Visiting the Sea Launch

Among other maritime wonders we visited so J could play with his new camera, was this behemoth: the Sea Launch, which includes a floating platform (center, front) and a command ship (rear).  Both are currently docked in San Pedro Harbor.  Image courtesy of the Nally Blog.

Among other maritime wonders we visited so J could play with his new camera, was this behemoth: the Sea Launch, which includes a floating platform (center, front) and a command ship (rear). Both are currently docked in San Pedro Harbor. Image courtesy of the Nally Blog.

Here’s what happens when your fiancé gets himself a brand new, super fancy, can-get-perfectly-clear-photos-of-ants-from-100-feet-away camera, ostensibly for your upcoming honeymoon, but really as a toy for himself: you go on adventures.

J had been wanting to take his new toy to the port of Los Angeles to capture snapshots of container ships but I forbade it.  With vehemence.

No way he was going anywhere near ships and lighthouses without me along.

He whined. He sniffled. He laid a worthwhile guilt trip. But I held firm. I was going too, which meant he had to wait until Sunday (rather than head out on Saturday – I know waiting 24 hours is a lifetime, but sheesh. It’s the least he can do for his soon-to-be-wife).

He survived the interminable delay and we headed south on Sunday after lunch. I brought my journal, hoping to try my hand at sketching while J took photos of every ant he could find (kidding – he loves graffiti, urban decay, mechanicals, and buildings).

And yes, I wanted to try sketching.

I am not very good at drawing, but I have done it on and off for years. Since I was a kid really. I never stick with it with any kind of a conviction, so I can’t call it a hobby, but I do find it cathartic. When I’m trying to draw, I become completely engrossed in the task. All my stress and worries fall away like silky clothes being shed on the floor – and the only thing happening in those moments is my attempt to render something in front of me into a recognizable two-dimensional form.

And stress and worries I keep wishing were long gone continue to sit on my shoulders. I had another explosive, crippling panic attack last week – I needed mind emptying distraction.

Hence the sketching.

Couple that with ships, lighthouses, time with J, and a wiggly Charlie running around, and it was pretty much a perfect Sunday.

A perfect Sunday made even more fascinating by our stop to see the Sea Launch.  J found this ocean-going marvel while doing some research into San Pedro, and all he had to say to me was “ship” for me to agree to go see it.

Here's my photo of the Ocean Odyssey's stern... much less impressive than the aerial shot above :)

Here’s my photo of the Ocean Odyssey’s stern… and the Sea Launch commander docked next to it. Much less impressive than the aerial shot above 🙂

What a marvel. In a remarkably ugly sort of way.  The Sea Launch is actually two vessels: the first being an enormous floating platform known as the Ocean Odyssey, and the other is a modern cruise ship on steroids, simply called the Sea Launch Commander.

The two sail together to serve as a launch pad for space rockets and a command center for the corresponding missions. You see, apparently it is cheaper and more efficient to propel vehicles into space from the Equator than it is to do so from any other point on earth.  So they build a platform the size of Delaware and a command ship big enough to affect the planet’s axis, and they save a few bucks on private space missions.

Aww… I can’t be too cynical about it.  I stared in wide-eyed amazement at the two monstrosities, so captivated by their shapes and forms, I completely missed the horde of sea lions that had taken up residence on the Ocean Odyssey’s catamaran-style hulls.  And I was enthralled.  If I have ever seen anything like this before, I sure as hell don’t remember it.

I could hear them, but it took me a few minutes of open-mouthed staring before I spotted them... sea lions living on the hulls of the Ocean Odyssey :)

I could hear them, but it took me a few minutes of open-mouthed staring before I spotted them… sea lions living on the hulls of the Ocean Odyssey 🙂

So what do I do?  Proceed to sketch one of the cargo ships docked next to the Ocean Odyssey.

What can I say?  The Cape Isabel looked more like a ship.

But there was something truly spectacular and unforgettable about the Sea Launch Commander and the Ocean Odyssey.  A sense of true power emanated from both.  Surrealistic.  Something that large and unwieldy … works?  Floats?  Sails?

If the guys on the Titanic could have seen the two behemoths sitting in San Pedro Harbor…. talk about a little bit of hubris.

A remarkable moment that lasted only just that: a moment.  Then we were off to see one of my lady loves, the Queen Mary.

Which yes, I did sketch.

I am not very good, but drawing has always been cathartic for me... and this past Sunday, I completed a few quick sketches while J was off photographing... this was our last stop - the oh-so-beautiful Queen Mary :)

I am not very good, but drawing has always been cathartic for me… and this past Sunday, I completed a few quick sketches while J was off photographing… this was our last stop – the oh-so-beautiful Queen Mary 🙂

Posted in MerryTime : Life at Sea on Old Ships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


Wallowing in self-centeredness.  Not a particularly admirable trait.  But as I continue to do it, and specifically, continue to wallow in what I am now calling the Career Crisis, I am also trying to remind myself – tangibly remind myself – that life is good.

There are far, far, FAR worse things to endure than a struggle to figure out if I want to continue working in museums…. or transition to a career working with animals.

I now have jobs in both.  I still have my full time job as the museum educator and volunteer manager at the historic house.  And Kitten Rescue has hired me on as a part time caretaker (woohoo!!!).  I love both, although there are parts of my full time job that are getting increasingly difficult to love as much as I once did.  But I worked so hard for so long to break into museums, and I do love them so much.  Am I really ready to give it up?

Very self-centered when you put these questions in context with church shootings, terrorist attacks, and starving children in Africa.

Which is why, about 3 weeks ago, I decided to take a few moments each day and document one good thing I experienced that day.  The idea is in the same vein as my “three good things a day” journal, but as I have delved more into that venture, my “three good things a day” has become more “a chronicle of my days and a scattered rambling of my random thoughts.”  In other words, a full-fledged diary / journal.

And rather than trying to combine full-fledged journal with three-good-things-a-day (where’s the challenge in that?) I decided to use a revolutionary new technology called Instagram.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it too.  A visual platform that would be easy to collate and access.  Snapshots of moments that made me happy or made me drop my mouth open in awe… that can all be categorized together with my hashtag: #OneIncredibleThingADay.  And should I ever reach a low point where I need a solid pick-me-up, I can whip out the phone, pull up the ol’ Instagrams, and scroll through those memories.

Yet, best of all, I can use this little exercise as an adventure – as a journey towards ingraining in my consciousness that even the worst of days have bright moments too…

One of my very first Instagram photos with #OneIncredibleThingADay hashtag - an old lantern outside my dentist's office.  I love old lanterns... who knows why.

One of my very first Instagram photos with #OneIncredibleThingADay hashtag – an old lantern outside my dentist’s office. I love old lanterns… who knows why.

I love him sooo much so I know, even at this early stage, that Charlie will be a huge part of #OneIncredibleThingADay...

I love him sooo much so I know, even at this early stage, that Charlie will be a huge part of #OneIncredibleThingADay…

As will this guy, and many, many, many of his companions at Kitten Rescue, the Darsc (or Darcy)... Darsc is one of my faves though, so I'm sure lots of #OneIncredibleThingADay posts will have him in them...

As will this guy, and many, many, many of his companions at Kitten Rescue… the Darsc (or Darcy)… Darsc is one of my faves, so I’m sure lots of #OneIncredibleThingADay posts will have him in them…

I have finally (FINALLY!) gotten back on Artemis too, and I have used my rides as part of #OneIncredibleThingADay as well as another favorite hashtag of mine: #WeddingDressINeedToFitInto :)

I have finally (FINALLY!) gotten back on Artemis too, and I have used my rides as part of #OneIncredibleThingADay as well as another favorite hashtag of mine: #WeddingDressINeedToFitInto 🙂

Yeah. Animals. Lots of them. They will be part of #OneIncredibleThingADay for sure...

Yeah. Animals. Lots of them. They will be part of #OneIncredibleThingADay for sure…


And no shameless self-promotion, I swear, but for anyone who wants to follow my #OneIncredibleThingADay journey, my Instagram handle is @jnglcat21.

Here’s to Instagramming memories!

Posted in Peace and Serenity : Finding Happiness in the Small Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Wins

I try not to talk politics on The Realist Adjusts the Sails.  They are always so touchy and iffy, and things can get way overblown way fast.

But sometimes, a certain political issue is more than that to me – it is a fundamental part of my internal value network, and I would be doing TRATS and its purpose a disservice if I didn’t comment on it.

So today, I comment.  And today’s political issue / fundamental internal value:  same-sex marriage.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to find the Supreme Court has ruled that all people living in this country should be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.  Especially since a bunch of white-powdered-wig-wearing rebels wrote this document, oh, 239 years ago that stated anyone living in this country is “created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It took us long enough to put those words into action.

Because that is what this is ultimately all about:  hypocrisy.  I don’t want to hear any more about what a great nation we are, and all the wonderful and amazing things we do, when there are people living in this country who are denied their basic human right of the “pursuit of happiness.”

I don’t want to hear about all the loving and wonderful things Christians do, how open and accepting they are, when they cry “foul!” every time the homosexual community takes another step towards equality.

You can call me black-and-white on this if I am in fact, being black-and-white on it, but I believe if you call something a “right” then it is a right, and all are entitled to it.  We don’t get to pick and choose who has access to public education, a fair trial, or the protection to speak their mind.  Why do we get to pick and choose who gets married?

Don’t call it a “right” unless it is a right.  Call it what it is:  a privilege.

But see, here is where we cross the fuzzy line that, for so many, starts meandering in.  We are a nation that has built its entire structure and culture on the concept of equality.  The first European settlers here sought asylum from persecution, and their plight prompted those powdered-wig-wearing rebels to ensure their new nation protected its citizens – by making everyone equal.  We have fought wars (or so we claim) to ensure equality, and we’re proud of the steps we have taken in our past to make equality more of a reality.  Look at us!  We freed the slaves!  We gave women the right to vote!  We gave black people the right to vote!  We’re a great nation!!

Yeahhhhh, but we aren’t going to let gay people get married.  And while we’re at it, we’re going to limit who can have access to medical insurance…

For everyone we want to have access to these, they are “rights.”  But for those we don’t want to have access to them, well, we won’t call marriage or healthcare a “right,” but rather we’ll say how these non-entitled parties will abuse the institution of marriage, or the low expense of medical insurance, if they had access to them.  In other words, we can’t call things like marriage and healthcare a “privilege” because that word violates our standing as a nation of equality.  So, we’ll talk about why only certain folks should have these rights, skipping over what makes a right, a right.

But I call a spade a “spade,” and by flouting this doctrine of equality while trying to prevent everyone from achieving equality is nothing but hypocrisy.

And I know I’m treading into boiling oil right now by turning to the arguments against same-sex marriage made by Christians.  So I want to be clear before I end up on a Missing Persons poster: I brook no argument with the doctrines of Christianity.  I was raised Catholic, and I believe, deep down, the message inherent in all religions is a good one.  I do, however, take issue with those who use these doctrines to suit their own purpose, and thereby, skewer the dogma, and the messages, to fit their own arguments.

For example, many Christians cite one obscure verse in Leviticus as the reason behind why they are against same-sex marriage.  “Man shall not lieth with man as he would with woman,” or some such fancy language.  Fine.  The Bible states homosexual behavior is an abomination.  You know what else the Bible says is a sin?

  • Eating pork and shrimp.
  • Having sex before marriage.
  • Gossiping.
  • Getting a tattoo.
  • Letting women speak in church.
  • Having an affair.
  • Getting a divorce.
  • Working, in any capacity, on a Sunday.
  • Dishonoring or fighting with your parents.
  • Jealousy.

And on, and on, and on.  So, here’s my question.  My black-and-whiteness again:  if the Christians are going to argue against same-sex marriage because of one passage in the Bible, why aren’t they arguing against all of these other behaviors too?  Why don’t we find Christians picketing outside grocery stores and restaurants that sell pork and seafood?  Why don’t we find them blasting tabloid agencies like People, Us Weekly, and TMZ for spreading gossip?  Why do they take jobs, or let others work jobs, that require hours on Sunday?  Why do they perform any kind of labor on a Sunday?

Furthermore, according to a 2006 study posted on WebMD, the percentage of Americans who have had premarital sex is (drum roll please):  95%.  That means, if you pull 10 people off the street, nine of them had sex before they got married.  Pretty staggering.  Even more staggering is the research from this same study that finds premarital promiscuity has been the trend since the 1950s.  So if you ask me, premarital sex is a far bigger issue than same-sex marriage in terms of violating Bible passages.

I also tend to see a lot of cross tattoos, or tattoos featuring Jesus’ face at the moment of his death on the cross.  Funny, that.

Speaking of Jesus, his name tends to come up a lot in these discussions too.  And here is what I remember learning about Jesus in my Bible Study days:  Jesus was all about love.  That was his message.  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  I remember that covenant was the one Jesus established with his followers, and it, in essence, usurped some of the earlier dictates handed down in the Old Testament.

Love one another as I have loved you.

And some of the people Jesus loved:  lepers, prostitutes, cripples, and the deeply poor.  He embraced the outcasts of his society, and he did it over and over again while his apostles were always screaming, “Lord!  Look at what you’re doing!  You can’t spend time with this riff-raff!  They aren’t worth it!”  To which Jesus always replied that every man, woman, and child was a brother and sister in Christ.

That is what I remember.  Jesus was all about love.  I also remember the whole “What Would Jesus Do” movement when I was in high school (have I mentioned yet that I am old??).  Everyone was wearing “WWJD” bracelets, and kicking that question back at every adversity.  But it is a good question.

What *would* Jesus do?  What would a man who preached to love one another, no exception, do?

I believe today, we found out.


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Graduating From High School

Dr Seuss

This past Friday, I attended a high school graduation.  Not mine.  In fact, excepting my younger sister’s in 2004, I haven’t attended a high school graduation since my own.

And take my word for it:  my high school graduation was just a few ticks before this past Friday.

No, this was a volunteer’s big day.  I still can’t believe a gangly bean pole I met when he was 13-years-old graduated from high school.  Sheesh.  But that is neither hide nor hair.  What is hide and hair (or still not either if we get literal) is how inspiring it can be to attend a high school graduation.

Yes, I am 34-years-old, and I have a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree, and I can still be inspired by the messages of change, adventure, and dreaming big that characterize a high school graduation.

These are kids – okay, young adults – who are getting ready to go on their first big adventure, who have bigger dreams, and who will experience some of the biggest changes in their lives, thus far.

And they are excited about it.

As they should be, of course, but their excitement does not have to be limited to them.  Messages about pursuing your dream; about taking risk and embracing the possibility of failure; about finding what you love and holding on to it; about facing fear and choosing adventure; and about gratitude for the people and experiences in your life, both today and yesterday, can be taken to heart by all ages.

As I sat there and listened to three graduates give tear-filled speeches brimming over with messages of hope for tomorrow, nostalgia for yesterday, and sprinkled with inspirational quotes throughout, I thought about my own life.  I am at a crossroads right now, no doubt about that.  I have felt my dreams shift, and possibilities I once thought undesirable or non-existent are now proving to be the ones I want to seize with both hands.  Dreams I have pursued the past several years are not what I thought they would be.  And the impact I want to make on the world today is not the one I wanted to make yesterday.

When one of the three graduates started talking about mistakes, and making mistakes, I felt those words most poignantly of all.  She was proclaiming her desire to make lots of mistakes so she can learn, experience, and grow.  I don’t know how much of that wish is real, but the words are:  the road forward is paved with our mistakes.  And for that, we must always be grateful for them.  Mistakes have guided us to where we are, and if we don’t want to be there, they help us take the next steps to get to where we do want to be.

Very profound insight on my part considering the graduation ceremony ended with a Kanye West song.

And maybe part of my insight stems from that feeling I have carried these past few months: I’ve been standing still; it’s time to move.  So now, I’m trying to answer questions like where do I want to go?  Where will my road take me?  What decisions will I make to take me forward?  And I have been struggling.  Treating these questions like burdens.  The graduation this past Friday helped me shift my approach.  Treat these questions like an adventure, I’m telling myself. This is the first day on a new journey and you can decide where you want to goAnd if it turns out you’re headed the wrong way, then take a turn.

And to think, I wasn’t the one graduating this past Friday…


Posted in Challenging Challenges : Overcoming Life's Obstacles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Re-Read or Not Re-Read

That is a question.  I don’t know about THE question, but it is a question at least.

And I am referring to re-reading a series.

When there are so many books already, and so little time, do you go back and re-read a series?  Especially when a new book in that series comes out?


For me, with a memory like a sink drain, I often will go back and re-read a series – especially when a geologic age passes between the release of new books.

A Song of Ice and Fire, for example.  Dance with Dragons was released in 2011.  When Book 6 comes out – hopefully later this year or sometime next year – if I’m going to have any chance of following it, I will have to go back and re-read Books 1 – 5.

The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin.  Book 2 – The Twelve – was out in 2012.  Book 3 doesn’t even have a release date yet.  If it comes out in my lifetime, I will definitely have to re-read The Passage and The Twelve.

And the list goes on and on and on…

Now, mind, I am not complaining here.  I re-read the series because, while I may remember the major plot points, I will forget the details, and if I loved the series enough to anxiously await the next chapter, I am excited to go back and re-read the chapters already on my shelves.

And funnily enough, I have found that re-reading a series can be like reading the whole set again for the first time.  For example:  the Ethan Gage series.  Last summer, when Book 6 in that set was released, I knew I needed to go back to Book 1 and re-acquaint myself with the dashing, opportunistic fortune-seeker who keeps landing himself in deep pits of trouble trying to find treasure at the same time Napoleon is trying to take over the world.  And I knew I needed to re-acquaint myself because when Book 5 had come out the previous year, I didn’t re-read, and I scratched my head so frequently in confusion, I still have a bald spot… because while each Ethan Gage book technically stands as its own story, they are serial, and events happening in previous books tend to pop up quite often in successive ones.

So Book 6 comes along, and I took the plunge.  Books 1 – 5, get ready – you’re about to get owned.  Re-read.  Whatever.

Thank you, Oscar for such sage words :)

Thank you, Oscar for such sage words 🙂

The point is, I did re-read the entire series, adding Book 6 on to the end, and it really was like reading the books for the first time.  I thought I had remembered more of the books than I did, and there were many, many, many times where suspense is building, danger is closing in, and I cannot remember how Ethan wiggled his way out of it!  I found myself holding my breath, chewing on my nails, and flipping the pages with gusto like I was reading a brand new mystery.

So it was ultimately a win-win situation.

But sometimes I still find myself asking, am I going to re-read this series now that Book Whatever has come out?  I asked that very question just this past week when Book 3 in the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy was released.  And I started to tell myself what I am now finding is a bald-faced lie:  oh, I don’t need to re-read it.  I can remember what happened.

Uh huh.

Luckily, I didn’t listen to myself and I went back and re-read Angelfall and World After before diving into End of Days because, once again, I had forgotten so many details.  And it was a refreshing delight to re-read some true zingers, like when Penryn tells the fallen angel, Raffe, “you are nothing but a bird with an attitude,” or when Penryn discovers Raffe is an archangel, and he asks, “impressed?” with a cocked eyebrow.  “No, but I have some complaints I’d like to file about your personnel,” Penryn replies.  “Talk to middle management,” Raffe retorts.

How can you forget amazing dialogue like that??

So maybe a lesson learned here:  there are so many books and too little time, but re-reading a great series, especially after so many eons pass between new releases, is like reading a whole bunch of new books anyway.

So hurry it up already, George (R.R. Martin) and Justin (Cronin).  Some of us have books to re-read here….

You know (re)reading is awesome when even Darth Vader does it...

You know (re)reading is awesome when even Darth Vader does it…

Posted in Good Reads : Books, Books, and More Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gettin’ Out of Town

Last weekend, J and I went on a quick trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico and Fort Collins, Colorado.  Initially, I was not going to participate on this adventure; J was going to a cousin’s wedding in Fort Collins with his mom, and the two were meeting in Santa Fe to paint that town red before road-tripping up I-25 for the nuptials.

I was looking forward to a weekend with the apartment all to myself (and Charlie).

Horrible, I know, but I like my alone time.  What can I say?

Then J begged.  “Please?  Please come with us.  I want you to be my date.  We’ll have so much fun…”  And I hate to see a grown man grovel, so I relinquished my weekend of blissful solitude and agreed to join the adventure across the Southwest.

Now, I am glad I went.

As I continue to struggle with feelings of work burnout, I didn’t realize how utterly reinvigorating a quick trip out of town can be.  Especially when, yes, the trip is quick – fly out on Thursday night; fly home (early) Sunday morning – but there are so many moments of quiet peace and serenity that it has the feeling of a long, luxurious, pampering vacation.

Such as Friday morning, where our first stop in Santa Fe (after breakfast anyway) was the National Veteran’s Cemetery to pay respects to my grandma and grandpap.  Yes, I called him “Grandpap.”  Even though he was a Navy pilot in World War II.  And he survived a horrific plane crash that should have killed him.  I still called him Grandpap, and his sudden death in 1997 was the first major loss I had endured.

It wasn’t any easier when his wife, and my beloved Grandma, passed away in 2005 after a valiant fight against cancer.

Now call me macabre, but I have always found cemeteries to be quiet and restful places.  I have never felt scared or uneasy in a cemetery – just peaceful and reflective.  Yes, I find it soothing to sit back amongst the stones and listen to the wind blowing through the trees, and watch the birds fly overhead, and just be there.  So while I still miss my Grandma and Grandpap, I feel calm and at peace when I am sitting next to their shared headstone and enjoying the beauty of the Santa Fe landscape.

I sat in this courtyard and enjoyed the beautiful day with house finches and a fountain sculpture...

I sat in this courtyard and enjoyed the beautiful day with house finches and a fountain sculpture…

Speaking of chirping birds... the ruby-throated house finch was all over the NMMoA :)

Speaking of chirping birds… the ruby-throated house finch was all over the NMMoA 🙂

After a peaceful sojourn in the cemetery, we headed to Old Town and stopped in to see the New Mexico Museum of Art, where I wandered through their current exhibition, Colors of the Southwest.  Afterwards, I found myself sitting in the museum’s inner courtyard, again watching these beautiful red-throated birds (I later learned were house finches) and listening to the steady ssshhhhh of a fountain sculpture.  I was by myself in this courtyard so I just sat back, relaxed, and again, tried to be in the moment of it.  So quiet and peaceful…

Until my clod of a fiancé plopped himself down next to me and asked me if I wanted to go in the Gift Store.

Kidding about the “clod” part 🙂

After another stop at the Museum of New Mexico History, we headed out to the Randall Davey House, which is also the state headquarters for the Audubon Society.  Another opportunity for peace and quiet, since the house is nestled up in the hills near Old Town Santa Fe, and offers several hiking trails for the intrepid nature lover.  And while J was complaining about sore feet (maybe I’m not kidding about the “clod” part??), we went on a leisurely hike through the desert landscape I had admired so much in the art museum.

Every time I hike, I think to myself that I need to hike more frequently because it is always so incredible.  Beautiful, relaxing (again), peaceful (again), serene (again).  In fact, now that I think about it, I have never been on a hike that wasn’t stunning in some way…

Time to get off that tooshy and hike, hike, hike!

Once I am done with this post.

The next morning (Saturday) started early – 2:00am early – so we could make the trip up to Fort Collins and arrive well before the 2:00pm wedding.  Just like the quiet moments of Friday, I loved the drive north since a) I wasn’t driving, and b) I could stare out the window and admire the landscape… I didn’t have to worry about anything.  I didn’t have to be anywhere.  I didn’t have anything I had to get done.  I just got to sit back and watch the hills, trees, flat-topped cliffs, and craggy mountains roll right on by.

Antelope!  By the freeway!

Antelope! By the freeway!

Although I don’t watch closely enough because J was the one who spotted the antelope.

And the deer.

Deer!  On the side of the road!

Deer! On the side of the road!

Then, the wedding.  It was actually far more enjoyable than I had anticipated, and it really was great to see J’s family again.  I love them so very dearly already.  And I miss them when we don’t see them.

But the wedding, like the rest of the weekend, was relaxing.  It was in a mountain lodge way up in the Rockies near Fort Collins.  It was snowing (!!) and the ground and trees were sparkling with white.  The lodge itself sat on a lake with a charming wood bridge and creeks of crystal clear water.

It was beautiful.

The lake up in the Rockies where J's cousin's wedding took place.  In spite of the snow, it was beautiful.

The lake up in the Rockies where J’s cousin’s wedding took place. In spite of the snow, it was beautiful.

All of it was beautiful.  The whole weekend was beautiful.  I came back rejuvenated and ready to face work again.  Ready to get my toosh back in the game.

Ready to remember the serenity of this weekend the next time stress sloshes over me and presses me down like an ocean wave.

Posted in Travelin' On : Exploring the World | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cats Versus Dogs – The Big Return

I know there is more than enough literature about cats versus dogs out there.  Tons.  Megatons.  Enough to fill the lost Library of Alexandria.

And that is not going to stop me from adding to it.

Because as a pet owner who has had both cats and dogs over the course of my life, and who has been very closely attached to a cat and now a dog, I like to think about the differences in these two quite different animals.

Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say I like to reflect on those differences when a behavior Charlie exhibits is so vastly opposite the behavior my beloved Figaro used to evince.

Oh, Figaro.  My first (pet) love.  We rescued him when I was 14 and it was obvious within a few weeks whom he had chosen as his companion… he liked my dad, and would fall back on my dad when I wasn’t around.  He was terrified of both my mom and sister and never went near them.  But me?  We were best buds.  Inseparable.  Figaro kept me sane and centered through the worst years of every person’s life (high school), and he went with me on that terrifying-and-exciting journey of college.  He moved with me to California and stayed with me through first jobs, first kisses, new dreams, failed ventures, and lost loves.  Through years of loneliness, depression, hopelessness, and anxiety, Figaro snuggled beside me, with a soft and gentle purr waiting to soothe.

Not surprisingly, I was crushed when my cherished cat started showing signs of a serious illness.  And a part of me died – I’m not ashamed to say – when I had Figaro put to sleep on a dark day in July 2004.

I still miss him every day.  And no other pet who comes into my life will take Figaro’s place.

But the heart really has no limits.  Because Charlie has come to be a central force in my life too.  And I love this dog in the way I loved Figaro, although I hold them in separate chambers – similar but still distinct.

Which is why I think Charlie’s behaviors always remind me of Figaro.  Charlie is a completely different animal, but the times he makes me laugh or smile call to mind the times Figaro did.  And I often laugh even harder when I see the differences in the circumstances and behavior.

Like this past Wednesday.  I returned home from a conference in Atlanta after being gone for 5 days.  This was the first time Charlie and I had been separated for more than a day since we adopted him last June, so this was the first Big Return.

Pet owners understand the Big Return.  But allow me to elaborate for those who may have never experienced this particular aspect of pet ownership.  When you jet off on any kind of trip, and leave Fluffy or Fido behind, it is obviously quite traumatic on the pet.  It’s bad enough when you’re gone all day, but to be gone overnight too??  For several days and nights in a row???  Even Fluffy doesn’t like it, if for no other reason than she’s concerned the litter box won’t get cleaned.

Fluffy may seem like she doesn't care when you're gone for several days... but she does worry since you are the one who cleans the litter box.

Fluffy may seem like she doesn’t care when you’re gone for several days… but she does worry since you are the one who cleans the litter box.

And then you come home.  You walk in your front door, suitcase in hand, hair sticking up in every direction since I swear airplanes infuse their seats with static, and there is Fluffy or Fido.  That moment when your adored companions recognize you as the person at the door is the Big Return.

Fluffy and Fido thought they were never going to see you again.  And now you’re home.

There are any number of reactions Fluffy and Fido can display during the Big Return.  Excitement, obviously.  Happiness.  Boundless happiness even.  Or, the opposite.  Disdain.  Flippancy.  Suspicion.

Figaro was the latter.  Any time I came home after several days away, he gave me a shoulder cold enough to freeze salt water (which is 28 degrees Fahrenheit, in case you were wondering) for the first full day I was back.  Nothing I did shattered that ice.  He was mad at me for leaving him, and he was going to make sure I knew it.

This is a pretty accurate portrayal of the greeting I received from Figaro when I came home from a trip...

This is a pretty accurate portrayal of the greeting I received from Figaro when I came home from a trip…

But once bedtime rolled around, he thawed.  He always slept in my bed with me, on his own pillow even, and when I went to bed, he always tagged along.  Since his pillow was next to mine, he also tended to curl up as close to my face as he could get… and then purred like a chainsaw.  Best cure for insomnia, that is.

Charlie, on the other hand, started the Big Return by barking at me.  Not an auspicious beginning, but considering I had managed to get my key stuck in the door lock, I’m not totally surprised.  He could hear someone outside; he didn’t know who it was.  Once I managed to make it in, however, I experienced a tidal wave of dog emotions.

First, boundless excitement.  Jumping up and down, yipping and whining in that happy way dogs do, trying to give me Charlie kisses even though my face is a full 5 and ½ feet away from his when I’m standing up.

Excited to see you when you come home...

Excited to see you when you come home…

After approximately 30 seconds of this, however, Charlie seemed to realize… hey!  You haven’t been here since forever!!  I’m really mad at you for leaving me.  For making me worry.  So, jumping ceases.  Whining stops.  No more attempts to reach my face through 6 feet jumps.  Now it’s full-fledged suspicion.

Waiiiit a minute... you left me alone for forever!  Why, huh?!?!

Waiiiit a minute… you left me alone for forever! Why, huh?!?!

But you’re home!!  And I was so worried you had gone away forever!  I’m so happy to have you home!  You’re home!!

But, but, but it is sooo good to have you back!  You didn't abandon me!!

But, but, but it is sooo good to have you back! You didn’t abandon me!!

Suspicion ends and excitement renews.  Jumping resumes.  Whining and yipping recommence.

Until it stops again.

You know, I really thought you had gone away forever and left me alone.  That is not a nice thing to do...

You know, I really thought you had gone away forever and left me alone. That is not a nice thing to do…

And we go through this cycle of excitement – suspicion – excitement – suspicion for several minutes after my arrival.  I keep trying to pet and snuggle with Charlie, but by the time I kneel down to the floor to reach him, he’s turned on the suspicion again.  I stand up, and he goes back to excitement.  I got a lot of exercise when I got home on Wednesday evening.

Ultimately though, Charlie was happy to see me.  He was a little distant that first night (because, yes, he sleeps in the bed with J and I, and he tends to snuggle with me), but the next morning, we resumed our routine of morning walk followed by breakfast (for Charlie), and we were best pals again.

And will be… until the next time I go out of town.

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