike I'll want a nap.  The winter slackitude is still upon me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In which I blab about a dream and a jerk

I had a dream last night.  It was maybe a little bit on the nightmare side, but it was good.  Because there was somebody in the dream I needed to say something to.  And I sure as hell don't want to see him in real life, so being able to do it in a dream was perfect.

And, just in case I didn't get it all out in the dream, I'm going to now.


I don't want to be your friend, nameless hiker.  You behaved entirely inappropriately with me.  You made a couple of weeks of my life paranoid and uncomfortable while I avoided you and worried that I might run into you again.  For future reference, BOTH parties are supposed to be interested for a relationship to happen.  When a woman tells you to back off before she punches you in the 'nads, it is a very definite sign that she is not interested.[1]

Thanks to you, I am less open, less friendly, and more worried that my actions might be mistaken for a come-on.

Piss off, nameless hiker.  Stop trying to talk to me.  And keep your hands to yourself.



[1] It kind of caught me off guard.  I'm an overweight, middle aged sysadmin.  We don't have to deal with these things.. normally.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My cat's as skittish as a horse. Fortunately, I know what to do with those.

Of our three kittens, two have settled in well.  Dory and Olli have no problem getting underfoot, jumping in my lap, or abusing my curtains.  Nazca, however, is still uncertain.  Dealing with him is very much like dealing with a skittish horse, and I have started using some of my skittish-horse-training tools with him.

There are good reasons to be cautious with a skittish horse or a scared cat.  Either one may hurt you badly if you push the matter.  Horses can bite, kick, stomp, or otherwise crush you.  Cats can only bite and scratch (although I did used to have one who would also punch with a closed fist) but those bites and scratches can be very nasty indeed.

If you want to end up with a happy animal, and you also want to keep all your skin and bones intact, you have to be very, very careful.  If you are so butch that your own health and safety aren't an issue, you will still end up with an unhappy horse or cat if you don't let them go at their own pace with you.  And what's the point of spending your life with an animal who is terrified of you? [1]

So, the tools in my chest are:
    Watching.  I very carefully watch my horse or cat.  If I take a step toward him and he tenses up, I stop immediately.  If he stays tense or leans away, I back up a little.  If he is calm and accepting, I take another slow step toward him.
   Being interesting.  I want the animal to want to come to me.  If they stay still for me to come up to them, that is good.  But far better is for the animal to choose to come to me.  So I take that first step or two toward him, and then I stop.  I may hold out my hand in a friendly gesture.  I may look away, developing an acute interest in something nearby.  Either action may entice.
   Having patience.  The watching and being interesting have to happen over and over.  Trust develops over time.  The cat or horse may come up to you the first time, but that doesn't mean they trust you.  It just means they trust you *right then*.  Long term trust is the result of many interactions during which the animal learns that you are trustworthy.

I am happy to report that Nazca is now comfortable enough to enter the living room when I am sitting down.  He'll hop up on my lap without encouragement.  He still doesn't feel safe enough to let me walk up to him.  But it's coming.  We have time.

[1] I am assuming you are not a freaky psychopath here, Internet.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A person on the internet agrees with me. I am vindicated.

Because I have hiking on the brain, I looked up information this morning about sodium needs of athletes.  And then endurance athletes.  And then ultra endurance athletes.  Because it turns out that a thruhiker is an ultra endurance athlete (defined, where I was looking, as someone who exercises at high intensity for 12 or more hours at a time.  Which, maybe not so much if you're on the ridgeline.  But if you're going up a mountain quickish-like?  Pretty high intensity.)  And the ultra endurance athletes mentioned in the article weren't doing it every day.

Then on the radio while I was driving to work I heard a piece about a guy who ran a marathon a day for a year, just to see what would happen (or to prove it could be done).  He was feeling pretty proud of himself.  I'd like to introduce him to thruhikers who hike a marathon a day (though not for a year - and I am definitely not in the marathon a day crowd) with no support team like he had.  And over mountains, on uneven footing.  Carrying a backpack.  Of course, most of them aren't running.

Anyway, the salt issue.  Here's one of the pages I found:

An interesting tidbit from the article is that the athletes can lose 1-2 grams of salt per liter of sweat.  And they are losing a liter or more of sweat an hour.  So that is a *lot* of salt.  (I totally believe it, too.  You should see the salt crusted onto people's shirts, shorts, and hats.  Gross.)  The recommended daily intake of sodium in the diet is only 2.4 grams per day.  If you followed that recommendation while being very active in the summer, you would be in the danger zone for hyponatremia pretty quickly.

Anyway, my personal feeling has generally been that people hiking all day in the summer need more than the USDA recommendation for salt, and I think the article backs me up. 

More interesting (to me) details, plus the advice to get the salt from food rather than tablets:

Also, it says, avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs during the exercise because they inhibit kidney function and may contribute to development of hyponatremia.  Which is advice most thruhikers will laugh at.  Not because they don't believe it, but because after a few hundred or a thousand miles they don't function well without anti-inflammatories.  Not YOU, of course.  I'm not talking about YOU.  I'm talking about the rest of us with less than perfect physiques, joints, and ligaments.

So, to sum up, I am happy to have found random unsubstantiated pages on the Internet which back up my own beliefs.  It's always nice when people agree with you.

Also?  Pretty sure I'm buying a 2.5 oz Tracfone for my trek this summer.  There's a good chance my iphone won't work pretty much anywhere in Maine.  The Tracfone, which uses whichever network is handy, should at least let me text JD from mountaintops.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I gave blood today. And people were nice to me.

Guess what I did today, Internet?  I gave blood!  Rich, juicy blood.  Mmmmm.

Sorry, got off track.  Started thinking about rare stake.  I mean steak.

I listened to a song about cannibalism and now I'm all confused.

Anyway so I gave blood and it was a fun time.  And there were cookies!  JD and I calculated the caloric value of a pint of blood (not even counting the extra they take for testing!) at about six hundred calories.  So those cookies and the tiny can of juice are free, by my count.  Although the buffet we went to tonight wasn't.  But at least I started my day on the straight and narrow, sort of.

They said I wasn't allowed "vigorous" exercise but I figured walking isn't all that vigorous, so I went for a walk.  Then I forgot about the precautionary notes and started jogging.  Of course, my version of jogging still isn't that vigorous.  And besides, I still had on a bandaid.  So I had it covered!  So to speak.

Between walking over to get my blood drawn, and walking and jogging, and my many many trips to the buffet, I went over 10000 steps today!  Yay! 

The snazzy NASA auditorium with futuristic looking tables and stuff, set up for a blood drive.

It's no lie:  They have cookies!  It must be the dark side.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2000 left to go

I went for my first walk in a week today.  It felt good to get out.  Between ice and snot, I've been confined indoors for far too long.  It was so nice (fifty degrees!) that I walked around in just my sweater and overshirt.  And pants, too, I mean.  I wasn't pantsless.  The air had a very pleasant feel against my face.  The cold water and mud on the trail, however, didn't feel that good coming in through the mesh panels of my boots.  I keep forgetting the dang things aren't waterproof.

Today was my first really good representative day of the number of steps I typically take in a day.  The day's not over yet, but the answer is a little over 8000.  So I need to walk an extra 2000 to meet the 10k challenge.  Now to figure out where the extra distance is going to come from.  It's easy enough to do that once in a while, but to do it consistently will take (gasp!) work.

JD and I decided that we didn't particularly feel like doing anything for Valentine's Day.  Instead, JD had the genius idea of going for a hike on the 21st.  We both have the day off.  So we're going to go for a 6-8 mile walk somewhere, then make up for it by going out for fondue.  Mmm, fondue.

Tomorrow, if I don't get deferred for recent illness, I'm going to give blood.  And you know what that means:  COOKIES!  Because why else would I let somebody poke me with a needle?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This can wait until after you're done cheering on a bunch of millionaires you've never met

Andy and Trouble's (may he rest in peace) annual license renewals came in on Saturday.  I filled out the forms (one with the "deceased" box checked) and at the same time printed out forms for Dory, Olli, and Nazca.  So I sent back six forms, four rabies certificates, three spay or neuter certificates, and a check.  That is one full envelope.  I weighed it and added extra postage.

While downloading the new forms for the kittenball, I noticed on the county's website that if you have over five domesticated animals at home and you're not a breeder or rescue, you have to get a hobbyist license.  We are *this close* to being crazy cat people.  Between the cats and the dog we have five.  And I've been thinking about getting a puppy.  Ruh roh.

While JD and I were sitting in the dining room this evening, we started hearing a faint regular beeping.  Turns out the carbon monoxide detector I bought back in 2003 has finally quit working.  I think 8 years isn't too bad for a detector, especially since it was an early to market unit.  I went on Amazon and found a replacement that also detects explosive gas.  And it costs ten bucks less than the original unit.  Win!  Now we won't die of bad air OR a massive explosion.  Cool!

I understand that the vast majority of the country is watching the Superbowl this evening.  Luckily for me, I am not married to a pro football enthusiast, so the Superbowl can remain on the fringes of my consciousness.  (However, during college football season I have to vacate the house regularly so he can wear his team colors and shout at the tv.  So it's not all good.)  We are having a standard quiet evening.  Dinner [1], conversation, an episode of the X-Files later [2], and a spot of tea.  I couldn't be happier.

[1] Chicken Tikka with onions and potatoes, and veggie samosas with mango lime chutney.  To die for.

[2] JD had never seen season 1.  I saw it a long time ago, obviously.  It's available on Netflix now.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Planning hikes out of Katahdin and into Damascus

I was so happy today was a day off.  My JD-contributed cold has hit full force.  Sore throat is gone but my head has been infested with pernicious snot.  I slept in, then I was slack.  Then I ate and was slack again.  It's a rough life.

I'm sneezing so much that I have boxes of tissues scattered around the house.  That way I have one within reach any time a sneeze hits.  I'm going to have to empty trash tomorrow because the little trash cans are overflowing with used tissues.  Gross.

I received my 2011 A.T. Guide yesterday.  Now I'm attempting to plan my two longish hikes this year.  The mileage doesn't work out neatly for either one.  The first hike of 6 days (plus two more in town) won't have a resupply in it.  The second hike of 21 days has no good resupply options.  I'll have to mail myself resupply.  Maybe more than one.  I might have to have somebody bring me a maildrop into the 100 mile wilderness.  I don't have a good feeling for how fast I'll be going, but even averaging 10 miles a day that'd be 10 days of food.  That's a lot of food to carry!

In theory White House Landing has resupply, but I looked on their website and it looks kind of skimpy.  When more time has passed, I'm sure of my start date, etc, I'll probably call to arrange a drop somewhere.  Oy.  It's so much easier when there are towns and groceries.

Along those lines, I went crazy and ordered a "7 Day Gourmet Meal Kit" from Amazon.  It's 25 freeze dried or easily packaged meals.  I have a fair amount of hiking planned this year so I hope they'll all get used.  Maybe not all at once - I can carry in a bit of fresh food for the start of a trip and use the freeze dried stuff for later, maybe.  I figure it will help reduce some of the headache of planning a trip when I can just reach into the bag and pull out three dinners ready to go.

Certainly my little overnight trips could be almost entirely unplanned if I had a stock of those freeze dried suckers on hand.  I could leave my pack almost ready to go!  All I'd need to do is add water and a few snacks available at most gas stations, and I'd be done.

Does this sound like a recipe for disaster to you, or is it just me? 

At least there should be good stories to tell.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I am going to stuff your excess TP right up your superior nose

If one more male hiker condescends to tell me that HE can get by on 12 sheets (or 8, or 3) of toilet paper a day, and then gives me a significant look implying that I should too, he is going to get an unpleasantly graphic description of the differences between his anatomy and mine, and other possibilities for why people have a more difficult task in getting clean.

I was about to write a description, but if you're a woman you already know, and if you're a man you probably don't want to know.  But let me tell you this, men:  piss off.  It takes as much as it takes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My calendar is all set

This evening after work I pulled out my (old fashioned, paper) calendar and starting writing things in.  Christmas (at my parents' house), Trail Days, a SOBO section hike from Katahdin, and DragonCon (not for me).  And then I went to the months of March through November and I wrote in at least one overnight of backpacking for every month.  Some months have three day weekends for me, so I can get in two or three nights. 

Yay for backpacking!

I expect I'll be renewing my familiarity with the circuit hikes of central and northern Shenandoah.  That's about as far as I can drive without wasting all my time in a car.  It's been a couple of years so I'm hazy on some of the details, which is nice.  I'd just as soon not do routes I have memorized.

My plans are by  no means set in stone, but just having things on the calendar makes them more likely to happen.  If for some reason I skip a trip, I'll at least have that luxurious feeling of having missed a planned activity.  I like playing hooky even when it's from my own plans.

Too bad we don't live closer to the Smokies, I would *love* to explore more there.  I'd like to do the AT there in good weather, for that matter.  But there are tons of other trails in the park.  Maybe someday.

Now I just need it to warm up and dry out a little.  And I need to ditch the sore throat I picked up this week.  Ah, spring.  Still so far away.  You'll be very welcome when you finally arrive.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A letter to a young me

Things I wish someone had told me in 1980

If you never touch a horse again, you will avoid many injuries, heartbreak, and financial drain.  Also some of the best times of your life.  Maybe enjoy them from a distance.

Makeup is both optional and expensive.  Also?  All those daily facial rituals that you will read about in Young Miss can be skipped.  When your face starts to feel dry after showering, around age 30, buy a nice hypoallergenic moisturizer and apply it after every shower.  Otherwise, forget about it.

Not everybody is going to like you.  It's okay.  Like yourself - you're the one who has to live with you.  If you don't like yourself, figure out why and start living your life so you're the person you want to be.

One of the best ways to get to know and become close to people is to work with them.  Help out.  Ask people if you can help them.  If they really need the help and you know they'll tell you "no thanks" because they don't want to be any trouble, don't ask first.

Squeamish folks, skip this part.  I'll put up a line of asterisks when it's safe to read again.

Your vaginal fluids will vary throughout your menstrual cycle.  It doesn't indicate any kind of illness.  In fact it indicates everything is working normally.  Do not sweat it unless you have tremendous itching, pain, or a foul odor that is not removed by a regular old shower.

Your temperature also varies throughout your menstrual cycle.  Unless your temperature is over 100, or you also feel lousy, you probably aren't sick. 

Don't use latex.  That includes condoms, diaphragms, menstrual cups, and even bandaids.  Find non-latex solutions.  Latex causes you to hurt and bleed.

**************************Safe reading again!

It can be hard to figure out how much alcohol you can safely drink.  And you will suffer hangovers and horrendous vomiting before you figure it out.  So I'm just going to tell you. Your limit is 2.5 beers.  You can have a little more than that, but not without consequences.  By no means ever drink more than six beers in one sitting.

You are going to spend a lot of time alone.  Keep a list of things you want to ponder when you have time.  WRITE THEM DOWN because you will also have a crappy memory.

"Alternative" medicine is not all quackery.   It is not normal to have constant pain in your spine and other joints when you are young.  See a chiropractor.  Do the exercises they tell you to do.

You may have noticed by now that eating is usually followed by pain.  Find out about digestive enzymes.  Use them, especially with greasy foods.   Andrographis may solve many of your digestive troubles, as well as curing or preventing Lyme Disease.  Also?  Try to avoid ticks.

You did not inherit fantastic teeth.  Find a dentist you like.  You'll be spending a lot of time with him.  Brush and floss regularly to minimize damage.  When the first hygienist tells you that you grind your teeth, it is not a judgement on you.  It is a practical observation.  Find out what you can do to prevent tooth grinding, because the longer you can keep your own original teeth, the better.  Fake teeth are not as good.

Stretching is important.  The more so the older you get. 

If something is making you unhappy, ask yourself "What can I do to make this better?  What do I really want?"  The answers may surprise you.  Positive action is always better than inaction and worry.  When you figure out what you need to do to overcome your own fears and inhibitions, do so.  Ignore people who tell you that you're going to slow or doing it wrong.  They don't have to live inside your head.

Your family are your first and closest friends.  Pay attention to them.  They will not be there forever.

Move.  Walking feels good, is good for you, and is an excellent way to clear your mind.

Bad things will happen.  That's life.  It is okay to grieve.  You have to do it before you can move on.  But then, move on.

You aren't perfect now, nor will you be in the future.  Do your best and be happy with what you've got. 

Smile.  It makes other people happy, which will in turn make you happy.  It's free, it's easy,  and it's the best way to meet a new person who might become a friend.

People move on.  It's okay to miss them.  But love the ones you're with, too.

Enjoy your life.  Look around and notice the beauty.

That about sums it up.  You're good to go, kiddo.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I somehow ended up with enough diverse characters to do summer stock theater

As I watched the various cats bop around the dining room this morning, I pondered how different they all are.  Andy is an athlete with serious stamina.  Olli is a rowdy frat boy type - athletic, but likely to get fat later.  Dory is friendly, sensual, and trim but not terribly physical.  And poor little Nazca is a whiner.  He's fat, unathletic,  and scared of everything.

The kittens are all from the same litter.  But boy, are they different.

I have had some fine athletic cats in my lifetime.  I can't decide who the most impressive is.  Hoot was crazy strong.  He had no problem jumping to the top of a door and perching there.  But then Figaro would regularly jump up to the top of the fridge and from there bump up a ceiling tile to get into the kitchen.  And they both had a quirky sense of humor.  They were also both fast enough that you generally only got a blur when photographing them.   Both would do really impressive somersaults when chasing those feather-string-stick toys.  Hoot would do his somersaults pretty near the ceiling.

Andy may be the most impressive of them.  He doesn't jump quite as high or move quite as fast, but he has the best endurance of any cat I've met.  We got a mouse in the house about three years ago.  JD and I gave up on it and went to bed after a couple of hours.  Andy sat in the living room, waiting for the mouse.  When I got up, he was still there, still watching.  And less than an hour later he caught that mouse. 

For a creature who normally sleeps most of the day, that's quite impressive.  That's like me sitting up for four days and then running a sprint and wrestling a guy.  Andy is the ace sniper of the cat world.

Possibly because of incidents like that, he is pretty weird about mice.  If there is a mouse in the house, I usually don't find out until after the fact.  He catches them, he eats their little feet, and then he puts them in the food bowl on top of the kibble.  Gross!  But demonstrative of the fact that mice are food to cats. 

I don't know why the feet.  I've been watching cats for thirty years and I have little more insight into their psycho little minds than I did when I was 11.

The other cats I've had (and man, I had lost track of how many there were) were:  1) Scoops, a truly exceptional hunter and magnificent bitch.  She really deserves her own post.  I will say that she killed animals larger than her, that she was far nicer to strangers than to me, that the way to catch her was to grit your teeth and hold out your arm for her to latch onto with all her points, and that her last act was to bite through my hand.  2)  Batty, a complete nebbish.  There was absolutely nothing spectacular about him.  He caught pneumonia as a kitten and was never really healthy or strong after that.  The one thing he did best in all the world was to love me.    You don't have to be impressive to be wonderful.  And finally 3) Trouble, about whom much has been said and written.  He was Scoops' evil twin.  He didn't care to hunt, to the extent that mice would run right in front of him.  But he was definitely a magnificent bastard. 

Ah, Trouble.  Miss you, you old jerk.