Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Project 52 - Perspective - Week 8


Today I had a couple doctor appointments and thought it would be a good opportunity to capture that part of my life. I probably go to the doctor more than the average person so it seems like it should be represented in this project in some way. I also thought it might be a way to challenge myself in another way - to ask to take a picture where I normally wouldn't. I was getting injections for my migraines and thought that it would be interesting to get a picture of the needles. Now I just had to work up the courage to ask my doctor if she didn't mind... but my doctor got into the office late and was all rushed and I was already faltering in my strength to ask. Apparently, I should be doing the 100 strangers project because I need to gain more confidence when it comes to asking people if I can take their picture (ugh, and it wasn't even that I wanted my doctor in the picture). I didn't take the picture, although I had taken some pictures in the lobby that I thought I might share, but decided to go a completely different route.

Also, on a side note my second doctor appointment ran super late as well. I read an entire Arthritis Today magazine front to back (my only other option was Golf and since I no longer have a smartphone I didn't have that to entertain me) and I watched people go in and out except for one lady who happened to be seeing the same doctor as myself. It's not the first time I've had to wait a long time at the doctor and there's a point in time that I start texting Jesse all sorts of nonsense about people in the waiting room. Jesse now calls this my 'tales from the waiting room' series since it's happened enough.

I had the rest of the day off so I used some of this time to play around with my camera. There's a project 52 that I have been following and the theme this week was 'perspective' so I thought I would try it out. I took a bunch of picture of various items in my house, but I kept coming back to these bright pencils.

It's not hard to find bright things with a kid in the house, but I have to admit the pencils were mine before I ever had a child. Glad Riley is actually putting them to better use than I did. Riley's quite the artist these days so perhaps printing a series like this would be a good addition to her bedroom whenever we redo it.

This was a fun project, but now if I could just work up the guts to take a picture of a stranger, or in the doctors office... or in any situation that makes me uncomfortable.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


My cat, Diablo, passed away February 10th at the age of 17 (which would be about 85 in human years). He was my old man, my buddy, my cat, and I was his human. I've been trying to write this since then, but it's a sad reminder that he isn't here - it's been hard to focus on, as you can imagine. It's turned into a sort of rambling story of his life and is more for me than anyone else. He was my baby before I had a baby so he holds a special place in my heart.

I sort of knew his passing was coming, but was still heartbroken that it happened, of course. He'd been sick for some time, but stable so we were constantly hopeful that we would continue to have him around. But I've lived with him for 16 long years so I could sense the time was coming - I just didn't know it would be this day.

When Diablo 11, it was Jesse who insisted we take Diablo into the doctor after he noticed that he was vomiting more than usual. It was then that we discovered that he was in renal failure. They told us that Diablo could have two months or two years to live - that it was hard to tell. We were besides ourselves. Even Jesse cried harder than I've ever seen him cry when we got the news. We did the best we could to care for him by changing his diet to a low protein one and making sure he stayed hydrated... and then hoped for the best. We realized that at 11 we should be lucky to have him for another couple years. Little did we know that he would bless us with his presence until he was 17.

When he first came home from the hospital all drugged up.

We had a scare a few years ago when his tests came back high in calcium. This can signal a number of things, but it's often a sign of cancer. We did a whole bunch of tests and they all came back with nothing. It was always a struggle knowing how far to go with the tests, but after multiple tests that came back clear we decided to wait it out and see what happened. The doctor's determined that the cause was idiopathic and that we would just continue to test him every 6 months as we had been.

We last visited the vet around September and all the tests came back like before. Essentially, he was stable. But I started to get this feeling that this would be the year that Diablo would leave us. There were subtle signs like how he didn't sleep in bed with me every night anymore. Even with arthritis he made it up and down stairs multiple times a day (I know this because his favorite water dish was upstairs and he would suck that dry every day) so I knew it wasn't that. Sometimes I'd bring him up with me, but sometimes I just let him do his thing. I do think he was losing his eyesight (he had cataracts for sure and his eyes were a little glazed over) so maybe he was less likely to make that trip when it was dark.

Whatever he was going through it was hard for me to let go of our nightly cuddle. Jesse learned early on that Diablo would do his best to squeeze in between us even if it meant crawling on top of us until we moved. Sometimes he would be fine with spooning on the outside, especially if he was allowed under the covers (he loved to be under the covers sooo much), but I think he enjoyed being surrounded by both of us. He was just a snuggler.

In the last couple months it also seemed that he was less interested in his food, but he was still eating. This has happened in the past and we'd have to change up his food to a different flavor or brand (and we did about a month ago and he seemed to like it), but then a few days before he died he pretty much stopped eating. I wasn't totally sure, but I started to watch him more closely and confirmed he would only eat a bite or two and walk away... and many times he would just look at the food and then walk over to his catnip toy.

I decided on Monday (Riley's birthday) that I would bring him in the next morning. Something was wrong. I prepared myself that they might tell me it was time. I'd been thinking about this for so long and never wanted to be in the spot to make a decision about his life, but I knew I might have to. I knew something was really wrong when I woke at 4 am on Monday to Diablo trying to 'clean up' where he peed in the bed. He'd never ever done that before. (My only comfort here was that I felt him cuddling with me shortly before this happened. It would be our last cuddle.)

I was able to get him into the vet where they decided to run a full panel. They hydrated him and gave him some vitamin B12. The vet mentioned that sometimes cats will get dehydrated and stop eating because of that, but once hydrated it will kick things into gear so they eat again. He had lost over a pound since September and I suspect much of that had been in the last month or so. They also showed me a sample of his urine which was super dark.

I headed home after the vet said Diablo did a great job getting his blood drawn. I was supposed to start work at 11:00 that day and remember thinking I was only going to be a few minutes late, but then Diablo started crying out in pain... and then panting hard. He was sprawled out on the floor, obviously in distress. We were all there... Jesse, Riley, Lucy (our other cat) and myself. It was horrible. I scooped him up and went right back to the vet. They tried to give him oxygen and an IV, but he passed away before they could do so.

The vet clearly felt bad and wasn't sure what sent Diablo into distress. He suspected it could have been a blood clot since he thought he looked anemic (his gums were pale as opposed to a brighter pink), but he couldn't say for sure. I declined to have an autopsy, but the vet said he might run some of the tests anyway as he wanted to know (but wouldn't charge me). I really do like my veterinarian hospital and feel like all he doctors there have been invested in Diablo's health over the years. Even though Diablo might not have died that day if I hadn't brought him in I knew he would have died soon.

Jesse and Riley came to the vet separately, not knowing that Diablo had died. I had called Jesse during the few moments the vet staff was working on Diablo and asked him to come as I was afraid I would need to make a tough decision. When they arrived Diablo and I were in a special room they moved us to after he passed away. I didn't think I'd have Riley see him laid out on the table (eyes and mouth still open), but once she was in the room it seemed ok to do. She walked over to him and gave him some loving pats to the head and didn't seem scared at all. Probably because she doesn't fully get the concept of death yet, but she did seem to understand that he would not be coming home with us. Jesse and Riley headed home while I made final arrangements for his cremation (we will scatter him in the yard and plant something in memory of him. Jesse wants to plant the Diablo Ninebark) and for a clay paw print to be made.

Throughout the day Riley mentioned how much she missed Diablo and wished he could be with us. She kept saying that he loved us and we loved him so much. Riley and Diablo weren't really all that close (as a senior cat he sort of avoided the rambunctious child), but there were plenty of times that Riley would pet and kiss Diablo and it was always so sweet.

When I think back on all the years that Diablo was with us I have so many memories and realize that some of his 'things' he's favored through the years have changed. Jesse and I have been having many moments of "remember when Diablo did this..." and so I want to make sure to capture them all here.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Diablo,

Who knew 16 years ago of the life we'd have together. I remember going to the Animal Human Society and spending a good two hours there. I found you, but went home without you. You were younger than I was looking for and weren't declawed (I didn't want to make that difficult decision myself, but would eventually declaw you as you drew blood every time we held you). I was looking for a cat that had left that kitten phase and thought two years old was the magic number, but you were only a year old... although later my vet would say he thought you were actually a year and a half.  I returned, though, and brought you home ready to make you a part of the family. I just couldn't resist you.

In those early days you were still so playful and would one moment be peacefully sleeping on my roommates love seat and the next you would be whipping around the house like the kitten you sort of still were. It's amazing to think of how things have changed over the years and while you didn't have as much energy in the end you were still playful, whether it was with Lucy or just playing with your toys. Knowing this has brought me some comfort about your quality of life in your later years.

I had been told that that you had been abandoned in an apartment building which is just crazy to me because you were so awesome (everyone who met you thought so too), but it became clear that you must have been left without food for sometime. In those early years you stressed out whenever you could see the bottom of your food bowl. You might have had plenty of food, but it didn't matter if the bowl wasn't full. Over time you came to trust that we would feed you. I don't know exactly when this happened, but I knew it was after I adopted Lucy and honestly, she's such a food hog that you should have probably been even more worried that she would eat your food too.

You were the quietest and loudest cat I knew. You liked to silently meow - I can't even tell you when I first heard you actually meow, but I remember thinking I adopted a cat without a voice every time you'd open your mouth and 'meow', but nothing would come out. Although, if you really wanted something you would let out a loud squeaky meow. Not to be sexist or anything, but I teased that it was your girly meow. You also purred louder than I've ever heard before and when you'd snuggle up in the nook of my neck at night I thought I would never get to sleep since you were so loud. Eventually, I came to love that purr and have to say it's one of the things I notice the absence of most. And your snoring of course. Since you've been gone the house seems so incredibly quiet. I guess I didn't notice how much these little noises were such a big part of my every day.

At the time that I adopted you, I had another awesome cat, Digger. My roommates and I were often gone so I thought it would be good for Digger to have a companion. You were so great about trying to befriend him and I'd often find you cuddled together, but I also know that your youthful energy was too much for him. I didn't know it at the time, but he had a heart condition and, at 7 years old, had a heart attack in my arms 3 short months after I brought you home. I have to admit I was devastated and never thought you could live up to what Digger was to me.

How wrong I was.

Digger. Apparently I have a thing for black and white cats.

It might have been because you were in my life for so much longer, but we were meant to be together. I know - you're a cat and I'm a human, but you were just such a good fit in my life. Both you and Digger were with me during some difficult times and were great about just being there - as cats do. I love how unconditional animals are, but you two were really the best at it.

Time went on and we moved to a couple different places before returning to this house (including living with the ex-boyfriend's cat, Percy). When we lived in NE Minneapolis I rigged up the deck with screening and a specialty made door so you and Lucy could go outside without fear of escaping (although Lucy still did). You loved that deck, probably more so when I'd have friends over for a BBQ. You'd yell at me from inside the house until I let you out and then you'd sit on my lap like you were one of the gang. You've always had a little bit of human quality to you.

You loved being a part of my activities. When I'd cook you'd bug me and bug me, but initially I couldn't figure out what you wanted. I finally pulled out one of the bar stools for you and you'd jump up and sit there and watch me. My favorite cooking memory was when Jesse and I were making a big batch of salsa with you sitting behind us on that bar stool. Suddenly, you let out a squeal of a meow and when we turned around your kitty eyes where overflowing with tears. Haha, guess those onions were burning your eyes and you had no idea what was happening. Silly cat.

It occurred to me today that this was a tradition that didn't carry over into this house. Also, you used to love sleeping under my shirts. You'd come up to me and bat at me until I lifted my sweater, then you'd crawl in and fall asleep. I was so sad when you stopped doing that, but I guess you had to move on to other things. Oh, and remember when you used to sleep in the sink all the time. That seemed to stop a long time ago too, but it was always fun to come home to find you there.

Speaking of sinks, you loved drinking out of faucets. LOVED it. We bought you one of those special water fountains, which made you happy, but I don't think anything beat the sink. As like most cats, you were also happy to snuggle up and sleep anywhere it was warm - whether it was in the sun shining through a window, next to a heating vent, or next to Lucy... and of course under a blanket. You must have run cold, just like me.

You loved sitting on the back of my chair which wasn't all that fun for me. We eventually made a deal that you would sit on my lap and we lived peacefully ever after. We spent a lot of time in my home office in the later years and when I'm in there now I feel your absence big time. I think my favorite thing you did was nibble at my forehead. I kissed you on the forehead all the time so I like to think that you were trying to kiss me back. You were always so gentle about it.

When Jesse and I started dating he admitted that he was allergic to cats, but you and Lucy never caused him any issues. Truth be told he wasn't really a cat person (beside allergies, he had some less than stellar cat experiences), but he fell in love with you. It was really hard for people not too.

When we moved back to this house after being away for 8 years you immediately ran upstairs straight to the deck door. It was clear you remembered one of your favorite spots in this house and I was glad to have brought you back to this home. The morning you died I took you to look out the door to the deck. We were in the midst of remodeling it and I had the thought that you might not ever get to enjoy it. But even before the remodel you were content to run out there and lay on the teak coffee table to get a good brushing. I only wish it had been warm enough that morning to do it one last time.

You were my cat, but I was absolutely your person. You used to stare down the ex-boyfriend - not in a way that was threatening, but more to say "she's mine, I'm not sure what you are needed for". Obviously, there were some changes and Jesse came into the fold, but you quickly determined that you would accept him into the family. But, I would always be your person. You asked me for everything and it was my lap you sat in all the time. It was me who you wanted to spoon with. Jesse might do if I wasn't around, but you and me... we had that bond.

Speaking of Jesse, when were talking about you and all the things that were just SO you he contributed ' and just how frickin' handsome he was. He probably knew it too. "I'm a goooooood lookin' cat..." '. Lol. You were a handsome guy in your tuxedo suit and that special 'moon' on your face.

While you had the name Diablo we also called you Big D, Little D, D, old man, Buddy and Buster Boo - that last one was really Jesse's contribution. We probably should have also referred to you as 'the hugger' because you loved to wrap your arms around my neck, plant your head against mine, and give me a good hug. You were sweet like that.

This past year it seemed that you were in some ways trying to distance yourself, almost as if you were trying to make it easier on us when you left. But I knew what you were up to and made sure to get in some extra snuggles and I am so grateful I did.


Your Person

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Obviously, his presence was missed right away, but seeing his favorite toys and not having him sit on my lap the moment I sat down in the home office were glaringly obvious to me (he especially loved when I would put the down throw on my lap and would sometimes glare at me, waiting until I did so). I've been on some asthma medication (a symptom that came on with the virus that never wanted to leave) and I forgot to take it the night before he died. I immediately noticed that breathing for me was difficult that morning, but even after I resumed the medication I have been having issues with this - mostly when I think of him or see his empty food dish.I had a stool next to my bed to make it a little easier for him to get into bed and after a night or two I realized it could be removed. Again, shortness of breath at the realization. Plus, every day I no longer have to avoid bumping into the stool is a reminder that he's gone.

I have been feeling his passing very physically, which is pretty typical for me, but feels very significant this time. Lots of headaches - in fact there were times that I had to force myself to stop crying since it hurt my head too much. At any rate, it's getting better as most things do with time.

Less than a week after he passed away I decided to donate his food (he was on a special diet) to the Animal Humane Society. It's where he, Digger and Lucy were adopted from so it felt right to give back (although I know my vet would have refunded me since I recently bought the food). I wasn't sure when or how I wanted to handle this... would it be too hard to go there so soon? Should I wait a couple months? Should I have Jesse drop it off? I could have waited, but I felt the need to go. Perhaps because I knew it was too early to get another cat that I thought it was safer to go and I thought Riley might find some value in understanding what the Humane Society was so I decided to drop off the food a handful of days later.

I think it was good for both Riley and I. I made it clear to Riley (and myself) that we would not be getting another pet (and we didn't), but it opened a conversation between us that I think helped her understand how important it is for us (meaning all humans) to care for animals (whether they chose to own a pet or not) - to treat them with care and compassion, and for her to understand death and what might be on the other side of life (we talked about multiple beliefs on this topic on the way home).

As we left the Human Society, we saw one last cat in a space all by himself. We were struck by his face and the thick fur on his cheeks that gave him a unique look. Then he looked up and gave me those eyes. You know those eyes that say "take me home. I'll be your best friend" and with that we hightailed it out of there before making a decision I shouldn't.

Lucy and Diablo this past summer 

I picked up his ashes last week and the box seemed impossibly small, obviously compared to his body, but mostly compared to his personality which was so big. Jesse and I have noted that while Lucy seems like such a cat, Diablo was more than that.

It feels like we've lost a good friend.

Thank you to the vet staff who made this for us.

RIP Diablo

1998 - 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Project 52 - Week 7


This week I thought I would feature our deck. Last spring we sat down and decided to tackle a number of projects on the house. One of them was a must fix since it involved a leak in our living room from the deck above. I hope to eventually write up a post about all the changes, but we've run into a number of hiccups that have caused these projects to be completed way later than they should have. This week we are seeing the (almost) completion of our deck (there were hiccups that will delay all the details being finished for awhile).

I guess, it's not a big deal that all the details won't be finished right away since it was something like 9 below when I took these pictures. I'm eager for the weather to warm up and for us to finally get new furniture for this deck. I can already see myself reading a book out here on a summer evening after Riley's gone to bed. I can't wait. (Also, Diablo would have loved this.)

A couple more pictures... we need some post caps, a storm door (that fits), and some furniture.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Project 52 - Loss - Week 6


This week started out on a high note with Riley's birthday, but quickly went downhill when our cat, Diablo, passed away the next day. I will write more about him soon, but I'm pretty heartbroken right now. Initially, I was going to post one of the pictures I took of Riley playing with the balloon on her birthday, but in the end I felt like I wanted to take a picture that really represented our loss. Remnants of Diablo are everywhere and I catch my breath every time I see one of his toys or his favorite water dish or realize how quiet it is around the house without him purring or snoring away.

We gave Diablo the above refillable catnip toy at Christmas. He loved these things and would destroy them pretty fast. In his last few days he seemed to spend more time with this toy even though we just gave him a new one. I'm hoping it brought him comfort in some way. I know this is just a picture of a beat up toy, but there is so much emotion tied to it for me. It is what this week is about - torn, empty, alone...we miss him greatly, and I know with time the heartache will ease.

I hope that he has all the catnip he could desire where ever he is now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Birthday Girl

This year Riley requested a polka dot party with all her friends. It was the first year that she was really invited to school friend's parties so she wanted to have one too and we agreed. It was a fun time, but crazy. CRAZY. I'm glad we did this for her, but would have rather capped the amount of kids at 5 or 6. She invited 19 and about 13 kids were able to make it.

We rented the Wolfe Park Pavilion which is near our house and would have been even more fun if it was a different time of year since there are a couple playgrounds right next to it. One of her friends recently had a party in the same building so we took a cues from them when it came to keeping it simple with some food, music, and some balloons to kick around.

I tried to think of some polka dot themed games and decided to get twister. I had a couple other games I thought we would try, but they weren't very well thought out and we never got to them. Jesse doesn't really like to plan out things for this - he's more along the line of letting the kids do whatever, but that makes it feel so chaotic to me. Lets just say that two hours felt sooooooo long.

We started with some art stuff. Kids could decorate a bag which I filled with trinkets before they left. I had markers and daubers (polka dots makers!), googly eyes (at Riley's request) and pom pom balls. The kids then kicked around the balloons which was fun until it wasn't. There were a couple 'rough' kids and one ripped a balloon out of Riley's hands... and then the crying commenced... but luckily she got over it.

A few of the kid's really got into twister. I wasn't sure if this game would be age appropriate since some of these kid's are still trying to master their left and right (including my daughter), but that didn't seem to matter. It was fun to watch them attempt this game.

Many of the parents just dropped off their kids which was fine with me since that meant less small talk. The parents that stayed were friends of Jesse and mine and one of our neighbors so we had some other adult support, but the kid's that were the wildest did not have their parents there. One girl we really like, but she is wild and basically stole all the remaining trinkets out of bag after I filled each of the kid's bags. 

In the end, I think Riley enjoyed the party, but even she seemed exhausted by the wilder kids and I think she would have been happy with something smaller. Luckily I feel like she'll be fine going back to celebrating with the grandparents next year. Speaking of grandparents, my in laws also attended the party and helped up set up which was so helpful! Unfortunately, my dad had a stomach bug so he couldn't come, but really this was a party for the kids. 

We served cupcakes (which happened to be Valentine's themed since they were the only ones in the size we wanted at the store) and then Riley opened gifts. I kept trying to keep the kid's seated, but wow... they just kept getting in her face and then tried to play with some of her new stuff. This is truly proof that I would make a horrible bouncer.

Adele live

And then the day ended with lots of hugs between friends.

We had a couple people help us clean up, especially my friend Josie. She brought her two girls who were so sweet and well behaved. I'm so glad they were able to make it.

The next day (Riley's birthday) I planned to take Riley to breakfast. I had the day off since I had to work the next Saturday and had planned out a doctor appointment for myself and one later for Riley. I also thought I would find some unique non-chain restaurant to go to with Riley, but when I looked at menus I decided that Perkins had the most fun kid options for breakfast. Riley had rainbow pancakes and was pretty excited, but as we sat there I noticed that her one eye was pretty red and crusty, We knew she had a cold coming on, but it seemed clear now. I debated about bringing her to school, but just didn't feel comfortable doing so especially since I had the day off.

After breakfast we went home to play with some of Riley's new toys before I had to head out for a mammogram. I wasn't sure about bringing Riley (and may have explained too much too soon about the process to her - ha!), but I didn't want to cancel the appointment. I was going to a new office, but the old one I went to had a private locked room right next to the mammogram room, but this was not the set up here. I didn't realize it right away, but they ended up bringing me down the hall while Riley sat in a special waiting room with her Kindle. Luckily it only took a few minutes, but it felt really weird to leave her like that. I'm not sure it was the right thing, but she survived and I don't plan to do it anytime soon again. Some woman offered to stay with her, but she seemed ok.

Actually, when we arrived at the doctor's office there was a super strong smell of weed. It was really, really bad. One of the nurses eventually shared that someone put a towel in the break room microwave, but seriously... what was that towel wrapped around? A block of marijuana? I texted Jesse that he'd probably come home to Riley and I sleeping after we finished off a bunch of cookies. Riley has a coloring app that she loves where she can color in a picture and then add to it. While I was getting my mammogram she colored the following picture for me. I'm pretty sure that dinosaur has the munchies and is about eat all those marshmallows that are on sticks and that Riley may have had a contact high.

We then went home and played with more of her toys from her birthday such as LiteBrite (from papa Frank) and some kinetic sand (from a friend) before exerting energy on chasing around balloons.

Also watching her Adele live DVD from the grandparents

Lol. This makes me laugh.

After Riley's nap I took her to her wellness exam where we discovered that she's still tall (72%) and still skinny (35%). No surprises at her appointment except for the vaccinations - we just weren't expecting them this time. Riley was a huge trooper when she got her shots and walked away proudly with three princess stickers.

Riley's doctor's office is right next to Lake Calhoun so after her appointment we decided to walk over to some snow sculptures by the lake.

An outhouse?

Afterwards we picked up Jesse and got frozen yogurt and then I followed it up with a video interview of her.

It's a little long, but it amuses me. At the end she mentions that she wants to interview me next so I think I will let her do that soon. I can't wait to hear the questions she asks me.

We ended the night watching old videos of Riley. Lots of laughing was involved and over all it was just a really good day. Can't believe my kid is already 5 years old.