Friday, June 27, 2008

Breaking Point

Ish had a couple of appointments in San Francisco today, so he's in town and coming home early. On his way home, he has stopped by Whole Foods to pick up something for dinner, which he will later cook, because I am sitting at home, at our large dining table with papers and charts and spreadsheets and notebooks scattered around me. I am buried in hundreds of to-dos and detailed emails I have to reply to. There are eleventeen billion details zooming around in my head and I am trying really, really hard not to drop a single ball.

I am usually pretty good about handling this level of pre-conference stress -- laughing whenever possible and trying really hard to just roll with the punches. But it's a tightrope walk, and the wrong combination of events is going to push me right over the edge into that bad place. That place where I stop finding things funny and lose all perspective.

For example.

Ish just texted me from the grocery store asking what I wanted him to pick up.

And I responded in the only way that made perfect sense to me: I burst into tears.

The thought of having to make an extra decision -- one not related to the conference -- seemed so mightily impossible that I just started sobbing.

This is not a good sign. Should not be crying at grocery-store texts.

Ahhh. But there it is. Writing it down moments after it happened and sharing it with the invisible internet world? Putting it in writing? Makes it funny. And now I feel better. (Thanks, blogging!)

Stupid tightrope.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Well YOU Are In For A Treat


I've been feeling once again like that proverb (or was it a nursery rhyme? whatever) about the shoemaker (cobbler?) (maybe this was Aesop?) whose kids have no shoes. (No cobbles?) I am living, breathing, and yes, dreaming the BlogHer Conference these days and yet it's been over a week since I've written anything here.

Yes. You are my shoeless, crusty barefooted blog kids.

(There. Aren't you so glad you're reading this? What other blogger has called you a crusty foot today? No one, that's who.)

I am clearly losing my mind.

Anyway, I was having a little chat with Sizzle, BlogHer Volunteer extraordinaire, and realized HEY! I have never blogged about PMS!

And since I have to construct this monster spreadsheet that was due to the hotel two weeks ago, I thought NOW SEEMS LIKE A PERFECT TIME TO DO SO.

I'm not actually suffering from PMS today, which is why I do not have a chin covered in painful red horribleness or wacky food cravings and is why the hammering outside our office is not actually making me cry.

But you know? Remember, dear IIFs who are about my age or older, how when PMS first started gaining widespread acceptance as a reality, and then everyone talked about it all the time? Every comedian, every sitcom, every self-help book? And now that it's all 2008 no one discusses it anymore? We just take it for granted and move on?

Yes, well, let's rewind the clock and discuss. It'll be awesome. It'll be like New Media meets bad punchlines from 1985.

For a few days every month, I can be a complete and utter hormonal train wreck. I have tracked my moods and emotions and physical changes over the course of my cycle, and can without a doubt attribute the following bullshit* to it being "that time."

  • Painful breakouts on my chin and nowhere else.

  • Growing 3 to 8 black hairs under my chin. OVERNIGHT. Ah, Nature. Behold her glory.

  • Walking into doorjambs. I am bad enough at spatial relations as it is. When I'm about to get my period, my spatial relations get even worse. My timing and sense of Where The Hell I Am gets thrown off, and I end up with bruises on my arms from where I miscalculated HOW TO WALK THROUGH A DOOR. This is always awesome. It's especially fun when it happens in the workplace and I have to try and play it off.

  • Alternating between having no appetite and feeling ravenously hungry.

  • A complete inability to make a decision. I had to go shopping for some back-to-school stuff once, and it nearly killed me. I searched the store for hours, painfully selecting things to go in the cart and then taking them out again and putting them back in. Hours. And then when it was time to check out, I couldn't understand why I'd selected anything in my cart at all, and had to abandon the whole thing at checkout, where I promptly left the store in tears.

  • Crying for stupid, stupid reasons.

  • Sleeping as though in a coma.

  • Back pain.

  • And, yes, cramping.

But my favorite pre-period ridiculousness of all is when the day before I get my period, I hiccup. Once.

This doesn't happen every time, just sometimes. One day I hiccup once, seemingly for no reason, and then not again. And then almost exactly 24 hours later, bam!

(And really, isn't sharing that kind of information exactly what blogging is for?)

* * * * * * * * *

La la la...more soon. Or check out BlogHer Conferences to find out how I am spending all of my time! (Seriously, if there's ANYTHING you want to know about the event, just ask.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A New Member Of The Family

I'm not sure it's better than a new puppy, but considering we already live with four cats and want nothing short of an actual baby to interfere with our ability to sleep in on weekends, it may be.

On Saturday, I bought myself a piano.

I don't know how to explain what this is like -- living with a piano, suddenly -- except to compare it to righting a chemical imbalance. I didn't know that all this time I could feel it gone.

I have experienced a lot of loss. Which is a dramatic thing to say, but sometimes life is dramatic. If I put it into stark perspective, without emotional exposition, it's quite plain to see:

My parents lost the house I grew up in. After an 18-year stretch in the same house, after wild financial comings and goings, the bank foreclosed on our home. The house itself was warm and comforting and always, always full of laughter and music.

The house had served as our familial glue, whatever upset rattled its walls. And then the glue dissipated.

We'd...our family's response to the foreclosure mimicked that of a family whose just lost one of its members. My parents couldn't stay in the area for all the memories. So they left.

They moved to a falling-apart farmhouse in New Hampshire -- a sorry replacement that never quite lived up to its designation as "home." And while the house was large enough to store all our stuff from before, all the accumulations of my parents and me and my sisters lives, much just stayed in boxes. Material possessions, evidence that we had lived well together for two decades, was relegated to boxes and closets and a basement I never once set foot in.

There is much more to be said about this shift in my family's life, but I'm trying to hurry up and get to the point.

I saw a therapist for a while when I first moved to San Francisco. I tried to explain to her how the house had come to mean so much to us, to my parents and my mom in particular. It was nearly her fourth child, I said.

"That must have been a devastating loss for her," my therapist said.

"It was," I said.

"How did she ever get over it?" my therapist asked, knowing full well the answer. The answer that hadn't ever occurred to me in such a light.

"She -- didn't."

Not three years after the move, my mother fell ill and died of cancer.

A year after that, my father decided to downsize. (No need to be in that house, the Our House From Connecticut Redux that never really was.) And then we, without my mom, were left to the task of going through all of the stuff. Newer stuff unfit for my dad's even newer place, old stuff still packed from the move a few years before.

We kept what we could, but much had been ruined. Everything that had been set in the basement was molded and dusty and wet and gone. The things we could salvage went then into storage, but not enough. We lost baby clothes. We lost prom dresses. We lost souvenirs. We lost piano music.

We may very well have given all of that stuff away at some point. We just never had the choice.

Again, to put it plainly: we lost our livelihood and we lost our house and we lost our mother and we lost our stuff.

When my father was then settled in his new place, the stuff that did remain had been divided. Dad had enough to make his a home. Much of the rest was fit only for a dumpster. A few remaining pieces went to Healy -- she was the only one of us living in a house. And Sam and I took trinkets.

Dad had the piano in his new place. But like everything else we'd owned, it had been sorely neglected. It is one thing to tend to the upkeep of a house and home you want and love. It is quite another to expend effort maintaining something you resent to your core. It wasn't the house in New Hampshire's fault that everything fell away there. Sometimes we'd play the piano in the new-old livingroom, but it didn't fill the house with the same kind of music it had before when we were happy. And then after mom died, we hardly played it at all.

By the time the piano got to my father's place, it was so out of tune and warped as to be un-fixable. Still sometimes, just because, my dad would play. He had such an unexpected talent at it -- he played with so much passion and ridiculously over-the-top flourishes that you couldn't help but be delighted.

Oh, but the out-of-tune-ness was nothing short of heartbreaking.

And then he got sick, too. And we lost him, too.

It was over. The relics from our first home, and second, and Dad's third were distributed. Some were gotten rid of completely. And when all that remained from our once-life was cleared out for good, the defunct piano was destroyed, and most of the piano music was gone.

* * * * * * * * *

My mother -- whose father and uncle were professional musicians -- insisted on a musical household. I took piano lessons for over nine years. I also played the clarinet and still sing. My sisters both took piano, both sing, and for a while there, Healy also played the cello and trumpet while Samantha played the viola and guitar.

Many nights were spent in our living room, playing piano and singing with family and friends. At Christmastimes, the house nearly burst at the seams from endless, heartfelt, and booming caroling.

And right. It is a cliche and it is also the truth: when we lost so much, the music just stopped.

When I moved into my own house with my then-husband, we had the good fortune to be given a piano by Hakuna (my best friend's mom). I loved, loved, loved to have it. But I hardly played it. I was living in that house while my mother's health failed, and then when she was dying. And I didn't want to play.

Couldn't bring myself to, if you want to know the truth.

I was steeped in my family's losses, and then in my own. My marriage crumbled, just like that, and I lost my own house, too, just like that.

So I did the only thing I could think of to do: I went somewhere new, somewhere I had nothing, somewhere I'd have nothing that could be taken from me.

I moved to San Francisco with clothes and trinkets. I left my furniture for my husband, and my piano for my sister.

* * * * * * *

We have all been rebuilding.

We play the piano at Healy's at Christmastime now, and it's joyous.

Healy is teaching musical theatre to children.

Samantha is marrying a musician, and they have recorded at least one for-family-only CD.

I started an a cappella group years ago as a way to slowly and informally bring music back into my life.

But going out and getting a piano? That is quite something.

It seems that, when I wasn't paying attention, my insides changed. Somewhere along the way I stopped thinking of the piano as something else I'd lost, and started thinking of it as something I was missing. I missed having a piano, I missed playing, I missed the music. I don't need a therapist to tell me that this is a good thing.

So finally, with a little bit of money I'd set aside, with the right apartment and space and emotional grounding, I did it. I stopped being afraid to own a possession that might be taken away. (In fact, that wasn't even a fear of mine, though a few years ago it would have been.) I don't care that I may never be able to play as well as I did when I was 17 -- I don't really care if I never play it well at all. That isn't the point; I have done enough grieving.

I went out in search of the piano on Saturday morning, and by late Saturday afternoon it was in my livingroom. (The fates may have been smiling.) It isn't by any means fancy, but it is by every means a welcome addition to my home.


That last statement would have served to be a fine ending to this post, but there's more.

To bring this all full circle, to bring my history and my past and my life here in SF all together, there is more I should say.

I hate that we lost so much of our sheet music. I was going to say it's stupid, but it's not. It's the difference between reading Shakespeare from a new, slick-coated paperback with images of current movie stars on the cover versus reading Hamlet from the book your grandmother used in college, yellowed with time and smelling the way only old books can. I can buy "Learn to Play" books in my local music store, but they aren't the same and I hate them and their modernity.

I had resigned myself to the notion that it was all lost, our old sheet music. We'd lost the books I learned to play from, like the bright orange Leila Fletcher learner I both loathed and adored. We'd lost those binders my father had collected his sheet music in -- his collection of sappy love songs from the 70s and 80s that I never played or liked or knew, but that filled so much of our livingroom shelves, waiting for the time he'd feel like playing one for her.

But on Saturday, just after I'd gotten the piano, I realized most glorious thing. I can't have those very things back, but I can come really close.

Life and times have changed and now we blog and now there's eBay and wouldn't you know it? There are people selling entire collections of crazy sheet music from the 70s and old-timey favorites from the 40s and Leila Fletcher(!) and fake books and pretty much everything else.

So I bought those, too. I went online, because it is 2008, and even though I spent almost nothing, I'm going to have plenty of the things I used to have. The things we used to have. It won't be the same in many senses, but in the only sense that matters, I will have an abundance of sheet music. I will have a collection of songs I might learn to play someday. I will, again, not only have music right in front of me, but I will have music all around me, waiting for me to indulge.

I again have music, past, present and future, right here in my apartment.

Right here in my home.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wine Appreciation

Things are going very well with Ish right now, which I think no one really wants to hear. Drama, messiness -- yes. A nice couple being happy with each other? YEEEEACHHHH.

But don't go thinking there are no Issues or that The Crazy has gone and left me, because that would be utter foolishness. I long ago embraced my The Crazy, and it will stay with me forever and ever, rearing itself in different forms as I go through various life and relationship stages.

Yeah, I'll get to that.

In the meantime, we have moments like the one last night.

We were both tired, and working late. We were both sitting at our table with our laptops, hardly speaking to one another. We both had glasses of a fun-but-ultimately-unremarkable pinot noir.

While sitting there, I realized I had not effectively swished my mouth out with water following my "dinner."

I should not tell you this because it's really quite awful, but the truth of the matter is, when left to my own devices I do not really care about eating much or well. Because Ish was coming home so late, we agreed not to eat together but instead to "fend for ourselves." I don't tend to fare well in these cases.

Last night, I couldn't muster the inclination to go ACROSS THE STREET to the grocery store, so I just poked around the apartment until I found something that resembled food. I was thrilled to discover we had a bag of remnant noodles, and decided that would be just fine. I prepared them with a little butter and salt and nothing else. (Well, nothing else except carb shame.) And then when I realized that a cup of noodles might not be quite filling enough as my entire dinnertime meal, I ate a couple handfuls of organic cheddar cheese popcorn. (The "organic" making it healthy.) A complete and well rounded meal, no?

When Ish returned home, I learned that he had stopped across the street, and had grabbed himself a fancily prepared, ready-to-heat package of a lemon-butter salmon with rice pilaf.

One of us is obviously the grown-up. But the other one of us got to suck powdered cheddar cheese off her fingers for the rest of the night. (Score!)

And because there are these two big holes in my mouth where my wisdom teeth used to be, I have to be diligent about swishing and flushing those holes after I eat. (Kinda gross, but whatever.)

There we were, sitting all grown-up and boring at the table, working on our computers and sipping wine. And when I realized I hadn't swished, I considered getting up, going to the sink, pouring some water and salt into a glass, and swooshing it around in my mouth. Even though there wasn't anything actually in my mouth, and it's just something I'm supposed to do.

But then that seemed dumb. I mean, if there's not really anything in there, why should I bother getting up and going through all the motions of actually pouring water and salt into a cup? That's kind of a lot of work. What does it really matter if you swish with water instead of, say, pinot noir?

Well, and that's exactly what I did. I started swishing the wine around in my mouth.

Naturally, this caused Ish to look at me.

For a moment, you could tell, he saw his girlfriend swishing a wine he'd carefully selected around in her mouth and he drew the logical conclusion: that I was taking the time to really taste the wine and evaluate it. He smiled at the gesture, pleased that I was even paying attention.

But as he kept looking at me, and I, looking at him, continued to swish fairly vigorously. And I think it must have been somewhere around the time I swished the wine from one side of my mouth to the other, alternately bulging my left and right cheeks out that he realized I was not, actually, tasting the wine at all, but simply using it to make sure my empty gum socket wasn't hiding a cheddar cheese popcorn kernel.

Instead of immediately banging his head on the table, however -- which would have been an entirely appropriate response, mind you -- he simply smiled wider. His eyes were happy. He stared at me for a few lingering seconds, while I finished what I was doing (albeit a little more sheepishly now that I'd been caught).

He just said, "You're delightful." And went back to work.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Playing House

The banging from the kitchen was comical from the other side of the door. What the hell is going on in there? It's not like he's preparing a five-course meal, I thought. But I couldn't say that, felt guilty for even thinking it. This handsome young man was preparing a dinner for me just because he thought it would be romantic. He wanted very much to impress me. It would be the least I could do to shut the sarcasm off.

I wonder if I had any inkling how well I'd remember the awkwardness.

On the outside, everything was perfect. We were alone in the big house, alone for the first time since we'd started dating, and now we were snowed in. We had a fire, good movies, we'd even bought wine for the occasion. (Well, he had bought wine. I was still only 20 and my fake ID had been confiscated by that state trooper.) We were clearly in love. It was all very special.

But the reality was that I was starting to get a little drunk. By the time I was done with nearly two glasses of wine, there was still no hint that the cacophony of bowl clanging and silverware shuffling and cabinetry opening was going to yield dinner anytime soon. I was drinking on an empty stomach, left by myself to enjoy the fire and...cable television.

It wasn't that I didn't appreciate his efforts. I did. Or at least I was trying to. But he'd ushered me from the kitchen so that he could prepare this one dish, which left me alone and bored. And hungry. After about an hour, it stopped being romantic and just started being kind of funny: he's banging around in the kitchen, doing God knows what to make a simple chicken marsala, and I'm sitting alone in his parents living room getting drunk. Funny, like a sitcom.

But that was the thing with him. He was never comfortable laughing at himself.

* * * * * * * *
A month or so after we began dating, the University of Connecticut gave David and me a week off for Spring Break. The timing was perfect: his parents would be off on a golf vacation, which meant we would have their house to ourselves.

We were both in our early twenties, and we were both living with our parents and commuting to college. It was a very unsexy situation. For years I'd imagined ivy-covered buildings adorning the lush grounds of my university -- a place where I'd learn the great works of literary masters in between attending parties and football games and participating in dorm-room hijinks. Instead, my school was a total of two crummy buildings not so much "tucked away" as "hidden" from view off a windy road in the back woods part of a town I didn't know existed till I showed up for my first day, full of justified resignation. The school offered nothing of a social life. Even the library closed at six.

When David and I met, then, we instantly fell in love. How could we not? We had so much in common -- not the least of which was our palpable distaste for our current circumstances, and a shared longing-cum-ambition to ensure that everything would get better after graduation. We realized we were on the same page about this -- this, life, the future -- on our first date, when we held hands but didn't even kiss. And from then on, we were inseparable.

The week before spring break, we went to the sports bar to play the piped-in-via-satellite trivia game. We were sharing a pitcher of beer, I remember, which was rare. (We hardly drank in those days -- me because I was still only 20, he because he just didn't like to.) I couldn't tell you how he said it, but I know I found it thrilling and sexy. He had this way about him that was commanding without being overbearing; he could ask a question while telling you the answer.
So when he told me his parents would be away while we had our break and invited me to stay with him, I don't remember saying "yes." It was simply so.

I did not expect to spend the whole week with him, but it happened that way. Our first, tentative, romantic, exciting night together became the next day together. And while the snow kept falling and we were enjoying each other's company, there was nowhere better to be. Soon it was the next day, and the next. We were living like adults, sharing meals and living quarters and sleeping beside each other every night. It felt a lot like we were playing house, auditioning for a post-collegiate lifestyle. Trying life as a married couple on for size.

It seemed to fit.

For the rest of our relationship, which lasted another six years, we would refer to that spring break as when we knew. Everything fit and was easy and fun and we clicked, and we knew we'd be married.

What's funny now is that when I try and piece that week together in my memory, I only seem able to focus on that one night. The other bits were all so delightful, we couldn't help but view them as harbingers of a lifetime of happiness together. But that one night there, smack in the middle of our magical week, was...less than perfect. And turns out, it was that one night that served as a truer harbinger, illustrating something much less delightful.

Perspective. Funny, that.

For no known reason, I woke up this morning thinking about that night. It pains me now to think of it, how the whole thing was such a mess.

It's just -- he'd just wanted to cook for me.

I had dated a lot of guys by the time Dave and I got together. But I'd been young, and they'd been young, and it's not like a lot of teenaged boys go around wanting to make you dinner. In my experience, they mostly wanted to take you to shoot-em-up movies during which they would try and accidentally feel your boob.

Dave didn't know how to make a lot of things, but he did know how to make a killer chicken marsala, he claimed, and so we were going to have a full-blown, romantic night featuring this dish. I just had to sit back and relax while he did all the work.

We first went to the grocery store together. While there, we decided that we should buy a bottle of wine because I had just recently* discovered I quite liked it. We bought a bottle of pinot grigio.

We got back to his parents' house, and when it was time for preparations to begin, I was shooed out of the kitchen. I went upstairs to get dressed for the evening -- switching from sweats to something a bit more appealing -- and returned to the living room. I was one door away from the kitchen, but not allowed to go in. My offers to help were rebuffed.

He handed me a glass of wine and told me to watch television.

* * * * * *
Somewhere around two hours in, I decided to put the Playboy channel on. Growing up, I never had access to the Playboy channel and was always curious about it. (As a kid, knowing someone whose family got the Playboy channel was a big deal, like knowing someone with a pool.) But now I was an adult, and mature, and allowed to watch whatever I wanted. And maybe if I put on some television with naked breasts, my boyfriend would remember that the point of a romantic evening together was to, in fact, spend it together.

Turns out, he liked that I was open-minded enough to watch soft-core porn. But not enough to stop what he was doing. He poured me more wine and assured me that dinner would be ready soon.

And then finally it was ready. He came and fetched me from my drunken, fake-boob watching quarantine, and escorted me into the kitchen. He'd set the kitchen table for two, complete with linens and candles. Which was another nice and romantic gesture, except that even in the very dim lights, I had to hold back laughter.

The kitchen looked like a cyclone had hit it. Almost every single cabinet was open, the sink was stacked with pots and pans and who knows what. The countertops were barely visible under so many various kitchen utensils, all in the name of making chicken with rice.

And then the rest of our romantic evening went like a bad movie. We ventured from sitcom-worthy into a full-blown cringe fest, made worse by how earnest Dave had been in his gesture. After all his painstaking preparations, I sat down to a meal chock-full of mushrooms which I hate. I did not mention this at the time, of course, but it was a rather unpleasant discovery. And then, even with all the lovey conversation and toasts to us and finishing off the bottle of wine, dinner took about 15 minutes to eat.

There was no way to ignore the disappointment -- somehow the results were supposed to be grander. So much work, so much waiting, so much anticipation, and for what? It was uncomfortable. But to make up for it, or at least to distract from it, I insisted that we leave the kitchen for later and adjourn to the livingroom for some quality time.

I believe I then made some Playboy-channel-related attempt at seducing him (which, let's face it, wasn't hard). But somewhere in the middle of our would-be passionate, livingroom floor romp, it occurred to me that I'd had far too much wine. I didn't feel ill, exactly, I just wasn't feeling much of anything. Except tired.

So we stopped what we were doing, and just went to bed.

That would have been a sad ending to the evening in and of itself -- a brief meal, disappointing sex. But then about 20 minutes after we'd gone to bed, while I was leaning halfway off the mattress to try and stop the room from spinning, I threw the whole meal up.

* * * * * *

Like the rest of our relationship, there were two ways to see the events of that night.

You could package it up all pretty, with a neat little bow: we spent a snowy evening inside together. He cooked dinner for me, we had a little sexy time, we went to sleep. It was all very warm and sweet and quiet and lovely. No need to mention the unpleasantness of needing rug shampoo at 1 in the morning.

Or you could see it for how I felt it at the time, which was that the night was a disaster.

And that's okay -- you can have disastrous evenings and walk away from them just fine if you know how to laugh. Things won't always go as they're supposed to, and so what? The unexpected is much more fun.

But he didn't work like that. He wanted it to be the way it looked on paper, everything controlled and containable. Follow the recipe, get the desired results. Meet, fall in love, get married, live happily ever after.

That's the thing about being older and wiser, though, right? You learn. It doesn't have anything to do with how you work as a couple when things are going well. It has everything to do with how you work as a couple when things fall apart.

My true love is not the man who makes the perfect chicken. He never was and he never will be. My true love is the man who knows when to throw his hands up, pull me close, and say, "Screw it. Let's order pizza."

*Wow. This was a long time ago.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Thing I Love Most About Not Showering For Four Days

Is that your hair goes from looking a little funky to really dirty to just like, really strong. I like to think that by not washing and/or shampooing for so many hours gives my hair a nice, healthy reprieve from the damage I do on a regular basis, right? Also, you can style your hair in just about any fashion (mohawk) and it'll just stay there.

So how've you been?

My tooth ordeal was far less traumatic than expected. I am suffering still from a mild case of "chipmunk cheek" but otherwise, it's not been too bad. I spent all of Thursday in a fog -- and, sadly, have no stories to tell of stupid things I said or did while under the anesthetic influence. Friday and Saturday were also spent in recovery mode, and I'm still taking it easy. But overall it was pretty okay.

And while I still hurt, I have also learned that I do not like Vicodin. It makes me groggy and nauseous and just kind of icky. I'm instead simply trying not to OD on ibuprofen. So far, so good.

IN OTHER NEWS, Ish and I are in a new, all-out cat war.

I would really like to be able to make use of our patio.

The wall between our patio and the neighbor's patio is probably about three-plus feet high. (That's not at all high to a cat.) As I mentioned earlier, we haven't really done anything to make our patio space alluring (yet). Whereas our neighbor, who is an architect, has a lavish spread. It's got dark woods and loungers and pots and flora and a whole, put-together look that makes you think the man living there must be gay and wealthy.

Our cats want very much to go outside and we want very much to let them. The problem is keeping them from jumping over the wall into the neighbor's patio. He has planters with some kind of mini-bushes in them that covers 3/4 of the wall, but the 4th quarter is empty because the planter doesn't fit.

This means that the first line of defense is flawed.

Last weekend, Ish and I went to Home Depot on our THIRD attempt to find some sort of wall-related covering that might deter the cats and not look heinous. We finally settled on a collection of wide trellises, that we would ground in some planter boxes.

Brilliant, attractive.

Until yesterday, when we actually planted the trellises in the boxes. And discovered that if the boxes are flush against the wall, the trellis cannot be. Because, right, they are inside the boxes.

Attractive. Not so brilliant.

Another excursion -- this time to Lowes. (Note: for those of you unfamiliar with San Francisco, there is no Home Depot nor Lowes nor any such store inside the city. Each of these trips requires getting in the car and driving on the highway to such beautiful and exotic locations as South San Francisco, Daly City, San Carlos, and even Redwood City. (Not to mention Palo Alto to Ikea for the patio furniture trip that resulted in us buying a grand total of two frozen yogurts.)) Where I bought a 6'x15' wall of reeds.

This brilliant idea was that this reed wall would go along the wall already in place, and would totally block the cats.

But how will the wall stay up? Ish asked me in the store.

I don't know, but it's only $23. We will figure the rest out later. Maybe the trellis boxes will hold the reed wall in place.

So this morning, we tried it out. Extended the reed-wall across the actual wall, pushed the trellis boxes up against it. Held it in place okay, although the trellis boxes are about 14" high, and the reed-wall is six FEET high. So the top kind of leaned forward.

Forward, but not so forward that the cats could get through it.

We thought.

We arrogantly opened the doors to the patio, let the cats out. Felt smug.

Until about ten minutes later, when Ish went out to check on them. He called to me from the patio with defeat in his voice.

Just come look at him.

I went outside. And while the reed-wall was still up, still leaning forward ever so slightly, Eddie was lounging languidly on a lovely chair in the neighbor's patio. His head was on the armrest, his eyes half-open, staring at us. He didn't budge when we called to him, except to blink, as though saying, You guys have got to chill. Have you tried hanging out over here? It's very relaxing.

There was nothing to be done about it, until eventually we checked up on him and couldn't see him at all.

Afraid he'd actually jumped into the neighbor's apartment (again!), Ish ran downstairs to see if the neighbor's car was there. It wasn't, so Ish jumped the wall, found Eddie curled up in a potted plant, snatched him and returned to our desolate side.

We need to find something tall to hold up the reed-wall, we determined. (Duh.) Maybe long, tall planters of some sort?

But we didn't want to drive down the Peninsula AGAIN. So we went to a few local stores.

What if we got a semi-tall planter, and like, planted a small TREE? I suggested, in something akin to desperation.

And Ish replied, in the middle of store number three: Why don't we just push the trees we ALREADY HAVE against it?

Yeah, the tenants before us left us three small potted trees, and it hadn't occurred to us to use those. Because we're not even remotely brilliant.

So that is what we've done and that seems to be working. For now, anyway.

But seriously? That was a lot of work. To keep the cats on our side of the patio, there are now approximately four-and-a-half lines of defense: a low wall with planters full of small bushes, a tall reed-wall, three trellises in planters, and two trees.

Photo taken with Ish's phone.
(Yes, my digital camera broke again. This is the third one I've broken.)
It could not capture the whole thing, but you can probably get the point.
That's Monster's butt you see between the two trellises.

Lastly, I wanted to give you an update on our patio furniture situation. I would normally think this is the most boringest kind of update, but once I mentioned we were looking for non-fugly, non-expensive patio furniture, I was inundated with suggestions from everyone.

You are all very savvy.

We took heed and started looking into all kinds of options.

And then we found it.

At Safeway. (That's the grocery store, for all you non-left-Coasters.)

Seriously. It's all wood (though not the best quality, it's still wood). It's got a giant round table that ostensibly seats six. And it comes with six armchairs that come with cushions. In the land of patio furniture, this is amazing.

Usually the tables come with non-arm-having chairs and the cushions are separate and cost like, $20 each. In the case of this Safeway furniture, the whole thing costs $559. Except when we went to purchase it -- finally -- we discovered it is half-off. So the seven-piece set came to a total of $298, and they are delivering it for no fee.

(If any of you need patio furniture are are looking for a steal, this is it. They have one set left at the SOMA Safeway.)

I am a little concerned that I have over-estimated the size of my patio and that the table will only fit if no one sits at it, but whatever.

Worst case scenario, we can just push it up against the wall. HAHAHAHAHA.