Archive for the ‘My Life’ Category

How Comet Came Home

In my last post, where I described Comet’s little excursion,   I mentioned that he had probably not been raised as an indoor cat.  This is the story of how Comet came to live with us in the first place.

It started very late in the evening of January 1, 2009.  Steve and Abby had been visiting Steve’s sister, who lived in Baltimore.  I was at home, doing something or other online.  Dottie was asleep.  I got a call from Steve, about a stray cat…

Apparently he had stopped to get gas, and as he got out to start pumping a cat jumped onto the hood of the car.  He went to shoo it off, but it had already jumped into Abby’s lap (we found out later that he had had a little help), and curled up there.  It was a really cold night, and what could they do…?

So Steve called me and said he was bringing a stray home.  I told him no, that wasn’t about to happen.  For lots of reasons, one of them being that years before  we had brought a stray in who had FeLV.  Our vet had eventually given the ‘all clear’ for bringing a new cat in, but I didn’t want to go through that again.  So while he was driving I did some frantic web and phone searching, and got hold of animal control  services (this was about 11:30 at night, mind you)  I was told that we could drop the cat off at BARCS.  So I gave Steve the address and made him drive across town.  Then he couldn’t find the place, so I pulled up Google maps and navigated for him.

Of course, there is no 24 hour animal shelter in Baltimore.  He brought the cat home.  By this time Abby had named him ‘Comet’, I should have known then that the story was done.  We did our best to keep him quarantined in the girls’ room (poor Captain really wanted to say ‘hi’).  He ate a lot, drank a lot, and slept a lot.

In the morning Abby and I drove back up to BARCS.  there is a perfectly good shelter nearer to us, but I figured that this cat was so friendly and socialized to people, someone must be looking for him.  I made a point of telling the woman at the desk that if his family didn’t find him he had a home with us (by this time Abby was thoroughly bonded, of course).  She told me that in three days he would be ‘up for adoption’, and that we would be at the top of the list.  As we left, I heard her telling the complaining cat that ‘it’s OK, they’ll be back’.

So three days later I called to see if his family had shown up.  I was told in no uncertain terms that I “should come in now“.  So Abby and I did.  It turned out that the card on the cage which said ‘adopted’ had fallen off, and someone else had gotten in ahead of us to take the cat home.  The woman I spoke to on the phone was the same woman who had signed Comet in, so she just made the executive decision that we were the official ‘first takers’.

So there you have it.  The cat pretty much adopted us.

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Comet’s Big Adventure

We’re not sure how Comet got out of the house. We know it must have been sometime Saturday night.  Steve and I each opened the door once, and each is convinced that Comet didn’t slip past.  There’s no telling.

comet-croppedI was in a funk of anxiety and guilt, plagued by memories of Ginger (who got out on my watch years ago and never came home).  Mad at myself for getting so upset about a cat who actually was an outdoor cat (we believe) in a previous life (but that’s a story for another day). Basically, it just wasn’t fun.

Yesterday morning I got a FB message back instructing me to call, which I did.  I gave the very nice woman on the line all of Comet’s particulars, and told her that I’d put a photo in the FB pages messages.  She didn’t have access, so she suggested I email the picture, which I did.  I got a nice email back with some useful information about finding a lost pet.

Last night, feeling headachy (still again and yet) and bad I opted not to go to our weekly pub trivia competition.  I stayed home and played computer games, and occasionally got up and called for the cat.  At about 9:00 I thought I heard a reply, but it was almost drowned out by the crickets.  I grabbed my keys and flashlight, and went out into the chirpy evening to see if I could hunt him down.  I saw a neighbor sitting outside, and asked if he had heard a meow, but he thought it was just crickets.  I was still hopeful, and kept calling.  I was certain that I was hearing a response – I high, thin, chirpy mew off in the distance.

I’m terrible at finding things by sound.  I often don’t get to my phone in time to catch the call, just knowing it’s ‘over here somewhere’, but I was pretty quickly able to hunt down the sound.  Soon I spotted him.

He was stuck in a tree, just across the parking lot from out townhouse.  I had searched that area the day before, but I hadn’t looked up.  Not that I think he was stuck in the tree the day before, but he had to have been somewhere close by.


He was clearly glad to see me.  His meow changed timbre, he was kneading and rubbing against the tree, but he wouldn’t climb down.

There was no way I could possibly get to him, and, try as I may I couldn’t coax him down.  I thought about going back to the house and getting the step ladder, but it seemed too cruel to make him watch me walk away.  So I called Steve (trivia was over, we came in second) and told him to come home and help me retrieve the cat.

While I waited there was nothing to do but talk to the him, and try to calm him down.

I referred to Steve as Comet’s ‘daddy’. It’s official, the girls are right, I am the crazy cat lady.


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As I’ve mentioned before, I deal with depression. I’m currently doing it without professional assistance, but I do have a support network, and I take St. John’s Wort and try to use the skills I got from REBT in my daily life.

One of the things I keep remembering is the story of the Two Wolves. It’s a really positive image. More, it’s a great bit of imagery, and it serves as a reminder that every time you follow a thought chain you are building a path in your brain. For me, this doesn’t so much mean that I never follow my mind into dark places, or forbid myself negative feelings (yeah, you can really hurt yourself that way too) but I do make a conscious effort to keep most of my mental trips grounded, and I make sure to indulge in wishful thinking every now and then. Try to use all those different emotional muscles, so they don’t atrophy.

Still, because I’m perverse, and because I reject the idea that a wolf could be evil, now and then I allow that story to morph a bit. The ‘bad wolf’ is more like a wendigo. You think you are feeding it ‘the enemy’ by villifying those who have wronged you. You even get some energy back in the form of renewed anger. Do it long enough, though, and you’ll be feeding it all the time, and that ‘righteous’ anger you get back is all that sustains you. Do it long enough, and one day you’ll realize that the flesh you’ve been feeding it is your own…It’s a powerful image, and I’m fond of it, but I think the two wolves image is more suitable for everyday use.

The upshot is, this has really changed the way I approach serious emotional conflicts. I try to stay away from judging the other person, and I take a long, hard look at my own actions and motivations. I also figure out what reconciliation would take, and whether or not the relationship is worth it (not whether the person is worth it – that never works well).

The upshot is  I am (I’ve been told) the least satisfactory person to come to when you need to vent about how terrible your conflict with someone is, especially if that someone is central to your life.   Which is fine with me, because I’m completely unsatisfied to be put in the middle of other people’s conflicts.  I’m as prone as the next person to feed the drama llama from time to time, but I do my best to make sure that llama is grounded in fiction (literature, video, or role playing games) or distant from my life.  I find it’s just better all around.

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Poetic Spam

The following appeared in my Akismet spam queue.  I was tempted to let it go through, because it’s so gosh-darned poetic it’s almost cute.

What is a defense test and do? As it’s, The category is hellbent on facilitating crimes that barefoot running has metamorphosed ideas to begin making users on the other hand together with the pitch almost dependent. They can undertake big; They can not discuss cheap. That they are unable to decant even about the qb

Then again… no.  Friggin’ spammers.

The Job Hunt

So far in August I’ve applied for 13 jobs and had 4 interviews (for three jobs).  This is a lot better than July’s totals, and I have to say that the Maryland Workforce Exchange really showed me how (and why) to target resumes to a job.

One interview (face to face) was with an employment agency, for general Admin work.  The jobs I’m in line for are all very local,they know I want temp to perm,  and they have my resume and vitals on file.  It went well, but I haven’t had a call back.

Two interviews were for a Regulatory Affairs Assistant position.  I expect that it sounds dreadfully dull to 90% of my readers.  Regulations are nobody’s favorite thing, but…  BUT…  it’s research regulation.  These particular dotted i’s and crossed t’s are all about advancing science without allowing the next Tuskeegee experiment (or MKUltra, or some outbreak of GM E coli).  The people were all very nice, from the receptionist on up, and I think I would like working there.  Actually, I am ridiculously excited about the possibility of getting this job.  Not at all excited about the commute, though.

The final interview was for a help desk position for employees of  a company which provides video content.  It was a video interview.  I found it an interesting experience, but not as satisfying as an interview with back and forth.  Fortunately, they’ve asked me to come in for a face-to-face interview on Tuesday.  I’ve read up on their website, and I think I could become ridiculously excited about this one, too (I’ll know more once I’ve actually spoken to employees).  I’m already excited about the commute.  I could take the bus in and walk home, if the weather is nice (depending on the hours I might be willing to walk both ways…  I might do a test walk this weekend and see how it goes).  Maybe I could even get the bike fixed up and cycle in to work.

Obligatory Bragging About the Girls

I know I should shut up and let them toot their own horns, but they’re both doing so amazingly well.  Abby sounds like she’s thoroughly integrated into her village (though she’s very modest about it).  Dottie has been specifically invited to apply to a prestigious paid internship after she graduates.  Exciting stuff.

They’ve also both coming to the conclusion that feminism is ‘a thing’ after all, and not just some hippie nostalgia Mom hangs on to.  It’s a bit disconcerting that there are parallels between the norms and expectations for women and marriage in rural Senegal and rural Ohio.

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Random Stuff About My Life

The Post Which Never Was

Back in March I began to write a very long and detailed post about volunteering to be in an NIH study.  It was good, and I was going to finish it and post the whole thing today, but I realized that my memory of the study (which took place in January) is now pretty vague.  So instead of giving you a detailed description, I’m going to have to summarize.

NIH is a cool place to visit
As in oddly scary security screening (although everyone was friendly and polite) giant fishtanks, gorgeous displays, and everyone willing and interested in explaining the science.
They like me there
They appreciate interested and engaged volunteers. I absolutely felt like the favorite volunteer ever!
They like knitting there
There was a lot of waiting around. I figured out how to knit with a tube stuck in me, and a number of people watched. One of the doctors was a knitter, so she kept me thinking about ‘name the famous male knit designers’ instead of the invasive sample she was taking.
There was not fun stuff too
Invasive samples are not fun. Being intubated and having blood taken every few hours is not fun. Fasting and being pumped full of sucrose is not fun. No matter how polite everyone is, and how interested you are in the process, there are going to be not fun parts in human experimentation.

The particular study I was in had to do with the effects of antiinflammatories on metabolic syndrome.  In particular, how antiinflammatory medicine affects the calcium ion channels reaction to insulin in fatty tissue in patients with metabolic syndrome.  I ended up as a healthy control, so they just took one fat biopsy.  Thanks to this study I now know that I don’t have metabolic syndrome, and a little bit more about how my body works.

I may well volunteer for another study, because it was cool.

Looking for Work

Over the past three weeks I’ve put in ten job applications and had four interviews at three different places.  Two phone interviews, one in person interview and one video interview over a phone app.  I’ve got a spreadsheet to track (because I’m that kind of geek).  I have one good interview suit (which I’ve used) and a number of less good but still acceptable options to wear for second interviews.

The three positions I’ve interviewed for are (in chronological order):

  1. Administrative/front office (interview with placement agency)
  2. Regulatory Affairs Assistant
  3. Help Desk

I never thought I’d be interested in any sort of regulatory work, but, honestly, this job would be really exciting.  I wouldn’t be enthused about that commute, though.  Of course, if Steve gets a job near there (and it’s possible) that makes it all come together nicely.

The help desk position is the one which had the video interview.  I’d be providing applications support, and I know that I can handle the job.    It was an odd experience, but it makes sense for this particular company (they produce video content) and it’s only round one.  I hope I make it to round two, because I’d prefer a more interactive interview.

So that’s it, almost.  Except that I do have a literal fridge cleaning recipe.  I made this on Friday, when I realized that there was a cup of home made chicken broth which I had better use up or throw out.  Here’s what I threw together:

Fridge Cleaning Soup Recipe

1 cup homemade broth

1 cob corn

2 baby carrots

2 T quinoa (this is what I used, it was way too much.  2t probably better).

Heat broth over medium heat.  While it’s warming, put the carrot cob in the microwave (husk and all) for one minute. Remove from microwave.  Cut off stem end and squeeze cob out (corn is cooked and cob is shucked all at once).  Cut kernels from cob and discard cob.  Chop up baby carrots.  Add corn, quinoa and carrots to broth and simmer for five minutes.  Remove from stove and eat.

Clean Fridge soup

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About the City

Perhaps I should have posted this last week, while the pictures were still on the news.  I think it just took me a while to process, and to be ready to write about it.  It’s still hard to write about it, but now at least I have some links if you want to help.

IMG_1829The last time I was in Old Ellicott City (Main Street, where the flood was truly devastating) was on July 9.  Dottie had given me my choice of local ghost tours for my birthday.1. It was a really nice evening.

The part of Ellicott City I go to (or drive through) more often is nothing like this.  It’s on US 40 and has an entirely different kind of vibe.  There’s definitely a kitschy sort of charm to it as well.2

Old Town Elliott CIty is (or was, and hopefully will be) something else.  There is definitely a lot of touristy stuff to it.  There’s also a lot of character.  It was initially built in the late 18th century, though I don’t think any of that architecture survived to be threatened by the flood.

Main Street pd

Here’s a photo in the public domain, taken 2 June, 2006

Steve, Dottie and I were all safe at home on the 30th.  Steve had been thinking of going to see our friend Aaron Fuller (who sings with Midnite Run) but the show was cancelled due to the rain. Our friend Dave Pratt (who plays harmonica for the Soul Island Rebels) had a show in Ellicott City that night, but it was on Rte. 40, so higher ground. Our friend Steve Wilson (who podcast listeners might recognize from Prometheus Radio Theatre) was at the Judges Bench that night.  When he realized how bad things were getting he drove his car through a foot or more of water to park it at higher ground.  (The consensus is that he was a very lucky idiot).


How to  donate/volunteer

Here are a few of the funds and resources I have found.  I don’t know all of the individuals behind them, and I don’t know any of the well, but as far as I an tell the individual campaigners are who they say they are.3 The general funds are organizations which have been around for a while. I collected several of these links myself before finding the WJZ-TV list, which also includes fundraisers.

American Red Cross Greater Chesapeake Region
County Executive Alan Kittleman requests that cash donations go through the Red Cross.
Community Action Council of Howard County
Accepting food donations
Ellicott City Partnership
Is accepting donations and coordinating volunteer efforts
Keep Ellicott City Working
A Facebook page designed to recruit people who lost their livelihood during the flood find jobs
Preservation Maryland
A fund to help restore and rebuild the historic structures
All Time Toys
The owner was part of a historic rescue caught on video during the flood. His GoFundMe is already fully funded.
This has been one of my favorite stores for over 20 years. I bought the necklace I wore at my wedding there (or in the now defunct Discoveries shop which was at the Columbia Mall at the time). Dottie had a part time job there while she was in High School. Both girls shopped for prom dresses there. It’s pretty much at the bottom of the street.
I’ve eaten there a couple of times for the girls’ French class school field trips, and once for a special anniversary dinner. It’s amazing cuisine.
Sweet Elizabeth Jane
This has been one of the girls’ favorite stores, and it’s likely that, failing this campaign, it will be gone forever.
This is not one of the stores I frequented, but I have seen it pop up many times on my friends FB pages in the past week. A shop for actual vinyl records.
Cacao Lane
This restaurant has been in EC for as long as I’ve been going there (a lot longer, actually). It’s hard to imagine the city without it.
Phoenix Emporium
One of the many great local bars in the city. Also at the low end of the street.
Bean Hollow
This one doesn’t say ‘verified’, but I got the link from the Bean Hollow Facebook page, so I’m pretty sure about it. This is the coffee shop both girls adopted as an after school hangout. It’s also a place that Steve and I enjoy. It’s quirky without being off putting, and the coffee, tea, pastries and sandwiches have always been delicious.

So that’s it. If you have other donation links or stories, please share them in the comments. I’d love to hear everyone’s stories.

1a) My birthday was in March, but the plan was always to take the tour in the summer. b) I think it probably says something about the area that there are many ghost tours to choose from, especially as tourism is not one of the key industries in the state. (back)


Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest, which deserves a blog post of it’s own.  Photographed by Ron on March 28, 2015, used with by permission with a C BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.


3I’ve added a short comment on each of these, often about my personal relationship to the businesses. Not because I expect that to influence you, particularly, but just to express how this has impacted my personal story. Because that’s what a blog is for.(back)



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I’m growing old

Yesterday, Dottie and I went to a bridal shower for one of Abby’s best friends1. I’ve known Molly since she and Abby were in High School together2 (I’ve known Bryan, her fiance, for longer than that), so, yeah, that’s definitely a mark of aging. That’s not what motivated me to post this.

On Thursday I accompanied Dottie to the mall while she shopped for her and Abby’s gift, her money, her choices, I was there for company more than feedback.  She was putting together a ‘spa basket’. So when the man selling creams and scrubs from a kiosk>3 hailed us we were pleased.  He was slick, certainly.  He greeted us as sisters (corny but effective) and was otherwise quite charming.  Then, while demoing his products he was rather less complimentary, with subtle (occasionally less subtle) digs at my appearance and habits, designed to sell his overpriced wrinkle cream, all delivered in a friendly manner designed to cloak him in the halo effect. It was pretty egregious.  It did not make him any sales (despite his proffered ‘special deal’), but he avoided being dressed down in front of everyone who walked by.

Dottie and I discussed it afterwards.  I said the pitch was calculated to take advantage of women’s insecurity about aging (at the same time being an example of cultural pressures which reinforce the insecurities).  Her feeling (as a Fashion and Marketing minor) was that all cosmetics marketing basically does the same thing (minus the reference to aging).  She has a point, but I don’t think it makes mine less valid.

The thing is

I walked into the situation with a level of acceptance of my own aging.  If I seriously thought someone mistook me for my daughter’s sister, I’d be horrified.  I’m pleased that my hair is turning silver (as opposed to gray).  I’m not happy with all the changes my body is going through, because of health implications, but there are some aspects of aging which I look forward to.  Peri-menopause does have some downsides, but I’m looking forward to the end of it, not bemoaning the fact that it began.

At the same time, this encounter is still bothering me three days later.  Not enough to ruin my day, but enough that I want to blog about it.  So I’m making an effort to took for positive and empowering images of aging in America.  Starting with aging playboy bunnies, and following up with a song:

All The Wrinkled Ladies from nicole carpenter on Vimeo.

Blog Contests and Giveaways

This isn’t really a knitting post, but I wanted to slip this one in before closing.  Slipped Stitch Studios is giving away a $50 gift card.  Enter today, drawing tomorrow (1 August).  I really want to get a Go Crafty Needle Case, but it’s not in budget until the job situation gets better.

Footnotes (because I’m just that geeky)

1 For those playing without a scorecard, Abby and Dottie are both my daughters. Dottie is a Junior in college, and Abby is serving overseas in the Peace Corps. Which is another way to mark the fact that I’m growing old.

2Why, yes, since you ask (and I know you’re asking) I did give her a handmade gift. It’s a merino/alpaca/silk lace infinity scarf. Everyone else gave gifts from the registry, which just goes to show that I’m out of touch with the current customs as well as just being old, but I believe she was pleased with it and will get joy from it.

3No, I’m not going to identify the brand. Instead, I’ll recommend Lush.  They are genuinely nice people (who don’t insult their customers) selling quality, ethically sourced products that you should check out.


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