Thursday, December 31, 2009

Health, Wealth and Happiness


Where did the year go? Did someone shorten it by several months when I wasn't looking? As ever time has whooshed by and here we are at the cusp of another new year and I wonder what this new one has in store for me.

2009 sure has been one hell of a mixed bag (I've made some links in bold to relevant past posts). I started the year with surgery to remove my thyroid tumour which thankfully turned out to be benign. Over the course of the year the scar across my throat has faded so that it is barely noticeable which is a far cry from the Frankenstein-like staples I was sporting for a week or so after surgery. Afterwards my poor half a thyroid couldn't cope very well and I spent the next six months in a kind of torpor with my main goal in life being to just stay awake. Lord knows how I made it through those following months (for all I know I probably hibernated) but now I can stay awake thanks to some little white tablets.

In April I visited the wonderful and vibrant city of Barcelona and met up with an old blog friend, Mar, who turned out to be as lovely and fabulous as her writing leads you to believe. Soon after I returned from this trip however, my dear old cat, Bob became ill and died. I was bereft and miss him still. May also marked my graduation ceremony for my MBA, the culmination of five years study and I had a wonderful day. I also decided that something in my life was missing and went to meet a tiny young kitten called Max who sat in the palm of my hand and went to sleep. From that moment he was mine and later on I would decide to adopt his brother too. June saw me reach four decades. Nuff said.

Max and Sam came to live with me in July and have caused mischief and mayhem ever since. I cannot believe how tiny they used to be compared to the big fluffy kitties they have become. I will post some more pics of them soon. It was also around this time that I started to feel more myself again and I have been playing catch up on the year ever since, having a clear up and a clear out that was long overdue.

In November I visited San Francisco (post with pics coming soon) and had a great time and then there was the rush to Christmas. Oh yeah, I was also made surplus in my old team and so had to find a new job and luckily did that in under a month. I'm still finding my feet but I think this post will be good for me.

Sure there was other stuff and hubbub but those were the highlights. I know that life is full of ups and downs and so I know 2010 will be filled with these, but I hope for less of a roller coaster ride and more ups than downs for 2010. I wish the same for you and hope that the new year brings you health, wealth and happiness. Thank you for visiting me (all except my malicious 'anonymous' visitor) and for your continued support.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh! Christmas Tree


I always love Christmas and so always look forward to putting my tree up. I don't rush though and put it up as soon as December arrives. Part of the whole experience is the anticipation of Christmas, of looking forward to putting the tree up and decorating. It feels more special if it is up for a just three or so weeks, and it comes down on the twelfth day of Christmas.


I decorate my tree with fruit and birds in hues of gold and red. I have ivy and berry garlands entwined around the tree and a white dove sits on top. Underneath I have a collection of little chaps who look like a bunch of carol singers.


I love to sit and watch films, or use my laptop by the Christmas tree lights and some candles. It feels cosy which is just what is required with the freezing temperatures we've been experiencing here lately. I have watched quite a few Christmas films in the run up to Christmas including, Scrooged, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street (original B&W), Die Hard 1&2, Gremlins, While You Were Sleeping, The Holiday, Elf and Love Actually. Holiday Inn, A Christmas Carol (B&W) and Nightmare Before Christmas to go.


On a separate note, my new job is going really well, and after two weeks I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable even the learning curve is more like a learning climb! I'm being given extra responsibility already and my boss seems to like my ideas. That has to be good. Other than that I am nearly ready for Christmas, just a few presents to wrap and the turkey to get along with a few other bits and pieces. The sprouts have been on since last week so they should be cooked in time, LoL!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Place Holder

Name: Bobkat

Date of reservation: 6th December 2009

Location: In da house.

Comments: This spot is reserved for a post on San Francisco.

Notes: I just cannot seem to find time to sit down and finish my post on San Francisco. I don't think Blogger wants me to post it either as it kept spitting my photos out. I will persevere though and so it is a post 'in progress'.

So, what on earth have I been up to? Well, a number of things. I have finally got around to sorting my house out. My divorce was three years ago and my house has had piles of random "stuff" to sort out, rooms to furnish and generally a whole make-over and declutter was required. It is a big job and I am not finished yet but I am getting there. Every time I sort something out it makes me feel good; like I am getting on with my life and leaving the past where it should be - behind me. I have my parents coming for Christmas so there is a sense of urgency to get certain things done and prepare for Christmas. The tree will go up next week.

I have also been helping my partner with his recently launched book. First I was taking photographs for the illustrations and then I helped with the editing and promotion. The book is called "Zompoc: How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse" and is available on Amazon (.com and .co.uk). It's doing quite well and is being well received by zombie fans (there are more of them than you know!).

Lastly, work has been more hectic than ever with the team short by two people. I then found out that my post was to be cut as well and so I then had to find another job. I managed to find one elsewhere in the same organisation doing something completely different but it seems like it's a good move for my career. Fingers crossed. Isn't it funny how things work out? Anyway, I start tomorrow so wish me luck!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back in Blighty


I've been back from San Francisco for a couple of days now, battling jet lag, catching up on tons of laundry, getting my bearings and braving the British weather. I had a fabulous time and having left SF with blue skies and sun I returned to torrential rain and gale force winds. A further bump back to earth came when I got home and realised I had a suitcase full of dirty washing to contend with and I had to go back to work. To paraphrase a famous Hollywood icon, 'Toto, I guess I'm not in California anymore'. Photos will follow soon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Packing Boxes and Bags


I do not know where October has gone to. It seems to me that it has been cut by around three weeks or so. Mind you I have been busy so it is not surprising that time has flown by. So, what have I been up to? There is so much to tell.

Work has been hectic, and I mean more so than usual due to various factors beyond my control. Also, at the start of the month I had a really bad chest infection which left me unable to breathe properly. I was put on a course of steroids strong enough to be the envy of an athlete with questionable morals and told if things didn't improve in a couple of days then I would be admitted to hospital. Luckily I did improve but am still not 100%. Nasty bug. So, I had to have some time away from work which further compressed deadlines. I have been very tired. On top of that I found out recently that my post has been cut so I need to find something else.

I have also been raising funds for Operation Christmas Child. I chuffed to bits that I managed to fill and wrap 50 shoe boxes for under privileged children this year. It's so simple to do and has such an immediate effect as I know that the box I put together will be received, as it was sent, by a child that would otherwise receive nothing. I love that such little things like soap, toothbrushes, stationary, small toys, hats, gloves etc. are appreciated. It seems to me that we can take a lot for granted sometimes. In Romania, the children from gypsy families cannot even go to school unless they supply their own stationary so just a few pencils and notebooks can provide access to education. Who would have thought it would be so simple to really make a difference to someones life?

I also had my first professional commission as a photographer. A friend of mine has written a book about survival during a zombie apocalypse and I have been assisting with taking photographs and editing. Taking the photos was quite intense but a lot of fun, especially when we had people made up as zombies. I loved that even though there was a list of shots that were required I could also still exercise some of my creative skills and came up with a few good ideas of my own. It was good experience having to direct the people modeling, especially as none of them were professional models. It was pretty time consuming but worth it as the book has been published and is available online.

So, after all that I think I deserve a holiday and so that is exactly what I am doing. Soon I will be jetting off to San Francisco, somewhere that has been on my list for some time. Literally everyone I have spoken to that has been there has said that they loved it. I am so looking forward to seeing it for myself. Of course this means that I will be absent from blogging for around just over a week but I am going to make a concerted effort to visit all my blog friends before I go. Watch out San Francisco, I'm packing my bags.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Where is Bobkat?

Blog friends of Bobkat have recently been puzzled by her apparent absence. Until recently Bobkat was a frequent visitor to others blogs and could often be found at her own blog posting and behaving in a convivial manner.

Bobkat was last sighted at her virtual home ‘Bobkats House’ a week last Tuesday, when she was heard to mutter something about “popping out for a short while” and that she “might be some time”. Her cats, Max and Sam have refused to comment but released a short statement which simply reads “Meow”. Such brevity has not shed much light on the subject.

Bobkat left some clues as to her whereabouts and was seen last week in the South East of the UK attending a Leadership course. Reports have also been made of sightings in Wales, where it is believed she is taking photographs to provide illustrations for an upcoming book on ‘How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse’. Additional reports have been made of a woman matching Bobkats description, putting small items into shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. As the sighting was made at her home address it’s a fair assumption that it was her. A note found on her neglected laptop simply reads ‘Back soon, hugs n stuff’.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Of cats, shoe boxes and newspapers.

Can we have new beds please? These are not up to kitty standards!

Firstly thanks to everyone who left kind comments and encouraging words on my last post. I really appreciated them. I've been shooing my black dog away, though things remain trying. I decided to use some of my work skills and apply them to my personal life and so I made a list of everything that was bothering me, what the issue was and then looked at what I could actually change and what I might just have to accept and how I could go about this - a little like a very organised version of the serenity prayer. It helped organise my thoughts and so now I am working on resolving the things on the list. Curiously, the things that I can change are not necessarily the hardest ones to tackle. It's one thing knowing you have to accept something and quite another one actually learning to live with that.

I can see myself in that funny thing you're holding to your face!

Meanwhile life goes on and my kitties are growing up at such a rate! They are now the size of the average adult cat and are just coming up to 6 months old. They are still the pure embodiment of mischief and are into everything. Their personalities get more developed with each passing week and they have started to get very definite habits. It's wonderful watching these two cats develop from little balls of fur into what I hope will be lovely companions.

Watch the birdie? What birdie?

I have been putting together shoe boxes of gifts for Operation Christmas Child and my boys have been "helping me", hence the photo of Max in the shoe box. So far I have put together sixteen shoe boxes and I'm raising funds to do more through work. To do this I run a tuck shop and a trading post for CDs and DVDs where people bring in their old ones and can exchange them for something else for £1.

Very sleepy...

On a different note, I saw a familiar face in one of our national newspapers last week. It wasn't a shock really as I did consent to the interview. The interview was about my MBA and my experience of studying and how it has benefited me in my career and was used as a case study to support and article on MBAs. It's a silly piece of vanity I know, but I was quite pleased with the article and how it looked. I even sounded good to me and it was a good boost to my morale.

I also had the results of my MBTI assessment and my 360 degree feedback at work. This gave me such a boost on one hand and a little bit of a shock on the other. It was great as many ex line managers of mine completed it and had some really nice things to say about me and scored me quite high on many qualities. The shock came as my current line manager scored me very low on most attributes and his assessment was way out of line with colleagues and everyone else.

Best buddies

I discussed this at length with the consultant giving the feedback analysis as he voiced his concerns about the disparity between the scores. From discussion we felt that the culture and the team I am in are holding me back, even suppressing me and not letting me shine. My boss is also new to management (we are his first staff) and it was felt this was a major factor as within the team culture he probably felt he couldn't give high scores. It's a great concern as a report on the same lines will hold me back from promotion so I need to address this with him and explore why his scoring was so much lower than everyone else. The up side - I know it isn't me and that work and the negative energy there is affecting me. I am seriously looking for another job with another team in the organisation. Sometimes, information comes just at the right time, and this time it's helping me address something negative through giving me a positive boost. And just knowing this has made me feel so much better already.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Feeling doggy

This isn't a real post. It's more of a place marker.

I am feeling very low lately. I'm in a kind of fugue and I can't seem to shake it. I am not enjoying the work situation and my family have done a sterling job of making me feel crappy. In August I was excluded from my nephews 18th birthday barbeque a couple of weeks ago and my (oldest) brother's family birthday tea last weekend. My mother is always sure to tell me about them though, and if I try to discuss how hurt I am feeling she simply changes the subject in the middle of my sentence. Needless to say, my other (youngest) brother is involved in all this and so the family that didn't want to know, and wouldn't take sides have effectively taken sides. Apparently it is okay to send abusive text messages to your sister and then expect an apology from her. Who knew?

I can't seem to keep on top of anything, chores are getting away from me and my health has not been good.

I might very well delete this post as I might decide I sound too self indulgent later and I hate it when I sound like that. I cannot stand sounding whingy. I know I need to pull myself together and 'get over it' or whatever. It just isn't easy. I will be by to visit when I can, but otherwise I hope you forgive my absence. Like Winston Churchill, I have a black dog on my shoulder to shake.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Just to prove I'm still alive

Awakenings - Art by Tracy Kobus Fine Arts

Buzz, buzz, buzz...busyness abounds! Work is hell on toast (still) and among other things occupying my time are;
  • two kitties full of hormones, hell bent on destroying my home (Max chewed through the hallmark doggie tag off my Radley bag today)
  • a never ending list of chores
  • a new aquarium
  • putting shoe boxes together for Operation Christmas Child
  • setting up a trading post for CDs, DVDs and games at work to raise funds for charity
  • an interview with a national newspaper about my MBA
  • organising a trip to see a museum collection for our historical fencing club
Never a dull moment eh? This week I also have to go for another blood test to check my thyroid function. Since having half of it removed I have suffered from hypothyroidism. I have been on hormone therapy now for a couple of months and I feel so much better. It's such a big plus being able to stay awake. I am not exaggerating when I say it has felt like a similar experience to the patients in the film 'Awakenings'. For so long I have felt like a walking zombie, unable to concentrate, with no memory and who spent any energy she could muster, Just. Staying. Awake. Dammit.

Before I go I thought I would leave you with two tips for top TV: 'Lie to Me' and 'True Blood'. The first is a psychology based drama and it's intelligent, smart and well written. Tim Roth plays Dr Lightman who is an expert in unearthing the truth using the facial Action Coding System which uses micro expressions to read people. The second follows Sookie, a barmaid living in Louisiana who can hear people's minds, and how her life is turned upside down when a Vampire called Bill, walks into her place of employment two years after vampires 'came out of the coffin' on national television. It's early days with this one but there is something about it that intrigues. Take a look and see what you think.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Because you asked so nicely...

The Boys

Many people who stop by here have asked about Sam and Max and requested photos, so at the risk of boring all my non cat loving blog friends, here are a couple of recent pics. My boys are growing up, and fast!

Sam

Sam and Max came to live with me at the start of July and are now definitely part of the family. As time has gone on I have come two know two very different little characters. Sam is an intense and needy little fellow. If I turn around it's most likely to be Sam getting under my feet (though he does not have exclusive rights to this). He also has a temper on him and complains about things that won't co-operate with him and smacks things with his paw (like closing doors). He is also the one that catches onto things more quickly and sits on his hind quarters with his fore paws in the air when he wants something.

Max

Max is the slightly larger of the two and is very laid back. Very little fazes him and he is by far the more independent of the two. Max knows his own mind and is into everything. This can also lead him into naughtiness (but he doesn't hold the monopoly here) but he has a very loud and ready purr and a sweet nature.

Both of them are lovable rogues and are very playful. Their days are carefree and consist of playing, napping and chasing each other around the house at 100mph. They are indoor cast as their nature is too trusting and open and paired with curiosity means that Ragdoll cats often go missing or worse when left to their own devices in the outside world. However, I have bought them harness and lead sets and they love going out around the garden on a sunny day and sit very patiently while I put their harness on. They have also learnt to answer to their names (most of the time), and know words such as 'food', 'no', 'down', 'out' and 'up' though sometimes suffer from selective deafness! They are my pride and joy and drive me mad. Right now they are both sat on the sofa with me.

As for the rest of my life, well, I am acutely aware that I still haven't been visiting my blog friends much. I am busy but that is not the whole story. Work continues to be very stressful and I simply have very little energy for anything. The team culture is very reactive and rather than being lead, I feel like I am being yanked on a leash, not knowing which way to go next until I am jerked in that direction. On top of that, there is also much micro-management from above in the food chain and there is a disconnect between being able to manage your own work and responsibility for it. I do not thrive under such conditions I'm afraid and I am very tense as a result and am suffering from back and neck pain. I am hoping things will settle down in the long term but basically I am keeping my eyes open for another opportunity elsewhere in the organisation. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

In short...

Sorry I've been AWOL. I've been hellish busy or away.

Just got back from a weekend of camping where the heavens parted and dumped a sea on our heads. Apparently mere rain would not soak us enough. The campsite was also dreadful with very little level ground not populated by thistles and very soon turned into a quagmire. Despite this a good time was had in the evening huddled round a barbeque for warmth and food although rain spoilt play during the day. Ah... the joys of a temperate climate. I am so glad to be home, warm, clean and dry after a hot shower and a proper meal and am looking forward to my own bed. There is nothing like deprivation to make you appreciate something.

This week work is going to be gruesome (work) and I doubt I'll have much time for blogging again. I am conscious that I haven't been by much lately and hope to fix that soon! Meanwhile I appreciate you popping by.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wind of change


I haven't posted for a little while and to tell you the truth I haven't got a clue what to write now. I am alive and well... 'well' meaning things are pretty much the same. Except that I have been feeling pretty much demotivated by work and the feeling is so acute that it is spilling over into the rest of my life despite my best efforts to contain it and leave 'work' at work.

Change is an inevitable part of work these days and the team I am in are being subjected to a lot of change. I use the work 'subjected' advisedly. I am not one to balk at change. It has always been highlighted as one of my strengths in work appraisals and I have long since realised that change can be for the better and that if not, nothing lasts forever and things can always be changed back, or they will change yet again. I have long since learnt to sway with the wind of change like the reed in Aesop's fable, rather than break like the unbending tree. So why is this change causing so much stress?

While I was studying for my MBA I learnt that change is not just inevitable, but necessary in the business world. Organisations need to be able to adapt to the changing context they operate in. They need to meet evolving customer needs and they need to roll with the punches like the current recession in order to survive. I also learnt that there are methodologies that make such changes easy for everyone involved and that the flip side of that coin is that there are less than satisfactory ways to manage change.

Change is like a journey and if you are leading or managing a change initiative you need to take those affected on the journey with you. You need to be able to communicate what the change is about, why it is necessary and where you are heading.

You must involve those affected, consult with them and ensure that stakeholders are kept up to date and their views considered.

You must be cognisant of cultural factors, particularly when two teams are being amalgamated - all too often the meaning of words can be different as well as the accepted way that things are done.

You must plan how the change is going to happen and delegate areas so that people feel involved. You must get a senior manager to Champion the change and actually lead it in more than name.

You must review progress to ensure you are on track and address any concerns - remember resistors to change are not the enemy, sometimes they are resisting for a very good reason and it could be something you have overlooked!

Last but not least people should know what is happening and when and disruption to normal work should be minimised.

All this is is a 'should do' list, not a 'don't do' list! Change is never easy to manage and it is a learning experience for anyone involved, no matter at what level of the organisation. I have personally helped scope and manage two large change initiatives in the recent past and together with my Masters degree I feel I know the good from the bad from the down right ugly. From where I'm sitting right now, the view is not pretty at all.

If change is managed badly it can leave those affected demotivated and resistant. At best they will shut up and productivity will decline; at worst they may leave, taking skills and knowledge with them or they may undermine the change effort. Change is about making the organisation more effective and perhaps more financially efficient. When change is done badly it can become costly so why is it so often done badly by so many organisations? Essay answers please, on the back of a stamp or delivered by carrier pigeon.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Small Furry Lodgers

I have small furry lodgers, and no, I don't mean the kitties. I was stood out in my back garden when I noticed a buzzing sound. Close by. I looked up and my lodgers were going to and fro from their nest which they had set up in a small bird box near the garage door. Buzz...in through the hole....buzz out the hole...and so on, busy, busy, busy! I have bees of course. Bumble bees and I'm pleased as punch to have them in my garden.


The photo is one of the bees returning. Apologies for the photo clarity, but I didn't want to get too close and the light was poor, but I wanted to get a shot to post and to help identify what type of bumble bee I have. According to *this site*, my black bees with red bottoms most probably the Red Tailed Bumble Bee. I can't be sure as I cannot get close enough (don't want to disturb them and don't want to get stung).

This little bit of research led me to doing more reading about bees. Bees are currently threatened from disease, loss of habitat, loss of bee keepers (really) and more the more aggressive South American breeds. Einstein is quoted as saying " without bees to pollinate our food crops, humans would die off in just 4 years". I checked out Snopes.com and it is unlikely that Einstein actually said this, but the point is no less salient. So, I'm happy to have my lodgers. Bumble bee nests are small and short lived on the whole, so they will move on in time and in the meantime they seem content to share my garden with me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Having Kittens

Max & Sam, July 1st 2009

My home has been invaded by small furry creatures. Thankfully not the rapidly multiplying Tribbles of Star Trek fame, but rather two Ragdoll kittens which I have named Max and Sam. Max is the seal point (brown nose and brown paw pads) and Sam is the bi-colour (pink nose and paw pads). The brothers are my birthday present to myself and I must say I am thrilled at my choice of gift!

I have missed the presence of a kitty (or two) in my life ever since dear old Bob passed away a couple of months ago. Already, I am starting to see their individual characters. Max is the bolder of the two. He is always first into everything, and he wants to get into everything too.Where Max goes, Sam invariably follows.


But Sam is no sheep. The more timid of the two at first, Sam knows his own mind and once he settled in, seemed to be the more pliable of the two. Already he recognises his name and the word 'no'. Max plays much rougher than Sam and also hogs the toys. If Sam has a toy then Max wants it too. I ma looking forward to getting to know them both better.

Other news is that I had a wonderful weekend away to celebrate my birthday. Chester is a wonderful old town where the buildings are white with black timbers and the shops are double decker with one row built on top of the first complete with covered walkway. The sun shone and I had a lovely time. I was dined at the most wonderful little restaurant, called Upstairs at the Grill run by two people who used to work at the Savoy (in London). I had the best steak I have ever tasted, along with a lovely Stilton Souffle and Creme Brulee, all washed down with some nice Chablis.


I had some lovely gifts too although not all of my family bothered to mark the occasion by even sending a card. Happily many friends did though and quite frankly, that counts a whole lot more in my book. On Thursday I am going out for a late celebration of a few drinks and something to eat with some of those friends which should be a good evening. Meanwhile I have two kitties to keep me entertained : )

Friday, June 26, 2009

Proof that time flies

Somehow, I seem to have lost some time somewhere. An awful lot of it as it happens as I seem to have completed another decade. How???!!! Still, you know what this means?

It's my Birthday!


Well, it is on Sunday. I like birthdays. I like the fact that one day a year I get cards and presents just for being here. After all I am getting older every minute of every hour of every day so why not celebrate rather than pretending it's not happening? When I think of my teens (quelle horreur!) I wouldn't go back for anything. The fact is that now I know who I am, I know what I want (mostly), and I feel more happy because of it.

I also feel like celebrating as getting to 40 has not been plain sailing. Anyone who visits here regularly knows that the past 2-3 years have not been the easiest. At times I wondered if I could make it to the next day but by heck I did and by heck I am still here! And you know, now I am getting help from the doctors to manage my thyroid condition, for the first time in ages I feel like myself and I feel like I can take on the world! (Well, at least I can stay awake mostly now which is a great improvement from catatonic zombie).

So, I'm off to have a weekend celebration. I'm going to Chester for the weekend. A lovely old Roman town with black and white timbered buildings where I intend to exercise my photographic muse. I intend to enjoy myself because when it comes down to it, life is too short to be miserable. I'm 40 and I'm fabulous!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Soooo tired

I am tired. Very tired. No, that doesn't sum it up enough. I am tired down to the very cells in my bones. I am so tired I have no energy to do anything. I am writing this in a good moment and to tell you the truth if I closed my eyes I would go to sleep right here, right now on the sofa, sat bolt upright with my laptop.

I constantly feel listless. Doing anything feels like wading through treacle with a huge weight on my back whilst going uphill in gale force winds. I am finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything, let alone actually do anything. Work is very stressful and busy at the moment also, which isn't helping at all and it feels like things at home are falling apart as housework remains undone because I'm too busy falling asleep. It's all very frustrating. I have made an appointment with the doctor as something is clearly not right and the only thing that is obvious, even to my confused and tired mind, is that this can't continue. I feel crappy and if I had the energy I'd probably cry.

So, I doubly appreciate those of my blog friends who pop by here to say hello. I am sorry I have been neglecting you and I owe you all a visit and just as soon as I can fit you in between naps.

Not a lot else going on in my life at the moment (no energy) but it is my birthday this Sunday coming when I celebrate a milestone birthday. Lord knows I don't feel that old but the calendar assures me it's true. I'm going away for the weekend to celebrate with M as if I waited for my family to throw a party or something I'd turn blue and fall over if I held my breath. It has ever been thus and quite frankly I'd rather have a quiet time away then a few drinks with a couple of friends another time. One plus point of getting older is you know who your real friends are, and it isn't always your family. Friends are indeed, the family you choose.

Of course, when I get back home after my weekend I get my kittens which are my birthday present to myself. The purrfect present! I know it's a bad joke but hey it's the best I could do on my batteries. If you see the Duracell bunny tell him I need a recharge. Thanks!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Double trouble or twice the fun?

Sam

Then there were two... I had been thinking of getting two cats for many years but held off as Bob was very set in his ways and I knew he would not take to sharing very well. He barely tolerated other humans in 'his' home. So, when I decided to adopt Max I always had the intention of having two cats...eventually...sometime in the future. I just didn't realise it would be so soon!

Max

Sam is the last of the litter to find a home and he found it with me and his brother. I decided that two litter mates that were best friends would be so much easier to adopt than trying to introduce another feline further down the line. Sam and Max would wear each other out and be company for each other while I am work and I avoid all potential future problems from introducing a new cat later. I am thrilled and can't wait until I can bring them home at the end of the month as a birthday present to myself. It's a milestone birthday too so the present had to be extra special!

On a different note I apologise for my lack of blog presence lately. Work has become busy beyond belief and I am barely coping with my thyroid condition. I work, I sleep and do very little else as I have no energy. Once I get the next week or so out of the way I hope normal service will be resumed. Just in time to prepare for the arrival of my kitties and my birthday, which I'm determined to enjoy. Thanks for popping by, I really appreciate it and I hope to repay your visit soon!

Friday, June 05, 2009

I don't normally use the word cute a lot but...

Max at 8 weeks

Those who are not cat lovers might like to skip this paragraph. I visited my Max this week and was amazed at how much he had grown. He had basically doubled in size from when I saw him at 5 weeks and this time he was very much awake as you can see from his beautiful big blue eyes. He looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth but approximately two minutes after this photo was taken, he was chewing on my fingers. Earlier that day he had been shut in a room he wasn't meant to be in and had apparently been getting up onto the dining table (and being shown the floor again). It sounds like I will very much have my work cut out for me when I bring him home at the end of the month but truthfully, I can't wait :)

On a different note, the chaos that is poorly thought out change continues to sap my will to live at work. This week has been particularly difficult as my thyroid condition seems to be playing up at the moment. It's been a really lovely sunny week and I've had no energy whatsoever. I have been feeling like the Duracell bunny who got the short straw of generic batteries and is the first one to stop drumming. Bleh! The next couple of weeks are going to be really busy so I hope it sorts itself out a bit.

Between work and bouts of nodding off on the sofa I have been watching some great TV series. I have rediscovered 'Ed', a series about a lawyer who also owns a bowling alley in a small American town and also 'American Gothic'; a series about a small town in America where everyone is not as they seem and a young boy, Caleb loses his sister who then visits him as a ghost to uncover the past and protect him from the Sheriff who isn't what he seems to be. I have also discovered 'Castle' which is a series about a murder/thriller writer who teams up with a NYC detective to solve crimes. It sounds trite but the characters are great, the script is well written and acted and it's humorous. Click on the series names to check them out as IMDB will tell you more than I have the energy to here right now.

Other than the above, I am looking forward to a quiet weekend before the busy week ahead and will be booking a weekend away for the end of the month to celebrate my birthday. It's gonna be a milestone one and I intend to do something special. If I haven't been round to visit you recently then I hope to soon. Right after 40 winks. Promise.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hats off...to me


verb /gradyooayt/ 1 successfully complete a degree, course, or (N. Amer.) high school. 2. (graduate to) move up to (something more advanced). 3 arrange or mark out in gradations. 4 change gradually.

Friday 29th May 2009 was the date of my graduation ceremony for my Masters degree. It symbolically marked the end of a journey that took me 5 years to complete, but I did it, against what seemed like insurmountable odds at times. Sitting in the vast hall, shoulder to shoulder with fellow graduates of the Open University in my light blue robe and gold and blue hood I allowed myself to feel proud of my achievement. I had done it. I had gained my MBA and here I was having it bestowed on me.


I posted the definition of graduate at the top of this post and for me three of the definitions are pertinent. My MBA has precipitated great change in my working life with two promotions over the past five years so I have moved up to new challenges equipped with the skills of my course. I have also seen gradual change in myself. I am much less naive than I used to be, both professionally and personally and some of this is due to the opportunities that have opened up because of my studies and some of it is due to personal experiences over the same period that are intrinsically interwoven with my studies, such was the commitment to it over the years.


The ceremony took place at Cheltenham Town Hall, which has a wonderful marble pillared hall with balconies on three sides and a stage at one end. On arrival I collected my robe and had the obligatory photo session and then we set off into town, down the promenade to take my parents to lunch. On the way I spied many other robed students, most in dark blue robes denoting it was their first degree, while a few were also in the light blue which denoted a Masters degree. We found a nice little Italian restaurant and I enjoyed a nice pasta dish that fused Italian pasta with Chinese duck in plum sauce and it was very tasty. Afterwards we took a leisurely stroll back for the ceremony.

The ceremony itself consisted of the usual speeches and presentation of the graduates but the tone was set for an enjoyable afternoon with a band on the balcony that played hits from shows such as Oklahoma. It sounds cheesy, but the tunes were upbeat, the air in the hall was alive with the spirits of people who knew they had earned the right to be there, and with the pride of those that had come to support them. The combination of all these made for a very pleasant afternoon which was rounded off by a glass of sparkling wine. It was a fitting end to five years of blood, sweat and tears and I had a great time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kitten Love

Meet Max.

Max is an itty bitty lil kitten who is going to help fill the big hole in my life that Bob left behind. Bob, of course, is irreplaceable but I have practically had a cat my whole life and I miss not having a cat in my life. I miss being met at the front door when I come home and having an animal presence around. My lizards are great but somehow they just aren't the same.

Max is a Seal Point Ragdoll kitten which is a breed of cat known to be affectionate and biddable. They get their name as many of them go limp when picked up, though this is certainly not true of all of them. He will be coming to live with me at the end of June (ish) which gives me plenty of time to prepare for his arrival and enough space to get over losing Bob.

Guess who has already been buying new cat beds, toys and other kitty related paraphernalia? I just bought these cool looking cat toys for him and also a great scratching post based on a cylinder design with two levels and holes in the side to go in and out of and hide. I am counting on this to help save my furniture, especially my new leather sofa! It also has a ball on elastic string so I am envisioning a few comedic moments with that!

I am very much looking forward to getting to know my new kitten. I will be visiting him again next week and hope to take more photos then. The one at the top of this post was just a quick pic taken with a mobile phone. Max had been playing all day and he was tired. I scooped him up and sat him on my lap and asked him if he wanted to come and live with me. He made eye contact and then settled down on my hand and went to sleep. I took that as a yes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Other people's words

Picture from Lolcatz

'We lavish on animals the love we are afraid to show to people. They might not return it; or worse they might' ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I've not been around much in blogland this last week or so. All the things I talked of in my last post are still pertinent: I still miss Bob and grieve for him, the change programme at work is very trying and demotivating (having done an MBA I know a good example of 'how not to manage change' when I see it and no, my input is not required), and I am still battling the lack of energy that accompanies an underactive thyroid. I'm not going to go on about all this though as I even get tired of hearing myself at times.

All is not doom and gloom though. I have a long weekend coming up courtesy of a Public holiday adn a couple of days leave and a new sofa being delivered. The old one was looking very tired and it was time for a change. I am also going to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Julius Caesar in Stratford-Upon-Avon on Saturday which I am really looking forward to. I haven't much else to tell right now so I thought I would leave you with words of wisdom from other people. Pick the ones that mean the most to you.

'Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.' ~ Oprah Winfrey

'Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.' ~Martina Navratilova

'Family is just accident... They don't mean to get on your nerves. They don't even mean to be your family, they just are.' ~ Marsha Norman

'Children in a family are like flowers in a bouquet: there's always one determined to face in an opposite direction from the way the arranger desires.' ~ Marcelene Cox

'If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders'.' ~ Abigail Van Buren

'People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.' ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

'Some people wear their smile like a disguise. Those people who smile a lot, watch their eyes... You think everything's OK, and it is...'til it's not.' ~ Ani Difranco

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One week on...

I've not felt like blogging much this past week. I thought I would spare you all my grief and mourn privately. I was devastated by Bob's death but one week on I am coping with the huge gaping hole this small dear cat left behind. The photo is of Bob two days before he died. It was just a quick pic taken with a mobile phone but I love it.

Thank you to everyone who left condolences here or on FaceBook for me and also to two wonderful blogger friends who sent me emails. I very much appreciated them.

There is not much else to tell really. Life goes on. The restructuring at work continues apace though it seems that no-one really seems to know what is going on. Isn't communication wonderful? I took my sister her birthday present of a digital photo frame and on the way up the motorway we had a little excitement when we received a call from M's brother who was on the hard shoulder with his vehicle on fire. The weird thing is we were literally just two minutes from him when he rang for help. Now, what are the chances of that happening? The fire engines turned up and put out the blaze, the highways agency closely followed them and closed the lane and it was all over quite quickly really. We left them there waiting for the road rescue breakdown truck to arrive. Luckily real life didn't mirror movie art and the car didn't explode, but I got a little concerned when the fire was near the tyres. Gas under pressure plus heat is not the best combination really.

Unless you really want to hear about my chores that is pretty much all I have to tell. When I feel more like it I will post some more photos from my Barcelona trip. I have much to share, but right now I'm not in the mood. Grief is tiring but I'm working on feeling better.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

To Bob


Everybody who ever met you, loved you. Even those who said they didn't like cats. I remember one of the most ardent cat haters, a steely Vice Chairman of a large corporation, grudgingly saying that you 'quite nice for a cat' while he scritched you behind the ears. Oh yes, everyone loved you but no-one more so than me. I remember the day I bought you home as if it was only the other day and not 1991, or was it 1992? (Forgive me, my memory fails me as in my head you have always been there). I thought I had chosen you, but of course as all good cat owners know, you had in fact, chosen me. I saw you in the pen at the shelter and I remember asking you if you wanted to come home with me. You looked straight up at me with big wide green eyes and simply said a very loud affirmative 'meow'. There was no mistaking your tone and so the following week I bought you home in a cardboard box which you fought to escape from the whole way back. You never did like enclosed spaces.

When we got home you were not so impressed at first. I lived in a first floor flat and you sat at the bottom of the stairs looking suspicious. I sat with you and stroked your head and you hit me. No claws, just a smack. This went on periodically throughout the first day with the periods of stroking getting longer. Sometime that first evening you made the decision to stay. You walked upstairs and came into the lounge. You jumped up onto the arm of the sofa next to me and looked straight at me. I looked straight into your eyes and I knew we had reached an understanding. Thank you for trusting me all these years. It is the greatest compliment to be trusted so completely.


Since that day you followed me around like a puppy, barely leaving my side when I was at home. Even when you went outside you would come back in to check I was still there. I remember you didn't like it when I left the house to go out, or when I went to bed and you would fly at my legs and hold on, sometimes gently biting my ankles or knees. I always told you I would never leave you and I always came back, but still it helped to roll some treats across the floor so that I could retire unmolested. And so our first ritual started which persisted until you left me.


We had many more rituals you and I. Ones that wove themselves into our very existence so quietly that they became natural. There was the licking of the yogurt pot. How you loved anything dairy! I told you it was not good for you but still you loved it so much that I could not deny you a little now and then (you held no truck with that cat milk junk). You would patiently wait until I had finished and then I would ask you what you wanted. You would hold up your little paw (and sometimes dance from paw to paw in excitement) and meowingly ask nicely. You also liked my shoes and at bedtime would wait by my bed for my slippers which you would then lie on and purr while demanding fuss. You would answer to your name and come running when called and knew other human words too.


We have been through a lot together you and I: 3 homes (including 1 relocation to another city), 1 career change, 3 promotions since then (me, not you), 3 relationships (not counting ours), 1 wedding and then ultimately 1 separation and divorce (again, me), 2 teeth removal operations and 2 hospital stays including renal support (you, not me), numerous illness including surgery for fibroids (twice) and my recent thyroid surgery (you were an excellent nurse), 2 post grad qualifications and 1 MBA (me, though I know you helped), 2 family bereavements (human), 1 family estrangement and countless other ups and downs. Thank you for being there and never ever judging me.


You were beautiful, you were special, you were mine and I loved you dearly. Thank you for being my friend and my constant companion all these years. It has been a privilege and I will always treasure the time we had together. You died on 5th May this year. It was windy when I took you to the vets and it seemed that it had come to carry you away. That decision was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but it was time. You were tired.
I stayed with you right to the end.

Missing you old friend. Rest well.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Bobbing along

So..it's been nearly a week since I last blogged but I have a good excuse, honest. Well, actually it's not that great but it's true. Work has been a tad on the busy side and quite a big tad on the stressful side. Change has become de rigour at work but this one is particularly painful as our team is being merged with another and the culture and modus operandi is so different that it's akin to mixing oil and water. Unfortunately the new boss took a JFDI approach to managing the change and now quite a few people are demotivated and disillusioned.

On top of that it is time for the end of year appraisal and I have been trying to write mine, something I always find difficult to do. I want my achievements to be recognised but then I don't want to over do it and give the impression that I can walk on water and do a neat trick with loaves and fishes.

On top of that, I went for my blood test this week and have been informed that I need to have another one in 3 months. Why? Because they are not happy with my thyroid function. Apparently my half a thyroid has not taken over as well as hoped. I told you I felt run down didn't I? This would help explain the uncharacteristic tiredness which is accompanied with bouts of uncharacteristic grouchiness due to feeling tired and having to cope with the hoohar at work.

On top of that I have used all my spare worry time on Bob. Since he came home last week I have kept a close eye on him, but the good news is that he is doing fine on the steroids. In fact, he is quite his old self apart from being very thin (though he eats fine). I took him back to the vets today and we decided to continue with the steroids and see how he goes, though I have been warned once again that this is simply buying some quality of life time. I know this, that is why I have already researched pet cremation places nearby. I don't want to have to deal with finding things when the time comes and this also helps me mentally prepare.

The truth is we don't know how long Bob has left but we will make it as good as possible for him. Bob of course is currently sulking at me for taking him to the V.E.T.S. and he let his opinion be known by throwing up on the way home. Right now, I'm just glad he's doing well, and will take his feedback in my stride. I hope I get better feedback from work next week when I discuss my appraisal. Right now though I'm just looking forward to a nice long bank holiday weekend, with a dash of sun please if that's not too much trouble?