Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deluxe Apartment In the Sky

When he knew the cats and I would be moving in Kevin decided that he must build a cat cando/cat tree for the wee beasts. He worked and slaved for many, many hours in the garage to create this beauty. It is gorgeous and solidly built.
I actually had to talk him down from making it a foot taller. Good thing otherwise Jackie would be scrunched against the ceiling.
Jackie, as you can see from this photo, LOVES her new toy. She is perched up in one of the top two boxes/beds almost all the time. The condo is positioned so she can also sit on it and look out the window at the bird feeder in the back yard. She is one happy kitty.
Ollie, on the other hand, has no actual use for it. He has scratched on it twice and that is about it. I think that is another reason she likes it so much; it is an "Ollie Free Zone."

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Boob, The Beast and The Brain

I hate to turn on the pity party but I feel the need to tell everyone about my 10 days of stress. Sit back, grab a cup of tea, this may take awhile. I would call it my "worst week ever" but since there was no death, dismemberment or permanent damage other than to my GPA I will just call it "extra super sucky week". Let me begin...

The Boob: Hello interwebs, let's talk about my boobs. Back in late August I discovered a rather large lump in my breast. Now, contrary to logical thought I didn't actually worry about this because I had had benign lumps before and I figured it was the same thing. However, I did go and get it checked out: physician visit, mammogram and ultrasound. On the mammogram they found a second one I didn't know about. Wheee! So, in for my biopsy on the 7th (begin icky week now).

Now I was fine with this whole thing because I really didn't think it was anything and if it was then worrying wasn't going to solve the problem. But on biopsy day I started to get a little freaked out. First of all, biopsy is a horrible word. No happy images come with biopsy. Nobody ever biopsies oh, I don't know, something like a cupcake. So I am getting worked up and start playing the "what if" game. The procedure itself is un-fun. It was a core needle biopsy and they took six samples with the biopsy gun. I went back to work in kind of a daze and was completely unable to focus on anything when I went home. I really just wanted to go curl up somewhere and be alone. At this point the worrying kicked into overdrive. I had every cliched cancer scare reaction in the book. I was driving myself crazy playing the "what if" game which is never productive but I think is kind of inevitable in situations like this. I tried to shove it out of my mind but for the next two days it hung over me like an anvil. In addition to the thoughts of my own mortality it was thoughts of what treatment would be like and what I would miss out on in my life if I had to go through that. I dreaded a bad result of the test not just for me but for my family, who are already going through quite enough, and Kevin, who lost his mother to breast cancer when he was a teenager. I didn't want to put myself or anyone else through that illness. And also my poor boob looked like Mike Tyson (the old one, not the kinder, gentler new one) had used it for a punching bag. A very tiny punching bag.

Friday I got the preliminary results that one was a fibroadenoma, which is what I had before and is totally harmless. The other was either a fibroadenoma or a phyllodes tumor, they can't tell without removing it. The nurse mentioned the results didn't indicate a cancer on this tumor but my brain didn't hear 100% certainty so my worry wasn't entirely assuaged. The internet and the crazy things you can find about any medical condition didn't help either.

The next week I read the pathologist's report and that made me feel better that it was truly only a benign tumor. Friday I had the appointment with the surgeon who told me I could wait until school was done to have them removed. Hooray! Even though I knew it would only be a day surgery I really don't have time for even that right now. Knowing that it is truly benign and that I don't have to try to fit a surgery into my life right now was a major relief. I felt about 50 lbs. lighter walking out the door. I can't imagine how people must feel when the test results go the other way. They must be very brave, strong people and I hope to never know exactly how they feel.

The Beast: Thursday, still feeling weird and overly focused on whatever might be growing inside of me possibly ready to kill me, I get home from school at night and Ollie is nowhere to be found. I finally track him down upstairs and there is obviously something wrong with my kitty. He isn't moving much and when he does it is only for a few feet and then he lies down again. He is walking funny and almost seems like he is limping a little bit. He looks glassy-eyed and dazed. I keep my eye on him and see how he is doing and then around midnight he crawls under the bed to hide. This is not a cat that EVER hides so this is clearly a bad sign. Off to the emergency vet we go. The vet finds nothing wrong with him even though he is clearly not right and we take him home and fall asleep about 3:00 a.m.

After worrying about him more Friday night we got up early Saturday morning and went back to the vet because he was no better and appeared to even be limping more. I postponed my weekend trip with my mother by a few hours to take Ollie in for his checkup where they decided to keep him for a few hours and perform some x-rays and tests. My dear Kevin was good enough to pick him up later in the day and I knew he would be watching him all weekend for me. At this point we thought he might have hurt his leg in a fall but didn't suspect much more.

The x-rays showed no damage but they did show a huge amount of poop inside my kitty. Here is the picture for your viewing pleasure. The little lumps in the intestine? Poo. He has lovely femurs though don't you think?
They performed an enema, did blood work, gave him antibiotics for a slight fever he had and sent him home. No change in the way he was acting at all. By the time I got home Monday afternoon he was still the same. Fretting about my kitty who laid around looking visibly ill while trying to complete schoolwork was difficult to say the least. Thinking he might have some sort of infection we waited for the antibiotics to do their thing.

Tuesday came and I noticed he was the same except now he wasn't eating. Those of you who know Oliver know this cat loves his chow so this was a very, very bad sign. Wednesday he still wasn't eating and I rushed home from work to take him to another vet appointment. They decided to keep him in kitty ICU overnight where they catheterize him to get a urine sample, give him IV hydration because he is dehydrated, more blood work and monitor him to see how he is doing. We bring him home Thursday night after school and he actually seems better. Still walking gingerly, still not quite himself , but better.

We were afraid to not follow through with the visit to the specialist the next day that my vet recommended because we didn't know if he was still suffering from whatever ailed him or if it popped back up we didn't want to put him in an acute sort of situation. So Friday morning it was a 37 mile drive to the specialist for an ultrasound, neurology consult and more work-up while working this around my surgical consult.

The upshot of all of this is: my baby beast is better and I am $1800 poorer. We knew Ollie had turned the corner when he stopped the hiding behavior, started eating, started grooming himself again and began to have inappropriate relations with his cat toys. Whatever was wrong with him appears to be gone (knock wood) for which we are EXTREMELY grateful but I still would have liked to have a diagnosis.

Watching him acting so unusual and knowing he was very sick was heart wrenching to me. I have had Ollie for over 13 years; 1/3 of my life. Thinking the worst and that he might be gone soon ripped my heart out. I know I don't have many more years left with him but I can't bear the thought of losing him yet. I know I am a slightly neurotic cat-owner but he was sick and scared me a lot.

The Brain: With those two emotional, stressful, mind-screwing activities going on simultaneously it was very difficult to focus on my studies. Damn near impossible to be honest. I also should have said "no" to the planned trip to the ocean with my mother but she really needed to get away and can't drive to the ocean on her own. Besides, in my "what if it is cancer" mindset I asked myself what was more important and time with my mother and doing something nice for her won out hands down. Sorry school, you just don't rate.

I brought my homework with me and spent the majority of the waking hours there on homework. I, however, didn't factor in the travel time or time spent eating out which greatly cut into my studying. I also failed to realize how much research the paper I had due Thursday would take and without an Internet connection or laptop I was hosed. I scrambled when I got back home and put in long hours to turn in a paper I am humiliated by. I don't even want to make eye contact with the instructor when we get it back tomorrow. It is that bad. I was so consumed trying to do this stupid paper that I failed to study for my exam in the other class and got what I believe to be my very first "D". Yes, that is correct. A "D". On an exam that is worth 20 percent of my grade. I am now pulling a "C" in that class. I have only received a "C" once in my life and that was 9th grade art because I spent the whole semester screwing around and didn't turn anything in until the last minute. I am not that kind of student but last week school was the least of my concerns.

I know I said I would make this quarter my bitch but I didn't factor in that in order to do that you actually have to care. My summa cum laude dreams might die this quarter and I don't even give a damn. As an astute fellow student once pointed out: C=Degree.

Oh, and on Thursday night I found out that my Dad was admitted to the hospital where he spent the next four nights recovering from some sort of infection. He is doing better now and is at home. How is that for a capper on the week? This week though? Much, much better.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Two weekends ago Kevin and I went to the third of our Adopt-A-Vine events: Crush!!! It was a beautiful fall day in Wenatchee and we were lucky enough to spend part of it really seeing how wine is made and, of course, partaking of a little as well.

Here we are punching down some merlot that is fermenting. The grapes stay in these tubs for about two weeks and are punched down every twelve hours to make sure the skins stay wet and can color and flavor the wine properly.

They were unloading some cabernet sauvignon and running it through the de-stemming machine while we were there. I love the de-stemming machine. Grapes go up on a conveyor belt and stems come spitting out the end and tasty grapes drop out of the middle. I was surprised at how sweet and good the grapes actually tasted. I somehow figured wine grapes wouldn't be good for eating but the cabernet sauvignon were these sweet little grapes.

We also got to try some chardonnay juice. It was being pressed in a different machine because you don't need to run them through the de-stemmer. Even though chardonnay is my least favorite wine the actual juice was good.

Of course what would crush be without stompin' on some grapes. So stomp we did. This was something that everyone should put on their life list because it was just too much fun. The bins got very slippery towards the end of our stomping time and the grapes were cold but it was great fun. Our team didn't win but we gave it the good old college try.

The people who run the Adopt-A-Vine program and the winery are fabulous and they had a great snack spread and let us have glasses of a beautiful '07 red blend right out of the tank that they will be bottling soon.

Oh, and don't worry. The grapes that touch the feet were grapes they brought in that weren't good enough for wine and no wine will actually be made from them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Summer Reading List

One of the things I miss the most while I am in school is reading for pleasure. After spring quarter was finished I attacked books voraciously. I was starved for anything that was actually interesting to read and that nobody would test me on later. I kept a list and here is what I managed to finish this summer. It started off really well but stalled out around the time that I moved.

"My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom and Insights of a Road Racing Icon" by Bart Yasso.
Quick read. The best parts were excerpted in "Runner's World".

"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris
Can't go wrong with David Sedaris. Laugh out loud funny as usual.

"Slam" by Nick Hornby
Not his best work. I agree with my friend Mike that trying to come off as a sixteen year-old doesn't work for him.

"Assassination Vacation" by Sarah Vowell
One of my new favorite books. Witty and interesting whether you are a history dork or not.

"Take The Cannoli" by Sarah Vowell
Not as good as "Assassination Vacation" but still pretty fabulous. There is no one quite like Sarah Vowell.

"Bowerman and the Men of Oregon" by Kenny Moore
Truthfully, I started this last year and got bogged down in school and didn't have time to finish it but I did this year. Interesting story of the famous running coach, his proteges, and Nike's co-founding. I got it signed by the author, an American distance running legened, at the Eugene Marathon expo in 2008.

"Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World" by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
Every library should have a cat. I always approach books like this with trepidation because you know the animal is going to die at the end. I held it together much better than I did with the Norton books.

"Running for Mortals" by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield
John "The Penguin" Bingham is always good for running inspiration whether you are a newbie or have been doing it for awhile. Waddle on!

"The Partly Cloudy Patriot" by Sarah Vowell
OK, it clearly became the summer of Sarah but you could do a heck of a lot worse than that. Another one I highly recommend.

"Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann
Trashtastic. I think I would have enjoyed it more though if I knew beforehand that the three main characters were modeled after Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minelli and Grace Kelly.

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver
Got me thinking far too much and far too seriously about produce. The premise of eating nothing but locally grown food and things you grow and raise for an entire year is a little nuts to me. It would be the year without a Diet Coke and that is a year of sadness and tears. However, we are probably going to try and grow more vegetables next year and are looking into joining a CSA.

"The Dew Breakers" by Edwidge Danticat
I have been wanting to read a book of hers every since I stumbled on her name years ago. She has one of those names that is just fun to walk around the house and say; like "Nomar Garciaparra" or "Peter van den Hoogenband". The book was disappointing though. She is also the first Haitan author I ever read.

"Drink, Play, F#@k" by Andrew Gottlieb
The man's answer to "Eat, Pray, Love". Hilarious parody of the very chick centered book (that I admit that I enjoyed).

I hope everyone enjoyed their summer reading. I have many more interesting titles sitting on the shelf waiting for the textbooks to be finished. I think I am going to spend all of January reading books after I get home from work. I can't wait.