Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Little Story of a Lady and Her Kitty

I got Eleanor in the 1990s, before some of the nieces and nephews were born.
This is me and Henry and Eleanor. They were litter mates. Henry died at age 10, and Eleanor was happy to be an only cat forever after.

She's always been so bright and inquisitive and incredibly attuned to me. When I don't feel well, she sits with me, sometimes ON me and makes me feel better.

In November we learned that she has cancer. That's ok. I was pretty firm in my conviction that we not try to treat it. Cancer in a young cat is sometimes operable. Two years ago, I asked the vet if she would clean Eleanor's teeth. No- she is too old for anesthesia. What would have happened is that we would have done x-rays to find what kind of cancer it was. Then maybe if she was healthier and younger, an excision or surgery to remove it. Sometimes cats get chemo, though it's much more common in dogs.

Not for us though. I thought maybe if we were lucky, we'd get another month. We got 2 1/2.

Since 2009, Eleanor has had prednisone twice a day to deal with her arthritis. It works fabulously, and she is easy to pill. Unless she's feeling frisky. Then she'll sort of cheek it and spit it out when she thinks you're not looking.  She also has a twice daily oral liquid metrocloprimide to help her pass food from her stomach through her duodenum.  In 2013 we added a thyroid medicine twice daily.

She's always been such a sweet kitty. A little mischievous. She sits in my lap when I type or behind me on the chair. At night she sleeps between my feet. The last few weeks, she's taken to climbing up on my pillow and purring at me to wake me up and feed or give her water in the middle of the night. I don't mind. Sometimes she doesn't want anything except to cuddle and her soft purring is comforting, even if her fuzzy face against mine sometimes keeps me awake. This is also how we get up in the morning, pets and cuddles and purring. Caturday means that G gets in on the act and we drink coffee and pet Eleanor as she sits between us, getting tummy rubs and snuggles. This is, I think, a good life for a cat.

Last night she crawled under the covers with me, like she used to when it was cold outside. When we woke up, she wasn't purring.

On Monday, she started to crash. Renal failure causes a disorientation, dehydration, confusion, and when I see it in her, it causes panic in me. Dr. Val, who owns Mt. Stuart Animal Hospital, gave me a bag of saline to administer to her once a day subcutaneously. Don't freak out; I've done this before. I used to work for a vet, I lived on a farm for a long time, and I'm resolute in giving my little kitty the best care ever. I cried every time I had to poke her with that large gauge needle.

Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, I came home and she was up and around and wanting to go outside in the sunshine. So yes, of course, we did.

We spent about an hour out there, enjoying the sunshine and unbelievably mild February weather. Both times she was exhausted and fell right to sleep on her heating pad.

Last night, I sat on the couch between Eleanor on her heating pad and G, and watched tv. I petted her for a long time and told her the story of her life. I told her about the Nevada SPCA and how we would never have declawed her anyway. I told her about how she used to love to climb as high as she could. I told her about our 4 cross country moves together, and how she tried to pop Gs head the first night he stayed with us. I told her about all of her friends and people who inquire about her on a regular basis and how sometimes she is referred to as Queen Eleanor. And I told her how much she has meant to me these last 18 years and that even though she's ten days from her 19th birthday, I still won't let her drive the car. And she purred quietly to herself while I scratched under her chin. These are old stories and she hears them all the time.

This morning, I held her and cried and cried. Also nothing new this week. I can't keep forcing her to stay alive when it's just for my emotional benefit. She hasn't been eating for awhile. Not really.

G and I took her to Dr. Val. She asked why El was all wet. My eyes may have leaked all over her.  G brought his iPad with him, of all things. I thought "why check your email at a time like this?", but of course I was wrong. He wanted to play her favorite jazz music, by John Coltrane. Val gave Eleanor a strong sedative and I put her on my shoulder like I always do. That's how we hang out, El on my shoulder hugging me.

After awhile, Val came in and give her the final shot of Beuthanasia. I held her the whole time and G was there, and crying too. She's the only cat he's been able to be around for an extended amount of time, since he's so allergic.  Val gave us a few minutes, and as the door shut, I couldn't hold back the sobbing anymore.

This is how I will always remember her, not for the myriad of pictures below but for this: She was the quiet reassurance that I am loved, needed, and valued. The physical comforting presence when I was sad and my little friend to talk to about nothing at all. She never wanted me to leave her alone. She was loved by people who met her, even if she didn't always enjoy strangers.

Pretty sure this is a C paper.

No Papparazzo!

"Grading time is over toots. Time for pets"

Best Pals

The house is too quiet today.

I took the day off, and G went back to work. I'll spend some time cleaning house, since she couldn't control her bladder at the end. And I suspect I will catch myself expecting to see her walk into a room, asking for pets or just wanting to be nearby.

This, then, is the price of loving a pet. As awful as it is to lose her, I would pay twice the emotional toll and be glad just to have had the privilege of knowing such a sweet soul.

We donated a bunch of food to the Kittitas Valley Friends of Animals, and will probably continue to make donations. Perhaps helping other rescue animals will ease the pain of losing mine. I got her when I was so young- hardly an adult- and we grew up together.

She really did rescue me and I couldn't be more grateful.

Good bye, dear friend.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

I drove to Yakima yesterday. It's slower to go down the back road, but much more beautiful. I took a few photos. This is from Yakima Canyon Road.

I also took a little video. Hope you like it!

Today is Valentine's Day. I left G to sleep in and went to work out.  On the way home, I picked up some flowers, fruit, cheese, and chocolate dipped strawberries for our breakfast, along with extra strong coffee. 

In turn, he prepared the food. He made extra strong coffee. That means he brewed the coffee and put the coffee back through with new grounds. I can't stop shaking and I'm typing really fast! 

I made us reservations this evening for our favorite restaurant. As much as I don't like Valentine's day, I do love G and he's a helpless, hopeless romantic.  He got me a cool gift too- new earbuds especially made for exercise.  I keep fearing that I'm going to sweat too much and end up electrocuting myself as I work out. I'd never thought to get good earbuds and that's an incredibly awesome gift. You can't get them in town so he had to order them in. I didn't know about any of this until the UPS guy showed up at our house at almost 7 last night. The package had fallen in between others on the truck and he was on his way out when he saw it. 

Too cool. 

Hope your day is bright and kind and loving and thoughtful. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015


This quarter at school, I've had a lighter load than usual. I thought "Oh I'm going to get so much done. So much writing, so much planning, and it's going to be an easy time."

I was wrong. I ended up spending most of my free time on Facebook and having to rush to do my grading. My students and I deserve better from me.

So, I pulled the plug. Just turned it off.

Almost immediately, I got three inquiries from friends and loved ones who were concerned about my health. That made me feel good, but it's not enough for me to turn it back on.

And I feel better. I'm getting more stuff done, like yoga, visiting with friends and attending lectures. And I'm writing more now too.

I've given this two weeks, and week one has been great. I'll let you know how week 2 goes. I may not reactivate the account.

You know, because life.

And now I have more time to.......:

Walk in the park

Feel annoyed that there isn't more snow

Brush my hair

Make breakfast!

Attend concerts (photo by permission from Canadian Brass)

Get mah workout on

And watch this guy Facebook

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Winter Wanes

Eleanor says she's doing just fine, thanks. 
     After our return from the fabulous-ness that is London and Paris, we settled in for the new quarter. In the dead of winter, the sun doesn't rise so early- as late as 7:45 a.m. It goes down early too- 4:30. If you're not careful, it's easy to live in total darkness for about three months of the year- late October through late January. Lots of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for this reason. Imagine this compounded with all the rain in Seattle. We live in a relatively dry area, so the rain doesn't factor in much- but still. Beginning in October, I start reminding my students to remain active and to get some sun on their faces at least fifteen minutes a day. This ensures that their bodies will be able to make enough vitamin D and that psychologically, the smaller amount of daylight isn't as impactful as it could be. I follow that rule too. Is that my job as an English professor? No. Not technically. But I also warn them against coming to class if they are infectious with any weird (or normal) illness and to buckle up when they drive. Yes, I'm your Aunt English Professor. When you live this far north, SAD risk factors are just a fact of life. For those of you sun lovers, you should know that it stays light until 9:30-10 p.m. and the sun comes up at 4-4:30.

     I remembered pretty quickly my strategies from years ago, before I moved to Oklahoma, how to live in a dimly lit place. Judge me all you like, but I love winter and shortened daylight hours is one of the reasons. I get up early these days, between 4:30 and 6, and when I don't have to be at work before 9 a.m., I go to the gym in the mornings. If I don't get there early, I have something to look forward to in the afternoon or early evening. My days are mostly the same; meetings, teaching, answering frantic emails, and grading. Grading takes up a lot of psychic space for me. I have 77 students this quarter and each deserves time and attention. Writing is serious business and can be a huge part of their success in college. I volunteer to teach the beginning writing courses and I do enjoy it. I like knowing that because someone helped a student learn to read and write better- to more critically examine the materials presented to them- they have a better chance of graduating with a degree that means something to them. As a matter of fact, while I'm writing this, I simultaneously have a tab open to grade a homework assignment. In any case, I try to do these things in the morning while I feel energized.

     That's because once it gets dark, I lose my motivation to do...anything. My preferred evening activities are reading on the couch with G on one side and Eleanor on the other, or watching television in the same configuration.  And I'm in bed between 8 and 9. This is also why I love winter: I feel ok just resting. I'm *supposed* to hibernate. I have four favorite jammie bottoms made of soft cotton or flannel, with snowman and snowflake patterns. I just love to put them on and stay home. This is also my favorite strategy for avoiding SAD. You know, because Happy! See? Longer nights means more snuggle time.

     My annual routine for work follows the quarter system now. For the fall quarter, I'm very enthusiastic; I join committees and do research, plot out my lessons for weeks and months in advance, and make sure that I have at least one class of freshmen to welcome on their first day of college. In winter it's more of a settle in and run the race. Slow and steady. It's about routine, getting things done and meeting commitments. This is also when I work out any new materials for classes and invent something for spring quarter. Spring quarter is the hardest. Students and faculty get all squirrely. I don't blame them. March is a difficult month for me and by April with the advent of spring, everyone wants to go outside, feel the sun, go hiking and spring skiing, and relish the warmer weather.  Students mentally check out somewhere in April, and by mid-June when we wrap up, ugh, I'm ready for them to go. No new creative projects really happen for me in spring.

     I think I may be one of only two people who mourns the loss of winter. I think we had our last snow for the year last week.  All of the weather reports are in the 50s this next week. We didn't have any real accumulation this year! If I want to see real snow I have to drive up to the mountain passes. The other person who mourns is, of course, my husband. There's something exciting to waking up to a heavy blanket of snow, or a blizzard, and having to bundle up to go outside. Since we both walk to work, we get to tromp through small drifts and place our feet carefully lest we slip on a patch of wayward ice. This is also how I get my sunlight time every day. G works earlier than I do; he has to be in by 8.  When the sun is sleeping in and going to bed early, he risks never seeing it. So he sits and has lunch by a big picture window where I often join him. It's also a great place to watch the weather outside. Last week, my mother-in-law posted a photo of her trimming a rosebush. In Louisiana, it's in the 60s and 70s right now. The same day, I took a photo of our last snow, hoping it would stick around at least a little while. To tell the truth, though, I think today I'd like to see a little sun. Maybe it is time to think once again about the earth waking up and shooting up a few daffodils and snowdrops.

     With less snow and precipitation this year, that means there is less snow pack to melt off slowly during spring and summer. We're running the risk of another terrible summer fire season. Man, I hate to think of a worse fire season than what we had last year- it was the worst on record in Washington state. The first two summers I was in Ellensburg, I had to stay indoors and take real precautions because of the smoke. It's super bad for my lungs and the first year I caught bronchitis from walking outdoors. Fortunately, this last round with it went away really quickly and I'm back at my usual activity level.

    Oh! I almost forgot: My New Years Resolutions.  I have made a grand effort to be more social this last month. We invited friends over to the house one Friday, invited other friends to watch the ill-fated Superbowl, AND we met another friend out at a restaurant. All in January.  Am I done for the year? As far as my health is concerned, I had some luck last month with my running.  I made five miles in less than an hour- twice. So a pace of 11:15. Not fantastic, and not terrible. I'm happy with it. I also did my mile in ten minutes a couple of times.  I have to do all my running indoors now, and I've added in weights and yoga twice weekly. It's running and walking that really help to clear my head. That's also my best strategy for beating off any winter blues which may come to call. Ok, that and Nutella. If you've never had Nutella, it's a hazelnut-chocolate spread. One of my friends calls it a jar of candy. I say it's not. It's quasi-healthy frosting. Maybe not the best stuff to eat before attending my sister-in-law's wedding in March (can't wait!) but it sure is delicious.

Sigh- so much sun

It's raining through the sunshine

Not sure what's going on with my face. Look at the handsome guy instead, k?

Little bit O'snow 

Our campus has an awesome diversity office!

Don't think I'll ever get tired of this view

See? I had people at my house!

My Seahawks lost! Boo! There's always next year.

How is this winter?!

Barge Hall- the first and original building on campus

Five thirty on a foggy morning