Jan. 4th, 2017 08:41 pm
bookofmirrors: (Smithers)
Like Whimsy, Smithers has been with me since the day he was born. His origin story is also hers, and I said it better in It includes how we ended up with Smithers, how he got his name, and his early life.

As I stated there, we hadn't planned on keeping Smithers. He had a home lined up. But the couple ended up not taking him, and my father agreed that I should keep Smithers, in addition to Whimsy, so we ended up with the only two gray and white kittens from the litter... a matched set, male and female.

Even though we always joked that Whimsy (and therefore kinda Smithers) was Dean's cat, Smithers was always a Mama's Boy. He loved to be on my lap, milk treading and purring. When he was a tiny kitten, and I had to go to work for one of my off-hour shifts, I took him with me. He spent most of the time there sleeping in my cleavage while I did paperwork. Although it obviously didn't bother him at that time, Smithers had a weird quirk where he hated skin. More accurately, he hated walking on skin. This was a bit of an issue, since I spent a lot of time naked. He'd jump up on the couch, wanting to be on my lap, but not wanting to get his feet on my bare skin. He'd pace and meow plaintively, until I threw a blanket over myself, and he'd jump up immediately, and proceed with his cuddling.

He had an adorable habit when he was young, where if you petted him, he'd bliss out and his tongue would slip out of his mouth. I loved it when he did this, and thought it was the cutest thing. Whenever he did it with Dean, though, Dean would touch Smithers' tongue with the tip of his finger, and Smithers would pop it back in his mouth. I protested, because I thought it would make him stop doing that. Sadly, I was right, and it wasn't something that remained a habit for very long.

I don't recall a time Smithers was ever sick, up until the end of his life. The only medical problem we had was one of his claws started growing back, and we had to get it re-done. I found out then that there were two different ways to declaw cats, and he and Whimsy had both had the incomplete version. I opted not to have the surgery re-done on all their claws, and that was my first inkling that declawing wasn't the benign procedure I had presumed it to be. I cried when I had to replace his dressing, heartbroken to think that something I'd done had caused him pain. But we both got through it, and there were no further complications.

There are no good pictures of Smithers. Most of them either look frowsy (and he was that, at times), or just like ...well, a cat. None of them captured his easy, muscular grace. As Whimsy had been the smallest of the litter, he had been the largest, and he was the only cat I had whose muscles clearly rippled in his shoulders when he moved. He wasn't a particularly athletic cat, but he just somehow had that build. But for all his obvious power, he was a much more timid cat than his sister, and moreso than all the other cats. I always said he was a bit neurotic, and pictures also failed to capture the almost perpetually worried look he had. His other "look", which photos likewise could never portray, was a regal pose he would have sometimes, either sitting and towering over his domain like a contented monarch, or lying in a pose very much like that of the Sphinx, and looking just as wise.

In spite of being neutered as early as possible, Smithers still apparently had a healthy sexual appetite, and would chase Whimsy and Loki frequently, must to their annoyance (and horrible yowling). I don't think he ever caught them, but it certainly wasn't from lack of trying.

As part of his neuroses, singing in his presence almost always caused him to yowl in a very concerned manner. Apparently Glenn and I concerned him often. Everyone's a critic. :) He would also go through the house yowling for no apparent reason, moreso later in life. Glenn told me that it increased to an almost constant when I was out of town for work. Trying to get him to stop was like talking to the walls. But we loved him anyway, even as we were trying to get back to sleep. It certainly drove Brett nuts, but to his credit, he never did more than verbally complain.

As I type, I take back what I said about him not being sick ever. At one point, he developed crystals in his urine. (Apparently, there are two kinds. I can never remember which kind he had, but it was the most common kind.) The praised me for knowing my animals so well, and for paying attention enough to notice something was wrong, because apparently, this could progress to death very quickly. He said he'd have to be in a special diet the rest of his life, and that deviating from it would cause them to come back. All the cats ate the same food, so all the cats ended up going on the same diet. I tried to switch him over to a different food later, when Silver required special food for his megacolon, but the crystals did indeed come back, so we had to switch back. Interestingly enough, however, when we moved to Illinois, the original vet we went to (now retired) was not only a DVM, but was also versed in animal chiropractic, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine, and said that we could switch him over to non-prescription food if we only fed him "cooling" foods, as per Chinese medicine. I was skeptical, but I went ahead and tried it, and damned if it didn't work perfectly. I was able to switch all the cats over to the food that the in Atlanta (*highly* recommend her, by the way) had recommended, and if it was possible, they got even *more* healthy, with a noticeable difference in their coats - and it's certainly not like all of them hadn't always had top-of-the-line food since they were kittens. Everyone had always commented on their coats, and any cat that lived with us, or was cared for by us for any length of time had a noticeable improvement in their coats, even before then. What you feed your pets matters, people. (/end rant... maybe) After a few years of the cooling foods, it turned out it had pretty much cured him, and he could eat anything without the crystals returning. Really amazing.

Anyway, he was about 16 when he was diagnosed with kidney disease. All cats who live long enough will eventually get this. It's kind of amazing that Whimsy didn't seem to have it, all the way up until the end. But it's something that happens, and it progresses, and there's really nothing that will cure it, although there are some things that can be done to delay it. I gave him subcutaneous fluids for a while, but he didn't like it, and I wasn't going put him through that just because I didn't want to lose him. Ditto any medications, which I knew would traumatize my already-neurotic cat. In spite of that, he lived a few years without his levels going up significantly, and having no apparent major changes.

The first thing that really happened was when he started wasting. I was worried that he was losing weight, because I could start to feel his bones when I petted him. The checked him out, and said that he'd actually gained weight since his prior visit, and that what I was noticing was actually wasting - loss of muscle mass. This progressed slowly over time.

As any elderly cat will do, he started to move more slowly, and look like he had some of the aches and pains of old age. But he was otherwise still himself. At his last checkup, my suspicions that his kidney disease was progressing more rapidly were confirmed with bloodwork. I knew it would be soon.

He kept seeming older and older, but I never got the "signal" I'd always gotten with my other cats. He started sleeping almost exclusively in the corner of the living room where the two heating registers met, or on top of the subwoofer in Glenn's office.

It wasn't until Whimsy's death last Friday, that I really realized how far along he'd gotten. Whimsy ate like a fiend, and even moreso after her seizures, so I hadn't realized how little Smithers was eating. Since her death, he ate a total of less than one can of food, and there was only one tiny piece of stool in the litterbox. He was less interested in cuddling, which was very unlike him, so I finally went and picked him up for a while, which is when I realized he had a bunch of cat litter in his paws that he hadn't cleaned out, so I knew he wasn't taking care of himself. I was able to get all that cleared out, and I'm sure it must have been uncomfortable, but when it was gone, he didn't seem any less uncomfortable when he walked. Gentle petting while he was standing was enough to make him lose his balance. I was sure it was getting time to put him down, but I hadn't gotten any message from him, and when I'd had the with Whimsy, they'd worked a bit with Smithers, as well, so I thought I'd have more time with him. But all this was too much. I asked around, and finally decided that, signal or no signal, I couldn't keep him alive any longer.

So, I made the appointment. And I sat down and told him how wonderful he'd been (I swear he must have thought throughout life that his full name was BigOleSmithersHim'sSuchAGoodBoy), and that I thought he was very brave to be willing to stay with me in spite of his pain, but that I would never ask that of him, and that I didn't want him to hurt anymore, and that I was going to help him pass on.

When Glenn and I took him to the vet, he wasn't as calm in the car as Whimsy and Silver and Loki had been (they'd all made their wishes clear to me), but he was so tired and worn out. He didn't get out of his carrier at the vets until I took him out. Glenn and I petted him while he left the world, and I didn't feel him go like I'd felt my other cats go, so it was hard for him to feel dead to me. But I know he's in a better place now, and I'm happy for that.

So now, for the first time in over 20 years, I have no cats, no pets. It's strange how much of my life was focused on their care. I didn't realize how they're almost my first thought in most things. When I come home, when I wake up, when I walk through the house - there's a part of me that is always on the alert for them, and wondering where/how they are, what they're doing, thinking I need to get them more food/water, change their litter, just know they're there. I can tell now, because I constantly have to check myself from doing those things. I know it's only been just over 24 hours, but there's definitely an emptiness.

I suppose the obvious question people will have for me now is to ask if I'll get more pets/cats.

Yes, of course. But not for a while. And I don't plan to own for quite some time. There are a couple of groups in town that do cat rescues, and they're always looking for foster homes. If I own a cat or cats, I can only help the cats I own. If I foster, I can help so many more lives. I'm sure I'll end up being a "foster fail" at some point, of course, and that's fine. Also, with fostering, the cost of veterinary care is covered by the group, and I could really do with saving money right now. When I do adopt, I will probably do so from the Humane Society, and will focus on animals that need to be adopted together, or special needs animals, or ones due to be euthanized next. I figure I can help more lives that way, too.

But for now, I'm just going to take some time to regroup. I'm going to do a deep cleaning on all the cat areas, and I'm going to put everything away, and/or donate all my current supplies. I'll call PetFlow and figure out if I can stop my current shipments and still maintain my early-adopter discount when I start shipments in the future, or if I need to keep a minimum order to be able to do that, and arrange for that order to be sent to charity in the meantime.

I am so grateful to all the animals in my life for letting me share in their lives. This is the end of an era for me, and I look forward to the next chapter.



Dec. 31st, 2016 06:54 pm
bookofmirrors: (Whimsy)
Whimsy was with me, literally, her entire life.

I can never remember if it was March or April 21, but I remember the day that we heard weird noises in the house that we couldn't place. After they continued for about a week or so, we pulled an access panel from the closet in Mark and Kristi's room, since that's where the sounds seemed to be coming from. When we pulled the panel (which accessed the pipes of the bathtub, so there was a small open area, like a cave, all around the tub), a long-haired black cat hissed and bolted, jumping to the crawlspace below the house. In the space behind her ...were kittens.

Naturally, we were delighted. We could see (what we thought) were 4 kittens - 2 gray ones, a gray and white one, and a black and white one. Of course, we started watching them grow up. The mother wanted no part of us, but she grew to tolerate our spying as she raised them.

Then, one day when we looked, all the kittens were gone but one, the gray and white one. We weren't sure if the mother had abandoned this one, or had planned to come back for it, but Dean and I lured it out. The kitten came to us somewhat tentatively, but hissed at us fiercely as we reached for it. I examined it, and found nothing obviously wrong with it, except a single flea, which we killed.

We took the kitten to the to get checked out. Turns out, it was a she. I had long thought that Whimsy would be a great name for a little fluffy gray kitten, and I figured that her being gray and white was close enough, so that immediately became her name. (Dean insisted it be spelled Whimsey, and I humored him, but I dropped that spelling when I moved to Atlanta.) While we were there, we got a call from Mark and Kristi. They'd since moved out, but they'd been over visiting, and had heard noises under the house. Kristi (probably the only person who'd have been able to fit in the dirt-floored crawlspace) had crawled under the house and retrieved the other kittens she found under there. I told her to bring them all to the vet to be looked over with their sister.

Turns out there were actually 5 more kittens. There was still just one black and white kitten (the only other female), but turns out there were 3 gray kittens, and another gray and white kitten. The vet proclaimed them to be in good health, and said they were old enough to eat their own food, and that we should get some kitten chow and wet it down; he said they'd make a huge mess and get it all over themselves, and probably eat more cleaning it off from themselves than they would actually eating, but that this would be fine, and to bring them back in a week. Whimsy was the smallest of the kittens, and the other gray and white kitten was the largest.

We did this. In the meantime, we named the kittens. The perky gray kitten with the unique face, we called Moogy. The second largest kitten, also gray, we called Rumplestiltzkitten. The third gray kitten, the calmest kitten I'd ever encountered, we called Karma. The playful black and white kitten we called Mischief. The other gray and white kitten (who we noticed grooming Mischief, who seemed to be in charge) we called Smithers. (I vetoed calling Mischief "Mr. Burns", but Smithers stuck.) And, of course, there was Whimsy.

When we took them back for their checkup, they'd all lost weight. The vet said that apparently they hadn't been ready to eat on their own, and prescribed a regimen of wet food and kitten milk, to be fed every 2 hours. So, we started doing that around the clock. During the day, of course, there were plenty of friends willing to help out with the feedings. And, somewhere in there, since we hadn't put the access panel back in place, the mother cat had found her way back into the room, and would jump into the box we kept the kittens in, and feed them. (I eventually caught her in a live trap, and got her to the vet as well, getting her spayed and clearing up an infection. My attempts to tame her, a long-haired black cat with a scar on her face, got as far as her allowing me to corner her and pet for a time every night, but she was still frantic to escape, and I determined she'd never be happy as an indoor cat. I eventually gave her to a co-worker, who had barn cats, so that she'd always have shelter and ready access to food. I hope she did well.)

Whimsy was always the most ravenous and greedy of the kittens at feeding time. Which leads me to one of my favorite stories about her.

We also had a dog in the house. Technically, she was Mark's dog, but when he'd moved out, he didn't have a place for her, so we were keeping her for as long as would be necessary. Roxie was a friendly dog, but she was still a puppy, for all her Rottweiler hugeness, and we were afraid with her gangly clumsiness, she'd accidentally step on a kitten underfoot, so we kept them separated. It also allowed my other cats to have a chance to escape the playful kittens. We used a baby fence, in the archway between the living room and the bedrooms.

Baby fences, of course, don't really keep kittens out of anything, since kittens are good climbers, but it did slow them down enough for us to be able to extricate them from the latticework and put them back down until they got tired of trying for the time being. Roxie watched us do this, and took it upon herself to help out. It pretty quickly got to the point where we could just say, "Roxie! Watch the kittens!" and she'd race over to the fence, and use her nose to nudge the potential escapee back to their own side. She seemed delighted with her role as babysitter.

One day, however, Whimsy made it over the fence in spite of Roxie's attempt to keep her back. She made an immediate beeline across the room to Roxie's food bowl, and jumped inside it (it was bigger than she was) and started devouring the food.

Now, Roxie didn't have a vicious bone in her body, but I was suddenly terrified. A bite-size morsel had just presented herself in Roxie's food bowl, and I was worried that Roxie would decide the fuzzy little morsel was food.

Not so. Before I had time to react, Roxie had already made her way to the food bowl. She stared quizzically at Whimsy for a second or two, then used her nose to nudge her to one side of the bowl, and started eating the food right next to Whimsy. It was one of the cutest things I'd ever seen. I wished I'd gotten a picture.

The kittens grew old enough to be on their own. Moogy went to a friend. Mischief (renamed Affinity) went to a co-worker. Karma and Rumplestiltzkitten (don't know what they were renamed) went to the nephew of the receptionist at the vet's office. Smithers was supposed to go with a couple of friends, but they kept putting off picking him up. There was never any question we'd keep Whimsy.

When Whimsy and Smithers were the only two kittens left, I took them with me once when I visited my parents. My parents knew about my dilemma about keeping them both, but after seeing them, they decided I shouldn't break them apart. I warned them that if I kept them both, they'd probably be paying a lot of the vet bills, but I was told to keep them anyway. I'm forever grateful for this.

So, Whimsy and Smithers (distinguished by certain markings, most notably Whimsy's pink nose and Smithers' gray nose, as well as their size - Smithers remained the largest cat, and Whimsy the smallest) became permanent fixtures in our lives.

By then, it was just Dean and I, and we'd moved to another apartment.

Whimsy was finicky from the get-go. Humans weren't always good enough to touch Her Highness, and, while none of my cats were mean, or biters, she was the only one I ever had to warn people to try not to pet, at least without being given clear signs of permission, and most people didn't have her permission. In fact, the only person she actually liked was Dean. That included me. She tolerated me, but primarily gazed upon me with disdain, and wasn't usually cooperative with my attempts at affection.

She loved Dean, though. She'd sit on his lap for hours, and he'd tell her, over and over again, the story of how she came to be with us. ("And that flea was almost as big as you were!") She slept with him, and generally adored him.

She remained enthusiastic about most forms of food. I'd always kept my cats on a self-feeder, so they were never out of food. Nonetheless, one night I heard a crash, only to discover that Whimsy had made her way up to the shelves over the washer and dryer, where I kept the 40-pound bags of cat food, and had torn through the bag so she could get at what was inside. Apparently, this was all too much for the shelves to bear, so the whole thing came tumbling down. She was still on top of the bag, eating, when I went in to discover this. She was an absolute freak for bread. Any loaves of bread left on the counter ended up with little teeth-marks in the bag, and in the slices. I ended up owning a bread box because of her. She begged shamelessly (and I pretty much always gave in, of course - she didn't mind being my friend if I had food). On at least one occasion, she would take a bite out of the other end of the sandwich I was eating. We teased her about it, but indulged her. She also had a thing for tape... scotch tape, packing tape... any tape dispenser on my desk got gnawed on, and any package left out ended up with tooth marks. (Smithers had the same taste for tape. None of my other cats did. Must have been hereditary.)

When Whimsy was about 3 years old, Dean got a girlfriend. And, as often happens, other things went by the wayside. For the first time, Whimsy met a closed door when she attempted to get into his room. She eventually started turning to me to console her. That was the beginning of her starting to do more than tolerate me. When I moved to Atlanta by myself, the cats went with me (5 of them).

Moving to Atlanta was hard on the cats. For the first time, they started having litterbox issues. I didn't know as much then as I know now, so I struggled to deal with it. Whimsy was one of the worst offenders. In the meantime, I was living with an ex-lover of my best friend. He liked cats well enough, and he was the one who started calling Whimsy "Princess", due to her haughty nature. Due to some snafu's with the transfer paperwork, I didn't get my nursing license in Georgia for a while, and I ended up in a short stint in sales, which involved going (by appointment) to various houses all over the state. There was one day, I'd had a particularly difficult time. Every house I went to seemed a bit sinister, in run-down neighborhoods and people who were clearly down on their luck and dealing with it in various illegal ways. In one of the houses, I learned that there are *literally* two-fisted drinkers. I was afraid most of the day, but nothing happened more than a few lewd comments and looks.

The last house I was scheduled for was different. Immaculate, well-manicured neighborhood. It was dark by then. It didn't look like anyone was home. This was the first time all day I hadn't had some trepidation walking up to the door. No one answered, and I wandered around the house a bit, to see if there was anyone in the backyard. In the process of doing this, out of nowhere, a wave of absolute terror washed over me. I could find zero reason for this fear, but since no one seemed to be around, I went home pretty quickly.

When I got home, I was surprised to find there were no cats around, and my bedroom door was closed. When I got into my bedroom, I noticed all the cats were in there, and my bed was broken. I asked my roommate what had happened. He said he'd left something on the counter (a chicken, I think, but I don't remember) to thaw, and that he'd discovered Whimsy on the counter, eating it. He said he'd suddenly seen red, and that he'd chased her into the bedroom, and in the process of trying to catch her, had landed on my bed and broken it. "All I could think about was killing her," he said, apparently ashamed. He'd locked all the cats in my room until he could clear his head. After piecing the night together, I discovered that the wave of terror I felt had happened exactly when he was chasing her. So, I credit Whimsy (and Shayne, I suppose) with my first experience with animal communication.

I moved out shortly thereafter.

I got a place to myself for a while, but met during that time. For a while, I, too, was a bit preoccupied with my new romance, but it wasn't long before Glenn and I got our own place, and moved in together. He loved the cats, too, and Whimsy actually seemed to get along with him, as well. Through a few apartments and a few roommates, Whimsy (and others) continued to have litterbox issues, to the tune of hundreds of dollars of damage and strained friendships. It got better as time went on, but never fully resolved until we moved back to Illinois. Something about the energy in Atlanta really got to my Midwest-born cats.

EDIT: I wrote this and focused a bit on her persnickety nature, how picky she was about the companionship she chose. But, the older she got, the more affectionate she got. When we moved in with Brett, she let him know in no uncertain terms that a cat of her stature had no use whatsoever for roughhouse play, but I later saw her lying on his lap when he was sick. She'd climb up in bed to lie on Glenn's chest almost every night for a while, as he went to bed, and I'd often catch her there while he was sleeping. She'd do the same with me. And almost every time I sat on the couch, she'd be on the armrest, and I'd wrap my arm around her and she'd cuddle in, and we'd sit there companionably for hours, and I'd scratch her cheeks almost the whole time. (end edit)

Whimsy was not, that I recall, ever sick a day in her life, until she hit about 16. Because of her hearty appetite, she was always a little rotund. She had a fatty lump in her abdomen that the said was no cause for worry, and her ears got dirty more quickly than other cats.

Twice, however, after she was put under for dental procedures, she ended up having to get subcutaneous fluids, and prescription food, since she'd get really lethargic and stop eating. We learned to just give her extra fluids right off the bat, and give her that food after any procedure. Problem solved.

She was always one of the more adventurous of my cats, and when I took them on supervised outdoor excursions, she was always curious, and was more likely to explore. One day, I noticed she was licking herself more than usual, and I kept an eye on it. She ended up licking off her fur on the inside of one of her legs. By the time I was able to get a vet appointment, she'd licked off a layer of her skin.

The said this was either (some disease I can't remember) or cancer. The treatment for both was steroids, so we put her on those. Eventually, the hair grew back. I realized later that she'd had fleas, and we got that treated, which helped a lot. So much for letting her explore the great outdoors. (I still did, of course. I rarely denied her anything, and started using the flea preventions in the summer months.) Anyway, seems like the cancer scare was over.

Later, one of her ear tips started to droop. Another trip to the vet, and we got her ear cleaned out. The vet said there was something in her ear that was either a large clump of debris she couldn't extract, or a polyp/tumor. Another cancer scare. But, that got better, too.

Once, at the vet, she most decidedly did not want her blood drawn. She expressed her displeasure by biting me hard enough to draw blood, something she, nor any of my other cats, had ever done. My other cats always seemed embarrassed when they did anything the least bit violent in my direction. Her look clearly stated, "Well, that's what you get."

Then, one day, she had a seizure. I didn't recognize it at first. But then she had another. And had them about every 6 hours. Afterwards, she'd pace the house, like she was re-learning it, as if her vision had gone. I made an appointment with the vet, of course, and read all I could on the internet in the meantime. Apparently the post-ictal blindness was common.

At the vet, options were discussed, and there was no treatment that seemed like it would do enough to improve quality of life (she was perfectly fine between seizures), and would likely decrease it, either in side effects, or the administration of it. So, we opted to do nothing. The vet said she might not come out of one of the seizures, and that would be it. We looked back at the idea that there might be a tumor in her brain. I contacted an, who said it was hard to connect with Whimsy, apparently due to the frying her brain kept getting, and that anything could change, but she got the impression she might die within a week.

Months prior, Whimsy had told me that she was planning on dying in her sleep at home ("like Neg", who was one of my other cats who had done this). So I had every intention of honoring her wishes.

For a few days, she kept having seizures. She became more and more confused after each. Once I found her behind the dryer in the basement, like she'd wandered behind there, realized she was stuck, and just ...stopped. The same thing happened behind the chest freezer. She would lie there with a fixed, unseeing stare, like an Alzheimer's patient, almost completely unresponsive. Strangely enough, she still ate, drank, and used the litterbox with no problems. This went on for a day or so, although she didn't seem to be having seizures during that time. Then, she managed to make her way to the couch, where she slept and slept. She'd still get up for food/drink/litterbox, but other than that, she only slept like the dead.

And, after a couple of days of that... she woke up. And there was no indication she'd ever been sick. No seizures, no blindness, no signs of ill health whatsoever.

Glenn and I were surprised and thrilled. Even though she was 19, you'd never know it to look at her. She was herself again.

We enjoyed that for a few more months before the seizures started again. Same pattern, same results. She was responsive afterwards, but tentative. My fastidious little princess wasn't cleaning herself properly, which was especially troubling since the seizures always made her soil herself. After a couple days of this, I thought that she couldn't have anticipated this outcome when she said she wanted to die naturally at home. Since the usual method of animal communication hadn't worked before when she had seizures, I went the I'd done Journeys for Whimsy myself in the past, but I didn't want my own bias to cloud the message.

Whimsy's first words via that method were "I hate this". She said the seizures felt like fire in her body, and that I couldn't put her to sleep soon enough. Some healing was done to keep her from having another seizure in the meantime. She didn't.

I called the vet, and was able to get an appointment a couple hours later. Glenn was working, and even though he tried, he wasn't able to make it to the vet's to be there.

Whimsy was quiet on the ride (unusual for her in later years). I repeated the story Dean had told her so often, about how she'd come to be with us. It had been almost impossible to get blood from her the past few visits to the vet, due to her lack of cooperation, or her veins being too small, or both... but this time, putting the catheter in her vein was very easy. I laid on the floor, with her on my chest, as the injections were given. I looked her in the eyes as best I could. She breathed for a surprisingly long time after the lethal shot. The vet had trouble telling when she had gone, because she said she could hear my heartbeat through Whimsy's body.

I'll get her ashes soon, and she'll go on my altar along with my other cats who have passed. I can still feel her around, as I was told I would, as I have felt all my other cats after they've passed. Glenn felt her move behind him tonight on the couch, when Smithers was in his office.

I was told, during the Journey, that Whimsy, and later, Smithers, would be a part of my life, as Guides, for years to come.

Of course. They always have been.
bookofmirrors: (Family)
I'm making this post just as much as a note to myself, and because typing out my mom's condition over and over again has gotten surprisingly exhausting, and maybe if I keep something on file here, I can do a lot of copy/pasting and editing as things happen, and I'll have it in one place for posterity. So, just assume this post has been edited multiple times for new things happening, different understandings of old things, adding things I've forgotten the first time around, making the terminology more layperson-friendly, etc..

I'm going to start from the time I last saw my mother before she got put in the hospital. It's largely irrelevant to her current hospital stay, except for one tiny little thing. Also, in the unlikely event that something comes to light later that indicates it *is* relevant, at least it will be fresher in my mind.

I arrived to their house the evening of Tuesday 09/22/2015, because Dad's birthday was the 25th. At that time, Mom was fine. The next morning, however, she was feeling ill, with nausea and vomiting, and a fever when I checked her temperature. She was a little dehydrated, based on her skin turgor, but nothing severe. We kept her in fluids as much as she could tolerate, no food, and I went through her medicines and gave her the ones I thought were most important, and that could be tolerated on an empty stomach. She did all the things one would expect, like feel awful and sleep a lot. The rest of the family was more concerned than I was, from a medical standpoint. Dad did have to be at the doctor's office for an unrelated thing of his own, and mentioned Mom's symptoms to their primary care physician while he was there, and the doctor said if she didn't get better, to go ahead and make an appointment for the following day.

The next day, she felt somewhat better, and was able (with help) to go upstairs, take a shower, etc., but we went ahead and took her to the doctor's office. The doctor did a thorough exam (I was there while he did it), calling off his findings to a staff member who transcribed it to the file, so I was able to hear everything he found. He agreed with me that her blood pressure was plenty low (I'd checked it at their house when I'd been trying to determine what medications to give her), and that her blood pressure medication shouldn't be given until/unless her blood pressure went up. Her bowel sounds were hyperactive, which was to be expected (due to her condition at the time, and her history of irritable bowel syndrome), and her lungs were clear. One of the things that had been found in the assessment, however, was that the oxygen levels in her blood were low. Not dangerously so, but certainly below normal limits. The nurse thought it was perhaps my mother's painted fingernails, but we assured her that my mother's fingernails are always painted, and that all prior readings (which had been within normal limits) had been taken under the same circumstances. Nothing was really done about that at the time, because she wasn't in any distress, and it was more of a "hmmmm... interesting... we should keep an eye on this and see if it's a fluke or not" kinda thing. I had suggested they get one of those little pulse oximeters they sell for home use, to keep an eye on it. (That's the only part of what happened during that illness that I think is the least bit relevant to her hospitalization.) But, basically, the doctor agreed with what I had already thought, which was that she had a viral illness. He gave her a prescription for an anti-nausea medication (Zofran) and had her stop in for bloodwork - a basic metabolic profile and something else I can't recall. I don't remember what the reasons he gave for drawing those labs, but the overall impression was that hey, she was in there, and given her history, it's not a bad idea to keep an eye on those things in general, so might as well throw that in while she was there. I don't know what the results were, but to the best of my knowledge, no one called saying there was an issue.

According to the rest of my family, Mom was feeling better (not perfect) over the next couple of days, including my father's birthday, which was on Friday 09/25/2015. But then Sunday, in the wee hours of the morning (I think), she apparently woke up literally screaming with lower back pain. Dad ended up calling an ambulance, and I was told they had to sedate her just to get her in the ambulance, she was in so much distress.

Now, my mother has a history of multiple lower back surgeries, and has a bunch of hardware in her back. I've seen the x-rays. My father can rattle off the number of screws and other equipment in her back, but I don't recall them. She also has polymyalgia, a history of carpal tunnel syndrome (which had been dealt with with surgery), and has had a knee replacement. So she lives with chronic pain. She had recently been to the doctor to talk about improved pain control, because the pain had become more and more debilitating. The doctor she spoke to added Lyrica to her regimen (which I believe consisted of tramadol and Celebrex, or at least those were the pain medications [besides Lyrica] that were in her pill box when I was there), which seemed to really help her, but was also having an increasingly sedative effect as they titrated her dose up. They had backed off some and were trying to find a happy medium.

At any rate, in addition to the usual ER stuff, they did a bunch of tests on her back, to see if that was the source of her pain. And while there had been some deterioration since her most recent prior surgery, it certainly wasn't to the degree that should be causing her the pain she was causing.

At any rate, they admitted her to the hospital that Sunday. I later found out that the admitting diagnosis was bacteremia, but what I was told by family members was that they didn't know what was wrong with her, or at least that's what I understood.

I had been at work at the time of being initially told about it, and there was nothing that they could tell me that indicated I needed to go there immediately, so I finished out my work week, getting off work Monday 09/28/2015. After I'd had some food and relaxed a bit, and determined that I felt well enough to make the 3+ hour drive on no sleep, I headed off (without telling my family) to Warsaw.

On the way there, pretty much just after I had crossed the state border into Indiana, I got a text from my older sister that Mom had a kidney infection. I could have kicked myself. At my mother's age, and with those presenting symptoms, that should have been the first thing I thought of, especially as a nurse. I'd like to think that I subconsciously dismissed it, since it's a ridiculously easy diagnosis, based on standard ER urinalysis and bloodwork, and if it had been that, you'd think they would have just said so immediately. (I found out later that, apparently, the medical personnel did actually know all this, but had done a poor job of telling the family what was going on.) Anyway, a diagnosed kidney infection that was being treated wasn't cause for a visit, so after spending a little time wandering the town I happened to find myself in (Covington), I headed back home, and continued my week.

And that's how it went until Thursday 10/01/2015, with me doing my usual weekly stuff, more or less, and getting periodic updates from my family, with nothing I was told being particularly earth-shattering. A few things that happened that week are a bit too serendipitous for me to think they were coincidence. For one thing, my aborted trip to Warsaw meant that I didn't clean the house on Monday, like I normally would have, but that it got done that Thursday. And, even though I've been told by my homecare client that I can wear street clothes to work, I very very rarely take advantage of that offer, but for some reason, I did that day. So, I was ready for work, and had been just about to get some dinner that I'd already cooked, when I got the text from my oldest sister that Mom had sepsis, and had been transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Sepsis is bad. Sepsis is bad for anyone, much less an 83-year-old woman with other medical issues. Sepsis is worth a 3+ hour drive to the hospital. And, whether or not it was just the medical knowledge and the reasonable fear associated with that, I had a *sense* that I needed to leave. So, I called off work, forced myself to eat something, and left. I wasn't necessarily thinking too clearly. I frequently, as I was getting ready to leave the house, had to stop, take some breaths, and take stock of what needed to happen, etc., because I was having trouble moving forward.

I cried a lot in the car on the way there. Again, whether it was reasonable fear or instinct has yet to be determined as I write the first draft of this. But I felt sure we were going to lose her. I had some discussions with Baron Samedhi in my head where he assured me he'd dress up like Saint Peter and lead her to the Pearly Gates. I allowed myself to be a basket case on the drive, so I wouldn't be when I got there.

And I wasn't. When I arrived at Kosciusko Community Hospital (KCH, to us locals and former locals) both my sisters were there, and one of my childhood friends, Cindy, was my mother's nurse, for which I was grateful. Apparently her mother, who had become a nurse later in life, had been her nurse on the medical/surgical floor. I witnessed what a good nurse my friend Cindy had become, and knowing what I knew of her mother, I was sure her mother was equally good. Anyway, I got the update from everyone.

Even though, as I write this, that was only six days ago, it seems like much longer, and it's hard for me to remember everything I was told. That's when I learned her initial diagnosis had been bacteremia, and that the doctors had in fact known about the kidney infection, and had been treating it all along. The cultures had come back from the blood samples they'd done, indicating Klebsellia pnuemoniae, and they'd changed her antibiotic accordingly (to meropenem, which I'm mostly unfamiliar with, but is apparently the end-all-be-all versus that particular organism). She'd been exhibiting some atrial fibrillation, and they were monitoring that, and giving her blood thinners (100mg Lovenox daily) to minimize it. She had been taken off of almost all her at-home medications (the only one I recall that she was still on was Protonix), including her pain medications. The slightly conflicting information I got from my oldest sister was that Mom was denying pain when she was awake, but was too restless and uncomfortable to sleep well, and had been moaning even when she was asleep. At some point, however, (I think when she got admitted to ICU) they had prescribed morphine 1-2 mg every ...4 hours, I think... as needed. From what I saw, that was pretty effective, and she seemed to sleep pretty well once they gave that. She was on 2 liters of oxygen per nasal cannula.

From what I recall, her vital signs were pretty good, other than a fever (core temperature hovering around 100.8, which really isn't that high, except for the part that she was already on antibiotics, which should have brought that down). Other than being (when she was awake) very uncomfortable and often thirsty, and wanting frequent repositioning, including getting out of bed to the chair, which she was able to do with assistance, I also noticed that her breathing was a bit gasp-y, and she used her accessory muscles a lot to do so (not a good sign). Her stomach was bloated, but it's hard to say if that was a sign of anything, given her history of IBS. However, they ordered a scan of her abdomen the next morning to see what was going on.

I was still there the next morning, and she felt well enough to eat some oatmeal for breakfast, and kept it down, and was doing pretty well (for someone with sepsis in ICU) when I left that morning to go back to my parent's house and get some sleep.

When I returned that night (Friday 10/02/2015 - at this point I'm adding dates to help me keep things straight in my mind), turns out things hadn't gone as well. She hadn't felt good the rest of the day after I left, and her white blood cell count had jumped up another 10K. They had started her on another antibiotic (Vancomycin), and had ordered all the usual tests. The scan of her abdomen showed that there was nothing wrong there (one of the staff stated that the initial scan in the ER had indicated gallstones, but with no inflammation, so they hadn't worried about that at the time - whether or not this scan showed that same thing, or if the gallstones were gone, I'm not sure). However, it did show a worsening of her lungs, with increased opacity (they had been clear upon her original admission, but had been indicating decreased function over time), indicating pneumonia, and possibly empyema. As a result, they added an antifungal to the two antibiotics she was already on. That night, while I was there, even though they'd turned her oxygen up to 4 liters per nasal cannula, the oxygen saturation in her blood wasn't staying within normal levels, even though she was breathing very fast, and still gasping and using her accessory muscles, in spite of being encouraged to use pursed-lip breathing. So, they put her on a BiPAP machine, which she hated, but it got her blood oxygen back up. She kept wanting to get out of the bed and into the chair (which she'd done once earlier in the night), but at that point, she was really too weak to do that safely, so we convinced her to stay in bed. She was constantly thirsty, so we were giving her ice chips, since we were trying to avoid giving her anything by mouth. (This was because the same scan of her abdomen had also showed a possible esophageal tear. If this had been the case, it would have required immediate emergency surgery, so they ordered another scan, which gave a clearer picture of the lungs, but the radiologist that read it only addressed the lungs, but not the esophagus. Luckily, she was presenting with no clinical symptoms of an esophageal tear, and we were all very hard put to figure out how she could have gotten one since her admission to the hospital, since it hadn't been noted in earlier tests, where it would have been seen. Both my sisters stayed at the hospital until 3am waiting for the results to come back on that, and the nurse checked several times. My sisters finally went home, and we didn't get those results until sunrise-ish time; luckily, we were right, and there was no tear.) The nurse got an order for a diuretic to help her breathing, and she had more urine output (and of a lighter color) than she'd had in the past 2 days combined. She was restless throughout the night, having slept twice, in roughly one-hour stints, until close to morning, when I think she slept for about 90 minutes, before they came in to do another chest x-ray and echocardiogram. According to the ultrasound technician, he was no longer seeing any atrial fibrillation. Because I did the overnight stints at the hospital with Mom, it's hard for me to say exactly when all these things happened... but it was sometime in the period of time from late Friday night to early-ish Saturday 10/03/2015. After the doctor reviewed everything, though, he ended up saying that she was going to have to have a scope into her lung to clear it out. At the time, he stated that it would be done under local anesthetic, and that Mom would remain awake. However, he wanted her transferred to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, as they did many more of these surgeries than KCH did, and they also had cardiologists and pulmonologists around the clock to monitor her care, whereas KCH did not. So, when I left that morning, they were preparing to transfer her to Lutheran.

So, Saturday night 10/03/2015, instead of driving to KCH, I drove to Fort Wayne Lutheran. The BiPAP machine they used was much noisier than the one at KCH, and I had a hard time understanding anything Mom was saying while she wore it, while I'd had no trouble the night before. That was really frustrating for both of us. Mom was also a little out of it, and very very restless. She was allowed morphine (she denied pain, but was constantly squirming and grimacing) and ativan to help her relax, and she got both, but they did little good. She'd settle down and rest maybe an hour after receiving it, but if something woke her up, that was the end of that, and she'd be back to being restless. In spite of the machine, she was still breathing fast, using accessory muscles, and overall just looking miserable. She slept twice, and while I knew her care was necessary, I was extremely frustrated when she was woken up to receive it. They took more blood tests (she had a central line by then, because they'd been having a hard time drawing blood in Warsaw) and a chest x-ray. They also took another ultrasound of her heart. I don't recall what all happened with the blood tests, other than her potassium was low (it had been low in KCH, too, and treated), and they treated her for that. The chest x-ray, I think, was just to get a better handle on what they already knew, see if it had gotten worse, and I'm guessing provide some landmarks for the surgeons. The echocardiogram showed not only that the atrial fibrillation was back (which they had already told us), but that she had a 30% ejection fraction. They stated they weren't sure why this was the case, except that she must have a heart attack at some point. They knew it wasn't when she was initially taken to the ER, because her cardiac enzymes had been normal at that time. It seems unlikely it was after that, either, because the heart monitors in the room would have shown that happening. In any case, something had happened at some point, and that was the result. It was somewhere in here, where the surgeon was talking to me about all this, before any of the rest of my family had yet arrived, that I found out the surgery that had been explained to me at KCH was *not* the surgery she was having. Yes, they were going to clear out her lung, and remove the infected pleural lining... but she was most definitely going to be under general anesthetic, and intubated. It was going to require an incision into her thorax, and he expected it to be a fairly long incision. He only briefly told me that it was a serious surgery, and seemed a little annoyed that I hadn't been told all this already. Between talking to the rest of my family when they arrived and some internet research, I discovered that the surgery (a thoracotomy) was ridiculously risky, even to the healthiest of patients (well... no one who needs one is particularly healthy), and she had about 3 of the extra risk factors that made it even more risky, plus her overall rapid decline in health over the past few days. But, it had been made clear - if she didn't have the surgery, she would most certainly die. If she did... well, there was still a good chance she'd die, but the surgery offered her the only chance at survival.

Because she'd been so restless overnight, the surgeon opted to put her under and intubate her early, so that her body could relax and get some rest prior to the surgery. And, while it's never fun to see your loved one with all those tubes, it was certainly a relief to see her body in a relaxed pose, and breathing easily for a change. She was already under when my father and sisters arrived, although I'd been prompted to tell her that everyone loved her before it happened, and of course I did. So, they took her down to surgery, which was supposed to last 2-3 hours, and we went into the surgical area, and waited. A nurse came out about an hour into the surgery, told us it was going well so far, and that it would be at least another hour. So, we continued to wait. And wait. Almost 3 hours later, we got a call from the medical/surgical intensive care unit about something, and we found out that she'd already finished surgery and had been transferred back to her room almost 2 hours prior. Everyone was extremely apologetic about this, gave us some gift cards, etc., and the surgeon said he hadn't been able to find us (even though we were one of two families in the surgical waiting area) when the surgery was over, etc.. At any rate, though, the bottom line was the the surgery had gone off without any complications, and she was doing as well as could be expected. They would leave the ventilator on for 2-3 days, during which they'd keep her sedated and on heavy-duty pain medications; and she had chest tubes (3) that would stay in for about the same length of time. I went back to my parent's place to sleep after all that, and slept for about 4 hours before heading back to keep watch over her again at night.

I returned Sunday night 10/04/2015. The night was primarily uneventful. I'd been told there was some talk of removing the tube, but that didn't make sense, and was not confirmed by the medical staff. Based on her various lab and diagnostic tests, as well as post-surgical protocol, she was receiving antibiotics, anesthetic, analgesics, diuretics, potassium, acid reducers, and IV fluids, as well as "food" through a nasogastric tube, and blood sugar checks and insulin as needed. (My mother isn't a diabetic, but various things can mess with your blood sugar under these circumstances, so they keep an eye.) They were delivering oxygen at 40% via the ventilator. (I asked about this, since I'm used to thinking of oxygen as a unit of liters per minute. Apparently 40% is somewhat comparable to 4-5 liters per minute. I asked if it had anything to do with atmospheric oxygen percentages [which I thought were 26%, but I was corrected that they were 21%], but I never really got a clear answer on that. I got the impression that that particular respiratory technician was a new graduate, socially awkward, or both.) I believe that was the day I found out her white blood count had dropped drastically (I forget the numbers) - it still wasn't back to normal, but it was MUCH better. For the most part, though, they just kept her under sedation and kept an eye on her.

Monday night 10/05/2015 was much the same, with pretty much the same thing being done. It was at that point that I found out the chest x-rays weren't clear, and we'd thought they were after the surgery. Granted it might very well have been that we were told they were clear, but that "clear" should have been interpreted as something more like "as clear as we could possibly expect them to be under the circumstances, and certainly much improved since surgery". That was a little worrisome. I forgot to ask about her white blood count. The antibiotics were changing now and again, but that was primarily because of the post-surgical protocol for that particular procedure, and she also remained on the original Vancomycin and meropenem the whole time. I reported all this to my dad and oldest sister when they got there in the morning, and said that we needed to find out what her chest x-rays looked like over time, because it was unclear to me if the surgery had actually improved that outlook or not, and that was pretty important to know. I had noticed when I first walked in that night that the oxygen saturation in her blood, while within normal limits, was lower than it had been, and I asked if they'd turned her oxygen down, which they apparently had, to 35%. At some point during the night, the saturation dropped, and in spite of all the usual things they did to bring it back up, eventually, they turned the oxygen back up, but this time to 50%, which brought the percentages back to within normal limits, although not as much as I would have expected. I should also add that both nights, she was reacting when they moved her around and did treatments on her, opening and blinking her eyes, moving her arms/hands and feet. However, she couldn't do any of those things on command. I was told that, however, during the day, they had shut off the anesthesia for a little while, and during that time, she'd been able to do all those things on command, including differentiating between her right and left foot. While I was there, and she had her eyes open, she couldn't move her eyes to track anything... but it was obvious to me that there was cognizance behind her eyes.

I returned Tuesday night 10/07/2015, which is when I'm writing this first draft, although by now, the clock has gone past midnight, and it's technically Wednesday 10/08/2015. My father had said that when they stopped the anesthesia during the day this time, she hadn't responded as easily to commands. When I asked the nurse about her white blood count, she stated it had gone up, not quite by 1000. I did ask her to go over the chest x-rays from the time of her admittance to this hospital, which she did, but even so, the level of improvement was unclear to me, since there were no measurements given that I could easily say whether the areas of opacity had gotten better or worse. Based on my interpretations, it seemed like worse, but the nurse said that her impression was that there had been improvement, and since she's more used to the syntax of the radiologists in the hospital, I'm guessing she's probably right. Still, though, I wonder. The surgical dressing was changed, and the nurse said it had been a little red, but otherwise looked good. Everything else is roughly the same, medically. She's still opening her eyes during treatments and such, and there's still cognizance there, but it's not as much as the night before, like she'd clouded, for lack of a better way to put it. She's not as much "there" as she was yesterday, and that worries me. EDIT: AM bloodwork is back. Her white blood count has gone up about another 1000, same as yesterday, and her hemoglobin has gone down, although not really significantly. No results from chest x-ray as of yet. I've been talking to her when I enter and leave the room, watching her eyes, and I'm having a really hard time telling if she's all there. Her stare is more blank than yesterday, but when I tell her things, there seems to be a ...closure? in her expression. It's hard to explain. Like she had been wondering about something, and I had satisfied that curiosity. I also notice the edema is increasing every day.

I'm going to stop writing this now. That's as much as I know so far. I'm going to go back when I edit this and add hyperlinks to all the medical terms that I don't think non-medical people will be able to grasp right away. But typing all this out, trying to remember everything, etc. has been kinda taxing. More as I learn it.

EDIT: Night of 10/07/2015 (copypasted from Facebook) - OK, here's the update on Mom.

Her white blood count, which is an indicator of infection, has risen about 1000 points each day since her surgery. I talked to the surgeon about that this morning, and he said that, in the absence of other clinical signs (high temperature, infected-looking drainage, etc.) that it's very likely just indicative of the body's general inflammatory response after the surgery. I also talked to him about the increased edema (swelling) to all her extremities, which has gone up daily. He said that this wasn't uncommon post-surgically either, especially since we've kept her flat and sedated. They're trying to manage it with diuretics - it's just that when you add a diuretic, you start a dance that includes potassium levels and blood pressure - both of which they're monitoring and treating accordingly. I also asked him about her chest x-rays, which, when read aloud, kinda sound worse to me, but he saw the actual films, and said they definitely look better.

So, those are all good things.

When I came in tonight, her edema is less, which is also good. Her eyes were a little ...clouded?... last night, whereas they were bright the night before. I'm not saying that right, but it's hard to describe. More that two nights ago, I could tell by looking in her eyes, even though she couldn't move them to look at me, that her mind was behind them. Last night, that was more difficult to see. Tonight, however, she seems more "there" again. The nurse said she was back to being able to wiggle her toes on command again, and she flicked her eyes towards me when I talked to her. She still couldn't look directly at me, but it certainly looked like purposeful movement to me. They've been decreasing her anesthesia slowly, but keeping her pain medicine up, and she doesn't appear uncomfortable. They're going to do a trial tomorrow where they leave the ventilator tube in, but she how she does without the oxygen (which is currently at 35%). The doctor said not to be surprised if she failed to do this, and I got the impression that few people managed to do it the first time.

Her hemoglobin and hematocrit (red blood count indicators) are a little low. That's a new finding, so we're just watching that for now, and we'll see what it does tomorrow. Certainly it's not unexpected post-surgically.

So, that's where we're at, and it doesn't look too bad right now.

EDIT 10/09/2015: As of the morning of 10/08/2015, the doctor said her lungs still seems to be improving according to the chest x-ray (they're doing those daily), her red blood indicators are holding steady, and her white blood count has gone down about 1000+. Later that day, they did a trial without oxygen, but she was only able to be without it for 30-60 minutes (Dad couldn't remember which). I left for home (Champaign) after the doctor's visit, so everything is now from verbal/text/etc. reports I'm getting.

Today, Friday 10/09/2015, Dad said they did another trial without oxygen, with similar results. Apparently none of the family was there when it happened. So, they ordered a CT scan of her entire body to see what was holding up progress. My sister just texted me and said the scan didn't show anything. She also said they took another lung culture, to make sure it was still the same organism, and they were using the correct antibiotics. That information won't be back for 2-3 days, as is the nature of cultures. She also said they mentioned empyema again. Apparently, this is the first time the rest of the family had heard this term. I explained to her that this was the original problem she'd had, causing the surgery to begin with. However, if they were now saying she had a *new* empyema, the only treatment would be another surgery of the same kind, or a scope/suction down into her lung. Right now as I type this, it's just an hour past shift change at the hospital she's at, so I don't want to call the nurse for an update just yet. I'll call later and see what's said.

EDIT 10/09/2015: I did call and talk to the nurse. Mom's white blood count is down slightly, her red blood count indicators are holding steady, and her lungs seem to be no worse. She agreed the CT scan showed nothing significant, and said that, as far as she knew, the empyema they were discussing was the original one, not a new one.

Another thing I want to add. My oldest sister I were talking, as I was about to leave the hospital and head back to Champaign. During the conversation, something go me to thinking, and it occurred to me (and I told her), that Mom must have had a heart attack sometime between her most recent visit to her primary care physician (when her blood pressure and oxygen saturation in her blood were low - just as you'd expect if there'd been damage to the heart muscle), and the prior visit to her primary care physician, whenever that was (since according to the nurse that did her vitals at the most recent office visit, the low numbers were a change from her prior appointment).

Given my mother's history of chronic pain, multiple surgeries, and tendency to sleep a lot and sometimes feel weak and awful as a result of the polymyalgia, not to mention the addition of Lyrica to help her pain... she could have very easily had a heart attack at any point that was masked by all those other issues.

As far as I can tell, it's her weakened heart that's making the transition off the ventilator so hard. It's difficult to maintain oxygen saturation and blood pressure when your heart is only working at 30% capacity.


Nov. 13th, 2014 04:07 pm
bookofmirrors: (Mirror Mirror)
My cat Ashira died unexpectedly this morning.

Ashira was a birthday present. The first year [ profile] blckwngdorcl and I were dating, we were wandering the mall in Kennesaw on my birthday. I'm generally opposed to mall pet stores, but of course, we always went by there to look at the puppies and kittens and whatnot, 'cause puppies and kittens. They seemed to be having a sidewalk sale of sorts that day, because there were a few enclosures outside the store. Ashira was in one of them.

She was clearly frightened. She was sitting in her own litter, which cats don't typically do unless they're upset about something, and hissing at anyone who got close. There was thick green drainage coming from both of her eyes. Obviously, I had to take her home.

We had some cash on us, and admittedly, I had left some in the car, so we had more, but I went up to the clerk and asked how much it would cost to get her. I forget the amount he named, but it was more than we had on us, and less than we had if we would have gone out to the car and gotten the rest of the cash we had. At any rate, I pulled out the $65 we had and laid it on the counter. I pointed out that she was clearly sick, clearly not well-socialized, and scared. I assured him I'd give her a good home. Almost as if he were hypnotized, he agreed and took the money we gave him. He shared with us that someone had found her as a stray and brought her into the store. One of the workers at the store said that she had almost taken her, and that she was scared, but even though she was frightened of it, she really enjoyed physical affection.

We didn't have a carrier, and they didn't provide one, so [ profile] blckwngdorcl took her and held her, such that she was looking backwards over his shoulder. She dug her claws in, but didn't struggle or try to escape. She was clearly terrified. The whole time we walked through the mall, he put out "don't-see-me" vibes, 'cause we didn't want to get stopped by security for carry this animal. We walked by at least one guard, and none of them paid us any mind.

I always take any new cat to the vet before I let them interact with the other cats in the household. At that time, we had Neg, Loki, Whimsy, Smithers, and Silver (called Murke at the time). I don't remember much of what the vet said about her at the time. She was healthy, except for her eyes, and I'm guessing they gave her an injection for that, 'cause I can't imagine, especially back then, that she would have come close to tolerating eye drops/ointment. They said she was about 6 months old, so we set her birthday as 6 months back from mine, so April 16. They told us she was a domestic shorthair (as all my cats are/were), and that her coloring was called lilac-point lynx. Certainly, she was the most beautiful of the cats, with that coloring and her blue eyes. Later, even though she had stripes instead of spots, I thought she looked a lot like a snow leopard, which is an animal that's important to me from my shamanic workings. (As an aside, there actually now is a cat that's been bred for that coloration... same as Ashira's, but spots instead of stripes, and called snow leopard.)

We were in Trybalaka at the time, an a capella singing group, which sometimes met at our place to practice, so of course, we had to show off the new cat to them. A friend in the group, Melody, suggested her name, from a song she was singing with another group at the time. Asherah is a (primarily, at least, I think) Hebrew goddess, mentioned rarely in the Bible as a consort of Yahweh (well, technically El, I think). I just changed the spelling and the pronunciation.

It was a challenge socializing her. We kept her in our office for some time, and every day, I'd catch her and hold her on my lap while I was on the computer. She'd settle into it, and let me pet her, and even purred once or twice. But catching her to do it was traumatic for both of us. After a week or so of this, I decided it wasn't worth the trauma, and decided to let her come to us, if she chose to.

She didn't choose to. For about 3 years, she wouldn't willingly stay in the same room as a human. Anyone coming into a room she was in was met with a hiss, which was followed by her bolting out of the room. She wouldn't eat if we were in the room, and having to pass either of us in the hallway or wherever was clearly terrifying to her.

She absolutely *loved* the other cats, though. She would try to rub up against them any chance she got. She very much wanted affection, and she didn't want it from us, but she certainly wanted it from them. Whimsy, with her characteristic princessly airs, wanted nothing whatsoever to do with her, and would strike at her if she got too close. Most of the other cats reacted similarly.

Not Neg, of course. Neg, my Buddha cat, my ambassador, he of the Very Old Soul, whom I cry to remember even now (as we speak)... he did as he'd done with every cat since I asked it of him with Loki - he took her in. Even he, the undisputed benevolent monarch of the house, would sometimes get frustrated with her clinginess and swat her away, but for the most part, he showed her the ropes, and they would often be seen curling up together. If I was ever able to touch her or get close to her in those years, it was because I was petting Neg, and she wanted to be close to him. When Neg died, Silver took over that role. When Silver died... well, Smithers and Whimsy tolerated her most of the time.

She was the first cat I didn't declaw. Having grown up with dogs, I considered declawing a fairly harmless mostly cosmetic procedure, and had only recently been exposed to what an absolutely horrific thing it is to put a cat through. But she would never have needed it, anyway. Born out of fear, her obedience was immediate and absolute. One use of her name in a firm tone, and she never did that thing again, whatever it was. And she was absolutely the most gentle cat I've ever owned. With the exception of Whimsy, who wasn't above biting people that annoyed her in her younger years, none of my cats have ever been mean, by any stretch of the imagination. But Ashira just radiated gentleness. Until today, she never ever attempted to bite me or anyone else. Until today, she only ever struck at me twice. The first time was shortly after we got her, and I had to corner her to get her into her carrier when we were moving to another apartment. She struck at me once, but stayed right where she was, and was clearly absolutely mortified that she'd done such a thing. Then, as every time I picked her up, she curled up into me and held on for dear life. (Of course, she would only tolerate that for a very short time before she desperately tried to get down.) The second time was recently (so, 13 years later) when I had to board them while we were in Atlanta. The boarding was so traumatizing to all of them that, when I went to pick them up, she struck at me as I was trying to get her out of the cage-like thing they had. Nothing else (until today) ever made her react violently. She was the sweetest of cats. An archaic novel would use the word "dearest", and that would be entirely accurate.

I was going to the animal communication and shamanic healing classes about that time, and when there was a call to bring any animal forth for healing, it was always her. She had some pretty intense experiences, usually reluctantly, by all accounts. Stories are often told in allegory when it comes to shamanic work, but it was made clear that the 6 months prior to me getting her had not been happy ones for her. We did everything we could to help her heal from that. I don't think she ever fully did.

But she made progress. Over the years, she started allowing us to pet her. I'd lie down with her when she allowed it, and pet her as long as she'd let me. The times got gradually longer, until I often had to be the one to stop it myself, because it seemed she would let me go on indefinitely. I tried picking her up a few times for reasons other than putting her in her carrier to go somewhere, and that never went very well; it was too much for her, and I eventually stopped trying. There was no point in putting her through that for my own selfish reasons. Every little milestone was met with awe and thankfulness. The first time she let me pet her. The first time she came when I called her. The first time she came out into the middle of a room we were and laid belly up without a care or fear in the world. The first time she slept on the bed with us. Every little thing was a cause for celebration, joy, hope. By the end of her life, she would come well over 50% of the time I called her, almost always came close for petting at every opportunity, rarely ran from us, and the bed was her domain. Even accidentally kicking her in the middle of the night, which I would have thought would have sent her running, never did. Her look and demeanor, when she didn't revert back to her fear, was that of a dowager, even though Whimsy was the clear matriarch, and had been since Loki died.

She was healthy pretty much her whole life. It wasn't until her checkup last year that she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. After much discussion amongst ourselves, including her input via an animal communicator I trust, we decided on minimal to no intervention. She didn't want the daily trauma of a pill, and we had tried the ear ointment that Silver had used before he died, and she didn't like that, either. The thyroid food none of them ended up liking for more than a few days, and she most decidedly didn't want surgery/radiation. So, as our roommate put it, we had her on Hospice. She was going to die at some point, and we were all OK with that, because it was on her terms.

While on a metaphysical level, I believe we all die on our own terms, I really really hate the way Ashira actually died, though.

As some of you may recall, my mother-in-law died in late August, which necessitated a trip to Atlanta for both [ profile] blckwngdorcl and I. We normally try not to travel together, because making sure the cats are taken care of is an issue. For various reasons, we weren't able to get an in-home sitter, so we opted to board them at the vet.

Keep in mind, none of my cats, alive or dead, have ever been boarded in their lives. You could tell they were freaking out about it from the time I dropped them off, and I was in tears at the thought of them staying there. When I picked them up, several days later, they were all clearly traumatized, and that marked the second time in her life that Ashira ever struck at me. She did it repeatedly as I reached for her, such that I ended up picking her up with a blanket. As usual, once I had her picked up, she relaxed a bit, and even though all the cats showed signs of PTSD for a few days afterwards, they all seemed to weather through it after a while, and things went back to normal. I promised them I'd never board them again. No matter how nice the facilities or how well-cared for they were, it was just too much.

So, this morning, they had an appointment for their yearly checkup. I had asked the vet to do it while they were there being boarded, but the vet recognized, as I did, how freaked out they were while they were there, and opted not to traumatize them any further, which is a good thing. At any rate, I always catch Ashira first, because if she gets wind I'm gathering cats to put in carriers, she'll hide, and she hides well, and in hard-to-get-to places. So, I was able to get her in a position this morning where I was able to pick her up.

And she fought me. She fought me like she'd never fought me in her life. I'll have some cuts to remember her by for a little while. She tried to bite me, which she'd never ever done before. She urinated in fear; although now, I really don't know if it was fear, or just her bladder emptying in death. But she died, there, struggling in my arms, one claw firmly lodged in my head, her face in my hair as she tried to bite me and I was trying to hold her and calm her down and keep her from getting away and not get too damaged myself in the process. This cat, whom I'd spent the entire time I'd had her trying to alleviate her fears, died in terror, no doubt from a heart attack.

I've gone over and over it in my head. Logically speaking, and according to the vet, there's absolutely nothing I did to cause her death - at least not by squeezing her too tightly, or suffocating her, or anything like that. She literally died of fright - the second cat I've ever had to do so, although I wasn't home when it happened to the first one, whose story I've never written, because he died before the days of blogs. The vet tells me that, in cats, it's not the loss of blood flow to the heart that causes heart attacks, as it is in humans, but usually a rupture of the tendonae chordae in the ventricles of the heart. I don't know if that hurts or not. In humans, there are no nerve endings in the heart itself. At any rate, I am convinced that she was so scared that I might be taking her back to be boarded, that it caused her heart to basically burst.

I hate that. I hate that her life ended this way. I had no warning. With the exception of Mika, who also died from fright (well-meaning rottweiler), all my cats have given me some sort of warning when they died. Neg told me he wasn't moving to the new house. Loki told me she was getting cancer a good 6 months before it happened. Skye didn't warn us exactly, but her diagnosis came before she started showing any symptoms, and that was warning enough. Silver I just knew. I especially hate that she died in the state she did, terrified of what I was going to do to her, that I was going to leave her again. I should have told her beforehand, but I typically don't warn the cats prior to taking them to the vet - it's usually on the way. And yeah, I know she probably had one of the best lives possible while she was alive, and made so many strides into becoming less fearful, and often loving. I get all that. But I still hate the way she died, and the role I played in it.


Jun. 12th, 2014 11:47 pm
bookofmirrors: (Silver Scratch)
Silver was the cat I never wanted to have.

A co-worker told me about him. He'd been wandering around her house for a while, and her neighbor had said that, if the cat kept hanging around, he was going to shoot him. She already had several pets of her own, and couldn't take him in. She knew I had 4 cats, and asked if I could take him. I didn't want 5 cats. That seemed just a bit too much. But I wasn't going to leave him to be shot, either. So, she caught him in a live trap, and I picked him up on my lunch hour and dropped him off at the local vet to get him checked out, bathed, and neutered. When I picked him up, they said he was in good health, male, and about a year old, so I drove him home.

I had no idea how long I would have to keep this cat before I found him a home, and I wanted a reasonably harmonious household of felines, so I put him up on the couch with me, so he could see my other cats, and they could see him. I immediately guessed he couldn't be a stray, because this "stray" cat lay down next to me on the couch, belly up, purring so loud his little feet were vibrating. He apparently adored me from the start.

Still, you could tell he wasn't used to being in a house. Every little noise that happens in a house that no one pays attention to (the air/heat kicking on, washer/dryer, water running, etc.) startled him. I had no intention of naming him and getting attached, so I simply called him Kitty. Since I figured he must belong to someone, I put an ad in the paper for a found gray cat. In the meantime, I asked pretty much everyone I ran into if they wanted a cat. I even took him to work (that was encouraged, since the residents liked animals) in hopes that someone would see him and fall in love with him.

No luck.

Then, someone answered the ad. I eagerly arranged to drive back to Dwight (I was living in Bourbonnais at the time) and drop him off at "his" house. I immediately didn't like the feel of the place, and I saw a couple ill-kempt outdoor cats nearby which may or may not have been associated with the house. But, I dropped him off, anyway.

And was sad all the way home. When the guy I was living with at the time asked me what was wrong when I got home, I burst into tears. Later, I got in touch with the girl I'd gotten him from to begin with, and asked about the timeframe when he was wandering her yard.

It didn't match the timeframe of the lady who'd lost her gray cat.

I called immediately, and after introducing myself, I blurted out, "You know that's not your cat, don't you?" She immediately and wholeheartedly agreed, stating he'd run behind the television as soon as I'd dropped him off, and hadn't come out since, and hadn't eaten anything. (Keep in mind this cat was all over my apartment, all over me, and ate food voraciously.) "I'll be right there," I told her.

When I got there, I went to the television and extracted him. He didn't fight me at all, and curled up against my shoulder immediately. "That cat *loves* you," the lady said in what I can only describe as awe. I was already in tears at this point, and I don't think I did anything other than nod. On the ride home, I was crying, and promising I'd never do that again.

"Kitty" eventually became Murke. I didn't want a normal name for a gray cat, like Smoky or Shadow or anything like that. Even trying those out in foreign languages did nothing for me. My best friend had just written a short story featuring a character called Gavin of Murk, and murky seemed a reasonable synonym for gray, so I called him Murk, and added the e at the end to make it look prettier. I paired Kitty and Murke together every time I referred to him for a while, and eventually just dropped Kitty. He caught on just fine.

He went from being a skinny and easily-startled cat to a decidedly NOT skinny cat who rather enjoyed having food available 24/7 that he didn't have to hunt for. And he became pretty nonchalant about household noises. He was less afraid of the vacuum cleaner than any of the other cats, even.

And he loved everybody. If there was a lap available, he wanted to sit in it. If that lap was mine, he wanted it twice as much. He was more like a dog than a cat, constantly underfoot, just wanting to be near me, all the time.

The only problem I had with him was that he fought constantly with Neg, who was my oldest male at the time.

Neg was my favorite, and had been since he was a kitten. He was my Buddha cat, my ambassador. Any new cat that came into the house was taught the ropes by Neg. Neg knew how to approach any cat, and make them feel at ease. Except, apparently, Murke felt the need to prove himself.

I didn't grow up with cats, so it had never occurred to me that declawing was anything other than a completely benign and common procedure. I had started to get an inkling that this might not be the case sometime before Murke came along, and hadn't planned to declaw him.

But he was hurting my Neg. And he was threatening the household hierarchy, and I felt I needed to defend that. Neg was a benevolent king, and I didn't want him usurped.

Luckily, Murke took the declawing very well, and Neg was quickly re-established in his "rightful" place. I've since learned better, and I would never declaw another cat. Murke was the last. And, as he took everything else completely in his stride, so he took this. Which only makes me feel slightly less guilty about it.

Aside from the guy I was living with at the time, who called him "the gray bastard", Murke became almost everyone's favorite. His sweet and laid-back personality won over pretty much everyone who met him. He would have been the perfect cat for a child, suffering calmly, if not lazily, through any number of games of dress-up, battle cat, or whatever strange indignity anyone could come up with. He was just thrilled to be around people. Glenn referred to him as "the drunken frat brother", in that sillystumbly way that drunks are known to be overly affectionate... "I love you, man".

When I moved to Atlanta, he got carsick 30 minutes into the trip, and was as good as gold the rest of the time. They all were, really.

When Neg died about 5 years after I moved to Atlanta, Murke took his place, even though Smithers was older. He was a lazy king, and I think he only got the job because Smithers just didn't have the personality for it. He somewhat begrudgingly befriended Ashira, the newest cat, whom only Neg had tolerated before. Whimsy, Smithers' littermate, went on disdainfully acknowledging him as she had before.

Somewhere along the line, Murke developed megacolon. It just started out with him being constipated now and again. The vet would put him under, manually extract the problem, and send him home. This happened several times. We consulted a nutritionist, tried putting him on several laxatives, you name it. It is because of him that I had to switch all my cats over to wet food. (Incidentally, apparently cats shouldn't eat dry food at all... so sayeth the veterinary nutritionist. Thus ends today's PSA.)

He absolutely wouldn't take medicine. Once he figured out the Pill Pockets, he refused to eat them, even though he loved them when they were empty. Giving him a pill was impossible, and ditto for liquids. If you could get them down him at all (which was rare), he would immediately throw them up. I'm quite certain he did this deliberately. Did I mention that lactulose in liquid form is extremely sticky, especially once it gets in a cat's fur? Locking him in a room with medicated food for hours on end didn't do any good, either. I later learned that cats will literally starve themselves to death (something in their liver goes wonky, I believe) before eating something they truly don't want, so I'm glad I didn't go more than a day on this. Medicine was pretty much the only thing he took a definitive stand on. In everything else, he remained benignly passive. He did develop carsickness, though. It took me years to figure out it was nerves, and not actual stomach problems. Going back and forth to the vet to get his colon cleared out took its toll.

It was during this time that Murke became Silver. Among the many things we tried to keep his megacolon in check, I enlisted the help of a shamanic healer I'd taken some classes from. During one of the sessions (and say what you want about weird spiritual things, he would get better for long periods of time after these sessions), he said that Murke was too sluggish of a name, and he wanted to be called Silver. There was absolutely no learning curve to using this new name. I started calling him that immediately after the session, and he responded to it from that moment on. I did miss calling him bigolegraymurkykitty, though. I could never find anything that fit well with Silver.

When we moved back to Illinois, the vet we ended up going to knew Chinese medicine, and lo and behold, there was suddenly a pill Silver would take. Ma-Zi-Ren worked wonders for a while, and even though I still had to give it to him forcibly, he rarely spit it out, and it seemed to be working. He was otherwise in good health, although the vet noted at his last visit (the vet retired) that he had "thyroid shift", and we needed to keep an eye on that.

About a year later, the vet that replaced the original one discovered hyperthyroidism. The cat who'd gotten fat on unlimited food still had unlimited food, and ate like a fiend, but was losing weight. We tried pills, and he went back to refusing anything, including the Ma-Zi-Ren. This began a yo-yo battle that would last the rest of his life (2-3 years, I think) trying to keep him in a good balance.

Luckily, the hyperthyroidism treatment could be applied topically to his ear, which made that a fairly easy problem to solve, but when he started getting constipated again, he wouldn't eat, and therefore wouldn't gain weight, and he was always dangerously close to being underweight, no matter what we did. He went back and forth to the vet with increasing frequency to get his colon cleared. Once, he got so stopped up, it cut off his urethra, and he had to be catheterized and in the hospital for several days. We almost lost him, although he assured the animal communicator he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. And he didn't. The great silver lining of that incident was that the emergency vet told us to try Miralax. I hadn't even known cats could take that, and I'd tried every remedy I could glean from veterinarian or internet.

And it worked. It worked for a long time. I had to play with the dosage, since all the cats were getting it, but it kept him out of the vet's office the majority of the time. He was still stubborn now and again, and if I didn't manage to get the ratio just right, he was back in the office. But it helped better than anything had.

The most recent time (before today) that I had him in the vet's office, it was for his usual procedure... but I mentioned to the vet that I'd doubled his dosage of his hyperthyroid medication, because he kept losing weight in spite of the usual dose. She took some bloodwork to check him out, and what came back (in a very roundabout way, I won't go into the medical details) led her to believe he had intestinal cancer.

I know a bit about cancer in humans, obviously. I've never worked oncology, but I've certainly seen it in the elderly patients I've worked with, and I've seen people die from it. I've seen how chemo affects people, and I've heard stories, none of them good. I'd be hard-pressed to put a human through that, much less a cat, much less a 15-year old cat. So, we added another medication to his usual dose, to relieve the obvious symptoms that would likely come up as a result, and I said I was just going to watch him, and probably not treat him.

When I spoke to the animal communicator about it, she relayed that he was tired, and didn't expect to be in his body more than a month or two longer, and that he trusted me to make the call when that should be. (In past conversations with her, he'd told her he "bragged on" me frequently when given the chance. I'm not sure I've ever had any animal love me as much as he did.)

So, I watched. And waited. He was heartbreakingly thin, and nothing I did helped him put on weight. He was refusing to eat anything with Miralax in it by then. I'm not sure why he could suddenly taste it. I managed to slip it in once or twice with some really strong-tasting food, but it was a losing battle. He had specifically said he didn't want his last days spent going to and from the vet, so I knew if he got constipated badly again, there wouldn't be anything I could really do about it. He got more and more lethargic over the days, although while he was awake, he was his normal self, albeit weaker and frailer. He wanted to be outside a lot, and not just on the balcony. I accommodated him when I could, which probably wasn't nearly enough. He certainly didn't think so, and his meows ranged from plaintive to extremely-put-out when I didn't open the door every time he asked.

I woke up this morning around 5am, with him lying on top of me - something he'd been doing with increasing frequency over the past couple of weeks. And that's saying a lot for a cat that already wants to be on someone's lap all the time. And I knew it was time. He was ready. I left an email for the vet, and canceled a scheduled visit to a friend's house, and waited. When we got the call from the vet, they asked if we could be there in an hour. I asked to go later, but it turned out the vet was going out of town that afternoon, and I wasn't about to be so selfish as to make him wait.

So, we ended up in rush-mode to finish breakfast and grab a shower. He was more awake now, and was brighter-eyed, and I began to doubt my original assessment of the morning, but if I allowed myself to be calm, it still felt like the right thing to do.

He didn't get carsick at ALL on the way there. I put him in his carrier, with the towel, thinking he would, as he always did, but he stuck his head out and watched the road with unusual interest while I petted him, and never once got the least bit queasy. That was enough for me to know he knew perfectly well what was about to happen, and was absolutely ready.

I held him while they injected the medicine that would help him die. I'd asked if giving him the sedative ahead of time was really necessary (they hadn't used it on Loki), and I was told that it might prolong it if not, but wouldn't hurt him. I remarked as I held him afterwards that I hadn't felt him leave... I'd felt all the other cats I'd put to sleep leave. She listened to his heart, and said it was because he wasn't gone yet. A few seconds after that, I felt this pressure on my heart. It lasted for about 10 minutes. But I didn't feel that whoosh of expansive energy I've felt in the past with others. When we left, the vet was still holding him and rocking him, with tears in her eyes. She'd fallen under his spell, too, in all the times she'd worked with him.

I'd been caught from day one, whether I had recognized it at the time or not.
bookofmirrors: (QR Code)
I was recently talking to my husband, and admitted that I felt like I was holding myself back in many ways, because I didn't want him to feel bad for being left behind. He said that he wished I wouldn't do that, because he was waiting for me to forge a trail for him to travel.


Jan. 13th, 2013 05:09 pm
bookofmirrors: (Golden Eagle Light)
I have a memory. It's something I hadn't thought of in years, but, for some reason, has been popping up in my mind for the past month or so. It's such a strange memory that it's almost as if I imagined it, but I'm 99.9999% sure this actually happened.

I was in high school, and we were living in South Carolina at the time. It was before school, and I was downstairs, and happened to look out the window. I saw a large bird, a hawk of some sort, attacking another bird... smaller, but also a bird of prey of some sort. (In my head, I called it a peregrine falcon, but I think that was mostly because I had a sense falcons were smallish as birds of prey go, and that's what I'd heard of... plus, for some reason, that name always had a romance in it for me. This was pre-internet, and I never really verified this, and I don't have a clear enough memory to look it up now.)

Anyway, I ran outside and chased the larger bird off. The smaller bird fell to the ground. I either picked it up and then went inside to wrap it up in a towel, or ran and got the towel first... I don't remember... I just remember wrapping it up at some point. I remember getting it water, and something to eat. I have no recollection what I got it to eat... whether I got it bread/seeds 'cause it registered as a bird in my mind, and that's what we fed geese and whatnot, or if I was savvy enough at the time to recognize that it needed meat, and got that. I put it in the windowwell of the house, where I figured it would have some shelter, but still be free to fly away. It didn't have any wounds that I could tell, but it did seem like it was hurt.

I remember almost nothing of what was going through my head that day. I don't recall if I considered a veterinarian, or a wild animal resource center (or if I even knew what those were at the time). I just remember I saw a creature being hurt, and wanted to help it.

Looking back, as the memory tickles the back of my mind, I wonder what I was thinking. Hawks and falcons (and other birds of prey) have sharp beaks, sharp talons, and can be dangerous, and really fuck you up. I don't recall feeling any sense of fear at all in the situation. I'm not even sure if I felt any sense of reasonable caution. I'd like to think all this occurred to me at the time, and that I was mindful of all the pointy bits when I picked the bird up and tried to help it. But really, I have no idea.

I keep mulling over in my mind what kind of person this makes me, that I would either be so foolhardy, or so fearless... perhaps both. I wish I could remember which I was feeling at the time, but I just don't have a clue.

And so I wonder.
bookofmirrors: (Default)
Yeah, I know, it's been absolutely forever since I've made a post, and what I *should* do is update everyone on my life. But, I'm not in the mood. Suffice it to say I have a full-time job, a part-time job, and I'm taking classes on top of all that. In the meantime, I'm trying to have a social life, which includes the lovely userinfoJenny_Evergreen, who lives entirely too far away. Anyway, this meme is from her!

1. What reality show would you want to be on?

Hmmmm.... I suppose Queer Eye for the Straight Guy doesn't count... I'd probably pick How to Look Good Naked, or better yet, What Not to Wear. I pretty much know what I want my wardrobe to look like (they'd probably hate it!)... I just need the cash to go shopping. :)

2. Tell me the story of your first true love.

Hmmmmm.... there's the boy across the street I grew up with, who I was always infatuated with. At the time, of course, I thought that was my first true love. Not sure what I can say about that. We grew up together, played house together, I chased him on the playground, and he wanted nothing to do with me in that sense, even though we were the best of friends and did a lot of things together. I moved to South Carolina when I was 15, though.

In South Carolina, I met a guy who I thought was my true love. The usual high school stuff... my first date (The Breakfast Club), parking and making out in secluded spaces. Hanging out constantly... my place, his place, everywhere else. I assumed we'd be together forever, and was just coming to the conclusion that I was going to lose my virginity to him, right about the time he was coming to the conclusion he was gay. We remained best friends for several years thereafter.

Of course, then, my first REAL true love MUST have been my first husband, right? It started out as him following me around all the time, and ended up with a mercy fuck, and then things just went from there. I was head-over-heels, heart-and-soul. We shared everything our limited understandings and limiting fears allowed us to share... we were spiritually connected, played with magick (mostly him), and had an incredible sex life, which included our first forays into BDSM. In the end, though, our mutual damage and mutual ignorance drove us apart.

And, you already know the story of my first husband, and the person I think was my "real" true love all along. It seems my true loves keep getting truer all the time. :)

3. What is your post-apocalyptic career choice?

I'd still want to do something in the realm of healing. Maybe not a nurse, per se (although that would probably be the most needed), but certainly something where I'd go around and offer that sort of service, although probably more in the lines of energetic healing. If I'd finished (or at least gotten farther along) in the animal communication/shamanic healing, my focus would most certainly be there.

4. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Perth, Australia. Now, granted, I say that because we went to an astrologer once to determine the most advantageous place to live... I specifically asked about a place that would be best for promoting spiritual growth, and she looked at the lines and pointed to Perth, and said, "Well, if that's not your spiritual center, I don't know what is!" userinfoBlckwngdOrcl has some pretty auspicious lines there, too. The caveat is, I've since discovered my birth time isn't what I thought it was, so I'm not 100% sure all those lines are still there, and I haven't been back to anyone to get it checked out. So, that might change.

5. If you got to name a planet, what would you call it?

A whole planet? Hmmmm..... I've always thought Tramontaine was a neat word, and wouldn't be entirely inappropriate for a planet (in an ironic sort of way), but it doesn't have that lovely musical quality that I'd like a name to have... My maternal grandmother's name was Thera, which I always thought was beautiful, and planned to name a daughter that, although I'm not likely to have one. That would be a good name for a planet, although it reminds me a bit too much of Etheria, from He-Man/She-Ra. Although, come to think of it, that's a damn good name for a planet. But, already taken, obviously. The more I think of it, the more I think it would depend on the planet. I'd name a gas giant something different than I would name a little rock planet like Mercury. I think planets, like pets, would end up primarily naming themselves. You can have some names in mind, but they'd still have to fit the planet when it's all said and done.
bookofmirrors: (Default)
Thought this was cool. Soooooooo much has been going on lately, and I haven't had a whole lot of time to post. Plus, the sheer volume of news is just daunting to type. One of these days.....
bookofmirrors: (Default)
Just made an entry in my sooperseekrit journal. I'm mentioning this because I know I've gained some new followers since moving to Chambana, and also because those who already have the link to it might be interested in checking it out. I'm hoping for feedback, at any rate.

Comments to this entry are screened. If you want the link to the other journal, please include your email address, and I'll send it to you directly. Thanks!

Color Help?

Feb. 6th, 2011 08:54 pm
bookofmirrors: (Default)
FYI, I'm so very very far behind on LJ that it'll probably go beyond LJ's skip limit for me to try to catch up - which I may or may not do tonight at work.

But this post isn't about that, anyway...

I've got some pending modeling gigs, and since I sadly no longer have the option to take advantage of userinfoStrega42's mad makeup skilz, and going in front of the camera without it I've figured out isn't wise, I ended up getting a bunch of sample base colors from Everyday Minerals (which is what seemed to be the most recommended makeup in the [ profile] naturalliving community, and is also vegan, which I like). So, after wearing a different color makeup just about every day for almost a month, I've got it "narrowed" down to about 8 colors that I think are possibles for my skin tone (I'm wearing the last sample now - looks awful). Making the decision more difficult is the lighting in my apartment - two recent test colors looked fabulous in my apartment (with sucky lighting) and awful in the lighting at my client's house (with what I consider to be better lighting) and vice versa. So this isn't as easy as one might think.

Anyway, since I've been lucky enough to meet lots of lovely artsy people in Chambana, I'm hoping that one or more of them will offer to come and see me in the various colors that are possibles, and let me know which they think works best for me. So, obviously, someone really savvy about colors, and/or makeup in general, would be best.

Anyone willing/able to help me out, or know someone who might? Lord knows I've worn more makeup in the past month than I have in the past 10 years, so I'm thinkin' a second opinion would be REALLY helpful here.

Thanks in advance!

Snow Days!

Feb. 2nd, 2011 08:57 am
bookofmirrors: (Default)
Well, the snowpocalypse has come to the Midwest.

Monday night, when userinfoBlckwngdOrcl and I left for work, the ice on our car windows was so thick it took 25 minutes to scrape it off! We'd left 15 minutes early, because I could see a light dusting of snow out the window, but the ice, much less the thickness of it, wasn't apparent. The snow was of the variety with the hard crust on top, which supported my weight about 50% of the time, even when I was trying to break it.

Quite by happy coincidence, though, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my (and userinfoBlckwngdOrcl's) weekends, so neither of us was scheduled to work on what was predicted to be the bad snow days. Plus,
Parkland canceled Tuesday classes, and all the sudden, I had a whole day off where, once I got off work Monday morning, I had nothing to do! A friend was supposed to come over and visit, but he wasn't feeling well, and I told him I didn't expect him to come over in this weather, anyway, even though at that point it wasn't that bad. He said he didn't mind the weather, but ended up lying down for a while, and I, after a day of doing very little but catching up on the computer and hanging a curtain in my office (the light in here won't let me take a picture... it's a hot pink sheer curtain, on a rod with pink fluffy feathers and big faceted pink "jewels"... it's not as gaudy as it sounds, but it delights me no end), went to bed.

Well, looking outside my window today, we've had a good foot of snow, and the wind is just HOWLING. I can see that it's drifted to 2 feet or so in some places, and yesterday afternoon it was mostly sleet, so based on that and my experience night before last, I'm guessing there's a good deal of ice under all that snow. Even the University shut down today, and Parkland did again, too, of course.

Right now, though, I absolutely have the best of all worlds. We still have power (obviously), and since our "weekend" is Tuesday (night) and Wednesday (night), we weren't scheduled to work in the middle of all this, anyway, no school, and even my dentist appointment was canceled! We usually buy our meat in bulk (we go in with other people on 100% pastured beef/pork), I get all my milk/butter/eggs/cream from a farm on Saturdays, and I had done a huge grocery shop last week when I got paid, and there's plenty of cat food to be had (I get that in bulk once a month, too). The only thing I'm running short of, in fact (well, in addition to money...) is bottled water, and that's only because our apartment complex put in gates, and the guy who delivers it wasn't able to get past them, and we weren't home to let him in. And I think in a pinch, we and the cats can *gasp* drink tap water!

So I find myself in the rare position of having absolutely no obligations for 2 whole days in a row!! This is unheard of, since I normally have something to do (work and/or classes) seven days a week! I've kept my phone far away from me, so work can't try to call me in, and I've done very little, and I got to sleep in this morning!

bookofmirrors: (Default)
I need to post. I do. Sometimes there are even interesting things in my head worth posting. Sometimes, it's just a rundown of how busy I am, and how different this semester feels, and how I'm branching out in other ways, and how all that feels.

But I rarely sit down at my computer. (I'm on my laptop now, at work, where I'm simply not in the mindset for deep thoughts, and my sense of responsibility, while allowing me to surf while my client sleeps, does not allow me to get too deeply into my own issues when I'm supposed to be responsible for someone else.) And sitting down at my desktop, without another agenda (ha! when does THAT happen???) is pretty much what I need to make (presumably) interesting posts.

But I hate not posting at all, either.

So, here's my non-post. Hopefully, there'll be more later.


Dec. 25th, 2010 03:52 am
bookofmirrors: (Libra Constellation)
I'm way behind on LiveJournal, etc., but last I looked, a LOT of my friends were having a lot of shit going down. This is mostly for my Georgia friends, of course, but I certainly recommend it for everyone.

Respectfully submitted as potentially helpful for physical and emotional stuff - a free introduction!
bookofmirrors: (Santa)
If it's not yet obvious to you, the real reason for this, and all seasons, is you. A more perfect child of the Universe has never lived. Until now, only celebrations cloaked in myth and mystery could hint at your divine heritage and sacred destiny. You are life's prayer of becoming and its answer. The first light at the dawn of eternity, drawn from the ether, so that I might know my own depth, discover new heights, and revel in seas of blessed emotion.

A pioneer into illusion, an adventurer into the unknown, and a lifter of veils. Courageous, heroic, and exalted by legions in the unseen.

To give beyond reason, to care beyond hope, to love without limit; to reach, stretch, and dream, in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity - traits of the immortal - your badges of honor. May you wear them with a pride as great as the immeasurable pride we feel for you.

Your light has illuminated darkened paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the course of history.

This is the time of year we celebrate you.

Bowing before Greatness,
The Universe

TUT, Messages From The Universe
bookofmirrors: (Default)
Haven't taken the Belief-O-Matic in a while.

Here's what I got...

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Secular Humanism (86%)
3. Liberal Quakers (85%)
4. Neo-Pagan (83%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (82%)
6. New Age (75%)
7. Reform Judaism (67%)
8. Nontheist (67%)
9. New Thought (63%)
10. Theravada Buddhism (62%)
11. Taoism (62%)
12. Mahayana Buddhism (59%)
13. Scientology (53%)
14. Orthodox Quaker (45%)
15. Baha'i Faith (44%)
16. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (43%)
17. Sikhism (31%)
18. Orthodox Judaism (27%)
19. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (25%)
20. Jainism (24%)
21. Hinduism (21%)
22. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (20%)
23. Islam (18%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (16%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (9%)
26. Roman Catholic (9%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (0%)
bookofmirrors: (Book of Mirrors)
We're re-watching the Babylon 5 series (thanks to userinfoIanPhanes, who's letting us borrow his copies), and we're just barely into season 5, but we watched the episode with this in it tonight before work, and I thought I'd save this quote for posterity.

Interstellar Alliance Declaration of Principles

The Universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice. The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim or Minbari. It speaks in the language of hope; It speaks in the language of trust; It speaks in the language of strength, and the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul. But always, it is the same voice. It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us, And the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born. It is the small, still voice that says: We are one. No matter the blood; No matter the skin; No matter the world; No matter the star; We are one. No matter the pain; No matter the darkness; No matter the loss; No matter the fear; We are one. Here, gathered together in common cause. we agree to recognise this singular truth, and this singular rule: That we must be kind to one another, because each voice enriches us and ennobles us, and each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the Universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future. We are one.
bookofmirrors: (Halloween Libra) apparently updated their astrological icons for Halloween, so I stole it, and had to post to show it off. Very cute!

Body Image

Oct. 31st, 2010 02:34 am
bookofmirrors: (Contemplative)
This is a bit of shameless self-promotion, but it's a good response to the article that Marie Claire showcased recently about fat people on TV... or anywhere else. (There's a link to the article itself in the link I'm putting here, so I'm not bothering to link to it here.

This link is NSFW. As of this date, it's the most recent post on my friend userinfoWalkingBear's blog.

(edited to correct hyperlink)
bookofmirrors: (GreenEyes)
Only for [ profile] popfiend would I actually re-post this...

One little compliment can make you feel amazing.

So give me a compliment, anything in the entire world, even that my shoelaces are pretty. Put this in your journal. And once you get some comments, put that entry in a memory or tag and when you are feeling down, just go to that entry and this will remind you how great you are. Comments are going to be screened so none of you will know if I'm ├╝ber-popular and get over 100 comments on this or a total loser who doesn't get any.

Don't forget to post this in your own LJ so I can compliment you, too! :)

That's it, kids. I'm up way past my bedtime!!!


bookofmirrors: (Default)

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