Category: Family


Transformation


I have to change a lot of things about my life, and I don’t know how to do it.

Maybe I should back up.  Last year I went to the hospital for chest pains, which were diagnosed as acid reflux (which is crap: I know what that feels like and that wasn’t acid reflux).  About the only thing useful I left the hospital with was my cholesterol level and a clean cardiac stress test.  After I went home I was determined to be healthier so I could lower my slightly elevated cholesterol level and lose the extra pounds I was carrying.  And for a while I did pretty well.  I stopped eating as many carbs, lost a few pounds, and was exercising almost every day, even if it was just a walk.

Then the same thing that always happens to me when I’m trying to keep habits going happened: something disrupted the flow of my activities and I never re-established them.  In this particular case, it was the loss of one of our vehicles, so I could no longer go to karate class or yoga class at night.  Did I do the right thing and just keep walking, lifting dumbbells, and going to the gym when the car was available?  No, of course not.  My progress was disrupted and I couldn’t get it going again.  Then the holidays happened, beginning with Halloween.  Gain five pounds.  Thanksgiving.  Gain five more pounds.  Christmas.  Five more pounds.

By that point, my eating habits were also disrupted and I had developed a nasty sugar addition.  Unfortunately, I also suffer from bipolar disorder (and some other things), which means I’m anywhere from severely depressed to mildly melancholy just about all of the time.  This makes it really hard to get the motivation to do things like exercise and eat healthy.  Plus, I’m miserable when I feel like that so I want to make myself feel better, and one of the ways I do that is with food.

And so it has gone for nearly a year now.  Before Halloween last year I weighed 203 pounds: today I weigh 239. My cholesterol is 207, slightly elevated.  I also have borderline high blood sugar.  I’m also in the grips of a profound apathy generated by my diseases and the drugs I take to deal with them.  Really, I’m not sure what other obstacles I could possibly have to getting healthy, other than physical disabilities.  It’s hard to think positively and come up with a plan for change when I’m halfway to miserable most of the time.

Unfortunately, all of the things that will make me feel better are the very things that my disease and drugs make it extremely difficult to do.  Above anything else I could do for my health, I should exercise, preferably an hour a day, hard exercise (according to my shrink).  If I want the effect of a good mood after a workout, I have to work my ASS off.  My brain just doesn’t come by  those happy chemicals easily like they do for everyone else.  So it’s not just enough to get any old exercise: it has to be HARD, and I have to do it for a while.  Which makes it even more difficult for me to want to get up and go do it.  It’s difficult just to go on a walk.

The other thing I can do for my health that would have the greatest impact is changing my diet.  Eating less and eating differently would make me lose weight and shave points off my cholesterol level, plus help regulate my blood sugar.  It also helps regulate my mental health to be on a healthy diet free of unhealthy fats and sugars.  If it was just me, this would be relatively easy.  Unfortunately, it’s not just me: I have to take my family into consideration.  I have a child who hates beans and only likes a very few vegetables, which means my primary non-animal source of protein isn’t available to me (I won’t cook two different meals, one for me and one for them, that’s insanity).  I could just go ahead and cook what I’m going to cook and tell her she just has to deal with it, but then I have the mental stress of a food battle at every single meal.  She’s 11: she doesn’t care that this is healthy and will make her live longer.  Kids think they’ll live forever already: what the hell is a new diet going to do for them?  She’ll just see it as a form of punishment, and every meal will be tinged with sadness and anger.  Why the hell would I want that?

So on the one hand, I have to fight with myself, and on the other hand, I have to fight with my family.  No matter where I turn, there’s a battle.  I feel like I’m going to war with no army and everyone against me.  I feel doomed to failure before I’ve even begun.

So here I am, stuck.  Even if I didn’t have to fight with my family about food, I have no idea how to cook without basing every meal on meat. It’s just how I grew up: meat, starch, vegetable.  I’ve had meals that were nothing but vegetables.  They were tasty (sometimes) but I was hungry again an hour later.  I honestly don’t know how people live like that. I also don’t know how people live eating the same meals every week, or sometimes every day.  I have to have a LOT of recipes in my repertoire or else I get sick of eating things and wind up going out.  There’s a plethora of food websites of every imaginable cuisine available on the internet, but you never really know if something’s going to be good until you try it.  Which means I also have to have a known backup dinner available when we try new things, or else we just go out.  It’s all a fuckload of work that makes me hate food and cooking, things I used to enjoy.

I know there must be a way out of this situation, but I feel blocked at every turn.  And I’m very low on spoons.  It makes all of the changes I need to make overwhelming: diet, exercise, sleep, vitamins, water, yoga, etc.  The things I need to do to get better are the very things that being ill makes it hard to do.  It’s a nasty negative feedback loop.  But if I take things slow and small, and start with what’s easiest, maybe I can start to dig myself out of this rut.  I didn’t lose all of my habits at once: I won’t be able to re-establish them all at once either.  Now I just have to pick what to start with. What will give me spoons, and not take them away?

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My Daughter is a Geek


I’m a geek.  So is my husband.  He gets to wear the supergeek badge because he’s a programmer.  I’m just a garden variety geek who’s into science.  Meteorology, microbiology, and geology are my pet subjects.  We both love a good map: we once spent $75 on a world atlas, and we’re often not sure what’s more fun, going on a trip or plotting it out.  We’re staunch supporters of critical thinking skills, and encourage our daughter to question everything.

We also like more entertaining geek things, like the holy trinity of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who.  We like cheesy sci-fi disaster movies, even if they’re completely ludicrous, like The Day After Tomorrow or The Core.  So it was with great pleasure that we gradually introduced these things to our daughter.  She cut her geeky teeth on Star Wars at first, then we moved her on to Star Trek when we thought she could keep up with it.  Gradually she discovered her own geeky things, Minecraft in particular.  She is an absolute master at  that game.

One day I stumbled across a Doctor Who episode (“42”) on PBS, and was hooked like a migrating salmon.  We all fell in love with The Doctor instantly and began fantasizing about the TARDIS dropping out of the sky onto our lawn (you bet your sweet ass I’d go with him!).  I got a sonic screwdriver for my 40th birthday, and we began collecting other bits of Doctor Who merchandise.  Our daughter demanded to dress like the 11th Doctor for Halloween, and later Comic Con.

Our daughter gets her photo taken inside the TARDIS

Our daughter gets her photo taken inside the TARDIS

Her passions didn’t come without a price, though.  See, it’s not much hipper to be a geek or a nerd today than it was when we were growing up, despite what popular media wants you to believe (just loving something a lot doesn’t make you a geek or a nerd).  And if you’re a girl geek, then Heaven help you.  Geekdom is a land still mostly inhabited by males, who staunchly believe that girls are too stupid or weak or whatever to be true geeks.  She’s not only excluded by greater society because she’s a geek, but also from within geek society, because she’s a girl.  She has a hard time making good friends with classmates because she’s interested in things that they are not, and vice versa.  She’s 11 now, and could give a furry crack of a rat’s ass about any of the things other girls her age are interested in, mostly clothes and makeup.  She sees a girl fretting about her appearance and thinks, “What’s wrong with you? You look just fine.”  I’m probably responsible for this attitude, as a woman who shuns makeup and typically wears shorts and a fandom t-shirt of some variety on a daily basis.

She has found some acceptance on the internet, but other times she’s bullied on the Minecraft servers because she’s a girl.  She’s refused to give in to the pressure as other girls have done, and keeps a username and a skin on her character that clearly identify her as a girl, or perhaps as gay (I’ve seen it, it’s very rainbow-y, as she also likes My Little Pony).  This gets her no end of shit on some of the servers, where she will often be called out on her appearance straightaway.  Other characters go out of their way to attack hers in order to get what she’s carrying, since everything you own drops to the ground when you die.  She gets jabs of, “You can’t play here, you’re a girl! Only “real gamers” can play here!”  I’ve seen her in tears more than once because she’s been bullied on a particularly mean server and had her character killed repeatedly.  When she complains to the sysop about unfair treatment, she gets excuses that are creepily reminiscent of the kind of victim-blaming women get when they’re raped, basically “you were asking for it”.  These things are run by people, and reflect the attitudes of their sysops.  Maybe that’s just how everyone gets treated on some of these servers, but she seems to get an awful lot of flak because of her sex.

All I can do when these things happen is to remind her of how awesome she is, to tell her to just avoid places where she knows she’ll get bullied (which makes her sad: some of these servers are very interesting places to play), explain why jerks are jerks (typically boiling down to the need to put others down to make themselves feel better because their own lives suck, and as such it’s sometimes best to pity people like that from afar), and do something else fun with her (like watch Doctor Who).  I encourage her to keep loving the things that make her happy, and show her things like this video:

and this one:

I feel bad about encouraging her to avoid places she likes in order to avoid being bullied, but when someone’s engaging in cyber-murder to keep you from playing, and there’s really nothing that can be done about it (no parents or school officials to go to), it seems fruitless to keep going there.  I’ve told her to stand her ground but to pick her battles, though not in those words.  She doesn’t really need to be told that, though: she does it naturally.  Thanks to Daddy, she now has her own Minecraft server, where she can make the rules.  We’ve given her the “with great power comes great responsibility” speech (Spiderman) in the wake of a cyber-squabble on the server that ended a friendship because she had to ban a couple of people (the culprit: a bullying boy).  I’m going to encourage her to promote her server where she can as a safe place for other girl Minecraft players can come to play without fear of being bullied.  I’ve been really proud of her unwillingness to cave to humiliation and prejudice unless it gets so bad that she just can’t play.

We’re going to keep introducing her to geeky things.  She loves robots, even once keeping a blog about the life of a robot.  I look forward to when she’s older and I can introduce her to more adult geeky things, like Ghost in the Shell and other anime, movies, and games.  And I’ll keep telling her to explore new people, places, and things, even though she might get picked on, because sometimes she won’t be, and those will be the strong connections that will carry her through life.  In the meantime, we’ll keep on playing the games we love (Skyrim, Minecraft, D&D), watching the movies we love (The Matrix, X-Men, Lord of the Rings), and cultivating friendships with like-minded people.  Just because she’s in the minority doesn’t mean she has to be lonely.  She and the other girl geeks of the world will prevail, and we will all be better off from it.


Hello Gentle Readers.  I haven’t posted since July of last year.  I don’t think I’ve had much to say, really.  Even my private journal over at LiveJournal hasn’t seen much action for the last few months.  Life was kind of boring.  I took the kid to school, went to work Tuesdays through Thursdays and on Saturdays, tried to go to karate when I wasn’t sick of being at the dojo (more on that later), and basically wasted the rest of the time on the computer or playing Skyrim.  Domestic concerns were pretty far down on my list of priorities.  I felt like a total slacker, and sometimes a loser, but I still have a thin veil of depression that lays on everything, so it’s hard for me to get motivated.  That could probably be largely remedied by my remembering to  take my damn antidepressants in the morning.  *sigh*

Overall, though, I feel better mentally than I have in a while.  I still have my down periods and angry spells, but I don’t think it’s happening as often.  And if I am perceiving a difference, then I know everyone else probably is.  Because I don’t notice change in myself unless it’s fairly significant, as evidenced by how often my family has to tell me not to be so hard on myself because I’m too busy focusing on how well I’m not doing and ignoring how well I am doing.  I’ve apparently not been very successful at removing the Self Ass-Kicking Machine I seem to have permanently strapped to my back.  Or at taking off the Shit-Colored Glasses I also find myself wearing more often than not.  I wear those less and less often, though.  When I put them on, though, hoo boy.

So what have I been doing since last July?  Well let’s see here.

  • fretting over my mothering skills when Zoe was much younger: I had bad post-partum depression for 3 years after she was born, and I spent a great deal of time being sad and angry.  I also hadn’t been diagnosed as bipolar yet, and it was raging out of control in retrospect.  My life would have been considerably easier, and my family’s more pleasant, if I had stopped breastfeeding to stop the hormone flood I was subjecting myself to (I’m a freak: oxytocin doesn’t make me feel good like everyone else on the planet, it just upsets my hormone balance and makes me completely unbalanced) and sought treatment for what was a serious problem.  Actually, I did, but I was seeing a GP who was wholly unprepared to be treating someone with serious mental illness, so the treatment I did get wasn’t effective and essentially stole my memory for over a year.  I was in no shape to take proper care of myself, let alone anyone else.  So of course my parenting suffered.  I’m struggling to make peace with all of that and  the fact that those times are gone and I can never get back the time that I should have been enjoying mothering my infant and toddler daughter.
  • increasingly not enjoying my job: I have to preface that by saying how much I’ve enjoyed working at my dojo and helping to get it organized and somewhat modernized.  Still, it was an office job, one that I ultimately had for 4 years, and I was tired of clerical work.  So in January, I put in my notice.  I stayed through the end of March so that I could help organize a big training weekend that had been planned to celebrate the dojo’s 25th anniversary.  That was about 3 weeks ago.  I’ve applied for one job that I didn’t get, unfortunately (it was at a local meditation center), but haven’t done any other looking yet.  I’m enjoying the time off and not getting up in the morning with that yucky feeling you have when you have to do something you don’t want to.  Now I get to weigh all of my options, including going back to school potentially.  I’d certainly make much better money with a degree, which I only need about 30 more credit hours to finish.  It’s just paying for the tuition that’s problematic.  I already have a significant student loan debt, so I’m not anxious to add to it.  I don’t know if we would qualify for financial aid anyway.  So that’s where I’m at career-wise.
  • switching therapists: I’m on my fifth therapist since December of 2012.  I go to a sliding scale clinic whose staff rotates out frequently since they’re graduate students also looking for permanent jobs.  My first two therapists got new jobs within a month of starting with them.  The third therapist was a really nice guy, but he had some whacked out theories and opinions about mental illness (he believes there’s no such thing as mental “illness” except for maybe schizophrenia: uh, yeah dude, whatever), and he was a guy, which meant he set off all my baggage about men leftover from childhood.  His therapeutic technique annoyed me and I didn’t feel safe enough to open up to him.  So I switched again.  The new lady made me feel really uncomfortable for some reason.  So I switched again.  The new lady is okay.  I still feel really guarded, though, and I don’t know if that’s something about her or something about me.  I do know that I’m really freaking tired of being in therapy.  The whole “how does that make you feel” thing really grates on  my nerves.  I also have an attitude of  “talking doesn’t cook the rice” (a Chinese proverb) that probably doesn’t serve me very well considering talking is what you’re supposed to do in therapy.  Half the time I just want to stop going: I could use that money for other things (as it is, I spend $300-400 a month on my mental health).  And if I don’t feel like talking, maybe I should stop.  Something to think about.
  • got our daughter into a really great charter school: she was so bored at her old school, so it was with great delight that I took a phone call from the charter school in July saying there was a spot open for her.  She loved it for several months.  Then she went back to hating school, despite her grades being significantly improved by the new learning environment.  Her social concerns are very important to her, though: if there are no friends around, she’s going to be unhappy and her grades are going to suffer, and her best friend there will actually be going to the middle school that’s walking distance from our house.  So we’ll be switching schools again for the next school year.  I hope it works out, because failing that, we’ll have to resort to private schools, and that’s freaking expensive.
  • repeated family drama with my brother: I’ll spare you the details, but he pulled a stunt in August that almost necessitated my going to Seattle to be with him.  I didn’t go, fortunately for my budget, but it highlighted what a negative presence he is in my life.  I really don’t need that kind of crap anymore.  I’ve done my time tending to the insane.  I have my own life to worry about.
  • something of a spiritual crisis regarding my Buddhist leanings: Buddhism is not a comforting religion.  It’s all about acceptance and compassion, and not having expectations, because that’s clinging, and clinging leads to suffering.  But as I said in my LJ, “I’m just having a really hard time wrapping my head around how cessation of desire doesn’t equate to futility.”  I’m trapped in a philosophical loop of sorts.  I know that “all beings desire happiness”, one of the basic tenets of Buddhism.  I also know that leading a life filled with expectations typically leads to disappointment, so how does that mesh with desiring happiness?  Should I stop desiring to be happy and just be surprised when it happens?  That seems like a terrible way to live.  Buddhism is also maddeningly simplistic and minimalist, as well.  Regarding worry, Buddhism says it’s ridiculous, because you can’t do anything about the future or the past, just right now.  So fix what you can right now and forget about the rest.  How am I supposed to plan for the future with that kind of attitude?  I don’t have anyone to talk to about these things, so I feel really stuck and frustrated with my spiritual life right now.
  • start and stop exercise habit: I had a good thing going for a few months there, and then I lost the momentum.  I did get myself to karate class quite a bit more frequently starting in August because I was trying to get enough classes to get a promotion.  Good thing I did, too, because in November we had to stop driving the car because it needed a critical repair so it became really difficult to get to class since my husband didn’t get home until 6 or 6:30.  But the daily momentum to exercise?  Gone.  There are deep depressions in the carpet where my hand weights have been sitting for the last several months.  Now that I’m not working, I have awesome opportunities all day long to go to yoga class or to one of the classes at my gym, mostly weightlifting.  Not to mention the things I can do at home: dumbbells, bodyweight exercises, and walking.  I also have a bicycle.   There’s really no excuse other than laziness and apathy for me not to be exercising.  Which I still really need to do in order to get my slightly elevated cholesterol level down.  So that’s a major goal right now.  I did discover that if I use an asthma inhaler before I exercise, it’s a LOT easier, so that’s helped some.  Need to see a doctor about that.  Speaking of doctors…
  • getting health insurance because of the ACA: my daughter and I have been without insurance since 2006.  I’ve lived in fear of what would happen if she got really sick or injured.  It would be devastating financially.  I don’t have to worry about that anymore: we are all insured now thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  Before that, it was simply too expensive to insure everyone.  It would have cost more to add the two of us to my husband’s policy than it is to get insurance for all three of us.  So that’s made me really happy.  I have several things I want to see doctors for: my breathing problem (probably asthma), my heart issues (never had a proper followup to my hospital visit last year), my hormones (the bane of my existence), my skin (I have a few moles I’d like to be looked at), and getting basic wellness taken care of.  A trip to the chiropractor would be nice.  I’m looking forward to getting all of my health issues taken care of.
  • expensive things: like major car repairs, and spending $1500 at the vet to get surgery for my dumbass cat who ate 2′ of ribbon one day.  At least they let me spread out the cost over a few paychecks.  Otherwise I shudder to think of what might have happened.  That’s my daughter’s cat: she would be devastated if something happened to him.  Now we make sure nothing ribbony or stringy is left out so he won’t eat it, because he’s clearly too stupid not to.  Not long after the incident with the cat, a couple of my teeth started acting up.  I had to have them pulled, which would have been a serious financial problem if I hadn’t been approved for a line of credit at a local dental chain.  So I spent a couple of weeks in pain after having first one tooth out and then another, since it couldn’t be repaired.  Which made me miss work, which pissed off my boss.  Our financial situation just sucked for a few months, and in the midst of it I had to worry about…
  • a corporate takeover at my husband’s job: we just didn’t know what was going to happen for weeks, and it was so incredibly stressful.  To make a long story short, eventually everything got ironed out after a few negotiations (the hiring terms of the new company were very undesirable, so he managed to get a contract instead of being a permanent employee, thereby avoiding quite a bit of unpleasantness), and now he’s making more money and gets to work at home.  A winning situation all around.
  • got my green belt promotion: more than two years after my last promotion, I finally promoted again to green belt.  I’m technically a senior student now.  I haven’t been to class much since then because working at the dojo meant I really didn’t want to spend more time there (plus it was weird being both an employee and a student: I was never sure which hat to wear), but now that I’ve quit, I need to get back to class.  Especially since I have to pay tuition again!

*whew*  That’s a lot.  And I thought my life was boring!  It just hasn’t been exciting in the way I’d like it to be.  Things are fairly settled at the moment, though.  I do need to find a new job because we do miss the income (though working for a non-profit meant my paycheck was never huge), but I want to find something I’ll enjoy.  Either that or I need to completely rework the budget so I can save enough to go back to school.  Which is what I’d really like to do.  I have several possibilities that I could major in, since the last 30 or so hours that I need are all major concentration classes as opposed to core classes.  I’m all done with those.  I’m kicking around the idea of either a psychology or a social work degree.  I think the latter might be more personally satisfying, though not as well-paying probably.  I could also get a science degree in either microbiology, an old love of mine, or atmospheric science, aka meteorology, an even older love.  That’s a lot of math, though, which is not my strong suit.  I just want something that will both make me happy and give me a relatively decent income.  If I don’t start working a real job that makes real money soon, I’ll never have anything in my Social Security account for when I’m older.  Getting old freaks me out.

So my current goals are re-establishing an exercise habit, getting the house and yard in order, which are in a woeful state right now, and either finding new satisfying work, or going back to school.  And that’s life in my world.

Appropriate


Two social hot-button issues have come to roost at our house: what music is appropriate for our daughter to listen to, and whether or not it’s okay for her to play violent video games.  The first has to do with exposure to depictions of sex, alcohol, and drugs, as well as possible degradation of women or other populations; the second has to do with exposure to an activity that may or may not lead to increased aggression of her own.  Both boil down to whether or not the influence of the parents can counteract the outside influence of things our children really want to participate in and enjoy.

Let’s address the first issue.  I’m having a really hard time with it largely because of my own personal baggage surrounding children and exposing them to sexual imagery and energies before they’re ready for it.  I suppose “ready for it” should be my guide here.  If she weren’t ready for it, she wouldn’t be so gung ho to listen to music singing about it, because otherwise, it would bother her.  And it’s not so horribly explicit, although there is one song that refers once to S&M that makes me raise my eyebrows.  Which raises the issue of whether or not it should be such a big deal to let kids listen to music singing about things they don’t understand in the first place: all they care about is the music itself.  If there’s something they don’t understand and they have a good relationship with you, they’ll ask you about it.  At least, our daughter does.  Which should ease my mind to at least some extent.  And pretty much any question a kid can ask can be answered in terms they can understand.  Even “What’s S&M?”

I mean, what are parents really afraid of when they don’t want their kids listening to music with sexual imagery? They don’t want their kids having sex too early, if at all for some parents.  I can combat that with education and openness.  Keeping her away from music that sings about sex won’t keep her from knowing there’s sex in the world, and if all of her friends are listening to the same music, she’ll find a way to listen to it anyway, and then we’ll just have a relationship built on deceit and mistrust.  I’d rather let her listen to what she wants to, make sure I know what she’s listening to and that she understands what she’s listening to, and arm her with the knowledge she’ll need to counteract anything negative she might have picked up from the social messages she got.  Which she’ll get anyway eventually regardless of what she’s listening to.

The same goes for anything else negative she might hear in her music, such as references to alcohol or drugs, although I draw the line at anything that degrades another group of people.  I haven’t heard anything like that yet though.  She doesn’t hang out with kids like that and has such a strong sense of justice and fairness that I know she would never tolerate that sort of thing in her music or from her friends.  I’ll have to keep an ear out for subtle put-downs, though: things she might not pick up on and wouldn’t realize are mean things to say about other people.  She’s still young enough to be learning those social rules and slang terms.  It’s a pity I have to be worried about such things being peppered into something as innocent as dance music.

She can’t listen to whatever she wants to unsupervised, though.  I have to know what she’s hearing if I’m going to be able to protect her from what’s negative or educate her about something.  She hates this, but that’s my job to oversee what goes into her head.

And the same is going to have to go for the video games.  She and Daddy got new video games for Christmas.  Daddy gets to play games rated ‘M’, and it really chaps our daughter’s ass, not to put too fine a point on it.  I can’t say I blame her: all the really cool games are rated ‘M’.  What kid doesn’t want to kill zombies?  Resident Evil is deemed too violent for the under 17 crowd, though.  And I can’t say I blame the game raters, either: there’s a lot of gunfire and gore.  Other games, I’m unclear as to why they got an ‘M’ rating and not a ‘T’ rating, since there’s killing in ‘T’ games as well.  The whole ratings thing makes me wonder, why is it okay for teens to engage in video game killing in hand-to-hand combat (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception) but not stab monsters with a sword (Skyrim)?  The husband’s only been playing Skyrim for a few days, so maybe there’s more in the game further in that makes it clearer as to why it has a higher rating.

My daughter’s begging made me pull up “video game violence and kids” on Google and do some research on the subject.  Unsurprisingly, there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that violent video games make kids more violent or even aggressive.  In fact, as video game sales have skyrocketed in recent years, juvenile violent crime has gone down (as has crime overall, if I’m not mistaken, even though the news would have you believe otherwise).  Much like every other new invention that hits humanity, video games have been decried as the new harbinger of the decline of society, though that tends not to be the case (I’m sure you could find those would argue to the contrary, though: television, automobiles, computers, etc.).  I’m much more concerned with how changes in economic policy over the last few decades have caused a whole host of maladies that now afflict our society than with television or video games.

So is it okay to let her play whatever she wants as long as she knows games are games and not real life?  It’s really hard to get around certain gut reactions, particularly in the wake of the recent elementary school shooting, which has many people vilifying anything having to do with guns.  Unfortunately, we’re a very black-and-white society and are very poor at navigating the gray areas.  They’re just too messy.  We like clear cut answers, and there just aren’t any when it comes to the really big societal issues.  Like guns and violence.  We’d really like a convenient scapegoat to blame, like video games.  It would be so easy, and would give closure to the awful gaping wound.  I don’t think it’s that simple, though.

So what’s acceptable violence in a video game for a kid?  Is it okay to involve a person as long as you’re not killing them?  Or is person-on-person violence always straight out?  Is all killing not okay, or is it okay to kill as long as you’re killing monsters?  Is it okay to kill a person as long as it’s not using a gun?  Is all violence okay because it’s not real and you’re supposed to be educating your kid about these things anyway?  Is all violence not okay because it’s not okay to depict violence?  Are all of these things defined only by our societal morals and nothing else?  I have very wise friends who say that they are.  I have equally wise friends who say they are not.  My Buddhist morals tell me that what I put into my head directly correlates to what comes out of it.  It also seems paradoxical to tell a kid that it’s not okay to hurt other people and then let them play a game that allows them to do just that.

What am I, and all parents, really afraid of when we have these discussions about video game violence and our kids?  We’re afraid of our own kids having aggression problems at school, and deep down, we’re afraid of them turning into Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (the Columbine High School shooters).  Or Adam Lanza.  Statistics tell me these fears are patently ridiculous.  At least, the last one is.  The first one is only mildly possible, if the research is to be believed.  Like so many ‘scientific’ studies, most of the ones that say there is a correlation between violent video games and aggression in kids have severe methodological problems that, once adjusted for, negate their results.  Still, I have a really hard time getting around my gut reaction when I think about my kid playing a game involving building an arsenal of semi-automatic and automatic weapons intended to kill as many enemies as possible, even if they aren’t human.  Maybe if they were all plasma rifles or something, it wouldn’t bother me.

On the other hand, we’re huge Mythbusters fans, and boy do the Mythbusters like their guns.  Always under safe circumstances, of course.  We’ve seen them shoot a huge array of firearms over the years and have gained an appreciation for the engineering of guns, as well as the fact that it’s plainly enjoyable to shoot them, just as it’s fun to blow shit up.  No, that doesn’t mean that the Mythbusters are condoning acts of terrorism or violence because they like explosives and firearms, and I don’t think it means our daughter is in danger of becoming a violent person because she is exposed to these things through their show.  It does raise the question: what’s the difference between the Mythbusters blowing up an effigy of a person in the name of busting a myth and someone shooting a representation of a person in a game?  Both end in the same result: a dead un-person (though it’s admittedly a lot funnier to watch Buster get blown up than it is to watch a zombie get its head blown off, but maybe that’s a matter of opinion).

I bet a lot of this has to do with perspective, as well.  Would I feel differently about video games involving guns if we were a family that regularly went to the shooting range? Or lived on a farm and had grown up with guns?  Or lived in a country like Switzerland or Israel where a high percentage of the population owns a gun?  Or lived in a place like Newtown, CT?

As with the music, I will probably let our daughter play what she wants to, but with supervision, and within certain limits.  Each game will likely be evaluated individually.  I learned she had been playing Call of Duty at a friend’s house after she came home and talked about how much fun it was to fire off an AK-47.  I made a polite phone call and requested the games with gunfire not be played when she comes to visit.  In retrospect, it wasn’t so much because of the guns, but because that game is all about hunting down and shooting people, which is something I will never be okay with.  The more distanced it is from real life, the less I mind it.  And isn’t that what video games are supposed to be about?  A break from reality?


My life exploded when I was 17.  I had just gotten out of an adolescent psych hospital where my mother had committed me after she decided I was too much trouble to deal with.  I wasn’t on drugs, I wasn’t promiscuous, I wasn’t doing badly in school, I wasn’t violent, I wasn’t even really much of a back talker (I was too afraid of my mother for that).  I was just a teenager, and therefore a handful.  A handful my mother, an alcoholic with untreated mental illness, was unequipped to handle.  When it was time for me to get out, she wouldn’t let me come back home.  Instead, she made me go live with my stepfather, the man who had sexually abused me as a child.  Six weeks later, he kicked me out over the Thanksgiving holiday.

My boyfriend’s family came to my rescue and let me come to live with them.  I’m not sure what I would have done if they hadn’t.  There was a place called Covenant House in Houston for runaway teens, but I can only imagine what sort of environment that place must have been.  I just wanted to finish high school and go to college.  Their kindness and generosity allowed me to do that.

I was still a teenager, though, and one who had been essentially raised by wolves: I was selfish, and while I had good manners, I lacked the knowledge of how to really treat other people with consideration, since I had never been.  I’m sure I was incredibly rude and ungrateful on more than one occasion over the next two years that I stayed with them.  And while I’m sure that I thanked them for letting me stay there at first, I doubt they received the thanks that they all deserved over the time that I spent with them.

This has weighed heavily on me in recent years.  My life would undoubtedly look quite different now if they had not taken me in and allowed me to finish school and start a path in college, even if I never finished it.  After my boyfriend and I broke up (under circumstances that embarrass me to this day), I maintained sporadic contact with them for a few years, and after that dropped off their radar.  In retrospect, this was incredibly rude of me.  On the one hand, it makes sense for an ex-girlfriend to fade into the background.  On the other hand, these were people who took me into their home at a time when my life was in deep crisis and could have taken a grave turn for the worse.  I should have maintained some kind of contact with at least his parents.

I didn’t, though, and it bothers me.  A few years ago, before I got on Facebook and reconnected with just about everyone from my past, I searched the internet for my ex in hopes that I would find an email address or some other way to contact him so that I could express my thanks and let he and his family know how I was doing.  I found an email address, and sent a letter along with some photos. I never got a reply, or a bounce notification, so I was never sure if the letter got stuck in a spam folder, or if the letter was received and was deemed upsetting, or what.

Fast forward about three years, to being connected on Facebook to old friends, including the ex’s current wife (which makes me happy: I suspect he always had a crush on her).  I had been thinking about my lack of contact, and gratitude, over the years again.  My curiosity was also piqued again as to whether or not that letter ever made it to its destination.  So I asked her to ask him if it did, and she said yes: he just wasn’t sure what, if anything, to do about it.

I’m not sure what to make of that.  There’s obviously no desire for communication there, or he would have at least written back to say “I got your letter, thanks for writing.”  I also don’t know if he passed my expression of thanks on to his parents, which is important to me.  And there’s my sticking point.  Do I write again to see if that information got to its final destination?  I don’t want to upset anyone, but I also want to make sure that people know that I appreciate what they did for me.

This raises some questions.  What’s the real purpose of my wanting to get in touch?  Is it really for the mere expression of gratitude?  If so, then that’s just for them.  Or is to make myself feel better?  If so, then that’s for me.  In light of knowing my original letter reached my ex, it’s important for me to ask myself these questions.  If I’m really thinking of other people, maybe I should just let things be.  Or should I at least ask to see if I should speak or write directly to his parents?  After so much time, maybe they’ve forgotten all about me and any contact would just be confusing, or unwanted.  This is my trouble.  I can only know by trying, and then it’s too late if I’ve done something upsetting, which I don’t want to do.

Hence the title of my post: am I doing this for them, or am I doing it for me?  It’s not the job of other people with whom I have had no contact for nearly 20 years to provide me with absolution.  Only I can do that.  Still, it would make me feel better knowing for sure that his parents know how I feel.  I don’t know why it bothers me so much.

So that’s what’s on my brain these days.  I’m going to wait and think on things some more before doing anything, if I do anything at all.  Really, I just want people to know that I care about them and think about them and that I haven’t forgotten what they did for me, and that I’m sorry for anything that I might have done wrong.  But only if doing so won’t be doing something wrong itself.

Head Down


I haven’t written in three weeks, not since the post I wrote about the third cat of the summer dying just a week after we’d adopted him.  I can’t imagine why I might not have been feeling very ebullient.

I did throw myself into a project, though.  In recent months, I’ve been working on my memoir, which will in all likelihood go by the same title as this blog.  It’s a story that’s impossible to tell without delving deeply into the nature of family relationships.  In the instance of my own family, the relationship between myself, my mother, and my grandmother in particular.  That was a story unto itself, so I outlined it with the help of a shitload of letters that I came into the possession of when my grandmother’s childhood and beyond best friend had them sent to me.  They spanned from 1940 to the mid-2000s and told quite a tale that told me a great deal about my grandmother and how she may have contributed to the troubled relationship she had with my mother.  I put all that together with what I had of my own material in the form of photographs, memories, and genealogical data to piece together a century-long tale of adventure, sorrow, intrigue, despair, and resolve.

It’s early yet, so I don’t know if it will be something that stands by itself or if it will be part of the memoir, which now needs its second serious editing pass.  That will take a while and will be an interesting exercise in seeing how good I am at slowing down enough to really analyze my own writing well enough to significantly cut it.  Right now it’s like a music piece with too many notes, so it sounds busy and muddy.  Some of them have got to come out.  I do think that if each project were edited properly that they could be put together, and that along with all of the photographs, letters, and genealogical data I have, it could be really really cool.

So that’s what I’ve been working on.  And when I’m working on a big project, everything else slides.  Including my blog.  I needed something to work on, though, to get through the stress of the cats dying.  After the first cat died, I planted a 6’x8′ garden with corn, beans, and squash that is now (mostly) looking pretty darn good.  The broomcorn is blooming and there are baby melons on some of the vines.  The beans are flowering, too, so I expect some of those soon as well.  The whole thing needs fertilizer, a tilling, and mulch.  It’s somehow comforting to see the continued result of something that I planted while deeply in pain and attempting to manifest life after experiencing death.

After the second cat died, I finished up the first editing and collating pass of the memoir and sent it out to anyone who had expressed interest in looking at it.  It was much cleaner after I had taken out some travelogues that should really be appendices or a little book of their own.  I also fixed some of my attempts at playing with writing in third tense rather than first.  It was fun, but sounded pretentious and removed my ability to use that device when I needed to fill in important events that needed describing in that sort of style.  Plus, it’s my story: I should write it from my perspective.  Then the third cat died and I worked on the family history project.

So here I am with a lot of potential, and a lot of work.  One of my oldest and best friends who also has an English degree has been graciously lending her help to me on this project and was kind enough to let me know that my request for editing help was a little premature, but gave me enough to work with using my introduction to allow me to do the same to the rest of the book (and to the other one, now that it’s been written).  Fortunately, I have the ‘problem’ of having to take words out, rather than put them in.  No teacher has ever accused me of using too few words!  I should just make a list of rules to follow and get to identifying everywhere they’ve been broken.

Back to cats, some good did come out of the whole situation.  In an effort to make me happy and to save face for the organization, the people who adopted the sick cat to us in the first place graciously adopted the two kittens we were fostering to us for free.  So we are a three-cat household again.  Our existing cat has warmed right up to them, incredibly.  We thought that she might not, given that she’s so old.  Indeed, she was quite upset for several days, particularly because we had moved her food dish to be closer to theirs so they could get used to each other’s smells.  Once everything was back where it was supposed to be, she was happy again and they’re all getting along fine.  And of course, kittens!!!

We’re still fostering cats, as well.  At the moment, we have a mama and her two young kittens, about 5-6 weeks old.  Which means they’re stupid-noises cute.  Mama’s still a juvenile too, and has a high-pitched chirrup-y meow that is also incredibly cute.  I’m looking forward to finding homes for them, despite my fondness for them.  I’m sure there will be some heart-tugging when it’s time for them to go, but I’ll be happy when they find their forever-homes.

But wait, there’s more, now how much would you pay?  Today, I’m picking up a set of 3-week or so old kittens to live in our back bathroom.  If they weren’t begging for kitten fosters at the moment, I wouldn’t, but I have the space and it’s hard for me to ignore emails telling me that if they don’t foster kittens, others will be euthanized.  Yes, I’m that sucker, but it’s me and suckers like me that are attempting to keep Austin a no-kill city, which we (mostly) are.  So having an extra set of kittens is a trial run.  If it’s just too much to handle, we won’t do it again, but hey, it might be fun and it’s a good thing to do.  The only drawback so far is the increased expense in cat food and litter.  And having to sanitize our hands constantly, at least for a couple of weeks (standard initial isolation procedure).  On the upside, kittens!!!  🙂


Last Wednesday, we adopted a new cat.  His name at the shelter was Bucky, but we named him Alex.  We used a local non-profit animal rescue group that makes a big deal out of adopting healthy animals that have been thoroughly checked out, neutered, and microchipped.  They were even having a special in order to move as many cats out of the shelter as possible, so he wasn’t expensive.  It seemed like the stars were in alignment.

Well, they were in a negative alignment, it seems.  The first day, we noticed he made an odd cough and that he seemed warm.  Just in case, we separated him from the rest of the house so he couldn’t infect our existing cat.  The second day, he coughed a couple more times, more severely, like a wet bronchial cough.  The third day he had his wellness check at the vet, where he was diagnosed with a viral infection and to bring him back in a couple of weeks if he wasn’t better.  The next day he was listless and his breathing had become bubbly.  The next day he was worse and I called the shelter where we had gotten him.  They scheduled a vet visit for the next day.

We took him in and they diagnosed him with pneumonia.  After a brief inner debate as to whether he should be hospitalized, the vet decided to send him home with me along with a number of treatments: antibiotics, appetite stimulants, subcutaneous fluids, a nebulizer, and a syringe for force feeding him if necessary.  I steeled myself for ten days of cat nursing.

The first day went fine.  At his fourth nebulizing treatment I noticed that the inside of his carrier was getting wet and musty, which  they didn’t tell me to watch out for (they didn’t give me any instructions at all, really), so I got it all cleaned out.  His breathing went back and forth between improving and getting bubbly again.  He still wouldn’t eat, so we had to syringe feed him.  He didn’t like it, of course, but we managed to get a syringe full of food into him.

He spent that entire night moving around the entire room about once every half hour.  It reminded me of Yin-Yang before he died, who just couldn’t get comfortable and kept moving around.  I couldn’t sleep for the sound of his bubbly breathing: it was awful.  He was laying in weird places, too, as well as laying very limply.  He may have already been on his way out.

The next morning, it was time for more antibiotics, food, and nebulizing.  He had trouble with his pill and I had to try twice to get him to take it, and I’m not sure if he ever swallowed it properly. Then we tried to feed him, which was much more difficult than it had been the night before.  I took his resistance as a sign that he was feeling better so we burritoed him in a towel like we had seen on the internet.  I knew to keep him in a sitting position much like he’d be in if he were eating normally so he wouldn’t choke, but this feeding was not going nearly as smoothly as the one the night before.  Whenever he appeared to be having trouble, I’d stop and let him settle, then try again.

Then towards the end of the feeding, he opened his mouth wide, arched his back, and went limp.  We laid him down, he exhaled, and he didn’t inhale again.  It was horrifying.  I’ve never seen anything die in front of me before, and I still can’t help but think that it was my fault somehow.  Everyone tells me that it’s not, especially since he should never have been sent home with us in the first place, but still.  I feel so terrible.  I was trying to help this poor creature get better, and now he’s dead from that very treatment, even if I was merely hastening the inevitable.  I just wish that his last few moments hadn’t been so tortured.  That’s what I feel the worst about, that I may have inadvertently caused this poor creature agony in his last moments.  I didn’t mean to, and I’m so sorry.  I’m so, so sorry Alex.

I wish that they had kept him for hospitalizing on Monday instead of sending him home with me.  I wish that they had realized last week that he was sick and not adopted him to me in the first place.  I wish that I had said no, I don’t want a cat with a history of an upper respiratory infection when they told me he’d had one while in the shelter, even though he’d been treated for it (not well enough apparently).  I wish that they had given me better instructions for how to care for this obviously very, very ill cat.  I wish that I had more experience in caring for sick cats and doing things like syringe feeding.  I wish that I had stopped the instant he looked like he wasn’t digging the feeding and just called the shelter again, but I had never done it before and didn’t know what to watch out for and he really needed to eat.  I mean, you’re force-feeding a cat: there’s going to be mess and unpleasantness.  I wish for so many things that might have changed what happened yesterday morning.

Even though he was only with us for a week, he was still part of the family, and we treated him as such.  He got the same treatment Yin-Yang and Babalon did when they died: I wrapped him up, smudged his body and his grave, and we said some words over him before burying him with his head towards the West.  He’s next to Yin-Yang, who will hopefully help him on his way to the Great Catnip Field in the Sky.

As for us, we’ve spent the last 24 hours sanitizing as much as we can so the other cats don’t get infected.  To a certain extent all we can do is pray, because he was out and about for a while before we knew he was sick.  God only knows what he touched with his face.  I can only take comfort in the fact that the germs will die by themselves in a few days, and within 24 hours if they get hit with proper cleansing and some Lysol.  I’ve done probably a dozen loads of laundry to clean every single thing in the room he was in, vacuumed the carpet with germicidal baking soda, Lysol’d the areas he spent the most time in, and am fumigating  the air with more germicidal oils.  Anything that can’t be washed has been sprayed with Lysol and left out in the Sun.  And I’ve done similarly to the whole house since his disease may have been airborne (in which case the horse is out of the barn anyway).

It would be bad enough if our own cat, Samadhi, gets ill because of Alex.  It would be even worse if the two kittens we are fostering got sick because of him.  I would be up the ass and down the throat of the shelter who gave us to him in the first place to make these kittens well.  So far everyone has been healthy, and it’s been about a week since anyone was exposed to anything Alex might have breathed on or touched, so hopefully we’re in the clear.  I won’t stop holding my breath for at least another week, though, when I know it’s been two weeks, which is how long the shelter tells people to isolate pets to ensure health.  If nothing is wrong within two weeks, everything should be okay.

And they’d better be, because we like these kittens and are thinking of adopting them.  We were a house of three cats, and we’d like to be so again.

*shakes head*  It’s just not right, but I’m going to try and make it right.  This summer can just kiss my flabby white butt.

Settling In


We’re trying to settle into our one-cat routine around here. The last month has just sucked giant donkey balls. Every little thing reminds us that we only have one cat now, like washing the food bowls. Samadhi’s perfectly happy to munch on her dry food, so there’s not much call for the other bowls any more. The last two or three that we used for Babalon last week got washed Monday, and I cleaned a couple more out of the fridge yesterday. All remnants from my attempts to get her to eat whatever I could. I knew it was a losing battle, but I was going to give it all I could for as long as I could. And so was she, little trooper. I put out so much tuna fish that even Samadhi is sick of it now.

I washed the last few rags and blankets related to Babalon’s last days as well, although I couldn’t bring myself to wash the blue-and-green blanket she slept on. I put it underneath the black shawl Samadhi likes to sleep on: maybe she’ll like having something that smells like her mama. She plainly misses her. The two of them slept together pretty much every single day, and even washed each other. Actually, it was rare for a day to go by that Babalon didn’t wash Samadhi. When I come home, she often yowls at me as if to tell me that the others are missing. I can only imagine how she must feel. If it’s anything like how we feel, it must be terrible.

I imagine this is the plight of the grieving everywhere, but I am trying desperately to keep my mental face pointed forward instead of getting mired down in hindsight and regret. Part of me keeps trying to get really angry at the vet tech who essentially ruined our experience with Babalon at the vet last week when she failed to take her to the back to be cleaned and to have her pawprints taken, but the rest of me is trying to take the experience in as a whole and remember all of the circumstances that created it. It wasn’t her fault: it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just a shitty set of circumstances piled on top of an already shitty situation, and there’s nothing to be done about it. It just sucks, and I can’t do anything about it except feel bad. And in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything, and not having that set of pawprints doesn’t make me miss her more or anything like that. My expectations that were set with YinYang’s death weren’t met, and that’s all.

Then there’s all of the things that I’m noticing now that they’re gone, mostly related to how much water they were drinking. I’ve never had cats with kidney disease so these aren’t things that I could have known or noticed, but now that I AM noticing them, I still feel bad. YinYang had been sucking down huge amounts of water for years, and I thought it was just because he was staying indoors more. So had Babalon. Now that it’s just Samadhi, she’s drinking what I now remember as being what a single healthy cat drinks in a day, which really isn’t all that much. The water bowl we’ve been using looks gargantuan compared to what she actually needs. And the catbox looks similarly gargantuan now that there’s just one cat using it and there aren’t massive balls of urine clumped up in it.

I wish I had known what I was looking at. I know it’s not my fault and that I took really really good care of those cats and that they lived for a really really long time despite being ill. I still wish I had known, and I still really, really miss my cats. My house seems empty without them. It was sad to cook chicken last night and not be bothered by Babalon.

I know this will happen a lot, and probably without warning. Being struck by sadness. And then there will be the things that I know will make me sad, like eating yogurt. Scraping the sides of a yogurt container will always remind me of YinYang and the way he waited for the last spoonful. Chicken and raw meat in general will always remind me of Babalon. That green-and-blue blanket. Sitting down to visit in the yoga room. Maybe that’s what they mean when they say that the ones we love never really leave us.

And Then There Was One


We took our sweet MamaKitty to the vet this morning to be put to sleep.  In much the same way as her son YinYang, she had greatly degraded in health in recent weeks.  Just more slowly.  By the time we decided that today was to be her last day with us, she was having trouble walking, was eating and drinking less and less, and hadn’t purred in days or weeks.  It was obviously her time to go.

The only thing that made me doubt our decision in the slightest, and then only fleetingly, was that she still wanted to be with us.  But she had always wanted to be with us.  She had always shown the highest gratitude for the life we had given her.  New Year’s Eve, 1996, I finally let her freezing, pregnant self into my kitchen to eat tuna fish.  I got tired of seeing her huddled next to the steam vent on my furnace outside when she had a perfectly good home next door that was neglecting her.  She was one of a pack of mostly and completely feral cats that roamed the block, and she was the only one friendly enough to let me touch her.  In fact, she was very friendly and would let me pick her up.  That’s how I discovered she was pregnant.

Our landlord had given tentative permission to have a cat but only with further discussion.  Further discussion be damned, I let the poor thing in.  She was starving, and let me know just how much by the plaintive wail and platter-sized eyes she displayed when I started opening the can of tuna fish.  She scarfed an entire family sized can of tuna in less than twenty minutes.  I left the back door open so she could do as she wished.  Within a couple of hours, she was curled up on my couch.  And so Babalon came to live with us.

She was very thin and fattened up so much over the next couple of weeks that you couldn’t tell she was pregnant any more, but that changed after another couple of weeks.  Before long, she looked like she had a large cantaloupe in her belly.  She slowly grew unable to lay on her belly, and then her side, and was eventually only able to sleep mostly on her back, partly propped up by her belly undulating with baby kittens.  She grew very insistent about asking for her food in the morning.

I knew that cats like to hole up somewhere private to have their babies, so I made a nice spot for her out of a large cardboard box once home to a stereo.  I taped up the bottom flap so it had a protective wall and propped the upper flap up on the sides so it had a bit of a protective roof, and put it in the corner of the bedroom.  One evening she kept coming up to me with an anxious expression on her face and repeatedly walked back to her box.  I walked back with her and encouraged her to hop into the box, which she did.  I walked away, and she followed me.  We repeated the dance a few times.  Finally I brought the box out next to the computer where I sat every evening.  Happy, she jumped in and laid down.

A while later she issued a single loud growl, and didn’t make a single sound for the rest of the night except to brace her paws against the sides of the box to push.  Her first baby was born at 12:45 am, Valentine’s Day, 1997.  That was YinYang, her only son, who died last month.  The rest were all girls, each one born about 45 minutes apart.  The last one was the runt, who I only knew was the runt because Mama tried to ignore her by laying on her rather than putting her with the others to nurse.  An awful squalling came from the box.  I quickly looked in to see what was wrong, saw the kitten underneath Mama’s back, and carefully picked it up and put it with its siblings.  She eyeballed me warily but didn’t object.  She would try to abandon that kitten twice more over the next week, but I would have none of it.  She gave up after the third try.  That would be Samadhi, now our last surviving cat, ironically.

The other kittens found homes and eventually we had our happy little trinity of cats.  Babalon became our shadow.  We lived a block or two from a convenience store and went there frequently for smokes, beer, and the like.  She always followed us to the corner, waited in the bushes of the house there, and followed us back home, or walked in front of us.  She was a beautiful cat, a tabby point Siamese, and as such the bottoms of her feet were black, so it looked like she was floating if you walked behind her at night.  When I was pregnant and we frequently walked up the hill to the local university, she also followed us.  She followed us so far one night that she exhausted herself and we had to make her stay home after that.  She waited for us, though, right where we had left her when she couldn’t follow us any more.  She must have walked through a dozen other cats’ territories, but she was going to stick with us.

She was an awesome mother, too.  Not just to her own children, but also to mine.  When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, she looked at her very oddly, but in a special way that I suppose Mother Nature reserves between all mothers and children.  As if to say, “Ah! You made another one!”  Our daughter was a fairly demanding baby and cried a lot.  If she had been crying for too long or too loudly, even if we were right there with her, Babalon would come up to us and plaintively meow and look at us as if to notify us that we really needed to be tending to this problem now, it was important.  As our daughter grew older and got to the tail-grabbing stage, she was very patient with her and didn’t get the claws out until it was really necessary, and even then she looked very sheepish and apologetic about it.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to!”

I’ve never had such a beautiful cat, either.  She had a very long tail with beautiful rings of black and brown, and the combination of the tabby stripes and Siamese coloration gave her the most gorgeous face and markings.  She was every color of brown from the lightest to the darkest.  It was a privilege to have been graced by such a creature for so long.  She was nearly 17 at the time of her death, almost precisely four weeks to the minute after her son died.

There are now two small mounds in the back of our yard.  The cat statue stands between them, on guard.  We have had quite enough of death at our house for a while.  My husband would very much like to not have to dig any more small graves, and I would like to not have to cut any more death shrouds.  We are now a one-cat house.  It will seem very quiet, at least when she’s not yelling at us (Samadhi definitely got the Siamese vocal cords in the cat family).  We will do our very best to relish our time with her.

Fair sailing to the Great Catnip Field in the Sky, Babalon.

Beautiful Babalon

Compromise, Cat News


After my rant about games the other day, I realized that my attitudes were very much based in my own experiences growing up and not so much in today’s reality of game playing, at least not as it relates to my own family.  My family is made up of nice people who aren’t jerks, even when they are playing games.  The same can be said of my other game playing friends.  Just as I now do not associate with the greater relatively uneducated population, neither did I feel any particular kinship with it when I was growing up.  So it’s inappropriate of me to apply experiences from one sphere to another.  (Yes,  I know that sounds incredibly snotty and elitist of me, but I can’t help having a really high IQ.  It makes it really hard to be around less intelligent people sometimes, and not because I’m being judgmental of them.  It’s really my own problem for not being able to moderate my own impatience.  Anyway.)

With that in mind, and with temporal fairness in mind, we came up with a better plan for how to approach games and screen time in general, not just for summer but hopefully for the school year as well.  First we had to distinguish the difference between ‘good’ screen time and ‘bad’ screen time.  “Bad” being a completely relative term, not a judgmental one.  “Good” screen time involves imagination and creativity.  As such, a game like Minecraft totally counts as ‘good’ screen time since its entire point is the creation of new worlds.  Reading on a screen counts as ‘good’ screen time.  Watching educational shows or documentaries counts as ‘good’ screen time.

“Bad” screen time is what we decided to call “brain candy”: screen time that has absolutely no creative, imaginative, or intellectual value and is for sheer entertainment purposes only.  Non-creative games are brain candy, though this gets a little fuzzy when it comes to puzzle-solving games like Portal.  Reading Facebook is brain candy.  Pinning to Pinterest is brain candy.  Watching television shows and movies is brain candy.

After making those distinctions, we had to come up with scheduling.  During the summer, at least during the weeks when our daughter’s summer camps aren’t in session, we’re both home during the day and so we need to divide the time up appropriately so that everyone gets equal time on the computer.  We decided each person should get four hours a day on the computer, whether good or bad screen time, with Daddy getting dibs on the evening hours since he’s at work all day.  During weeks when our daughter is in camp, we’ll have to come up with a different plan, but between the computer, the Playstation, and our daughter’s iPod and 3DS, I bet we can come up with something.

We also decided that no one should get more than three hours of brain candy time a day, adults included (summer schedule: that goes down to two hours during the school year).  We also decided that the person has to do something else after two hours that isn’t brain candy and that we should remember to get up and move around at least once an hour when we’re on a screen to avoid leg compression and repetitive stress injuries.

Other stipulations for our daughter are that she must read two hours a day (on a screen is okay), and she must draw for one hour a day (again, on a screen is okay).  It’s just very important to me that she keep her imagination active, and I know that’s the real worry of the “screens are bad” camp of people.  They don’t want kids or adults with bricks for brains who can’t think for themselves (though it can be argued that our entire society’s goal is to keep people from thinking for themselves, but that’s another very long post).  We’re also going to use timers so that there isn’t any question about how long someone has been doing a particular thing.  I think this plan will ward off a lot of fights over the summer.

In other news, our MamaCat is making a miraculous recovery.  Last week, I didn’t think she was going to live through the weekend, she was looking so poorly.  She was having a hard time walking and was having difficulty making it all the way to the catbox on occasion.  I decided she was on her last days and that I should just give her whatever she wanted, so I started feeding her nothing but tuna fish, seeing as how she wouldn’t eat anything else anyway.  She pretty much scarfed it down along with the water that the tuna was packed in.  She has kidney disease, which demands a low-protein diet according to vets, so I was certain that the pure meat diet would do her in.

She kept hanging in there, though, despite my not being able to give her any meds: she just threw them back up.  After a few days, her appearance seriously improved and she even put on a little bit of weight.  Her fur looks better, and she’s not holed up in the bedroom like she has been for the last week.  She’s also eating food other than tuna now, which is another positive sign.  I think it’s too early to throw in the towel on the old girl quite yet!

Her turnaround on the tuna makes me second-guess myself about Yin-Yang.  What if I had tried to feed him tuna those last few days?  What if that had made him turn around?  Did I give up too soon?  I don’t think it would have helped.  He was so full of toxins by the time I was able to take him to the vet that it would have been almost impossible to flush them out without aggravating his heart condition.  Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to review his health and behavior for the last few years, it’s quite evident that he was ill for several years longer than I originally thought, given the amount of water he was drinking for the last several years of his life.  Like, he had probably had kidney disease for at least five years if not more.  Longer than his mother, much longer.  Each cat responds to kidney disease completely differently, and he also had heart disease (which makes me guilty because he was always a bit overweight).

I really shouldn’t be beating myself up about his death, seriously.  I just really, really miss him, and I’m trying hard not to feel like I failed him somehow (which is so stupid: my friends tell me they want to come back as one of my cats, I spoil them so).  I just want so badly to be able to turn back time and do some things differently.  Hindsight and all that.  I keep getting jolted by little reminders that he’s not here, like looking for a photo on my phone and running across one that I took of him.  Or eating my yogurt and getting to the end.  He always liked me to scrape the last bits of yogurt out of the container and let him lick it off my spoon.  He’d sit patiently while I ate it and then stand up to get his treat at the end.  Just normal things, like noticing an overall reduction in food and water intake as well as a cleaner catbox, remind me that he’s not here any more.

I’ve had to get rid of several things that I just couldn’t bear to look at any more because they reminded me of his last couple of months with us.  My daughter and I agree that we’ll have to replace the purple rugs in her room where he slept most of those last couple of months, because we keep looking for him there.  There are other spots in the house where I reflexively look for him, and I suppose I will for a long time.  Fifteen years is a long time to get used to someone’s presence.

For now, though, I will try to focus on the happiness that is MamaCat’s recovery and enjoy not only her time with us, but also our other cat Samadhi’s increased attention and affection.  She’s a sweet cat who is exhibiting new behaviors now that her brother is gone.  It’s neat to experience them.

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