Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas All Around?

Here's a picture of our Christmas tree early one morning, before the sun rose. There's one thing missing, though, since I took this picture while Gomez was MIA. Otherwise, there would be a kitten lurking underneath the tree.

I hope everyone had Merry Christmas-es, if you celebrate the holiday. If not, then hopefully you enjoyed the empty roads, restaurants, and movie theatres.

We had a good holiday, spread out over several days. We exchanged gifts with my family on Saturday, Sunday morning was our Christmas at home, and then we celebrated Christmas Eve and Day with Keith's family. Overall, it was a relaxing holiday, even with the driving.

I was very happy with our decision to exchange fewer presents between Keith and me, and save money for one big gift for us. The original plan was to get a gas fireplace. After talking to a contractor, we're not sure if that's still a possibility in our particular (rule-laden) city, and with our particular fireplace. That is pretty disappointing, but I'm sure we'll also have plenty of other places to spend money.

Keith's parents also gave us a Home Depot card, specifically because we said our next DIY project would be to build custom bookshelves to flank the fireplace. It's one of the things we've been wanting to do since we moved in, so we're excited to get started on those. Don't worry—I'm sure you'll be treated to many pictures!

New Year's Eve will also be a low-key event for us. Although the holidays have been great, I'm looking forward to returning to life as normal. And as soon as I figure out what that is, I'll let you know about that, too.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gomez-shaped Hole in my Heart

I know I've talked about the dog, Beckett, a lot here. I don't think I've talked about the cat, Gomez, as much. Probably because she's better behaved, so the stories aren't as wild and crazy as those of Beckett.

Mostly Gomez stories go like this, "I was sitting on the couch and she came and sat on my lap and purred and told me that she loved me. It was great." She's not an angel, of course—she has escaped outside the house several times and none of the yarn in my knitting basket is safe from her attention. But she's a wonderful cat and I love her.

Over the past few weeks, however, there's been a Gomez-shaped hole in my heart. When I went to my parents' house after my mom's surgery, I took Gomez with me. That was December 10. On December 14, Keith and I left for the wedding and Gomez stayed at my parents'. Then, coming back from the wedding, the blizzard conditions prevented up from stopping by to pick up Gomez. So she stayed all last week, too.

We saw her for a few hours on Saturday, when we went over for my family's Christmas festivities. But we once again left without the cat, as Keith and I were heading out the next day to actually spend Christmas with his family. Gomez spent Christmas with my parents and many other pets.

I had no doubts that she was being well-cared-for and enjoying her time with my parents. I got regular updates about Gomez frolicking with the other cats, and adopting the cat tree as her own personal playground. She was having a great time. But the house felt empty without her. My only fear was that she wouldn't be all that bothered to come home once the time finally came.

Yesterday we drove back from Keith's parents, and we made the pet circuit. We stopped by my sister's to pick up the dog, and then headed to my parents' for the cat. By this time, she'd been there for more than 2 full weeks. She greeted us at the door, but then ran away on important cat business. After a bit of catching up with my parents, I went in search of the cat and squeezed her into the cat carrier. She was NOT happy about it.

She complained during the entire ride home, which is typical. But once she got home, much to my relief, she seemed glad to be back. I think a big positive on our side is the fact that she has a litterbox and food all to herself. She spent much of the evening running all over the house, re-acquainting herself with all her favorite haunts.

Even better, when we gave up on the unpacking and settled in the basement to watch a movie, she joined us. Usually she's pretty independent. She likes to be in the same room as people ... but she doesn't actually want to be touching you. If we're on the futon in the basement, she curls up on the recliner. If we're on the couch in the living room, she settles onto the back of the loveseat.

But I suspect that she may actually have missed us during our long separation. Because last night Beckett curled right up with us (he's not shy about cuddling), and a bit later Gomez padded over, and laid on Keith's chest for most of the movie. When he moved too much she punished him by leaving and settling on the recliner ... but then returned a few minutes later to curl up on the futon in front of him.

When Beckett changed positions and moved to Keith's end of the couch, she again left. But after sniffing around the basement, she came back and laid on me for the rest of the movie. And last night she snuck into bed after the rest of us were asleep, and curled up in the crook of my arm for most of the night. She didn't get up until I'd hit snooze for the third time this morning and reluctantly started stretching.

It was so wonderful to have the whole family together and home again. I know when my pets are staying with my parents or my sister and her husband, they're happy and well cared-for. But who is caring for me? Keith is a fabulous husband, but he insists on "working" and "running" and doing other human activities. And although he offers to let me pet his well-coiffed head, it's just not the same as a pet's soft, comforting fur. I'm very happy to have both pets back!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Cards

Finally! Amy's been asking for these pictures for weeks now. I swear, we really did make the cards on December 1! I'm just slow getting the pictures up.

Our card-making process usually involves two get-togethers. The first time we gather to consider ideas and try them out, and pick one design to actually use. Unfortunately, we can never agree on one design so we always end up making more work for ourselves by making two or even three completely separate cards.

This year, we made two. But I only took pictures of one, because the rest of the cards were already in their envelopes. For our second get-together, we try to prepare some of the parts ahead of time (have everything stamped out and paper cut) so it's really just an assembly line. This year, that didn't happen. But we always have the best intentions!

To make this card, we cut scrapbooking paper to a size slightly smaller than the front of the card. Then we took the scraps of that decorative paper and used a punch to make a few matching snowflakes for the inside of the card.

After that, we stamped the trees for the front of the card and the "joy" stamp for the inside, trimmed them up, and then cut colored paper to go behind the "joy" stamp.

Finally, it was the assembly line, actually attaching all of the various elements. Additionally, when we put the decorative paper on the front of the card, we attached a ribbon toward the bottom for a little more visual interest.

In one long marathon session and another hour or so the next morning, my Mom, two sisters, and I made 75 cards total. (We also had some much-needed help from my friend Halle—who doesn't even celebrate Christmas!— and yet she still suffered through the process with us.) Amy didn't take any cards with her, so Mom, Erin and I got 25 cards each.

I never have enough handmade cards to go to all of my Christmas list, but I try to spread the love around and mix up who gets handmade cards and who gets store-bought ones. But if someone sends me handmade cards, I try to return the favor. And if someone helps make the cards, they're assured to receive one of the best results—even if they don't celebrate Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rock Star in My Dreams

The wedding was fabulous. Despite the several inches of snow that fell on the ground that morning, or that continued to fall into the next day. And the afterglow couldn't even be ruined by the fact that we drove back home in blizzard conditions—snow galore and driving winds. It was just that great of an event, that the uncooperative weather didn't matter, and I'm sure it's something we'll all laugh about in years to come. Even the fact that the zipper broke on my winter jacket the day we arrived in Dayton, and I couldn't zip up my coat the rest of the weekend. Or now, in fact. Doesn't matter! It was a beautiful ceremony and a rockin' reception.

Driving back to Cleveland, the closer we got, the worse the weather became. It became clear we had some choices to make: the dog was at my sister's house (far West side of town), the cat was at my parents' house (nearer West side) and the eventual destination was our own home (near East side). Which direction should we aim the car?

We chose my sister's house, because we could take major highways almost all the way, and only brave local roads for the final two miles. Luckily, she and her husband are gracious hosts and let us crash at their house for hours while we waited for the storm to abate. They fed us, they entertained us, I even got in my third quarter nap, snuggled on their couch with the dog!

Other than napping, a main source of entertainment was playing their Play Station 3 game Rock Band. It's similar to Guitar Hero, except instead of one person playing the "guitar" you can have a whole band playing guitar, drums, and singing.

I took the easy way out and just sang. Erin played the guitar for a while and Keith played the guitar, and then Josh rocked the drums and Keith switched to guitar. It was fun to play, although certain elements were harder than I expected.

Particularly, I learned that I don't actually know the words to any song. Not really. Songs like "Black Hole Sun" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now," which I've "sung along" to for years, were a complete revelation. That's what he's saying?!? I had no idea!

The most difficult song we did, at least for me, was "Wanted: Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. Those vocals go all over the place. And I guess it's stuck with me because, for the past three days, I've woken up in the morning with that song stuck in my head. I'm assuming that, over night, I had dreams of rock star glory, singing that song. When I wake up, I remember nothing of the dream, but just hear the song's refrain in my mind.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Going Off-Duty

My time as my Mom's personal aide is nearly over. My younger sister is here to take over. Keith and I have to pack up and get ready to head down to Dayton for for his best friend's wedding.

It should be a beautiful wedding. Keith and Michael have been best friends since they were 3 years old. We love Michael's fiance and he has a wonderful family, so it will be a great time.

I'm a little sad to leave my Mom, though. It's been a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with her, just chatting and reading and being together. It's also been great to take care of her and return just a tiny amount of the love and affection that she's given me over the past several decades.

And it's been nice in the evening when my Dad gets home, and we can all hang out together in the living room. Animals and all. But it's good to see that my Mom is on the mend and continues to improve daily. And I look forward to seeing her again on Sunday!

The Sound of a Sleeping Household

My Mom is an animal lover. My Dad tolerates them. Currently, my parents have two cats and one dog in their house.

When I came to help my Mom recuperate, I brought my cat with me. Keith came to join us midweek, and brought the dog. So currently, there's four people, three cats, and two dogs living here.

Sometimes its a little overwhelming, especially when you have a turkey sandwich in hand and the swarm descends.

But sometimes it's comforting, like now. It's mid-morning, and the animals are all reclined in various states of repose. My cat is in her new favorite place, curled up on the top of the cat tree. My parents' dog is snoring away on the loveseat. Mom's one cat is hidden behind the Christmas tree, and the other one is laying on her lap. Our dog is curled into a tight little ball, under the blanket between Keith and me on the couch.

Now I remember why it's always so hard to get moving when I'm here: the inactivity of the animals is a powerful force, suggesting that you sit and sip tea a little longer, maybe take a mid-morning nap. Not good for my productivity, but I think it will be a beneficial force in Mom's recovery process.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All Kinds of Geeky Hotness

Do you know what's really hot? When Keith knows stuff.

Last weekend, we went to a hardware store because I'd completely destroyed my garage door opener. This isn't the first time—for some reason, I occasionally feel as if the surface is coated in oil, and I drop the opener and it breaks into many pieces.

The first time it happened, Keith put it back together again right away. The next time, he had already left for work and I couldn't get it working again on my own, so the car was trapped in the garage. It was like a logic puzzle: if you can't open your garage door, how do you get it out? Keep in mind:
--We have no entry into the garage other than the two main garage doors. No side entrance for people.
--Both garage doors are operated electronically. I've never tried to open mine manually, but I don't know of a manual override so I assume bad things would happen.
--Keith and I each have one garage door opener, which opens our side. So I can't open Keith's side when he's not home, and vice versa.

I was puzzling over this dilemma when I saw my neighbor heading out to his car, and I hijacked him and made him take me to work.

After that fiasco, Keith once again got the garage door opener working. But I swore that we would go and get back-up openers this time. REALLY. Because we all knew it was only a matter of time until it happened again .....

Fast forward a mere few weeks to the first snow of the season, slippery back steps, and a garage door opener that is broken for a third time as I slid down the steps. I was fine, but this time the garage door opener could not be revived. Luckily, I had opened the garage door before I'd left the house, so I could still pull my car out and press the button inside the garage to close the door.

But it also meant that, for the rest of the week, our morning routine went like this.
1) Keith opens his garage door and leaves the opener in the kitchen. He leaves for work.
2) I take Keith's opener with me. I walk in his garage, press the button to open my door, pull the car out, and press the buttons to close both garage doors.
Then in the afternoon, I use the garage door opener to open Keith's side, hop out of the car to press the interior button to open my door, and then pull in.

So REALLY this time, we went to the hardware store to get new garage door remotes. (Never thought I'd get back to the main point of the story, did you?)

While we were at the store, Keith had a few questions for the salespeople. This hardware store was somewhat out of the way for us, so we wanted to be sure we had the right equipment the first time. After finding what we thought we needed, we spent twice as long trying to find a salesperson.

Our first target was an elderly gentleman. Keith started asking about dip switches and different model openers. Salesguy immediately professed to know nothing about garage door openers and found another colleague who claimed to be an expert.

And yet, when Keith repeated his somewhat technical but comprehensible question about programming these universal remotes for different brands, salesguy #2's face blanked over. He assured us the ones we'd chosen would work fine, but we were less than convinced by his expertise.

Keith was mildly peeved when we left, because he couldn't get answers to his questions. But I was thinking how adorable he looked when he was peeved, and when he was stumping the expert with his "dip switches" and "circuit boards." He's a keeper.

Oh, and the new garage door openers work fabulously!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Surgery Stories

My mom's hip surgery reminds me of a few years ago, when I had an ACL reconstruction. The ACL reconstruction surgery is much less invasive, and easier to recuperate from. But it was still scary for me, and a big adjustment.

Although my husband and I were living together at the time, our current relationship status was "significant others." So because I wasn't a relative, he wasn't allowed to use medical time off work to take care of me. Instead, my parents each drove—separately—4 hours to come and take care of me that first week. If I remember correctly, my mom had the beginning of the week and my dad had the second half.

My mom had to deal with projectile vomit while I was taking the hardcore pain meds. (And Keith, too. Even though he couldn't get time off work, he still got to take care of me once he was home.) By the time Dad arrived, I was feeling a little bit more human. Instead, he got to take me for my first follow-up doctor's appointment.

We took my car; I think because it was easier for me to get into than his truck. It was wonderful to be out of the apartment and on the open road. My surgeon's office was only about 10 minutes' drive from my apartment, but even so I felt the sweet taste of freedom.

About halfway there, my dad asked how much gas was in the car. "It's starting to feel a little sluggish," he said.

I thought about it. "That's right, it is low on gas!" I confirmed. "I took it in for an oil change but didn't get gas because I knew I wouldn't be driving for a while, and figured I'd deal with it later."

I should probably also mention that I'd bought the car used, and the low gas indicator light had never worked. So you can tell by the gauge when you're running low, but don't get any indication of when you're REALLY low.

Apparently, Dad had just enough gas at this point to turn onto a side street and coast to a stop. He turned off the car and looked at me.

"Well, I guess one of us needs to run to a gas station," he said.

I smiled weakly. "Sorry," I said.

And off he went, in the midday summer heat, to buy a few gallons of gas and run back to the car carrying it, so we could get to my knee surgeon appointment. I sat in the car and watched birds making a nest in a chain link fence. It was a very idyllic, relaxing scene.

Mostly I thought about how lucky I was to have such wonderful parents to come and take care of me post-surgery, their grown daughter who lived hours away. Their daughter who ran her car out of gas, and my dad didn't even complain when he paid the price for my lack of foresight.

Every time I passed that side street from that point on, I smiled. And now I'm glad to be able to return a bit of the favor, and help my Mom while she's recovering from hip surgery. I'd rather not just a mile or two carrying a few gallons of gas, but if I have to I would do that, too. Because I know my parents would!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tending to the Sick and Recuperating

Sorry I flaked on my blog last week. I've been distracted because my Mom had hip replacement surgery last Thursday. And although I know she's healthy and they do this surgery all the time now, I was pretty nervous for her.

But the good news is that the surgery went very well, and she's now home recuperating. Even better for you all: I've taken off work this week to help her out at home, so I *should* be able to blog every day! (I'm admitting this now to keep me honest.)

I'm not a very accomplished nursemaid, but I know she's just glad to be out of the hospital and back in her own chair, next to her Christmas tree, drinking her favorite tea and taking naps with the cats. So far I've brought her tea, a glass of water, and a blanket. I think I can handle this!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Tree Shopping

We went out and got our Christmas tree last night. I love having the Christmas tree and putting up the decorations. Or I should say, I love when it's all done and can be admired while sitting on the couch. I'm kinda lazy when it comes to the "getting it done" part.

We had already discussed possibly getting the tree last night. Which sounded like a great idea. Until it was last night and snow was in the air and the windchill took the temperature down into the icicle fingers/frozen snot region. Then I wasn't sure it was such a good idea.

But Keith's enthusiasm prevailed, and we braved the elements to pick out a lovely Frasier Fir. It looked a little funny last night, as the one side was still completely flattened from lying on the ground. I believe it is currently being climbed by the cat and/or peed on by the dog.

Tonight, however, hopefully Keith can motivate me to get off the couch and put up the decorations so I can start enjoying the tree and the holiday season in earnest. If it's possibly to enjoy something earnestly. Then I plan to do it.