Best break for my brain: working out. (“My Morning Routine” – !)

Every once in a while, I go to My Morning Routine to peruse the site and gain some life inspiration. I went there today, and it actually inspired this blog post. I know I’ve shared a daily routine (or two) here before, but I don’t think I’ve filled in a morning routine questionnaire from this site. These questions are pretty much the same across the interviewees, but I’ll see different, additional questions thrown in here and there. I included as many of them as I could find in the few interviews that I read today.

 

1). What is your morning routine?

These days, I wake up anywhere from 5:00 to 6:30am, though most often at 5:30am. I take my morning meds/supplements, pour some coffee, open my laptop, and get into my writing.

 

2). How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I started dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing sometime in the last 12 months. The rest of my routine hasn’t varied in years.

 

3). How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

My “dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing” discipline means focusing on my project before filling my mind with anything else of substance. Before, I would multi-task my brain between writing, email, social media, news, and so on. I’ll still scroll through instagram and twitter on my phone while drinking my first cup of coffee, though. I don’t click to read articles on twitter… early in the morning, I’m only there to check for major news headlines and traffic/weather alerts.

 

4). What time do you go to sleep?

Between 11:00 and midnight, usually.

 

5). Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

No.

 

6). Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

I do use an alarm, though my internal clock (aka my bladder) will sometimes wake me up before it goes off. I never use a snooze button.

 

7). How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

If I’m working out that morning, I’ll have breakfast between two and three hours after I wake up. If it’s not a gym morning, I’ll eat four to five hours after waking up. I have the same breakfast every day. Since a month or two ago, it’s been a bowl of plain organic oatmeal (made with water) with light agave syrup and cinnamon. I also have a handful of raw mixed nuts.

 

8). Do you have a morning workout routine?

My morning gym routine is Les Mills Body Pump at the gym. I go three mornings a week.

 

9). Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

Working out is my meditation. The 50 or so minutes of continuous physical activity provide the best break for my brain. For the duration of the class, there are no thoughts in my head. There’s music and there’s someone telling me what to do, and I listen and I do it and that’s it. There’s no room for anything else. I try to stay in the workout, where there’s no thinking involved! If distractions enter my mind, I force them out. This is key to any sort of meditation practice.

 

10). Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I’m bad at checking email. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

11). Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Other than taking my anti-anxiety med and putting on my Fitbit to track the quality and duration of my sleep, no.

 

12). How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

As I’d mentioned above, I usually check instagram and twitter while drinking my first cup of coffee. That’s about 30 minutes after I wake up.

 

13). What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Cleaning Nenette’s litter box and doing my skin-care routine. I water my plants in the morning once a week.

 

14). What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, immediately.

 

15). How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

He usually wakes up at the same time as I do, and we have coffee together in the living room. He makes the bed as a part of his getting ready for work routine, and I make his lunch while he’s doing that. We’re a good team.

 

16). Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

Saturday is the day I’ll wake up at 6:30am, as I usually don’t write before going to the gym that morning. Sundays, I’ll try to sleep in until 7:00-7:30am. I write at different times over the weekend. The routine relaxes.

 

17). On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

No. If I’m not in my home, I don’t write first thing in the morning.

 

18). What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

If I fail to follow my routine, there’s a good reason for it, so it doesn’t impact the rest of my day. Whatever changes occur, my daily task list is always there to guide me through. The important thing is that by the end of the day, I’ve checked off as much of that list as possible.

 

Post-gym, seventh of June, two thousand eighteen.

 

Sorry this pic is so dark! Bad lighting and brownish walls aren’t the best for selfies, or anything else, for that matter.

 

The End.

 

The silver lining of a bad day is the day after.

This has been a week. I’m sure you can all relate to this: there is no day as good as the day after a really bad day. The great thing about today is that yesterday was a day of epic fuckery such that today can only be better. For one thing, I was able to get to the gym this morning. I couldn’t go on Tuesday or yesterday, so you can bet that today’s workout made an immense difference.

For me, everything about working out makes everything better, even an aspect as simple as setting up whatever area I use. I took this pic weeks ago when a friend pointed out how I always organize my area, with my backpack and water bottle to the left:

 

Organized crime.

 

I took this picture jokingly, but it’s soothing to see it because I see habit, and habit can be a balm. It’s a way of feeling in control; in this case, it’s a healthy way.

This post comes from a place of gratitude. Yesterday is over. Today is a new day. I have yet another doctor’s appointment this afternoon (my third this week) – one of my medical specialists – but this is a good thing. Today’s doctor will be different, and I’m very optimistic that whatever he does, the experience will be the opposite of the one I had on Tuesday. I’m talking about ophthalmology, the only medical specialty not available at our V.A., by the way.

Yesterday, man. There was just something about it. Callaghan had a Very Bad Day yesterday, too, for reasons different than mine. It was awesome that we didn’t get into it despite our equally bad moods!

I’ll try to remember to repeat this mantra on future bad days: tomorrow is a new day. Some sayings make profound sense, and there’s nothing like experience to appreciate a tired old adage as something more than a tired old adage. Everyone is different. It’s good to hone in on adages that help get us through. For me, “things can always be worse” is a good reminder, but it isn’t as reassuring as “tomorrow is a new day.”

 

Birthday post! (On aging.)

Not to sound like a disgruntled middle-aged person, but somehow, I’ve been dropped from AARP’s mailing list since they began their early-harassment campaign a few years ago. They were all over me when I turned – what was it, 46? – and now I’m on the eve of 49, and nothing from them. It’s FOMO more than wanting to actually sign up, I suppose.

Tomorrow is my birthday; I’ll begin my last year in my 40’s. I’ve felt sort of obligated to come up with a birthday reflection post, so I’ve been, well, reflecting.

I’m fine with aging, in general. Having to look at a downside, though, I came up with this: aging’s not fun in a typical way that aging’s not fun.

Common aging-related laments would include health complaints associated with age, “looking old” and gaining weight, failure to achieve life goals, becoming more forgetful, being broke later in life.

My only aging-related lament so far: loss.

We’re not as prepared for aging-related loss. We’re bombarded with advertisements for anti-aging products, money management firms, weight-loss programs, adult re-education programs, retirement homes. There’s a sizable market of services and shit to sell to oldsters. But there are no advertisements to help with the fact that the older we get, the more people we lose, the more beloved furbabies we bury. Maybe we get crankier and more melancholic with age because of this accumulation of loss, the general sadness that comes with watching our loved ones pass away.

Oldsters’ loneliness comes, in part, from death. It’s good to keep this in mind, to be mindful of treating the elderly with respect and compassion. They’ve seen a lot, and they’ve suffered a lot of loss along the way. Aging-related loneliness is a profound loneliness. Give oldsters a break when they’re in a bad mood or just generally negative. They may act like they don’t want us or need us, but they do, in some way or another. Love and compassion are the most invaluable commodities.

All of that being said, I’ve also found definite upsides to aging, and many of these are typical: learning from mistakes, caring less about what others think, getting closer to age-qualification for senior discounts at various places. (I needed a bit of levity there.)

Most of all, the older I get, the more gratitude I feel. I’m thankful to be alive; every birthday is a victory. I’m thankful for the people I do have in my life. I’m grateful to feel good health-wise, despite chronic illness; grateful that my body works. I feel enormous gratitude that I’m able to do what I love, and gratitude that I live in the sunniest place possible – yes, lots of sunshine matters tremendously to me and my mental well-being.

On that note, I took some selfies outside on Friday (December 22). Here’s one:

 

The Friday before my birthday – wearing red for the troops (2017)

 

I have goosebumps because there was a chill in the air, but that sun!!

Honestly, I feel like I can’t begin to stop counting my blessings. I have that many.

501 posts in TALC! What would you like to see here in the future?

I noticed the other day – looking at a stat figure I don’t normally visit – that I’ve written 501 posts for this blog, and I’m thinking, how did this happen?! It’s an astonishing number, actually, when I think about it. But I published my first post toward the end of 2012, so TALC is almost five years old now. It just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.

On this occasion for positive reflection, I’m also thinking ahead. This brings me to my question: what would you like to see more of in this space?

I’ll continue with what I’m already doing, of course. There are my recurring topics: writing/poetry, garage gym/fitness, kitty updates, Buddhism/spirituality, monthly favorites, non-review movie reviews, mental health/motivation, etc.

I’ll keep up my random, topical posts, too: thoughts on current/specific matters, life updates, personal/confessional-type posts, the occasional Q & A, frivolity and all manner of silliness. I’m happy to share the shenanigans.

I plan to write more about my adventures in minimalism as I (slowly) grow into that lifestyle.

Those of you who’ve been here for the last year or longer: you will likely not see further posts about the sensory deprivation tank (my weapon against claustrophobia) in the foreseeable future, as it’s been months since I’ve had time to carve out for that endeavor. Things are only getting busier! That tank has not seen the last of me, though. I just don’t know when I’ll be able to get over there again.

Whatever the case, it all amounts to a fair range of miscellany; I’m also game to consider writing about sundry other topics. Please let me know what you’d like to see, or see more of! If you have ideas or requests for me, I’ll try to oblige. I can’t promise that I’ll answer every question or cover every suggestion, but I’d love to hear them all, and I’ll do what I can.

And as always – I can’t say this enough! – thank you for reading here. You guys are the bee’s knees.

September writing updates!

I last came to you with an official writing update on August 4. It’s one month later, and I’m back to report my progress, as promised. This is where I fill you in on big-project writing developments, with numbers and everything. (SNOOZE-FEST WARNING for those not interested in dry details.)

So let me tell you where we stand.

Last month’s challenge/goal: to “control the pace and manner of unraveling” in this final stretch of the project.

This month’s challenge/goal: having gotten a grip on last month’s, I’m now focusing on creating and sustaining the tone and mood I desire for the completion of the story. At this point, I want to demand more from you, the reader. This means that I have some intensified atmospheric building to do. In other words, I’m ramping it up.

(When I started this project, I had no idea that I was essentially writing a mystery novel, of sorts. But here we are.)

Last month’s completion status: my word court as of August 4 was 56,952. My goal word count, I said, was “a moving target.” I was done trying to nail down a goal word count; I speculated that I was between 80% and 90% finished.

This month’s completion status: I’m back on the word-count train! Surprise! I didn’t think I’d bother with this nonsense again, either… but I did some projecting, which is much easier to do at this point, and I came up with a rough estimate. I believe I’ll land somewhere in the neighborhood of 75,863 words. This means that the project is about 84% complete. (I will not be changing this word count goal again. It’s a rough estimate, and I’m leaving it at that.)

Breaking it down: I currently have 64,462 words. Roughly 2,137 of those words belong in future chapters (I tend to write ahead a little bit, now more than ever), so about 3% of my 84% completion is made up of future content.

Looking at just my current, finished work, I’ve got 283 pages, and I’m on chapter 26.

I’m also projecting that I’ll have this first draft completed by the end of November.

 

manuscript, 84% complete (minus 3%) (Sept. 5, 2017)

 

So that’s where we stand! Thank you for reading and for sticking with me, as always.

The pull toward minimalism.

Have you ever looked around at your stuff and wondered, “What if I were to get rid of it all?” I have. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been seriously thinking about getting rid of everything.

Okay, not everything. Just a lot of things. I’ve actually been lurking around the idea of minimalism for quite a while now… for years, in fact. I’m now realizing that it’s time to do it.

I look around at things I don’t need and will never use, and I’m thinking, why is that stuff still here?

I write a post about a falling-apart article of clothing, and I’m thinking, why am I so attached to it?

Knowing, right, how ridiculous it is. For one thing, as a Buddhist, I’m fully aware that attachment to material things makes no sense at all.

I’d thought about it before, but I really started to feel the pull toward minimalism since that post about the ancient sweater I couldn’t trash. That was back in February. I wrote that post. Then I wrote the KSJO t-shirt post. Then I had to sit and examine my life choices.

I should just get rid of stuff.

Why do I develop emotional/sentimental attachment to things?

One part of my mind says “keep this” as another part says “but why.” It mostly boils down to sentimentality and “I would want this if….” But what I want more, now, is to break away from such attachments.

Three months after the sweater post, I took my first step in the minimalism direction when I overhauled my office to create as empty and blank a space as possible. Now I’m looking around wondering how I can empty the space even more. I’ve discovered that my creative energy has more freedom to flow in the absence of physical distraction.

Now it’s three months post-office-overhaul, and I’m ready for the next step. This is how I know I’m not making an impulsive decision. I tend to make big lifestyle changes slowly, in increments. (Have I ever mentioned that going vegan was a six-year process for me?)

There are degrees of minimalism, and the degree I’m going for isn’t a drastic one. I don’t aspire to a life that can fit into two suitcases, but I do plan to pare things down much as possible. I should add that I’m talking about my personal possessions, not household-type items.

Too, there are categories of things I won’t touch. At this time, anyway, I won’t even consider getting rid of books. I have books in three different rooms, on shelves, in closets, on the floor. There are hundreds of them, and they’re staying right where they are. I won’t violate my book collection with minimalism.

 

Books: exempt from minimalism

 

We’ll see how things progress from here!

Writing Q and A: habits, music, status. (Writing updates!)

My last writing update post was on 30 June, so it’s time for another one, I reckon!

Every writer’s habits and rituals are personal, right? And, for many of us, in flux. Things flow and evolve. We go with it.

I still wish I was a writer who could stick to a schedule. The best I can do – more importantly, what works for me – is to protect my optimal writing time. Currently, that’s one full weekday (Mondays) + all early mornings. The rest of the time is for flexible writing, meaning, I can write around going to the gym Tuesday-Saturday, as well as occasional appointments, errands, and lunches.

At this point, there’s never a day that I don’t write at all. I write something every. single. day.

Speaking of which! My Tuesday/Friday blog-posting time here in TALC has officially changed: I’m now posting within the mid-morning to noonish window.

With all of the above, I’ve started off this mini writing Q&A. I’m happy to answer some of these recurring questions:

Q: Can you multi-task while writing?

A: It depends. The deeper I get into a writing session, the more scarce I am on social media. When I’m in a “deep sleep” stage of writing, I’m completely incommunicado.

I can’t be off-line, though, because I refer to the dictionary, and I’m always researching something or another.

Q: Do you listen to music while writing?

A: Not usually, but sometimes.

When I started working on this novel, I’d listen to certain songs to invoke a memory of a time. I haven’t done that for a while. Now, I can write with music playing on a low volume, choosing music that creates a background soundscape.

A current favorite is by Rachel’s: “To Rest Near to You.” It’s moody and eerie with voices whispering “I thought the sea.”

It’s perfect for this last stretch of the novel.

Other good background songs of the moment: “With More Air Than Words,” “Night at Sea,” and “Letters Home” (Also by Rachel’s, from their 1996 album The Sea and the Bells.)

I wish I could provide you with “To Rest Near to You,” but I get my music from Soundcloud, and you have to have a Soundcloud GO+ account in order to hear that entire Rachel’s album. Here’s their song “Stark Sea,” though, also on my current writing playlist:

 

 

I like this sort of music while I’m writing. It’s atmospheric without distracting my creative brain cells with melody that wants following.

And when I say I play the pieces with the volume down low, I mean very low. The planes taking off and landing at Sky Harbor are louder.

Q: Do you take breaks?

A: Yes. Many. I have to stop often in order to put distance between what I’ve written and what’s in my head from having written it.

There’s actually a pattern: on an average day, I go through three writing stages and two break stages, beginning and ending with writing. (I take smaller breaks within the writing stages, usually to eat. In the afternoons, I eat often.)

Q: Distractions?

A: I do get up to wander around the house. I have to unfold myself from the floor every once in a while.

Incidentally, I have Nenette, who is not a distraction. She’s the opposite of a distraction. She puts her nose on my forehead to transmit inspiration.

 

Nenette in her crow’s nest tree in the corner of my office.

 

These days, Nenette is apt to sleep on the floor next to me while I’m writing, but she still spends time up on her crow’s nest.

Q: Current project stage and status?

A: I’ve reached, as noted earlier, the final stretch.

Things are accelerating. That doesn’t mean that my writing’s accelerating, though. I have to focus now more than ever in order to control the pace and manner of unraveling.

As for current status, my word court at present is 56,952. My goal word count continues to be a moving target, so I’m just going to say that I’m between 80% and 90% finished.

That’s it for the monthly update! Thank you all for reading, once again. Happy Friday… or whatever day it is when you read this. =)

Is it Monday yet? TGIM! (Writing-Fitness balance: on changing routines.)

This week, I let go of my Monday evening workout. It was hard. I’d been doing that class for over three years… Monday/Wednesday kickboxing, non-negotiable.

You know how I feel about routines, and you know how I feel about kickboxing. This decision was not easy.

But it was a long time coming. I looked at my 2016 planner and saw that I’d been thinking about it since early November… because I’d just tried BodyPump, which is weight-training, which I’d spent a year trying and failing to do on my own. I finally realized that nothing was stopping me from going to a twice-weekly morning Pump class. It was life-changing. It got me thinking about re-vamping my entire workout schedule.

I did it slowly, starting with switching out Saturday morning kickboxing for Saturday morning Pump. I wanted three strength-training workouts per week, rather than two.

Then I had a few Monday evenings off when the Monday kickboxing class was between instructors, and I realized what Monday really is, now: it’s my favorite day of the week. My best workday. The ideal day to stay home all day and get shit done.

Monday has become my “third weekend-day,” my working-weekend day, my relaxed yet productive transition into the week. It’s my bubble of creative energy day. It’s my fresh-start day. I wake up filled with anticipation and ready to get ALL the ideas down. I’m writing before I even get out of bed on Monday mornings. I can multi-task all day on Mondays, no problem.

I realized that it’s TGIM around here, not TGIF. I had to make changes accordingly!

Easier said than done.

Since I’m slow to see things that are right before my eyes, I first had to have this argument with myself. (We all do this, right? Argue with ourselves, weigh pros and cons, etc.?)

Here’s how my argument went:

  • Monday is my best workday now.
  • And?
  • Leaving the house on Monday interrupts my best workday.
  • Why not just stay home on Mondays?
  • Because it’s Monday. I have to go to the gym.
  • Why?
  • Because it’s Monday.
  • Really.
  • I always go to the gym on Monday.
  • Okay, but why?
  • It’s what I do! Kickboxing on Mondays and Wednesdays!! I love it!!!
  • That’s not a real reason.
  • Because… I need at least two cardio workouts per week.
  • Can you find an alternate day for the Monday cardio?
  • Well, yes. Fridays or Sundays would work.
  • Then do it.

End of argument. Why had I been reluctant – even afraid – to give up Monday evening workouts? Because changing a routine is scary when your mental health depends on the stability routines provide. But I was able to work through it.

I’ve had my boxing gloves hanging up in my office, and now that’s metaphorical as well as practical. I hung up my Monday night gloves for writing.

 

Writing-training balance: boxing gloves hanging in my office (along with my hats and kukui nut lei)

 

The process of making this decision turned out to be a good exercise (pun not intended), so I thought I’d share it with you who may also have a hard time making changes to your routines.

I followed this thought-path:

  • Recognize (when something isn’t working anymore.)
  • Think (of how to fix it.)
  • Detach (to make it easier.)
  • Consider solutions/alternatives.
  • Wait for the immediate “obstacles” to come to mind, because they will… then
  • think beyond them.
  • Think creatively.
  • Do this by asking yourself questions and answering honestly.

Some people would call this “Follow your heart.” Others would call it “Adjust your thinking.” I call it “Wake up and realize that you’re the only one stopping yourself from making changes in order to do what you need to do… you can do it.”

Making changes isn’t easy for we who need routine in order to keep ourselves stable; routine is necessary, but it can also be an impediment. It makes it hard to see when change is needed.

Now I just need to discipline myself to get my ass to the gym to do cardio on my own. That shouldn’t be difficult.

 

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

Change of scenery. (Writing life updates.)

I figured it’s time for a writing update!

Since last time, the writing life action over here has mostly involved changes in the house… namely, the migration of my office again. Some rearranging’s been done chez nous.

I’m now set up in Callaghan’s former office/current art and supply room. Callaghan is still in my former office – basically, we’ve switched offices. The dining area has resumed its original purpose, but The Americans poster still hangs on its wall. We’ll leave it there for now. The house is having an identity crisis. In the midst of the room-switching, we painted the kitchen wall red (no more graffiti wall – all good things come to an end). After that, we ripped out the carpet from the living room and hall and installed flooring. Then we painted the large, main wall in the hallway bathroom black.

As for my writing progress? I’m currently working on chapter 18 of the project. I’ve got about 200 pages and 45,298 words. The writing is on hold until Monday, but things are moving along!

In the most frivolous of writing news, I took the customary selfie at my desk on my first day in my new office:

 

May 3, 2017 (first day in my new office!)

 

The main thing to note here is that the lighting is better than it was in the dining area. As usual, there’s no filter or other shenanigans going on with this pic; the lighting comes from the window on the west wall to my left. This makes the room a wonderful place for writing. It isn’t aggressively bright – no direct sunlight – but my laptop sits in the path of the illumination, and it’s perfect. Funny how little things like that make a difference!

The most important part of the office-switch, though, is that now I’m in one of Nenette’s favorite rooms, so she’s in here with me pretty much all day! Furbaby in the office – ideal office.

Happy weekend, All!

Cita and Opportunistic Mycobacteriosis.

Late Tuesday afternoon last week, Callaghan happened to check the skin beneath Cita’s fur on her backside, where her open wound had been. When we found that the wound had re-opened, we called the vet and arranged to take their open evening appointment slot.

At the hospital, the doctor looked at Cita and then took her to the back to have the area shaved for closer examination. Cita was returned to the room with two large shaved patches on her back end and hindquarter. We saw her old wound, open and oozing and rounded, just like it’d been before it healed. We also saw five more wounds exactly like it. It made no sense. She’d been indoors and pampered in a protected environment for four months.

The next day, Cita’s test results came back, and our baffled doctor consulted with Dr. K, who, with his expertise from many years of experience, determined that Cita was suffering with Opportunistic Mycobacteriosis. We weren’t looking at wounds. We were looking at lesions. Dr. K had only seen the disease twice in his long career.

Cita’s case was textbook.

[Click here to read about mycobacterial diseases in cats]

[And here’s another site on the subject of Opportunistic Mycobacteriosis]

[ETA: Here’s yet another one]

It turned out that just like Ronnie James, Cita was suffering with a disease caused by an environmental menace, and it was uncommon enough that it escaped detection until the end. Ronnie James had come into contact with a poisonous caterpillar in France. Cita had come into contact with a mycobacteria, most likely from soil. Cita had loved to roll in the dirt. The mycobacteria in the dirt probably entered her system through a puncture wound.

We were shocked, but thinking back, we realized that we never actually saw Cita get attacked. We’d seen her getting chased, and early in the fall, we observed tiny puncture wounds after one such incident… so when her first lesion appeared at the beginning of November (the night before we left for my brother’s wedding), we just assumed that the horrible wound had come from an attack.

We recalled how the doctor at the emergency hospital remarked that Cita’s wound didn’t look quite like a cat fight wound. We went back through our paperwork and saw that the doctor had written “dog bite,” and we remembered that she’d hazarded that guess.

All of our assumptions had been based on circumstantial evidence. We’d seen Cita instigating fights by growling at cats, and we’d seen her running away, rather than fighting. We just assumed that the wound had come from a cat jumping on her back as she ran.

(I’ve always been against the notion of cats being outdoors; my cats have always been indoors-only. Cita had been an exception because of the details of her rescue from the street. Despite our strenuous efforts, it wasn’t working out with Nenette, so we had to release her back to her backyard patio and her outdoor laundry room.)

With her diagnosis, everything made sense, especially the solid thickening in her lower belly that no doctor had been able to figure out. At one point, we followed one doctor’s advice and scheduled a surgery for exploration and to remove whatever was in there, but when we took her in for the surgery, the surgeon recommended sparing Cita the ordeal. We’d had X-rays taken, and our surgeon also took Cita back for an ultrasound. None of the tests showed a tumor or a hernia, so we agreed on a “wait and see” approach.

We’re so glad that we did. Cita’s disease was advanced, and no surgery could have saved her.

Since we didn’t know what was going on back then, we re-started a course of antibiotics, plus a painkiller. Cita got better. Her wound closed up, and she was feeling well. She was taking an anti-anxiety medication so we could ease her second introduction to Nenette.

And that medication was working: Cita and Nenette were eating breakfast and dinner together, facing each other through a baby gate under supervision. There was no growling. It was a much different story than early last summer. Cita and Nenette seemed comfortable together; we’d gotten them to the frenemy stage, and we’d planned to take the next step in mid-May.

Cita was happy and relaxed, as playful and affectionate as ever. We spent most of our time with her in her “apartment,” which she loved. She had her favorite scratch pads from the patio, all of her toys, including her precious salamander; she had multiple bedding areas and surfaces to climb. She had houseplants and her cat tree by the window, and she loved sitting on the highest level, enjoying the spring breeze through the screen and watching the birds.

When we received Cita’s diagnosis, we were told that we could battle the disease with another aggressive course of two different antibiotics over an extended period of time, though her prognosis was abysmal. We bought the first round of antibiotics, but instead of starting her on them, we read the websites and talked about the situation all night. We decided against prolonging Cita’s life with a miserable routine of twice-daily medication and discomfort; we didn’t want her last days to be terrible.

We’d given Cita the best life that we could, and now we wanted to give her the best death that we could. We wanted her passing to be happy, beautiful, and dignified.

On Thursday afternoon, Cita received a sedative and painkiller cocktail to help her slip into sleep comfortably. She fell asleep happy in her Daddy’s arms, with me kissing and stroking her face and head. The last thing she heard was us telling her how much we loved her, and me saying, “Sleep well and have good dreams,” as I’d done every night while tucking her in. Once she was asleep, we gently laid her down on the table so the doctor could administer the second injection – the one that would stop her heart. She didn’t know that it was happening.

Now Cita is at peace, but we’re devastated. She’s left an enormous vacancy in our hearts – though she’ll always be in our hearts – and home. She’d been here as long as we’ve been here.

We’re so grateful that she adopted us, so honored that we’d had the privilege to make her last few months of life happy ones. She was pampered and loved probably more and better than she’d ever been. Just like Ronnie James, Cita was pure love and sweetness. Everyone who knew her loved her. She effortlessly stole the hearts of everyone at our veterinarian hospital – the receptionists, technicians, doctors.

We asked for her cremains to be returned to us in an open urn. We’re going to scatter her ashes amongst the plants, trees and flowers in our backyard. She’d loved accompanying Callaghan as he’d go around watering everything. She loved her flowers.

 

Cita’s collar and paw prints

 

Here are the pics of Cita I’d prepared for the post that was supposed to be a kitty update post:

 

Cita at the vet.

 

Cita… starting to feel better.

 

Cita watching over our front yard from her “crow’s nest.”

 

Cita notices everything!

 

Cita falling asleep while looking down on me.

 

Cita loves her window perch.

 

And here are pics of Cita on the morning of her death…

 

Cita’s last bath

Cita on her last day.

 

Thank you all again for your good thoughts and kind and compassionate comments. We appreciate them more than you can know.

Rest in Peace, Cita.

Today’s post was supposed to be a kitty update post. I had pics of Nenette and Cita all ready to go… Cita’s wounds were healed. She was doing much better and emerging from convalescence. But on Tuesday night this week, things took an unexpected turn. Cita passed away yesterday. It happened so quickly; we weren’t prepared to lose her, never thought there was a possibility that we would any time soon.

 

Cita with me on her last day. (March 23, 2017)

 

Thank you to all who cheered her on, you who knew her, who loved her in person and from afar. I’ll share the details and more pics of her next week.

So much love.

A year later… (looking back)

Friday was the anniversary of my Major Life Change… it was a year from the day I quit my job and made a commitment to take on this writing project. I made the change on the cusp of spring (Happy Spring!), and the timing couldn’t have been more auspicious. Who doesn’t love fresh, shiny, new beginnings?

Of course we had to celebrate.

We kept it low-key, because that’s how we roll. We went for a lunch date on Friday at our favorite place near Callaghan’s work, and then for a movie date over the weekend. It was a good excuse to see John Wick 2, which I’d been wanting to see.

But I digress! Where am I a year later? I’ve been checking in with updates here and there over the last 12 months, but to recap:

Physically speaking, I’ve taken over the Room Formerly Known As Our Dining Room when the Room Formerly Known As My Office became Cita’s Room.

(“Physically speaking” is hugely important to me. I could take my laptop around the house and write, and I’ve done that and still do that, but I’m a person who needs to be grounded somewhere.)

This began innocuously enough, with just my electronics appearing on the dining room table. Things snowballed from there. I’ve even decorated the area according to my project’s theme. Writing is an art, a craft, a discipline, so if the environment needs to comply, one needs to pay attention, right?

 

After a year of writing, and everything that goes with it….

 

Some of my comfort zones have been left behind, too. Instead of having a fixed work schedule, I wake up to a unique day every day, and that’s a good thing, because it allows for fluid productivity, and fluidity is unforced. My creative energy has free reign.

I’ve recognized that for me, this kind of writing is a 24/7 job, and I’ve come to embrace that. It’s an ongoing exercise in recognizing my best hours for concentrated writing. The discipline lies in treating those times as sacred.

There’s continual reading and investigating and learning, a part of the process as a whole. For a year I’ve been eyeballs-deep in crash course after crash course on a hundred different subjects. My brain is swollen with information and (like all writers) I hope my search engine history goes unnoticed, but I haven’t felt more mentally stimulated since grad school over 15 years ago.

(The downside to this is that I’m in my head more, which doesn’t always translate to seamless social interaction. I’m flightier than ever, for one thing.)

The only concrete temporal structure I have in my week is my blog posting schedule and my gym class schedule, and that structure is non-negotiable, especially the gym part. If I don’t make it to the gym, it’s for medical or transportation reasons, or the occasional scheduling conflict.

This work has been challenging and tough from the standpoint of mental well-being, too, but it’s been positive, overall. I owe Callaghan a debt of gratitude for nudging me onto this path in the first place, and for being my number one support system and a faithful reader of the material. Also, thank you all so much for reading here and for accompanying me on this journey!

It’s Callaghan’s Birthday!

My birthday two months ago happened to fall on a blog Friday, so I felt I should address it. I said that I was 48 and still not wearing granny panties. Today, two months later and also on a blog Friday, it’s Callaghan’s birthday, so it’s only fair to report that he’s 47 and not wearing granny panties yet, either.

“What would your birthday reflection be as you turn a year older?” I asked him at dinner last night. Because, you know. Deep thoughts about life.

He considered for a minute, then said, “I came to the United States because of my two wives.”

I’ve known him for almost eight years, so I didn’t blink an eye.

“The first time I came to live in the States, it was because I married Magali,” he went on, speaking of his first wife. “The second time, it was because I married you. If I never married you guys, I never would’ve come to the United States. I would still be in France.”

I said, “You were a Russian mail-order bride.”

– because I was thinking of one of my co-workers from 10 years ago. The guy who got himself fired because he spent work hours shopping for Russian brides on his work computer, right out in the open in a common room. He met the woman through the online catalog, brought her over, married her, and then convinced our boss to re-hire him. He came back to work and his bride went to sell fancy perfume at Dillard’s. As far as I know, they’re still happily-ever-after. No green-card marriage there!

That’s one of my favorite love stories.

But my very favorite love story is ours. And today is the day that Callaghan can stop telling people that he’s two years younger than me. He’s only 14 months younger, and now you can see that on paper.

I went to meet him at his workplace yesterday. Before we went to lunch, I took some pics of him with a couple of bikes he’d recently finished. Here’s one:

 

Callaghan at work (with the Triumph Trophy SE he recently finished)

Callaghan at work (with the Triumph Trophy SE he recently finished)

 

Then we went to dinner later and we took this selfie with unfortunate lighting, which is the best kind of selfie:

 

Callaghan's birthday commemoration selfie. That probably sounds more formal than it is.

Callaghan’s birthday commemoration selfie. That probably sounds more formal than it is.

 

Happy Birthday to this crazy, hilarious, unpredictable, dreamy guy!

The writing.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a dear friend who asked me how the writing was going. From the start of this endeavor, my answer to that question would’ve been different with each passing day. Responding to the question yesterday, though, I realized how much the answer has evolved. I’ve arrived at a point of understanding some immutable realities of big-project writing, which include knowing that the learning process will continue, and I’ll continue to grow and adapt.

I said to my friend that the writing is hard. It’s harder than any work I’ve done in my career of sitting behind desks in the professional capacities I’ve filled, and it’s led me to learn a lot about myself that I wasn’t expecting to learn.

Not to my surprise, I’m also learning a lot about the writing process in the framework of a serious commitment, though I am surprised by the extent of this education. For instance, I didn’t suspect that writing would demand more thinking work than actual writing work. For me, the most significant work happens when my fingers are nowhere near a keyboard. In the last six months, I’ve spent endless hours thinking and strategizing, researching and making decisions, trashing those decisions and making new ones.

One stereotypical image of a writer’s life is a frustrated writer sitting at a desk, perhaps with a case of writer’s block or blank page syndrome, as you will, and a wastepaper basket across the room. The writer types, rips the page from the typewriter, crumples it up, and throws it in the direction of the basket. At the end of the day, the basket is full to overflowing with trashed balls of paper, and the writer is still sitting at the typewriter, surrounded by more balls of paper scattered on the desk amongst empty coffee mugs and tufts of yanked-out hair.

We have computers now, so if I had a wastepaper basket on the other side of my writing room, it would be filled to overflowing with discarded decisions and ideas and word choices. I would be buried up to my throat in heaps of writing debris left in the wake of my learn-as-I-go process, strategies trashed along with my premature glee at having surmounted some impasse.

Writing (as a primary occupation) is not a nine-to-five. It’s a 24/7 job, and one has to be self-motivated. I’m working in my head when I’m in the shower and in the car. I’m working while I’m pacing around the house, and when I’m talking “to my cat.” I know it sounds funny, but some of my conversations with Nenette and Cita have resulted in big progress gains. Fur-babies are excellent soundboards; talking through problems with them has produced many a solution. For me, at least 40% of the writing work is thinking work. (Okay, in all honesty, I do talk to myself more now than ever.)

Some days, I write for four to six hours. Some days, I write for 10, 20, 30 minutes. And a day with no writing at all isn’t a day off. A day with no writing is a day of thinking work, and it’s exhausting. The whole project is exhausting. I have sparks of inspiration at midnight and sparks of inspiration before the sun rises. I’m up at 5:30am every day, if not earlier. My posts in this blog have been more likely to be late since quitting my nine-to-five, and I’m still not sleeping enough.

But I’m not complaining. I love this work. It’s my passion, my art, my livelihood, and by that, I mean the thing that makes me feel alive. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m grateful that I’m able to do it full-time. I’m grateful for the support and encouragement lent by family and friends, especially by Callaghan.

I suppose all writers live this way… obsessed with their projects day and night, agonizing over the smallest details. All artists, may I add.

Here’s what an honest pie chart representing my writing “day” looks like:

 

kristis-typical-writing-day-pie-chart

 

A few points about the chart!

  • The chart represents my main-project writing day. It doesn’t include blogging and other writing.
  • “Thinking” includes NOT thinking. I find it necessary to not think about the writing for a period of time so that I can return to it with a clear head.
  • “Procrastinating” doesn’t feel so much like procrastinating, since my mind is working on my project while I’m doing things around the house that need to get done, anyway.
  • None of this is to say that there are never times that I’m not working. I do my share of errands, appointments, lunches out, social media, etc.

I can stop thinking about my project when I’m at the gym. I can stop thinking about it when I’m engrossed in a book or in a movie or an episode of some television series or another. I can stop thinking about it when I’m with Callaghan. I can leave the project behind to be in those moments.

The short answer to the question How is the writing going? is “The writing is hard. But it’s going well.”

“Instead of destroying our resolve, it gave us the strength to go on.” (#Veterans4StandingRock)

If we’re fortunate, Thanksgiving with loved ones brings joy… but this year, reflecting on the holiday in and of itself, it also brought frustration. Because you can’t think about Thanksgiving without thinking about Native Americans, and it’s unthinkable that our Native Americans are still fighting for their basic rights on the land that was theirs in the first place.

 

talc_imgurstandingrock

 

Those who insist on defending their health and their heritage in the face of threat are justified in doing so. Those who join that defense on behalf of the threatened are justified in doing so. It wouldn’t make sense not to, in one way or another. Defending oneself and one’s people is an instinctual response to an unacceptable trespass. We need accountability from our government, but at its heart, Standing Rock is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue.

It’s a natural response to protest an action that could compromise well-being and desecrate cultural sites. Unnatural answers to this response include violence such as working over crowds of innocent, unarmed people with barrages of rubber bullets, clouds of pepper spray, and blasts of water in subfreezing temperatures.

Health and heritage. We all have a right to them, and it’s our right to demand them from those who are taking them from us.

The happenings at Standing Rock represent a breed of atrocity so perverse in its nature that honestly, I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

I’m one of many veterans outraged by this matter. In fact, thousands of veterans are planning a mission, a “deployment,” if you would (December 4), to Standing Rock to join in the fight.

There is a GoFundMe site to support the

Veterans for Standing Rock #NoDAPL

Please consider contributing to this effort of the Veterans for Standing Rock.

I’ve watched several videos made by vets regarding this matter. There are too many to watch, but I thought I’d share a few.

WARNING for language in this one [skip to the next if language is a concern]:

 

 

Here’s the #NoDAPL video brought to you by Disabled War Vet:

 

 

“Thugs on a payroll,” indeed.

Thank you for reading, watching, and considering offering a contribution to the efforts of the veterans preparing to join the masses at Standing Rock on December 4. “We are United States Military Veterans for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

Ye olde Maui stomping grounds. (Pics from Maui!)

Still with my plethora of pics from our family trip, I’m back to share more. (And there will be more in one or two posts after this one!) As mentioned a couple of posts back, there were some precious places of personal/historical interest on Maui that I wanted to show Callaghan. There were surprises awaiting me, as well. For instance, there’s now a Target in Kahului, Mom’s hometown. It’s the first and only Target on Maui, and it looks like that proverbial sore thumb. Long gone are the days of unpaved roads, of Grandma’s backyard growing wilder the deeper my brother and I plowed through until we found ourselves in a dirt clearing beneath trees, surrounded by strange and colorful sights. The fairgrounds! Grandma’s backyard was a Lewisesque wardrobe with wondrous surprises on the other side; it would have us tearing through the overgrowth back to the house to ask Mom for small money.

Now, there’s a chain-link fence back there beyond which looms a large, round concrete structure. Something industrial that looks like a race track from the outside.

But the Guri Guri place is still there at Maui Mall, so all’s right with the world, as Browning would say. We took Callaghan there because Tasaka Guri Guri is a must-visit! We used to walk there. Guri Guri is a mysterious frozen dessert whose nature could best be described as a sherbet with cream. You would think that’d make it an ice cream, except it’s definitely not… it can’t be described (the best of us have tried). Guri Guri  was a favorite treat for my brother and me, though I don’t eat it anymore. It’s a small, family-owned business, and by family, I mean that the Tasaka family has fervently guarded their recipe and refused the notion of expansion. Tasaka’s remains more a lemonade stand than a commercial business. That recipe will go with them to their graves.

Speaking of graves, the first place we visited after Mom and Dad picked us up from the airport was the Maui Memorial Park in Wailuku, where my Mom’s family has their plots. We went to take flowers to my Grandparents. Callaghan had the honor of dividing and arranging the flowers while Dad stood with a foot over the sprinkler, shielding us from the violent and far-reaching spray of water; Mom observed the flower-arranging, my brother cleaned off the flower receptacles, and I went stalking the nene who were wandering about the grounds. I had to get some pics, you see.

The nene are the state bird of Hawaii. Pronounced “nay-nay,” this magnificent species of Hawaiian goose had its name long before the dance craze.

I also wanted to show Callaghan the Buddhist temple where my Grandparents were heavily involved. They were devout Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, as is tradition in my family… and, as such, the temple was an important part of our lives. At home in California, we attended our local Jodi Shinshu temple, but my butsudan came from this temple in Kahului. Grandpa had been a carpenter, and he’d refurbished the donated butsudan especially for me.

A disheartening change: sugar cane production in Hawaii has officially come to an end. We drove by the cane fields in Puunene near Grandma’s house (Mom was born at the hospital in Puunene) and beheld smoke from the last fire that would burn in the fields, and then the last steam pouring out of the factory pipes. After this harvest cycle, it’s all over, sugar cane farming in Hawaii. The sugar cane fields in the Kahului area on Maui are the last to go, and they’re already gone, the dead growth just a field of rubbish.

I love Mom’s recounting of Grandpa bringing home leftover raw sugar cane for her and her sister and brothers. They also procured some themselves: they would stop on their way through the cane fields (on the Big Island, Dad, too, had to walk through the sugar cane fields to get to school), where they’d cut a stalk, peel it, and divide it into sections. Then they’d each have a piece to chew and suck out the sugar syrup before spitting out the pulp.

The next time we go to Maui, we plan to go to the sugar cane museum to visit the history of the sugar cane industry in the islands… now that it’s a thing of the past.

[Aside: Hawaiian pidgin was developed as a result of foreign immigrants working with native Hawaiians at the sugar cane plantations; they needed a common language in order to communicate. Pidgin derives mostly from Hawaiian, American English, Samoan, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, and Korean.]

What else? We went to a luau, the Old Lahaina Luau (it was one of the two times we ventured into Lahaina). We went with the wedding party a couple of days before the wedding, which was also on Lahaina (on a boat from Lahaina, that is). The luau and the wedding were joyous, and it was wonderful getting to know new family and friends!

For Callaghan and me, one of the highlights was getting to spend time with our nephew, Rudy, who is an awe-inspiring human being and one of the best people I know. It was just a wonderful family trip, brief as it was. Every minute of it was special.

In my next post, I’ll include pics from the road to Hana, and also from the haleakala volcano crater, two of Maui’s many special features that I thought Callaghan would enjoy.

Here are a few pics from some of the above-mentioned:

 

Off the plane!

Off the plane!

 

Tired and bedraggled, but there! Mom and Dad were armed with sushi for us to eat on our way to the Maui Memorial Park. Mine was brown rice and veggies.

 

Maui Memorial Park in Wailuku

Maui Memorial Park in Wailuku

 

Callaghan sorting and arranging flowers for my Grandparents' graves.

Callaghan sorting and arranging flowers for my Grandparents’ graves.

 

The cremains of most of Mom’s family are here.

 

Nene (state bird of Hawaii) on the cemetery grounds.

Nene (state bird of Hawaii) on the cemetery grounds.

 

The nene are such magnificent birds! They evolved to adapt to a lava environment.

 

Kahului Hongwanji Buddhist temple

Kahului Hongwanji Buddhist temple

 

The Buddhist temple where my Grandparents spent many hours each day, and where we went when we were staying with them.

 

Callaghan at Tasaka Guri Guri!

Callaghan at Tasaka Guri Guri!

 

Next stop, Tasaka’s!

 

Target on Maui

Target on Maui

 

The Target there in Kahului looks so strange. We did not have reason to go inside.

 

Smoke from the sugar cane fields in Puunene. The cane is cut and set on fire to burn off the leaves, leaving the stalks to be taken to the factory and boiled down.

Smoke from the sugar cane fields in Puunene. The cane is cut and set on fire to burn off the leaves, leaving the stalks to be taken to the factory and boiled down.

 

Driving by the final sugar cane harvest in Hawaii. I’m glad we were there to see it.

 

HC and S sugar cane factory. The steam is from the sugar cane being boiled down.

HC and S sugar cane factory. The steam is from the sugar cane being boiled down.

 

Old Lahaina Luau

Old Lahaina Luau

 

The luau was a blast! I had nothing luau-y to wear, so I just wore all black. But it made the lei stand out, right?

 

Goofing around while taking pics with family and friends at the luau.

Goofing around while taking pics with family and friends at the luau.

 

My nephew Rudy!

My nephew Rudy!

 

Rudy is The Man! We love our nephew to the moon and back.

 

On the boat for my brother's wedding.

On the boat for my brother’s wedding.

 

My brother’s wedding took place on this boat on the last day of our trip. The sun set while we ate dinner; the lights on the Lahaina coast in the dark of night were beautiful. After leaving the boat, we walked through Historic Lahaina Town to get shave ice from a side-street shave ice place. (I enjoyed Callaghan’s shave ice vicariously through him, as I didn’t order one.)

 

Lahaina from the boat.

Lahaina from the boat.

 

At my brother's wedding... pic taken with Mom.

At my brother’s wedding… pic taken with Mom.

 

This pic of me at the wedding was cropped from one with Mom by my side. She does not want to appear online, so you get only the half with Yours Truly.

 

Complete rainbow

Complete rainbow

 

What would Hawaii be without its rainbows?

All pau! (The end.)

 

End of month writing updates!

Whoa. This week went fast. That’s what happens when you spend half of it anticipating the next episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke.

That aside, I’ve got another writing progress post for you today, in brief. Things are going well!

The current picture is, I now have:

–27% of the project done, if its length is going to end up in the neighborhood I’m thinking. Take that for what it’s worth, like I am; honestly, I don’t think I’ll know what the book’s length will be until I write the last word. I didn’t get ahead much this week in terms of word count, but I got a lot done in terms of the non-writing writing work.

–Scrivener in my toolbox, once again. Since my last update here, I’ve figured out how Scrivener can serve me, and it’s doing a bang-up job.

–Tobacco Cedar candle scent in my writing area, because it’s fall (single double-digit temps!), and a masculine fragrance redolent of cooler weather gets me into the right mood for this project.

–Russian music I gleaned from Soundcloud and collected onto a playlist. This is a continuing process that I’m enjoying quite a bit. Again, it’s strategic.

–New décor in my writing area, also to the end of setting me in the right head-space: a). a small painting of Jesus (Orthodox), which I dug out of a box in the back of a closet – an ex-girlfriend of Callaghan’s brought it back to him from Romania years ago, and b) my The Americans poster that Callaghan ordered for me a while back, which I’ve finally framed.

–Speaking of writing area, I’m still using the dining room. (Dining room? What dining room?)

 

Desk detail.

Desk detail.

 

The table at which we used to eat continues to hold my laptop and its paraphernalia, along with odds and ends that get me through the day, such as eye drops, lip balm, nail clippers, and toothpicks. Two glasses of water, one for me, and one for Nenette… because if there is a cat, she will end up on your desk and try to drink your water no matter what, so you might as well preemptively provide her with her own. Callaghan is being wonderfully understanding about all of this. I dare say he’s even digging it.

Thus, I’m taking creeping steps toward completion. I don’t foresee that I’ll feel the need to engage in this level of atmosphere construction when I undertake my next project. This current work happens to be a period piece, so the props are helpful.

That’s it for now. Happy Friday!

The je ne sais quoi of Badassery.

A lot of people inspire me, and they’re all badasses.

Well, maybe not a lot of people. But if one badass seems like ten people, then we’re talking about a lot of people.

“Badass” is in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster says the word’s first known use was in 1955, and all of its definitions are prefaced with “often vulgar.” 60 years later, “badass” is mainstream enough that the preface isn’t warranted, in my opinion.

Badassery is tricky to define. It’s more than displaying “formidable strength or skill.” Badassery is also attitude, but to an even greater degree, another part of badassery is a je ne sais quoi that awes and renders anyone’s argument invalid.

This image is a modification of one I stole online:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Badassery

 

That about sums it up.

Also:

1). The fake badasses out there confuse things. It’s fake badassery (MW’s definition 1) that’s all arrogance, bravado, and swagger.

2). A fake badass can be mean, while the grit of a real badass can be mistaken for meanness. A real badass isn’t mean. (Case in point: Danny Trejo.)

3). Real badasses don’t know that they’re badasses. If they do, they don’t show it.

4). Bullies think they’re badasses, but real badasses don’t bully.

5). Confidence doesn’t always make a badass, but a real badass can beat an opponent who’s over-confident.

6). Real badassery doesn’t gloat.

7). Real badassery is when you compete with yourself, and if you defeat someone, it’s just because they got in your way.

8). If real badassery causes an accident, it doesn’t leave the scene.

9). Real badassery is lending strong authority to whatever you’re doing; your work speaks for itself. (I’m married to such a badass. Callaghan is a badass artist.)

10). Real badassery is beast-mode. It’s giving yourself 100%.

11). Real badassery is imposing your will… on yourself.

12). Real badassery is saying “f*ck you” (to bring vulgarity back into the conversation) with a game-changing action that no one saw coming.

13). Real badassery is winning because you were underestimated. (The tortoise was the badass, not the hare.)

14). Real badassery is winning because someone looked at you and mistook meekness for weakness.

15). Real badassery is looking at yourself and always seeing opportunities – and taking those opportunities – for improvement, so you never stop training, growing, learning.

16). Real badassery is getting up when you’re down and going in for more but knowing when you’ve had enough.

17). Real badassery is not quitting… it’s graciously accepting defeat, then regrouping.

18). Real badassery is focusing on the fight in front of you.

19). Real badassery is beating the odds.

20). Real badassery is surviving, then forging ahead like nothing ever happened.

We should have a National Badass Day where we take a moment to thank the badasses in our lives who inspire us to push ourselves toward our greatest potential. Everything else has its day, it seems. Yesterday was National Lemon Meringue Pie Day. Need I say more?

Nounours: Noon rising. (Kitty updates.)

It’s time for a kitty update, and I don’t know where to begin.

It’s been an emotionally turbulent summer.

We wanted to do everything right for our cats, and in the end, it was recommended that we allow our beloved Nounours to be an Only Cat in a household with no other cats.

But it’s not “in the end.” Because for him, it’s the beginning. It took weeks of gentle encouragement and sometimes bizarre twists and turns as we navigated our confusion to come to terms with this, and I’m still grieving his absence from our lives.

It started in June when I called a Feline Behaviorist to ask one question: “How can we get Cita to stop growling?” We thought there would be a straightforward answer to our straightforward question, but she asked more questions about each cat, which led her to focus on Nounours.

Her questioning took us back to the beginning. Nounours loved his Ronnie James (Wrah-Wrah). Wrah-Wrah had been ill the whole time we had them both, though we didn’t know it until he arrived at his last nine months as a cat.

What we mostly saw – and what we mostly remembered – was Nounours nurturing his brother during that time of advanced illness. We remembered the depth of his grief after Wrah-Wrah passed. We remembered his magical love that he continued to express by cuddling with Wrah-Wrah’s urn. Our hearts broke even more as we saw that Nounours’ heart was broken, too.

Nounours’ boundless love and caring for his brother crowded out other memories. We didn’t remember things like Nounours always trying to eat Wrah-Wrah’s food, and taking over playtime so Wrah-Wrah would be chased out of the game, and pushing Wrah-Wrah aside to make room for himself on our laps, even though there was more than enough love and food and playtime and lap-time to go around.

Our expert consultant explained that these things weren’t the little, petty things we thought they were. They were indicators that Nounours would be happiest in a house with no competition, and we should let him have that chance. She explained how we could enter him into the best no-kill shelter with the best adoption placement program in Arizona.

Both times I had this conversation with her, I sobbed, and both times (and in emails, too), she reminded me that none of this was about us, Callaghan and me. It was about Nounours, and what would be the right thing for him, rather than for ourselves. We had to leave ourselves and our own desires out of the equation.

So Nounours has embarked on a new journey. Sending him off was one of the most difficult things I’ve – we’ve – ever done. I have never done it before, and I never thought that I would.

I wrote my last kitty update post in the middle of July, and the next day, we put Nounours into the arms of a compassionate woman who assured us that he’ll be matched with the perfect family for him. We went to the vet first so we could deliver him with a complete copy of his medical records. We gave a monetary donation to the organization on his behalf. I asked if I could write Nounours’ blurb for his gallery profile, and they told me that I could. I was grateful to be able to do.

Nounours is staying in a new, state-of-the-art cattery, where he has a small room all to himself with a revolving door of volunteers and visitors who go in to lavish attention on him. We were very, very lucky to be able to secure this space for him. He is not in a cage. He is not on death row. He is not unloved or forgotten. But neither is he with us, and selfishly, I wish that that could be different.

Hindsight is the cruelest beast. If we could travel back through time, the one thing we would do differently is we wouldn’t have adopted Nenette. We adopted her for Nounours thinking that giving him another sibling to love would help to ease the pain of his loss. We made the wrong decision with the best intentions. Had we not adopted Nenette, Nounours would be the Only Cat he needed to be. We mistook his despondence for grief and loneliness, but it was just grief. We didn’t know then what we know now.

Unfortunately, life is not a Choose Your Own Adventure book where you can go back to change your decisions if you don’t like the ending you got. You can only go forward.

We always promised Nounours that we would make sure he’s happy and safe. I didn’t think that honoring that promise could ever mean giving him up for adoption. No matter how true it is when someone says, “You have to do what’s right for him,” or “You have to take yourself out of the equation… it’s not about you,” I still feel like we failed him.

We miss Nounours beyond words. We miss our big teddy bear who is such a formidable armful of cuddly love. But now it’s someone else’s turn to hug him, kiss him, and stroke his pink nose. We had our turn, and we have our memories, and we’re grateful.

We’re grateful to have had Nounours for the time that we had him, and we’re grateful for the beautiful facility that took him in. We’re grateful for the Feline Behaviorist whose compassionate wisdom, counsel, and encouragement helped us through this difficult realization and process. We’re grateful for the love and understanding of those of you who already know about this.

This might seem like a silly comparison, but it’s meaningful to me, since I’ll always only have furbabies: As an adopted person, I now have a renewed and stronger sense of empathy, appreciation, and respect for my mother who put me in a foster home when a social worker told her that it would be the best thing for me. I now have an inkling of how she must have felt. She relented to let me have a chance at a better life, and I am eternally grateful to her for having had the strength to allow for that.

I did not feel strong when we took Nounours to see him off. I fell apart.

No one but Callaghan and I can know what we all went through in the making of this heart-wrenching decision. No one can possibly know or understand the complexity of the situation, the extent of it or the history behind it. There’s much more to our story, and it’s too much to recount here.

All anyone can know and trust is that we did as advised to complete Nounours, and that it was tremendously hard, and that we did it with tremendous love.

We requested to have Nounours addressed by others as “Noon” because it’s less confusing and easier to pronounce. He can answer to it. We didn’t want the sight of his name to stymie visitors. But that’s neither here nor there. We were told that with his outgoing personality, Nounours will be adopted, no problem. Socially outgoing cats attract would-be cat parents much more readily than skittish cats who are fearful of humans. Nounours is a lover-boy who adores everybody, and he’s afraid of no one. These traits make him very adoptable.

We’ve also been assured that the adoption placement program’s protocols include the screening of potential cat parents. Nounours will start his new life in a healthy and stable environment; he will not be given indiscriminately to just anyone.

We will be notified when he’s adopted.

Finally, we’re comforted to know that Nounours’ new life will save someone else’s. Nounours is truly magical. His love and purrs have powerful healing properties. Some lucky person or people will hug him and kiss him and snuggle him and bury their face in his fur and come to know that power, and they will have it in their lives to cherish and be grateful for, as we were grateful. As we’ll always be grateful.

 

Nounours-Noon.

Nounours-Noon.

 

How I manage my mental illness.

I’ve touched on some of this in various posts in the past, but I’ve been asked to share an actual list of tactics I use to maintain my mental health.

First of all, I accept that PTSD and clinical depression are a part of who I am. Mental illness and the management of it are “my normal,” and this acceptance helps a lot.

It also helps to accept the fact that just as there are great days, there are horrible days, and days ranging between the two. Sometimes, all the meds and talk therapy and things on the list below just aren’t enough. When this happens, I try to recognize that “this, too, shall pass,” keeping it all in perspective. (I know that this is so much easier said than done. I can say it easily now, when I’m not at the bottom of the abyss of hopelessness and despair. All we can do is try.)

That being said, here’s my list… things I do to manage my mental illness:

1). I avoid alcohol (with few exceptions).

Alcohol is a depressant. It also counters or otherwise negatively interacts with medications taken for mental illness. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis is never advisable for the mentally ill.

2). I take medication and talk to my therapist on a regular basis.

Meds and talk therapy are basic, first-line tactics of controlling mental illness. It’s critically important to adhere to such a routine and to have my external resources at hand. I regularly visit my doctor at the V.A. hospital, and I know that I always have access to emergency help at a national veterans’ crisis line.

3). I work out and try to eat well (within reason, making sure to maintain a healthy balance).

Exercise heightens our mood by way of its effect on our brain chemistry. It leads to improved physical fitness, which improves our physical health. (For this reason, more and more companies are including gym membership coverage fees in their employees’ benefits packages.) Improved physical health reduces stress and makes us feel more energetic and better about ourselves, in general. Choosing healthier food options most of the time comprises the other half of this picture.

4). I have routines, and I stick to them.

Routines are underestimated and even sneered upon. We like to say that spontaneity is critical to quality of life, and there is certainly something to that, but the fact is that routine can provide us with mental health benefits, too. Routines are valuable. They can be soothing when everything else is chaos. Routines can give us a sense of control and accomplishment.

5). I eliminate toxic factors in my life (to the best of my ability).

The word “toxic” is overused in our current vocabulary (instigated, I suspect, by self-help gurus, but that’s beside the point) – and yet, it captures this point well. In a nutshell, a toxic factor is that which makes us feel badly about ourselves. It’s a negative and destructive force and presence in our lives.

Toxic factors can include situations, places, and/or people and relationships. It’s not always possible to eliminate such factors; when we can’t, we can seek out ways to lessen their negative impact. I recently liberated myself from an utterly demoralizing situation, and that leap hugely improved my mental health and quality of life.

6). I engage my creative energy to the fullest extent possible.

If you have creative juices, let them flow. If you have hobbies, indulge in them. If you don’t have a hobby, get one. Losing ourselves in the physical act of doing something we enjoy goes beyond mere escapism. It often involves honing talents with which we’ve been blessed. The act of doing something physical that requires the creative part of our brains is beneficial to our mental health. There’s a reason why occupational therapy is a part of an in-patient mental illness patient’s prescribed agenda.

7). I have cats.

Connecting with animals on an emotional level and caring for them has proven to be a powerful stress reducer, improving our mental and physical health. Our relationships with our pets can actually extend our lives, improve the quality of our lives, and even save our lives. I can’t think of anything that can compare to cultivating the love and trust of an animal. (I say “animal,” but this applies to birds and fish, too.)

 

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

 

8). I actively express my compassion for others in one way or another, however small.

Example: I don’t have time to physically go and volunteer at homeless shelters, so I choose to do my part by providing with water. I make sure to have one or two small bottles of cold water with me when I leave the house, especially in the hot months.

We buy generic water in bulk, keep the bottles in the refrigerator, and give them to the homeless when we see them on the street or at a red light. (Admittedly, I try to identify those homeless who are vets, though I’ll give water to any homeless person, of course.) Every time, without fail, the person takes the bottle of cold water with visible – sometimes overwhelming – gratitude and joy, which they express in such an open and heartfelt manner that I’m instantly put in empathetic touch with their plight. Water is never an unwelcome thing. The person usually opens it and chugs it immediately.

Kindness is invaluable for the human spirit.

Giving water to drink means and accomplishes much more than giving change or a dollar. Giving water with a smile is an act that says, “I recognize that you’re a human being and deserving of this basic, life-saving thing. Someone cares about you and your well-being.” I don’t think it’s necessary to explain how showing compassion to the needy can be anything but beneficial to all involved.

9). I set goals for myself and plan things to anticipate.

I believe I devoted an entire blog post to this. Having agenda items to look forward to is a pleasurable thing. It can also, in the worst of times, give us a reason to keep on keeping on.

10). I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. (Still trying. Still mostly failing. But still trying).

This can’t be stressed enough: Adequate sleep and quality sleep are important for optimal physical and mental health and well-being.

11). I count my blessings and nurture my relationships with loved ones.

One word: Gratitude.

Being grateful for what we have – and who we have – is an incredibly powerful reminder that things could always be worse.

 

Keeping it real.

Keeping it real.

 

That sums it up: In addition to acceptance, meds, and professional talk therapy, I manage my mental illness by working on physical health, stress reduction, and gratitude. I try.

Changes in the hizzy. (Kitty updates)

I usually present my kitty updates on the positive end of the spectrum of current feline happenings. Today, I’m here on a more subdued note, but a positive one nonetheless. Things are not always sunshine and happy bunnies throughout. Things are sometimes dark rain and miserable bunnies, but even on those days, you can usually find a sun-splashed cloud somewhere.

[/cheesy metaphor intro]

After my kitty update post last week, things amongst the felines took a turn from the challenging to the Very Challenging. But we are working through it.

It’s funny. I thought I was knowledgeable about cats and inter-cat relationships, and my knowledge was on point at one time… but now it’s out of date. I mean, it’s funny how you don’t realize that your information is outdated until you trip and fall on the evidence right in front of you. With my knowledge lagging back in the Dark Ages, and Callaghan following my lead, we’ve made some mistakes in the last two weeks.

In short, it’s been a Rumble in the KittyHood.

It’s been the KittyPocalypse.

It’s been exhausting.

It was time to call an expert.

I consulted a renowned Feline Behaviorist, and with her compassion, talent, expert analysis, and guidance, we’re heading back to the ol’ drawing board  (cats in hand) to start afresh. As far as we’re concerned, no one up in here knows anyone.

Goals! Lots of goals.

At present, I’ve got some new kitty pics to share.

Cita:

 

Cita, "Cat with big paw"

Cita, “Cat with big paw”

 

Cita exploring the mysteries of life on the table of death.

Cita exploring the mysteries of life on the table of death.

 

Before I moved my working set-up out to the dining room table...

Before I moved my working set-up out to the dining room table…

 

Nounours:

 

Nounours, our teddy bear with glassy eyes.

Nounours, our teddy bear with glassy eyes.

 

Our beloved Nounours.

Our beloved Nounours.

 

Nenette:

 

When Nenette hears her name.

When Nenette hears her name.

 

When Nenette doesn't hear her name. "Cat draped over a living room speed bump"

When Nenette doesn’t hear her name. “Cat draped over a living room speed bump”

 

Obligatory upside-down kitty pic.

Obligatory upside-down kitty pic.

 

Our goal… all we want!… is for everyone (meaning the cats) to be happy together.

My Top 8 Favorite Things about living in France.

A friend of a friend is planning to move to France. My friend asked if I’d share my insights about living there, and I thought I’d share some of those things here, too… because, I realized, that’s something I haven’t done that might be interesting or helpful to someone, in some way.

So I gave it some thought and came up with a list of my top eight favorite things about living in France. These are, of course, my own, personal top favorites, based on my own experiences. Others may have had different experiences. These were the things that made a difference to me or impacted me in some way, big or small, and helped to make life in France an enjoyable experience.

Also! These are things in addition to the wonderful people I met while I lived in France… the dear friends I made there, the many memorable experiences I had with Callaghan’s family, and so on.

 

1). Hospitality.

 

Typical French hospitality looks like this.

Typical French hospitality looks like this.

 

Everyone I met in France was gracious and hospitable in their own homes. They commonly ask you over for apéritif or coffee (by “coffee,” I mean espresso… very strong espresso), and if you show up at someone’s house, you will be served something or another (usually coffee).

 

2). Bread.

 

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

 

Some of the bread inside of our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

Some of the bread inside of our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

 

As you know, I love bread. There is a boulangerie (bakery) on every corner in France, it seems, and inside each one, there are freshly baked baguettes that are simply sublime. Pain de Campagne is my favorite, but I love all of the breads I’ve tried. In France, making bread is an art form. Some boulangeries make better bread than others, but even the mediocre French breads at bakery chain stores are fabulous and incomparable to breads I’ve had in the States!

 

3). Socca.

 

Socca (regional food, Nice)

Socca (regional food, Nice)

 

Socca is a signature food of Nice, a popular local street food. It consists of chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper stirred into a batter and traditionally cooked on a copper plate in a wood oven. After it’s cooked, it’s broken up into pieces in the pan and served in a pile. Thinking of it brings back fond memories for me, since we lived in Nice half the time we lived in France. Should you ever visit Nice, you should try it. According to Callaghan, niçoise fishermen used to eat socca because it’s cheap. It’s still cheap.

 

4). Cell phone affordability.

 

Orange, one of the major cell phone service providers in France

Orange, one of the major cell phone service providers in France

 

Speaking of cheap, cell phone service is one thing about life in France I definitely miss. In France, your monthly cell phone bill comes out to roughly $20.00, flat… and that includes unlimited everything (texting and calling, including calls to the U.S., South America, Asia, etc.)

 

5). No tipping.

 

The euros I still had when we moved back here, an ATM receipt, and my coin purse.

The euros I still had when we moved back here, an ATM receipt, and my coin purse.

 

(“Je suis à sεc” translates as “I’m broke.” The “E” looks the way it does because that’s the euro sign.)

There’s no expectation of tipping for either goods or services in France. This is convenient. (There’s also a flip side to this, but we shall not go into it, as this is a positive list.) In restaurants, tips are included in the checks, for instance. Unlike here in the States, employees in service industries aren’t paid minimally with the assumption that tips will supplement their take-home pay. The amount you’re charged is the amount you pay, period.

 

6). TGV (Train Grande Vitesse).

 

 Gare de Nice, the TGV station in Nice

Gare de Nice, the TGV station in Nice

 

The TGV is my favorite way to travel between regions in France. The train is super fast, as indicated in its name, and it’s quiet, smooth, clean, and comfortable. It’s also affordable – from Nice to Paris, for example, tickets range from 19 to 36 euro (the higher price is for 1st class). There’s a café car where you can purchase beverages, light meals, snacks, and candy. You can charge your laptop and other devices on the train, and there’s plenty of legroom. The TGV is the way to go when traveling from one part of the country to another!

 

7). La fnac.

 

An old plastic bag from one of my many purchases at la fnac.

An old plastic bag from one of my many purchases at la fnac.

 

This one really is personal to me. I’m putting la fnac on the list because it’s my favorite store in France. La fnac is a big, multi-level bookstore, and I could (and often did) spend hours on end there. My favorite area is the café, which is kind of reminiscent of the restaurants in IKEA, but larger. You can get food or beverages there and station yourself at a table and stay there indefinitely with their free wi-fi. I loved spending time there! I bought my first Reacher novel at the la fnac in Nice and read half of it in one afternoon sitting in the café.

 

8). Art and history.

 

Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère

Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère

 

Living in France is like living in a gigantic museum.

Even villages in more remote regions are rich in history and filled with art and architecture that I found to be breathtaking. Romans-sur-Isère (near where we lived), for instance, is famous for having been the home of the factory of Charles Jourdan, one of the first houses of Haute Couture shoes, if not THE first. This museum, Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère, has to be one of the most comprehensive museums of shoes in the world. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it so much since I’m not especially interested in shoes, but it’s amazing how viewing and reading about shoes through the ages unfolds as a detailed history lesson in human culture.

Then there are places such as:

 

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (between Valence and Lyon)

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (between Valence and Lyon)

 

Between 1879 and 1912, facteur Cheval (“facteur” is a mailman) collected rocks while delivering mail, and he used them to build this little palace in an obscure village between Valence and Lyon. It’s made mainly out of lime, mortar, and cement, and it’s unlike anything I’d seen. I’m including this little gem here to show that there’s art literally everywhere you go in France.

This concludes my list of favorite aspects of life in France. It would be interesting to see other’s favorite things!

Cita’s in da house. (Cat mom blog/kitty update.)

The short story: Our neighbor didn’t care about his cat. We fostered her in our backyard, and we have her inside now because he moved away and left her homeless. That happened on Saturday.

The long story: To be clear, we never took her and put her in our backyard. She came with the house… I mean, the day we moved in, she greeted us on the doorstep. She was the one-cat welcoming party. We thought she was a stray.

We found an old paper plate holding the remnants of cat food next to the house. We assumed it was for her. Maybe someone who used to rent our house abandoned her…?

She looked to be healthy and well-fed for a stray, but it seemed that she occupied the entire block. We thought maybe she ate off of old paper plates at different houses on the street. She didn’t continue to eat off of paper plates at our house, though. We resisted putting food out for her. If she did have a home somewhere, we didn’t want to encourage her to hang out on our property more than she already did.

The few neighbors we got to know said that they often saw her around in their yards, but no one knew if she belonged to anyone. Everyone thought she was a stray. She was “The Neighborhood Cat.”

She was cute and obviously intelligent. I went out of my way – way out of my way – to ignore her the whole first year we lived here, because I know me. I didn’t want to get attached to someone else’s cat. She was always here… in the front yard, at the front door, on the patio, on the side of the house, in the backyard, at the back door. It was hard to ignore her friendly meows and her soft, furry little body winding around my ankles, but I managed to look the other way. For a long time, I never even looked down at her, because I didn’t want to see her eyes.

We started referring to her as Ronnie James’ girlfriend, as she and the Wrah-Wrah fondly gazed at each other nose-to-nose through our living room window. (Our cats never go outside.)

Ronnie James died in the spring. The little black cat kept hanging around. Renters living in surrounding houses came and went. No one knew her, but everyone knew her.

In the late spring, she appeared to be pregnant. Then she vanished for a month, only to reappear looking not pregnant. She had to have been in some house somewhere, we thought.

At the end of the summer, visiting relatives stayed with us for a couple of weeks. When we gathered on the front patio to enjoy the night monsoons, the little cat would be there, too, purring under the hands of our cousins. She was cute, intelligent, and affectionate.

One afternoon I rounded the corner onto our street as I was walking home from work, and she came sprinting toward me with utter glee from the other end. I was taken aback and amazed that she saw me from so far away, especially since I was still in my ignoring-her phase. That was the day I broke down and petted her. How could I not?

Predictably, I started to fall in love with her as I relaxed my guard. The week of Halloween, I kept a vigilant eye out – black cats on the street tend to be more at-risk during Halloween.

Finally, about seven months ago, Callaghan managed to approach the mysterious occupant of the house next door. (Not the various bros in the house on our other side. We knew them, and they knew nothing about the little cat.)

“Oh yeah, that’s my cat,” the neighbor informed Callaghan.

We never knew the guy’s name. We knew that his house had a revolving door through which different people would pass at random times 24/7, but he himself was hard to pin down. “She comes and goes. Sometimes she’s gone for days. There was this one time my friend saw her at the Circle K,” he said, referencing the convenience store/gas station down the street.

We couldn’t believe that anyone could be so nonchalant about his cat roaming around outside, eating off of old paper plates at different houses and ending up at gas stations.

He also told Callaghan that he’d had her since she was a kitten. (Me to Callaghan: “WTF! How can you have a cat since she was a kitten and then leave her outside to fend for herself?”)

It’s one thing to let your cat outside. It’s another thing to leave her outside to the point where everyone thinks she’s a stray.

The neighbor went on to confirm that his cat had been pregnant, and he had her spayed after the kittens were born. With this, we had to believe that she belonged to him. (We don’t know what happened to her kittens. We never saw them.)

This last December, the cat appeared in our backyard laundry room on an exceptionally chilly day. What could we do? She seemed hungry and cold. It was too much. Compassion insisted that we drop our demeanor of indifference, neighbor or no neighbor. We lined a cardboard box with blankets, put it against the wall by the dryer, and set out dishes of dry cat food and water. From that day on, she made our property her official home base. She’d go out and make her morning and evening rounds around the neighborhood, and then she’d come back to our house. Always.

At some point, the neighbor acquired two more cats… male cats. He left them outside, too, of course, and they bullied the little black cat, who by then we’d named “Cita.” (If she had a name before, we never knew what it was. The guy never told us, and we never heard him calling for her.)

We habitually chased the other cats off our property when we’d catch them menacing Cita. Ferocious cat fights would wake us up in the middle of the night. One morning, we found her on our back patio with a big, oozing wound on her flank. We were furious. Why didn’t he care?

Recently, I saw her limping after jumping down the fence to get into our yard, so we cut out a little cat door for her at the bottom of the gate. The gratitude she displayed when we showed it to her was heartbreaking.

Cita played with the cat toys we put on the back patio. She used the litter box we put out there, too. Yes, an outdoor cat used a litter box! We spent more and more time with her, just hanging out and bonding. She’d already gotten to know Nounours and Nenette through the windows. I started to tentatively include her in my Kitty Update posts.

Despite everything, we assumed that the neighbor would want her in the end. He didn’t. On Saturday morning, the day after I included her in my last Kitty Update post, he drove off with all of his stuff in a giant U-Haul truck and left her behind. He never came around asking about her. He literally abandoned her.

On the one hand, we were sad for her. On the other hand, we were glad that he didn’t take her away to be neglected somewhere else.

Suddenly, she was officially our responsibility.

We bought her a collar and a tag.

 

Pink and leopard print jewelry for Cita, my cell phone number on the back of the tag being the most important part, of course.

Pink and leopard print jewelry for Cita, my cell phone number on the back of the tag being the most important part, of course.

 

We took her to the vet that same day before we brought her into the house.

 

We agree. Cita is a gorgeous cat, and now she's a vaccinated and microchipped cat, too.

We agree. Cita is a gorgeous cat, and now she’s a vaccinated and microchipped cat, too.

 

Then we brought her home. She’ll never go outside again, because she’s our cat now, and we don’t have outdoor cats.

We thought Cita would rebel and demand to go out, but she didn’t. She politely asked to go out just twice, but she wasn’t upset when we didn’t open the door. It was almost like she was testing us to verify that she wasn’t dreaming.

Cita’s transition from outdoor cat to indoor cat went seamlessly. As for her relationship with Nounours and Nenette… that’s a different story. The first two days went pretty well, but today, Day Three, they took a step (or three) back, which is why this post is late. I’ve spent the morning babysitting, herding, and supervising cats. It will take time. We’ll get through it. We will persevere!

Here is Cita before (outdoors):

 

Cita: "Under my tough street kid exterior I'm really a pampered house cat."

Cita: “Under my tough street kid exterior I’m really a pampered house cat.”

 

And after (indoors):

 

Cita: "See! I AM a pampered house cat."

Cita: “See! I AM a pampered house cat.”

 

Cita’s “before” pic was taken just one week ago! She’s stayed glossy and black since bathing herself for the first time indoors. She’s no longer a dusty desert kitty.

 

Now Cita can bathe without having to lick off layers of desert dust.

Now Cita can bathe without having to lick off layers of desert dust.

 

Here she is after just one night inside:

 

Cita's first morning as an indoor cat.

Cita’s first morning as an indoor cat.

 

It’s wonderful to see her so happy!

 

Nenette and Cita resting together in the dusk.

Nenette and Cita resting together in the dusk.

 

(Don’t let that peaceful picture fool you. It was World War III in here this morning.)

Hopefully, Cita will never have to employ her survival skills again.

Cats are domestic animals. Just because they can survive outside doesn’t mean they should be outside. There are dangers outside! At heart, all cats prefer to be indoor cats. Cita hasn’t looked back.

Skeletons in the closet (Office revamp – the unabridged version)

At present, joyous times are being had with our houseguests (my in-laws) from France, who will stay with us a few more days yet. All manner of general housecleaning needed to be done before they arrived, but I spent the better part of last week taking apart my office, sorting through unwanted miscellany (“garbage,” “recycle,” “Goodwill”), and putting the room back together.

Most of the action took place beneath the surface in the closet and drawers, so the room itself doesn’t look much different now than it did last week. Even so, it’s different to my eyes, which had beheld the spectacle of the room’s innards strewn about on the floor and piled up on furniture over the few days it took me to analyze it all. I felt like a forensics investigator. What has been seen cannot be unseen, as they say. It was a lot of crap.

The terrain of my desk changed slightly when I added a lamp, which makes all the difference. This is now my full-time work environment, so my office needed a desk lamp more than the dining nook did. (Another lamp has taken its place in the dining nook, anyway.)

You knew where this was leading… I’ve got the photographic tour here for anyone who may be interested, such as you fine readers who’d asked about my Table of Death when I mentioned it a week ago. It started as a raucous, dark joke with a friend when I showed her the table and realized just then that a Dia de los Muertos bag hangs in that corner (pure happenstance, which prompted the hilarity – you had to be there). Laughing about it helped to mitigate the somberness of that part of the room, but it helped further when another friend asked to see the table and called it a “Table of Remembrance.” So, yeah. I like pairing that brighter perspective with the dark humor one.

Enough about that. 360 office tour ahoy!

As seen from the doorway:

 

inside left corner (desk)

inside left corner (desk)

 

Desk (top view)

Desk (top view)

 

Desk corner detail: Valentine's Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan "not cal" by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

Desk corner detail:
Valentine’s Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan
“not cal” by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

 

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

 

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

 

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

 

Wall to the right (closet)

Wall to the right (closet)

 

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

 

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

 

This concludes our tour. I won’t be needing to cover a door window in this office, but the door here stays open, anyway.

Minor lifequake, big result. (and a few March favorites.)

The end of March found me largely uninspired where March Favorites were concerned. Truth be told, there weren’t many “little things” in March that significantly made my days brighter or my life happier. Rather, a few big things made the month notable, including my abrupt, exhilarating flight into another occupational dimension. A confounding series of events and an irreparable set of circumstances helped to catapult me here. I jumped… and I landed on my feet. I won’t write about said events and circumstances because they’re boring, and no one wants to read The Boring. Suffice it to say that my great launch proved to be entirely appropriate, and I am happy. And grateful! Very grateful.

Right. Well… here are a few “little things” that captivated me in March!

 

1). Bates Motel (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-BatesMotelSeason1

 

With some amount of skepticism, we thought we’d give this Psycho backstory series a try. By the end of the first episode, we knew we were in for some serious binge-watching. It turns out that there’s much more to this series than 17-year-old Norman Bates and his mother moving into the hotel to assume ownership and a fresh start. This is excellent T.V.

 

2). Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet.

 

Burt's Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet.

Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet.

 

My obsession with Burt’s Bees lip products knows no bounds. I picked up this tinted lip balm to use when I want just a suggestion of color on my lips, and lo, it’s even creamier than my beloved B.B. coconut and pear lip balm! The Sweet Violet color is beautiful, and no, it doesn’t taste sweet.

 

3). derma e Firming DMAE Eye Lift.

 

derma e Firming DMAE Eye Lift

derma e Firming DMAE Eye Lift

 

I’d been using an expensive eye cream from Tarte that I loved, but it fell just short of cruelty-free eye cream perfection. This one by derma e comes closer, and it’s half the price of the one by Tarte. Also, bonus! I found it at Target, along with this night cream from the same line:

 

4). derma e Hydrating Night Cream.

 

derma e Hydrating Night Cream

derma e Hydrating Night Cream

 

I’ve never been a fan of flowery scented face creams, but this one, I love. The cream itself is rich without being too thick, hydrating without being watery, and just all around luxurious. Its scent of spring wildflowers only adds to its appeal. I will definitely be re-purchasing this night cream when I’ve used up this jar.

 

5). Overhauled home office.

 

The only cat allowed on my desk is this porcelain one I've had for over 30 years.

The only cat allowed on my desk is this porcelain one I’ve had for over 30 years.

 

I moved my office set-up out of its guest bedroom quarters and re-situated it in the room that’s actually my office, a decision made entirely by Nounours and Nenette, who aren’t allowed in the guest bedroom. That was the point! I wanted to work undisturbed. But I couldn’t stand day after day of sad little kitty faces and pitiful mews and paws under the door, so here I am back in my real office. This is a good thing. The kitties aren’t all over my desk as they usually are – like somehow, they know – and I love my office. It’s huge, for one thing.

The floor to ceiling tapestry on the wall next to my desk is the original one; it inspired the smaller one that I’d had in my outside-the-home office:

 

Sunset and twinkle lights in my office

Sunset and twinkle lights in my office

 

And:

 

A sleeping cat on a futon, because home office.

A sleeping cat on a futon, because home office.

 

I didn’t photograph the wall opposite the tapestry because there’s no need to showcase the Table of Death that took shape as I arranged things in here the other day. Nope. No need.

 

6). Backyard rocks.

 

Rocks masquerading as turquoise mixed throughout the gravel in our backyard

Rocks masquerading as turquoise mixed throughout the gravel in our backyard

 

It happened the other day that I was digging through our expanse of rocks in the backyard (don’t ask), and I found that we have these turquoise-colored stones throughout. I looked them up. It seems that they’re some kind of coppery mineral. I never knew they were there! A glass tumbler filled with a few of the brighter, more deeply colored ones now sits on the Table of Death.

 

**the end**

My week in Haiku (Haiku 5: Emancipation)

[** This personal haiku discipline I’ve started has become something of a pleasurable habit. Helpful hint, if you’re so inclined: I’ve grouped my growing collection of themed haiku sets here. You can also click the link in the “Poetry” category in the sidebar. **]

I’m coming off of a fantastic and unusually creatively charged week, probably the most so of 2016 thus far. I wrote this set of haiku to sum it up…

 

Haiku 5: Emancipation

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Disingenuous

snakes boiling over it all:

Laissez-moi tranquille.

 

"The Art of Strategy" (R.L. Wing, new translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War")

“The Art of Strategy” (R.L. Wing, new translation of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”)

 

2.

Serendipity.

No secret provocation,

no sly dorsal fin.

 

Newly created path.

Newly created path.

 

3.

Bear witness: Too much

blinding white noise, stochastic

resonance. Failure.

 

Live a great story (and learn).

Live a great story (and learn).

 

4.

Current volition:

auspices of Minerva,

prosaic temple.

 

My new office set-up – at home. Blessed.

My new office set-up – at home. Blessed.

 

There is not a paper on that desk.

The adventures of a pug (nightshirt).

Last week was eventful in my little world.

I have this nightshirt that I love. It’s a loose white t-shirt, thin, soft, and comfortably cool in hot weather. Functionally, it’s great for summer, but it’s designed around a Christmas theme, which doesn’t make sense in the northern hemisphere.

Callaghan hates the nightshirt… not because of its Christmas theme, but because of its overall unfortunate look. I can see where he’s coming from. The shirt features the face of a pug. The masterminds behind the nightshirt made the pug look unsightly with a “so ugly it’s cute” kind of intention. The pug is wearing a festive red Santa hat, which is how you know it’s a Christmas nightshirt (for someone in Australia, that is, since it’s thin, cool, and ideal in hot weather). There are gold Christmas lights in the background, and below the pug’s portrait, it says #SELFIE in glittery gold paint. The pug is grimacing, presumably because he’s smiling for his picture.

Hilarious, right? Pugs are adorable. A pug in a Santa hat taking a selfie at Christmas is adorable. Pugs were in vogue when I bought the nightshirt, and the word “selfie” had probably just been invented, and it was December, so all three of those things on a summery nightshirt had to be a triple win.

Callaghan maintains that it’s the ugliest and most ridiculous nightshirt in the history of nightshirts.

Really, I can’t blame him. I don’t know how much I’d appreciate getting into bed with a lover wearing that shirt, either. Its pug portrait fails to make sense. It attempts to convey a message, but the message doesn’t match the picture. It strives for an aesthetic, but it doesn’t achieve it. It’s trying to be hip, but the pug isn’t holding a PBR. Overreaching for novelty, the nightshirt’s very ambitions, however admirable, are its downfall. The nightshirt is having an identity crisis caught in a gold-glittered tangle of WTF. The nightshirt might even work as birth control.

Despite its failings, I loved that nightshirt. Then I lost it. It just vanished one day, going into the laundry, but not coming out, like so many socks. It wasn’t the first beloved article of clothing I’d lost, but the disappearance of this particular one made me suspicious.

“You took it,” I accused Callaghan. “You think it’s ugly and you hate it so you stole it.”

“What are you talking about.”

“My pug. You hate when I wear it to bed, so you took it!”

“No.”

“What did you do with it? Are you sure you didn’t accidentally… misplace it?”

“Mais non!”

When the conversation goes from English to French, it’s getting serious.

I have to believe him, because marriage is about trust and giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, I told myself.

Going with the assumption that Callaghan didn’t take the pug, I tried to fathom what might have become of it. Of course, I imagined the worst. The pug fell into the hands of Russian mobsters. The pug got eaten by a shark (in Kansas). The pug is being held hostage in a joystick sweatshop in Bangladesh. The pug is smoking weed in the desert. I wondered if I was going to start receiving photographs of the pug in random far-off places, wearing hats other than the Santa hat.

It turned out that the pug had gotten separated from the laundry as it was being dumped into the washing machine. It had been wedged between the washer and the wall all this time.

I found it last week when I was frantically trying to rescue a large, beautiful squirrel who’d been chased into the laundry room by an outdoor cat (who adopted us, but we’re not supposed to admit to that, so she’s ours, but only unofficially, and we named her “Cita” as in Mamacita, but you didn’t hear any of this from me). I’ve lived in the Valley for 25 years and I didn’t even know that there were squirrels here until I found this one burrowing into the folds of my pug nightshirt.

I was elated to have found the pug, but looking at it through fresh eyes that hadn’t seen it in months, I couldn’t remember why I’d been so enamored with it. Its charm had been replaced by actuality. The whole picture of the pug was something nonsensical that confused me. The chaos of it canceled out its comfort value. In fact, it wasn’t even as comfortable as it used to be… it had pilled, and the pilling made the thin fabric more textured than soft. (Making things more disconcerting was the fact that I love actual pugs and find all of them to be adorable.)

 

Looking possessed in the pug nightshirt, and still trying to figure out how people take mirror selfies.

Looking possessed in the pug nightshirt, and still trying to figure out how people take mirror selfies.

 

So I don’t wear the pug nightshirt anymore. It’s not as comfortable as it used to be, and Callaghan still hates it. I’ve given it up. I’ve tucked it into a drawer and walked away from it. I just threaten to wear it at opportune times.

You’ve got… the worst thing in the world.

Our weekend started out great. We went to a basketball game. We went to the fights. We went to the gym for Body Combat. We ran errands and went grocery shopping. I relaxed a little on Sunday morning, and then on Sunday afternoon, I did the usual Sunday things… the laundry, a little vacuuming, a little cooking, a lot of preparing things for the upcoming week. I did not work out in the garage because there were too many random things to be done around the house, and I didn’t want my attention diverted from them.

Finally, at the end of the day, I sat down to do some writing. It was hard to do, though, because some unpleasant, cluttering thing was crushing the part of my mind that does creative writing and other things that I like. Something conniving and surly, taunting and smirking. Something obnoxious and potentially dark, but mostly sarcastic in a bad way. Something that laughs at my pain. Something tediously annoying and annoying tedious. It smelled like a scam, a bully, a filthy nickel, a plot to rip people off, a bundle of lies and waste and ecological mayhem and environmental irreverence and an obscene plunder of mind-numbing, time-consuming nothing.

It was the mail.

I had to finally open it. ALL of it.

This is the part of BEING AN ADULT that I do with the least success, simply because I hardly ever do it at all. I avoid it. I’m terrible with it, and so is Callaghan. It gets to a point where it can’t be ignored because suddenly it’s a 500-pound, four-cornered paper beast that exploded into fragments all over the place and won’t go away until I plow into it.

I loathe opening the mail with a terrible passion. It’s a dreary and slightly depressing chore, and I know that if I just do it the day it comes in, it would be a non-issue. I’m aware that it’s a good idea to open the mail on a daily basis. Honestly, I don’t know what my problem is. What’s so hard about opening the mail rather than tossing it somewhere and forgetting about it?

Sometimes, something important in the mail gets missed because of my negligence, like the bill I found buried in one of the piles of mail I finally went through on Sunday. (Yes, one of the piles. There were four piles in different parts of the house. I know. I know.) It was a gas bill, and I’d forgotten to look for it because for months, the gas bills have reflected only a credit and a big NOTHING in the “amount due” field. Evidently the credit finally ran out and this latest bill was an actual bill that needed to get paid, and it was due yesterday… the day after I found it! I put it in the outgoing mail the day it was due. Fortunately, the payment didn’t have far to go. But what if I didn’t decide to get off my ass to open the mail on Sunday?

Here’s a good adult’s system for dealing with the mail:

1). Get the mail. Open it. Sort it and discard the junk.

Here’s my system:

1.)  Extract the bills (I know when to look for them) and toss the rest of the mail somewhere.

2a). Set the bills on the little metal rack thing that sits on my desk, because whenever I owe someone money and they send me a piece of paper to tell me about it, that’s where it goes. At the beginning of the week of “payment due by,” I pay the bill.

2b). The remnants of the bill get stapled together, marked with “PAID,” and left on my desk in the TO FILE pile. Or on top of the file box, itself. (Don’t ask why I can’t just do the extra little step of removing the lid from the file box and putting the bill summary inside its folder. I don’t know.)

2c). (If the gas bill reflects a credit for several months, I forget to look for it in the mail. This is especially easy to do because it arrives out of sync with the other bills.)

3). When the weight of the ignored mail starts to smother me, I seek out the piles and deal with them. It always feels like my legs and hands are made of deadwood and I’m dying a little.

4). After going around the house and collecting all of the mail, I redistribute it into different piles: Callaghan’s mail goes into one pile, and mine into another.

5). I put Callaghan’s pile of mail somewhere in his office/studio, thinking that he’ll notice it one day and do something with it.

6). Begin the irksome task of opening my own mail: First, identify the generic junk and put it in the RECYCLING pile. Then open all the envelopes and find that 98% of the mail… the overwhelming bulk of it… is junk with my name on it.

7). Prepare the personalized junk to be discarded: Open the envelope. Find the part with my personal information. Tear off that part and set it in the TO BE SHREDDED pile. Put the recyclable parts in the RECYCLING pile. Throw the rest into the TRASH pile. Put the items to be filed in the TO FILE pile. (The mail is still in four piles!)

8). Do the things: Gather the enormous pile of recyclable paper into my arms and haul it out to the recycling bin. Throw the trash pile into the trash. Shred everything that’s left. The shredding part adds some mileage to the tedium because I have to EMPTY THE SHREDDER when I’m done, and then that has to go in the trash.

And that’s it. I’m good for the next three months.

(I always vow to start opening the mail when it comes in, but so far, that hasn’t happened.)

Since I didn’t think I would spend Monday night writing this useless rant about the mail, I didn’t take a picture of the mail or the carcasses thereof. So here’s a picture of Callaghan:

 

Callaghan (blurry in a candid shot).

Callaghan (blurry in a candid shot).

 

See? It’s male. Har, har. Lame, I know. So is this post. So is the mail. So am I, for not opening the mail. I wanted to write Haiku for today’s post, but I wasn’t about to write Haiku about mail. You’re welcome.

Lopsided eyes and mild panic: A cautionary tale.

Life changes and I’m back to a routine of walking to work every morning. I’m loving the extra little workout every day! I also walk home three days a week. The big change in the equation is that on the other two days, I take the bus home so I can get there fast, change my clothes, and drive to Mesa for Body Combat. Why? Callaghan now works on-site full-time, and the site happens to be in BFE (very far away, in case you didn’t know the acronym). This necessitates me taking myself to the gym. Which is fine. As long as I can get there!

(The adjustment to Callaghan’s new schedule and location has been a learn-as-we-go process in many ways. Our lives are very different now. And on Monday, I did NOT make it to the gym, because I literally had no way to get there. That was the last time that was going to happen!)

On Wednesday, I got to the bus stop early and wondered what to do with the spare 15 minutes. People-watching opportunities were oddly nonexistent at University and Mill. What else is there to do while waiting? Take a selfie. Or twenty.

I don’t take selfies very often. It doesn’t occur to me because I’m always looking for interesting, stationary subjects to photograph, or I’m stalking my cats with the camera. There was nothing of interest from my vantage point at the bus stop, and my cats were selfishly sitting at home, so I thought it would be amusing to capture a rare moment of myself being bored in an unusual place.

All that happened in the end was I freaked myself out, though. A little bit. Just a little.

The selfies I took showed my eyes looking lopsided. They were mismatched. One eye looked larger and different than the other. This alarmed me because I thought I remembered reading somewhere that psychopaths often have in common a noticeable difference between their eyes. While no one’s features are perfectly symmetrical, the eyes of a mentally unstable person can be very obviously unlike each other. (I know I read this somewhere, but now I can’t find anything about it, of course.)

Thing is, I do live with mental illness in the form of clinical depression and PTSD, but I never thought I looked mentally ill. The selfies suddenly made me feel paranoid. Then I became paranoid about being paranoid, and that made me feel crazier. I wondered if my mental health situation was really what I thought it was, only. And very quickly, the whole thought process took off on a continuous, self-perpetuating loop inside my brain.

To stop the merciless cycle, I deleted all of the selfies.

I went about the rest of the evening not thinking about it. I went home, went to the gym, and went out to dinner with Callaghan, and I didn’t think about it at all.

Later that night, I went to remove my make-up and saw that my eyeliner was thicker under one eye than the other, and the two lines didn’t match in shape. All along, it was my eyeliner that didn’t match! That would do it. Eyeliner can change your face dramatically. Of course the eye with more liner would look larger, and the two eyes would look different with different liner shapes!

I looked like that before I went and sweated at the gym, so I’d gone around at work with lopsided eyes. How fun.

Either I was in too much of a hurry when I was getting ready that morning, or the eyeliner wore off unevenly during the day. The result was the same, though: I looked like a Picasso painting at work, and I almost drove myself crazy wondering if I was crazier than I actually am.

Yesterday morning, I took extra care with my eyeliner. In the afternoon, I took a selfie in my office:

 

(February 18, 2016)

(February 18, 2016)

 

I came out looking more normal, though the left eye still had slightly more liner than the right. Probably only I would notice it, now that I’m hyper-aware of the thickness and shape of my eyeliner. I may have to just set the camera down and back slowly away. It’s hard to get the two eyes to look exactly the same, and I only allow myself 15 minutes to do my make-up before going to work. It is what it is.

The lighting was surprisingly flattering, too, though. Also, it was a rare day that I put on e.l.f. primer under my foundation. I think I like it, after all.

And Callaghan loves his new job!