Boxed cat

OK folks, it’s pitch time! So sit back, relax, and get ready to hear all about my new freelance venture and how you can help!

Regular readers will recall that I’ve recently left my job in America, moved to Scotland, and will be attending university for a postgraduate degree (starting next week!). But what you may not know is that I am also attempting to fund my crazy adventure by doing some freelance communications work. And that’s where Boxed Cat Media comes in.

Boxed Cat Media is a freelance communications business offering services including writing and editing; social media support and consultation, including website and blog setup; layout and design for print and web; and brand and identity support. (See more details here.) I hope to work with small mom-and-pop shops, community organisations, and non profits. Additionally, I will work with individuals on small projects such as holiday cards, birth or adoption announcements, blog setup/design, and more.

Now for the pitch: In order for this venture to work, I need people to pay me money to do work for them. And that’s where you come in! Yes, I need you to help spread the word. Not in a pushy, call all your friends way, because that would be silly. Instead, I just hope that you’ll think of me when you or someone you know needs some design or communications work done.

To that, here’s the link one more time: http://www.boxedcatmedia.com. (That’s: Boxed Cat Media Dot Com, if you missed it!)

And now on to the thank yous:

First, to all of my friends who helped brainstorm a great name! Especially Mark G., who suggested ‘Schrodie Media Group’ which made me smile, but I feared the cat’s name might make a URL difficult. However, that got me to the track that lead to Boxed Cat Media, as Schrodie was named after the man behind the cat-in-a-box theory in the first place.

Next, to the folks who gave feedback on the logo: Thank you Mom, Dad, Rebecca, Amy, Celeste, Ellen, Patricia, Paula, and Martin. Extra
thanks to Dad and Martin who gave additional feedback on tweaks in fairly quick order.

Then to the folks who reviewed the site for me: Thanks, Nick, Royann, and Dad! And another thanks to Dad for his input on my business cards.

Have I missed anyone? I hope not! But if I have, please know I’m grateful to you, too!!

So there you have it. Boxed Cat Media is now up and running and ready for work. So please feel free to help make that happen!

(And I promise to start blogging more regularly as I get settled in a bit more. Really!)

Running goodbyes

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to run ‘one last race’ with my nephews before I left for Scotland, so I searched out the race that was closest to my departure date. And that race was today.

Because the race was ‘on the other side of the mountains’ I drove over last night with my 12-year-old nephew, Haden, and 14-year-old niece, Flik. We then stayed at my baby sister, Royann’s, house with her husband, Javier, and their boys, 12-year-old Adrian and 7-year-old Brendan. Then it was an early start for us all to get to Lacey in time for the race.

Flik, Haden, and Adrian ran the 5K route and I ran the 10K one, whilst the others cheered us on. And I’m extremely pleased to say that all of us improved our times over previous races, despite none of us winning our groups. (I ran mine in 59:27, which is a 9:35 minute mile, which is way awesome!!)

Oh, and at the race I saw an old friend from high school, Craig, who was there to cheer on his wife who was also running the 10K. He’s one of the few classmates I have on my Facebook page, which meant that I was happy to go say hi, instead of pretending to not notice him! We figured that the last time we saw each other was during the 4th of July parade sometime in between my first trip to Scotland 10 years ago and my wedding 6+ years ago. What a nice little addition to my day! (And good luck to Craig’s wife who is training for a half marathon!)

After the race was over and the winners were announced, it was time for the hard part—saying goodbye. And because Haden was staying behind with his cousins, it meant one more person to hug. My first hug came from Brendan. He gave me the best hug he’s ever given me and told me he loved me—and even let me kiss his cheek! Then it was Haden’s turn for a hug. And I made him use both arms and gave him a kiss, too. Next up was Adrian. Again, two arms, kisses, and ‘I love yous’ were exchanged. (Promises of post cards and candy from Scotland were made to all of the kids.) Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Royann and Javier. Again, good hugs and promises of Skype phone calls.

Thankfully, Flik was heading back to the homeland with me, which meant a bit of a distraction, which meant I wasn’t a sobbing pile of goo when I drove away!

And since we were near(ish) ANT Elizabeth’s house, we went to see Schrodie, too. I am pleased to report that my beloved cat is starting to settle in a bit more. Her and my ANT’s cat are starting to share window ledges (though with a bit of animosity) and are even hiding under beds together. It’s kind of cool. But, she’s still got a way to go in her bid for normalisation!

Of course, the down side of that side trip was saying goodbye to Schrodie all over again. And saying goodbye to my cousins, Carson and Dylan, as well as my ANT. But I know that we’ll all keep in touch and I know that I’ll see them all when I’m back for visits. So that’s cool.

I have three full days remaining now and way too much to do in those days! I have to pack; I have to get my hair cut; I have to finish getting computers fixed up for family members so that we can stay in touch; I have to visit with friends; and I have to spend quality time with family. And I still have so many people to say goodbye to, too.

It’s going to be hard, but I know that I’m doing what’s best for me. After all, Scotland is waiting!

[Note to self: Drink more water to make up for all the tears that will be flowing!]

Bye bye, Schrodie

I said goodbye to Schrodie today and whilst it breaks my heart, I am certain that her new home will be a good place and that she’ll be well taken care of. She has gone to live with my ANT Elizabeth who will love her very much.

Yesterday was a tough day as we made the nearly-eight-hour drive from one end of the state to another. When we finally arrived at AE’s, her travel box was placed in a large crate that would allow her to acclimatise without fear of AE’s cat, Bug.

Before we left our home though, Schrodie gave me a bit of enjoyment by playing on her favourite chair. At this time, she was unaware that she was going in the box so she still liked me!

Once at AE’s, Schrodie didn’t want to come out of her travel box. Every so often, she’d peek out at me, but that was it. So, eventually, I pulled her out and let her explore the large cage. But instead, she hid out in the litter box at the back of the cage for a couple of hours!

Finally, after the house when dark and my cousins went to bed, Schrodie came out of the cage and was ready to explore the house. She snuggled with me a bit over night, but was mostly investigating—and avoiding Bug! By the next morning, she was feeling a bit more confident in her explorations.

And here’s what it was like when Paul and I first brought her home from the shelter a little over two years ago. Only that time, she went into hiding for a few days!

I cried lots and lots when I left Schrodie behind this morning, but I know that she’ll be well-loved and that I’ll see her again. And who knows, maybe one day she’ll even join me in Scotland!

Schrodie lives!!

It was just before 4 a.m. when the screaming howls of cats outside my bedroom window woke me with a start. I ran toward the back door to rescue my cat, only on opening the door I heard the sounds of an animal running into the cedar trees. I called out for Schrodie, but she didn’t answer.

I panicked running back into the house to check for her. She wasn’t on the couch or on my bed. She didn’t come when I shook her food container.

I grabbed the flashlight and started walking toward the cedars—crying and shaking. As my light flashed on Schrodie’s collar and a trailing of fur along the edge of the trees, I broke down as I realised that my cat might just be gone.

My sister, Celeste, was with me for the weekend so I got her out of bed to assist in the search—she too had been awoken by the sounds of angry cats. And when we both realised that, yes, Schrodie was gone, I broke down on the pavement in a way that was oddly similar to my breakdown on hearing the news of Paul’s death.

Laying in bed, all I could think of was how horrible this place was and how awful the world would be without Schrodie. I was planning to one day bring her to Scotland with me and now I would never see her again. I kept thinking that maybe it wasn’t Schrodie—the fur seemed lighter than hers, but maybe it was just lighter because it was spread out on the dampened lawn.

Eventually, I started to think about how I would convince my sister that she needed to gather up the collar and the fur so that we could bury them with Paul. And I started to wonder how I would tell my foster daughter, who was at a friend’s house for the night. And I started to wonder how I would manage my last few weeks in this house without Schrodie.

Then—three hours later—a miracle happened. Schrodie came bounding into my room and pounced on my chest. She was alive! And was clever enough to know that if she bashed her head hard enough on the sensor-activated cat door (the activation unit is on her collar) she could gain entry into the house.

The house is filled with jubilation as we celebrate the fact that Schrodie, who is named for Erwin Schrodinger, was dead for three hours—but actually was alive. Alive!!!

Sadly, something died in the early hours this morning. But that something was trespassing so my cat had to defend our home. I just hope that something wasn’t a child’s beloved pet…

Oh! Another thought: Cat’s have nine lives, mine has eight left.

And just look at that cat! This photo was taken this morning. She’s loving the attention but I think she wonders what the big deal is…

The counting begins

I am counting down the days until The Big Move takes place. Not in exact days mind you, because I won’t buy my ticket until I have my visa in hand. But in some form or another, I’ve been counting down since I got my acceptance email from the University of Stirling way back in November 2010. Of course, the first stage of my countdown was done in secrecy because I was counting down the weeks before I could give notice at work. Which I did about two months before I’d planned to because I just couldn’t handle the stress of the secret!

But now that work knows I’m outta here, I can count it all down out loud. And here’s the breakdown:

  • Days until I’m an unemployed bum: 37
  • Days left in the office: 25
  • Number of office Mondays remaining: 4
  • Days before classes start: 102
  • Days until I move home to Scotland: 70 (or thereabouts)

Of course, for excited as I am about these numbers, I also have to remember that it’s only 37 days until I am without an income—expendable or otherwise. And it’s only about 70 days until I have to say goodbye to my parents and nieces and nephews and siblings and my beloved Schrodie—and my friends and my life here in America.

I’m sure that once I arrive in Scotland I will start counting down the days until I can return to the homeland for a visit. Or maybe I’ll be counting down the days until my family come to visit me in Scotland. Or maybe I’ll be counting down the days until I have my PhD…

You know, for someone who hates maths, I sure do enjoy countdowns!

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

Insanity descends

Oh my, oh my, oh my! My normally quiet home has transcended into a mad house! But it’s a happy mad house.

Yep, the house is chock-a-block with parents and aunts and uncles and siblings and nieces and nephews and friends as we all gear up for the 2nd Annual Freeze Your Fanny and Burns’ Supper Extravaganza. (See the story and photos from the inaugural event here.)

The family began arriving around 2:00 this afternoon and it wasn’t long before the house was filled with laughter and chatter. In fact, the laughter and chatter was still going at nearly 1:00 a.m.—well past my normal bed time. But as my bedroom is the living room couch, I was forced to participate. (Happily so.)

Tomorrow will start bright-and-early for those of us travelling to Lewiston for the Freeze Your Fanny 5K. This will be my 11-year-old nephew, Haden’s, second time running the race (last year’s race was his first-ever race) and will be my 11-year-old nephew, Adrian’s, first-ever race of all time. Unbelievably, this will be my 4th entry in the race. Though, with the aforementioned illness, I’ll now be taking it slow.

Whilst we’re running, Dad and my niece, Flik, will meet in the living room for a Scrabble re-match as Flik tries to de-throne Daddy. There are loads of games and puzzles—and a few hula hoops—for everyone to play with, too.

Schrodie is not happy about the influx of people, but I think she’ll get over it.

Oh, and that photo, if you wondered, is a load of Scottish treats (Tunnock’s!!!) that my Uncle Fred brought with him from Portland, Oregon. If you look closely, you’ll notice the Scotch tape and the napkins—with an Argyle pattern, of course. (His socks were Argyle for the occasion, too, if you wondered.)

When you’re responsible for another life

When you’re responsible for another life, you have to think of that life’s needs. And sometimes, you have to put that life’s needs ahead of yours.

That is the lesson I’ve been teaching my foster daughter since day one. And the life she is responsible for is Schrodie’s.

You see, without opposable thumbs, the cat can’t feed herself (hunting for birds and mice aside). Without opposable thumbs, the cat can’t clean her litter box. And without opposable thumbs, the cat can’t clean her water bowl or re-fill it.

So those things must be done by the kid.

And those things must be done first thing in the morning before the kid feeds herself; because unlike the cat, the kid can choose to eat later.

In the beginning this was a lesson we had to discuss regularly.

I had to remind her to feed the cat: “She’s not following you around meowing just because she likes you; she’s yelling at you to feed her.”

I had to remind her to clean the water dish each morning: “How would you like it if I fed you out of dirty dishes?”

I had to remind her to wash her hands after cleaning the litter box (which she does right before fixing her own food): “Really, if you don’t, it’s almost like eating cat poop. Do you want to eat cat poop?”

But now she has the pattern down. And now she knows that I have sneaky ways of telling if she’s washed her hands. (Um, hello, why is the sink still dry?)

And on a morning like today—after having gone over the lesson of “Sleep-In Saturdays”—I heard her playing in her room, whilst I was snuggled under my duvet, when Schrodie came in to meow a hello (which was actually her way of being a tattletale).

So I shouted out: “Hey, what happens when a dependant life isn’t cared for?”

And she shouted: “I’m doing it right now!”

And I smiled as I stayed warmly under my duvet listening to the sounds of cat food being poured, litter being scooped, and water being turned on.

The cat sure does love her new care-giver. And I sure do love that I’ve not cleaned a litter box in three months.

Sicky

The day started out OK. I was a bit tired and run-down feeling, but it’s Monday and it was a pretty busy weekend so it wasn’t too surprising to be a bit blah feeling. What was surprising is that a few minutes into an 11 o’clock meeting I started to feel lightheaded and dizzy. My arms and legs felt a bit weak and tingly and I could feel this fuzzy haze coming over me. I went from freezing cold to boiling hot in a matter of moments. And things seemed to be getting dark.

Then I was fine.

Then it started again.

I excused myself from the meeting out of fear that I would pass out and was immediately followed out by another woman who didn’t think that my Casper-complexion was right. So it was off to the doctor’s office for me.

And then it was home for me. Which was a carry-on because I live nearly 30 miles outside of town in the middle of BFE with no public transport which meant that someone had to drive me home—and someone else had to follow to get my driver back to town. My driver and my driver’s driver brought me in, made me soup, got me situated then left me to sleep under a cuddly blanket on the couch with the cat (after, of course, I cranked the heat and put on my PJs).

Of course, the kid needed to get home, too. But thankfully my neighbour from over the road works in town and was able to pick up the kid on my behalf.

By the time the kid arrived home I was awake again and had just enough energy to make her favourite dinner—homemade split pea soup from the freezer. And thankfully at 11-years-old, she’s old enough to understand that I’m feeling a bit blah and could sort herself out for a shower. (She must be a bit beat, too, because she went straight to bed when told to do so!)

I have to admit that it’s all made me miss Paul so very much because if he was here he’d have come to town and picked me up and taken care of me and fussed all over me and called me a ‘poor wee scone’ and he’d have cooked for me and put me to bed and then in the morning he’d have fussed over me some more. (How’s that for a run-on sentence!?) But, it’s nice to know that between my co-workers and my neighbours there are people to take care of me if I get sick. Which isn’t quite the same as having Paul here, but it’s something at least.

Anyhow, I’m feeling a bit weak still but am hoping that a night’s sleep will help. In the mean time, I’ve been given a ‘just in case’ dose of antibiotics and will wait for blood tests to be back tomorrow. I’m sure it’s nothing serious, but I’d sure like to be back to my brand of normal soon!

Beaming with pride

Around 4:30 this morning Schrodie really started to get on my nerves. She was zipping around the house like crazy; pounding on the wood floors like mad. It wasn’t long before she was in my room scuffling around in my shoes under the vanity. (OK, shoes are meant to be stored in the closet, so now you know I’m a slob.) In a moment of sleepy frustration, I threw the cat out of the room and shut the door then tried to get back to sleep.

But the cat sat out there, pushing her paw under the door trying to get back in. And I ignored her – until I started to hear noises under the bed. Noises that sounded like the cat was playing under the bed (a regular habit). But I put her out… right?

So I think to myself: “Is it possible that there’s a mouse in the house?” Then I realize there can’t be. I’ve not seen any evidence of mice. But then I start to remember it’s harvest season and that’s when the little field mice start to take shelter from the evil combines.

Well, I’m up now. Those noises are not going away and the cat is still desperate to be allowed back in my room. I open the door and in she bolts. She’s reaching her paws under the dresser. She’s trying to get behind the clothes hamper. She’s sniffing around the shoes under the vanity.

And I’m watching her – curious as to what she’s found. Another grasshopper? Another spider? A cricket or a beetle?

Then in happens – the tiniest little grey field mouse sticks its head out from behind the vanity. And the cat goes crazy all over again.

OK, she’s not made the kill yet, but for those who are familiar with Schrodie’s very non-cat-like ways, you’ll know that just the act of stalking a mouse is an advancement in her membership to the Feline Academy.

Here’s hoping my lovely cat has a nice, dead present for me when I return from work.

Go Schrodie, go!

Bug removal

I removed a large grasshopper from the house today using Paul’s special bug-removal jar. The old peanut butter jar took on the duty of bug receptacle the summer we got married. It moved with us from Seattle to our apartment on the Palouse, then later it moved with us into our new house.

Paul loved his peanut butter jar bug catcher so much that I let him be the official bug (and spider) remover. We were not of the ‘kill it’ mindset and instead released critters into the wild – or at least into the garden out front.

Now, it’s not that I’m queasy and squeamish when it comes to bugs. For goodness’ sake – I was a Tomboy through-and-through growing up. I even had a ‘bug circus’ with Larry from across the way when I was a kid. It was just that Paul enjoyed the chase. He was the man of the house and, therefore, the hunter.

Since Paul died, I suppose I’ve just not noticed – or just ignored – crawly things in the house. Don’t get me wrong, the house isn’t full of bugs. It’s just the odd spider or cricket that sneaks through the door. Of course, I must admit that I’ve allowed Schrodie to play with them on occasion – an act that may well have horrified Paul! But I chalked it up to animals being animals, and it was therefore acceptable.

Anyhow… For the first time since Paul died – no, for the first time ever – I’ve found myself using the peanut butter jar bug catcher. It seems that the kid wasn’t too keen on a large grasshopper taking up residence in her room and the cat wasn’t feeling snacky. So out came the jar.

I’m not sad by this, but I can’t help but imagine the practiced skill Paul would have used if he was here. I never thought I’d say it, but I wish I had a big strong boy to take bugs out of the house for me. (OK, not just any boy, but Paul.)

A nice cuppa tea and a sit down

When I got home from work today, I realized that I’ve not enjoyed a nice cuppa tea and a sit down after work since my last work day before Paul died. And I realized that I sort of missed that little bit of down time between arriving home from the office and making dinner. So, I filled the kettle and set it to boil…

I’ve enjoyed tea in the past year – but on the weekends when I’m sitting on the couch watching television. This evening was not that. As part of my new cable-free lifestyle, I enjoyed my pot of oolong tea with a couple slices of homemade banana bread whilst listening to the soothing sounds of Miles Davis.

I realized instantly that it’s not as much fun to enjoy a cuppa without someone to chat with, but I’m sure that I’ll soon find comfort in sitting on my own.

In the mean time, I’m going to try to remember that I always enjoyed this part of my day. A chance to unwind and enjoy a nice, hot cuppa tea – and maybe instead of telling Paul all about my day, I can tell Schrodie. I’m certain that she will listen intently and impart words of wisdom when needed…

(Oh no! I’m starting to sound like a crazy cat lady!)

Come and share a pot of tea; my home is warm and my friendship’s free.
~ Emilie Barnes

A lazy day

I started the day off thinking I’d do some weeding in the garden. Maybe work on my tan a bit. So, I broke out the gardening tools and poured a glass of cheap-and-cheerful white wine. Then Schrodie came by to visit and reminded me it was a Sunday. And as a good Catholic girl, I should know that Sunday is a rest day.

Then I remembered seeing a flyer in the post office for lawn service and I figured that if I’m willing to pay someone to clean my house, I should be willing to pay someone to weed the flower beds.

With that thought firmly planted in my mind, I broke out the patio table and chairs – carefully situating it so that I could sit in the sun whilst the laptop and phone sat in the shade.

And now, with a bottle of wine and a couple of good books waiting for me and The Divine Comedy providing the day’s musical enjoyment, I’m going to sit back and relax.

Ahhh….

Lap cat

It’s been a little over a year since I got Schrodie and the stupid thing is acting more and more like a cat every day. This is evident today in that she loved me for three minutes when I came home (right up until I fed her) then ignored me for the rest of the evening, moving back-and-forth between the love seat and wing chair staring at me all night – but not interacting.

That is, until I plopped my feet on the coffee table and brought the laptop onto my lap. Within moments, the cat bullied her way in. And now she won’t move. She’s got my right arm pinned down giving me limited use of that wrist and hand for typing and my left arm is draped over her meaning that wrist and hand have to type at an odd angle.

The stupid beast is now demanding I stop typing and scratch her under the chin… It’s true what they say:

Dogs have masters and cats have slaves.

Scaredy-cat

I’m a bit late in taking Schrodie to the vet’s office for her yearly check-up (she should have gone in March) but she’s finally been. I must admit, however, that she only made it when she did after I noticed she was missing a patch of fur from the top of her head the other day.

I pulled out her travel box this morning and placed an old (but clean) towel in the bottom. All the while the cat just sat there watching me. As I scooped her up I noticed she wasn’t hesitating and thought: “This’ll be easy!”, even though she did resist slightly when I placed her into the box. Once I put the box in the car, however, her slight meows turned to howls of anger and hatred. And my slight giggles turned to tears at the thought of causing the poor creature stress. For 30 miles I listed to the cat cry out in terror…

At the end of the day I went to retrieve Schrodie and we made the long drive back home – again with her in the back seat of the car howling. Once we got home, she bolted from her travel box and ran from me. Yep, she’s a bit mad!

The bald patch on her fur is still an un-known. The vet took a sample to run a culture to check for ringworm, but she’s not convinced that is the cause. Instead, she guesses that an owl or hawk swooped in to grab a kitty treat, or that she got caught out by a fence or something. It’s been suggested that I keep her in overnight, as that’s when most predatory creatures are out looking for food.

Also worrying to me is that she had a bit of a heart murmur. The vet thinks that it could just be from the stress of the car ride and isn’t concerned about heart disease at this time. Though if I’m honest, this freaks me out more than the thought of some avian creature having her for lunch!

Anyhow, I’m sure that Schrodie will start to love me again in a couple of days. But goodness only knows how long she’ll hate me if I ever move and put her through the torment of the PETS system. I think she’ll disown me the moment the plane lands!

Indoor-outdoor cat

Last summer I purchased a slightly-expensive, gadgety cat door for Schrodie. It’s great because it is sensor-activated, meaning that only Schrodie can come and go – eliminating the fears and nightmares of Satan’s evil footmen (that means skunks) entering my home through the door.

The cat wears a little sensor on her collar which activates the flappy-thingy, allowing her access. There are four settings: In and Out; In Only; Out Only; or Nothing. I have it set for In and Out.

She was most certainly an indoor cat when we adopted her at eight months old and Paul and I spent a long day introducing her to the great outdoors the week before he died. It was important to me that the cat continue experiencing the outdoors but as I was at work all day I would need a cat door to achieve that. After the door was installed I showed the cat how to use it but she wasn’t too keen on it – or the outdoors. In fact, the only time the cat would use the door was if you tossed her outside. Then she’d run straight back in faster than you’d imagine!

For the past week, I’ve been finding little bits of nature in the house – twigs and leafs, mostly – and have suspected that maybe, just maybe, Schrodie has finally started to go out whilst I was at work. This suspicion has been even stronger the past few days when she’s not been on the bed when I go to sleep or wake up.

And today the proof came in! For the first time, the cat wasn’t waiting for me just inside the kitchen door. So I walked out to the shop and opened that door (the one where the cat door is) and there she was. Outside. Soaking up the evening air. OUTSIDE!

I am such a proud cat owner today. I almost shed a tear of joy. Almost… but I’m not quite that pathetic of a cat lady. Yet…

Coins

I have two old pint-sized honey jars that I fill with coins. It takes a while to fill them up because I don’t use cash too often. In fact, the current coin stash was started on March 7, 2009, meaning it’s taken more than a year to fill both jars to capacity. Compare that to my waitressing days when it would take just a couple of weeks to fill a gallon-sized jar!

Anyhow, Paul and I decided long-ago that when the jars were full we’d use the money for something fun and silly. Something we didn’t “need” but wanted. On March 6, 2009, we cashed in our coins and used the money to adopt Schrodie. (Which is why we almost called the cat “Spare Change”.)

Well, now the jars are full again and I need to determine how to spend my $64.22 (which doesn’t include a lone Canadian penny, a wheat penny, or the button that were all in the mix). If I spend it on taxable goods, that means I have about $59 to play with. So, what sort of cool things can I get for $59? ($61 if I do my shopping in Idaho, assuming my math is correct.)

I’ll have to think about just what to do with the windfall for a few days. Your suggestions are always welcome so please share any ideas that you have. (Remember though, I’m spending this money on something for ME not for YOU.)

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 36th birthday and to celebrate, I’ve opened a bottle of bubbly and I’m feasting on caviar, wild salmon, and Alaskan king crab. The house is empty, save for me and the cat. There is soft jazz playing in the background and I’m admiring the way the light glistens off of the lovely ring I’m wearing; a birthday present I purchased for myself at Macy*s.

It seems that the last year went by so quickly. On my 35th birthday, I sat right here in this very living room with Paul. It’s strange to think that I only had Paul with me for about two months of my 35th year. And it’s sad to think that I won’t have him at all for my 36th. If he were here, he’d have left a card on the mantle place for me to open when I woke up and he would have bought me the perfect gift – he always did. We would have argued over what to do for the day. I would have wanted to stay home and cook a nice meal; he would have wanted to go out somewhere to celebrate. “I’m not having my wife cook on her birthday,” he would argue.

I had all intentions of sitting around the house doing “nothing” all day but had a last-minute change of heart and instead went to Moscow Wild at Art to decorate some pottery. This was a positive decision for several reasons: 1) It’s not good to sit around and sulk on your birthday; 2) Arts and crafts are great therapy; 3) Spending at least part of your birthday with other humans is always a good idea; and 4) The delay in popping the cork on the bubbly means there won’t be as many Mimosas (Buck’s Fizzes) throughout the day, which means less of a headache tomorrow.

Of course, since my pottery piece of choice was a cat food bowl, and I did a really lousy job at it, Schrodie will not be too pleased that I went and did something. (Goodness, the last time I painted pottery was more than 20 years ago. I feel so old!)

Up next: I’m going to put on my jammies and curl up on the couch for a six-hour EastEnders marathon, enjoyed with a gorgeous piece of mascarpone cheesecake and maybe a big bowl of popcorn. Because it’s my birthday and I can do whatever I want on my birthday.

A day at the spa

I’ve just returned home after enjoying my first-ever spa day. It was pure heaven and I can’t believe that in my nearly 36 years of life I’ve never done it before. In fact, other than haircuts and a couple of years when I had fake nails in my 20s, I never had any treatments at a spa or salon until about two years ago when I got my first facial. My second facial didn’t happen for more than a year after the first. But who cares about then? This is about today…

Can I just say “WOW!”? I started off with a full body treatment (which is essentially head-to-toe exfoliation) and a massage. Then I had my eyebrows shaped (for you men, that’s code for waxed) before having a full-on facial. All of this (except for the eyebrow part) was calming and relaxing. I was able to just rest there in a state of calming bliss while someone else worked to make me beautiful.

Finally, it was time for my manicure and pedicure. These are two treats I’ve been receiving regularly since Paul died. It started because I couldn’t manage the simple task of self-grooming in the early days, but continued because I always feel so wonderfully happy and de-stressed after spending an hour or two being pampered by the lovely Nichelle.

Now I’m home and enjoying a relaxing evening on the couch with Schrodie and feeling beautiful. I’ve rewarded myself with Mimosas and caviar; after all, I was very well behaved all day. I really must treat myself to these little pleasures more often; I deserve it!

Still stitching

I started crocheting this baby blanket last February. I’m still a beginner(ish) hooker and wanted something simple and small to work on while Paul and I traveled to England for a Ryan family reunion. A couple of days after we got home we adopted Schrodie so the project was put on hold because young cats and yarn aren’t the best mix. It was only a couple of months ago that I decided to pick up my hooks again, but have been working on a larger blanket, saving this one for my next flight.

Mom and I will be traveling to the UK in a few days for the Ryan family reunion and I’m planning to take this project with me to keep me occupied on the long flight. My excited hope is that I can finish it on the way there and start a new one on the return journey because it seems several people I know are due to have babies this spring and summer. Keeping that optimistic hope, I will pack a couple of extra skeins of yarn. However, I am a realist and think that I will be lucky to finish this a year after starting it!

Vinyl issues

I’ve finally gotten around to my first attempt at digitalizing my vinyl collection. Actually, I’ve started with my parents’ collection, as it’s their fancy-schmancy machine. And can I just say it’s a bit of a bizarre world when dealing with LPs is a confusing and difficult task?!

So far, I’ve transfered one record: Roger Miller’s The 3rd Time Around. Now, I don’t know if it’s because it’s an old record, a dirty record, or an overly-sensitive recording device, but I’ve heard more clear sounding music when driving through the Snoqualmie Pass snow shed attempting to listen to KXLE. Yes, it’s that scratchy and crackly sounding!

That’s problem #1. Problem #2 is that the software doesn’t automatically save each song as an individual file. Of course, this may be due to the recording quality and maybe with a newer album – or with a cleaner album – it will work just fine. Problem #3 then is that when transferred to iTunes (and subsequently my iPod) instead of having 12 songs that are approximately two minutes each, I have to play it as a single album of a little more than 27 minutes.

Because I won’t be out-done and shown-up by a simple piece of technology, I will figure these issues out. My first step is to re-learn the art of properly cleaning vinyl. Once I see how the recording works on a clean record, I will make further changes to the process. If Paul were here, he’d have it all figured out already. He was, after all, the music maker in our family. But he’s not here and I’m sure he’s giggling at me from above as I attempt with difficulty what he would accomplish with relative ease.

And because I’ve been told by my young niece, Flik, that Schrodie isn’t getting enough air time, here’s a little video of her playing with the box that the record player came in for you to enjoy!

Stay tuned for more exciting installments of this dynamic and fascinating story…

Freak of nature

We adopted Schrodie when she was about eight months old. She’d had a hard life and was certainly not your typical cat, but we didn’t want a “typical” cat. I remember when we first brought her home she went into hiding so I bought some canned tuna to try and coax her out… or at least to get her to eat at night while we were sleeping. But she turned her nose up at it.

After she came out of hiding, she never really got offered fish or meat again. Just cat food. After all, she is a cat. And with Paul being a vegetarian, there was never any meat or fish in the house anyhow. Then, in the first few months after Paul died I didn’t cook; I ate TV dinners and overly-processed junk food. It was no surprise that the cat wasn’t interested.

Fast forward to December, and I finally started cooking again – and cooking fish and meat, because I’m not a vegetarian. The first meal I cooked was a nice steak with sautéed prawns. Schrodie sniffed around a bit, so I tried to offer her a bit of steak. She turned her nose up at it. So I thought maybe she was after the prawns. Nope, not interested in that either. By the end of the meal I decided that she just wasn’t accustomed to being in a house where such wonderful foods were available – and was maybe nervous about the repercussions of eating her master’s servant’s food.

Anyhow, it’s been about two months since I started cooking again and she’s yet to give any real notice to my dinners; a sniff here and there, but never an attempt to help herself to the culinary delights. Steak? Prawns? Lasagna? No. Fresh tuna? Cheese? Eggs? Not on your life. Chicken? Salmon? Ice cream? Nope.

So, here I am with a belly full of clam linguini and fresh salmon, and the cat won’t so much as lick my plate. I’m left wondering if maybe all of those people who rave about what a good cook I am are just being polite and the cat wants nothing to do with my culinary disasters, or if the cat is just a freak of nature that doesn’t enjoy fish and meat.

I’m going to vote for freak of nature, because it’s easier on my ego.

Just Frances

I was born in a hospital (not in a barn, as sometimes questioned by my mom, who should really know!) on February 21, 1974. The third of six daughters, I am “lucky number three” because we all know that the third time’s a charm.

I grew up in Small-Town, USA, in the Central Washington Cascades. I remember desperately wanting to get out of town, and live anywhere but there. And one day, I did. In September 2001, I made the move “across the pond” to Edinburgh, Scotland, to study at Napier University. The experience was definitely life-changing. Because of my travels, I gained a new-found respect and appreciation for my home town, and a new-found level of self confidence and joy that I never before knew could exist. Oh, and I met my husband there, too. Talk about life-changing!

Sadly, my amazing husband died in April 2009, which is how I became Just Frances. Though I also have a freakishly-weird cat called Schrodie to keep me company.

Before I met Paul, I was very happy being Just Frances. I was alone by choice, and it was bit empowering to be my own person with my own rules. Now, don’t get me wrong, given the choice now I would much rather be part of Paul and Frances. But I don’t have that choice. So I can either dwell on the sad or I can make the best out of a horrid situation.

But don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t want your pity; I don’t want your tears. The world certainly isn’t all doom and gloom – though some days it certainly feels that way – and I am on a mission to be happy. I will be happy because that’s what Paul would want for me. And that’s what I want for myself.

This blog replaces www.RyanCentric.com – a site that Paul and I designed together to brag a bit about our lives. We were excited to be adding information about the children we hoped to adopt and enjoyed adding stories and photos of our latest-and-greatest adventures. I continued updating RyanCentric for a while after Paul died, but I find that being Just Frances makes that site a little strange to use. Not because I’m no longer a Ryan, but because its purpose was not meant for ramblings but rather stories of adventures we took together. The site remains live, however, so please feel free to check it out to learn more about who I was and what I did before Just Frances came on the scene!

Just Frances is a random flow of thoughts and ideas. The content will be all over the place. You may visit one day and see a 1,500-word essay on why I think creamy peanut butter is better than crunchy and the next day there may be some random quote from some random song lyrics that I like. Who knows? I surely don’t.

It will be an adventure, led by your amazing guide, Just Frances. So sit back and enjoy the ride.