A Rose by Any Other Name Might Not Be a Rose

My wife Alex likes to rename animals she comes across. As was the case with my two cats Tom and Ginger. They were a product of my previous relationship, so I thought maybe that’s why she renamed them. In fact, after hearing that Tom and Ginger were now and forever Bubba and Sugarpuff, an old friend of mine said “now that’s a power move!” But I came to find out it’s just a thing she does.

Being a man and all, I had a hard time with the name Sugarpuff at first, but after a while I’d find myself talking about my cat Sugarpuff to the manliest of men. Alex said she named her that because she was as light as a puff of sugar. And Bubba because he got along with everyone. She was right on both counts.

She’s very intuitive about the names she gives. There are two horses we pass along the road that she dubbed Pokey and Friend. Pokey is kind of polka-dotted, so that’s obvious, but he’s also kind of slow and pathetic looking. Friend, we found out only later, hangs out next to Pokey rain or shine. Even if we learn their real names, to us, they will always be Pokey and Friend.

Another day we stopped to take a picture of a gray horse with a white streak down his face.  He galloped up to us like a dog who hadn’t seen his owner for a week. He nuzzled Alex’s neck as she turned toward me and I snapped away. As we left, the horse looked at us like “don’t go.” This horse definitely had a spark in his eyes, which is probably why Alex called him that. We found out later his real name was just two letters off of what Alex had rechristened him: Sparky was really Spooky.

She has also been known to rename a human or two. I’m surprised she hasn’t renamed me after all this time together. But then again, maybe that’s a good thing. She has called me “Stinky” more than once… Let’s hope that one doesn’t take.

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Old Appliances

Our old Cuisinart had finally started to fall apart and I found myself feeling melancholy when I put it out with our garage sale stuff. It was a heavy beast, and only now did I appreciate its weight. The new one we’d bought looked sturdy in its stainless steel skin but was as light as a feather in comparison, and as loud as a jackhammer. It felt like this new one was built to last 2 years to the 20-plus year’s we’d had the old one. I rubbed the old machine’s white porcelain-like exterior and said goodbye.

How many cheese soufflés had this thing helped us make? Cheese pizza toppings? Cheese for French onion soup? Okay so it grated a lot of cheese, among other things.

It also helped us save a cat. One of our cats was throwing up his hard food and losing weight fast. He even turned up his nose at the fancy soft food we tried to give him from the pet store, which was usually a treat.

One night while helping Alex prepare chicken nachos (and grating cheese, of course) Alex and I noticed our now skinny cat looking up at the counter where the rotisserie chicken sat. Even in his state he couldn’t help but be enticed by the smell. I reached for a piece to offer him, but Alex knew better. The chunks of chicken would probably just make him puke again, she told me as she eyed the Cuisinart. She had a better idea.

Even though we had freshly opened Coronas with lime wedges just waiting to drop in, Alex went into immediate care-giver mode. “Take what you want for the nachos, and whatever’s left pull off the chicken,” Alex ordered as she boiled a giant pot of water. “The carcass goes in here,” she said. A flurry of activity followed with some simmering time in between and the whole concoction finally mixed up in the Cuisinart.

Our cat lapped it up like it was gourmet food, and our old Cuisinart was the key in creating this life-saving baby-food-like concoction we called Chicken Slop.

Our new appliance has a lot to live up to.

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Naming a Room

Some rooms in a home are just better suited for specific seasons. Our library has become our go-to winter spot. Though, I’m still not sure if it should be called a library, study, den, or drawing room?

Drawing room is definitely too snooty. Its reclaimed cherry wood has an inherent warmth… and mystery: we’re not sure where it was reclaimed from. The books add their own density and warmth of stories told. And Alex centered the room with a furry white rug that you just want to put your toes in, or knead if you’re a cat (which Alex calls “making muffins”).

When we bought the house, I thought it was a nice room but I didn’t see us spending much time in there. Of course, I don’t have the vision my wife does, nor the decorating touch.

Being just off the main entrance, we didn’t want to make it an office with a desk and all the mess that entails. Back in the day, I suppose a room like this may have been used as a smoking room, but we don’t smoke. And a TV didn’t seem appropriate.

So on cold afternoons, we grab the book or magazine we’d been meaning to read, close the glass doors with just enough space to let the cats in, turn on the gas fireplace and kick up our feet. The room gets toasty like an oven, and the cats inevitably end up on the rug making muffins.

Maybe it’s the muffin room?

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Our Secret Language

My wife and I have our own way of communicating. There are words I use with her that only she would understand. We’ve been together so long that grunts have become part of our vocabulary. A quick “grrr,” means “I’m so frustrated I’m over this.”

Mornings start with “bubbly”, and no it’s not what you’re thinking. Bubbly is what I call Alex’s carbonated and flavored water. It’s just easier to say bubbly. Random people we see or run into doing our daily routines have secret nicknames:  there’s Slowpoke, Bubba, Crazy-Flower-Lady, Jackass, Wife-of Jackass, etc.

There’s a certain non-verbal dance we do when we approach a grocery checkout line. We both do a quick scan of the amount of items in each cart, age of customer (which usually determines payment type, ergo speed of transaction), and who’s working the register. If it’s Slowpoke at the register, I’ll immediately jump into the line next to us. Alex will notice my move, rescan the situation and either join me, or not, depending on her specific criteria. She’s got the extra burden of coupons, which sometimes supersedes my need for speed.

At home, we have a splash, meaning a glass of wine; the clicky instead of remote for the TV; and the cats are often called babies.

The cats have a whole subset of terms related to them. We have a screened-in porch that let’s our indoor cats be “outside”, which Alex calls the kitten-porch. Another cat-themed term we have is water-cave, which is not somewhere we put them when they’ve been bad. They used to drink our water from the glasses on our nightstand at night, so I found a little wooden box just big enough for a glass of water, turned it on its side, and voila: cat-proofed. I guess it would be better named as a “water-box”, but somehow water-cave stuck, and it is really hard to unstick such a thing.

I can just see one of us years from now, old but totally with it, trying to communicate with someone who thinks we’re going senile, using words that only the two of us would recognize as normal. “Take the bubbly out of the water-cave and find my clicky on the kitten-porch.” “Uh, we’re going to have to up your dose of meds sir.” “Grrrrr.” “Are you growling at me sir?”

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Grumpy Dog

Waking up late the next morning with surprisingly no red-wine hangover, we enjoyed fresh croissants that our hostess had left outside the door (amazing how easily one can endear themselves— especially with French bread). After breakfast we moseyed onto our narrow one-way street back toward town. The girls had dolled themselves up, my wife’s red hair shining in the morning sun, and I felt refreshed from a decent sleep and a good shower. An obviously local Frenchman approached with a French bulldog in tow. “Bonjour” I said, but the Frenchman and his dog just walked by with nary a glance. “Grumpy,” said my wife. “Did you notice, both he and his dog had the same frown” I said, surprised that he so blatantly ignored us.

Still on the backstreets, we turned a corner and came upon a lone cat. Alex is known amongst our friends as sort of a cat whisperer. She leaned in to try to get the cats attention but it just turned its head away casually as if saying, “talk to the paw.” Alex couldn’t even get one photo of this cat’s face.

Fortunately, the beauty of our surroundings made up for the lack of warmth we got from the locals and their pets. Alex had taken up fine art photography on one of our vacations from Venice to the Amalfi coast of Italy. She had also shot all over the US, joining me on my business trips from the southern California coast up to Seattle, the Rockies to the Tetons, Charleston to Savannah, even Maui to Kauai. This trip looked to be a goldmine for the architectural and nature-type photos she was so good at shooting….and the croissants of course!

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