I’ve talked a lot here and on social media about our dogs but there’s another member of our family that isn’t mentioned much. Our crazy, black cat, Collins.
So why an unbirthday? That’s because we don’t know exactly when his birthday is, or even how old he actually is.
Here’s the story: It was ten years ago, in 2006, about a week before we were supposed to leave for Christmas in New York City. I was putting garland and bows up on the fence around our property and I happened to glance down and see this black cat watching me. I spoke to him and he meowed back at me. It was the beginning of a conversation that hasn’t stopped.
The next thing I knew, he was purring and rubbing against my leg. I petted him and told him to go home but he proceeded to follow and talk to me. This went on for a couple of hours. He followed me completely around the fence and then into the yard.
Over the years, we’ve seen many feral cats in our neighborhood and not one has ever approached us– let alone let us pet them. He obviously belonged to someone and must have either gotten out or was abandoned.
I finished what I was doing, told him to go home again and went in the house. I checked again later, before letting the dogs out but he was no where to be seen. I just figured he wandered home. Actually, he was still there but he was smart enough to hide. He was here and he wasn’t leaving.
A little later I went out and he came running down our back stairs, purring and meowing for attention. Concerned he hadn’t eaten recently, I put out some wet cat food for him but he wasn’t interested. So I still figured he was just visiting. (He must be eating somewhere!)
This became a pattern over several days. He was always there. He’d see us coming or going and as long as the dogs weren’t around, he’d follow us. If we went in the house, he’d sit in the driveway and wait.
I tried not to give him too much attention because I get attached too easily and he was just too friendly to be a stray. Still– worried he hadn’t eaten, I tried putting out some dry food and he devoured it in minutes. (He’s a finicky eater! He will not eat wet cat food.)
We felt like we had to do something. He wasn’t leaving…. and we couldn’t stop worrying about him.
Michael happened to mention the situation to our friend Tony, at work. Tony happened to be considering the idea of getting a cat but he thought he have might have allergy issues. Michael told Tony we hated that we were leaving town– and worried about leaving him all that time in the snow and the cold. (Nasty weather was in the forecast.) Tony said he’d take him (on a trial basis) and at least he’d be safe.
For us, that was a relief. While we were gone, Tony took him to the vet and had him checked out. The vet guessed he was probably about three years old and was perfectly healthy. He also suggested that he should be neutered. So Tony took care of it all but his allergies were bothering him and he didn’t feel like he was going to be able to keep him.
That’s the story. When we got home, Tony brought him back to us and we had a new member of the family.
We had been adopted.
We named Collins after the character Tom Collins in the musical RENT.
For anyone wondering, we did check the available resources at the time to make sure whether anyone was looking for him or not.
Collins always seems to get along with the other kids just find. Except, dogs play a little too rough so Collins always knows when to make himself scarce.
Some Collins facts/highlights from the past ten years:
- Collins goes crazy over cheeseburgers and melted cheese from pizza. He smells it and come running and begging!
- Like many cats, Collins is nocturnal. He sleeps most of the day and plays at night.
- We tried letting him sleep with us but after one broken lamp– he’s pretty much banned from the bedroom.
- If we happen to leave the bedroom door open, no matter if it’s day or night, Collins will be found sleeping on the bed.
- After Roxie died and after years of pretty much ignoring each other, Cash and Collins became regular snuggle buddies.
- Since I keep crazy hours and I’m always up way before the dogs– Collins is my constant companion in the wee hours of the morning– until Belle and Dudley get up. Then he disappears. Belle likes to tackle and lay on top of Collins if she can catch him. Collins does not appreciate this!
- Collins and Belle will frequently sit in the stairwell and have a stare down. This can go on for hours.
- Collins loves to talk! He will meow at you nonstop until he gets sufficient attention.
- Collins’ purr is quite loud and he loves to give kisses and lick your face like a dog.
- Collins does not like to have his picture taken and absolutely WILL NOT wear clothes, costumes or hats!
So Happy UnBirthday Collins! He’s probably the sweetest, friendliest, most docile cat I’ve ever met.
I better finish this up– he’s on my lap and pawing my face because I’m not looking at him enough. That, and he keeps covering my computer keys with his paws and tail.
Michael and I headed to Florida over Thanksgiving week to spend time with both our families. We celebrated Michael’s side of the family in Inverness on Thursday and then with my family in Auburndale on Saturday. Sunday morning, we decided to spend a few hours at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Lake Hancock.
Named after the cattle ranch that once existed on the property, Circle B was restored to its natural state by Polk County, beginning in 2005. The restoration that has occurred on this marshland in just ten years is pretty impressive.
The visit brought back many memories and images of the Florida that I grew up in back in the 1970’s.
Here are a few images I shot during our visit:
I’d return here to Circle B over Disney any day.
Time to say goodbye to Europe and head home. Whirlwind trips like this are so rewarding and overwhelming at the same time. Here, on the last day, I was full of mixed feelings: sad it was over, anxious to see my pups, and needing a vacation to recover from vacation. But– what an incredible experience!
When I got up, I walked back over to St. Peter’s Square. The sun was rising as I watched the nuns and clergy making their way to work. People were already lining up at the Holy Door, waiting for the first service at the Basilica.
I just took a moment to breathe it all in….. Absorb it….. Memorize it….. Knowing it was time but not quite ready to file it away.
The four of us had breakfast (Michael, Mary, George and I)– which opened a little late– causing us a bit of a rush before our transportation to the airport arrived.
By the time we got our luggage downstairs, our transport was waiting for us. I took one last look at the grand columns surrounding St. Peter’s Square as we climbed in the van, bidding Rome a fond farewell. Ciao!
We got to the airport quickly and easily, then said our last goodbyes to George and Mary. (In all likelihood, we wouldn’t see them again for seven months– in Paris!) Then we proceeded to get checked in and head to our gate.
Everything was pretty much on time. We got settled in on the plane and shortly after take off, I watched the tearjerker, Me Before You. I thought it was really well done. It’s one of those sad, schmaltzy, romantic films that can easily be done wrong– but it kept its edge and believability throughout, without getting too sappy.
Over the course of the ten hour flight, I dosed on and off. My head was full of all the places we’d been. Growing up I’d never thought I’d ever see the world like this.
When we arrived at O’Hare, we breezed through customs with our Global Entry clearance and the new, automated ‘self serve’ kiosks that definitely sped up the process.
Peggy had picked the kids (Belle & Dudley) up from their vacation– and took them home before she came to get us. If she hadn’t, we’d have had to wait two more days (Monday) before we could get them.
We pulled in the driveway and it was overflowing with fallen leaves– just the first reminder of all the fall projects still ahead.
We were home.
Looking back, Michael and I had shared another truly amazing journey. We’d expanded our travel log: adding 5 West End shows, meeting nearly a dozen Broadway pros, visited 4 more countries and 18 cities, in addition to sailing the Mediterranean Sea. And– we still have so much more of the world to experience! We made new friends, created memories with old friends and had a thoroughly wonderful time.
I can’t stress enough the value of traveling and seeing the world. The history, different cultures and most important– seeing how others live and adapt– really help put the big picture in perspective.
(Original Travel Date: October 1, 2016)
We sailed into Cittavecchia as the sun rose, ending our seven day cruise. Before we disembarked the Silver Wind, we had breakfast, said a few goodbyes and waited to be called. We were provided transportation from Cittavecchia to the taxi stand at the Piazza Barberini in Rome. From there we headed to Vatican City.
Arriving at the Residenza Paolo VI Hotel, our home for the night– we had plenty of time before our tour. The hotel was literally across a narrow side street from St. Peter’s Square. George and Mary were able to check in when we arrived but our room wasn’t ready. We left our bags in their room and then we went upstairs and checked out the view from the terrace.
Michael had booked our private tour before the trip. This allowed us to bypass the lines at the Vatican Museum which can be quite long. We were supposed to meet our guide by some park stairs near the museum — we just had to find them. After spending a little time in St. Peter’s Square, we headed out around the perimeter of Vatican City– and of course. we chose the long way around.
After about a half mile walk, we found the meeting point and then decided to get a little lunch before the tour. We ended up at a little corner joint — didn’t look like much on the outside but inside it was actually quite nice. We had a nice filling lunch (I had pizza) and then headed to meet our guide.
The Vatican Museum is massive. We only saw a portion of it, marveling at the incredible content as we moved from room to room. Detailed frescos, hundreds of enormous tapestries, thousands of marble sculptures– not to mention the wide variety of architectural styles throughout the museum.
The Sistine Chapel. I’ve always heard this was a must-see in Rome and it is only accessible with a ticket to the Vatican Museum. We were warned before entering that there was to be no talking and no photography inside.
We entered, and were in and out in probably five minutes or less. Why? It was extremely crowded and a little uncomfortable. Visitors were crammed in like sardines, most staring up at the magnificent ceiling. But– people were talking, taking cell phone pictures and prompting the guards to yell at the crowd, repeatedly, to stop doing both.
I kept getting bumped into and brushed against. I was honestly afraid I was going to fall victim to the rumored pick-pockets. It was the only time during the whole trip that I had any concern. I was just anxious to get out of there. By the time I got to the other side of the room– the rest of our party was also there– we all just wanted to leave that claustrophobic environment.
St. Peter’s Basilica. The Papal Basilica is considered by many as one of the world’s most holy places. We’ve toured many churches, cathedrals and basilicas around the world. This is THE basilica, right? Nothing can prepare you for how colossal it really is until you walk inside and experience it for yourself. The tallest dome in the world, it rises 448 feet above the sanctuary.
As we were nearing the end of a Jubilee year, we were still able to pass through the Holy Door which according to Catholic beliefs, cleanses the pilgrims that pass through it. (The Holy door was just resealed by the Pope a few weeks ago.) It is normally sealed from the inside with mortar.
There is no charge to visit St. Peter’s. If you are visiting Rome but limited on time, you should most definitely visit St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica, even if you don’t have time to tour the museum.
For dinner we headed to Su & Giu Cucina Romana on the recommendation of George’s sister. We arrived too early (just after 6) forgetting that most restaurants close after lunch and then open later for dinner. In our case, they didn’t open until 7:30. So we took a walk through the neighborhood and did some window shopping in the meantime.
The streets were quite lively. There were lots of street vendors and people hurrying about. I found a special pleasantness about it all– a wonderful vibe and quite charming. It was enjoyable just to sit, people-watch and soak it all in.
We were the first to be seated when we got back to the restaurant. We couldn’t have shared a more perfect meal for our last night. There was an overabundance of delicious food. We were stuffed!
We took a taxi back to the hotel, George and Mary went upstairs, while Michael and I walked back over to St. Peter’s Square to view it all lit up and snap a few photos.
I’m really glad we planned our trip this way. Saving a day just dedicated to seeing the Vatican was a smart move. There’s really no way to truly experience all that Rome has to offer and the Vatican in one day. Splitting it up the way we did, I feel like we were able to fully experience this incredible city– even if it was crammed into a couple days.
(Original Travel Date: September 30, 2016)