Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things I Am Thankful For

A week late, I know. I guess the thankfulness takes a while to get over the border. It's on account of the long lines of cars filled with American groceries and holiday presents.

1. The Renaissance Woman worked a late shift today so she spent the morning SWEEPING AND VACUUMING THE ENTIRE APARTMENT, doing the dishes, and putting away all the laundry. The place SPARKLED when I got home, I tell you.

2. The Mermaid Girl--omg, I should write a whole post just about her--but for now I will just say that for the last two or three weeks she has been MAKING HER OWN LUNCHES. Yes! It was her own idea; she came home one day grumping about how she didn't like the lunch I made her and she was going to make her own darned lunch, and we were all, live it up, kid! So she has been.

She scuttles about the kitchen gathering things out of the fridge and off the counter and packing them into her My Little Pony lunchbox, which she then submits to me for inspection. Mostly I say yes; sometimes I make her put in another slice of turkey. She gets to put in a piece of Halloween candy as an incentive, and that seems to do it.

It helps that she doesn't like sandwiches; when I used to make them for her she just left the bread and ate the bare lunch meat slices. So now that's all she puts in. My little self-sufficient carnivore.

3. Also, she sat herself down ON HER OWN before dinner on Monday and started right in on her week's homework packet. After I picked my jaw up off the floor from whence it had dropped, I looked over her shoulder and saw that her handwriting has also miraculously improved while I wasn't looking. She got the whole thing done pretty quick, too.

4. I have a good job that I like. Two good jobs, actually; I haven't been writing much about the second one, since it's very part-time. But it's about to start taking up more and more time, and while that's making me hyperventilate a bit it also means I'll be able to bill them for more money. And more money is good. (No, wait; I have three jobs! But the third one is even more part-time. But I guess it counts.)

5. The two very-part-time jobs can mostly be done at home, in pajamas even; one of them requires occasional jaunts into downtown, which is dandy because it gives me a chance to take the SkyTrain. The close-to-full-time job does have a commute, but it is a sweet little 20-minute reverse-commute with traffic that's usually not heinous. Since my last job had a commute that got steadily worse and worse each year, until by last year it was regularly taking me over an hour to get home in the evenings, this is something for which I am exceedingly, sobbingly thankful.

6. I have good friends, both online and in person. And some of them even live in my town, and that is very very good. And they seem to like me even after witnessing me at my most spazzed-out and frantic. And that is very, very, VERY good.

7. I think I have most of the holiday presents taken care of. And the cards came; I just have to get the address labels out. And the photo of us doesn't even look that bad.

8. I may have found a place that sells Chanukah candles and might even still have some available.

9. MG loves her school. And her teacher. And she has friends. She's in a split Grade 1/Grade 2 class, I might have mentioned, and most of the kids are actually in Grade 1, so she does a lot of leading and helping. She told me the other day that the teacher put her next to Kellie in the Reindeer Rock song so that she can help Kellie remember when to stand up and lean over and also when to be quiet, because Kellie has Special Needs. There was another kid next to Kellie before, but the teacher said it would work out better for MG to be there.

Warms a mother's heart, that does.

10. Also, she loves her after-school-care lady, a kind Italian grandma who gives her cookies and lets her watch TV after 5:00 and whose extended family including baby granddaughter lives there too. More about her another time. I could spend a whole post on her. But for now, just: I have to tear MG away whenever I pick her up, and not just because it's usually right in the middle of Hannah Montana.

11. And once a week my cousin picks her up from school and hangs out with her and takes her to circus. Extended family! Helping with childcare! On a regular basis! For me, this was only something that happened in fairy stories until now. It's like a beautiful dream.

12. Our apartment has an incredible view out of all the living room and kitchen windows, and even sort of out of our bedroom window. On clear days we can see all the way to Downtown Vancouver, and even the islands beyond, not to mention the huge mountains to the North and also the far-away mountains to the West.

We were totally not looking for a view, it's not why we picked the place, and in fact I've never understood why people make such a big deal out of Views, since I never ever in my life before have lived in a place that had a view of anything but the driveway and the house next door. But now I get it. It's like a huge breath the freshest air every time I look out the window. Even when I'm stuck inside, I feel connected to the whole city, not isolated and holed up, because I can see it all spread out before me. I'm going to miss it when we do move, but I'm trying not to think about that now.

13. My B.C. Health coverage starts on Saturday! Can we hear a fist-pumping Yes!!

OK I am off now to spit over my shoulder and utter imprecations against the Evil Eye after reeling off all this bounty. But maybe I'll be protected by the Meme Fairy, since I seem to have unintentionally completed my very first ever Thursday Thirteen.

Oh, but wait, maybe not, because I just thought of one more:

14. November is almost over!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bah, Hum--no, wait--no, well, maybe Bah Humbug after all.

So, it's about time for my annual "Bah, Humbug" series, wherein I kvetch about the omnipresence of Christmas in general and its force-fed nature at my kid's school in specific.

The thing is, though, I'm not feeling particularly Humbug-ish this time around. Even though, with no late-November Thanksgiving to mark off the start of Christmas season, people up here seem to start with the trees and the decorations and the carols in stores just a few days after Halloween. Even though the Mermaid Girl has been prancing around the house practicing "Reindeer Rock," the song-and-dance routine her class is working up for the Christmas (not holiday, but Christmas) concert, and my workplace doesn't even make any gesture toward calling the shindig they're throwing next weekend a "holiday party" rather than a "Christmas party." Even though when I picked her up from school today I saw that her whole class had done Remembrance Day paintings featuring a hill, a field of poppies, and a BIG CROSS marking a grave (apparently, that's the standard iconic imagery for Remembrance Day: poppies, field, cross. It was kind of startling, though.)

It just hasn't been bugging me that much. Go figure.

I did check in with the principal way back in September about December holiday celebrations, and she told me with some pride that there are kids of many different religions at MG's new Cool Artsy School (and I believe it--even though we're out in the burbs, it's way way more ethnically diverse than the population at her old school in Seattle), and they do a play every year, and last year the play was about all the *different* holidays people celebrate at this time of year. "Too bad you weren't here then," she concluded; "this year the play is going to be about Santa."

Yah, whatever.

And I volunteered again to do a Chanukah Presentation for MG's class. "I don't think she'll want you to," my girl said, and I wasn't so certain either; this teacher seems to dismiss some pretty innocuous suggestions with a "that's just not the way we usually do it." (NB: neither the Renaissance Woman nor I are crazy about this teacher overall as a person, but as MG seems to be learning just fine from her, and has volunteered multiple times how much she likes her, we haven't made a point of it.)

But I talked with the teacher after school today and she's just fine with it, and even volunteered the use of a basket of dreidels someone gave her a while ago, that she wasn't sure how to use.

I think I actually like how, even though Canada has an official, government-sponsored policy supporting and celebrating multiculturalism, it doesn't--

Wait, stop the presses! I was going to go on to say that Canada doesn't make any pretense of separating church and state as the U.S. ostensibly does, since as part of the Commonwealth it has an official state religion (Church of England, baby!) but when I went to look it up I found that apparently such is not the case (well, at least not according to that great arbiter of all knowledge, Wikipedia).

Now what am I going to do? I was just fine with being a stranger in a strange land, but it looks like it's the same old, same old, here. Just with even less window dressing--well, more literal window dressing at this time of year, but fewer figurative token nods towards the concept that some people might, you know, not celebrate Christmas.

Sheesh. Now I'm confused.

Even so, somehow it's hard for me to get worked up about it this year.

Okay; as you were.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Girl Can Keep it Together

November has been kicking my butt.

I don't remember minding the darkness so much back in Seattle. But it wasn't quite as dark, being slightly further south. Also, because my old school didn't have any hallways, I was forced to go outside during the work day to get anywhere, and that probably helped. And we had a front and back porch. That helped too, I think.

Also, my rhythm is thrown off by not having Thanksgiving break at the end of November. We just keep plowing through till Christmas, I guess. It's weird to see all these harbingers of Thanksgiving online and not to be having it here. I'm not even that crazy about Thanksgiving as a holiday, but it turns out I miss it. My cousin's hosting a sumptuous American Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, which will be nice.

I'm working on keeping above the Pit of Despair by any means necessary: DVDs, Facebook, reading whatever I want to, eating chocolate and drinking wine.

And over and over in the car, between audiobooks, listening to The Be Good Tanyas' newest album, which we bought in the far-off sun-warmed days of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival last July.

I especially like the first cut, "Human Thing." It's not especially cheery, but it resonates more and more the more times I listen. You can hear the whole song (and see a lovely, springlike animated video interpretation) here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes

Mermaid Girl: "What do you miss about Seattle? I miss my friends. But I DON'T miss George Bush!"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We thought he was a goner: The Final Chapter. Really.

The pet-finder didn't even charge me for the e-mail, which turned out to be all the information I needed to put my Master's Degree (in Science!) to good use and perform a highly sophisticated online search to find out more. Translation: I stopped Googling "lost cat" and started Googling "displaced cat," and discovered that aside from humane traps, one recommended method for finding a lost indoor cat (as Shy Kitty was classified, having not been outside since the move) is called-- seriously-- Just Sitting.

In fact, lots of the sites I had looked at recommended just hanging out outdoors a lot as a method of maximizing your chances of seeing your kitty. However, since this was now early November, in Vancouver, and there seemed to be approximately 2.5 hours of daylight per day, and it was cold enough last week that even taking out the garbage without a coat was distinctly uncomfortable, I'd been hoping something else would work.

Plus, even with the assurance that Shy Kitty was probably nearby, I wasn't sure exactly where to look. We live on a big block that is chock-full of sheds and back porches and shrubbery and undergrowth; presumably, there were hundreds of places where he could be. A neighbor had called a few days earlier and said she'd seen a cat running across the street a few houses down, but a flashlight search over there had proven fruitless. I started printing up fliers to distribute around the block, and planned to spend a couple of days asking permission from neighbors to poke around their yards. At night. With a flashlight.

Then, just after we'd used up our ink cartridge on new fliers, Renaissance Woman said, "You know, I wonder if he's in that little storage room under the porch. It's just the kind of place he likes." It was true. At our old house, he used to sneak into the dirt-floored basement periodically and hide there under the old boxes and wood scrap until we starved him out. I remembered seeing Neighbor Cat perched on some old mattresses under the porch, looking smug, way back at the beginning of our search. I hadn't looked in the shed because there was an old door leaned most of the way across the doorframe, and it looked too hard to move. But of course there was plenty of room at the bottom for a cat to squeeze through.

So at about 10:30 on the night after Halloween, I prepared to Just Sit. As instructed by the website, I wore warm clothes and brought out some cat food, a flashlight, and a good book. (I skipped the recommended pillowcase and gloves.) I sat down under the porch, near the propped-up shed door but not too near. I mushed the wet food around in the bowl and let the spoon clink around a bit, just the way I do when I feed Shy Kitty at night. Then I turned on the flashlight and started settling in for a long vigil.

But I hadn't even had a chance to open my book when I heard a pathetic "MEOW" and Shy Kitty peeked his little cat face out of the shed.

I didn't move; I was scared to scare him away. He slunk closer and started chowing down on the wet food.

As I've said, I'm not the most doting or responsible pet mom. But while he was eating, I channeled my inner cat lady and did my best. I told him quietly how good he was, how smart he was to stay hidden and safe, how much we'd all missed him, how happy I was to see him again. I felt kind of dopey doing it, but it helped keep me calm at the very least, and he kept eating.

I came a little closer and petted him, and he let me and kept eating.

Finally, when the food was almost gone, I grabbed him around the middle and picked him up. He yowled and pinwheeled his legs in the air, but I held him out and ran around the side of the house to our door, where I rang the doorbell with my elbow. RW let us in, and our cat-grieving days were over.

We let the Mermaid Girl out of bed to see him, even though it was almost 11 and she really should have been asleep.

Shy Kitty complained a lot that night--"He's telling us it's all our fault, and asking how we could have let him stay out all that time," RW interpreted--but aside from that, he seemed not much the worse for his ordeal. He was extra affectionate for the next few days, and so were we.

Now we're all pretty much back to normal. Except sometimes I think of how I despaired of ever seeing him again, and I give him a little extra nuzzle under the chin.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

We thought he was a goner: Part The Last 3

Well, the cat did indeed come back, as you've probably gathered. But not before I'd lost a couple of good years and gained several gray hairs worrying about him, and several blogging evenings' worth of surfing time Googling "lost cat" and variants thereon.

And freaking the hell out as one site after another warned me that my pet could be anywhere--anywhere!-- so the best thing to do was to get him tagged and microchipped [see previous guilt-encrusted entry]. Failing that, I should post big, florescent signs at intersections for at least a mile in all directions, call local vets every day, and make sure to visit the pet shelter--in person!--at least every couple of days, lest they euthanize my unidentified kitty.

I didn't do all that; I couldn't. I had a job heading into its busy season, and a kid who's always in her busy season, and a household without a dishwasher. So I did some of it, and kept worrying. By then it was Halloween, and I figured if Shy Kitty hadn't been eaten by raccoons there was no point in looking for him amid the tromping kids and the revellers and the fireworks (Vancouverites take every opportunity to set off fireworks) and our trick-or-treaters were sparse, so while RW and MG went around the neighborhood with some new friends, I stayed home and surfed some more while I waited for the doorbell to ring.

And lo, I found a site that purported to do lost-pet consultations for a flat fee. And so desperate was I that I plugged my cat's information into the form provided, and waited for the inevitable deluge of spam.

Instead, within an hour or two I got a personal response from the pet-finder, suggesting that, based on the information I'd given, my cat was probably very close, no further than three or four houses away, and had gone into a sort of semi-torpid "displaced state" wherein he huddled and hid from everything and wouldn't respond to calls or offers of food, even from his trusted family. Most cats in this state, she said, will come out looking for food three to eleven days after leaving the house. She suggested scouring the immediate neighborhood, knocking on doors with lost-cat fliers, and renting or buying a humane trap.

[A humane trap!? Yeah, that's what we thought, too. We didn't do it. Finishing up tomorrow. These mini-posts brought to you by exhaustion & overcommitment, and by the letter zzzzz...]

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another interim post: Melancholy

I decided to give myself the night off from everything tonight (well, everything except doing bedtime, and going grocery shopping because the 1st tuesday of every month is Customer Appreciation Night & you get 10% off and when one is still in shock about grocery prices that seems like a very, very good thing) and as soon as I decided it was okay not to do anything, I had the urge to write a post. Funny, that.

So this is not a post about much. Just: since this blog now has something of a plot as well as just anecdotal day-to-day, and the plot is One Family's Move to Vancouver, it seems wothwhile to note that tonight I was stricken with melancholy and homesickness. This is noteworthy because I haven't been, much. The Renaissance Woman and Mermaid Girl have been missing their friends a lot, but I've been riding high. I had a few friends in Seattle, but most of my friends effectively live at the other end of the phone or inside my laptop, and they're just as close (or as far) now as they were before.

But tonight--I don't know what it was. Was it that the Muzak in the Safeway was Billy Joel's "The Night the Lights Went Out on Broadway," which is an elegaic kind of song any way you look at it and is made more so by being part of the soundtrack of my youth? Was it the end of Daylight Savings, or the rain, or the onset of Remembrance Day, which has a completely different tenor here than Veterans' Day does down in the States? (Everyone is wearing little red poppy lapel pins. For remembrance. Of how bad war is, I think, which is sort of a refreshing sentiment to see expressed generally and supported civicly. I made a poppy pin out of red and black duct tape, and I have to say it looks pretty good.)

Don't know. Just is that way, tonight.

On the plus side, RW just today got an on-call job that she wanted, that's much more convenient for all of us than the bit of a job she's already got. And yesterday was my day off, so I went to pick MG up from school and it was a beautiful golden fall afternoon, and she ended up playing on the school playground for an hour while I talked with the other moms. I didn't feel immediately accepted into the circle of friendship or anything, but it was a start. And it's something I never got to do at MG's old school, where she took the bus and anyway I worked every weekday and didn't get home till 6.

And when the last kids were being detatched from the general clump under the monkey bars and dragged off home, little siblings in their wake, we detatched ourselves too and headed up the hill, in step, as it turned out, with one of her classmates, whose dad had been sitting alone, apart from everyone. He and I talked and the two girls talked and raced each other the four blocks straight uphill.

I liked him; he reminded me of the dad of one of MG's best Seattle friends, an offbeat, deadpan guy who's older than most of the rest of us parents. Like the Other Dad, this one was prone to tossing off bits of random trivia and incongruous observations: he started off telling me about the stupendous economy of Finland, and just loped right along conversationally from there. I felt right at home with him. And when we peeled off for our street, it emerged that they live only two blocks away.

Maybe the melancholy I feel is what that sister in that Chekov play would've felt if she ever had gotten to Moscow. After the excitement of settling in, she would notice that Moscow is just another place, after all, and that she's still just herself, the same self she was at home.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

We thought he was a goner: Part 2

This is probably as good a time as any to confess that I am not the world’s most attentive or responsible cat owner. It’s through luck and his own street-smarts as much as anything that Shy Kitty has survived as long as he has. The truth is, he hasn’t worn a collar or a tag for years; we used to buy him collars, which he would manage to pull off at the first opportunity, and finally we gave up. Back in Seattle, he never strayed from his regular haunts and we didn’t worry about him much. I’d planned to get him a collar, or tag, or microchip, or something, before letting him out here, but…I just hadn’t gotten around to it. Frankly, it slipped my mind that it might be an issue, since in fifteen years it never had been.

When he hadn’t come back by last Sunday night, we went out calling around the backyard and up and down the block, holding out his favorite canned food and clinking the bowl and whistling the whistle I used to use to call him in at night. Nothing, not a peep. Only the downstairs cat, an outdoor wanderer and general mooch-about-town, who drooled at the sight of the food and then settled smugly in the storage area under the porch, looking like he knew something but wasn’t saying.

On Monday, after checking the Internet under “lost cat” and reading the alarming news that my hitherto outdoor kitty could be anywhere up to a mile or two away, I checked two local vet’s offices, called the pet shelter, and made up fliers, which MG and I posted all around the block on Monday afternoon. We agreed that this could stand in for the usual Jewish cooking session since it was a mitzvah to look for Shy Kitty.

On Tuesday—on all the days, really--I worried. And worried, and worried. And thought about that fateful moment when he slipped out the door and I didn’t grab him and make him stay in. And wondered if I was ever going to see him again, and whether he was dead of cold or a car or a raccoon, or taken in by some nice person who had no idea where he’d come from or how to find his owner. And marveled at how much I missed him, when frankly he’d been getting on my nerves so much for the past few weeks, and it was such a pain to clean his litter box constantly now that he was indoors all the time, and to keep him out of MG’s room since she’s mildly allergic. And in a tiny corner of my mind wondered if it wasn’t maybe for the best for all of us to be spared what would might well be an expensive and incontinent kitty old age coming up soon. And then I would be stricken with guilt for even thinking that and would go out calling again.

It was much worse than I would ever have thought it would be. Everything—the sight of that dratted litter box; yet another reference to LOLCats; the act of typing in any of my many online passwords of which contain variants on his real name—was like a little poke in the gut. I kept thinking every day that he might be waiting outside the door when I got home from work, or when I left in the morning. MG and I both dreamed about him. She took to asking when he would be back, to which RW and I could only answer sadly that we didn’t know.

[not trying to string this along, honestly, but must make lunches for all now and feed the prodigal cat.]

Friday, November 02, 2007

Interruption & Reruns

Hate to leave the cat tale on a cliffhanger, but I must interrupt the saga to belatedly announce:

My piece about nerdy me and my even nerdier friend in jr. high school was on Can I Sit With You? last Sunday! Groovoid!

And, in a more timely but slightly more enigmatic announcement, readers of this blog may be interested in today's CISWY entry. Which, astonishingly, bears a striking resemblance to this multi-part coming-out story.

Shan & Jen are still taking CISWY submissions, by the way. So if you have a tale of woe, or triumph, or both, from junior high or earlier, you can send it to them and have your own belated moment of glory. Or, at least, retribution.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We thought he was a goner: Part 1

Shy Kitty was an indoor/outdoor cat in Seattle, but we've been keeping him indoors here, and he's mostly seemed pretty contented with the situation. Ever since we went away to Los Angeles a few weeks ago, though, he's seemed more interested in the door to Outside.

Last Friday afternoon I opened the door to get the mail, and he came down the stairs and peered out interestedly, for the first time since we moved.

Oh, well, I thought; might as well let him explore a bit. I held open the door for a moment to see if he would go for it, and he did.

Shy Kitty and I have lived in many places together, and except for the first apartment, when he was a little kitten and stayed inside, he's always been determined to explore the outdoors, and he's never gotten lost. Oh, he might go wandering for a day or so, but he always comes back. He's a scrapper from way back, a rail-thin, skittish, skeptical street-fighting tabby, and he's survived fifteen years of territory fights and bumps and falls and who knows what. Eight or nine years ago, he came home with his tail mysteriously broken, wailing pitifully; we took him to the vet and kept him indoors for a week, and he got better. (Though he looked really miffed about it and, RW interpreted, kept insisting that he didn't wish to discuss the issue.) Aside from that, and a couple of minor injuries from fighting, he's been remarkably healthy and resilient for an outdoor cat of his age.

So I didn't think much of it when we didn't hear so much as a scratch at the door Friday evening; I figured he was getting acquainted with his territory, getting his fill of the sweet outdoor air after having been confined for two months, and would come back when he got hungry.

By Sunday, though, I was getting worried.

[more tomorrow--it's been a long night.]