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  • Beauty from pain

    Music has to connect with me on one of two levels. Either it has to "sound good", in that inexplicable way that makes me feel like I'm bursting with life while listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony...Or it has to connect with me lyrically.

    There's this old Superchick song that is the latter and something I still think of when things hurt more than I can comprehend.

    Some days, it's a motto to cling to like a life raft. There will be beauty from pain, because I can't bear the thought that this pain have no purpose, or continue forever.

    Other days, it's a more of a battle cry. There will be beauty from pain if I have to drive around the world and find it myself.

    This song popped up at a really rough time for me. In the space of about 18 months, I lost one of the most important people in my life to ALS, and all three of the animals I had grown up with. I know to some, the animals would be inconsequential. But they're what I had in lieu of siblings. I was also a teenager, so there was also the normal teenage heartache and drama that makes everything feel so very hard.

    I still appreciate this song.

    Here I am at the end of me
    Trying to hold to what I can't see
    I've forgot how to hope
    This night's been so long
    I cling to your promise
    There will be a dawn

    After all this has passed
    I still will remain
    After I've cried my last
    There will beauty from pain
    Though it won't be today
    Someday I'll hope again
    And there will be beauty from pain

     

  • Rescue you, rescue me

    I don't really consider myself hot tempered, but I do occasionally lose my cool. It happens when I'm feeling overwhelmed. A good scenario would be, it's 3am, Aeris has just thrown up, and Mikenna immediately pees as I'm grabbing paper towels.

    I'll admit, even by my standards, "losing my cool" isn't very frightening. It's mostly stomping around and grumbling for a couple minutes, possibly wih a MIKENNNNAAAAAAAA!!! thrown in for good measure. I don't like getting upset, especially when it's stuff not worth getting upset over.

    If the animals have to throw up, I can't really blame them for that. If Mikenna gets all excited and pees on the spot, well, much as I would like her not to do it, it's not an act of malice.

    The things in life worth getting upset over are actually pretty few and far between, when I think about it.

    Right before we adopted Gwen, I was reading up on shelter cats and the potential baggage that they may come with. Best case scenario, you've got a cat that a very loving old lady could no longer take care of and couldn't rehome with any of her children. But you may get a cat who has been abandoned, abused, neglected, or never had a home to begin with. You may not know what you're getting yourself into.

    The article I read said that your cat should never associate your hand or your voice with fear.

    I don't know why that stood out to me so much - it's not like it's the most revolutionary concept. But I thought, wow, I don't want to give an animal any cause to be afraid of me.

    For Gwen's sake, I have worked hard at being calm. That doesn't mean I don't grumble, or really hate it when Mikenna gets me out of bed four times in one night and then throws up twice. But I try not to let my annoyance about a situation exceed what is necessary. It won't make me feel better to get upset at the animals, or just upset in general, so why do it?

    When my silly girls buzz around my ankles and curl up on me in the middle of the night, it feels good. I know they're happy, I know they feel safe and loved, and that I've not given them any cause for fear. I'm making them happy, and in the process, I feel like a better person.

  • It's possible I need an intervention

    It's possible I need an intervention

    I rounded up all of my unread books. Then I immediately looked over at the shelf and saw one more. Then I remembered that I'd tucked away several writing/non-fiction books in the nook above my desk.

    So, this is a fairly decent representation of my unread book stack, but it's not all.

    I, uh, I need to spend more time reading, I think.

    I don't even know where to start!

  • Gwen hearts food

    Gwen hearts food

    Koo and Aery are our vocal, highly opinionated girls. They are not afraid to tell you what they want and, most of the time, just claim it. Gwen watches from the sidelines, doesn't ask for anything, and looks a little surprised when she's given anything.

    Gwen is now just beginning to ask for something - food. The vet told us that she might have a decreased appetite this week while she heals, but she's been eating like a small horse. She's so hungry, in fact, that after finishing off her portion of wet food, she'll try to eat dry kibble, even though she's sore and not having an easy time of it. She dives into each bowl of wet food with the enthusiasm of a person who has not eaten in weeks.

    Frankly, I'm surprised I don't see "OM NOM NOM" floating above her head.

    This is how Gwen asks for food - she follows me out to the kitchen and watches from a distance. If she smells food, she starts tiptoeing closer. When I acknowledge her, she begins brushing around on anything and everything, almost dancing around the kitchen.

    Today, as I carried her food back into her room (so brazen Koo can't steal it), Gwen swished between my legs, looked up at me, and went, "Meoow?"

    She's vocal so rarely that it surprises me every time.

    Unlike Aeris, who will often leave wet food behind, Gwen eats every morsel and licks the bowl clean. I've never seen a cat enjoy food as much as she does. She's so much personality wrapped up in a tiny, quiet package. She is such a treat.

  • How can we do better for them?

    How can we do better for them?

    I'll say up front that this is going to be a little long and rambly. My apologies.

    Yesterday, we took Gwen in for a dental appointment. I knew something was off, but I didn't know to what extent. She had flailed violently when the vet tried to look at her mouth during her physical, which led me to watch her over the next couple of weeks. Chewing seemed to bother her from time to time when she ate, and she would leave little pieces of the already little kibble scattered around her bowl. She also drooled a lot - occasionally I'd catch the drool looking darker, but I didn't know whether it was blood or food. I mean, come on, we've all eaten a piece of cake then brushed our teeth - your spit looks pretty gross. Even though Mikenna also needs dental work, I decided that we had to get Gwen in there first.

    They pulled every single tooth yesterday. Her teeth were rotting, exposed, and her mouth was infected so badly that otherwise halfway decent teeth had to be pulled because of infection and abcesses.

    That didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen in the three weeks we've had her.

    As I held a heavily medicated, towel wrapped Gwen last evening, the vet told me that, as much pain as she was currently in, she wasn't worse off, and may even feel a little better than she'd been living with. The cats they see in her condition are mean and very anti-social - Gwen was exceptionally sweet for how much pain she had been in.

    WOW.

    Let me show you the description of Gwen as a shelter cat.

    This is not the description of her that I'd have written based on how she was at the shelter. Even living with us at home, she let me pet her, and she was fond of following us around, but she wasn't much for being held, let alone hugged. This description was written at least a year before we adopted her.

    That means, while living at the shelter, her disposition changed. I know people noticed, because someone who declared herself a frequent visitor warned me away as Gwen was mean.

    I want to stress this - I don't blame the shelter. I know they do the best job they can with what they have. They rely on generosity - volunteers, and donations of items and money. This particular shelter is working towards being a no kill shelter. They helped over two thousand animals last year - and so, you know, I can't really blame them for not having the time/resources to sit with every cat and figure out not only if there's something wrong, but what it is.

    And yet - with the infection as severe as it was, and with Gwen not crying out in pain, I have to wonder, how much longer did she have before that infection spread throughout her body? Would they have caught on before it was too late? Or would they have found her dead in a cat bed one day, having had no clue that anything was wrong?

    How many animals has this happened to already? Suffering in silence because shelters don't have the resources to keep close watch over their residents - especially the long term ones!

    I don't know how to begin to advocate for change. You have to have people who can and want to notice physical and behavioral changes in the animals. That means they have to come around regularly. It's probably ridiculous to make a paid position out of someone sitting with animals to check their physical and emotional welfare. It's a huge thing to ask of volunteers.

    And even then, even if there were people who could spot change in an animal - what to do about it then? How can you determine whether the change is from depression or a physical ailment? Shelters can't afford to be taking every animal in for vet care every time there's a twinge.

    Something is broken, and I don't know how to fix it. I just know that no animal should be in that amount of pain for an extended period of time with no one noticing. There has to be a way.

    I want to do things better, for you, Gwen.

  • Gwen

    Gwen

    I met Gwen, then Nuggie, for the first time a few weeks after watching her profile at the local humane society. Matt and I had decided that we wanted another cat, and we wanted a "less adoptable" cat. Older cats, black cats, and cats who had been there for a while were the ones we were looking for.

    Gwen had been at the shelter for over two years. At seven years old, the odds of her getting adopted were not great. She was our cat.

    I wasn't expecting this. Gwen was much smaller than I had anticipated (later we'd learn that she's a whopping 5.6 lbs) and, well, not very social. She remained curled up in the bed I found her the entire time. If I got her to lift up her head for me, she didn't bother to open her eyes. I didn't think that there was anything wrong with her, she just seemed defeated. With so many cats bounding around the room, clamoring for my attention, Gwen was easy to pass over.

    Two years is a very long time for a cat to be in a shelter. When you consider that cats can suffer depression and other side effects even two weeks into their stay, Gwen's behavior was even more understandable.

    I knew that she was going to come home with us. I just didn't know what kind of cat we were getting. I expected that she would stay sequestered in my office for a week at least.

    Gwen jumped the gate and curled up on our bed within a couple of hours - much to Aeris' chagrin. She was downright curious about her new environment, and spent the night looking around at everything. That first night, she slept curled up at my feet - an entirely different cat than the one we'd met earlier.

    It's been a week now, and Gwen is a happy, content cat. We're all still adjusting to each other. Gwen is not incredibly social, nor is she a lap cat. But she does enjoy sleeping near us, and she's very inquisitive. The past couple days, we've started to see a little bit more goofiness in her, and she's begun responding to her name. (She didn't respond to her shelter name, so there was no guilt in renaming her.) She'll headbutt our hands when she's ready for some attention. We're giving Gwen space, and letting her figure out life at her own pace.

    She is a very well-behaved cat. She does have to tell Mikenna to back off from time to time - but Mikenna wants nothing more than to get up in Gwen's face and nuzzle her. She has an ear infection that we're treating with twice daily drops - and though Gwen lets me do it, she's starting to get very tired of the process.

    I can't stress enough how happy I am to have Gwen here. I don't know what this cat has been through - she was dropped off at the shelter as a stray, but based on how well-behaved she is, I believe she had a home at one time. She seems confident, content, and happy. If you've never rescued an animal before, there is something really rewarding about giving a shelter animal a home. I've heard it before, but now I've seen it unfold - they really do seem immensely grateful for their new home.

    And home we are, forever, Gwen. I promise.

  • Anxiety: travel edition

    Anxiety: travel edition

    I love to travel - in theory. I like different sights and experiences, things that get me out of the same ol, same ol.

    The reality, though, is that travel kicks up a different portion of anxiety in my brain. It starts with dreading travel itself, and wanting to cancel and stay home. I've always been a little homesick. I will calm myself down enough to go through with it, but inside, I'm screaming.

    People make me paranoid. I'm afraid of being raped or mugged, and it feels like every train is full of the hundred most contagious people in the U.S. I wouldn't normally consider myself to be a germaphobe. Travel brings out an acute necessity to wash my hands. 

    Meanwhile, my mind pops unwelcome scenarios into the forefront. I'm not sitting there trying to think of negative things, but as I watch the sun rise above the mountains, in my head I hear my mom calling, telling me that they found Mikenna dead in her crate. I imagine that the wind is going to carry the train over the side of a bridge or that Matt and I will meet a grisly end on an icy road. 

    Each time, I banish the thought...but anxiety creeps back like a curious and venomous snake. By the time I get to DC, I'm emotionally drained. That's when I have to deal with hordes of people.

    It's frustrating. On an average day, anxiety doesn't feel omnipresent. When I travel, it feels like another, suffocating coat. It makes me question whether I've made any progress at all, when I know for a fact that I have. But anxiety doesn't want you to believe that you aren't hearing the tune constantly. 

    Anxiety kind of sucks, and I'm afraid that some day I won't have the strength to fight and it will begin making all my decisions for me. But in telling you about my fear, I take away anxiety's power. At least for me, anxiety likes to be kept secret, and if I tell you about it, it cannot be secret. 

    Go away, anxiety. No one likes you.

  • Adventures in Office Painting

    Adventures in Office Painting

    With Matt due here in just over a week, I've had to quit procrastinating and actually get to work on his office again.

    While I don't love painting walls - the project is so much more tedious because Mikenna hates it. I've tried to give her places to sit and watch me work, but to no avail. She paces around and either whines, or barks at me to try to get me to play with her.

    It makes things take a long time, let me tell you.

    But, I've finally got at least one coat on all four walls now. All that's left is the upper part of the walls that I couldn't reach, and to do touchups. Also, I need to go get another quart of paint to finish things up.

    At least it's progress!

  • Neese

    Neese

    Do me a favor. Hug your animals today. Spend a little extra time, nuzzle your head into their fur, and give them a squeeze.

    No matter how much time you have together, it's never enough.

    I'll miss you, Neesey.

  • 64 in February

    64 in February

    Mikenna refuses any suggestion that perhaps we should go inside. I guess I can't blame her - it's beautiful out!