• 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


    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!

  • Winter loves me not

    Winter loves me not

    (In case it's not completely clear, this is an old picture. We don't have that apartment, that car, or that snow.)

    I had really hoped that moving to Virginia would take care of the bulk of the seasonal depression for me. Maybe once I've been consistent about taking my vitamin D, it will. But I'm prepared to admit that, while I'm doing a whole lot better not being trapped inside a polar palace, winter is still not ideal for me.

    It means a lot to me, not having to constantly worry about the forecast. I keep an eye out, because Lynchburg's weather isn't perfect 100% of the time, but I'm not going to be taken by a surprise 1-3" of snow overnight. Even if we do get a big snowstorm dumped on us, it's not going to linger around until March. It'll melt within a few days. That's all a significant improvement to the state of constant vigilance I felt in Michigan for seven months out of the year. No, that's not a typo - I started fretting in October, and didn't feel safe again until sometime in April.

    Lynchburg is also a lot sunnier. Michigan, overall, is very overcast in the winter, and boy did that really start to suck the life out of me in the last few winters. Not only is it cold, but the dreariness makes it feel like winter is never going to end it is going to be this dreary suffocating mess forever. At least to me. I don't think that's very good for my mental health.

    Even still, the dreary, rainy days here take the wind out of my sails - something I'm hoping to ward off with vitamin D. (I've been taking it consistently for a couple weeks now, and I feel like it's helping, but I don't feel confident enough to claim a trend.)

    It's not as cold here as in Michigan - I confess that I've rarely worn a real coat this winter, but there have been several occasions where I've encouraged Mikenna to just hurry up already it's so cold out here. Cold makes you want to hibernate, and hoo boy, with our new Casper mattress, hibernating is more comfortable than ever. It's a side note, but I love the living daylights out of that mattress.

    Combine that with the shorter days, and I feel like, maybe, winter is always going to take some sort of toll on me. However, caveat here, I've noticed that in the few days I've been writing letters for LetterMo that my mood has shot up, so I'm thinking maybe I need more socialization as well.

    I guess, what all that is meant to convey, is that there is no cure all for depression and anxiety - seasonal or otherwise. There are lots of things that can help (or hurt), but no one thing will make it all go away. And what works today may not work next month. It seems unfair, because none of us said, "depression and anxiety, sign me up!" but ... it is what it is. Keep trying. Keep working through it, and give yourself a little compassion when things aren't working as well as you want them to. Nothing gets better by beating yourself up about it. It'll be okay.

  • She scared me

    She scared me

    Mikenna loves thrashing around after a bath. She runs around like a little nut, throws herself against cloth, carpet, whatever she thinks will take water off. Tonight she had a bath and commenced the traditional running of the Koo. Then she stopped. She began to cough. I can't tell you what was different about it, but the cough was deep and her eyes showed distress. 

    She tensed up and collapsed on the bed, where she pulled herself onto her belly. She panted, but nothing else moved, reminding me of a sphinx. She was clearly in shock and pain, and when her breathing calmed and she still stayed frozen, I worried that something awful had happened. 

    I feared that maybe she'd had a stroke or a seizure or a cardiac event- that her back legs were paralyzed. Were my fears rational? I don't know. But in that moment, all I knew was that my wet dog was laying very still on a bed and looked very serious, neither of which are typical of a dog nicknamed KooKoo. 

    After too long, she wobbled to her feet, took a few steps, and laid back down for a minute. When she stood again, it was to ask me to pick her up. That when she seemed okay again.

    Something like this has happened - three years ago, just once. This was worse. I believe it was a back spasm, or some other minor back injury. As it is, I'm not worried about her now. When the moment of crisis passed, I could see more clearly what her behavior indicated.

    As I tap this out on my phone, she is buried under three blankets, asleep on top of me. Every so often, she opens her little brown eyes and watches me before falling asleep again and having some sort of twitchy dream. 

    Today is an unwelcome reminder that her life is fleeting, that she gets older, and that my time with her cannot be taken for granted. However long she's with me, it'll never be long enough. The day will come when something will happen and she won't be okay. But tonight, we're together, we're safe, and we're warm. I can't ask for more.

  • A kick in the face

    At my annual physical, my doctor decided to up the dosage on my depression/anxiety medicine. 

    "I don't think it's working as well as you think it is." She said. 

    I wasn't in much of a position to argue. Overall, I think that I'm doing much better than I was a year ago, but does that mean I'm doing well? I'm not sure I have a healthy baseline for that, especially when it comes to the anxiety. I can look back to things in my childhood and still feel the crushing fear over simple things, and I realize, I've been dealing with anxiety for a very long time.

    But as far as the depression goes, I just don't know. I don't feel unhappy, but there are days (too many, to be honest) where I don't feel like I'm functioning very well. I can usually get the bare essentials down, which is how I know that I'm improving, but beyond that is ... A struggle. Is it winter? Is it being apart from Matt? Does my brain insist on self sabotage? I don't know. I really don't.

    So they upped my dosage and I've felt like a glorified sea slug since. I've done my reading and found that a lot of people feel this way while their bodies are adjusting, and boy does it tick me off. I just want to feel good, not sit through up to a month of hibernation. 

    Where does depression end and "I'm just a lazy bum" begin? Some days I'm afraid that there's nothing wrong with me and I'm just extraordinarily incapable of doing things. Which is extra frustrating when I have a head bubbling with ideas and hope...and then I can't get out of bed. 

    It's a work in progress, and unfortunately, it just takes more effort and more time than I'd like. I want to be completely healthy. I want to be awesome. 

    Im just not there yet. 

  • On Declawing

    On Declawing

    When we got Aeris, she was more of a handful than I anticipated. I remembered our quiet, docile, elder cats. I had no idea what I was getting into with a six week old kitten. 

    She was, and has remained, a rambunctious scratcher and climber. When she was young, I threatened many times that if we couldn't curb her behavior, we would have to declaw her. After all, the cats I grew up with had been declawed, and I neve knew about any problems from them. 

    But the more I've learned about declawing, the more horrified I am by it. Did you know, one third of all cats who are declawed will develop a behavioral issue as a result. This includes not using the litterbox (because litter hurts their paws), biting, and limping. It can also greatly contribute to arthritis down the road. 

    And it's not that declawing keeps cats in homes. The cats who develop an issue after being declawed are far more likely to end up in a shelter than a cat who scratches the couch. 

    With humans, our nails grow from under our skin. On cats, however, the nail grows directly from a bone. So in order to declaw the cat, this entire bone has to be removed - akin to removing your finger at the first knuckle. 

    Shards of bone can also grow back or be missed in the removal, causing massive pain and very grouchy animals. 

    What we don't talk about, however, is how to deal with a cat whom you havent declawed, but seems bent on scratching everything?

    First understand that if your cat scratches next to where you're sitting, such as on a couch, they are trying to put their scent near yours. Give them a place they can scratch. Yes, that means a scratching post right next to your couch. In fact, give them multiple places to scratch, both horizontal and vertical. Let me tell you, a vertical scratcher has cut down on inappropriate scratching so much!

    You can also try curbing the behavior itself - but you have to understand that whatever your cat does when you're aroibd, they'll do when you're not. I've used a pheromone spray with some success, though I'm not sure whether the smell actually works or if she hates the sound. There's also double sided tape. Pretty? No. But this has worked really well in conjunction with the things above. I plan to remove the tape, slowly, when Aeris isn't looking. In the meantime, she enjoys licking it. She's so weird.

    Please check out for more information on declawing, and look up Jackson Galaxy for tips on dealing with cat behavior and making your space cat friendly. 

  • When progress isn't obvious

    Over the last year, I've lost about 30 lbs. It's not earth shaking, and certainly, I would like it to be more. It's not even enough that I feel like I look any different, which is frustrating.

    However, I just got my blood work done with my primary care doctor. I compared my results this year with those from last year. The results were definitely better than last year. Now, I wasn't told to worry about any of my results from last year. Everything was within a normal range, but several things are, to my untrained eye, in a better spot in that normal range.

    For me, that's really encouraging. I know that I tend to be a results oriented person, and it's frustrating when I expect to see change and don't. But that doesn't just apply to the scale. There's a lot of things that we work on and feel that there's little, if any, reward. 

    Sometimes success isn't immediately obvious. Sometimes there are pitfalls before we see any progress at all. But just keep working at it, whatever that thing is. Eventually, you will see progress, and you'll be glad you kept at it.