Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

This Halloween, we're in a lovelier home but it's located on a country road without sidewalks so there's no trick-or-treating tonight.

That makes my first year in recent memory that I haven't worn my witch's hat and scared some neighborhood kids and that we haven't (well, more like I haven't) bought almost $100 in candy to give out tonight.

This is also one of the first Halloweens we've had in Ohio when my mom isn't with us either.

Still, while this wasn't much of a Halloween for us, I did dress Lizzy up at least for one photograph to commemorate this year. She wasn't too crazy about her witch gown so my husband had trouble getting her to pose.

Hamlet, on the other hand, contributed the perfect Halloween photo recently when he posed for a photograph on the windowsill of my husband's office, next to one of the decorative pumpkins.

Happy All Hallows Eve!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Moon chasers

Today, I found myself busy for every minute between 8:20 a.m., when I arrived at my office, and 6 p.m., when I headed back home.

Once here, and after dinner, my husband and I and Lizzy went on a leisurely walk right at dusk, my very favorite hour of the day.

And the moon followed us.

On the way back, darkness had fallen and Lizzy's whiteness shimmered in the moonlight, fluorescent.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birthday presents

Under the spookiest of moons, I turned 48 blessed by the best of husbands, the wackiest of furry children, the lovingest of families, the loveliest of homes, the most rewarding of jobs, the most deserving of students, and the best of friends.

Oh, and then my husband built a fire in our backyard and we sat together to watch the flames dance until it got too cold and Lizzy decided to bark too loudly and repeatedly at the moving shadows in the forest.

For a moment, all was perfect. And who can ask for more?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Getting muddy

There are times in a marriage that one is reminded of how absolutely different the other person is to oneself and last night and today were two such examples for me. Last night, with the pink solar powered flashlight that he ordered for me in hand, my husband ran three miles in the dark through winding forest trails as part of my small college on the hill's Mudman Triple challenge.

The idea behind the event was to have three races, the first, a 5K last night, and then another 5K this morning at 9:30 a.m. (called the "Super Steeplechase"), which my husband also ran, and then a third, and last, 10K at 11 a.m, which my husband (thankfully) opted out of.

So on the wake of his having run his three miles last night, we woke up early and he left the house before 9 a.m. so he could be at the starting point by 9:30, when the second race began. Lizzy and I went to join him since the race was to be held around the same trails that she and I traverse almost every morning and evening.

However, my day didn't begin as auspiciously as his. Because there was ice on the road and I was on non-winter-ready walking shoes, I slipped on the road and fell hard, and Lizzy got away from me. Most thankfully, she returned immediately to me when she saw I was down and I was able to get a hold of her again. I got up, dusted myself of, and went on to meet up at the point where my husband was to run by, where Lizzy sat to wait, in much anticipation.

Finally, the runners appeared and there was my husband, within the pack of diverted challenge-seekers who had to run down mud holes and up mud piles to complete their second three miles.

Once the runners passed us, Lizzy and I started on the trails back home, and then my luck got just a little bit worse. That's because Lizzy got hold of a dead mouse on the trail and as I struggled to get it out of her mouth, while at the same time worrying that the runners would be by at any time and we were in their way, she got away from me for a second time. But, this time, she wasn't coming back to me and she took off running up the trails and into the woods and I thought I'd never see her again or that she'd run clear into the nearby road and be hit by a car. It wasn't a good few minutes there, let me tell you.

But, thank God! I got a hold of her finally (thanks to the fact that she was dragging her leash) and dragged her home, cleaned her up after she got as muddy as my husband was aiming to get, and put her into her kennel while I went off to nurse an injured hand, ankle and hip.

My husband returned, happy and proud with his accomplishment, and I was happy and proud that he had done what he'd set out to do and that he'd run six very rough miles in two days with no problem whatsoever. Meanwhile, I, the one who stayed home and didn't exert myself at all, ended up having to ice my hand for a few hours and am now able to type without trouble so I know there's nothing broken. So, no harm, no foul.

Still, with the way this day started, I'm going to remain inside all day and nurse what is mostly hurt now: my pride.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Introducing: Hamlet

On a recent dark and stormy night (okay, so it wasn't really stormy, but it works better when talking about finding a black cat), Dr. S and I had dinner together and when we walked out of the inn's restaurant we came upon a very friendly black cat, who was obviously starved for affection.

This was during a recent cold spell here so I was worried that the cat was obviously abandoned and would spend more nights outside, prey to the elements and God knows what else. While the cat was totally smitten with Dr. S, and she might have been glad to take him, she's terribly allergic and is taking care of a non-cat-friendly dog, so that was never an option.

I knew I couldn't bring a stranger cat home without having him first checked by the vet, so I reluctantly left and decided to come back the next day to try to find him, even though I really didn't have a plan of what I would do with him afterwards. What I did know was that I could not just leave him there, especially only a few days before Halloween when black cats become the targets of evildoers.

I came back the next day, but he was nowhere to be found, so I sent an e-mail to the listserve of my small college on the hill, apprising everyone of the abandoned cat, in the hopes that the owner would step up and claim him. While that didn't happen, the college security guards e-mailed me the next day to say that the cat had been hanging out around their offices, which are near the inn where Dr. S and I first saw him. They also were very worried about the cat spending Halloween outside.

I had a very small window of opportunity to get the cat and rush him to the vet, which had limited hours that day, but with the help of the security guards and the cat's own amazing desire to please, I was able to get him into the vet's office before they closed.

Now, $430 in vet bills later, Hamlet (as my husband so aptly named him: he's a "ham" and small for his age of about 1.5 years), who was determined to be essentially healthy (thankfully, no FIV or leukemia) but suffering from everything an abandoned cat will suffer from, including worms of all kinds, ear mites, and infections, is home with us.

He has yet to be fully introduced to the rest of the household since we're keeping him basically quarantined in my office until he's recovered from being neutered and from his several infections but in a short introduction to Lizzy and Darwin we had some hissing and fussing, which is to be expected. Magellan has decided to hide under our bed until the offending intruder is gone.

"This is the best animal you've ever brought into this house!" my husband said yesterday after he had to pick Hamlet up at the vet's and bring him home and set him up in my office. "He is totally good natured and unflappable, even after all that's happened to him."

That's very high praise from my husband, who's had to put up with some of the most impossible furry creatures ever (my sister calls them "nature's rejects") in the strays and rescues I've brought home over the years. We'll see how things go and take it one day at a time. But, right now, Hamlet is part of the household and my husband isn't threatening to leave me.

While Hamlet stares at himself in the full-length mirror inside the door of my office, Lizzy has Pepper over for a visit and they're both romping audibly on the deck, after chasing each other around the yard for a long time. We hope this tires out poor bored Lizzy enough that she has a peaceful rest of the day once we return Pepper to her home.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Camping in late fall near Blackwater Falls

When my husband arrived at his camping site in Blackwater Falls state park this past week, there was snow everywhere.

And he actually sighted two black bear cubs, and took a blurry picture of one of them as it looked straight at him.

And he took gorgeous pictures of the points he visited in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

And he came back home to me and the cats and Lizzy and we're all thankful that he enjoyed his yearly camping treat and that he's back among us and that our little pack is whole once again.

Dreams do come true

Lizzy's moment of glory: she finally got almost face to face with a huge cow. Of course, immediately after this photo was taken, she sped away in the opposite direction.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lizzy finally has a playmate!

At the peak of fall

Firsts of the year

Friday, after an exhausting day of teaching, meetings, a Parents' Weekend reception, and a friend's small party to celebrate that she had passed her doctoral comprehensive exams, my husband treated me to our first chimney fire of the year. The warmth of the burning logs was so inviting that I actually napped on the carpet in front of the fireplace for a few minutes, like Rusty would have (Lizzy, being pickier than he was, prefers the sofa).

Today is another first because my husband packed himself up and took off for West Virginia on his first (and likely last) camping trip of the year. He loves to camp and always tries to do so at least once a year (I remember one year how he went in late November to Valley Forge and how, before leaving, he tested his brand new sleeping bag in our backyard on a very chilly night to make sure it did, as it advertised, protect him against 20-degree overnight temperatures).

This time he's off to the camp ground were we camped (yes, I did camp ONCE and will never do so again, hopefully) as a recently married couple, which is on a gorgeous state park in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

During that camping trip, on which I embarked with all the goodwill and bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed enthusiasm of a newlywed, I remember how we drove by the camp's lodge on our way to the camping grounds, and how I eyed it longingly, probably foreseeing what was to come.

We eventually settled in front of an unpromising spot among some trees where my husband set up his inordinately small tent (similar to the triangular ones I was used to seeing in cartoons on TV in Puerto Rico, where the only camping I'd ever done was at the beach in a huge RV that belonged to my best friend). My mother-in-law, ever prepared, had packed up everything she could think of that we would need, and everything she packed up came in handy, including a rain poncho because when it started to pour on us, as night began to fall, the tent started leaking inside until my husband threw the poncho over it.

The not-very-auspicious beginning to our marriage continued after something slithered over the tent in the middle of the night, startling us awake, and, not long afterwards, some creature came sniffing and grunting loudly around the tent. We had heard stories of a possible bear sighting in the vicinity of the camp ground and I was pretty scared (I'm not into close encounters of the third kind with nature) but my husband bolted out of the tent to see if he could actually see the putative bear, which was probably a dog, although that was never factually settled.

After a night of no sleep, not just because of said interruptions but also because who the heck can sleep in a sleepingbag settled on hard, cold and wet ground? we woke up early in the morning and I walked what seemed like half a mile to the public bathroom facilities to take what turned out to be a very cold shower. Worse than the frigid water was my terror at the thought that I'd have to take my glasses off to take the shower because there was a veritable convention of spiders and spiderwebs gathered on the ceiling of the wooden shower stall. I don't mind spiders as long as they're far from me when I'm at my most vulnerable: not just stark naked but also blind.

At any rate, that was the first and probably the last of our camping trips in our many years together. As my husband likes to point out, I'd willingly go camping if we could do so in the style that the Saudi princes like to do it. And he's probably right. I certainly don't see any point in "roughing it," as he likes to do.

So, instead of joining him in his adventures today, I'm in my warm and cozy home where piles of grading await me, Lizzy also awaits to take her walk and there's a beautiful fall day unfurling, bidding me to make the most of it, if not in that order. This is what my Sunday has reserved for me before another busy week of this semester starts afresh tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Face Off

This morning, as Lizzy and I rounded the usual corner in our trail walk, we came upon a hillside occupied by cattle, the same that we've been meeting up with in different parts of our walk in recent weeks.

Lizzy, of course, was riveted but this ended up being less interesting than meeting up with her boyfriend, Max, a black lab-mix whose right ear is always in the upright position, and her pal, Cassey, the beautiful golden retriever of a neighbor and colleague.

That encounter, which we look forward to most mornings even though we don't always all coincide on the trail, was so exciting that Lizzy was literally leaping in the air for joy.

Today's happy walk was a highlight in an otherwise very long and tiring day, and I'm thankful that it's over and the weekend has begun.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World's worst editorial assistant

For some reason, for which we have no actual explanation, once the cold sets in, Magellan decides that my husband's lap or chest are the only places where she wants to warm up. This is usually not the best of arrangements, of course, when he is trying to do his work, on his laptop, and she decides that his lap is where she needs to spend the day.

The worst part of the arrangement is that Magellan will get VERY angry if he moves too much or if he tries to re-arrange her more comfortably for him. In those cases, she will get pissy and bite him to assert her Empress Magellan right to a peaceful, if day-long, nap.

We actually can tell when a night is going to be particularly cold because Magellan gets on our bed quickly and settles between us or between my legs pretty self-assuredly and permanently. On warmer nights, she finds somewhere else to settle her fat boricua butt.

While Magellan is getting increasingly demanding because of the cold, Lizzy is dealing with her post-parental visit depression. Sometimes she'll come upstairs and whine, looking from place to place to see where everyone went. She then plops herself on the reading chair, which she loved to take away from my dad, and looks very forlorn.

Tonight, we couldn't take her for her trail walk because it was rainy and late and cold, so we took her for a walk outside the gates of the property. She enjoyed herself, pulling against the leash to try to run here and there in search of one more smell (that's where the deer abound), and even got a chance to eat a morsel of what we believe to have been deer poop. But then she came inside and looked sad and bored.

Darwin, meanwhile, has the best personal equilibrium of them all, and is pretty much a blithe spirit, who doesn't get too upset or wound up about anything (except his little fake mice, which are filled with cat nip, and which we can't throw around anymore because Lizzy will eat them).

That's how our little family is getting along these days, when temperatures remain 20 degrees below normal and, as my favorite TV meteorologist recently announced, we've skipped from summer straight into winter with no actual fall. As to Magellan's skills as an editorial assistant, my husband pronounces: "She's terrible. She messes up everything. And she's not a very good writer."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn light

In these days of dizzying busyness, when there's always something else that must get done, I love my long, quiet walks with Lizzy in the brisks mornings and dusks of fall.

Now that my parents have returned to the tropical warmth of Puerto Rico, and my nephew also has left, leaving a heartbroken Lizzy behind (she was smitten with him!), the house is so still and the quietude, while filled with living memories, speaks of the summer's bygones and of how endings are always beginnings.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Small blessings

It seems like forever since I have wanted to participate in my small college on the hill's parish house's Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis Day. This is my fourth year here and I remember wanting to do this four years ago but reminding myself that Rusty would likely bite the hand of the chaplain and Geni would be so freaked out that the blessing would actually be counterproductive.

This year, however, I have Lizzy, who is friendly and mostly accommodating and, while she hates traveling in the car and will invariably puke (I now have pads and seat covers designed to avert major clean up of car upholstery), definitely is in need of a blessing given that she'll eat first and ask questions later, which I very much fear may end up being the cause of her untimely demise.

Thus, my husband and I packed her up after I had gone into campus briefly to meet an advisee's mother and grandmother, and we drove back to the chapel where the blessing was getting ready to begin. St. Francis is one of my favorite saints, and I have prayed to him for Rusty and Geni and now for Lizzy (as well as for my cats, of course), so I thought it was important that we finally do this and so there we were, with Lizzy, among a not-small group of cats and dogs.

Lizzy soon found a friend, Chester, the black poodle, who is owned by the parish chaplain and she and he romped around on their leashes for a while, happily. I'm thinking of e-mailing him to see if we can meet up at the dog park some day so the two dogs can play together since they really seemed to hit it off nicely. They're both almost the same weight and I think that puts Lizzy at ease since she tends to get anxious around bigger dogs.

Finally, the moment of the blessing came and Lizzy, while she did not sit on command, did do her "down" well and that worked and she received her blessing with all her goofy grace.

Because I love this prayer and believe these are good precepts to aim for and live by, I'd like to share it here on his day.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Unexpected pleasures

Today, and thanks to my mom's inquisitiveness for everything historical (after all, she is a historian by training and profession), we stumbled upon the oldest opera house in America (according to the renovators), right smack in the middle of the town next to my small college on the hill.

The Woodward Opera House, which was founded in the 1850s and reached the zenith of its popularity in the 1880s, offered vaudeville performances to what must have been a pretty prosperous town in its time. A drive through the main street of this town regales the visitor (and resident) with beautiful Victorian-style houses that are still standing in its historic district.

The opera house was a surprise to me, who am a resident of this area, and a delight to both of us as we walked up its rickety stairs to the theater area where everything is mostly the way it was more than 100 years ago. Talk about time travel!

The picture below, one of the people involved in the renovations told us, replaced the woman with bare breasts in the picture at the right hand side of the stage. The more demure and fanciful woman below used to cover the bare-breasted lady but now both can be seen by visitors whenever the Woodward opens to gather support for renovation efforts, as happened today.

The goal of its renovators is to bring the Woodward back to life at some point in the future and to revive it as an actual theater in a fully revamped building that would be self-sustaining. As an early Americanist scholar who has dragged my poor husband through ancient opera houses in Vienna and Hungary, I think it would be totally cool to have a theater dating to the 1850s open back to the public here in this rather culturally limited area. Here's to hoping that history and actuality meet again!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October is here!

It's the first day of October, my favorite month, and, as I told my husband last night, the countdown begins...

This morning, during our early walk in a very chilly 35 degrees, Lizzy and I had an unexpected encounter that completely baffled her and delighted me. If you look real hard at the very bad photograph (it was taken with my cellphone because, as usual, I was unprepared and didn't have my camera with me), you can see a dark shape right over Lizzy's head. That was a huge, black steer, with a white patch on its forehead, that meandered to the bottom of its munching hill and unintentionally met up with us at the edge of the path that we traverse almost every morning.

Lizzy didn't know what to do with herself. She barked low a few times, excitedly, and sat on her hunches to stare at the huge animal with ears perked up, and then barked a little more and suddenly took off running in the opposite direction, heading back home, as fast as she could, dragging me, who always must keep her leash firmly in hand, behind her. It's surprising how much strength this 26-pound dog has when she sets her mind to it. I've always known there is much power in smallness, but Lizzy is a constant reminder that her size and her self-esteem are not comparable.

The steer was completely uninterested and unimpressed with either one of us and continued his munching largely undisturbed, while Lizzy seemed to want to rush home immediately to tell my parents and my husband all about the humongous creature she had so valiantly barked at (and then very quickly run away from!).

If you look real hard at the first not-so-good picture again you might also perceive the frost that covered the path and almost all the vegetation around us this morning. That same frost, the first one so early in the fall, threatened to kill the arugula sprouts that are trying their best to survive in my huerto because I planted them too late (almost literally on the last day of the summer). I covered them last night with a warm blanket and they are still hanging on to dear life and looking quite spiffy this afternoon, especially in comparison to everything else that got touched by the frost. Here's to hoping for a fall harvest.

Meanwhile, Lizzy has been acting totally insane, running in circles at incredible speeds in the back yard, definitely showing a need for more stimulation. This reminds me that I need to arrange a play date with another dog or dogs because all of us here agree that we can understand how lesser souls, who didn't want to or couldn't put up with Lizzy's boundless energy, her obvious attention deficit disorder and her too-well-honed ability to ignore you when she doesn't want to obey, lead to her being given up for adoption!