Monday, December 12, 2011

Progress: It Happens Occasionally

Thanksgiving weekend marked the one year anniversary of being in my new home. I had intended a photo essay chronicling the improvements I'd made in the intervening year, but alas, it was not to be. It took a couple more weeks to get things to the place I could actually allow photos of my house to be published. It helps that my Christmas decorations are up; Christmas makes anything look better!

But first, a reminder of what it used to be.....

My old room...My new room had the same wood paneling, but was in worse condition.

The kitchen.

The entryway.

The living room after I first painted it.

I am sooooooooooo happy with my new bedroom now that I've moved in. After staying for over a year in a dark brown wood-paneled room, I am glad to settle into my own space with my own furniture, in my own bed! Technically, I'm not in my own bed yet, because I don't have the board to support the mattress. I'm more under my own bed, but it still has a nice feel to it.

The kitchen:

The entryway:

The living room:

Laura's room:

My room:

Any rooms not shown are not fit for public consumption. One thing at a time, people!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree.....

Your branches are in danger....

We have always tried to put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, mostly because I can't wait another day to have Christmas in the house. But this year we didn't get it quite done on Friday, so Saturday night found Caleb and me working on assembling the little tree I bought last season.

Little did we know what a complete waste of time it would turn out to be! It's been years since I had kittens at Christmas. Poppy, our family cat, has long since become too, er, robust to even think about hoisting herself into a tree. Our ornaments have hung unmolested for years. Until now.

Actually, I didn't even bother to put the ornaments on. After a few days, I didn't even bother to put the branches back on. Clearly I would have to try a different approach. Phase one was to buy a tiny tree from the thrift store, one with branches already attached to the "trunk". That became our living room tree, one that will be decorated minutes before my annual ornament exchange party, then consigned to its fate after the event.

Phase two was to move up a room switch planned for after the holidays. Once I was in my (bigger) new room, I'd be able to put the family tree up and shut the door. Little by little, I got the room painted and ready; I was able to pick up a very nice used tree for $20 , and this weekend, I finally got it finished--not without repeated assaults by felines delighted at this evidence of belated wisdom on my part.

Why had their human never thought to provide them an indoor tree before? Hobbes especially thought it the cat's meow, because he doesn't much like the outdoors. Too much.....NATURE! But nice tame indoor trees? He approves. So much so, that as I sit in my room, gazing at my tree, the door safely shut, I often see a little cream-tipped paw raking underneath, trying to claw its way in.

Not that he's the only tree hugger in the group. Lazarus Boopsie likes to play king of the mountain, and Tinkerbell launches constant surprise assaults on the ornaments. None of them have been allowed in since the whole tree got decorated, but Hobbes did sneak in once. He managed to knock several pieces off before we snagged his indignant body from the tree and carried him out complaining like an Occupy Wall Street protester.

Occupy the Christmas tree!

Monday, November 28, 2011

For Your Viewing Pleasure

The unseasonably warm temperatures have been doing interesting things to the ice around here. The snow on the ice melts into puddles on the ice, and during the day these puddles look dark and forbidding. But if you add a killer sunset, these pools are transformed into beautiful swatches of reflected sky.

My son, who is not normally a poetical person, described it as resembling a painter's pallet. Each pool is a different color, just like daubs of paint waiting to be transferred to the canvas.

I took a number of shots, but I just can't decide on my favorite, so I uploaded them all. Deal with it.


Thanksgiving was very interesting this year. For one thing, we are in the middle of a heat wave. Temperatures have been up in the 40's almost every day. I'd been planning for a couple of weeks to have a skating party in the afternoon since all the kids would be out of school. I even went to the thrift store and bought a bunch of ice skates.

But alas, it was not to be. Thanksgiving found me wearing a tank top and airing out my house with both doors open. There was still ice, but with a healthy bit of water over the top of it. Not ice that you want to do your first test skate of the season on. A far cry from the highs 5 days before when I was swaddled up to my gills in order to keep warm!

We were planning to have the dinner out at my house, but the morning of my grandpa was too weak to travel. I still had my teeth set on cleaning my house, even if the company wasn't coming, so that's what I did all morning. Along about 3:00 we started to have conversations like, "So, what do you think we should have for dinner?"

The dinner was still good, though it wasn't planned in the military fashion my grandma would have approached it with, back in the day. We all enjoyed each others' company, and isn't that the most important part? Plus, the food was delicious, even if it was a little late to the party.

The dogs certainly didn't mind. They got their own Thanksgiving plates, courtesy of my mom, and their typical character traits were in full array. Jackie hurled herself at her plate and gulped down the food while Finley was still sniffing delicately around for the best first nibble. Jackie does not believe in savoring.

Get ready, set, GO!

Five seconds later. Literally.

So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving day? There are truly too many things to count, but to list just a few of them, I am thankful for friends and family that love each other, for a chance to spend time with them, and for a God that guides me every step of the way (at least the steps that I listen to Him!). I am grateful for a life filled with blessings, even the disguised blessings of trials that help me to grow into the child of God I'm meant to be.

And I'm thankful for purring kittens on my shoulders as I write this. It just doesn't get any better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Have More Cuteness Than You....

Be jealous, people, be jealous.

This evening I picked up two more residents for my kitty half-way house. They are the latest half-siblings of Snickers, Hobbes, and Lazarus Boopsie; yes, their mother managed to cram one more litter in before winter. As a result of being cold-weather babies as opposed to spring or summer litters, these babies are so fuzzy they look like polar bears.

I had cute kittens before I saw these guys. At least, I thought they were cute, but now they are not cute. Their sleek little faces now seem skimpy and spare, and their coats moth-eaten and plain. Poor sweet babies! It's hard to compete with the Shirley Temple of the feline world.

They are taming fast, though they are finding it a little intimidating to go from privileged princesses to one of the teeming masses. Especially the calico; she hides under things and spits at any kitten that pokes its inquiring nose nearby. Soon all six of them will be leaving to go to their new homes (or at least a number that approaches 6). For anyone who might be interested in such wonderful cuteness, I am planning to take them around the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, so you have until then to make up your minds.

What am I? Chopped liver!?!

The Burka of the Plains

The mystery, the allure....

A Pleasant Afternoon Stroll

I arrived back from California to find that winter had savagely attacked fall and torn it limb from limb. To go from 68 degrees to temps in the low 20's in 24 hours was a harsh transition. But not nearly as harsh for me as it was for John! I was at least used to the fall weather; he was still stuck in a warm California haze.

This weekend had the coldest temperatures so far this season. Yesterday afternoon was 3 degrees, feels like minus 7---perfect weather for a stroll. The key to comfort in extreme winter temperatures is in preparation. In the summer, it's "Let me throw on a pair of flip-flops and I'll be right out...". In the winter, it's more like this, "Let me spend the next ten minutes putting on 50 layers, and I'll be right out..."

I was very warm on my walk, but I had on: 2 pairs of socks and snow boots, sweat pants and snow pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece sweatshirt, a nylon vest, and my super green jacket. On my head I had a ski mask and a cap, and two pairs of gloves on my hands. Quite cozy, but somewhere along the way I lost my girlish figure. And discovered the reason why there are so few female bank robbers---those masks do nothing for your looks, let me tell you!

It was a cold, gray day with drifting snow blowing across the prairie. But after days of suitably cold temperatures, I wanted to find out how the pond behind my house was doing. I had a suspicion that it might work as an ice skating pond once it was good and hard.

I made it out to the pond, and saw to my delight that it was frozen hard and smooth. Maybe not quite hard enough for skating yet, but you could tell that's the direction it was headed. I went right up to the edge to see how thick the ice was, and discovered that it wasn't thick enough! I thought I was still on solid ground, but I went right through the thin ice. Barely escaped with my life!

It was still slushy around the grass, but where it was just water was frozen very solid. I can hardly wait til we can get out there on ice skates and frolic in a frigid, frozen frenzy. I shall feel just like the movie "Ice Princess."

I left the promise of good times to come and hiked out by the tree thicket. I hadn't been out there all summer, not wanting to meet a skunk out exploring. I'm assuming most of the skunks are safely tucked away for the winter, so it was a good time to see what had been buried under the snow last winter. One thing I found right away was a fixer-upper car for John. He'll be 18 soon, and shhhhh, don't tell, but I might give it to him for a present.

It was a pretty world to be out and about in, in spite of its cold grayness. The snow gently nestled between the frozen prairie grasses, making everything stand out a little more than usual. Soon it will all be covered to await another spring, but for now, the ghosts of last summer still linger.

Smugness is Unbecoming

You would think that by the time a person achieves almost 70 years of age that they would be beyond the crass, petty pleasure of I-told-you-so's. You would think that, but you'd be WRONG!

My mom didn't think it was a good idea to drive my van to California. She is a devotee of the mystical art of "hearing a funny noise", and insisted that my van was attempting to send a message. "Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee!", it said. Pshaw! I didn't hear anything, and besides, if anything happened, I have AAA.

Well, we didn't end up taking my van once my brother-in-law decided to come along. He likes his suburban-mobile too much to be without it for such an extended period of time. Oh, well, made no difference to me.

The day after we got back, John and I made a 45 mile trip to Crosby. We did our business, and started home; about 8 miles out the van started acting oddly. There was an odd noise coming from the right front tire, but it wasn't flat. In fact, the noise almost sounded like a voice calling, saying....No, it couldn't be.

We sat there and waited for rescue. How ignominious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Stinky-mobile

I don't know about everyone else, but my life is prone to sudden dips, turns, and whorls---all without any warning whatsoever. Last Wednesday I was cruising along, not thinking about anything but work, more work, and Laura's upcoming birthday when suddenly I found I'd be making a trip to California. Immediately.

My oldest son, who'd been spending 10 months on an epic journey of discovery, had suddenly found himself in need of an opportunity for a rigorous scholastic environment to maximize his potential. My brother-in-law agreed to go along to help with the driving (an unkind brother-in-law might point out that he did most of it---can I help it if it was his car, the roads were icy, and my driving made him nervous?).

We started off Friday afternoon, crossing the state in the opposite direction so I could visit Caleb and Laura at their schools. I was able to spend a lovely visit with Laura on her birthday, then left Saturday afternoon for California. By Sunday afternoon we were in the Sacramento area doing some frantically crammed food shopping for some of the goodies that aren't available on the prairie. Since the prairie was not originally settled by Asians, vegetarians, or by traders named Joe.

After a sprint through the must-have's of Sacramento, we headed down to Lodi for Jack to check into his motel. Not a moment too soon, because good ol' Jack was about ready to have a coronary at being forced to be in the proximity of so many ***shudder*** PEOPLE! Jiminy crickets! Someone has been in the wilderness a little long....

Jack's motel was like no other Motel 6 I've ever seen. It had been a Holiday Inn or something, but had gone bankrupt. Motel 6 snapped it up, and Jack stayed in very nice, shiny, and hot-tubby facilities. I wasn't jealous or anything (OK, maybe about the hot tub) because I was going to spend my night with my good friend, Ingrid, her husband Aaron, and her three little girls who have apparently never seen visitors before in their life.

The girls wanted me to sit by them, to tell me everything possible about my stay, fought over who got to carry my bags (I notice *I* had to carry them out at the end of the visit, after my novelty wore off!), and spent the evening fetching things for me to see.

Zaylie solemnly informed me on the way to the house, "Tina, you get to sleep in my room."

I replied in a suitably excited tone, "Oh, that's right, your room is PINK, isn't it. And you have a brand new bed your daddy made for you."

A moment's pause.

"How did you know that?

I know alllllllllllll about you, Zaylie Celeste.....Apparently someone has not quite grasped the mysteries of having a mama on Facebook.

It was a great visit, and many thanks to the family for hosting me on such short notice. Next time I might give you TWO days' warning instead of one! Then it was off to pick up John and head home to North Dakota. I'd had a chance to catch my breath by the return trip and was able to spend a little more time in noticing things than on the initial trek.

One thing I came to realize is that it had been over a year since I had experienced a change of pressure in my ears. In that whole year I had not experienced a change of elevation significant enough to cause it.

On a related note, in that same year period, I had not seen a single mountain. Oh, I'd seen the rolling hills of the prairie, but no mountains since September of 2010. I didn't see my first one on this trip until sunrise in Nevada the first day, since we came through the mountains after dark. It was nice to see such a large piece of earth rising to meet the sky. Kind of fills it up a bit, makes it seem not quite so big. I became somewhat of a mountain paparazzi, snapping photos while I drove along. Who knows when I'll get to see one again.....

As always, I was struck with how cluttered and dirty even the empty, open areas seem. Even in vacant fields there are still telephone poles, billboards, litter, and cars passing by on the road. It all looks so, so busy. And don't get me started on California's extravagant waste of trees. They're scattered around as if, well, as if they grew on trees. No wonder the state is in such financial trouble!

There are many interesting things to see between California and North Dakota. I drove past many of them, but being on the schedule we were, we stopped at only the most important. Which would be one of the most popular types of tourist attractions, the highway rest area. I even took my picture at one as a souvenir. Goodness knows I was getting no other ones!

By now, you're probably wondering about my blog title. Why did I choose it? Why, indeed. Traveling for 24 hours straight with rapidly ripening males is no picnic on the best of days. When said males decide to stop for a Super-duper Size Bean Burrito from Roberto's Authentic Mexican Restaurant, the trip takes on a whole new, shall we say, aura. North Dakota couldn't come fast enough!

Even the best of fun must end, and North Dakota finally hove into sight. My kitties were home, and we had a very satisfactory reunion, but my Finley pooch was still staying at his Grammie's. I went to pick him up, and he knew something was up even before we got home....he could smell it. I should think so, after percolating in Ewwwww de Burrito for hours! Both boys were very happy to see each other again after so long, and Finley even seemed to think the smell was a bonus.

Then it was time to curl up in my own bed. Since the babies had missed me so much, I let them sleep with me as a special treat. I think I may have been more comfortable in the car, by the time I had a kitten by my neck, a cranky moose of a tabby on my chest (she hissed at the kitten all night, but she'd missed me, too and didn't want to leave), a dog cuddled by my side and one warming my feet, and various other cats tucked into warm corners. I may have been more comfortable, but there sure wasn't as much love!