Saturday, January 07, 2012

Compost pile

When I first saw this apartment back in June, I saw the back yard area and I began dreaming grand dreams. In my mind there was a garden, with veggies and flowers, and a compost pile in the corner. I was eating salads that I grew myself, and all of the waste was being composted. Now, here we are January, and this is totally how the back yard my dreams.

I began clearing the "dirt patch" one day in September. I purchased supplies for a compost pile. And, after an hour

I took a break and never went back at it. Today is unseasonably warm, and my weekend plans involve a lot of cleaning and "re-organization" (or organization, since I never really did that to begin with.) I went through the fridge and was saddened by the amount of wasted food - lots of produce - and began to be very upset at my lack of composting. I began researching the old sites and resources I had found in June, and decided I wanted to go a different route than I had planned. I headed off to home depot to return some things (for a $17 store credit), and purchased something new (for $13 - don't worry, I more than
spent that extra $4 but we'll get to that!)

Here's what I need:
  • a 20-gallon trash bin, with lid
  • power drill (you could probably use a hammer and nail, but lets face it I'm lazy and have a drill)
  • "brown material" - this is the paper, I've got stacks of junk mail (not magazine like pages or anything plastic), light cardboard boxes (frozen pizza, soda, etc) and some newspaper.
  • "green materials" - this is my produce, I've got celery stalks, brussel sprouts, avocado peels, green onions, parsley, regular onions, and some small christmas tree branches. All cut up into unappetizing bite sized pieces.
  • fertilizer
  • soil
  • other ground clippings that I did save in a pile in the yard (and not bag up) from when I cleared the area in September
  • water

I began by drilling holes in the trash barrel, as this video clip instructed. I ended up with 40 holes - 10 around and 4 up. Then I started filling. According to this site the layering starts with an organic layer. This is the green and brown material. I decided to start with the pile of yard clippings I had outside. Hoping that maybe those has started slighting composting while they were in the pile outside since September. Then I put in a layer of the fertilizer I had, and then a layer of the potting soil I bought. The next organic layer contained all the veggies and paper I had collected. Everything I've read says to keep the compost wet, so after the first organic layer I "watered" it. Then I watered again after the fertilizer and soil layers.

Once it was all in the can, I put the lid on and rolled it over to the corner of the yard where it belongs. Hopefully the rolling was enough to give it a good mix.

And....with that, it's supposedly composting. Who knows. I read a lot over the summer, and nothing made it seem too difficult. Now I'm almost looking forward to the inevitable moment when I have some produce that's about to go bad.


It's not that Baltimore is so unexciting that it didn't warrant any blog posts. Or that it's so exciting I haven't had time to write. I needed a break to regroup, recoop, and settle in, before I decided what I wanted to share.

Lots of things happened since I've been in Baltimore. But, as we rung in the new year last weekend I've decided to leave them in the past. So with this, we're moving on to bigger and better things. Step 1: Home Re-organization.

Stay tuned.

Friday, August 05, 2011

On orange

It was my last week in Austin. Thursday. And I was at the gym. I was becoming very reflective, and savoring every last drop of Austin that I could. As I was running on my treadmill I noticed the amount of burnt orange around me. I remembered how this seemed horrible a short four years ago. I thought, with an almost sweet condescension, about how I would miss these people and their odd love for this color. I saw a girl with a shirt that proudly read "Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late, Wear Orange", and I had a twinge of nostalgia - for this sentiment, for this color, for this team. But still, I viewed them all as sweetly silly, clinging to this color. It was around this time that I looked down and took note of my own outfit. Burnt orange shirt with a longhorn. Black shorts and a burnt orange boarder with a longhorn. Then I realized, I felt such nostalgia because I had become one of them without knowing. How quickly things change, how quickly the plethora of burnt orange went from odd to normal, as if it had always been.

And now, having been gone a short 6 days, I wish Baltimore had a "color", because I already miss the familiarity of burnt orange and belonging to something awesome.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Texas

Four years ago today I left Boston and headed for Austin, and clearly I was terrified! If only I could go back and tell that past-me how wonderful it would all turn out, maybe she'd have spent less time feeling scared and sad. If only some future-me could come and tell me the same things right now. In 3 days I'll drive off and leave Austin behind, heading on to the next chapter of my life. I never dreamed how difficult it would be to leave Texas. I mean, come on y'all, it's T-E-X-A-S.

Four years here have seen everything I was nervous about for Texas come true, in wonderfully awesome ways. I was originally skeptical of people who were unnecessarily friendly, of people who moved a little bit slower than lightening fast. I was nervous about the prevalence of big trucks and guns. I held a disdain for boots and belt buckles. I cringed at country music and southern twang. But it is these things that are going to be the most difficult to leave. In other places, people wearing boots and buckles are dressing up. People moving slow and smiling unnecessarily are trying to pull one over on you. But here, these are reflections of honest, hard working people. Southern twang is the background music for Austin's daily grind, where the outdoor adventures meet city life. Austin is a city that sees the ability and possibility in everything. Where people work hard, but stop early to enjoy an outdoor concert and a beer. Where a restaurant is not complete without a stage for the band. Roofdecks, patios, and sidewalk tables are overflowing with hipsters, hippies, suits, and dogs alike. We've got big skies, bright lights, and the ability to feel like a community over things as far fetched as running, roller-derby, football, or rodeo. There's something about Austin, a vibe that transcends specific places and people, and ties the whole city together. And while I'm not nearly ready to go, graduate school has taught me that life doesn't wait for you to be ready it carries on anyway. I hope that I've breathed in enough Austin-ness to bring it with me on my next adventure, because it's a world without this southern twang that I'm not sure I want to exist in.

I wish that some future-me could show up right now, and tell me how in a few months I'll feel just as at home in Baltimore as I do in Austin, as I always will in Boston. Because part of me thinks maybe I've been greedy with the "i'm living in the greatest city in the world" thing. If you haven't been, please add Austin to the list of cities you owe it to yourself to visit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

a lot can happen in one day...

The countdown has begun, 4 days left until the day when...well, the day when I'm not sure what to do after it. What will I do when there is no dissertation to write, no looming deadlines, *gasp* an entire weekend where I may not need to be in my office? Truly, I'm not sure I remember how to handle a life like that.

For you to really get the full picture of this story, we need to go all the way back to December. Picture a day when I needed to be up north to run a scan at the imaging center in the early afternoon, and had tickets to see an early evening movie downtown. My scan was canceled at the last minute, after I was already up north, so I did a few errands and made my way home around 2:30pm. I wasn't in a particular rush, I wasn't stressed out, I was just enjoying a nice, sunny, December afternoon. I was heading west on MLK Dr, about to turn left onto my street. I waited for traffic to slow on the eastbound side, then all of a sudden, there was a motorcycle cop on the eastbound side who stopped before my street and waved me to turn. So I did. Because, when a cop tells you to turn, you do. Although, I was mighty confused as to why he stopped in the middle of the road, in the left hand lane, and made me turn across traffic. But I did it. As it turns out, he also turned and put his lights on. I live about 4 houses in from MLK, and so by the time I realized what was happening, I was pulled into my driveway. The motorcycle cop right behind me. What? Had he pulled me over? From the other side of the street? Going the opposite direction? on a motorcycle? In my driveway?! Turns out, he had. He says I was speeding, in a school zone. Which, I was in a school zone. He "clocked" me at 30 mph. The normal speed limit is 35, the school zone limit is 20. The school zone starts one street west of my own, so I had been in that school zone for all of 20 feet (ok, 302 feet according to google maps). In that span I came to a complete stop (to make my left hand turn) and the cop was equally as far away going the opposite direction. I'm unsure HOW this happened. But, I am not one to question authority, so I just sat there. In my own driveway, while he wrote a HEFTY ticket for going 10 miles over the speed limit IN A SCHOOL ZONE.

In TX, you can opt out of one ticket per year by taking a Defensive Drivers Training. You have to pay something like $130 to the court for this option, but then it won't get reported to insurance. The $130 was cheaper than the price of the ticket, and avoids all the increases in insurance premiums. So, I opted for that. In order to request this option you need to mail the court a copy of your insurance card, a copy of your license and a notarized form from the ticket. This all happened right before I was to leave for RI for Christmas, so the day before I left I decided to make copies, find a notary, and send this sucker off. As if it wasn't bad enough that I was given a speeding ticket in my driveway, this next bit was infuriating.

I headed off to school to make my photocopies, and find a notary. I started with the notary. There are supposedly 3 in the bulding next door to ours. Turns out, each office sent me to one of the other offices, because no one actually had a notary. Then finally one lady just recommended I go to a bank. Turns out, I'm wasn't at a bank, I was on the University of Texas campus, where there are supposedly 100+ notaries. But, she suggested I just try a bank. This ordeal had wasted about an hour, and it was lunch time, so I quickly made a copy of my license, my insurance card, and went off to meet a friend for lunch. After lunch I made a quick stop at the grocery store on my way to the bank. At the grocery store I needed to return some items (I know, I know, who returns things to the grocery store....) and they needed to see my license. My license. That I just photocopied. I couldn't find it ANYWHERE. Panic set in, because I was getting on a plane at 6 the next morning, and while I had a passport, that wouldn't do any good for all the driving I was planning to do on my visit home. I searched everywhere - my backpack, my car, my office, the copy machine, the place I ate lunch, the various offices without notaries. Nothing. Anywhere. In my search though, I did find an insurance card in my backpack that had the correct date on it, which made me wonder about the card I had photocopied and returned safely to my glovebox. Yes, expired. So here it is, I have been given a ticket in my driveway. I have a photocopy of a license that has been lost, a photocopy of an insurance card that is expired, and no notary. It's closing in on 2:30, and I have a flight in 18 hours. I'll save the goory details of having to go to two different DMVs, and stopping at a bank on the way because the DMV only takes cash - a bank that probably had a notary, but I was there without my things that needed notarizing. I'll also save you from the conversation I had with my mother who suggested I "be sure not to lose my passport too", as I didn't find her suggestion very humorous at the time. And I will conclude this portion of the tale by saying I received a new temporary license at 4:15pm, 15 minutes before the DMV closed, and my photo resembles a raging lunatic. Seriously.

At about 5pm, I returned home and began packing for Christmas. I was sure to bring my temporary license, a copy of my unexpired insurance card, the thing to be notarized, and the court address, and once in RI I would find a notary and mail this all out.

Turns out, the court was expecting a check in there too. Who knew? I thought I paid that fee when I enrolled in defensive driving. But, no. I returned from Christmas to a letter from the court. It contained everything I sent them, and indicated I was missing a check. I was to write them a check, and send everything back to them. So I did that. And they received it on January 24th. At which point the clock starts. Ninety-days.

Shortly thereafter, a little thing called my dissertation took over my brain. And I had forgotten all about this ticket. It was in the back of my mind, a looming "to-do" list item. But, certainly not dire. I had 90 days. An eternity.

Except January flew by, and February came and went, and then March started slipping away. I lost sight of the timeline of anything but my latest dissertation draft. When all of a sudden, another happy notice appeared. Reminding me of my need to take and pass Defensive Driving. Failure to do so by April 24th could result in a warrant for my arrest. (over a SPEEDING TICKET, where I was going THIRTY miles an hour IN MY DRIVEWAY!) I giggled at the date. They could issue a warrant for my arrest on April 25th, if they didn't receive things by the 24th. April 25th, the day of my dissertation defense. Coincidence?!

So, naturally, I waited some more before taking the course. Because that dissertation draft was due soon, and I just needed to get this one more thing done. Finally, one Friday I sat down to start the online course, and they promised I would receive my certificate of completion within 20 days of passing the course. TWENTY DAYS? I'd left myself little over two weeks to get it all in to the court. So I sat through 6 grueling hours of boring drivers tips, and passed the final exam with a score of 100%. Here they promised to send it in the mail the following business day, and promised it would arrive in 20 days. Now, I know the mail in Austin isn't that slow, so I hoped it would arrive in time.

It arrived, and with a sigh of relief I went through the last hoop - ordering a driving record from the DoT. Which, oh Christ, could take up to TWO WEEKS to be delivered. At about this point in this whole ordeal I became angry. Angry at that stupid cop, angry at the school zone, angry at my misplaced license, angry at my angry new license picture, angry at the fees, angry at the boring drivers course, angry at this stupid driving record. Never once though, was I angry at myself for putting it off so damn long.

I was able to print out an official driving record, and I had everything ready to go. Except that, it was now one week before the deadline of April 24th. and dropping this silently into the mail seemed...irresponsible. What if it got lost, what if I never knew it was delivered, what if they showed up the morning of my defense to take me away in handcuffs? Would they at least sit there and wait for me to finish, so I could get charged as Dr. Jennifer "speeds in school zones" Pacheco? Because, if I need a criminal record for speeding into my driveway, I sure as hell want Ph.D. to follow my name.

I waited patiently until the post office was opened, and I mailed it certified mail. Which left me with a receipt of post-mark, and would give me delivery confirmation. Confirmation which I got this morning, April 21st. I will not be hauled away in cuffs from my defense. But, really, I kinda cut that one a little close.

Sadly, I think the moral of this story is - learn to question authority. Also, when stopping at a traffic light stop far enough away from the car in front of you so that you can see their tires connecting with the ground. According to the defensive driver's training, this leaves you with adequate space to maneuver around them if you'd like to change lanes at the last second!

Friday, April 01, 2011

what to expect when you're dissertating

I've had a few friends who have had babies, I've babysat for babies, I know enough about babies to know that most people really like this book. Now, I don't know if the What To Expect people have already written a book about dissertating, because frankly I didn't even consider googling that until this very moment. But, for the sake of this blog post, let's assume they haven't!

Someone should write the book What To Expect When You're Dissertating, because really, there are things I would have liked to have known. And, having never had a baby myself, there are things I suspect are very similar to being pregnant. Let's discuss.

The things I got used to months ago:

Dissertation brain - I have no ability to maintain a coherent thought outside of science. I frequently send a very similar email twice, sometimes three times, having forgotten I already sent it. I agree to things, and then instantly forget I've agreed to them (this is how I managed to be signed up for a road race I didn't really know about for a few weeks). It sounds just like bad memory, but as a memory expert I can say it's worse than that. Like the time I tried (several times in a row) to gain access to my car by flashing my school ID in the air near the door. Turns out, that move only really works at the building card-readers. Or that time that I drove a car full of prospective psychology students to my house instead of to their hotel. Luckily, they had no idea, being that none of them are from Austin!

Snackies - Frequently I miss lunch. Or dinner. It depends where and when I've become productive that day. And I find myself snacking, almost constantly, on ridiculously terrible snacks. Yesterday morning I think my breakfast was a poptart and a coke zero, and I think that's the healthiest I've been all week! I reached an all time low when I realized the fridge in my office had more food than my house, and I should stay here longer because I could eat a bagel for dinner rather than go home where I'd be forced to eat ice cream.

One Track Mind - When I do venture out and attempt participation in social events, everyone had better be ready to discuss one thing and one thing only. My dissertation. I am constantly updating people on the thing, how long it is, how many chapters are done, what the new title is, how many appendices it has at the moment, the latest comments I received on it, what my plan is for progress in the next day/week/month. I hear myself doing it, and I can't stop. There is nothing else in my mind to discuss, and I can't imagine that this isn't on the forefront of everyone's mind.

Here are the things I am still not used to:

Cleanliness, what's that?! - On a normal morning I do a few things regularly. I make my bed, I close my closet doors, and I generally make sure there aren't shoes and other crap strewn about my floor. I don't think my bed as been made in over a month. At the moment, in fact, I am sure that the comforter is balled up at the foot of the bed, and I'd be lucky if 2 of the 4 pillows were even at the head half of the bed. A purple rubbermaid bin of sweaters has been perched beside my bed for 5 weeks now, and I have a pile of dirty laundry exploding out of my closet so badly that I can't close the closet doors if I wanted to. But, that doesn't mean to indicate I've even tried doing so. I consider it a win when I get myself into the shower on an every-other-day schedule. And luckily, I don't have dishes to do because as I mentioned, I'm not really eating meals.

Holy Nightmares, Batman! - These have really done me in. I've had some doozies, and they range from terrifying: One involved me visiting my parents in Rhode Island, but we had to flee the state because people were lighting it on fire, and we were scurrying out past burning buildings, burning people, and lots of terrible devastation. To hilarious: One showcased a CEO of the Nike company who got very angry with a labmate of mine for enrolling him in a study that he didn't want to be in. I jumped in to help her out and he began yelling at me. At this point the very large angry CEO of Nike ripped my red external hard drive (with my dissertation data) from the computer, claiming the data now belonged to him. I've never been as strong or as mean as I was when I beat that guy to the ground to get my hard drive back! To absolutely insane: Last night all my friends that were in my dream were enormously obese. But, not like enormously obese versions of themselves. Just random, obese people. Everyone.

Sniffle, Sniffle - Is it cliche to say I'm more emotional? Perhaps. But it's not just that, it's not an overall emotionality, but rather completely irrational reactions to things. Sometimes, I'm just fine. But then sometimes, I might get stuck watching a show on lifetime about soldiers coming home to their families, and I might cry for an hour straight. I might cry so much that at the end of the hour I've got to change my t-shirt and towel off my stomach because it's covered in tears. maybe. There was also a time when I was watching Toddlers and Tiaras at 3 in the morning and listening to some wretched woman talk about entering her 2-year-old into a pageant because it was about time she learn how to be beautiful and a good wife. Normal people might react with rage towards that lady, I on the other hand found myself angry with my own mother for a moment. Why hadn't she taught me these things at the age of 2, because then maybe I wouldn't be lying awake at 3am watching toddlers and tiaras while stewing over my dissertation. Turns out, after a little sleep, I'm happy to not have been in pageants at the age of 2, Mom. So, thank you!

The good news is, one week from today that thing will be written and turned in. And I will probably forget about all the pain and suffering and whining and complaining I've done, as I look proudly down at my beautiful dissertation. All 124 pages of glory. Complete with 13 figures, 6 tables, and 4 Appendices. "Characterizing the age-related change of memory monitoring: Neuroimaging and genetic approaches" has never rolled off the tongue quite as sweetly as it will next week.

And after a (hopefully extensive) nap, I will be sending out a slew of Thank You cards, sent to all of you who have patiently listened to my endless whining, dramatic story telling, crying threats of quitting all together, and all the other ridiculous nonsense that has gone on. Really, I had no idea this would happen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

odds and answers

There is a vending machine in the building that I work in. It has a few different soda options, but the ones I would choose are Diet Coke and Diet Dr Pepper. It's a known fact that sometimes when you select a Diet Dr Pepper the machine will accidentally dispense 2 cans. Better, sometimes it returns one extra quarter in change. It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens frequently. Enough so that it is obviously the only legitimate choice when buying a soda. At worst you spend 75 cents and get one can of Diet Dr Pepper. At best you spend 50 cents and get two cans of Diet Dr Pepper. An intermediate case you spend 75 cents and get two cans of Diet Dr Pepper. Just the possibility of either of these latter two occurrences makes it the clear choice.

Until three weeks ago. I put in my 75 cents, selected a Diet Dr Pepper and was given one can of regular Dr Pepper. To me, this is useless. I will not drink that can of soda. So I've lost 75 cents and gained nothing. I thought this was a fluke. It has happened a few times since then, although not every time - I have successfully gotten a Diet Dr Pepper once or twice.

So now, if you select a Diet Dr Pepper the odds have changed. At worst, you spend 75 cents and get two regular Dr Peppers (I have no reason to believe that this characteristic has been rectified). An intermediate is that you spend 75 cents and get only one regular Dr Pepper. But, at best, you could spend 50 cents and get two Diet Dr Peppers. The new options seem endless. You could also spend 50 cents and get one Diet Dr Pepper and one regular Dr Pepper. Or maybe you spend 75 cents and get one Diet Dr Pepper.

Alternatively, if you spend 75 cents and select Diet Coke. You will get one Diet Coke. No better. No worse.

The conundrum now is - which is the best selection? Diet Coke, where you know what you spend and what you get, or Diet Dr Pepper. The worst case is pretty bad, but the best case is pretty good. And some of the intermediates break out even. I stood there one day, trying to work out my odds, and the cost/benefit ratios and what my actual best choice would be. I promptly returned to my office, filled a glass with water from the bubbler and decided that I should put forth this much careful thought towards my dissertation project. May 2011 is rapidly approaching.

toothpaste obsession

I tend to like things that are logical and efficient. I tend to be a little OCD about things. These are traits that, I'm assured, are what make me an ideal PhD candidate. Apparently people with these desires are the types of people to subject themselves to a lifestyle like the one I'm in right now. And it's probably true. I see these things becoming more...problematic. Some of them are beneficial. I think my mom would be proud to hear that I make my bed completely every single morning. It is, in fact, the first thing I do before even leaving my room to go to the bathroom in the morning.

Sometimes, it's just a little strange. I've developed what I consider the "right way" to do things, because at some point it seemed more effective than some alternative. Currently, when I open a can of cat food I have a particular method. I use a fork or spoon and cut the mound of food in half (because Mia gets half a can), and I put half in her bowl. I use the spoon (or fork) to 'mix-up' the food, to make it not shaped like a can, combine in some of the gravy and juices, and make it look more appetizing. I then use the spoon to do the same thing with the half left in the can before I cover it and put it in the fridge. My logic is that it is easier to accurately divide the food in half before it is all mixed up, but that Mia will enjoy it more mixed, and that it will survive one day in the fridge better all mixed up. I watched my roommate feed her once, and neither her half nor the fridge half was mixed. Clearly, Mia lived to tell the story about it. But, I didn't quite make it - as I definitely went immediately to the fridge and mixed up the half that was left in the can.

Which brings me to toothpaste.

I squeeze my toothpaste from the bottom, to the top. I don't know when this started, but I do it.
And I don't think about it. It's just the right way. If you squeeze from the middle it sends toothpaste to the back and corners of the tube. This means you may have difficulty getting every last drop of toothpaste from the tube. Also, if you are going to try and get every last drop, you're going to waste a lot of time re-squeezing the tube from the bottom anyway. So why not just do it right the first time? I mean, right? This makes perfect sense to me. So much so, I'm more than willing to say this is the correct way to do it. I don't care whether your toilet paper comes over the top or under the bottom of the roll - but, the toothpaste, squeeze that from the bottom everytime.

In December I realized that this obsession is further reaching than I originally realized. I was home for Christmas and I spent some time visiting a few friends, in total I stayed over at 3 different friends' houses. In each house, I had my own tube of small travel toothpaste (also properly squeezed), and was not borrowing anyone's toothpaste - but I found myself seeing squeezed-from-the-middle tubes of toothpaste in my friends' bathrooms, picking them up, and squeezing them properly from the end of the tube. Leaving behind a clean, organized, efficient tube of toothpaste.

Last week, one of my roommates had a friend in town visiting. One morning I opened the bathroom cabinet to grab my toothpaste. And here's what I found:

Clearly, someone has been using my toothpaste. Annoyance consumed me. I wasn't annoyed that someone used my toothpaste, without asking at that, I was annoyed that someone squeezed it from the middle - clearly the less efficient way. I was more annoyed that someone used my tube of toothpaste in a manner that clearly went against the way I used it. So, I spent some time properly re-squeezing it. The next morning, same thing. I was so frustrated - if I hadn't caught this error, precious drops of toothpaste could be lost, and precious time wasted re-squeezing unnecessarily.

It struck me, perhaps my Boston friends have some desire to improperly squeeze their toothpaste. Perhaps they have a reason to squeeze from the middle. Perhaps I was in the wrong by trying to re-squeeze their toothpaste. Perhaps I ruined someone's morning when they reached up and found their messily middle-squeezed toothpaste ruined with an orderly end-squeeze. For this, my dear friends, I apologize. I apologize for trying to impose my squeezing technique on your tubes. But, come on, it's clearly the right way to do it. For the toothpastes sake!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Most of my most avid readers (all....3 of you?) already know the main events of the past few days. But, it's time that the full story be released. The ending is a happy one, but the 2 days leading up to it were some of the worst I've experienced in a long time.

Our story starts on Sunday morning. Well, in fact, I guess the story starts nearly nine years ago in October of 2001, when I first met a certain teeny tiny kitty. These past few days I've become really aware of everything that the two of us have been through. It's fun to count the states, schools, apartments, roommates we've shared. But more importantly are the life events. She's been with me through my graduation from college, when I was scared to enter the "real world" (little did Iknow that 8 years later and I'd still have never entered it!). She was there when my college boyfriend and I broke up and I didn't leave the house for 2 weeks. She was there when I started working in Boston and hated it. She was there when I fell in love with working in Boston. She was there when I tearfully packed up my life and moved to Texas for graduate school. She was there through Bentley, and Princess. She was there when my grandmother died. She was always there. For nine years, perhaps my most consistent friend has been Mia.

Her Escape
Sunday morning I woke up late. My first thought was, "wow Mia, thank you!" because normally she's whining for breakfast much earlier than that. When I emerged from my room I noticed that RO'D's bedroom door was slightly ajar, but it's normally been closed since he's gone this month. I went in there to scold Mia - she loves being in his room, but also loves hacking up hairballs in there. Needless to say RO'D is less than a fan of the latter. When I went in, I saw that the back door to the outside was wide open. Panic set in instantly, but I didn't know why right away. Where was Mia? Did someone break in? Was someone still in Ryan's room? Without thinking I took off into the back yard, hoping to see Mia, if she was there. With no immediate sign of her, I went back in to ask C-dogg when she last went out there (and to assess the possibility of a stranger having been or still being in our house). Saturday afternoon was her answer. We were on the move - searched the house for Mia, and then hit the outdoors. We roamed through the yard, and took of in opposite directions around the neighborhood. It was on my second lap, when I started to think about the last time I saw Mia (Saturday night around 8pm) panic really set in. Panic, but not logic. I had no idea what to do.

Our Search
Back inside, we made the dining room table our operation central. After a quick facebook post - mostly asking for advice on what to do - I googled "what to do when you lose your cat", and read a few things. C-dogg and I headed out again, this time with proper shoes, contacts in, and other under garment necessities. Still, nothing. Back to operations central, I was faced with the task of making a flyer. This nearly killed me - describing Mia to make signs to post about her being gone.

In retrospect, these first searches were crap. We barely looked anywhere - we just walked. I roamed. I was so unsure of what to do. After a small break, to get myself together, we had a plan. We posted the flyers directly on the doors of surrounding houses. Then we hit nearby hot spots - major intersections, bus stops, coffee shops and churches. Further internet reading let me know that we really needed to scour every hiding spot, as Mia was likely hiding scared and would not answer our calls. This is when I realized, our neighborhood is a cat HEAVEN. Every yard has a shed, with space under it. Every foundation has a hole to under the house. Every backyard is a veritable old car grave yard. Perfect for your freaked out kitty - horrid for her freaked out owner.

That afternoon, we checked under sheds, in bushes, under cars, through fences, and under houses. Then I called animal control. They told me which animal shelter stray cats are directed to, and I went down there to talk to them. It was about this time that the skies opened up for the first time - pouring rain, thunder and lightning. At first I was sad for Mia, how scary. But shortly there after I was very glad for the rain. It meant she was getting water - which was a big concern to me. Sunday was hot. I got a pretty painful sunburn from 4 hours of searching for Mia.

The internets also told us to surround the house with her scent, and with our scent, to entice her back. We put one of her blankets and a toy on the back porch, along with a bowl of food. We put her litter box and another bowl of food on the front porch. We then hung up some of my dirty smelly unwashed running clothes at both the back and front of the house. So yes, our house smelled great!!

After dark, we went out on another Mia search, armed with flashlights. Everyone told me she'd be likely to come out at night - and the flashlights could catch her eyes. On this, and subsequent searches, we located every stray in the neighborhood - something like 11 different cats were found. 11 non-Mia cats. Sunday night I was beside myself. What if she never came back? Where was she? Was she hurt? Was she nearby? How would she find us? We decided to leave the back door ajar, and I slept in RO'D's room. Just in case. Sleep is a loose term - there wasn't much of it. As cliche as it sounds, everytime I closed my eyes I saw her. And I'd get up and look out the back door. How was I supposed to sleep with Mia out there somewhere? It was the worst.
Monday morning, C-Dogg and I did a morning hunt. This time I wore what would become my Mia-Huntin' Outfit. Black and white baseball socks pulled up to my knees, a pirate bandana, carrying a towel and a flashlight. The towel allowed us to lay down on the ground and really get under everything. We went around back, through neighboring yards, and around the block. Searching as best we could every hiding spot. During one search a friend and I carried chairs around, this allowed me to easily hop over every fence in the neighborhood. We'd drop one chair over the fence, and I could leap from chair to chair. These searches took about 40 minutes for each loop, and I was going about 4 times a day. In between I was trying to hold it together, but would lose it for about 2 hours after each search. Where was she? Was she alive? Was she hurt? Was she scared? Was she close? Could she see me?

Her Return
Monday evening had me feeling pretty hopeless. I was happy for everyone's concern and help, but if one more person asked me "are you sure she is not in the house?" I was seriously going to lose it. I appreciate the helplessness most of my friends felt, but yes - 2 days later and I was sure she was not in the house.

I sat in the living room Monday night, doing work, watching tv, until about 11pm. At that point I headed back into RO'Ds room. I went back out into the living room to grab my computer power cord, which is when it happened. The motion sensor light on the porch turned on. It ALWAYS turns on. Every car that drives down the street turns it on. But, there was no car. It was like a spot light on a dark fluffy tail. A dark fluffy tail that was very close to Mia's litter box. Again, cliche, I know, I just KNEW it was her, and I was overcome with such excitement that I threw open the door and gasped, MIA? And whatever it was, was gone. Off faster than a bolt of lightning, into the darkness. I ran to RO'Ds to get my flashlight (yes, I was sleeping with my flashlight), and ran back out the frontdoor. This commotion had C-dogg up, and we were both out looking and calling for Mia. Here's where I lost it. I just began crying so hard. I wasn't even sure if it was her, but it felt like her. And here I had scared her away. I'm such an IDIOT. C-dogg had a different perspective. It was likely her - the strays do not come on our porch, nor would they go near her litter box. Which meant, she was close, and wanting to come back. She assured me she would be back and we should wait some more.

It was now that I assumed my "father of a teenage daughter" position. I opened the front door, I turned off every light, and I turned the chair around to face the front door and window. And I sat there. Starring out the window, clutching my flashlight.

It's then that I heard the most horrendous cat fight I'd ever heard. Screw you strays, do not even think about touching my Mia. I was out the door and running down the street, 11:30pm, barefoot, with a flashlight. About 5 houses down I found the cats making the noise. Two cats, up a tree in someones front yard, fighting. Neither of them Mia. Damnit. I took off running home, as I had left my post and was sure to have missed her.

Back in my chair, I waited. And then. There she was. I saw all of her, in the light of the porch, she was there. I was slow, I was quiet. I made my way to the door encouraging her "Mia, come in Mia". By the time I'd made it to the door to look out on the porch, she was gone! And, of course, I hadn't seen where she'd gone. I bust into C-Dogg's room screaming "SHE'S NOT DEAD!" And I cried all over again. This was it, she was close. We looked again, but dang if Mia is not a persistent hider. C-dogg suggested that we try to wait again, and the next time she was on the porch I should text message C-dogg, who would go out the back door and come around front. I was to watch Mia.

Come on Mia, what do you want, a signed invitation, GET INSIDE THIS HOUSE!

So I sat, my finger on the "send" button with a text to C-dogg. When I hear C-dogg herself saying "she's at the back door". The wha? She's...huh...the back door? I go into RO'Ds room, and the back door is wide open, and C-dogg is about 7 feet from it saying "Mia, come home Mia" and I'm thinking, is it her? Is she there? Is C-dogg just being hopeful? But I get the sense that something very important is happening. So, I crawl around the corner of RO'Ds bed, and I see her. She's in the doorway. She's moving slowly, looking all around. So now I start too, "Mia, come here Mia!" but, quiet. And gentle. and slow. She's inching in, and I'm using every ounce of my concentration to not move towards her. She clears the door, but isn't close enough to grab yet. C-dogg reaches over the bed and slowly, quietly shuts the door behind Mia.
WHOA-MAMA, this sets Mia off. She's off on a full sprint, out of RO'Ds room, down the hallway, headed straight for the....


I'm consumed with two thoughts: 1.) do not freak her out. 2.) do not let her out of the house. Thankfully the second one wins, as I take off after her, scream MIA!!! NO!!! Leap over her, and body slam the door shut.

Mia flattens herself against the ground and hisses at me. At this point, C-dogg and I collapse onto the ground, and I cry my eyes out again. We instantly got her food, but she brushed past it, walking through the house, rubbing up on everything, and finding every plastic bag she could to lick. The we both sat in the middle of the house, mostly unable to let her out of our sight. She seemed dirty, but healthy.

She and I slept
in my bed that night, and I've never been more happy. A quick trip to the vet in the morning confirmed that she is a-ok, and then the groomer made her clean - and furless. She was covered in so many burrs and twigs that it was just better to shave her fur all off.

Since then, she'll stare out at
the back yard - now called AdventureLand - and I ask her, "where were you Mia?" But she still hasn't told me.

oh, and now, she wears a collar.