Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About My Cats (and Dogs)

I was just thinking that P’s next birthday in January will mark the start of our third year with the cats. Looking back it hardly seems like it has been that long. I have never lived with totally housebound cats without also having dogs in the mix before. I’ve got to say that cats are the way to go. The cats are so much easier to care for compared to dogs (at least my dogs). I think I would like to own a dog again in my life but I would want to have a schedule or situation that allowed the family to spend a lot of time with the dog. I still feel very guilty about the extended periods of time that I spent away from my dogs. When I was cooking and working at Bouley I would be gone from the apartment for 12-14 hours a day. I had a roomate but she wasn’t responsible for their care and attention, I was.  I read this piece in the NY Times the other day and it really got me thinking of my own “bad” dogs. While they were never aggressive like the author’s dog they had extremely bad doggie manners (i.e., jumping up, barking, whining, destructive, general disobedience) and I constantly blamed myself for my failings as a good citizen dog trainer/whisperer. I think that the dogs were happy with our life together but that is probably because they didn’t know any better. I loved them very much and they definitely knew that. Now how ’bout those cats?

bonnie mirror

My daughter’s shot of Bonnie with a mirror

BONNIE – For someone so tiny and obviously physically vulnerable, Bonnie is an extremely independant little cat. She is much less cuddly than Ponyo and rarely seeks us out for laptime. Even when she does so she seems to just want to hang out with you and doesn’t really want you to pet her that much. She is officially P’s cat and I know P wishes that she was a little mushier in temperment but that doesn’t stop P from trying to pick her up all the time. One time I was on my bed watching TV with Bonnie. We were both just chilling. We heard P coming up the stairs and I swear Bonnie let out a tiny yet audible *sigh*.  I am so glad that we stuck it out with her. Mr Awesome loves her but he wanted to return her to the shelter many many times in the beginning. It took her a lot longer to get the hang of not stepping in her own poop/diarreah than was acceptible to us or any one with a working nose or healthy fear of germs would.

ponyo holds on

Ponyo holding on in Mr Awesome’s lap

PONYO – Ponyo is such a funny cat. She has a lot of quirks and personality. She is a Chatty Cathy and punctuates her movement with little chirps and comments. I love that she still hasn’t lost her kitten-ish outlook. She loves to play with us or Bonnie but will also amuse herself for long periods with a cat toy or crumpled up piece of paper. When they both turned a year old I thought that I had to increase the amount of wet food I gave them from the recommended kitten amount to the recommended adult amount. It was essentially double the portions. Ponyo loves to eat and so she of course finished whatever I gave her. I noticed soon after that she became a lot more lethargic and slept a lot more when we were around with the extra food. Since they always have access to dry food if they like I decided to cut the wet food back to the kitten level and Ponyo soon started acting like herself again. They don’t seem to miss the extra food and it also cuts down on the cost. Ponyo is a large, solid cat and I really think the extra food would have done more harm then good. She is also very cuddly and is always looking for laptime especially from Mr Awesome. I love her pretty face, even without a full-sized right eye. We were told at the shelter that she had been previously adopted by someone who had to return her so I feel very fortunate to have her in our family. She is truly unique and plays a mean piano too.

I love all of my girls!!

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Here Again

We are here again. There have been 12 years of after in between then and now. There have been many tragic events around the world since then and inumerable happy ones. This year I want to focus on what I am most thankful for.

Thankful List

  1. My beautiful daughter and husband
  2. My health
  3. We have a loving home and my kid gets to grow up in it
  4. My friends and family (especially my in-laws)
  5. My mom beating cancer
  6. I am employed
  7. I still have a sense of humor
  8. My husband still has a sense of humor
  9. My daughter is a theater kid
  10. The kindness of strangers
  11. My sweet cats even though they are destroying the loveseat

I love you all, even the haters. Hug everyone today. Be kind.

Peace.

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Summer’s End

I started composing an email to Julie Klausner yesterday. I’ve been bingeing on her Podcast Archive for the last couple of months and since I’m finally nearing the present day I started writing down all the things I’ve been wanting to tell her about. She likes hearing stories about dogs who eat things they shouldn’t and turn out OK so I googled my post about my dogs fecal frolic in Prospect Park. Then of course I found myself browsing down my blog’s rabbit hole which inspired me to write a new post and catch myself up on where I am.

I transferred to a new job in mid-August. I was very happy about the change. My new office is an hour away and requires me to drive on the NYS Thruway which is not my favorite but I’m dealing with it. The new position meant moving to a place where the office was nicer (indoor parking garage!), the pay was a bit better and there was a lot more opportunity to move up. Mr. Awesome felt that my company has been taking advantage of me and my skills for a long time and that meant I should go elsewhere. Even though I agree with him I really really didn’t want to have to start all over again somewhere new (really!). My new office is huge and maze-like. I’m glad that I can find my way to the ladies room and back again without breadcrumbs. While the drive might be anxiety causing and made me have to start taking acid reflux medicine again – I’m very pleased with the change. I hope that this is the start of something really good for me and for us.  

P started the 5th grade this week. She is 10 now and I almost can’t believe it. I think she had a really good summer. She went back to her day camp but also went to acting camp, had two weeks home with Mr. Awesome and spent a week with my in-laws in August. She’s been going to the acting place since last fall. They did a production of The Little Mermaid last winter that was fantastic. The leads were all teens and her age group was in the ensemble. The summer camp worked a little differently since all the 4th and 5th graders were eligible for lead roles. She was very enthused about that idea and was hoping to get a leading role. They did a production of Honk! Jr., which is a musical version of the Ugly Duckling story. She is a great performer but not the strongest singer when it comes to keeping her voice in key. I got the sheet music for the songs and tried to encourage her to sit down at the piano with her dad so he could help her hear and sing the exact notes. She refused this help. The auditions were an all-day affair in early July. They audition as a group and everyone goes in-front of everyone. The director tries different combinations of kids to see who’s going to work best for each role. P was so fixated on getting a lead role she didn’t even want to consider one of the smaller supporting parts – parts with lines and singing solos. When it became clear that she wasn’t strong enough for a lead role they asked her if she wanted to audition for a supporting part and she said no. Later on in the day when she began to realize that she was going to be getting a small non-singing part she became very upset and then asked if she could audition for one of the supporting roles and they said no, it was too late. She was dissolved in tears when I went to pick her up at the end of the day. It was a fundamental lesson to learn but it was a very hard one. At first she said she didn’t even want to do the show and it took a while for her to get used to the idea again. The rehearsals didn’t start until the last week in July and she was hesitant at first but ended up really enjoying herself. The director was very proud of the change in her attitude as well and said that she had turned out to be a model cast member. She did an awesome job in the show and put her all into every moment she had on stage. I was very proud of her. My heart ached for her but it was something she had to go through herself. She says she understands why it turned out the way it did and she’s already preparing for the next audition in a couple of weeks. This time if it looks like she’s not going to get what she wants, she’s not going to shortchange herself. Her singing is improving too. We tried some lessons in the middle of the summer but I don’t think she really connected with the teacher. She’s become obsessed with the music from My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic seasons 1-3 and is constantly singing all the songs. She’s able to keep herself in tune singing those songs. As P obsessions go it’s at a mid-level. She’s singing, binge watching on Netflix and has just started asking about me to make her a pony costume. Her other obsessions of the summer have been mermaids/watching H2O on Netflix and of course Harry Potter which included an insatiable need to listen to back episodes of MuggleCast. While the mermaid mania included an irritatingly irrational desire to make and wear a swimmable mermaid tail the constant listening to 3 and 4 year old episodes of MuggleCast at top volume was very hard to take.

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3 Eyes and 7 Legs

My daughter turned 9 in January and we decided to finally get her a kitten. Our last cat passed away two years ago this past Christmas and it was feeling like time to have a pet again. My kitty boyfriend Quarter was filling my pet need void for a while two summers ago but we barely saw him in the last year. I’m hoping that someone decided to finally take him in but I still fear the worst. He was special and I was heartbroken when I couldn’t get Mr Awesome to agree to make him ours.

When we decided to get a kitten for Piper we started searching petfinders for needy kitties in our area. We were happy when we found this wonderful shelter nearby. Going through the listings we saw Ponyo.

Ponyo!

Our first look at Ponyo the cat

We loved her name (because we loved the movie) and her little one-eyed face. She was found in the middle of the road with an infection in her right eye that was so bad she almost lost it. Ponyo was shy but somehow Mr Awesome managed to bond with her. While at the shelter we were led to the kitten room where we met Ponyo and about 10 other adorable kittens of varying ages. My daughter focused in on only one of them. A tiny grey kitten who was dragging her front leg around as she moved around the room.

Bonnie the day we met

We were told that her name was Bonnie and she had an even more harrowing story. Bonnie was found in the woods. She was the sole survivor of her litter who had been attacked by an animal. A lady heard her crying and brought her to the shelter. Her lower lip was detached from her jaw and she didn’t put any weight on her front right paw. The doctor fixed her lip and eventually determined that they wanted to amputate her leg because it had extensive nerve damage. They fear it would eventually become infected or lose circulation and it’s better to remove it now.

We never intended to bring home two kittens but somehow it just happened. We had to wait until after the New Year to bring them home since we were going away for the holiday and Bonnie wasn’t going to be fully recovered until then.

We brought home Ponyo home first in early January and she seemed to settle in very quickly. She was a cuddly sweet girl right from the start. Three weeks later Bonnie was deemed ready to come home too but now I question that decision. She was just getting off the heavy antibiotics she was on right after surgery and it was suggested we put a “little newspaper” around the litterbox because it could “be a little messy”. A little messy would not be the words I would have chosen to describe the stinking molten lava I saw coming out of her butt that first time. Yum! The diarrhea combined with her lack of balance made her frquent trips to the litterbox fun for the entire family. Ponyo didn’t know what to make of Bonnie and seemed genuinely pissed at us for bringing the interloper in. We really questioned if we had done the right thing. Bonnie was sweet and all but it was difficult to deal with her unsanitary condition and her effect on our Ponyo. Of course we went about it all totally wrong and didn’t separate them from the beginning but I know better now.

We had Bonnie treated for coccidia which seemed to improve her poop somewhat and switched around her food which seems to be helping as well. Her poop still isn’t exactly right but at least she’s learned to keep it off her most of the time.

We love her now and even though Mr Awesome likes to remind me that the shelter will take her back no questions asked for the rest of her life don’t see her doing that. She’s got a great spirit and doesn’t seem to be held back by only having 3 legs at all. Ponyo loves her now too and they love to chase each other all over the place. Bonnie can jump like any other cat and is faster than Ponyo at high speeds. Her walking gait is a little clunky but she makes it work. Piper is so proud of her little tripod and I like that we gave two special needs kitties a good home. They want and give as much love as anyone else. I had forgotten what joy a pet brings to your life. I missed that and think I really need it in my life.

Our family feels complete now.

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Sick Day

My daughter has been fighting a stomach ache all week and we’re staying home today so I can take her to the doctor. I fear it will be one of those visits where we get sent home not knowing anything more than when we arrived. I picked her up early from school yesterday. We wanted her to try to make it through a day of school (she stayed home Monday) but didn’t get very far. I have been very busy at work so I’m getting a little anxious to get back to my desk. I’ve been getting many more opportunities for writing at my job which is good but it has definitely cut into my writing energy here. There have been some things that have been on my mind.

My brother’s 50th birthday passed in December. His birthday has been hard because it comes just weeks after the anniversary of his death. This year was different and was very sad for me. My divisional manager also celebrated his 50th birthday in the first week of December. He traveled to Europe to celebrate and his managers toasted him at a meeting the following week. I couldn’t help thinking about all the choices that had been made in Mike’s life that led him down his path. Some of the choices he was responsible for but many of them were beyond his control.

We were at my parent’s house for New Year’s and my Mom showed me the christmas card she got from my Dad. He wrote her a poem and signed it “Tony and Michael”. This made me see red but I realize it is a good illustration of how truly delusional he is. If he thinks that he speaks for my brother in any way, especially now, that is just sick. I also think that if Mike has taken the small favored spot in my Dad’s brain then I’m truly doomed with him. I should give up right now because there is no way I can ever compete with his fantasy. Love for the Giants football team was one thing that my father and brother could agree on in life. I didn’t call my Dad after they won on Sunday, in fact I haven’t spoken to them at all this week. I guess that I should have called but I figured that my Dad had Mike there watching the game with him so he doesn’t need to hear from me anyway.

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Same Time Next Next Year

I just got a bill in the mail for $145 from our Pediatrician for my daughter’s last well visit. She turned 8 in January and we took her to the doctor as we always do for her annual checkup. I was wondering why the bill was so high I thought that they hadn’t applied our insurance or something. My husband had taken her to this visit and the office was just changing over their computer system so there was a lot of confusion when they checked in. I called the office and they said that my claim had been denied by our provider United Healthcare because our benefit had been exhausted. I called United Healthcare right away because I knew for a fact that this year’s visit was exactly one year from last year’s visit. After bypassing the robotic system — I despise talking to robots on the telephone, they need to hire some Cylons so I can’t tell that they’re robots — I had to go through several customer service humans to get my answer as to why my claim was denied. My company, the global one who shall not be named, has decided to only cover well visits every other year for children aged 7 and up. WTF?

Needless to say this news started my blood boiling. The next day I told my manager about it and he referred me to our HR representative. She sent me a copy of our Health Plan and I saw it there myself. I had never noticed this before. That shows you how carefully I reviewed all that stuff. I wonder if this is a policy that is often found in other healthcare plans or is this just my company’s, the global one who shall not be named, policy? How about you Internets, is this part of your employer’s benefits plan as well?

Frankly I think it is terrible. If you look at all the medical services that are not covered under the plan, i.e., plastic surgery, private duty nursing, hearing aid repairs, various infertility services, etc., you can logically see why they would not be covered. But a routine physical examination of an 8, 10, 12 . . . year old child is not covered? That makes absolutely no sense to me at all. This is preventative care for a child not some fancy elective medical service?!! Grrrrrrrrrrrr! My HR rep said that they do have an appeals process which I guess I could try to slough through but that is not the point. I believe that they should cover routine preventive care for everyone, every year no matter what age. Most adults don’t get to the doctor every year anyway. At a minimum they should cover yearly exams for kids to age 18! Meanwhile my company, the global one who shall not be named encourages everyone enrolled in their health insurance plans to fill out these healthcare assessments every year by giving you a $100 Visa® gift cards. You can also earn another $100 Visa® gift card by completing a Weight Watchers or defined exercise program. This is a terrific benefit and I happily received my $200 in essentially free money last year but if it is at the expense of paying for my child to see a doctor for a physical every year, I just don’t know.

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1991

While reading Half in Love by Linda Gray Sexton I found myself remembering how I used to write poetry. Lots of poetry. I barely do anymore. It’s almost like that was a different person, that poetry writing girl. Looking through an old notebook I found this. It’s an early draft of something I never finished. I read it now and think that it’s a bit corny in parts but I like it. I thought that it was an interesting snapshot of me almost exactly 20 years ago.

Untitled – 2/26/91

I have lived far from the water for too long. I wish to be touched by the ocean. Its cold green smile forcing my lips to a blue grin of muscles gently aching. To smell the wind in my skin, amidst the stony salted patterns, like tracks of millipedes. My eyes will ignore the lesser colors, seduced by electric fish scales, (sea greens) and rich sky.

I wish to be slapped by waves, awoken from my slumberous thoughts and their dry results. My dry brain creaks in its casing. Fossil ideas stick in my throat. How I thirst for salt water, our parent fluid. I suck on pieces of shell, its smooth skin smooth on my tongue. Searching for the taste. The taste of God.

At one time, I wanted to breathe the water without help of gills, the ocean floor, unaware of silent light straining down to touch my face. I wanted to be dreaming coral, home for fishes, deep rooted, unmoving yet secretly alive. Buried underwater. My million fingers gripping, gripping the sand.

Standing on the beach, waves bury my feet under sand. The surface like the glistening skin of a seamless shark, and I am planted upon her back. We are feeding and I have yet to have my fill. Beaten by a wave, I’m thrown upon the beach. Tasting the sand in my mouth, in my hair, in my eyes, in my crotch. Its roughness is so lovely. And I turn to crawl back into the tide again.

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Damaged Goods

I just finished reading Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton. Linda is the oldest daughter of Poet Anne Sexton who suffered from chronic undiagnosed mental illness and attempted suicide many times throughout Linda’s childhood. She finally succeeded and killed herself when Linda was 21 and a senior at Harvard. Linda’s lifelong struggle with depression, alcoholism, medications and 2 serious suicide attempts is vividly retold in the book. Despite being continually abandoned emotionally and physically by her mother, Linda is slowly drawn into repeating the very same behavior with her own children and family. While she knows first hand the pain that suicide leaves with those left behind she cannot resist the desire to reconnect with her mother even if it means her own destruction. The book opens with Linda’s first serious suicide attempt 6 months before she would turn 45. This is significant because her mother’s suicide was only 1 month before her 45th birthday. This can’t help but make me reflect on my upcoming 45th birthday this year and my brother Mike’s suicide less than 1 month before his 46th birthday. In a little over 1 year’s time I will be older than my big brother and time will continue on like that for the rest of my life. Linda’s detailed descriptions of her life at her lowest points also resonated strongly with me. Any reader will recognize the personal human pain she feels and lays out so unselfconsciously whether they are dealing with a depressed loved one or if they’ve traveled a similar path themselves. The book gives an eloquent voice to those who most need to be heard but because of their situations cannot get the words out.

Now I find myself wondering what kind of emotional legacy my brother and I received from our own mother. When my daughter was born my dad compulsively evaluated and criticized every single choice we made with her. I knew enough to ignore his advice even if it meant arguing over every single one. I now realize that he probably did the very same thing with my mother when my brother was born. As a new mother in a relatively new country I’m sure she had all the normal insecurities in her ability to care for her infant son. I have no doubt that my father was unable to let her find her way on her own. I can see him trying to control every single thing she did with the baby from the very start. She must’ve felt so inadequate when comparing herself to her professional Psychologist husband. Surely he knew what he was talking about! I can imagine how defenseless and alone she would have felt. Eventually my mom withdrew from the family and let my dad cast her as the enemy.  I was quite young when my dad started to tell us that it wouldn’t take much for my mother to become an alcoholic. I guess that this was to undermine our trust in her and scare me especially into wanting to be on his side. It was very important in my family to take sides. I was very aware that it was my father and I versus my brother and my mother in a lot of ways. How did this dynamic play out as we got older and my brother started getting into trouble all the time? My parents always fought about my brother. My dad would rage and blame my mother for Mike’s every fault. She loved Mike through it all but of course just having her love wasn’t enough for him in the end. It was damaged goods.

I guess the question now is not what emotional legacy will I pass onto my own daughter but whose?

 

Thank you to award-winning author Linda Gray Sexton for sponsoring this series, which is inspired by her memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective which endorses Blog With Integrity.

To learn more about Linda Gray Sexton and her writing, please visit her website.

Half in Love Relationships and Depression Series

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The Endless Snowday

I don’t know if you’ve heard but we’ve been having kind of a snowy winter this year. I generally try to not complain about the weather because I feel that there really isn’t too much you can do about it but it’s getting harder to hold my tongue. My daughter has not had a full week of school without any snow days or delayed openings since before Christmas Vacation. I know that it hasn’t been that long but it kind of feels like an eternity. We’ve been making the best of it and have been taking full advantage of our local sledding hills as you can see from the video below. The music is Spike Jones’ Winter and it definitely sticks in your brain but in a good way. Enjoy! 

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Grandpa

We journeyed to Skylandia this past weekend to belatedly celebrate the holiday and my daughter’s birthday with my parents. Thankfully my in-laws were able to come as well. I think my mother had a good time. She stayed up late everynight enjoying the company. I did all the cooking and planning. I have been talking and thinking about this pot roast I wanted to make for weeks now. We finally get there on Thursday and I pull my 4lb roast out of the cooler and my dad turns to me and says, “oh, she’s not allowed to eat meat.” We later clarified that she is supposed to eat only lean meats and fish but it is not like she can’t have a little bit on a special occasion. I wish that he had told me earlier. I would have obviously made other plans but it was way too late to change it and she ate it (and enjoyed it) anyway.

Grandpa was in fine form for our visit. He is constantly underfoot in the kitchen. It’s like how I used to describe my dog Dylan. She was like a VISA card, she’s everywhere you want to be. He thinks that he is helping you but when someone tries to clean everything as soon as you set it down it is just annoying. I don’t know how my mother has done it all these years. He was pissing me off and I was obviously pissing him off. I could hear him complaining to my mother in the middle of the night on Saturday. I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying on the other side of the wall but I could recognize the tone and the anger in his voice. It’s exactly what he used to sound like when he would talk about my brother.

The highpoint of the weekend is when he told my mother-in-law that Piper is beautiful except when she smiles because her front teeth are too big. I remember him telling me not too smile in pictures because of my teeth when I was a child. I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t want her to overhear any of it. I’m not sure what to do because he’s bound to tell her sometime. He just can’t keep those little bon mots to himself. You can’t unring that bell.

In the immortal words of Mr Awesome, what a douchebag.

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