2015 – Are You Being Served?, or, All It Will Take Is One Good, Stiff Wind

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Or, as our friends in Scotland might say, Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhma mhath ur! This year, Steve and I took a trip that we have long been talking about, but have had to delay for many years, spending a wonderful two and a half weeks exploring Scotland. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and who have kept up with my blog posts about the trip are probably thinking, “How can she possibly have more to say about that trip!?!?!” But there is, in fact, one last tale to tell, so pour yourself a warm glass of mulled cider, and snuggle up with a warm blanket and a furry beastie.

There is one quintessential clothing item that most people associate with Scotland. Say it with me now: The Kilt! On our last day in Edinburgh, we made our way to several kilt shops. We were looking for a few tartan-related items, but in particular, we were looking for a ladies kilt skirt requested by a lass back home. Climbing the Royal Mile, we finally made our way into the large Tartan Weaving Mill & Exhibition located just below the castle. In addition to having a display of working looms, they also have a good selection of ready-made kilts and bolts of tartan that one could buy by the yard. This seemed like a good place to make a kilt purchase.

After selecting a ladies kilt skirt that best matched the color criteria, we were faced with the problem of selecting the right UK size. While Steve is, of course, manly in every regard, his svelte physique resulted in him having a waist measurement similar to what was needed. The most obvious answer to us was to have him try on the kilt skirt to find the correct size.

santaWe selected a couple of sizes that seemed about right and Steve shut himself in the dressing room while I lurked just outside. The first size selected was much too small; I’m not entirely certain why Steve even opened the door for me to see, but he promptly closed it to try on the next one as I went to grab another size option off the rack. It was at this first door opening and viewing that we began to attract the attention of the shop assistant.

When Steve opened the door of the fitting room to show me the next size kilt, which fit much better, he accidentally caught the eye of this gentleman. Steve tried to wave the man away, then quickly retreated back into the fitting room. In spite of Steve’s frantic “everything is fine” wave, the shop assistant had somehow discerned that we were tourists, and felt we clearly needed help. Steve hastily shut the door with a firm click and left me to face the concerned employee.

He advanced on me and, in his most apologetic tone, whispered that those were ladies kilts and inquired if we, perhaps, were looking for a men’s kilt instead. This man was right out of central casting – the super polite and solicitous assistant taking part in a hilarious misunderstanding wherein we were so ignorant that we didn’t know the difference between a skirt and a kilt. It was as though I had been approached by the embodiment of Mr. Humphries.

I quickly explained that we were, in fact, looking for a ladies kilt and simply trying to convert a waist measurement in inches to the UK size. I told him the measurement we sought and he confirmed that the kilt Steve was in the process of trying on would be the appropriate fit. I guess there was a more obvious way to determine the correct size after all.

As soon as the shop assistant left the area, Steve cracked the door of the fitting room, peeking out cautiously before showing me the correctly-sized final kilt, while I tried not to hit him for the way he’d abandoned me.

I’ll hand it to the shop assistant. Although I was quite embarrassed, he never acted as if there was anything truly amiss and he was quite helpful in the end.

Having selected one item, it was time to turn our attention to the men’s kilts. For many years, Steve and I have attended the local Scottish Highland Games in California and joked about getting a kilt for Steve. Well, it was kind of a half joke that never led to a true decision point due to a surprising lack of availability. You see, whenever we were at the Games, we would peruse the kilt racks looking in vain for those made of the Shaw tartan. It turns out this is not considered to be a “popular” tartan, and we were never able to find it on the ready-made rack. We could custom order one, but those were exponentially more expensive and it didn’t seem particularly worth the cost for an item we weren’t sure Steve would ever wear, or at least would only wear once a year at the Games.

Although the shop keeper, whom we would henceforth refer to as The Nice Man, confirmed that, even here, Shaw tartan kilts were not typically available on-hand and would have to be custom-made, Steve decided that, if he was ever going to get a kilt, this was the time and the place, and the price was right. Rather than selecting a close, but non-familial, tartan, he settled on that of the Black Watch and returned to the fitting room to try it on. We did the best we could in determining the size with the best fit, but it’s an unusual look for Steve, and The Nice Man, apparently needing a break after expending so much energy on the ignorant tourists, was nowhere to be found to assist us. Rather than risk exposing ourselves to another shop assistant, we simply selected the one that looked the best and decided we’d deal with questions like “should his shirt be tucked or untucked” when he wears it, as he promised, to next year’s Highland Games.

As for the rest of it. . .

As mentioned in last year’s letter, we ended 2014 with our pride consisting of a kitten and two old lady cats, which was resulting in a fair amount of poorly directed playtime. So, in early January we turned our attention to getting a little brother for Fergus. As is my fashion, I painstakingly went through the listings for available young male cats in the greater Bay Area (this almost sounds like I went on Tinder for Cats), and created a spreadsheet that revealed which side of the bay had the most cats of interest. We headed out one Saturday in mid-January to make our selection. Although I had been thinking we would get a cat between 6- and 12-months old, we ended up being won over by a 10-week-old orange tabby with deep copper eyes whom we named Jonas.

We kept him quarantined in the bathroom for about a week before deciding it was time to let Fergus meet him. Although there was a bit of tension and uncertainty on Fergus’ part at first, Jonas was completely unphased. When he saw that Fergus didn’t want to play with him, Jonas just ignored him and continued launching himself at the feather toy I was waving about while Fergus watched. Within 15 minutes, the temptation to play was just too much for Fergus, and within a couple of hours they were chasing each other merrily around the house.

boysSince then, they have become true brothers from another mother. They chase and wrestle, then settle down to snuggle and groom each other. Jonas attains “pool hall” level on the Trouble-o-meter, constantly seeking attention and putting himself in the middle of everything in order to get it, purring all the while. He also has even more energy than Fergus. After a round of play, Fergus will often retreat to a basket on a high up ledge; meanwhile, Jonas will look for him, making small mewing noises, poking his head in the cat tunnel, and peeking in the window beds. Wisely, Fergus just keeps his head down. On those occasions, Jonas may turn his attention to the old ladies, but the frequency of their disturbance is much lower than it was before we adopted Jonas.

missyMissy, the old cat that we adopted in July 2014 when we brought home Fergus, continued to improve over the year, and wormed her sweet self deeply into our hearts. We honestly didn’t think she’d be with us more than a few months given her state when we brought her home from the shelter, but we took her from 16- to 17-years-old plus before we had to say goodbye in November. We were sad to lose her but are very happy that she came into our lives and that we were able to give her such a wonderful last year and a half of hers.

HB continues to do well, in spite of the occasional attention from Jonas. Her health seems to be stable; every so often she’ll accept some grooming from Fergus; and recently she even challenged Jonas for her rightful place on a heated fleecy, so she seems to be coming to terms with the current tenants and regaining her sense of royalty.

Obviously, our big vacation of the year was our trip to Scotland, and it was absolutely wonderful. In addition, in April we met my parents at the train station in Truckee and spent a long weekend with them in Tahoe. We had a great time taking in the views and collecting rocks on the beaches.

After ten years as a law firm librarian, this was finally the year for me to make a change – at the end of September, I began employment at Genentech. I’m working in the Legal Department where I’m taking a deep dive into patent and prior art searching, utilizing skills I began developing at the law firm, but which are now my main focus. It has been a steep learning curve for me on the technology front (remember, I was a theatre and English major in undergrad), but I come from a family of science-types and have been quite enjoying re-learning everything I’d forgotten about chemistry and biology, as well as the more specific area of biotechnology. Hour-long seminars about a variety of biotech topics are scheduled several times a week on the company campus, and I’m encouraged to attend them as my schedule allows. It’s all still very new, but I’m settling in and enjoying the challenge.

Steve is still at Microsoft, working on PowerPoint for the Apple platforms. We commuted together for the last ten years, but now that I am taking the GenenBus, Steve is trying to get used to commuting alone. Unfortunately, our change in commute circumstance seems to have coincided with a rather large uptick in traffic congestion, so the adjustment hasn’t been particularly easy.

We also continue to volunteer in the Clinic at WildCare and provide foster care at our home for orphaned baby raccoons.

If you want to keep up with us throughout the year, Steve and I can be found on Facebook. I’ve also maintained my commitment to blogging at www.midwesterngirl.com, helped along in no small part by my voluminous entries about our Scotland trip.

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