Bad Thing

I don’t know if I’ve ever told the story of how Halvah came to me.

It was the year 2000, and I had my first grown-up civilian job, doing PC support for a small company in Lyndonville, VT, not too terribly far from the town where I grew up. I got a full hour for lunch, so sometimes Mom would come by and pick me up and we’d go out to eat.

One day at getting-toward-lunch-time, one of the gals at the front desk called me and told me Mom was there. She hadn’t said she was coming, but I still wasn’t terribly surprised. But when I went up to the front to meet her, I found her practically wringing her hands, very agitated. “I did a bad thing,” she told me furtively. “Can you get away for a few minutes?”

Of course I said “of course,” but I was amused and bemused. I followed her out to the car, where she showed me the “bad thing” in the form of a cardboard cat carrier containing a little ball of beige and brown fluff that cried and cried in a gravelly voice.

It turned out Mom had wandered into the pet store in Littleton, NH, which back then occasionally had puppies and kittens–often local “oops” litters. There was a single Himalayan/Siamese kitten all alone in a cage there, crying and crying, and it broke Mom’s heart. She (the kitten) cost $250–a crazy sum of money for Mom–but she shelled it out and fled with the kitten, hoping against hope that I’d bail her out and keep the poor baby.

I mean, really, what else *could* I do? I named her Halvah, because her coloring resembled the sesame candy, and because she was so sweet.A few days later her voice changed to a more normal cry–she’d apparently cried herself hoarse.

In the long run, she turned out to be more sassy than sweet. She is her own cat, sets her own rules, gives affection under her own terms. She doesn’t mind a warm lap now and again, and she’ll greet me at the door, but woe to anyone who might try to pick her up, or pet her an instant longer than she prefers. MAJOR woe to anyone who tries to get her to take a pill or eat a food not of her choosing or deign to allow her nails to be cut. She knows how to strike like a snake, claw like a cougar, and wail like a banshee.

Select Halvah adventures include the time she somehow found a way to get from under the sink to under the floorboards at an apartment in a not-terribly-well-maintained old house, and then got stuck because she insisted on going forward and wouldn’t back up. My brother and I spent what felt like hours huddled on the floor in the middle of the night, calling and pleading with her, while Tam yowled frantically and wanted SO MUCH to go in after her. I imagined having to call my landlord at 2AM to explain that he was going to need to cut the house apart because my cat was too stubborn for words. (She finally grudgingly backed her pudgy behind to the starting point, and Jim and I hauled her out by the legs).

Then there was the time I moved across country. My sister Margaret rode along in the minivan as we transported all my belongings and the two cats from Vermont to Colorado. We discovered pretty quickly that Halvah would cry loudly if we didn’t have music playing, and we further discovered just how much of this country has almost no radio stations. I’d foolishly packed all my music away in an inaccessible box, so we were left playing two CDs my sister had on hand, over and over and over and over for thousands of miles: Clint Black’s Greatest Hits, and an Everly Brothers collection. I will forever think of Halvah and that trip when I hear those songs.

Age is starting to catch up to her now, and she’s showing some symptoms of the kidney disease that took Tam last year. In her case, I know treatment options will be limited: she eats only the food she wants to eat, you can’t trick her or force her when it comes to pills, there’s no way in the universe I could give her fluids. She has very definite opinions, and at her age, I guess I can only respect those opinions and hope she has some good times left.

She’s one of the more interesting cats I’ve known. And she’s still Mom’s little “bad thing,” and I love her for it.

Happy 17th, you funny little girl.

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Random February

I am inordinately fond of this face.img_20170203_092448_746

This one is pretty cute, too.

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Currently reading:
1. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic is fascinating, but also scary and sad. It mostly traces the rise of opiate addiction stemming from prescription drugs, and the changing face of drug dealing that partly fueled and partly followed that addiction. As someone from an area (rural Vermont) that really didn’t have much in the way of drug abuse when I was a kid but where there is now a startling rise in overdose deaths, , this was an eye opener.

2. (Much more uplifting!) The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m not all that far into it, but so far it’s pulling at my heart and mind in all sorts of ways. On top of the heartbreaking personal challenges faced by the rower on which the author spends the most time (Joe Rantz), I’m captivated by the local connections: seeing Seattle and the Kitsap Peninsula as they were during the depression and leading up to WWII. As someone who didn’t grow up in the area, it can be easy to forget how young civilization really is here, how recently it became a center of culture and technology, how shaped it was by logging and fishing and other more rugged enterprises.

Currently up to: aside from reading and some clawhammer banjoing, mostly cleaning off some devices to sell: my old phone and my computer. In part, this is to pay for…

This.
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When I bought my house, it was a fade-into-the-sky-stormy-slate color, which wasn’t terrible, but since the paint was chipping and cracked in places, I needed to  get it painted anyway. After much consideration, I switched to TARDIS blue (AKA Sherwin Williams Honorable Blue). And I love it. I LOVE IT. I’m broke, but my house is so pretty!

I suppose the guy across the street might frown on my bringing out a chair to sit on his lawn so I can admire the outside of my own house as I read this weekend, too broke to do much else.

But it’s tempting, I admit.

Different Strokes

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The things she does with her tail never cease to amuse me

Subject: Kittens’ attempts to crawl into my lap.

Cassia: I’ll suddenly realize I’ve been petting her for the last five minutes, and she’s just very quietly present.

Timo: Jumps onto whatever I’m reading/typing, head butts me with great enthusiasm, loses his balance, drags whatever I’m reading/typing down with him when he falls, head butts me again as I bend to scoop everything up, climbs into my lap as I’m getting settled, gives me a big ol’ hug, settles down, rolls on his side and looks up at me like, “See, I’m no trouble, you’ll hardly even know I’m here!”

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Boy is about as subtle as a flying brick.

One more bonus photo of Timo, just because it makes me laugh. He was blocking the light as I tried to work at my desk, while looking up at me like, “Wah, why are you tryin’ to make me move?”  The ear floofs add…something.goofy-timo-11-03-16

UJTU: Crafts, Concert, Kids, and Cats (Plus Pizza)

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This is his fixin’-to-pounce-on-sister face.

At some point in the past, one of the members of the typosphere coined the acronym UTJU: Update Just To Update. Sometimes you don’t have profound thoughts or an important topic on which to enlighten folks, but here you are anyway. So it is.

Had a very busy weekend, with more ups than downs, so that’s cool. Saturday afternoon I went to a craft fair/bazaar in the retirement community of Ryderwood, WA–a proper craft fair this time, with nothing but handmade goods of all sorts, plus a bake sale. A few of the more captivating things I didn’t buy: wind-chimes made out of bizarre conglomerations of found objects like colanders and cheese graters and flower pots all welded or glued together (I may have one of those someday), and a quilted hanging of a Christmas tree with lights woven into it. That’s probably the only kind of Christmas tree I could really get away with considering the cats, and I wanted it, but at $100 I couldn’t buy it. Would have been a lot of work to make, so I don’t question the price, but I couldn’t. Would be neat for someone, though–something you could bring out every year for years, and the kids would remember it for ages and no one else would have one quite like it.

I did buy a small assortment of items, and not all of them for me. Though, admittedly, two of them were for the cats, which I guess counts as me. There was a lady selling all sorts of felted things–hats and bowls and stuffed animals–and she had catnip stuffed felted mice. I also bought a little knotted braid of scrap material from a lady that made fleece dog beds and blankets–intended as a tug toy for dogs, but Timo thought it was pretty great. Cassia absconded with the mouse, and as of this writing, it is MIA.

Saturday evening, I saw Sierra Hull in concert at Traditions in Olympia, WA–a very small venue, probably only on their itinerary because her bass player (Ethan Jodziewicz) is a local boy. Speaking of Ethan, MAN, he’s good. I hate to say anyone is “the next so-and-so” because that implies they’re not a standout in their own right, so I won’t say he’s the next Edgar Meyer, but… Just a phenomenal musician. Used the bow quite a bit, too, and oh, bowed bass makes me weak in the knees when done right. He did it right.

Sierra has superb mandolin/octave mandolin chops (and is just so doggoned cute and endearing), and her other band member aside from Ethan (Justin Moses) can apparently play the heck out of anything with strings. And they all sing. It was a very good show. Tough in parts, for me–a lot of her recent album is about growing up and moving on and while in her case, this applies to being in her early twenties and dealing with being an adult, I’m kind of in a place like that again/still, and it almost hurt. Plus she did a song about missing your mother, and I bawled and didn’t have Kleenex and felt like a goober.

But yeah, it was a wonderful concert. And we were close enough to the stage that I could just about have kicked it. I don’t think they play places that small much these days, so that was pretty special.

Afterwards, some friends and I went out to eat at La Gitana. If you like thin crust, very fresh and flavorful Southern Italian style pizza, you must go here if you’re in town. Must. It was a little chaotic, though, being Saturday night, and a guitarist and singer were providing live music there (old jazz standards, mostly), which was great, but made it a bit loud for casual conversation.

The server was pretty patient amidst all the commotion, I thought, and made sure to check on us and was apologetic when things took awhile due to the crowd. I meant to leave a decent tip, but when I got home and started getting ready for bed, I discovered the tip money in my pocket. Apparently I absentmindedly stuffed it back in my pocket as we were picking up to go. Leaving her thinking and feeling…I don’t know what.

I felt so bad about it, I tossed and turned Saturday night, and had an odd dream in which I was a settler on a new planet, helping my brother and sister-in-law farm the land, but strangely the new town on this planet had several pizza parlors and I kept doing things that made the managers of all of them think I was an unpleasant nut case.

(Speaking of nuts, pecans grew WONDERFULLY on this new planet, and people there pronounced them peh-KAHN, as is Right and Good.)

So there was that.

After discussion with a friend, I decided to bring the accidental non-tip down to the restaurant when they opened with a note, so I spent Sunday morning writing and rewriting that note. Also drawing margins in the notebook I plan to use for NaNoWriMo. I’d planned to use some smaller notebooks, but I kept eyeing these giant notebooks I had made a few years ago, before all the office stores in town went out of business in spite of all my efforts to keep them afloat.

Seriously, this side of town lost a Staples, an Office Max, and an Office Depot, all within the span of a few years. It makes me sad.

But I do still have several of these notebooks. They’re heavy and a bit awkward to lug around, but the paper is so, so very nice for fountain pen. The one issue I ran into with them for NaNo is that, although I’m pretty good at writing in straight lines on unlined paper, I tend to write almost to the edges, and (especially for fiction), I like to have space to add notes and corrections in the margin. So I’m trying something a bit like law ruling in these, with the help of a few penciled lines, giving myself a generous space on the left to doodle or add notes.

I’ve only treated the first fifty pages, so if I find myself hating this setup, I can go back to using the full page, or experiment with different margins.

Sunday afternoon, I went up to an October festival at the parish where my nieces and nephews go to school. They had half German food and half Mexican food, and my oldest niece decided it would be a very fine thing indeed to have one parent from each country for the sake of the food. And I decided I really need to make another batch of sauerkraut.

There was also a little bit of a bazaar there, with crafts and food and some second hand items. My sister-in-law bought me a late birthday present: a Russian (?) plate with an icon of Christ calming/walking on the sea. I need to find a hanger for it so I can put it up without Cassia experimenting.

The kids got to paint pumpkins and play games and make sticky messes with caramel apples, so a highly successful day, all told!

More random kitten pictures from the weekend, just because. Though they’re almost not kittens anymore! Eight months old now, probably almost as big as they’ll get. Little Cassia is still little Cassia–she’s still under seven pounds. Timo is just about ten now.

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Cassia solemnly observing life from atop the fridge.
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Cassia “assisting” with the sweeping up of SO MUCH DOG HAIR by taking sliding leaps into the piles. Thanks, Bitty Girl.

Aaaaand that’s my update.

Crash Theory

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Pretty little Cassia, on top of the refrigerator

The kittens are eight months old today! Getting all grown up, but still very much kittens in all sorts of ways. They both do a lot of knocking things to the floor and breaking them, for one, though their methods are very different.

Little Cassia is scientifically minded. She will navigate her way up onto a high shelf and push something very slowly to the edge (even as I scramble across the room saying “No, don’t, please!”) and then she watches curiously as it crashes to the ground. You half expect her to take out a pencil and notepad at the end to jot down notes on the results of the latest experiment.

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Timo: so gorgeous…mayyyybe not so bright sometimes.

Timo, on the other hand, is basically anti scientific in his methods, in that the boy does not understand physics. For example, he’ll jump up and try to grab hold of something that might have held him when he weighed four pounds but does not now that he’s approaching ten, so he brings a whole shelf of stuff down on top of himself as he tries desperately to prevent gravity from taking hold. Frequently I’ll hear a HUGE crash from another room and walk in to find him sitting wide-eyed amidst the rubble, like “why did that happen?”

Either way, I’m down a lot of picture frames and bowls at this point. Le sigh.

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Cinders and the Saddest Toy Cat

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An early drawing of Cinders.

Once upon a time, many years ago, a newly 10 year old me got a kitten for my birthday and named him Cinders. I’d actually been visiting him for several weeks–his mother belonged to neighbors–and the whole period was thrilling. Overwhelming. So I did what I always do when overwhelmed and overexcited: I blogged about it.

OK, no. This was in premordial soup days, long before blogs. Instead, I did what people did back then, and what I still do much of the time nowadays: I wrote it down on paper. Mom gave me a notebook and I started a logbook about Cinders, recording dates and times and his weight and length and my impressions of everything all along the way.

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Neutering and death dates, too? OK, kid, you’re weird.
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A sample page.

Transcription of the above: Oct 16, 1986  When kittens are little (10 days to 6 weeks) their eyes are a milky blue color. Then they turn to the color they will be when they are an adult. Cinders is 6 weeks old. His eyes are yellow. Tomorrow he is coming to live at my house. I have everything ready. I bought him a brush, I bought him food and food and water bowls, I made him a bed, and I got him used to me. Everything is ready…

There weren’t cell phone cameras to upload pictures to Facebook and Instagram, so I drew him over and over again, memorizing every spot and splotch of his little black and white tailless self. (His mother also had no more than a powder puff of a tail, and the same went for many of his siblings. I don’t know if there was a Manx in his background or just an off genetic mutation, but there are still a handful of true-breeding near-tailless cats in the region where I grew up, along with polydactyl cats.)

He was an interesting guy. Followed me like a dog. Slept on my bed at night. And, as Mom wrote in this guest post…er, note, he had a pretty definite schedule.

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Transcription: Guest Notes 1/12/87  Cinders spend several hours last night playing with a tangle of pipecleaners. He seems to have developed a regular routine of sleep and play. In midmorning he always wrestles a stuffed gray cat with blue eyes. It’s quite a sight.   Mom

He thoroughly enjoyed beating the crap out of this little guy.

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This was, in a way, my first cat, from when I was really little. When Cinders came along, he decided it was his buddy. When I eventually moved away from home, he–now rahther the worse for wear–came along. I’d all but forgotten about him, but when I got the current kittens, one of them found the sad little grey fluff in the back of a drawer and gleefully yanked him out. They’ve been dragging him all around the house ever since. I’ll find him on the bed, or by the couch, or abandoned as they dash for the door to greet me.

He’s deeeeefinitely seen better days, to say the least. Not only has he been clobbered by at least three unkind kittens over a nearly thirty year period, he’s been washed and dried none too gently. His whiskers are…erratic. But in velveteen rabbit terms, he’s approaching reality. He has been loved hard. And I can’t help feeling like Mom is watching these new kittens and smiling. Who knows, maybe Cinders is, too.

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New Blog, Kitten Update

So…I’ve more or less combined all my blogs into this one, and this shall be me. See About for more details on the name and that.

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The kittens are six and a half months old now, and continue to enchant me.2016-07-29 17.46.22

Cassia loves to fetch, and also spends a lot of her time riding around on my shoulders as I cook or clean, watching whatever I do and occasionally dismounting to insert a curious paw.Cassia 2016-08-04 18.43.07

She steals all sorts of things to play with or squirrel away. She is fiesty, sure of herself, and utterly adorable. I have *almost* recovered all the computer keys she scattered one memorable night awhile back…2016-07-24 10.59.32

Timo is a love-bug who will jump into my arms, wrapping paws around my neck (no claws!) like a tiny Tigger. Not so tiny, really. He’s up to about 8.5 lbs. these days. Burly guy–and maybe a bit of a pudge. The boy loves his food. He’s a gorgeous sweetie.Timo 8-28-16

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Very different personalities. As I posted on Facebook, Timo is kind of like a small child who wants to be held and fed all the time, and who enjoys pushing objects off tables.Timo Aug 2016

Cassia is like that one roommate who borrows your clothes without asking and takes over whatever you’re doing and is up making mysterious noises at all hours of the night and butts into every conversation, but you put up with them because they’re fascinatingly crazy, so you just never know what’s gonna happen next, and let’s face it, it keeps life interesting.Cassia 2016-08-08 18.28.31

Halvah…puts up with them. I doubt we’ll ever get much further than that. She’ll eat out of a bowl near them, or occasionally sleep on the same couch, but screams if they get too close. And I do mean screams. She’s always been very vocal in her disapprovals. Sometimes I worry the neighbors are gonna call the cops on us.

The kittens mostly leave her alone, but occasionally they push their luck.  Not touching! Not quite touching!2016-07-24 14.04.10

More Kittens, Pen Blather

I’d sort of planned to post weekly photos of kittens, but it’s summer, family things have been happening, heat has been happening, and I’ve been all like this, a lot of days.

That’s Timo, who especially likes to sleep in my lap when it’s eleventy billion degrees and he’s eleventy billion and one, but what can you do? He’s so cute, he gets away with it. And I just sit there, dripping sweat and trying not to wake him. Because I’m a sucker.

The kittens are both so doggoned sweet, it kills me.

Nap time…
 
Another day, another pile of laundry to obstruct. Mirror for double trouble squared!
 
Sun-striped…
 

The munchkins are now 19-going-on-20 weeks old. At the vet check last Saturday, Timo weighed 5.8 lbs. and Cassia 5 lbs. There is a sort of folk knowledge that says cats usually grow up to be about twice what they weigh at 20 weeks. If that’s the case, Timo is going to be on the large side of his breed at possibly 12 to 13 pounds, and Cassia larger than I expected at something over 10. I’m guessing they’ll actually be a bit smaller, but Timo will still be quite a bit bigger than Tam who was 10 pounds in his prime (though only about six at the end, which breaks my heart). He’s kind of a lug. A big, very-very soft, super affectionate and super gorgeous lug. Sigh.

Cassia, meanwhile, has been expanding her thieving skills. It turns out I picked a bad week for finally buying the fancy chasen (bamboo matcha whisk) I’ve had my eye on for awhile. A few days back I came home from work and found the little drying stand empty–no whisk to be found. Aaaand it just happens to be the same week Cassia is finally big enough to jump onto the counter aaaaand she can’t resist stealing just about anything she can pick up–caps and silverware and toothbrushes and pens. Timo may push things around a little, but Cassia carries them off.

I finally found the chasen tucked away beneath the couch, rather the worse for wear. Little burglar was unapologetic.

In other news, I’ve been in the throes of non-fountain-pen obsession, which happens now and again. I dug out all the gel pens (Pilot G2s, Zebra Sarasas, Uni-Ball Signo 207s), ballpoints (Bic Cristals, Fisher Space Pen Bullets, Uni-Ball Jetstreams) and whatsits (Sharpie Pen) and have been journaling with those for a time. And I finally ordered some of the Uni-Ball BLX series pens (black inks infused with color), which I’ve been curious about for awhile. I got a Jetstream sampler and a Signo 207 sampler. They should be here later this week.

I’m happy to be back to regular journaling. Even if it’s also reminding me how boring my life is, generally speaking. Need to get out a bit this summer, or at least pay more attention: catch a play or movie, explore farmers markets, drive over to the beach for a day or finally wander through some of our local parks. Think about current events. Write out my thoughts on books I’m reading, instead of just letting them slip through my brain near impact-free.

Live in the moment, but really *live* in those moments.

Which, hmm, might be a good topic for another blog entry…

Road Trippin’

So…my sister and I are officially on for the Cross-Country Move Adventure, 2014 Edition. The last edition took place back in 2005, when I moved from Vermont to Fort Collins, Colorado, and involved a tightly packed, highly un-hip minivan and two Siamese cats. This year’s version will not include the cats, so (by way of a proper handicap to even things out) it will take place in a very small lima-bean-colored Volkswagen New Beetle. I’m meeting my sister in Wisconsin at my brother’s wedding (another brother is riding with her that far), and we’ll continue out to Washington State from there.

With this coming up in the near future, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about the past.

The minivan’s odometer rolled past 100,000 the day we set out, on a crisp early April day. As we headed down the hill into town, the row of 9’s caught my eye, and–wanting to savor the moment–we pulled into the empty parking lot at Pettyco Junction just off Route 18 in Saint Johnsbury, and drove in circles for…well, let’s just say it took a lot longer than anticipated to flip over. Goodness knows what any passersby thought of us. And goodness knows what the poor cats thought of this situation.

Many of the most memorable happenings on that trip had to do with the cats. They were pretty good passengers for the most part, but with a quirk or two each. Halvah, for example, would ride on the floor behind the driver’s seat, so long as there was music playing. Vocal music, at that–instrumentals would not do. If the music stopped, she’d start howling in protest. And we had very little music with us. We listened to the radio some of the time, but for a very long stretch through Nebraska and Wyoming, there *were* no radio stations. I think we played the same two CDs (Clint Black, and the Everly Brothers–everything else was packed under a zillion pounds of boxes) for about seven hundred miles, punctuated here and there by protesting yowls whenever we decided to toggle from one CD to the other and Halvah was left with silence for THIRTY WHOLE SECONDS.

And then there was Tam. He was fine in the car, pretty much just drowsed in the back on some folded clothing, no trouble at all. Except. The first night we stopped along the way, Margaret and I were both so exhausted we went to bed early, but soon discovered Tam had been saving up his energy all day. As soon as the lights went out, he turned into the Energizer Siamese. He used us as human trampolines. He ran laps around the room. He climbed up in back of the high-mounted TV (I have pictures of this feat somewhere, to prove it). And throughout all this, he kept up a running dialog, as only a Siamese can.

After that first night, we made a point of playing fetch with the little brat (yes, he retrieves–sometimes) for a good long time every evening when we stopped, so everyone could sleep.

We went through New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio (where, without the aid of GPS, we ended up headed back *east* in rush hour traffic on the outskirts of Columbus, which was NOT FUN). We drove through Indiana, along the Michigan border, and passed through Illinois. We drove through Iowa, where the land flattened out and faraway towns looked like objects viewed across a tabletop. We drove through Nebraska, and a empty corner of Wyoming, where if we set the radio to scan, it continued scanning forever. We stopped at a McDonald’s there, and complete strangers, apparently eager for any outside contact, asked us our life stories and life plans: a bit startling to a couple of gals from Vermont, where sometimes it takes a generation or two to fit in and be acknowledged…..

And finally, with the Rockies to guide us, we arrived in Fort Collins, and met up with my friend and new roommate, who had already been patiently dealing with boxes of my books arriving on her doorstep. Oh, the relief of having a stopping point!

It was a blast of a trip, for the most part. And I couldn’t have asked for a better traveling companion. It’ll be interesting to see what memories come out of this new trip, and what new challenges we have to meet. We’re older, yes, but are we wiser? Only time will tell.