Monday, July 17, 2017

Working For The Weekend

I've always looked forward to the weekends. Who doesn't look forward to two days off in a row? Because of my career choices I've always still done a bit of work on the weekend--grading, reading, etc.--but because of Jeff's career choice I've always tried to savor it, make as much time as possible for us to hang out together. I still do this because that's what you have to if you're married to a journalist. It's what you really have to do if you're married to a journalist and also happen to have chosen an ambitious and strenuous yet rewarding career path for yourself.

But now I look forward to the weekend for an extra reason: I can *almost* forget about my hip problem. When Jeff is around it just hurts. It doesn't hurt so much that all I want to do is lay around, bemoan the grogginess caused by the meloxicam that helps me get a decent night's sleep but makes doing my work much more difficult. When Jeff is at home it's easier to not feel bad about the pile of work I need to do. It's not that I'm not doing my work. I think I've done more work this summer than I have since my summers of schlepping bags of mulch into customers' cars as they made rude comments about my being a woman. Apparently being a woman means I am exempt and/or incapable of loading bags of mulch into customer cars... oh, the stories I could tell about working at Lowe's. But I digress.

I'll I've done this summer is read, take notes, and occasionally engage in tasks and activities that are supposed to keep my stress levels in check. If one looks at my social media feed it appears as though I am doing far more of the latter.

 Farmer's Market!

 Good times at one of our favorite wineries in the area (photo credit-- Jeff).

 Hanging out with my crew.

Homemade pasta. 

 Look at how neat the watermelon looks. 

 Homemade ice cream!

Ruth, discussing the next Doctor with me. She's glad it's a woman but, like me, thinks after fifty plus years a white woman, as much as we love Jodie Whittaker, the BBC could have given us more than a change of gender.

But social media hides secrets. It doesn't tell the whole story. It even helps me fool myself for a fleeting moment. It hides my pain. It withholds the truth--sometimes Jeff has to help me out of bed, there are naps between afternoon outings and evenings of pasta, and Jeff, who never seems to want to take credit, often acts as sous chef. My Instagram feed looks like I'm non-stop, go, go, go. But I'm not. I have to pause for the pain. I have to ask for help. I know that social media allows people to craft their truths, make their lives look more interesting. I knew my posts often made it seem as if I wasn't doing any work. It often looks as though I'm just faffing about, drinking wine, and buying local produce out the ass. It wasn't until recently that I thought about how I might be using it to try to hide the truth from myself. I can't go hiking... so let's post this cute picture of the kitties... let's post this picture of that beef tongue taco I tried. My posts have become a shield from reality. I can't enjoy my favorite trails, visit the one or two left on list to see, or do many of the other items I'd planned to do. I can't do the things I was SO looking forward to this summer.

I can't hide from my reality during the work week. There's no glass of wine to be had on a balcony, no sous chef (P.S. Jeff usually cooks dinner during the school year-- he deserves credit)... there's no where to go really. All there is to do is read, take notes, cross my fingers that my hip doesn't hurt too much, and hope that at some point my body shakes off the heavy exhaustion weighing it down, physically and mentally, so I can finish writing a 200 word abstract. I can't hide from the fact that I'm still too groggy to edit this to the best of my ability... I'm too groggy to craft the perfect final sentence about how all of this sucks, I know life could be worse, and that I will get through this, succeed, etc., etc. I'm just too damn exhausted.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

These Hips Don't Lie

I have so much to be thankful for in my life. In fact, today Jeff surprised me with coffee.

I'm also thankful for my mom-- I called her today, trying to hold back my tears. I was doing a decent job, but she knew something was wrong. All I said was "Hi." She responded, "What's wrong?" She's really good.

I have so many other things to be thankful for, but today the reality of the situation with my right hip set in.

Nearly three years ago I was scared. I had to have major surgery.

My surgeon performed a periacetabular osteotomy as well as an arthroscopic procedure to repair a torn labrum. My left hip was dysplastic, and the deformity tore my labrum, a ring of cartilage in the hip joint. After months of recovery I eventually got back to normal (a year later I had the screws removed). Jeff and I even went to Oregon and hiked some of the most amazing, difficult, and more gorgeous than words can describe trails I've hiked in my life.

Gorton Creek Falls. 

Oneonta Gorge Trail.

It requires climbing over a log jam, and hiking through a creek bed to get to the waterfall. The water in the creek bed can get chest high depending on the season. It was above my waist at certain points and very cold! But it was well worth it.  
Triple Falls... I don't know the name of this trail because it was not the trail we meant to hike that day. But we kept going and found what is called Triple Falls.

But everything changed this February.

I thought my life was "normal." I had plans--my PhD work, a conference later that spring, papers to publish, trails to hike in the summer, and books to read in preparation for comprehensive exams in the fall. But then I felt it. I was walking around Campus Lake with a professor--I took a readings course with her, and rather than sit in her office to discuss my readings we walked around the lake once a week. One moment I was telling her about Doctor Who and various theories. The next I was rambling on, trying to hide my pain, and thinking "Oh shit. Why is this pain in my right hip? Oh shit. This can't be happening."

But it was happening. I had to scale back my plans, focus on course work only. Between my assistantship and the daily grind of graduate school course work I knew I couldn't take on the extras I wanted to, needed to. I didn't have an official diagnosis--my surgeon is one of the few in the country that does certain procedures (such as the periacetabular osteotomy and the labral repair) so I had to wait more than a month to see him. But I knew the pain. I knew I'd torn my right labrum. After going through the non-surgical routes, getting an MRA to confirm what we all knew-- I'd torn my right labrum-- I was told surgery was the next option.

I need arthroscopic surgery to fix the torn labrum. My surgeon will also perform an osteoplastly-- essentially he'll shave my femur so it is shaped how it should actually be shaped. Part of my femur is too flat (the arrow... that part should look more like the circled part), and the deformation likely caused the labrum to tear. The deformation has fancy names, but its often times referred to as an impingement.

There's only an 80% chance I'll fully recover. I'm also at risk for osteoarthritis. I knew this as it's true for my other hip. I'm nearly certain my other surgery carried the same 80% chance of recovery. I just don't remember because it was nearly three years ago, it was completely successful other than it just feels weird to lay on it sometimes, and when I got the news I started balling so I didn't absorb the information fully. Although this procedure is less invasive, it still requires more recovery time than one might expect. But that isn't what hit me today. It was the 80% percent. Or maybe it was the 20%. Regardless, the notion that I might not fully recover... well, it sucks. I realize it could be worse, far worse. And yet...

Indeed it does suck. Will I be able to hike all the trails on my bucket list? Will I be able to find a new comfortable sleeping position? Will the NSAID Dr. Clohisy prescribed help me sleep well enough so I can get through comprehensive exams this fall? I already have depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. These are things almost no one talks about in academia. So what does it mean now that I am adding my mess of a right hip into the mix? I can't afford to not attend conferences for another year. If I were rich I'd consider taking a leave of absence. But I'm not rich. I'd also get really bored and my brain would end up torturing me. Boredom is not good for my brain. I already struggle with the lack of structure that summer brings. All of this and more has and continues to cross my mind. But I know I will persist. I will persevere. I don't have a choice. Plus, it's all I really know how to do. I haven't had a terrible life, but I've met my fair share of obstacles. Some I've conquered, and some I'm in the midst of conquering. What's one more?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Thursday With Maggie

My heart is nearly broken. Today I called the vet's office and said, "It's time." Those words were heart wrenching. Thank God I have a vet with a staff who knows each patient and their respective humans so well. I imagine some places would have made me say the dreaded words I refuse to say or even type today.

I've tried to distract myself today while desperately wishing I still had a class to teach. Damn you, summer block class. I know I should cherish each moment I have left with Maggie, but taking care of all the things I need to do before going back to school and buying donuts and Don Taco is much easier than laying here while Maggie ignores me. This is the first day she's ignored me so blatantly. My mom says she's preparing me for the future. Perhaps my mom is correct. Maggie has always been in tune with my feelings. So it's entirely possible she knows what is to come tomorrow and wants me to be ready for the first time she isn't here to head boop me as I cry. Maggie is the kind of cat who would do such a thing for me.

I'd like to think I taught her how to be so kind, but I didn't. She came that way. Jeff and I've even joked that she's part dog. She is literally the friendliest cat I've ever met in my entire life. We love cats, even cats with diva streaks, and while Maggie has one, it's never diminished her capacity to love us unconditionally. It's so great that my mom, who does and always will accept me for who I am and become even when she doesn't agree with certain choices, offered positive words upon hearing that I planned to get tattoos of Maggie's paw prints (even though I already have one of her silhouette!) on my shoulders in honor of the Maggie hug. I don't know if I'll ever have another cat who literally hugs me, but at least I've had Maggie and can honor the memory with the blessing of my mom no less!

Earlier in this process, I wrote about knowing when "it was time." When people tell you that you'll know, they mean it. You will know. However, I'd like to add two sub-points.

1. If your pet has two human parents, "the time" is less exact.

I knew before Jeff. However, I could not force Jeff into knowing with me. He had to see it on his own. This made me sad and angry. Don't be like me. I hate that I might have made Jeff feel like a jerk (I'm sorry, and I'm sorry that I can't tell you right this second because you are currently having a busy day at work.).

As I said a few weeks ago, shortly after getting Maggie, Jeff and I had a talk, agreeing that under the right circumstances, euthanasia is the best route to take with pets. If I could go back in time, I would talk about it more. Or I would make us agree to create an agreement of how we would decide when the time was right. It is vastly more complicated than simply agreeing that pet euthanasia is humane in certain cases. For instance, one of the things experts say to consider is the ratio of good days and bad days. However, what constitutes a good day to me is likely not the same as what constitutes a good day to Jeff. Because our schedules conflict, we've been seeing two different versions of Maggie. These are just a few examples as to why I wish we had talked more in depth or had set up a plan, even if it wasn't until the day we found out she was sick. Perhaps if we'd been more clear about our expectations, the time between me knowing and he knowing wouldn't have been as long. I could be wrong about all of this, but it's something to consider.

2. If possible, make sure your friend can go out with a bang.

Despite our sadness, we've been working to make the last stretch of Maggie's life as great as possible. She's been a wonderful friend and deserves nothing but the best. I refuse to wallow in my sadness until it's time tomorrow. I've allowed myself many tears, but we must, even if between cries, for her and for ourselves, enjoy the moments we have left.

Today we purchased a can of organic tuna. Tomorrow part of it will be put on a "good plate," and she will eat like a queen. I may even put the plate on the kitchen table. We're also going to grab a pie from our favorite coffee shop if they have one of her favorites-- she's a fan of lemon cream. If they don't have a flavor on her list of favorites, I'll bring her home a shot of their homemade whipped cream that she loves so much. I think we might take her out for a walk too. She loves the great outdoors.

And finally, on her last ride in the car, we will rock out like a hurricanes with a variety of tunes including the afore-refereneced (why yes, I made that word up!) Scorpion. It all started because (I have no idea how or when) at some point Maggie entered a room, and Jeff said, "Here I am!" to the tune of "Rock You Like a Hurricane." She must of been entering the room like a bad ass. Regardless, it became a thing. She is and will forever be our badass, sweet, friendly, hurricane kitty, and we will always love her.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesdays With Maggie

I've often thought it would be neat to write a book about Maggie and her effect on my life, but the market's flooded. However, I recently figured out how to give it a new spin: I'll begin each chapter with a haiku about Maggie. 

Like Maggie (and Purrcy because I couldn't resist throwing in this one), you're probably wondering how on Earth I came up with such an idea. It all started because the Family Video Jeff and I pass by on the way home started listing exactly three movie titles on their sign, and they were listed in such a way that each week it was as if there was a new poem on the sign. Things really started to spiral when they posted this:

Get Hard
The Warrior

If you know either of us, this title caught our attention for two reasons. The obvious: we have a cat name Maggie. And we're both immature at times which I believe is good because we have stressful jobs. Our sense of humor helps keep us alive. So we ran with it, reciting the "poem" in different ways to create different meanings. The notion of Maggie as a kick ass warrior... amazing!

Eventually the sign changed (twas a sad day), and we were less interested until I decided that Family Video should start making haikus out of movie titles. Somehow this led to Jeff making haikus out of Star Wars titles, and that somehow led to haikus about Maggie. It may sound strange, but she's totally a haiku worthy cat. I've got two so far, but I feel like with time and some solid theme development, I could come up with enough to give my future "cat teaches her human lessons about life" memoir a decent twist and edge in the market. I'm still working on a title, but for now, here are some lovely, wisdom-filled Maggie haikus.

Maggie has cancer
She's living life to the max
Cause that's how she rolls

Maggie is so dope
Cancer or not, she's chilling
Like it's a Tuesday

Maggie, The Doctor
Are chilling in the TARDIS
Prepping for stardust

I know the last one had no real wisdom, but I couldn't resist. See you next week!

Monday, July 20, 2015

CSA Week 9

Our CSA group took a brief break which happened to coincide with our "break." Jeff had to switch shifts for a week, and it threw us both for a loop. We only had dinner together on a regular basis for about a year of our seven years together, and even then it was literally just dinner. Various life events and new apartment locations made dinner together nearly impossible until my hip surgery. When you're forced to use a walker for a month, you almost need your husband to come home for dinner. And then, it meant going into work early. Needless to say, last week was weird. I don't adjust well to such schedule shifts either. My body basically says, "No." We had dinner plans, but they almost never worked out.

We had a lovely box though, and we did manage to make a few items. My step-dad got a belated father's day gift from the cucumbers. 

We used a simple three-day refrigerator dill pickle recipe. This is our first time making pickles, and I think it was a success (Jeff did most of the work on this one because I loathe the smell of pickles and pickles in general!). Of course, I only did a smell test since I don't eat pickles. Jeff said the thinner sliced one are better. If we make them again, one of us might use the mandolin to get a thinner slice. Overall, at least as far as I know, this recipe is solid.

Jeff also put together a salsa. It was supposed to be used for various meals throughout the week, but Jeff ended up munching on it because of our lack of dinners. 

We still have extra tomatoes so he's going to whip up another batch for this week. I'm quite excited! Next week I'll post the salsa recipe along with other interesting concoctions we make now that we're back into the groove (We made a vegetarian version of a Pioneer Woman pasta recipe today, but I forgot to take a picture :( It was so yummy! If we ever make it again, I'll be sure to snap a picture so I can share our modifications.)!

I'll see you tomorrow for Tuesdays with Maggie, and I'll see you next week with CSA creations and recipes using week 9's box! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



The TARDIS arrived! Granted it is missing a light and a more permanent details, but for now this is perfect. 

Besides, the kitties don't care. Maggie's even mocking me, "Neener, neener! The Doctor picked me to be his companion! Not you, mom!"

"Purrcy can you believe it? I thought The TARDIS was just on some silly show mom watched... but it's really here!" 

I know Maggie and Purrcy actually have no clue why there's a giant blue box in the living room, but they don't seem to care-- it is a box after all. Maggie is content to just chill inside.

Purrcy on the other hand... well, he's gone nuts. Especially after I hung up a toy. 

I'm so thankful my step-dad was able to make my dream come true for Maggie (and that Purrcy is benefiting too). Not every cat can say they've been inside a TARDIS! I'm also thankful he's willing to help me update it and make changes. I have a feeling it's going to get lots of love for a long time... so she'll need to be fixed up every once in while. But for now, she'll do just fine. 

"Get your own TARDIS, mom."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesdays With Maggie

Since "re-booting" Tuesday With Maggie, I've done a lot of research and contemplation. I've also made some memories with the Mags-- I'd like to think I'll look back at our ridiculous poses and smile.

Because her condition will likely require us to essentially "pick a date," I've Googled all sorts of phrases involving cat cancer, pet euthanasia, and when it's "the right time." I suppose I hoped it would give me a more definitive answer than what our vet gave us-- "You'll know." Apparently that is the most definitive answer one can get unless you find yourself in an emergency situation.

Before we'd even had Maggie for a year, Jeff and I talked about our feelings surrounding pet euthanasia. Thankfully we were both on the same page, agreeing that sometimes it's the best thing to do for your furry friend. It isn't about the number of years we spend with our companions but the quality of time we get to share with them. Neither of us thought to discuss it any further. Why would it be any more complicated than that? Unfortunately it is vastly more complicated, and not just in our case. There's even a scale designed to help owners determine when it's time.

I don't want or need the scale-- it seems too clinical, at least it is for me. But I understand why it exists. It was made for the very same reason I started researching when and what to do. We are humans, and we want to be in control with all of the answers. For me, my research only confirmed what I didn't realize I already knew-- I simply would, as the vet said, "know." I know with absolute certainty that today is not the day, but I know it could be tomorrow. I know this because I know Maggie. I doubt tomorrow is the day, but I see it coming soon. It scares the shit out of me. That is why I am sitting here writing this. Maybe some day someone will be just as scared as me, and they can find comfort in my words. Maggie is still enjoying life, but rather than eating out of a bowl, she prefers her food on a flat surface. She doesn't follow me around like my shadow anymore either. Stuff like this, the so-called little things, tells me the day is nearing.

I don't know if we'll pick the "right" day, but I know we won't pick the wrong day. Almost every site discussing this issue states something along the lines of "Better a week too early than an hour too late." I've found peace in this statement. I'd rather take away a few good days than give her even one extra bad day. Maggie cannot recover from this. So all Jeff and I can do is give her the best life in the time she has left and trust our instincts. We know Maggie. I've given her permission to let go, and I'd like to think that when she is ready, she will tell me. I told her (yes, I actually verbalized this) to just let me know. Sometimes humans need permission to let go, so I gave the same respect to Maggie, and I know that someday soon I'll get a look, one that doesn't go away.

For now, I am soaking up all the cuddles I can get, and I'm ensuring Maggie gets the most out of her last days, checking off as many bucket list items as possible. On Monday she got organic tuna served on a good plate. Maybe it's silly, but as humans we talk about our last meal. So Maggie at least deserves organic tuna on a good plate!

Jeff snapped this picture. Clearly we made a solid choice because this was the clearest shot he could get. Maggie has a few other items on her list (Taylor Swift has yet to get back to us, and her trip to the park has been delayed because of the heat-- if nothing else, she'll get one more trip to our back yard), but I'm really looking forward to her reaction to the TARDIS cat condo. I've always wanted to get her a cat condo because I thought she'd enjoy being perched up just a bit higher than normal. Sometime this week, we will find out what she thinks!

If she's not a fan of the TARDIS, I know she'll love the toys that I got to go with it. Both cats practically mauled me to get to these as soon as I opened the box. Wet food is usually ranked above catnip and toys. So they must be made with some strong nip!

No matter what happens--with the TARDIS or with Maggie-- I know everything will be okay. We've given her a good life, one filled with good food, toys, treats, sometimes human food (I'm pretty sure she's getting ham and gravy this week!), laughter, and lots of cuddles. She'll always reside in my heart, and I know she'll always be with me. I always thought she'd be here to watch my future human children grow up, at least part of the way, but I know she'll keep an eye on them from above. I don't actually know that, but in a way I do because if Maggie can't be with me, she has to at least be laughing at and watching over Jeff and me while lazing about on her catnip and tuna filled clouds. A life without at least her spirit is just too sad to even consider.