Tuesday, February 23, 2010

9 Months and Counting

I have failed superbly at recording the last nine months of our life in Tennessee. The causes are many, but the home buying and getting pregnant probably rank near the top. Now we are just days (I hope) away from greeting our first-born son, who will be a Tennesseean.

I wonder if he'll talk with a Southern accent. Will he call me Mama instead of Mommy or just Mom?

While these thoughts occasionally pop into my head, I'm more preoccupied with when exactly he's going to arrive and what he might look like. Everyone assures me that my frequent and severe heartburn is a sign that he'll have lots of hair. I believe my scalp resembled a cue ball at birth, so if he does have lots of hair it will be from his Italian father.

Now that we've been here for more than a year, we are still without satellite radio but we do have a few good friends. And now that we live less than five minutes from the church--and the service was pushed back to 10:30--we are much more active members.

I can't imagine the next nine months will afford me a lot more time to write down the snippets of our experiences, but perhaps having a child is even more of a reason to do so. This will change our lives, friends and family assure us. "It will go by so fast," everyone says. My main goal--after an "easy" delivery, of course--is to teach my son to be the kind of person that other people want to be around. I hope he's compassionate and smart and quick to laugh. I suppose I will have to remember to be those things, too.

Monday, May 11, 2009

World's Largest Fish Fry

Last month's big event in our area was the annual fish fry, which Paris, Tenn., claims is the "world's largest." It lasts a week, so we decided to go on the final Friday to take it all in. 

It was smaller than I expected for being the world's largest, but perhaps that has to do with the amount of fish consumed over the course of six days. There was a rodeo, which we did not attend, armed services recruiters, a petting zoo and an array of carnival rides and airbrush art that would have enthralled my six-year-old self. But, at 31, I think what I enjoyed most had to be the funnel cake. That is one love affair that will not end no matter how many Weight Watcher points it has (24 by my count).

But before I dove into the chewy, heavenly cake, we went to the fish tent, which is actually a building near the entrance of the fair grounds. It was decorated with posters from the town children who had rendered various sizes, shapes and colors of fish or fish-related scenes. The creativity was impressive. One showed a fish in flames and it said something about the devil. Or hell. Not sure exactly what that has to do with a fish fry, but hey. We're in Tennessee. 

After moving through the line and admiring the art-covered walls, we were given generous helpings of fried catfish, slaw, hush puppies, french fries and navy beans. Carbtastic!

We looked around for a place to sit and found a spot next to a group of men, whom we later found out were from Chicago. They had ridden their motorcycles down that day. It's an annual trip for them, although, honestly, I hope they had some other activities planned. 

The food was pretty good (better with hot sauce), but I don't know that we'll make it an annual event for us. Essentially it was a big carnival, the allure of which has greatly diminished now that most of the rides would make me sick to my stomach. 

Some things are just better when you're six.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Puppy Love

In the past week or two there's been a sort of rotation of animals in and out of our house. We are on a search for a companion for our Boxer. Jojo needs a friend to help occupy the long daytime hours while the Mrs. works at her desk. For awhile, she could take Jojo outside and let her play with a Lab puppy from the trailer park next door. We have no idea what this dog's name is or exactly who it belonged to, but it was nice for them to go out and play because the puppy is more energetic than either me or my wife when it comes to the things Jojo prefers to do (like be pursued with a stick in her mouth, be pursued with a tennis ball in her mouth, or just be pursued).

Then, as has been detailed in the earlier post by the Mrs., we let a small cat in our house. The cat behaved admirably and we'd even changed his name to Diego, which somehow seems to suit his tattered appearance even more than "Dusty." One day last week I came into my office, which is across the hall from our guest bathroom where Diego's litter is set up, and there was the distinct odor of cat urine hanging in the room. The smell was so pervasive that I was sure Diego had slipped in here and micturated on my rug or office chair. I mopped the floor and laundered the carpet. Still the smell persisted. It was the spectral stench of Diego's litter box.

Somehow this tiny cat can muster an unstoppable flow of feces and urine. When I cleaned out his box, I was astonished by the sheer amount of his waste. It was like we were living with a horse. So, we decided to make Diego and "outside cat" and put a beach towel on a lawn chair in our carport. We feed and water him, but he tries to jostle his way inside every time I open the door. I feel sorry for him, especially on cold nights, but the smell is too overwhelming.

Then the news came down about the puppy next door. Her owners said that they were going to move and could not keep Jackie (her name, not ours). The man told Mrs. Carpetbagger that he was just going to call the pound to pick her up. We all knew what that means. She might hang around a couple weeks in the cages on the slim chance that someone would happen by and adopt her. More likely, she would get "the long stick goodnight."

I'm a softie and so is the Mrs. We said we'd take Jackie and brought her home at the beginning of this week. We then found out that these people moved TWO DOORS DOWN in the same trailer park. I can't imagine that the animal laws are a whole hell of a lot different if you are 65 feet away from where you just lived--but okay ... fine ...

We want to rename Jackie, but it's been tough. Mostly we still call her "Puppy" from before we knew her name. We decided on Chloe, but I keep accidently calling her Clio. The puppy doesn't seem to know or care about her name. Her sole goals in life seem to be: getting on Jojo's nerves and going to the bathroom in the house.

Here's to hoping the housebreaking goes well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

We've Been Chosen

We have a new addition to the family. It wasn't premeditated. It was entirely unexpected. His name is Diego, and he's a gray cat that adopted us, more or less.

It is not uncommon for cats—tiger cats, Tom cats, gray and white cats (don't think I've seen a black cat yet)—to traverse our yard during their daily jaunts. Some of them seem to have owners and the more skittish of the bunch take up their residence in a nearby barn. Until this week, they'd all kept their distance, particularly if I was out in the yard with our Boxer. 

This week I was out with Jojo, and she was playing with the puppy next door who has found every hole in our fence to shimmy through. It was colder than I expected, so I came back in the house to grab some gloves. By the time I got back to the yard, the dogs were inspecting something in the middle of the yard—a small gray cat.

Now most cats when faced with dogs will do one of two things: run like hell or hiss and scratch at their faces. This cat did neither. Jojo and the pup were going wild, running away and then bounding back toward the cat and lunging at it. I wasn't sure if it was hurt or stupid, so I picked it up in an attempt to keep it from getting trampled. It didn't particularly like being held, but it also didn't put up much of a fight. 

I wasn't sure which direction it had come from, but I was pretty certain the dogs would continue to bat it around like a play thing. A neighbor was passing by and said he didn't know the cat's origin but he went to my other neighbor's to inquire. Not hers either.

Every time I tried to get the cat away from the dogs, it followed me back to where they were. I inspected his paws to see if he had claws. But even cats who've been declawed will usually bat at their foes with their paws. He had them, but they were small and he never seemed to use them. He also had a tiny piece of his ear missing along with a large chunk of hair behind that ear (an old wound) as well as a fresher scab on his lip. Either he'd fought a good fight and lost or he just didn't know how to fight at all. I finally had to give up and take Jojo back inside and hope that the black pup would go back to her yard.
I didn't see much of the cat until the next day. There he was sitting on the other side of my sliding glass door crying for food. I'd been worried that he wasn't fast enough or smart enough to get his own food, but he knew what to do. Sitting there looking all cute and pathetic at once, he folded me like a paper napkin. I brought him some tuna in a matter of minutes. But, I didn't let him in the house. 

When Alex got home, he warned of the dropping temperatures. We should bring the cat inside. So we did. 

Jojo is unsure what to think of this new snuggle buddy/interloper. At first, she acted much like she did outside. Lunging at the cat and sniffing suspiciously at him. But she finally got tired and lay down, and the kitty came and lay down right beside her. 

She likes to keep her eye on him. If she realizes she doesn't know where he is, she'll run around the house with her head perked up. She also likes to eat kitty chow, and he takes bites from her bowl as well. To her credit, she's never growled at him or snapped. However, she is clearly jealous that he can jump up on my lap when I'm at my computer. We had an unfortunate incident with Jojo and the litter box, but nothing that a baby gate can't fix. 

So, it looks like Diego is ours. At least until someone claims him. But out here in the country, I don't think that's likely. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

11 Random Things About Living in Tennessee

1. You might see cowboys pull up to the liquor store on horseback. 
2. It's very difficult to find music on the radio that isn't country, Christian or whiny-boy "rock."
3. It can be 20 degrees one day and 57 the next.
4. It's dark. Very dark. It makes driving a bit scary, but on the upside, you can see millions of stars. 
5. When introduced to children, they are expected to call you Miss First Name or Mr. First Name. 
6. Most people wave even if they don't know you.
7. People will say hi to you in the store (even if they don't know you and whether or not they work there).
8. Trains are louder than I thought. 
9. I have regained my love of pork sausage. I was on the turkey variety for so long, I'd forgotten what the real thing tasted like. 
10. Camouflage is so popular here that even teenage girls wear it. 
11.  Dry counties that make exceptions for beer make no exceptions on Sunday.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Crushing Like a Schoolgirl

We finally took everyone's advice and went to church today. And, lo and behold, we actually met some potential friends. And boy do they have potential! They are around our age, college-educated, have no children but do have a dog—an energetic lab, who would be the perfect playmate for our Jojo. 

I feel like a schoolgirl with a crush. These people are perfect for us! 

The church wasn't so bad either. I'm not sure why they have their only service at 9 a.m. (one of the reasons it took us so long to finally decide to go), but the people were pleasant and not pushy. I did not, as I have on other occasions, worry that it was just a matter of time before they took me in the back room, vacuumed out my brains and emptied my wallet. Instead, I felt welcome.

I did find myself flipping wildly from the hymnal to the Book of Common Prayer and back again,  but overall, I felt good about the experience. Nobody looked at us twice when we didn't go up for communion, although technically, as baptizees of other denominations, we are welcome to the table. 

We also discovered that they are looking for choir members. 

I haven't sung in a choir since I was 18 but have thought about joining one many times in my adult life. I do love to sing, and most people would agree that it's better if I do so in a group. Ooh, but do choir members have to get to church early? Of course it probably would be a good thing to have just one more motivation to get up early on a Sunday and drive the 35 minutes. 

So much to consider. Puppy play dates and prayer circles. This definitely is a different life than the one we left, but having companions does make it seem so much more exciting.

I am enthralled with the idea of this new couple, whom I've already decided must become our very best friends in the whole world. OK, dial down the crazy a notch. I don't want to scare them away. 

But, I just didn't even imagine that we'd find another couple so much like us. 

Is it OK to call tomorrow? Or should we wait a few days? 


Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Official: Friends Wanted

While the bloom is not quite off the rose in terms of me loving our new house, I have, nearly four weeks in, realized that I cannot survive unless I make friends. 

The friends I left behind in Chicago and those from my home town have assured me that I will have no trouble.  But there's a key difference between now and when I met them. Now, I work from home and I'm not in school. 

Nearly all of the friends I made in Chicago were people I met at work. And even when I left to work from home, they still invited me to happy hours, birthday parties and any other excuse to raise a glass. 

So far, we've only been out to dinner with one other couple--the Dr.'s boss and his wife. (Yeah work!). But surely I can't rely on them for all my socializing, although I did find them to be refreshingly irreverent academic types that I would love to get to know better. 

I suppose I'm not helping my cause by sitting at the computer. I've heard this advice repeated several times so far: "Get involved in the community." But, how exactly does one "get involved" in the community? I suppose I could volunteer for something. Join a church. Put an ad in the paper. How would it read? 

"MWF seeks S or M F for friendship, no really just friendship." 

I did go to the gym the other night. It's the facility the college students use. I didn't feel too out of shape to be there, which was nice. Most people were wearing T-shirts and sweatpants rather than the brightly colored spandex that graces many a tooshie in a city gym. I did feel a little old though. And everyone else seemed to know one another. 

I'm not a particularly shy person, but this is more difficult than I expected. Yesterday, the woman who helped us open our new bank accounts in town called, probably because she noticed I hadn't even bothered to activate my debit card yet, and I almost invited her out to lunch. In the end, I decided against it, lest I come across as creepy. 

My mom is coming to visit this weekend, and I'm so excited to see her. But it probably won't help in my quest to "get involved." However, she may be game for the square dance held at the barn across the road every Saturday. Then I'll find myself in a new dilemma: What does one wear to a square dance?