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So, I went to New Zealand for two weeks. What did I bring?

A good travel uniform. Mine is a base layer of black cotton leggings and close-fitting tshirt under a skirt and sweater. On the way out, the skirt was the Calliope from Athleta, with my Victoria’s Secret wrap sweater. On the way back, I had new stuff: a Villa skirt and Bliss hooded pullover from Icebreaker.  (Note that there was cashmere or merino involved in both; I cannot recommend wool enough for temperature regulation and comfort.) On both days, my Cole Haan Air Tali flats did airport duty, and were replaced with a pair of slipper socks on the planes. In this uniform, I’m warm, I’m not tugging at my clothes, I am comfortable enough to sleep, the fabrics breathe, and there are no TSA security issues with any of my clothing.

A good carryon bag. I used my Timbuk2 Scrunchie Tote — my gym bag, normally — and it was fantastic. Timbuk2 makes good shit, man.

Scott e-Vest. On the plane trip over, and on the many days I spent wandering New Zealand, my vest prevented me from needing to carry a bag. Camera in one pocket, wallet in another, phone in a third, and there are still 19 left… It’s a seriously elegant piece of travel gear, one which ensures that everything you need is where you need it, reduces what you must dig through your bag to find, and makes airport security a breeze – put the vest in a bin. Walk through the metal detector. Put the vest back on.

The airplane sleep trifecta: An eyemask, earplugs, and a memory foam neck pillow. The pillow is bulky in your carryon, but oh-so-worth it.  Add in a shawl/wrap from my collection, and I have quiet, darkness, a pillow, and a blanket that smells like home.

iPad. Movies, tv, music, audiobooks, ebooks, games, and the internet. It really is magic.

My camera kit. The Olympus E-PL2, a micro four thirds body with the 14-42 kit lens and a pancake wide angle, a spare battery, battery charger, and a 32gb SD card. If you take joy in photography, I cannot recommend enough having a camera that makes you happy.

 

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Grid-its. Bwhahahahahaha, cable management. Never again. These things are friggin’ magic.

 

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Packing bags and envelopes.  I used the Eagle Creek packing folders, in 15 and 18 inch sizes, and assorted mesh and drawstring bags. My carryon was filled with small plastic and cloth zip-shut bags, each containing some different collection of necessities. Packing was a dream. Like the grid-it, I wouldn’t do it any other way ever again.

The Jimi wallet. For daily use, this isn’t near big enough for the myriad cards that live in my wallet. But for travel, it holds cash, a hotel key, three credit cards, and my drivers license, all with ease. And it fits in a pocket smoothly and securely, can be lanyard-ed, and generally rocks.  Everything I need and nothing I don’t.

And what did I wear?  For professional wear, I chose dresses. Simple, feminine, formal enough, and easy. I packed two from Boden, and one from Athleta, and spiffed up my Athleta travel skirt with a more formal shirt, belt, and heels. I also brought two pairs of trousers and some work-weight tshirts, which I paired with the two cardigan sweaters I brought along. In addition to my travel uniform, for sightseeing, I brought lightweight hiking pants and a pair of jeans, along with a handful of tshirts and tank tops, a black hoodie, and the outer shell from my Columbia parka.  I lived for two weeks in three pairs of shoes: My silver Cole Haan ballet flats, a pair of burgundy patent leather mary-jane heels from Target, and my Earth shoes. Not a blister to be seen… and the skinned knee is entirely the fault of slippery Wellington sidewalks, not the silver flats.

What do I wish I’d had?  Sunglasses. My business cards. Another sweater or sweatshirt. A paperback book for the no-electronic-devices parts of flying. My Tom Bihn iPad bag. With the exception of the sweater and paperback, those were simply things I forgot to pack.

That’s about it. I did a damn good job for myself on this one.

 

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The New Zealand travel agent was confused initially because I was flying out of Montreal, but then declared in a conversation about potential visas that I’m an American, not Canadian. There are two reasons for my choice — one, Montreal is closer than Syracuse, and two, Canada rocks.

The border guard was friendly and chatted with me about how nice New Zealand is. The parking lot attendant was really helpful and in a good mood, despite the blustery wind and chilly gray rain. The Air Canada people were smiling, chatty, and willing to help. Security took all of three minutes, was unobtrusive, polite, and attentive.

And then I got to my gate.

Sushi

And there’s sushi right next to it. Good sushi. Fresh made.

And then I had a Coffee Crisp.

I wonder if Justin wants to be Canadian?

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I pulled black opaque tights up my legs, and a black scoopneck tshirt over my head, then slipped my colorblock wool dress over the top. Justin watched while I got ready.

“First you put on your NPC garb…”
“Neutral base layer, with the good stuff over the top.”

We grinned at each other. I sat down and pulled on first my ass-kicking black boots, then, deciding otherwise, my sleeker stretchy black knee high boots.

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(the boots that got booted.)

I checked myself in the mirror, put on earrings and a bracelet.

“With a cape and a mask, that could be your superhero costume.”
“I’d need to develop some powers.”
“Or get good gadgets.”
“I’d rather have powers.”

Like invisibility. Or flying. Eye lasers. Or making people listen, the anti-Cassandra. Or encouraging responsibility. Or facilitating followthrough. Or simply the steely strength to make it through one more day of the people around me dropping the ball on their end and yet still expecting me to succeed anyway.

Which I will.

Fuck powers, I’m already a superhero.

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I’m not the wealthiest 1%. But when I saw this photo on Facebook, I nodded.

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I’m not independently wealthy, nor am I in the top 1%. But I am exceedingly lucky. I’ve always had good healthcare. I have a stable job that pays me more than either of my parents have ever made. My car is paid for, and I can afford silly luxuries when I choose to. I’m able to be generous and thoughtless about money when I want to. I owe a pile of money, but it’s all student loans and debt accrued due to my own voluntary choices.

I got a bill from the hospital yesterday, totalling $1460 for one month – July – of physical therapy for my ongoing neck and shoulder conditions. If all three months I’ve been receiving treatment turn out to be not covered, that’s nearly $5000 I’ll owe. It’s likely a billing problem, per my PT office, and they’re working on it. But if it turns out to be real, I’ll pay it.

And it won’t break me; it’ll just royally piss me off.

That makes me LUCKY.

That’s not right.

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Last week out of nowhere Drew emailed me asking questions about how i coped iwth Henry’s death. I answered honestly, and as openly as I can manage with someone who behaved like malicious evil trapped in a child’s body for two years and now wants to ask me about grief. I can only presume he’s dealing with death in his own life, and there’s no reason for me to be overtly cruel.

Then today I heard a song I associate with Henry — That Ain’t My Truck. Makes me think of him every time. He loved that song. (I suspect many serial monogamists do.) I hummed a bit while scheduling my PT appointments for next week. “My dad loved that song.” “Yep, it’s a good one.”

Then I saw an old blue pickup as I drove through town. Hi, Hank.

And then I took my afternoon break, read a bunch of blogs, and Amalah is talking about her grief for her recently-died father. And I realized that I was sitting here in my office chair, frozen, paralyzed.

Don’t move. Don’t breathe. Don’t think. Don’t cry.

And then it passed.

The moments pass more quickly than they used to. But they’re still a knife in the gut.

I miss my dad.

Henry

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Well, in one room of the house, anyway.

It looked like this after two years of throwing things blindly into the room and closing the door.

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I got started last weekend, and got this far.

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Today, I got to here.

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And threw out all of this shit.

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Broken things, old things, things I have no idea why I didn’t get rid of in the first place rather than forcing myself to sort through them NOW.

Next stop, Justin and I organize the space into a really kick-ass craft room. And I ponder the fact that he always tells me to think about being kind to my future self. The Jenica who threw all that crap in the back room and ignored it behind a closed door was not being kind to today’s Jenica. I’ll see what I can do for the future version.

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I’m cleaning this weekend, albeit slowly and with some caution because I have a screaming headache that won’t go away. Slow or not, though, I’m cleaning. I just vaccumed the kitchen, living room, hall, and hall bath. Soon, I’ll be shutting myself in the back room with Eve Dallas in my earbuds and a slew of plastic totes.

As I did the kitchen, I moved the four-foot-tall red shutter that I use as a standing screen aside, and vaccumed the sawdust out of the doormat in front of the catboxes, and marveled at the brilliance of the whole setup.

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(My dining area, about a year ago. Much the same today, though the table and desk have been shoved around some.)

A friend, upon coming into my house, once commented on the shiny red screen with the half-moon cutout. (I got it from my uncle Pat’s grandmother’s restaurant when he was cleaning up the estate – I actually have two of them, but when I moved to this house I spraypainted one of them ruby red to go in the kitchen. The other is in the garage.) When I said “the catboxes are behind it”, she said, “Oh, you gave them privacy!” Well, sort of. I mean, yeah, they get privacy, if you consider pooping in an open air cubicle to be privacy, but really, it’s so I don’t have to watch. Or look at it after. It works for me.

And then when Justin and I were at Lowes one day, I was studying door mats and explained to him that I wanted to put a rug under the boxes so that it would catch some of the sawdust that comes out of the boxes when they kick and cover. (I use cedar sawdust litter; nothing neutralizes ammonia as well as it does.) He helped me pick one out – super-deep treads, 2′ x 3′. And then he engineered Catbox Corner. The two boxes sit behind the rug, the rug makes a sort of a landing pad, and the screen sits just so that the cats are forced to walk across the rug coming or going. It’s a traffic cone for pooping cats.

It works, man. There’s way less sawdust on the floors, the chance of a random rolling cat turd has become virtually nil, and I can vacuum up the sawdust when I do the floors with no problem.

And, yes, I know… I just wrote 300 words about the litterbox. I know. I know! But really, a house free of escaped dessicated turds and with 95% less sawdust on my feet is a HAPPY HOUSE AND DESERVES RECOGNITION. CAPS LOCK IS HOW I FEEL INSIDE, RICK.

Plus, the cats have their privacy. Very important, that.

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I was, just now, worrying about Jack. He’s been very sneezy today, and I was greeted by a rather remarkable pile of cat puke on the rug by the garage door this morning, and as I was sitting here, he tried to get into the closet, crawled under the yellow chair, and is currently sitting between the wall and the wicker chest, covered by the bottom of the curtain.

My brain thinks, “Sick cat. Hiding. Oh dear.”

So I leaned over, and said, “Jack?” twitched the curtain. He meowed, and slithered over to me, headbutting my hand. And looked up at me.

That’s when I noticed that his tail is lashing a bit at the tip, and he’s got… well, the best descriptor is “crazy eyes”.

He’s not sick.

He’s BORED.

No wonder Miles is sitting on the back of my chair, with his tail wrapped around my neck. He’s hiding from the I’M BORED WANNA HUNT OKAY I’LL HUNT MILES THAT WILL WORK *POUNCE* cat.

Hiss

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I should be sleeping.

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It’s 1 am.

I have to be up by 6:30 at the latest.

I am wide awake.

Life stress, my second wind, and the night owl tendencies I inherited from my maternal grandmother are conspiring to kill me through sleeplessness.

Tomorrow? Is going to be hard.