Saturday, January 14, 2017

Five Clean Water Causes

Last Friday city crews worked on completing the pipe replacement project under our street and interrupted the water supply for the 1952 House for eight hours. We knew ahead of time that our water supply would be turned off. We were able to make sure that the brita water filter pitcher was full and that the pets' water bowls were full before the water service disruption. We used water from our rain barrel carried into the house by the bucketful to flush the toilet. It was less than convenient, but a mercifully temporary issue. As the water level in the brita pitcher dropped, and as trips out into the freezing cold weather to the rain barrel for toilet water grew wearisome, we appreciated the imminent restored water flow.

Many of us take clean water and flushing toilets for granted. File "clean water" under things for which we should constantly express gratitude. Here are five clean water causes that I invite you to consider and possibly support.

As always, click on images to enlarge them, and roll your cursor over text to see links.

1. charity:water  is a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. You can simply donate and/or you can shop stylish items that donate profits to the cause. I may need that Votivo candle and a few t-shirts.

2. WATER is LIFE.'s mission is to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene programs. The PSA video "#FirstWorldProblems aren't real problems" is sobering. You may choose to donate to a specific project or to the cause at large.

3. was co-founded by Matt Damon (yes, that Matt Damon) and Gary White to get safe water and sanitation to millions of people all over the world. From their website:

4. Columbia Water Center's mission is to creatively tackle water challenges of a rapidly changing world where water and climate interact with food, energy, ecosystems and urbanization. These smartypants researchers, scientists and engineers sound like a good bunch.

5. Water For People 's mission is to create long-lasting water and sanitation infrastructure by talking to local community members, governments, and business owners, to find out how they live and what they need to feel healthy, safe, empowered, and successful. From their website:

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Dottie from the Block

Oh, hi. I'm lost. May I come inside, please?

Dottie showed up on our street in early to mid September. She is so charming and sweet that at least four different households were feeding her and caring for her. It became clear that she was a well-socialized cat when she repeatedly tried to run into different neighbors’ houses. A Good Samaritan took her to Austin Animal Center, thinking that she would find her owner there or get adopted. Dottie was not claimed during the 72 hour hold period. Under a new program at Austin Animal Center, she was spayed, vaccinated, had her ear tipped, and was returned to our street in mid-October. 

Our street is under major road construction right now with a lot of heavy machinery moving around all day. Neighbors and I were worried about Dottie getting run over, or encountering a coyote as we are very near a long creek where coyotes roam. All the neighbors caring for her, myself included, have too many pets already to keep her. Neighbors suspect that Dottie was abandoned after a wave of five different houses on our short street turned over renters/owners. I hate to think that, because she is so sweet and affectionate. I posted “found cat” on three different Facebook groups for lost & found pets in Austin and on Nextdoor for South Allandale. I let Austin Animal Center know I had the cat (identifying her with her A identification number from the program) and posted to their “found” files. I put flyers all over our neighborhood, at five area vet offices and at three pet supply stores. No one claimed this super-sweet, social cat.

Dottie after her ear-tip and some plumping-up

She has lived inside the 1952 House since October 21. Dottie loves to curl up in a warm lap to watch Netflix, especially old episodes of Friends. She is very playful and enjoys chasing a ribbon toy or the red dot of a laser pointer. Dottie can be a bit naughty sometimes. She likes to jump into unattended drawers or cabinets, and rearrange the contents. It’s pretty cute even as she plunders your sock drawer.  She is a connoisseur of boxes: if she fits, she sits. Dottie might like a mellow canine roommate, but she does not like other cats. She will thrive in a home with older children or adults. She is spayed and vaccinated. Dottie uses the litter box every time like a pro. She will curl up on the bed next to you to sleep.

Chad and I love Dottie. We already have three cats, two of whom Dottie dislikes intensely, and a big dog, in whom Dottie expresses polite interest. We can't keep her. Dottie is getting very lonely living in our extra room all by herself twenty-one hours a day. I can only spare so many hours a day to hang out with her.

Dottie will enter Austin Animal Center on January 20 for adoption, unless I can find a great home for her first. I've tried lots of other venues including Facebook, Austin Pets Alive's Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender program which referred us to Austin Animal Center, Austin Humane Society's adoption program which said Dottie is not a good fit for their busy shelter due to her dislike of other cats, Twitter, Instagram and word of mouth. I'm posting sweet Dottie to the blog again. If you live in the Austin area and might be interested in adopting Dottie, please leave a comment. Please share if you think a friend or family member in the Austin area might be interested in adopting Dottie. 

Dottie's glamour shot pose

Friday, December 30, 2016

Five Resolutions for 2017

There are years I cling to for all their great memories and moments. Then there are years like 2016. Bye! Time to go! Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you! Or do. I don't care. You kind of deserve it.

Moving on! Here are my top five resolutions for 2017.

Chad and I continue to get the hang of the whole vegan lifestyle thing each day. We are not perfect. We cheat sometimes in social or travel situations with a bit of dairy, but still keep it strictly vegetarian. My goal for 2017 is to more fully embrace the vegan lifestyle. This includes cooking more. I have eight, count them eight!, vegan and vegan-friendly cookbooks. I need to flag some of the best looking recipes to cook. I also need to be better at scoping out vegan-friendly restaurants when traveling.

As tempting as I find staying home with my pets, books and Netflix, I acknowledge the need to keep traveling, and expanding my horizons and experiences. I booked a fun party weekend in Houston at the Four Seasons Hotel for early spring compliments of a silent auction gift certificate. Chad and I are currently researching our annual big vacation for either Acadia National Park in Maine, Michigan's Upper Peninsula or Asheville, North Carolina. (International travel isn't in the budget this year due to a cranky, unpredictable air conditioning unit.)

Travel to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, Acadia National Park in Maine or Asheville, NC.

Exercise plays an important part in my mental and physical health. I continue to work it out at small group training twice weekly with an emphasis on isometric weight bearing exercises and TRX Suspension Training. I love long walks in the moonlight. I found and joined a new gym after my old gym closed in 2016. My schedule is built around incorporating exercise in 2017.

Writing and performing a story for Testify ATX was one of the hardest things I've ever completed. It was also one of the most rewarding things I've ever completed. I resolve to write, and hopefully be chosen to perform, an original true story in 2017.

My second grade teacher told me that I should be a writer when I grew up, because I wrote a story about a tiger sneaking into my yard at night and jumping on my trampoline. Mrs. Holloway thought that my story showed great creativity. I currently write one short story each year for submission to a couple of short story writing contests. (I've never had a complete story published as result of these contests, but one of my story titles was recognized for creativity and generating curiosity. The title that The Austin Chronicle liked well enough to call out was "God Drives a Texas-Tough Ram Truck".) In 2017 I resolve to write at least ten short stories with a minimum of 2500 words each. I may not have the creative juice for a novel yet, but I'll never get there if I'm not more disciplined in my writing practice. 

drawing that accompanied the story I wrote about a sneaky tiger on my trampoline

Monday, December 19, 2016

Being Basic and Loving It

Urban Dictionary: Basic

I went to visit my sister and her sweet husband and seven (yes, seven!) children last week. My sister, her husband and each of the children are unique, intelligent individuals. However, on the surface, a shallow observer might think that their lifestyle out in the far-flung suburbs is not cosmopolitan or sophisticated. The shallow observer might use the dreaded "B" word -- that's right, BASIC. That shallow observer would be a jerk, but let's roll with this assumption for a second.

Last week my thirteen year old niece, my sister and I sat in their beat-to-heck, crumb-covered, well-loved, hail-damaged mini-van in the Target parking lot while listening to Christmas music on the radio and eating three different kinds chocolate candies out of the bags. Self-consciously surveying the scene, I thought to myself, "I am being real basic right now. I'm not mad about it."

Quiet that inner voice that urges you to always be an influencer, sophisticated, ground-breaking or Instagram-worthy. Appreciate the sweetness of a simple moment of pleasure. Because constantly judging yourself or others, that's really BASIC. *gasp*

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Five Cool Things to Watch According to My Nieces & Nephews

This week I made a quick trip to visit seven of my ten nieces and nephews. They performed a recital playing guitar, piano, violin and bells. Ages three up through sixteen, each played in at least one song. My sister and her husband have instilled a wonderful love of music in these children. I'm so proud of them. The kids were eager to share their favorite musicians and their favorite television shows with me while I was there. Here are five things the cool kids are watching.

1. The Piano Guys YouTube videos: The older five children (of seven) got to see The Piano Guys live in concert recently. They loved the experience. These guys are super-talented and creative. You might easily lose a few hours watching their videos.

2. Lindsey Stirling YouTube videos: Ella, age eight, and Jane, age five, play violin. Ella is obsessed with Lindsey Stirling, a modern dancing violinist. She got to see Lindsey Stirling in concert this past year. The videos are a visual spectacle.

3. Jessie on Netflix: This show. I can't even. My nieces and nephews think that I look JUST LIKE Jessie, because I have reddish hair and wear eye makeup. Not even. Jessie is from Texas, making her way in the big apple as a nanny. I have lived in Texas most of my life. I have spent some time in New York City. That's where the comparisons end.

4. 2 Cellos YouTube videos: These guys are ridiculously talented with their classical instrument renditions of modern popular songs. I can only watch one of their videos at a time before it starts sounding screechy to my tender ears, but they are impressive.

5. The Twilight Zone on Netflix: Yes, the old show from 1959. The kids find it eery and creepy in a non-threatening way. I loved this show when I was a kid too. I enjoy The Twilight Zone as an adult, but more for the nostalgia, and less for the sci-fi twists.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Five Christmas Songs I Don't Hate

Because I worked in retail most of my life, I heard way too many Christmas songs for way too long each year. There are actually a few Christmas songs that don't make me want to jam earplugs into my ears or run away quietly hoping no one notices my absence until the song (or the holiday season) is over.

1. "Carol of the Bells" reminds me of being in handbell choir at the giant church my family attended during my elementary school years. I loved playing handbells, wearing the white gloves and working collectively to make beautiful music. This was my favorite song I ever played in handbell choir, and continues to be my favorite Christmas song.

2. "This Christmas", but only the original sung by Donny Hathaway. Seriously.

3. "What Christmas Means to Me" as sung by Stevie Wonder makes me do a tiny happy-dance. When I worked at Old Navy, this was one of the few songs that made me feel okay to be at work during the holiday season.

4. "Feliz Navidad" by José Feliciano: Who doesn't love this song? We won't be friends if you don't like this song. But, hey, you do you.

5. "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney & Wings: Although this song was recorded in 1979, it sounds delightfully 80s and lovably twee.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Five Fave Photos of Marigold: In Memorium

On Wednesday Chad and I lied to Marigold. We told her we were taking her to a sleepover where she could have all the cigarette butts and queso she wanted. (Marigold loved smokers, gravitating to them when they visited our home to lick their fingers.  She loved to find an ashtray or a cigarette butt to lick. Charming, huh? Marigold also loved queso. She missed it terribly when Chad and I went mostly vegan.) We actually took Marigold to our faithful veterinarian, and had her euthanized. She was nineteen and a half years old. That is an exceptionally long life for a Persian cat.

Marigold's use of her back legs declined steadily over the past two years. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I found a hard, swollen mass on half of her bottom jaw. I knew at that moment it was time to make the appointment to euthanize her. She went out dramatically with sass, yowling and hissing right up until the very end. She always hated trips to the veterinarian. We thought about hiring a mobile vet to euthanize Marigold in our home, but I suspected it would be traumatic for our other resident pets to witness.

I spent Thursday scrubbing her yucky orange sneeze marks off the walls and baseboards in her favorite spots. I cried a bit. I vacuumed her long fur from her spot on the sofa, her favorite corner of the living room rug and her cubby in the bottom of the bedroom closet. Chad and I will be lint-rolling her fur off of our clothes and furniture for many years to come. Marigold's fur seemingly regenerates and multiplies, and will serve as a reminder of her long and sassy life.

Marigold's tongue was usually sticking out at all of us

Marigold after a bath

Marigold's favorite spot on the sofa

Marigold exploring the deck

Marigold tried to recruit the tiny foster kittens as her minions