• A year

    It's the end of a long (but good) day. I'm sitting in bed with my chromebook on my lap after having put in a couple Arbonne orders. The kittens are wandering around, looking just a little bit sleepy, so I think they'll find their place to sleep for the night soon. Matt's reading a comic, Aeris and Gwen are both asleep already. But I had to take a minute to acknowledge this day.

    Today marks a year since we found out Koo was sick. 

    It's a hard day in that, in the scheme of things, it marks the beginning of the end for our time with her. I find it hard to believe that just a year ago, she was walking around, panting with her little pink tongue hanging out, completely oblivious to everything the vet told us. Today, I look down at my ring that contains some of her ashes. It's not an easy thing to wrap your head around - she was this and now she is that

    Despite this being the official day of diagnosis, I knew in my heart something was wrong before then. Look, I'm not a shining example of a clear head when it comes to my animals. I fully admit that I once took Mikenna to the vet because she broke a toenail and I wasn't sure what to do and was afraid she'd broken it back too far and it would get infected. I stayed up many nights with her when her stomach didn't feel good, hoping that she was just uneasy and that we weren't looking at something like bloat. (Her breed wasn't predisposed to it, but I never ruled anything out) I walked around the apartment complex for one summer absolutely convinced she had westie lung disease. (Yes, that's a thing)

    This was different. This made all of those other things I'd worried about feel really insignificant. Part of me knew that whatever was wrong, this was the thing. I put off taking her to the vet for it, hoping that she would get better, that I would turn out to be paranoid again. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. It was eating at me. My intuition was screaming at me, and when it's screaming at me WITH anxiety medicine, that's something. 

    I clung onto a little bit of hope that maybe it was allergies. Maybe it was a little respiratory bug. But deep down, I knew it wasn't. I have to admit, I wasn't thinking heart failure right off the bat. But I knew it was something bad. 

    Having gotten her so soon after our dog Max died, and her having been such a heal to my heart, it was never ever far from my mind that someday she would die. I spent her whole life afraid that I would do something to break her. When the time came that she was diagnosed with the thing that would be fatal, part of me felt like it was just the other shoe dropping. This is why I did not want to get another pet soon after losing her. I needed time to feel the grief in all it's horrible heaviness, because I had run from it last time. And you know what? The kittens weren't magical fixes. I still feel grief. I have days where her loss feels unbearably heavy. But having the kittens around restored some of that goofiness and life to the air that we'd lost with Mikenna. So I'd waited long enough - at least for kittens. Even if we didn't have the kittens, I can't fathom another dog right now. Honestly, I don't want one for several years. Any sooner feels dangerously close to a replacement for her, and I won't do that. 

    But that's quite the tangent. 

    Today, a year ago, really stunk. It was the beginning of the longest and shortest four (plus) months of our lives. But I'm still, and will forever be, glad that we had that summer. We got to wander around outside, I freed Mikenna of her leash, intentionally stayed home with her as much as possible, and lavished her with as much attention as she could stand. (and that threshold was quite high) The medicine gave her time where she was quite comfortable and happy, and that was good for all of us. It made it less grim, in a way, to have some good time with her, and yet be cognisant that it was precious. I've tried to hold onto that, moving forward. Whether you see it coming or not, our time with pets, loved ones, friends, all of it, is precious. Savor as much of it as you can, and store up a lifetime's worth of memories. 

    I miss her. If it were possible to have her here and have her healthy, I would wish for that in a heartbeat. But since I can't, I'll spread that love that I had for her around, into Gwen, Aery, Vizzi, Cuppie, and whomever else crosses my path. For a dog who never tempered her affection for us, I think that's the best way to carry her memory on. 

    There's a joke, or saying, or something, that there's only so much weight in the world, and it just redistributes between people. Maybe with Koo gone, there's no less love in the world, it's just spread out a little differently. Weird thought, but hey, it's after midnight. 

  • Games, Played and Unplayed

    Matt's been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV lately. At least, I think that's the one he's been playing. It's the mmo that isn't XI. I do like MMOs, but something about seeing them on the TV, I just can't get into. It looks too cluttered to me, and is confusing. I know that makes no sense, because it's the same game on the computer, and a smaller screen at that. But there's something in my brain that likes console games to be simple and uncluttered. 

    When I can wrestle the controller away from him, I've been playing Kingdom Hearts. I played through the original, and now I'm a good portion of the way into Chain of Memories. I don't know that I've been this diligent about playing a game since I was couchbound after my double ankle sprain and sunk many hours into Oblivion. I'm not very good at finishing console games, actually. Truth be told, I had the original Kingdom Hearts for PS2, and never saw the end until Matt played through it for me a few years later. I got to Hollow Bastion, it felt "too hard", and so I just never went back to it. 

    I like games that I feel like I understand, or have a pre-existing connection to. I think that's why Star Wars games (KotOR, SWTOR) have been big hits for me, and why the original Mass Effect sat in plastic forever - but once I played it, I burned through 2 and 3 quickly. I haven't been able to finish (or play much of) Dragon Age: Inquisition, because it feels like SUCH a different game from the previous two that it severed that connection for me. It doesn't feel like the same world, so I've had a hard time getting into it.

    Same vague problem with Skyrim for me. I loved Oblivion, but Skyrim felt JUST different enough that I couldn't really get into it. So now I've played through Oblivion and all the expansions at least once more since then and still haven't played Skyrim. 

    At least playing Kingdom Hearts was the same game that I've more-or-less seen twice, just prettier graphics. Same goes for Chain of Memories - I understand the concept of the game, and I've seen it played before, so it feels familiar. I'm not sure how I'll do with Birth By Sleep, Dream Drop Distance, or whatever else comes between 1 and 2, because neither of us have played those. They're unfamiliar

    But, it's been kind of nice to play a game. It's one of those things that feels like a core part of myself, and when I don't play anything for a while, it's weird. Last time I had this feeling, I spent a couple weeks engrossed in Zuma - so at least this is an upgrade. 

    I picked up Sims 4 around Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I played it once or twice. It's not that it wasn't good, I just have to have the 'bug' for it. Plus, I heard that they introduced toddlers into the game, and I don't know if that's *optional*, so I've been too chicken to check. (Toddlers in Sims are just obnoxious, imo)

    I had started playing SWTOR again shortly before Mikenna died - it was a good mental break, something just for ME. Then I had the worst week of my life, and I've had a hard time getting back into it. They've since released an expansion and some content, so naturally, when I signed back in, everything looked different again. :SIGH: It's frustrating (to me) to sign into a game that I know, and feel like I know nothing all over again. I need to either bite the bullet and cancel or actually sit down and play it. 

    I meant to charge my DS something over a month ago, and haven't done that yet. Before that, I was playing quite a bit of Hyrule Warriors. That game is an excellent time sink. 

    Well, Cuppie has come along and is scampering across my legs. I think that means it's time to go give the kittens some attention. 

  • Butchered Nicknames, Kitten edition

    As I've no doubt explained before, I am terrible with nicknames. I give them out freely and with little regard as to whether they make sense. I don't really do this to people, but animals, oh dear...I'm sorry. 

    Of course, Buttercup and Vizzi have not been immune to my nicknamery. Here are some of the things they've been called over the last several weeks:

    Cuppie Jo (Cuppa Joe)
    Cuppie Josephine
    Cuppie Coo
    Cuppie Cat
    Cuppie Buppie
    Cuppie Lou

    Vizzer do
    Fizzy boy
    Mister Vizzi
    Vizzi Dude
    Vizzi Buddy

    It's really just a matter of time before I come up with something worse. After all, Aeris is regularly referred to as some variation of Bean, and Gwen is BooChinSki. (Or just Boo)

    I'm sorry, kittens. If you wanted actual, sensible names, you let the wrong person bring you home.

  • Joy and wild kittens

    I love the joy that the kittens bring to the family.

    The week Mikenna died is without a doubt, the worst week of my life so far. That whole week was just brutal. 

    It's nice to see that after such sorrow, we can have so much fun again. I love taking the kittens up to see my mom (even if they keep beating us at games of hide and go seek). I love watching them bolt around and pounce on each other, as well as curl up in the same perch and snuggle. I love that Vizzi has the loudest purr on a kitten that I can remember, and that he purrs at the slightest bit of affection from us. I love Cuppie's antics, that I REALLY never know what she's going to be up to, but it's going to make me laugh.

    It feels like my tears have finally (mostly, knock on wood) stopped. But that doesn't mean that I don't miss Mikenna. There hasn't been a day when I don't think of her. I can really only stand to wear rings on my left ring finger, which means I have to choose between my wedding ring and Mikenna's ring. I feel a little guilty about that, but Matt doesn't wear his wedding ring ever, so I probably shouldn't. I just like the thought that she gets to come with me when I go places. I'm fairly sure she'd be ticked that it wasn't an option when she was alive.

    But, looking through Facebook memories, I swear I can see Mikenna not feeling well in pictures taken even before her diagnosis, and I see it again towards the end. She just looks weary. And she had filled out quite a bit - partially because she had stopped throwing up so much (yay), but I don't doubt that it had a lot to do with fluid. I mean ... It's just that I knew her. And I can see in many of the pictures from her last six months, that westie spark was really diminished. Her intense spirit was there right until the end, but there was so much that we lost. I don't know how to describe it. 

    Nobody can take Mikenna's place, nor would I want them to. But the kittens have that energy and that spark that I've been missing for so long. It helps to have that again. It's not the same energy. This is brother-sister pounce on each other and run around kitten energy. It's not westie jump on you and maul you until your face is raw energy. But it's joyful. Neither of these kittens have been "tainted" by the grief of losing Mikenna. It's nice.

    I'm not sure any of that made sense, but there you go. Kittens good, miss Mikenna, life goes on. 

  • Six weeks of Cuppietude

    The littlest miss (for now) is not short on attitude. From the first time she scampered over to the pen and started squeaking at me for attention, I knew she was something

    I don't know what that something is, but Cuppie is full of life and attitude and charisma. She is going to keep us entertained for a looooooong time.

  • Happy 10th, Aeris

    So the story goes, once upon a time, a girl went to a grocery store. On the way out, a lady was handing out kittens for free. The lady said that she was going to take these kittens to the shelter if she couldn't find them homes that day. It had been a long time since the girl had held a kitten, so she agreed to look at one. The tiny kitty fluff purred and snuggled in her arms. The girl called her prince charming and asked if she could bring home this tiny kitty fluff. Prince Charming didn't know how to say no to the lady, so he agreed, even though he hated cats and was allergic to them. Lady brought home the cat anyway, set the tiny kitty fluff on Prince Charming's lap, and everyone lived happily ever after.

    This has been a big year for Aeris. She lost her best friend in the whole wide world, and gained a little brother and little sister. Today, she turns ten years old. TEN. It makes sense when I think about it, but it doesn't sound right.

    She has been trouble and sweetness from day one. I thought I was bringing home a tiny, quiet, delicate little kitten. (See: Vizzi) What I actually brought home is a goofy, vibrant, opinionated little troublemaker. She has made our lives interesting since her appearance, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    To be candid, she's struggled in her own ways with all the changes inflicted on her this year. I believe she knew Koo was very very sick, and acted accordingly. She became very attached to me after Koo died. Aeris has always been a daddy's girl, so to suddenly find myself smothered was odd.

    And then there's the littles. She's made leaps and bounds with them since they came home. But they bring change, and I don't think she's very fond of change either. (Though to her credit, at least she's not hiding in the closet GWEN) She is extremely interested in the kittens, and will follow them around, plunking down in the middle of whatever area they're playing in. But then she'll sit there and hiss and growl at them. Such a little drama cat.

    Aeris is a beautiful, resilient cat though. We shower her with as much love as possible, and she usually bonks noses with the kittens at least a couple times during the day. (The nose touching/sniffing is an affectionate feline greeting.) And, having the kittens around has kept her out of trouble, too, which is downright impressive. Seeing Cuppie eat a treat that she snubbed has made Aery start to get over her pickiness. After ten years, I think Aeris is finally learning how to cat. When the kittens are older (and a bit more calm) I think she'll love having them around. Not that she doesn't now, I just think she'll stop trying to hiss at them.

    Whether Aeris is with us for another year or she outlives her little siblings, she will always be our babycat. Don't get me wrong, I love our current pride of kitties, I miss our Koo and Aery duo. It was special...but then again, isn't every mix of pets?

    We love you, Aery Bean. Thank you for tricking me into bringing you home. Happy birthday.

  • Weeds like Kittens

    They keep growing. I tell them not to, but they go to sleep anyway and their little bodies grow. I guess it means that we're doing something right, but still. They're looking a lot less like kittens these days and more like miniature cats.

    Viz in particular is turning into a rather solid cat. I don't mean fat, I mean when I pet him, he's a sturdy little guy. Cuppie still feels like I might blow her over. I fully expect that next time we go to the vet, he's going to weigh more than his sister. He started out smaller than her by quite a bit (more than half a pound!) and he's done nothing but grow ever since.

    It's bittersweet to see them grow, but one thing is very nice - they're getting less fragile. I worry less about rolling over on one of them in the middle of the night, or breaking their little kitty paws if I step on them. (Seriously guys, get out from under my feet, wouldja?)

    Side note on Cuppie's picture: That's Aery's perch she's in, and this is the first day she's been able to reach it. She just settled in like she's always had that perch, and I have this feeling that she and Aery are going to be tussling for supremacy in the coming months.

  • Calming Vizzi

    Cuppie is such an overwhelming personality, it's easier to overlook Vizzi. It's not that he doesn't have any good stories to tell, it's just that Cuppie is an extravert who drips charm. 

    So here's a little bit about Viz. 

    Vizzi loves being brushed. If he sees you holding the brush, he'll likely stop whatever he's doing and wait for you to brush him, or flop on his side, whatever. 
    He loves to investigate things, but he lets Cuppie take the lead. He adores her. I think she's his security blanket of sorts. 
    He is pretty passionate about food. He'll come running if he hears the food bowl get filled, or if he hears the treat dispenser get kicked by one of the humans. It's a smart move, really. Get the treats, minus the effort. When he was smaller, he would sleep with his chin on the water bowl. It worried me because I was afraid he'd drown himself. 

    Viz does not love being held - not like his sister. Depending on his mood, he might sit in your arms for a minute and let you pet him, or he might squirm out right away. But he is the sweetest little love bug on his terms. Lately he's been "sleeping" with us at night. For periods of time, he'll creep up on the bed between us and try to get comfy. Only, being an energetic little kitten, he gets "comfy" for about 30 seconds at a time before he has to try out a new spot. More likely than not, you'll wake up to his motorboat purring in your ear. Then he gets tired of the whole thing and scampers off to a tried and true spot so everyone can sleep. It's really sweet, and at least on my end, not -too- disruptive. 
    He loves to play with his sister - and trust me, he'll give as good as he gets, but he's such a sweetie. He wants very badly to be besties with the big girls, and truthfully, his more gentle approach has won him more points than Cuppie. She has more of a 'bull in a china shop' approach to diplomacy. 

    He's a really good little dude. I think he would be far more timid if he didn't have Cuppie around, and I think that having him as a calming presence keeps her from constant trouble. They even each other out pretty well. 

    So, while he might not get as many stories or pictures - because I won't find -him- playing with the bathmat at 11pm - it doesn't mean he's any less loved. He completes our little circle very well, and I think that when he gets older, he's going to find himself with three cats who love him. 

  • She cats

    Sometimes I think Cuppie is a trope. 

    Like, she must watch youtube videos at night on "how to cat" and studies them. She's a very ardent student of the feline way. ( ;;;  z <- Comment inserted by Vizzi)

    In this case, Cuppie decided that the packaging was way more fun than the toy I'd put together for them. In fact, she was so happy about the packaging that she came and snuggled up on me after she had finished playing. 

    Oh Cuppie. I hope you never lose your sense of curiosity. (Just try not to get too curious about the outside world)

  • Lilac Girls

    This was one of those books where, as soon as I read the back cover, I knew I wanted to read it. Lilac Girls did not disappoint.

    The book is set around and during World War 2, and follows the lives of three different women - Caroline, a New York socialite who pours her time and money into trying to help refugees and those stuck in France; Herta, a german doctor who finds herself working at Ravensbruck concentration camp; and Kasia, a Polish teenager who works for the underground. 

    Given the time period and the subject matter, I knew that the novel wouldn't be a fluffy walk in the park. But I have to admit, for a good chunk of the book, I could only read so many chapters before I had to put it down. At times, the novel is bleak and gutwrenching - it seems like nothing good can happen to these characters. But that said, it also feels very authentic. Anything lighter would be doing the subject matter a real disservice.

    It's a great story, and a potent reminder of the damage that unchecked hate can do. Personally, I think this one should be required reading. It's that good.