Archive for January, 2011

The New Man in My Life!

Okay, he’s a little furry and has hair in his ears, but I love him to pieces anyway! Meet Quinn, our shelter kitty that we adopted after our recent trip to Hood Canal. It seems impossible now to think that we almost selected a different feline to take home…

As we stood in the entrance of The Oregon Cat shelter in Lake Oswego, we surveyed the various kittens that hadn’t been selected as Christmas gifts. (It’s big kitten season, apparently.) We were drawn to a little gray guy with lily white feet. His name was “Cruiser.” (This should have been a tip off.)

He was adorably cute, active, easy to handle. The perfect kitten. With the deal nearly sealed, we let him loose on the cat tree in the middle of the room. As I began filling out paperwork, I noticed him bothering the crap out of a giant cat that swatted him down a few times — hard. Cruiser remained undaunted. After filling out a few more lines, I glanced up once more to find him biting the carpet upon which he stood, literally rending the fibers out of their backing, flecks of carpet caught in his whiskers. A slightly crazed look in his eyes.

Hmmm. Maybe we should take another pass, we all decided.

There was a little tabby in a large cage with a bunch of his siblings, all of whom were rescued feral cats. They were like the Flying Wallendas. Playing, batting, lunging, somersaulting, and sometimes launching themselves at the cage grid and hanging on, suspended by their claws. Quinn was smaller, but gave as good as he got. The second you opened the door though, he would immediately put the ears back and to the side, looking none too pleased.

Strangely though, when we reached in, he didn’t hiss, bite or scratch. He remained extremely unhappy though, with ears plastered to his head, as we snatched him out. Quinn was a small guy, but had the LOUDEST purr we had ever heard — really remarkable for his size. (He was the runt of the litter and has slightly bowed front legs that make him look as if he’s got some sort of Western gunfighter swagger when we walks around the joint. His tail is crooked as well, very sharply, 180 degrees — about 3/4 of an inch at the tip.)

Our Kittens for Dummies book recommended setting up a “safe room” when we returned a la casa. A place with everything he needed where he could start out…a home base. So of course, Tom and I decided to volunteer the kids’ bathroom! You can see the picture here. We were concerned, at first, that the safe room was a little too comfortable, as we had a hard time getting him to come out! (Having been a feral cat, we were expecting him to take time to warm up and explore.) I mean, there are volumes devoted to “How to Get Your Cat into His Pet Carrier” but nothing written about “How Do I Get My Cat out of His Pet Carrier?”

Every day though, he explores a bit more. So far, he has attacked the ficus tree in the living room, attacked the fringe on the rug in the living room, tried to jump up and attack a few door handles, and has been entranced by his reflection in the oven door, which required attacking the dish towels that hang on the handle. (Notice a theme?)

He also attacked Zelda’s moving feet under her blankets the other night, popping her inflatable mattress (slow leak). So last evening we left Quinn at home and went to Ikea for the inevitable bunkbeds, the Z’s space-saving Aerobed scheme has come to an due to the paws of a tiny cat. Tom and the girls are assembling it now.

Wow, Sunrise Is Cool!

If only I had known how beautiful you are Mr. Sunrise, perhaps I would have dragged my ass out of bed a bit more often to see you! I suppose it is lucky that I live in the Pacific Northwest, where it gets light late enough in the winter that I had the chance to be mesmerized by the sun pouring over the horizon as I strolled over the Steele Bridge on my way to a morning meeting. It was a clear, cold winter day and the view made me stop and haul out my cell to snap a few pix. I don’t know that I have been more entranced by the vista of downtown Portland, or the Willamette River, than I was at that moment. These are the times that I am exceedingly pleased not to have a car, for if I did, I would have missed this entirely.

Family Travels, Part 2

Our second winter break excursion was a quick drive up to Hood Canal, Washington, where we were going to spend a few nights as a gift to the Zs for Christmas (trying to go heavy on experience and light on crap). This outing had a bit of frenzy on the outside and and gooey wonderfulness on the inside. (The”outside” would be the beginning and end of our journey.)

Once again, we were traveling via Zipcar, this time in a Scion xB. Tom picked up the car in the morning while I raced with Zoe via light rail to the downtown Portland Swimwear store to buy her an emergency suit. (We figured out at the last minute that we must have tossed her too-small gear after the end of the summer swimming season…oopsy.)

We were renting a wee cabin with a kitchen and access to a gas grill. Hence, we not only loaded our little car with bags and hiking gear, but also with a big old ice chest and heaps and heaps of food. There we were, in our cute little vehicle, stuffed like sardines, parked on the street outside of our building engaged in the inevitable husband/wife natter about the best route for undertaking the journey. All was normal…until we simultaneously noticed a yellow indicator light on the dash. It had an exclamation point. Couldn’t be good.

After maybe ten minutes looking through the HORRIBLE manual, we figured out what it was — tire inflation issues.

Next step: call Zipcar. They promptly assured us “it should probably be fine and if the tires go flat, you can just call us.” Mind you, about this time, I lept out of the car to see if any of the rubber appeared obviously low, only to have a heavy downpour of snow, rain, and hail open up from the heavens. We relayed to customer service, very politely, that if we got a flat tire driving to the middle of nowhere with a rain/snow mix coming down, they weren’t exactly going to be able to assist us in a timely manner. Happily, they agreed, and after considerable machinations involving both of our membership cards, we worked out a way to switch vehicles. (Upgraded to a big roomy minivan — oh yah!)

So, we took our clown car to the minivan’s parking lot and in the less-than-ideal weather, opened up both hatches and frantically transferred everything. I am sure we looked completely ridiculous implementing this fire drill, but we executed it flawlessly…by “we” I mean “Tom,” of course. That done, we returned our first vehicle to its home, and we were finally on our way…maybe an hour or two later than we wanted to be, but hey, this is why we don’t fly — it’s too stressful!

I am pleased to report that Hood Canal was its usual breathtaking self, all snug and warm nestled beneath the the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. We cooked yummy meals. We visited with Ian and Deborah. The girls swam and swam. Tom and I watched total trash cable TV until late into the evening (one of the side benefits of not having cable at home). And, we went for a walk through a beautiful estuary, from whence these pictures came. Kingfishers plunged into the cold waters. Great Blue Herons were hunting and doing that funny head shake as they swallowed their prey. Grebes and loons were afoot.

We journeyed home on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, a trip that we had planned to terminate with a stop at the Humane Society to pick up a kitten, yet another Christmas gift for the Zs. We left in plenty of time. We made good progress on the way home…until we stopped…quite literally. An accident on the I-5 Columbia Bridge had completely halted forward progress on the freeway. So close, and yet so far. After about 30 to 45 minutes stalled, we are able to exit and make our way over to the I-205 bridge, and then we circled back to the shelter on the Portland side of the mighty river.

Upon arrival at the Humane Society, we were told that they were cleaned out of all kittens, all juvenile cats, and that they wouldn’t have any more until Memorial Day. May? Really?

What could we do but hop back in the car and race to the Multnomah County Animal Shelter? Good idea, only it was closed early for the holiday. Our plans to get a kitten and spend the last weekend of the Zs’ vacation helping it get acclimated seemed to be dashed. All of us were pretty dejected as we pointed our borrowed auto in the direction of home.

While Tom made a few wrong turns trying to get back to the city, I worked my thumbs away on my smart phone. (God how did we ever live without these things?) And, at the eleventh hour, found a recently-opened cat-only shelter in Lake Oswego called The Oregon Cat. My poor husband gamely rerouted us again and off to LO we went.

We hit the trifecta: they were still open, they had kittens, and there was enough time to go through the adoption procedure.

The rest…well, that’s really a whole other blog post!

Family Travels, Part 1

Our first trip this winter break was a quick drive to Bend for some skiing, in celebration of Zoe’s birthday. We made the journey via Zipcar and rented a two bedroom place near the slopes. It was snowy and icy on the way, but nothing horrible. The car held its own, the mountain passes weren’t too bad, we made decent time, and prepared a fabulous dinner when we arrived.

By all traditional measures, and believe me, our standards are very low, our adventure started off with a bang (the stupendous meal really put us over the top).

The next morning, it was the usual schlep to get on the slopes. (Thank God for Tom, because the three women in his life hate getting up early, even if it means we get to go ski.) It was dumping snow when we made it to Mount Bachelor, scrambling madly to get the girls to their lessons on time (Zoe took up snowboarding this go around). Of course, lots of whining ensued about the being cold, and the carrying of the gear, and the donning of the boots. But, we made it. (It always feels like an Olympic event just to get to this point.)

Shed progeny…check!

After stowing gear in lockers and prepping ourselves, Tom and I finally took to the slopes. Normally, this is a joyous time, but I was feeling more than a bit nervous since it was my first attempt at skiing post knee surgery. To be honest, I was really hoping for some easy familiar runs on well-groomed intermediate trails.

Unfortunately, my plans were thwarted at the outset since there was a nice windy blizzard brewing. Visibility sucked… really, we couldn’t see anything most places on the mountain…not signs, not the snow, not the trail. Nada. And, of course, there was tons of chewed up powder, making the day even more difficult for me!

It was a rough outing, to say the least. My knee was sore as hell, Zelda was cold and had windburn on her face, and Zoe had contracted some altitude sickness symptoms (such as a mild fever) and was pretty beat up after her first day of snowboarding (She did really well, but had a sore neck 24 hours later after taking a few spectacular spills…always on her front edge with the toe turn.)

We closed out the day wanting to document the family in the torturous winter wonderland, only to discover that our new digital camera was broken. Lovely.

Weary, we headed back to our rented home, and the kids lobbied hard to bag skiing the next day so they could sleep late and go inner tubing instead. Tom reluctantly agreed to the change of plan. (Which I was secretly happy about since my icing/hot tub regimen wasn’t really improving my unhappy joint. Ironically though, the knee protection plan took a heavy hit after my first inner tube run. Some idiot teenage boy — son of very entitled parents — followed immediately behind me instead of waiting, as he was supposed to, and knocked me over like a bowling pin the second I got out of my tube, with Tom frantically yelling, “Watch out behind you!”)

Our inflatable fun had us leaving the mountain at about 2:00 pm. That’s not too late, we figured. All things being equal, we should still get over the pass at Mount Hood by 4:30 pm…just before dark.

Then the snow came…heavy and hard. By 4:30, we found ourselves in Madras, nowhere near the pass. Night fell as we traveled through lonely reservation lands, inching toward Mount Hood, with me trying to tail close behind a semi. Much of the time, I was only 20 or 30 feet from the large truck, and I still couldn’t see it! Both of us were crawling along, feeling our way down the road. The conditions were atrocious and Tom and I were hoping and praying we weren’t going to get stuck or have to double back.

At about 6:30, as we finally arrived at the pass, the snow was easing just a bit… and visibility was improving… and a collective sigh of relief was heaved in the minivan… well, at least by the adults who were paying attention. Of course, right then, all traffic halted in both directions. A downed tree was blocking the road and a vehicle had tried to drive over it and was stuck. The drivers of the trapped cars began a mad search for someone with a chain saw. Thankfully, this being Oregon and all, it didn’t take long! A wonderful guy in his Carhartt‘s had that fir cut into rounds and cleared off to the side of the road in no time.

We rolled down the windows of our van and all thanked him soundly and roundly, in unison, as we inched by, “…Ready, 1…2…3….Thank you for clearing the tree!!!” He laughed and waved back to us.

Bike Sixty Nine