Monthly Archives: January 2014

Old Cats and Small Portions

Sabrina, the oldest of our four cats, is around 13 years old now.  It’s hard to believe because she still looks the same as she did when we adopted her in 2005.  We actually got a discount on her adoption fee because she was ‘old’ already, at nearly four years.  Ironically, we went in with firm intentions of adopting a kitten, and then old lady Beanie won me over with her sweet personality.

Sabrina, our fluffy girl (also called Beanie)

Sabrina/Beanie, years ago…looking the same as she does now.  😉

So anyway, she’s getting up there – nearly 68 in human years, according to this chart the vet gave us a few years ago.  For the past couple of weeks, we’ve noticed she’s having trouble jumping onto the couch and our bed.  A couple of times she’s leaped and then gotten smacked squarely in the chest by the couch, so now she’s unsure of herself.  She’ll sit in front of the couch, start to crouch for a jump, then spring up and put her paws on the couch instead.  Kind of like how I used to run toward the vault in gym, then flinch and stop right before I hit the springboard.

At night, I’m sometimes woken up by a thump against the bed.  The first time this happened, I awoke and instinctively reached over for Toby, our dog.  Toby, who died a couple of years ago, did this exact same thing when he started aging.  He’d jump up, kind of flump against the side of the mattress, then slide back down to the floor.  When you’re in bed, sound asleep, it is VERY startling and it will instantly wake you up.  Even though I can’t hear anything at night – he could have been barking at me, for all I know – I immediately woke up when I felt the impact against the bed.  That’s how it felt when Sabrina started doing it, even though she’s much smaller than Toby.

For a while I’d just wake up, get out of bed and pick her up.  (She likes to sleep between me and Dave, with her head and paws on the left side of my pillow, above my head.)  Then I mentioned it to Dave, and he engineered a brilliant solution:  he brought up the hassock from downstairs.  It’s about six inches shorter than the bed, the perfect height for Beanie to jump onto.  As he placed the hassock at the end of the bed, he sighed and said, “I’ll bet I forget this is here and trip over it in the middle of the night.”

Guess what happened the night before last?  Poor Dave.  Hopefully his toes will survive until he gets used to the new bedroom furniture.

* * *

I have just a little, bitty pet peeve to sound off about:  food portion sizes.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a recipe boasting something like ‘Only 279 calories per portion!’, then you read the recipe and see they’ve divided it into seven miniscule portions.  THAT DOES NOT HELP.  Either you eat the one tiny portion and a million other things to keep from starving, or you eat four tiny ‘portions’ in order to get a decent amount of food, feel satisfied, and eat nearly 900 calories instead.  It’s crazy.

I was already aware of that trick on packaged food – you’d see, I don’t know, something like one bean burrito in a package, read the calories (“Oh, 300 calories, not too bad”) and then realize it says there’s two portions in the one-burrito package.  So you eat the whole burrito, for 600 calories, and feel kind of piggish because damn, you ate twice the serving size.

Recipes, though, are just as bad.  I just made a recipe that consisted of some veggies and eight ounces of pasta.  We don’t have soup or salad with dinner, and with a pasta meal we don’t have a side dish – that’s it.  Dave might have a piece of bread with pasta, but I usually forgo it.  I know one serving of pasta is two ounces (ridiculously small) but we usually eat eight ounces of pasta between the two of us – sometimes we have leftovers if there’s a lot of extra stuff mixed in.  I looked at this recipe and saw it was calculated at NINE SERVINGS.  Less than two ounces per person.  And it’s meant to be the main dish of the meal.  I call bullshit.

I have to recalculate just about every recipe I make, and turn it into a normal-human-being portion size.  I have my ways of saving calories – a little less cheese, plain fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream, less butter, less oil – and the calories become manageable while the food stays tasty.  I would rather eat one 600 calorie portion that will fill me up.

I know it’s not that big of a deal, and I know it’s a scam the recipe sites use to make things look low-calorie, and I know how to get around it.  But I don’t want to get around it.  I want them to stop being idiots.

Okay – I’ve unfolded my arms and stopped scowling.  I feel better now.  I’m off to make some creamy zucchini soup for lunch … using the recipe that I’ve changed to four servings instead of six.

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When the Mirror Lies

About three months ago, I wrote about body image, weight loss and a book I had read about how to dress so you looked thinner.  I mentioned that I was counting calories, trying to just lose a few pounds before my annual doctor visit in November.

I have always, always hated getting weighed at the doctor’s office.  I hate it enough that it’s kept me from going to the doctor a few times.  Even if I was just going in to talk to the doctor, they would weigh me.  Drove me crazy and stressed me out.

I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself back in October; I wasn’t looking to lose a set amount of weight or anything.  Even two or three pounds would be great, enough so that I weighed a little less than I did at my check-up a year ago.  The funny thing is, my doctor really never mentions my weight.  She doesn’t berate me or try to get me to go on a diet.  If I fluctuate by a couple pounds, she never says anything.  The only time she ever mentioned it was when I had gained about 10 pounds over the year, and even then it was just a casual comment about watching what I ate.  It’s all in my head, this fear of being weighed.

At the time I wrote the blog entry, I was counting calories.  And by the time I had my doctor’s appointment, I had lost seven or eight pounds.  It was very exciting for me, the biggest loss I’d had since 2001, and my doctor was also enthusiastic in her casual way.  The weight loss and exercise also seemed to have a good effect on my cholesterol numbers, which was an added bonus.  (High cholesterol runs in my family and I’m on medication to control mine.)

Well, apparently doing the same thing for weeks on end helped me form a good habit as far as exercising and portion control, something I never ever thought would happen.  I haven’t been writing about it because I don’t want to come off self-absorbed, righteous or judgmental (something that tends to happen when people lose weight).  Also because it’s just something I do automatically now, so I don’t really think of it as being newsworthy.  But I had to talk about it today because finally, after 15 weeks, I have reached my first milestone and have lost 20 pounds.

!!!

Now here’s the weird part.  Before I started this, I would look at myself in the mirror and think I looked pretty damn good.  I knew that my BMI, at 31, put me in the ‘obese’ category; this didn’t matter.  I didn’t think I looked obese (I still don’t think I did, but according to the BMI charts I was).  You would think that now, at 20 pounds lighter – 20 pounds that should really show up on me, because I’m 5’1” and weight loss/gain shows up quickly on a short frame – I would be ecstatic when I look in the mirror.  Instead, I look in the mirror and think I look exactly the same.  I see no difference, even with 20 pounds gone and my BMI down to 27.3.

I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture because I never expected to keep up with the calorie counting thing.  I figured I’d slack off over the holidays (I started this the first week of October) or that I’d get complacent and tell myself that I know proper portion sizes now and I’d stop being so vigilant.  I never expected to set a goal weight and to keep at this.

Part of the reason I started this, besides wanting to weigh less at my doctor’s appointment, was because of that obese BMI number.  It really, really bothered me to know I was obese, even though I’d been at that weight for many years, nearly ten.  I had accepted my actual weight (which I’m not going to say, but let’s just say it was nowhere near 200 pounds).  I figured I was getting older (I turn 50 in August of this year) and my metabolism had slowed down, and I just had to accept that I was going to be a plump, short woman for the rest of my life.

But when I started calorie counting, my BMI was also included as a statistic on the website I’m using (Livestrong).  After I lost those eight or so pounds, I moved out of the obese BMI category and into the overweight category … and it felt so good.  So that’s when I decided to make a goal:  the weight where I fall into the upper end of ‘normal’ on the BMI chart.  I have 12 more pounds to go before I reach my goal.

Maybe when I reach that point, I’ll find some picture of me earlier in 2013, put on the same outfit and take an ‘after’ picture.  That is, if I can find a photo of me where I haven’t cropped out my body.  I hate seeing myself in photos.  Even now – we took some pictures at Thanksgiving, when I was about 15 pounds down, and I think I look horrible in them.  Like I said, I feel like I look no different.  So you will not see me bragging about my rock-hard abs (my stomach is still flabby) or my toned thighs (I have thunder thighs and probably always will).  But I might shout out a little ‘yay!’ here if/when I hit my goal weight.  🙂

I had pretty much been eating 1,200 calories and exercising daily – between 20 to 30 minutes of fast walking on my mini trampoline, about an hour after dinner (while we watch TV).  I throw in one or two days of weight training and I really need to start doing sit-ups.  I stalled for a long, long time, and then I gained two pounds.  I was freaking out about this to Dave – how could I gain weight?!  I was not cheating!  I was eating way below my basal metabolic rate.  It made no sense.

I was starting to think I’d have to eat, like, 900 calories a day – I could really see how people fall into an anorexic mindset.  It completely panicked me that I was gaining weight and didn’t seem to have any control over it.  What if all my hard work was ruined and I gained it all back, even though I hadn’t changed anything in my diet?

Finally I did some reading on how short people (under 5’2”) can lose weight.  I mean, when you’re short you need so many less calories than someone who’s, say, 5’10”.  How do people do it without starving?  I started learning more about that basal metabolic rate and realized I was putting my body into starvation mode.  I thought by eating 1,200 calories I would avoid it, but I was wrong.  As crazy as it sounds, I needed to eat more to lose weight and make my body let go of the fat it was holding onto in case I starved to death.  (Not likely!)  I upped my calories to 1,450 a day (I really should go higher, but it scared me … so I started with the lower number).  After I did that, I lost the two pounds I gained, plus another pound to give me that 20 pound loss.

I am really happy with this lifestyle – I just happened to find something that fits with my control-freak personality, and it’s something I can do forever so it’s not really a ‘diet.’  I eat all the same foods I always have but, man, I weigh everything.  I do NOT trust myself to eyeball a portion size!  I will always, always overfeed myself if I do that.  I’m not hungry.  We throw in pizza nights, Chinese food nights, etc. once or twice a month.  I’m not low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo – I’m not even obsessing about fat content.  I just count calories and eat as much fresh food as I can.  Probably my only restriction is staying away from pre-processed and fried stuff.  I don’t have to, but I prefer fresh, homemade food and it’s easier to stay within my calories if I’m not eating anything fried.

I love walking on my mini-trampoline every night – my stamina has really increased.  I know it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.  Exercise has always been my weak area – maybe now that I’m doing this small, daily amount I’ll eventually branch out into other exercise.

One of these days, maybe I’ll look in the mirror and see a different, thinner me staring back.  For now, though, I have to let my clothes and the scale reflect any changes.  My brain is going to take a while to catch up, I guess.

Step Up, Not Back

This is a guest post from Dave.  You all know he’s my husband, but what most people don’t know is that much of his childhood was spent in foster care.  For five years, from ages 9 to 14, he labored on a foster farm.  He’s working on a memoir, and this is an excerpt.  I’m posting it with his permission.
* * * *

Even people that are normally goodhearted, righteous and conscientious will falter in the defense of foster children.  Sometimes it is based on the relationship they have with the foster parent/s, or simply because of the base human nature response that says, You’re not really one of us; if you had the same value as my children, then your parents would be here now, protecting you as we protect ours.  If they don’t care for you, why should I?

Case in point:  We’d been on the foster farm for about a year, a little over, since it was Thanksgiving.  There was a large shed next to the house that Ralph used as a garage to store the truck and a tractor.  Inside were also some workbenches and the welder, along with various other tools needed to maintain a working farm.

Ralph had decided to pour a concrete floor on one half of the shed and, for some reason, he was having us do part of it on Thanksgiving morning.  We had set the wooden forms and hauled the sand and gravel inside next to the bags of cement.

We used a cement mixer that, when the mix was finished, you grabbed a lever and tipped the barrel full of concrete into a wheelbarrow.  You then wheeled it over to where it was needed and dumped it inside the forms.

A couple of things could easily go wrong with this system, especially when there are 11 and 12 year old boys involved.  The wheelbarrow had to be in just the right spot when the concrete was dumped into it or it would fall over.  Wheelbarrows have to be one of the more contrary contraptions of transporting anything, anywhere.  If you managed to successfully dump the concrete into the wheelbarrow, you then had to pick up the handles of the ‘barrow and move it over to the forms.  Sounds easy, right?  With the liquid mix shifting around and throwing the balance off, it’s amazing any of it actually reached the place it was intended.

If you spilled some or all of the mix along the way, it wasn’t because you were too small and too weak to do the job.  It was, according to Ralph, because you were too lazy and stupid to do anything right, just like your parents.  The only way to get you to do anything half right was to beat you until you understood what he wanted you to do.

There were plenty of slaps and kicks going around that day.

Sometimes Ralph would act nicer when there were other people around, sometimes not.  It depended on the people.

Seeing as how it was Thanksgiving, Ralph’s kids and their families would be showing up.  The eldest daughter, Joyce, was married to some kind of engineer who worked for Clark Equipment up in Jackson, where they lived.  Used to see their name on all the forklifts back in the 60s and 70s; they were a pretty big outfit that made lots of construction equipment.

Dick was a pretty decent guy but Ralph detested him, and he never made a secret of it either.  He had a little routine for when Dick and Joyce were visiting.  Ralph would act nice in the house when they first came, and then he would tell Dick that he had a couple of things that he needed to do and would he like to come along and see the farm?  Dick knew the game but he was trapped.  If he tried to make an excuse, Ralph would make a snide comment or two about weak city boys and then Joyce, who was very much like her father, would tell him to just go.  Poor guy.

Dick was as meek and mild-mannered as anyone I’ve ever met, which is no criticism on my part.  I liked him quite a lot, and could feel an affinity with him because he was bullied by Ralph too.

The meanest thing I ever saw Ralph do to Dick was to make him watch while we castrated a couple of pigs.  Normally we would do the pigs in a batch when they reached a certain age, but Ralph seemed to have saved a couple for the right occasion.  The two pigs weighed about 60-70 pounds each, and the way we would do it is Rick and I would get one cornered in the pen, grab it, drag it out to the middle, and take it down.  Then one of us would put a knee on its neck while holding his front legs still, and the other one would grab whichever back leg was up and pull it as far forward as he could.  Ralph would then slice the scrotum with a straight razor, pull the testicles out, and cut the cords connecting them to the pig.  He would then sprinkle some blue powder on the cut to help ward off infection.

Usually we’d have a bucket in the pen, wired up on the top rail to throw the nuts in.  You had to put it up high enough so the pigs couldn’t reach it, because they actually would eat their own nuts.  Once they got a taste of the bloody meat, they would start savaging each other where they’d been cut, and things could get crazy real quick.  When we were cutting a bunch of pigs, we’d save the nuts for one our neighbors and he’d come over and get them.  He called them Rocky Mountain Oysters, and claimed they were a delicacy.  Maybe so, but I sure wasn’t going to eat any.

On this particular day, Dick was standing on the outside of the pen, looking squeamish.  When Ralph had the first pig cut, he told Dick to pick up the bucket next to him and hold it up.

Then he tossed the nuts at him, too hard and fast to catch them with the bucket, and they both hit him in the chest.  The blood and gore dribbled down his shirt onto his pants.

Of course, Dick didn’t have any extra clothes with him; why would he?  So he had to change out of his bloody shirt and pants, and wear a pair of Ralph’s bib overalls while his clothes were getting washed.  You couldn’t look at the poor guy without laughing.

I have seldom seen a person look so miserable.

However, that wasn’t the occasion I’m thinking of.  On the day we were pouring concrete, Dick had come out to the shed to watch.  We had an area about 10′ X 10’ sectioned off, and the wooden forms set up.  We had poured about three inches of the four-inch slab we needed when Rick slipped and fell onto the form.  It didn’t loosen it or move it at all, but Ralph took the opportunity to show Dick how he dealt with someone messing up his plans.

Rick was still bent over, trying to pick the shovel out of the concrete without getting it all over his gloves.  Ralph picked up a board that was lying nearby and whacked Rick on the back with it, hard enough to break the board.  Rick fell inside the form and rolled over in the wet cement, groping for his glasses and trying to get up.  Ralph took another board, pushed Rick over on his back and held him there for a few moments, and then turned to look at Dick.

Things had happened so fast and with such savagery that everybody, excepting Ralph, was just stunned.  In the moments after Ralph had first hit Rick, nobody had moved.  When Dick realized what was happening, he started to step forward; that’s when Ralph turned and looked at him.

Dick froze, not because he was afraid of Ralph, but he knew that anything he did would have to be justified to his wife and it just wasn’t worth it.  Joyce was Ralph’s staunchest supporter, and she would not tolerate anything said or done to change her opinion of her father.  Her mantra for times like these was, “It’s none of our business!”

As I said, I actually liked Dick quite a bit.  He would take the time to talk to us without talking down to us, and he was a very interesting guy.  He was a good father to his daughters, a better husband than Joyce deserved (in my opinion), and just an all-around good guy.  However, I happened to look at him at the very moment Ralph did, and what I saw was a man who started to stop something he felt was wrong, and then stopped and did nothing.  I could see in his eyes the cost of allowing this to happen, and how it diminished him.  He just looked sick … but you don’t get points for wanting to do something right.  You become a better person by stepping up, not stepping back.

All too often I would witness this behavior from adults during my time on the farm.

* * * *

His sister, Laurie, has written a memoir about her time in foster care — it can be found on Amazon here:  To Whom It May Concern:  A Memoir of a Foster Child

Goldie Update

It is a balmy 38 degrees (!!) as I type this, and I am happy to report that Goldie the feral cat made it through the polar vortex unscathed.  I’m pretty amazed, to be honest.

We had probably three straight days of double-digit below-zero temperatures, all day long (it would get up to maybe -13F, at the most).  At night it was even more brutal.  Once the first super-cold day rolled in, we stopped seeing Goldie.  Usually she’s there every morning, waiting by the food and water dishes we keep next to the patio door on the upper deck.  Because we had a fresh layer of snow, it was easy to see that she hadn’t been by – there were no paw prints of any kind.

As I mentioned before, Dave had gone down and set up a second house for her under the larger deck, where she seemed to be spending more time.  He also set up a heat lamp.  I’m not sure how long she actually stayed there, because after the first bad night (with wind chills of 50 below zero) we saw paw prints on our driveway.  We weren’t positive, but Dave thought they looked like Goldie’s.  He speculated that she left and went in search of a neighborhood colony … more bodies = more warmth.

Every day we checked to see if she’d been by to eat, and for four days the snow was pristine.  We didn’t know if she was under the deck, or if the heat lamp was still working.  I was pretty sure she hadn’t made it through this horrible cold weather.

Then it started to warm up.  Dave went down to check under the big deck and she wasn’t there, but the heat lamp was still working and keeping the little house nice and warm.  We don’t know if she used it during the cold snap, though.  The first day it got up to about 8 degrees, but it was still below zero in the early morning and overnight.  We didn’t see her on that day either.  The next day, though, we saw paw prints in the snow in front of the dish.  We got pretty excited, although I tried not to get my hopes up; we do have about four other cats who visit periodically, so it could have been one of them.

Later that afternoon, I was in the kitchen and happened to be looking out the patio door when I saw her little face peek over the steps to the upper deck.  I grabbed Dave and pointed and squealed into his shoulder.  I can’t even tell you how happy I was to see that little cat!

She strolled up to the food dish, no big deal, and started eating.  Dave opened the door to talk to her and he was able to pet her on the head.  He urged me to pet her, but I hesitated because usually she runs away from me.  She’ll sniff my hand and then back away; she knows Dave because he’s the one who usually feeds her.  I gave it a try though, reaching out to pet between her ears as she ate.  Not only did she let me pet her, she stopped and butted her head against my hand.  That was a first!  I petted her while Dave brought out some canned food as a treat.  Ever since, she’s been here every morning.

Last night, Dave went downstairs to clean the litter box.  A few minutes later, he called my name.  I met him on the stairs and he said, “We have a visitor at the window.  I really think she’ll come into the house so I’m going to open the window and see what happens.”

He opened the window and we both retreated into the downstairs bathroom to watch and wait.  “Where is she?” I asked.  I couldn’t see her at all.  “I don’t know – I think she left,” Dave sighed.  We waited a few more minutes and never saw her.  “Let’s shut the door and go upstairs.  Maybe she’ll come in if we’re not there,” Dave suggested.

We went upstairs and I looked to see if she was up on the deck, but there was no sign of her.  After a few minutes, Dave went down to shut the window.  He came back upstairs and said, “She’s back by the window.  I’m going to see if some food will get her to come inside.”

I wasn’t with him, but he came back upstairs a few minutes later and described the scene.  “She was right there, watching me.  I’m talking to her, and I figure she must know the window is open – either she can feel the warmth from the house, or tell by the smell.  So I reach out and set the food there, and she does this [here he demonstrates a cat recoiling in shocked horror].  She was completely SHOCKED when I did that – it freaked her out and she left right away.”

I laughed, imagining Goldie’s reaction:  This man can reach through windows and walls!  And once again, she proved to us that she has absolutely no interest in coming into the house, even though we swear time and time again that she seems to want to.

Later that night, she was back on the deck.  Dave, ever optimistic, opened the door wide and invited her in.  He didn’t realize she’d brought her boyfriend, Mr. Big, along.  Mr. Big (who lives up to his name) must have a sugar mama somewhere, and he is not afraid of coming into a house.  He started to stroll through the door (inducing mild panic in Dave, who isn’t ready to have an intact male cat wandering our house with four female cats in residence).  Goldie, however, reached out and smacked Mr. Big on the head, giving Dave time to shut the door.

Goldie (with the white chest) keeping Mr. Big in line, on the lower deck

Goldie (with the white chest) keeping Mr. Big in line, on the lower deck

Yes, I’d say she’s doing just fine.  Silly little girl.

In Which My Husband Tries to Explain Car Things to Me

Have you ever noticed that certain things seem to come with their own vocabulary?  This is especially true with hobbies or newly-learned trades.  I remember adding selvage, seam allowance, chain piecing, fat quarter, and in-the-ditch to my vocabulary when I learned how to quilt.  When we first started roasting green coffee beans, we discovered a world that included first and second crack, City and Full City, and chaff.

I’ve been getting an education the past few days, not really in new terms per se but rather new meanings for words I’ve been saying but not really understanding.

It all started a few days ago, before the Polar vortex swirled its way into the western suburbs of Chicago.  Dave and I had ventured out in the snow to Ross and TJ Maxx in search of linen sheets, a traditional gift for our upcoming 12th anniversary.  (We didn’t want silk sheets, ick.)  I was hopeful, but all they had were the usual cotton sheets.  (We did end up getting these sheets from Restoration Hardware, at $100 off the regular price, so our search is now over; I’m excited to find out if sleeping on real linen sheets is all it’s cracked up to be.)

As we trudged back to the car, I glanced at the tire on the front passenger side.  It was hard to tell with all the snow, but it looked flat to me.  I stopped and called out to Dave, “Hey hon, this tire looks flat.”  He glanced at it and said, “Nah, it’s fine – I just checked them.  It just looks that way because of the skinny tires we have.”

When we first bought the car, the wheels were one of the first things Dave noticed.  They do make the car look sporty, and they’re definitely attractive.  Dave has had quite a few guys stop and comment on them, which really surprised me at first, but I guess wheels are the kind of thing guys notice.  The thing is, the tires are super skinny, 17” versus the usual 15” tires you’d see on a sedan like ours.  This does make it hard to tell if the tire is going flat, and it doesn’t give them as much cushion when we’re driving.

Shortly after we bought the (used) car, we replaced the tires.  Dave kept the same wheels because they were expensive and cool-looking, but it made him uncomfortable.  He really didn’t like the skinny 17” tires that much, but they were the only ones that fit on our wheels.  We don’t do that much driving, though, and he decided to leave well enough alone.

Yesterday he noticed that the tire on the passenger side was, in fact, flat.  He filled it up, figuring it was a slow leak.  We’ve had those before; the wheels get dented from hitting potholes and then we’d get a slow leak in the tire.  He’s always keeping an eye on the tire pressure because of that.  This time, though, the tire kept going flat.

This morning he sat me down for a chat.  “So, that tire keeps going flat.  I think I’m going to have to fill it up, run to Wal-Mart for some Fix-A-Flat so we can drive on it, and then we’re going to need to go somewhere for new tires.”  I interrupted him to confirm that he didn’t mean today, because the temperature at the time of our conversation was -11 and I had no intention of leaving the house.

After he agreed that we would stay house-bound for another day, he continued.  “Now, I know you like those wheels.  But we’re going to be doing a lot of driving this year, and if we hit a pothole we could blow the tire.  I think it’s time to get new wheels.”

“Okay,” I agreed.  “But you already told me you need new tires — that’s cool.”

“No, not tires, wheels.  We need both tires and wheels.”

I frowned.  “Well, what’s the difference?”

“The wheel is what attaches to the car and the tire fits onto the wheel,” Dave explained patiently.  “The wheel is the part that everyone thinks looks so cool.”

“OH!”  I nodded.  “But I thought those were the rims.

“Well, rims and wheels are the same thing.”

At this point I thought I had the terms down pretty well.  Dave did some research online and found the tires he wanted, as well as a local place, with good ratings, that carried them.  He showed them to me before he made the phone call.

“Now, this is what the wheel looks like.  You’ll probably want to get wheel covers later on,” he warned.

“Wheel covers?” I asked.  “Why don’t you just get a wheel that looks good and save the hassle of buying something else?  And wait, is a wheel cover the same as a rim?”

He grinned and explained again that wheels and rims were basically the same thing.  “The wheel cover just makes it look pretty, and you can get them at a lot more places.  You can put them on yourself.”

I frowned.  “Well, what’s a hub cap then?”

“That just covers the hub, a small section in the middle of the wheel.”

Then he went back to my earlier question, explaining that he wanted steel wheels so they wouldn’t bend as easily as the pretty, sporty wheels we currently have.  I still don’t really understand it, but I think he was trying to say the steel wheels are all pretty ugly.  But sturdy!  And sturdy is good.  I guess.

In any case, I have had to stop and ask him to clarify every few words as I wrote this.  I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole, to a world where none of the words I thought I knew actually make any sense.  I want to call them tires, darn it – the whole round thing that spins on my car is a tire.  Once you add in wheels and wheel covers and rims and hub caps, my eyes glaze over.

We still haven’t picked out wheel covers yet.  Heaven help us.

Winter in Illinois

Dave and I both slept fitfully last night, and I think part of it had to do with the snowstorm.  It started snowing yesterday afternoon, right around the time my mom stopped by to visit, and continued snowing through the night.

When everything is covered in white, it seems to give off a glow, a light – the bedroom never really seems dark, you know?  I kept waking up, sure that it was almost dawn, and then I’d see that it was 2 am or whatever.

Once the cats rousted Dave out of bed around 6:30, I woke up too but stayed in bed to play around on my tablet.  About an hour later, Dave came in all dressed for the outdoors.  He did a few things and then left, and I followed him to see what the situation was like outside.  I watched from the guest room window as he stepped outside and started shoveling the steps.  He made it to the driveway, looked around, then slid the shovel across horizontally, stopping at the end to fling the snow onto the already-huge pile where the yard normally starts.

I could see then that the snow was really deep – it looked like a foot of snow from where I was watching, but Dave thinks it was more like 6 to 8 inches.  I knew it would go a lot faster with two people, so I bundled up and headed out to help him.

Usually if I ask Dave if he wants help shoveling, he’ll wave me off.  We had a snowstorm earlier this week, from New Year’s Eve through Jan. 2nd, that dropped a foot of snow.  He shoveled two or three times before he finally agreed to let me help him.  I had mentioned that it was good exercise and he said, “OH, I didn’t realize you wanted the exercise.”  I laughed and said, “Why else would I want to shovel snow?  It’s not like I enjoy it!”

Between the two of us, we got the driveway finished in about 15 minutes this morning.  (A neighbor had already done the sidewalks with a snow blower.)  The snow, however, hasn’t let up.  Right now you can’t even tell that we shoveled.  I told Dave we can either shovel again in a couple hours, around 4 pm, or wait until Wednesday.  Tomorrow our high temperature is going to be -13F, and Tuesday it’s going to be zero.  We have nowhere we need to be, and I’m not about to get out in that kind of weather and shovel.  The temperature is dropping now; it was 18 when we shoveled this morning, and it’s about 8 degrees right now.

After our winter storm warning ends at 6 pm today, a wind chill warning kicks in from then until noon on Tuesday.  Tonight we could have wind chills as low as 50 below zero.

We did our grocery shopping yesterday morning so we wouldn’t need to venture out in the weather.  When we went, around 9 am, the stores weren’t very busy.  I saw pictures later that day on Facebook with people waiting in long lines in various local stores; it was even on the news.  It seems excessive to me; we didn’t go out to ‘stock up,’ just to get our usual week’s worth of groceries.  Why would you need to stock up for two or three days of nasty weather?

Our feral cat visitor, the one we call Goldie, has kept me worried for days.  The cold weather worries me more than the snow, really.  We have a house set up for her under the smaller lower deck (both decks are enclosed) but Dave discovered that she’s been sleeping under the bigger deck, which is attached on one side to our house.  (He thinks maybe she’s getting some extra warmth from the side where the house is.)  So he built a second little cat house and put it under there today, along with a heat light bulb that we used to use for the hedgehog.  I’m not sure the light bulb will do much or survive the cold temperatures itself (I’m hoping it doesn’t burn out right away) but Dave reassured me that it wouldn’t burn the deck down.  (!)

Ideally she would just come into our house; she eats right outside the patio door and we’ve opened the door numerous times to see if she’ll be brave enough to enter.  She did step inside a couple times, onto the mat by the door – just enough to look around a bit and then scamper back outside.  Usually she runs off if we open the door, though.  I hope she survives the next couple of days, poor little thing.  We’re doing everything we can for her (food, water, outdoor shelter) but I still feel like it’s not enough.

I’m kind of enjoying the Christmas decorations with all this snow as a backdrop, but they are coming down tomorrow.  (Sigh.)  I did my annual changing of the calendar on New Year’s Eve, where I use the old calendar to write in all the birthdays, etc. on the new one.  It never fails to entertain me, looking back at all the things that happened over the year.  Hopefully this year’s calendar will have less medical entries and more fun ones!

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