Saturday, July 17, 2010

So I haven't posted anything since the New Job really got underway in earnest. Since then, I have missed my blog's sixth birthday. Work/life balance issues, anyone?

Friday, November 27, 2009

In 40 minutes, I will be the mother of a three-year-old. WTF.
I wrote myself into a corner last winter. I mentioned this to a friend who is a professional freelancer. He said, 'Don't worry about it. Forget it and move on.'

So Part II of 'Requiem For a Furball' will have to wait.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This post is going to have to be a two-parter.

On the first day of the New Year, I already failed at one of my New Year's resolutions: to wit, keeping all creatures in the house, two- and four-legged, alive.

Christmas week, the cat's appetite seemed to be down. She didn't come right away at the sound of my tapping on the can, and she left servings unfinished. (If you knew anything about Demmy, you knew that she did not hold back on food.) On the evening Monday the 29th, after several straight days of her seeming "off her feed", I decided I would call the vet the next day.

Around midnight my husband came across Demmy, lying on her side behind our bedroom door, meowing but unable to move. She was stiff, but wide awake. Oh crap, I thought, she's having some kind of seizure. I paged the vet, wrapped the cat in a towel, and tried to coax her into drinking or eating something. When I told the vet what was going on, at first she said,'bring her by first thing in the morning.' Then she asked if the cat's ears or paws were cold. I told her it was hard to tell since I'd had her bundled up, but maybe a little cold, yes. 'Bring her in now,' said the vet. I was hoping she would say that.

I will spare you the gory details. Feline phlebotomy is not fun for anyone. I was there till 3 a.m. Her blood sugar measured at 14. I don't know what the scale is exactly, but 14 is close to rock-bottom. She would have died that night if I hadn't brought her in.

It turns out that all we did was buy her two more days, which she spent at the animal hospital. They re-hydrated her and got her blood sugar stabilized. She was drinking and peeing, but it was water in, water out. Her blood chemistry was completely out of whack. On New Year's Day, the vet called, having concluded that her kidneys were starting to fail. Not uncommon in cats over 15 years old, even less so in diabetic ones.

I knew last fall, once they said "diabetes", that it was unlikely Demmy would last more than one year. I didn't think it would be so soon, though.

And it was a miserable way to start off 2009. But things can only go up from here, right?

And here's where I stop Part One.

And I resolve not to get any houseplants until after we move back to the mainland.

Friday, January 09, 2009

An Opinion Formed in Twenty-Four Seconds:

Scene: Our Living Room, Friday night. TV is showing the Celtics playing in Cleveland. Husband watching with great interest. I'm doing needlework and checking in to the background noise periodically (i.e., was that a fan in the crowd screaming, or do I need to check on the kids?)

In between stitches...

Me: Honey, is LeBron James the next Shaq?

Him: [starting to decipher my question...]

Me: As in, am I going to hate his guts on principle, regardless of his skill set, because the commentators all sound like they want to fellate him?

Him: Yes.

Me: Okay, thanks Honey.

Well that was easy.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I have already decided on a few Resolutions for 2009:

* Post to blog more than once a month.

* Do not commence each blog post with a pathetic excuse about why it's been so long since last blog post.

* Hone my skills of selectively ignoring my boss

* Get some exercise

* Find an off-ramp from present career track

* Keep all creatures in my care, four- and two-legged, alive.

* Keep a houseplant alive for at least three months. Cactus does not count.

(No, seriously, I have a black thumb. I once killed an aloe plant.)

Not a bad start: the secret to realistic goals is measurable standards - and low ones.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Oh gawd, a blog post about a cat on a Friday night. I am the working definition of Lame, right?

But there is a story I want to share with all five of you who read this thing.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, about 100 klicks downstream from Chernobyl, there lived a Young Lady in an apartment building with some fellow expats. And one day, some local girls showed up on the neighbor's doorstep asking for some sausage to feed a kitten they'd found. The Man of the House said 'oh no way, we are not taking in a stray cat, we are not encouraging this.' He went out on some errands, and of course everyone else went outside to see the kitten.

The kitten, it turns out, would not have been able to eat that sausage. Her eyes weren't even open. Her mother and her siblings had been beaten to death by some little hooligans, and this little furball had been smacked across the head and left for dead.

Everyone brought the kitten inside. The Man of the House returned from his errands, took one look at the her, and said, "You'd better feed that thing or it's gonna die."

The Lady of the House found a hair-coloring kit bottle, put some milk in it, and tried feeding the little patient. When that was successful, they got some antibiotics from another neighbor, mixed it with the milk, and kept nursing the kitten with the hair-coloring bottle. The Young Lady said that if the kitten survived, she'd take her home when she was strong enough.

That was over fifteen years ago.

The kitten got named "Demmy". The story behind that is kind of long, so I usually just tell people it's because she could fit in a demitasse cup when she was found. No one believes that, of course; in her finest form she weighed nearly 15 pounds. My friends and family call her Monster Kitty, Psycho Kitty, Chernobyl Cat. My husband usually calls her Stupid Cat. I called her "organic alarm clock" for a long time, because she would not allow me to sleep in if her food bowl was empty.

This cat came into my life at the start of my career. I went from Eastern Europe to A Land Down Under, where I couldn't take her because it would have meant six months of quarantine. She lived with my brother during that time, and I think he fed her Purina Elvis Chow. I swear she doubled in bulk during those years.

Then I went back to the mainland to work at HQ for a while. Around that time, I also got hit with the first major depressive episode of my adult life. I hesitated to take Demmy back from my brother, because she seemed quite content with him. I came to realize that my apathy about bringing her home was part of my symptoms. As part of my therapy, I decided to take her back. Since then, she's been one of the barometers for my mental health. If I can take care of her, I can take care of me.

One element of my ongoing treatment was "Recumbent Feline Bibliotherapy": when I got too stressed out, upset, or just plain wiped out, I would lie on the sofa with a book. Demmy would come along within a few minutes and jump up to join me, and stretch out on my tummy or legs or wherever she felt like it. Stress, tension, anxiety (and usually, consciousness) all melt away in this state. She was like Prozac in a fur coat.

When I started dating the man who would become my husband, I almost quit him because he declared that he was Not A Cat Person. In his mind, you are either a Cat Person or a Dog Person, and he is firmly a Dog Person. I disagree: I believe you can be both, because I am. I grew up with two cats, two dogs, and two brothers. Most of them were quite enjoyable to live with. But with the lifestyle I was leading in my 20s (i.e., "Life? What Life, I Have A Job") I was ill-suited to have a dog. Cats are low-maintenance: they don't need to be walked and they can entertain themselves for hours at a stretch. Yes, I can see why some people would rather have a dog, but that doesn't mean you can't like cats too, I insisted. He didn't seem to believe me.

I gave him a chance anyway, and he gave me a chance, and readers, I married him. When we got engaged, I made clear to him that Demmy and I were a package deal. He consented to this, we all moved in together, and they achieved a certain detente. In his speech at the wedding, our Best Man said that he knew the relationship was serious when he heard my husband talking baby talk to the cat. My husband denies it to this day. ("I was using baby talk voice to call her a stupid ugly little beast, I swear!")

One month before we moved to Baltic Europe, I felt a lump near her ribcage. I took her to the vet, who said they'd take an x-ray while she was under anesthesia for her teeth-cleaning. When I went to pick her up, they'd shaved her belly and gone in to take out what they'd found on the x-ray.

The biopsy came back: cancer.

"We got it all, I'm sure of it," said the vet. You'll need to keep an eye on her, bring her back for x-rays again if you detect another lump. There's a little blur on the x-ray that we can't quite identify..." Gee doc, I'm moving to another continent, where I expect veterinary care to be about the standards of 'Medieval Barber', can you be a little more encouraging, please?

I couldn't think of what would be worse: having to put her to sleep before leaving for Europe, or going to Europe and having to put her down there if she relapsed. My husband tried to be sympathetic. He still didn't like Demmy, but he understood why I wasn't ready to give up on her. I decided to take the chance. She came with us.

No lumps came back. No ugly thoughts about Big Needles. Score one more lucky break for Demmy.

Fast-forward now through four years, two small children, and another international move. Once again, my mental health is under strain. Demmy blends into the furniture some days. She still has her routine: wake up the human, get breakfast, disappear; watch human leave; Human comes home! Meet human at door and pester her until dinner is served; disappear until miniature humans go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. During the summertime, she'll climb on my lap sometimes while we watch the Red Sox on TV. Otherwise, we could go through most of the day with five minutes' interaction, max. "Recumbent Feline Bibliotherapy" doesn't happen often with two preschoolers in the house.

Quality of Life: we haz it.

So the creature that was once a Beloved Source of Comfort was yet another entity that needs to be fed, watered, and cleaned up after. She had an edge over the kids: she doesn't usually wake me up in the middle of the night complaining of "bad crocodile dreams". She doesn't need clothing, shoes, or a college education. But when Mommy is working 45 hours a week and trying not to permanently scar two preschoolers, "low maintenance" is still maintenance.

A few months ago, I took a good look at her. She'd lost weight. She was drinking more water than ever. Her litter box was filling up faster, and she was missing it a lot. I felt around her rib cage carefully, when she would let me.


I was crying too much to make an appointment at the vet. I stalled and stalled for weeks. I did the math over and over in my head. This cat is fifteen years old. That's downright geriatric. Maybe it is her time after all.

When I finally took her in, they thought that nine pounds was a perfectly healthy weight. I tried explaining that this meant she'd lost one third of her body mass in a year. I told them about the cancer scare from six years ago. I told them about the water and the litter box. They agreed to blood tests.


Treatable. Manageable. Still not great but at least it's not cancer.

Still, it brings up issues: Do you seriously expect me to give her shots? Twice a day???? I had visions of having to spend hours chasing her down, dodging and weaving around my kids with a needle in my hand. And having to climb into the rafters to keep the needles away from little hands. And oh, the ick factor of injections: would I have to wrestle with her, searching for a vein?

Then the ugliest question of all: how much is it going to cost? Do I have to add up how much her life is worth in terms of disposable income? Am I going to be the sort of jerk who puts her pet down for the sake of convenience? How many takeout lunches and lattes add up to keeping her alive?

It turns out that her insulin is not that expensive, and the single-use needles are just pennies apiece. I can take the used ones back to the vet for proper disposal. And she's gotten quite used to the shots - especially since she knows that food comes next. She's drinking less water, but she still misses the litter box on occasion. (When 900 years old you reach, pee as good, you will not, hm?) And she still gets weepy goop around her eyes, thanks to the injury she suffered when her mother and siblings were killed. She doesn't spend all day under my side of the bed. She even comes out to let the kids pet her once in a while.

And once again, this cat - who wasn't expected to live two more hours when we first found her - gets another lucky break. And I put off thoughts of The Big Needle for a while longer.

Here's the thing: I have never been around for the loss of a pet, not really. My brother's Beagle took her last trip to the vet when I wasn't home. The Irish Setter that was supposed to fill the void when my dad moved out went back to the breeder (because none of us were around consistently enough to properly housebreak her). The cats died when I was away for my sophomore and junior years of college. I've never had to make That Decision.

We found Demmy on Memorial Day weekend in 1993. I guesstimated her age at that point to be about two weeks. So I decided that her birthday, unofficially, would be Mothers Day. I feel as though I helped save her life fifteen years ago. I can't bear the thought of having to decide when to end it. Once again, I get a lucky break.
Welcome to the 21st Century!

Just to relive the high, on Tuesday I watched the Daily Show's Election Night coverage from the Tivo. The Obama victory really does renew my faith in Americans. Yes, he's getting more death threats than any other President-Elect in recorded history. And no, this is not the end of racism in America. But people took a look at the Republican ticket and (no disrespect to McCain) said, "President Palin? Aw HELL NO."

I guess they got tired of having undereducated zealots at the center of power. Seriously, "what I believe is God's will" is NOT the central principle of foreign policy for any nation that has gotten past witch-burnings and building walls for borders (oh, wait...)

So hey, now we can all look forward to a black man in the White House who isn't played by Morgan Freeman. Progess, it rocks.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Really Should Be in Bed Right Now

But jet lag is an ugly thing.

And politics is uglier.

In 48 hours, the U.S. election will, Buddha willing, be to all intents and purposes over. For better or for worse.

I've just sat through another ad linking Obama to some of the more controversial remarks made by his former pastor.

Wasn't that issue over and done months ago?

And would they mind terribly if we made an ad about the wacky witch-hunting dude praying over Sarah Palin?

As much as I want this whole mess to be over and done with, I am still afflicted with RedSoxNationitis: the fear of exuberant victory. I dare not be optimistic. I dare not express the hope of what would clearly make me deliriously happy. To speak of this joy would be to kill it in its cradle.

So I have to listen to the ugliness, the stupidity, and falsehoods, to keep me from getting too excited about the prospect of an Obama victory.

I can only take a few more days of this. Please, jet lag, knock me out for the worst of it.


And wait 'til next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's Hard Out Here for a Hick:
I have finally realized, after two weeks in China, what it is that's been bugging me all this time.
It's not that I can't read 90 percent of the street signs.
It's not the toilets that require a contortionist's skills to use.
It's not the ubiquitous guys with a cellphone in one hand and a ciggy in the other.
It's not getting stared at for being the weirdo ethnic minority.

It's this: I am not used to seeing buildings higher than ten stories anymore.

When I visited Tiananmen Square two weeks ago, I thought, "Wow, you could fit the entire population of The Island (where I live) in here, and everyone would still have room to swing a cricket bat 360 degrees."

That was weird. (I'm desperately trying to avoid saying "disorienting," in case you hadn't noticed.) But now that I 'm here in Shanghai, where any building under 30 meters tall is probably "historic" it's really hit me just How Effing Small The Island Really Is. You could not fit this city on The Island. You probably couldn't fit this neighborhood on The Island. Even the last City I lived in-- when I started this blog four and a half years ago -- was "historic" and had few buildings higher than the old imperial palaces (oh, and the Germans having bombed the crap out of it for a few years didn't help the real estate market much for about 50 years).

I don't consider myself a small-town kid just off the turnip truck. But anybody could get lost in this city. And I have been on The Island too long.

Fortunately, my employer has offered me a new contract at Headquarters, on the mainland, just one time zone away from where I am currently working. I'll start next summer. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So Sue Me...
One of my Constant Readers has gotten on my case for my lack of macro-blogging of late. Sorry. I've been up to my elbows in assorted work-related BS, mostly related to the fact that my boss -- who has to do my job while I'm gone this month -- suffers from a severe case of RTFM Syndrome, coupled with Chronic Cranial Rectumitis.

Oh yeah, that whole "being gone for a month" thing? I'm in China. My husband is participating in the International Mind Games Olympiad. Now that his part of the competition is over, we are going to tour the Middle Kingdom for the next two and a half weeks.

For someone who works in the travel industry, I actually get to do very little tourism myself. My work is more along the lines of "Oh crap, Joe Sixpack lost his passport" or "Professor LittleOleMan needs a medevac for his broken hip." It's nice to really get out and see what my clients are getting themselves into - even if it means falling into the occasional tourist trap.

This trip is my husband's lifelong dream. I was skeptical at first about coming here, but now I am very glad that I did. Getting here was murder (which is part of the reason for the long silence here) because of The Office but I finally got through to them that Mugs Needs A Break, BADLY, and I was going with their blessing or without it, and if my boss didn't feel like doing my work that was his problem, not mine.

Oddly enough, now that I am here, I genuinely don't give a sweet steaming pile of yak dung whether the place sinks or swims without me.

Okay, my 30 minutes of internet time are up. More fun and details later.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I finally figured out why I couldn't decide whether Rafael Nadal is Hot or Not. You see, being of distant Swiss heritage, I thought that I should be rooting for Federer. But I went through the same conflict over the French Open: Sure, Federer is a homeboy, but there's something about this Nadal guy...hmmmm. He's got that King Strider of Gondor thing going on with the hair, but something was just *off* that made me hesitate to declare outright that he is a hottie.
Then he did that thing where he pretends to nibble on the arm of the trophy, and WHAM, I got it: he has Tom Cruise beak.
It's only at a certain angle, but it's there.
And Tom Cruise makes me want to puke. On his shoes.
Oh, Rafa, it just was not meant to be.
Today's Bad Mommy Moment is brought to you by PlayDate Lemonade... Gigi had a friend over this afternoon, and I offered the girls lemonade. I went to the kitchen to mix the stuff up (yes, it's powder, but it's sugar free and made with bottled water, so leave me alone) and couldn't find a suitable container designed for the purpose.
So what do I reach for, in a pinch?
Coffeemaker carafe. Krups 8-cup, to be specific. It was clean, it worked, they'll never know and I won't tell.