Thursday, January 19, 2017

Goodnight to My Sweet Zee Zee Girl

When we had to let go of our dear boy Monty last May, I never would have thought that we'd be doing the same with Zoe eight months later. Throughout the bulk of her life, Zoe was the epitome of health and energy. People often mistook her for a youngster even in her golden years. Being thirteen - fourteen - fifteen didn't stop her from pouncing all over the couch or taking running leaps from the step between our dining and living room during her hyperactive races through the house.

I first met the spazzy little ring-tailed lemur when I was 24. She came from the family of some friends who happened to have 3 pregnant cats at once. I can remember visiting after the litters arrived and it was like a kitten amusement park. There were stumbly fluffballs everywhere. Zoe stood out from the pack because every time I picked her up, she instantly started to purr. When she was 6 months old, I asked to bring her home to my little studio apartment and lonely cat, Monty.

From day one, she was a sweetheart. And a saint for putting up with Monty, who was about twice her size (probably three-times at his height) and hell-bent on asserting his dominance over her (read: beating her up). The bully at her bedside didn't ever stop her from being upbeat and ready to snuggle at any time.

Her signature move was to get so over-sensitized when she was rubbing her head all over your pantlegs, that she'd blow up like a bottle brush. It was like her joy overwhelmed her hair follicles and made them all stand on end.

She also had this knack for sneaking into chairs where you were sitting. "I'm so tiny, you'll barely notice I'm here."

She was always consistent. Highly predictable. Filled with nothing but love and affection.

Because I adopted her a little later in her kitten life, she also had a sense for adventure that Monty never seemed to share. On more than one occasion, Zoe snuck out the kitchen door here and went on safari through the yard. Once she got out when we were in Santa Barbara for several hours—we came home to find her obediently sitting on the porch. Apparently she'd covered all the ground she needed to cover and was ready to get back to her cozy couch. I think she slept for five hours straight when we let her back inside. 

In spite of the fact that her big brother was a bully, she really seemed to take a turn after his death. She was more anxious without him and small health issues seemed to quickly balloon once he was gone. In September, we found out Zoe had a mass on her bladder and because of her relatively advanced age we decided not to put her through any sort of surgery or treatment for it.

Giving her a kitten during her final time here may not have been a fulfillment of her long-held dreams, but she seemed to at least somewhat enjoy the company of another feline during the last couple months. She and Ollie spent many afternoons curled up on the couch near each other.

Even though she'd been in less than great shape for awhile, it feels strange in our house without her. It feels like, at any moment, she could race out of the hallway door at top speed and launch herself off the dining room step to greet us with head rubs and her bottle brush tail.

I hope she's on safari in cat heaven right now. She deserves and eternity of adventure and joy after all the joy she brought to us. We'll miss our little Zee Zee so very much.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dirt Pushing, Barn Raising, and Mid-Life Crisising

Our lower backyard feels like the perfect metaphor for our lives right now: A vast swath of loosely executed, bare bones possibilities. It feels a lot like the headspace Mr. W and I seem to be sharing about our next big life endeavors. Where should we focus? On wine? On writing? On coaching? On opening a coffee shop or launching an app? On kitten rearing? We've spent a lot of time staring blankly at one another across dinner tables and bed pillows lately.

I'm hoping that maybe, if we're lucky, our next big dreams will take shape in tandem with our wily back acreage.

Just as I've been devoting time to self-help books and journal entries to begin carving out the foundation for my next move, Mr. W has been tearing out old groundcover and grading dirt to start reinventing our yard.

I think he's having more fun than I am. I mean, look at that grin. Only a tractor could bring that puppy out, I think.

He worked for days carving out the framework for steps that will lead from our back patio down to the meadow we hope to turn into a relaxing retreat and garden. Thankfully, the much needed rain didn't wash the steps away.

Here's a reminder of what it looked like before:

The slope (which will ultimately hold grenache and maybe some viognier and syrah grapevines) is now pretty much a nice, clean, blank slate.

Everything that was on the slope is piled up in nice, big, dirty blobs of mud and iceplant and debris.

We're nowhere near having the lovely, structured yard we want, but we're making progress.

I never wrote about it, but we also got the agrarian needle moving a bit when we assembled a storage shed in the lower yard back in August. The instructions for the thing make it sound like such a breeze—5 Steps to a Completed Mini Barn.

It was more like 38 steps. Mr. W had to assemble a bunch of individual panels to build each of the 4 walls. Then he and I had to carry them down to the lower yard (they weren't light, lemme tellya). And then we had to unleash our inner Amish farmers to lift the walls and get them bolted together securely—at perfect 90° angles—so that we could attach the roof....which Mr. W did using semi-superhuman strength while I fretted and yelped from the top of a ladder (not really doing anything to genuinely help the process).

When it was all finished, I'm pretty sure I renounced my Amishness as fast as possible and went inside to get a beer...

So that's where things stand with the next big piece of this whole attempt at living the wine country dream life business. Hoping that many future blog posts will include charming and painless recounts about how easily all the rest of it comes together. In parallel with how effortlessly the two of us figure out our middle-aged lives... 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Couple of Midcentury Makeovers

It occurred to me while typing the title of this post that Mr. W and I aren't all that far off from being "midcentury" ourselves. Eesh. Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were dreaming up our ideal midcentury-style house in the wine country and now we've owned this place for four years.

Speaking of which—when we first purchased it and were coming up to work on it on the weekends, we bought a $20 IKEA coffee table to tide us over until we moved our real furniture. That terrible little laminate table survived even after we brought our Hollywood belongings, and in the corner it sat for three whole years, bowing slightly under the weight of the TV, stereo, and various other media components.

Sometimes I would catch myself sneering at it in disgust. It was never anything but faithful to me, and yet, I loathed that cheapie coffee table.

Mr. W promised to build me a custom media console...but he had about 850,000 other projects ahead of it. And then we got a kitten. And the kitten took to climbing behind Ugly IKEA Coffee Table and chewing on all the cords to our various viewing system boxes.

Thus began my renewed crusade to get something else in the corner of my living room.

Mr. W went to work in Sketchup as he likes to do, and drafted some plans...

Execution proved a smidge difficult, as after he applied walnut wood veneer to one side of the actual construction wood, it warped a bit. So I was called into the garage to stand on the wood while he screwed it together. Ah, the life of a DIYer's wife...

Thankfully, he was able to get everything together right and after a couple short weeks, we had an amazing, very authentic-looking midcentury-esque piece of furniture to take the place of Sad, Sad IKEA Coffee Table.

Of course, once the TV was mounted to the wall, I had a funny empty spot next to it that felt like it needed a something sparkly. Not like glitter on a stripper sparkly, but like 1960s starburst clock sparkly—only, without the $100+ price tag. Instead, for a mere $15 at Target I was able to construct my own makeshift burst mirror.

Not wanting to be shown up by Mr. W's redecorating skills, I decided I would also recover the cushions on the cute midcentury chair that sits across from the TV stand. The cover it came with was in ok shape when we first bought it last year...

But after many tooshes smooshing its surface, the fabric finally began to split. So I headed to Joann's, watched some videos on YouTube, and undertook my very first reupholstering project with piping.

I got the job done, but there was an inordinate amount of cursing involved. I may have also punched the sewing machine a few times. Not in like a Fonzie "Eeeeyyy this'll make it start working for me" way but like an "I hate you and want to smash you until you're dead" kind of way... It took a lot of stamina and a lot of wine to get the project done. But I did it and although it's not perfect, it looks just fine. At least that's what the cats keep telling me...