Monday, December 31, 2012

All this happy stuff, on a Monday...

No matter if you are cranky like Coco,
Or sociable like Valentina,
Or searching for your next cocktail like Manhattan,

Or part of a beautiful duo, like Bessie and Lulu

We wish you a very happy and peaceful New Year! 

I will be re-vamping and re-decorating the blog in 2013, so hope you'll join me and the Feline Five as we venture forward.

~If you asked me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud. (Emile Zola)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The End Becomes the Beginning

Here we go again. Another new year ahead....

I started this blog early in 2012 while taking an online course. This, I told myself, would be the year I sharpened my writing skills and found a way to channel my creative energies and spirit. Such good intentions....

As I look back over my posts, I see clearly that I saw nothing clearly this entire year. Well, not when it involved my personal path. Normally, I'd evaluate this as good or bad. I'm not going to do that to myself. There's nothing to be gained, and it's a time suck.

On multiple occasions I described wanting to move out of my apartment. The reality is I don't WANT to move out of my apartment. Not just to move out. What I had hoped earlier this year was to find a place to buy, and then move. I looked here in Jersey City in my price range. The options were just not acceptable. Small spaces, resale would have been difficult, neighborhoods I didn't care to join. I can't afford Manhattan, so that was off the list. And moving to a suburb in New Jersey didn't suit me either, since I knew I'd be further away from NYC, commuting in for work (if I could find work in the city) would become expensive and time consuming.

Then, I thought I'd move to Maryland. This plan seemed to be a good one, real estate in my price range is much better and resale in those areas that I desire would be very good. Additionally, I'd be closer to my mom and dad. For those of you who have been reading you know that my mother's health has declined noticeably this year. The foundation of my heart is my family, so I want to be there to be helpful. That income thing though--mortgages are predicated on having one. A job hunt in the area commenced. While simultaneously job hunting in the NYC area to sustain my monthly run rate.

In October, I secured a part time contract and I thought, for some foolish reason, I'd be able to find additional work and life as I knew it would resume. That hasn't been the case. I've interviewed for multiple full time jobs, talked to scads of people about contract and full time opportunities. And this has yielded a lot of talk and e-mail time with no job in hand. I also became frustrated with looking in two different areas for jobs, and working through the if/then scenarios.

In early December, upon learning that I was declined for a big job in NYC that seemed more like a winning lottery ticket than anything, I made the decision AGAIN to pack up and move to MD. February 1. This I rationalized made sense. Cheaper in MD, closer to mom and dad. Lots of friends available to help.

After being in MD for the Christmas holiday, and really thinking through the details, I've pulled the plug on February 1.

If you don't know me, this very well could sound bi-polar. I suppose there is a measure of insanity to all of it--if we say that insanity is trying the same thing over and over expecting different results.

For 2013, I'd like to do a few things:
1) Find work that covers my expenses. I don't really care any more if it's work in my field, if it's work I can brag about, or work that others think is valuable. Income is the goal.
2) In establishing this work, determine where I want to be based for the next two-three years. Keeping in mind that any plan I have can be turned upside down by events that are completely out of my control.
3) Get back to basics on running, working out. I have been inactive for too long. I know why--it's the inertia I experience when I'm confused. I've been so confused all year.
4) Blog more. Re-vamp. Connect with other bloggers. I think that Valentina may be the key here, she could actually take over as the Chief Cat Correspondent for Unit 910.
5) Enjoy and lean into the sharp points, as Pema Chodron would say.

In summary, this whole year hasn't been a waste (an evaluative statement) if I consider these facts: I made new friends, I have been pushed to the point of feeling an intense need to transform on an emotional level...and I'm being challenged now to find a new way to generate income.

I'm scared to death, but on a parallel path I believe if I don't run away I may find a new beginning.

I think she'd be a better draw to the blog than I've been. Valentina, also known as the Social Director of Unit 910.

Where ever your road has led you this year, I hope you have some peace and joy. Where there is sorrow or pain, I hope you can harvest the lesson intended for you. It's not easy. I'm still working on mine. Peace.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It Won't Be Long Before We're There With SNOW

I know it sounds cranky. But I don't like snow. I loved it as a kid, but it meant being sequestered at home away from school buses and homework. The idea of it while watching White Christmas where Bing and Danny and Rosemary and Vera sing SNOW on the train was always appealing. Now, it just means trudging out in what becomes slush, it's dirty and here in the 'hood, one can't always judge the depth of the puddle...

Right now, I'm settling in to work on some training materials that deserve attention. Because I didn't do any work during the week. The cat TV is on: snow has starting falling here in JC and 3 of 5 felines are sitting at the windows to watch it...

Baby Coco Chanel, her first snow early winter 2009.
I'll post pictures of today's viewing later.

Where ever you may be, stay safe.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I'm Still Standing

I really have lost my grip. No concept of time anymore.

So where was I? Oh, right. Describing the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. We lost four of our beloved kitties. It's been a slow acceptance process. Find myself continuing to look around corners, by dumpsters for signs of those gone. My analysis skills kick in and I crave answers to those questions that I'll never know for sure: how did they try to save themselves, how long did they suffer.

Madea was the mama kitty. We've helped numerous kittens from her litters. The first litter we knew of we rescued in 2010. Saved 3 of 4 babies and placed them all. The 4th, Buster, had Parvo, and didn't survive. But at least we scooped him up from the hot August pavement and got him some comfort before he expired. We believe another litter was born while Madea was hiding from us (because we rescued her babies, she saw that as hunting her kittens). For a long while there was a little guy we called Lucky who ate along with her, and we assume he was a sole survivor of litter #2. Then there was litter #3, they arrived in the early spring of 2012. Those kittens stayed close to Madea, and we fed all four, plus her, plus Lucky in a lot next to my building. This August, late in the month, we discovered another litter of 6 babies. (We did want to TNR her but she was not easy to trap).

I rescued one baby immediately after Labor Day. She was stranded by herself, barely old enough to walk. I fed her and then the next day employed a neighborhood feral cat rescuer friend to help me get her. (I'm not good at the trapping and catching part of this business). She was placed within 36 hours. Adorable. That left 5 on the street with Madea, and the 4 "teenagers" as we called them.

Super Storm Sandy took Madea, Prim (a beautiful runt tuxedo from litter #3), and 2 of the baby tuxedo kittens from litter #4. It's simply heartbreaking. The body of the two babies were found, but we've never recovered Prim or Madea. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Nat and I tried to plan for trapping everyone and placing them.

While I was in MD over Thanksgiving, she caught the three babies, with absolutely no assistance from me. This we told ourselves was a way of honoring Madea. And time was running out. The empty lot these litters called home (the same lot where some of them drowned during the storm) was set for construction to begin December 1. And right on schedule, huge cranes arrived along with fencing which would have blocked us from feeding.

Next task was trapping the three surviving teenagers. There's a whole story here too. I'll get to it some day...it involves cats scaling 20 foot walls. Never seen anything like it. We really do have the makings of a reality show here. Anyone who has a video camera and some free time, let me know. This one was again all on Nat. I'm really not sure how she made it through 6 rescues in 10 days. If I could sew, I'd make her a cape.

All three kittens have been placed. One is living with Nat as a foster, although she looks pretty well settled in. We've named her Maddie, because she looks so much like Madea. At Natalie's she is right at home. There are other kitties and Maddie has no fear. Sits with them, eats with them. Undaunted by the hissing. Just so happy to be warm and fed and loved.

The teenagers are in boarding right now. Two are not very happy but seem to be content to be together.  How do we explain, "your home is gone...and it's so cold outside you would be in pain"? How do we let them know they never have to worry about finding food, or running from mean people throwing broken glass? Or fear Mother Nature, who in all her beauty and fury can create the most wonderful of days next to the worst of nightmares?

Living through the destruction that ripped through the region is not an experience I'll soon forget. I stood in line for an hour and half one day waiting for Dunkin Donuts coffee. The swarms of people using ShopRite as a charging and warming station was overwhelming. Walking up 9 flights of stairs for 8 days while our elevators were under repair was brutal--mostly because of security concerns and the pain of lugging of groceries and goods up that many steps. I was only without power for 36 hours, so that was not really a terrible thing given that many people were without for 10 days, or for weeks. That's provided they still had a home. So many people lost houses, treasured photos, pets, and family members to the floods. I'm still standing.

Madea's last litter. Maddie is the mostly white kitten at the bottom, and she closely resembles her mama. Thanks to Nat, they are safe.

This one's for you, Madea. I am so sorry I couldn't save you. I will see you on the bricks and the warehouses and the streets of the PAD for as long as I live here. You were regal and beautiful and such a good mama kitty. Rest in peace, baby girl.


Lucky, tuxedo in the foreground and Madea, mostly white kitty in the background. Waiting for dinner to be served, May 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Post Apocolypse

It's not really over, but...it's gone. Sandy, that is. I can't adequately describe the emotions that have accompanied living through this storm, in this regional area, as a citizen of Jersey City. But, I'll make an oblique attempt.

Admittedly, I'm not a good planner. I have no true disaster kit, no disaster blueprint in place. I made the requisite purchases of a few non perishables (Pop-Tarts), water, and batteries. Didn't have enough flashlights really to sustain myself for days in the dark. I had one cat carrier for five cats, and no idea how I'd evacuate if necessary. As the storm approached, and the warnings escalated, my anxiety went right along with it. I feared being cold, hungry and without help.

What do I do if the wind is so strong it breaks windows? What will I do with five cats who will try to escape because they are freaked out? I live on the the 9th floor and there is nowhere for them to go but straight down once they make it to the ledge--if they make it to the ledge. I was a nervous wreck.

My car was an easy fix: parking garage. Fifth floor. High winds could have resulted in debris hitting the car but that was a smaller risk than flooding, given the history with Irene last year. Secured.

The worst thought: our feral cat populations. Three colonies. All live at ground level. A few kitties live in a lot with huge steel pipes. Another group live in a small lot under a condo building, surrounded by commercial buildings with people who are not cat fans. The lot is slated for construction any week now. The third live behind a paid parking lot, between two residential buildings and have been there for years. Most of those cats have been TNR'd so they are a happy colony with some drop ins, but a fairly stable population.

If my mind could have imagined the flooding we ultimately experienced, I like to think we would have crafted some sort of plan for our beloved cats. We have names for them, we follow their paths and know a lot--not all but a lot--of their patterns and habits. And they know us well enough to watch for us at feeding time, to take a bath or sit with patience and excitement as we prepare their supper bowls.

The storm skies and winds started early in the day on Monday the 29th of October. The water from the Hudson started to spill onto the plaza at Exchange Place. This was a foreshadow of the evening's events, although my concern was heavy downpours resulting in leaking through my ceiling.

There are several stories here. The days post storm, and living in what felt like a police state, piecing together information about the damage and destruction in New Jersey, Staten Island, downtown Manhattan, and the LI area. Curfews. Looting. And walking the flood ravaged streets, looking for feral kitties.

For now, I'll share the photo of the courtyard at 150 Bay Street, when the water was below 5 feet but on it's way up, over the steps and into our lobby where it would do significant damage.


Note that any cars that normally would appear in this photo were underwater. Some of them even floated down the street....

I'll write a post about our kitties, about life for a few days of minor inconveniences, and listening to reports of complete destruction from the surge this storm waged on so many treasured homes, landmarks, and lives.

No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood...

The Perfect Storm

Some sayings I've heard, and even used, throughout my life with little context to back up the reference. The Perfect Storm is one such expression. Until now. I finally have a story for The Perfect Storm. It goes something like this:

Once upon a time, in October of 2011, my dear cat rescuer partner-in-crime, Nat, rescued a mama kitty and two kittens. This was three months after the rescue of Bessie, Lulu and The Captain. (Bessie and Lulu live with me now, The Captain lives with a feline "brother" and a wonderful human mama in central NJ). Because we were on overload in terms of places to keep kitties, Nat searched for and found a great foster home for them, here in Jersey City. The couple have cats and were willing to help out by providing temporary housing for these three ferals.

Sadly, one kitten died suddenly--we think as a reaction to vaccinations. This left Mama Domino and baby Prince.

Nat received regular texts and emails about the cats. Their habits, the trouble the couple had with integrating them with their house cats...and understandably, requests on the progress of finding a permanent home for them. We desperately wanted to place Domino and Prince together. Eventually, the couple decided that while Domino is very friendly and loving, they only wanted to keep Prince--believing that Domino was teaching Prince not to interact with their cats. Given that I have a mama and kitten in my apartment, and had to integrate them with my existing trio, I could see the foster couple's concerns. And I also knew there were things I needed to do to help the situation. So, I worked with a cat behaviorist and started watching My Cat From Hell regularly, which helped me shift my thinking. I can now see things more from a cat's perspective and less from my own, limited human perspective. We were not successful in helping shift the couple's views but they gave a wonderful home and lots of love to both kitties throughout the year.

Cut to Fall, 2012: My long time friend Jon texted and asked if I had any kitties needing a home. He and his wife, life long cat lovers, decided they wanted to bring two felines into their family. This meant two kitties who could interact with three young boys. We just found yet another litter of kittens, and together with another rescuer in JC, had scooped up one baby and placed her with a couple in my building. I told Jon I had several options: two of five feral baby kittens; two of four feral kittens who are closer to the 1 year mark, and...Domino and Prince. After good consideration and information, J and his wife decided that Domino and Prince would be the best fit. And so starts the drama. (Cue: light dramatic music)...

First, we had to gain approval from the fosters that they would part with both kitties, for their benefit. They agreed.

Then we set the week to put everything into motion. Prince, now a year old, had not been neutered. The foster family felt that neutering the boy was "cruel". We tried to explain that some behavioral issues would be resolved if he were neutered. Nat made numerous attempts to collect him for the surgery, and each failed. So, arrangements were made to collect him on a Tuesday, he would undergo surgery and stay in the vet hospital til Friday to recover. On Thursday evening, Natalie was to collect Domino from the foster home, keep her in P's (her boyfriend) warehouse, reunite Prince w/Domino Friday evening and then I would drive to MD on Saturday to deliver them to their new family.

Seemed like a good plan, with some room for error. We had no way of knowing just how much. Tuesday: Prince collected, with some muscle. Surgery complete, resting comfortably. Wed and Thursday, Nat checks on and visits Prince. All is well. Thursday she picks up Domino, puts her in a kitty playpen in the warehouse for the evening....Then Friday. The Friday before Hurricane Sandy....can you hear the music crescendo?

Foster couple decides to visit Prince at the vet. Big, major mistake. The vet on staff was not friendly, and gave them a bunch of scary words about Prince not eating since his surgery (uh, could someone have said he was in danger before now?) and that he had to be released immediately. The couple had no  cell phones on them, no way to port him out of the hospital. Frantic calls to P (who was in the middle of a major delivery in the warehouse that morning) and to Nat (who was in meetings w/clients). The vet techs had to put the poor baby in his trap (huge drama), and foster parents bring him to the warehouse. They are convinced he's in major danger and come up with all sorts of plans to bring him to MD on their own.

Cue the weather reports in the background: Major storm heading for the east coast, high winds, lots of rain. Prepare yourselves. 

I was able to bring temporary calm to the couple, and they left. Cut to early Saturday morning. A text from Natalie:

We have a major problem. Domino ate through the playpen, and was able to get out of the locked bathroom. The cats are loose in the warehouse. Come over immediately.

[Note: old warehouse, lots of holes and places for feral cats to hide...and the warehouse holds wool flokati rugs imported from Greece....hundreds of bags and shelves of them....]

Operation Drive to MD Aborts and Operation Find the Cats in the Maze begins.

Ultimately, Nat set a trap to catch Domino. That happened around 3:30P in the afternoon. Prince was still on the loose. Set a trap for him. No dice.

2A Sunday, Nat, unable to sleep, enters the warehouse and decides she is not leaving until she finds and catches the loose cat. I receive a text around 3:30, Operation Find the Cats in the Maze complete. It turns out, Prince had wedged himself in the tool room of the warehouse, under a shelf and hidden by all sorts of things--bags, rope, you name it.

6A, she enters the warehouse again, Prince has eaten his food (this time each were kept in a crate) so the "danger" was past. 6:45A, Operation Drive to MD resumes with the following weather warnings:

Heavy rains to commence in DC/MD late Sunday or early Monday, heading toward NYC area. The drive was ominous but safe. I made it to DE where Jon met me and we did the kitty exchange.

Domino and Prince have a great new home. They are eating and playing, but keeping to themselves for the time being. Domino has sought some attention from Jon's wife when she has been in their room (which doubles as her office...) We know that it is a matter of time before they both start to show their full personalities. After all, we did put them through quite a traumatic week.

What we didn't know when we hatched the plan was how devastating Sandy would really be for us here in the Jersey and NYC area. More on that next post.

I learned again that cats are superior in their intellect, that they can't be contained. And we humans have to work hard to keep up with them...some positive forces were with us to ensure they were ushered safely to their final destination. I would do it all again, although I hope we can avoid the unnecessary drama. And yes, we will be writing a nasty-gram to the vet who was so insensitive to discharge a cat she thought was in danger. Uh, if I'm not mistaken--YOUR job is to help animals in distress...so DON'T do that again. EVER.

Natalie, October 2011, on her mission to rescue Domino and her two kittens from this warehouse in Jersey City, NJ.
We really think we have a reality show here...anyone interested in filming?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Remember Me

Went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Highly recommend. Well directed, written, acted.

In looking over the soundtrack, I re-discovered The Innocence Mission.

This song is not included on the soundtrack of the movie, but certainly the soundtrack of my life somewhere in the 1990-1993 era.


There's clouds in the upstairs, clouds in my memory....

For the Birds

The nice thing about being unemployed is the available time to do all the things you want to do, but can't while working. The bad thing about being unemployed is the available time that gets sucked up doing things that you don't plan on doing but have to because that's the direction life takes. Or because it's just addictive.

One thing I've really enjoyed is watching the daily routines of the cats. Of course, me being here changes the entire dynamic--I know that. However, I think we can all agree I don't have any sway over the habits of the neighborhood pigeons. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that they've discovered that 5 cats live within the panes of 4 windows of the 150 Bay Street building. 5 cats who will sit vigil at the windows to observe every movement a bird makes. I say this because there are groups of them that fly in a beautiful formation, and then land on the ledges outside of my apartment. They sit and stare at the cats, who in turn sit and thump their tails while pressing their noses against the window and chatter "mah-ah-ah".  Eventually, the pigeons will get comfortable, pouf out feathers and take a nap. This does not curtail the tail thumping.

Last Friday, all 5 cats bought tickets and showed up for the experience. I counted 6 pigeons spread out across the ledges. The window sill sitting went on for 2 hours and eventually, the pigeons departed. In the mornings since that day,  I see them caucus on the warehouse across from my building--and 4 of my 5 felines sit in the window, waiting to see who will migrate and provide free entertainment.


Manhattan and Valentina sitting in the window, watching the Pigeon Show...



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chaucer

I went to Maryland the day after Labor Day, to see mom and dad. In my new unemployed state, I opted to go post holiday, avoid traffic, and spend time there during the week while everyone else was at work.

Joey's birthday (September 5) coincided with that visit to Maryland, and I was glad. Happy to be in the area we called home for what would have been his 48th birthday. In my head, I tried to imagine what we'd be doing to celebrate. Tried to imagine what he'd look like now. Too much time has passed to venture a guess at what I'd need to do to distract him from aging...but I do wonder: would Laura and Joey exist as a couple anymore? Would he have any grey hair?

It's not helpful to speculate on anything that brings him into the present. Well, not in those ways. The best way to bring him into the present is to keep him with me as a guide and as love. Who he was in his purest form. All the comedic memories, the soulful moments. Thinking about what if...it's too sad, and it doesn't serve any purpose other than feeling stuck in the moment of his death. And he really wouldn't want that.

I was able to spend a little time with Chaucer, my kitty that Joey's mom gave to me in 1995. Which was good because I departed Thursday. Two days later, Saturday, September 8, mom and dad called to tell me they just returned from the vet. Chaucer had to be put to sleep. A term that I hate--"put to sleep". Anyway, Chaucer's suffering from kidney failure was over. I was so grateful that I was there to see him, say I love you, Chaucer, and comb him one last time.

Baby Chaucer, June 1995. The pink heart was his first toy.

Are You There God? It's Me, Laura...

I think that I avoided posting in August and September because they are months that have the letter S in them. Or really, I just didn't make the time to write. Various themes floated through my brain, sort of like a tide.  I need to do some work on what it is that keeps me from committing to publishing on a regular basis to this blog.

For some reason, I feel compelled to provide updates because I've been MIA for several months, but  that's not what I want to write about. So I'm just going to start where my thoughts are now, and let things flow.

I've been out of work since the end of August. I've totally enjoyed this time away from the daily grind, the expectations that go along with work and projects and showing up in meetings. Today is a day where I've found my mental processing and my emotions connected to things of the past. People who have died, my parents and aunts and uncles in their younger years, pets who are long gone, experiences that are deep in my history but formative to my current state. I'm not sure what that's about.

Okay. That may be untrue. Two weeks ago, I spent 4 days with my mom while my dad took a quick vacation to Atlantic City. She is diabetic and she is also clearly suffering some form of dementia. If it's diagnosed I don't know about it. What I do know is that I can no longer have a conversation with my mom about my life. We can talk about my kitties, or the kitties I feed on the street, or maybe a quick story about one of my friends. Her ability to follow along in conversations is questionable, and too many details visibly confuse her. I've asked her if she remembers specific things--like the theme song to Winnie the Pooh. My mother loved Winnie the Pooh so much that she nick-named my sister Pooh Bear. I have fond memories of my LP records of various Pooh stories, narration and music and all.

Today while walking to the PATH train, I recalled a time when I had outgrown WTP, and wanted to get rid of my albums. She was so sad. I thought it was so ridiculous. I wanted to be grown up, you know. None of that kid stuff. I wanted to forget Pooh, and his fluffy self. The paradox struck me today that I would love to talk with my mom about Pooh, and listen to the song or watch a Pooh video. Our roles are now reversed. She has, in essence, forgotten Pooh and I am so sad. Perhaps we could watch Pooh, but she would not recall the stories, or the fond memories, like she would have even ten years ago. And she definitely wouldn't sing along with the song.

I've so many more things to share.

For those who remember the book, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret? I am feeling a little like that right now. Meaning, I am having many conversations with God about this phase of life. It's not different from what others have or are experiencing. I feel awkward and ill equipped, kinda like the title character, Margaret.  And that's my current truth.


Mom with my Uncle Harry in November of 1998, Pittsburgh, PA.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stuck

How often do I start to craft a post in my mind, and like a beautiful butterfly, the idea flies away and I find myself embroiled in the ordinary aspects of my day? This is not a rhetorical question. The answer is: every day.

Every day I have a brilliant idea about a clever post, and poof. There it goes.

I'm reading Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart, and I find it fascinating and really difficult. She says:

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” 


I guess I'm at that place of really wanting to know where I'm stuck. The purpose of starting this blog was to give a myself a platform to write, and through writing break it open, get unstuck. Now I'm adding BLOG to my list of things to do. I didn't have the vision of this being a need to do item, but instead a flow. 


Typically, when this stuck-ness happens, I grow tired and then bored with the rut and push myself out. I think I'm approaching the boredom part of the cycle. Bored with not writing more. Bored with not working out more. Annoyed and bored with my clothes not fitting because I'm too lazy to pay more attention to my diet.


All of these things take discipline and sometimes I just don't wanna have discipline. I'd rather watch reruns of Friends




Saturday, June 16, 2012

An iPad, 2 maids and a Twitter Account, please...

It's been awhile since I published. Partially because I wanted my previous post to stand on its own for awhile. In the blogosphere, it certainly isn't the way to drive traffic to my page but it felt right for me.

I seem to be on some wild ride, hoping in retrospect it all makes sense. When I started the blog, I shared all the woes within Unit 910 (my apartment). And then I dropped it. I grew tired, annoyed and frankly bored with the fight. My walls remain stained and chipped from the damage last August (Hurricane Irene). I do look at the brown stains on some days and think I should complain but I really have too much more to do.

Like read the Fifty Shades trilogy. My goodness. Where is Christian Grey in my world? Oh, right. He's fictional.

Or watch yet another wonderful, brilliant person get stampeded by corporate America. Yes, friends, I'm  witnessing something so ridiculous that it defies all logic. But then again, evil doesn't really have logic, at least not logic that the sane people can grasp. I am hoping he will prevail. This has been a fascinating study in how to handle myself in the future--I mean, I'm giving a lot of HR and legal advice to him; but he is showing me that making the choice to be happy is just that--a clear and present choice. Now I know why I've been led to this assignment, this person...it's to learn from him and take that forward as a better path.

Let's go back to the ridiculous for a moment--I saw this article about Karl Lagerfeld's kitten, and now I want either to work for him and the kitten; or have a meeting with him so that he can fashion homes for feral cats. He'd be fabulous. And I'll bet his kitten has Skype on HER iPad. (So THERE).

As a footnote to my May 19 post: I did make it through the day. It had a strange feel to it, most likely because the anniversary of Joey's death shook hands with the fresh loss of Niall. It's not an intersection I'd hope for, not ever. My journey is teaching me that I may not understand the reason or there may really not be an acceptable reason (acceptable to me) for the events that unfold in my lifetime. But, I have the power to work through the events and make sense of them, to take from them and make the good and the bad a part of me. The balance is what's important. May take awhile to get to steady state, depending upon the gravity of the situation.

So for example, today's drama: lost car keys. This is off putting, and it chaps me. It's neither good nor bad. It just is. And, it's something from which I'll recover quickly. Goes in the "oh, that's Laura" pile.

That's today's musing. Back to a better schedule now. And crafting a story line for the upcoming events of life, those things in the plan and those on the horizon but not yet known. Walk with me...I'm embarking on a search for a place to live. Now, this could be a fun ride!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ten

I'm in California. I awake this morning at 4A local time to read a note from my sister: last night in Belfast, N. Ireland, her sister in law's estranged husband was struck and killed by a car. "He was 26. I don't know what else to say," are her final words to the very brief message.

I begin to cry. Because a young man's life is extiguished. And because I read these words on the morning of the 10th anniversary of Joey's death.

That moment--the one upon which you learn that someone you know has died--can arrest all of your senses. I find that I gasp, and I don't hear anything for a few seconds. I can't quite see. And although I didn't know Niall well, I did meet him. And he was only 26.

Thinking back to the day of Joey's death, I woke up crying. Because I knew that something was horribly, terribly wrong. The days preceding his death were a warpath of sorts for him, so this is not some oblique intuitive signaling that I am recounting as I write this post. The night prior, I received a phone call from him--one that I let roll into my voice mail system. The last call where I would have spoken to him. He started to dial my phone as he walked away from my backyard, having come to see if I was dutifully sitting on the sofa watching Saturday Night Live, one of our favorite rituals. I was. Winnona Ryder was the guest star. That's all I can remember of the episode. What I can vividly remember is re-playing his message a dozen times before I made the ill-fated decision to hit delete. He told me how much he loved me and how beautiful I looked sitting on the sofa, and how sorry he was he couldn't stay sober and sit beside me to watch our show.

I've yet to sit through an entire episode of SNL since. Just like I can't watch professional golf without getting a lump in my throat. Still.

Joey's death profoundly changed my life. It called into question every fiber of faith that I had at that time. I learned who in my world were friends for eternity, and who needed to be weeded out of the garden. Oddly, I lost my sensibility about people--one that I've prided myself on for years. It's like my radar shut down, and to be honest I'm not sure that it's fully restored. That sensibility is one that used to help me navigate many situations and size up the trust factor with newcomers into my life, and one that I've sorely needed upon occasion in these 10 years. He was even more critical about people than I was back then--critical in the best way: who could be trusted, and who had not yet passed the test. I desperately miss his guidance in that department.

The journey into the grief state was one that I can't quite describe, no matter how many times I try. I can only be sure that someone comprehends my words when they too have suffered a loss. It's a paradox of feeling everything and feeling nothing. And it doesn't go away in days or weeks or months--not when the loss is overwhelming to the grieving. To this day I can, and do, tear up when I regale someone with a story about Joey, but it's not a given. I can just as easily laugh and keep a smile on my face: because he loved it when I smiled and hated it when I cried. So I do try to pay tribute to him in some fashion, however seemingly insignificant, when invoking his memory.

There is no way for me to truly give homage to Joey through one post, authored and published on May 19, 2012. I'll share the song he was singing to me frequently before his death: The Promise, by When In Rome. Some lyrics:

I'm sorry but I'm just trying to think of the right words to say,
I know they won't sound the way I planned them to be,
But if I had to walk the world and make you fall for me,
I promise you, I promise you, I will...

You didn't have to walk the world, or leave the world, for me to fall for you, Joey Vennari. I loved you the day I set my eyes on your beautiful blue eyes in the Red Star in Fells Point (Baltimore, Maryland). Ours was a walk that can't be summed up through one awkward attempt...it wasn't a perfect 8 year period. I fell down often, and made many mistakes. I do believe that through the addictions that had you so firmly in their grip, you loved your family and your close friends so deeply that we still feel the impact of your love and your loss in ways that again, can't quite be described. You left an indelible mark on the hearts of so many. On a day like today, people will tell me they remember your laugh, your sense of humor and impeccable comic timing, your easy sense of self. The fact that you were cool, period. There's not a friend from the Howard County area that can look back on time spent with you as anything other than fun.

Someone told me, a few weeks after his death, that I would receive gifts out of this loss. I had no idea what she was saying at the time. I know now that it's about harvesting the good intentions, the good times, the messages within the memories. And looking around at what is left standing. Joey left behind a bevy of close friends who have continued to stay by my side. They do not remain my friends out of any sort of obligation to Joey, but it sure is a nice common ground to have: people who know--not remember but know--how special he really was, without an explanation, without prompting. It has provided comfort to me at times when the force of reality Joey's not here has overtaken me. I see these gifts, and I am truly grateful.

Today is a stark reminder that life is too short. It really is. Say what you mean, say it clearly. Don't worry about what mistake you might make. Because you don't want that mistake to be missing the last phone call or not opening the door when someone is reaching to you for what is the final opportunity to say or show what is really in your heart. These are my biggest regrets, ones that no one--not anyone--can erase for me.

George McGovern writes of his grief over the loss of his daughter, Terry, to alcoholism. She slipped and fell in an icy parking lot, and froze to death after an in and out of rehab spin of 30 days. I'm paraphrasing but he said something like, "I regret that she laid there, freezing to death, wondering if I loved her". Those words came back to me as the details of Joey's last hours were being pieced together. "Did he lay on that bed wondering if I loved him?" He had made several additional unsuccessful attempts to reach me by phone. I'll never really know, but my heart believes that while his mind, riddled with drugs and alcohol at the time of his passing, may have questioned it--in every other cell of his body and his soul, he knew and still knows how much I love him. And I always will.

I try now to answer the calls, reply to the messages that I receive immediately. I knew we were on the precipice on May 18th, I just didn't know that May 19th was going to be the final act. And I don't want to suffer that regret twice.

There's so much more to say. Niall, I am sorry we lost you so quickly. I'm sorry to your family and your friends who will never "get over" your death. I hope that, even though you and Joey never knew each other on this plane--you will meet in heaven. Profoundly, truly sorry, dear young man.

I know that Joey is the angel who greets those who cross. I know when I make the march, he will be the first one there to take my hand (whatever that really means in the spiritual world). Until then Joey, I have things to take care of on this side. I miss you and I do something in your honor each and every day. Some days I have more success than others. You'd be so proud of the feline lives I've helped save and the kitties who live in my care. The friendships I've sustained...I wish you could be here to share all of this with me. Then again, I suppose you are...

With love and gratitude.
Peace.


Joey and me, The Camden Club, November 1994. Baltimore, Maryland. This was his favorite picture of us.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kitty Skype

Do you think that I could come up with a Skype for cats? Cuz I do believe that if Valentina could summon me on the computer, she would.

I'm trying to imagine it: Coco, Manhattan and Valentina all love my laptop so I could teach them how to go over and put their paw on a pad that would then make mama appear on the screen. And I could talk to them. They could purr and rub their faces on the camera. Then what?

In my mind, this is part of the solution to dealing with the seperation anxiety I feel being gone for so long. Skype.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Californicaion

Today, I write my blog post from sunny Burbank, California. I'm here on a 10 day business trip. Like most things in my life, this has presented quite a paradox: I love California, love coming here for work or vacation--but I detest being away from the kitties.

My preparation for departure was so intense that the day prior to my flight, I was on the way to the gym to work out with the wonderful Fieramosco--and I became ill in the car. Like three times dry heaved, pulling over to make sure I didn't cause an accident. I had to cancel and turn around for home. This is not like me: I don't vomit when I am praying that I could to alleviate nausea. The only explanation is anxiety. Sheer anxiety.

I'm not afraid of airports, or flying, or staying in a hotel. But I do hate the whole process of travel. The packing. The having to carefully choose what I bring and what stays behind. And forget it on the set up for the pet sitters~good grief. It's mind boggling.

My morning seems very bland without kitty paws and purring and playing at 5AM. My return to the hotel room is anti-climatic without the rush of curled up cat tails headed in my direction, greeting me and simultaneously demonstrating that it is feeding time.

However, this is a great town. And I have to learn to enjoy what is put in my path. Oh, not everything is joyful. But certainly a business trip to sunny So Cal, that can go in the "good" column.

I'm just getting adjusted to the time difference and over my initial exhaustion. Friday I hope to have dinner with a friend and then Saturday and Sunday enjoy the area: Santa Monica, maybe Venice Beach...and then Manhattan Beach on Tuesday with another friend...

I won't stop missing my girls...I can do both--miss them and enjoy the visit. Just don't ask me to choose one over the other.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

And the winner is....Manhattan!

I entered a little contest on Facebook: I Rescued My Pet... posted a picture of Manhattan after her first surgery. The contest sponsors, Whiskers and Leo, emailed me and requested a more recent picture of her which I happily sent along. 30 Minutes later I received notification that we won the contest. This means $25 off my next pet sitting service (convenient, as I have a business trip in the near future), and a $25 gift certificate from PetSmart. Additionally, Manhattan is featured on their Facebook page and will be on their home page.

Silly as this Facebook contest sounds, it made my day brighter. Because I remember the internal struggle I had while she was a street kitty: wanting so much to save her and integrate her with Coco and Valentina, yet afraid of having 3 cats and what that would do to my budget and my reputation (you know, "Crazy Cat Lady"). When she went missing from our normal feeding routine, N and I knew right away that something was wrong. We gained access to the underbelly of my building--once an A&P Warehouse--and found her. Starving and injured. Talking to us--trying to tell us the story of her battle within the feral colony. We would not know the full extent of her wounds until we got her to the second animal hospital and they discovered a bite that articulated from one side of her to the other: some critter [a possum? a rat?] had nearly bitten her in half.

She went into surgery the next day, and when the vet called to tell me she was out and recovering, and her prognosis was very good, I cried. This little 7 month old kitten had suffered because I wavered on a decision--and I was so relieved that I was able to save her from the clutches of death. Both the emergency vet and the regular vet who performed the surgery told me she was within days of dying. And both of them thanked me for helping her.

Today, if you had not read this story, you wouldn't know to look at her that she had been through such trauma. She plays and eats like a champ, and she snuggles with me whatever chance she gets. Each nite as I get ready for slumber land, she puts herself in her little kitty bed so that I can say goodnight to her before lights out. I learned so much from watching her fortitude during her recovery process, and through gaining her trust.

Thank you Manhattan for letting me rescue you: I know you were scared when we caught you, I know going to the vet and letting humans touch you for the first time was a horrifying experience. And I know being at the vet hospital and enduring two surgeries (life saving, then spay) was not an easy transition. But you made it and then came to live with your new sisters Coco and Valentina, and you've added a dimension to our life here that we didn't expect or know was possible.

Snoopy paws, The Mad Hatter, Little M...whatever name I call you by, I'm so happy I have you as part of my family. I love you, little girl!


During her first recovery from surgery in late February, 2010. And a more recent picture by her favorite bed and on her scratcher. The Winner of the Whiskers & Leo I Rescued My Pet Contest: Manhattan Bay...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birthdays and Anniversaries

This whole notion of time passage is hitting me square in the face right now.
I just turned 47 on Tuesday. My parents celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary the day prior. Severals days before, my little Valentina turned 3. And, looming ahead in the distance is Joey's 10th anniversary. Ten years since I've seen that face, held that hand. Heard that laugh.

I never know which way the marking of his death is going to hit me, physically, mentally, spiritually. Will I cry when I wake up? Will I melt down in the middle of Manhattan for no apparent reason? Will I go for a run and pass 8 miles before I realize that my legs are moving? All of these things have happened. It's the when part that is unknown. While the time frame is approximate, the feeling, when it hits, is quick and specific. Like an ice cold rush of water on the body.

Given that my mom's health is on the decline, her memory slowly slipping away in the sands of time, I am inclined to think more deliberately about my past. I try to bring forth a morsel of it to share with her on phone calls, to see what she remembers and how the two of us can review any moment of family life. What additional perspective she can give--if any at all--is always welcomed. I didn't do enough of this before her mind was impacted, and I lament that there are facts and details and loving things locked up like prisoners in the recesses of her brain. Will I learn that lesson, the lesson that keeps coming back to me: don't wish away time. Don't wish for more or better. Because more and better are right here. Abundance is within reach.

I said a few posts ago that I wanted to write more about the emotions that swelled up inside when I learned of the deaths of two youths from my home town of Howard County. I've been inert. Because it means looking at that date on the calendar, that May 19th date on the calendar, and remembering a loss so profound that it took about 5 years to shoulder the pain. I'm much better at that externally than I was back then. The flip side is an inability to communicate with any level of clarity my feelings about grief. I used to be better at this. How did that shift? Why?

This blog, if I can take on the routine and discipline of writing, will serve to help me go back to those emotions. Not because I want to feel sad--but because I want to remember the important details and feelings associated with those events. I know dealing with loss made me a more empathic person. Perhaps this paralysis set in when I lost my job over 3 years ago. I lost me somewhere in the process. I think my self esteem left town first, and then my sense about people took off as part of the search party.

Time to re-group, to pull together those emotions set asunder during the course of the last 4 years. Time to address the grief and loss and simultaneously celebrate the love and abundance. And remember the accomplishments in that timeframe too. It isn't all a tale of woe.

Days like today, I can't help but wonder what Joey would make of this life of mine: living outside of New York; the friendships I've forged; the stupid relationships I clung to for no good reason; the 5 kitties and the studio apartment and the marathons and all of it. My path alone. My path with him as my angel.

If I could, I'd tell him I'm sorry I didn't answer the phone one last time.
Through writing this post, I've unearthed the tears that have been storing up. Here we go, into the Valley of Grief.  Not to worry, I don't isolate myself there. I know how to live in that world and the real world at the same time.

Maybe in my next post I'll write about chocolate chip cookies. Something sweet and delicious.

Until then, I share with you the song that is currently on continuous loop in my head.

Sound Garden: Tears of Pearls



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Valentina, Baby

Happy birthday, Baby Valentina Rossa! Today you are three years old.

This is Valentina's Debut photo, her first day in the Princess Palace, approx 5 weeks old. We sat on the couch together, and she purred for so long that I thought for sure she'd wear herself out: but she has Energizer Batteries in her somewhere, and can keep up that beautiful sound for what seems like hours. It lulls me to sleep some nights and welcomes me home from trips to N. Ireland as well as ShopRite. 

Each adoption has taught me something more about life and about myself. Valentina has taught me that each day has the opportunity for joy and for play. I love you, little girl. Go play with your toy mice...



Monday, April 16, 2012

Progress, not procrastination

I've hit my limit. Procrastination, be gone. This weekend I was scheduled to run the MORE Half Marathon in Central Park. I didn't. I didn't because I came up with a boatload of excuses and things to do rather than my training runs. Shame on me.

And here I sit, complaining about feeling out of shape, and tiring too early. You know what helps those conditions? Running. Running helps combat exhaustion and muscle atrophy.

Last week, I texted my trainer and we are set for a long overdue session this coming Sunday. He is a straight shooter, zero tolerance for excuses kind of guy. I will be squatting and lunging and sweating starting at 10A.

My cleanse is going well. I keep thinking I want coffee, but I really don't. It's such an emotional bond I have. The physical part of it I worked through within three days. Again, I procrastinated giving up coffee and found myself completely wedded to my daily cup, like it or not. Often my gastro-intestinal system DID NOT LIKE.

And the last rant for today's post: finally I changed the design elements on the blog. Hopefully I followed the carefully prepared instructions for me as outlined...I feel progress, even through the sea of jello through which I find myself swimming some days. Progress, not procrastination.

Marine Corps Marathon, October 2004.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Awful Grace of God

I've mentioned the book Broken Open. I found a brief passage in a much longer entry about grief that is a glimpse into some of my emotions of late:

"...we learned the lessons of grief, like music or medicine or art or parenting or marriage, must be lived fully to be understood. And so began our journey through the 'awful grace of God'. ...were it not for our friends and family--who flung themselves into the our brokeness, to hold our heads above the water--we may well have drowned in our sorrow." -Elizabeth Lesser


Monday, April 9, 2012

Untitled

Last week, two young people from my home town were put to rest after hard fought battles with leukemia and cancer. The mother of the young man who died wrote compelling posts to a Caring Bridge page she started when he suddenly and seriously fell ill. Posts I read occasionally in the early parts of his illness and  without fail the last few weeks of his life.

These posts, coupled with my own journey with grief, further complicated by the rapidly approaching 10th anniversary of Joey's passing, have stirred up thoughts and emotions and sheer inertia in completing a blog entry about the topic.

I'm reminded of the Keanu Reeves quotation, "Grief changes shape, but it never ends". This strikes a chord with me as I'm catapulted back to my own initial days after Joey's passing and the unhelpful and actually incorrect things people say about death.

So much sadness. For now, I'll say I'm sorry that families and friends are bearing the burden of these losses. How do you comfort a parent? How do you reconcile the loss?

I agree with Keanu. How it changes, and what shape it takes is not within our control. That doesn't mean our life is out of control. For me it has meant learning how to lean into it.

At some indeterminate point in time, the thoughts and emotions will flow onto a page.

Until then, if you have your health and if things in your life are moving along at a normal pace, be grateful. The alternative is rarely how to handle your winnings from the lottery jackpot.



Wind in his hair, surrounded by friends...Joey in 1999 at the Tuna Tournament.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Complete

For those awaiting the end of the story, Lulu is spayed. Tuesday, Dr. H and vet tech L came to my apartment with a pole where a sedative shot is attached. This pole aids vets in delivering care to feral or other cats who are difficult to handle. We really should have had a video camera rolling...

They were able to corner Lulu in a closet where she was wedged between the wall and a storage box. Bessie was too smart for all of us, so we were not able to sedate her; this was disappointing but not important. Lulu needed to be spayed, and while at the animal hospital her initial vaccinations were completed. She also received a mani/pedi, ear cleaning, teeth check, and a microchip just to top off my bill...oy...

Of course she had to run into what I call "Monica's closet". This is a reference from Friends episode titled: The One with the Secret Closet, where Chandler discovers that neat-freak Monica actually has a space that is a complete disaster. Pretty much what this closet looks like....I have tried to organize it but to no avail. Whenever I move from apartment dwelling, I intend to hire a designer to assist me in maximizing storage areas.

Upon her return, she went immediately under the bed, refusing to have anything to do with the cat playpen I purchased. Instead, Coco, Valentina and Manhattan occupy it as if they are inside a special kitty tent. Lulu and Bessie were so happy to be reunited that Lulu purred like a little champion every time I looked at her...she even allowed me to scratch her head, face and chin. A good sign that she is not mad at me.

I can only characterize the house call from Dr. H and vet tech L as something out of Dog, The Bounty Hunter. Without Leeland and walkie-talkies....

Now, let's see what happens with behaviors once the hormones level out; this should take a few weeks. In the meantime, I've started with some holistic remedies to help. I hope they do something more than waste my money and time...

This is Lulu's first solo picture, taken in August. I just love that little face.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time

Two posts in one day? How'd that happen?

I am waiting for the vet to come to my apartment to sedate Bessie and Lulu. This is not a fun process for me because I have to starve them in order for them to be sedated. And that means feeding Coco, Vali and Manhattan in the bathroom. They weren't thrilled about their dining locale this morning but did oblige, begrudgingly. Until Manhattan had enough of being in a small space and starting jamming her paw under the door in a desperate attempt to escape on her own.

To pass the time, between waking up and sleep state for the Feral Two, I walked to ShopRite, bought coffee. Came back and have been furiously texting people, as well as returning phone calls. I also did a quick white tornado cleaning in the bathroom. You know, because that's what I do when given the gift of time...

Valentina is now camped out in the kitty playpen I bought to help with behavioral steps provided by the cat whisperer. Vali thinks it's grand. Coco and Manhattan have also checked it out. When B & L return from the vet, I'll attempt to put them in there, and get a barrier to block C/V/M from them while Lulu recovers from spay surgery, and while both B&L establish the scent of the household on them instead of the scent of the vet. That smell is likely to drive Coco over the edge into her full lioness personality. I don't need to find myself with any more cat scratches or bites than I've acquired in the last month, and don't know how I'd explain a second trip to the ER to anyone.

It's an interesting place to be in, sitting on the cusp of big changes. I'm not in full gear yet, but I am working toward that as a goal. There was a lot of internal work I needed to do to prepare for this time and place. I'll start sharing that soon. Like, how I had to come to terms with the end of a, well let's not go so far to say it was a relationship--so let's say the termination of contact with a male in my life; I'm so much better off without the anguish I allowed it to cause me. And the realization that my career is really more a succession of work assignments than the career I had imagined as as student at Hood College. Learning over and over again who are the friends that truly understand me, and those who find my external processing burdensome...all of these at first painful epiphanies have moved me to a state of feeling peace. Oh, not total peace. Goodness, no. I'm still working on the critic who lives inside.

I asked her to go on an extended vacation, but she doesn't seem to have access to a travel agent.

Looking around at the circumstances facing people in my life, even if those people are tertiary to me, I realize that there is a path to a better place if I'm willing to forge ahead. The book Broken Open was pivotal for me last year and has served to propel my search for The New Place. It inspired me to take the online blogging course. And to take a look at all of these seemingly terrible experiences from my recent and long term past, and find the truth about me embedded within; I'm still on that quest. And working on forgiving myself for a lifetime of transgressions against family, friends, ex boyfriends, co workers. These transgressions were all linked with finding my greater good. Fortunately, some people survived long enough to see the transformations unfurl. Others didn't; I lament that the image they have of me could be the younger Laura, tripping over emotions and adult complications. Perhaps these people only remember the good. I hope so...because I know I shared more good than I probably allow for in my critical mind.

And with that, I'll end this post so I can pace and wring my hands whilst I await Dr. H's arrival. Just shoved C and V into the bathroom so Coco doesn't go ape-shit when the vet walks in smelling like a vet. Vali wanted food. M will rush into a closet so I am not worried about her...okay I'm worried but have to divert that worry for now. This heart can only carry so much at once...


Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Last time I posted I had all good intentions of writing again within two days.

And we all know the saying about good intentions, and the road that's paved with them....

I did, by the way, run 5 miles on Sunday of last week. And the running shoes are sitting patiently by my front door, waiting their next round on the treadmill.

It has been quite a ten day stretch. I started my new assignment in NYC. Loving *loving* not driving to work for 90 minutes a day. We'll see how I actually end up liking the work, but so far, so good. A designer has started work on the blog for me. I tried tweaking some things per her suggestions but she ultimately will come in and tidy up for me. Can you feel the progress?

Seems like there is positive motion with Le Chats~but it truly is a two steps forward, one step back dance. Lulu was supposed to go to the vet on Thursday, along with Bessie. This can only be accomplished by having the vet come to my apartment to sedate them. As luck would have it, the office was over-booked on surgeries that day and we postponed. So today I have to take off from work in the morning again, and occupy myself while I starve the poor little dears so they can be properly sedated. It is all very stressful for me so I leave the apartment and hang out at ShopRite with my favorite morning employees, then come back and ignore the cats. This should be a good story...

The real challenge I'm told will be in the re-introduction to the apartment. Keep everything crossed.

That's all for now folks. I chose a quote from Alice in Wonderland, asked by the Mad Hatter~Manhattan's nickname is Mad Hatter, for my post title today....You can read more about the Hatter's quote here.




Friday, March 16, 2012

It Keeps You Running

A busy week for an unemployed gal. I've taken care of all sorts of mini-projects. I even went for a run last night. (Let's not get ahead of ourselves, we have to see if I run again today...THEN we can say there is progress).

Found out that the landlord of my building is not interested in doing any further mold testing. He feels that  ripping out the dry wall to remediate any mold [that in my non-expert opinion is likely to be there] is "excessive". So, just for my own peace of mind I went to the Department of Health and Human Services site for NJ. This prompted a call, and I spoke with Paul. Paul was helpful, but then had to break the news to me: NJ does not have laws requiring landlords to do anything about mold. This, he explained, is not the position of the Department of Health. But it's the sad reality. And rather frustrating.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this. We have differing opinions. There is deconstruction going on across the street/ outside my apartment window now, and so I feel that the universe is beginning to push me to make a bigger change. And I believe the temporary move to the penthouse and subsequent move back to my apartment would have been incredibly stressful and would not have guaranteed the problems were all appropriately addressed.

It is the opinion of this court (the one inside my head) that I need to stay @150 Bay, for now. Focus on the new gig and do well; work the kitties and facilitating dramatic improvements for them (and ultimately me). In the background, I can look for another apartment. So much more information will come forward as I settle into the new assignment--I need to allow that to come to me, organically instead of trying to engineer everything. Is that a result of having a dad who is an engineer? "I'll take 'Blame My Parents for $500,' please!". Let's not....let's just say it is one of my [sometimes] endearing quirks and a part of my personality that serves me well in some instances and not so well in others. There's certainly time to discuss that fact in future posts....

In other news, I've found someone who is going to help me with design on the blog. There are lots of little things going on, that will slowly accumulate to big things. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so said Lao-Tzu.

Today is a rainy day here in the ghetto. Secretly I'm happy because I have a lot to accomplish--some preparation for an offsite I'll deliver on Wednesday with a colleague, more filing and cleaning up of my documents on my personal computer. All mundane, adult-type tasks but ones that will help me in my struggle to stay focused.

For those of you reading along with me this far, I promise: this blog-thingy is going to get better. The fun commences with the Cat Whisperer's Behavioral Plan. First order of business: working on group scent and getting additional food and water stations around the apartment for Coco, Valentina and Manhattan. And get Lulu to the vet PRONTO for her spay surgery!

Tomorrow, or Sunday, I'll give some insight to the things I'll be deploying to help improve the tensions among the felines.  Here is Coco in her Pounce stance. And by pounce I mean like a Puma, not like Tigger....

Stay tuned for a run update! 3 miles last night. Easy. I see 4 on today's menu...




Monday, March 12, 2012

Hello, Goodbye...

I've imagined posting for a week. Each day, the topics roll through my brain. Somehow I've managed to escape opening the page and typing words. Probably because so many disparate thoughts and therefore emotions have converged in a small window of time, on such a small mind... hello, goodbye; grateful, hopeful; glad and sad...

Last week, I wrapped up my contract assignment in Somerset, NJ. While I won't miss the drive from Jersey City I will miss the people. Both projects I had were great learning opportunities for me and I was lucky to have made several good friends--people who will stay in my life despite the distance that will be between us as I move into a job in the Big Apple.

The next gig is the one I interviewed for last week. I'm 90% there, just a final reference check that must be completed. As I suspected, I conjured up a whole list of things to do (like organizing my old photos--yea, right) and won't have time to address even a fraction of them. But I did manage to get myself to a yoga class this morning, so I've got that goin' for me, which is nice..

For now, I post a picture of Manhattan. The Kitty, Not the City.




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

Story time: Yesterday, I went for a face to face interview for what looks like will be my next contract assignment. It's in Manhattan (big round of applause). Until I start, I'll withhold details of where and what company. Because whenever I get ahead of myself, it comes flinging back in my face like a misfired rubberband.

Everything went well. I liked the hiring manager, he liked me. We both are former PwCC/IBM Consultants, although we were in different practices. In our world (the I Used to be An Uppity Consultant world), it's like we were distant cousins meeting for the first time...anyway, this particular role for which I interviewed will not be terribly sexy in the beginning, but he told me--and the friend who referred me confirmed this fact--there's a lot to do from a transformation/OD perspective within the organization. And the contract could--most likely will-- evolve in to very interesting work and last longer than the initial few months originally quoted.

Tomorrow, I'm set up to speak with the agency that this company uses to handle contractors. I figure if they keep it to the basic security check, and reference checking--I'm good. On the contrary, if they ask me how many cats I've rescued in the last few years, or they attempt to gauge how I feel about the recent *ridiculous* commentary about reproduction and healthcare, it could be a slippery slope.

Assuming this works out and I land this gig, it means that I will go for less than a week without employment, which is grand. And it means that I'll get to wear jeans to the office. Jeans and other such casual clothes. This prospect makes me really happy. I feel the need to shop for fun and whimsical outfits....

This morning, I woke up to find Bessie and Lulu in the bedroom area windows. Well, actually this was after the 5A feeding--when I crawl back into bed and nap before I make may way to the shower...as I approached Lulu, I realized she was staring at me through the freshly cut hole she fashioned in my curtain panel. My ABC Carpet gauze like curtain panel. It's a really good thing she is adorable.

Next: working out the negotiations for my apartment switch...Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!!

In future posts, owe you some detailed stories about my cats. Manhattan's rescue? Coco's arrival in my life when I had no job? Valentina's penchant for chewing wires? Sigh...where to begin? I will probably begin at the beginning~when I was feeding a beautiful black and white kitty who lived outside...

Lulu's artwork. If she were in kindergarten, would I be mad at her for coloring on the wall? Yea, probably....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This Life's More Than Just a Read-Through

I heard the song Can't Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers yesterday, and changed my Facebook status to the final lyrical lines in the song:
Can't stop the spirits when they need you
This life's more than just a read through...

This isn't uncommon for me--Facebook status updates are frequently lyrics to songs that are either stuck on continuous loop in my brain, or just cycled on my iPod. I find profound meaning in lyrics, and prior to the internet used to spend hours hitting rewind to memorize all the words to my favorite songs.

As I reflected on this particular notion--this life's more than just a read through, I found myself wondering how much time I've spent treating this life LIKE a read through. And, at what point would I decide the play, the movie, the video--whatever--was no longer a rehearsal but live--for real. 

I don't have an answer to the question. Maybe this is related to all of the changes coming my way; maybe not. Could it be that I'm pouring over the last 10 years of my life--the 10 years that have swept by since Joey's death, wondering if I've made any significant progress on this journey? Perhaps it's a mixture of both. 

There are days where I feel that I've not matured, improved, grown. Other days I know I have taken steps forward, but somehow I still feel stuck in rehearsal mode. You know, when I make enough money, or when I can find someone who will travel to Italy with me, or next year. These are my convenient excuses for not putting myself in full PLAY mode.

I'm finally at peace with working as a contractor, so much so that I don't know if I want to go back to a full time job and deal with the politics, the competition, the endless overtime hours unpaid and under-appreciated. Because I am not independently wealthy, I have applied not only for contract assignments but also full time jobs in two geographic areas: NY/NJ, where I currently live, and DC/MD, close to my parents. And my life long friends. I hope for contracts, but will accept full time. A girl's gotta have great shoes...

I'm not exactly sure where blogging will take me, from a career standpoint. But I'm hoping that doors open as I look at the chronicles I establish. Also hope to polish my writing skills because I do believe there is a way to monetize this skill. Maybe not on the blogosphere, at least not through Squeedunk--but somehow.

Add to my list of changes: Robert, my friend who turned 50 last week, just packed up for a 5-6 week stint in his hometown in PA. Robert is my best friend in the Jersey City area. He checks on me every day. He lifts heavy things for me and hangs artwork, keeps me up to date on the local gossip. He makes me laugh and feeds me. And I rely on his opinion and point of view heavily. I cried when I said goodbye to him today. He's two hours away and we both have iPhones. While I know change of all kind can be good--often is good--I struggle with the process. 

In summary, my mind is racing. I want to embrace all of the change, I want to evolve. I want Robert to be successful creating the beautiful sculptures he will make in his PA studio, I want us both to end up in living situations over the next few months that help us live life in PLAY mode, not rehearsal. 

But, the tears are flowing. Maybe it's time to go for a run. Ah, what excuse can I come up with today?
None? Oh. Sigh.


This is Coco, next to two of Robert's spheres, at approximately 8 months of age. She is an art kitty.



Friday, March 2, 2012

Just Toss the Dice

When change finally hits, it typically has an unexpected velocity. I find myself in the middle of such change at the moment.  None of it is completely unforeseen, but each piece of it has enough not-yet- answered questions that I find myself swimming in my own anxiety.

First, I took on two foster kitties in August. How I went from August to March with them still in the apartment is not quite clear to me, but here I am. Lulu is a kitten, and she is going through heat cycles. I want to have her spayed but she isn't the easiest kitty to catch. I can't even touch her mama, Bessie. So long story short--and it is a longer story--the vet has to come over with a pole and sedatives and shoot them under the bed to cart them both off to her office for the surgery (Lulu only), a mani/pedi, and other important health checks. So there's that. (Did I mention that Lulu's heat cycles are accompanied by a need to mark territory--her favorite spot to pee is on my comforter? Yea, that's fun).

Second, I've had a leak in my apartment since the day I moved in on June 1, 2006. Oh boy, had I been blogging at that point in time the tales I'd have told. To get to the point of today's anxiety,  let's say I'm considering a move out of my apartment on a temporary basis, to a smaller but very cool space on the penthouse floor. This is only one floor up, but it is a move and requires packing, bubble wrap, organization and patience. And the skill to move 5 cats. (Really, the crazy cat lady remarks are unfounded. I mean, I may be crazy. But I don't own a housecoat).

Third, I am out of work next week. If I knew that I'd be back to work in a week or two, I would enjoy the time. But not knowing when I'll be back, how long between paychecks, or what my new pay rate will be~I'm a tad uptight. I'd really rather jet off to Florida but I'll likely be here in Jersey City overseeing such tasks as endless networking to land the next contract assignment and frantically preparing for the move.

Oh, to top it all off, I'm supposed to run a half marathon in April and I continue to find reasons (mostly health related but not really) to avoid my training runs. I have a feeling this anxiety will end up fueling the runs. And that is a good thing.

The water tower on top of my building. Did I mention I'd have a washer and dryer in the Penthouse apartment? Yea, no sharing machines, no waiting... That would be cool...right???

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hands of a Murderer Were Inside My Mouth

My sister, who lives in Northern Ireland with her husband, called me some time ago in a bit of a panic. She learned that her dentist was just arrested for murder. Some sordid love triangle-double murder-alleged suicide story. I can't quite remember the details, but suffice it to say she was quite worked up about the fact that this man had cleaned her teeth and checked for cavities AND murdered his wife and his lover's husband. Not all on the same day, mind you. But a wife murderer had his hands inside MY MOUTH, she explained.

This thought floated through my mind this evening as Dr. Mei Mei Cheng was carefully and dutifully cleaning my teeth. I am not concerned that I will have to call my sister about my dentist. But it does make me wonder what person in my life has an identity that, if revealed, would drive me into a froth.

I'm good for another 6 months.

My sister Julie and her fashionable shoes.

Oh, on the job front, I'm making connections. I'm feeling very hopeful that I won't miss more than a week without working.


Monday, February 27, 2012

A Change Will Do You Good...

Today, I found out my contract assignment is ending. Not a surprise, but I wish I had more than a two week notification.

This news comes at a time when I'm trying to determine what to do about my apartment. My apartment that has leaked for the entire length of my lease (like day 1 I moved in to water on the floor). The same apartment that suffered some damage during Hurricane Irene in August (if you've lost track of time, it's now February). Do I want to have them come in and do the requisite repairs, or is this the signal to move out of the building? Is it time to move out of Jersey City altogether?

I don't know.

I do know that my normal problems, ranging of such complicated topics as do I have the right eye shadow colors to when do I go for a run, are now eclipsed by my mother's declining health.

Nothing I've described is weird; but the day feels weird, somehow. Then the message from the ex boyfriend arrives in my e-mail box. One sentence: "I was thinking about you this morning and thought I'd write to see how you are." There it sits, mocking me, in my inbox. This ex, by the way, is an ex of 18 years. I haven't seen him or heard from him until sometime last year. On LinkedIn no less.  Not anxious to compose my reply.

Stay tuned though. The wild ride is coming. I can feel it. Where to live? Where to work? Will I find work? What do I do until then?

I escaped another night without running. Who said actually training for a half marathon is a good idea?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Highlights

Today my good friend Robert turns 50. I can remember when 50 sounded old. Near retirement, aging.  It's funny how time shifts perspective. Now I see 50 as an achievement. People who are 50 are street smart and clear about what they like and don't like. Most importantly, finished with the game playing that tends to accompany us through our 20's and into our 30's.
He's having a party tonight. Not a birthday party, but a party on his birthday. In preparation, I'm heading to the salon to have highlights put in my hair. I love going to see Peter (stylist). I will walk out looking like a rock star.

I have to finish reading my assignments for this blogging course I'm taking, so am hoping to continue to fine tune the lay out of the pages and care for the important details that will make this venture successful. I don't mean financially successful, I simply mean intrinsically.

If my hair is a winner, I'll post a picture. It is like Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day here in the NYC area.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pardon our appearance as we remodel...

This whole notion of setting up a blog has been in my mind for a long time. So here I am, and in my typical fashion am not thinking about the actual posts but whether or not I can hire someone to help me with the colors and the fonts. So pardon our appearance as we remodel...

During my therapy sessions following the death of Joey--my boyfriend (hate that term, but loved him) of 8 years, I was strongly encouraged to journal. I rejected the advice. It felt too much like keeping a diary, somewhat narcissistic, and I saw no value at the time. Looking back, I wish I had accepted this wise suggestion. There is much that I could gain today from the reflection of the Laura who suffered an unimaginable loss at the age of 37. 

In the near decade that has escaped through my hands since Joey's passing, I've had so many experiences that extend beyond the grief where I also wish I had jotted a few notes. So this will be my venue to document the day to day, the epiphanies and the mundane. Be warned: I love paradox.

It will be like an interactive diary. And a way to educate friends and perhaps a few followers about feral cats, or the finer points of being a good citizen when standing in line at Shop Rite. For now, I'll start with an introduction: Why Squeedunk?

My mom grew up the youngest in a family of 5. Her brother Bill used to call her Squeedunk when she was a pre-adolescent girl. Mom in turn used this as a nickname for cats. I should mention that my love of cats was handed down to me from my Mom. And probably my Uncle Bill (a veterinarian), and both of them likely inherited this from my grandfather (I never knew him) who was also a veterinarian. Given that I have adopted the term I thought it a nice tribute to the Kernick side of the family.

Cards on the Table Time, as a tag line? Lyrics from "I Confess" by The English Beat. I love the line and it's really how I see life--I prefer it when people are direct and to the point with me; and likewise, I tell folks not to ask my opinion if the unvarnished truth is not what they seek. I know I've bruised a few egos over time, yet for the most part, I think (with my friends I KNOW) people appreciate that I say it as I see it.

When I have mentioned blogging to some people in my life, I've received reactions from "what will you write about" (tone ranging from interest to skepticism~given that I'm not an expert on anything), to feigned smiles as if to say, "I don't really think that's a good idea". Fully expect that there will be some who refute this venture. To that I say, "Don't read, and don't ask." 

And with that, I publish my first post. My first real post.