29 December 2008

Rest in Peace, Abbie

We took Abbie for his last visit to the vet this morning. He's been declining for the last three or four weeks -- arthritic, semi-incontinent (though he tried, heaven knows), not much more than a familiar furry presence camped out on the heating vent in the living room.

He stopped eating a few days ago, even tuna, and stopped drinking voluntarily yesterday. Up to that point, though, he still yowled to be picked up and placed on the bathroom sink, his favorite oasis. But this morning he refused the syringe of water I was trying to administer, and was too weak to stand.

The vet said that his temperature was 92 degrees, way below normal. Clearly his systems were shutting down. They say you know when a pet's time has come, often because there's no there there anymore. But Abs was present until the last moment -- vocalizing, though faintly, registering his surroundings, nestling in for strokes, looking at us with his big blue eyes.

Being more or less snowbound the last couple of weeks turned out to be kind of a blessing; lots of lap time for the Abster, two full-time servants tending to his needs. This is the last picture I took of him, earlier this month, with the capacious Stella Luna in the background. I posted a birthday tribute when he turned 19 last April. We'll toast him in absentia on his 20th. You were a damn good cat, Abbie, and we'll miss you more than words can tell.

23 December 2008

Snow Fun

I last posted a week ago Sunday, when the snow started falling. Here we are almost ten days later, and that initial snowfall seems balmy and bucolic by comparison. The headline above is from this morning's paper. It's snowed almost daily for the last week and a half. Until today, when we did nudge 32 degrees, temps have remained well below freezing. I'm tired of the cold, the cancellations, the constraints on getting around. Whiiiine.....

But the wintry weather does have its compensations. It's beautiful, of course; I put up a bunch of mostly-artsy pics on flickr. And it's primo weather for hot-tubbing. Squint and you could be at an expensive ski resort in Vail or Aspen, a handsome cowboy waiting for you in the steamy water:

We've been walking every day, as usual, breaking through the crunchy crust, trying not to slip as we follow foot-deep vehicle tracks on the mostly-deserted streets. I spotted this vanity plate (below) just around the corner from us. Yes: visualize rain!

I made up a new word the other morning, as each step we took fractured the ice-covered snow into sharp, ankle-biting shards: Snice. Here's a representative specimen:

And here's a snice example of ad hoc automotive sharkification:

As a matter of fact, I do have cabin fever, and apparently some of my neighbors do, too. On the other hand, our old kitty, Abbie, is losing ground, and it's nice to have an excuse to stay home, catering to his needs and providing almost-unlimited lap(top) service.

14 December 2008

Still Not Used To It

I only have four years of personal data to go on, but I'm reasonably sure by now that it snows most winters in Portland -- just not very much or very often. The last part of that sentence probably accounts for the tizzy into which the entire city seems to be thrown every time flurries enter the realm of meteorological possibility. I keep reading about our "mild" Northwest winters, and I suppose they are, compared to, say, New England, the Midwest or Greenland. After all, here it is mid-December and some of my roses are still blooming. But I spent half my life in that sunny C-word state to the south, and snow spells "serious winter" to me.

It's also primo hot tub weather, even better than rain. We dunked ourselves a couple of hours ago, and I felt like I was in a ski resort in Aspen. Hot-tubbing is my favorite winter sport, I fear.

The snow started around 7:40 this morning. At 7:30: nothing. Suddenly, the air was filled with huge fluffy flakes. Hours later, it's still coming down, finer and with quite an east wind behind it.

Another couple days of this would be just fine in my universe, but by mid-week I'd like it gone, please, so I and the other weather wimps in town can get on with our lives. And to think that winter is officially still a week away...

The Pattern from Hell

Many months ago I picked up a pattern for a multi-pocketed totebag designed for schlepping crafts projects around. It had loads of compartments and specialized holders for knitting needles or paint brushes and other accoutrements. When I finally started the project I was appalled at how badly the instructions were written, with ambiguous and unhelpful illustrations, missing steps, measurement errors, and -- my pet peeve -- an inefficient workflow overall. The tech writer in me wanted to redo the entire thing.

An inexperienced sewer would have thrown up her hands in frustration. Instead, I grumbled my way through the process, making notes and drawing arrows and asterisks for the order in which I wanted to proceed. What a hassle. I had to force myself to work on it, a sure sign that something's wrong. But I'm actually rather pleased with the result, and now I know that I'm perfectly capable of designing and drafting my own patterns, duh, at least for a stupid totebag.

03 December 2008

The datebook ritual

Since 1970 or so, I've been keeping track of my life with a Sierra Club datebook. Despite my technolust in other areas, I'm not a PDA person; good ol' paper and ink give me the context I need. I can tell by the density of the markings on the page whether it's going to be a busy week or a light one. When an errand or to-do item slips by a day or two, I merely draw an arrow. An arrow squoogle that meanders down the page from Monday to is-it-Friday-already? denotes a certain urgency. If it doesn't get done that week, I re-enter it in what I think of the "sometime this week" space at the top of the next page. Or the one after that. Sometimes the act of writing and rewriting makes me reflect on whether it's worth doing at all.

The format of the Sierra Club Engagement Calendar, as it's officially called, hasn't changed in at least four decades. It's spiral-bound, a convenient size for whatever bag I'm carrying that year (truthfully, I tend to choose purses based on whether the datebook will fit). There are lovely nature photos on each facing page. Saturday and Sunday are grouped together, properly, at the bottom of each week. (One year I acquired a freebie datebook from some other source that I thought I could use instead, but pitched it as soon as I realized that Saturday was at the bottom of the page and Sunday at the top of the next one. In a week-at-a-glance calendar, it makes no sense to split a weekend like that. I would have been disoriented for the entire year.)

I make note of everything in the datebook -- birthdays and anniversaries, meetings and deadlines, concerts and theater dates, dinner invitations, due dates for bills, calls to make, chores and projects to get done. Before menopause, I put a cryptic little mark (okay, it was a "P") on the day when my next period was due. I literally would be lost without my datebook.

At some point I treated myself and my datebook to a slip-on leather cover, which helps it endure a year's worth of daily wear-and-tear. It also provides a couple of pockets for loose lists and other slips of paper. The cover itself is pretty beat up at this point, but it made me look slightly more corporate, back in the day, in meetings with Day Runner/Filofax people.

As next-year commitments accumulate, I list them on one of the blank Notes pages in the back of the book. When I start worrying about conflicts and double-bookings, generally sometime in November, I know it's time to buy my new datebook and start the transfer process. First, I go through my perpetual birthday book (you knew I had one of these, right?) and write all the pertinent names in the appropriate daily spaces. Then I transfer the recurring events -- monthly meetings, weekly volunteer gigs -- and finally the random items from the back of this year's book.

Both datebooks are in play from now til the end of the year, depending on the day on which New Year's falls. This year, I'll get to transfer the leather cover to the 2009 book around Monday, the 29th. Before archiving 2008, I'll look back through it and review the year in my mind. This is useful on general principles, but especially on those rare occasions (don't hold your breath) when we're inspired to write a holiday letter. My husband has noodged me not to cross old items out so heavily. My biographers will be grateful, I'm sure, to discover my datebook stash, since it's the closest thing to a journal I've ever kept.

The datebook is, of course, my personal scheduling assistant. It's way too much information for the other human in the household. For the basics of our shared life -- dinner dates, ticketed events, doctors' appointments and so on -- we keep a standard wall calendar by the phone in the kitchen. Here, I have no brand loyalty. For 2009 I think it'll be the Cat Lovers Against the Bomb calendar, which is published by Nebraskans for Peace and comes chock-a-block with commemorations related to peace and/or felines. Starting right in with January 2nd, I learned that, on that date in 1972, a cat in Scotland turned 43 and, exactly 20 years later, the UN established the first Conventional Arms Registry.

Clearly this calendar is going to be useful and entertaining when one of us is waiting on hold. Bet you didn't know that on August 18th, 1950, a four-month-old kitten, following a climbing party, scaled the Matterhorn in three days. And here I thought that August, with the exception of my birthday, lacked occasions for celebration. I wonder if Nebraskans for Peace has thought about doing a datebook?

Why I haven't been working on art

My studio worktable has been occupied with thousands of tiny (and astoundingly pricey) Lego components, thanks to my adorable nephew Josh. Oh, you say, he only visited for a week over Thanksgiving? Well, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Yes, I've been lax on blogging, as well as art, the last several weeks. But I have another post on a different topic just about ready to go, and I did just put up twenty or so photos on Flickr, dating back to mid-October, when Jer's daughter and her partner visited and we did a wine country tour one day and the Crown Point-Multnomah Falls trip another. There's a pink stretch Hummer, to pique your interest, and a psychedelic cactus, as well as the usual spectacular fall foliage around the neighborhood, waterfowl at Crystal Springs Lake, and artsy shots from Oaks Bottom and the Bybee Bridge. Apparently I've been more into looking than talking the last few weeks.

I did not have my camera along, alas, a week ago Sunday, when we went to hear Joan Baez at the Aladdin. We had good seats and I could have kicked myself, had I not been enjoying the moment so much. She's still glorious, and I think my little phone-cam shots have a certain, um, primitive appeal.