over Chicago last night. Everything melted this weekend – our back yard sidewalk is no longer an ice skating rink.

Or so Zillah thought. She made sure to bring her plastic water dish to me once it was empty, too. I just wish she would have done more around the house, like pick up her poo in the backyard. Lucas is the poodle in the photo. I was introduced to this family by Larissa and they went out of town on a ski trip to Utah, so I got to hang out with these two for ten days at the beginning of January. They had a hot tub which was perfect to warm me up on those damp, cold Seattle days. It was a nice staycation, hardy har har. Luckily, they were good dogs so I didn’t have to raise my voice at all. Only my eyebrows, when Zillah would bring her bowl to me.

I had a New Years’ Eve dinner at their house. Starting in front (clockwise) is Carol, Lea, Brian, Lenin, Michelle and Larissa. After a delicious dinner, we went and boogied at a party.

One more eating photo, it’s cute Carol eating clam chowder. It was a creamy, yummy, heart warming, tiny chowder restaurant at Pike’s Place Market. So good, we ate there twice. Kind of like Carol’s addiction to hot chocolate with cayene pepper – from a chocolate house not far from where I was housesitting. I think we went there about three times.

I think there is an unwritten rule in Seattle, that to live there you have to have a dog. If I moved there, I’d have to get a dog. And a rain coat. This is Mollie, the adorable golden retriever who lives below Larissa. The couple that lives down there also have two cats. Here’s a photo of the baby kitty that they rescued last November – part Siamese, part Himalayan. I want to say that his name is Monty, but I don’t think that’s it. It does start with an M as with Mollie and their other cat, Moe.

In Helena, my mom is staying in a two bedroom first floor condo. It’s located at the edge of town, so almost every day, the deer come and hang out on lawns to eat grass. Usually there would be only three deer who would stop by in the back, but one day there were probably six to ten deer hanging out. I walked into the kitchen, looked out the window, jumped back and gasped. The deer froze and then galloped away. Funny, a tough city chick frightened by Bambi. I knew that a couple of them had come around the side of the building, so I was able to get a quick shot of it from the kitchen window (not a great picture with the screen). No zoom, this was how close she was to me. On the news, they said that there are too many deer around, so they were going to shoot them, too, but not with a camera.

This was taken through the back patio door. She’s not in the country but in a subdivision in town.

Mountains surround the area as you can see in this photo, shot from my mom’s parking lot. Look at that big sky!

Last October, I quit my job, packed up my car and hit the road. I left a mortgage, two cats and my family and friends in Chicago. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. I first went to Seattle for a couple of months. Beautiful city, fun things to do but I found it to be bone-chilling damp cold and gloomy. So I took off to Helena, Montana to hang with my mom for a little over a week. Now I’m in Chicago for a month, but at the end of February, I’ll fly back to Helena and then hit the road to Southern California. Certain reactions to what I’m doing are so funny to me. Most of my friends and my family know me well enough to not be bothered by my decision, and they sent me away with, “have fun” and “I wish I could do that.”

A couple others have trouble with what I’m doing. What? What are you running away from? Obviously, you don’t know what you want. A place won’t make you happy. Aren’t you supposed to do that after college? At first I was taken aback by some of the comments (or furrowed eyebrows) and would get defensive because they would label me – “soul searching” – in a negative way. Where has spontaneity gone? Who’s rules do you think I have to live by?

I spoke with my cousin’s wife on Saturday because I’m going to stay with them in March – they live north of LA. She was refreshing to talk to because she laughed and in a positive way, replied “oh, you’re soul searching.” For the first time, I got a kick out of it and said “yes, I am!” I know what I want in life, just not sure where I want to live. So, I’m traveling a bit.

Who knows where I’ll end up – I’m just very lucky to be able to fly by the seat of my pants at this time in my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past couple of months. The trip has taught me to not be so concerned about what others think. And given me the freedom to “soul search.”

I was digging through some old photos because I really need to update my Flickr site and I came across kitty cat photos. Of course, they are all adorable and it was hard to choose what to post. The one to the right was taken in the winter when both cats were trying to get some heat. Mons would hog the pillow in front of the heater, so Fig would be left to hang down over the tub to grab some hot air. She would hang there when the heat turned on! (Don’t let her fool you, she had a cat bed behind Stacy’s door in front of a heater, too.) Once, when Fig was sitting on that ledge, she barfed on Mons’ head. He went running out of the bathroom, pawing at and shaking off the used cat food.

It was one year ago from this week (January 23rd, I think) that Mons was put to sleep. It touches my heart to think of our little guy. I remember how I had to learn to give up control over the fiercely independent, stubborn, intelligent and charming boy. It just didn’t work with him. And I’ve found that it doesn’t work with others. My life has become easier, knowing this. After I gave up control of Mons, he stopped trying to control me. So weird. He was a lover, too. He would demand to climb under the covers with Stacy or I to snooze at night. When he first met Fig, he hissed at her and walked away, pretending that he’d never like her. But over time, he was her guardian and would put up with her nipping his heels to play. He would clean her head and she his. I’ve read that people come into your life for some reason, to learn from them. I feel that pets do, too. I’m so lucky to have known Mons.

Nice, eh? I grabbed this photo from Luann’s Flickr site. It’s me on a boogie board, she took the photo when I was out to visit her in San Diego last August. I’m going to Chicago this week, but then I think it’s time for me to head to the sunshine and warmth of Los Angeles. It might not be until March, because I have things I need to work on. I want to learn new web applications which will open up more freelance opportunities and finish my novel. It’s been really nice to not have to do much “work” but I’m starting to get antsy. I’ve been able to decompress from my old job and open my mind to new possibilities. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my life – to leave and not really know where I’ll end up. And more painful than I realized leaving family and friends. But it’s all good! Stuff to write about . . .

When I first decided to move, it was either going to be to Seattle or San Diego. Seattle felt right at the time and well worth the journey, but I realized that I needed to go to S. California, too. I’m choosing to go to LA instead of San Diego because when I was in Seattle it felt small – I still need some vibrancy from the city. San Diego might be a bit small, not sure, though.

I’m at the coffee shop and just overheard a conversation about living in Montana. The guy said that it’s tough living in Butte because he’s a vegetarian and Buddhist. He works as a documentary filmmaker and teaches. And sleeps at his office because it’s more comfortable than the $225/month room he rents. The lady he’s with said that she’s been in Helena for four years and still hasn’t met a group of like-minded friends. She came from LA and is a painter (I think she has a Polish accent). I have seen a few granola-looking people and snowboarders here in town, but it would not be easy for me to live here. I realize the advantages of living in a city – you can really find your niche.