Friday, June 27, 2008

Cartoon Up!

In spite of spending most of this week dragging my sorry ass through the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, I did manage to get a cartoon done. Not much of anything else, but hey, I took care of my priorities. Anyway, here's this week's cartoon:

And yes, this always happens to me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh Shit.

In honor of the late George Carlin, I flat out refuse to censor the title of this post, especially after what I had to deal with this afternoon.

It's summer camp week in the Madden household. I tell you, I had a time finding a summer camp for Cassie - not too many places take pre-K kids. Technically, my girl is old enough and way smart enough for any camp, but 99% of them insist that your child be finished with kindergarten before they'll accept them. Don't know why; maybe they're afraid the uncivilized little pre-K's will eat the post-K's alive.

So anyway, I found a camp at Virginia Living Museum and I signed Cassie up for it, completely forgetting that Cassie's pre-school graduation was the same week, so I had to go back and cancel that. I lost ten dollars on that, but fortunately the Norfolk Botanical Gardens also has a summer camp that costs ten dollars less than VLM and they had dates available at a time when our calendar was clear, so I signed Cassie up for that and now she's happily attending summer camp.

Unfortunately, Sam and I are attending with her. Cassie's camp lasts from 9 AM to noon, and Norfolk Botanical Gardens is just far enough away that I can't really justify dropping Cassie off and then going home, especially given how bad the traffic can be in that area. It has taken us anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get to camp, and if I were to drop Cassie off and go home, chances are really good that I'd have to turn around as soon as I got back just so I could pick her up again.
Now I know I could just leave Cassie at camp and go somewhere else in Norfolk, but really, my only options are to go shopping at the local stores because three hours isn't that much time for sight-seeing, and I don't want to go shopping because I'm already losing enough money as it is on gas and camp fees on this venture. Sooooo, everyday this week we arrive around 9 AM at the garden, I drop Cassie off with her class, and then I grab Sam and the stroller and I take off into the garden for a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour...

Huh? Where was I? Oh year, three hours in the Norfolk Botanical Garden. It's pretty much all outside, so you know what that means - no air conditioning. The temperatures have been in the nineties all week, and I'm thinking that between the heat and the exercise I get from lugging around Sam, her stroller and her snacks, I just might be another two pounds lighter come Friday. I know because this is just like Disney World all over again - heat + lots of walking + lugging around kids = negative weight gain. If I could patent this weight loss plan, I'd make a fortune. Oh wait, everybody already knows about the wonders of exercise, don't they?

So we're in the garden all day, hiking and sweating and practicing karate (which seems to only slightly scare the other visitors) because I have a review coming up tonight. Then around 11:45 I meet Cassie in the children's garden and we walk back to the car and head home. Now I know that after three hours in that kind of heat, doing that much walking, I am exhausted. And Sam and Cassie should be too. Should be. Cassie has been nodding off at the drop of a hat all through the day, so no problems there, but Sam?

Sam. I'm gonna kill that kid.

I put her down in her crib shortly after we got back today. I know she's tired. But did she go to sleep? No, she spent an hour or so singing in her crib. And doing other things.

Other things like pulling off her diaper and smearing herself, the crib, and all her toys with shit.

I discovered this activity when I passed by her room on the way to get myself a soda. The odor was overpowering, wafting out from under the door to permeate the hallway. I had to put Sam in the tub and scrub her from head to toe, then take all her bedding and crib toys and throw them in the washer. The room still smells like poop, which makes me wonder if I've missed a spot, but I searched and couldn't find anything. My luck, I'll step in it later tonight when I put Sam down for bed.

We have one more day of camp left, and then I'm praying that we go back to a quiet summer schedule - no more travel, no more unexpected trips, no more hours spent walking around in the heat just waiting to die. I want to stay home and work. Lord knows, I've got more to do than hours to do it in.

Better get crackin', I guess.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

15 Years and Still Going Strong

I'm all off schedule today. I'm supposed to get up at the ungodly hour of 5:45 AM so I can work on the podcast and get other odds and ends done, but I stayed up late to work on Lydia's obituary/eulogy and then Cassie came running into the bedroom around 2 AM and when I woke up I realized, "Hey! It's my anniversary! Let's sleep late and snuggle with the husband." And you just know where that led...

So I've been running late all day, but I'm not too upset about it. I had quality time with my husband (and yes, I'm going to stick with that euphemism -- if you want something more explicit, see my erotica website you pervert!); I managed to make it to the Y and got in 14 laps in the pool before the kiddies' swim classes chased me out; I packed a picnic lunch and got the girls out to a play date; and I got to have a real conversation with another adult about kids, husbands, and my current allergic reaction to my kids' hypoallergenic sunscreen lotion. Yergh.

I have no great plans for today beyond doing some writing before I quit work for the day. My romantic plans were taken care of this morning during 'quality time' and my present to Michael won't show up yet for another couple of days. He's getting the Legos Indiana Jones game. Cassie already told him what he was getting when we gave him his birthday present earlier last week. Then she told me what I was getting from Michael today - a big brown box. That's Michael's idea of a joke. He learned from my mistake and so all Cassie's gotten to see of my present it the box it came in. Nyah!

I will go to karate class tonight, even though I don't feel like it, because I missed class on Tuesday. That was the day I had that allergic reaction to the sunscreen. I broke out in these really horrible, itchy red welts and decided that if I didn't take some Benadryl, I'd probably scratch myself to death. I had this screwy idea that if I took the Benadryl early enough, I'd get past the sleep inducing effect of the drug in time to go to karate class. No such luck. I was out like a light by 6:30 PM that night and didn't wake up until around 5:30 AM the next morning. And I was STILL TIRED! And itchy.

So nothing big going on here. Maybe something big on Saturday. Michael has tickets to see Billy Joel in concert. He's taking me, of course. If not, you'll read his obituary on Sunday.

Now I'm off to work. I have to churn out 500 words of BDSM chick lit before I can say I'm done for the day. What a goal!

Lydia, 1992-2008

Lydia did not last the night after my last post. Sometime around midnight, she got up and tottered about a foot or so to lay outside her kitty tent which I had brought up for her, and then maybe an hour later she crawled inside it. I got up with her the first time and brought her a wet washcloth, trying to squeeze a few drops of water into her mouth. The second time I think I heard her, but by then I was too caught up in a nightmare that I can't remember now. I vaguely recall hearing her get sick again. That was probably the last thing she did before she died.

When I woke up at 5:30 the next morning, Lydia was long gone. I let her lay where she was and went about my usual morning routine, crying the whole time. In fact, that pretty much describes this whole past week. I keep going on, doing what I would normally be doing, and then something catches me - I find her collar, I clean out the kids' rooms and find someplace where she got sick ages ago and puked up a mess of dry food, I go looking for photos for this blog entry - and then I cry for a bit but I keep going. I can't stop. I'm the mom and I've got two kids and a house to take care of. If a person had died, a human family member, I would have been expected to take time off and nobody would have questioned that, but for a beloved pet? I cry when I have the time.

When Michael woke up, I had him help me get Lydia out of her tent and into a box. She had stiffened up and wouldn't fit into her cat carrier. I was relieved that I hadn't had to make that final trip to the vet after all. She did go to the vet that morning, but to be cremated, not put to sleep, and I feel slightly better knowing that she died at home in some comfort with her people.

Cassie woke up next and I told her that Lydia was gone. Cass is finally old enough to cry over these things. She'll miss Lydia. She still remembers Fritti, but Sam will probably not remember either cat. After Michael left with Cassie for preschool, I gathered up Sam. Lydia was already in the back of the car, and we drove to the vet for the final arrangements. Again, I spent the rest of the day doing my usual routine - laundry, cleaning the kitchen, heading out for a run. I managed to lock myself and Sam out of the house and had to call Michael to let us in. A sign of how upset and disoriented I was over Lydia, I guess.

You know, I never planned to have three cats. When I graduated from college, I spent a short time at home with my folks while attending OBC at Ft. Eustis. Bonnie, my mother's Himalayan, was pregnant then and Mom promised me one of the kittens. That turned out to be Beetlejuice. When I moved back to Blacksburg and got my own apartment, I decided to get a second cat to keep BJ company while I was away during the day. I had intended to get a grey/black female kitten and name her Lydia. I was hooked on the cartoon "Beetlejuice" back then (derived from the movie of the same name) and thought it would be cute to have a Beetlejuice and Lydia running around in the apartment. However, this orange tabby charmer won my heart and I ended up coming home with Fritti.

Two cats was going to be the limit for me. My then-fiancé Michael was mildly allergic to cats. His sinuses could handle two cats, but three would be too much, so I set aside my ideas of a Lydia cat and contented myself with the two I already had. Then a friend of mine, JJ, approached me one evening and asked if I could take in a young female black and tan tabby. JJ had adopted the cat shortly after one of her own had died, but it wasn't working out. The cat was being bullied by her other cat, and besides looked too much like the cat who had died. She needed a good home and JJ had heard I was in the market. Michael had this firm, serious "No way" look on his face, but it didn't stand a chance against my hopeful happy face. This was my Lydia cat, I knew it. And so JJ gave me this skinny, curious black and brown tabby cat and that was that. Three was definitely the limit, Michael told me and I never argued with him.

Of the three cats, Lydia was the shyest. I think being bullied by JJ's cat in those early days left a mark on her. She was always on the losing end of a scuffle with Fritti, who chased her from one end of the house to the other. Fortunately, she was very spry and could leap to any height to get away from him. I have fond memories of Lydia leaping to the top of the china cabinet in our dining room and roosting there, looking very much like Snoopy when he played vulture to Charlie Brown. Fritti and BJ could never get up there, but Lydia spent a lot of time in that spot. She had a tendency to vomit up her food, and quite frequently I'd find piles of dried kitty vomit up there, a gift from Lydia.

That was just the start of Lydia's acrobatics. When we lived in our condo, she liked to walk along the top of the sliding shower door, a feline tight rope walker who kept me wondering if she would fall into the shower with me and then claw me to shreds to get out (water was pure evil to Lydia). She loved doing that so much that when we moved to our house, which had no sliding shower door, she became extremely distraught and spent over a week walking around the house crying. She got over it though and learned to balance on other narrow ledges. She also discovered the joys of a walk-in closet with top shelves. On more than I few occasions, I'd go into the closet to get dressed and see Lydia take a flying leap overhead from one side of the closet to the other. It was quite a sight, sort of like Super Kitty zooming through the air.

Of course, being a small cat she also liked to hide in small places. I frequently found her tucked away in closets and boxes, content to be boxed in by sheets and blankets and towels. She got locked into the linen closet on more than a few occasions and I would spend half an hour trying to figure out where in the world all that meowing was coming from. Then one day we discovered a leak in the jets to the tub in the master bath. One of the pipes had come undone and was letting water soak through to the floor beneath, which also just happened to be the ceiling for the foyer on the first floor. Michael opened up the panel to the air jet motor to let the floor/ceiling dry out and shut the bathroom to keep the cats out. But then sometime in the night, he used the bathroom and forgot to close the door. Lydia snuck into our master bathroom and found the open panel, which led to a small dark place. Naturally, she couldn't resist exploring that.

I woke up late the next morning to the sound of meowing, and spent the next hour trying to figure out where Lydia was. When the sound seemed to be coming from the vents, I realized what must have happened. Lydia had crawled behind the tub and gotten trapped in the walls. But I couldn't pinpoint exactly where she was. Michael and I spent another half hour looking around when I finally spotted one tiny kitty eye glaring at me from the slot of the downstairs bathroom sliding door. We had to take a sledge hammer to the wall to get her out, poor thing.

Other fond memories of Lydia... she had a favorite toy, a boot lace tied to a small plastic Halloween pumpkin. This was something I put together back when I lived in the apartment in Blacksburg. The idea was that I would drag the pumpkin around and the cats would chase it, but nobody liked that idea so I held onto the pumpkin and they chased the bootlace end instead. Lydia was especially fond of this game and would drag that pumpkin to me constantly, meowing around the bootlace in her mouth. Problem was, she wanted me to wiggle the string, but she never wanted to pounce on it, just watch it. Michael could get her to run in circles with it, but me? She just liked to watch me wiggle it in front of her. There were times when I had to hide that damn boot lace just so I could get stuff done. We put it away on a shelf when Cassie started walking. I was afraid she'd strangle herself on it. I do recall pulling it down a few times to play with Lydia, even as recently as a month ago. I'm glad I did that.

Lydia was the most patient of the three cats. Back when we lived in the condo, we would watch the X-Files on Friday nights. Michael and I loved the X-Files, and whenever the show came on, I'd hold Lydia up beneath her front legs and make her do the 'X-Files dance,' which mainly consisted of me flopping her around a bit on her hind legs. She was very, very patient about that, let me tell you.

Lydia was also the cuddliest of the three cats. She was the one who always crawled into my lap whenever I cried. I could hold her and rock her like a baby, which I did a lot when I was going through the infertility treatments. She liked to curl up on my bed beside me, and when I was pregnant with Cassie, her weight alone was enough to pin me in the bed. My back was so bad during that last trimester, I couldn't move a nine-pound cat to get out of the bed! We had to lock her and the others out of the bedroom after Cassie was born. They found other places to sleep, and Lydia never really did come back to my bed after that, even after we quit shutting the door. In the last few months, I don't think she could have gotten into the bed. She was having problems with her back legs and my spry little kitten couldn't get around so well any more.

Lydia drooled. A lot. Any time she got excited, she'd drool, which made petting her a messy ordeal. I'd scratch behind her ears and she'd just get to purring and then suddenly we'd have a flooding problem on our hands. I also discovered that she'd meow if I blew at her. Just puff up my cheeks and blow, real quick. I don't know why she did that, but she did. Crazy cat.

I went looking for photos of Lydia yesterday, something to add to this entry. I found a series of pics that a friend, Mark, had taken one Halloween night of all three cats waiting at the window for Trick-or-Treaters. I'm sure I have other photos of Lydia and Frittie and BJ, but I remember this night so clearly, even though it must have been ten years ago. I went out for a run through the neighborhood that evening and came back just as the kids were ringing our doorbell. It was cool, not too cold, and we left the window up so the cats could see all the kids in their costumes. They were fascinated, and the kids were equally fascinated with them. I look at these pictures now and think, my god, how young my cats look! And look at how young I was!

But now Lydia and Fritti are gone. I picked up Lydia's ashes today from the vet. I cried when the vet assistant handed them to me. I'm crying now. I can't help it. My darling cat has been replaced by an acrylic box with a label on it. I can't hug her anymore or scratch her behind the ears and watch her drool. She won't be sitting at the fridge tomorrow morning when I get up, waiting for her morning treats. She's gone, and my life with all its tasks and demands keeps driving me onward with no time to stop.

I miss my cat.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lydia Is Sick

Well, I had hoped to come back from my vacation with funny stories about how miserable it is to chase two kids with princess fantasies through the Magic Kingdom. I mean, I really did have some funny stories and it really was miserable at points. But then I came home to a sick cat.

This is like what happened with Fritti all over again, only compressed into a few days. Lydia, my baby and my darling, was okay when we left. The neighbor's oldest daughter came by all week to take care of her and BJ while we were gone. But some time over the week, Lydia stopped eating and then stopped drinking. We found out when we came home. She was just as bone thin as Fritti was, and just as shaky. Poor thing has spent most of the weekend tucked away in her little kitty tent, just laying there, except for when I drag her out to squirt water or runny baby food down her throat with a syringe.

Now she's even worse. I last fed her around 6PM, and I left her on the couch lying on a towel. She was so listless, and she had vomited up some of the food I gave her, so I didn't want to move her. Then when Michael and I weren't looking, Sam grabbed the towel Lydia was lying on and dragged the whole thing onto the floor, with Lydia still on it. Lydia didn't even move, apparently just hit the floor and stayed there.

Right now, she's in my bedroom. She found enough strength to wander over to a corner and is lying with her head atop an air vent. Here eyes are open and she's just staring off at nothing. I don't even want to try to feed her anymore. I'm afraid it will just upset her or make her vomit again.

Lydia is sixteen years old. I've been thinking that some time this year or next she would die. But it's so hard to watch her go like this. If she's still alive tomorrow, I'm taking her to the vet. He probably can't do anything for her at this point, except put her to sleep. I did it for Fritti, so I'll do it for her, but it tears me up just thinking about it. And everything is so hectic right now, I can't even find the time to stop and just cry. I'm swamped with work and unanswered e-mails, one novel just published and a short story collection just accepted for contract, plus house work, unpacking from the so-called vacation, and on and on, all this work just waiting to fall on me and crush me beneath its weight.

Lydia, Fritti and BJ were with me when I first moved out on my own. Those three cats kept me company when I was all alone in Blacksburg, in that single bedroom apartment, going to graduate school while Michael went off to work. They kept me company, kept me warm, snuggled with me in bed. Lydia was my baby doll, the cat that comforted me when I was suffering through all the garbage of infertility treatments and tests. My smallest, my softest, my baby. And tomorrow, she'll probably be gone. I simply can't bear it.