Friday, March 31, 2006

Spring Storm

The wind was howling all night. I wasn't too surprised to wake up this morning to blowing snow and about an inch of fresh stuff over our existing snow cover.

Last night Denny mentioned that we didn't seem to have had any big wind storms this winter. Maybe--maybe not. I can recall a few night when the winds were howling but I think--despite all the time he has been at home with his surgical episodes--he has been gone enough to have missed most of the storms. He doesn't consciously remember the storms if he wasn't herer to witness them. He must be repressing the big Thanksgiving Day blizzard and all the hard work that entailed.

This storm--however--is just a minor blip, not even a set- back. The snow has melted away from the front of the green house where I spread ashes last week and the deck was nearly clear of snow when I went out last night to bring wood in.

I had quite a pleasant surprise waiting at the Post Office last night. A letter from my cousin in Idaho. It is hard to describe the emotions I felt when I looked at the familiar handwriting on the envelope. I haven't seen her in person since I was a small child. Her family moved to California and ours moved to Alaska. Our shared grandmother was a source of contact for us--through her filtered the news and photos of our widely seperate lives. After Grandma died, I have missed that contact, nebulous as it was. My aunt has been good about emailing me and sending photos but life goes on and one loses track.

I guess what surprises me is the depth of love I feel toward these cousins I haven't seen in so many years. This one in particular--she and I were the only girls on that side of the family. She was a bit older and I looked up to her and admired her--even across the miles and the years. When Denny had a chance to connect with some of my cousins at my aunt's wedding last year, I was envious and listened eagerly to his perceptions. Of course I knew he would find my cousins to be nice people, but I was particularly pleased when he repeated said how nice my cousin Sherry was. I mean--I *knew* it but I was happy to know he thought the same.

And here, unbidden, was a letter from her in my hands. I was half-afraid to open it. Was it bad news? We had never been correspondents--though I don't know exactly why. I guess I was afraid to make the overture, afraid of being seen as superfluous to her busy and full life. What would we have in common after so many years? Perhaps I projected onto her the rejection I had felt when my repeated attempts to correspond with another cousin (on the other side of the family) met with continued failure.

I saved the letter until I got home, then carefully opened it. Beautiful stationery--she always had this air of quiet elegance--rather like Grandma's understated dignity. I began to read--and was delighted to find this was just a reach-out-and-get-in-touch letter. Well, not "just"--it meant a great deal to me and left me filled with an excitement of re-establishing a bond that had been neglected but never really lapsed. Perhaps the essence of who people are doesn't change all that much over time. The connection I had felt with her as a small child is still there. Lacking any sisters, I depend on my female cousins to be my sisters. As I read the letter, a wash of love and warmth and familiarity came over me.

I guess that is what "family" means. That there are bonds that are unshaken by time and distance. Overlooked and neglected, love is still there.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Alaskan Livejournal Communities

I discovered a couple of interesting communities whilst poking around on Livejournal this morning:

I like this one because it features photos from us ordinary folk. There are some very wonderful photos here: alaskapix

And this one I just glanced at, but it seems informative and low-key: alaskans

Anyway, if you have a hankering to drink in the beauty or learn more about the great silent land up yonder, do check these out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dinky's Check-Up

Well, it's been a month since we started treating Dinky's kidney condition. I took her in to the vet clinic yesterday for a check up and follow-up blood work. The good news is that she has gained 5.6 ounces back and her hemocrit--a measure of anemia--was up from 28.5 last month to 32 this month, which puts it into the very low end of normal.

Her urine specific gravity was 1.015. (We hadn't tested that last month) It's a measure of how well her kidneys are concentrating her urine, and the normal range is 1.025 to 1.060, though one source listed 1.015 as the low end of the normal range. Typical CRF cats run 1.010 or less.

The rest of her numbers showed a slight movement down but nothing dramatic. Her phosphorus had been in the normal range (high) and now is right smack dab in the middle of normal. Her BUN was still high, down from 78 to 76. The same story with the creatinine, down to 5.3 from 7.4. Dots said that Dinky's bleeding gums could be contributing to the high numbers, so for now, we are going to concentrate on the fluids and an antibiotic to treat her gum infection and see if we can get her fit enough to get some dental work done in about a month.

It's easy to get caught up in chasing numbers but I keep reminding myself that each cat is different and that we really don't know what is "normal" for Dinky. That she is feeling good, gaining weight and eating are all good signs. I can hope that treating her mouth infection will buy her some better quality time. We have sweet interactions now, a sort of long good-bye, as I adjust to the idea of her mortality and the realization that she isn't going to be here forever, that each day is one less precious day of our shared life.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Spirituality

I finally got back to check out the Universist Forum for the first time in a couple weeks. It is hard to describe exactly what the community is about but it seems to embrace free-thinkers from various spiritual disciplines and there is always some thought-provoking discussion going on.

I guess my brother is the President of the Community now. A spiritual leader of sorts. Ironically, this seems to be the perfect outlet for his talents. It is as if his whole life pointed him in that direction and prepared him for the role. It should be interesting to see what comes of it--I surely do wish him and his colleagues well.

I have to speak, however, from a point of ignorance--there are so many posts in the various forums I haven't gotten around to reading yet, but it is gratifying to see such a healthy exchange of ideas. I am still not fully sure what it is all about. Sometimes it seems that the thrust is to do away with all spirituality and replace it with reason. Like we were Vulcans, not human beings. I can't say that's for me. I can't abandoned the experience of insight. It took me too many years to learn to listen to and trust my intuition that I can't discount it. Our skulls contain both the right brain and the left and each has a unique way of looking at the world. If atrocities have been committed in the name of faith, remember as well that cold logic that drove the scientific experiments at concentration camps. I distrust any dichotomy because it is too easy a jump from reason/emotion, logic/intuition to good/bad... I prefer a more holistic view and try to embrace both science and mysticism in my spirituality.

After all, some of my more profound thoughts have come from watching science programs on light and energy and life in the universe and realizing how thin the line between physics and metaphysics can be. So I am happy and at peace celebrating Nature and the cycle of the year, trusting in the pulse of life that I cannot comprehend. Maybe that is "faith" or maybe it is just being realistic.

Sometimes it is hard to know the difference. What I do know is that any "answers" I may stumble across are individual and personal--often to such an extent that they are inexpressible to others. My spirituality has no dogma.

Which reminds me--some months back, one of my blog-readers took loud exception to my response to our government's handling of Hurricane Katrina and posted some condescending comments generally suggesting I was a somewhat stupid, fuzzy-thinking liberal (don't both looking, they are gone) and ending with a jab at my spiritual beliefs. That rather stunned me, because I think I am one of the more laid-back, non-confrontational people you are likely to encounter on the road to enlightenment. You will never get an email from me urging you to boycott some movie or book or to write to your Congressman to urge him to curtail someone else's rights. I try to live and let live. I have taken exception to some Christians who use their faith as a weapon against others, but some people that I dearly love are Christians and I respect them and the sincerity of their beliefs. After all, "diversity anywhere must support diversity every where," and "as long as you harm none, do as you please" are precepts that aren't given to strident confrontation. So that this woman, who only knew me from my blog, thought she should take a pot-shot at me by mocking my spirituality stung. I can sort of laugh at it now, but I have to wonder...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On The Road

Happy Ides of March...(I guess--doesn't really seem like a cause for celebration)

Denny and I drove up to Soldotna and back for his post-op check-up today--about eighty miles each way. It was a gorgeously clear day for a drive, the road was bare and dry and we saw six moose in the first fifteen miles. To the west, the long escarpment of the Alaska/Aleutian Range shone white against sky across the width of Cook Inlet. We even caught occasional glimpses of Augustine Volcano, steaming away in the far distance, hazy in the sun.

Denny's been a bit hasty trying to get fully back on his feet. His meeting with his surgeon encouraged him to take it a bit easier for a while. He gets so impatient to get things done around the house that just lying in bed is frustrating for him. I can feel for him--and I do wish he could do more around the house--but I want him to end up with the best knees possible and that takes good healing time.

After the doctor's office, we went shopping (as always.)

Denny, ever the frugal one, has been mildly fascinated by a liquidation store that recently opened in Soldotna--more so than I. The store's wares consist mostly of cheap imported knock-offs or shop-worn items of dubious worth, but Denny loves to think he's saving money by buying something cheap--while I would rather pay more for something of quality. Not that we ever fight over money but we do have slightly different shopping strategies.

Anyway, we went to the liquidation store and Denny bought some windshield washer hose and a very dusty carton of carburetor cleaner. Come to the check-out stand and discover that the establishment has switched over to the electronic debit system where they take your check, run it through their machine and get the money instantly transferred from your checking account--then they give you the check back for you to destroy. That's how it is supposed to work. I imagine the stores like it because they get their money right away. I detest the system, though, because I have to spend the time filling out a check that is going to be handed right back to me, so not only have I wasted my time in filling the check out but have used up a check as well. If we are going to go through all that, I'd just as soon put the purchase on a credit card. Anyway--of course things did not go smoothly and there was something wrong with the line so they couldn't get through to our bank and we had to pay with cash (which we would have done if we had known what a waste of time the whole thing was going to be.) Denny's nose was (rightfully, I think) out of joint because they wouldn't take our check (which they were happy enough to take two months ago) for their cheap-ass crap when we have excellent credit and have never had a check bounce. So, I guess we won't be shopping there any more. I'm not shedding any tears, of course, but they lost a great potential customer in Denny.

So, we drove over to Kenai to hit Home Depot. I had bought a screen door for BeBe's room when I was killing time during Denny's surgery two weeks ago and while I was in the store, I noticed they were selling three-foot tall Norfolk pines for $17.98. I had been seriously tempted but I already had a (7-inch tall) Norfolk pine that I had been nursing along for two years so I couldn't really justify buying another one. So when we got home from Kenai that evening, I discovered my little Norfolk pine had died. It gets so warm downstairs with the wooodstove going in the winter that I have to keep all the plants well-watered. With getting geared up for Denny's surgery, watering duties had slipped my mind for too long, I guess. I was really sad to think my little tree had died and tried to revive it but no luck... So I promised myself that I would buy another one if they were still on sale when we went back to Kenai.

And they were! So I thought, what the hell and bought two of them. Denny looked bemusedly at me as if to suggest this was a waste of money but I just said, "This makes me happy," and that was that. Surely for less expense than the three cases of beer I bought him this week, I will have much more enjoyment of my purchase and I think it will add to the atmosphere of the house.

I mean, something is wrong with our house. It saps my energy and puts my nerves on edge. I need to find a way to bring more positive energy into the space and I think it will take more than just de-cluttering it. So now I have two little pine trees.

After Home Depot, we went to the warehouse store and bought all their cases of canned Friskies and eight 35-lb tubs of scoopable cat litter and four cans of coffee and a case of Heet and two cases of Diet Rock Star as well as sundry other items. They were still selling the five-shelf Gorilla Shelf units (that I bought in Homer for $86.98) for $99.98 so I guess I did good in buying them locally.

At the check stand, the checker looked at our cart and said, "Wow--either you have a lot of cats...."

"Got it in one," I said.

Then, we gassed up and hit the long road home. Driving south into the sun was drowsy-making so I felt I should stay awake to keep Denny awake. Once we got home, I sent him up to take a nap while I unloaded most of the stuff from the Suburban. Then I re-heated some ham for a snack and took it up to nap with him. We dozed until about five, then I got up and put dinner in the oven.

It was a full day and I was too tired to do much with Dinky, so I will give her a double-dose of fluids tomorrow. She is looking so good and feels like she actually has gained some weight back, so I am interested in seeing what her bloodwork looks like next week--and didn't think one day of rest is going to do her any harm. She's eating so well, I'm not sure she needs the Pepcid every other day, but I will ask Dots about that when we see her.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

CRF

That's cat-people short-hand for chronic renal failure. It's so common in cats that it has its own abbreviation. Like FeLV or FIV or all the other collections of letters that break our hearts...

But I'm feeling better this week. I have come to realize that Dinky's condition is just that--a condition. It is not cureable and it is degenerative but there is a lot I can do to make her feel good and improve her health to the point where she could very well die of something else. I joined a couple Yahoo groups--the one I am active in being "Caring for CRF Felines"--and have found help and support and good advice. Several members have been keeping their CRF cats going for years, which I found heartening.

It helps that Dinky is looking and acting so good. It even seems like she has put a few ounces back on. We are developing a system in treating her, though I still have to list all the treatments/medication she needs for the day and check it off the list as I go: Pepcid, viamins, Antirobe, fluids. Washing her quarter-tab of Pepcid down with a squirk of water seems to make the process easier. She doesn't much care for the sub-Q fluids but she is learning to tolerate them. I got the Terumo needles this last Saturday and they have made a difference, going in smoother and delivering the required amount of fluids quicker. And since I decided to split her 150ml dose into daily doses of 75ml, we are done in a little over a minute.

Dinky actually seems to enjoy the increased attention and our interactions have become just a bit sweeter as we cope with this together.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

This Is What I Need...

Crazy Cat Lady

What? Only *six* cats? What a piker!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Catching Up

As usual...

Denny had knee surgery on Tuesday, Dinky and I have reached an understanding on her medications and I missed all the excitement at work.

The surgery Denny had on his left knee for a job-related injury back in 2004 turned out pretty well, so when his "good" knee started giving him trouble last fall, he went back to the same orthopedic surgeon to see if the damage could be repaired. Long story short, he had surgery last Tuesday and is now resting and healing at home. He has been staying pretty close to bed, much to the delight of Punkin and Bunny, so before I head out to work each noon, I leave him with a cooler of beverages and one of cold packs as well as snacks and sandwiches within easy reach. After three separate surgeries on his knees, we are getting this post-surgical care down cold.

Speaking of cold--Denny asked me to pack a couple of gallon-sized ziploc bags with snow--instead of ice--to use as cold packs on his knee. I was sceptical at first but the procedure is working quite well. And since we have such an abundant supply of snow at the moment, it is easier than making tray after tray of ice cubes. (I could do that outside if the temperatures were at zero or below but at our present moderate temperatures, it would take too long.)

As for Dinky--she looks and acts so normally, I keep thinking there has to be some mistake in her diagnosis. But I am trying to carry out the home-care instructions I have the best I can. Even with Denny's help, we had real trouble giving Dinky her subcutaneous Tagament injection. Even though I was using a 22-gauge needle, Dinky would cry and twist and flinch--not a happy scene at all. So I asked (and got the go-ahead) to switch her to oral Pepcid every other day. Dinky gets a quarter-tablet, washed down with a spritz of water--ever so much easier than jabbing at her with a needle.

But there is no substitute for the sub-Q fluids. Researching on-line through the great CRF web-site, I found recommendations on needles for giving fluids and was able place an order on-line. I have been wanting a small but effective needle for "doing fluids" for years now, so perhaps this will be helpful. Until my order arrives, though, I still have to deal with Dinky. She is so fidgety that I decided to use the 18-gauge needle, even though it is larger and one presumes more uncomfortable, it delivers the payload faster, so less time spent clutching Dinky and trying to calm her. She has been pretty good, actually, even though she lets me know she doesn't like it.

During my days' off, I missed the biggest news story of the year thus far... Shoot-out at the Airport... Can't say I feel left out, even though all the action took place on the other side of the runway from our facility. Guess there are some good points about not being stationed in the terminal building. I'm looking forward to seeing what the local papers will have to say about this next week.

I also (finally) finished giving The House of Many Cats a face-lift. Now if I can find the time to update and finish the individual pages.