Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I'm Not Playing

My senior year in college there was a story going around about a giant water balloon fight that had taken over the campus of one of our neighboring universities. As the story goes, people had become so utterly obsessed with the battle, that nearly the entire student body had picked a side and taken up arms... or balloons as the case may be. For those poor souls who didn't wish to participate, it was necessary to wear a large sign proclaiming "I'm Not Playing!" in order to avoid being mistaken for a member of the opposing team and ambushed by an over zealous balloon lobber on one's way to class.

I have no idea whether there was any truth to this outlandish tale, or whether it was simply a campus myth, but either way, the story struck a chord with me. At the time, I was preparing to graduate with a degree in music - a questionable choice to be sure, but one that I sorta backed into because I found I couldn't tolerate anything else. I had no idea what I wanted to do in life, but one thing was clear: just as all of my classmates were preparing to jump into society... to launch careers, or begin graduate school, or get married, or start businesses... all I wanted was to find a way out.

I had been a tremendously successful student. Valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, Suma Cum Laude, the whole 9 yards. Yet with all of that achievement, I didn't feel validated, or important... and I most certainly did NOT feel happy. I just felt like I had wasted my youth chasing an illusion.-And I had come to the conclusion that, in this culture at least, that was all sort of by design. Basically the way our society functions is by making people feel like they don't measure up, which then sets them on a hopeless treadmill of trying to earn, or accomplish, or prove, or buy their way out of their own hopeless inadequacy. It's just a trap.

So I decided that I just wasn't playing.

Thus began my long pursuit of the outsmarting of the system. Thirty years later I'm still at it. But boy... I've gotta tell you, I often feel these days like I need to don that sign again, because I'm frequently beset with the feeling that I'm living in a completely different world from the people around me.

Like the other day I logged onto Nextdoor and discovered that there was a heated argument going on over crab grass. Apparently someone has been going around the neighborhood putting anonymous notes on the doors of people with crummy lawns asking them to please clean up their acts and have some consideration for their neighbors. Oh my.

I guess this is what gentrification looks like, because in the course of a few years my neighborhood has gone from being one of the most economically depressed parts of the city... where there was a tacit understanding that people were working hard just to keep a roof over their heads... to one where the average house is selling for over $350K and people are busy berating their neighbors over things like "curb appeal." So much for slummin' it in the barrio!

I guess you can try to outrun the trappings, but apparently the things grow legs and eventually come running after you. Don't get me wrong, It's sort of nice that my little house is now worth about 5 times what I paid for it, but honestly, I'm not sure I'm prepared to live among young professionals with decidedly middle class values. Plus, what about the poor people who were renters? Where are they supposed to go?

Well anyway, I guess it's giving me further incentive to step up my xeriscape game because I really don't relish the idea of being publicly shamed over bindweed.  But yanno, a tiny little snarky part of me did toy with the idea of  putting anonymous notes on the doors of all the people with perfect lawns asking them to please stop polluting the air with their mowers and poisoning the land with their weed killers. Of course I wouldn't do it, but it was tempting. Sigh.

Then I signed on to FaceBook to see what some old friends have been up to, and I discovered that everyone was all torn up about the suicides of two prominent celebrities… neither of whom I'd ever heard of. Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all making light of suicide, but "famous handbag designer?!?" Seriously? That's a thing? I just don't get it.

Anyhow, people seemed genuinely shocked that anyone who was so successful could possible be depressed and want to take their own life. Sad as it might sound, this does not surprise me in the least. It's not merely that success does not make people happy, I think that feelings of inadequacy predispose a person to try to chase fame and prosperity in a doomed attempt to outrun their own emotions.

I saw this all the time in the music world. Trying to make it as a musician is really hard, and it seemed to me that, aside from a few folks who lucked into their success, the only people who stuck with it were the people who really needed the extraordinary sense of personal validation that one gets when one is on stage performing for an audience. Seriously, in the real world, people don't cheer and applaud every time you go to work... and getting that sort of "you're wonderful" message can be very seductive.

But ultimately, the holes that our society produces in people cannot be filled through cheers or applause any more than they can be with granite countertops or a perfectly manicured lawn.

I don't know where I'm going with all of this, so I should probably just stop blathering and go pull some weeds. (She says without the slightest hint of sarcasm.)

I guess I just wanted to throw a little life line out there to anyone who might be struggling with the game. Seriously folks, if you feel like you just can't win, it's not because there's anything wrong with you, it's because the whole thing is rigged. The only way out is to simply stop playing!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Pretty Kitty Report

Well, my new feral friend seems quite pleased with its little house, and with the never ending stream of cat food that I've been providing. It rained and snowed several times, but the little house stayed dry, so I think it chose a pretty good location.

I'm still not sure of the gender, but given the fact that it hasn't left the yard in days, I'm guessing female. The males tend to roam, even if they're fixed.

Anyhow, I think this little kitty has been running on empty for some time now, because it's eating like a horse. Seriously, it's eating at least twice what my indoor kitties do. But for the time being, anyhow, I'm content to feed it as much as it will eat. It's probably behind on nutrition, plus it needs extra calories to stay warm at night, and since feral cats often end up with tape worms, I'm sure it needs the extra nutrition.

I still can't get very close to it, but I went out with my telephoto lens yesterday and got a few shots.

So that's the pretty kitty report.

Meanwhile, CatMan and I have been riding up a storm. So here are a few snapshots from recent rides.

View of the Foothills on a cloudy day

Chatfield Reservoir

Downtown in the Distance... WAY off in the distance!

The crabapple trees are in full bloom!
Hope you're all having a wonderful spring!

Friday, April 20, 2018

I Caved.

After my last adventure with feral cats ended in heartbreak, I swore up and down that I would NEVER do it again. I had myself convinced that they'd be better off on their own than risking the dreaded feline leukemia test, and the inevitable euthanasia that would follow if it didn't go well.

And I stuck to my guns... for a few years anyhow.

Then this happened.

It's been hanging around for a few months, and I was hoping against hope that it belonged to somebody. It sorta matched the description of one of my neighbor's cats, so I kept telling myself "it has a home, it has a home, it has a home."

But it just kept coming around sniffing in the bowls of squirrel food, looking longingly at the sparrows in the neighbor's bush, and acting hungry. So I finally called my neighbor to see if it was, in fact hers, and no.

So seeing it looking skinnier and skinnier, I finally gave up and put some food out. Oh my gosh... it gobbled that food like it hadn't eaten in months - and it may not have. And you know, once you feed it, you pretty much own it.


I'm batting about 500 with stray and feral cats, so I'm preparing myself to have my little heart ripped out and stomped on again.

I don't know if it's male or female, but the tipped ear would seem to indicate that someone's had it fixed, and presumably that means it's also been vaccinated at least once - which is a good thing since there's been an outbreak of rabid skunks in the neighborhood.

And the fact that it's not an unaltered male means there's less chance of it having FIV or FeLV. But at this point I doubt I could catch it anyhow, so I'm not sure it's worth worrying about. Once they've been trapped, they tend to become quite wary of those things, so taking it to the vet probably isn't even a possibility unless and until I can get it to trust me enough to get it in a carrier.

So far I've just been feeding it once a day and then it goes along its merry way. But yesterday I realized it's "merry way" wasn't taking it very far, because it was hanging out in a little sheltered area next to the front porch. And late last night when CatMan left, it bolted out of one of the compost bins in the driveway, so I now know where it's been sleeping. Sigh.

Anyhow, a big storm is moving in and it's supposed to pour rain for the next day or two. So I crafted a little house for it out of an old covered litter box that I could never get anybody to use, and put it in the area next to the porch where it's been hanging out.

I also fortified its little nest in the compost bin with a make shift rain cover...

...and put some extra straw in there for warmth.

So at least my little kitty friend has some options for getting out of the rain.

I have no idea where this will lead, but I'll keep you posted. I was so hoping that I wouldn't have to fret over any more outdoor kitties. Oh well... best laid plans of mice and cat ladies.

So that's the news from the funny farm...

Hope you're all happy & well.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alphabetically Speaking

So April is the month that many brave bloggers are doing the A-Z challenge, which involves writing a post every day, one for each letter of the alphabet (with Sundays off.)

I tried it once, but honestly, it sorta wore me out. Nevertheless, I do like the idea, and I'm having great fun reading Live & Learn's posts.

Anyhow, her post on poetry got me to thinking about words... there are some words that I just like. Some I like for the meaning, some for the things they conjure up in my brain, and others are just fun to say.

So... for no particular reason, here are some words that came to mind when contemplating the alphabet.

A is for alabaster
B is for beckon
C is for calamity
D is for dromedary
E is for epiphany
F is for fanciful
G is for grace
H is for hullabaloo
I is for idiosyncratic
J is for judicious
K is for kleptomania
L is for lapidary
M is for mystic
N is for nefarious
O is for opulent
P is for persimmon
Q is for quintessential
R is for rhapsody
S is for sumptuous
T is for tapioca
U is for utopia
V is for voluptuous
W is for whippoorwill
X is for xenophobic
Y is for yearning
Z is for zealous

I'm sure on a different day I'd choose different words, but those are the ones that struck my fancy today.

What words are you liking today?

Sunday, April 1, 2018


A week or so ago, I started a post entitled "The Mysteries of Motivation." I wrote about 3 sentences and then... well... I got distracted and somehow lost my motivation to finish it.

I know it's been forever since I've written, and I'm not exactly sure why. I keep forming posts in my head, but I just don't seem to be able to put into words the things I've been feeling lately.

For some reason, the Parkland shooting and its aftermath really hit me hard. I spent several days sobbing my eyes out. In a funny and sad way, it's wasn't so much the horror of what happened, because it's almost become commonplace these days to turn on the news and hear that some crazy person with a semi-automatic rifle has murdered a pack of innocent people. No... it was more the reaction of the kids that got to me.

Much has been made and written about the eloquence and articulateness of the kids who have been spearheading the #neveragain movement. And listening to them speak does fill me with hope. But the images that really got to me were the videos taken the morning after the shooting, of kids in the streets holding signs and screaming.

There was just something about the raw emotion they were expressing that really tore me up. I mean, on some level, the protests are wonderful... and I'm so very heartened to see these kids channeling their grief into action... but the very fact that they should have to do it in the first place... it's all just so very, very wrong.

And then there was the very distressing news coming out of the Arctic. Not sure if this made it into the consciousness of people who aren't as obsessed with the topic as I am, but back in February, some very strange and unsettling things happened up north. Basically, a surge of warm air burst through into the upper layers of the atmosphere (called a "sudden stratospheric warming event") and split the polar vortex into several pieces. This caused freakishly cold weather to descend into Europe and the eastern half of the US, but it also caused freakishly warm air to surge into the arctic.

There was a general freakout in the scientific community as places that should have been frozen solid and still gaining ice for the season were instead melting in the dead of winter.
I realize this is just one weather event, and one can't necessarily draw deep conclusions from one event, but it certainly felt ominous, and I just don't think it portends well for the future.

You know, waaaaay back in my early 20's I had an experience that sort of altered the course of my life. I was still living with my Ex. It was the weekend, so we had his young daughter staying with us, and for some reason it was just me and her home together. She was about 3 years old at the time, and some event (which I can no longer remember) caused her to melt down into a complete and total temper tantrum.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, I heard my mother's voice come out of my mouth.

I'm sure this is a fairly common experience among young parents, but given the fact that I had recently become an "insta-parent" ... or "insta-step-parent" well, it totally threw me. It wasn't fear of becoming my mother, it was more that it brought up a whole pile of emotions from my own childhood, which, until that moment, I had pretty successfully shoved into submission.

Part of me wanted to have my own little meltdown, but, of course, I couldn't. I mean, really... what was I gonna do? "Sorry sweetie, I know you're screaming at the top of your lungs, but this episode has triggered some unresolved feelings from my childhood and I really need to go deal with them."

Anyhow, in that instant a whole bunch of things became crystal clear to me. Both of my parents came from abusive alcoholic families, and both had vowed that they would never do to their children what had been done to them.

And to their credit, they didn't... sort of.

While neither of them drank or was physically abusive, they both became masters of psychological torture. The thing is... they weren't bad people, they were both just hopelessly trying to outrun their own personal demons... as were their parents, and their parents before them.

The whole experience didn't last longer than a few minutes, but it was like I could suddenly see generation after generation vowing to "not be like them" but never being willing to do the difficult work of dealing with their own shit... and thus dooming themselves to pass along some new and different version of the same old shit to their own children. Because, you know, will power is simply not enough.

So that was the moment in which I decided that unless and until I could be damned sure that I'd dealt with my own demons, I wasn't gonna have children of my own. I just couldn't face the possibility of creating another incarnation of the family bullshit.

So what does any of this have to do with school shootings or climate change? Honestly, for the past 6 weeks or so, I just haven't been able to shake the feeling that we, as a society, have collectively failed our children. It's like we're all part of one giant dysfunctional family, and we're all just, as a society, doing the same things that my own personal dysfunctional family did.

We see the problems, but we can't bring ourselves to face the reality behind them. So we simply dress them up in different clothing and pass them along for future generations to deal with.

I don't know where any of that leaves me. As the title of this post would imply, I'm still processing...

In the meantime, life goes on. CatMan and I have been enjoying long bike rides. The scenery is amazing as usual.

And I even got up early this morning to open the curtain on the front window so Jasper and I could enjoy "Easter Sunbeam Services."

So it's all good. I can only hope that this new generation will be willing to tackle things in a way that previous ones have not.

Happy Easter everybody. May the season of rebirth fill us all with hope for a better future.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fun with Food Storage

So it's been about a year since I went totally off my rocker and decided to start stockpiling food.

Honestly, when you walk down the aisles of the grocery store - brimming with more food than one can really comprehend, well, I do think I'm a bit crazy. Like, why would people living in the land of plenty possibly need to worry about running out of food?

Perhaps I am just nuts, and that would be the best possible scenario, but on the off chance that I'm not, it does give me some level of comfort knowing that food is one thing I won't have to immediately worry about should something bad happen - whether it's economic, environmental, political, or who knows what.

Plus (and now you'll know that I'm REALLY crazy) I am having tons of fun with my food stockpile! First of all, it's soooo nice not to run out of things. Like if I'm cooking and I run out of olive oil, I don't have to panic - I just run downstairs, grab another bottle, and add it to the shopping list to replace the one I took out of storage.

And then there's the system. This is the part that I was really missing in my previous attempts to stockpile food - you can't just buy stuff willy-nilly and shove it in a closet somewhere. You have to have a system for rotating and using up your stock.

Soooo... when I buy stuff now, the first thing I do is mark the expiration date on the can or jar. I know the date is already on there, but making it clearly visible at a glance makes the whole process WAY easier.

Then when I'm putting it away, I take that opportunity to do a bit of rearranging. I put the new stuff in the back, and check for anything with an approaching expiration date. I bring anything that needs to be used soon (or that I'm planning on using soon) upstairs, and put in in the kitchen cabinet where it can get used quickly.

It's a bit like a never ending pantry challenge - which I consider to be great fun. I currently have some cream of mushroom soup and frozen peas that need to be eaten... so I see some tuna noodle casserole in my future!

My original plan was to try to stockpile a year's worth of food. Honestly, figuring out how much that is... well, let's just say that was a challenge. There are prepper sites online that offer guidelines, but they varied wildly, and some of it was downright comical. One said you needed 5000 calories per person per day. Seriously?!? I guess they're planning to burn a lot of calories during the apocalypse.

Well anyhow, my general approach is to just try to store enough short term food (like stuff that keeps for 1-5 years) so that I can eat it before it goes bad and continue rotating. With the longer term stuff (stuff meant to be stored for 20-30 years) - well, I bought some of that too, and honestly I haven't really figured out the best plan for making sure I use it before it goes bad - but hey, I've got a while before I really have to worry about that one.

So... here's what you've been waiting for. The crazy lady pictures - ordered by descending craziness level.

1) The canned food shelf.

This bookshelf worked nicely as a place for storing canned goods. There's a little screen door of sorts that covers it up so that the cats can't knock something on the floor and injure themselves with a falling can. I'm not a huge fan of canned food, but canned beans really are convenient, plus it's nice to have some occasional convenience food and treats (like canned pineapple - yum!)

2. Pantry Cabinet number One.

This cabinet stores the canned cat food as well as other short term stuff - especially things that needed more sheltering from light than the canned stuff, or stuff that wouldn't fit easily on those shelves.

3. The Kitty Bin.

And while we're talking kitties - I used an airtight plastic bin for storing bags of dry cat food. I figured it would keep out any mice or bugs, as well as any kitties who decided they wanted to open a fresh bag for themselves - which isn't really as out of the question as it might sound... ask me how I know!

4. Pantry Cabinet Two

And then we have this cabinet, which stores mostly dry goods. Only one of those shelves is actually full of protein powder, the other one is old protein powder containers filled with oatmeal. There's also pasta and dried beans and some random grains like millet and quinoa in there. Note the empty shelf on top! Always room for more!

5. Pantry Cabinet Three

Now we're getting to more long term stuff. The white rice (there's Jasmine, Basmati, Parboiled & regular) will theoretically store for 10+ years in glass jars, and there's also sugar & Gatorade, and then stuff that I bought both from the Mormon church and various prepper sites - there's some beans & rice as well as freeze dried fruits, veggies, cheese, butter, milk, and even some chicken.

6. The Crazy Lady Closet

And then we have the deep storage. This is all stuff that I ordered from the Mormons. It's all 30 year long term storage stuff including dried onions, potatoes, beans, apples, rolled oats, and milk.

And that's about it... except for... the freezer!

Oy! This is one area where I really need a better system. It's the shape of the darned thing that makes it so hard to keep it organized. My current system is to try to have a bag for each category of food - breads & flours, meats & meat alternatives, cheese & butter, and fruit & veggies. But as you can see... I'm not doing a very good job keeping up with it - it's just such a pain to pull everything out when you need to get something or put something away. So if anybody's got any suggestions for better freezer organization - I'm all ears!

So that's the news from the crazy lady. I'm curious if anybody else out there has dabbled in food stockpiling. I'd love to hear about your systems if you have!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

History in my Closet

We FINALLY got some decent snow here in the Mile High City. It wasn't a big storm, but we got about 5 inches, which is the biggest snowfall we've had in over a year, so yay! There was great rejoicing.

Since winter finally decided to make an appearance, I figured it was time to pull my down jacket out of storage... and to my great disappointment, the broken zipper hadn't magically fixed itself in the year or so that it had been stored away. Harumph! Where are those magic elves when you need them anyway?

I used to think that I had a zipper curse, because they always seem to die on me. Then CatMan pointed out that most people don't keep their clothes around as long as I do, and perhaps that's why my zippers always seem to die. Hmm... At any rate, I can deal with it if the little puller thing falls off, but once the insertion pin starts to separate from the fabric, well, it's all over but the shouting.

Not my photo, but you get the idea

Time to replace the zipper! This is not a terribly big job, and I've done it many times before, but as I was shelling out $10 for a new zipper, I was sorta thinking that I could probably buy a whole new-to-me jacket at the thrift store for that price. But I like this jacket - it's nice and warm, and besides, we've been together for a good long time.

Waaaaay back when I first got out of college in the early 1990s, I was working at a non-profit music school making dirt for pay. The organization operated on a shoestring, and every year we'd have a big fundraising rummage sale to help make ends meet. This jacket was donated for the sale, but nobody wanted it. Hard to blame them. It was definitely a "vintage" item by that point, I figured it had probably been made in the 1970s. Plus, the fabric cuffs & collar were tattered and torn, and it definitely looked like it had seen better days.

But... I was broke, and needed a warm jacket, and since the staff were allowed to take anything that hadn't sold, well, the price was right, so I decided to give it a new home.

I'm not a great seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, but I found a scrap of fabric and covered over the worn collar and cuffs - originally they were an orange plaid, and I liked the new color much better anyway, so I considered it a big win. And after a good cleaning, it looked good as new!

Anyhow, I had a few challenges with the zipper - mostly because getting the old one out was a bit more complicated than usual. The snaps had been put in straight through the fabric of the zipper, so I had to cut it to get it out.

But I persevered... and along the way I noticed this tag - which I'd never really looked at before.

Made in Denver, Colorado?!? I didn't know there were any local companies that actually made outerwear. And the brand name, Gerry, wasn't familiar either.

I asked CatMan if he recognized it, and to my great surprise, his eyes lit up. "Your jacket is a Gerry?" he said excitedly. Apparently Gerry was one of the very first companies to manufacture outdoor gear for hiking, camping, mountaineering and the like, and it was a name he recognized from back in his rock climbing days in the 1960s.

Hmmm... perhaps there was more to my little jacket than I realized.

So I did a bit of research, and what I found sorta amazed me.

Gerry was founded by a fellow named Gerry Cunningham, who was an avid outdoorsman. He served in the 10th mountain division during WWII. I'm not sure if that means much to folks outside of Colorado, but in these parts it's a pretty big deal. They trained outside of the town of Leadville (where my family is from) and fought in some of the toughest terrain of Italy during the war. They are widely credited with turning the tide on that front.

After the war, Gerry and his wife started making backpacks and opened a mail order company which eventually expanded to stores in both Boulder and Denver. He is credited with a long list of amazing innovations, including the first zippered backpack, a redesign of the carabiner, the first drawstring cordlock clamps, the first kiddie carrier, and yes, the first down jackets!

He was even inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame! Who knew? I mean, I didn't know there was such a thing as the national sporting goods hall of fame, but I still think it's pretty cool that my jacket was designed by someone who was inducted into it!

So after learning all that, I'm pretty glad I decided to replace the zipper instead of the jacket. In this age of mass produced junk manufactured overseas, there's something pretty cool about owning an item with such a storied provenance. I figure my jacket is probably at least 40 years old by now, and with any luck it will continue to serve me for another 40 years to come.

So tell me, do you own anything with an interesting history? I'd love to hear your stories!