• Cats in Cardboard

    It became obvious that we needed to get rid of the beloved cardboard house we bought for the cats before Christmas. I taped it up several times to keep it together, but even the corrugated scratcher pieces had worn out. You could see where Vizzi sat on it, as it was the only part not scratched. I’ve been looking for another house for months now, and haven’t found a good replacement. So, I kinda gave up. This triangle had a hole in it and I’ve noticed that the cats like to scratch vertically, so I thought they’d be as happy with this as anything. 

    They are, in fact, happy with it, even when it gets knocked over. 

    I think this was the moment Aeris realized that she had made a grave mistake. 

    Between this and the plethora of cardboard boxes that come through this house, I think they’ll be content for a while. Maybe by then I’ll be able to track down another house for them. (HINT HINT TARGET)

  • Airline Tycoon 2

    I tried playing the original Airline Tycoon and got stuck very early on. Apparently back in 2013 I decided to give Airline Tycoon 2 a shot. You know. Sort of.

    I'm going to be honest. I just can't get the hang of this game. I tried playing the tutorial a bit, and I understand it -better- this time around, and I got flights off the ground (yay!), but this game just hits me with too much, too fast. 

    Once I got to the point where I had bought a plane, fixed it up, hired employees, got a route, and got it in there air ... I was pooped. There so many statistics to keep an eye on. Fuel, maintenance, employee satisfaction, employee competence, how much each route is profitable, whether your customers are happy and that's just the tip of the iceberg. SO MANY NUMBERS.







    I (think?) I wanted to try it because I love sims, so I thought surely, airplanes would be cool too. And to be fair, they might be, if the numbers and 8,000 things to keep track of were simplified. Just a bit. I mean, because I was on easy mode. 

    So this game is getting uninstalled. I just can't. If I didn't have so many other games, maybe I'd try and plod through it, but life is too short to be incredibly frustrated, or to play games with that many numbers involved. 

  • Sweet dreams sasspants

    This little sasspants. 

    I mean, I think there was a time when she wasn’t part of our family, but I can’t imagine how that is, because it seems like she’s always been here. 

  • Age of Empires II

    Next up on my much-neglected but not-quite-forgotten Steam Project is Age of Empires II.

    Age of Empires is a real time strategy game, which, to put it in layman's terms means incredibly stressful war game. 

    I kid. Sort of.

    The first thing I noticed when I started playing the tutorial is that it reminded me of Warcraft III, a game Matt and his friends used to play pretty frequently. Once I understood that, I got the hang of the game a lot faster.

    You collect resources, train up troops, attack your opponents. That's the basic gist. Whereas Warcraft is skinned as Orcs and Elves and Humans, Age of Empires is history based. William Wallace, Joan of Arc, etc.

    I'm not saying that I'm good at this game. Part of the problem is that the real time aspect stresses me out. I'm not particularly good at managing resources when something is attacking me. I panic, and then it's all downhill from there. (In general. I did manage to keep my cool during tutorial mode at least)

    The other, more glaring issue, is that I'm not really much of an antagonist. I don't really want to go around and conquer people. If I could build farms and research technology and do everything BUT the fighting, that would be my kind of game. 

    But since that's not how these games work, I just tend not to be very good at them. See point number one - stresses me out. 

    That said, I did enjoy as much of AOE II as I played. I'm going to come back to it, maybe finish tutorial mode (I have two battles left), and see if I can take on another mini campaign. I don't think I'll be conquering any civilizations any time soon, but I might improve my skill a little bit.

  • Practically Rapunzel

    Tilt your head, because I don’t feel like fixing this, haha. 

    I think the last time my hair was this long was the summer of 2013. Right before I cut it all off for a pixie cut. 

    Nothing against the pixie cut, but I don’t think I’ll be doing anything quite so drastic anytime soon. I’m kinda digging the longer locks, now that I’m better about doing something with them.

    (Sometimes, anyway.)

  • That Time I Accidentally Predicted The Future

    Several years ago (this was a year or two we moved to Virginia, I think) I was worldbuilding for a story. 

    I'm not saying that I accidentally predicted some things, but I kinda did.

    The EU Collapsed, USA pushed nasa into something non-sensical (Space FOOOORCE)? 

    Our government is run by CEOs. Huh. News is all entertainment and sensationalist.

    Ah yes. But we're pretending that everything still functions the same.

    Well that's just a touch familiar.

  • Snuggle sasspants

    I remember, not so long ago, when this cat didn’t want to be touched very much. When getting to pet her entire back was a success. 

    I remember when she didn’t dare hop up and sit on the couch with us, and how the first time she did, we sat SO still, because we didn’t want to startle her.

    I remember when she wouldn’t sit on our laps, and when she started to, she’d creep very slowly, and then relax one muscle at a time until she was comfortable. The process took about an hour, so by the time she was comfortable, you really weren’t.

    She snuggles on me most nights. Apparently she also snuggles on me during the day sometimes, too. 

    Not sure how we got here with this girl, but I’m happy. 

  • The kids turn two

    Yesterday Buttercup and Vizzi turned two years old, which I can’t believe. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that they looked like this:

    How did they get so big, so fluffy, and so sweet? 

    Look at that handsome fluff boy. He should be the next Bachelor. None of the girls would be leaving the show willingly with him there. Granted, we’d have to pry him out of the back room to MEET the girls, but I digress. Still better than Colton. 

    And this beautiful Buttercup. How can you not love this majestic creature? She KNOWS how pretty she is, and she KNOWS how sweet her meows are, and she uses both like weapons. Works every time. Okay, maybe not every time. If that were the case, I’d never eat anything, because this girl would steal it all. 

    Not to be outdone, Aeris and Gwen got into a fight. Or, more accurately, Gwen jumped up onto the bed, crashed into Aeris, and started smacking. She lost that fight. I’m not surprised.

    We saw blood around her eye after the spat, so we packed her up and went straight to the emergency vet. Eyes just aren’t something to mess around with.

    Thankfully, it turned out to be scratches around her eye and not ON her eye, but she’s still not feeling terrific.

    Today she had an appointment with the vet for a thyroid test, which came back well for her. I’m very glad for that, because it already feels like we go through ear gel in a blink. I’m hoping that little sass will be feeling better in a day or two and I’ll see more of her again. Right now, she’s hunkered down in my office. I go and visit her every once in a while, but I’m also trying to give her space to rest. 

    Never a dull moment with the Smyczyncats.

  • Toothless Sasspants

    It’s been four years since this sass had her teeth removed.

    I was really scared for her at the time, because I didn’t know what it would mean for her. 

    Really, it’s meant nothing but good things for her. She hasn’t had any recurring inflammation, so we haven’t had to do steroid shots, she’ll eat whatever she pleases, and she isn’t in pain. 

    The most commonly asked question I get about her is, “Does she only eat wet food?”

    No. I wish I could get her to eat more wet food, but she’d rather toss kibble down her gullet and be done. She gets a fancy feast broth packet every night when everyone else gets their wet food, but she won’t eat the meat. She’ll ‘humor’ me for a while if I try to get her to eat something else, but as soon as she thinks it’s a pattern, she’ll stop. 

    Just for the record, you don’t need teeth to be the sassiest bossy pants in the house. 

  • Peeling

    I lure you in with the picture of Cuppie, and then I talk about something completely different. HA!

    I feel it. That uncomfortable itch before things change. Like I’ve grown and now I need to shed my skin again. 

    Personal growth is a big deal to me. I constantly seek it out, I’m always reading (when I’m not physically incapacitated. I’m lookin at you 2019), and I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last couple years. I feel more grounded, confident, and capable. Like I’m growing into a better version of myself. Not someone else - a better version of /me/. That right there, I think, is something it takes a level of maturity to get to - when you stop trying to be someone awesome, and want to improve yourself. When you’ve learned that /you/ are a perfectly good human, and you have tons of potential as well as limits, and you’re at peace with both. 

    Over the past several months, I’ve found myself a really great community of women. I wasn’t particularly looking for it, and here it fell into my lap. They’re amazing, and I wish this kind of community for everyone. We have different backgrounds, strengths, and are all over the spectrum with political affiliation. But there’s a level of love and respect there that is transcendent. Without actually saying it, we all decided that this is our tribe, and we will fight for each other fiercely. We celebrate each other’s successes and failures without making a production of it. One person admits to not wanting to wear a bra today, and another is having a hard day at work. It’s all good. Better yet, we all acknowledge that this tribe is an anomaly on the good end of things, and so we hold it close. 

    Something about this tribe and personal growth have hit this point where now I’m itchy. I can see these things that are no longer serving me, not because they’re bad, but because I’ve outgrown them. I’m getting ready to let them go, and free up my hands for whatever is next.

    It still feels sketchy in my head, which is largely why I’m not offering up details. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere, Matt’s not going anywhere, and I neither plan on adding nor subtracting cats. 

    I need to create more, both words and art. I want to go for walks and do yoga and build strength. I want to love and inspire and be inspired. 

    I guess we’ll see what that looks like. 

  • The Evolution of a Strange Friendship

    I wasn’t sure how Gwen would react to kittens. She used to run over and seem curious when I played something with tiny kitten meows, so I thought maybe she’d be interested. But then again, she definitely didn’t like Aeris, and didn’t seem to like any of the cats at the shelter, either.

    Still, I was a little disappointed when she had no interest in our foster kittens. She wasn’t as awkward with them as Aeris, but I got a “this is not what I signed up for” vibe. That didn’t mean that the kittens weren’t interested in her, however. 

    Cuppie loves everyone and everything. She’s been a social butterfly from the first day we met her. It still amused me that she wanted to try -so hard- to be Gwen’s friend, when Gwen clearly wasn’t giving off any friendship vibes. In fact, when the kittens became permanent and super into everything, Gwen plunked herself down in the closet. It was the one place the kittens didn’t really go, and she could get away from them. 

    You know, until Cuppie figured it out. 

    She started to figure out Gwen’s boundaries, when to back up, when Gwen didn’t -really- mean it, and how far she could push before Gwen would smack her in the face. 

    I have to give Cuppie credit: she is tenacious. It’s like she decided that Gwen was her bestest friend (besides Vizzi) and she just didn’t know it yet. It didn’t matter how many times Gwen smacked her in the face or grumbled at her, Cuppie just came back later. For a while, I thought Cuppie just wore her down. It was just easier to let Cuppie hang out near her than to continually smack her in the face. 

    But then they started playing together. 

    It started out with Cuppie chasing Gwen, and Gwen hissing and sputtering as she ran away. But one day, Gwen chased back. Then they started running around back and forth for a few minutes at a time - I’d hear Gwen growl when she’d had enough. The play sessions got longer. Gwen started instigating. She’s even tried to tackle Cuppie a couple times. (That has not been successful, but I give her credit for trying)

    Cuppie can groom Gwen a little bit (before getting hit in the face). Gwen will play with Vizzi now too, but not nearly as often. There’s something of a strange camaraderie here.

    None of the other cats can get away with this kind of physical proximity with Gwen. I think she likes Vizzi well enough, and her relationship with Aeris has improved overall, but this? 

    Before Mikenna got really sick, Gwen tried to play with her a little bit. It scared the living daylights out of Mikenna, because she was used to Aeris, whose method of playing involved getting Koo to chase -her-, not by chasing Koo or, wait for it, smacking her in the face. (Yes, Gwen has a pattern)

    Cuppie has never been intimidated by Gwen. She takes all of Gwen’s quirks in stride. I think that is why they get along so well. Cuppie showed that she was willing to back off when Gwen actually meant it, and that made Gwen more comfortable with letting her close. Cuppie doesn’t want to be the boss of Gwen, she just wants to be her friend.

    So, strangely enough, she is. 

  • The Last Romantics

    One of the book clubs I’m in is the monthly Barnes & Noble one. It’s a nationwide thing, so if there’s a store near you, there should be an event. I really like it, because it exposes me to authors and books that I wouldn’t typically read. Generally speaking, that’s what I like about book clubs, but often homebrew book clubs fall into niches with certain genres and such. (Which is fine, but that’s why this is also fun)

    The book we discussed this month was The Last Romantics. The book follows the story of four siblings over most of their lives. While it lightly touches on other events, the story primarily revolves around two unexpected deaths, and how the siblings fall apart, pull together, and how their lives are affected moving forward. 

    The story is told from the perspective of the youngest sister, Fiona, who will later grow up to become a well-known poet. She’s essentially telling her family’s story for an audience. Personally, I love family stories. I love seeing how people are shaped by events, how their relationships change, and how the author drops little teasers such as “the pause”. That alone kept me turning pages, because I wanted to see what “the pause” was, and whom it affected!

    Some of the criticisms of the book were that there were too many loose ends,  and that there were more stories that should’ve been told. I understand, but I think the book primarily revolves around two main events, and while there are details that help fill in around those two events, this is why the book is the way it is. To understand “the accident”, you have to understand “the pause” because the pause sets up this path. The book then follows the aftermath of the accident in bits and pieces, but everything really ties back to those two things. Personally, I think the fact that we get any sort of “this is what happens to the characters later” is a nice little bone. The more I think about it, it’s not all that different from the ending of Titanic - we finish up the primary event of Rose’s life, and then we’re given glimpses of what happened for her moving forward. 

    Not everyone loved the book, and it is a different read, but I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll end up re-reading it, but I’m going to keep it, at least for a while, because I would like to. Given how many books I plow through (though not as many as I’d like lately!), that’s saying something. 

  • On my nerves

    Okay, so, when last we left off, I had just recovered from having my right eye probed and irrigated.

    February happened.

    Matt had to go up to Michigan for some work stuff the first week of February. To me, this generally means that I get a few days to myself, to meet up with some friends and do a lot of cleaning. And I did! 

    The day after Matt got up to Michigan, we found out that a childhood friend of his had died. (More accurately, this was the brother of a couple of Matt’s closest friends. The two families lived around the corner from each other and they all kind of grew up together, J being a little younger than Matt’s sister.) We kind of hemmed and hawed about what to do, and ultimately decided on going to the funeral. Unfortunately, we decided that after Matt had already boarded his plane to come back home from Michigan. So basically, Matt was home for something like 36 hours before we hopped in the car and drove back to Michigan. 

    Despite the reason we were up there, we had a really good time. We got to see some people and the whole sense of bonding and community was really nice. I wish the circumstances were better, but seeing how many of our friends turned out for J’s family was really incredible. 

    The whole time, my shoulder was sore, but that’s not really out of the ordinary, especially when you consider the circumstances and the long drive and all that. The drive home was awful. There was ice in Michigan (we actually left later than we would’ve liked to give it all time to melt a bit), then it downpoured through much of Ohio - the kind of rain where you constantly debate whether you should just pull over or stop for the night altogether. Because of that, traffic was bonkers in parts, and a drive that should’ve taken us about 9 hours ended up at 12. Mind you, we were gone less than 72 hours total. So for 12 of that to be the trek home... yeah. Stressful.

    Then came galentines day and Valentine’s Day, which were both nice. At some point, maybe I’ll get around to talking about this really great group of ladies I’ve found. We’ve got a great little tribe going.

    Anyway, Friday the 15th, I was really sore. I’d been taking otc pain meds the previous two days, but it wasn’t doing anything to help. By early afternoon, the pain turned excruciating. I don’t say that lightly. I was laying there sobbing on the bed. So, long story short on that one, I’ve got a pinched nerve in my shoulder and I’m doing physical therapy for it.

    That took up the second half of February, basically. For the first week and a half, I hurt too much to do much of anything. We watched a lot of tv, and I sat in the chair like a sad lump. 

    I’m doing a lot better now - my pain without any meds is probably a 2 most of the time. My left thumb is a little numb, and BOY does my arm get tired quickly. That’s probably the most annoying thing, to be honest. I feel like I’m doing well, and then I go to pick up a pitcher of water and nearly dump the thing. But it’s getting there, and I’m grateful for that. 

    Both of my eyes have been a little watery here and there, but I don’t know why, and it doesn’t seem to be getting worse, really. Maybe it’s a weather thing, or an allergy thing, or my head is just on funny and it makes my eyes water thing. I don’t really know.

    I’ve got physical therapy scheduled through mid-April, though I’m hoping that I won’t end up needing all of it. I’m also hoping that I can get through this and be done with doctors and problems for a little while. I’m becoming an expensive chicky as far as our HSA is concerned. 

    I guess while I’m here, with the approval and encouragement of my doctor, we’re going to try and wean me off the last bit of one of my brain meds. So we’ll see how that goes. I should have enough of a supply that I can do it nice and slow, and maybe avoid the six weeks of feeling awful. (Because I don’t really need ANOTHER six weeks of feeling awful for some reason) Got my annual bloodwork done, and everything is normal. HA. 

    I don’t know why I said HA. It just felt right. 

    Aaaaaaanyway, until we meet again with some other bizarro medical problem. Stay well, because at least one of us should. :P

  • Sense of Self

    The first week of September, my right eye started to water. I was annoyed, but didn't think too much about it. It's not like it's uncommon, having happened at some point every year for the last several. But it usually goes away, and it doesn't usually get as bad as it did this year.

    As of writing this, I've had four consecutive good days, which probably seems like nothing, but feels like everything. Until now, I haven't had more than two good days. 

    I know. You're talking about a watery eye, sheesh, quit your whining. But here's the thing - let's say your wrist hurts. You can ice it, sit down, watch tv, probably read books, and do things to rest it. Same with your leg. Any time something goes wrong with the body, it is a real nuisance, but when it's your eye, it affects everything! My reading has gone way down over the last five months, because it's a pain to have to stop, remove glasses, wipe eye, replace glasses, pick back up book, every few pages. If nothing else, it breaks the immersion and therefore, the enjoyment. It's not the end of the world, but it does suck! 

    Towards the end of November, my patience with the whole ordeal started going downhill, enough so that I started chasing down doctors. I was desperate to get an actual plugged tear duct diagnosis, since it usually gets handwaived as general conjunctivitis. I got my diagnosis, and I got antibiotics. It helped for several days - it didn't make the watering go away, but it got rid of the mucus, or eye gunk. But then, that started coming back, and it started watering more frequently. I'd say in September, I would wipe my eye every couple hours. By Christmas, it was multiple times an hour for the most part. That's the kind of thing that starts to feel really disruptive and draining.

    I'd been told by the eye doctor that if the antibiotics didn't work, they'd need to probe and irrigate me. Since that didn't sound fun, I put it off for as long as possible, but finally caved and called the eye doctor back. Only, they didn't send me straight to the helpful doctor, they wanted me to come back into the regular office. There, they performed a test that concluded that my duct was plugged. (Well gee, you think?) Then they agreed to send me to the other place for the another 10 days. 

    I was at the point where nothing had worked, I finally had people agreeing with me on what the problem was, but I couldn't do anything but wait. If I had a dollar for every time a doctor asked if I'd been massaging it and using warm compresses, I probably could have covered my copays. I'd have to make Matt wait on me while I paused games to wipe my eye because you can't kill baddies very effectively with your eye gunky and dripping. For such a little problem, it was affecting everything. When something is affecting everything like that, it becomes a pain in the butt, or maybe just not worth it, to do things. I didn't really want to watch tv or movies, because I couldn't concentrate. I didn't want to go out really, because the cold and wind just made it worse, and I felt like wiping my eye constantly in public was just asking for fifteen thousand germs. 

    I'll be honest. The whole ordeal really hit my sense of self. I did the bare minimum to keep life running, but the things that made me feel like me didn't happen. I didn't read, or write, or do art, or play games, or any of that. Makeup wasn't worth it, so then playing with my hair wasn't worth it, so then, well, maybe I'll put on a clean shirt eventually.

    So, last week, I went to have my probe and irrigation done. The long and short of that is that they stick a probe (or two) into your tear ducts and fish around for a bit. Then they squirt a bunch of saline into your duct to flush it out. 

    Yes, I was awake the whole time. They made me keep my eye open too, which was uncomfortable. I can't say as I'm real good with the whole "stuff in or near my eye" bit. They did give me numbing drops, so my eyeball proper didn't feel anything, but my duct was completely plugged, so I really don't think it numbed much of anything in there. Best I can describe it is "pinchy" feeling. At one point I felt a POP next to my nose, and my immediate thought was "Holy cow he just punctured my nose".

    The doctor didn't seem overly optimistic about how it went, since when they injected me with saline, the majority of it came back out and went all over me instead of running down the back of my throat like it was supposed to. He said to give it two weeks and if it didn't work, the next step would be surgery.

    My eye was kind of okay that day, but by the next day, it was back to being watery and gunky. That night I finally snapped and just sobbed. I just couldn't do it anymore. I didn't want to fork over the money for surgery (hello high deductible!), but I couldn't do this either. I felt broken and awful and crappy and nothing was working, and it's not like a this happens to very many people, so it's not like anyone actually understands how stupid and crappy it is. 
    I noticed while I was crying that excess tears were only running down the left half of my throat, meaning nothing was coming down that right duct. By that point, I was so well and duly cried out that I was more amused than anything. 

    The following night, I was sitting on the couch, massaging my tear duct, as usual. I poked around a little higher up than usual, because why not? I felt some pressure, so I kept rubbing it, and then there was a POP at that spot near my nose again. THAT was odd. Then stuff started running down the back of my throat and continued for a minute or a little more. I was just sitting on the couch all nonchallantly, but I was thinking, "WHAT JUST HAPPENED?" 

    Can't say as I have any good pictures. Mom sent me a video of some guy's tear duct exploding, and this was nothing so dramatic. Clearly, I did something with that massaging, because my eye hasn't been watery since. I'm very very thankful, because the more time passes and I haven't become a watery mess, the better I feel about it. But I've also realized that my calibration for how watery my eyes should be is now way off. If my eyes water at all, I start to panic a little. I also rub at my eye out of reflex, it seems. Well, nothing else to do with my hand, might as well rub the imaginary water away. Lastly, I massage it just a little bit a couple times a day, almost superstitiously. Maybe it'll keep it clear if I just keep massaging it. Maybe it does nothing. Maybe it's Maybelline. 

    So, all that to say, blocked tear ducts are awfully annoying and I don't wish them on anyone. I don't doubt that this isn't ordeal isn't over for good, and I'll be dealing with it again down the road. But at least for now, I get a breather. If it stays good for a couple of years before I have to try antibiotics and irrigation again, I'll be pretty happy. I feel like surgery for it is inevitable, honestly. Maybe it's not, but that's how I feel at the moment. Of course, I'm also still wiping imaginary tears, so the whole thing is still too fresh for me to be objective. 

  • 100% Orange Juice

    100% Orange Juice is a cute manga game that I don't remember buying. I think Matt might have bought it for me. It was definitely a steam sale purchase, and the more I think about it, I think there's a co-op feature that we thought we could take advantage of if the game was any good.

    The first thing to know about this game is that there's very little in the way of explanation. You pick a character and a difficulty, and then it dumps you onto this deck building screen. The numbers there indicate how many of that card you can select, and you fill up your deck. There's some traps, boosts, and other ways to mess with other characters. Theoretically cool.

    Once you pick your deck, you're thrown onto a game board. Here's where it reminds me a lot of the mario party games. You either roll dice to move, or you select one of your cards to play. The different colored squares trigger different things like battles, bonuses, or movement. Granted, I set the game speed to "fast", but the game moves SO FAST that there's not a lot of time to figure out what's going on. 

    The other game mechanic is battle. Sometimes you battle random things found on the board, or you can battle each other. Here you can possibly play a card from your deck, or you roll dice to attack/defend. If you look at the picture above, you don't have a whole lotta hit points. I played long enough for a couple characters to get knocked up, but they seemed to be able to roll to stand up again. 

    I gave the game a good twenty minutes of this frantic paced, confusing board game. By the end, I'd played fifteen or so "chapters" (a turn), and I didn't really have a better grasp of the game than when I started as far as objectives went. 

    I'm not sure if the game is fairly easy mechanics-wise, or if there was just a lot that I was missing. I didn't love it. As soon as I'd collected screen shots and enough information to form my opinion, I closed the game and uninstalled it. 

    But at least I now know what it is.