I’m Still Here

Death was following me around for a little while, and I feel like I’m finally coming out of the dark. In 2020 my Labrador died slowly, then my Dad died quickly, then in 2021 my grandfather passed, and then a dog I adopted. All in less than a year.

My heart and my mind were heavy. Leaden, really. I knew in my head that others lost more, but it was still hard.

I don’t remember the holidays last year, or the ones the year before. Thank god I keep a planner otherwise I wouldn’t remember anything that happened or when. Everything is like in a big soup in my brain. That’s right, I was supposed to research trauma stages today and just remembered.

So that’s where I’ve been, in my Me-Soup. But what I’ve learned is: adopt another dog, it won’t be the same but they will still bring joy; and be a fierce and unapologetic advocate in a family members healthcare, no matter what doctors or facilities say.

But like I said, I’m seeing an end, and so a beginning. I’m thankful for my family, for two healthy pups, for bending over in laughter with my husband, for watching deer cross my lawn. You know. Small but big stuff.

I have no title.

Too sad to sleep. Is that a thing?

I made the mistake of touching Max’s urn as I went to bed. Is that what it’s called when it’s a wood box? Is it still an urn? I can’t think straight. But it opened floodgates, which I guess means they should be emptied a little more frequently.

I think of my Dad, fresh ashes only six months old, in his wooden urn, downstairs. Mixed with my Mom’s ashes, five years old. Only me and my sister left from that nuclear family, but at least I have her. I’m so glad I have her.

I am so tired of being sad, but I can’t help it. I try things, I promise. I work out, I play with Mayhem, visit with friends, do projects, even visited a cow ranch recently. But I’m miserable, both inside and to be around. I can fake it for a minute, but I don’t know how my husband stands me.

It’s the drifting thoughts. Of a house emptied out, signing papers, how Max used to snuggle his muzzle into blankets, the last long conversation I had with my Dad, the last coherent conversation I had with my Mom. They’re all wound together, rarely separate.

It’s times like these I feel so brittle, small, like a crumpled piece of paper. But I remember too that these are good days. There is so much time in my past that I was unhappy for one reason or another, but looking back, those were good days. I wish I was there now. I would go through the pain again to have them all back. Max frisking at the bottom of stairs, my Mom guilting me that I hadn’t called recently, my Dad forgetting my birthday.

I know in the future I will look back on my todays, wishing I was here. It gives me no solace, though. Just something like guilt, a preemptive mourning for things not lost yet.

I wish I knew when I would stop feeling this way, sadness dragging me like undertow.

Don’t mind my midnight mournings, unedited. And what do I title this now? At least that will distract me from my emotions for a minute.

Cat Collusion

Jailbreak

Characters:

  • Stevie-San – cat, 12+ years old, male, fixed, lover boy
  • Mishi – cat, 14 years old, female, fixed, skittish
  • Georgie – cat, 2.5 years old, male, fixed, teenage punk

I had a peeing issue for a few nights. I’m not the one that peed, but I was the only one that had an issue with it.

Mishi started peeing on my couch. At first we thought it was Stevie, him being older, possibly having arthritis, etc., but we put him in a room overnight and lo and behold – pee-o-rama on my couch.

After a few mornings of 6 am laundry and a gallon of Urine Be Gone, we decided to put Mishi and Stevie-San downstairs, which is a long hallway with several rooms branching off. In the rooms are litterboxes, food, water, a heated cat house, a regular heater, soft blankets, and a cat scratcher. I mean really, it’s a kitty cat paradise. Stevie gets along with everyone, so he’s a bit of a therapy cat. Mishi is not a fan of: plastic bags, loud sounds, being picked up, and other cats (except Stevie).

We prepped the room, turning on heaters, laying out blankets, then did the duck duck goose dance of this cat in this room while we get that cat in that room. Once properly placed, we blocked the cat egress hole with a box and weights, this way Mishi wouldn’t get upstairs at night and do her deed.

Well, this lasted for two nights. I woke up on the morning of the third day to see Stevie wandering the halls and two pee spots on my couch. I went to research the forensics of the situation and in the picture above you can see all I needed to know. It’s clear Georgie helped. He’s a young punk that needs to be in the middle of everything, and there’s no way little old Stevie moved that box.

It fun to see the whole “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” in the catscape, though they all still drive each other nuts. We’ve doubled up on the weights, and it did the trick. One week and holding.

It’s been almost three months…

…and my heart is still limping along.

Maximus, 2010 – 2020

Ten summers over the earth we’d leap / for ten winters we would snuggle deep

And no matter where we wanted to roam / when we were together, we were always home

Then the day came, your youth worn away / you let me know that you could no longer stay

You’ve left us behind, your soul out to sea / but you’re always right with me, your heart at my knee.

Dog With One Kidney

I don’t know what my damage is with posting. I’ve had this site for years and have barely touched it, but this summer I thought I would be able to get into a groove, make a schedule, put my blah blah blah out there. Then I found a lump on Max, my ten year old Labrador.

Not one of those old-dog fatty dog lumps – he’s had those for years, but a hard thing right below his rib cage. At first I thought it was just a rib. Max was on a diet so I thought maybe it was working. But, just in case, I took him to my vet, Dr. Falcon (can you believe it?). He knows me well, so if I was being paranoid he would say so and send me on my way.

But no. Instead, he knelt down, felt the lump, and took Max in for X-rays. Falcon told me it was a tumor on his spleen, and that he could do surgery that morning.

“Ok,” I said. Max had surgeries before.

“I’ll give a few minutes to say your goodbyes, just in case.”

What?

“People usually don’t find these,” Falcon told me. “The tumors burst, and you could come home to find him dead. It could burst at any second.”

So I did. I said goodbye and cried freely, as people and staff walked past me, and I didn’t care. It was heart wrenching to watch Max trot off and flirt with a vet tech, not knowing what was about to happen. I texted work, letting them know I wouldn’t be coming in, and spent the rest of the day pacing, crying, being tortured by the unknown. It was a long six hours while I waited for Falcon’s call.

I got Max the year my daughter graduated high school. He had been with me during my first marriage, through the divorce and moving into a small apartment. We walked and jogged thousands of miles together and snuggled in bed every night. He moved with me to my second husbands home, then we road tripped across the country when husband #2 was transferred.

He was steadfast and loving, and it didn’t matter where we were – I was his home.

When Falcon did finally call, he reported it wasn’t a tumor on Max’s spleen, it was a tumor wrapped around a kidney. He took out the kidney too, and it was complicated. He had almost given up.

“He has to stay here tonight,” Falcon said. “And it’s between him and God.”

Max has always been stubborn, so I counted on that. Although I’m not very woo-woo hippie, I tried to send a message to Max as I cried and cried and paced the yard: Do not die in that kennel! Fight! You can die tomorrow, or even on the way home, but not in that kennel alone and scared! Fight, Max, fight!

He fought. He came home.

It’s three and a half months later and he’s still with us, but beginning to fade. The months haven’t been easy; he basically has kidney disease and cancer. I was going to document his struggle in real time, but I couldn’t. The stress and anxiety was too much, and it was all I could do to not just curl up in bed with him and cry for days on end. I probably should have blogged, though. It may have helped.

The contortions of care and research I’ve done have been exhausting, and only in the last few days have I let myself get un-wrung, largely due to Falcon.

“Why do you need more bloodwork?” Falcon asked on our last vet visit. “It’s going to be the same or worse, and I think it’s the cancer that’s wearing him down.”

“How long do you think Max has?” I pressed.

To his credit, Falcon didn’t roll his eyes. I already knew there was no way to tell.

“Why are you even looking for that?” He said. “You need to look at the extra time you already had. Given his medical history, I’m surprised he’s made it this long.”

“We got a bonus round?”

“Exactly.”

So, that’s why I haven’t been around this summer. You dog people know what’s up. And for the first time ever I joined a Facebook group. It is for canine kidney disease and the information and valuable resources I’ve gotten out if it has really surprised me. I thought it would be a lot of people giving half-baked advice, and it is a little bit that, but mostly not.

It felt good to interact about the issue, give virtual hugs, and ask a question once in a while. I was by myself in this but I wasn’t alone.

‘Till next time, blogspace. I swear it won’t be too long this time.

Maybe we’ll be friends.

So I wrote a book. (Collective groan.) I know, I know. But it had been floating around in my head for a while, and with the dark Dakota winters, what else is there to do? Besides knit. Which I’ve tried. Being left-handed, which means one becomes semi-ambidextrous, means that knitting and crocheting instructions can completely freeze my brain up.

Anyway, so I would get up at 4:30 am to write, and about 6 am carry on with my day. As you writers know, however, revisions and ideas would run through my brain all day. Less like run, more like those annoying “just married” cars with cans clattering behind it.

But I finished it, huzzah, after six drafts, and am now onto Phase 2: rejection. I’ve sent it out to three agents, and in two weeks, will send it out to more, and so on, until it is fully rejected from everyone and I list it on kindle.

What this means for Right Now, though, until I get my next story together, is that I still have to get up at 4:30 am and write something. I learned this because somewhere in my second draft I got off schedule, and it was painful to right the course. Don’t want to do that again.

So you might be seeing more of me.

Told ya’, kiddo.

Mr. Krouse would swing open the door to the country club, oppressive Florida sunshine glaring down the hallway. Light would bounce off the highly glossed white paint on the walls and the framed portraits of past “Commodores”. Despite all the shine, there was always a musty smell emanating from the navy blue carpet. No amount of spit and polish can cover up the stories of a fifty year-old building.

“Hiya honey!” Krouse would call out, taking off his ballcap, slapping it against his leg, a genuine smile for me as he headed into my office.

He’d pull up a chair. We would brainstorm about a committee he was on. He would get me to do things I didn’t want to do, mostly because he had more initiative and drive than me, even though he was probably twice my age.

“Hey,” he once said. “My daughter wrote a book. I think you’d love it. If you don’t, I’ll give you your money back.”

It was a deal! I bought it, I loved it, I told him so.

“Told ya’, kiddo,” he said with a wink.

I worked closely with him for five years, knew him for about ten, and we had a love/frustration relationship. I know I drove him nuts, and that’s ok. He drove me nuts too, but I still liked him a whole hell of a lot.

About a year after I stopped working at the country club, I heard he had died. He was having health issues while I was there, but he was a fighter and would bounce back. He had lost his daughter about two years previous – I wonder if that had anything to do with it. His fight, I mean. His spirit. I worry about his wife.

I’m currently writing a book. Ish. A short book. To comfort myself, I went to my bookshelf to pull some of my favorite books and see how long they were.

The Egg and I – 287 pgs
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – 176 pgs
Magical Thinking – 281 pgs

I was feeling better, then grabbed Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse-Rosenthal. Mr. Krouse, my mind whispered. I flipped it open, read this page, and thought of Amy, of her Dad, of the COVID pandemic.

“Pg. 219
Y
You
Perhaps you think I didn’t matter because I lived x years ago, and back then life wasn’t as lifelike as it is to you right now; that I didn’t truly, fully, with all my senses, experience life as you are presently experiencing it, or think about x as you do, with such intensity and frequency.
But I was here.
And I did things.”

His family and mine would probably be surprised to know I still think about him a lot, remember the little conversations we would have. I’m not sure, but I’m suspecting with the way the world has gone sideways, that the things that people can do – the smiles in the hallways, the helpful hand at the door, the push of “no, we can do more” – these things will be remembered, and missed.

But, really there are no answers for me today, just memories of a man I miss that’s gone who smelled of Florida sunshine.

Driving with Triple C’s – Cross Country Cats

Well, almost. It was South Florida to South Dakota, and with it taking five damn hours just to get out of Florida, I think I am permitted to say “cross country”.

Ok – so as soon as we learned of the work transfer, we were like yay!, immediately followed by “oh shit, cats”. Four cats of various ages and temperaments.

Yes, four cats. We’re a blended family, kaaaaay?

I won’t bore you with our details, but here’s what worked for us:

  • Before the big move: Set the carriers out for the cats to get used to. I sprayed feliway on towels and tossed them in.
  • Do trial runs: We would put the cats in the carriers and put them in the garage or around the house for a few hours. From this we learned which cats to put in first. With multi-cats, yes, there is an order. They didn’t like it, but we learned to lure them in with kitty crack (aka canned tuna).
  • For the drive: Have towels or old tee-shirts that you are willing to just toss. They will poop. They will pee. No big deal. Toss the towel, put in a new one.
  • If you have overnight stays: We did. Bring wet food (for hydration) and kitty crack. Also pack disposable or cheap litter pans with flushable litter, and a dustpan + broom to sweep up all their litter mess. (We kept the litter pans in the hotel bathrooms.)

Really, the list above is all you can do. We were so stressed about the 4-day drive for them, but in reality, they did fine. They explored the hotel room, used the litter pans, and ate a little – which was fine since they were just in crates all day.

In fact, some of the little darlings didn’t want to come out of their crates in the hotel room, and would just hang out on them. Others hogged the bed.

Our two dogs were actually more work, when we thought it would be the inverse.

Oh, also, on the DL – most pet-friendly hotels only allow two cats, but there are always side doors. We told the hotels we had pets, and they would tell us how to bring them in without going through the lobby, so staff never counted our cats. I don’t think they really minded how many cats we were bringing in, honestly.

I hope you find this info useful and lowers your stress level. Even our super nervous cat (not pictured) did just fine. Best of luck!

Runnin Over 40

This past year I’ve let myself go. Well, more like 8 months but I’m rounding up. I discovered, for the first time, what it is to be truly lazy and eat whatever I want.

I didn’t sign up for any runs in the past year except a 5k, and had the Disneyworld 10k in February. In the past, I had done the Disney Challenges, which was 10k one day and a 1/2 marathon the next, which was enough to keep the extra pounds at bay and get me three, THREE, medals.

With the 10k, I barely trained. Lazy. And, as always after the Disney runs, I stopped running. In the past it was to let my toenails heal and take some time off. This time? Well….

I didn’t want the discomfort anymore. I wanted to sleep in on the weekends. I didn’t want to worry about what I ate for dinner.

And so…I got into a bad, lazy habit and now I’m fat. For me.

I’m my defense, I did have to prep my house for selling, plus had a full-time job, a side gig job, and two large dogs to entertain and exercise.

I could have worked in some crunches though.

I have also loaded a trailer, quit my job of thirteen years, drove across the country with said dogs, unloaded same trailer and set up house.

There is still time to do some push-ups. Especially since I am unemployed.

It has been years since I’ve been able to run in shorts. Only leggings for me, which was terrible in South Florida but I think will be ok in South Dakota. Still, I would like the option.

I have enjoyed the luxury of being chunky: saying yes to all foods, over eating and laying about, sleeping in late, napping. I’ve dug myself quite a hole to get myself out of, effort-wise and attitude-wise.

And you know what else? So many women my age are overweight, it’s no big thing. Totally acceptable. Like, when I was 20 it wasn’t ok to be heavy. Now, mid-life? Totally fine.

Damn these 40s.