Thursday, March 23, 2006


Almost to the chapel....

It's 50 days and counting... Here’s a wedding update for anyone who’s curious.

Invitations are done. It took a while to find the right thing, but I love what we ended up using. The invitations are hand-crafted, following a design by our friend Kristin. A pale green cardstock has had applied to it a 3-dimensionsional lily-of-the-valley design and the words of the invitation printed on ivory card stock. It’s a really beautiful design, and each invitation looks great.

(Amy, Kristin, and my brother Kevin and I worked on assembling the invitations one weekend. Our mantra for much of the process was, “At least the glue dries clear. Thank goodness the glue dries clear.” And, indeed, it does! *smile*)

I addressed the envelopes, and then Ed and I stuffed them. The invitation, a half-sheet with a map, directions to Bloomington, and hotels info, a stamped response postcard, and - for those involved - an invitation to the rehearsal dinner are all went out in the mail. It feels good to have this much accomplished! And the RSVP postcards have been coming in…

We have registered for gifts at a few places, and a couple showers have been planned, one back home in Virginia (this weekend - so we’re on the road) and one here in Indiana (in two weeks). Before we got into it, I had thought that this part of things would be fun - I love shopping for dishes and bed linens almost as much as I enjoy shopping for shoes and books, after all - but trying to work with this so that friends and family have registry info to reference regardless of where they live and which stores are available to them has been a little bit more difficult than it has been fun. Oh, well… I like the choices we’ve made, including the unexpected, like the telescope and the croquet set.

We got word from a friend about a good DJ who works at a rate that fits our budget, so we’re hoping to hire her. The word is that she’ll play what you want, and she doesn’t get excessively loud and cheesy with her commentary, which is important. I hope this will work out.

Saturday morning we met with the caterer to finalize the menu. Catering has been the biggest nightmare part of this wedding planning, but, truth be told, we haven’t had an absolutely terrible time with it. It’s just that the original three caterers we met with, despite recommendations and reputations, proved to be flaky. While that’s good in a pie crust, it’s not so good in a caterer.

One forgot she had a meeting with us and thought our request to keep the cost of the food at a certain dollar amount per guest ridiculous. From talking with her, it also seemed like she would have been determined to do things her way even if we had definite ideas and agreements about how certain things should be. It seemed that we’d probably spend a certain amount of time arguing with her about how things should be done, and, really, who wants to deal with that?

Another seemed to listen to us with an understanding and sympathetic ear when we met with her initially, but when her sample menus arrived in the mail, it turned out that she really hadn’t paid any attention to our concerns at all. Plus, she skewered everything, from fruit to chicken to vegetables. Then, I felt, she tried to strongarm us into accepting her as our caterer by calling to say we needed to make a decision because she had several other people interested in that date and waiting to hear about her availability. Hello… try selling used cars because you just might have a talent for that, sweetie.

But the worst was the woman who dangled the menu we really, really wanted in front of us and then failed to deliver on promises of a follow-up meeting or a tasting where we could invite eight to ten family and friends to try things before we settled the menu. There was a lack of professionalism in our exchanges, or lack of exchanges, that made this incredibly frustrating.

However, after this most recent meeting with the caterer, I feel confident that we have found someone who is not only wonderful to work with but who has goals and strategies for entertaining that match our own goals for this event. The caterer is affiliated with a restaurant we both enjoy, and he is able and willing to work with a menu that is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, while not being off-putting to the omnivores who perhaps aren’t as adventurous in their vegetable-eating experiences as are the vegetarians. It’s going to be a tasty selection of heavy hors d’oeuvres!

Plans are also settled with the florist, who is also proving to be the perfect person to work with. After we met with a few other florists - at least two barely acknowledged Ed’s existence at these meetings and one gave us a shocking quote while two others insisted that they couldn’t work with us until they had fabric swatches of my gown and the bridesmaid dresses - I e-mailed this woman after viewing her website. We met over coffee, she brought a huge number of photo albums with her, and we looked through her portfolio while talking about what I like and don’t like in flowers. (After being ignored by two other florists, Ed refused to deal with florists anymore. So we split responsibilities - he took on the caterers while I took on the florists.)

My cousin Anita is officiating at the ceremony, and we have devised a meaningful exchange of vows, readings, and -- well, I guess ‘platitudes’ is the word -- with her help. My brother Kevin is going to open the ceremony with a welcome to the guests and a reading, and Ed’s sister Mindy will do the second reading. His amazingly talented friend Staci is singing a song we picked out that will, I think, surprise and please most folks, and we kind of hope she’ll feel like performing some more as the reception gets underway.

I have taken my dress in to the seamstress to see about taking in the parts that need taking in; with about five pins in place, she helped me see how lovely the dress will be once it’s fitted properly. We ordered the tuxes last weekend; Ed and his best man in vests and Windsor ties while our dads wear cummerbunds and bow ties. I think the men will look dapper!

The to-do list has grown smaller. We picked out the rings, and now we just need to pick them up. We’ll have to get the license, and to do that I need to dig up proof that I had some inoculation or other when I was a child. And we’ve got some decisions to make about what to do for a honeymoon. That’ll be nice. I’m really looking forward to spending some time away from all this with my husband.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Mitya is sitting on Ed's lap

(Originally published 3/7/2006)

My great-aunt Helyn loved cats. When I was a little girl, we used to visit her in Ft. Myers, Florida, where she lived with her husband, Uncle Hous (short for Houston, in case you’re wondering how to pronounce that), and near her brother-in-law, whom we all called by his last name, Potts. I have strange but fond memories of those visits to the house where she and Uncle Hous lived - the Florida room with its sliding glass door; the backyard with its citrus trees and the front with its palms; the dramatic afternoon thunderstorms; the skittering palmetto bugs and the lightning-fast skinny little lizards; the meals that were never quite what kids liked to eat; and, of course, the cats, who had funny names (like John the Baptist) and didn’t really appreciate having their routines interrupted by kids, even visiting ones that would eventually go away, so they tended to stay hidden or run in blurry streaks from one hidey-hole inside the house to another.

It seems a strange thing to me now, but while Aunt Helyn was living, I never quite understood her affinity for cats. That may have been because we had a cat, called Kat because that’s the creative kind of name you get from a one-year-old (thanks to Mom for the creative spelling!), who was an outdoors-only cat with an attitude that was, well, pretty scary. But Aunt Helyn even loved Kat, who turned into an altogether friendly furry creature whenever she was around. Was it the baby talk, the leftover fried chicken from dinner, or something in my aunt’s DNA that made her like cats and cats like her? It wasn’t clear to me, and I considered myself a dog person anyway, as I spent my early teen years filling the ears of our dog Tramp with the angst-ridden stories of my youth.

Time passed. Kat succumbed to a cancer when I was sixteen. Tramp got into some trouble in the neighborhood and had to be relocated to an even more rural home than ours. My brother Kevin spent a week on the old family homestead in southwestern Virginia, where Aunt Frances and Uncle Cecil ran a small dairy farm. He returned home with a kitten from one of the barn cats. We called her Tika, after a character from the Dragonlance series we had enjoyed reading. Eventually, Keefer, a young Shar Pei whom a friend of the family could no longer care for, moved into the house and, easily, into my family’s hearts. And now my parents live with Cleo, the meowingest cat I’ve ever met.

In college, my roommate Silvia and I raised finches and parakeets, but I wasn’t really much of a bird person. Living on my own while in graduate school, I decided to adopt my first cat, the perfect pet for someone who was at home odd hours thanks to classes and part-time work. At the animal shelter, Ziggy reached a front paw through the cage and grabbed my arm as I was walking by. There was no other cat in the place as far as I was concerned. He went home with me, and we had a couple good years together before he was hit by a car and killed. It was devastating.

A couple years after I moved to Indiana, I adopted Mitya from the animal shelter, and a year after that Grace needed a home when the friends who picked her up from a box of free kittens at a yard sale were unable to keep her. Mitya was a little bit past teeny-tiny kitten age when we first met. He was in a cage surrounded by three or four slightly younger kittens who were brawling with one another while he sat in the midst of the chaos on his best behavior, just waiting to be noticed. He stared me down with moon-colored eyes, I held him in my arms, mesmerized by the motorboat-sized purr coming from this big-eared, strawberry-blonde-furred, little creature -- and I took him home and loved him.

We lived together for nine years - through some kooky roommates, the lunacy of my Ph.D. exams, in a cute bungalow, a two-story townhouse, a two-room apartment, and then in our current place, where we made a home with Ed. As an older kitten, he grew up under the tutelage of my housemate’s cat Smudge. Theirs was a Garfield-Nermal relationship, with Smudge mostly tolerating but sometimes terrorizing the younger cat. Smaller than Smudge at first, once he hit his mature growth - he could stretch out on the coffee table and cover it from tip to tail - he never quite figured out that he was bigger and could whomp Smudge a good one, if he’d just try.

The cats loved to run around the house, up and down the stairs especially. One morning I was working at my computer, which was downstairs, while the cats were doing their thing. All of a sudden I heard my xlnt housemate fling open the door to her room, come running down the stairs, and throw open the front door. She stood there a minute until the cats breezed past her and up the stairs, when it dawned on both of us that she had heard them on the stairs and thought someone was knocking on the door. The stairs were a great toy. The day that Mitya realized he could beat Smudge down them by passing between the posts in the handrail is one of my favorite memories. You could see the light bulb pop on over Mitya’s head, and the confusion on Smudge’s face as he realized his prey was no longer in front of him was simply classic.

When Smudge moved out, it wasn’t long before Grace moved in. Though not related by blood (as far as I know), they were siblings. Oh, how they could compete for attention! Anyone daring to pet the one had best plan on petting the other, too. I think Grace would have been much less tolerant of people had she grown up with a cat other than Mitya. She has some tougher edges that Mitya softened. Still, even as a kitten, she bossed the poor guy around, and together they bossed me. Mornings had a routine: Lara gets out of bed and receives an escort to the bathroom and then down the stairs to the kitchen where she is encouraged by gentle mewlings to replenish the food dish and freshen the water. And if I didn’t get to the food and water right away, they stalked my every move until I did tend to their needs, as a good person should. Even when we moved to different places to live, the routine continued - no better escort from bed to bath to kitchen existed than this furry duo.

For the most part, Mitya was content to live a quiet life. He preferred being indoors and had little interest in skulking around outside. On the single occasion he got out the door without my knowledge, I found him sitting on the front stoop plaintively meowing and waiting for me to realize that he really, really, really wanted to come back inside. He grew a little more adventurous as he aged, and he really enjoyed lazing about in the sun on the balcony of our current home, which Ed cat-proofed late last summer with some chicken wire so that they can’t jump through the space between slats. In fact, in an unusual move, he showed more balls than Grace, metaphorically speaking, by venturing out onto the balcony ahead of her (and he followed this up by exploring the snow-covered balcony during the winter, to my surprise). The only other time I remember him being so much more blatantly curious and adventurous than Grace is when I brought home the water fountain for kitty-cats; he approached the burbling thing with caution, eventually drew close enough to stick a paw into the bowl, and decided it was safe enough to drink from. I was so proud of him for investigating and being so brave.

But my favorite memory of Mitya is long going to be the pictures I have of him sitting on Ed’s lap. I had long ago determined that anyone who came into my life was going to have to accept Mitya and Grace and, in return, be accepted by them. I figured acceptance on all sides was the best to hope for, but that’s so much more than what happened in our family. Mitya took to Ed like white on rice, and Ed, the self-declared dog-person, found himself mesmerized by the motorboat-sized purr coming from this bulldog-chested, cinnamon-dusted-doughnut-furred, extra-large yet incredibly gentle creature. Truly, before we’d really thought about it, Mitya blessed our relationship and upcoming marriage by so effortlessly accepting Ed, not just as a fixture in his environment but as his friend and companion. I grieve for my Mitya, and I sorrow for my partner, who also loved him.

Ed noticed he was breathing sharply and rapidly last Thursday evening, around 10PM. I called the emergency vet service, and they advised watching Mitya through the night and taking him to his regular vet if the problem persisted in the morning. And so we did. She ran some tests, explained what the myriad problems could be, and, after telling us what to watch for in terms of a worsening condition, sent us home with Mitya. Ed went to work for the afternoon, and I stayed at home with Mitya. The weather was nice, so I opened the sliding door to the balcony so that he and Grace could enjoy the sun. I had a deadline to complete for WotC, so I sat on the sofa reading and marking up a manuscript. The cats took turns sitting with me. I kept checking Mitya, watching him breathe, counting the breaths per twenty seconds, trying to determine whether the rapidity was slowing any, and watching for signs of distress. But he never really acted like he felt badly. He ate a little, he made use of the litter box, he sat outside for a while, he sat with me for a while, he took up his favorite station on the other sofa for a while. And when Ed came home, he grabbed his favorite seat on Ed’s lap as soon as he sat down.

I’d like to finish the evening there. Let’s just hold time back starting at that point. Mitya is sitting on Ed’s lap. Grace is on the chair beside me. An episode of Dead Like Me is playing in the DVD player. We’re all four cozy and comfortable. We’re family.

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