I e-filed my taxes today, which was more of a pain than usual but not as much as I expected.  I think this was the last time I’ll be able to wrap my mind around my taxes by myself.  This year I had to incorporate a 1099-R form into the mix for the IRA I inherited from my mother, but everything else is still in limbo until her estate is finally settled.  By next year I’ll presumably be dealing with life insurance benefits / stocks / etc. and I’ll need to sit down with an accountant and make sure I’m doing everything correctly.  As opposed to now, when I’m just kind of winging it.

We’ve spent more time than usual eating out as part of the Washington Heights & Inwood Restaurant Week (food pictures coming soon).  Oh, and BTW, this “restaurant week” is actually TWO weeks, so you still have time to sample some restaurants if you’d like.  So far we tried the Papasito Mexican Grill and Agave Bar where the food was wonderful and very filling and our margaritas were powerful, but the music was a little loud.  We also had dinner at the Tryon Public House, where the food was … well, it was very good for “bar food,” if you get my drift.  It was also good if you want to watch sports on a dozen screens at once, which isn’t really my thing, but if I WAS into watching sports this would be a great place to eat and watch.  We’re going to pick one or two more places to try next week, too.

My boyfriend and I have been getting more pictures of our new kitten over the last few weeks and days.  I have enough now that I’m going to make a set of pictures over at Flickr very soon.

This week coming up is going to be the anniversary of my mother’s death, as well as the anniversary of when my boyfriend and I started dating.  Last April was also when my aunt died and when Logan (our last cat) died.  So yeah, it was a hell of a month.  It feels good to be moving forward, even as I’m frequently reminded of the past.  Or at least I am on a weekly basis, when I go to visit my brother.  Yeesh.

And speaking of moving forward … D. is coming back from vacation soon, I have another book committee meeting coming up, I’m working on more book reviews, I’m working on a “Readers Advisory” skit for a future staff training, my boyfriend and I will be sharing several anniversary presents (which I can’t share right now because they’re surprises and he occasionally reads this blog), and we’re planning out our next summer vacation when we’ll be going to Charleston and Savannah.

Over the last week, in no particular order (okay, in SOME order):

My brother successfully bought, lugged home, unpacked, plugged in, and started using his new microwave oven (YAY!)  But then he blew a fuse (BOO!), which of course necessitated another phone call.  Luckily, the super helped him replace the fuse, and my boyfriend is going to stop by this week to see if he can adjust something with his electrical setup to prevent it from happening again.

I sent the paperwork for my mother’s last tax return to her accountant, a woman that I have never met before but who seemed genuinely crestfallen that my mother had passed away.

I spent several hours at one of my local high schools to conduct some guerilla-style class visits.  Well, that wasn’t the original plan, but the visits I’d been asked to do a month earlier by the library assistant fell through because by the time I emailed to confirm my visit … that guy was no longer the library assistant.  Oops.  So instead of me discussing how to use my library’s website to find free programs for teens (demonstrating on a laptop hooked up to an overhead projector), it was more like several hours of me and the school librarian running in and out of classrooms and cafeterias with books, buttons, and fliers promoting library cards and library programs while doing drive-by booktalks.  Good times!

We went to see a show called An Evening With America’s Test Kitchen.  I’d bought tickets for us as a birthday present for my boyfriend (you see what I did there?)  It was both fun and informative, but I had a headache by the time I left because the sound system was cranked up a little too high.

I went to that group memorial service for the people who had donated their bodies to be used by medical school students.  My boyfriend came, too, but it took him longer to get out of work so he didn’t get there until the ceremony was mostly over.  Several people spoke about their loved ones in glowing terms, explaining that they decided to donate their bodies to this medical school because they really cared about the advancement of science and medicine.  Then I got up and explained that my mother basically made this decision because she was both thrifty and unsentimental.  Which got a laugh.  I also told a story about my grandparents being OVERLY sentimental about death, which also got a laugh.  Later, a man representing another family said that his mother was also thrifty and unsentimental, and referred to the story told by “Miss _____,” with that blank space being my mother’s last name.  And I haven’t been called “Miss _______” since I was in high school, so that just added to the surreal quality of the entire evening.  And then a girl got up to talk about her beloved uncle (this guy MUST have been beloved — there were 11 PEOPLE there on his behalf).  Then the girl started crying, so most of US started crying.  Then the medical students got up to speak, and a lot of THEM were very emotional, so then WE got emotional … come to think of it, I had a headache that night, too.  But that time it was from crying, and from trying not to cry.  Oh, and I forgot to bring tissues with me because I’M AN IDIOT.  At the end of the ceremony we picked up my mother’s ashes, and then we went out to dinner to discuss grief and mortality over burgers and fries.

We had dinner at my boyfriend’s parents’ place for Easter.  We brought my brother along, and while most of the time he stayed at baseline neutral, he did manage to embarrass me a few times but he also managed to behave favorably a few times, too.  My boyfriend’s mother did her usual job of carrying most of the conversation, which means that she would periodically hit a touchy subject or two (you can only compliment the food or talk about cats for so long).  There were the usual awkward conversational speed bumps when she would talk about some ailment or other that she or another family member had suffered (Uhm … thanks for that colorful description.  Now could you pass the meatballs, please?)  Then she asked me when I was going to be getting my mother’s ashes, and I almost did a spit take because my brother was sitting right next to her and HE DIDN’T KNOW that my mother had already been cremated.  I tried to respond as smoothly as possible by saying that we should be getting the ashes “soon,” and then we would discuss what to do with them.

A bunch of other stuff happened over the last week, too, but most of it’s a blur.  The cat has been coming out of hiding, a little more at a time.  We got some very unusual book donations in our book drop (pictures to follow!)  Annie came to our last YA Book Club meeting before she’s moving to Australia.  I worked on some more book reviews.  I learned that my group podcast is going to be starting up again … which means that maybe I need to buckle down and solve my own podcast website problems once and for all …

Other than that, though, things have been pretty normal around here :)

I’ve had my mother’s tax papers ready to go for a while, but the final piece I needed was some information from the estate lawyer.  The accountant said I needed letters of administration / letters testamentary (?) so that they would know how to handle the refund check.  I just heard back from the estate lawyer today that the letters are still pending, so I need to get the paperwork in for the accountants to start the filing process.  I’m not sure how long everything is still going to be “pending,” but I need to set the wheels in motion.

I also got in touch with the medical organization where my mother made her anatomical donation and found out some more about that group memorial service.  It’s going to be taking place one evening next week, and I can’t decide if it’s going to be really weird or really REALLY weird.

The guy on the phone kept repeating things like, “this service helps to provide closure for the family members, and it also helps to provide closure for the medical students.”  And now I’m thinking about what the service will be like — I mean, it will be a bunch of us family members in a room with a bunch of medical students?  So … nobody will know who … studied whom?  I mean, I’m guessing we’re not going to have a situation where a medical student walks up to a family member and says, “Hey, where did your dad get that cool tattoo?”  Because that would be kind of awkward.

I dunno.  All I know is that there’s going to be a ceremony of some kind, that the family members are invited to bring a photograph of their loved one who made the donation, that we’ll have the opportunity to speak for several minutes on our family member’s decision to be an anatomical donor, and that we will each be presented with the ashes of our departed.  Oh, and that there will be a reception afterwards.  Not quite sure if I’m going to want to schmooze with a glass of wine while I’m holding my mother’s ashes, but I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Like I said, this will definitely be somewhere on the weirdness scale, but I’m not sure where.

BTW, thank you to the Dear Readers who have told me here, by email, and in person about their own experiences with the ashes of family members.  The only plan I have so far is that I won’t tell my brother about next week’s service.  I’ll take the ashes home and then ask him if he’d like to keep half of them or if he’d like to help me scatter them somewhere.  Bringing them out of the country doesn’t seem feasible, but I’m thinking of a few of her favorite places in and around New York that could work.

For the last few days I’ve been trying to write a blog post in my head.  It was going to be about one of the weirder phone calls I’d received in the last decade, and the blog post was going to have “memory lane” somewhere in the title.  Faceplant on Memory Lane?  I’ve Just Been Dragged Down Memory Lane?  A Surreal Trip Down Memory Lane?  Something like that.  But that phone call was connected to my family, and then another family thing happened the same day, and then there were MORE family updates today … so this is going to end up being a family post instead.

Let’s start with that phone call.

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One week ago, we adopted a sweet but shy black kitten who we named Luna.  Since then we’ve had a couple of developments and discovered several things about her:

Luna is a good name for her, but a better name would have been “Ninja.”  She’s really good at hiding in shadows and … everywhere else!

She’s letting us see her more and more often.  Usually she’s running past us as she goes from one hiding place to another.  But sometimes she’ll stop and poke her head out at us.  And sometimes, if she’s hungry enough, we can be in the same room at the same time.  If that room is the kitchen.  My boyfriend got a couple of pictures of her with his phone when she came into the kitchen to eat while he was there:

Luna 1

Luna 2

Luna 3

Luna 4

Luna 5

So, we’re making slow but steady progress.  Onward and upward!

So, Luna spent the first three hours in her new home hiding under the blanket in her carrier.  I knew that if I just waited long enough my patience would eventually be rewarded, and it was when she finally emerged …

Luna Emerges 1

Luna Emerges 2

Luna Emerges 3

Luna Emerges 4

… aaaaand immediately ran under the entertainment center, where she stayed for the rest of the day.  Every few hours my boyfriend or I would lie down on the floor and check to see that she was doing okay and talk to her for a little while.  She was doing fine, but she wasn’t coming out anytime soon.

Luna Under the Entertainment Center

It did remind me, though, that we should have dusted under here beforehand.  My last cat took a day or two to acclimate, and he spent a lot of time in this same spot.

Last night I was watching TV after my boyfriend went to sleep.  It was almost midnight when Luna’s head suddenly poked out from behind my desk.  She looked at me, froze, and then ran back into the library where she went back to her hiding spot.

My boyfriend got up this morning to discover that she’d eaten some of the dry food overnight, so he refilled the dish.  When I got up several hours later (I have today off, and I’m spending it at home), I discovered that Luna was no longer under the entertainment center!  Which means that she’s now hiding … somewhere else in the apartment.

I heated up some leftover chicken for lunch, and I cut up a small portion for her.  I walked around the apartment, going in and out of every room calling her name, making my best universal cat-summoning noises, and waving the chicken back and forth.  Then I put the dish down in the living room, where it’s close enough to me that I can see it but not TOO close.  And now I’m waiting for her to make her next appearance …

ETA: After spending some time wandering around the apartment with a flashlight looking for her, I finally moved the old couch and found her underneath it.  She still isn’t coming out, but at least I know where she is.  I put the chicken nearby, so we’ll see if that gives her any encouragement to come out.  *SIGH*

Since I’m killing time until my next photo op (the cat is now hiding under the entertainment center), I thought I’d look through my camera downloads to see if I had more food photos to share.  It turns out that I did!  These include store-bought stuff as well as some home cooking, including recipes we’ve been making with our new pressure cooker.

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