Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fall fever or maybe just going crazy

Getting back to Houston (AKA "The Land of the Endless Summer") after five days in glorious Utah, blah, bleech.

It's been rough. After camping in the great outdoors I now feel totally stuck inside, like I am under house arrest or something.
Yesterday afternoon I made a break for it, taking my pruning shears into the garden to trim back the four foot tall coleus, a sprawling cherry tomato bush and other renegade plants.
(Compare this picture of Tiggie with the picture of him in the header, taken in early summer. The plants GREW.)

Twenty minutes into pruning I realized I hadn't used bug spray on my ankles, and the mosquitoes were calling my body a Fall Food Fest.
Itch, itch, itch...

So I only filled up one trash sack, admired my now three feet high coleus, and headed inside to shower up. Yes, twenty minutes of gardening at four in the afternoon, and I was dripping with sweat.

This was annoying because I had already showered once, and had even put on make up earlier, because I had to go pick up my new glasses.

It was Friday night date night, so I bit the bullet and dolled up. Bernie's worth it; why should the eye glass technician be the only one to enjoy seeing me with mascara?

Date night this time meant a trip across town, through three toll gates, and down to Memorial, to the Barnes and Noble Book store. We have a B&N fifteen minutes from our house, but "Crazy Aunt Purl" was scheduled to speak at the Memorial store, and I wanted to see and hear her in person.
"Crazy Aunt Purl" is the name of a website blog written by a thirty something woman named Laurie Perry. She lives in Southern California with her four cats, and she knits, a skill she picked up after her husband suddenly up and left her.

I found the blog a few months ago, and have been laughing out loud ever since. Laurie is a Southern Girl, living in Los Angeles. Sometime I feel like her mirror image, the Southern California girl living in Texas. Cultural expectations are often askew, putting it bluntly.

(Laurie Perry and me in my new glasses. Love the new glasses. I'm still working on/in great discomfort getting used to trifocal hard contact lenses. I'll complain about that in another post.)
Laurie started her blog to chronicle life after divorce, and she daily makes observations about life with cats, co-workers, Californians, friends, learning to do things on your get the idea.
Mostly I just like to read about her cats.
They make me laugh.
Her book...aptly titled to reflect her life as it was the first year after divorce.
Laurie's cat Bob is soooo cool. Love Bob's belly! As Laurie pointed out, Bob is not fat, although he doesn't miss many meals. It's just that the camera puts on ten pounds you see.
That's a lot weight to put on cat; of course Bob looks fat in his pictures.
After Crazy Aunt Purl spoke, Bernie and I roamed around the B&N, reading books, and relaxing with some de-cafe coffee.
(Picture of the clutter next to my laptop. Just one of several messcapes in my world right now.)
Laurie spent quite a few years hanging on to everything that she had acquired in her life as a wife. Having stuff, well, if you got rid of it, then even more of the marriage would be gone, right?
Little by little she realized that she had filled up loneliness with stuff, rather than people.
Eventually she had enough new friends in her life that she could let go of stuff and open up to new people, possibilities, and places.
Interestingly, that is the same place I am in: Too much stuff, not enough people, possibilities and places.
That's where I am now. I feel stuck, smothered by 3,000 feet of house that I share with Bernie and two shedding cats.
Today Bernie and I sat down and talked. I told him how much I feel stuck, unable to muster up much vision for now on, here in Houston.
We've been here almost eight years, and the place is driving me crazy.
I want to move to Salt Lake City. Maybe. Or somewhere where summer doesn't last eight long months each year, and where the mosquitoes don't drill your body for blood, and where people that you invite over (repeatedly) actually invite you back over, or at least invite you to go see a movie with them when they go see a movie with all their friends that they have known since they were in high school.
My few friends live scattered all over Houston; getting together usually means at least a 45 minute drive for someone. Not too conducive to spontaneity.
I'm really tired of cleaning and dusting and vacuuming this house just so the four of us can hang out in air conditioning.
For a couple of year I had a maid. It stuck me as crazy to be paying a couple hundred dollars a month for someone else to clean the house just so the four of us can sit in air conditioning in a clean house.
(Plus I feel guilty watching other people clean my sinks. I just do. I worked as a maid in high school, I hated it, and can't imagine anyone else enjoying it either.)
The take away from this conversation between the two of us was that getting rid of clutter would be excellent, that it is expected that after being in a place seven years it would feel tired, and that Bernie and I would clean the house together for an hour.
Isn't Bernie a love? He is the one who volunteered his professional insight as a Certified International Facility Manager that ALL major facilities, from stores to hotels to restaurants need to be re-done every seven years to avoid looking old and tired even if everything is in excellent condition.
Whew. I thought I was just being weird feeling like the house was dragging me down. After all, we got new almost everything when we moved in here almost eight years ago. Everything IS in great shape (well, almost, more about that later...) and I really can't justify getting anything new, nor do I want to run around shopping anyway in this heat.
Mostly I think it is just that living inside eight months a year just gets on your nerves.
Once Bernie and I got going cleaning, suddenly we both wanted to de-clutter SOMETHING.
So we pulled everything except his desk out of the sun room, and re-organized the space.
We ditched the old TV, and the TV table, took down artwork, rolled up the area rug (the one that is supposed to be rolled up each summer, and then re-laid each autumn for winter time warmth over the tile floor. We always forget, and by October the deep pile rug really needs to a good shaking, and then we debate whether to put it back down for winter. For now, I just want no clutter, so it is OUT of the room for now.)
The room is through the french door off the living room.
Bernie moved his office into the corner awhile ago, to better to enjoy the garden. The "official" office in our house is dark with lots of mahogany. We both have had turns using it as a work office on our jobs at one time or another. We both feel like we are in a cave inside it.
The glass top corner desk unit in the sunroom is far fresher than mahogany, and if/when we move, the seven year old mahogany office set is going up for sale.
We had a collection of water fowl prints over the chair, each in a mahogany frame. They all got taken down for now. As Bernie observed, some of those prints we've had for almost thirty years. Give it a rest!
The triangular shaped object between the chair and the fire place is the cat's indoor waterfall fountain. Nothing but the best for our boys! Fine grass wallpaper to use as emery boards...just another perk of being one of our cats.
(D*** cats. Two of them shredded the grass wall paper the first week we were here; we've discussed replacing the panels they destroyed ever since then, but neither of us can get excited about that loathsome task. Plus who's to say they wouldn't just go to it again once our backs were turned?)
A ficus forest bonsai created by Bernie graces the coffee table.
Tiggie as usual was there with us, but didn't help at all. All he did was add a fresh layer of cat fur to the couches and purred when we put the couches back into the room after deep vacuuming them.
It feels better to have one room de-cluttered. It's a one step at a time process, a freeing process. I raised our two kids in a 1,100 square foot house, having such a big house now for just the two of use seems really crazy. It's a rather small house by Texas standards; we had to really press our real estate agent to find such a tiny house!
I'm not sure what room will be tackled next.
I just hope fall arrives before I go completely nuts.
Cabin fever, even when the cabin is big, is a terrible thing to see.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Seen from afar...

Abstract art or reality?

(All above: The mountains above Salt Lake City, as seen from the airplane window. The autumn colors amaze me.)
(Pictures above: The Great Salt Lake. It's ever changing colors always fascinates me each time I fly to SLC.)
It's worth it to open each of these pictures to full size.
I would love to blow each of these pictures up and frame them to use as abstract art. The colors are so soothing and the textures draw me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I just smile.

It is life's random images that make me want to grab my camera the fastest.
The SLC trip had a nice collection of laughable moments, and I wanted to post them as their own separate posting.
I hope you get a chuckle too.

The first image was recorded only in my own mind. While flying out of Houston, the pilot came on the speaker and announced that now that we had reached cruising altitude, we were now free to roam about the cabin.

I could just picture EVERYONE unbuckling at once, and beginning to mill and meander and ROAM around the cabin, like brainless cattle, stopping and staring at various people and seats, what not, and what have you.
I'm not sure why I think that is so funny, but I do.

Usually the pilot says we are free to MOVE about the cabin.

"Roam" just sounds funnier to me.

Fresh off the plane I encountered this young woman. She was just ahead of me in the ladies room, and I guess I don't get out as much as I think I do, because my brain immediately began sending wincing messages to me, along the lines of "asymmetrical breast" and "surgical correction" of said condition.

I felt so sorry for her, imagining what it must be like to go through life with one gignormous breast, and needing a form of breast support on the exterior of her clothing. I looked away, embarrassed for her.

Maybe I've just been in Texas too long.
It's the land of cosmetic surgery. There are glossy freebie magazines in every shop with pictures of "before" and "after" surgeries. Breast asymmetry is often pictured.
It wasn't until I saw her again at the baggage claim area that it dawned on me that she had a BABY in that chest wrap/sling.
my bad.
(How does that kid BREATH anyway? And isn't it awfully hard on Mom's back having the kid up that high? My kid's always rode facing me; I can't help but think having the baby's bottom end on one side would cause back issues.)
One of my favorite things to do in a new place is to roam around supermarkets looking for unusual and/or local products. Dryer's Ice Cream Sports Edition "BYU Cougar Craze" caught my eye right away.
Fair and balanced...University of Utah Utes had their own flavor.
Jeff explained that SLC has the highest ice cream consumption per capita in America.
Dreyer's knows what they are doing.
Wonder why they aren't doing it in football crazy Texas?
Even if they do, I won't be holding my breath for an ice cream for my Texas Womans University Pioneers. They could call it Pioneer Pudding, or something like that.
TWU: We are still undefeated in football this season!
While Utah has a law requiring low alcohol level beers, there are still micro breweries.
Squatters Chasing Tail Golden Ale (another beer, doggone it!) looked fun.
Squatters actually had several varieties of beers. Provo Girl Pilsner was pretty cute. Wonder if she'll get a fashion update once the high rise pants sweep the clothing market?
Nah. No way. Not with her flat little tummy to show off, despite swilling down beer all day.
Polygamy Porter has got to be the best though. "Why have just one!"
Brewed by Wasatch Beers, their advertising tag line is "Bring some home to the wives!"
What a hoot.
Once we got to camp I made a trip to the ladies room. On the back of the stall door was this sign. I totally understand; plumbing is often sensitive, and it must be hard to find a plumber out in the National Park wilderness.
The part that got me was the fact that this was a sign manufactured by Scenic Signs, based in Wausau Wisconsin.
I've never been to Wausau Wisconsin personally, but if this is their idea of a scenic sign, I think I will pass on making a visit there any time soon.
At the airport on the way home I stopped for a cup of coffee, then I headed over to my gate, remembering last visit fiasco where we had to be paged because we had tarried over our lattes too long.
Along the way I passed a gate waiting area with a lot of women, and they were all brightly singing together "One fine day, you going to want me for your girl."
This at 6:30 in the morning.

They were all in great voice and perfect pitch, and it really was charming to hear them singing together while they waited for their flight.
When they finished, everyone within hearing distance gave them a round of applause.
How sweet is that?

Very sweet.

So sweet it made me smile.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

After the camping, back to SLC

Bernie's camera had this group shot of us...I had to share it. Perfect for the Christmas card for this year I think!
Monday when I woke up this was the view from the guest room window. Nice, huh? Glad we didn't go camping up there like we first had planned.
The tree in Jeff's front yard...

And a tree down the street. Actually I could have just snapped my camera out the window of the car as we drove along, and gotten picture after picture like this one.
Monday morning Laura had to go to the hospital where she is currently assigned to turn in her time card. I went along for the ride, and to see the place where she works.
The Huntsman Cancer Institute turned out to be a very impressive center funded by the Huntsman family and the Church of the LDS.
(Couldn't get the whole facility in one shot; had to take two pictures....)
The entrance to the building.
The lobby. I've visited quite a few hospitals since Laura has become a nurse, and I am always thankful and impressed when a cancer center is a beautiful facility. This hospital is a teaching hospital as well, part of the University of Utah. Laura says teaching hospitals are the very best to be in, both as a nurse and as a patient.

That little detail is worth remembering should you ever need to be hospitalized and have a choice of places.
Remington sculptures and other art work enliven the space. The patients rooms were beautiful as they could be, with pull out beds for families, chairs with foot stools next to the bed, and computer stations outside each room which are also available for family member usage.
Flowers were around the area too which caught my eye. The last few hospitals Laura worked at had policies that NO flowers could be in the cancer wards, as the chemo treatments often made scents intolerable to patients. Laura is finding that "absolute rules" are absolutes only by location. I think that is interesting; as a librarian working in different libraries in the same system, I found rules at one branch that were absolute, were unheard of at other branches.
I think sometimes folks just like to make up rules!
The view from the hospital was great too. Each room had a lovely view.
After that, Laura and I did some house hunting, just for fun, and shopped for fall decorations. Girls gotta decorate for the seasons, right?
Jeff had the day off (banks are closed on Columbus Day, I didn't know that...) and he decided to tackle planting his springtime bulbs before the ground froze.
It just tickles me that Jeff loves to garden like I do. He has a green thumb and one day hopes to have a really fantastic garden with fruit trees and vegetable patches and great landscaping.
I miss planting bulbs now that I live in Texas. In San Diego I had three hundred daffodils one year, and in Dallas I had tulips. It's so much fun to be planting bulbs with Jeff; he'll be able to send me pictures as the flowers come up. Crocus, Hyacinth, Narcissus, Tulips, plus some little bulbs I had never heard of before. His dahlias were still blooming like crazy, so we just worked around them for now. He'll be adding pansies later.

I really don't mind getting my hands dirty...especially when the soil is good potting soiling. A real treat compared to mucking in the heavy red clay at our place.
Inside the house, my grandcat Meowsie was exploring our autumn decorative efforts. Meowsie is seven now. As a kitten he lived in a fraternity, and has lived in San Diego, Newport Beach, La Jolla, and two places in SLC. wonder he is so easy going.
If you can't take your grandcat to the Pumpkin Patch, then bring the Pumpkin Patch to your grandcat.
All the other grannies out there are flashing pictures of their grandkids in pumpkin patches...why shouldn't I get to have a picture to show too?
Isn't he cute? Auntie Lau-Lau took my camera and took FORTY pictures of Meowsie for me. Meowsie is a very tolerant kitty.
Love this pumpkin...the rest of the ones we got were real ones.
Ahh...look at those pumpkin colored eyes!

Jeff's front porch is now decorated. The garland even has orange lights twined into the foliage, so it will look cheery at night.

The Sugar House area of SLC has cute houses built in the 1910-1920's, and one block had switched out their regular white street lamps for black lights and wrapped the poles with orange lights. I'm not a fan of Halloween, but I had to admit the effect was quite playful.
A Greek dinner together, a frozen yogurt run, lounging around the living room watching Monday night foot ball, and general chitchat rounded off the day. I flew out at 7 am the next morning.

From the plane the Aspen could be seen in golden blaze upon the mountain tops.
Can't say I'm all that happy to be returning to 90 degree summer temperatures. Oh well, eventually fall will come to Houston too. And I'm sure I'll be on another adventure again really soon.