Trying Out: Protesting (Week 34)

Trying Out: Protesting Downtown (Week Thirty-Four)

Many things I have heard about protests made it seem a bit much for my tastes. In college, what was going to be a showing of disapproval turned into the WTO Riots. My friend, who was doing some reporting on the World Trade Organization at the time, received an eye-opening (or rather, -closing) dose of tear gas. Windows were broken; the whole thing went a little too far.

Since then I have heard of the antis fighting with the pros. People from neighboring states come around to spread anarchy. All this, added to the fact that I do not enjoy large crowds. Whenever I can, I rush off to places that are low on people and rich in nature.

Spending my free time standing to shoulder to shoulder with others, if not thousands of others, simply does not sound refreshing.

However, a group of ladies from church wanted to attend a pro-peace rally. They wanted to hear religious leaders, among others, speak up for peace and love. They wanted folks to know that we Quakers are not all oatmeal. We actually do work for a better world outside of church. At least, we try to.black_white_peace_sign_fav_wall_paper_background-555px

So I shirked my normal sabbath. I hopped on a bus without a bus pass. (I carry no funds with me on Sundays. I promise, I double-tapped later in the week to make up for it. All debts were paid.) I went to the wacky world of downtown. And I stood around holding a sign.

I wanted to support my sisters in church and hear what people had to say. The large crowd that I expected was not really there. A hundred individuals, perhaps more, gathered in a large courtyard. (When I hear “crowds” and “protest”, I think of the Women’s March.)

After ten or so minutes of technical difficulties, the speakers began to pour their hearts out. Jews, Christians, Muslims, candidates for public office; they all had their say.

It was hard to focus on what was being said. One person was keen to take our photo. A passerby walked up, criticized us for being there, and waved us off. And then there was the person that was a little too taken away by what was being said.

I would judge that the person’s sensibilities were altered. He seemed overly taken with every single sentence. He spoke in spurts and shoved his hands in the air. Several times he tried to climb, rather clumsily, up on stage. Without knowing him, I would guess that his capacities were hindered.

However, the response to this man was what impressed me the most. The police were standing reasonably close, keeping an eye on things, but the organizers never called on them. One person shook his hand, urged him to be cool, and let him be. Another person tried to slowly guide him away. The speaker; who almost had a co-presenter with him, responded politely as well. He reached out his hand out to the man and asked if he wanted a hug.

Instead of treating the man as a troublesome individual, they treated him with respect and kindness. That display of humanity impressed me.

The peaceful proceedings seemed to be calm, as I hoped they would be, but without any conflict. They were preaching to the choir. If they were trying to shore up their resources and come together as a community, then they succeeded. If they were trying to change peoples’ minds or prove they were right to anyone, then I do not think that they “won”.

I do not believe in white-washing the past. Let us not pretend that we have it all figured out now since we never had it all figured it before.  If we gloss over the mistakes we made once, we are just going to suffer through it again. I do not think any more confederate flags should be made, but I think we should acknowledge that they existed. If we want to do better, we have to remember what we did not do well the first time.

The man who made comments and gestures appeared to have that view, if not a little stronger. You cannot undo what has been done before. So keep a history book or two on the shelf while you write the future.

At the same time, I think everybody has a right to free speech. Even those I disagree with.

As I stood there, I heard numerous people calling out neo-Nazis, venting against fascists, and demanding that people that thought like that had no place in this world. That they were evil.  They had gone through a tough week, so I listened to their grievances.

I have no great calling for rallies. I am all for supporting those that feel led to do that. Nothing was wondrously solved that day.  Then again, no one said it had to be.  Perhaps it was meant as a show of love, and nothing else.


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Trying Out: The Local Mosque (Week 33)

Trying Out: Idris Mosque (Week Thirty-Three)

I had a brief course on world religions during my Social Studies class.  Hearing about a thing from a teacher is one thing.  Hearing about it from someone who cares passionately is another.

The local mosque was having a friendly barbecue.  They wanted their neighbors to feel welcome to stop by, say hello, and be a part of their community.  They invited folks from my church.  I saw no reason why Quakers and Muslims could not have a visit under their roof.

They drew a nice crowd.  There was a line of people happy with their food.  I heard a family try to offer a donation and the volunteers politely declined.  “No, no; this is on us.  It is our pleasure.”  One of the senior members of their mosque was standing out on the sidewalk, greeting those that came in.

I walked up to this man, introduced myself, and asked if it would be possible to take a peek inside since I had never been in such a building before.  He pointed me to a spot by the building, informed me that tours would be starting there in about half an hour, and strongly suggested that I try some food.

Right after that, I greeted a woman.  I held out my hand, but she informed me that she did not shake hands.  I was a little taken aback by that.  Honestly though, it could have been for any number of reasons.  Maybe it was cultural.  Maybe she was shy.  Maybe she had a cold.

In my half an hour or so of standing about, I noticed all sorts of people shaking hands left and right, so I decided that mine was probably a minor interaction.  If nothing else, it was hardly worth worrying about.  I was their guest after all, so it was up to them to dictate protocols.  I tried to be respectful since they were being kind enough to open their doors.  (And pantries.)

The tour was my main reason for attending; besides the desire to show them that Quakers care.  We took off our shoes, gathered in a small circle, and followed the guide around.

The mosque I visited was built in 1981.  It was the first mosque in Washington.  The basement floor we came in through had rooms for preparation, but mostly was a large gathering place for lectures, weddings, and other gatherings.

Upstairs, on the main level, was the central worshipping space.  There was a large chair for the speaker and a few others next to that.  Along the same wall were many bookshelves. (The community and neighbors are welcome to come and peruse the books whenever they like.)  The rest of the room was covered in carpets, but no chairs.

The tour guide had attended the mosque for many years.  Yet, that time that she was in the main/men’s room with us was the first time she had set foot in there.

On the second floor was the women’s worshipping area.  It was essentially an indoor balcony, looking down on the main floor and the speaker.  If they had questions, there were gaps in the wall and railings where they could throw down pieces of paper.  It was quite easy for them to see everything that occurred downstairs, unless it happened in the space under their floor.  Again, there were very little, if any, chairs provided.  Carpet for all.

There were side rooms as well.  They had rooms that could be used as a nursery and rooms that could be used for over-flow crowds.  At its heart, it was a very simple layout with three stories and stairwells on both sides.   The building, operated by volunteers, was sufficient for the tasks required; but never extravagant.

Towards the end, we started to talk about the woman’s personal views.  How she enjoyed having the fabric wrapped over her head, but that she did not agree with the covering of one’s face.  If she were in a place where the culture strongly suggested it, perhaps in the Middle East, then she would don the facial covering out of respect.  Yet she stressed that the coverings were a choice.

She also had some very positive things to say about how she and her community were treated in this country, which I had not expected.  She said that America was very tolerant of her religion.  She stated that workplaces were pretty respectful of their prayer requirements.  She had gone through some scares with 9/11 and the current administration, yet she remained positive about her current country’s treatment of Muslims.

In one of the few comments I made during the visit, I stated, “Well, we want you to feel safe.”

(I was there to listen and learn.  Others had plenty of questions.  I tried to keep quiet.)

I have some opinions about their methods.  I am sure they have their opinions about mine.  I like having women and men comingling during worship.  However, Quakers used to split genders down the aisle.  And I can see it as being less distracting and more God-focused to have certain areas to worship from.  Once the guide made it clear that she felt free to choose; that the choice was hers?  That rather nipped any concerns I had in the bud.

It is very important to me to be able to worship how I feel led to.  I do not want anyone else restricting how I interact with God.  I want that some freedom for everyone.  Whether in a meeting house or a mosque, I am glad that we can peacefully coexist and learn from each other.

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Trying Out: Skydiving (Week 31)

Trying Out: Plummeting thousands of feet and not dying (Week Thirty-One)

It is silly to suggest that I am brave enough to jump out of a plane.  It courts death, is sheer lunacy, and involves a risky nature that I do not possess.

Being pushed out of a plane, however, is doable.

I have no kids, no great debts that someone else would have to take up.  This year I learned that two friends, both highly intelligent, had engaged in the risky sport.  If they were capable of such feats, surely it was not that foolish.

Again, with my life soon to be up in the air, I used the vast wisdom that was the internet.  (There has to be some sort of thesis on how we literally put our lives in Yelp’s hands.)  The first thing I looked up was the number of people that die from skydiving each year.  Apparently, out of the select millions of folks that partake each year, only about twenty-four die from it.  I can handle those odds.

Apparently there was a pretty great skydiving place about twenty minutes from me.  It had some astonishingly high Yelp reviews.  I did not know it was possible for the internet to have this many kind things to say about a company.  All you have to do is not-kill people and they love you.

I looked at their prices, poked around, and booked an appointment.

The day of, I continually offered God opportunities to get me out of it.  Want there to be too much traffic?  No?  How about if my car breaks down?  Or runs out of gas?  No?  I am here… are we doing this?  Okay then.

The only one “sign” I saw from God was an actual one.  It seemed to encourage my recklessness.  A billboard with a line of scripture proclaimed, “I am with you always.”  I took “always” to mean “during freefall”.

If I have learned anything this year, it is that there is paperwork for everything.  This is never truer than when people do not want to be sued for shoving you out of a plane.

I get it.  I do.  I expected as much.  The eight to eleven pages would have scared off the meeker folks.  I have no great fear of death, but I had a concern about my legs and my back.  I could think of several scenarios where I would end up with broken legs, a fractured spine, a dislocated vertebrae; my imagination pulls its weight.  Yet, I signed and signed and signed.

As I was registering and paying my fees, I asked the guy behind the desk how many deaths they had had.  I was not too worried about one or two, since they have several flights a day, five days a week.

He informed me that in the sixteen years they had been in business, they had not had one fatality.

That is a pretty impressive safety record.  In the last six years, they have only had one rolled ankle.  Whatever concern I had at that point was more or less removed.

I went to wait with my other pushovers.  We watched a ten minute video, practiced our “arches” and “leg lifts” on carpet, and were constantly reminded that this was a fun moment in our lives, not a somber one.

The staff was all rather friendly.  I suspect that they have to maintain a calming and cheery presence to put the rest of us at ease.  “Just another day folks, why not smile?”

There was a small child who must have just turned eighteen.  There was a gal celebrating her birthday.  There was a fellow who had come straight from work, complete with cowboy boots.  I believe only one of our ten or so had skydived before.  Clearly we were all a little nutso in the head.

We went outside, put on some flight suits, and met our instructors.  I think most people had paid a little extra for the video package.  Maybe if you are a repeat customer, you should start removing extravagancies.  However if this is a once in a lifetime occurrence?  Go for broke.

The jovial instructors harnessed us up, pausing here and there to address the GoPro cameras, and then we walked to a little plane.  It was probably the equivalent of a Cessna.  They had ripped out the chairs and bolted seatbelts to the floor.  (We had been warned that we were all going to be nestled between the legs of the person behind us.  There was mingling of crotches and butts.  Oh well.)  A portion of the side of the plane had been removed and replaced with a roll-up plastic.  Imagine a garage door, but transparent and slightly sketchy-looking.  Not as suspicious as the fact that part of the cabin interior was pulling off the ceiling; yet it was a hair suspicious.

The plane took off slowly with nineteen people inside.  The fumes gave an odor to the plane rather quickly.  Also, the fires in Canada were starting to get bad when I did this, so the air quality was beginning to decline.  We kept getting higher and higher, gaining altitude, and the instructors kept acting like it was just another day.  (Apparently, everyone that dove out of a plane in 2011 called out, “YOLO!” as they jumped.  Yes, You Only Live Once.  Do not yell it though.)

I wished the woman beside me happy birthday.  I saw the plane finally break through the clouds.  The very top of Mt. Baker greeted me.  I felt calm the whole time.  There was sun.  There was a snow-capped mountain.  The plane had not crashed.  Everything was fine.

The staff showed off their lack of high-tech communicators by yelling back and forth across the cabin.  “Altitude!”  “Ten thousand!”  “Got it!  Nineteen on board!”  “Copy!”

The door got closer and closer.  They had opened it early because two individuals were skydiving on their own.  They jumped out of their own free will.  Kooks.  After them, the plane hit 13,500 feet.  I felt myself being unbuckled.  Adjustments were made to my harness, and a disturbingly thin helmet was placed on my head.  Still I was pushed closer to the door.  People in front of me were disappearing from the view.  My turn was coming closer and closer.

Before I knew it, there I was, sitting at the edge of a plane.  My feet were dangling out into the air.  Land was waaaaay below me.  Half of my brain yelled out, “What are you doing!?!?!?”  The other calmly replied, “Well, too late to back out now.  If you die, you die.”  (I will be honest; the trip to Newberg scared me more than this did.)

And that is when I was shoved out of a plane.

Now, in the instructions, they tell you had to brace your arms and legs.  How to face the horizon and not the ground.  How to have fun.  The part that they skim over?  The part that they mention for five seconds?

How to breathe.  I could have used some help on that part.

We were either instructed to breathe through our mouths or breathe through our nose.  I could not remember which.  So I did both.  I forced air out and in as much as I could, but I still had a hard time getting air into my system.  (I think that is why, if you watch the video, my cheeks fluttered so much while others’ do not.  I was fighting for air.  And losing.)

I suppose I could have panicked.  It would have been rather ironic to run out of air in my lungs when surrounded by nothing but air.  Yet I was getting small amounts here or there.  I told myself to enjoy the rush.  When falling at one hundred and eighty to one hundred and twenty miles per hour, there is only so long a problem can last.  I only had to hang in there a little bit longer.

Then the parachute opened.

It was uplifting.  Really.  We spend so much time with our feet on solid ground.  Weightlessness is a hard feat to come by.  This was a parachute pulling me up in the air with no limbs or gravity being felt.  That sensation of feeling yourself fly up was euphoric.  It only lasted a few seconds, but it was absolutely fantastic while it happened.

Plus, you know, I could breathe.  The instructor checked in with me.  He answered my questions about his favorite places to skydive.  (He had done this for thirteen or so years; jumping in Europe, across America, and in thunderstorms.)  He offered me the controls.  I held them just long enough to seem polite.  I could feel myself getting airsick as it quickly careened this was and that.  Let the professionals control the one device that is slowing our descent.  (I maintain that you do not put a toddler behind the wheel their first time in a car.)

As I slowly descended onto the city below, a little phrase entered my mind.  It repeated itself a few times.  “I’m freakin’ Batman.”  Even nerds like their outdoor activities.

The technique they used to soften our landing was a legs-up approach.  They like to slide into the land, not fall straight down.  I lifted my legs to be perpendicular to my body.  This let the instructor’s legs touch down first and he slid us onto firm ground.

Voila.  They got me out of their gear, they gave me water bottle, and we all went back to our routine.

It is amazing how not-dying makes you feel around people.  “Hope you had fun” and “See you next time” phrases were called out to my fellow skydivers.  You survived falling to your almost-death.  Why not be happy?

The first thing I did when I got home was to call my parents.  I had not told anyone that I was skydiving.  I pictured the scene when my emergency contacts got a phone call.  “Yes, this is Philip’s brother.  What?  Where?  He would never….  Where is this airfield?”  Yeah, better not to worry folks in advance.  I was reasonably sure I would be fine; no need to stress people out.

So I called Lady and Poppers and informed them of what I had just done.  I expected a lecture.  I expected outrage.  I thought they would be upset.  Nope.  They laughed.  They were somewhere between astonished and delighted.   Go figure.

I received a text message from my sister the next day.  She lives a few miles from my parents.  “You did WHAT yesterday?”  Nice to know I can still catch my family off guard.

Part of me wishes I was not so even-keeled.  As you will soon see, there was no great reaction from me.  No screaming, no cursing, no elation.  I took in my current state, analyzed it, and tried to go with it.  I get more excited watching The LEGO Batman Movie.  I am typically glad I do not freak out much in life.  Yet this was a time when it would have been nice to have some more gut-reactions.

Regardless, I was crazy enough to do something risky, something nuts; and nobody can take that away from me.  Screw you logic!  Take that, safety!

Normally I do not embed videos.  It clogs up loading speeds.  However, I think you will understand why I made an exception.  And yeah, I would do it again.  After all, nothing with horribly awry.

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Trying Out: Catching Up (Weeks 29, 30, and 32)

I know it is time to catch up.  And not every event deserves its own entry.  Thus, we shall attack the last month or so on three fronts.

Actively Listening (Week Twenty-Nine)

I tend to socialize as little as possible on Sundays.  There may be a person or two I want to hear more from, and I care about folks, but Sunday is my day to recharge.  This week though, I made the effort.  I was at church early enough that I was able to catch up with two gals.  One spoke of her ailment, how it brought her closer to her family, and how she was able to keep a joyful spirit about her.  Another informed me of her past as a gymnast, how it had done a number on her, and how things were going with her parents.

After church, I drove out to my brother’s to deliver a comic book.  And the family invited me in.  And I declined.  And then they insisted.  So I joined in, watched videos that my nieces had created and took in a slideshow of the recent trek out into the wilderness.

My default is to run back home and couch-out.  A little human contact now and then, especially with those I care about, is good for me.

Volunteering (Week Thirty)

I can be a rather lazy volunteer.  One organization that I help with asks that I contribute thirty hours a year.  I barely do ten.  So, for their annual fundraiser, I stood around for a whopping four hours.  I helped set up portable sinks.  (Those pumps inside that power the water flow?  Yeah, sometimes they do not work.  Silly health code; why cannot we have stagnant water?)  I walked vendors back and forth so they would not get lost on the six-acre complex.  In short, I fulfilled a small quota of what I was normally too lazy to do.

Long walk/ Netflix (Week Thirty-Two)

Everyone is on Netflix.  Everyone.  Except me.  The library DVDs tend to work well enough for me.  (Hint:  If you lick a DVD and then dry it off, you can make almost any smudged disc perform.  Gross, but true.  However if someone cracks the dang thing; well, then you are stuck.)

That week I was also donating platelets for the second time.  (Success!  No constant sinus pressure!  No headache!  Yay!)  And this time I used the iPad that they offered me.  Good thing too, since I was in that chair for about two hours.

And on that iPad?  Netflix.  (Shrugs)  It was fine.  Much like Amazon Prime, I think you could spend a lot of time watching things that you do not really care about.  Having the option to stream a multitude of choices is simply too great a temptation for me.  I could sit there watching random videos until my eyeballs fall out.  But for this small usage,  I only watched one episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Now I can say I have used Netflix.  No mailing red envelopes though.  Sigh.

Also, the next day I took a long walk.  If I walk to work and home, it is a total of eleven miles.  I used to do this every week.  That was years ago when my knees were younger.  Buses have gotten me complacent.

I felt it was time to log some miles.  So, in temperatures that were hovering around the mid-eighties, and with my body flirting with dehydration thanks to the previous day’s blood-letting, I made the excursion.  I was thoroughly pooped and just this side of dizzy when I arrived home, but I did, as many ads suggest I do, beat the heat.


“But wait!  What about week thirty-one?  Or did you forget how to count?”

I promise, thirty-one deserves its own entry.  Thirty-one was the oddest, craziest, (dumbest?) thing I will probably do this year.  So hang in there.

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Trying Out: Decorating (Week 28)

Trying Out: Poster Time (Week Twenty-Eight)

I am not a great decorator.  I have no plants sprucing things up, I really do not dust, and the dresser I have is the same one I had in elementary school.  If it works, I use it.

As a guy who cares about mass media, I do have a certain fondness for movies and comics.  And working for a long time in a movie theater means that one has their pick of promotional posters.

That is how I have ended up with three or four Batman posters.  I thoroughly enjoy the Nolan trilogy.  I have fond memories of watching all three at work.  And I always thought I should hang them up next to each other.  You know, show the progression and have them in order.

But laziness has always won out.  “Hanging posters?  Then they would have to be even!  And I cannot have crooked posters.  If I do not measure right, then the nails would create lots of holes in the wall.  What would my landlord say?  And the frames I have already have posters in them.  What if I crease a poster?  Or even worse… tear one?  No, I had better leave the chore for another day.”

Enough.  You know those fancy LASER levels that they sell?  You stick them ono a wall and they project a beam of light that is level across the room.  That sounds expensive to me.  I prefer to take a piece of thread, measure and place it a set distance from the ceiling, and scotch-tape a base line across the wall.  Leveling problem solved.  When all was said and done, I only had to adjust one of the nails I hammered into the wall.  I call that a victory.


Now, hanging over a bunch of comics that are not worth much to anyone but me, are a nicely spaced wall of posters and sketches that I got for free but mean plenty to me.  I get a constant view of the two hobbies I care about most and all the memories that go with them.

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Trying Out: Nuthin’ (Week 27)

Trying Out: Doin’ zilch.  (Week Twenty-Seven)

What did I do different this week?


I had a cat I had very little affection for.  I had a job that was being a little stressful.  I missed Mylar.  I was moody.

So yeah, I took a week off. 

I worked, came home, watched television, went to bed, and went to work.  Riveting stuff.

I gave myself permission to miss my cat, be in a funk, and just go through the motions.

So I did nuthin’.


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Trying Out: Cat Adoption (Week 26)

Trying Out: New Cat Time (Week Twenty-Six)

As I have told several people in the last few weeks, I am a cataholic.  And I refuse to seek treatment.

So, a week after Mylar’s end, I went searching for another cat.  One can only come home to an empty apartment so many times.

The shelters put the kittens up front.  They sit there, all nuzzled up against their siblings, complete with a window so that passersby get their heartstrings pulled.  However, these folks believe that kittens under the age of six to eight months should be adopted in pairs.  Apparently they behave better that way.

Two felines mewling for food at four a.m.?  Two sets of litter boxes to clean up?  Twice the vet bills?  Maybe if I had a spouse.  Then we could each “have” a cat.  Yet I do not.  So no.

I told the staff that I was looking for a cat that was still young, but that they did not need to be a kitten.  I have nothing against older cats.  However I would like to spend as much time with them as possible.  Taking in a six year-old who gets a mystery disease a year later and is gone just like that?  I at least need a fighting chance.

IMG_2236 (1024x646)There was the part of me that felt the need to adopt the older cats.  Someone has to give them a home.  What if that someone was me?  Why should I withhold a warm home, free of dog barking, tail-pulling, and traveling owners?

The staff person told me that the animals there had a quick turnaround.  That absolved me of much of my mercy-guilt.  Besides, I wanted a cat that I could get along with, not put up with.  (Also, I have spent several months of handling peeing/pooping problems.  I was ready for a break.)

So I petted, but passed up, the four year-old fluff-ball with sleepy eyes.  I kept my distance from the three year-old that had notes on her file about needing help acclimating to her environment.  And I maintained my family’s stance against male cats.  That left Nala.

Nala is currently one year and ten months.  She is young.  She acts like it.  If not for the shaved belly and protruding nipples full of milk that she had when I first saw her, you would never know that she had already birthed six kittens.  She is a fighter.  She has a scratching post now.  She uses it.  If any scrap piece of paper is left on the ground, she will shred it.  (Which is just great for someone who collects comics.  Yikes.)

She hissed more at me in the first weekend than Mylar did in our entire time together.  Nala has very strong opinions.  She expresses them in attacking her chew toy, in her anger, and in her purring.  There is no façade with this cat.  No pretense.  No polite disapproval; simply rage.

For the most part, the adoption people were rather helpful.  I am sure I took at least thirty minutes going back and forth between the cats.  Nala would not have been my first choice.  I do not know how to handle a mother cat.  I like to think cats never have a reason to hiss at me.  So I took some time to think it over.  I had to decide if I wanted this cat around for the next fifteen years.

That is where the catch-part of adoption kicks in.  They have you sign this piece of paper saying that you will keep the cat for the entirety of their lifespan.  “Adopting a cat is a serious obligation and we will not let them play outside and we will be responsible for all their blahblahblah.”

It was hardly a legal contract.  They sure wanted it to be, though.  I felt like telling them, “If a person does not want to take care of a cat, this piece of paper is not going to change that.”  Their critique of the box I brought was a little vexing too.  However, Nala ended up peeing in the cardboard carrier they “strongly suggested” I buy, so nobody was happy with the situation.  (Shrug)

Yeah, she peed in the box.  The box was on the car seat.  (I am still trying to get the smell out.)  And some hissing.  Yes.  Clearly I made a wise acquisition.  “Peaceful transition” is not quite the right phrase.

IMG_2237 (1024x778)You know puppy love?  We do not have that.  Almost a month later and we are still adjusting to each other.  I do not want to chase her back and forth.  I prefer not to have blood dripping from my hand when we do play.  And boy, this gal is heavy.

Yet there is cause for hope.  When she purrs, she is not afraid to rub up against me.  She stops eating when she is full; a lesson Mylar never learned.  The only papers that she shreds are the scraps of mail that I leave strewn about the floor.  Her rather cute way of giving me attention is that she will lick my hair.  (And then sometimes try to bite my scalp.  Sigh.)

Clearly, Nala is not quite the Mylar that I said good-bye to.  But seventeen years ago, neither was Mylar.  These things take time.  It feels like when someone breaks up with you and you expect the next relationship to start off as great as you remember the last one being.  I figure we have some work to put in.  Maybe Nala will stop having berserker rages.  Maybe my skin will toughen up to claw-resistant levels.  Or maybe I will just keep trying to find our groove.

(Yet, at this very moment, a piece of paper is being bitten and clawed to pieces right beside me.  Oh Nala…)

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