Goodbye Sketch

Sketch at his finest

A few years ago I remember saying that if my cat ever dies, my life will change drastically. I’m about to find out how.

Sketch went the way of his ancestors this evening after more than fifteen and a half years of life. Never let it be said that we didn’t try hard enough to help this guy keep going. To sum:

–In 2014 he was diagnosed with diabetes type 2, necessitating twice daily (or more) blood glucose checks and twice daily insulin shots. It became very difficult to go on date nights or family outings. At the age of ten, our daughter had to learn how to give the cat a shot. I organized my life around the cat’s care schedule.

–In 2015 after several months of remission from diabetes, it came back along with pancreatitis and diabetic ketoacidosis. After three nights in the vet hospital (which included some sort of issues with his heart) and a huge vet bill, we brought him home with multiple medications. We had to force feed him for days. Somehow, he got better, but was back on insulin.

–In 2018 we had chronic kidney failure to add to the list of woes, followed by high blood pressure and medication for it.

–Around December 30, 2018, we noticed Sketch wasn’t really eating much at all. Then we saw he wasn’t drinking either. That was ominous, because this cat always loved water and no glass was safe from his muzzle.

–January 11, 2019 we were told he had tongue cancer. The horror! The cat couldn’t use his tongue, and so he couldn’t groom himself. He’d drink by sticking his muzzle in a cup of water and just open his mouth. He’d eat by sloppily attacking food with his face, and half of it would fall to the ground, glued to the carpet or bowl by this sticky, gelatinous gunk that kept leaking out of his mouth. We started him on bupenorphine, a heavy duty pain killer, and for a while he seemed like he was improving. But no.

–January 21 I took a photo of him, below. I’ve taken a lot of photos of this cat over the years. I had to confess he looked very unhappy. I felt almost selfish trying to keep him going. I looked up a feline pain scale online and he was at a 3 out of 5, on bupenorphine.


Sad cat

–January 22 he was in bed beside us and kept opening and closing his mouth all night long. Even through earplugs I could hear the sticky saliva gunk he was struggling with.

–This morning he seemed truly miserable, and we saw blood in the drool. At least 4 out of 5 on the feline pain scale. We looked in his mouth and saw that a large part of his tongue had been overrun with this white mass that was claiming his tongue for itself.

Enough is enough, we said.

So now Sketch, the well-loved, super pampered cat is no longer feeling any pain and is buried next to his “friend” and former “cat roommate,” Max.

Eventually, I will stop seeing pieces of cat food and glitter puffs around the house and get used to a catless home. But for now it’s weird. I deleted all the timers on my phone reminding me to check the cat’s blood glucose and give him insulin. Tomorrow I don’t need to clean the catbox, rub high blood pressure medicine in his ear, get my husband’s help to administer bupenorphine, pick up half a dozen bowls of mostly untouched food and replace them with a smorgasbord of foods that would have likely remained untouched.

I’d like to think Sketch is prostrating to Vajrasattva in this one. He has spent more time on my meditation cushion than I have.

What will I do with the free time? Maybe I can finally meditate in the early morning? Do my physical therapy exercises? Get my brain organized to actually take vitamins and supplements regularly instead of haphazardly? All of the above? Perhaps I won’t have to run the dishwasher every day to clean all the bowls of cat food. Maybe I can take up knitting again, since having a chronic case of Lap Cat has made yarn play very difficult. Maybe I could actually see friends again on occasion? Do I have any left?


How Many Books Can You Read in a Lifetime?

My GoodReads account has a feature that lets me set a goal for how many books I’m going to read in a year. This year my goal is 40, a bit higher than previous years. I’ve read 20 books so far in 2018. Usually the only way I reach my goal is by including plenty of manga and graphic novels in the count, because those practically read themselves.

One day I was thinking: How many more books can I possibly read in my lifetime? I’m 50, and let’s say I live to be 90. If I have 40 more years of reading 40 books a year (which is pretty optimistic if you ask me), that’s 1600 books. I have 23 books on my Amazon wish list, and over 130 books on my to-be-read shelves. So the books I have slated to read represent almost 10% of what I could possibly read over my lifetime, in the best case scenario. I can’t decide how I feel about that.

FWIW I wrote a book and published it in 2014, here’s my Goodreads Author Profile.

Helping a Friend Through a Disaster

Hurricanes are weird. They can predict their coming days in advance, so you have plenty of time to prepare, and plenty of time to worry.

I don’t live in a Hurricane zone, but my best friend Monika does. She and her family were right in the predicted path of Hurricane Irma and it sure looked like they were going to be in deep trouble.

This post is about the lifeline I helped provide to Monika while she prepared and lived through the most dangerously threatening hurricane Florida has seen in a long, long time. She asked me to write this to help other people understand just how vital their remote assistance can be in times of impending disaster.

When Monika first called me crying saying she had a Cat 4 hurricane headed her way and their house was only rated for Cat 3 winds or lower, my first impulse was to try to deny this was really happening. I had already agreed to be her out of area contact and felt a sense of responsibility I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Over the next day or so, she sent me photos of her kids’ clothes with both hers and my number written on the inside of them. Visions of her children getting whisked away in a tornado and me being called to help identify the bodies were disturbing to say the least. We talked about her will, and her legacy to her children should she not make it through the storm. These are the sort of moments you don’t want to have to think about, until you realize that you must.

Imagine for a moment that your death could be imminent, but that your chance of survival could be much higher if you take the right precautions.  You need to focus on taking those precautions, and let someone else worry about the other stuff. My job was to deal with the other stuff. So while Moka was freezing ice in bags, prepping food, talking to neighbors about securing their house, I was in touch with her family letting them know what was up, and checking the news and weather frequently, sending her brief missives about what she needed to know from local news. She had no time to sit on the computer and try to figure out the track of the storm, the wind strength, whether or not the shelters in her county were full or if her neighbors had power. I could provide that info and did.

The best moments might have been when, late Sunday night, she was texting and asking me where the eye of the storm was. I had probably six different sites open but was having trouble finding the eye. It was as if a miracle had happened: the storm was beginning to break up, and the eye was dissipating, right as it got to them. From my look at the radar, I could tell her that the eerie calm she was hearing outside was not actually the eye, it was pretty much the end of the storm.

Fast forward to the happy ending…they got through it alright…two trees fell on their neighbor’s house and around the corner, four trees fell on another house and punctured the roof, leaving a gaping hole in the baby’s room.

So next time you have a faraway friend in a danger zone, see if you can reach out and help. It might just make a bigger difference than you can imagine.


I went to Central Park and out came this silly review

It was a hot August day and three of us Pacific Northwesterners unused to hot, humid weather wandered into the south end of Central Park with the naive bravado of Seattleites taking a walk at Green Lake. (For those unfamiliar, Green Lake is a large round puddle in the middle of N. Seattle with a simple path around it…forty five minutes walk and you are back to where you started).

We first fended off the guy who wanted us to pay at least $80 for some kind of bicycle rickshaw tour, then continued, still bright in the eyes, toward some giant rocks that begged to be climbed. By the time we got to the top of the first rock, this middle-aged mama was ready for a long sit. Took some ill-conceived vertical panorama shots of my husband that made him look fat, then spied a small rock in the distance and felt sorry for it, sitting by itself. We climbed a hill to hug the small rock, which turned out to be the height of a ten year old.

About thirty minutes after entering the park, heat-soaked delirium began to set in, along with big-time confusion about where to find a bathroom. We began to wander along paths that followed the whims of nature, rather than the friendly grid system of the urban locations to which we are accustomed. We came around a bend and a freaking amusement park appeared out of nowhere. I consulted the Google maps, even Pokemon GO, but could not figured out where I was. Yelp informed me that there was a coffee shop nearby by…Dancing Crane or some such. I was willing to believe anything at that point. Suddenly there it was…a coffee shop with A/C and a bathroom with a long line, next to the largest mayonnaise dispenser I’ve ever seen. Outside the shop was a Zoo, yes, a Zoo!

Next thing we knew, we were back at the south end of the park again, quite accidentally. Husband tried to convince me we were in the exact same location, but the truth was more insidious: the whole south end of the park is a series of carbon copy rubber stamps of everything else…the same identical looking food carts and guys selling overpriced tours, stamped up and down the concourse. I stayed on the “Wein Walk” while husband and daughter went to another iteration of endless hot dog carts. I saw a giant rat run across the walk. Wanting to get a closer look I went over to an empty park bench, hoping to sit my delirious, overheated body down, but a mom and her two boys beat me to the bench. I considered for a moment telling them about the rat hoping it would scare them off, but I wasn’t sure I could craft a coherent sentence.

We continued down the path and saw a building called Arsenal Gallery. Entering the building, we found yet another set of bathrooms and on the third floor they told us there was a gallery. The elevator let out, and we wandered around trying to find the cases of firearms we expected, then realized the gallery was actually showing paintings of plants, and had nothing to do with guns.

Our confused wander continued northward, where I procured a frozen lemonade and saw a reservoir full of remote control sailboats. Additional wonders included a black squirrel, which I didn’t even know existed. It occurred to me that many Central Park rodents probably lived and died for generations without ever leaving the park. Where else are they going to go?

[Originally posted on Yelp]


We are only as strong as the weakest among us

Imagine a family needs to walk across a river in order to get to the other side, and there is no bridge. Among the family members is five year old child. The water is up to her chin and her swimming skills are poor. What would happen in this scenario? Probably the mom, dad or a strong older sibling would pick her up and carry her, so that the whole family could make it to the other side together, alive.

Now extrapolate this story to the entire human race. We are all trying to survive in this world, but among us are some people who are struggling to make it across that virtual river of life. They may have been born poor and disadvantaged, or have suffered a debilitating injury or illness. Whatever the reason, who’s responsible for making sure we all make it as best we can, this human family of ours?

There seem to be different philosophies about this.

1. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”

This is the attitude which says, “I cannot recognize drowning when I see it, or I do not care.”

2. “Only help your own family and friends”

These folks seem to be saying, “I will only help people who I personally know, like and care about.”

3. “Help everyone”

This is the philosophy of those who see that we are all connected, who understand that if the left hand is bleeding, the right hand should put a bandage on it, or the whole body will suffer the consequences.

Have you considered where you stand and why?

Email Fail and Ramble

It’s obnoxious I guess, but when someone doesn’t reply to an email, sometimes I just find the email they ignored and forward it back to them, copying and pasting the exact same thing I sent before. I especially do this with party invites, because it seems that most people don’t understand what RSVP means.

Sometimes I am horrified at how many of my peers just can’t respond to emails. Especially when I’m doing them a favor. Some days my default thought is, “Will you help me so that I can help you?”

Now I get that people are busy. Many of my peers have full time jobs, small children, aging parents and household responsibilities. This is why I want to help them out, make their lives easier, if I can. But I can’t get blood from a turnip. If I need information in order to help you with the thing you want help with, then, I need information. From you. How will you get it to me? Via telepathy?

Yeah email sucks. Not everyone has gmail, which helpfully filters out Spam to make the task of checking it less overwhelming. Not everyone has a working computer. But even my parents can respond to my emails. What’s up with some of the 30- and 40- somethings?

Then there’s Facebook. I have lost count of the number of times I wish I could log off Facebook and never go there again. Unfortunately, there is information there that I need, and people there who I cannot communicate with any other way. Facebook is also a huge struggle for some people. They don’t have Messenger, because they think you have to let it bully you into accepting notifications, which you don’t have to do. So I send messages to people and never hear back, and I have no way of knowing why. I miss the college dining halls, when anyone I wanted to see was there, everyday, for lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast.

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. To communicate, we either saw each other in person, made a phone call, or wrote a letter. This was pretty limiting, so I welcomed these new communication technologies into my life and embraced them as best I could. Email, Texting, Usenet (oh I’m showing my age). What’s going on with the rest of Gen X? Are they just distracted by the array of television and movie options now, which are far and above much better quality than we had growing up?

I guessing most of my peers didn’t have a big advantage I had: In the early nineties, I bought a PC which apparently had a hardware conflict. Trying to figure out what was wrong with my computer consumed me for years. I was fascinated by the process, which led me deep into the CMOS, the DOS Command-Prompt, to the Jumper Pins inside the box. Eventually I realized that the 486 Dx-50 processor wasn’t playing nice with the video card. A few years later I was studying for my MSCE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certificate and doing Technical Support for Adobe and Microsoft products. Computer problems give me life. I tend to forget this is not true for the vast majority of humans.

So anyway, if you are full of email fail, just know that I’m here for you. I can help. Will you let me?

Evangelicals Advocate Irresponsibility

In the wake of POTUS 45’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, I have been seeing some stories about how conservative evangelical Christians agree with this decision, due to some notion that “God will take care of it.”

As a Buddhist, I’ve been told that the goal of realizing the enlightened mind is up to us. There is no savior, just Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to inspire us with their example, and Teachers, who can point the way.

I have never professed Christianity as my religion, but from what I can see,  Christians are also supposed to take some responsibility for their own salvation. Some Christians have a notion of being a steward of the Earth. Most Christians I know, as far as I can tell, do not abdicate their responsibilities toward the earth and its living beings. They don’t assume that just because Jesus died for their sins, now they can just sin as much as they want and they will be forgiven.

The attitude of the evangelical branch strikes me as dangerously lazy. I have heard that many of them believe that what happens on earth doesn’t matter because they will be raptured off to heaven, and even that they should try to hasten the End Times.

I think it is important to note that in the USA, one-third of registered voters are evangelicals. That leaves the rest of us to do the work of ensuring the survival of the human race and the planet we inhabit, since millions of Americans have indicated that they have no interest in bothering with that task.

It’s ironic that the folks who tend to decry the government as a “nanny state” are the ones most likely to expect some one else to take care of cleaning up their messes for them. It’s also ironic that the folks who complain about wanting more jobs in the USA reject the huge job potential of the alternative energy industry. But that’s another post, for sure.