Monday, February 17, 2014

Spoiler alerts with Olympic Proportions

Ah, the thrill of having the Olympics in a foreign, exotic locale - a new take on the Opening Ceremonies, seeing the country's dictator for life, I mean, um, president, creepily kiss a 15 year old girl,
New darling: Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia's figure skating team is greeted Russia's President Vladimir Putin
wondering how many skiers are going to break their necks on melting snow (prompting Sally Jenkins to suggest the logo should be a stretcher)...Ah, Olympics held in different places from America are awesome...

Except for the time delay. Which is the most common complaint about the Olympics. Because it leads to people finding out results before THEY wanted to find out results. Witness Ms. Moyer's comment in the following: "Thanks to The Post for ruining my evening ritual."

Cry me a river lady. Go to another website for your weather. Bookmark WaPo's weather site. Go to the VDOT site for traffic or download Waze for your phone.

News is by its very definition "new." In French, it is "les nouvelles." It does not mean 12 hours old because you've DVR'ed it and you don't want to know because it will ruin your enjoyment of the sport. Would you like them to stop publishing pictures of dying children in Syria as well because it bothers you while eating breakfast? (Actually, they probably don't publish enough of those.)

In case you've missed the last 20 years since the Internet changed the news industry, newspaper websites need to be up to date otherwise people won't go there! It's called business.

On Saturday morning, my Facebook feed was full of friends talking about the US/Russian hockey results. I couldn't avoid it, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy watching some of the game later. If you don't want to know Olympic results, DON'T GO ON THE INTERNET. But if the Washington Post ruined your night because you found out about the halfpipe results too early, then your life is way TOO easy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's a Snow Day But Claire Gave Me Homework

Given this LOVELY snow day, Claire at has tasked 11 of her fellow blogging friends with 11 questions. I would grumble but this is kinda fun & a good way to get to know each other. And let's face it, Iron Bridge is closed. :( Bloggers often stick to their comfort zones in their subject matters, so this is a little injection of variety!

1. What advice would you give your brand new blogging self now?

This one is EASY. I said it to my husband recently. Not every post has to be long & in depth. Keep it simple, stupid! The KISS methodology of life!

2. What four words would you say to your 18 year old self?
I have 2 - Ask people about themselves & Choose your words carefully.

3. What three things do you think define you as either a Brit or American?
1- As an American, I am a cultural mutt & my family doesn't really have any traditions. Like at Christmas, we get a tree & put presents under it. But it's pretty plain vanilla.
2- I am loud. I am definitely that girl at the bar whose laugh rings out.
3- I used to think this country was the greatest - our freedoms are so great. But lately, I don't believe that anymore and I hate the arrogance of Americans.

4. Which TV show character are you and why?

Bernadette from the Big Bang Theory

Luke picked her. According to him, she's smart, she says what she believes, she's chesty and she's a good yeller. 

5. Apocalypse Now or Mary Poppins?
BOTH! Really! Here's why: On our first date, Luke & I discovered that BOTH of us had written papers on Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

The story is that Francis Ford Coppola did not credit Joseph Conrad's book about the Congo for the inspiration for Apocalypse Now. The journey of Martin Sheen is so lifted from Conrad's story and the original didn't give any homage to the book. What were the chances of Luke & me writing about this? Spooky coincidence.

But totally Mary Poppins too! Julie Andrews was my idol as a child with her reddish hair and her singing chops. I had dreams of being her when I grew up! And Mary Poppins was the FIRST musical I saw on Broadway. The Little Mermaid was supposed to be the first, but as we were on the train to New York Penn, I called my parents. They said, Aren't you going to be late for the show? I said, No, the show's tonight. They went back & looked at their email - I had bought matinee tickets! CRISIS!

Did you know that kids under 5 years old cannot go to Broadway shows with a few exceptions? Luckily, Mary Poppins had recently opened and being a Disney show, Lil was able to attend. Wow, that was a nerve-wracking phone call from a train!

6. Are white lies okay to tell? Please elaborate!
I have to admit, yessss sometimes. Telling a person they look OK when they don' when you know they're having a bad day. Or when someone asks you if you think they're fat...the answer is ALWAYS NO!

7. Whether you are a parent or not, what are the three most important things about raising a child?
1- Encourage children to take risks by giving them tools to assess the level of risk.
2- Knowing their "tell" - like when they're lying to you.
3- Being open & honest with them. I don't hide news from my daughter. I showed her the 9/11 videos of the planes in the WTC when she was 7 although I did tell her not to talk about it with her friends. She asked some questions and the only way to answer was to show her. I don't turn off the news when she comes in, except in abjectly horrible cases of sexual violence. When the shooting at the mall happened, we told her the truth. (Also, the nonstop hovering of helicopters & police presence around our house required it.) We don't dwell on it, but we don't hide it.

8. Favourite swear word and why?

I say s*it a lot. The F-word gets dropped a lot too. I swear a lot actually. But the F word is more crass IMHO so I try to limit that one. Oddly enough, the kiddo actually thinks "jerk" and "stupid" are bad words, so I'm obviously not influencing her that way.

9. If you could have one super power what would it be?

I'm torn. Matching socks would be awesome. But flying would be great so that I don't get jet lag when I travel across the pond.

10. Worst holiday experience ever.

I can't be completely honest about I'll pick something else. Luke promised me snow at his childhood home in Hallstead, Pennsylvania for Christmas in 1998. Turned out that it was snowing here. And Christmas Eve is really important to me...I have a huge family so we've always celebrated both Xmas Eve & Day. Luke's family is tiny & they don't really do anything on Xmas Eve. I was really sad. Obviously, that was the LAST Christmas we ever traveled to Hallstead. We do sometimes go to Pennsylvania to my cousin's house on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Officials, from left, Adams County Commissioner Marty Qually, Seminary Ridge Museum Director Barbara Franco, Seminary Ridge Preservation Association
See the white house in the back? And that's my cousin's husband second from the right. They live there on Seminary Ridge. When it's snowy, it is quite haunting to behold the desolate battlefield where so many lost their lives. One can't help but feeling the presence of ghosts.

11. Elevator pitch to the Huffington Post, no more than 30 words, for your blog….. 

Well, I'd start with my title! Kirstycat's Meow and sometimes Growl! Insights into the quirks of life in the richest county in the US, helping to build the Howard County blogging community and spreading the word about local happenings with an eye to the greater Mid-Atlantic area.

Now for my 11 questions & my 11 blogs:

1. What famous person would you be thrilled to find out reads your blog?
2. What famous person would you be flabbergasted/furious to find out reads your blog?
3. What scares you the most about getting old?
4. What physical infirmity or deformity makes you most uncomfortable and why? (I think mine is the smoker in the anti-smoking commercial I just saw.)
5. What lie from your childhood that your parents told you is the most memorable and/or scarring?
6. If you could make one law for your state/city/country, what would it be and why?
7. What was your best job ever?
8. Who is your longest friend? What has kept you together?
9. What relative that died before you got to know them would you most want to know?
10. What is your guilty pleasure? (Please keep it G-rated!)
11. If money were no object, where would you travel?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Yelp Reviewer from a fellow diner

I believe we were the family that was planning our vacation to Europe recently that caused you to leave for “Chinese down the road.”

Yes, we had our iPads out & our guidebooks out. We were getting together with my parents & discussing what they’d like to do. And we were investigating side trips.

Have you never gone to a business lunch or dinner? When you discussed strategy for an acquisition? When you discussed goals for the year? Have you gone out for dinner or drinks with a friend who just became single? Or had a friend thinking about divorce after her hubby cheated on her? Or celebrated a promotion for a friend who worked so hard? Have you ever
sat next to a birthday party?

Vacation planning is not allowed? I’m sorry that we did not confine ourselves to the library to do so. (Actually I’m not sorry.) Instead, we met up at our favorite wine bar and the talk turned to our upcoming trip that is still open-ended. And yes, we’re so excited that we checked our phone/tablets to answer questions & plan our routes.

Maybe you should type up a list of topics that are acceptable to you and hand them out to your nearby seatmates.

But this begs the question – why were you caught up in our conversation? Could you not converse on topics you found interesting with your party?

From my recollection, though, you were upset to be sat at the common table and you hadn’t reserved in advance enough to get a regular table.

We were glad you left, because another party came. And they embraced the friendliness of the common table.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Tail of Two Kitties

Chippa - Sept 2013
Chippa doesn't look like this anymore. In the last few weeks, she has lost what seems like half her body weight. She was more than 13 lbs at her heaviest. She's always had short legs and had a big tummy so she had a Corgi like stature. It's rather hard to tell in this picture but she's a beautiful black & brown tabby. And we did not refer to her as fat, but "phat." 
We rescued a cute little male kitten from a feral rescue group in 2000. This kitten was not feral, though; the domestic mom had a fun night out and returned preggers. We liked the colors and he was pretty playful. We thought he'd be a good addition to my 2 year old Mischka's social life (not THAT social, you cheeky monkey!). Mischka was my first own-my-own cat and we thought she needed a pal. In general, I like male cats & I grew up with 2 male tabbies and was looking for that kind of cat.
The feral rescue group didn't offer spay/neutering services, so we dropped Chipwich (so named because of the chocolate chips on his tummy) off at Dunloggin to be neutered a few days later. For some reason, we were both at home - maybe a holiday, I can't remember...and the phone rang and it was the vet tech. 
Press pause for a second - Luke's college roommate had just gotten a dog & she didn't make it through the spaying surgery. 

I listen for a moment and say, "What? Really? Oh, yes, go ahead." I hang up & Luke is nearly jumping on me wanting to know what the call was about. "The vet just wanted to know if because it's a girl, we wanted to go ahead with spaying her." So Chipwich became Chippawich and since that sounded dumb, it just became Chippa. 
Chippa was the MOST fun kitten. At the time, we had a huge computer monitor and we played Roller Coaster Tycoon. Chippa would hop up on the desk & bat at the moving roller coasters on the screen. It was super cute. When the printer would rev up, she would run to it and swipe her little striped paw at the feeder. She had a big green top with a swinging catnip toy and she would drag it upstairs and downstairs. It was fun to see where it landed.
One night when we were doing dishes, Luke was making bubbles come out of the dish detergent bubble and she was trying to catch the bubbles. At one point, however, he was a little too gung-ho with the detergent and she got a huge dollop of the soap on her fur. 
Rubbing her off with a wet paper towel was clearly not going to get rid of the soap. So up we went to the bathtub for her first (and only) bath.
Bit by bit, she became more nervous...she hid more.  Luke thinks it was the introduction of this guy:

It became a 2 person job to take her to the vet. We have developed strategies over the past few years to trap her for her annual vet visit.

Six months ago, she started to approach us again. To hop up next to us on the couch and demand head-rubbings, to not run away if you pet her in her safe spot.
And I noticed that her eyes weren't dilating for a while. They started to again & I thought everything was OK.
But then she came to me one day (in the bathroom - we assume she feels safe there) and her body freaked me out. It had changed - her chest was swollen and her back was thin. Like all her weight had moved into the front of the body. She's been having hairballs and she used to eat plastic so we were used to her periodically wheezing & vomiting.

I picked her up a couple of times and emailed Luke - Chippa's dying. When he read it, he said "Sorry I can't be there." I replied "I'm having a glass of wine at the Bridge. She's your cat."

I don't know what the timeline is for Chippa, OUR Chippa. The Chippa that used to look at us with Dowager Countess Grantham sneers if she heard Lil cry. The Chippa that has the most beautiful coat that feels like satin and I mistake for the Roomba sometimes. The Chippa who 2 months ago watched something on TV and was following it with her head and contemplating batting the moving item on the screen.

We've prepared Lil for the imminent possibility...she vaguely remembers when we had to do the deed for Mischka. But I will treasure the last few months that she's rejoined the family.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

My dirty little secret

I'm a little ashamed to admit this: I don't always walk to the Mall.

Sometimes it's because I'm returning from someplace like dropping Lil off at ballet, which is based at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City. (Even if they move to Long Reach, which I hope they do, that's still on the other side of town, and I don't know if Ballet Mobile would go with them, which I hope they would.)

But sometimes, I'm not returning. I'm driving from my house to the mall. There are a few reasons for this:

Sometimes it looks like this:

Or it's raining or really cold...

So yes, if I'm planning on doing major shopping, I will drive so I don't have to walk up the hill with all my packages. Sometimes, when it's really cold, I can't breathe because of my asthma. (Have you seen those Symbicort ads where the person doesn't acknowledge their asthma is a problem? That's me to a T. And my Symbicort makes me feel a little jittery.)

We do walk down there a lot. Luke has even been known to purchase furniture and borrow a dolly to push it up to the house.

But we definitely don't walk down to the Lakefront to Clyde's very often. And if we do shop a little at Whole Foods when it opens later this year, which is questionable because it's so expensive, I'm going to drive.

My British chum Claire over at UK Desperate Housewife has noted that one of the differences between the UK & the US is that we drive EVERYWHERE. Buses are for people that can't afford cars. (Not that I agree with that exactly, but the Howard County government study below says that essentially.) I love driving my car...I listen to books on tape and I love being in control. And my car doubles as another branch of the Howard County Library...

But I am looking forward to the Columbia Town Center development because of one item in particular. The plan mentions "multi-modal transportation," which seems to include a downtown circulator. When this comes to fruition, I will commit to using it!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Columbia's Main Street

My mall is sad.

There is tons of parking available most nights of the week.

It's easy to get a seat at popular restaurants with little wait.

Stores are easy to navigate.

There's no line at the carousel...because it's not operating.

This is the state of affairs 10 days after a seemingly unhappy young man shattered the bubble that we Columbians inhabit. The belief that we lived in a friendly, happy utopia where most crime was petty theft and "didn't happen to us." We are the community of "Choose Civility." (One twit on Twitter claimed "Does a possible love triangle gone wrong do enough damage to the choose civility brand that HoCo officials feel denial is the right approach?" I won't link to that because I'm disgusted by his feed.)

But it did happen. It seems random, although we'd feel better if it was explainable. The randomness, though, should not make us stop living life.

I was struck by this because when I arrived at one of the mall restaurants, I had my choice of tables. The group of 20-somethings with the loud, obnoxious guy who knows something about everything and pontificates on it continually wasn't there for their usual happy hour. There were 2 bartenders when I arrived and 1 was cut by 6:30. There were 2 servers when I arrived and again, 1 was cut by 6:30. A large restaurant was operating with 1 bartender and 1 server and a manager. Because no one was coming in. The manager decided on which bartender to keep because his rent is due. She decided on which server to keep because her car payment is due. The manager has been making decisions like that for the last 9 days. Because no one is coming in.

And this is for folks who weren't there that day and didn't witness or experience the terror and fear - because that is going to take time.

Please - come to Columbia Mall. Have lunch at Panera, see a movie, visit the new Athleta store. Meet friends for happy hour at Champps. Play trivia at Uno's. SPEND MONEY - support college kids who are working their way through school, support single moms who have a second job, support people who are working HARD and may lose their jobs if the situation doesn't improve.

Please - come to the mall.