More movement!

We have a place to live!

Despite not having seen the apartment in person, I am REALLY excited about this place:

  • It’s really pretty.
  • It has an upstairs (loft) space (I LOVE having an upstairs).
  • It’s modern without being a cookie-cutter suburban-y large-complex apartment (not knocking these; I live in one now, and it’s very comfortable and unoffensive, but not especially interesting).
  • Lots of light.
  • A wee yard! (Fenced patio, technically, but it’s actually got earth/ground [not grass, because it’s not grass country, but it’s an outdoors!].)
  • There’s pretty landscaping (including trees! and cacti).
  • It’s a 10-minute drive from my workplace.
  • It’s right near bike paths.
  • It just looks exactly like the kind of place we would live in and like to own.

AND it comes with a former blogger friend [formerly a blogger, not formerly a friend] as a neighbor! (This one.) Said former blogger teaches at the university in town, and when I asked her about places to live, she gave me some general suggestions, as well as a link to where she lived – which she said she LOVED and was in a great quirky neighborhood, close to everything yet quiet and secluded. And LDH and I realized we’d seen (and admired) the website for those apartments before. And then I was browsing Craigslist and saw a new posting for an opening in these apartments for August. And the rest is history…

I mean, nothing is absolutely perfect; it’s a little more in rent than we’d hoped to pay (not strictly more than we can afford, but more than we’d been hoping for), and I’m a little dubious about the closet situation and where exactly we’re going to put the catbox (there’s lots of room for the catbox, but it’s a very open-space kind of place, when I’d really love some kind of closet/cubby/niche in which to hide said item). But most of the rentals this close to downtown — that we could easily identify coming from out of town — were either in very student-y places, or were houses that were too big/too expensive/too rundown. Then there were generic-“luxury”-but-comfortable modern complexes, but they were mostly 30 mins from work (I have basically a 30-min commute right now and while I don’t like living exactly where I work, it’s a bit of a hassle), and I also didn’t want LDH to feel isolated so far from downtown/the university where he’s likely to be job-hunting. So we felt the extra cost was worth having a place that we really liked, that felt like us.

And honestly, it’s a huge relief to have found this place, and I’m much more excited about the move than I was.

(Of course, now I want to buy things to decorate/furnish said apartment – particularly area rugs and a small dining/kitchen table/chairs; thankfully there is an IKEA under 2 hours away, so I think cheap and cheerful, slowly acquired, will be the way to go. I mean, in an ideal universe I’d win the lottery and be able to buy a new sofa, chairs, and mattress, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. But your favorite ideas for cheap ways to make an apartment amazing are always welcome!)

Is this thing still on?

/blows dust off keyboard

Hey all! Hope all is well. Still here. I've developed terrible sleeping/exercise habits (not doing enough of either), so I will skip trying to be articulate, and give you a few pics representing the last few weeks.

1. These are the flowers LDH sent me at work today (for Valentine's Day, which happens to be the 20th anniversary of when we first got together) (goddamn I'm old). They are all those crazy colors because neither of us are really red-roses-on-Valentine's-Day kind of people; they're intended as sort of anti-Valentine's Day roses. He also liked that they're basically pride roses. On the one hand, they're kinda like clown vomit. On the other, they actually are really cool to look at – every petal is a different (and never seen in nature) color. 


Flors

2. This is the sweater I made!! That fits me! And looks like a sweater! Okay, it's not the world's most flattering thing on; the lapels curl (they're pinned flat in the picture), and because it's cotton, it's a little bulky/heavy. But I've certainly owned uglier clothing. And it is really comfortable, and it's identifiably a sweater, so I consider it a win.

Sweater

3. This is our new kitty! Our vets suckered us into adopting her. She's got three legs (one of the vet techs found her south of LDH's city, in a ditch having been hit by a car, and convinced one of our vets to take her in and give her medical care). So now our household is truly the land of misfit toys. As you can see, she likes catnip.

AM

Um, so I last posted on November 16? Time flies, huh?

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So, thank you all so much for your input on hairstyles! I had not known such regional variation existed. I certainly wasn't trying to establish that my labels were definitive – I just realized that I'd heard all these variations and wondered whether I completely misunderstood what you were supposed to call them, or if there really were different labels in different places. I mean, I know all about pop and soda and coke and bubblers and water fountains, but had never heard about hairstyles before!

Interesting that some people both across the pond and here had the same labels that I did – I wondered if I could blame my British mother (did I ever tell you about how she told the eye doctor when I was a wee child that she was worried I had a squint, and he said no, I just had heavy eye folds? It was not until I was literally in high school that I figured out she had meant what Americans call a cross-eye (or crossed eye) and she and the doctor had talked competely across each other. Good thing my eyes ended up normal anyway). And bunches! I had completely forgotten about bunches! (I think my mom gave up on that label after we'd been in the US for a bit.)

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Exercise update: I have kept going to yoga and spin classes! (Insert burbling paen to how much I like working 9-5 and NOT feeling like I have to work when I go home, which has enabled this unusual-for-me trend.) And this week I achieved two completely new things:

(1) I went to my first non-beginner yoga class, and did not suck! (not any more than I usually do. I can't do anything requiring significant flexibility, like a standing half split or whatever that is, or arm strength, like fancy backbends. But I have fairly decent balance. And I enjoy it.)

(2) In spin class, the instructor keeps telling us to get our watts up to our body weight. (One woman tonight said, "You mean our goal weight, right?") For the first time today, I did that! And kept it there, and went higher when pushed to do so. And it felt good! 

The thing I've found interesting about this studio is that I feel like I'm regularly one of the oldest people in class (I know, I have a thing about age; you will just have to put up with it by now). The exception was when I took a Yin yoga class, in which, instead of actively stretching the muscles, you passively stretch the connective tissue, which entails getting into poses and holding them for 3-5 minutes (much longer than ordinary yoga) so gravity can do its work. This was not a high-energy class; I literally did not break a sweat. It was nonetheless one of the most painful things I've ever experienced. (Did I mention I'm not flexible?)

Anyway, the Yin class was, for a change, full of women older than me. But I find it weird that so few of them are in the other classes. I'd say the average age is late 20s-early 30s, and I was trying to figure out why that's so. It can't be that most women my age just don't want a high-intensity workout. Maybe it's that most women my age who live near this studio have too many other things going on in their lives (kids etc.) to take evening classes? Maybe not many women my age actually live near this studio? (It's quite small and probably draws just from the immediate area, which is a fairly young part of town.) Or, I wondered: is it because it's cheap? The studio is pretty small and not super fancy – for instance, in addition to the less than glamorous basement yoga space (which I've gotten used to) there's no real locker room; no showers, one restroom and one changing room that began life as a closet. This is not a problem for me because 1) it keeps the membership affordable and 2) I live 3 blocks from the studio so I can pretty much always go home to change into workout gear after work, and go home to shower/change after the workout. But I could see people with more disposable income than I have being willing to pay a bit more to have fancier facilities.

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What else… Work continues to go well. I do find the gender dynamics and "mommy track"-ing in my court kind of fascinating, which leads to various musings on the tension between an enjoyable life and career success/prestige, but that's probably all I should say about that.

I'm volunteering at a local animal shelter, and each weekend I fall in love with a different cat – usually the ones who promptly climb in my lap and up my chest for hugs. Recently there's Boo Boo, whom I have lovingly dubbed Manic Kitten, because that's what he is. A long-haired brown tabby with white feet and stomach and big green eyes, he is absolutely nutso. But someone has to adopt him because he's gorgeous and sweet on top of being nutso. 

There are hard parts of this, of course. There was one cat, I thought he was growling at me, until I realized he had such a bad upper respiratory infection that he couldn't breathe without making noise. Last week there was the young woman whose cat had got lost and she was just going through the shelter hoping she'd see him there, even though she'd checked all the lost and found cats and he wasn't there. (He was a black cat – they can be so hard to tell apart.) And then there was the guy with his little girl, who asked the name of one of the cats, explaining that he was starting his second round of chemo and had had to change his living situation, so had previously had to bring his cats to the shelter, and was just there looking to see if they'd been adopted yet. 

So. There's a cheerful ending note.

This is my new desktop wallpaper

ToothlessSmile

Which is to say, we went to see How to Train Your Dragon today, and I adored it.

Now, I'm not going to claim it's the best movie ever made. The story is classic "misunderstood misfit saves the world and everyone discovers he was great all along" straight out of Disney, down to the absent mother. But another way to look at it is as about the bond between humans and animals, and being a sucker for the cute beasties, that's where it tugged successfully on my heartstrings. (Okay, maybe it's not a realistic portrayal of the human-animal bond, since dragons are, you know, fictional. But still. If you like boy-loves-dog stories, you'll really like this.)

Toothless, the dragon pictured above, is one of the most adorable creatures I've seen on film in a long time. The moviemakers did a lovely job creating an animal that's a reptile yet combines the most appealing characteristics of cats, dogs, and horses, and feels entirely real. (More real, even, than the humans, who are supposed to be exaggerated and caricatured.) The scenes where Hiccup first encounters Toothless, and the flying scenes, are visually gorgeous. And although the action sequence at the end is, again, not that original, well, it's DRAGONS! Do I really care about originality? No!

The thing is, though, that Toothless, in his cat-like elements, really really REALLY reminded me of my old black cat that we had to put to sleep last summer. REALLY. A LOT. So, um, I kind of cried almost every time he was on the screen. And totally sobbed at parts. Poor NLLDH is very kind to put up with my sentimentality. (It was kind of like seeing Finding Nemo and Ratatouille after my dad died – in both those movies, the main character is forcibly separated from his dad, and watching both, I sobbed and sobbed. Yeah. You all really want to go to the movies with me now, don't you?)

First time’s the charm

So, I have to thank you all for your good wishes, because I got the position I was running for! Am very pleased and excited. (Especially since at the moment I can bask in having got the position without yet having to do any work for it.)

It was kind of nice, actually, because right after I found out I ran into a couple of women from this group, who asked me if I'd heard yet about the position, and were all excited for me when I said I'd got it, and said they'd voted for me and were all pleased that I was going to be in that position. And honestly, I know it's very Sally-Field-ish, but that gave me a really nice feeling. 

And then after class, in the hallway, I walked past two of the unsuccessful candidates, walking together.

Awkward.

(Actually, not really — they're nice people, and one said, "Congrats," and it will all be fine. But yeah, a little awkward.)

Apropos of nothing, because I like it

IMMIGRANT

November '63: eight months in London.
I pause on the low bridge to watch the pelicans:
they float swanlike, arching their white necks
over only slightly ruffled bundles of wings,
burying awkward beaks in the lake's water.

I clench cold fists in my Marks and Spencer's jacket
and secretly test my accent once again:
St. James Park; St. James Park; St. James Park.

— Fleur Adcock

Because I can’t wait for the semester to be done…

1223_christmasLights …I've been thinking ahead a little bit to Christmas.

I was talking to my mom on the phone last week, and she said something about having seen my sister, and being really happy that my sister had told her how much she loved all the Christmas traditions we had growing up. And I told my mom that I, too, loved our Christmas celebrations. At the time, I just thought we did all these things for Christmas because they were just what people did, but it was interesting to find out that my mom did them in part because she wanted my sister and me to have these kinds of great memories.

I should note that we grew up almost entirely irreligious–my half-brother usually spent Christmas with us and he'd often go to mass on Christmas day, and my dad would usually go with him (despite my dad's lack of religion the rest of the year; my dad grew up surrounded by Slovak Catholicism, but I think he left it all behind after he and his first wife divorced. I don't know whether this is because, going through the divorce, he lost his faith, or because he didn't lose his faith, but felt cast-out as someone who had divorced). And there were a couple of Christmases where my mom was part of a handbell-ringing group, so we went to a service of some kind (whether on Christmas or not, I don't remember) to hear my mom play carols on her bells, but I had no concept of the religious purpose of the event. So Christmas for us was never about celebrating Christ's birth–my mom said once that she tried to teach my sister and me about Jesus and Mary and everything, "but it just came out sounding so unbelievable."

Christmas was about getting and (when when I grew older) giving gifts, I'll confess to that. I'm sure that much of its appeal when I was a kid was that I got mountains of stuff. (Which I did–maybe because my parents probably didn't get very much in the way of gifts when they were growing up?) It's funny, though, because I eventually figured out that it couldn't be all about presents, because whether I had a few things or tons of things, there always came that moment when there were no more gifts to open, and you were still the same person as before. Getting mounds of things didn't magically make me better or happier than I was before the mounds of things; there were always specific items I was thrilled to have, especially when I was little, but the key to my happiness or sorrows couldn't lie in some inanimate thing.

Which is probably something I can say only because I always had lots of inanimate things.

But what I really remember was–as corny as it sounds–the magic of the season. My mom used to tie green ribbons on red glass balls and hang them from the wall sconces and chandelier in the dining room (doesn't chandelier sound fancy? hanging light fixture is probably more accurate). We had electric candles that got set up in all the windows in the front of the house (they were ancient with frayed cords–I remember plugging one in in my sister's bedroom and suddenly finding myself lying on the floor about 5 feet away. Ah, the days before consumer safety laws…). Our tree always had the big colored lights on it (classic 1960s-1970s), and big silver tinsel garlands, and the same ornaments year after year, augmented by the new ones my parents put in our stockings. My mom made certain kinds of cookies that only appeared at Christmas (Mexican wedding cookies and chocolate crinkles. She also made mince pies, but I wouldn't eat those.) She made a traditional English Christmas pudding each year (made around October and put aside to age properly. I didn't eat that, either, though my sister liked the hard sauce, which is basically buttercream frosting with brandy in it). 

Anyway, I could go on and on. The long and short of it is, my parents did a great job at making Christmas special for us–a festival of abundance, color, and lights, during the darkest, coldest, bleakest time of the year. 

But it's been hard to maintain those kinds of traditions. My dad is no longer with us, and we no longer live in the beautiful house in snowy New England, where he'd bring in logs and light a fire in the fireplace on Christmas day. If I spend Christmas with my mom and sister, it's in Florida, and while I've grown quite fond of palm trees draped in colored lights, it's just not quite the same. More often, we spend the actual holiday apart–since it was never about the religious meaning, for us, we simply try to reproduce the warmth and festivities at those times when we can get together; it doesn't have to be on December 25.

The other thing is that NLLDH is not very interested in Christmas. He's not actively opposed to the holiday, but he just doesn't consider it his holiday. I'm not sure how his family used to celebrate when he was growing up, but his parents are actively anti-religious (as opposed to just lapsed, like both of mine were), so certainly he never cared about the birth of Christ part either.

It's a little hard to carry on traditions by yourself. NLLDH would never begrudge me anything I wanted to do in celebration, but it's all on me; I know he won't care either way. We have no kids to create traditions for (the cats certainly don't care, and in fact, NLLDH was always worried that if we set up a tree, Youngest Cat would pull it over–which he's done–and hurt himself on broken glass ornaments or by eating tinsel). And our apartment is small, with little room for decorations, which would look a bit out of place surrounded by the usual clutter and mess.

But this year I'm going to make the effort. I'm going to get a string of lights or two to drape the windows with, or maybe even a pre-lit mini (fake) tree. Or maybe, just maybe, I can find a wee little real tree, a Charlie Brown kind of tree that no one else wants, and rig up a stand. I'll wrap a few small gifts for NLLDH and make him open them with me on Christmas morning. And in the nights leading up to Christmas, I'll turn off the ordinary lights and turn on the colored ones, maybe light a few candles, and sit in light amidst the darkness, warm despite the cold, and countdown to the turning point of the year, when the sun begins to return to us again.