Time well spent…

With a few minor exceptions, yesterday’s activities were very close to how I’d describe spending a perfect day.

I started out in the pre-dawn darkness, the dogs happily sniffing and snorting, and running off a bit of overnight energy while I loaded the first cup of coffee onboard. Transition inside to making a simple breakfast – eggs, toast and jelly, more coffee, and scarfing it away while watching some obscure documentary and occasionally correcting the presenter on the finer points of early 1900s political life in America.

Then there was reading… and making lunch… and more reading… and then making dinner… and more reading to cap off the day.

My perch changed, depending on what room was getting “the good light” at any given time. It was too humid a day to risk the books being outdoors, so that’s maybe the one real downside of the day.

The whole effort was interspaced with ear scratches, and belly rubs, being turned into an occasional climbing post for the resident cat, or getting momentarily distracted by some of the background noise on the television and the occasional trip outside to supervise the dogs.

There were coffee drinks and whiskey drinks when I was thirsty and home cooked meals when I was hungry. There was, other than the ones I placed on myself, absolutely no demands on my time at all. For one full day, I did exactly what I wanted to do without outside interference – or thinking about what I needed to do on the next day.

It was, in a word, idyllic. It was time well spent. It was exactly how I’d spend my days if the world didn’t conspire to fill it with other, far more monotonous and far less interesting, activities.

Your lack of sleep is showing…

I haven’t been sleeping worth a damn for the last week or so. It’s not a problem falling asleep. That happens fast enough, occasionally before I even have time to reach over and flick off the lamp. It’s more a problem of staying asleep once I get there. I’m naming the direct cause(s) as a free-roaming cat, a dog that fights for every inch of bed space and another whose snores seem to be able to shake the very ground, a trip to the bathroom occasionally, and my poor sleep addled brain trying to tune it all out. It hasn’t been a winning combination for a couple of nights now.

It’s starting to bleed through into things like a marvelously reduced attention span, incredibly hostile mood (yeah, more so than usual), grumbling at dogs who are doing dog stuff, and even, I suspect, the complete shit that passes for blog posts that I’ve been planting here. Sorry about that. I don’t know that coming clean about it makes those bad posts any better, but it’s at least honest.

There are things I could do that would probably improve my quality of sleep – banish the animals and the electronics from the bedroom, cut way back on liquid consumption after dinner, and generally try to decrease aggravation from 8PM onward. None of those things feel particularly likely to happen, though, so maybe we should all just get use to expecting me to be more surly and less coherent from here on out.

An update on the herd…

Editorial Note: I stumbled on a few “Ask Me Anything” questions I got a few months ago and had completely forgotten about. Over the next week or two, I’ll do my best to work them in to the schedule.

Tonight’s AMA question comes from someone I’ll Identify as LS. LS asks, “Update on the pet situation, please! Now that the intro period is over, how are Maggie and Winston and Hershel getting along? How have you and the dogs had to adjust your routines for the cat? Is there a pecking order? How can you tell?”

Maggie, although the youngest of the two dogs, is generally the pace setter. She’s the one who most often engages the cat – although it’s not so much an effort to play as an ongoing uncertainty and fascination with the creature that has access not just to the horizontal space in the house, but also operates on the vertical axis. Her main role seems to be one of investigating all the things that go “bump” when Hershel is up and moving. By contrast, Winston is his truly ambivalent self in their interactions.

I should say that Winston is ambivalent up to a point. He’s the grand old man of the house – with arthritic joints and plates and pins holding him together, he doesn’t generally appreciate the rough and tumble moments. That hasn’t stopped Hershel from wanting to pounce and play, but his efforts are usually met with a growl or with Winston’s best impression of a charging bull. I don’t expect that’s surprising from a very senior bulldog.

For all of his innate cat tendencies, Hershel has very much assumed the role of “third dog” in the household and is often found following along behind the other two. The best example probably comes each morning when I’m leaving for work. Maggie and Winston have always gotten a treat – a peanut butter Kong or other tasty morsel – when I leave. It became such a fixture of the schedule that they sit patiently at the laundry room door until it’s disbursed. It took a few months for Hershel to catch on to the program, but now he’s sitting right along with them waiting for his. I didn’t set out to turn him doggo, but at least in some respects that’s what’s become of him.

At best, they get along like all three have been together all their lives. At worst, they tolerate each other. Generally I’ve come to the conclusion that they’ve all more or less decided that they’re part of the same pack. Mercifully, there’s been minimal adjustment to the household routine – the only exception being the baby gate that keeps the litter box from becoming an open buffet for a particularly ill-disciplined chocolate lab. The gate is a nuisance, but what it prevents is undoubtedly worth the effort.

Is there a moral to the story? Hard to say, really. Dogs and cats can apparently live together just fine. I’m sure that has as much to do with the temperament of the individual animals as it does with anything else so I won’t take any credit there. The whole lot of them are badly trained and entirely spoiled – which is 100% my fault, of course. I find, though, that each one of them is completely endearing for their own particular set of reasons and take absolutely no steps to correct their behavior in any way.

What Doesn’t Annoy Jeff this Week?

What Annoys Jeff this Week is usually the place where I vent my spleen each week. Most of the time it’s easy enough to cull the “top three” things from the list and give them each a little paragraph of exposition. Some weeks, this one included, offer what I can only describe as an embarrassment of riches. In fact this week it would be easier to discuss the few things that have not annoyed me in some way.

1. The critters. Despite the bills for care, feeding, and entertainment, I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever begrudged one of my animals anything. Regardless of the stupidity going on “out there” beyond the four walls of the house, they’re consistent in their affection and pleasure at seeing me every afternoon. Even the cat. Walking through the door to be greeted by a wave of fur and slobber is the high water mark of each and every day.

2. Living rural. Every time I switch on the television I find myself faced with an endless amount of stupid things happening. For the most part that coverage is dedicated to the things happening in major cities here at home and around the globe. Now I’m tuned in to the local news outlets closely enough to know that there’s plenty of stupidity happening in Cecil County, too. Fortunately, my little corner of the place is remarkably serene. Now there may still be plenty of stupidity happening nearby, but we have the common decency to (mostly) keep in behind closed doors.

3. Blood. You don’t get to pick your family. What you end up with seems to be mostly be left up to the luck of the draw. Let me say that knowing that, I feel like I’ve been given a very fortunate hand to play. I’m looking forward to that rare opportunity of spending some quality time with them this weekend.

If there’s anything else you can think of this week, it’s safe to just go ahead and assume that it has annoyed me at some point.

Animal kingdom…

The homestead is something of an animal kingdom. The squirrels and birds get plied with all the nuts and seeds they can eat, the resident deer get the occasional handful of corn, and all manner of morsels from the kitchen feed whatever creatures will eat them. The critters inside pretty much have the run of the place. As often as not it feels like the whole household is designed around them. Given the amount of time I spent shifting furniture yesterday that’s not quite an understatement.
Until Hershel the cat came along, George the tortoise lived happily in his open topped enclosure in the office. With the addition of a cat, who wasn’t so IMG_6401.JPGmuch interested in the tortoise as he was in jumping into and out of the enclosure and spinning ground coconut onto every flat surface in the room with every leap in and out. Between the never-ending cycle of vacuuming up coconut shell and the threat of tipping over various heat lamps, the two had to be separated.

That was easy enough in the winter – close up the doors to the sunroom/office and go on about the day. With spring setting in and inability to satisfactorily control the ambient air temperature coming to a head, George had to move… Which is why I spent most of the day yesterday getting him installed in his own bedroom. Yes, I understand how perfectly ridiculous that sounds, but I suspect we’ll all be happier with this arrangement. Well, the cat may not be as pleased since I seem to have taken away one of his favorite toys. I supposed he’ll just have to satisfy himself with other less messy options for the foreseeable future.

I’m well satisfied with out new arrangement, but perhaps more satisfied that the furniture is all back in place and the hand carts and other implements of moving are back in the garage. Around here the biggest enemies to a happy life are chaos and disorder. Spending the better part of a day bringing those to heel feels like time awfully well spent.

Work is work…

I’m still settling in to the whole idea of working from home. Not schlepping through the pre-dawn darkness to sit in a badly lit room with thirty other people doesn’t really suck. I like the view and my coworkers are appreciative of ear rubs and the occasional milkbone. Honestly it’s a whole lot of up side and not much down, at least so far.

It’s a learning process for sure and what I’ve learned this week is:

1. Dogs make the best coworkers. They’re content to find a convenient spot on the floor, preferably in the sun, and stay put until you want them for something.

2. Cats are attention-seeking little hoodlums who want to interrupt you 47 times a day. So basically, working while a cat is in residence is a lot like having actual human coworkers.

3. Happy hour begins promptly at 4:00. Getting that tasty beverage to start the evening an hour earlier is an awfully effective way to put a fork in Monday.

4. There’s something to be said for a lunch that doesn’t come out of a cooler bag / paper bag or from the hands of a sandwich artist.

5. The availability and freshness of the coffee / tea selection is way, way better. It’s hard to underestimate just how much better life is when you can fresh brew all day long.

I wish I could offer up something a little more insightful, but work is work no matter where it’s getting done. The best we can seem to hope for is improving the venue where we spend our eight hours.

Cats are jerks…

I have a morning routine. I don’t know that anyone reading this will be surprised by that factoid. Once the morning necessities are taken care of (and while my heathen animals stay comfortable in bed) the dogs go out. Then we come in and the dogs get fed and watered. Then I turn on the sunlamps and feed and water the tortoise. Then I circle back to the bathroom and put out fresh water for the cat (He gets fed at night because he seems to sleep more readily on a full stomach). Usually the cat follows me around through this entire routine. Today he didn’t. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed he wasn’t in his usual spot underfoot while I was fixing my coffee. Then I backtracked. He wasn’t scrounging for dropped dog food. He wasn’t curled up on a favored chair in the living room or sprawled across my bed.

Where he was, however, was stretched out happily in the middle of my indoor tortoise habitat, enjoying the sun lamps, and thoroughly annoying the resident tortoise. Of course that’s where my daily routine came off the rails… because now I have to close off the office, which means moving the 8-foot long, dirt-filled container holding the tortoise, because when I built it in place needing to close off the room wasn’t a consideration. After some effort, a dolly and managing not to spill the entire set up onto the floor, I was able to move it far enough to swing the door closed. The doors don’t so much lock as they “catch” closed using a tab, but I judged them secure enough that a small cat poking at the bottom of them wouldn’t be an issue.

Finally, desperately behind schedule, I was able to depart Fortress Jeff for my day job. Twenty minutes later, the alarm company calls to report “interior motion sensors are active”. I rolled the dice that finding a way to set off the motion sensors was the cat’s version of retribution for shutting him out of the office and I was not, in fact, being robbed blind only a few minutes after leaving for the day… and was proven right. Mercifully. But not before spending the entire day wondering if I shouldn’t have set a course for home at best possible speed and fearing what I’d find when I arrived.

Living with small creatures can be exhausting… and yeah, cats are jerks.