2011 – Happy… Ummmm… You Know… That Thing… , or, Where’s My Thesaurus?

wreathI must begin by admitting that the response to last year’s holiday tale was quite overwhelming; apparently tales of marital brinksmanship make for amusing holiday letters. Unfortunately, there are no such anecdotes to tell this year. But perhaps that is just a failure of my memory. For you see, this year has been notable for one very worrisome trend: I am getting old.

This has, of course, been clearly progressing as I move inexorably forward through time – the wrinkle I noticed shooting across my forehead on my 30th birthday; the ever-increasing number of white eyebrow hairs I’ve had to pluck out; the way the pillow creases on my face take an hour to smooth out every morning as my skin becomes less resilient. While certainly signs of my advancing years, I have taken all of these in stride and, in fact, they usually draw a laugh as I observe them. No, these physical manifestations of age are not what I have deemed worthy of your ear. For this, my 37th year, is the year in which I have begun to lose my mind.

For several years now, I have both laughed at and been frustrated by Steve’s increasing difficulty expressing himself. The way he pauses halfway through a sentence, struggling to find what, to me, has seemed to be the most obvious word in the world, has led me more and more to have to interject the word to bring his train back to the track. However, this year, I have found myself time and again wracking my brain, reaching for that elusive perfect word that would so perfectly fit the situation. While nouns sometimes slip frustratingly from my grasp, it is the loss of my adjectives, adverbs, and verbs that brings me to despair.

For you see, I am sarcastic. My sense of humor dwells in the realm of sarcasm and irony, with a healthy dash of self-deprecation and cynicism thrown in. A quick wit and the ability to rapidly scroll through reams of vocabulary choices to pick just the most perfectly nuanced word is the very heart and soul of my brand of sarcasm. Without this ability to throw in a quick jibe or scathing analysis, where will I be?

For years, I have been able to run circles around Steve in our mischievous banter, quickly re-butting his statements, always able to find the end-run around his assertions. Always able to have the last word.

Lately, I have found this to be a more difficult feat to accomplish. Granted, I am still able to verbally weave and bob my way around Steve; after all, he has a head start on me of several years. But I find myself settling, using words that are insufficient for what I wish to express, and the whole exchange becomes dissatisfying.

oldWhile my mental acrobatics are primarily put to the test with Steve, a few weeks ago I found myself engaging in witty banter with one of the attorneys at my law firm, an exercise I usually quite enjoy. This time, however, I found myself completely at a loss for words at a key moment. Fortunately, the attorney was already laughing and the conversation was ending, so I don’t think it was really noticed. But I find it more than a bit disconcerting that my ability for easy repartee is now failing me in public.

In some ways, the thing that I have found most disturbing about this is the way the mental degradation began to reveal itself almost perfectly in sync with my 36th birthday. It was the strangest thing. One day I was fine; the next day I was 36 and, within a week, I started noticing these increasing hesitations as I tried to find the right word. As though my warranty had expired.

Steve, meanwhile, has moved into the “Eh? What’s that?” phase of the aging process. Should I ever try to say something to him from another room, particularly around a corner, I can never be certain if he has heard me, and I find I have to repeat myself frequently. Our doctor has noted that people appear to lose their hearing first in the very decibel range in which their spouse’s voice resides, an interesting evolutionary mechanism indeed. However, I did find it suspicious a few weeks ago when I was conspiratorially regaling my fellow female volunteers with a story at WildCare only to have Steve chime in from the hallway around the corner. Apparently his hearing comes and goes as circumstances necessitate.

As for the rest of it. . .

The theme of aging has been rather pervasive in our lives this year, as Cassady has officially joined the ranks of the geriatric. All other things being healthy, it is usually the kidneys that signify this transition in cats. Lab tests earlier this year revealed that Cassady’s kidneys have begun to fail. We are doing the best we can for her, administering sub-cutaneous fluids a few times a week to help flush the build-up of toxins out of her blood. She is never particularly thrilled as she sees us prep for the task, but she has started to get used to the ordeal, even eating a plate of food during the process. Although she has started sleeping more, she continues to be happy and playful, with a quicker and easier purr than she has had in years. Her health concerns and weight loss throughout the year did lead us to turn on the heat without much of the usual delay of years past.

Just two years her junior, Ezra is also starting into old man territory. Fortunately his kidneys are operating well, and his health is all-around fine. However, he has started to get a bit of stomach upset in the mornings, resulting in his daily dose of Pepcid. Elsa and H.B. remain as they have been, extremely affectionate and prone to cuddle for hours on end.

I am still a law librarian at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. The first year post-merger has brought many changes and challenges, but things have gone well overall. I remain active with the Special Libraries Association, continuing to serve as the Government Relations Chair of my local chapter. In January, I will begin a 3-year term, starting as President-Elect of the chapter for 2012.

indiaSteve is senior development lead for the Collaboration Services group in Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit. He has been extremely busy this year, but it has been exciting as well. In February, he traveled to India for a week to work with a Microsoft team in Hyderabad. Although eating hearty curry dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner did begin to take its toll, he had a really good experience on the trip. In addition to several long days in the office, Steve was able to take a little time to see the sites, bringing home lots of pictures and stories. Particularly funny are the pictures from his last full day in Hyderabad, site-seeing with his co-worker. Their tour guide had them posing together in front various buildings and shrines, leading me to believe he must be more used to taking honeymooning couples around town.

Enduring another how-in-the-world-did-we-get-so-old moment, this August we flew back to Tennessee for Steve’s 25th high school reunion. The reunion planners really made the right call; rather than do up the high school gymnasium like it was prom, they just had everyone go to a local bar and paid for all the appetizers. We had a remarkably good time, and are really glad we went back. At the end of the night, I went to the bar to get Steve and me each one last drink. It was then that the good barkeep, who recognized me from the last round, informed me that it would be cheaper to just buy a pitcher rather than keep buying the individual drinks. In spite of the fact that these were to be our last drinks of the night, those who remember the Candy Hoarder Confession of 2007 may also recall that I can not turn down a good bargain. The look on Steve’s face when I came back to the table balancing a full pitcher and 2 glasses was particularly amusing.

After attending the reunion festivities, Steve and I spent two nights back at the Inn at Evins Mill where we got married. We went hiking down to the base of the waterfall early in the day and spent some time playing in the river; later that evening, we decided to take the upper trail which we hadn’t been on before. As darkness began to fall and we had to return along the trail to the cabins, we realized that this must have been the trail that our wayward friends had embarked upon those many years ago after the wedding. Stumbling over logs, Steve and I chuckled at the memory of Zack’s lost shoe and remarked out loud that it was a miracle those numskulls survived that night. Did I mention the open bar at our wedding? Fortunately, we emerged unscathed. Or at least I thought we had until a week after we returned to California and those pesky mosquito bites on my legs weren’t getting any better. In fact, they seemed to be getting worse. Upon seeing them one night, Steve informed me they weren’t mosquito bites at all, but poison ivy.

We continue to volunteer our Sunday mornings in the Clinic at WildCare and provide foster care in an enclosure at our home for orphaned baby raccoons. This year also saw an increase of healthy gray fox kits; it appears Marin County’s gray fox population is on the rebound. Steve and I took care of 4 fox kits throughout the spring before they were transferred to another center with larger enclosures. Fortunately, fox kits tend to arrive between March and May while we begin our foster care work with raccoons in June, so we do not have to choose between the 2 species. Fox kits are adorable and wonderful, but I still find the raccoons to be much more endearing, with their individual personalities and curious natures.

If you want to keep up with us throughout the year, Steve and I can be found on FaceBook and Twitter.

Wishing you and your families a wonderful holiday season and peace in the New Year.