Saturday, January 31, 2009

Meet my little friend

Now that I'm home more, I'm discovering little things about my street such as a cute group of finches that hang out in the olive trees across the street. The most entertaining thing I've come across is my neighbor's cat. S/he's this cute orange, striped cat with a white underside. I knew they had gotten a couple kittens late last year because we noticed them looking out from a bedroom window. I suppose the cats finally got big enough to be let outside.

Every morning I typically head out around 10am to run errands. Almost every day, he comes running over to play. He and his shy sister explore the front yard clawing anything that moves, chewing whatever smells interesting, sharpening their claws on the tree trunk, and exploring the hidden treasures in the bushes. I'll play with him by grabbing one of the overgrown vines in the bushes and dangling them in the air or pulling on the ones that are wrapped around the branches. He is completely intrigued by the sounds and movement.

There are days when he clearly wants attention. When I walk near the car, he'll hop on the hood in order to get my attention. The first couple of times he tried, he missed hopping up and I'd pick him up. With practice, leaping onto the car and onto fences has become a piece of cake. It's been interesting seeing his skills develop. He has no fear.

I'm not sure the cats have quite figured out cars. They have a confused look on their faces when cars go by. They are intrigued by the movement but scared by the sound and size. It'd most entertaining when he's been on the car as I start to leave. I can't convince him to get off so I inch back slowly. It takes a few gentle starts and stops before he realizes it's best to hop off.

His curiosity is incredibly entertaining. He'll bite anything. He tried biting the rubber bad of the newspaper and it was like he was plucking a banjo. When I watered the plants once, he repeatedly tried to bite the stream of water. Crazy cat!

The only downsides so far have been his minor destruction of the big jade plant, digging in potted plants, and chewing of things such as our door mat. His climbing and clawing lead to branches of the jade plant breaking off. If jade plants are supposed to represent money in Chinese culture, could he be causing me bad luck? ;)

We finally ran into the neighbor and learned the cats are Loki and Thea. Remember the Norse god Loki? It's a very appropriate name for the cat. I've learned that Loki often plays fetch like a dog. It's funny to see cats that will repeatedly chase after things like a dog. After being nine months of living in the same household with the family, Thea is still very cautious about allowing humans to approach her.

I'm allergic to cats so I can't have one of my own. I have to say this is the ideal arrangement. When I feel like some pet therapy I call out to Loki and get a little love and play time. I don't have to feed or clean up after him. Not having a pet growing up, this is really fun.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunnier days

Once again, I disappeared for awhile. I have a partial excuse... I was on my belated honeymoon!

The honeymoon was great. We headed to Latin America to experience a little culture and a lot of nature. One starts to realize how plain and a little boring the local animals can be after experiencing the amazing diversity of the tropical area. It also makes me wonder what interesting wildlife used to exist in my home area before humans chased it all away.

We spent a little time on a small cruise. It was amazing that all the tourist on our boat got along. We even exchanged e-mails and shared photos afterwards. How cool is it to have a diversity of people come together, enjoy spending time together, and learn from each other. It's also wonderful to know that I can spend three straight weeks with my hubby and enjoy (almost) every moment.

We had it all, hiking, snorkeling, close encounters with animals, ancient ruins, colonial history and architecture, local artisan crafts, local New Year's customs, indigenous cultural tour, illegal payment to leave the country with the correct documentation, a lost hotel confirmation, a lost library book, crazy taxi cab drivers, horseback riding, rafting, zip-line, and a 6.2 earthquake. I'm sure I've missed something.

The best thing is that this really helped to lift my spirits. I must admit that being laid off from my job only two weeks after my wedding was a real blow. I know we're fortunate to be financially secure for awhile. Tim still has his job and feels pretty secure about it.

Still, part of me can't help feel unlucky and extremely frustrated. We had been planning to escape our two-bedroom condo and buy a real house. With our two incomes and a decent down payment, we could take advantage of the market and get a house we could live in for twenty years. Losing my job changed all that.

The job market is rough to say the least. It was scary to watch the job listings dry up as the holidays approached. I managed to get that one interview, but in the end, they went with someone else. I have to admit that my enthusiasm for the job waned as they dragged their feet and saw how disorganized they were. Still, I really want *a* job. I also didn't think things would dry up so badly.

I'm not religious but certainly the loss of the job makes me question my self-esteem. I can't help wonder what I've done to deserve such bad luck. I'm the type of person who tends to dwell on the bad and feel like I'm not good enough. I'm embarrassed and feel a bit like a loser. Not only can we not buy a house, I can't even refinance my current place. The rate dropped just weeks after I lost my job. No income, no loan; it's as simple as that. This combined with the fact that we're trying to start a family is disheartening. Had I just had a few more months of work, we could have done something to make our financial situation so much better. It feels unfair when the friends we know are all (at least on the surface) in a much better place than us.

We're not holding back on getting pregnant. After all, I'm no spring chicken. As long as there is nothing wrong with my parts, I assume we'll be pregnant in the next couple months. The money part is a little scary. Let's face it, I will have a hard time landing a job if I start showing before I can get hired. I can't imagine 12-16 months with only one income in this expensive region we live. Ouch.

On the bright side, I've been putting off remodeling parts of the house since I moved in. It seems a little counter-intuitive to spend money when no income is coming in, but I do have the time. I never realized that managing major improvements can be like having a full-time job. We're getting new countertops, new flooring for the high-traffic areas, energy-efficient windows, and new appliances. The prices are decent given the slow economy. Tim will be the first to say he's happy that we'll finally have a fully functioning microwave and toilets. I like the idea of having a flat kitchen counter top. Hopefully a good chunk of the expense will be earned back when it comes time to sell the condo.