2014 certainly whizzed by at lightning speed...

[Meher writes] Well, here are some things that happened.

The most significant event is that Tim retired in April. Retirement for someone like Tim, who teaches and does research, is not as easy as hanging up your chalk, turning off your microscope, and calling it a day. In fact, as far as working is concerned, little has changed. Tim is as busy as ever, and usually works longer hours each day compared to me, who, may I remind you all, has a full time teaching job.

One of our friends (also a professor with several research projects) “retired” this year, but described his new status in more practical terms, “retirement is not an event but a process.” This makes most sense. It is as if these retired professors are jumping for joy while saying “Yeah! I don’t have to go to work anymore, which means I can do things I have been meaning to do all these years!”

It is almost impossible to describe “retirement as a process” to those who have retired “normally.” Invariably, the question of remuneration comes up. Most would ask delicately, “hmmmm … so does he get … kind of … you know … paid for what he is doing?” This is when the spouse of the retiree would have to break the bad news that all these years, there has not been any relationship between the hours of work and pay. This is when most people change the subject in utter dismay.

Well, there are good things about retirement. For one thing, Tim does not go into work most days, sometimes a whole week. No longer do we deal with getting ready to go to work, making lunch, packing bags, and so on. He is the master of his time, which means that he does some work around the house and garden. Also, when he dislocated his shoulder, he didn’t have to call in sick.

What about me? Well, as I already said, I am still teaching full time. My job became permanent, so I am not on contracts. I also worked on the cooking website and added four new recipes.

[TAD writes]...

While on the subject of cooking, we have also been making use of the availability of whole oxtails at one of the places where we buy groceries. Oxtail stew, and spaghetti sauce made with oxtail, are two more standbys that we can intersperse for everyday eating.

For the holidays we also made use of the bags and bags of raspberries that we picked in the garden and froze, by making jelly and jam according to two recipes we found on the web. A transformation into something we could give away, thus using up my collection of darling spring-sealed anchovy jars (as well as a bunch of ordinary ones).

Collards Collards prepared
This recipe, and the other three new ones, can be found HERE.

Our garden thrived this year, what with cleaning, transplanting, and weeding. We produced some gigantic rhubarb and kale. Meher planted some roses and successfully transplanted her favorite clematis.

When just planted, and shortly afterwards, the garden looked so innocent! A month later and we had a jungle on our hands. I think there's still some frozen kale in the freezer.

For some reason, Meher thinks the rhubarb plant is a monster. this year, however, we tamed the monster by harvesting it aggressively, having discovered that ROM co-workers would consume pretty much all the rhubarb that we brought in for them.

The cat is as unperturbed as ever by the goings on around him. In his world, humans exist to serve his needs, so he has a routine that we must observe diligently. He has his own way of waking us at night when he wants to go out, and making a racket to be let in when he is ready. No retirement for this feline. He will never hang up his claws!

Garden in Garden in mid-May
Giant kale Giant kale Giant kale
Rhubarb harvesting Rhubarb harvest Rhubarb - what to do with the leaves
The cat

The cat doesn’t get a page of his own this year, but his personality continues to evolve regardless. As a kitten from a litter of a feral mother that we took in before they were weaned, he has learned to be a cat somewhat haphazardly, and with perhaps inappropriate role models (the four of us). Genetics, or instinct, seems to have taken care of the basics, with a little help from us (e.g. by putting the kittens into a litter box when they showed signs of peeing or pooping). As a male, even after being neutered, he patrols, marks, and defends his territory (our yard). He now has the advantage of being a pretty big cat, 14 pounds, so even if he’s not juiced up on testosterone the way the feral toms are, he still has to be reckoned with.

For whatever reason, he is NOT a lap cat. He hates being picked up and fusses and squirms until released. Even so, he I think he craves affection, and we have seen him in semi-companionable poses with one cat, anyway. Sitting side by side. Not relaxed, but sitting in each other’s company. And he accepts and seems to enjoy, on his terms, the affection he gets from us in the form of being stroked and having his head scratched. On his terms is the operative thing: under certain conditions that, because his facial expressions are different from ours, are hard to predict with confidence, he will snap at your hand, or take a swipe at you with his claws. Somewhere in between pleasure and aggression is a kind of mock combat that consists of a sort of counting coup on my part,

batting him with my hand on the head or the backside of his paws, or poking him lightly in the stomach. He responds by rolling onto his back and assuming a pointed-at-all-five-ends posture, taking swipes back at me, initially with his claws sheathed, but as the excitement (or irritation) builds, they come out. When this game began some years back I used to regularly have scratch scars on my forearm. For whatever reason, that’s mostly no longer the case.

In the last while his routine has become so pronounced (is this because I now spend more time at home?) that it can seem as if he’s communicating his wishes: after eating in the morning, he wants to go out. In the evening, around the time I go to bed, he wants some kibbles before going out again. Or, as is the case recently, he waits for me to go to bed, so he can lie down next me. He’ll sleep on the bed until sometime between 0300 and 0600h he’ll get up and attack his reflection in the bedroom mirror so as to make enough noise to wake someone who will let him out. And then climb onto the screen door outside the back door, and call out piteously, to be let back in again, some time later. And he talks. Mutters sometimes, calls out to attract our attention when he wants to be fed or let out, all in a way that seems like it has increased in frequency, save that such a perception could just be the effect, as said, of being home more of the time.

my workspace
My main workplace at home. Note the two mandalas, showing the relationships between the 17 chromosomes of Pyrus and Malus.

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