Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stress-free Living in the South

Man, I haven't had a stress level this low since I can remember. I think that this is at least partially due to the relaxed Southern mentality that permeates my new world. (Plus being on a break from school.)

Life here is similar to being in laid-back Seattle, only without any pretentiousness. People here seem to treat each other with an equal level of respect and friendliness, no matter your social status. And this is coming from a near-Buckhead resident, where Bentleys and Ferraris are not a rare sight on the road.

So it's nice to have an easy-going life for a change. My job (albeit low-paying) is not demanding or full of the usual political B.S. that I'm so accustomed to in Corporate America. That's the advantage of working for a small start-up company. The risk for failure may be high, but the work has a certain sense of intrigue. And motivation is a natural component when you are an integral part of the start-up equation—your individual performance is critical, and your contributions can directly impact the company's success or failure.

The kitties are happy here, and so am I.

Jelly is the biggest whiner I know (besides myself)! Of course, that adorable face is hard to resist. Today is Sunday, and Jelly would not let me sleep past 7:30. She kept getting up in the bed to awaken me. I'd roll over to turn away from her and feign sleep. She would then proceed to stand up on me and push on my back with both her front paws. Repeatedly. And while squeaking loudly and with an increasingly whiney tone—like a kid on the candy aisle in the grocery store. She wanted a belly rub and wasn't going to stop pushing on me until I complied.

I finally gave in and rolled over. Jelly is so funny. She's the first cat I've met who likes to "spoon" in bed. She has recently developed this new routine, which plays itself out before I fall asleep, while I'm asleep, and again early in the morning when I'm trying to stay asleep. She jumps up on the nightstand, then over to the bed. If I'm on my right side, facing the nightstand, she plops down up against my front, stretches out, exposes her belly, and rubs the back of her head on my chin.

I'll start rubbing her belly. She'll start purring. But the problem is that the next automatic reaction on her part is to start licking. Jelly is a big licker. Whenever you rub her belly, she has to lick whatever object is closest to her, whether it be the hand of her masseuse, or Baby, or a pillow, or her own furry self.

Lick, lick, lick. I can't get her to stop! It's OK during the day, but at night it's kinda hard to fall back sleep with this spooning kitty licking my face or arm with that rough cat tongue. Last night (probably around midnight) I recall informing her, "I'm not in need of a microdermabrasion treatment at this time, Jelly," as she scratched my face with her motorized tongue.

She is a strange one, indeed. Sir Walter Scott was right: "Cats are mysterious kind of folk."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Moving to Atlanta has vastly increased my social activities (my social life rating has gone from about a 5 to an 80, on a scale of 100). In D.C., my idea of a social event was having my friend Rebecca over to my apartment to study for our computer-related law final exam. Although I did make a couple museum trips with friends from school. But that was about it!

Here in Georgia, I live near my 75-year-old parents, who live in a beautiful "active adult" community north of Atlanta and are busy, busy, busy—all the time. They are always going to parties, or hosting parties, or planning community events. Yesterday I attended the "Armed Forces Day" event that my dad helped plan at their swanky clubhouse. My mom and I helped serve the attendees (something I haven't done in 22+ years). Later, she and I went lap-swimming. So by the time I got home last night, I was pooped! I don't know how they do it!

I had just missed a big downpour by mere minutes driving home on the interstate with the top down. Whew!

Also nearby is my brother Dave and his family. They've had me over for dinner parties, baby-sitting, and other stuff. His house is a good place to meet up with my parents for events, like the Mother's Day dinner that Dave's wife planned at the Melting Pot. My adorable 4- and 7-year old nieces have active lives, playing pee-wee soccer on the weekends, which is fun to watch. Next weekend, we're all attending a crawfish boil (something I haven't done since I lived in New Orleans in 1996). The humidity is just starting to rear its ugly head, so I'll bet it's going to be hot that day!

We've had a beautiful, colorful spring here. I've enjoyed the weather so much. Living here, I've been spending a lot of time outdoors. Part of that comes from driving around in a convertible with the top down—something else I've enjoyed tremendously.

Between family time and work and enjoying the weather, I haven't taken much time to blog.

So what's new? For one thing, as of this month, we've had Jelly the cat for a year. She still hisses at Baby when Baby play-attacks her. It's a hoot to watch. Baby will go at her, baring teeth, jumping on the bigger cat. Jelly is a big rolly-polly. She immediately rolls onto her back, sticking her claw-less feet up in the air to fend off Baby's advances. Baby eventually gives up and falls over onto her side, as if to say, "Ok, your turn! Now you jump on me!" That's when Jelly gets up and walks away, in search of catnip. To this day, she will have nothing to do with Baby's form of rough play.

Me, I managed to lose 35 pounds since last August—basically by changing my intimate relationship with food. I was happy with the first 20 pounds, and started buying a new wardrobe then. That was a mistake, because the pounds kept coming off, slowly but surely. So I've had to spend money on yet another wardrobe. I got rid of probably hundreds of pounds of old clothes and basically just started over.

I'm working again, although at an 80% pay cut from my salary of two years ago. It's stress-free computer consulting work, and I like the people I work with, so it's a good gig.

My only stress comes from my Maryland townhouse, which is now worth $140,000 less than I paid for it. I have a lousy tenant who still doesn't understand that rent is due on the first of the month, not whenever she feels like paying it. I still haven't gotten May rent out of her. But I've had worse tenants (like the one who never paid at all, still requiring court appearances), so I'm dealing with it.

My sister-in-law Jacqui is back from Afghanistan, and I get to see her in less than three weeks when my nephew Matt graduates from high school. He's headed to the Citadel on an ROTC scholarship, so of course we're all beaming with pride. Meanwhile, his brother Jason is still fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and can't wait to come home in August. I pray for him every night.