Friday Nights & Saturday Mornings

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We have all done things that we were not necessarily proud of. Luckily for me, I am of a generation when the vast majority of the stupid things I’ve done were pre-internet and undocumented. We have all had those moments of stupidity. They typically happen in our younger years, but even as we get older, there is a moment now and then.

If anything, I’m always honest and one thing I’m not proud of is how I used to spend Friday nights in my 20s. This was a point in life when I was still struggling through school, working on degrees one and two, and working 2-3 jobs at a time.

Even though I worked nights for well over a decade, I typically had Friday nights off because I worked a day shift on Saturday. Thus, I had Saturday nights off too. Saturday nights are easy to explain and I have no shame. Saturday nights were my writing nights. This was when I would sit down and pull out the twenty page papers required in undergrad or spent writing one of my two thesis.

Friday nights were the only night I got to be at home and wasn’t trying to pull a big project together. Friday nights became my “drink and clean the house night.” It sounds more wild than what it was.

Yes, it did involve some dancing around the living room, but it’s not like I had to drink much to be happy. Plus, I had to work the next morning. I got the house clean, listened to some tunes, and it was my one opportunity each week to try to relax. Even if at that time relaxation meant taking out my frustrations in life on the shower with a scrub brush.

At that time in my life, every single day was highly scheduled. I was juggling so many things that being OCD over my daily schedule was the only way I could balance it all without dropping something.

This Friday night drink and clean the house thing worked for a bit. Then, when I started throwing marathon training into the mix, Friday became one of my run days. I don’t drink when I’m in training (unless there is an extenuating circumstance like a birthday party or wedding, I may have a glass of wine – which is pretty much my MO year round anyway), and my cleaning day had to move. I honestly don’t remember what day became my cleaning day once I started using Fridays as one of my training days.

Due to the pace of my life at that time, some things are a blur.

When I’m running, I take out all my frustrations on the pavement. I do a lot of thinking. All of my best ideas come to me while I am running.

What I have noticed in life in the past few years now that I am working a day job is that it is a lot harder for me to get things done. When I worked nights, I would get a lot done in the mornings before heading into work at 12:30pm. When I got home at 10pm, I would have some time to relax before sleep. It was a great schedule.

Now that I am working days, mornings are hard. Mornings are typically my lowest point of functioning in the day. I’m falling down, dropping things, can’t see well, don’t balance. It takes a bit for my symptoms to dissipate and for me to feel functional.

For the record, the past few years with my new health problem, I have no need to drink anymore even for birthdays and weddings. My body feels like it’s drunk when I’m completely sober. It’s really annoying. It’s not fun and often unexpected.

But now that I work days, by the time I get home from work at night, I am exhausted. Nothing gets done. When I was working nights, I would get things done in the morning. Now that I am working days, I can only get things done on weekends.

Then, sometimes I have weekends I’m exhausted too.

So now my weekends are taken up with cleaning and house maintenance and I feel as though I’ve lost my time to relax, even though I’m doing less now than I was in my 20s.

Last night, it was raining, so I postponed my run to sometime today. I had some energy, for some reason, and decided to jump start the weekend.

I cleaned the upstairs on Friday night.

I plugged the radio in and started scrubbing. It was great. I had not had a Friday night cleaning night in a long time.

The upstairs is easier to clean than the downstairs because I do not spend a lot of time upstairs and that is where the empty rooms are. So I cleaned the upstairs last night. Shortly after that, I went to bed. I was way too exhausted to even think about cleaning the downstairs too.

I will be doing my run today and probably cleaning the downstairs too. Although, I have to admit, I’m still exhausted today. It’s been one of those weeks.

Now instead of having a “drink and clean the house” Friday night routine, I have a new routine and this one involves Saturday mornings.

Even though I am absolutely exhausted, I am still up early on a Saturday morning. I kind of have to be to take my medication. I can’t just take my medication and go back to bed. This particular medication has a strict warning on it that I cannot lay down for at least 30 minutes after taking it.

So I’m up early on a Saturday morning not only for my medication, but also for my new Saturday morning routine.

One of my Top 3 favorite radio programs is NPR’s “Only A Game” from Boston station WBUR. The program airs on my local station on Saturday mornings from 7:00 – 8:00 am.

I actually didn’t even know my local station aired this program until recently. I was ecstatic to find it. I used to listen to this radio program every week while I was in graduate school in Boston. I really missed it.

Every Saturday, I listen to this program, and it brings back so many happy memories of grad school. It brings up thoughts of Boston and commuting and trying for a life better and new. That is a whole other story, but I’m happy to have found one of my favorite radio programs again.

I may not have a Friday night routine anymore, but now I have a Saturday morning routine. My weekend doesn’t start until “Only A Game” is over. I relax here with my coffee, Simon in my lap, Jude by my side watching the birds starting their day outside. The sun is coming through the leaves of the east facing kitchen window.

Saturday mornings are a routine of which I can be proud. Unlike the Friday drink and clean the house nights, my Saturday morning radio time relaxes me in another way. Yes, I did clean the upstairs last night, but it was minus the wine. I’m pretty sure cleaning the upstairs Friday night will not become a thing.

Saturday mornings are a thing, and I love them.

 

The Great Milk Conspiracy

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People with food allergies, particularly people with multiple food allergies, are food insecure. When you have multiple allergens to avoid, that means you have to buy a lot of specialty items. Specialty items are not only hard to find, but also more expensive. People with multiple food allergies are typically unable to use traditional food pantries unless the food pantry somehow caters to people with food allergies.

I have 5 of the Top 8 most common food allergens. My reactions are severe. My last year of teaching, one of the kids spilled their milk in my lap. It’s a simple spill, right? No big deal.

It was a big deal. The milk soaked through my pants. I absorbed it through my skin. I stopped breathing. I began to have a seizure. By the time I made it to the hospital, my kidneys and liver had started shutting down. I spent several weeks in ICU.

One of my friends recently said that they heard a newscast that food allergies are all in your head. If that was true, I would have wished that away and not spent so much time in the hospital followed by several long months of recovery.

My food allergies are nothing to joke about.

No, I cannot have “just a little bit.” No, I cannot “pick it out.” I cannot have any contact by any means, period. This includes no cross contamination.

I am like this with peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg and wheat. Of the five, my worst reactions are to almonds and dairy. No, I do not have celiac disease. I have an actual allergy to wheat, which is something completely different.

I cannot go into a Dunkin Donuts unless I have a death wish. Seriously. If I ever decide to attempt suicide, I am just going to walk into a Dunkin Donuts. A few years ago, Dunkin Donuts added almond milk. It is quite prolific. I cannot even enter into a Dunkin Donuts to use a bathroom at a thruway rest stop. Who knows how thoroughly the surfaces were cleaned? If I come into any contact with almond milk/almond oil, I react.

I cannot have “normal” cow’s milk (or goat milk or sheep milk or any other animal milk). I cannot have almond milk. I cannot have soy milk, because all soy milks have an almond warning on them.

I typically have  rice milk, coconut milk or hemp milk. Coconut is a misnomer. Coconut is not a nut, it is a drupe fruit and a member of the seed family, and is safe for those with nut allergies. Hemp nut is a misnomer. Hemp is actually a seed, and is safe for those with nut allergies.

These specialty milks are quite expensive. I typically get a half gallon (2 litres) at Aldi for $1.69. This week, Aldi was all out of my milk.

I like milk so that I can have cereal in the morning. I eat allergy-friendly cereal, of course. My medication requires me to take it with food. Mornings are a hard time for me to eat because I don’t feel like eating, and cereal is the easiest thing for me to gag down in the morning to take with my medication.

The past few mornings, I had to get creative with breakfast so that I could take my medication. It was not fun.

Today, I went to 6 different stores looking for milk.

At all 6 stores, there were walls and rows of “regular” cows milk. There were walls and rows of almond milk.

Was there rice milk or hemp milk?

Nope.

It was only at the 7th store that I found what I needed. Now, keep in mind, I typically pay $1.69 for a half gallon (2 litres). Today, at the 7th store, when I found what I needed, I paid $4.69 for 1 litre.

Now, that is quite expensive.

If I have to do this on a regular basis, then that means that half of my monthly food budget is going to be allotted just to milk.

This is partially why people with multiple food allergies are food insecure.

I am one of the privileged ones. I have a vehicle, so I was able to drive to 7 different stores trying to find what I needed. Imagine if you have to ride the bus, take a cab, ride a bike or walk to a store. What would someone in my situation do then?

Food is extremely challenging to find when you have multiple food allergies. This is why I always tell everyone I am not picky about what I eat. I will literally eat anything that won’t kill me. With so many food allergies and reactions so severe, I cannot afford to be picky or to partake in some sort of alternative diet such as vegetarian, vegan, keto, etc.

The rules are simple. Will this kill me if I eat it? No? Then eat it. If it will kill me if I eat it, then don’t touch it. I have actually not had a reaction to something I have eaten in almost 15 years. The 10+ reactions I have had in the past 15 years have all come from touch, or skin absorption.

If I did not have food allergies, then it would be very easy to live on a $30 per week grocery budget. I’d be having macaroni and cheese, sandwiches of all kinds, pizza, ice cream, you name it. I look at grocery store ads and fantasize about all the things I would love to eat if I did not have food allergies.

With multiple food allergies, $30 per week does not go far. I just spent $14.07 on “milk” for the week, which was about ¾ of a gallon. If I want a loaf of bread, it is $10.79. Allergy-friendly bread loaves are smaller than regular loaves of bread. I typically get 3 or 4 sandwiches out of an allergy friendly loaf of bread.

I have to pre-plan my days and be sure to pack enough food for where ever I may be. I cannot go out to eat – hardly anywhere in this area. It’s not like I can just pick up food on the fly or go to a convenience store and get a snickers bar if I’m hungry.

Maybe for my last meal. If I was on death row, I have a milkshake and macaroni and cheese on the list for my last meal, maybe I should add a snickers bar to that.

The great milk conspiracy comes from the fact that I went into 6 stores and found walls of regular milk and almond milk, but no milk for me. Do stores and manufacturers just not think about all the people who are allergic to both dairy and almonds? I did not even see soy milk at some of these places, not that I can have that either.

What is with this trend in almond milk? It is my worst nightmare. This is why I wear a warning label like a Gremlin.

You want to see how fast I can run, whip out a carton of almond milk. I’ll be gone in a flash. I don’t have a death wish today. No thank you.

Maybe I should just give up on specialty items. I mean, I’m sure if I was on food stamps that people would judge me for checking out with a 1 litre carton of hemp milk for $4.69 when I could get a half gallon of regular milk for $1.29.

More importantly, when did milk become a specialty item?

The dairy industry has such a hold on our food system that they are advocating for alternative milks to be called something different. The dairy industry argues that something like rice milk isn’t real milk and should not be called milk.

There are times when I think “I don’t care what you call it as long as I can put it in my cereal and it doesn’t kill me.”

There are other times when I think “Why is my milk less than your milk? I should have access to milk too, whatever form that may take.”

Who would have ever guessed that trying to buy milk would create such drama?

This is the first time I have had this experience with trying to find milk. I do have this experience with allergy friendly pasta and allergy friendly flour on a regular basis. Whenever I do find allergy friendly pasta or allergy friendly flour, I buy them in bulk. I consider them treats because they are so expensive and so hard to find.

Part of me thinks that things like milk, bread, pasta and flour should not have to be considered treats. They should not be hard to find. They should not be expensive. Those items should be staples. I should not have to drive to 7 stores to find what I need. Don’t most people go to 1 or 2 grocery stores? Why do I have to go to multiple stores looking for “specialty” items?

Maybe my thinking is all out of whack. But when you have a large industry like the dairy industry saying you can’t call rice milk “milk” because it doesn’t come from a cow, and it takes me 7 stores to find something to put on my cereal in the morning, we have a problem.

For now, the Great Milk Conspiracy can take a rest. I have enough hemp milk for my cereal for the rest of the week. I can tell you right now, that breakfast tomorrow morning is going to be amazing. I may have completely blown my food budget, but I can have cereal again. At least, until the milk runs out.

Commercializing Solitude

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The little outside bar in the middle of no where.

A recent newscast spoke of a significant increase in visits to national parks due to social media usage. Once a haven of the adventurous seeking solitude, millions are now flocking to previously secluded spots made internet famous by stunning photography that has been shared all across the globe. Gone are the days when we would simply see a photograph of a beautiful place and long to go there. People are actually going.

This results in some national parks having to fight harder to preserve our natural surroundings. When human traffic to these remote areas increases, the majesty of the experience is often lost in the crowd.

Another recent news story spoke of an increased number of deaths on Mt. Everest. The deaths are attributed to overcrowding of people trying to reach the summit. Apparently, anyone with $11,000 can try to reach the summit of Mt. Everest regardless of preparation or qualifications to attempt the ascent. There is no regulation of people who are allowed to undertake this feat other than having the ability to pay for the experience.

We are commercializing solitude.

There are how many – 8 billion? – people on this planet. Our cities are overcrowded. We are now crowding those areas that were previously areas of refuge for some to escape the cities. Not every city person is cut out for the wilderness. Thus, we now have “glamping” for those who are unable to navigate the wilderness but want the illusion of solitude.

Let’s throw some glitter on a tree, and all of a sudden forests are popular.

I had been going camping to a location in the Adirondacks for about 16 years. This annual trip started back in the 90s. The location was the halfway point where I would meet college friends coming from western Massachusetts.

Cranberry Lake was my favorite place to be because it was remote and safe. I stayed in the same site every year for this trip, and every year things were the same. The natural beauty provided a sort of consistency in my life in the midst of much turmoil. I knew that no matter what was going on in my life, where I was or where I was living, each summer, I would always have my trip to Cranberry. Kind of like the whole “we’ll always have Paris” thing.

The annual Cranberry trip was like New Year’s for me. This is the big trip where I could relax and recharge and return to life refreshed. Especially the years when I was working 70-80 hours per week at multiple jobs while attending school full time, these trips helped me to keep my sanity.

The only reason why I specifically mention the location now after all this time, is because it has been commercialized. Unfortunately, Cranberry Lake is no longer my oasis in the middle of the Adirondacks.

The last few years that I made my annual pilgrimage to the location, I noticed a marked increase in the number of people camping. I’m sure on some level this is great for the state department of environmental conservation – more people camping means more revenue. However, with increased use, I noticed changes.

The first thing I noticed was changes in clientele. As the years have gone by, there are less families and more rowdy young people. Or, families who are raising Cain. I know this makes me sound like a curmudgeon-y old person, but there is more noise and less respect. People walk through other people’s wooded, secluded campsite without saying anything because they like the view from someone else’s site.

Um, excuse me, but you are standing near my tent, and I paid for this space.

Second, I noticed that even though some of the increased traffic was coming from students associated with environmental conservation programs who were, allegedly, in school for environmental conservation degrees, were trashing the natural surroundings.

An area that was naturally mud and downed trees now has now been cleared for people to put in kayaks from a private site. Too lazy to take the kayak to the public launch site, these students have instead chosen to destroy the natural surroundings to make an unapproved (I asked) kayak launch.

It’s kind of hard to sit in the middle of nowhere and be peaceful when surrounded by loud, boisterous people who have no respect for the outdoors around them.

These inconsiderate people are apparently incapable of living without cell service for 24 hours. There is now a cell tower in this part of the Adirondacks. Now, New York State told the cell company that the tower would have to “blend in” with the natural surroundings.

The cell tower “blends in” alright. It looks like a giant green toilet brush. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. You can tell that the cell tower is there even if it is “disguised” as a tree that in no way blends in with the trees surrounding it.

Part of the attraction of going to places like this, for me at least, is the lack of cell phone service. I literally love to unplug and unwind. I don’t have to worry about people calling me, texting me, or emailing me. Especially in a society that is completely on 100% of the time, we need moments to disconnect and reflect.

During a recent internet search trying to find a new, more remote area of the Adirondacks to be my new oasis, I noticed that Cranberry Lake is listed on a boatload of “best of” lists that have promulgated the internet over the past 10 years or so.

No wonder that spot has become so popular. Cranberry Lake has suffered the same fate as some of the national parks and Mt. Everest where social media has made them so popular they are now being destroyed by the increased foot traffic and are no longer the places of refuge they once were.

When I was in the Adirondacks recently, I went by Cranberry Lake. I noticed that now instead of having the small, simple brown sign out front indicating the turn to the campground, there are in fact, 5 different points of entry into this location and all of them are very well marked. There is no hiding out at that location any longer.

After hearing of the recent murders on the Appalachian Trail, I would not consider such a popular spot a safe place to be anymore. You just don’t know who is traipsing through the woods now.

This is why, when I found my new oasis location, that will not be named, I chose a location that does not really come up on “Top 10” lists or the average internet search. I want to be in an area that not many people know about, that is remote yet still safe, and retains it’s natural beauty. Forests should be respected by people visiting, not destroyed.

I do believe that everyone has the right to enjoy parks and the natural beauty that surrounds us. However, when large numbers of people flock to the same location at the same time, it is not sustainable on the environment. At that point, we are just turning the woods into new cities.

I will let everyone else go to Mt. Everest, the internet famous national parks, and the ones in the Top 10 lists. For me, I’m going to look for the locations that are off the beaten path so that I can truly be in solitude. The challenge is that as we are commercializing solitude, those truly empty places are getting harder to find.  

A Minimalist in Bear Country

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Bear country means extra gear to handle the risks. As a minimalist, I managed to keep the gear down to a dull roar while still planning for the probability of bears. The Adirondacks are well known for bears, and there are certain times and certain years when a bear sighting is more probable than others.

There have been years, like this year, when the bear warnings are so high, that you are required to sign legal waivers to be in the Adirondacks knowing the risks of encountering bears. There are also pretty strict rules to follow for bear safety and to decrease the chance of a run-in with a bear.

One of the options for minimizing the chance of bear contact is to keep all food, including coolers, in a car trunk. Bears are smart. Even if the food is in the car in the passenger area, the bears will see and smell the food and break into a vehicle to get it. Trunks are a safer choice for food storage while in bear country.

A few years ago I had bought a new cooler for camping. The new cooler I purchased is one that is designed to withstand high heat, up to 90 degrees for up to 3 days and still stay cold. The other attractive feature of this cooler is that it has a drain spout at the bottom for me to be able to drain the water from the cooler as the ice melts. This alleviates the impossible balancing act of trying to dump out water while retaining ice and food.

When I had bought the cooler, I threw it in the backseat of the car and brought it home. This year was very exciting because it would be my first trip and opportunity to use the new cooler. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that this super awesome cooler is too tall to fit into my trunk. It fits into my backseat just fine, but this thing is too large for the trunk. So I was unable to take my fancy new cooler on this trip. It will have to wait for when I go on a camping trip that is not in bear country. The cooler will be fine in the back seat while camping if I go to a place and a time when there are no bear warnings.

Given the requirement that all food and coolers should be in the trunk when under a bear warning, I ended up taking a different cooler entirely. This is one instance in which I am happy I had not yet decluttered the “old” cooler when I bought the awesome new one. It is obvious that I am going to need to keep both coolers and then make a judgement call on which one to use based on where I am going and when.

Other options available when camping in bear country to minimize attracting bears to your camp site include: stringing the cooler on rope in the air between two trees. For me, this is way too challenging. If I’m going to string anything between two trees, it would be a hammock, and I would be in the hammock, so forget the cooler between the trees deal.

Some campgrounds have “bear lockers,” which are designated areas where food is locked so that bears cannot get to it. Bear lockers are usually in an area well away from where campsites are located, so that if bears are attracted to the lockers, they are less likely to hang around people’s tents. The camp site where I was at did have bear lockers available, but the bear warning was not high enough at the time to require their use. You could use them if you chose to use them, but they were not required.

Being under a bear warning effected the way I packed for my vacation.

Another safety tip when camping in bear country is that any clothing that is worn while cooking or eating should be taken off before you go into your tent for the night and the clothing should also be put in the trunk of the car. This includes clothing that you wore at your campfire, even if you did not use your campfire for cooking purposes. In my situation, I use my campfire for cooking purposes, pretty close to 100% of the time.

Given the clothing parameters for bear safety, this means that I actually have two pairs of “camp pants.” Camp pants are what I wear when I decide I am “in my site” for the evening – tending the fire, cooking, roasting marshmallows, etc. They go in the trunk of the car once I have put my pajamas on and am “in the tent” for the night. Since my camping trips are typically 2 night/3 day events, two pairs of camp pants works well for me.

Having “camp pants” for bear safety means that I end up packing more luggage for camping than I would when I go on vacation in a city. For example, when I was in Chicago a few years ago, I made it through my entire trip with only a backpack for luggage. This included even having a dressier outfit for an event I attended. For camping, I have to take the small duffel bag due to the “extras” needed for bear safety.

In addition to camp pants, I also pack two hoodies when camping, as I usually wear a hoodie when tending the fire. It typically gets down around 40 degrees at night when I go camping.

This way the hoodie can also go in the trunk when I am in the tent for the night. By using a new pair of camp pants and a new hoodie for the second night of camping, it prevents saturation of smells compared to using the same outfit for meals. Any way to dissipate smells so as not to attract a bear works for me. If I was not in bear country, then I would only take one pair of camp pants and one hoodie and I would wear them more than once.

Of course, you can take all of the proper precautions and still encounter a bear. I did have that experience a few years ago. In 20 years of camping, I have only ever physically encountered a bear once. I’m not sure who was more scared – me or the bear. Luckily, he ran away, so I did not have a negative bear experience.

Even with all the “extras” required for bear country, I happily noticed that I have effectively decreased the amount of gear I need for camping over the years. It used to be that the car was so stuffed full of gear that I could barely see out the back window.

Since I have started my minimizing journey, I have not only downsized my camping gear, but gotten more efficient at packing and at choosing what needs to be packed for a successful trip. Not only was I more than able to see out the back window of the car last week, but when I arrived, this is what the set up looked like:

The tent held my sleeping bag, pillow, and small duffel. The truck was full of food, cooler, and wood that I picked up at a stand about 5 miles away on the way into camp. The backseat of the car was completely empty, while the front seats held items such as camp chair, stereo, toiletry bucket, etc.

Just the fact that my car was not jam packed full of gear was amazing. I was not lacking or in need of anything. I am still in the process of playing with my camping checklist to see if there is anything more I can minimize, but for the moment I am in a pretty good place.

The one thing I always seem to over pack on while camping is food, and I consider this to be a good thing. When you go off in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, and the nearest town is a good 40 miles away, you need to have food. I always splurge and pack the good stuff for food when I am camping.

As I was packing to go on my trip, I was amazed at how full my freezer and refrigerator both were. It’s been a few years since I have had that much food in the house. It was all because I was preparing to go camping. Thus, the need for the fancy new cooler that is too big for the trunk. I’m trying to minimize the need to leave camp for ice. That way I can spend more time hiking and less time driving into town to refill the cooler.

Just because you are heading into bear country as a minimalist, does not mean you have to scrimp on safety. I plan for safety first. If that means extra gear, then so be it. I’’ll save the backpacking for the cities. A small duffel works for bear country.

How to Escape the Neighbors

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The horses of the apocalypse thundered through the heavens as if millions were stampeding across the sky. It started as a low rumble that gradually grew to overtake you, steamrolling you until your body quivered with the force of their power.

Then, total silence.

No birds.

No rain.

Suddenly, a crack as if the Devil himself snapped a whip so sharp that lightning turned dark into day.

One drop.

Two drops.

A light pitter patter.

The heavens opened as if all the angels were wailing tears upon the earth. Rain so hard and so fast that flash flooding was instant. It went on for hours. A storm so passionate, it was as if you were fighting for your very soul.

Meanwhile, I’m laying in the backseat of the car wrapped in a fleece blanket waiting for a break in the storm so I can run out and pee. I’m wondering if the same storm is happening at home and if the cats are okay. Simon is terrified of thunder.

Through the haze and above the noise, pierces a heavily accented French voice “the weather for the rest of the day …”

The French was coming from the radio, as I was about 20 miles from the Canadian border.

It sounds like a weird dream, but this is, in fact, real life. It is one of the top 3 worst thunderstorms I have been through while on a camping trip over the past 20 years.

This past weekend, I had an ADK intermezzo. It’s been about 8 years since I have had an intermezzo. Hopefully, this will be followed at some point by the real mccoy, but that concept is highly doubtful this year.

While the goal is to create a life you don’t need to escape, I had not had a vacation in almost two years, and I was ready to slap someone. Typically my annual August/Labor Day camping trip has served as a sort of reset button for me – a refreshing change of perspective for 3 days that helps me to successfully power through another year. Since I am running a half marathon over Labor Day weekend this year, I decided to go camping over Memorial Day weekend so I could have a break.

I have successfully minimized and slowed my life down to the point where I was able to navigate the many challenges that have come into my life over the past 2 years without completely losing my mind. That is a definite win.

In the time span between my last vacation and this past weekend, I lived through these changes: my dream job decided to close the New York location, so I had to take a new job (one of the worst I’ve had with a $7,000 pay cut), Kitty passed away, we adopted Simon, I went through my housing crisis from hell and bought a house, and I have been having yet to be determined neurological issues.

I’m not sure how I’ve been able to make it this long and through all that still intact. I credit it to my minimalist lifestyle philosophy.

Still, there comes a breaking point for every person, and I have pretty much reached mine. This past weekend I had an Adirondack (ADK) Intermezzo, to put a pause button on life and to take a breather.

Thus, the tale that started this post of the epic thunderstorm on night one of my camping trip. I was reserved, paid for, and scheduled for a typical two night camping trip. I ended up coming home after one.

There was nothing wrong with the trip itself. Epic thunderstorm aside, I was having a great time, and felt immensely safe. Therein lies the problem.

Since I purchased my new house last fall and have moved in, I have to admit that I do not feel safe in my own house.

I moved from a rural, isolated apartment community comprised primarily of senior citizens. I was the longest tenant in the building. I knew all of my neighbors. No one was a problem. I felt safe there. I never had an issue with leaving the cats for a camping trip over a 3 day weekend. Someone always had a key to my apartment to check on the cats just in case. I would just go off in the woods with absolutely no problem.

With this camping trip, I was apprehensive to leave the cats. No one has my spare house key. All the people who were helping me will no longer visit me. The house is 7 miles father away from most of my friends than my apartment was, and I now “live too far away” for them. It was my first time leaving the cats alone in the house overnight.

I set them up with the automated cat feeder, so they would still be fed at their usual times while I was gone. I left 12 bowls of water. Both cat pans were clean.

I went camping and had a great time. Epic thunderstorm aside, I slept better camping that I sleep in the house.

That’s when it hit me.

I feel more safe sleeping in a tent outside in the middle of nowhere alone than I do inside my own house.

Then I panicked because my cats were alone in the unsafe house without me there to protect them. No one has a key if something goes wrong because either people are too far away to know something is wrong, or they straight up don’t care.

I could not in good conscious stay the second night knowing that I was in a completely safe situation and my cats were not. If something happened to them while I was gone, I would never forgive myself.

So I cut my trip short and came home a day early.

This sucks epic-ly, because I never fully got the chance to completely relax on my trip. I did not have enough time away.

I came home and the cats were fine. For the moment. Things were not fine yesterday when I was home and someone decided to break one of my rain gutters and remove the door to my crawl space.

I have a problem with the neighbors where my house is located. To be exact, I have a problem with the neighborhood children. I am not anti-child. I taught pre-school for over a decade. I like children in general. I just loathe the children in my neighborhood.

To make matters more complicated, I don’t know their names or what house they all belong to, but I’m sick of things being broken, my space being violated, and having them scare the shit out of me literally.

As scary as I made out the thunderstorm at the beginning of this post, the neighborhood children are more scary. They are creepy.

I came home from work last week and one of them was standing about 5 feet away from me staring at me as I put my key in the door to let myself in the house. He didn’t say anything. He just ran away when I looked at him.

The kids are constantly on my property without asking. They move things. They play on the fire pit after I yelled at them not to, they go in my garage. They hide just outside my house windows and stare at me or scare me when I am sitting on the couch reading a book.

Who does this? Who goes on someone’s property and does this?

Don’t tell me to close the curtains. It’s my property. People should not walk up to someone else’s house and stand in front of their window staring inside at them. It’s not right.

Who goes into someone else’s garage, their fire pit, moves things in their yard, and breaks pieces off their house intentionally because they think it is fun? It’s not just me.

There are older neighbors in their 70s on the one side of me. I have stood at my kitchen window and watched a group of these neighborhood children purposefully remove the lattice from the bottom of my older neighbor’s porch so that they can go under the porch to play. Then the 70-some year old gentleman will notice the lattice is removed and affix it. I watch this happen. He thinks it’s the wind, when it’s really the children destroying his property.

By the way, the average age range of these free roaming neighborhood children is kindergarten through second grade.

I would talk to the parents of the children if I knew which houses the children came from. I don’t know who to talk to. And what type of interaction will that be? Um, your child is destroying my property, can you please supervise them more closely? I’m sure I would piss people off.

Bottom line, I do not feel safe living in this house. I never know who is going to be staring at me through my own windows, I don’t know who is lurking around on my property, and I never know what I am going to find broken.

I feel chained to this house.

I’m not happy.

I can’t even take a two day camping trip anymore to relax because I don’t know what I am going to come home to or if the cats will be okay if I leave them alone with these fiends.

These children don’t talk to me. They don’t tell me their names. Never has anyone knocked on my door and asked if they could play in my yard.

If they knocked on the door, told me their names, and asked to play in the yard, I would probably say yes as long as they stay in the grass and not near the fire pit.

Some of these kids are out late. They don’t appear to have a curfew. When I was growing up, you came in when the street lights turn on. I have had moments when one of these kids was staring at me through my own window at 9:00 pm. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a school night or a weekend.

I’m thankful that I was able to go camping for at least one night to escape this situation. I wish I had stayed for the full two nights. This has not felt like a vacation at all.

I don’t know how to deal with bad neighbors because I have never had bad neighbors. Even times when I was homeless and living on the streets, people were more respectful than this. Yes, there were times we were sleeping out in the open, but there is like an unspoken thing with homeless people that you respect people’s personal space when they have claimed a spot. Personal space was pretty much the only thing we had.

I have no idea how to deal with these neighbors and their evil, unruly children. All I know is that I do not feel safe in my own house.

Any suggestions?

 

Down the Rabbit Hole

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Down the rabbit hole. Drinking the kool-aid. Swallowing bugs. Pick your cliche.

Swallowing bugs?

Yup. I was running last night and swallowed my first bug of the season. With so many food allergies, how do you think I get extra protein? Talk about eating on the go. Well, anyways, I was running and thinking. All my best ideas come while running.

A huge part of the reason why I left the field of social work is that I was constantly going down the rabbit hole. Now, going down the rabbit hole may be cool if you meet someone as awesome as the Mad Hatter, but even Alice had to wake up from her nap.

The problem with social work is that any good social worker worth their weight goes down the rabbit hole – you put your heart and soul into your job to help people fight injustice in the world. When you lose yourself in your job so much that you become the job. Now, that’s dangerous.

When I made the switch from social work to research and human resources, I was so much happier. Part of what made my unicorn (dream) job so sparkly was all the rules and structure. I loved having to follow research protocol and ensure that everything was following labor laws. It was neat and tidy. Yes, I cared about my job. Yes, I loved my job. Yet when I went home at the end of the night, I did not take my work home with me and everybody was still alive. I loved it.

Now, I am definitely not back in social work, but I am in the human service field. No matter how hard you try to keep good personal barriers, anyone with a heart even as small as the Grinch will be able to tell you that there is transference when you work with people. You internalize things whether you mean to or not.

My current job makes a lot of demands on my time. It has been challenging to get certain people to respect and understand my personal boundaries. However, I am not my job. I realize that may come as a shock to some people. My job is what I do for 40 hours per week to earn income to meet my needs. My job does not define me as a person.

Part of the reason why some people have a hard time with respecting my boundaries is my age. I’ve been told I look younger than I am. Therefore, people think I have all this energy and that I absolutely live and breathe my job every minute of every day!

Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I may look young, but I have been working for 26 years. I spent 20 of those years working 60-80 hours a week at 2 or 3 jobs. I feel a lot older than I actually am. I also feel like I’ve paid my dues and people should leave me the hell alone. But that’s another story.

This story is about going down the rabbit hole. No matter how adamant I am about boundaries, I am still human and therefore susceptible to being sucked into things.

I’ve been drinking the kool-aid of the field in which I work.

We all know I’ve been having issues since I was in the hospital in 2016 for stroke. I have not exactly let on just how bad things are sometimes. Pair that with a doctor who thinks they misdiagnosed me and the fact that I am surrounded by people in the disability field, and I’m drinking the kool-aid.

To make a long story short, the doctors think they screwed up. What they initially diagnosed as stroke, they think is actually multiple sclerosis. I had to google MS to see what the hell it is. Apparently it’s common for some patients to be misdiagnosed with stroke when they have a particularly bad MS episode.

According to my nurse, it looks like my symptoms go back at least 8 years.

I have no idea whether or not I have MS. I have one doctor who seems fully prepared to make a definitive diagnosis of either MS or confirming stroke with complications based on an MRI.

I’ve been drinking the kool-aid by imagining the worse. Well, if I really have this disease, it gets progressively worse and has no cure. The frustrating part is I have no idea when one of these episodes is going to strike, how bad it will be when it does, or how long it lasts.

But you know what? I’ve been living with this for 8 years already, and I’ve still been kicking ass. Yes, I’ve slowed down a lot. Yes, I’ve had some pretty bad months. I’m still going.

I’ve been falling a lot lately. It’s affecting my running. I also have a really hard time going upstairs to the second floor of my house. I mostly stay downstairs and I use a commode at night.

I’m still running.

I’m still driving.

Yes, I have problems driving (some of my symptoms are effecting my vision). I only drive when I feel I am able, I do not go long distances, and I only drive in areas that are familiar to me.

For me, I am not willing to give up and call this a disability yet. For me, as long as I’m running and driving, I am considering myself “functional.” The fact that I’m falling down, forgetting things, and going numb can all be damned.

I’ve also decided I’m not getting tested.

I’m not getting the MRI.

I don’t want to know if it really was a stroke or if it’s MS. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of a whole bunch of testing, medication, and treatment. Something is obviously wrong with my brain. You know what? I’m 40 now. People get old and their bodies fall apart, including brains. After four degrees, no wonder my brain is on the fritz.

Given my work history the past 26 years, I feel like I’ve already lived two lifetimes.

I just want to live my life. I’m a marathon runner. I keep going until I can’t anymore.

What I realized and learned on my run when I swallowed a bug is that as long as I am running and driving, I am not going to go down the rabbit hole and drink the kool-aid by opening Pandora’s Box.

I don’t want to know what’s wrong with me.

I don’t care. I won’t care as long as I can still do those two things.

So I have a bruise on my hip right now from where I fell down and hit the window sill. I can’t drive on the highway. Sometimes I walk into walls. I fall down the stairs. Many times I don’t know what day it is or what month it is. I am totally okay with all of this.

I am doing what I love – running. I am still functioning in society – driving. I’m not ready to say I have a disability yet.

I’ve been reading about MS ever since it was suggested, and from what I have read, it is an extremely difficult disease to both diagnose and treat. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of putting myself through all of that medical stuff only for them to come back and say “we don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

If it does come back with MS, well, I’ve read about the medications and I don’t want to be treated.

I’ll keep going until I can’t.

So my new goal is to not go down the rabbit hole. I’m going to stay positive as long as I can run and drive. I’m going to keep living my life. I’m not going to limit myself just because I’m not sure what my level of functioning will be in another 8 years from now.

The most significant thought I had while running and swallowing a bug was – if I was still at my unicorn job, would I even be thinking about this? Or would I just keep living my life and not worry about it? That was when I decided to not get tested. Because I now work in the disability field, I feel that I have been sucked in and needed to know what was wrong with me so I could prepare.

But I don’t want to put those limits on myself.

I’ll keep going until I can’t anymore. The only way you’re going to get me to go down the rabbit hole of testing is if I fall down that hole.

Which may be possible. I’m doing a lot of falling these days. We’ll find out.

 

Cowboys & Hankies

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A stack of six white hankies on top of a rolled hand towel and beach towel.

Everyone has their own reasons for undertaking the journey of minimalism. Some people want more time with their family. Some people want to lower their carbon footprint and be more environmentally friendly. Others are looking for ways to improve their health after a life changing diagnosis. For some people, all of the above are reasons for getting into minimalism. For others, it’s something completely different.

One of the side effects that typically happen in minimalist journeys is the desire to reduce the use of disposables, specifically paper products. We replace paper towels with cleaning rags. We actually use our dishware and cutlery instead of buying paper plates and plastic forks.

Some paper products are kind of necessary. Toilet paper is necessary. We all know from The Toilet Paper Chronicles, that tp has, in fact, defined my life. There are some that have found ways to go without toilet paper. I am so not going there. Too gross. Plus, my identity. The Toilet Paper Chronicles may need a sequel one day. I digress.

Tissues. Have we ever thought about tissues? This is another area that has the potential to hold the ew factor. However, it’s not as bad as you think.

What ever did we do before the invention of kleenex?

Kleenex is a relatively new paper product that has come on the scene within the past 100 years. Prior to that, everyone used handkerchiefs. With hankies, come the stereotypes of southern belles dropping their painstakingly embroidered linens to get the attention of some passing gentleman. Handkerchiefs conjure up images of cowboys, who stereotypically wore the red paisley kind to display their outlaw status.

For me, it was relatively simple. My grandfather always carried hankies. I was one of 13 grand kids. With so many of us running around, it was rare that grandpa would share a hankie with any of us “snot nosed kids,” but when he did, you felt special. Grandpa’s hankies were always super soft and felt like a feather on your nose compared to the scratchy paper tissues that grandma would bring home from the five and dime.

My grandfather had the stereotypical cowboy hankies. They were paisley. He had them in both red and blue, although I remember the blue most often.

With the improvement of technology, commercially produced tissues have improved. In my childhood, tissues were always rough on your nose. You knew when someone was sick because the tissues would rub your nose raw. Compare this to a cotton handkerchief, which is much softer and does not product the same effect. Cotton handkerchiefs get better with time and use, while paper tissues are a one time thing.

First there was kleenex, now there are puffs. There are other brands as well. If you look at the production trajectory of paper tissues, the goal seems to be to make them softer to use. Not only has the paper gotten softer, but they now also add things like aloe and lotion. Lotion, by the way, is lethal for someone with nut allergies because it contains almond oil.

Due to the lotion issue, tissues are something I always carry with me. I don’t want to be stuck someplace where I’m having to grab a tissue from someone else, and have it contain lotion that all of a sudden precipitates the need for an epi pen and a trip to the hospital. I understand the reasoning for adding lotion to tissues, but can’t the world be accessible for everyone and we just skip the almond oil?

I’m one of those people where my nose runs all the time. It especially runs when the temperature changes. For example, when I come inside from the cold outside, my nose will run due to the temperature change. It is clear snot. I use a tissue, and my nose is done running until I encounter another temperature change (when I go back outside, it runs again). The challenge is that in some buildings, the HVAC system is so screwy, it almost feels like one part of the building is a different temperature zone than another. This can cause my nose to run simply by walking to other areas of a building. It’s annoying.

When I was re-evaluating my budget recently. Where does all my money go? I noticed that I happen to spend a lot of money on tissues. I have tissues at work, in my car, on all floors of my house, in my purse, and in almost all of my pockets.

I specifically use pockets for tissues. This means that every time I do laundry and clean out my pockets, I am constantly pulling out tissues to throw away. We have all had those times when we have done laundry, missed a tissue in the pocket, then all the clothes come out with little white cotton specks on them. It takes forever to get tissue pieces off a load of clothing with those rolling tape things. When it happens to an entire load of laundry, that really sucks.

I have decided to try to go back to the “old days” of my grandparents and return to the use of handkerchiefs. There are makers on Etsy, one of my favorite web sites, that make some really nicely patterned and sewn ladies’ handkerchiefs. Before I make that big of an investment, I want to be sure I can actually make the transition from tissues to handkerchiefs without any issues.

I bought a small box of 6 handkerchiefs in the men’s department at Walmart for $4. Unfortunately, they are not the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth. These are plain white. For a trial run, that’s okay. If I make the switch long term, then I definitely want to order hankies from Etsy because I have other cloths that are white and it is a little confusing right now.

In order to get the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth, you could simply buy a bandanna and use it as a hankie. In my experience, today’s bandannas are scratchy no matter how many times you wash them. When you buy a cloth product specifically intended for use as a hankie, it tends to be softer and more gentle on your nose.

Of course, I washed the hankies before use. While they are not as soft as I would like, they are still softer than paper tissues. The softness I remember from my grandpa’s hankies will come with time as I use the hankies and they are washed more.

For the ew factor – first of all, it’s clear snot. Get over it, people. We have paper tissues shoved into every pocket, purse and crevice, what difference does it make if it is a paper tissue or a cloth hankie? The hankie goes in the wash and comes out clean.

If you have multiple people in your household and decide to transition your entire family to hankies, then I would recommend color coding everyone. If everyone has their own color of hankie, then that gets rid of the ew factor of accidentally using someone else’s hankie.

Right now, I have 6 hankies, so I am using one per day. That is enough. I don’t even use the whole thing. Like I said, my nose will run briefly with temperature changes and then stop.

I still have paper tissues in my house for visitors. I have paper tissues at work. However, I have started to carry a hankie in my pocket for my own personal use.

The ew factor decreases if you keep in mind that key point – hankies are for someone’s personal use. Of course, personal boundaries are a little blurred if you have children, but that’s life. How many times did your mom lick her finger to fix your hair or clean a smudge from your face when you were small?

An advantage of using hankies is that if one accidentally gets left in your pocket, you won’t have to deal with little pieces of cotton paper all over your clothes. A hankie is a cloth – if it gets left in a pocket and goes through the wash, it comes out clean. No harm, no fowl.

The benefit of hankies is that I am decreasing my carbon footprint by producing less waste. How many times has your wastebasket been full of just tissues? Yes, I have to wash the hankies, but they are small. It doesn’t take up much space to wash a week’s worth of hankies in with my laundry. In fact, I would say that a week’s worth of hankies is probably about the equivalent of adding two wash clothes to the laundry as far as space goes.

Before we had automation, factories and the growth of the disposable economy, everyone used handkerchiefs. For cowboys, they were versatile. We probably don’t even think of using a hankie to blow your nose, because when we see cowboys in movies, they use them as a fashion statement. They also use them to keep dust out of their face. However, the intended purpose is to blow your nose.

For me, hankies, remind me of my grandfather. They remind me of a time before he had to use a wheelchair when he was still well and would go for long walks on the farm. He would check on all the animals and just walk the land at night to assess what would need to be done the next day. He had a blue paisley hankie that he would use to wipe the sweat from his brow in the middle of a hard, hot day in the saddle. My grandfather and his hankie was the picture of a true cowboy working the land, tending the animals, and loving his family.

Where ever you are on your journey to minimalism, I invite you to at least entertain the idea of the return to the handkerchief. You may not be able to get over the ew factor, and that’s okay. Hey, I live alone, so it’s easier for me. Consider color coding if you have multiple people going for hankies.

For me, in these first few weeks of hankie use, it seems worth it. My nose is a lot happier because the hankie is softer than paper tissues. My wallet is happier because I did not have to purchase paper tissues this month – and I was purchasing economy packs either monthly or bimonthly. The garbage man is happier because I am producing less trash, which means that the bags he’s lifting out of my trash can to put in his truck are lighter too.

While I have been good at throwing the hankie in the clothes hamper at the end of the day, I did have one accidentally go through the wash because it was in the pouch of my sweatshirt. The hankie came out clean and there were not any little white pieces of paper on my clothes. It was great.

I will formally evaluate my hankie situation after a few more weeks. At this time, I am thinking I will go on Etsy and order hankies from a maker. This way I can have a color or pattern so that it is clear it is a hankie and I do not have to think too hard about what is a hankie, what is a cloth napkin and what is a cleaning cloth when I am folding and putting away laundry. I will continue to keep paper tissues in my house and office for guests. Since I am not using the paper tissues, maybe the box will last me a year instead of just a month.

If you want to be a cowboy, find the red paisley handkerchiefs.

Be a rebel. Use a hankie.

 

How to Train Your Human: A Guide for Cats

 

WP_20190203_13_15_31_Pro (1)Disclaimer: If you lack a sense of humor, you should stop reading now.

Double Disclaimer: If you lack creativity, you should probably stop reading now too. This will be either the most brilliant or the most stupid thing you have read. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Today’s Guest Post is provided by Jude Anderson AKA one of the cats with whom I live AKA the man of the house that is really in charge here.

Hi, my name is Jude Anderson. After 7 years, I have finally figured out how to train my human and wanted to share it with you today for all the other felines who want to take more control over their household than they already have. After all, the purpose in human staff is to get them to meet our needs.

We all know how to manipulate our humans. Lay on the computer/newspaper/book when they are using it. Look cute and bat things. Chase sunbeams. This past year, I finally figured out how to train my human to overfeed me.

Last year, the veterinarian was concerned about my weight. Something called obesity and diabetes. We all know those things can be fixed with treats, right? Well, somehow, my human thought that this vet person was in charge and started actually measuring my food for both breakfast and dinner.

Can you imagine it? My human was measuring my food.

Sure, I tried all the typical tricks to get extra food. I meowed. I batted my eyelashes. I purred and rubbed up against my human. The food cupboard is impossible to open because it has a magnet on it, so I started pawing at the food cupboard. I made my human feel guilty by giving her pitiful looks while she was cooking dinner. I even stole pieces of my human’s food.

I ate a piece of raw hot dog! Can you believe it! If you want to get your human’s attention, run as fast as you can, grab a piece of hot dog as they are cutting it up, and take that piece of hot dog into hiding. That really gets you attention! I also ate a brussel sprout, but that did not get as much attention as stealing a piece of hot dog.

The typical tricks worked a little. My human started giving me treats. I love treats. It was great. I continued to beg for food even after I had eaten my dinner.

The key to this whole process is begging after dinner. Humans are really busy in the mornings after breakfast. Then they leave to go to this place called “work.” My human says its to pay for cat food, so I guess the whole work thing is okay. I still don’t like it. So, the optimal time for food begging is after dinner.

After dinner is when your human is most vulnerable. Apparently, this thing called “work” makes them tired. Who knew humans needed naps? Cats are the superior ones here. I nap all the time. Anyways, after dinner is when humans are easy to train.

I had this pretty great routine down that was getting me extra treats. Except when my human gave me treats, she also played with me. All this running around works up an appetite!

I decided I needed a partner in crime. I can’t believe my human was measuring my food because the veterinarian told her to do that. Who is in charge of this house? I am!

I have this annoying little brother named Simon. I mean, really, aren’t all little brothers annoying? Well, my little brother is really annoying. My human likes to say his name a lot. Although, I think Simon might be a nickname. Sometimes my human calls him “Simon! I should have named you Alvin.” That’s probably his real name and we use Simon for short.

I got Simon to help me amp up the begging so we could train my human. If you have an annoying little brother, then you can implement the same routine to train your human too.

First, I would start with my begging routine after dinner. The slave – I mean human – always feeds us first, as it should be. Then, the human prepares its own dinner. As the human is preparing dinner, I started my begging to make the human feel guilty like I was being left out. Even though I already ate, it was not fair for the human to be eating and me to not be. Am I right?

I would annoy the human while cooking. You should specifically rub up against your human when they are cooking. They will start screeching about something “hot” and give you treats. It works really well.

Then, after the human ate (and we got treats), I called on Simon to wear my human down.

Simon likes to chew things. I like to chew things too. I chew my toys. We have these stuffed mice that are fun to bite. But anyways, Simon likes to chew things like cords. This makes humans angry – something about being electrocuted – whatever that means. So anyways, get your annoying little brother to chew cords. Your human will stand up to shoo him away so he doesn’t get electrocuted.

Simon would chew cords repeatedly. If you do this often enough, the humans wear down and will do absolutely anything to get you to stop. This means that you will be fed.

Now, this process is not automatic. Training your human takes time. Keep in mind that the human may act out, no matter how well you plan this. When Simon and I first started to train our human, the human would try to do things to counteract Simon.

First, the human put tin foil on the cords for Simon. Boy, was that fun! We ripped the tin foil off and batted it around! Then, the human tried to cover the cords with plastic. That was fun too! The human even started rearranging furniture to try to hide the cords. This was absolutely great because the human made us an amazing obstacle course!

Finally after all these different responses to Simon chewing cords, we wore out our human, and she fed us more food! Our human even made it fun by having us chase kibble!

This was a great game and the best outcome ever! We trained our human to give us a second dinner and play a game of catch with us at the same time!

Keep in mind that it took us quite a few months to train our human. You have to be really persistent to get your human to do what you want. Well, we can’t expect them all to be easily trained, can we?

To summarize how to train your human:

  1. Beg. Use all your typical tricks to get your human to pay attention to you. As cats, we are the center of the universe after all.
  2. If your human does not respond to begging, wait until after dinner when the human is tired.
  3. Enlist your little brother to wear the human down.
  4. Your little brother should come up with a trick that makes your human say his name repeatedly. Getting your human to say your name repeatedly is key to training them.
  5. Be patient. Depending on the human, they can take months to train.
  6. If it’s food you are looking for, be sure to paw at the food cupboard to clearly show the human that they should be feeding you.
  7. Once you get a routine down to train your human, stick with it!

Next, Simon and I are working on getting our human to take us outside. Our human keeps saying things like “leash” and “indoor only.” Once we figure out how to get around these phrases, I’ll let you know how we are doing with training our human.

Until then, happy eating and training!

 

Dog Gone Down

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April is turning out to be an eventful month. Did you know that when people turn 40, that automatically means you are depressed? According to my primary physician it does.

There was an article out of the UK recently that concludes the age at which people are the most unhappy in life is 44. Must be that mid-life crisis setting in. This is a follow-up to the study that was done a few years ago about the happiest age. I’ve written about it before somewhere on this blog… The happiness study concludes that the happiest age is 33. I definitely agree with that. Some pretty awesome things happened in my life when I was 33.

I do not think that just because a person turns 40 automatically means you are depressed. I was so ecstatic (honestly) to turn 40 last month. I have now officially outlived over half of the females in my family. Each decade I keep getting better. Plus, I am able to change age group for running.

My primary physician spent the bulk of my appointment a few weeks ago talking to me about mood disorders, specifically depression. They gave me the depression screening twice – once at the beginning of my appointment and once at the end. I was negative both times. I am not depressed.

This is a great time in my life. Life is not perfect. I’m lacking my dream job. But I’ve already ridden that unicorn, so things right now are pretty awesome. What do I have to be depressed about? I gave it some serious thought. I could not come up with anything.

I figured if my doctor is lecturing me about depression and I don’t feel depressed, that there must be something wrong with me. I’m 40 now, apparently I’m supposed to be depressed. What is up with all the happiness? I should be feeling down.

That lead me to create me own crisis. I’m 40 now, so, according to my doctor, it’s not normal for everything to be good.

Is it just me, or does this entire situation sound messed up?

This leads to Dog Gone Down.

I called one of my therapist friends from when I was in social work and explained the entire situation to her. I said, well, my doctor seems to think I have a mood disorder all of a sudden since I turned 40, so maybe I need therapy. She laughed. Once the laughter subsided, she screened me for depression again. Again, I scored completely negative with no symptoms. Then she asked me what I would talk about in therapy.

Well, Simon’s new trick is knocking the phone off the hook so that it rings busy. I’m trying to get money back in my savings account for house maintenance. I’m planning a half marathon for the fall. Nothing deep. My friend kept giggling and suggested maybe I need a new primary care physician, not a therapist. But to be honest, I’m pretty sure this 40 equals depression thing is pretty pervasive in the medical community here.

This weekend I took a box of towels and blankets to the animal shelter to donate. There are about three animal shelters in a 30 mile radius of me, so I try to rotate which shelter I am donating to so that I am not showing love to just one of the area animal shelters.

I dropped off the box, and, as usual when I make a donation, I walked around the shelter visiting with the animals. I have absolutely no desire to adopt another cat. I already live with two. Jude and Simon run this household, and there is no way I can handle a third boss in charge of my life. But, I enjoy showing the shelter cats some love for an hour or so when I drop something off.

Then, I walked into the dog room. I immediately turned around to walk out because it was just too LOUD. When six or seven dogs are barking at once, it is loud. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move up high. There was a dog on the end who was jumping to see who was there. It was the only dog not barking.

So, I went down to visit him. He looked really lonely. He is one of the longest dogs there. People don’t visit with him because he is so shy. He lays in the cage and just looks at people. I have spent close to 3 hours with this dog and never heard him bark once. When people visit animal shelters to adopt, it is quite common that shy or elderly animals get overlooked. This one is very shy.

And then I thought. This is it! Maybe the doctor was right. Maybe I’m depressed and I NEED A DOG!

Or, rather, a dog would be the perfect crisis to inject into my life right now to totally screw up the little utopia I have going on with my family life at home. Totally acceptable. I can tell the doctor I’m stressed because I have a dog, it will confirm her idea of mood disorder and I’ll be good to go.

This dog really did tug at my heart strings. I have been wanting a dog. If I had the house a year earlier, Simon would have been a dog and not a cat. However, since buying the house, I just figured I would wait until both Jude & Simon pass away and then get a dog. I was not thinking of getting a dog right now. But this dog was so polite. He is trained and has manners. I just fell in love.

The shelter rule is that you have to fill out an adoption application to visit with a dog. I filled one out so I could visit with him and pet him. He was so well behaved and trained that I was seriously considering adoption, but needed more time and visits. I let the shelter know I was interested.

This morning they called and said my adoption application had been approved and wanted to know when I was picking him up?

What?

I am not sure if I am ready for a dog. I need more visits and to see what he is like outside and on a leash. I have never even walked a dog on a leash before. I have walked cats on a leash plenty of times, but never a dog.

The dog is scheduled to be neutered tomorrow and will need time to recover from surgery, so I took the afternoon off to visit him again so I could see him outside and try him on the leash.

That was the worst experience of my life. I am never getting a dog. I grew up with dogs, but I have been living with cats for the past 20 years. Apparently, with a dog, the human has to be in charge. I don’t have the personality for it. In my house, my cat is in charge.

Walking a dog on a leash was the worst experience of my life. I may possibly be injured.

The shelter does not allow people to walk dogs on their own, so he was doubled leashed. I am so thankful for this rule.

I was dragged.

I think I blew out my knee again. No exaggeration. My leg from my ankle up through my hip and back hurt. My arm hurts from my wrist to my shoulder. I am really worried about my knee. It’s also the knee that had a serious injury a few years ago.

The shelter told me that this dog is the easiest one to walk in the kennel. They have an 80 year old volunteer who loves walking this dog because he is so easy to walk. Well, that’s great, but I was still dragged. If I cannot handle this dog with a shelter staff helping me, there is no way I will be able to handle him on my own.

The shelter staff tried explaining “well, he can be trained …” I get that, but at the same time, I will not be able to train him. I will be injured and none of us will be going anywhere. Plus, I was really worried about how Jude and Simon would take the sudden appearance of a dog in our lives.

So, lesson learned. The dog is gone. Well, not really. I never had the dog to begin with. He is still in the shelter. My heart still breaks for him because he is the sweetest dog. No one looks at him because he is so shy. I’m sure if an experienced dog owner could overlook the shyness, they would be able to handle him on a leash and he would be an amazing companion. For EXPERIENCED dog walkers, he is great on a leash. As a 100-pound person who has never walked a dog before, I cannot handle being dragged by a 50 pound dog.

When Kip was alive, he walked on a leash quite frequently. He loved it. Sometimes, he would take off and chase a leaf or something. Being dragged by a 14 pound cat is way different. I can handle that. I would like to leash train Jude and Simon, but they want nothing to do with it.

Don’t tell me to try for a smaller dog. I don’t want a smaller dog. I would just have a cat. I don’t think I’m meant to have a dog. It was just this one that stole my heart.

So, maybe I can be down because the dog is gone. It is very sad that such a great pet is in a shelter. Or, maybe I will continue to argue with my primary care physician that not only am I not depressed, but I am very happy because my life is pretty good right now.

When I go to sleep tonight, I have two amazing cats who love me and snuggle me in bed every night. Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I could tell her how stressful it is living in the house because it is so LOUD here. I miss my apartment because it was quiet. But, I don’t think that makes me depressed. I am more annoyed at the noise and unruliness of the neighborhood where the house is compared to the apartment.

Bottom line, I’ve tried dog gone down, and it just doesn’t work.

This 40-year old lives with two cats and is happy.

Inquiring Minds

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Ever notice that your library has a “theme?” Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a library connoisseur, but I have noticed that libraries have themes. In my life, I have visited numerous libraries, but more on that later. In my geographic area, I have physically used five libraries with some sort of relative frequency and noticed distinct differences among them.

Library I is about 90% non-fiction. You want to learn something, as in actually learn something, you can find it in this library. Dewey Decimal in his Heaven must be so proud. This is the largest library in a multi-county area. It has one little room of fiction novels, and the rest of the entire library is non-fiction. If you want to write anything from a paragraph to a thesis to a book, you can practically do all of your background research here. This library has everything from the mainstream to the most obscure of titles in non-fiction.

Library G has the best selection of science fiction DVDs. Whether you want to watch The Highlander, The X-Files, Earth 2, The 4400, Star Wars, or Star Trek, this library has the most extensive collection in this area. Why? Are the people who live near Library G really into science fiction? Is that where all the Trekkies live? If so, I want a Convention. I was seriously contemplating ordering a pin that looks just like a Star Trek The Next Generation communicator for my birthday. The only thing that stopped me … well, I was trying to act like a responsible **cough, cough** 40-year-old adult. So, I didn’t.

Library D has the most extensive and prolific collection of biographies. Whether you want to read about a baseball player, a political figure or the front man of a popular 90s heavy metal band, this library has it. They get in new biographies all the time. They even have an entire room with a window seat in it devoted to biographies. After being tortured throughout grade school with book reports and reading about dead people, I never even knew biographies could be exciting, engaging and downright interesting until I discovered this library. In fact, I am actually on the waiting list for a new biography just released in February 2019 to get on inter-library loan from this library.

Library C has the largest collection of large print books I have ever seen anywhere. They’re not just dusty afterthoughts. They keep up the collection and are constantly ordering new books in large print all the time. Sometimes, a new popular book will be all checked out with a waiting list for the “regular print,” yet I am able to find it on the shelf at this library in large print. Look, I’ve worn glasses and/or contacts since the age of 8. We all know I am not getting any younger. I so so so love me some large print. In fact, I often prefer it. This library has it, and it isn’t just your grandmother’s dirty little secret. The large print section is front, center, and large in more ways than just font.

Library M has a very distinct collection of Christian fiction. This library dedicates about half of an entire room to Christian fiction. In all other libraries, I have seen occasional Christian fiction novels mixed in with “general fiction.” This is the first library I have seen that actually gives the genre it’s own distinct space. Not only do they give the genre it’s own area, but this is another library that pays special attention to its particular section. New titles are often ordered in this genre. Not only can you find older, traditional titles, but also newer volumes and series.

Do libraries do this on purpose? Do they notice that a lot of people check out Star Wars and then start ordering more sci-fi movies? Is there some sort of library plot going on? Like, hey, let’s make all the biography readers go to Library D, but if you need it in large print, then you can only find it at Library C. I’m sure there must be some rhyme or reason to this. Either that, or I am the only person who notices this “phenomenon” and am slowly losing my mind.

Not only in my geographic area, but in others, I have noticed “themes” in libraries. When I was growing up, there was Library N that has a large collection of science fiction books. There was Library W (in a completely different state!) that had also had a large section of science fiction books.

I have been in libraries in both rural and urban areas and noticed themes. Do you notice a theme in your library? Any particular genre that seems more prolific than others?

For me, libraries are comfortable. Reading a favorite book can feel like coming home. At the same time, I absolutely love reading something new. I read voraciously.

At various times when I was homeless both as a child and as an adult, libraries are places of refuge. You know you can go into a library to be safe and warm. Library I even allows people to use their library card to check out umbrellas when it was raining.

When I was homeless in a large city as an adult, I would sleep in libraries. It’s a common thing. Quiet, safe place. As long as we weren’t bothering anyone and were in a relatively non-traffic area, the librarians kind of looked the other way. I remember one time when I feel asleep on a library couch and had purposely set a watch alarm to wake me 15 minutes prior to library closing so that I could wake and leave on my own to save the embarrassment of being woke by the librarian.

Unfortunately, I was really tired that day. The alarm went off – and continued to go off – for five minutes until I finally woke up with a librarian and one other very concerned looking individual standing over me. Talk about embarrassing. That library in particular, by the way, had a theme of children. We will call it Library H. The children’s section in that library was huge. It has the largest selection of children’s literature I have ever seen. That library even loans out children’s toys.

I found out about four years ago that that particular library has now closed. It’s collection was donated to Library U on the opposite side of the city. I have not been to visit Library U since it “acquired” Library H. I wonder if Library U now has a children’s theme since it acquired Library H, or if Library U has retained it’s original theme of theology texts.

If library themes are on purpose, I would like to know how and why they are planned. If they are accidental, then it must be some sort of Mayan crop circle concept going on. Or, it could all just be in my mind. We see what we want to see.

Inquiring minds want to know. Does your library have a theme?