349/365 Temporary Cat

A neighbor texted me last week telling me that her son and his partner were visiting this week and the partner was bringing her cat. The cat could not stay with the neighbor because they have a dog that is not used to cats and did I know any local cat boarding companies nearby. I said I never boarded our cats and that I’d be happy to have the cat stay with me for a few days.

It did and we got along. It was nice having a sweet cat who loved being petted but also was not too needy in the house for a while. It left this afternoon and I was a tiny bit sad.


348/365 Last night’s book group meeting

Book group was perfect last night. I didn’t read the book, but most people did and most people liked it. I could not get into it (Bruno Chief of Police or something like that).

What was perfect about bookgroup was that there were an even number of people there and we all paired off and talked to the person sitting next to us for a while, then everyone was polite and let other people talk and no one said anything nasty about things other people liked and we all agreed about how much we hate the warthog in the White House (thank you Kim for that phrase).

I think the reason it was perfect is because certain people were not there.

347/365 A bit of a rant

I’ve finally begun buying Christmas presents. I don’t go out shopping much anymore — nearly everything comes from online stores. I’m fine with that, although I feel bad for the people who work at the online companies and I feel bad for the delivery people and the people who work at UPS and FedEx in the distribution centers (my ex-sister-in-law-who-used-to-live-in-mom’s-basement has to get up at 11 pm to get to work at a UPS facility near Chicago’s Midway Airport.)

I will try to finish up this weekend. (since I am writing this on Saturday that means by tomorrow).

Once the shopping is over I’m good. I enjoy the wrapping, the unwrapping, the kids being home, the food, the company, but I hate the shopping and planning what to get everyone because I want everyone to be happy.

346/365 Happiness is… Being together for Christmas

A few nights ago I dreamt I was at my brother’s house. He was at the kitchen island, preparing ingredients for a huge meal. I was happy to be there, helping him cook because it had been a long time since we cooked together, especially Christmas dinner. We began to clear a place on the counter of the island and I turned around and saw that the kitchen and family room were full of people.

My cousin Pam was standing at the counter next to her mother and father. I noticed faces of people I’d not seen in years all through the house. Aunt Nancy and her family were in the family room near the fireplace. Beth, Ruth and Judy were behind Auntie June, their mother, who held a plate of blonde brownies in her hand.

My mom was there, my dad too. I felt that everyone I loved, from mom’s side of the family was in Kevin’s house getting ready to celebrate Christmas together; even though I didn’t “see” all of them, I knew they were there.

I was on my way around the room to hug everyone when I woke up, smiling.

This dream reminded me of a few things and I thought about each as I cleared the sleep from my brain:

  1. A short story I heard on NPR many years ago, but never found the name, about a woman who learned she could go to a picnic to which everyone she’d ever known and loved was also going, even those who’d died.
  2. Pastor Keith’s mention of the feast that awaits us in Heaven at my father’s funeral.
  3. My childhood picture of Heaven which was a table in a cafe where those I’d loved who’d died sat and drank and ate and talked.
  4. A drawing my mother made in the 1960s. It was based on a photograph of her family — she set everyone in the same place, but aged them twenty years or so.

Dreams of one loved one who’s passed on are very special. Dreams of the entire clan, passed on or not, in one room are phenomenal. Let’s make this come true, those of us who are still here. Maybe not Kevin’s kitchen (although it is a lovely kitchen) but let’s get together sometime.


345/365 Interior monologue of a Canaan Fir at Christmastime

“DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!” I felt it in my roots. It happened once before, maybe more than once before, but I felt it then, I feel it now. “DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!”

I should have known better but what could I do? I’m not like the flitty ones who perch in my branches. I cannot flit away. I’m not like the scampering ones that scurry on the ground. I cannot scamper away. I am most definitely not like the forked-trunk ones, the ones who trim my branches. The ones who cut through our trunks and fell us.

“DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!”

A group of forked-trunk ones approach me. Make comments about me, my branches, my height, my symmetry. They ask if this is the one. They move on to another. They come back. It’s decided. I’m chosen.

The searing pain. “DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!” I scream through my roots. “DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!  DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!! DANGER! dangerdangerdanger!!!”

I am done, I am felled.

Note: I’d probably get an artificial tree, or no tree at Christmas time since I feel bad that we chop down trees to put in our houses for a few weeks a year, but my family likes a real tree.

After I read A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker while sitting in the living room near our undecorated tree I wondered what its internal dialog would be. I figured since it was dead now its last internal dialog would have been just before we cut it down.

Also The Fir Tree.

Also The Hidden Life of Trees which I have not read except for a few pages.

344/365 Only 41 books

I set myself what I consider a lofty goal at the first of the year. I said I would read a book a week. This came after years of reading a book a month or so. I am not going to meet this goal because I am 11 books behind and have no desire to read right now — at least not a novel.

I know when I stopped wanting to read this year, it was near the end of September after I finished The One-in-a-Million Boy. Back then I was ahead of my goal and thought I could actually read 52 books this year. A terrible book was chosen for bookgroup and I read a couple mediocre books in October. By November I was burned out and nothing sounded good to read.

I am trying to get my reading mojo to kick back in by reading a collection of short stories, one each day. I still don’t want to read a novel, but at least I am reading.

Goodreads sent my my reading year in review today. Better than last year, but not what I’d hoped.

342/365 Naked tree, bare mantle

Our tree stands bare in the living room, next to the fireplace upon which no stockings are yet hung.

Neither Dean nor I have the energy to root through the Christmas decorations to find the twinkly lights and boxes of ornaments.

We don’t feel like clearing space for the other decorations, such as the moose family and the Santa family. The wind-up toys, the pillows, the battery powered candles, the outside twinkly lights.

I thought today would be the day, but it wasn’t. Maybe next weekend. Maybe not.

At least we released the tree from it’s bondage.

341/365 Gutenberg

Have you tried the new WordPress editor? What do you think? I don’t like it. I have never liked the building block type of wysiwyg editor. I want to be able to look at the code and understand what is going on. I feel like it is a step backward, making WordPress authors even less connected with what lies beneath the editor.

I wrote a few blog posts using the new editor and it took me longer than with the classic editor. On one post, every time I checked the preview and after I published the post the first paragraph was missing. It took me an hour to figure it out.

So I am holding out until they force me to use it. Or maybe I might quit blogging altogether.

340/365 Irruption

In the past few weeks I have seen two birds in my backyard that I’d never seen there before.

On Black Friday I glanced out at the feeder that I’d just filled and saw a goldfinch-sized bird that, at first, I assumed it was a winter-clothed goldfinch — possibly a female. But then I noticed the white eye-ring and wondered if it might possibly be a ruby-crowned kinglet. I looked it up and sure enough, that’s what it was.

Then last Wednesday* I looked out the window and was surprised to see a red-breasted nuthatch on the almost empty feeder. I ran out and filled it and when I came back in the house it came back many times. Later in the week I went near the feeder and saw one swoop from a tree, fly inches away from me and land on the feeder. Those fellows are fearless!

I heard we might get birds who preferred to hang out farther north than Maryland because of a food shortage in Canada. I’m sorry about the food shortage, but delighted to see birds I normally would not see in my backyard.

*I’m writing this on December 9th.

339/365 Treebank

What do you call the area between the sidewalk and the street? The place where trees are sometimes planted and trash is placed on trash pickup day for the garbage men to collect. Verge? Easement? Berm?

Not if you were raised in or very near Elgin, Illinois. We call it a treebank.

One day Julia, my English roommate,  asked if she could help out at the apartment while I was at work. I told her she could put the garbage in the trash can and take the trash can to the treebank for the garbage men to take the next morning.

I got home and the garbage was not in a trash can on the treebank because she had no idea what a trash can or treebank were. We had a laugh when she told me she’d envisioned a bank where you deposited trees instead of money.

Note: I wrote the first two paragraphs of this post months ago but it never fit in to a category until now.

337/365 Better

As you may know, work was hell all year long because I became popular. I mean I was discovered, and being about the only person who does what I do in a company of over 5000, that meant lots of work for me and zero breathing time for me.

I finally bitched asked if we could pretty please consider hiring someone to help me and it happened. Monday the new person starts and she can take a couple projects off my plate.

I also was able to pull into our group someone I’d trained a few years ago. She’s a quick learn and motivated since she was about to be reduced to half-time. I also became her supervisor, so there’s that.

We’ll see how it works out and if I can leave my work laptop at home in February when we visit my sister-in-law and in July when I go to Colorado, then Europe in late summer.

Until then I can watch this counter because retirement is not that long away.




336/365 PTO

You may remember my scary post about work and having to work on every single vacation I’ve taken since January. That caused a glut of vacation time (paid time off or PTO) that I needed to take before December 28th so even though I have a busy December at work, I am taking Friday afternoons off, then the entire time, more or less, that Clare will be in Bethesda.

So far* I’ve used my Friday afternoons to pamper myself, see my eye-doctor, price eyeglass frames that fit my abnormally narrow face, shop for clothes I don’t need, make pie, and have wine with my neighbor two weeks in a row.

January is going to seem like hell since I will be working 8 hours a day 5 days a week again.

*writing this on December 9th

335/365 Epiphany

I’ve read blog posts, articles, and book chapters on decluttering and nothing ever stuck. I’d get excited about a method, try it, and soon fail. It wasn’t until I read a chapter or two from Dana K. White‘s Decluttering at the Speed of Life that I reached that “aha!” moment. It was her words that a house is a container and can only hold so much stuff.

My husband and daughter think I’m nuts that this was a foreign concept to me, but I honestly never thought of it that way. I kept buying stuff and tried to find places for it without getting rid of anything else. Okay, occasionally I would get rid of things to make room for other things, but that was often accompanied by anxiety — what if I still needed that other thing that I just donated, gave away or threw in the trash?

White’s example about scarves is what did it for me. She used scarves just as an example of something we might have too many of. She asked the reader to imagine our closet floor covered in scarves and think of ways to organize them, but still scarves covered the closet floor. Then she suggested we imagine a box for the scarves and we could only keep the scarves that fit in the box. After that is when she blew my mind suggesting that our entire house is a container.

I’ve only read about a quarter of the book, but the container analogy reset my thoughts on stuff. Maybe I expected that we’d buy a new and bigger house to store more stuff. Or maybe I expected the kids to take their stuff so I could store more of my stuff. Neither of that is happening — at least not in the foreseeable future, so I need to remember the container analogy and get rid of whatever does not comfortably fit in whatever container I have for my personal stuff.

Yesterday I cleaned out the containers that hold my clothes and shoes: Dresser drawers and closets* (in-season and off-season). If I keep this up I think I won’t need in- or off- season containers — just one of each for all my clothes.

I have plenty of clothes now for both seasons and plan on not purchasing anything else clothes-wise for a while. I’ve got one StitchFix shipment on the way, but will likely send it back without buying anything and cancel my subscription. I think my clothes hoarding/impulse buying was a result of not having nice clothes for years and feeling embarrassed about that.

*We live in a 1940s house with tiny closets in each room (plus a coat closet I use for my hanging clothes — Dean gets the bedroom closet).

334/365 Defined by travels

My son and his girlfriend spent over a month in Italy, Spain, and France this past summer and, while they had a great time and told us about their travels, they don’t bring the trip up much. I’ve not heard either of them say, “When we were in Italy…” in conversation.

I, on the other hand, still bring up my time spent in England in conversations. Not so much as I used to, but enough. It became part of the definition of who I was. It made me unique at the time. I now wonder if that was healthy.

333/365 Bucket list

In no particular order:

  • New Zealand
  • Iceland
  • Rold, Arden, Denmark (where a grandparent was born)
  • All the states I have not visited
  • England again
  • Ireland again
  • Scotland again
  • Drive Rt 20 from Massachusetts to Oregon
  • Spend a night in all the National Park lodges
  • Mackinac Island and stay in the Grand Hotel

There may be more, but I cannot remember them now.

332/365 Time Travel

Because time travel is one of my favorite genres of literature, I’ve spent some time thinking about when I would go (as apposed to where) if I could time travel.

My favorite time-travel fantasy used to be going back and meeting the young me and telling the younger me that life was going to be pretty good and not sweat the little things. I know it goes against all time travel laws — meeting yourself — but it was my fantasy, so my laws.

I rarely think about time traveling anymore and that’s okay. My new concept of an afterlife includes it.

331/365 One misty moisty evening

One of my favorite memories of travel was when my fellow hitchhiking college friends and I crossed the River Barrow in a fishing boat because we’d missed the ferry. We met the fishermen at a pub after asking around if someone could get us to to the other side of the river to our hostel. They could indeed and refused to take payment. On the other side we walked from Arthurstown to the hostel along a dark and misty lane and met an elderly Irishman along the way. He shook our hands and wished us well.

Reminded me of this.

330/365 Not-well traveled

I used to be the most traveled person I knew until we moved to the DC area. Now I am about the least traveled. Dean had not been out of the country until our honeymoon but now his travels far exceed mine. It bothers me, but not enough to do something about it. I’ll never catch up with him or most of my friends.

329/365 Where I am not going next year

Scotland: Our good friends’ son is getting married in Scotland and we are not invited. Only family. That sucks, but it’s understandable.

Barcelona: I almost decided to go to Barcelona with my friend, Catherine, but I’d invited myself along and there would be 5 of us (Catherine, her daughter, Catherine’s niece and her daughter).

New Zealand or Iceland: We just didn’t get around to planning it. And it was supposed to be THIS year anyway. Work commitments worried me.

328/365 Hitchhiking in Ireland

Three American college students, student teaching in London hopped on a ferry to Dublin with little money and no idea how we were going to travel the country. Train rides were too expensive so we hitchhiked. I don’t remember all the rides but here are a few:

  • The man from Belfast who heard on the news his neighborhood had just been bombed so he dropped us off and went home.
  • The priest who blessed my friend’s rosaries while driving along a highway
  • The truck driver who assumed we had marijuana because we were Americans

Was it safer back then?


327/365 Flights of Fancy

I’ve been to Narnia where I warned Susan about her future banishment from Narnia. I’ve been to Tintagel Castle where I saved Merlin from Morgan le Fay. I sat in a meadow where a unicorn rested his head on my lap. I’ve visited the Shire where I became friends with Samwise and played with his daughter Elanor.

More recently I’ve sat on a plane next to any number of celebrities, talking about their accomplishments. I had dinner with Neil Gaiman at his Wisconsin home before he married that singer.

Fantasizing is a sure-fire way to fall asleep.

326/365 England and Scotland 1976

I spent the better part of a summer in Great Britain in 1976 with Jeremy and his family. That was the trip where Jack, Jeremy’s dad, took me on literary tours. He also took me to Scotland where we fed bats among the ruins of an ancient castle, sunbathed on Loch Sween, took a ferry to the Isle of Mull, and walked around the city of Edinburgh.

We also visited Dover and Canterbury and was a bridesmaid in Jeremy’s brother’s wedding.

I don’t remember being worn out from the travel, energized is more appropriate description.

325/365 So this is happening…

itinerary for river boat cruise

Some of you may recall that I commented somewhere that I was not interested in visiting Europe again but I was not aware that a few days later my favorite sister-in-law would call and tell me her roommate for an upcoming Danube river cruise had to cancel and was I interested.

I wasn’t at first, but when I opened the Viking website I decided I was. We go in late August. I’m excited.

324/365 The Information Superhighway

While I can’t claim to have driven along the ARPANET dirt roads, or down the CERN cobbled streets, I did learn to drive on newly paved roads of the World Wide Web when we first connected in the early 1990s before graphical browsers were common using a browser called SlipKnot. About then the World Wide Web was nicknamed the Information Superhighway. It was an apt name because there were times when I felt like I needed a seat belt to hold me in the chair as I tooled along the highways and byways of knowledge.

323/365 Florida

Before I first visited Florida I envisioned long empty highways with cabins along the sides of the roads whose porches held elderly people in rocking chairs. Also Disney World. I was not interested in visiting, but my favorite in-laws lived there and the kids wanted to go to Disney World so we went.

We’ve since been there at least half-a-dozen times and always have a great time.

I now love Florida. We’re going back in February, probably too early to see painted buntings this time though.



322/365 Cruise

Cruises never seemed interesting but when Diane called and suggested the sisters-in-law go on a Caribbean Cruise I decided it would be fun. I loved my sisters-in-law and I knew we would have a great time.

We did. We got along and ate too much, sometimes drank too much, saw some interesting sites and brought home lots of memories.

The relationship became strained between some of the sisters-in-law a few years later, but the memories continue.


321/365 What I remember about a trip to New England and the Maritime Provinces

Bethesda, MD to Westborough, MA to Maine (Freeport, Camden, Bar Harbor and environs, Lubec) to Fundy National Park, New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island (Anne’s house, a farm, a modern B&B), Nova Scotia (B&B where Alexander Graham Bell stayed, Puffin boat tour, drive around Cape Breton, some beach by a church) to Nova Scotia (I don’t remember much about the drive back) to a tiny lake in the middle of Maine where I saw my first loon to Jefferson, NH during a serial arsonist rampage (there was a fire that night) to Bethesda, MD (might have stopped more).

320/365 Los Angeles

We spent the summer of 1984 in Los Angeles while Dean did an internship in Santa Monica. While I am glad for the experience, I didn’t like California. The people were nice enough, the weather perfect, the area interesting and the food beyond delicious. It was a nice place to visit but I was secretly glad when Dean was not offered a full-time position at RAND.

The reason is probably silly, but I was quirky and that made me unique. I worried that if I moved to LA, where everyone was quirky, I’d be just average.

EMA seems to understand:

319/365 Bethesda

Oh how I hated Bethesda when we first moved here. Everyone I met was either a doctor, lawyer or PhD. something. The women had perfect hair and nannies. The kids were nearly all well-groomed. Many families employed housekeepers and lawn services. I felt like a fish out of water. I felt that my blue-collar background was obvious. All my friends were on the other side of the Potomac.

It took hearing someone else bad-mouth Bethesda to make me realize I’d finally gotten comfortable living here. Now it is home and, while I talk about retiring to Olympia, I might not.