Friday, 4 August 2017

The Honeymoon

Yaniv and I are currently honeymooning in Greece. What's nice about it other than the usual honeymooning stuff is that we're completely on the same page about how we like to spend our time while traveling.

Rule #1: We deserve.

This is our effing honeymoon and we deserve everything it can offer. Sometimes that that might mean ordering desserts at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while other times it might involve spending our last 12 euros on a cat-shaped candle. In one case, it meant ditching our bleak Airbnb and upgrading to a suite in a 5-star hotel. In any event we deserve all of it, no questions asked.

Abandoning our depressing Airbnb for this swanky hotel in Thessaloniki was the best decision we've ever made.

Rule #2: Don't worry.

This means no stressing about absolutely anything. For example, during dinner tonight we may excitedly make plans for all the stuff we want to do (read: restaurants we want to eat at) tomorrow, but if tomorrow comes and we just feel like sleeping all day, then we embrace that urge without pause.

This is what unworried honeymooners look like.

Rule #3: Avoid sightseeing unless the mood really strikes.

Some people make it a point to see all the museums and famous "sights" a place has to offer when traveling. That's lovely, I wish them well. We are not those people though. While we did stop by the Acropolis and checked out some grim but impressive ancient catacombs in Milos that happened to be in our vicinity, in general we much prefer to spend our days relaxing at the beach or people watching at various cafes. Basically, we are lazy pleasure-seekers and we make no apologies for it.

Seriously think about it: would you rather do this or elbow your way through hundreds of sweaty humans to get a decent look at the Acropolis?

Rule #4: Go where the road takes you.

This one is cheesy but very crucial, and has resulted in some of the most amazing moments of our honeymoon. One day we followed a serious of mysterious signs to a magical winery in a cave, and on another we hiked barefoot up a hill to find the most beautiful, private little beach with not a soul in sight.

Rule #5: Greet animals always.

This one speaks for itself. We're not gonna go out of our way to see some archaeological museum, but we will absolutely pull over for a goose or a street cat. We have priorities.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A Strange But Not Unpleasant Existence

My life is very strange just now, though not unpleasant. I quit my job to move to Milwaukee, which makes me unemployed for the first time since I entered the workforce in 2008. It is an odd feeling. On the one hand it's delightful. No one expects me to do anything, which is very freeing. I change out of my night sweats into my day sweats sometime in the morning, or whenever the urge strikes, and then back into the night sweats later that evening. In between, I drink endless cups of coffee, monitor the roomba from the comfort of my couch, apply for jobs, and observe my cats snoozing the day away in bizarre positions.

Each day I make a point of waiting until at least 5pm to pour myself a glass of wine, which I consider proof of extreme self control.

On the other hand, the unemployment situation is kind of angsty. I've never considered myself a particularly career-oriented person, and before now would regularly joke to people that I'd like nothing more than to retire a few decades early and be a full-time stay-at-home cat mother. But it turns out a large chunk of my self worth is connected to my job, because I feel like a loser when I have to tell people I don't have one. I kind of dread meeting new people now (which is sadly the only type of people I'm meeting these days, since I just moved here and know almost no one), because I know they're going to ask me what I do, and I'll have to give the same spiel about how I just quit my job to move here and am looking for a new job but don't worry! I'm totally taking my time! I'm intentionally taking my time! Barf...

And talking to people I already know is just as bad. Everyone is constantly asking me if there's any news on the job front. The news is that it's 3pm, there is a giant chocolate stain on my day sweats, and I think it might be time for a nap. Deal with it!

It's also angsty cause money. My salary has always been on the modest side, but I've still been able to live comfortably, going out to eat whenever I like, buying new clothes when I can't face the idea of wearing anything in my closet, taking nice vacations once in awhile, etc. And now I have to budget and stuff, and it's very boring. First world problems.

Anyway, I have decided to try to make it as a freelance editor/writer. I know, what a cliche. But whatever. I think I'm made for life on the couch, with cats, and this is a career that can accommodate that, so I'm taking a stab at it. And, after one week of "freelancing," I am proud to announce that I've earned a total of $18! I think that's a very promising start.

So, life is good(ish). And Milwaukee is unexpectedly charming, or at least is giving the illusion of being so in these late summer days.

The Milwaukee River. (Who knew Milwaukee had a river??)

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Moving and How I Suck at It and How It Evokes Feelings

The movers are coming tomorrow at 2:30 pm, which is approximately 19 hours from now. I'm sitting on my couch enjoying a second gin & tonic. This is an improvement from earlier today, when I was in the fetal position.

My apartment is in chaos. I still need to pack up my closet, pots and pans, and various other horrors that are lurking in dark corners, exactly where I left them when I first moved here 2.5 years ago. Things like a hard copy of my dreadful masters thesis, a collection of hideous drawings I made in the third grade, and old car insurance paperwork. Does anyone else have untouched boxes of stuff they never look at except when moving? Why do I keep dragging these things from one apartment to the next? I don't know but the thought of throwing them out is more stressful than bringing them along again, so here we are.

I suck at moving. I really shouldn't. This will be my seventh move in almost as many years, and yet...

Ok, now it is tomorrow, and somehow it all got done. Miraculously, I finished packing everything TWO FULL HOURS before the movers came (waking up at 5 am was definitely helpful).

By the way, can I just say how stressful it is to hire movers? There are so many companies to choose from, and horror stories abound on every company's Yelp page. Somehow I landed with "Two Marines Moving," and thus far it seems I made the right choice (I'll know for sure once my belongings are safely delivered in Milwaukee this weekend). These guys lovingly swaddled every piece of furniture I own in blankets and then plastic wrap and tape—from the $50 Ikea bookcase to the heirloom room divider from Italy I inherited from my grandparents. They were efficient and careful, and they kept sassing each other throughout the process, which was entertaining.

When it was all done and my apartment was empty, I suddenly had a bout of nostalgia that caught me off guard. Something about seeing the apartment totally empty, just as it was when I first moved in, made me very reflective and sentimental.

empty apartment!

It's not that I am sad to leave DC...I've enjoyed my time here, on the whole, but it's not a place I ever came to feel strongly about, in a good or bad way. DC is fine...that's all I can really say about it, it's just fine. Ok, I could actually say more, like how boring it is to be asked "So what do you do??" by almost every person you meet, two seconds after you met them, or to participate in conversations that focus on how much money people have saved and how they're investing it. It's just a very status-oriented city. Don't get me wrong, I speak in generalizations rather than specifics. I've made a few wonderful friends here and will miss living near those people. But the general vibe of DC is just kind of impersonal and lacking character, or at least that has been my experience. To be fair, it probably didn't help that I spent most evenings on the couch with my cats and wine, rather than trying to meet new people. Alas.

So, my sudden somber mood did not stem from regret about leaving. Seeing the empty apartment reminded me of my mindset and emotional state when I first moved into this apartment in January 2014. That was a dark time in my life. Taking the job that brought me to DC was a huge risk. It was scary to make a career change, and to uproot my life for it. But it was absolutely the correct choice! I shudder to think what my life would look like now if I hadn't done it.

Ok, allow me to get mushy and self-congratulatory for a second. To me, this apartment symbolizes my courage and independence. Rather than accepting my life as it was—which was pretty bleak in 2013/14—I took a risk and made the active choice to change things up. In doing so, I was lucky to have the full support and love of my family, which made it so much easier, but it was still scary. When I moved to DC, I learned something really important about myself: that I have the strength to be an active agent in my own life, rather than sitting back passively and letting things play out as they will. This has given me so much confidence.

Active agents

You're probably thinking get over it lady, you relocated for a job, welcome to being a human in America. And...true. Yet. I don't know. I just feel content and at peace. In the future, I know that whenever I think about this apartment that I lived in for almost three years, I will think of it with happiness. Good things happened here. Including Steve! (Although he technically "happened" in Atlanta, but that's another story.)

Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Dark Hour

Flying with cats seems like an inherently bad idea. A few years ago I heard an awful story that confirmed my worst fears. A cat managed to escape at the airport security checkpoint, when its owner was asked to remove it from its carrier. No one could locate the cat, and a few weeks later, it was found dead somewhere in the airport.

This story has long haunted me—both because it is incredibly depressing and also because it frankly seems like the inevitable consequence of removing a cat from its carrier in the middle of airport security. What cat in his right mind wouldn't make a run for it in that situation??

Anyone who has cats can appreciate the challenge of stuffing a cat into a carrier even in the most calm and controlled of environments. In Fergie's case, it must be done in the bathroom, with the door closed so there is no chance of her escaping and barricading herself under the center of the bed.

Fergie in her carrier.

So imagine removing a cat from its carrier in the middle of the chaos that is airport security, walking the cat through the TSA scanner, and then successfully managing to place the cat back in the carrier. It's a cute thought, right?

When Yaniv first suggested flying the cats from DC to Milwaukee, rather than driving them, I started sweating. Visions of Steve and Fergie lost forever in the bowels of Reagan National flashed through my mind. I thought anything—even a 13 hour drive with two cats, one of whom has a history of unloading the entire contents of his bowel 30 minutes into a road trip (looking at you, Steve!)—must be preferable to taking such a risk.

Imagine this snow-white cat rolling around in his own poop, just a few minutes into a 9 hr drive. Yep, that happened.

But then I did some more research and learned there is such a thing as a "private screening" at TSA, where they take you into an enclosed room to do the security check. Could this be the answer to all our worries? We decided to go for it. (Not before I lost my mind and spent a small fortune on cat harnesses, leashes, collars and tags, and cat sedatives, just in case the private screening was somehow unavailable.)

On the ride to the airport, Fergie was stoic, but Steve was profoundly displeased.

"F you, mother!"
In retrospect, I should have given Steve two sedatives instead of just the one. He's not exactly petite, and the one pill I slipped into his lunch clearly wasn't having much of an effect, if his dramatic howling in the Uber was any indication. But we made it.

As we approached security, my anxiety began to spike. What if they refused to give us a private screening? The woman who checked our boarding passes and IDs when we reached the security area didn't even know what we were talking about when we asked for a private screening, and merely waved us on along with the rest of the herd. At that moment, I began to lose it. As a general rule, I try to avoid weeping in public, but here we were, in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the country, and sure enough the floodgates began to open. I had harnesses, leashes, and one partially sedated cat (we weren't able to get Fergie to take her pill, so she was wide awake), but could I really go through with this?

The gods smiled on us, however, and the moment we informed the TSA agent who was actually operating the security scan that we had cats, she swiftly called for backup and we were escorted to a private room. I wanted to kiss that woman! We made it through security without issue, and as soon as we reached the terminal I ordered a large glass of wine.

The flight itself was blessedly uneventful, and the cats are now Wisconsinites. All in all, it was a dark hour (or six), but I'm calling it a success.

The only thing I'd do differently is more sedatives. For Steve, and, honestly, for myself.