Reflections on the Infinity Dreams Award

One of my favorite bloggers, the author of  DearLilyJune, was sweet enough to nominate me for the Infinity Dreams Award late last year, and I have been slack about fulfilling my obligations to accept it. I was thrilled to be recognized, as I started my blog just last year. Thank you, LilyJune’s Mama, for your kind words and nomination. I have been a slacker long enough, so here is my reply:

img_0468The rules for the Infinity Dreams Award are:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back.
  • Post the award badge and rules.
  • Tell 11 facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and set questions for them.

11 Facts About Me

  1. I have been writing most of my life. The reason most of my elementary school teachers wrote, “Debbie is SO quiet!” on my report card, is I was busy drafting four-line poems, sketching, or devouring my latest book order those teachers were silly enough to give me mid-morning instead of waiting until just before school let out.
  2. I love taking pictures, and think capturing something on film, or digitally, and being able to share it with others is almost magical.
  3. If I had been any kind of smart in math, I would have been a scientist. My first choice was to be a biologist, but I really think I would have been happier as a geologist. If I had been really good at math, though, I might have been an astrophysicist. I also find quantum mechanics fascinating, although trying to actually understand it kind of makes my brain hurt.
  4. In preparation for my non-existent career as a scientist, I took Latin in college. I do wish, however, I had learned a language I could actually use. (My apologies to my Latin professor and her G.A.)
  5. My ideal vacation/trip would be exploring Yellowstone National Park. I do realize Yellowstone has a huge magma chamber beneath it, just biding its time. I will be sure to plan my trip around any suspicious, larger-than-usual rumblings.
  6. I used to be a night owl, but having to work for lo, these many years, cured me of that. I did spend the better part of the last five years working evenings, which has totally messed up my sleep schedule/circadian clock/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Some mornings I get up at 6; others, “Well, hey! Is it lunchtime already?!”
  7. When I was young, I loved horses, and asked for one just about every Christmas. I got horse books, horse collectibles, and many other nice gifts, but never a real, live horse. I have, however, forgiven my parents for this, because, I am sure I would have been allergic to horses anyway.
  8. I absolutely love cats: big ones, small ones, wild ones, tame ones. Snow leopards are at the top of the list, followed closely by tigers. And, of course, house cats, of which I will likely have no more, because, after spending so much time with them, I am now allergic.
  9. If I had a choice between getting cured of allergies and having perfect vision, eyesight would win, hands down. Why? Because I really like to see.
  10. It’s kind of difficult to think of 11 random questions I want to answer.
  11. I really, really, can’t think of another question to ask myself right now.

8 Questions I Have Been Tasked by DearLilyJune to Answer

  1. What are your feelings about infinity? Do they scare you? Excite you? Annoy you? Or do they create a combination of those feelings? Infinity is both exciting and confounding, as I have only been here x amount of years, and infinity is, well, forever.
  2. What is the biggest irony of your life? I have worked for newspapers off and on for years, and each time I leave, I say I will never go back. Guess where I’m working now.
  3. In the battle between pizza and coffee, which wins? If I could actually eat pizza or drink coffee with no problems, it would be pizza, no contest. But, since I can’t, I’m substituting hot chocolate. Life without chocolate is awful.
  4. What do you worry about? I don’t worry nearly as much as I used to. But I do worry about my family.
  5. Who do you love? See Question 4.
  6. What do you fear? If you stand me up to speak in front of a crowd, you will probably hear my knees knocking.
  7. How would you complete, No matter how old I am, I am still? Skittish.
  8. No matter my current age, I will always . . . Be curious.

My 5 nominees (yes, I chose only five) for the Infinity Dreams Award are, in no particular order, as follows:

  1., for ongoing encouragement and inspiration.
  2., for communicating scienc-ey topics to everyday people like me.
  3., for its feel-good posts about gardening, and those beautiful pictures.
  4., a nature blog with great info and stunning photos.
  5., for the author’s skill in writing, humor and our shared fear of Excel spreadsheets.

My questions for the nominees are:

  1. If you didn’t have to work for a living, you would . . .
  2. What is something even your friends wouldn’t guess about you?
  3. What do you do best?
  4. Describe yourself in three words or phrases.
  5. What do you like about blogging?
  6. What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
  7. If you could go back and change anything about your life, what would it be?
  8. How many books do you read each year?
  9. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
  10. If the new ninth planet turns out to exist, what would you name it?

My Not-So-New-Year’s List

The blank slate of a new year
The blank slate of a new year

It was a roller-coaster year, 2015. Job changes, health issues, threats abroad and at home, too much time spent brooding about what is, and not enough effort put forth on what could be . . . I’m sort of glad it’s over.

Both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were more exciting when I was young. There were the nights my brother and sister and I talked my mother into letting us borrow pots and pans to clang noisily after we stood under the streetlight in front of the house chanting, “. . . five, four, three, two, ONE!!!”

Probably 30 to 40 seconds in, she would open the screen door and laughingly say, “Shhhhhhh, that’s enough, get back in here!”

And, for a few years, the neighborhood girls and I planned a slumber party where we stayed up all night watching black-and-white horror movies to usher in the New Year. By 1 or 2 a.m., my brain was fuzzy and it was all I could do to keep my mind on whatever threat was stalking the terrified actors on TV. One year, I managed to prolonged my misery until 4 or 5 a.m. before succumbing to slumber.

I’ve never been good about making New Year’s resolutions. And . . . I’m a bit of a procrastinator (note today’s date). But making lists and crossing items off gives me a sense of accomplishment.

So, inspired by the many changes, fears and uncertainties wrought by 2015, the new positions my husband and I both start this week (and also the brilliant sunshine extremely welcome after what seems like months of rain), I will make myself an agenda for the newly minted year. (Like most rough drafts, it will be big on ideas and short on specifics.)

Item 1 Keep moving

My passion for exercise dwindled over the past few years, as I spent all my time at work on my feet. In 2016, I’ll try to do something every day, whether it’s walking, working out, or furiously cleaning the house (I’m sure my husband is laughing at that last bit).

Item 2 Keep learning

I made it through Word 2013 and PowerPoint last year, and drafted a family newsletter and cookbook. I started this blog. I’m big on acquiring knowledge, but lax about putting it all into practice. This year, I’ll try to weed out some of the interesting in favor of mastering things I can do to improve things for myself and those I love.

Item 3 Keep investing in family

My husband and I have talked about relocating if necessary, because we aren’t yet ready (or able) to retire. Because of his current work situation, he travels more than he’d like. Because of mine, I have a fair amount of free time. Last year I was able to make several trips to see him while he completed assignments out of state. I enjoyed some of our grand kids for days at a time, and sought out conversations with our children. I made a trip to see my Mom. This year, I plan to do more of the same.

2016 is still young, but time, like a conveyor belt, keeps moving along. I’ve taken the jump, and my goals are in motion. We’ll see what the new year will bring.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you good at keeping them?







All cats go to Heaven

Natasha 2010
Natasha 2010

If ever God created a perfect animal, it would be a feline. I know some would disagree, but I think nothing compares to the sleekness, the agility, the pure beauty of a cat – whether out in the wild on a hunt, or purring contentedly on a lap.

I’ve had many cats. Growing up, they never seemed to make it for more than a couple of years. Some met with accidents; others disappeared. But when the kids and I moved into our current house in 2001, I promised them cats. Cats, even though one insisted she wanted a dog. I was a busy single working mom, though, and I wasn’t falling for the, “But I’ll feed it, and walk it, and . . . ” So cats it was. My youngest got her and her sister’s kitten from a friend at church, a pretty, friendly – if a bit skittish – tuxedo named Oreo.

Oreo, doing what comes naturally.
Oreo, doing what comes naturally.

We went to the pound for my son’s cat, and came home with a kitten, already spayed and named Smokey. He renamed her Natasha, and the name fit. Independent, distrustful of too much petting, and only friendly when she wanted something, Natasha took forever to take to Oreo.

A year passed, and Natasha and Oreo had settled into young adulthood and, for the most part, got along. It always tickled me when Natasha pinned Oreo down and gave his head a good washing.

Tom had Natasha, and Josie had decided almost immediately that she wasn’t sharing Oreo, so Cassie was left out of the whole bonding-with-a-pet experience. She wanted a dog, but then the kids brought home a beautiful – I don’t even know how to describe his fur pattern – but he was as friendly as he was handsome. He was half-grown, but needed a home. The girls insisted, but I wasn’t giving in.

Until, a few months later, they brought him back. He had been passed around the neighborhood, they said, and the dogs were chasing him, and the other cats didn’t like him, and nobody wanted to keep him. I was sitting on my bed, and they handed him over, and he put his paws on my chest, and his nuzzled my neck, and began purring, and licking, and kneading . . . that was that, and T was our third cat.

T enjoying Christmas in 2010
T enjoying Christmas in 2010

He was big, but he liked to climb. That first Christmas, he ended up inside the top of our Christmas tree. I wish I still had that picture. Natasha developed a new cat attitude, deciding she liked T, not Oreo, and although they all started out as house cats, for one reason or another, they all ended up inside-outside cats.

Oreo left first – to live with his “Mommy,” who had turned 18 and moved out. He came back to live with me for a year, and I got to enjoy his sweet personality again, until Josie found a place where she could keep him.

T passed a year or so ago. He had a bad case of diabetes, then met with a fatal accident. Natasha passed over this morning. She had lost weight, and hadn’t been eating much. She really went downhill in the last few weeks, and I knew it was time to say goodbye.

When I was a child, I subscribed to that sanitized version of Heaven, which included, of course, the streets of gold, and the mansions, and the angels, and not much else.

After I grew up, though, I figured if God included animals for us to enjoy here, why wouldn’t he create some for Heaven, too? I’ve heard people wonder if they’ll be reunited with their pets in Heaven, and yes, I know animals probably don’t have souls. But, that’s not really the point. If God can make animals here, He can certainly make some for the afterlife. And he can bring our pets back to us, also, if He wants to. After all, He is God.

After I decided there surely must be animals in Heaven, I asked God for a tiger. Tigers are gorgeous, and majestic, and they wouldn’t dare eat anyone Up There. But then I discovered snow leopards. And, I had to ask for one of those.

This may sound frivolous, especially if you’re not into animals. But I think my argument for animals in Heaven is totally plausible. If you don’t believe me, just look me up when you get to the Other Side. I’ll be the one in the mansion on Cat Lady Lane.

The day I found my wedding shoes

Wedding shoes

Since I’m no longer working “nights,” and sleeping half the day away, weekends are not what they used to be. I now have 48-plus hours to fill with things like family, and fun. Although, the kids’ jobs require irregular schedules, so spending time with them, or the grandkids, is still hit or miss. And because my husband is working out of town, our time spent together is relegated to chatting on the phone, rather than serial-watching our new favorite show, going out for exercise, or running errands.

Last weekend, I was lucky. I kept our one-year-old grandson for three days, and reveled in watching him take a few steps (when he wasn’t paying enough attention to be scared), and discovering he can feed himself mac and cheese, very well, as long as you load up his baby fork (not too much), and don’t mind if he picks the fallen pieces up with his fingers. I took him on walks around the neighborhood and the park, and followed him around the largely un-baby-proofed downstairs, making sure he stayed out of the cabinets, and off the stairs, and handed him board books to peruse, only to see him first pet the fuzzy tiger on the front cover, then lay the book down to scoot around the floor like a squashed, wheel-less race car.

This weekend, I felt the need to clean. The kind of reorganizing that requires going through closets and moving dusty, old things, and finally carrying what I know isn’t going to sell in a yard sale (I know, because I tried), to the local thrift store. We have an empty room, and like most of the rooms in this small house since my husband and I tied the knot, contain too much stuff. We have little storage, and we are not in a position to move, so there’s really only one solution. I’ve postponed really doing much about it, because, sometimes when you put something off too long, it seems to morph into a project just too big to handle. But it was pouring rain, I had no one to spend time with, and I needed something to do besides sit around and read, or watch more TV. In other words, I was out of excuses.

I started in my room, on my side of the closet (Bill, I didn’t touch your stuff, honest). I looked through all my clothes, figured out what fit, and what didn’t, what I loved, what I hated, and what I just didn’t want to look at any more. I pulled out garbage bags, designating some for trash, and some for giveaway. I loaded up the car, and left, shortly before 6, because I wasn’t sure, being a holiday weekend, if the thrift store was even open. I came back, and forgot the mess for the rest of the evening, knowing I couldn’t leave any of the rooms half-done, and would get back to it (probably today).

This morning, I was dragging (probably from all the Benadryl I needed from stirring up the dust), but I sweet-talked my husband into going to the gym, so I had to go, too. Ignoring the fact it’s no fun exercising with your husband when he’s 300 miles away, I lost myself in a Learning Channel show about life in the stressful E.R., and logged 45 minutes on the elliptical.

Ten minutes before the gym closed, I cleared my locker, and came home. Now energized, I packed up even more than I originally planned to donate, but with grandkids often spending the night, we really need the space. And if I’m going to rent that carpet-cleaning machine for the living room, I really should get my money’s worth by shampooing the carpet upstairs, too.

I still need to vacuum, and offload those extra bed frames on someone or someplace else, but I’ve made progress. I’m well on the way to creating one nice, baby-proof space, and my side of the closet, at least, is presentable. And hey, I found my wedding shoes.

Surviving the in-between

Walks to a neighborhood park rank high on my mood-boosting list

What’s on my list today? Completing and turning in the last assignment for my online class, cleaning house and filling the fridge for three active and hungry grandkids, and getting some exercise and sunshine before I talk myself out of it. For most folks, that’s probably a week-end, or at least an evening, kind of list.

What I’m trying not to do is think too much about the situation I find myself in right now, which is stuck. In-between. Not bringing in a paycheck, and not happy with what I was doing when I earned one. Wanting to move forward, and feeling like the wheels are spinning, and the car’s making lots of noise, but it’s not leaving the driveway.

I know that’s not true. I’m working on new skills, starting a new project, reconnecting with family, and enjoying hobbies I’ve long neglected. If I really think about it, the way I should think about it, I realize we’re all in transition – all the time, even when we feel like we’ve got everything coordinated in our calendars, all under control.

We’re starting a relationship, or ending one. We’re preparing for a new job, or project, or assignment, or completing one. We’re getting ready to leave a place, or an idea, or a dream, and preparing to embrace a new adventure. We’re moving away from something old, and toward something different.

We can plan all we want, but we still don’t know how things will turn out. I’m on a new journey, but I’m not sure where it’s going, or where these next few steps will take me.

Well. I’ve checked most everything I need to do off my list for today, and the weekend’s coming. A blank work week, for me, now includes an empty weekend, ready to fill, with family and fun. I won’t look at this time as in-between, but as an opportunity. The sun, the pool, and the grandkids are calling. We’ll see what this weekend holds.