The Treehouse of Peace

I can’t really pinpoint when the rift began, but I could definitely feel it all of last year. I suppose, if pressed, I would say that it started when we brought home King Boo. That’s when I would say BK got angry with me.

She’s always been Ian’s cat, more or less. When we first adopted her, she depended on both of us. I was her mom, he was her dad. But as she grew into a teen and then an adult, dependence turned into tolerance and she doled out affection like a reward, as most cats do. She’s now planted herself firmly into crabby old lady territory, where she will kiss you one day and swish her claws the next. It’s a gamble. She’s still sweet, but it’s balanced with salty.

I am not sure how to refer to our trouble, BK and I. She started sitting with me less. She had always slept on Ian’s pillow, but often she would wedge herself between us and sometimes lay next to me. That waned, and she would hardly deign to let me pet her. You’d think Gordo moving himself to the upstairs floor of the house would have been a clue, but I just assumed she was doing that thing cats do. Where they change their minds. Get moody.

But now I am almost certain that she was upset with me for bringing home King Boo. She was the baby kitty. She was the young’un. And then we brought home something that required her to confront the truth that she was no longer the youngest being in the family. Maybe she became aware of her own mortality, the way we all do when we hit middle age. And despite Ian and I both bringing King Boo home, she knew he was my baby. My cat. And so she started pulling away.

When we moved, I carried all of the cats in my car. I sweet-talked to her the whole ride here. When she was afraid to leave her carrier once it was in the apartment, even after Gordo spent time sitting with her, I sat on the floor and spoke in a calm voice. I told her she was safe. I smelled like home.

She was so mad at us for moving her out of her house. The house she was supposed to guard. She spent every day in bed for a month, and because I work from home, I spent some time every day with her as she lay in that bed. I pet her. I told her she was safe. I made sure I got her favorite toys and played with her.

Eventually, she started to get up out of the bed more. She still laid with Ian more often, but on weekdays she started coming out of the bedroom and finding me at my desk. She would nuzzle her head into my hand and purr. She would bring toy mice to me.

A month or so ago, I bought this giant cat condo that we call the Treehouse. I bought it for BK and King Boo because they like to be up high and climb on things, respectively. King Boo took to it immediately, scaling it using only his nails on the scratching ropes, but BK couldn’t figure out the ladder. Ian tried lifting her up onto it, but she couldn’t figure out how to get down so she would jump nearly six feet onto the hard, concrete floor. I winced a few times watching her. She rarely used it, and I can’t say I blame her.

But then I had an idea. I brought one of our kitchen chairs over next to the Treehouse and set her up at the top. Sure enough, she jumped down to the chair and then to the floor. And I guess once she realized she had a safe way down, she felt it was OK to use the ladder to get up. She stopped sleeping in the bed all day and began perching herself atop the Treehouse, where she could keep an eye on me or look outside over the traffic.

One day as I was driving to Nashville for work, Ian texted me a picture of BK and King Boo in the Treehouse together. Considering how previously she couldn’t be within three feet of him without growling or lashing out, this was incredible. I assumed it was a one-time thing, but I soon noticed her up there with him every day. For hours on end, they will nap next to each other in the Treehouse. I’ve caught her grooming him as he sleeps a few times.

Double occupancy!

And then, a strange thing happened.

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized I was spooning her. She did the same thing the next night, and has done it every night since then. At some point in the middle of the night, she wakes me up by licking my nose and paws at me until I lay the right way and spoon her, both of our heads on the pillow as she makes biscuits in the palm of my hand and falls asleep.

During the day, now, she sleeps in the Treehouse but will come down to check up on me. She will sit by me on the couch sometimes. The rift I felt before seems to have faded. I have to wonder if it’s because she finally stopped hating King Boo and doesn’t have to blame me for his annoying existence anymore. Or maybe it’s because we, as a family, moved to a new place and she realized that everything is temporary and she shouldn’t take her family for granted.

I can’t talk to her to figure out what she has been thinking, obviously. But if it’s possible to have, lose and then repair a friendship with a cat, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

Rotten

Ian and I were all excited because we thought we had found our new grocery store. The first Bi-Lo we went to was not good, but then we went to the one in Red Bank and were impressed. It’s next to a liquor store that has a great selection of Prosecco. It has half of an entire aisle dedicated to vegetarian and vegan dry goods.

But we discovered the squash we’d bought was rotten in the middle. And the ground beef Ian bought had a rip in its packaging and was spoiled, which we didn’t notice until he had thawed it out to cook.

Maybe we’ll try the one on Signal Mountain Road next.

And yes, I realize how mundane and awful I am for blogging about grocery stores.

EDT

There wasn’t much of an adjustment moving into the Eastern Time Zone, despite having lived on Central Time my whole life up to that point. I guess since I only moved 100 miles away and was on the cusp of the zones it wasn’t too much to get used to more daylight at the end of the day.

But wow, the summer was nice. When we first moved to Chattanooga, it would stay light outside until almost 10 p.m. It felt like such a luxury to have such long days, like we were somehow stealing a few more hours than what everyone else got. I wonder if it will still feel like that when we go off Daylight Savings Time here in a couple weeks.

It’s weird that when I hear TV program times being announced they’re done primarily in my time zone now. My whole life I was trained to listen for the “8 central” part of “at 9/8 central.” I imagine it will take a while, but eventually I’ll be able to just focus on the 9 part.

I’m telling you, it’s the little things.

The best time of the year always flies by

I love October. I always have. Something about the weather turning from warm into crisp makes me feel more alive than I normally do the rest of the year. Yes, I realize everything is technically dying, but hey. I am who I am.

October always seems to fly by, though, and this year it’s no different. Ian and I keep making plans to get up to Stringer’s Ridge, a newly opened trail system near our apartment, but we haven’t followed through yet. Saturdays we end up exploring our neighborhood or day drinking after running errands, and Sundays are for football and video games and napping on the couch.

Although, it has been warm here. I can’t say if it’s unseasonably warm since this is the first fall we’ve lived in Chattanooga, but it’s definitely not felt like fall—especially what I’d expect from fall in the mountains—yet. This week feels cooler, so maybe it’s coming.

I am looking forward to seeing how fall and winter here will affect our utility bill, seeing as how we live on the third floor of an apartment building. The last couple days I’ve been seeing people in Nashville talk about having to turn on their heat at night, while our place has stayed around 75 degrees without having to use the heat or air conditioning. I hope that bodes well for a low electric bill this year.

Rediscovering the mundane

As we were preparing to move, I thought about a lot of things. For weeks my brain was a flurry of planning and organizing and strategizing and stressing as I tried to figure out how to keep everything in line so that when Ian started his new job we would have somewhere to live and all of our stuff would eventually show up.

It all came together pretty well, much to my surprise. The fact that Ian’s new company provided us with relocation assistance helped a lot, as did having saved up my vacation days so I could deal with the movers, but I think only having a couple weeks—only two weekends—to find a place to live really made us narrow down our priorities quickly and not waste time nailing down our moving plans.

When we finally got Ian, the cats and myself all together in Chattanooga, and all of our stuff was moved in and mostly unpacked, I realized I hadn’t given any thought to the mundane yet frequentl tasks I had taken for granted. Like grocery shopping. Yes, there is a Whole Foods within walking distance, but we aren’t millionaires so we can’t afford to do our regular weekly shopping there. We had lived at our house in Murfreesboro for so long that it was just second nature to head to Kroger when it was grocery shopping time. Or Publix if I was planning on buying a lot of produce. But in Chattanooga? No idea.

First off, there are no Krogers here. Which isn’t a bad thing, but after 16 years of living in Murfreesboro I had grown accustomed to seeing a Kroger on every corner. Google showed me that Bi-Lo was going to be my best choice for a close, decent grocery store in my area, and there were three within a couple miles of our apartment. The first one we went to was small and had a shitty selection, but the next time we tried one in Red Bank and it was awesome. We went back last night and I discovered they have a huge vegetarian/vegan selection of items throughout the store. I used to love Bi-Lo, but all of the Murfreesboro ones were bought out by Publix a few years ago. I love Publix, too, don’t get me wrong, but it is a little more expensive and I just have a weird nostalgia for Bi-Lo.

And despite living here for nearly three months now, I can only tell you with certainty where one gas station is in this town—and that’s only because I can walk to it from my apartment. (I don’t drive much anymore, so I have only gotten gas a couple times.) Finding the bank was easy because there are a ton of branches for my bank all over the place. I still haven’t found a new primary care physician, but I don’t know if I will. My insurance doesn’t require a referral if I need to see a specialist, and I don’t have any chronic conditions that would require a PCP (knock on wood). So I think I’ll probably just go to a walk-in clinic the next time I get sick. That’s what I ended up doing most of the time in Murfreesboro, anyway, since my PCP never had same-day appointments.

A lot of moving feels like starting over. I guess it is, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s kind of neat that even the most mundane tasks have become an exercise in exploration. Even if that does mean I’ve become an old lady.

The kindness of strangers

So far everyone I’ve met here in Chattanooga—whether it’s been at an event or just randomly at a bar—have been really friendly. But it’s strange—they always seem shocked when Ian and I tell them we just moved from Nashville, until we amend it to say “Well, we worked in Nashville but lived in Murfreesboro.” Then they nod their heads and say, “Ahh,” as though that explains something.

We’ve had several people, mostly bartenders, tell us after finding out where we came from that we’re the nicest people they’ve met at their particular establishment. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it makes me wonder if a bunch of people from the Nashville area have come to vacation in Chattanooga over the years and were just total dicks. Or maybe the places we frequent don’t have a lot of regulars and they’re just being kind because we are friendly, polite and tip well.

Either way, it’s nice. In a curious way.

We’ve been over this before

I learned via Facebook this morning that an old high school classmate and her husband were killed by an intoxicated driver recently. Well, her husband died a couple weeks ago at the scene of the crash and she had been in the hospital, took a turn for the worse and was taken off life support last night.

I didn’t want to post anything because I despise social media grief-mongers. Well, any grief-mongers, but they seem to be most obvious on social media. You know, the type who will take any kind of tragedy and post about it in a way that elicits sympathy for themselves even though they were hardly personally affected. It’s gross.

I didn’t know my classmate very well. It was a large school and I only had a few classes with her; accelerated and later AP English if I remember correctly. We were not Facebook friends. But as soon as I saw a few mutual friends (who were close with her and not grief-mongering) sharing their surprise and sadness about her death, I remembered her clearly. She was bright, bubbly and cheerful.

It makes me so sad to think about these young folks, who were probably driving home from lunch or going to see friends or run errands, just minding their own business. Maybe they were laughing or joking. Maybe they were making plans. And then they were killed by someone’s senselessness. Selfishness. Stupidity.

(You see? The first three paragraphs of this blog post start with “I,” and this is not about me. I’m doing it without even meaning to. Ugh.)

Anyway, the whole point of this is to say don’t drive drunk. Don’t drive high. Or while tweaking or stoned or whatever you want to call it. Not just because you can hurt yourself, but because you can hurt others. Kill them. Destroy families.

Call a cab. Call a friend. Take the bus or train or just walk home. Don’t be selfish. Don’t be stupid.

The new, still

We’ve lived in Chattanooga for three months now and it all still feels new. I can’t remember if that’s what it’s supposed to feel like when you move to a new city. The last time I moved I was 18 and relocating for college. Well, for many reasons, but I was starting college. It was really easy to make new friends because everyone was doing that, whether they’d lived in Murfreesboro their whole life or had just moved there, too.

This time around I’m not making friends as quickly, but there are other things that are easier. I have Ian, my partner-in-crime. I have the cats. I didn’t have to live in a dorm and then try to buy furniture on minimum wage when I got an apartment. Basically, I am not completely broke and alone this time. And Ian and I are having what we’re calling our Blow It Out Year, where we’ve been going out almost every night to get to know our new city. Most places we can walk to, so we’re getting to see little nooks and crannies as we stroll by. Things we’d miss if we drove everywhere.

I don’t want to compare my two “move to another city” experiences too much because they were at completely different times in my life. Both times I was ripe for change, but for completely different reasons. And both times I fell in love with my newly adopted city.

Murfreesboro was so good to me. I built a family there. And now I can’t wait to see what Chattanooga has in store for us.

Vacation without taking a vacation

Ian and I talked a bit at dinner on Friday night about how we feel like we’re living in a hotel. Our apartment is in a very fun, trendy part of town, which means that we rarely drive when we go out to eat (which is basically every night). Hell, I rarely drive anywhere anymore except if I have to run to Target or PetSmart on a weekend. So that, coupled with us living in an apartment that doesn’t quite feel like home yet, where we can always hear the people next to us, has led to this feeling of being on perpetual vacation. Well, a vacation that still involves going to work every day. Except my “going” is now walking into the living room to my desk instead of driving 40 miles.

It’s not a bad thing at all, just very surreal.

Anyway, so this weekend we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. It’s the first year we haven’t gone out of town, but it still felt like a days-long celebration since we went out eating and drinking and sort-of sight-seeing in this new-to-us town without driving much. I put on non-pajama clothes and we had a lovely dinner Friday night at a fancy restaurant, and then we spent Saturday eating and drinking our way around downtown Chattanooga and the North Shore. Sunday we had brunch at our favorite neighborhood brunch place, and then we went to an open house in a neighborhood where I keep falling in love with houses and talked to the agent for almost an hour.

By Sunday night things started to feel less like vacation and more like our new normal, and I settled into the couch very content. I’m even starting to get used to the dickbag neighbors. One of them had recorded the Bengals game from earlier in the day, and when he got home later that evening he started watching it and was hooting and hollering and clapping at the TV. Judging by his truck decor, he’s a really big Bengals fan. So I consider the fact that I didn’t go over there and tell him how it turned out, despite all the noise he was making, a sign of growth on my part.

It was a good weekend. And who knows how I’ll have grown after a year here.