One week, four days

We’re about a week and a half into being dog owners, and while it’s not exactly getting easier it is getting more familiar. We’re learning to communicate better with Stella, and she seems to be figuring us out, too. My biggest concern with getting a dog was how the cats would react, and though I think it’s too early to tell exactly how we’ll all end up, I am pleased with the progress over the past week.

King Boo started out hot, claws blazing every time he saw her. It seems to have worked, though, as she never chases him and generally steers clear whenever she sees him in her way. A few times she’s gotten excited and ran past him a little too closely and he’s let her know that’s not cool. The biggest issue I’m having is that when she does get too close and he swats and hisses, he doesn’t just stop when she moves away. He often goes after her, like he’s taken it personally. I don’t want to stop him too much because I don’t want him to think he’s wrong for defending his personal space, but I also don’t want the dog to be so scared of him that one day she snaps and hurts him fighting back. I’ve taken to letting him swat her when he’s been encroached upon, and if he continues to follow her all the way across the room to beat her ass some more I’ll pick him up and move him somewhere else (telling him he’s a good kitty and petting him a lot so he doesn’t feel scolded for protecting himself).

It seems to be working, as I am having to do that less and less. And yesterday Stella tried to play with him! She got down low and stuck her front paws out like she does with other dogs, softly barked at him and then rolled on her back, showing him her belly. He looked interested, but as he got closer she rolled back over and I guess it scared him because he hissed and swatted at her. But then later, as she was playing with some of her toys in the living room, he approached her and acted like he was going to chase her leash. But she is still a bit scared of him, so when she saw him approaching she moved away and stopped making eye contact. I’m hoping this is all normal “figuring each other out” behavior that points toward an eventual friendship, because they both would benefit from having a high-energy companion in the house.

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Gordo has figured out that if he runs she’ll chase him, so he tends to make his swift exit upstairs as he hears the back door opening, a signal that Stella is coming back inside. Once she’s safely occupied with a treat or a toy, he makes his way back downstairs and is content to sit in his spot on the couch and watch her. She leaves him alone now for the most part—as long as he’s sitting still she really doesn’t care much about him.

BK is another story. I don’t think Stella knows she exists. I mean, ok, I know she realizes there’s another cat in the house, but she spends so much time up in her 6-foot-tall cat tree that they’ve hardly had any interaction. When Stella is in her crate, BK comes down and hangs out. When Stella is out of her crate, BK is up high, either watching her or sleeping. She’s spent a ton of time in that cat tree since we got it so I’m not really surprised that’s still her place of refuge, but I am a bit surprised that she’s not more curious about the dog. She’s so big—and has never been one to shy away from swatting or hissing something she doesn’t like—that I figured she’d be the one to whip Stella into shape, not King Boo (who had previously been afraid of his own shadow). I guess she figures she’s just above it all.

The dynamics in this house have been so interesting to watch after just a week. I can already see how Stella reacts differently to Ian (PLAY TIME!) than she does to me (rule-enforcer/food source/safety from King Boo), and I imagine her relationships with all of us in the house will evolve as she gets older and more settled in here.

For now, though, we are continuing to work on crate-training and house-breaking. And leash-training, god help us all. We start obedience classes next week, and I cannot wait.

Five things I miss about Murfreesboro

Ian and I have lived in Chattanooga for nine months now, and while it often feels like we’re still brand-new here, Murfreesboro feels less and less like home when I pass through it every month on my way to Nashville for work.

That’s not to say there aren’t still things I really miss about it, even beyond friends, family and the general nostalgia I’ll always feel for it. In the past months, I’ve found myself missing some very mundane things that I haven’t really found a replacement for in Chattanooga, including:

1. A good grocery store. Now I know what all you East Nashville people were talking about with your food desert. There are no Krogers in the Chattanooga area, and I’ve been to six Bi-Los and they are all shitty. Well, there’s one up in Red Bank that’s so-so, but Bi-Lo doesn’t really carry the brand of staples that we eat so I always end up leaving there feeling like I spent a bunch of money on crap I don’t want to eat. We can’t afford to do our full grocery shopping at Whole Foods, either. We did find an amazing Publix a couple months ago—it was so great that I kept running around finding “our” foods and exclaiming “This place is tits!” The only problem? It’s way the hell out in East Brainerd and takes a good 20 minutes to get there, 30 if we go before 8 p.m. even on a week night.

2. Our vet. I do like the Chattanooga Cat Clinic’s vet, but their staff was pretty rude and actually endangered BK’s life back in the fall when she had a reaction to her rabies shot and they kept telling me she was acting normal when I knew for a fact she wasn’t. Now that we have a dog we’ve had to find a new vet that sees dogs, and while I like the staff and the vet at the place we took Stella to on Saturday, it’s old and dingy and dirty. I miss Dr. Barker at the Barfield Animal Hospital—we took our cats there for nearly 10 years and he and his staff were excellent. He saw us through Gordo’s bout with depression, BK’s random allergy troubles and was the one who cremated Evil Twin when we had to put him down. He always suggested ways to treat our cats without spending a ton of money and found a way to blend compassion with realism into his practice that I haven’t seen in many vets. Plus, his staff was really outgoing and friendly and we knew our cats would be in good hands whenever we had to leave them there overnight.

3. Julia’s Bakery. I’m sure there are amazing bakeries in Chattanooga, I just haven’t found them yet. Maybe I should make that a goal for the summer.

4. Knowing where I am at all times. (OK, most of the time.) Murfreesboro was spread out enough that I could drive out into the country and not really know where I was, but I would always eventually find a landmark that brought me back into town. Ian calls me Towelie (“I don’t even know where I’m at, man!”) because I tend to be directionally challenged, but at least in Murfreesboro I knew how to get anywhere I needed to go. I might not have always taken the most direct route, but I knew that city like the back of my hand. In Chattanooga, not so much. It is really fun getting to explore a new city, but it’s been nine months and I’m still having to rely on Google Maps to get to new (and sometimes not-so-new) places. Probably because I work from home and don’t get out and drive around as much as I need to in order to learn the layout of the city.

5. Our old liquor store. We lived right down the block from a place called Murfreesboro Wine and Spirits that must be an anomaly in Tennessee. It had a great wine selection, was reasonably priced and had knowledgeable and helpful employees. So far in Chattanooga I’ve found liquor stores that have all of those things—but not all at the same time. Riverside, my favorite, has a great wine, liquor and beer selection but has rude employees and their prices are just so-so. The wine shop next to Whole Foods has really helpful and kind employees, but they’re small so their selection isn’t great (surprisingly, their prices aren’t the highest I’ve found). I’ve been to a few places with decent prices, but they’ve been in not-so-safe areas (think bars on the windows and cops arresting people nearby) and haven’t had much of a selection. Chattanooga is a pretty booze-heavy town, though, so I know I just need to keep exploring before I find “my” liquor store.

Oh, I should mention that so far the best place I’ve found has been Beverage World, which is actually in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. It’s only about 15 minutes from my house, so I probably should stop by there more often. It’s out of the way, but they’re open on Sundays, sell high and low gravity beer along with wine, and I’ll benefit from Georgia sales tax. Ok, maybe I did find “my” liquor store after all.

Barb

As Ian and I were cooking dinner and wrangling the dog Saturday night, I got a text from my youngest sister that my paternal grandmother had passed away at 6:05 p.m. She had recently been moved into an assisted living facility (or maybe a nursing home?) and they called my dad to tell him she died, and he called Emily. Apparently she had been suffering from respiratory problems and wasn’t taking in enough oxygen. She also had a dead leg as a result of a sore on her foot that became infected and spread.

Because my dad and I haven’t spoken in years, I also hadn’t spoken to my grandmother. My first thought was that I should have written or I should have called. Whenever I was in town I avoided going to visit her because I was afraid my dad would show up at her apartment (my grandma wasn’t someone you could just drop in on) when he heard I was coming, so I hadn’t seen her in years. From what I hear, though, she died the same sassy lady I remember her as.

After Emily gave me, my sister Katie and our mom the details, we started reminiscing about old crabby Grandma Barb. The first and only time Ian met her was about 10 years ago at my parents’ house in Mt. Prospect. We were in town and my mom was throwing a barbecue for the family and my dad had gone to pick up my grandma from her apartment. Ian and I were in the living room when she walked in, and the first words out of her mouth upon entering the house were “I’m going out back to smoke—bring me a beer, and none of that light shit!” She kind of yelled it out to nobody in particular, but she got her beer and her smoke and then the introductions and pleasantries could begin.

Growing up, I was always told I looked a lot like her when she was younger. Not much is known about her ancestors, though, because she was adopted. One night at dinner when I was in elementary school, a woman knocked on our door in Des Plaines and claimed to be a long-lost blood relative of hers. Since this was pre-Internet, and thus pre-Ancestry.com, we were all a bit skeptical and my parents turned the woman away after several minutes of her pleading her case.

Despite having been adopted by fairly well-off people during the Great Depression, she fell onto hard times as an adult and lived a rather tumultuous life. I can’t remember if she divorced my grandfather before he died when I was very young, but I know they had a contentious, abusive relationship and moved around a lot looking for work to support their four kids. There would have been five, but her oldest son, Jamie, died when he was a baby after choking on food. She lost her youngest son, my uncle Jeff, to AIDS in the early 90s.

I’ve always felt an odd connection to her throughout my life, and I regret not reaching out to her as an adult to talk more about her life. Most of what I’ve heard of it has been through my dad, recounted at family dinners throughout my childhood. But my dad’s not known for being a truthful person, and I’ve had to get my mom to verify a lot of things over the years. What I do know is that she loved cats more than people, smoked and drank a lot, and resembled the real-life version of the Shoebox Greetings lady.

One year in school I was doing some project that required me to pick a certain city in the United States and I selected Winter Haven, Fla. I don’t remember what the project was about, but when I showed it to my dad he was surprised I selected that city—my grandma moved the family there for a few months when my dad was young, and her parents had lived there for a few years at some point. (When my dad was starting high school they also lived in Cocoa Beach, Fla., for a year.) And despite never visiting her there, whenever I think of Florida I think of her. Although, that could also be because she was an old lady my whole life and when I think old ladies I think Florida. Who knows. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want visit Winter Haven to see if there’s anything to this connection I feel.

Anyway, she’s gone now and I can’t ask her about anything, and I regret that. I’m sad that I let my desire to avoid my dad make me reluctant to visit her before she died, but I made that choice and there’s nothing I can do about it now. She lived a pretty long life, and despite having a lot of heartache she seemed pretty comfortable in her later years. I think even if I had spent more time with her as an adult, she’d still always be the crazy old lady wearing her sunglasses indoors and smoking cigarettes in the dark in our wood-paneled basement, sassing anyone who got between her and her vices.

Best laid plans

When Ian and I were in the process of buying our house, we said that we would wait until June to get a puppy. That would give the cats long enough to be comfortable in the new house and feel territorial enough to defend it and themselves against a strange new beast.

We talked about getting a purebred German Shepherd, and I had been in contact with a breeder in town who I really liked. She’s a vet and gave me all kinds of great information about the breed, as well as what to expect in terms of introducing a dog—any dog—to the cats. But she did warn us that German Shepherds can have a high prey drive, even ones that test as more relaxed (she gives all of her puppies temperament tests to help place them with the right family) and suggested we might look into other breeds as well if we’re concerned about bringing a dog into the house with cats for the first time.

So then we started looking at Australian Shepherds, which have a lower prey drive and are supposed to be good dogs to have with cats. I found a couple breeders in town who looked like they have their shit together, and sent out some emails. I never heard back, but I never called, either.

The thing with good, reputable breeders is that their puppies are in high demand. For each of the breeders I liked, for both German Shepherd and Australian Shepherds, there were long waiting lists with expensive deposits. We knew getting a purebred dog would be expensive, but I didn’t think about having to wait for months, possibly until the fall, to get a puppy. We wanted to get one in the summer when the weather would be nice so we could get used to taking it for walks and housebreaking it.

(Let me emphasize right here that I fully support purebred dogs and cats, as long as they’re purchased from reputable breeders who care about the breed and aren’t “backyard breeding” just to make a quick buck. We don’t tell someone who announces they’re trying to get pregnant to go adopt a baby, and we shouldn’t do that with people looking for a dog, too. Pets are long-term companions and, especially with dogs, take a lot of fucking work. So if you want a specific breed and are willing to do the research and buy responsibly, go for it.)

As Ian and I discussed what breed we were going to get, and even made plans to go out to the German Shepherd breeder’s obedience school and meet dogs she had bred in the past, I started looking on Petfinder because I was in full-on puppy fever mode. The cats had gotten comfortable in the house quicker than anticipated and had been doing really well with Millie, our neighbor’s dog who had been coming over to visit, so I figured if we found a puppy now instead of in June it would be OK. And I guess I was a bit fatigued by all of the talk of waiting lists and deposits with the breeders.

One night I got drunk and favorited a bunch of puppies on Petfinder in various parts of Tennessee and Georgia, but when I woke up the next morning none of them really spoke to me anymore. I checked out our local shelters for a while, but they only had adult dogs or small breed puppies.

But then, I saw this listing:

Stella's Petfinder Listing

The video is what got me, she just looked so cute. Ian said she looked too old, so I sent an email to the adoption agency listed inquiring about her age and temperament. Someone emailed me back and told me I’d have to fill out an application in order to speak with an adoption counselor about her. I filled out the very detailed application that day, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. After sending two more emails, I got a phone call from a very apologetic woman who was the adoption manager at the agency. It turned out she and her husband were fostering this puppy, so she could give me all sorts of good information.

She pulled her out of a high-kill animal shelter the day she was scheduled to be put down, and had been fostering her for a couple months. She told me she was about five or six months old, was a shepherd/collie mix, weighed 23 lbs, and was microchipped and spayed. She wasn’t aggressive with the cats in the foster home, was fairly house-broken and crate-trained, and was super sweet and friendly. When she told me that the puppy had a case of “always a bridesmaid never a bride” when it came to adoption events, I wanted to cry. I’m a sucker for a sad story like that.

So I set up an appointment for Saturday, April 5, to drive down to their shelter in Alpharetta, Ga., and meet her. They were also bringing another puppy for us to meet named Sapphire, an Australian Shepherd mix who was still waiting to be old enough to get her second round of shots.

Ian and I drove the two hours down to Alpharetta last Saturday, and I was freaking out the whole time. He kept telling me not to get my hopes up because we might not like her, or she might not like us, or for whatever reason we might not come home with a puppy. And I tried to stay ambivalent as best I could because I didn’t want to bring home a puppy that I didn’t connect with just because I was afraid of coming home empty handed.

Well, it turned out none of that mattered. When her foster dad opened the door, she ran into the building and jumped right into my arms. I almost started crying, it was such an unexpected and emotional reaction to have with this creature I had never met before. (Are you barfing from the sweetness yet?)

Because there was a ton of people and other dogs in the small shelter, we took her outside to a small grassy area (along with Sapphire, who was super cute but looked pretty freaked out by the whole thing) to play with her. She was pretty interested in smelling the grass and jumping around, but she also would come to us when we called for her and was perfectly happy to get petted and loved on out there.

Ian had been wanting a slightly younger puppy, but I guess he saw how in love with this dog I was because he relented and we took her home. She did great on the car ride—she was nervous and drooled all over the place, but she didn’t puke and when we stopped to let her out to pee she did her business and was happy to get back in the car and keep going.

It's been a fun morning. Bringing this girl back from Atlanta now.

On the ride home we discussed possible names, which is always tricky with us because we end up calling our pets by some nickname eventually instead of what they are actually named (See BK instead of Gwen, Gordo instead of Finnegan and King Boo instead of Link). We called her Mags for a while, short for Magic Hat (my favorite brewery), but that didn’t really fit the more we used it. I mentioned Stella, after Stella Artois, and Ian loved it. The more we called her that the more it seemed to fit.

We had to stop by PetSmart on the way home to get a crate, food, toys and a couple hundred dollars of other random puppy things (seriously, these beasts are expensive), and then we took her home to meet the cats.

Gordo and BK watched her from a distance, but King Boo immediately went on the defensive and tried to kick her ass. I can’t tell you how funny it is to watch the smallest animal in the house scare the living shit out of the largest one. But not wanting Stella to feel too intimidated, to the point of snapping back at King Boo, we monitored them closely for the next couple days and they seem to be getting better. (There is still a lot of monitoring going on, though. This is going to take some time. And she has picked up on Gordo not having claws, I guess, because he’s the only one she chases.)

I mean, that faceThe first couple days were hell, I’m not going to lie. Puppies are exhausting, and being in a strange place seemed to undo some of her crate-training and housebreaking and I definitely cried a few times out of frustration. But we’ve been working on that, and it’s finally getting better. It’s still a learning curve for both of us, so I’ve signed her up for obedience classes starting in a couple weeks. When the day comes that I can take her for a walk without her pulling the leash all over the place I’m going to throw a party. Not kidding.

I know people all over the world have dogs, and I knew having a puppy would be hard work… just not this exhausting. But now I know. Oh boy, do I know.

Good thing she’s cute.

It happens most when the seasons change

This rainy, crisp weather reminds me of years ago when Ian’s car was being worked on by a friend of a friend, way out in the country. Over a period of a couple weeks I’d drive him out there, and as I drove back home on those winding Rutherford County roads I’d roll the windows down and listen to Matt Nathanson’s “Some Mad Hope.”

The older I get the more the years blend together. Their singularity disappears as they meld into fluid blocks of time, and while I’d have a hard time telling you something that happened in a specific year, if I hear certain songs I can recall where I was, what I was feeling and what the air smelled like at the precise moment I associate with them.

Funny how the nostalgia works on the brain like that.

The joys of homeownership

This is the second house we’ve owned, but because our first house was so easy there are times it feels like we’re doing everything for the first time here. Well, that and because this is the first yard we’ve had, the first driveway, the first time without a homeowners’ association that would take care of certain things, etc.

Yesterday felt like the universe was trying to teach us a lesson every time we turned around. It started when we woke up and went into the kitchen to make brunch but discovered a horrid, dead animal smell coming from the dishwasher. We cut the power to it and tried to pull it out, but it got stuck. I realized the hoses connected to the sink were what was keeping it from moving all the way out, but we had no idea how to turn the water off. In our townhouse, we had a panel in the laundry area with hot and cold water shutoff valves for every single water-producing thing in the house. In this 84-year-old house, not so much. We did discover some valves in the basement, but turning them off did nothing.

Eventually we located the valves for the kitchen sink, but once we got the dishwasher away from the counter top we realized the smell wasn’t coming from behind it, it was coming from inside it. We looked everywhere we could in the thing, but couldn’t find any dead animals. We checked the water and drain hoses to make sure nothing was clogged, and checked the food trap as best we could (we have some fancy new model dishwasher and you can’t take apart the food trap like you could in other models we’ve had before), but found nothing. I ended up running a cycle with eight ounces of vinegar inside and that seems to help some, but there is still a slightly deathy smell in there. Since I don’t feel like paying a few hundred dollars for a technician to come out and disassemble the thing, I’m going to just wait it out and hope that if there is a dead animal in there it decomposes and gets flushed out quickly. Sounds sanitary, doesn’t it? (Don’t worry: If the smell doesn’t go away soon I’m sure we’ll break down and pay someone to take this thing apart. Or try it ourselves if we have the right tools.)

After spending a bit of time unpacking and organizing some of the boxes we took out of our storage unit, we spent the afternoon with our neighbor digging up the stupid-ass pampas grass
that the seller of this house had put in, and that was a beast of a job. Ian had the fun task of digging six of those fuckers up out of the ground—an ordeal that took about two hours. These things were less than a year old, too. I can’t imagine how bad it would’ve been if they’d been well-established plants. My neighbor and I also cleaned up all of the trash that people had dumped out in front of the wooded area next to our house, and then made a list of what plants and trees I want to plant in the front yard in the coming week or two.

Later that night, after dinner, as we were settling in to watch some Burn Notice, Ian discovered the garbage disposal wasn’t working. It had power to it, but the blades weren’t spinning. He messed with it while I googled how to potentially fix it, and we figured out that something was likely making the blades catch. Once he stuck a screwdriver in there and forced the blades to move (for the record, Google results recommend using a wooden broom handle since it’s less likely to break off in there), we were back in business.

Considering we normally spend our Sundays getting drunk and playing video games or watching TV, this was an exhausting day. Adulthood is not always all it’s cracked up to be.

Well look at that

Ian and I have wanted to get a dog for a long time, but our situation in Murfreesboro was less than ideal for that. Besides not having a yard, our long commute to Nashville required us to be gone for almost 12 hours a day, every week day. Even if the dog were able to hold its business for that long, it would have been a lonely life.

But now that we live in a house with a backyard and are home more, we’re planning on adopting a puppy this summer. I’m hoping that since I work from home, house-breaking the puppy will be easier, and if I have to go out of town Ian can run home at lunch since he works only a couple miles away. The only concerning issue that remains is the cats. They’ve never spent any prolonged period of time with a dog (one time my sister brought her two pomeranians with her on a visit and Evil Twin was the only one who would go within 10 feet of them), so we’re not exactly sure how they’ll react when one moves in permanently.

However, our neighbor (who was also our realtor) has stopped by a handful of times since we moved in, and she’s brought her 13-year-old, totally chill, super-friendly dog Millie with her. The first time Millie came in, all the cats scattered. The second time, King Boo and Gordo took off but BK stuck around. She kept her distance, but she was really curious. That’s pretty much how it went until last night, when our neighbor and Millie hung out for a couple hours. Millie is used to cats since our neighbor rescues/fosters them, so she didn’t give two shits about the three pairs of eyeballs staring her down from various points in the room. She was content to lay on the floor and sleep.

But then something cool happened. After about an hour, Gordo crept up to Millie when she was laying by the couch in the living room. He got up to her foot and sniffed it, and then decided she didn’t pose a threat so he walked away looking quite bored with the whole situation. And then King Boo—the most scaredy of all scaredy cats—did the same thing. He crouched low to the ground, eyes wide open, and crept up to sniff her feet. She moved her head to look at him so he took off, but he didn’t hide under the bed like he usually does when spooked. A bit later, Millie had moved into the dining room where we were all hanging out, and lo and behold, here came King Boo again. This time he sniffed her tail, and then he tried to grab it.

Sneak grab

It was the cutest thing, let me tell you.

It made me hopeful that when we do get a puppy, even though it will be hyper and crazy for a while, maybe the cats will be OK with it eventually. My biggest fear is that they’ll stop doing the comforting things cats do—sleeping in the bed and sitting on the couch with us, etc. They were here in this family first, and I don’t want them to feel run off or afraid. Hopefully having Millie time once a week or so will help prepare them for a puppy, even though she is the most chill dog on the planet.

One month in

We’ve been living in our house for just over a month now, and Ian and I were talking the other day about how quickly we felt comfortable here. Not just us, but the cats, too. I was expecting King Boo to attach himself to my leg for two days like last time, and for BK to fall into another pit of despair for a couple months. But they were all comfortable within an hour and acting like they’d lived here forever after about a week.

It’s all a bit strange, but in a good way. Sometimes I’ll glance into the kitchen and it’s the most natural thing in the world, like I’ve been looking at that sink for years. But then I’ll occasionally wake up in the middle of the night in a “Where am I?!” panic. That’s happening less and less, though, and it only lasts a few seconds. We’re all settling in quickly and easily, and if I had any doubt about whether buying this house was the right decision this would quash that.

And as we were making our decision on whether to buy this house, one of the things we kept in the Pros column was that while it’s an 84-year-old house, the inside is basically brand new. “We won’t have to do anything to it!” we kept saying.

Well, sure, for the most part there is less to do here than there would be if we bought a house that hadn’t been renovated. We don’t have to replace appliances or fix broken windows. But, as you know if you’ve ever bought a house, there is always work to be done to make it yours. For some reason the builder didn’t install any mirrors in the house, and at first I thought that was a blessing in disguise because that meant I could pick out my own mirrors. But you know what? Trying to find and transport a framed, 55-inch-wide mirror is a pain in the ass. We finally installed a smaller mirror over the pedestal sink in our half bath downstairs, but I can’t find an already framed mirror that is both the correct size and not heinously ugly to go in our master bath to save my life. So I guess I’m going to get a custom-cut piece of mirror glass and frame it myself… later. I don’t even want to think about what a hassle it’s going to be to install that sucker. Let’s hope liquid nails have some good holding power and the Gods of Levelness are on our side that day.

We’re mostly unpacked, although when we emptied out our storage unit that we had in Murfreesboro we just kind of vomited all the boxes into the guest room upstairs. So we’ve got that to deal with, plus hanging curtain rods and getting pictures framed and figuring out what kind of landscaping we want to do, and some bigger, more pipe-dreamy things down the road.

But! We did get one mirror installed last weekend, plus a toilet paper holder and towel racks, so that was exciting. No, seriously. I completely took for granted how mirrors and toilet paper holders always just seemed to be there waiting on me when I moved into a place.

I’m not too concerned about the leisurely pace we’re going with regard to unpacking and setting things up, though. We’re planning on being here for quite some time. Maybe forever. So no need to rush. I just need to make sure we don’t fall into a trap made of our own laziness and find ourselves with the same to-do list five years later.

They just know

The way animals sense things is extraordinary. Most of the time I see it in action when the cats know there’s a bug on the ceiling, but I haven’t seen it yet. They’ll claw at the wall and meow, I’ll get annoyed, and then finally I’ll see the spider and realize why they were going nuts. As I squish it (or, more plausibly, yell for Ian to come squish it), they’ll look at me like I’m a simpleton for taking so long to acknowledge the impending danger they were warning me about.

Last night, I was having some really bad ladyparts cramps. All ladyparts cramps are bad for me since I rarely have them, but last night was horrible. I spent most of the night with a heating pad on me, but when I fell asleep and turned on my side at some point, it slipped off me and onto the bed and was lost to the covers.

I woke up this morning on my back with BK laying on my abdomen, positioned so that the warmest part of her body was on top of where the worst cramp had been. She was purring and staring at me through slightly closed eyes.

Not surprisingly, I felt much better.

I’ve heard that a cat’s purr has healing properties, and last year when I had kidney stones BK spent a lot of time laying on my abdomen, too. Maybe there is really something to it. Either way, I know someone who’s getting a can of tuna tonight.

In case you hadn’t heard, we bought a house

I had an epically long post written about the whole experience, beginning with when we first saw the house (late October) and ending with when our offer was accepted (late December), but I got superstitious about posting it before closing so I never did. And now, I’ve talked so much about the whole process on Twitter and Facebook and with anyone I see that I think posting the whole long, drawn-out story would be overkill at this point.

I’ve journaled it all for myself, but I think all I need to post here is this: On Jan. 21, 2014, Ian and I closed on a gorgeous blue house that was built in 1930 (but renovated last year). I finally have that stone porch I’ve always wanted. And a driveway. And a backyard. With lots of trees!

We hired movers and got most of our stuff moved in the weekend of the 25th, so we’ve been here almost two weeks now. We’ve got our apartment until the end of the month so we still have some things over there that we’re being lazy about moving over, but we’ll get it all eventually. We spent last weekend in Asheville, so we’re still living a bit in boxes here and there. And we have yet to buy mirrors for both bathrooms, which is kind of a weird way to live… without mirrors. Like vampires.

The cats adjusted really well this time. When we moved from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga last summer it was hard to watch them adjust, BK and King Boo especially. This time around, Gordo predictably gave zero fucks again and was the first one to explore everything. But BK and King Boo only hid under the bed for a short period of time—I don’t even think it was an entire hour. They were skittish for a while; anytime Ian or I would get up from the couch quickly they’d jump, but after a week they were acting like they’d been living here their entire lives. I think all of the windows and hiding places to explore are helping a lot.

It’s odd, though: I feel like I’ve settled in quickly and easily, too. The apartment never really felt like home, mainly because its setup was like a hotel (main entrance, with apartment entrances indoors) and there was so much neighbor noise everywhere. Here, it’s just us and the neighbor’s wind chimes mixed in with the occasional traffic hum.

There are times I catch myself feeling so comfortable with my surroundings that I have to remind myself I haven’t lived here forever. But on the other hand, there are times I’ll walk into a room too quickly and have to remind myself where I am. It’s an odd mixture of emotion that I’ve never experienced before. Although, I don’t think I’ve ever really given this much thought to how I feel about where I dwell. I’ve found I’ve become more mindful of that since moving to Chattanooga, but I think it’s due to age more than location.

But yes, here we are. Settling in, setting up our life again in a way that feels permanent and comforting.