Monday, September 26, 2005

Joke of the week

Heard last night on the radio:

When President Bush was asked about Roe vs. Wade, he replied:

"I don’t really care what you do. The important thing is to get out of New Orleans, one way or the other."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In praise of the fad and the short-lived

It occurred to me the other day that I tend to dismiss new exercise crazes as frivolous fads. It seems that every few months something new will come along and there will be neat new equipment to buy. There is yoga and “power yoga” and “hot yoga” and Pilates and NIA and the walking movement with pedometers and ski skates and skate skis and snowshoes and walking sticks and mountain bikes and road bikes and cruisers. Thrift stores are filled with old exercise bikes, Nordic tracks, elliptical trainers, and so on. I realized that I kind of look down my nose at all the equipment, roll my eyes, and see each new fad as short lived and a bit of a waste. I resist the change and am waiting for THE THING or fall back on the classic walking. I realized that if I was going to take up an exercise, something deep inside me wanted to feel a real commitment to it and to the equipment, for the LONG TERM. And I felt the less equipment, the better.

But then it hit me. Why? What was I thinking? Why be reluctant to adopt the new trends? So what if they are short lived fads? This is exercise we are talking about! If it is novel and fun and good for you, what is the worry? Why do I have to be so stoic and old fashioned and committed? If I buy an exercised DVD and only do it four or five times, so what? It still cost less than four or five classes and it was not wasted. Why not go out and try every new thing? If I do it for a while and then move on to something else-the next thing-so much the better! What is the harm? There is only gain.

My acupuncturist is a former tri-athlete and she reminds me how good it is to change the kind of exercise you do and not to stick with only one thing all the time. In new exercises you use new muscles and don’t overuse others. I realize that for years I have been trying to find “my thing” and been wanting to commit to something and there is really no reason to do this at all. It feels good to throw that out and just commit to exercise in general, do lots of different things, and even embrace new fads, if only for a short time. I don’t know what was wrong with me before! I now want to be more open minded and an early adopter of new exercise fads. It can only be fun and helpful. Let’s go!

And then there is the thing with toys. I realize that I have always tended to buy presents for the kids that were toys of the highest quality---even heirloom quality---made of nice, solid wood. And now I have a house FULL of nice toys. Why? Greg just got Rees this large but sort of cheap plastic castle for his birthday. At first I was kind of annoyed, as I had seen a nice, solid, wooden one at a thrift store, but resisted buying it because we had so many toys. If we were going to get a castle, why not get a nice one? I thought. But then I realized it would stay and likely be with us for the long term. It is great to have a fun-for-now but not forever sort of castle. It will eventually break and move on. Phew! That is okay! That is for the best!

And it is the same with holiday decorations. On the one hand it seems a terrible waste to buy a tree every year and then throw it away. And now they have those fake, carve-able pumpkins that you can carve and keep forever. It is truly sad when a jack-o-lantern decays and shrivels and dies, but it is also a great thing. It reminds me of change and the seasons and, best of all, I don’t have to keep it around until next year. It is gone, compost!

Certainly it is not good to just waste things, to buy things that pollute or can’t be recycled and throw them out, but I can surely loosen up a little. I have tended to go too far in the other direction of late. For toys, exercise, and seasonal decorations I am ready to embrace the new, the temporary, and the fad. It’s time for me to lighten up and have some fun!

The answer

Yes, it is what I have been waiting for! They just appeared in the mail box the other day and they solve my dilemma. No more thoughts about cat-motif checks for me, because now, courtesy of the Boulder Valley Humane Society, I have cat return-address labels. Hooray!

Oh yeah, and as of about 15 minutes ago, I have been convinced to enter Rex in the cat show this weekend as well. AND I will be going to something called a Rexception, a banquet on Saturday night, and to top it all off, I am staying overnight at the hotel as well. I even tried to arrange to carpool with someone so I could really get some immersion in the culture, but no luck there. Don’t know what kind of weekend I have in store or what one should wear to a cat show banquet, but I’ll find out soon!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Feng Shui

Oh boy do I miss those kitties. The kittens are currently at a friend’s house and we are temporarily in an apartment. We are in an apartment because the roof has come off our house. This has happened on purpose, however, and it is a good thing as we are adding on a couple of rooms. (Boy has Katrina really put that in perspective for me!) The house, though “light and airy” at present, has no walls or roof to speak of. Great views, but it is also noisy and dusty. Not a shelter for man or beast in any sense of the word.

We found a nice furnished hotel-like two-bedroom apartment on campus, and because Greg is a professor, it is a truly cheap option for the four (make that six) of us. The one drawback is that pets are not allowed. When we first arrived in Boulder, we stayed in university housing (before pets) and noticed that though pets were not allowed, there were many people who had them anyway. So we figured we’d be one of those tenants this time around. Only the place we are staying this time around is slightly different from our old apartment. It has the added bonus that it is more truly furnished and they clean it on Tuesdays and Fridays, change the sheets, make the beds, etc. Really nice that they do this, but a sure-fire way to let them know about the feline members of the family.

Wanting to make it all work, we arranged an elaborate plan for Greg to take the kittens to work on the cleaning days. I dealt with disguising their food and litter; he dealt with the cats. We became kitten smugglers. It felt wrong to me, so pre-meditated and effortful. Not a passive sort of, ”Oh, I’m sorry, cats aren’t allowed? I didn’t know,” or, “it didn’t occur to me that it would be a problem.” So how to work it? Other ideas included bribing the cleaning staff, who were surely underpaid, not to report us. But this seemed triply wrong to me: first the pets, then the bribe, and then asking someone to take the bribe. We never seriously considered that.

The cats are small and not destructive, but it still made me tense every time they would meow or even when they would sit prettily on the windowsill. I was out much of the first day they were here, but during the one hour I was in the apartment, a man knocked at one of the doors (we have two doors, confusing!). And since I didn’t immediately know which door he was at, he thought no one was home and came in to pick up the university-owned phone. Yikes! I quickly shooed him out and handed him the phone through the door. But what if I had been away? It was our first day and already we were almost busted!

The next day was a cleaning day so Greg took the cats to work. He really seemed to enjoy the subterfuge. He said he also enjoyed having them at work. But the real wake up call came when I mentioned to the boys that they should tone down talk of the kitties because technically, they weren’t allowed. This truly distressed Rees. If it was wrong, it was wrong, no gray area about it. I have to admit it distressed me too. We tried to reassure him, but he could not relax. And what good instincts for him to know that what was wrong was wrong. We should encourage that instinct, not dismiss it. Finally, he said, “Mom, you know the cats? In the apartment, they are bad feng shui.”

He hit the nail on the head. I often talk about feng shui as something that either makes you feel comfortable and secure, or something that doesn’t. For the kids that would mean that leaving your glass of milk near the edge of the table or absent-mindedly rocking the pitcher of juice back and forth would be “bad feng shui.” I include in this category being loud and fast in a restaurant or behaving erratically in front of people carrying trays of food or walking on crutches. The response from the kids that, “I wasn’t going to crash into them,” doesn’t cut it for me. It is still distressing, and so “bad feng shui.” At one point, Rees had taken to asking me if he was bad feng shui! Poor kids. I was afraid they were going to grow up with a very distorted view of feng shui.

And the cats, usually a source of good feng shui as they come up to you and purr or sit prettily looking out the window, ears alert, tails twitching, had suddenly become a source of stress and danger. I tried to rationalize it, but it was clear that neither Rees nor I was comfortable with the situation. I imagined dirty looks from our neighbors in the apartment, I avoided going to the housing office to ask questions, and was tense every time I passed someone in the halls or walked by that especially menacing door labeled “Resident Manager.” Uggh.

So I started asking around and found the family of one of Rees’ friends who were cat lovers, but miraculously did not have cats. They were willing to cat sit. They are responsible and loving and I trust them completely. Good feng shui there. We delivered the cats to them and the cats have adjusted well to their new circumstances. Still, it seems a long time to be away from the kitties---six weeks when we have only had them for three months. But they seem happy and the energy in our apartment has improved dramatically. I can smile at the people in the halls now and have even had nice conversations with the resident manager. Our neighbors suddenly look much more friendly. The feng shui has definitely improved.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Photos: before

I have been having trouble posting photos of late. Here is another attempt.

Homage to New Orleans

Here is something I wrote after my visit to New Orleans a decade ago. It seems a fitting homage to the city's artistry, magic, and beauty as well as its contrasts, problems, and conflicts. (Especially telling to me now is that I went UP to the river and had a VIEW from there. Yikes.)


It's early; the shops in the French Quarter aren't open yet. I walk up to the river and along the levee. From up by the river I can look out over the city. It is a misty morning; all is calm. I hear the chugging of a boat as it slowly pushes a large barge around the bend toward the docks. Up here on the levee there are some hunched-over men, haphazardly distributed along the row of benches. They look like they've been up all night and are seeking the smooth calm of the early morning river. A low, soulful saxophone wafts through the mist in soft, mournful tones, and church bells ring in the distance. Somewhere the rattle of a jackhammer. The smoothness of the scene is broken by the quick movements of a black Labrador retriever, cutting down by the water and bringing in some drifiting wood. Eyes follow from the benches. As the lab climbs up the levee an old black man wearing an old hat totters up from his bench to greet the dog. Another man stands at his easel, quietly putting the finishing touches on an oil painting of a steamboat. Unlike the placid scene of morning mist and mournful saxophone in front of us, the river on his easel is turbulent, gray clouds swirling from his canvas. His brush, tipped with bright red paint, outlines the jagged trim on the steamboat. The color vibrates against the gray background like a throbbing blood vessel. The dog barks, the snag of driftwood is thrown down the levee again into the river. The process of recovery begins anew.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pretty pixie

I am going to do it, make a real foray into the strange and mysterious Cat World. The cat culture has been tugging at me for some time (see R#x quest, Flickers, finches, purrs and hugs, and Pedigree) as I corresponded with breeders, tried to master the art of cat conversation, and wondered if I should get those cat-motif checks. But now, as an official cat owner, I am able to delve in in earnest. With the breeder’s encouragement, I have registered Pearl for the upcoming "Devon Heaven" cat show in Denver. But that was just the first step. I knew I was really committed when I also asked about and then ordered grooming products for her. Yes, I have bought various shampoos and conditioners for a cat that range from $4-$10 a bottle. I rarely do this for myself so what am I thinking? Who knew there was a market for such things?

She'll be entered in the kitten category and I don't know what to expect at a show or what categories they are judged on. But I do know that I want her to win something. I find I really care. Isn't that weird? I really want for her to look her best. (I think most cats do get ribbons, though, it keeps people coming to the shows.) And hey, who knows, she might meet her future mate there. Hence the fancy shampoo.

The main shampoo is a dark purple color, called Snowburst, that is really for white cats. According to the breeder, though, it works great on darker cats as well. The idea, I think, is that it takes the yellow color out of their coat, so her grey will be greyer and darker (a white cat would be less yellow too, and more white). Stunning. I can't wait to see how it works. Here are some “before” pictures, and I’ll try arrange some “after” pictures so you can all see and let me know if the cat spa treatments really do make a difference. She seems to enjoy being pampered, coming as she does from a long line of champions, but am I not sure she will be looking forward to this shampoo as much as I am. It will be like Princess Diaries for cats.

To put her looks in perspective, a neighbor boy came over the other day. He is a great kid, about six years old, who is wonderfully transparent, with no ability at artifice. When he first saw Pearl, his face dropped, he made a disgusted face and asked, "Uh, is that what cats are supposed to look like?" Really, I can't blame him for thinking something was wrong with her. These cats do look odd. Ah well, what is a mother to do???

And then there is the cage-decorating contest with the theme of "Mid-September Night's Dream." What do you think, should I do a sparkly fantasy paper maché oyster design with my Pearl inside? Should I go with the watered taffeta the tabby was named for? Or just a lot of dreamy greenery? Fairy wings maybe?

In the end, though, there are a lot of other things going on right now, so think I'll just treat this one as a reconnaissance mission, lie low, quietly observe, take notes, and report back at the end of September. I would like to reassure you all that I have not gone off the deep end, but I can’t. I'm not so sure myself.