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Saturday, May 19, 2018

New Heroes

It's been such a long time that I've wondered if I should even start writing again. We've been experiencing some challenges at the home of The Lunatic. After Trent's surgery, he developed a bad case of sciatica. This apparently aggravated his arthritic knees, leaving him unsteady on his legs. Add to that a couple of minor fractures in his ankle, and it's just not been a great deal of fun.

Of course, it gets to be even more of a party when my lupus and fibromyalgia are thrown into the mix. I don't drive (a long story for another time), but one of our favorite supermarkets is right behind our apartment complex. Instead of putting Trent through the pain and struggle of getting to and from the car and driving me there, I just started walking there a couple of times a week, getting just enough things to be able to carry them home in my reusable grocery bags.

A few weeks ago, I started to notice a lot of weakness with any exertion on my part. Trent would drive me to the market and by the time I carried in the groceries, I was completely out of strength. I'm talking about breaking out in a sweat and unable to stand any more. A few weeks ago, it actually got a bit scary. I knew I needed to pick up a few things at the store and wasn't feeling very strong, but set out on my trip anyway, promising Trent and myself that I'd try to walk slowly (har-har) and not overdo. Well, before I finished at the store, I felt my strength slipping away from me.

Being the stubborn idiot that I am, I soldiered on. After all, I had ice cream among my purchases, and you have to protect the Ben and Jerry's from melting. Well, I had barely made it the side of the building before I had to stop and rest. It became a series of small goals - walk to the tree and lean on it while you rest. I would gladly have sunk down on the cool grass but my knees are so bad I probably wouldn't have been able to get back up by myself. From the tree to the railing in the shade by one of the buildings. A bit more to lean on a stop sign. I saw a woman walking to her car and thought maybe I'd call to her for help, but she was in the other direction from where I was headed.

Another little distance to the handicapped parking sign, about twenty yards from the front of our building. I was at my limit. As I leaned on the pole, I devised a plan. I would sit down on the curb (I wasn't going to be standing any longer as the lights were going dim preparatory to me passing out) and rest. When I felt better, I would call the leasing office and ask them to send someone over to help me get back up so I could get home. And then a car drove up and a voice said, "Do you need help?"

Those words can be like the songs of angels when you're really struggling. Jackie, the woman I had spotted getting into her car, and her son Kaden, helped me. I was helped into the car and the AC was turned up. After a few minutes, the head-to-toe sweat I had broken out in was fading, and I was weak but no longer dizzy. Jackie held my arm as I walked to the front door. I had been rescued. 

When someone takes the time and effort to help another person who is not doing well, they become a hero. Jackie may have only fallen a few minutes behind on her schedule, but her actions were so important to me. She's also leading and teaching her young son by example. Instead of averting their heads and trying not to see others and their problems, they gladly became involved. My faith in humanity continues to grow when fed by moments such as these.

Today has been another challenging day. I needed to go to a couple of stores, and I wasn't thrilled about it. Not just because it's Saturday and I despise going to the grocery on such a busy day, but because of my low energy levels. While I was at store number one, I felt the energy starting to drain away. I sat down for several minutes to rest before going to the checkout lane. Yes, the head-to-toe sweat, I'm-running-out-of-gas business kicked into high gear. I made it out to the car safely and told Trent I'd have to rest a bit before the next store. I could have just had him take me home, but I wasn't about to miss out on the one-day sale on butter! (I know you're probably shaking your head at my lunacy right now; I did as I was typing it!)

Well, I got through the second store on sheer stubbornness and we made it home. By the time I made the second trip into the house (with my fully-loaded reusable bags), I was sort of a wreck. I'd take one or two things out of a bag, put them in the fridge, and collapse onto a chair to rest. It took a while, but I managed to get everything that needed to be chilled or frozen in its proper location. There are some canned goods sitting in a bag on the dining room floor, but I do not care.

After we rested a while, I checked on Brutus D. Fatcat, my sister's feline. Yes, I succumbed to his obvious request for treats. When I was filling his water bowl, I heard my phone ring, but my hands were occupied, and it wasn't my sister's ringtone, so I ignored it. Just after I saw that it was an unfamiliar number, my phone told me I had a voicemail. And that's when my day got interesting.

A very pleasant female voice told me that she was looking for a woman who had the same last name as Trent and was wondering if she was related and if we could help find this woman she had known years ago. I couldn't just ignore her message because I didn't know the Collins that she was trying to locate. I called this lovely person in New York and gave her a few suggestions on how to find her long-lost friend. During the conversation, I learned that Sarah, the person being sought, had adopted three children. Peggy, who was searching for Sarah, told me that her husband had been the children's pediatrician. I also learned that Sarah and her husband wanted to adopt a child and Peggy said, "How about three?" And Sarah and her husband adopted all three children that Peggy helped them find. 

After I told Peggy that I would love to hear how her search progressed and we ended our call, I searched for Sarah and the city in which she lived. Sadly, what I found was her obituary from February of 2016. Back on the phone I went, letting Peggy know what I had found. We spoke for a few more minutes, and I found myself another hero. Peggy and her husband had adopted six hard-to-place children, some with disabilities. She and her husband helped found an organization that works to find families for children in the foster-care system. Many of these children are hard to place in homes because of disabilities or their age. They also did a great deal of work to improve adoption laws across the country.

As for Sarah, she was a highly respected professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology. She served on numerous boards including the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board (after her retirement), Planned Parenthood, art centers, libraries, schools of music and dance, and more. Her obituary mentioned that memorial donations could be made to Friends of Eastman Opera at Eastman School of Music. 

I am thrilled to have received what some might consider a wrong-number call today. It allowed me to learn about two amazing women, my new heroes. Thanks for inspiring me with who you are and what you have done, Professor Sarah Jo Huff Collins of the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Peggy Soule of CAP, Children Awaiting Parents. I'm so happy to have had your lives touch mine, as many people undoubtedly have before me.



****************************************************************                                                The Tip Jar:

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Thank you for reading!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stitched

With Trent's gracious consent, I am going to fill you in on his skin cancer surgery. As you know, anyone can experience skin cancer. When many of us were younger, sunscreen wasn't really much of a thing. I remember tv commercials for suntan lotions to help achieve a bronze glow. I also remember people slathering themselves with baby oil trying to develop a nutty brown skin. What I don't remember as a child is hearing about sun protection. Nowadays we hear about the aging and cancer and other problems associated with the benign neglect, or even outright abuse, experienced by our skin. I shudder at the memory of the many blistering sunburns of my childhood and youth. 

Trent has a double whammy as far as his risk for skin cancers. He was a lifeguard and aquatics director for many years, and had plenty of sun exposure. Another factor is being a transplant patient. Because the immune system is suppressed post-transplant to prevent organ rejection, a transplant recipient has less ability to fight off all sorts of diseases. We often joke that Trent could catch a cold from across the street, but it's sort of true. Unfortunately, one of the disease types that can often occur in transplant recipients is cancers.

In the hospital transplant program of which Trent is a patient, patients routinely have skin cancer assessments once or twice a year. When we go, Doctor Theresa usually finds several pre-cancerous spots that she freezes off with liquid nitrogen. There are also often spots that need to be biopsied. Trent's right ear has had a recurring issue, and the biopsy in late November showed skin cancer. A surgical procedure was scheduled for Monday, December 18th. He's had this procedure two other times on different areas of his face, so we felt like we knew what to expect.

The procedure is named Mohs, after Frederic E. Mohs, the surgeon who created the technique in 1938. In my opinion, it's a brilliantly simple but effective technique. The cure rate is generally above 95%. The procedure goes like this: the patient is given a local anesthetic, along with Valium if desired. A thin layer of affected skin, and underlying tissue, if necessary, is removed. The surrounding margin is very small so that no more skin is removed than absolutely necessary. While the patient is in a waiting area with family and/or friends, the excised skin is marked for its orientation on the skin - top, bottom, right, left - and sent to the lab. If there are cancer cells on any of the edges, the process is repeated. In Trent's previous Mohs surgeries, one time he was called back once, and another time he was called back twice. This time around, they cut five times before they got it all. 

When Trent's ear was finally stitched up, they let me in the room so that I could see it before it was bandaged. I must say that I was totally unprepared. At first glance, it looked like Trent was laying there with a major chunk of his ear gone. Do this for me, please, so you'll know what I'm talking about. If you hold your finger parallel to the floor with the fingertip touching the entrance to the tunnel that directs sounds, your finger will be covering the area on the outside edge of the ear where Trent's cancer was removed. 

Since a goodish amount of skin was removed, something had to be done to protect the ear and keep blood flow going to the edge of his outer ear. Now take that finger and feel the crease behind your ear where the cup of your ear meets up with your noggin. The doctors cut down that line and pulled the skin over the outer curve of his ear, so his ear was sort of tucked under a flap of skin from the head/neck. There were quite a few stitches, and he was bandaged up and sent home with instructions to do nothing to the ear except come back in a couple of days.

Needless to say, Trent started having pain and discomfort fairly soon, and we were relieved not to have to irritate the ear by re-bandaging the area. When we went back for wound care, I had to get a lesson in how to do the special dressing of the area. Not only did it need to be cleaned and kept moist with petroleum jelly, there was a tunnel of sorts behind his ear where the skin had been lifted and moved. This had to be treated as well so that the skin didn't grow shut, making the reversal difficult. The treatment included threading a strip of cloth pre-treated with a petroleum jelly based ointment through this tunnel.

I've done post-surgery wound care for more than 20 surgeries for Trent. I've dealt with back surgeries and transplants and all kinds of stuff. In other words, it wasn't my first rodeo, but that threading the strip through the tunnel step was something that filled me with dread. The time came for me to change the dressing for the first time. I removed the dressing and the cloth strip. I mixed baby shampoo with water for cleansing with cotton swabs. I carefully cleaned the areas around all of the stitches and covered the incision with petroleum jelly. I swabbed extra on the cloth strip per the nurse's advice and wrapped it around the edge of the swab to thread it through the half-skinned tunnel. And hit a roadblock. Yes, the strip went nowhere. I broke out in a hot, burning sweat from the stress. I just couldn't get it in there. To at least do something, I tucked one end in the top and the other in the bottom, but it was pretty pathetic. I made sure that there was plenty of ointment there and we went back to the hospital a few days later.  

I was a nervous wreck. Not only was Trent in pain, pain which increased when I tried to dress his wound, but I wasn't even doing a good job. I didn't even want to go back to the treatment room, telling Trent that I was going to be fired by the nurses. The nurses, angels of mercy that they are, were very kind and said that I had done well enough that they would be glad to hire me to bandage their patients. Then they gave me magical swabs, long ones on wooden sticks and with cotton only on one end. The next time I changed the dressing it took me about five seconds to get the strip in place. What a relief.

About ten days after the surgery, we went for something that the doctors and nurses referred to as a takedown. We had no clue what to expect. In a nutshell, since I've talked so much my fingers are getting tired, the skin was cut at the outer edge of the ear. The stitches in the cup of the ear were removed and more stitches placed where the newest incisions were made. Then the neck/head skin was stretched back to where it originally came from, although there was now less of it than before, and sewn back into the crease behind the ear, along with stitches in an incision about an inch long going into the hair behind the upper part of the ear.

All in all Trent has probably had a good one hundred or more stitches go in and out of his ear and scalp. All of the stitches are gone now, but there's still an area about an inch long and maybe a quarter of an inch wide that needs to grow some skin. It still needs to be treated and bandaged daily, but we're both relieved that the tunnel is gone. So after 40 days, a couple of courses of painkillers, and a few courses of antibiotics, we're hoping for the healing to be complete soon. Trent, who tends to sleep on his left side, is looking forward sleeping on his right side again. His body is aching from always sleeping in the same position. And me? I'll just be glad when it's not hurting any more. His ear might end up looking like he defended my honor in a bar fight (my suggested story if anyone asks what happened to his ear, because it's a bit more polite than saying none of your d--- business), but I won't have to be causing him more pain.

So, now that you know that there are some great procedures related to skin cancer removal, I hope that none of us have to experience them. Sure, it's not the most horrible procedure you might ever experience, but it's not necessarily a picnic with a big bowl of potato salad either. Which brings me back to something I mentioned in my last post. Take care of your skin. This amazing envelope your body is in is the only one you get. Wear sunscreen. Hats and umbrellas are your friends. And don't be scared to have weird things on your skin checked out. Lots of them can easily be frozen in the doctors office, followed by short-term pain like those sunburns from days of summers past. No big deal. Be well, friends!



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic




Thank you for reading!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Roundup

I know, I can't believe it either. My second post in less than a week! I know I've let my readers down, and I certainly am grateful to have such wonderful people who are willing to put up with me when the blog goes on the back burner. You know the one I mean, the one that you can barely reach, but it doesn't matter much anyway because the heating element doesn't always work. But I'm rooting through my toolbox like The Lunatic that I am, trying to turn up the heat.

Well, everyone, we made it through the holidays. Trent and I really enjoy Thanksgiving (we roasted a turkey and had a quiet and delicious feast) and Christmas. All my life, I've loved any opportunity to give others gifts. Unfortunately ee seem to have something we refer to as a Christmas Curse. I know that some of my friends have this same ailment. Invariably, when the season of gifting rolls around, we find ourselves with a huge desire to spread gifts and goodwill, but without the means to do so. There are worse problems to have, so I'll live and learn from the Christmas Curse.  

This holiday season held a few challenges as well as a few triumphs. Through a combination of luck and ingenuity, we managed to find gifts for those we really hoped to, and did so before Thanksgiving had rolled around. In fact, one of the gifts ended up being such a hit that the recipient almost turned into an excited five year old. I'm being purposely vague because I think I'd like to write about that in another installment of my Ravings.

One of the really difficult things about this holiday season was that it was the first without our friend Thayne, who left us behind so suddenly last September. Our holidays have been intertwined with Thayne and Marie for a number of years, and it felt strange without him. 

To add to the excitement of the season, Trent had to go through two surgical procedures within eight days. After the effects of many years of Prednisone and other anti-rejection medications on Trent's teeth, he had to go through oral surgery on the 11th of December. One week later, he was having skin cancer surgery on his ear. Needless to say, we've had quite a few dentist, surgeon, and nurse appointments. Trent has had to deal with a lot of discomfort - okay, pain, and some has been inflicted by me while doing wound care. We have a visit coming next week which should see the final removal of stitches - well over fifty of them. I'll leave it at that vague description until I get his consent to go into more detail.

Liz, who was in the process of her divorce last Christmas season, spent this Christmas season in the company of a new companion. She probably would have expired from boredom if she'd had to rely solely on us for entertainment this season. To borrow from the old-time Timex commercials, we keep on ticking. We have each other, a home, and plenty to eat. Actually, I've been trying to eat less to better manage my blood sugar, and even managed to continue my weight loss over the holidays. Dr. Mike says that on average, most people gain about 7 pounds over the holiday season. I managed to add about that much to my weight loss over the same time period, so maybe I'm starting to get on the right track.

Well, I sure have rambled on in this post. Please forgive me. I've also thought of several possible posts I'd like to write while I've been tapping away at the keyboard. Wish me well, please, as I'd like to give you a lot more to read this year than I did during the last. Let's hope for the best, shall we?

I hope that you're all content with what is going on in your corners of the world. My hopes for all of us in this and every year are basically the same. I wish us all peace, health, love, and the good fortune of having enough. What else could we ask for, really? We don't need vast amounts of money to survive, although sometimes it feels that way. What we need more are the things all the riches in the world can't buy. I hope they'll be overflowing for all of us.


A note from The Lunatic: I don't want to be a nag, but I will anyway. For your skin's sake, please consider wearing sunscreen or a hat. Or both. Be well, my friends!


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic




Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Privilege

I almost never get asked to show my receipt at Walmart. I kept this observation to myself for quite a while, thinking that surely I was mistaken. But time after time, it proved to be true. One day I mentioned it to Trent, and he started noticing it as well. I began to change my habits on leaving the store. Instead of stuffing the receipt into my purse or one of my shopping bags, I began to carry it in my hand until we left the store. Still no takers.

I became obsessed. I progressed from simply carrying the receipt to sort of flashing or waving it at the staff member working as Greeter and/or Checker of Receipts and Bags. Still no takers, in spite of the fact that on more than one occasion I had seen the same individuals diligently checking the receipts and carts of other customers who were leaving as we arrived at the store.

I became more bold, bordering on aggressive. As Trent pushed the cart toward the exit door, I would ask the Greeter if they needed to see my receipt. They assured me that no, it wasn't necessary as long as everything I had was in bags. They only needed to look at my receipt if I had non-bagged merchandise in my cart. 

Every time this happened, my heart broke a little, and my anger simmered a little more. Why? Am I a fan of being asked to prove that I purchased everything in my cart? Isn't it enough to have that happen when I buy things at a membership warehouse? Trent, who is in agreement with my feelings on this subject, knows better. It's because I know why it happens. 

You see, I've carefully watched, at stores of all types, the ways people of all descriptions are treated. As I said to Trent when this really started to bother me, unequal treatment exists. In fact, it thrives. On one of the first days this was driven into my consciousness, we were entering the store as a young Asian woman and her children were leaving the store. She had been stopped and asked to provide her receipt. The receipt and the contents of her bags were scrutinized. And no, to the best of my knowledge, there was nothing in her cart that wasn't bagged.

As we left the store, I told Trent how awful it makes me feel to know the unspoken preferential treatment I am given. As I said in that parking lot, they aren't letting me walk on by because everything we bought has been bagged. And it's not because I'm fat and old mature and probably can't run very fast with or without stolen goods. It's because I'm fat, old, and white. And it sickens me.

As much as I hate to jump on bandwagon-type phrases, I have to use this one. White privilege exists and is thriving in the USA. Don't get me wrong, I'm fully aware of how fortunate I am to not be a target of numerous types of judgement and scrutiny based on things like my age. I was once, in my much younger years, accused of stealing from a music store. It was degrading, frightening, and depressing. But I'll never know the fear that must accompany millions of people of color or of other belief systems, individuals both young and mature, every time they go to a store. 

If you look up the word privilege in a dictionary, as I did while preparing to write this piece, you'll see that it is a special right, advantage, or immunity that is only available to a particular person or group of people. I am being given preferential treatment that I have done absolutely nothing special to earn or deserve.  I was simply born looking a certain way. My Eastern European ancestry gave me my blue eyes and my medium-brown hair and my lightly-pigmented complexion. I haven't cured any diseases or written anything fabulous or created world peace, although I long for it every day. I'm just a person, as is everyone who reads (or doesn't read) these words. 

Like everyone else, I was born with the potential to be a healer, a killer, a writer, a reader, a friend, an enemy, or any number of other things. And I could also be a shoplifter or someone who is pretty darn honest when she shops. I just want to be treated like everyone else. I want everyone to enjoy the same privileges I definitely don't take for granted. The privilege I want to see in abundance is a simple one, one that I try to employ in my interactions with others every day. It's about being mindful of human dignity and worth, something that people of every description deserve.

See others not with your eyes, but with your heart.


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic

Thursday, November 9, 2017

MyKatrina Cookies

As is often the case, it started out simply enough. I woke up on a gloomy, chilly morning in a room that was dark because of cloudy skies, and chilly because of the fall weather. Blah would have been one of the words that aptly described the day and what it was trying to do with my mood. And then suddenly things changed. 

I received a text from our friend Sharon. Her daughter Megan had told her that she was probably going to make Katrina Cookies that day. Sharon thought this was especially sweet (pardon the unintentional pun) since Megan had told her just a few days before about wanting to lose some weight. Knowing that Megan was going to use my recipe and technique to make the cookies she loves really warmed my heart. Maybe the day wasn't so gloomy after all.

Early that evening, I was notified that Megan had posted something to my social media timeline. Along with a photo of a pan that had a few cookie bars remaining was Megan's admission that it "might be what was left of my Katrina cookies." With that simple statement, just like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day.

Now, Megan knows that a lot of people like to eat my cookie bars. The ones she makes are the chocolate chip bars, which fight with the oatmeal-chip bars for top honors in the popularity department. I have no doubt that some of my sly friends would say, with a studied look of innocence on their faces, that I should probably let them taste a batch of each side-by-side so that they can decide which they think is better. Ha! I can see right through that ruse! 

Something that Megan doesn't know is the power of the words my Katrina, or MyKatrina, as I like to write it. Megan does know that there are a lot of dogs who absolutely adore me. Her own, now departed, Buster was one of those dogs. He was a Cairn Terrier, like Toto, and he would get very excited when I came to visit. I'd sit on the sofa and Buster would jump up to the back of the sofa and excitedly rub his face and neck against my face. When prompted by Megan or her dad Mike, he would "get my nose" by grabbing it gently with the side of his mouth. I loved his excitement and exuberance, but I didn't realize how special this treatment was. After some time of knowing him, I was told by the family that he only did the nose-grabbing with three people - Megan, Mike, and me. Wow. 

Another dog who loved me immensely was Bowie. I used to joke with Marie and Thayne (we miss you, man) that to Bowie I wasn't simply Katrina, I was MyKatrina. In fact, when I was massaging his human brother's neck, Bowie used his paw to literally pull my arm away. This was followed by the dog equivalent of a dirty look that said, "Buzz off! That's MyKatrina!"

When Marie saw Megan's post, she remarked that Megan had called them My Katrina cookies, and that Bowie resembled that statement. Of course when I saw the original post, that was one of my first thoughts too. Both of Marie's (adult) children chimed in about loving Katrina cookies, and soon another friend was asking for the recipe. I was, as I said, definitely feeling the cookie love. Because of all of this warm, chocolatey atmosphere, I've decided to share it with all of you, my dear readers. Enjoy!

MyKatrina Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (1/2 pound) butter, very soft
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 or 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup to one 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

The method:
Using a hand-held electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl. When fully blended, add egg or eggs and vanilla. (One egg will result in a crispier cookie bar. Most of the time, I use two.) Mix well. Add the baking soda, again mixing thoroughly. Finally, add the flour and chocolate chips, mixing until the flour is all incorporated. Press the mixture gently into a 13 x 9 metal pan with a spatula, and let the oven do its magic. Check at about 18 to 20 minutes for a golden brown color. Let your taste in cookies determine what's brown enough for you - that's the done-ness test. Let cool thoroughly before cutting into bars of a size that pleases you. I always bake late in the evening and let them cool overnight. 

Some important tips:

I always use salted butter. Also, some people say making them with margarine tastes exactly the same, but I do not agree.

Please don't use a glass or ceramic baking pan. The pan won't cool down as quickly, and the cookies will over-bake after you remove them from the oven. This may result in the cookies being too dry as well as losing that delightful baked-but-still-seems-like-cookie-dough texture.

I have made these with numerous variations, including substituting chopped Andes mints, chopped chocolate-toffee bars, and other flavors of chocolate morsels, as well as adding nuts to the basic recipe.

Have fun, and happy eating! I think the ones on the edges and corners are the best. :)



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Brutus vs. The Lunatic

Some days are very...interesting. Not all good, not all bad, but certainly eventful. Yesterday was one such day for me. One of the major players of said day was the occasional jerk, Brutus D. FatCat, pictured here on his mom Liz's bed.



I have just begun covering up with a blanket at night in the last week or so. The nights have been mild and thanks to hormonal changes, I often find myself basking in the fires of my internal central heating. Early yesterday morning I stirred a bit in my sleep and pulled the sheet and cotton blanket a bit higher over my shoulders. That was when the blanket caught the straw on the uncovered drink on my bedside table, spilling it on my leg, the side of the bed, and on the floor. 

I stumbled out of the room and grabbed a large towel to blot the soaking carpet. Naturally, when I sat down on the edge of the bed to start the drying-up process, FatCat was right next to me, thinking it was a good time to ask for demand some attention. I told him to go away as I was entirely too busy to be petting a cat. I must say that despite having been awakened by this cold drenching, my mood was still positive. I soaked up one towel, laid another on the carpet, and decided to go back to sleep.

Naturally, Brutus saw my reclining as a sign that I had absolutely nothing to do - after all, I was just laying there. He began slowly and painfully walking his way up my legs to stare at me, ending up between me and the edge of the bed. Now, I have heard and even said many things over the years about how cats seem to routinely defy the rules of physics. There was just one thing I didn't realize until Brutus moved in with The Lunatic and company. Somehow a 13 1/2 pound cat can put enough pressure on the blood vessels in your legs that you are convinced that a small van, or maybe even a large tour bus, has run you over and parked on your broken body. I'm serious! After a couple of pats and a stern reprimand telling him not to screw around with the vertical blinds, Brutus moved on and allowed us to get some more sleep.

In usual occasional-jerk-cat fashion, Brutus was right there in our faces and plates when we started to eat our breakfast. Another stern talking-to and he moved down to the foot of the bed. (One of the reasons for his terribly forward behavior recently is undoubtedly that Liz was away from home for a few days and therefore not around to distract him.) Breakfast being done with, the FatCat went back to his bedroom.

About mid-day I decided I wanted to eat a container of my favorite yogurt, and Fatso was right there, trying to muscle his way into my yogurt container. More chiding, more laying at the foot of the bed, and I sat down the empty yogurt container, telling him that he could help himself, per Liz's telling me how much he loooooves yogurt. So Brutie-Patootie licked the jar for a few minutes, left, returned to lick yogurt for a few more minutes, and left, and then IT HAPPENED.

Trent was sitting on the throne of meditation when Brutus arrived for the third time. As he turned around, affording me a view of his backside (Why are cats so convinced that everyone wants to see their heinie-hole, anyway?), I was greeted with a horrific sight. The cat who was on my bed, on the sheets and blanket that had just been put on the bed the previous evening, had a trail of diarrhea still attached to his rear, along with some down one of his legs. Blech.

All I really thought was that there was no way I was allowing cat sludge on my fresh bed, or even one with soiled linens. I automatically grabbed the cat while I scanned the area for a paper towel or napkin. Poor Trent! I starting calling for help while Brutus yowled and growled at the same time as he starting chomping the living daylights out of my hand. Hey, it's not like it was an important hand. It was only the right hand of a right-handed human, no big deal. I gave up and let go of the cat when he scored an incredibly painful bite, and set out to wipe the offending cat tush.

The good news was that when Fatso jumped off the bed to escape, the stink lava that was hanging off his behind fell on the carpet. I know this because I found it with my foot. Going as fast as I could while walking only on the toes of one of my feet, I was in hot pursuit. When he saw that I had followed him to his bedroom, instead of hiding under the bed, he glared boldly at this human who had forgotten her place. Acting on instinct, I distracted him by giving him some treats and wiped his furry behind and legs.

After dousing my bloody hand with copious amounts of hydrogen peroxide and finally stopping the bleeding, I was able to remove the carpet bomb from both the floor and the bottom of my foot. I sat down and looked at all of the bite marks on my hand. There aren't that many. Less than 20. Okay, 19. I showed Trent the back of my hand and commented about how close the deepest puncture had come to a vein. Close call.

A much closer call than I had thought, actually. As the day progressed I came to realize that Killer Cat had actually nicked the vein with his fangs of death. I gradually developed a lump which kept growing (this is one of the moments when life with anticoagulants gets a bit too exciting) until my hand was hurting something fierce. Brutus had exacted his revenge, and the bleeding under the skin got increasingly uncomfortable. I know there's nothing to do now but wait for it to heal, but I had to share this crazy wild-feline insanity with you, my dear readers. I hope you find it as funny as I did in spite of the discomfort. Oh, and to prove that I really did get an owie, here's a side-by-side of a Katrina hand and one that looks like it's not quite standard equipment.



Cats. What can I say? Stay away from the pointy ends, of which there seem to be about three dozen? And when things just get ridiculously out of hand, or out of paw, sometimes you just have to laugh.


p.s. And to think that I totally skipped the part of the day during which I took a package of chicken out of the fridge and it leaked all over the kitchen floor, as well as my former poop-foot...



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Monday, September 25, 2017

Eight Days Ago

Eight days ago, I was a bit worried. It was Sunday, and for a few days I had definitely been feeling like a person who has lupus. I was exhausted and achy and several other things that made me worried about my least-favorite f word as a lupus patient - flare.

How would I find the energy to get ready for our upcoming weekend in the mountains with our friends? We would just have to pack our bags a little at a time. I could ride in the car with my head resting, and probably feel okay.

Meanwhile, the friends we were going to be with on the weekend were arriving home from a trip to Hawaii. They had originally planned to go to Florida, but hurricane Irma convinced them to change their plans. Thayne, Marie, and Thayne's sister Julie enjoyed several days in Hawaii, and Thayne was excited about his experience swimming with sea turtles. 

On Sunday night, all of us were in our respective homes. Thayne told Marie that his feet were really swollen post-travel. As is usual for me, insomnia was my companion that night. When the phone rang at 8:00 am on Monday, I was still half asleep. I said I couldn't answer because I was too groggy. Trent picked up his phone and saw several missed calls from both Marie and Julie.

While I struggled to get fully awake, Trent called Marie to see what was going on that would require several calls to both of our phones. "Thayne passed away this morning," Marie told us. He had left home at 6:00 to pick up his son-in-law and carpool to work. Kevin waited on the street as 6:15 and 6:30 came and went. He called Marie and they both got in their cars to see if Thayne's car had broken down on the way.

Not far from home, Marie saw that traffic was blocked because of an accident. Thayne's car had run into a light pole. She pulled over in front of the emergency vehicles, ready to give him a piece of her mind for texting and driving and wrecking his car. It was Thayne's death that caused the accident, though, and not the other way around. (Miraculously, no other people or vehicles were harmed.) Despite the valiant efforts of emergency personnel, he was gone. The coroner's report won't be ready for several weeks, but it appears that Thayne had gotten some blood clots in his legs from the long flights home, and they broke loose and went to his heart.

Trent and I went to the hospital to provide support for Marie and her family. When I saw him laying on the gurney, covered with a sheet up to his chin, I kept expecting to see the sheet move, rising with his breathing. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and Trent and I brushed away the final tears that Thayne had shed. I told him he was a turd for leaving without saying goodbye, and all of us gave a chuckle knowing that he would have found it funny.

Instead of packing for a weekend getaway, we experienced being with the family as they planned his funeral and mourned the loss of a vital 57 year old man. He was able to give some last gifts - his corneas and some of his leg bones and tendons went to people who needed them. The empty spaces he leaves in so many hearts will be difficult to heal, but we will try to do so with laughter and joyful memories. Thayne loved to laugh, and sharing our funny memories will honor him.

On Saturday, we returned Thayne to the earth that nourishes us with both food and beauty. Geese will graze on the grass that blankets his resting space, a beautiful and bittersweet reminder that life goes on in spite of our losses or our victories. Nature flows along with the seasons, just as it did eight days ago, the day before our friend was gone. We miss you, Thayne.  


A note from The Lunatic: There are two things that I think we can learn from Thayne's death. Our bodies are fragile. Please try to walk around periodically when you fly or take long trips by car, or consider using compression socks. Second, let the people you care about know that you love or admire or like them. Tomorrow has no guarantees, and we can never share our hearts too many times with the ones we love.


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic