I'm not an animal person. Do you hear me universe? I'm not. But right now, I have cat love like I can't believe.

I started feeding a feral cat last fall and eventually named her Annie (Anakin/Annicken). I had a hard time saying that she was "my" cat--rather, I shared my backyard with her and made sure that she had something to eat twice a day. I knew I probably needed to get her fixed, but it took me awhile to gain her trust--and then I got sick for the first two months of the semester (whooping cough, if you can believe it). Anyway, I borrowed a cat trap and a cat carrier, but had no luck catching Annie.

Five weeks ago, I returned from a snowshoeing trip to find Annie missing. The next morning, I discovered her hiding place . . . and the five kittens she had given birth to the day before.

I've watched these kittens grow, played with them several times every day, worried about their health, and I'm trying to find good homes for them.

And, let me say it, I love these kittens. They each have their own personality and charm. They are terribly amusing in the mornings as they chase each other, play fight, jump up and down, and try to climb up my legs.

I love Frankie, who has chosen my friend Bo to live with. Frankie is adventurous and chubby, an adorable fur ball who has one of the most intelligent kitty faces ever.

I love Lucky Boots, who has chosen 7 year old Josie as her owner. Boots, too, has a charming face--and her white markings make her a very striking kitty. She's also very playful and is often the instigator of trouble.

I love Thunder, who is the shyest of the bunch. I've been trying to pay extra attention to him, to make sure that he feels comfortable around people. He's been quite the player himself the last few days, and he's a great cuddler--but he still hides from me sometimes.

I love Flash, who is independent and a little standoffish. But Flash has this great face with a half white nose--and faint calico markings. Flash is going to be a beautiful cat--and she's such an interesting cat already.

And I even love Stripes with his loud meows and attention grabbing ways. He's fattening up and is quite mischievous, but he still loves to be held.

Kittens
Kittens

Most of all, I love Annie. She has mellowed a lot over the last few weeks. She's been really protective of her kittens and changed nests a few times, trying to find the best place for them. She's become more and more affectionate--and I love that she has actually let a number of my friends pet her.

Annie
Annie

This past Spring Break will always be the Spring Break of kittens. In less than three weeks, these kittens will be weaned and ready for new homes. I hope to find owners who love them even more than I do.

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I promised myself that I'd go snowshoeing this year. I really enjoyed trying it last year and wanted to go on a "real" snowshoeing trek. My friend John belongs to a hiking meet up group and invited me to go along on their snowshoeing trek a week ago. Their destination was Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove, a group of redwoods near the entrance in the Oakhurst/Coarsegold area. I knew the trek would be more strenuous than I could probably handle, but I felt like it was my last opportunity to fulfill my goal this winter, so I decided to go with John, Doug, and the group.

I was really glad I did. For one thing, I got to see scenery like this:

I also got to hang out with the always fun Doug and John.

Most importantly, I pushed my body to its limits and managed to snowshoe for 8 miles, half uphill and the last half, gloriously, downhill.

I was exhausted at the end . . . and yet the next day my body felt mostly fine. We can handle more than we think we can. We can do more than we anticipate. We are rewarded when we try new things and push through our fears and/or limitations.

Lesson learned.

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For the last seven months I haven't had any kind of television service: no cable, no satellite, no antenna. When I turn the television on, all I can see is gray snow. It started out as a budgetary measure. I didn't receive a full paycheck for a number of months after I returned from Norway, so I cut out things that weren't necessary: television, a gardener, a cell phone (for a month). I learned quite quickly that I could live just fine without a gardener. I actually enjoy mowing my lawn and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I'm done. Television was a little more difficult to abandon.

However, in the age of the internet, hulu, and netflix, it isn't really necessary to forgo T.V. I still have series that I follow, and I've even discovered some new shows through hulu (Glee, Dead Like Me, V). I'm still totally hooked on Dexter, which I view on Netflix (although I hate being a season behind).

But there are some things I miss: the Food Network, Top Chef, Project Runway. I get a little mesmerized by television when I visit friends . . . and these are the shows/networks that I want to watch. Still, when I was in Utah visiting my parents who have cable, I didn't turn the television on very much at all.

So this is what I've found out. I don't need to spend money on cable or satellite. There are plenty of things I can watch without it. Also, and more importantly, I've found other things I can do with my time. I like that I'm not so glued to the television when I'm home. I listen to music more frequently, read, go out with friends, or obsessively check Facebook (okay, that's my next frontier for self-discipline).

I miss television . . . but not very much.

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I know, I know. I've gone totally AWOL over the last month. What can I say except that I've been really busy and productive in other ways.

For now, let me fill in the gaps briefly:

Life is an adventure.

Teaching is a really satisfying career.

Diigo and all the other techie stuff I've been learning about rock.

Ask me to tell you a story--that's what I'm working on right now.

That will have to do for now. Two more days of teaching. Big projects to grade. I'll be back when I'm either done with grading . . . or when I'm avoiding grading. ūüėČ

2

A couple of years ago I was visiting San Francisco and happened upon several artists showing their work in Union Square. There was one woodcut I just couldn't get out of my head, "Transplant" by Bridget Henry, a Santa Cruz based artist. Over a period of about nine months, I sent her regular payments until finally I'd paid off my "art on layaway." My friend Sam and I drove to Santa Cruz to pick up the woodcut one weekend when we were going to a play in San Juan Bautista (at El Teatro Campesino).

I still love the piece. I moved on average every three years when I was growing up. Frequently, I went through the process of putting down new roots in a seemingly barren place. Usually I flourished, but the beginnings sometimes produced anxiety. This woodcut reminds me of who I am. I still sometimes experience that delicate feeling of starting new growth with hopes for a healthy, strong, happy future.

Yesterday I received an invitation to the Santa Cruz Open Studios 2007 tour (October 6, 7, 13, 14) which will include Bridget's studio. For more information, check out Bridget's website under events. If you're near Santa Cruz, you should drop by to see more work by this talented artist!

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10 years ago I was desperately unhappy, so unhappy that I wasn't sure I could ever feel anything positive again.

I love life, how it moves in such unexpected directions. The ups, the downs, the cycles. And I love that I'm in such a satisfying and joyful space right now.

Do you remember those cartoons from the 70's? Happiness is . . . being me.

Sometimes the simplest things can transform your life. Long, long ago, I ended up giving my favorite desk chair to someone (long story). For years afterwards, I used an old dining room chair which was never comfortable. I eventually realized that I was sitting on the edge of the chair when I worked on the computer--in other words, my back had no support. Finally, a few months ago, I bought a nice desk chair. It's really comfortable except for one thing: the desk chair arms don't allow me to push my chair underneath my desk. So I've STILL been sitting at the edge of my chair with no back support. Just now, J. came into my office and suggested that I push my computer monitor forward on my desk (along with the mouse)--and I'm now typing at my desk like a normal person. Just like that, my work life has improved exponentially.

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Two years ago as the pile of final projects and finals grew, my desire to grade plummeted.  My friends Rick and Karen knew that I sometimes daydreamed about buying a new house.  One night, they told me about an open house they'd just attended and encouraged me to look at the house.  When they first suggested it, I didn't really consider looking at the house. After all, I lived in a perfectly fine home.  It had its limitations, true, but there was a lot to love about
the house. With the help of family and friends, I'd managed to transform it into a more than livable space. The mint green shag carpet was gone.  The walls were painted with colors I liked. The bathroom had new tile. I'd even grown fond of the quirky chandeliers in the breakfast nook and kitchen.  Sure, I shared a driveway with my neighbors (which I hated) and my kitchen was small. Yes, the roof worried me . . . but I loved the sago palm (that someone once tried to steal, planning
to make off carrying a 6 ft. tall plant on his bike until my neighbor busted him), the plants, the location.

Still, as my grading loomed, I started looking at the MLS listings, noticing all the other cute homes in the neighborhood.  It was a beautiful day, and the last thing I wanted to do was stay indoors with my grading.  In a moment of weakness, I called a realtor and . . . to make a long story short, I put a bid on a house.  Just like that.  I didn't end up buying that particular house, but a week later I put a bid on another house . . . the house I live in today.  I don't remember if I'd finished grading by that time . . . or if that decision, too, was influenced by grading avoidance.  All I know is that every semester when the projects come in, I think about where I live.

And to my students who are reading this . . . this semester, I'm actually too busy to avoid grading.  You shouldn't interpret this blog entry as being in any way influenced by grading avoidance. It has taken me all of 20 minutes to write this. And I'm returning to my pile of grading right now. Really.