marnie is the beautiful blue bird you first get to really see at about 1:33, and he has lots of videos. but i never knew that the family had all these other animals, too! what a fun house. what wonderful people for taking such great care of them all. that is a huge commitment and a ton of work (and money).
saturday night, mr. bee and i had grownup time! we dressed up (okay, not much, but a little) and went to the toonseum and eleven with our friends liz and manos. it was so fun!
a year ago, i'd finished knitting my sunrise circle jacket but never hemmed it (it has a turned hem around all the edges). it languished for many months; i finally hemmed everything except one sleeve a month or two ago, and then decided that i wanted to wear it last night. so i hurriedly hemmed the sleeve and wore it! it was cozy and soft on a snowy night, so it was perfect (even though it was a little big in the waist--i closed it using a pedestal button, and it puckered a lot).
pics because it happened. i tried posing in front of a decal of bugs on the wall at the museum, but mr. bee kept trying and trying and trying with his phone camera. so that is why there are five shots, and i am sharing them with you because it cracks me up that he kept shooting. he was still unhappy with them, but i was bored of posing :)
the museum is super cool. there was a looney tunes exhibit in the main gallery, then a small keith haring exhibit in the hallway, and finally an exhibit of newspaper comics. AND they do not discourage photography! just no flashes. so i snapped a few shots of things i thought were cool:
a good time was had by all. and of course dinner was delicious :)
in other news, the floors are all finished and the stuff is all back in the house. the radiators are supposed to be finished cleaning tomorrow night. then we get them brought back and loaded into the house, mr. bee paints them, and the plumbers hook them up. THEN the flooring guys come and finish the stairs, and then i can have the organizers come back to finish up the unpacking, and our house will be ours again. AND we're getting a new sofa (espresso, chunky weave). I AM SO EXCITE.
this morning brings us our first snow of the season. so pretty! it does make me question our sanity, though: we're about to have all of our radiators taken over to pennsylvania metal cleaning for a good dip and strip. it's the place that did the same for the first radiator we had done, a few years ago when we were doing the last round of major renovations, and that radiator is gorgeous. it's one of my favorite things in the house, actually. (we did that one then because that room was completely gutted, but we couldn't quite swing paying for all of them at once.) it's not cheap, but the result is jaw-droppingly beautiful. all those layers of paint from centuries of redecorating get stripped away (and the radiators are cleaner and therefore more efficient), leaving bare, gleaming metal and all those details of the turn-of-the-century craft shine through. just gorgeous. anyway, it's not really practical to do one at a time because the whole plumbing system has to be taken down and drained before any can be taken out.
and next week begins the installation of our new hardwood floors throughout pretty much the whole house. we're not doing part of the first floor, where there are still dropped ceilings (we didn't do any renovations there earlier) and a kitchen to be renovated, so we'll live there while the work is being done, which will take a couple of months, i think. but the whole second floor except the darkroom and bathroom (which andrew redid a couple of years ago) will get new floors, and the whole third floor except the to-be-built bathroom (it's gutted except for the laundry machines) will be done. "done" in our case means that they (nova flooring) will first create a level surface by laying plywood and oriented strand board (osb) on low spots and then pouring self-leveling concrete. this will happen on all three stories of the house. and they'll add a support post in the basement to accommodate the extra weight. it kind of gives me the willies to think about our house collapsing under the weight stress of three levels of all this wood and concrete, but i'm trusting the pros to take care of things.
anyway, before they can install anything, the radiators need to be removed, so this is why the dip and strip is happening now. right after the first snow of the season. and right before thanksgiving, which we host every year. they assure us that the first floor will be finished in time for entertaining, but i'm guessing that we won't have radiators back in then unless we can convince the plumbers to bring back a couple at a time. we'll see about that.
so space heaters, warm clothes, blankets, and snuggling will be key parts of our november and december. the results will be worth it--i can't wait! (note to self: take before pictures asap!)
you know i'm a big steeler fan. watching steeler games, especially at heinz field (but also at home on tv), is a highlight of any autumn or winter week for me. we all wear black and gold in this house all day on game day; even the dogs wear gold bandanas during the game. we never miss kickoff, and each dog gets a treat every time we score.
fan culture can be weird, though. i wasn't always a fan; i think i started watching in 2004 or 2005. before that, fandom bewildered me. game time was just the best time to head out for errands because the streets and stores would be deserted around here.
i've lacked any belonging to a fan base (at least for sports) for most of my life up until that point. in high school, i went to basketball and football games as a social activity but didn't really care about the sports.
but i learned some things at those games. my school belonged to something called the prep league, which enforced some pretty strict rules. no booing, ever. no making noise to distract the opponent trying to score. (cheering was fine.) everything was positive. i never thought a thing of it until i got into the real world and saw that this is not how sports fans generally behave.
i'm also a quaker. even before i became a quaker, i was a quaker and didn't know it. that whole some-light-in-every-person thing? that is completely how i'm wired to think about the world. though i'm definitely imperfect, i become very uncomfortable at personal, violent, or unkind attacks.
this, too, is something that is not the norm for sports fans, i've learned.
most recently, i've been participating in a steeler fan group on ravelry. mocking opponents is pretty common there, and i don't like it so i just don't participate in those conversations. but sometimes things go further and i feel like maybe a little nudge could pull everyone back into a kindness zone. today, someone wrote about michael vick,
You know, if he can’t perform, we can take care of him like he did his dogs.
and another person replied,
Wicked! I love it!!! (she grins evily)
now, if you're unfamiliar with vick's story, he was convicted of participating in a pretty brutal dog-fighting ring a few years back. he owned the facilities in which the fights took place; he reportedly tortured and killed dogs that underperformed, and many were buried on the property. part of his plea bargain included agreeing that he'd not only financed and knew about the activities but also personally hanged or drowned dogs. after he served his time, he got a job as quarterback for the philadelphia eagles, where he still plays.
so i read this statement and was uncomfortable with it. obviously i would never ever defend michael vick's choices. but advocating violence against someone isn't okay with me. i thought for a while about what, if anything, to do. and i couldn't stand the idea that anyone could ever see that i had been a participant in this conversation and had not said anything about that.
so i wrote,
we can be more gracious than that, y’all.
and the original poster replied,
For Vick? No, I can’t.
i have a few reactions to this. one is how sad i am for this person that vick has that much power over her. grace isn't for vick. it's for me (or her or the other poster).
my dislike of those kinds of comments isn't any reflection of my feelings about vick or his choices or other people who make those choices. it's about me. it's about who i am and my own choices and values.
yeah, i know: it's just sports. trash talk is part of being a fan.
sorry, not for me. i can build up my own team without denigrating anyone else. and, if only because i think it would reflect better on my team and its fans, i wish that everyone thought that way.
well. there is lots to say and i have little energy to write, but i need to get it all down tonight.
i'll start by saying that andrew and i celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary on saturday, and it was terrific. we dropped the dogs off at the cozy inn (warning: stupid music plays, but you can turn it off at the "music off" link beneath the changing pictures) and headed down to berryville, virginia, for the shenandoah valley fiber festival. it was my first time going to this one, and it was really nice. calm, friendly, spacious, a little warm but not too, and lots of vendors. and most indoors, making weather a minimal concern even if it had been bad. i was not very spendy and bought just two skeins: dragonfly fibersdragon sock in the titania colorway, which is a beautiful tone-on-tone emerald green and a nice sproingy tight twist,
and lizard toes isobel, which is a fingering blend of merino, cashmere, and nylon in a variegated grey and brown.
the dragon sock is earmarked for the tour de sock; my team is the team that rocks (slowly), made up of five members of the rockin sock club, and socks that rock is by far my largest stash, but dragonfly fibers is one of the sponsors and we get double points for using its yarn, so. i am competitive. what?
the isobel was just calling to me from the aisle and i waltzed into the booth and grabbed it, felt the cashmere and knew i had to have it, and THEN realized that it was a yarn by someone i'd met on lazy, stupid, and godless just a couple of days earlier. it will make beautiful weaving. on which more later.
after the festival, we checked into our hotel. we stayed at the aloft winchester, and let me sum up right here, unambiguously so that there is no confusion: DO NOT STAY AT THIS HOTEL. it is pretty. it has a snack bar. that's about all the good i can say about it. oh, and i guess it wasn't too expensive ($116 including taxes for one night). why did we hate it so much? here we go, chronologically: i was too stupid to check where it was located and should have booked something in the old town. my bad. not the fault of the hotel. but a bummer. whatever. so we walk in, and the young woman behind the desk is angrily flipping through a binder. chin on her hand, scowling, nearly ripping the pages out as she turns the pages, looking for something she's not finding. she doesn't acknowledge us (we are in her line of sight peripherally and the lobby was small--we know she saw and heard us) for literally about five minutes. when she finally does, she makes sure to tell us how crappy her day is going and that it's just beginning. this line of conversation continues throughout our (fortunately relatively brief) interaction. at the end of said interaction, she pushes a couple of card keys at me and starts to turn back to her computer problems (also a topic of complaint during our time providing hotel-desk-clerk therapy). so i ask, "what's the room number? is this it?" and i find it written in tiny letters on the card-key envelope. "what's the best way to get to that?" (any other time i've checked into a hotel, the checker-in has made sure to show and tell me my room number and then give explicit directions to the room. not this one. she had Things to Do.) so she tells us and then returns to her work. we head to room 226. it's cool. it's modern. sleek. we settle in for a little nap before dinner.
dinner was AMAZING. i'd found (thanks, google!) and reserved a table for two at one block west. again, unambiguously, i'll offer this: DO EAT AT THIS RESTAURANT. so good! i started with this fabulous composed salad:
(oops, sideways; i'll figure out how to fix that). it's a mixture of asian pears, butternut squash, and spiced pecans with an apple-cider reduction. omg so good. also excellent french bread. very frenchy. i had a hanger steak with dragon-something (a theme!) wax beans and black kale. i love hanger steak. :) and then we shared a flourless chocolate cake called le bete noir. it was warmer and had a different texture from other flourless cakes i've had--almost like a flan, except that i don't like flan. not custardy, just soft and warm like that. omnomnom.
and then we were completely stuffed and drove back to the hotel. we were surprised (and, i confess, unimpressed) to see the desk clerk cozily adjusting the shirt of a young man who was enjoying the attention quite a bit, both enjoying pounding music and a lively party going on around them in the lobby bar. we were grateful to be headed to the peace of our room.
we thought. but we could hear EVERYthing from our room. we were annoyed. but we watched some tv and went about our business and tried to ignore them. this was doable until we tried to go to sleep. at 10:15 (yes, i am old), i phoned the front desk and asked about how late we should expect the music to be going on. "about 12:30, maybe a little later," came the answer. no apology, no concern. so i hung up. what could i do?
then andrew suggested that we request a different room, so i called back. she had one more room, on a higher floor and at the other end of the hotel. why the hell hadn't we been given that one in the first place? i do not know. so we moved and had a decent night after that. but never any note of concern or apology from the desk clerk.
the morning-shift guy was a whole different kind of employee. genuinely aksed how our night was, just a general air of here-to-serve. too bad he hdn't been on the night shift.
we headed back to town for breakfast before hitting the road: the amherst diner. another good choice. not speedy, particularly, and not any prettier than any other old diner, but a good diner. i'd go again.
and that was our weekend. i'd spent a lot of it stressed and worried, despite the beautiful scenery and wonderful company, because i am having endometrial ablation tomorrow morning and had received a call friday afternoon saying that they couldn't clear me for anesthesia because of an abnormality on my ekg. so i'd worried all weekend about how i was going to chase down doctors and tests to get cleared by wednesday morning, given that i have a rush project at work right now that really needed to get to the author by COB today. (it didn't. sorry.) but monday morning i was able to get all the paperwork faxed and signatures transmitted, so i'm all cleared for tomorrow. i'm very nervous still, mostly about the IV needle (i HATE needles, serious phobia, like the only thing i'm actually phobic about), but also about the anesthesia not working and going through what i went through five years ago in the colonoscopy. but i remind myself that needles are not (generally) fatal and that i have survived being raped and the rape-like colonoscopy and that i shall therefore survive this thing tomorrow. i will be grateful to be under anesthesia finally and not worrying about this any more.
so. weaving: i start an eight-week course on weaving at the pittsburgh center for the arts on saturday, and i am SO excite. i learned to weave this summer at woven art in lansing but haven't had anyone here to help me learn more, and there are a few more things i'm ready to learn. the classes are three hours every saturday, and i am so excited to learn and make some more fun stuff.
and of course nerd wars and tour de sock both start on saturday, so those will be good for keeping me busy.
oh! and i almost forgot: we brought nova flooring out today to have a look at our dr. seuss-ity house, and it looks like they might be the answer for us. we hope to have an estimate in a couple of days. now to choose actual flooring! i'm SO looking forward to entertaining at home again. :squeezesigh:
you might have been following our saga chez bee, in which the cats' constant (almost daily) peeing outside their litter boxes (not on clothes or furniture, thankfully, just within a few-foot radius of the litter boxes) was bringing me, my marriage, and our household to our knees. we were pretty sure that we were going to have to surrender the cats to the shelter, which would be a death sentence for two cats that were known to have bad litter-box habits. they just don't get adopted.
this had been going on for about three years (since shortly after we adopted them) and was so much worse than just "i hate cleaning up after them" or "i hate that smell." the smell, first of all, permeates everything, every part of the house, and really dominates one's brain in its presence. but it also stains and can ruin flooring, and this was happening in the dining room (so, no company almost ever, for someone who used to entertain regularly and have monthly dinner parties, and a terrible welcome-home greeting because it is situated smack dab between the two entryways to our house) and in my craft room (talk about saddening and frustrating, having my precious craft room, with its beautiful light and wonderful storage and my favorite color on the wall, become a place that i was loath to enter, let alone spend time in). it was virtually the only topic about which mr. bee and i ever fought, and we didn't fight nicely and healthily about it. it really was dominating my life and my psyche in terrible ways.
once we agreed that rehoming or surrendering was likely to be the solution, i became despondent. i cried constantly, couldn't sleep, couldn't think about anything else.
finally, i found a behavioral consultant who would work with us, despite the fact that she is more than a four-hour drive from us. i found only three consultants through the international association of animal behavior consultants who were within 200 miles of us, one in central pennsylvania and another in virginia. the one in central pennsylvania pretty much dismissed the idea (of working with us) out of hand; the one in virginia took forever to get back to us and still wasn't especially useful (thankfully, by then, we'd been working with debbie via phone and email and were on a path to a plan). i posted in three groups on ravelry and got lots of help, support, and advice from folks there. i read a ton of books. and i took the cats to the vet AGAIN.
this time, i really laid it out for dr. ben, explaining that this was really the end of our rope and that we were serious about rehoming or surrendering the cats if we couldn't make this stop. we are finally at the point that we are ready to paint and refloor the whole house, and we simply couldn't do that if the cats were going to ruin walls and floors. and we couldn't keep living in this shithole that the fixer-upper continues to be after more than seven years of living in this uneven, unfinished crapshack. not even for these wonderful, sweet, funny cats.
so dr. ben's advice (combined with some of the advice i'd received from other sources) was this: get four boxes (one for each cat for each function because some cats like to use a different box for peeing than for pooping) and put them all in one room. allow a few inches of space around each box, and put pee pads on the floor all around and underneath them. the pee pads would make detecting spots easier and make cleanup easier as well. and they would stop further damage to the floors and walls. in each box, try a different substrate (because cats). see what they like (use) and don't like (use) and keep working until we find what works.
so i implemented operation clusterbox the next morning. i threw out the cabinet in which the craft-room cats' room box had been, moved my work table to the other side of the room (so that the boxes were completely open because cats), and used get serious to scrub the floors [spoiler alert: WAY better than simple solution or nature's miracle, imo], using a blacklight to make sure that i had cleaned all the spots. i laid down pee pads (i've since been advised to use pads made for handling human incontinence instead, both because they're cheaper and because they're not treated with pheromones to attract puppies; those are on order but haven't arrived yet) across the whole area where the boxes would go, overlapping the edges a little for complete coverage. then i arranged the boxes:
box 4 is another shallow sterilite bin; we originally had it empty but, after it went untouched when the others were getting used, we added another litter we've used before, swheat scoop.
things are SO MUCH BETTER here i can't even believe it. we are at almost exactly three days (72 hours) since beginning operation clusterbox, and we have had exactly one accident that i know of (there could have been one in the first 48 hours in the dining room and i wouldn't have known it because the carpeting was still down and i didn't get down there touching actual fibers), and even that one was JUST behind one of the litter boxes so was probably just bad aim. they are consistently using the two shallow boxes.
the cats' room hardly smells at all and is very easy to clean both accidents and the litter boxes themselves. the dining room smells MUCH better; i tore up everything stained that i could yesterday, down to the floorboards, then used the get serious on the floors, but i couldn't get the last of the stained carpet out. my husband is home from his trip now and will take care of that, and then i can do one more pass with the get serious (which is AMAZING stuff that i cannot believe is not in every home in the world) and the blacklight to make sure that all the odor is out.
my stress, anxiety, frustration, and sadness levels, all of which were through the roof and really dominating every corner of my heart and mind for...well, for months or and parts of even *years*, are pretty much zero now, which is a feeling i haven't had in i can't remember how long. definitely years. i have great hope that we have seen the last of these problems and that the cats will live out their long and (i hope!) healthy lives with us.