10 Years, 5 Years, 1 Year, Today

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much life changes, even from one year to the next.  Let’s take a look back at life ten years ago, five years ago, and one year ago.  What were some of the unknowns at that time?  What decisions were on the horizon, but not yet made, and how did they work out?

Ten Years Ago, May 1st, 1998

I was finishing my senior year at Cornell.  I knew that I would go to graduate school for Biomedical Engineering, but was faced with an agonizing decision between Northwestern and University of Pennsylvania.  Both programs were excellent and there were pros and cons for each.  I ended up choosing Northwestern because I loved Chicago and felt that the program had better connections with the healthcare industry.  I made some good friends during my year there and learned a lot but those industry ties turned out to be irrelevant as I pursued a different career path.

So, I had no idea where I would be living and studying in six months, who my friends would be, and what that meant for my current relationship and friendships.  All of that would change radically over the next three years as I moved several times, gained new friends, lost touch with others, struggled to find a job, agonized over two career path options, accepted my first job, ended a long term relationship, and met my future wife.

Five Years Ago, May 1st, 2003

I had just moved in with Stephanie in NYC and adopted two baby cats, Paulie and Penny.  I was working as a contractor for a new company; the future looked promising for the company and we started to think about relocating to the west coast.  So, once again I wasn’t sure where I would be living in six months, but I had a good feeling it would be a change for the better.

Engagement, marriage, and children were not on my mind at the time.  I was focused on doing well in my new job and adjusting to cohabitation and life with two crazy kittens.  On that day five years ago, I had no idea that we’d end up in San Diego and eventually engaged and married.  The move ended up being a fantastic idea, and the engagement and marriage, while a long time coming, were very happy times for us.

One Year Ago, May 1st, 2007

Stephanie and I are married and settled in San Diego.  Our closest friends just moved back home to St. Louis, so we’re sad and feeling a little uncertain about our long-term prospects in San Diego.  We know that at the end of the year we’ll start building our family, which was exciting but also very scary.  We also knew that this would necessitate a move to a larger place at the end of the year.  Little did we know that it would turn out to be twins, throwing our simple life into a very happy tailspin.  We also didn’t know that we’d take over a friend’s rental house; while that was a good decision at the time, the twins factor would force us to consider a large home purchase in the coming year.

Paulie and Penny were doing well and not really on our radar.  We didn’t know that Paulie would be diagnosed with renal failure that fall, leading to intensive treatment and constant worry about his health.  That he would eventually succumb to the disease seven months later would have been absolutely preposterous to us one year ago.

My job was going well and the company’s prospects were bright. I had no idea that a few layoffs that summer would lead to a promotion and a lot more uncertainty about the future.

Today, May 1st, 2008

What will I think, looking back on this day next year?  I’m astounded by how much life can change in one year, even when things seem stable and under control.  Stephanie is pregnant with twin girls, due in August.  From that alone I know the next year will have more changes than I can possibly conceive.  Once again, where will we be living, having outgrown this rental house with no heat?  Who will be our new friends and who will we lose touch with?  Will the coming recession threaten my job when I need it most?  I’ve got no idea what will happen and with history as my guide, I can guarantee that I won’t even be able to guess.

My Little Guy

My Little Guy, originally uploaded by jcarter.

This is the last picture taken of my little guy Paulie, 4/12/2008.

A few of the thousands of memories, so I don’t forget them…

Paulie loved / hated string. Whenever Stephanie would put on an outfit with a bow or tie, his eyes would widen and he would become 100% focused on getting that string.

In his younger days in NYC, he was an excellent fetcher. I would toss his pink pig toy into the kitchen and he’d go racing after it, sliding on the linoleum and kitchen mat. He’d pick up pig in his mouth and trot it back to my feet.

Now that he’s gone, I’m shocked at how much of a presence he was in the house. He was constantly hanging out on my desk, on the back of my chair, or following me from room to room. A dozen times a day he would jump up onto my lap through the chair arm hole and worm his way up to the desk where he could walk back and forth with his bushy tail in front of my face.

Speaking of that chair, he loved sitting on the back of it watching me work. He would usually leap from the ground to the side and then claw his way to the top, which I’m sure he thought was hilarious. Once at the top he would knead the top furiously with his claws, much to our displeasure but we couldn’t stop him.

There was no better cat at snuggling. Stephanie got to experience this more and more as she was home more frequently. If you would lay on the couch or in bed, he would jump up shortly after and cry until you let him under the blanket. Once under, he would plop down next to you and fall asleep while you rubbed his belly.

Countless nights he would jump into bed just as I was falling asleep on my side, slam his body against mine, and curl up into a ball. I would drape my arm over him, cup his face with the palm of my hand, and listen to him fall asleep. Occasionally, I would wake up in the morning lying on my back and find that he snuck into my nook and convinced me to hug him while I was sleeping.

When he wasn’t in your face, he was usually curled up into a tiny ball by our pillows on the bed or in Penny’s bed. Sometimes I couldn’t help it and would have to wake him up and rub his belly for a while.

Nothing brought out his craziness like the laser pointer. He would leap from the floor to the couch, scramble back and forth on the couch and leap to the chair, all without regard for his own personal safety. He never could catch that thing, though.

He was a good playmate for his sister, at least until later when she outweighed him by more than double. He would hide under the table, trill for her to come find him, give a half-hearted pounce when she got close, and then scurried away to another hiding spot. It was always a lot of fun watching the WWF sessions, which she would almost always win.

He would occasionally seek out the sunny spots in the house, but if it was very warm and sunny, he would beg to be let outside. We would sit with him while he rolled around on the ground in the sun. His little dark patches would get so hot after a while.

He was an extremely vocal cat. If you said his name, he would almost always respond, usually with a short trill and a jerk upwards with his head, as if he was saying “Hey, what’s up?”

He loved his hugs. He would hang out with his paws draped over the left shoulder, body and back paws hanging down the front of your body. From here he could see the world over your shoulder, give you a head butt, and start to rub and nibble your left ear. Sometimes he would be so desperate for a hug he would leap from the bed or desk onto my shoulder. There was no going back; he was completely trusting me to catch him.

At night in the old PB house, he would sit on my nightstand while we were getting ready for bed and reading. Without fail he would hear something in the living room and prop himself up on his hind legs to check it out. This earned him a Prairie Dog nickname.

Some nicknames: Handsome, Mr. Handsome, The Baby, Little Guy, Big Guy, My Guy, Paul, Paw, Pants, Poddy.

On a few occasions he’d also get the Mr. Vanity nickname. While we were in the bedroom, he would see his reflection in the mirror hanging on the door and put his paws up on the mirror to check out that handsome cat looking back at him. This would close the door, causing him to be locked inside the bedroom. We could never go anywhere without holding the doors open with a pillow, otherwise Mr. Vanity would be crying about his lack of food.

Favorite toys: Spongebob, Mr. Pig, the string at the end of turtle, the laser pointer, anything that could be knocked from the table down to the floor.