Friday, October 25, 2013

contracting, contracted

It's not a big secret that I am prone to depression and that I have had a couple of spectacularly bad, life-threatening spells.  Since the last one, in November, 2012, I've done really well working with my psychiatrist.

One of our strategies has been for me to avoid stressful situations.  This sounds so bland, like a nothing piece of advice, but the reality has been some rather ruthless pruning.  Last night I skipped a meeting of my book club because the last time I went, I had a bad time.  I'm not going to quit the book club just yet, but it felt safer to spend the evening curled up with my coned, post-operative cat, with Lola across the room with our foster kitten.

This stress-avoiding social pruning has been very good for me, and it feels empowering to cut some things out of my life.  But on the other hand, in the interests of health, I've contracted my life right down to the bare minimum.  At some point I'm going to have to expand it again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

not the MUNI

Today I took a friend who is temporarily on disability out for lunch.  She's been staying with another friend, and I invited him to come along.  He was planning to take mass transit from San Francisco to Watsonville, and I suggested he come for Mexican food first.

The disabled friend suggested, as a lure, that we could drop him off at BART after lunch, his plan being to travel to BART, take BART to Caltrain, and then take a bus for the last hour of his trip.  "BART is in the wrong direction from where we'll be going," I said, mindful of needing to pick up Lola after lunch.  "But we'll be right at MUNI.  You can take MUNI."

My friend recoiled and looked at me as if I were suggesting he eat larvae or crawl through the bowels of hell.  "MUNI!"

I explained how MUNI runs right to Caltrain, much like BART.  "You want me to go to Fourth and King?" he said, again regarding me as though I were suggesting he lick the floor of a gas station restroom.

"If you need to take BART, you could just take MUNI down to Civic Center and transfer to BART."  This drew another long, incredulous stare.  Soon my temporarily-disabled friend and I set out for lunch, without our MUNI-hating pal.

After lunch a MUNI train passed by us.  "I see what you meant; it's right here," she said.

I drew her attention to how trains were coming from two different directions to merge at the relatively palatial West Portal station.  "See, it would have only taken him four minutes."  We pondered his resistance to MUNI, given that BART itself resembles the waiting rooms at the cutrate HMO I used to belong to, with truly horrifying stains on the upholstery (who puts cloth upholstery on mass transit trains???  Who??)

Later as I drove her home, we were in traffic behind a MUNI bus with a big cheerful poster with a "Take MUNI!" headline.  "You should steal that, give it to F.," my friend said.  "Take MUNI!"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

not enough shame

Our post-operative cat is sporting a Cone of Shame, to prevent him from gnawing on his Fentanyl patch.  My children adore a friend's cat who often is put into a Cone of Shame due to a persistent skin condition which the cat grooms to a state of bleeding.  They were so taken by that cone that they dubbed the cat "Coney" and our friend's other cat "Notconey" and, when the cone is off, call Coney "Coney-Now-Unconed."  I thought they'd be excited to have their very own Coney.  "My little Coney, friendship is magic," crooned Iris as she carried our own cone-owning cat's carrier.

Inside the house the cat, who had been silent and motionless since we acquired him at the vet, began thrashing violently to the point where it was difficult to hold the carrier.  We had planned to sequester the convalescent in the master bedroom, with his own private litter box and food and catbed, and the box jittered and crashed about as Iris carried it upstairs.  The entire box was shaking and at risk of falling of the bed, while we were trying to figure out how to adjust the cone to put it on him.  "We'd better let him out," I said.  "We'll keep an eye on him while we figure out the cone."  I opened the carrier, and the thrashing animal slid out... upside down.  Clearly he'd lost track of which side was up in his struggles.  His eyes were hugely dilated, and the only thing on his mind was escaping from the bedroom.  But neither Iris nor I could figure out how to adjust the cone (not as easy a cone to attach to a cat's head as Coney's, which we had put on our friend's cat before).  We called to the Sober Husband, our resident mechanical genius.  "Come quickly!" shouted Iris.

I held the violent convalescent with difficulty while the Sober Husband attached the cone.  The cat was off, weaving around.  "We may as well let him out of the room," I said, bowing to reality.  He made his uneven way downstairs and immediately gorged on dry food, although we had been instructed to feed him only canned food.  Iris opened cans and showed him the canned food, but he kept gnawing at the dried.  We put away the dried food and left him with canned food, which he smeared his cone in and then abandoned.

His next order of business was to piss on our shoes in the hallway.  The operation he'd endured had come about as a result of his peeing on the shoes:  I wanted to see if there was an underlying physical cause for this annoying change of behavior.  We'd just paid over two thousand dollars in hopes of getting the cat to a point where he wouldn't pee on the shoes.  I cleaned up the piss and the shoes, and we removed all shoes from the scene.  Later the cat pissed where the shoes had been (only a short distance from a lovely, clean litterbox).

The cat has been trying to get out of the house, howling, peeing on the shoes and floor,  knocking things over, and generally acting the fool.  I would like to appropriate his Fentanyl patch, thinking that I myself would wear it with more dignity.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

history repeats itself

Years ago my poor little cat Al, who was allergic to plaque, needed to have his teeth pulled, an expensive operation requiring anesthesia and a day-long hospitalization.  Endless squabbling over the cost of pulling Al's teeth ensued, and I even took some odd jobs and sold some belongings to raise the necessaries.

Now this year our most glamorous cat, Frowst, needed several teeth pulled.  He's had some behavioral changes (and none of them for the better -- he's taken to peeing on our shoes and is now referred to as "the Mad Pee-er, he has been bothering the next-door neighbor), and I took him to the vet to see if there were underlying physical issues.  Right off the bat the vet found a mouth of decaying teeth, at least one with an abscess.  Guilt overwhelmed me.

We have an image in our minds of crazy cat ladies as being poor and living in shabby apartments.  Is it because they spend all their money on oral surgeries for their cats?  Thank God the Sober Husband took a new job and is receiving a timely signing bonus.

Friday, October 18, 2013

the street of suffering

This morning I called (handsfree, of course) the Sober Husband as I drove home from driving the children to school, and I completely lost my train of thought as I passed the most eye-riveting wreck.  A mid-sized sedan had somehow become one with a large garbage truck, and it was mesmerizing.  I wished aloud that I could have had a red light so I could have gotten a better look at this really breathtaking wreck.  The Sober Husband, speaking from afar, was not able to appreciate the strange beauty of this, probably thinking his cold-blooded wife was ignoring the human cost, but I reassured him that the body of the car, where any people had been, was unscathed.  The car itself was clearly never going to be driven again, but whoever drove it would live to ride again (although probably never to see a Recology truck without shuddering).

In the afternoon Lola and I were talking as we walked to the car after school, and I distracted her.  She turned her head to speak to me and hit her temple hard on a large metal box projecting from a pole exactly at the level of her head.  I could hear the audible thwack of her skull hitting the box.  Lola was speechless with pain, and I felt sure I was to blame for this by not seeing the box and warning her in time.  The pain was horrific, and it was such a random accident.  We have parked in that same spot and walked past that pole innumerable times over the last five years.

As Lola uncomplainingly cried from the pain in the backseat, I started the car and turned the corner, trying to console her.  Around that corner, on the same block where Lola had hurt her head, a police car was double parked with its lights flashing.  I slowed way down, and in a flash I saw what the police car was protecting:  a coroner's van, and then a body -- an actual corpse, covered with a white sheet but unmistakable -- being loaded into that van, and I heard the horrible sound of someone crying in true hysteria, screaming and crying.  Lola and I were both shocked into silence.

This  set of three random awful things all happened on the same city block during one particular day.  I could find the car accident fascinating in the absence of anyone being hurt, but the horror of the body and the awful crying had no beauty.   It felt like it could have been our tragedy, but it wasn't.  We were only passing through.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The children refuse to accept that our cats' given genders.  "All cats are gender-ambiguous," opined one.  They always disagree with me about what gender any given cat is.

We were discussing this and squabbling over what gender our little cat Zorro is when Lola expounded upon her perceptions of our big cat, Coconut. "I always thought he was a girl and then one day I looked, and suddenly he was a boy!"

Iris and I found this amusing to no end.  We spent the following couple of hours "suddenly" looking at things.  "Suddenly I looked, and you were children," I said.  "Suddenly you looked, and your mother was middle-aged."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

what we have learned

Recently I asked the children what they had learned from me.  They drew a complete blank for some time.  Then Iris had an inspiration.  "The difference between champagne and sparkling wine!  Champagne is from Champagne, and everything else is sparkling wine."

I felt a bit taken aback.  Surely I had given them so much more.  Even if we were to limit ourselves to this bit of knowledge, where were cava and prosecco?  I decided to make the best of it and asked cautiously, "And how do you tell how good it is?"

"By the size of the bubbles," answered my non-drinking minor child triumphantly.  At least I have imparted something useful, I consoled myself.  They won't be drinking AndrĂ© on my watch, I thought.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

the stereotypes are so wrong

In our culture, the crazy cat lady is viewed as living frugally. She and her many cats live off a shared diet of cat food in a small apartment quite cozily (but undoubtedly with the heat on a low setting).

It's all wrong.  Today I took our most majestic animal, Frowst, to a vet, where I paid $666 (not kidding) and took home an estimate for an additional fee of $1,800.  Being a crazy cat lady is a luxury lifestyle.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

the queen of TMI on Facebook

At Burning Man this year I fell into conversation with a stranger as we had morning cocktails in the deep desert, where you can ride your bike far out to see some large installations.  The conversation somehow drifted to the point where I confided, "I'm the queen of TMI on Facebook."

My new acquaintance did a double take and said, "You're the Drunken Housewife!"

I was so surprised by this that it was a wonder I didn't spill my drink.