That Crazy Cat Lady

WP_20190509_12_21_03_Pro.jpg

Clarence survived the winter. Big Tom is fearless and domineering. Lucy looks bedraggled. Dot is shy and easily bullied. Who are these people? These are the stories of the 9 Lives Gang. It sounds like a soap opera, but really its just that crazy cat lady.

I may not know all my human neighbors, but I know all of the cats and dogs in the neighborhood. It all started with Clarence last fall. The weather dipped down below zero, and he was still outside. What sort of evil person purposefully leaves their pet outside when it is that cold? I understand if the pet will not come inside or ran off, but who would let a pet outside in that knowingly?

Most cats, like Lucy and Dot, are neighborhood cats. I know where they live. I did not see them at all over the winter, because they stayed inside their houses, as it should be. Clarence is the only cat I saw outside consistently all winter. I am 95% certain that Clarence is homeless. He also acts way different than all the other neighborhood cats.

Then, there’s Big Tom, or Old Tom, as I call him sometimes. I’m not sure what his story is or if he has a home. Based on what I have seen of him and how he acts, I am 80% certain that Big Tom is homeless.

Yes, I am that crazy cat lady who names all the homeless cats. I leave out water bowls and food and made an outdoor cat shelter with insulation for winter.

Now, my main purpose in this was Clarence. It just was not right for him to be out in below zero temperatures this winter, so I started by making him an insulated outdoor cat shelter that sits on top of a wood pallet in my garage. I know that he used it because I found paw prints and bits of black hair inside. I like to think that I was a big part of how Clarence was actually able to survive the winter.

Now that the weather has cleared, I do not see Clarence as often. I’m sure he has expanded the geographic area he roams. Although, I got to know his patterns over the winter. Even when Clarence was using the outdoor cat shelter, he typically leaves early in the morning, shortly after first light. Clarence then typically reappears in the mid to late afternoon for a snack. He would go into the cat shelter after dark.

It’s possible he is keeping the same schedule. I see him sometimes. There is a lot going on outside this time of year. Jude and Simon and I have been having great fun bird watching.

So, yes, I am that crazy cat lady. Even though the neighborhood cats have homes, I am not sure what sort of care they get in their homes. Every animal needs food, water, shelter and LOVE. I always leave out bowls of water for all the cats, as I have heard that strays are often dehydrated. I still leave the cat shelter out even though it only gets down to 30 at night now just so that the cats have a safe place to go if they need it.

I watch Big Tom chase off Dot. I feel sorry that he chases her away, but she comes back when he is gone. Dot is very shy, but if she needs a drink of water, she should be able to access a bowl of fresh, clean water.

Lucy looked a little bedraggled the other day. She looked wet and muddy. It’s been raining a lot, but still, she can always go inside my garage or the cat shelter to stay dry if she is stuck outside in the rain and cannot get back into her house. She at least has the option of a dry, safe place even if she chooses not to use it.

Lucy is super friendly. She lives a few houses down and we joke that she is Jude’s girlfriend. He gets so excited when he sees her outside and she comes much closer to the house and the windows than any of the other outdoor cats. We also joke that Dot is Simon’s girlfriend. He gets all excited when he sees her. We don’t see her much because she is shy. I’m pretty sure she is also new. I don’t remember seeing her last fall.

Ever wonder what your outdoor cat does during the day? I’m sure if you have a crazy cat lady in your neighborhood, that she could tell you.

Lucy likes to lay in the flower bed in front of my garage and watch the birds visit the bird feeder. Dot likes to hide behind the bush in front of my house. When Clarence gets scared, he hides on top of the garage door (that is open – between the garage door and the ceiling). Big Tom sleeps on top of the extra house siding that is stored on the second floor of the garage. He won’t go in the cat shelter.

I’m sure they each have their own daily routine and that it differs depending on which property they are visiting at the moment.

My two cats are indoor only. They have a huge house to play in and I know they are safe. Not all cats are indoor only. For those that are outside, I try to make their lives a little bit easier. I can’t control what happens to them, but I can at least provide them with a dry, safe place to rest that has fresh water if they choose to visit.  I’m happy that Clarence at least made it through the winter. I figure that anything beyond that is out of my hands.

The stereotype of that crazy cat lady is always someone older in a robe and curlers going out with a pan of food for 15 cats. Ever think that the reason why she is doing that is because no one else will step up to care for these animals? Truthfully, if people were responsible pet owners they would spay/neuter and keep their animals indoors or at least bring them in at night. Every pet deserves love and attention. No one deserves to be constantly caged or left outside without human interaction.

Pet ownership is a life long commitment. It’s like having a human child. Some people don’t seem to get this. Dogs can live 10-15 years; indoor cats can live 15-20 years. When you adopt an animal, you adopt for life. That is a long commitment. It is not just about the adorable puppy or kitten phase. You cannot just push your pet over to the side and completely neglect their care when you are having a personal crisis in your life.

Pets are living, caring beings who depend on people for much of their survival. You can’t just leave a pet outside to fend for itself when it is used to depending on you. The only thing that they ask for is love and we all know that they give so much love in return. Being loved by a pet is the greatest honor I have ever known in life.

So, yes, I am that crazy cat lady. I hope that you all love your pets, and even if your cat is indoor/outdoor that you are showing them affection when they come inside for the night. If you’re ever curious about what they get up to when they are out and about, ask your local crazy cat lady. We tend to watch out for them when they are on our property. I call my bunch the 9 Lives Gang.

Ferals in the Neighborhood

WP_20181201_10_02_37_Pro

Jude and Simon love looking out windows. They are avid bird watchers. One of the things I knew we would miss when moving from the apartment to the house was the sliding glass door that was on the second floor apartment. The cats loved looking out this and watching all the birds in the trees.

Even though there is no sliding glass door in the house, the cats are enjoying all of the windows just the same. We have finally settled into a routine and I have identified Simon’s favorite window and Jude’s favorite window. When I identified Jude’s favorite window, I took the cat tree and put it in front of it. The cat tree was in front of the sliding glass door in the apartment, so now it is in front of Jude’s favorite window in the house. Simon’s favorite window in the house already has an ample perch for him to bird watch. (He sits on a chair.)

Something new that we have all noticed outside since moving to the neighborhood are outdoor cats. The apartment was on a very busy highway and all cats were indoor only. We never saw any outdoor cats at the apartment. There are many outdoor cats in the neighborhood at our new house.

I have pretty much been able to figure out which cat goes to which house. I may not know all the human neighbors, but I know all the neighborhood cats and roughly where they belong.

There is one cat that I jokingly call Jude’s girlfriend. We will call her “Lucy.” When Jude sees Lucy out the window, he gets really still and intent. He watches her closely. If she is walking down the sidewalk and leaves his frame of view, he will race to the next window just to see her. He does not seem agitated or aggressive, just very, very interested. Lucy seems interested in Jude too. The closest she has come to looking at him through the window is our front steps.

There are other cats Jude sees out the window, who must be male. Jude puffs all up and growls. Sometimes he even turns around and growls at Simon because he cannot take out his aggression on the outdoor cat.

There is one cat in particular that upsets Jude and he continuously takes it out on Simon. Simon is black and white. He is pretty much equally black and white. The outside cat in question is also black and white, except this cat is almost all black with just a little white on his chest. I think Jude gets confused because the outside cat looks so much like Simon and then takes out his aggression on his brother. We will have to work on that.

We have already had well over a foot of snow and days below zero. As winter has progressed, I have noticed that I do not see the outdoor cats anymore. They are being kept inside their houses, which is great. They should be inside when it is negative 12 out.

The one exception is this black cat with the little bit of white on him who absolutely pisses Jude off when he sees him outside. Since I have gotten sick of just referring to him as the outside cat, I am calling him “Clarence.”

I am pretty sure Clarence is homeless. Like genuinely homeless.

He is the only cat in the neighborhood I still see outside in bad weather. He is outside all the time. I see his footprints in the snow all over.

As the temperature has plummeted, I am concerned. I see him huddled in places.

My garage door is open year round. There isn’t really anything in the garage except garden rakes, snow shovels and the garbage can. I firmly believe that a garage is for parking my car inside not for storing stuff. I refuse to be one of those Americans who has a garage so full of stuff that you can’t fit the vehicle inside. I have a hard time putting the garage door up and down, so I just leave it up. Apparently the prior homeowner did the same.

The point is, my garage door is up, and I noticed that Clarence would dash inside to hide from the elements. It makes sense. It’s probably one of the easiest shelters for him to find.

I probably shouldn’t have done this – I’m either a sucker or just a soft heart, but I went online and read about feral cat shelters. I strongly dislike the idea of Clarence being outside in such frigid weather. I’ve been homeless myself and I know how much winter sucks without permanent shelter.

I made a feral cat shelter out of a storage tote, some styrofoam, and one of my old space blankets from a marathon. These are the blankets they drape on us after a race to retain heat. They work. The website said to use straw, but I couldn’t find any. It said not to use blankets or towels because they retain moisture, but I did put a fleece blanket inside in lieu of the straw.

I put the cat shelter up on a pallet in the garage to keep it off the cold concrete floor. I have no idea if Clarence actually goes inside for warmth or not, but I feel better knowing it is there as an option for him.

On the days the thermometer has dipped below zero, I took one of my microwaveable rice bags, heated it and put it inside the shelter twice a day.

People have been saying that I will now never get rid of him. Some people say I should just let him in the house. My thought is that I don’t want him in the house. I am okay with him outside. I already have two cats and they are all I can deal with as far as family members. Ideally, I would like to either trap, neuter, release (TNR) or trap and take him to a shelter. We will see.

Part of the reason why I think he is truly homeless is that he is very skittish. He runs away. The only time I see him is through the window. If I am outside or open the door, he runs away. He is either not used to humans period or was/is abused. All of the other neighborhood cats are friendly. They will at least walk past you on the sidewalk and some will even rub up on your legs if you let them. Clarence is not friendly. At all. He is also the only neighborhood cat still outside in all weather and temperatures.

The other thing I noticed was Clarence licking my front steps for water. I felt bad. So, sucker again, I set out a water bowl. I just don’t think any human or animal should have to go without water. That’s not right.

I figured that if I am wrong about Clarence being a boy, that I would just call the girl Clare. Clarence is the name of the angel in the Wonderful Life movie. However, I am pretty certain Clarence really is a boy. His footprints are rather large, plus Jude strongly dislikes him.

The other reason why I am pretty sure Clarence is a boy is that someone sprayed (peed on) one of the snow shovels outside. I am pretty sure it was Clarence. I don’t think he has been fixed. While I am not sure if he is actually using the cat shelter or not, it is pretty clear that he is marking that space as his “territory.”

This whole experience of outdoor cats is new to me. My cats are indoor only because they are beloved family members and I would be too worried if they went outside. Various people tell me not to feed them or whatever because then you won’t get rid of them. But if they are truly homeless, shouldn’t we try to help somehow? Trap, neuter, release (TNR) to reduce the homeless cat population or trap and take to an animal shelter to be adopted. I cannot take strays into my home, but I can at least help support the homeless population. I can’t just leave them outside to dehydrate and freeze.

Right now the only homeless cat in question is Clarence. I have read about feral colonies on the internet. There is not currently a colony here. All the other outside neighborhood cats appear to have houses. Except this one.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Trying to change the life or make a difference in the life of one person? I’m just trying to offer resources to a homeless cat to survive the winter. I am pretty sure that he would survive without my help, but as someone who has experienced homelessness in my own life, I just can’t stand by and watch.

Do you have feral cats in your neighborhood? Any experience with building outside cat shelters? How do you interact with homeless cats?

 

Midlife Anti-Crisis

WP_20180902_14_28_45_Pro.jpgAbove: I have the best and most blinged-out mailbox on the block thanks to my friends.

The midlife crisis is a way to rage against complacency, stagnation and stability. Tales of shiny red corvettes, new hair styles and relationships embody the stereotypical midlife crisis. Midlife is typically the time when you “arrive” in life – you are well-established in your profession, are comfortable in your mortgage, and are raising a family with a long-term partner. The midlife crisis is a way to shake up the hum drum of the everyday.

I’m here to tell you that I am NOT having a midlife crisis. I’m having a midlife ANTI-crisis.

Remember my housing crisis (genuine crisis) I have been having since May 2018? Well, here we are in September 2018 and I have effectively solved my housing situation.

I bought a house. #Boom. #ProblemSolved

I have never even lived in a house in my life and now I own one. Over the course of my life, I’ve gone from homeless to home owner.

While most people my age are trying to shake things up a bit, I am looking for stability and a sense of permanence. I needed a place to live that I could afford and keep my family together. Since the new landlord that bought my apartment building raised the rent to well over 60% of my income and is going pet-free, I needed a place to live.

All the rentals in my area are “no pets.” Or, they only allow one pet. Would you be able to choose which of your children to put up for adoption in order to keep your housing? Me neither. We are a family and we stay together.

The only viable option for me to be able to keep my family together was to buy a house and I have done so. By the way, my mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is almost $400 a month LESS than what the new landlord was going to charge me in “market rate” rent.

I’m going to live in this house until I die. While most people are bored with life, I’m just getting started. This is my midlife anti-crisis.

We just moved in last Thursday and have been here less than one week. Within the first 24 hours of home ownership, I already had an “idiot call” to the plumber. I broke down sobbing one night at bedtime saying I wanted to go home, but didn’t know where that was. I have used every tool in both my toolboxes. I don’t know the names of the tools, but I know what they do and I have used them all.  

I have a real mailbox with a real flag for the first time in my life. I have curbside garbage pickup for the first time too. I have more cuts, bruises and sore muscles that I have ever had in any of my 15 marathons.

I have been on vacation from work during this, and have pretty much “vacationed” at Lowe’s – I’ve been there every day. Some days, I’ve been there twice. I have been amazed at what I can fit in my 4-door sedan, and humbled by the many people who have been helping me and checking on me.

I successfully assembled a lawn mower and used it. I bought an old fashioned push mower. I only have .11 worth of grass to be in charge of. I mowed my own lawn for the first time. Mowing a lawn is some level of hell Dante forgot to mention in his inferno, but now that it’s done for the week, it’s kind of comical. One of my neighbors came out to check on me, and I could not tell from his reaction whether he was laughing inside, genuinely concerned about my efforts or both, but I’m sure I amused the neighborhood.

I have a detached garage and this was my first time in 24 years of driving that I have had a garage in which to park my car. Someone came to visit me while I was assembling the lawn mower, and I texted them to say I was “in the garage.” Hey, it was exciting to me.

I have a front porch where I’m writing now. I don’t think I have sat down for 4 days straight. I have plenty of chairs for all the people who have been helping and visiting. If it weren’t for my friends, I would not have been able to laugh through any of this.

Simon is adjusting slowly but surely. Jude has not left the kitchen cabinetry. I’m sure it will take time. I don’t think they realize what I had to go through to keep us all together. I was so scared that if this had not worked out, we would have been living in the car (again). We finally were able to escape anti-pet greedy people.

My goal is to get settled by the end of this week so that next week we can get into some sort of regular home owning family routine. The past week has literally been the ride of my life. I never thought I would own a home. I’m just happy that I was able to keep the family together.

While everyone else is having a midlife crisis, I am happily learning the positives and negatives of home ownership. Based on my first few days, I can tell you that this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Hopefully, it will be worth it.

So far, it’s already worth being away from the toxic situation I endured with the new landlord over the past few months. It’s scary to think of all the responsibility that comes with a house, but at the same time, I get all the rewards.

So far, the time I spend on my new front porch with friends is the best time ever. It almost makes up for the fact that I sacrificed my camping trip, marathon, and summer beach days. Almost.

I have a lot to learn on this new journey. Instead of shunning responsibility, I am embracing it. This is my midlife anti-crisis.

Welcome home.

 

Hell in the Hallway

WP_20180809_12_17_45_Pro.jpg

They say when one door closes, another one opens. It’s hell in the hallway. I am usually a patient person. I don’t mind waiting for things. I have no credit cards, so when I want something, I need to plan and save for it. As long as other people are not waiting on something from me, I don’t mind waiting on them.

Where I am inpatient right now is in escaping a bad situation.  I am in the hallway between places and it’s pure hell. I have no problem waiting for the new door to open completely. My challenge is that the door behind me is not completely closed. It’s still partway open.  I would rather be stuck in a hallway with a door closed behind me waiting for the one in front to open.

I have had everything packed for the past three months, when I first got the news that I would no longer be able to stay in my current housing both due to finances as well as the need to keep my family together. Everything in my current living space will be leaving, no matter where it is going. Most of it will be going to a new dwelling.

I have been going through the boxes lately asking myself “do I really want to move this?” Of course, everything is leaving. It is a question of whether it will be donated or moving. I currently have three boxes I will be taking to donate. Even though I will be taking those three boxes, putting them in the trunk of my car and taking them to the donation center, it still feels like those are three less boxes I will be moving. It’s true. While I am physically moving the boxes by taking them to the donation center, they are three less boxes I will be moving to a new dwelling on Moving Day.

I have been sitting here for three months surrounded by boxes. The more I look at them, the less I want to move them.

It’s also been more than a year since my last vacation, and since I had to cancel my camping trip, marathon, park visits, beach days and baseball, I’m just really in need of a break. I have pretty much had to forfeit my summer due to this housing crisis. This is the year of the Lost Summer. I have only been able to go to work and back because I have not had the resources to do anything else. This is what happens when you are given 2 weeks notice that your rent will suddenly take up over 60% of your income.

Basically, I’m tired with no respite in sight.

Yes, I will be off when I move, but that’s a huge job. This is going to be my first move in 14 years. Hopefully, it will be my last.

There have been so many times in the past three months when I have wanted a certain CD or DVD, but it’s packed. The only items not packed right now are those I absolutely need to function every day. This would be a fun experiment if it was only for a few weeks. It’s not fun for a few months.

There are many minimalist experiments that advise to pack up what you are not using for three months, and if you don’t remember what is in the box after 12 weeks to donate it. Well, I know I am not donating these boxes because I know what is in them, and I want to use what I have. I am actually missing some of my items that are currently in boxes.

I am fortunate that in all of my downsizing and minimizing, I have not missed a single item I have donated or purged. In fact, I could not even begin to tell you about any of the items I have gotten rid of because I don’t remember them. I do, however, remember what is currently in the boxes I have packed, which is telling me this is stuff I need to keep. They are things I like and want to use.

I’m sure that there will be some items when I unpack that I look at and say “oh, I had forgotten about that.” That may be an item that needs to be donated. For the most part, I have been missing the items I have packed.

I’m pretty sure that I am moving this month, in August. I’m just waiting for a moving date. I’m hoping to get a moving date soon, because each month I stay here, my expenses increase, and there is the threat of “housing or family.” As eager as I am to escape this situation, it is hard to think of how it is happening.

I have been in my current living situation for 14 years, which is the longest I have ever lived anyplace and it’s the only place that has ever felt like home. It’s a hard pill to swallow that I am being forced out. Keeping my family together is my number one priority, so hopefully we will be able to escape the nightmare soon.

The one positive in this situation is that my current dwelling is much easier to clean now that everything is packed. I have already decided that when I unpack in my new living space, I will be taking a harder look at wall hangings and decorative items. Less clutter means less to clean. Less to clean means more time to do things I want to do. Of course, right now, I have plenty of time and can’t do anything because I’m even struggling with groceries. I’m not eating enough to train or to even run very far. All my money is currently going to housing.

It is very possible that once I am in the new living space, my rule of three may be revised to be the rule of one. One item on each wall and surface instead of three. Of course, I will only be keeping and using what is meaningful to me. A new living space is a fresh start. We will see what resonates with me when I unpack.

One thing that has become clear with this exercise is that music is my priority. I have no problem getting rid of books or DVDs. I use the library a lot for books and DVDs. What I cannot seem to part with are CDs and vinyl records.

That’s ok. Music is my thing. If my music collection is the one area that I do not downsize, I am okay with that. Minimalism is not an exercise in how to live without. It’s a way of living that allows you to optimize your time for what you love. Music is what I love and a huge part of my life, so there is no need to minimize that area.

Having everything around me packed for the past three months has definitely reminded me of my priorities. I basically have to keep my family together. Beyond that, my life is filled with music. I have music on all the time at my house. The cats even listen to the radio while I am at work all day.

Right now, my family is together, and we have music. So while its hell in the hallway, at least I know my priorities are firmly in place. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to kick that door closed behind us and fling open the one that’s cracked. I’m ready to move on.

 

 

 

 

Two Years Without Facebook

I’ve seen articles about social detoxes, digital sabbaticals, and other experiments that people undertake to curtail their use of social media, especially facebook. They will write about how they went a year without it, how great it was, and now that they have re-entered the digital world, it is like water in the dessert quenching their thirst. Most people consider these detoxes and experiments as novelty, simply to return to their online obsession after the blackout period has concluded.

It’s now been two years since I deleted my facebook account, and I still say that it is the best decision I have ever made in my life. I am exponentially happier without facebook  in my life. I have real conversations with the people around me and actually enjoy moments as I experience them.

In fact, I never even think about facebook unless someone around me brings it up. The challenging part is that it is used at work and I have absolutely no desire to have any part of it. There are people around me who are constantly taking pictures or saying post that, and I laugh inside, because I don’t really care. I am so glad that social media no longer rules my life and I don’t think like that.

I have heard people say they buy things on facebook. I would rather go to a store, and if all else fails, Amazon. For me, facebook is way too sketchy to even think about buying anything on there. I have heard other people talk about applying for jobs on facebook. As a former human resource professional, I cringe at this. There’s a reason why social media is called social media – there’s nothing professional about it.

After two years, I am happier not being ruled by my phone or the Internet. Sure, I see the Internet – twice a month at the library. I spend my workday at a computer. The last thing I want to do when I am home is be in front of a computer some more. That is far from relaxing to me. I would rather spend time with my family than ignore them by sitting in front of a screen (which is what I did all day anyway).

I am still fully communicating with people by phone, text message, in-person, and by US postal mail. It’s great. I’m maintaining all the really important relationships in my life. The best part about a life without facebook is that when I spend time with someone, they really get my full attention.

I have been running full steam ahead for about 20 years, so it is nice to have a break and actually enjoy the moments of my life. I know some people have the need to be constantly “on” and connected. I’ve lived that life, and it burned me out to the point of no return.

It’s been so long since I’ve been on facebook that I cannot even imagine wanting it back in my life. There is no reason. All my memories of my facebook years are full of drama and stress.

So, I don’t have that much to say, other than completely breaking up with facebook is not only possible, but also glorious. The only reason why I thought to write this post is because people at work talk about facebook all the time. On the inside, I laugh like I know something they don’t. Maybe I do. Without facebook, I’m finally happy.

 

Another Ride Around The Sun

My 38th birthday is approaching this week. One of my favorite phrases is that “a birthday is the start of another 365 day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride!” After everything that happened at age 37, I am very much looking forward to this birthday and getting another year.

I love birthdays more than any other holiday, because every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Life threw me some doozies this past year.

I am not normally one for resolutions, but I do usually have goals. My three goals for 2017 are:

To resume my normal running schedule (completely shot to hell by health problems)
To plank every day
To read the entire Bible (again) this year

So far, I am on track for 2 of the 3. I have planked every day since January 1, with the exception of 1 day. So, given that this is now March, the fact that I have missed only 1 day of the past 2-3 months is impressive to me. I had the goal of planking every day back in 2016. I wasn’t even close last year.

I have this reading schedule that is helping me break up the Bible into manageable portions. Have you ever read the Bible? I’ve actually read it many times, but not in the past decade or so. Getting through some of those Old Testament books like Numbers can be really hard. I found a great schedule that breaks it down into manageable daily chunks. It fits well into my morning routine and helps me to ease calmly into my day.

My running schedule is something else. I had medical clearance to run back in January and was successful for a few weeks. I have been sidelined by debilitating fatigue the past few weeks. The health concerns that have been dragging me down since the fall have been a huge curve ball in my life. I am hoping that with my birthday this week and (hopefully) warmer weather that I can put the priority back on my running schedule. I think part of the reason why I feel like I want to curl up and die sometimes is that my health problems have made it impossible for me to run for about 6 months now.

I have a half marathon on my calendar this September and am looking forward to spending the next 6 months preparing for my race. I have the motivation and the mindset; if only my body would cooperate.

Note to self: 38 is the year we need to get it together again.

Years ago, I had read a British study on happiness that said that the happiest age was typically age 33 and the most miserable age was typically 37. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I still say that age 33 was the best year of my life. This was closely followed by age 36 as being a great year. The two worst years of my life have been ages 34 and 37.

That’s a lot of up and down for one decade. Although my 30s have been way better than my 20s, I did not expect things to be so tumultuous. I’m not sure what the predictions are for your 40s, but at this point, I’m hoping that age 38 is just a nice, evenly keeled year that allows me to get back on track and meet all my goals.

I honestly can’t complain too much. I am getting this huge gift this week of being blessed with another year of life in which to ride around the sun. It truly is a wonderful life. I have friends and people who love me, the best job of my life, and my retirement is going great. All I need is my health to cooperate and get with the program. Once that is in place, I would have to say that life is pretty great.

After being in the hospital last fall, I feel that I am truly lucky to be alive and looking forward to another birthday.

So here’s to another ride around the sun. I’ve been able to survive another year of what life threw at me.

A Year Without Facebook

It’s been a year since I completely deleted my facebook account, and I have no regrets. None. Aside from my medical challenges, the past year without facebook has been one of the best years of my life since before facebook was invented. My stress levels are significantly reduced, and I am actually enjoying life again.

It’s a great feeling to be able to spend time with someone and not constantly be thinking about taking a photo of something or a witty quip to make as a post. When you are not constantly documenting your life for the facebook world, you get to actually participate in and enjoy each moment. When I was on facebook, I felt like an observer to my own life. “Oh, I have to post …” Like everyone needed to know what I was doing every moment of my life. They don’t.

I do training classes where I work, and we have a no cell phone policy. When I train people about the no cell phone policy, I tell them that I believe they can do it. In a world where cell phones are practically an appendage, you can survive for 90 minutes without your phone. The internet will go on, facebook will survive, and your friendships will not end. It will be okay. Constantly checking your cell phone is a compulsion for most people. Not only have I broken my facebook habit, but my cell phone habit also.

I still have a cell phone. However, without a facebook, I use the phone for its intended use – mostly texting and *gasp talking on the phone. Yes, there are still people in this world who pick up a phone and dial numbers to make it ring to physically talk to a person on the other end instead of typing a text message. Plus, the people with whom I talk know I have a job and a life, and may not instantly reply.

In a world of instant gratification, I’m doing it old school. Sometimes people don’t answer the phone because they actually have a life. I’m too busy living mine to have a facebook or to respond right away. I will respond, but if I’m enjoying someone’s company, I’m not going to ruin the moment by being a slave to a chirping, palm-sized piece of technology.

I do not feel as though I have missed out on anything in the past year without a facebook. The only news I get is from the radio, so I managed to miss a large portion of election coverage. Even the political news I hear on the radio has been getting too much for me. I’ve been listening to my CDs and vinyl records more so that I don’t have to hear newscasts. But I’m pretty sure that if I had not deleted my facebook account last year and was online for the duration of the election season, that I would have lost my sanity by now and be in an asylum.

Most people have gotten the clue that I am no longer online and make the effort to either see me in person, write a letter (that’s when you use a pen to write on paper and put this little square on it called a stamp), call me, or text. My time now with family and friends is that much richer and precious to me. I actually have time to spend quality time with people and give them my full attention without the “ping” of social media constantly distracting me from the people who are right in front of me.

I have used my time without facebook to focus on what’s important to me. Mainly, the people in my life and the relationships I neglected not only from being online but also all the years I spent as a professional college student who was working multiple jobs. I may be paycheck to paycheck, but my year without facebook has made me richer in so many ways.

Now, I have the time to pay attention to my body and my health as I still struggle to recover from being in the hospital last fall. The past year without facebook has shown me that I need to pay attention to what is truly important, and one of those items is my health. Deleting my facebook has helped me retain my sanity in a tumultuous election year, and is now affording me the time to focus on my physical health as well.

I’m looking forward to entering year two without a facebook account. I can only imagine that life will continue to move in a positive direction, as I am able to spend more time with people I love and focus on things like health. So here is to a year without facebook, and looking forward to many more.

Slow Down does not mean Stop

A few months ago, before the shit hit the fan both literally and figuratively, and my life turned into a Dickens tale, I remember sitting in church listening to that day’s sermon, and the phrase “slow down does not mean stop” stuck with me. I honestly don’t remember what the sermon was actually supposed to be about, but that one phrase stuck. I’m pretty sure it was sometime in mid-September that I heard it.

Since hearing that phrase in mid-September, I have successfully survived a bout of the flu that completely flattened me for a week, and took a total of almost three weeks to fully recover; I survived being rear-ended on my way to work by an impaired driver while I was sitting completely stopped at a red light; and I survived being in the hospital for a possible stroke, and all the cardiologist and other doctor visits that ensued trying to figure out why I was suddenly blacking out all the time. If bad luck comes in threes, then I have had my share for this year.

Slow down does not mean stop stuck with me because in addition to my recent challenges, I passed my one-year retirement anniversary. For the first time since I started kindergarten at age five, I have been out of school for an entire year from Nov 2015-Nov 2016. After spending twenty years of my life as a college student working multiple jobs, I have spent the past year working one job trying to slow down my life.

Slow down does not mean stop.

Whether a warning or a premonition, that phrase has come to apply to my life more than you can possibly imagine.

In some ways, my life has stopped.

No one talks to me now that I’m not in school. When I was in school, life was a flurry of activity, and with that came emails, text messages, and a slew of things on facebook. I deleted my facebook account almost nine months ago now, and I can still say it was the best thing I have ever done. I have no regrets on that one. What I would like to know is, where did all the people go now that I am not in school? I’m lucky if I get four text messages a month now.

I have no goals and no purpose. I have been mindlessly wafting. When I was in school, I was in constant action working toward a goal of finishing a degree and building a better life. I do not know what the definition of “a better life” is, but since I have been retired, I am simply working, reading, and hanging around home.

Probably the scariest, worst, and most significant way in which my life has stopped was that I stopped running. This is a problem on multiple levels.

Last spring, I was training for a full marathon and had to stop training when my work schedule became so overwhelming that I literally could only work and sleep. My work schedule was messing with my autoimmune disease, which means I was not sleeping, and was too tired to run. When I finally got my work schedule and sleep schedule around so I could run, I got the flu. Life has been a downward spiral. It quite literally took being in the hospital going through stroke protocol that gave me a very alarming wake up call.

I had a cardiologist years ago who had told me to try running to strengthen my heart and to overcome problems with a faulty valve I have. It worked. Fourteen marathon medals later, my echocardiogram is showing improvement in that compromised heart valve. However, the fact that I stopped running for five months, the longest amount of time in almost ten years that I have not ran, is a problem.

Stop running is what caused this “I almost had a stroke” mess.

Slowing down my life does not mean to stop doing what I love. Slowing down my life is supposed to give me more time to do more of what I love.

Instead, I have spent the past year in a dazed haze because I feel as though I no longer have an identity now that I am not in school.

Slow down does not mean stop. I learned that if I stop, it could kill me.

Since my hospital scare a few weeks ago, I have started walking every day (this came highly recommended by the cardiologist). I am working on getting myself back up to a point where I am running again on a regular basis. I do have a race picked out for September 2017, and plan on training for the 2017 season. These are all things that the cardiologist is excited about as well. Hopefully as I get to more running than walking, my “I’m going to pass out” symptoms will be gone.

I still don’t have a goal or a direction for my life. Honestly, I am very much lost now that I am no longer in school. What I do know is that while I want to slow down my life, I need to enjoy my life also. I haven’t been doing that. I just kind of slowed down and stopped.

Somehow I have to figure out how to keep myself going without school. That has been the hardest lesson to learn this past year. I am not doing very well with that.

We always say we want more time; we want more hours in a day. I believe that to be true. We will always want more time. It is easy for people who are on the outside looking in to say to someone “you need to slow down.” That may or may not be true. Only you know what’s best for you. Even if you do decide to slow down your life, be sure to remember: Slow down does not mean stop.

Adult Snow Days

kitty jude

We have a snow day today. My work is closed. We got over a foot of snow overnight, and are currently experiencing inch an hour accumulation. It’s supposed to top out at 20 inches total today with 40 mph winds blowing all the fluff around. The Sheriff just closed all the roads were I live less than 10 minutes ago.

I have had snow days before. I spent eleven years teaching pre-school and have had snow days when the school district closed. Somehow, snow days as an adult have not been nearly as exciting as snow days as a child. That is, until today.

In my adult experience, snow days have primarily been announced at the last possible minute. There have been many times when I was on the road driving to the school, and then they finally announced the school closure on the radio so that I could turn around and go home. There were days when I hemmed and hawed over whether I thought it safe to try to get to the school when a snow day was not called, but the roads still treacherous, and I had to travel through two different counties to get to the school.

Today was the first time in my life that I experienced a snow day with the day delight as I did as a child. I had not even gotten up to look outside yet. In fact, my alarm had not even gone off yet. I was just kind of waking up and groggy when I received the alert announcing the snow day.

I don’t remember a snow day being called this early since I was a child. It was a wonderful experience to have the stress and pressure of trying to ascertain driving safety taken off my shoulders. My snow tires are not on my car yet (they were actually scheduled to be put on today), and after looking outside, I am not even going to be able to drive anyplace to have them put on. I have not been confident driving lately.

I was in the hospital last week. For the past two weeks or so, I have been having blackouts and these feelings of “I’m going to pass out.” The hospital put me through stroke protocol. When I first entered the hospital, they thought either I had a stroke or was about to have a stroke. I spent last week on a heart monitor. I honestly do not think that the cardiologist or any of the other physicians know what is happening. I also do not think that they care.

If I am in one place, I can deal with the passing out feeling. The worst that will happen is that I hit the floor. The problem is that I have been blacking out, and it happened once when I was driving. That is a concern.

Trying to drive the past week has been challenging. I either have to try to get a ride places or drive to the park and ride to get the bus to work. Even the bus cramps my style; the bus schedule does not accommodate my work hours.

Having a snow day today was a huge weight off my shoulders. In addition to trying to judge weather conditions, I have been trying to figure out on a day-to-day basis whether or not I am physically well enough to drive. It is very frustrating when the doctors have basically done nothing to help. The only thing I have been told is that blood is not reaching my brain, so I need to lay down with my legs in the air. That does very little to help me to function on a day-to-day basis.

For the first time since I was a child, I am purely delighted to have a snow day. Not only was it announced early, before I even looked outside and say all the snow, but also it allows me to stay home and focus on listening to my body and trying to figure out what is going on with me.

I know that this week of Thanksgiving I am not only thankful for snow days, but also for good friends, that I am physically safe despite all the challenges I am facing (in the face of incompetent medical care in addressing the issues), and that I have a job I love. I have so many things to be thankful for this week that a heart condition, or whatever is going on is not going to get my spirits down. I’m going to keep going until I pass out or get better. But for today, I am going to enjoy my adult snow day. Cheers to hot mugs of tea, good books, and naps.

Baby, it’s hockey season

hockey1 hockey2

Hockey is hockey is hockey. Baseball is what happens when its not hockey season. I am a huge sports fan, and favor hockey, baseball, and football, in that order. For years I would go to the Thanksgiving Day hockey game. The arena personnel were like family. There are no more Thanksgiving Day hockey games, so last year I cooked Thanksgiving at home.

I have had the privilege of attending a NHL game and a MLB game for my favorite teams. My favorite national teams will not ever change no matter where I live. I consider the fact that I have been able to see my favorite national teams to be a great privilege, as it is not something that the everyday person has the opportunity to do. First, tickets are expensive, and second, geography and work schedules are not conducive to attending national games.

People typically root for the home team. Attending national games is for the people with means to do so. Many people will not have the opportunity to see their national teams live in person. Hometown teams are in our backyards. These are the regional teams, the college teams, the high schools teams, and sometimes simply the frozen corner lot with a bunch of kids from the block running around on ice in sneakers, hitting a puck with a broomstick.

This past weekend, I spent $4 to see the local college hockey team play on Saturday afternoon. There are 4 colleges and universities within a 30-mile radius around me. I knew about the university team (whose tickets cost as much as an AHL game). I did not even know that the local college had a hockey team. Apparently, it’s been there since the 2000-2001 season.

After being pampered by heated stadiums at AHL games, it was shockingly refreshing to watch a game in an unheated arena, wearing full winter outerwear trying to keep warm through three periods of play. Next time, I will bring a blanket. Of course, I am also the fool that sits in row three in an 18-degree ice rink.

While my home team lost, the play was great. The passes were crisp, the checks were hard, the skating graceful, and most of all, you could tell they played their hearts out and enjoyed every minute of the game. This is what hockey is all about.

Not only was the game well played, but it was the most relaxed I have ever been at a game. I was not worried about taking photos to post online, I had no need to constantly check my phone to text someone, I was not preoccupied with thoughts of homework or other things I had to do with my day once the game was done. I was able to sit and enjoy that hockey game more than I have typically enjoyed hockey games. There was no stress of going through security like the have at AHL and NHL games. I always travel light, and carry the smallest purse possible that is large enough to hold the epi pens, but just having the more relaxed atmosphere that did not include pat downs and metal detectors was refreshing. There were concessions that had coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and snacks. There was no pressure over beer or wine and no worrying about rowdy fans around me because they were continually fueled by booze.

This was the first hockey game I attended since I slowed down my life, and it was amazing. I am able to enjoy the things I love so much more now that life has slowed down. What’s more, it’s affordable. I can attend the entire season of college hockey games for what it would cost me to attend one AHL game. While I have seen my NHL team play on home ice once, to do so again would require almost a full month’s pay between the cost of the ticket and travel.

I think I enjoyed this hockey game more than I have enjoyed any other hockey game in recent memory.

To think that this team has been here for the past 15 years, and I had no idea what was in my own back yard. It is good, fun, affordable entertainment. What other activities are in my own back yard that I had no idea exists? Now that life has slowed down, I have the opportunity to open my eyes to what is around me. I no longer have tunnel vision focused on work and school, punctuated by brief periods of “relaxation” that involved some big, expensive trip just for the sake of “getting away.” I am very fortunate that there are so many sports teams around me to support and that ticket prices are reasonable.

What events are in your back yard? I have heard the concept of being a tourist in your own town before, but when I think tourist, I think of museums and plays. I did not initially think about attending college sports events.

So while it may be 27 degrees out this morning, I willingly spent a part of Saturday afternoon in an 18-degree hockey rink watching some college kids on skates hit a once-inch thick piece of rubber with a stick. Baby, it’s cold outside; baby, it’s also hockey season. It does not get much better than this.