Monday, July 8, 2013

California Girl

It's been three weeks since I last posted. There has been a lot going on.

We packed our things, packed a truck, sold our house and got on an airplane with our three cats. We flew to San Francisco and put the cats in a lovely kennel facility for cats only called Mission: Cats.

Then we stayed at a Staybridge Suites in Sunnyvale. The second day we were in California, I insisted that we tour some of the houses in the "outer rim." Just to see what the areas were like. The outer rim is not in the top five areas we thought we'd be in to be "close" to Apple.

As it turns out, one of them was a big surprise. It's called Morgan Hill and it's 20 miles south of San Jose, 10 miles north of Gilroy and about 15 miles from Watsonville on the Pacific Coast. That's right -- the beach.

Morgan Hill is only 40,000 people. So it feels a lot like Urbana. MacTroll and I got a hoot out of the fact that there is a winery right across the street from the high school. Farmers are everywhere, so there's no need for a weekly farmer's market. They have stores open year round, and there's always Upick options.

We toured three houses while we were down there. Two up in the Diablo Mountains. One down in the valley on the west side of the town next to the Santa Cruz mountain range that is right next to a city park with a playground, tennis courts, a small lake, a dog park and the local Community Center which has partnered with the Y. We can walk to the grocery store. It also turns out that the Specialized bike company is headquartered there so the bike lane situation is phenomenal all around the city. There's a small downtown area about a mile and a half away with lots of independent restaurants. And driving is easy. It also turns out that Apple runs buses with Wifi down and picks up employees three times in the morning at the Caltrain terminal and then drops them off in the evening.

That was really hard to beat.

So was the fact that one of the houses we found was 14 years old and had been totally redone and kept up. It's beautiful and a lot more room. It's the most inexpensive house that we put in on (under $1m) and the largest in size. It also comes with a hot tub and a swimming pool. We put a bid in and it was accepted.

The only draw back, is that the Diablo mountains on the east side of town are home to native tarantulas. Tarantula bites are not fatal to humans. But they are creepy looking and from time to time in the fall (how appropriate for Halloween) a tarantula has been known to be seen in the yard. Morgan Hill celebrates the tarantulas with a festival and BBQ every year.

I'm not deathly afraid of arachnids. I totally appreciate what they do (eat bugs and rodents). But I don't like to look at them and I certainly don't want to go to clean the pool filter and find one hiding there (which is, according to some online research, is the female tarantula's favorite spot because she burrows).

The other thing I learned is that the native predator of the tarantulas is a giant wasp, called a Tarantula Wasp. Seriously. And if I thought the tarantula was creepy, the wasp is way worse.

It stings a tarantula repeatedly, but the venom does not kill it. Instead, it paralyzes it. Then the wasp drags it to safety and puts an egg on it. The egg hatches and the new baby wasp literally sucks the life out of the tarantula, while it's still living. However, it avoids eating any vital organs to keep the tarantula alive longer until it's able to fend for itself.

That's just nature being really quite brutal.

It also says that wasps primarily go after fat and happy, larger, female tarantulas because during mating season in the fall when the most tarantulas are exposed, the men are all bony and gross because they starve themselves while trying to find a mate.

Ain't that a load of fun? Anorexic, sex-crazed, male tarantulas.

Sorry, I digress.

We close on the new house on August 7. This week we've been in Willow Glen in a VRBO. On Thursday night we spend one night at a Kimpton Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Then we go up to spend a week on Stinson Beach north of Muir Woods. On July 19, we'll be heading down to Morgan Hill to live in an Extended Stay America Hotel.

And thus ends, Looseyfur's Midwest Adventures.

Thank you for being a part of my life for so long, and I wish you nothing but good luck and a lot of love.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Fun

MacTroll wasn't feeling very well today. Our plan (mine and X-man's) was to let him sleep in as long as he wanted. I would run out and fetch some bagels for a light breakfast, and then we'd take MacTroll to Maize to order lunch. X-man doesn't like Mexican food (he always orders a hamburger off the kiddie menu) and most places only do vegetarian with a lot of cheese, which I can't eat.

So, MacTroll got his food, and we took it home.

Then he went upstairs and fell asleep for several hours. Around 4 p.m., he came downstairs and sat on the couch watching TV with X-man. Then we went out around the neighborhood for a walk with Lily. X-man whined and fussed about how he didn't want to take a walk. About how he rides his bike too much (he doesn't ride it enough in our opinion). But we gave him the, "This isn't an option" look. And he put on his shoes and went out in the garage for his helmet and bike. As it turns out, the heavy rain last night left a giant, long puddle on one of the new streets of the new sections of our development.

We wondered around looking at the progress on the houses, while X-man rode his bike through the puddle back and forth. He had dirt and water splashed up the back of his calves, his butt and up his back. And he was laughing and laughing. I watched him as he jumped up and down splashing in the puddle in his sandals. He declared there were two kinds of mud in that puddle. The kind that washes away, and regular mud that travels in clumps.

Lily, was very confused, by his behavior. She could tell he was happy, but she was a black dog on a hot, sticky day, and she wanted nothing to do with the dirty water. She waded in it to her ankles, just deep enough to get close to X-man, who was sitting on the curb with water up to his own ankles splashing in it and touching the mud, to see what he was doing. Then when he walked out of the puddle she tried to stay between him and the puddle like she was protecting him from getting gross.

Lily is a retriever mix. But she isn't to hot on water. Mostly because the only water she's ever been in (to our knowledge) is bath water. But she hates sprinklers when we walk around the neighborhood. She runs away from the hose when I water the flowers in the backyard. So, I get that she's not a fan. But to watch her try to herd him away from the water for just a few seconds, was pretty priceless.

We have three sleeping nights left in our house. We're spending Wednesday and Thursday at the iHotel, because I think it would be sad and lonely to stay in our house when it's empty. Then on Friday at 11 a.m., we close, and drive up north. My mom is watching our dog for a few days (until the week of July 4) and the cats are flying to California with us on Saturday morning.

I've been planning for this day since January 2012. It's hard to believe it's actually here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mommy Mistakes

Tonight X-man and I made a date to go to the YMCA at 8 p.m., so that he could go down the water slide one last time before our membership expires on June 13th. I would not normally have him out that late, but it's the only time the water slide is open during the week.

He had a friend over, so I ran upstairs and grabbed him a suit and a couple towels, got changed and was ready when our neighbor came to retrieve his son.

X-man threw on his flip flops and off we went.

We got there and he went into the changing room. He asked for help. I went in to help him and pulled the suit up. It was a suit I ordered from Mini Boden one day when I was feeling splurgy.

Anyway, the suit isn't baggy like all the one's at Target. It doesn't go to his knees. It goes to mid-thigh. He freaked out. "I look like a girl!"

Apparently, only girls show thigh. I explained to him that he looked fine, but he kept trying to pull the legs down, which meant that the top part of his privates were going to be exposed. I explained that once he got in the water, no one would see him.

He was too embarrassed. We ended up driving back home, getting another suit, and driving back to the Y. By the time we got into the pool after the 20 minutes of him falling apart as to weather we should go home and get another suit or stay and use the shorter one, it was 8:45 p.m. He went down the slide once, and then they randomly closed it. The schedule said the slide would be open from 8-10 p.m.

Oh well.

We played in the water a lot. It was fun. I like going swimming with him. He wore his little green band that showed that he passed his annual swim test with pride. He showed me his awesome dives into the deep end. He timed me swimming 25 yard sprints. We tried to say words under the water and understand what the other was saying.

Then, X-man looked around at 9:15 p.m., and said. "Mom, where did everyone go?"

It was just us and two guards. "Where are the grown ups?"

It's late buddy. So at 9:30 p.m., we got out and went back home. I read him Shark Vs. Train (even though he can read it himself, he still likes me to read picture books and usually chapter books at bedtime). And he was out like a light at 10 p.m., 30 minutes past his normal "summer bedtime."

And that short, Mini Boden suit for 7-8 year olds... is totally out the door.

I really didn't mean to make him uncomfortable and embarrassed. He had one just like it when he was 4 with alligators on it that he loved. But at 7, I guess, not so much.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I'm here, I'm here!

It got pointed out to me the other day from a friend who lives far away that I have been remiss in not only sending him e-mail but also updating my blog.

Most of my life has been consumed with house hunting in California and packing up in Illinois, as well as finishing working at MMO and getting X-man done with school.

MacTroll has been in California every week in May. We've not been selected for two houses. The first one we bid on in April closed this week. The asking price was $929,000, they received $1.18 million. So, uh, yeah. The second house was a similar situation. I don't know what the money was, but we offered more than the asking price and kept in the contingency that we could pull out if it didn't appraise for as much as we were willing to pay for it. The other family withdrew that contingency. So if the house closed at $1.2 million, but it only had $900,000 worth of value, that family was willing to pay $300,000 extra at the closing. I don't know about you guys, but I don't have that kind of cash floating around...

This week though, we might have a break through. MacTroll toured a month-to-month rental home that is furnished, and the woman is sending us an application. It's also a place Lily can live while the cats are staying at Mission Cats in San Francisco. And there's a house, in a lesser "in-demand" neighborhood, still with good schools that are walkable, but groceries and shopping are not, that might fit our bill.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up about the permanent home though, because on average it takes a buyer 8-10 bids on houses before they get one...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Old Cats

My cats are old. Old enough that they're pretty set in their ways. I know that Clawdio (15) is the cat that no one sees. Luke (13) is the big, friendly guy who doesn't make eye contact. And Maya (12) will cuddle with just about anyone as long as they sit still.

Lately, when I crawl into bed at night, Clawdio has been curling up on my hips and shoulder diving into me for attention. If anyone else comes near us, he whacks them away with an open paw and a hiss, but no claws.

When I am sitting at my desk downstairs, Maya comes over stares at me. She climbs into my lap a lot and just sits there. I thought she was deciding she would be the "downstairs" cat. But now, I think she's just annoyed that I'm in her favorite chair.

Before my surgery, I got tired of moving of the kitchen table chairs back and forth to the desk, so I broke down and went to Pier One during one of their sales and got this blue flowery chair. It's probably the girliest thing I've every purchased. It was comfortable to sit in and it was 40% off with an extra 10% for getting a Pier One credit card. That's not bad.

And since then, Maya has been sleeping on it. So, if you see me walking around town with a bunch of cat hair on my behind -- it's courtesy of Maya, who would like me to very much go mow the lawn so that she can take a mid-morning snooze, now that X-man is at school on HER chair.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When You're Related to a "Monster"

In the last few months, there has been a lot of media coverage of "monsters." People who have gone out of their way to hurt other people in some really sick, violent ways.

I have to admit, I initially avoided the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt, because I didn't want it to turn into another 9/11 TV news time vortex. I don't have local or cable television at my house, because I filtered all those funds into my Internet connection. And let's face it, I can get the highlights (if not the whole telecast) online, most of the time. But I didn't want to sit in front of the ugliness, a slave to the horror. Because let's face it, you could sit in that stupor for days before the Feds were able to release any real information about the investigation. And who needs to watch TV newscasters desperate for updates repeat assumptions and incorrect news for hours at a time. It's not Scandal, I don't need that kind of drama. But over the weeks that followed, I dutifully caught the updates of the investigation.

Then the news of Ariel Castro came out. It was the same thing. The reports of the investigation got uglier and uglier.

And in both instances, loads of family members were found by news organizations as coming out as being disgusted by their relatives (brothers, daughters, uncles, etc.). They disowned them publicly. And it got me to thinking, could I ever really separate myself from my child or my sister or my best friend, even, if it turned out they weren't who I thought they were? Could I walk away from them? Publicly abandon them? Even in the face of them committed the worst kind of tortures.

I think it would break me in ways I might not be able to process. But somehow, in my own brain, I think my first instinct would be not to pick up the phone to talk to a reporter, or get in a car and drive around with the windows down acting alienated by reporters asking me questions about how I felt about my loved one being an alleged murderer. I'm pretty sure, I'd go on communications lockdown and deal only with the authorities and an attorney -- and my loved one.

I'm pretty sure, I'd keep that personal horror private -- and get a good therapist.

I get particularly emotional when I attribute that kind of scenario to the emotions of parents of violent criminals. That criminal is still someone's baby. Usually, I'll admit, it turns out that there was abuse in the family or mental illness that was left untreated. But in situations when there wasn't any of that, it's very difficult to get your brain (and heart) around the idea that something went so wrong in his life to cause him to hurt others, particularly children.

When I read the Chicago Tribune online today, there were more awful reports. A mother held her 11 year old down while her father whipped her with an electric cord for finishing all the ice cream in the house without asking. They think of it as appropriate discipline for stealing.

A mother and her boyfriend beat up a 4 year old boy to the point where both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had brain injury, lacerations on his liver and spleen, cuts up and down his legs (from nail clippers), etc.

Often, this is the kind of stuff that happens to children, to have them grow up to be the Ariel Castros of the world. Abuse is a viscous cycle.

I know sitcoms tell us otherwise, but there are families that exist that aren't emotionally close. I'm reading reports about Michelle Knight, Castro's first victim. She went to the hospital, saw her mother once, and then asked not to have any visitors. Before she was taken, she was in a custody fight over her own child, who she hasn't seen in a decade. 15 months after she was reported missing, the FBI took her off of their list, because they couldn't get in touch with Knight's mother to confirm that she was still missing. It was assumed, per ABCNews that the family thought she had run away, and since she was 20, everyone stopped looking, like she never even existed. Neglect.

It's all just so harsh, and so unhappy.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thinking about Work

I know that the first step to moving somewhere -- is actually finding a house and getting into it.

But I've been looking at wanted ads lately, and I'm having a hard time deciding what kinds of things sound good. I thought I might want to go back to school. And then I got annoyed with the thought of doing homework and writing papers in APA style.

So I started to look around. And, of course, I can find jobs varying from part-time library clerk, which only work 10-12 hours a week, to full time low paying jobs (Americorps has a literacy project going out there that looks really pretty amazing), and for more corporate kind of jobs writing, editing, communications, etc.

Then I stumbled on this odd job that I'm not even sure how to deal with. It's at Google. And it's a Social Impact Principal. It requires a lot of research to find projects that push the envelope for solving real world social problems,  and then writing reports as to why and how these social entrepreneurs are worth investing in, tracking the work they do and keeping updated profiles for each.

And I have to admit... I got a little excited. I looked at the requirements, and, of course, I've never worked for a grant giving foundation where people applied for money.

I think I may look at it again later this week. There's this voice in the back of my head that reminded me that I'm not there yet.