Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cat Update (updated) (updated again)

Cypress is back at the vet, getting another transfusion. Something caused her to crash this weekend, and she spent Sunday night lying on the bathroom floor with me while I petted her and tried to let her know she wasn't alone and we love her. In retrospect, I should have taken her to the emergency clinic that night, but she was basically depressed, and seemed like she'd given up, and was panting, and I was afraid to move her and didn't want her to die in the car, inside the stupid box she hates. She's had an okay life, she's been my best friend for so damned long, and I love her and am not yet ready for her to die. But I'll probably never be ready for that, and if she has to, I don't want her to be alone and afraid. And since I'm the only creature on the planet whose presence apparently precludes "alone and afraid" even sometimes, it hurts like hell to let her have to be with strangers in a place she doesn't know, even if she has to be because I can't care for her. I'm not a life-at-all-costs type, if she's miserable most of the time it's a horrible thing to keep her going despite that. And right now they don't know. She's got another mass in her gut, which they suspect is another lymphoma mass, and they suspect internal bleeding, and she's badly anemic and cold and listless and not eating and she has low blood pressure. They're trying her on another new chemo drug, and here's where I fucked up again, they gave her the first dose of it yesterday around four and the clinic personnel all go home around six. She's got a bad habit of responding poorly to new meds, and I didn't want her there all alone all night, so we moved her to a 24-hour emergency hospital for the night. We brought her back to her vet this morning, and she was looking okay when we got her into the car, but the trip there left her wailing and gasping for breath, and we really shouldn't have done that. I think she'd have been better off on the whole if we'd left her alone all night at the first place, since she didn't seem to have any problems with the new meds anyway. So we got her back, and they spent today getting her stabilized and breathing okay and warmed up again, but her blood cell count has gone way down since yesterday, and they're doing a transfusion now. I'm supposed to call them in an hour and a half and see how it goes, and then she'll be there alone again all night tonight. They don't want to give up on her yet, and I don't want to give up on her at all, but I'm so obviously making such horrible decisions for her just trying to keep her safe, so I'm trying to just let the doctors tell me what's best and agree to that. But they don't know how much to do or how little, and I think they're hearing me try not to get my hopes up and deciding that I want to give up much sooner than they do or than she does, and I had to try to explain that today. I don't want to let her go, but it's not really up to me, so maybe I shouldn't be trying to make these decisions.

And last weekend she seemed to be doing really well. This sucks. Maybe you guys out there could pet your own kitties for Cypress and me, and spare some good thoughts for her.

It's not the biggest thing happening in the world, and it's not the worst, but right now it's important to us.

Update: It's over, or it will be in a couple of hours. They think she's going to die on her own today or tomorrow. We're going to be with her as soon as my partner can get away from work and get here to pick me up. The transfusion didn't help, and they don't want to try anything more drastic for her unless I really want them to. I said I don't. She's my little girl, and I want her to be okay more than almost anything on earth. But more than that, even, I don't want her to hurt just to drag this out a couple more days. She deserved so much better than she ever got from us, and I wish I could just let her know, before she goes, how much she meant to me, how good it felt to have her go to sleep by my pillow or on my feet, how much I loved having her just come in and curl up by me wherever I was sitting, just content to be there and be petted. Since I'm home most of the time, I don't have to regret that I couldn't spend enough time with her, but I know I'll regret that we didn't get more years with her. No matter how much time we had together, it wouldn't be enough. She's my baby, and she'll never be forgotten.

I'm not ready to hear about the Rainbow Bridge yet, and I think she'll reincarnate rather than go to kitty heaven or whatever, hopefully she can be a big cat that gets to eat people with impunity or something. Hopefully she won't forget us, who knows. And since I've just ruled out anything useful anyone can say to me, please don't feel like you have to say anything. I know there are a few people out there, and I know they wish they could find just the right thing to say to make everything better; I know because that's how I feel when someone else's beloved cat or dog dies. And I know that those magic words don't exist, and there's no point in trying to find them. Just... scratch your own friend under the chin or behind the ears for Cypress, and don't feel like you have to say or do anything else. If she can know, she will. And I'm going to go do the same for her. Hopefully she won't have to be alone and afraid at the end. She didn't want too much out of life--mostly for me to get rid of the other cat, feed her on demand, and just to be with me. So I'll try to give her that at least.

Update 2: We didn't make it in time, my partner is feeling guilty about that but there wasn't really anything anyone could have done. She died just a little before we got there, while we were still in the car. The doctor says he was holding her at the end, and that she didn't suffer. I'm going to believe that. He also says he doesn't think we could have done anything different to give her more than a couple more days in pain, and to not feel guilty about it because we "really went above and beyond for her". I don't know if I'm going to believe that yet. He also said he knew we'd tried magic with her, though he was referring to the transfusions, he doesn't know I did try real magic. That didn't work either, but then maybe it did, some. Everybody did the best they could for her, and they gave me another year I didn't think I'd have with her.

Somewhere out there is a crone goddess who's going to love her. Possibly even Hecate, if Cypress doesn't beat hell out of her hounds, which I wouldn't put past her. I really fucking miss her, but I wouldn't give up the time I had with her to have avoided how I feel now. She was my favorite, and I wish she knew that, but I suspect she always hated Iala because she thought she was getting less love from me because of her. Not even close, but how do you explain that to a cat? Cypress was beautiful, and smart, and brave, and special, and I hope she understood that we felt that way.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Note To Someone

Sunday Secrets. I just wanted to say: If it was you who wrote that, I want to tell you that it was actually that I wasn't good enough. I still don't know why you never figured that out.

It's probably why we'll never be friends, and I almost regret that.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Break out the wok, we're cookin'!

You're gonna need eight eggs or equivalent egg product. You're gonna need a couple boxes of frozen pre-cooked sausage links, any flavor, or a can of Spam, or the GNP of Bolivia's worth of microwavable bacon. You're gonna need a bag of frozen tater crowns (the flattened tater tots), or frozen seasoned potato chunkettes, or frozen hash browns, up to you. You're gonna need a bunch of green onions, chopped. And you're gonna need a bag of shredded cheese, you can pick the flavor/blend. Your grocer will provide.

You're also gonna need a couple of friends with minimal standards in food. Depending on how minimal, exactly, you can also have on hand chopped dill pickles, leftover white rice, grits, english muffins, Tabasco, sour cream, and catsup. Arguably you can use hot dogs in place of the meat, but that's kind of tacky.

You want everything in bite-sized pieces, basically. Then you dump some vegetable oil in your wok, and start with the largest pieces. (Eggs last!) This will generally be the potatoes, unless you're using sausages or shredded hash browns. The hash brown bits require less cooking time, the sausages more. You know how this works. As each ingredient becomes fully cooked, add the next sized item. You can move your stuff around to keep some of it from getting overcooked, but there's a limit to how well that works.

My wok is an electric wok, with a nonstick coating. I love that thing, and if it could make conversation I'd have already thrown over the SpotBot for it as Household Appliance I Would Most Like To Marry. So it's ideal for this sort of thing, and you may have more problems with the final step, which is urgently-whisked eggs or egg product, delivered in a hurry over the other items. Stir! It's a wok, that's what you're supposed to be doing! You should have just enough time to add a little pepper and maybe some salt before the eggs start to cook hard, and then you need to keep stirring so the other breakfasty goodness gets well distributed in the clumps.

Yummy, scrambled eggs with all the fixings! Apply cheese or condiments to taste, and wait for your friends to say something like "Hell, this is actually edible, what gives?"

Or you can always add food coloring.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Political Class

Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog points to Frank Rich's "The Good Germans" column and asks if Rich is blaming the victims. It's a good question, and I think he is.

It's easy enough to blame Americans for the actions of their government. We are, at least in theory, a representative democracy. If our elected leaders don't do what we want them to do, or worse do what we don't want them to do, we can put pressure on them using our various civil rights, and we can simply replace them.

In reality, it's more complicated that that. Exercising your civil rights may tend to get you thrown in jail, from which anything could happen. And corporate and lobbyist money so corrupts our system that voting out your elected officials is problematic at best. It can be done, but the odds of accomplishing it are depressingly low.

But even that overlooks the initial problem, which is the media. Frank Rich doesn't get a pass here, either. I'm sure he'd say he didn't suggest he was any less culpable than the rest of us, but if we're getting into collective responsibility, to what extent is he more culpable?

The free press is supposed to be serve the valuable function of anti-propaganda. It's supposed to give us the information we need to know when we're being lied to, and maybe even what we can do about it. But too much of it's been captured by propaganda, and now it lies to us about what's happening, and lies to our elected officials about what we believe and want.

I probably don't have to recount the NYT's specific faults leading up to the Iraq war. While Rich himself may not be individually at fault for their gullible reporting and their belligerent editorial stance, is it fair to ask exactly how responsible the average American is, as well?

I tend to think not so much. It's not that Americans don't care, it's that they don't know. And they don't know because they're not supposed to.

I'm sure they've heard about Abu Ghraib by now, but it's like global warming--they're deliberately being fed the sort of "fraternity prank" storyline that allows them to at the very least be uncertain as to what actually is going on. I can't even tell you how many people I know who honestly think no one died, so how bad could it have been? People did die, of course, but you wouldn't necessarily have known that if you weren't paying attention.

And that's what it comes down to. Americans, for the most part, are in a permanent state of exhaustion and panic. They're falling behind financially and they know it, and they know even more that this makes them moral failures. Because that's what they're told. The Frosts are freeloaders, and so must you be too if you need assistance with anything. The economy's going great, if your budget isn't stretching, it's your fault, you just need to work harder.

The news you get says the war is going fine, or it's not, there's horrible shit going on, but war is hell, right? and you have twenty minutes on the bus to sort out the actual story from the conflicting news on the way to your second job, while you're worrying about bills and the kid's cough and your boss who keeps grabbing your ass.

Personally, you'd rather be worrying like hell that you don't have decent childcare while you work, but apparently the terrorists might at any moment blow you to hell, or so the government keeps telling you.

And this isn't to mention all those other jangling-panic cues Americans are routinely fed: E. coli, pollution, global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, the housing market collapse, the possibility your kids will be shot at school or picked up by rapists online, and Jesus Christ, you'd better hope to God nobody gets seriously sick.

Meanwhile, you have no idea what you're even supposed to feel guilty about, but you know there's plenty. In addition to the war, there's hoping like hell your nephew doesn't enlist for the college money because all you know is people are getting killed over there. And there's other things like global warming, which you don't have time to understand, you've heard talk about genocide in some place you haven't heard mentioned often enough to remember, and now they're talking about war with Iran, or was it Syria, and what the hell is going on in Afghanistan still?

That's just global anxiety. The domestic situation is a mess, too, and it hits you on a lot of even more personal issues. There's work, and rent, and school's back in and all you can afford for your kid is Chinese-made clothes from Wal-Mart, and you know that's not good on so many levels, but your options are? So you buy the probably-sweatshop-produced shit at Wal-Mart and you feel guilty and worried, on top of everything else, including how much gas it took to get there and you realize the kids are getting fatter and that apparently makes you a failure as a parent, at least according to the story you heard on the radio as you were late to work again through the worsening commute.

On top of that, so many of us are literally sick all the time. We don't have insurance, we don't have good insurance, we can't afford the out of pocket or the time off and it's impossible to get an appointment and getting to the doctor's is a pain too, so we just suck it up.

I don't think guys like Rich realize how desperate most of his fellow citizens are from day to day. They're exhausted. They're nearly frantic about the future. They're constantly in pain, and you'd better believe that takes a toll. And then they're blamed for not carving out the sheer volume of time it would take to get through the propaganda they're deliberately being fed by Rich's employers.

Can you blame them for wanting not to have to think about it? Can you really even blame them for wanting to believe the reports that say nothing's wrong rather than the ones that say it's all an increasing disaster and there's nothing we can do about it?

It's really, really hard to care about something so remote you can't imagine it, and that you really have no clear idea what's going on through all the conflicting reports. It's even harder to care when you have no idea what you can do about it and your own life is awash in disasters and near-disasters you have at least some idea how to solve, even if it's not working very well.

So, yeah, as Steve observes, we care more about dead American soldiers--because we knew them, we know their parents or friends or wives.

The Iraqis? Aren't they terrorists who blew up the Towers? Weren't they going to use nuclear bombs on us? Didn't we want them dead?

I really don't mean to be a callous asshole, and I honestly cannot fathom people who voted for Bush in 2004, knowing what we did at that point. But I also know that we have made it very difficult to pay attention, let alone to figure out the truth, not to mention figure out what to do about it. And calling those people "good Germans" is not helpful, nor is it especially fair. What the fuck does Rich expect them to be doing? Get arrested in massive numbers? Is he going to take care of their kids and pay their bills and explain it to their bosses?

None of this is as awful as what's happening to victims of our invasions. But the less power you have, the less right anyone has to call you a "good German" over not fixing it. Especially when you have no power by design, by the design at least in part of the people who pay Rich.

There really is a political class in this country. It consists of people who have the time and the resources to figure out what's going on and what to do about it. The average American does not belong to the political class, but people like Rich do. Even people like me do, and that's a pretty scary thought. I'm unemployed, and have plenty of time to sort through the lies Rich's industry feeds us, and even I don't know what the hell is happening most days let alone do I know what to do about it. And if even our Congresspeople can't stop what's going on in Iraq, is it remotely reasonable to blame people who barely have time to even vote?

And if you got the Frost reference, you belong to our political class too, and what are you doing about it? And why aren't you doing more, why haven't you gotten it stopped yet? Frank Rich wants to know.

Absolutely we should all be trying harder, but working-class Americans are not exactly the top of the blame list, and Rich's industry needs to stop making it harder for them to get the facts and get involved before he or anybody else gets to blame them.

Yes, people who ignore this stuff, or even support it, make me mad. but when you talk to them, you realize they're largely not bad people who want others to suffer. They're mostly decent people who have been told so many lies they don't know where to look for the truth. We have to fix that before we can expect more from them, let alone blame them for it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Okay, I'll Entertain You.

Briefly, anyway.

Whenever I hear the GOP talk about bipartisanship, rationality filters kick in and this is how it comes out:

"Look, I know I wrecked your car and forged your name to get all your money out of your retirement fund and sold all your furniture for drugs and called your neighbors fags and threw all my trash on their lawn and stole all your prescription pills and got you fired and cheated on you and called you fat and shredded that wedding picture of your mom and dad, but... Listen, I really need a place to stay, and I swear I'll sleep on the couch, okay? Come on, you owe me! If you hadn't told her about the herpes, your sister would never have thrown me out!"

Am I alone in thinking this is the driving force behind Unity '08 as well?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday Sickcat Blogging

Well, she's put on a quarter of a pound in about two weeks. This is good, they tell me.

She's back to messing on the carpet and has begun pulling out some of her fur. This is less good, but there is no indication that it's a physical problem, they checked for parasites and for infections and for hives or whatever and she's fine, apparently just incredibly stressed out. They offered me some anti-anxiety pills. My partner's comment: "For her, or for the cat?"

Yes, yes, very funny. I declined, on the grounds that she doesn't need any more side effects to correct behavior I'm perfectly willing to live with anyway, and making her take another pill will only add to the stress. With any luck, the housemate will move out at the end of the month (Nothing definite so far, ugh), which should help her a lot.

They've given me another pill for her every other day, it's called Leukeran, and I am advised to handle it only with gloves on and to wash with soap and hot water anything else it comes into contact with. "And this is what you want me to make my nine pound cat swallow?"

Apparently so. They tell me that with the two pills combined, there's a good chance of giving her another two or three years. We got her fifteen years ago this week, so to be honest if not especially tactful I wasn't actually expecting to have her around more than seventeen or eighteen years anyway. Cats have a short life span; you learn to live with it or you adopt only lichens. And they suck to pet.

So that's where we are, for those of you who might care.

Also, my sister got me a book on How To Be A Villain for my birthday. I'm hoping it'll help me deal with the housemate if she decides commuting all the way across Seattle to college is a better deal than paying her own room and board. I'm already practicing my villain laugh: Ah-hahaHAhaHAHAha!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday Sickcat Blogging

Well, in short, not as bad as they feared, not as good as they hoped.

She's got small cell lymphoma, it seems. It's limited to her intestinal tract, which they assure me is good, and it was, they say, most likely caused by a year-old case of inflammatory bowel disease which we never did anything about.

Small cell lymphoma appears to be reasonably treatable, she'll be taking prednisone and some other chemo drug probably for the rest of her life, but that's not a bad thing because at least it means she could have a couple or more years to really learn to hate me properly. And I'm good with that. They tell me she's probably not in pain from it, and that it could kill her tomorrow or in a few years or she could die of something else completely unrelated in a few years. Well, true, and so could we all. So I'm inclined to just go day by day with this, and be glad she's with us now and every day we get with her.

The prednisone will also treat the IBD, and the way we know it's not working is appetite or weight loss. So we'll keep an eye on that. It's hard to tell how much she's eating, actually. If she doesn't show much interest in something, I open another can. She's got six plates scattered around the house at this point, and one in here with me because she seems like she prefers to eat in my company. She'll come and meow plaintively at me until I follow her into the kitchen thinking she wants different food, at which point she will settle down and start eating what's already there with no apparent displeasure. But if I leave the kitchen, she'll leave the food and follow me. So I'm spending some time in the kitchen reading, and in here on the computer with a plate by my desk.

My partner points out that there's really no way we could have known what was going on a year ago, since there were obvious behavioral reasons for her to have stopped eating, her only abnormal blood test went back to normal quickly with treatment, and even with it advanced as far as it has the only way we actually knew what was going on was for them to cut her open and take samples for testing. "If they'd said they needed to open her up a year ago, would you have agreed to it even though she was feeling better and her tests were normal and there was a very small chance there was actually something to find?"

Well, when you put it that way... But I still feel guilty for assuming she was just being more neurotic than usual when she was actually in pain and really sick. I feel awful for letting her get even sicker. And I feel pretty bad, too, that as mean as I'm being to her right now she still loves me and is following me around, probably because she wants me to make it all better. (I'm familiar with this. When the clusters get bad, I follow my partner around in hopes there's some magical way to make it all better. This is not rational, but what the hell else is there to try?)

On the other hand, the doctor tells me he was afraid after the surgery that it was carcinoma, in which case we wouldn't be talking about treatment options at all. So this is not good, but it's not as bad as it could be either. If she doesn't respond to the pills, we can try injections, or other drugs, or whatever, but he seems to think the pills might actually help and there's no statistical evidence the injections work better than or worse than the pills. And, really, it's a forty minute drive to the clinic with a cat who hates cars twice a week and, you know, my partner's got a job. and I do not drive. So hopefully the pills will work. We'll figure something out if we have to, but with any luck this will work the easy way.

Meanwhile, I've been folding my fingers raw and am wondering what the hell I'm going to do with a thousand cranes dedicated to my cat. You get a wish for each thousand cranes, and I personally don't make wishes, so none of the cranes I send out are "used up", I guess. (Look, I'm pagan. We're superstitious by nature, okay?) But these will be, and it seems reasonable anyway to find something appropriate to do with them since they're for Cypress but honestly she doesn't want more than a couple to chew on.

So the cat clinic may find itself in possession of a very large box of litter that's too pretty to throw away and what they'll do with it I have no idea. There are six doctors and assorted clinicians and tech people and staff, so presumably they could kind of let everybody have a more reasonable amount. They're pretty, but mostly in small doses. A thousand, while traditional, is overwhelming as a gift. Plus my partner is still genuinely baffled at the whole crane thing and gets annoyed when I need help mailing or delivering them. Should be fun, anyway, and anyone who's got some decent ideas what to do with a bunch of used cranes (many with teethmarks and cat drool), please feel free to share that in the comments.

The important take-away message here, though, is that she'll possibly be okay, but at least she's okay for now, and I don't have to feel like the next time we talk to them they're going to need to put her down. My thanks to all of you for the good wishes, and I'm sure if she knew you she'd be perfectly happy to include you in the long list of people she hates as well... but in a good way.