Tuesday, April 23, 2024

"My Dear, I'm a Cat. Everything I See is Mine."

~ Title quote belongs to Rick Riordan.

My parents recently took a trip to Turkey, Greece, and Crete. And by "recent," I mean almost seven months ago. I completely forgot until last week that I had intended to share a bit about one specific part of their trip here on the blog. Which specific part, you ask? The cats.

Unlike in the United States, in much of Turkey, Greece, and Crete (and probably other countries with which I'm less familiar) cats are woven into the fabric of the community. They visit all the tourist hotspots but hang out with the locals as well, and you'll regularly find them basking in the sun on car rooftops, curling up next to your feet at a sidewalk café, lounging on the patio furniture next to the pool, and even riding the bus. These cats belong to no one, but also to everyone, and members of the community collectively care for them by putting out food and water and either intervening or seeking medical attention for those who are sick or injured. 

Below are just a few of the pictures my mom took while they were traveling. As you can see, these friendly felines really do make themselves at home and the cities and communities in which they live truly do welcome them with open arms!

How many cats are we talking about here? A LOT. Istanbul, for example, has a reputation as one of the most cat-friendly cities in the world, and cats seem to have figured this out; there are more than 150,000 street cats (plus house cats not included in this number) living their best lives among the human population of roughly 15.5 million. 

I've heard these cats described as, "unimpressed, uninterested onlookers of the hustle and bustle of city life," which definitely tracks with what I know about cats. 😂

Istanbul's cats are thought to have originated from and been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were considered sacred. They became "true darlings" during the Ottoman Empire, in part because of their past regality and in part because they, as one would expect, took care of the rats. The city's adoration for cats eventually led to the creation of the cat sitter profession - these individuals were tasked with making sure the city's cats were healthy and comfortable. 

There were undoubtedly a few famous cats back then, and there have been a few famous cats in our time as well. One of my favorites was Tombili (a common Turkish nickname for chubby pets), who was known for both her friendly nature and her affection for people watching while lounging in a particular position. When she passed away, a sculptor created a sculpture of her in her signature pose and that was placed on her favorite people-watching step.

This photo is all over the internet, but I can't find
who deserves credit for either half or the compilation,
otherwise I would provide that credit here.

If you've been around here for any length of time you already know that the four Ferri love cats. I grew up with cats, Tom and I adopted our first two cats shortly after we were married, and since then we've had Tux, Plié, and Popeye as a family. My parents are also cat people (they adopted their current babies, Bill and Molly, from our rescue here in Texas), so it was particularly fun for them to get to experience the cats in this region of the world firsthand. And while I had never really considered a trip to Istanbul, now that I know who's waiting for me, I just might have to add it to my bucket list.

Friday, April 19, 2024

High Five for Friday (4.19.24)



Thank you to everyone who reached out to wish Hallie a happy birthday! (Her annual birthday post and video are here.) She spent the day on a choir "field trip" to their UIL Choir Concert & Sight Reading Competition, and then she headed to dance until after 9:30pm. Thankfully, she didn't have to be at school until 12:50pm the following day, so on her birthday we all stayed up late watching a movie, opening presents, and eating tacos, chips and salsa, and cheesecake. 

I'm getting better...

She's such a good helper.

He's not. 😂

I forgot to take a pic of the cheesecake topped with its AMAZING
strawberry sauce - this addition truly took the cake to the next level.


Oh Captain, My Captain

I can't wait to see him helping lead the Lads in 2025.


This kid learned 1) that he's strong enough to punch a hole in the wall and 2) how to fix a hole in the wall. All things considered, this was a pretty funny situation, thanks in part to Tom's (very different than my) parenting style.


Happiness Highlights

I love the randomness of safety vest
night at our high school's baseball games. 

Popeye, who only ventures outside for VERY short periods of time
and with supervision (he's scared of everything but also wants to see
what the patio is all about) caught his first lizard. He wanted nothing
more in the entire world that to bring it inside the house and show it
to everyone....we let him take it onto the porch and then it magically
disappeared while he ate treats. 

That baby from The Incredibles just gets cuter every day!

Congratulations, Hallie!

This is Tom.

As is this. The eclipse wasn't the most spectacular thing
I'd ever seen (we weren't in totality), but it was still cool -
it looked and felt outside a lot like what it does before a
tornado rolls through. 

Just a quick visit with Sherry - the friendliest
neighborhood cat around - on one of my morning walks.

Bella at Uncorked knows exactly what you need, when you need it.

Caught in the act.


This isn't a high five or a happiness highlight, but I want to find a place for it this week and am therefore choosing to include it here.

Last Friday marked the two year anniversary of Hallie's friend Morgan's death. (If you weren't a follower of Chasing Roots back then, you can read the posts I wrote about Morgan here and here.) We still miss her, and our hearts still grieve her loss and break for her parents and sisters. 

On Friday morning, Hallie - despite not yet remembering what day it was - came out of her room dressed in head-to-toe blue. Blue was Morgan's favorite color and the color so many of us still associate with her, so I couldn't help but smile when I saw Hallie, thinking to myself that Morgan must have helped Hallie pick out her outfit. I opted for blue as well, doning my "when it's dark, look for stars" shirt, which I now reserve for days on which I need a reminder that even when it's dark, the "stars" - kindness and compassion and love - are still there. 


Happy weekend, friends. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Grand is an Understatement

More than a month has passed since spring break, but life has been busy and as a result I'm just now circling back around to sharing our trip. It was certainly one we'll always remember!


Though TAMU (Tom's employer) usually has the same spring break as the kids' school district, Tom doesn't actually get a spring break. He gets a break from teaching, yes. But the more stressful, time-consuming parts of his job don't stop. As a result, we've never been big spring break travelers. We either plan something of a staycation, with the kids and I taking day trips to/for nearby activities, experiences, and excursions, or we take a short trip to one of the big cities - San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Waco, or Dallas/Fort Worth - near us. We've also done a couple of treks north to visit our families, and the kids have each taken a 13-year-old birthday trip with their grandparents (Will to Washington D.C. and Hallie to New York City), but that's it for big trips over spring break.

* A few of our favorites (which I've posted about at the following links) include the Houston Aquarium, Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham, the River Walk and the Alamo in San Antonio, Zilker Park and The Thinkery (children's museum) in Austin, Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek, the Houston and Waco Zoos, the beach in Galveston, and Family Farm in Plantersville

Last fall I started having a panic attack about how little time we have left with Will at home and decided we needed a solid spring break trip this - his junior - year. I had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, so when I was talking to our travel agent (the fabulous Courtney Henson with Travel Hut), I threw out that idea and she ran with it. 

On the first day of spring break (and just a few hours after the crazy night the Lads won the district championship), we flew from Houston to Phoenix, picked up our rental car, and headed north into the mountains. The drive was beautiful, as was the experience of traveling from palm trees and flat desert to spectacular mountain views in such a short period of time.

We stayed just south of Sedona, in the village of Oak Creek, at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. I ended up being SO happy we weren't actually staying in Sedona, as we discovered the morning after our arrival that half of Texas' population had the same idea as we did for spring break and all 15 million of them were staying in the Sedona area. Our resort was lovely - we enjoyed the pool (well, mostly just Hallie enjoyed the pool) and hot tub, and we took advantage of s'mores by the fire pit and stargazing - as was the rest of Oak Creek. Everything was within walking distance, and we visited a number of delicious restaurants as well as an outdoor market, a few quaint shops, and our new favorite grocery store, Clarks.

On our first full day we drove up Oak Creek Canyon Drive to take in the views, visited Chapel of the Holy Cross, and hiked the Bell Rock Pathway and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. I LOVED hiking with Will and Hallie (Tom was sick so he skipped the hiking) - just hanging out with them in general - and was reminded frequently throughout this trip of how lucky I am to have such cool humans for kids.

On our second full day we hit the road early in the morning and headed toward the Grand Canyon. Our first stop was Maverick Helicopters, just outside Grand Canyon National Park. We went on an INCREDIBLE helicopter ride over and into the Grand Canyon, and let me tell you, from a helicopter is exactly how you should see this geographic wonder for the first time. 

You approach the Grand Canyon over a completely wooded area, so your view goes from woods below you to NOTHING below you in an instant. It is the ultimate rollercoaster ride.

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.     ~ John Wesley Powell

After our helicopter ride, we drove into the park. There are no words or photos to adequately describe the majesty of this place or the awe one feels when standing just steps away from something so truly Grand. It is seductive and mesmerizing, breathtaking and humbling. It is frighteningly beautiful and beautifully frightening. It is a place explained by science, yet touched by the hand of God. If you ever have the chance to visit, to see it for yourself, in person...take it.

We hiked all afternoon, mostly along the South Rim (the North Rim is only open seasonally). I wish we could have done a little of Bright Angel Trail, but after more than seven miles, all of our knees and hips were starting to complain. (Dancer knees and hips, plus soccer player knees and hips, plus 40+-year-old knees and hips...) We were tired, but in a happy and fulfilled kind of way, and we left to drive back to Sedona feeling like we'd just exactly what we needed and wanted to do while in the park. 

Travel note: our kids were the PERFECT age to visit the Grand Canyon. So many people were there with young children, and I simply could not have done that. There are so many places where the barriers between the public path and certain death are...well, nonexistent...and Tom and I agreed that we couldn't have truly experienced the Grand Canyon if we had been even a tiny bit worried that our kids wouldn't use good judgement and make safe decisions. I also wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself if I'd had to answer the question,"when are we going back to the hotel?" or listen to, "I'm tired of walking" all day long...and let me tell you, while we were there I heard lots of young kids asking this question, expressing this sentiment, and hitting a wall.

On our third full day we visited Sedona Loop Trail Disc Golf Course. Disc golf in the mountains is fantastic - this coming from someone who's not much of a fan - and this course was the prettiest and most interesting of any I've ever walked. (I would have played, but Hallie and I weren't willing to give up a suitcase or carry on bag space to bring our own discs. Instead, we walked along, chatting with and spotting for the boys and taking dance pictures.) After we finished the course, we hiked some of the Sedona Loop Trail and walked around Posse Ground park before visiting Sedona's Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.

We were gone for five days total, and while I probably could have hiked for one more day, I also felt like we did this trip just right: we had the opportunity to see and do all of the experiences on our bucket list, and were also ready to get back home to our babies when the five days had come to an end. 

Our 2024 spring break wasn't just fun, it was Grand.