Friday, November 30, 2012

Recapturing The True Magic Of The Season

Every year I watch the people around me get a little too keyed-up over the holidays.  Buying presents and trying to make everything work into some personal fantasy, but what they forget is what Christmas is all about.

I'm not talking the religious aspect, I'm referring to the bringing together of your family in this happy season.  Stop being so uptight and let yourself go, not only will your family love it, but you'll feel better!

My advice is always the same:

Have a junk food night.  Skip that sensible dinner, have Oreos, cupcakes, and popcorn (or whatever you like) with hot chocolate while watching a movie in your pajamas.

Take a walk through your neighborhood and look at the Christmas lights.  If you live in a rural area, go to town and drive around looking at the lights.

Skip the computers, video games, and television (unless it's a family show you're watching together like Frosty, Rudolph, or Charlie Brown) and build a puzzle together.  Put out some chips or pretzels, put on the Christmas music and assign everyone a section.

Play a board game.  It doesn't have to be a complicated one, my kids are older, but a game of Candyland or Chutes & Ladders is quick and fun for the whole family. We like to play Sorry and see just how snotty you can say "Sor-ry!"

Wear the silly hat, the reindeer antler headband, or elf ears.  If they light up, play music, or move, all the better.  Don't be shy about it either.  Wear them out to dinner and act like it's not there.  Everyone cracks up when they see the look on a waitresses face when I pretend I have no idea what they are looking at.

Make cookies together.  Or at least let the kids decorate them.  The crazy colors, or the fact that Frosty's head was made into the middle circle can be funny as well as yummy.

Talk Like A Cartoon Character.  Make a whole day of it.  Nobody can be irritated or angry when you sound that silly!

You don't have to do these things every day, but at least one day a week gives the kids something to look forward too and they'll stop asking if they can open a present now.  "Just one??"

Or come up with your own fun ideas, but do something, anything.  If your kids see you stressed out, they get stressed out and started acting bad, you get irritated, and it's an endless cycle of anger and unhappiness.  Take a good look at your actions.  This is how they will treat their kids in the future.

Think like a kid, then act like a kid.  That's my motto.

Most importantly: Don't forget to laugh, dole out hugs, and tell people you love them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Highs And Lows Of Christmas

Every year we hear that the number of suicides are up during the holiday season.  Even those surrounded by loving, supportive family and friends succumb to the depression that hits many people this time of year.

On the flip side, many others become happy, upbeat, cheerful, or even pleasant this time of year.  Those are the people that surprise you with their behavior.  Wearing severe black and permanently etched in the forehead with a stress line all year long, these people start wearing tacky sweaters with snowmen or ornament earrings and smiling.

"Is (he/she) smiling?!?"

What is it about this holiday that turns people against their usual nature?  Is it a childhood haunt that plagues us?  Or a happy memory of this time of year that turns that frown upside down?

Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincade pictures invoke a feeling of nostalgia and romance which could also be the very same reason for depression.  Such as hopes for an engagement of a long-time partner, a wanted gift not received, or the unfulfilled dream of being your own Hallmark Christmas special.

Either the season brings dreams to reality, or the harsh reality of dreams left empty can affect everyone during this time.

Perhaps there is too much pressure to be your own perfect example of something that doesn't exist outside of Hollywood.

My family is more like the Griswolds (Christmas Vacation movie).  No matter how hard we try to make the perfect memories, everything inevitably goes wrong, but in the end we laugh about it because we realize this is real life, and all we have are each other.  Whether it's to pick up the broken pieces while someone cries, or to laugh hysterically when the cake blows up in the oven (I've actually done that), this is what Christmas is about.

The sugar highs of cakes and cookies, the emotional lows when someone thought rocks would be a funny stocking stuffer, this is real.  Some things are silence inspiring perfect and some things are so frustrating you want to kick the reindeer on the lawn, but you muddle through and photograph everything.  No matter how hard it gets, one day you'll look back and find it funny!

Personally, I get through the season by spiking my eggnog when nobody is looking...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Being Sick and Finally Finishing That Book

Whenever I try to read a book, I always feel guilty, because somewhere, someone in this house is going to come looking for me.  I know this and I'll get irritated when interrupted, then I'll feel guilty for snapping at whoever it may be.

So I start feeling guilty before it even begins and end up not picking up the book in the first place.

The great thing about being sick, when I'm not so fever-ridden that I'm asleep, is that I'm in bed.  It's either watch TV or read a book, because I have to get better.  Usually, I choose to read.

When my husband and I met, I had a television and VCR (that's the DVD predecessor), but no "television" or cable.  I liked movies, but had shelves full of books.  I've always loved to read.  I didn't start watching television on a regular basis until the Discovery and History Channels came out.  I also love catching my favorite black and whites on the classic channel.

I am not a Nook person.  I want to hold the book.  Actually turn a page.  I love the smell of the paper.  How my fingers get a little dark from the ink...

Getting a little off track, but the point is now that I'm down with the flu (or whatever this is), I finally got to finish that book I've been reading for months.  It feels good and I'm anxious to attack the stack that's waiting for me.

I hate being sick.  I hate this feeling of being disconnected from reality.  Like walking into the kitchen in my robe, with the belt dragging, hair mussed, all I want is a drink, and there are dishes everywhere, the sink is full of dirty pans, and what on earth is that dried to the sides of the unrinsed breakfast bowls?

I picture Snow White after being awakened by the Prince and finding the dwarfs didn't bother to clean while she was asleep, all of this after she had kept things tidy before getting ill.  Bad enough she was poisoned by an evil queen, but she gets up to this?!?

So I do a quick clean, but then I get a chance to sit and read while the house is empty and the only interruption is my cat purring?

Worth it!

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Good Is A Flu Shot?

Every year we get our flu shots.  My oldest has a seizure disorder and according to the research I've done, most kids that die from the flu have an underlying neurological disorder.  Therefore, we take no chances and everyone gets the shot.  I keep Purell by every sink and I Lysol the door knobs.  Everyone washes hands when they get home in the afternoons.  

I just can't take the chance.  I'm not a germ-a-phobe, but just in case, what's a little shot?  And we get the shot, not the mist up the nose and also it comes from our family doctor, not some table set up at the local store, administered by volunteers.

I seem to be the only one that thinks it hurts.  I whine and complain the whole time which makes everyone else giggle at "what a wimp mom is".  That's ok.  If it keeps my kids safe, so be it; yuk it up, clowns!

But at the same time, I also get sick every year.  I always tell myself it can't be the flu because I got the shot, but here I am:  sniffling, sneezing, not sleeping, tired, stuffy, fever, nauseous, coughing, and overall -- miserable.  

I'm always the only one to get sick, too.  Every year I ask myself the same thing:  Why do I bother?  My husband says his workers are calling in sick, my kids say half the class is empty from sick kids, and I glare at them knowing at least one of them brought something home and sneaked past my defenses.

To my grave, I'll never understand why I'm the one who gets sick every year.  Why I'm the one who suffers when everyone else is chugging along like nothing is happening in our house.

"What's for dinner. Mom?"  I don't know, soup?

"Want to watch a movie, Mom?"  I don't know, can I sleep through it?

"You don't look so good, Mom."  Gee, thanks, I tried to get dressed, but didn't have the energy.

Even as I type, I'm trying to figure out how to get out of cooking, make everyone happy, make it to bed early with a bottle of Nyquil, and I have twenty minutes before the masses descend upon me.  I guess I better go get the vacuuming done and move the laundry to the dryer, because I know nobody else will do it...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Charlie Brown And The Controversy Surrounding Him

Who doesn't love Charlie Brown?  And who doesn't want to punch the idiot that wants him banned from TV for bullying in The Great Pumpkin? 

"The show is riddled with the kids calling each other stupid, dumb, and blockheads," Moron-parent wrote in their blog. "Charlie Brown is supposed to be the hero. Instead, he is kicked and demeaned at every turn, even by the adults giving out candy."

You can't make him an underdog to cheer for without giving him a mountain to climb.

Charlie Brown is clean, wholesome entertainment, he has been around for decades, and he is an icon that every family looks forward to for years with every seasonal holiday.  (we own all the DVDs)  He may get the short end of the stick, but he always comes out on top and I think rather than focusing on the "blockhead" comments, we should commend his perseverance of spirit.

It teaches kids to stay true to themselves, to turn the other cheek rather than shooting up a school.

So outside of that idiot, here comes Christmas and my favorite Charlie Brown show.  In it there is a quote from the Bible in a monologue by Linus (lights please):

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  

(Luke 2:8-14)

I gave up religion years ago, but I'm always moved by this scene.  The commitment to the meaning of Christmas by a small child and his ability to portray that without ridicule by others is amazing. But of course, it's religious and now some idiot wants that show removed as well.

Well, kiss my Great Pumpkin! And you know where to shove your "big shiny aluminum tree"!

I love Charlie Brown and I think that someone somewhere has to complain about something controversial just to get their fifteen minutes of fame!

I, for one, will be front and center in the living room when it airs this year (even though we own it) with a hot chocolate and popcorn.  AND I'm sure I'll pop the DVD in as well, often enough.

So to all those people who want to ruin my Christmas season, I'll persevere just like Charlie Brown and other than getting me a little riled, you won't make our Christmas any less special.  

Go watch your Twilight videos and justify them to your kids.  

By the way, Frosty is bullied when they try to melt him, The Heatmeiser is not very nice and the Abominable Snowman tried to eat Rudolf, but I haven't heard complaints there, so why don't you just shut up and try to help the homeless, or the deficit, or something that really matters...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Decked The Halls In A Haze

What is it about Christmas that makes us crazy?

Put the turkey away and you start twitching.  Where's the tree?  Why isn't the mistletoe hung?  Lights.  I need lights!


This year we have a new member of our family who turns one December 3rd, our kitten, Brady.  This means that all of our hand-blown beautiful Christmas ornaments are not coming out of the box.  

We're not even sure if the tree would stand up the entire season or if he'll attempt to reach the star on top...

Rule of thumb around here is do what you must to survive the weekend after Thanksgiving, because nobody leaves the house until the following Monday.  People are Black-Friday-Weekend insane.

So I made it through Thanksgiving before waking up on Friday completely crazy.  

"A new star, we need a bigger star!  We need plastic ornaments for the tree!  I must go to the craft store for more decorations!  I'm going to deck the Hell out of these halls!!"

I went to a Michael's on Black Friday.  I ended up on my cell phone cowering in an empty non-holiday corner calling my husband for help.

Then in thirty degrees and strong winds, in the dark, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I dragged out the ladder and strung up lights, put out yard decorations and used an enormously unsafe amount of extension cords to light up our house for all the world to see.  

Or at least the passing airplanes to the airport three miles away (as the crow flies).

Today I feel confused and hungover.  What happened?  Where am I?  Ugh, coffee, I need coffee.....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Day Before Thanksgiving, Let The Scramble Begin

I slept in this morning.  Not my usual thing, but I was tired.  The boys stayed up late last night and they are all still asleep.  My husband is off at work and I snuggled with the kitty and gently rolled to see the clock.


Oh.  My.  God.

I have pies to bake, a store run to make, a house to clean because we have company tomorrow, a turkey breast to bake*, a pharmacy run, prepping breakfast to stick in the freezer, I have to track down our mail lady before she reaches the house in case Christmas packages arrive with kids home, and I have to tackle everything I need to do for the next several days because I DO NOT leave my house from Thanksgiving until the following Monday.

People are crazy.

It takes me a good hour before the coffee kicks in, that's usually when I'm writing.  Of course I have to re-write everything as the new cat likes to walk across my keyboard several times trying to get my attention.

So off I go to begin the harried experience of Thanksgiving for the next 36 hours.  Cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning, and then cooking & major cleaning which includes making room in the refrigerator for leftovers.  I should write booze on my to-get list.

Have a great Turkey Day everyone, enjoy your families, and thank the good in your life.  Try not to kill anyone during Black Friday sales.

* I have a house full of boys that pitch a FIT of there isn't enough turkey for leftovers through the weekend so I have to make enough white meat to last, therefore I cook ma breast today and a full bird tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Instead Of Christmas: Stop Ruining Everything!

I saw a commercial and they were talking about "holiday cards".

I was stunned.  Then Angry.

Over the years we've been slowly taking Christmas away from the masses because it has "Christ" in it. I'm not religious, but it's freaking Christmas, not Holiday.

I tried buying my Christmas cards and everything said "Have a nice Holiday", I couldn't find any that said "Merry Christmas".

Happy HolidayS (emphasis on the plurality) is acceptable if you are encompassing Christmas and New Year's.

Nobody drives by a Christmas tree lot and says, "Keep driving!  We're looking for a Holiday tree lot..."

I'm confused.  I thought this country was based on freedom of religion, freedom of speech, inalienable rights and liberties; because my pursuit of happiness is being infringed upon when some idiot started calling it a Holiday tree!!

The kids get out of school for Holiday Break.

Even religious morons are mad when it's called Xmas, but they aren't smart enough to know it's from the Greek letter chi (Χριστός, Xristos) that represents Christ.  For Heaven's sake if you're going to pitch a fit, realize when you're fighting against yourself!

One of the most prominent Christmas tree controversies came in 2005, when the city of Boston labeled their official decorated tree as a holiday tree, and the subsequent response from the Nova Scotian tree farmer who donated the tree was that he would rather have put the tree in a wood chipper than have it named a "holiday" tree.

That's right!!

You don't like it?  Turn away.  I don't make a congressional issue out of the fact that you should be wearing pants two sizes larger thereby eliminating that spare tire of as gut, so leave my Christmas tree alone!!

What next?  No more Santa?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Exact Moment Christmas Stress Vanishes

And it's only a moment so pay attention.

Buying presents, wrapping, hiding, shipping, baking, decorating, running errands, re-decorating daily after the cat finds the tree nightly, and the daily:

"Stop touching that! No! You cannot open presents early!  I will not tell you where the presents are hidden!  No shaking gifts!!"

All of that followed by the cleaning up, un-decorating, cooking, wondering why you bought something that makes noise, returns, exchanges, hopping on one foot because you've stepped on a Lego again, and praying school starts earlier than New Year's Day.

But for one brief moment, one second in time it's there.  If you look for it, you'll find it.

Present lists have been filled.  Everything is decorated.  Packages have been mailed.  The house may even be clean.  The cookie jar is full of homemade Christmas sugar cookies.  Holiday break hasn't started yet so the house is empty except for the pets that are all currently napping.  The freezer is packed with pre-made meals for convenience.

(Maybe that's just my house)

But it's 2:45 in the afternoon.  All is done.  A mug of hot chocolate with a dash of cinnamon schnapps.  The bus won't unload the raucous crowd for another fifteen minutes.

There it is.

Silence.  No stress.

For fifteen minutes.

Then you hear the screech of the bus brakes and it returns in full force, but for just a moment, the stress was gone.

I can't wait until I actually experience that.  It's like seeing Santa Claus or Bigfoot.  You've heard of it, people believe it, but you've never actually witnessed it....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Will I learn To Live Again With My Grief?

The Meeting

      I am a military wife.  My husband was sent to Korea for a year while my newborn son and I stayed behind.  It was a decision we made together because with the Air Force, spending a year in Korea is a mandatory sort of “rite of passage.”  We thought it best he do his tour while our son was too young to remember his being gone for so long.

      We lived in Florida where I had no friends and family and decided to go home to my parents for a few months, my son was eight months old and being alone was hard.  Summer in Louisiana wasn’t an easy choice, but at least it wasn’t so lonely.  My parents owned an antique store and for the first week of July, they always had a sidewalk sale to move inventory around. My son stayed in the playpen in the air conditioning inside the store, while I manned the outdoor tables.

      Early morning was slow and most people hadn’t ventured to town yet so I sat in the blessed shade while it would last, munching on donut holes from my favorite bakery watching the feral cats in the alley alongside the hardware store across the street.  They chased butterflies, lazed on the concrete, but one in particular noticed me.  He was still young, about eight months old, and this knowledge came from growing up on a farm.

      A deep reddish-orange on top, white underneath, he looked like a can of paint had dropped on him.  He sat beneath a porch swing mewling at me.  Always a cat lover, I clucked my tongue and invited him over, but he just stayed there watching me.  This game went on for a couple of hours.  His wanting me while I tried to bring him closer.  Customers came and went, traffic on the street increased, but still he watched me from the porch of the hardware store across the street.

      As lunch rolled around and the streets thinned in the heat, he braved the crossing and came to me.

Golden eyes looked at me in longing and I could tell he was hungry.  Gaunt, a gash on his ear where a small piece was missing and dirty, my heart melted.  My dad had gone to get shrimp po-boys for lunch and at the time, all I had were a few remaining donut holes, but I offered him one just the same.  To my surprise, he ate it, and then three more.                                                                                                                                                  

      My mother emerged from the front door of the shop and brought my sandwich. Scared by the intrusion, he bolted back across the street and hid beneath the steps of the porch.  I pointed him out to my mother.

      “See the kitty under the porch?” I asked.

      “Sure, the owners of the hardware store allow them to stay because they keep the mice away.” She answered.

      “He just ate four donut holes.” I informed her.

      “Well that’s a strange choice for a cat, but you can share some of the shrimp on your sandwich if you want.” With that she went back inside.

      I ate my sandwich, careful to pick out half of the shrimp just in case he returned and placed them on a napkin.  I continued to sell antiques, rearranging as needed and towards late afternoon, with the tables mostly empty, I noticed the cat again.  He sat upright with his tail wrapped around his feet on the porch watching me.  When I looked at him I told him “Hi” and he meowed at me in return.  Then he took a long slow walk across the street and came over again.

      I put the napkin filled with shrimp on the ground and he voraciously ate every scrap while I stroked his back.  While he licked the paper napkin in hopes it would somehow produce more shrimp, my mom came out of the shop with my son in his stroller.  My son immediately pointed and started babbling, “Buh, bu, b-b-b-b.”  Since I was a guest in my mother’s home for the time being I gave her my best pleading eyes and asked the question she always dreaded.

      “Can I keep him?”

      As an only child, my mother barely hesitated before suggesting I find a box to put him in for the car ride home, else he’d probably claw our eyes out.  The details of bringing him home aren’t important, because the point is, I did, and all the way home we tried to pick out a name.  My son still babbling his B’s, had us starting in that direction.

      Mr. Beasely? No. Buttercup?  No, he’s a boy. Bacchus? Bailey? Buford?  Boudreaux? Then it came to me.  Every Southern woman knows the name of a true man.  From a book as well read as the Bible in the South, Margaret Mitchell’s timeless classic: Gone With the Wind.  Captain Rhett Butler, so we called him Red Butler.  Or just Butler.

      Being close to the same age as my son, we gave him the birth date of November 1st, All Saints Day, because his coming into my life was such a blessing in easing the loneliness, surely the Saints must have sent him.

The Introduction

      I only had the opportunity to talk to my husband once a week, for fifteen minutes in those days,
and when I received that week’s call it didn't go the way he expected.

      “I met someone.” I hinted.

      “What?” he asked.

      “He’s got red hair, golden eyes, he’s super sweet to me, and Bear (our son) really loves him.” I explained.

      “What?” he asked again.

      This is when I giggled and explained I’d adopted a cat off the streets.  To this day he still doesn't forgive me for the scare of letting him believe I was leaving him for another man.

      We had him de-clawed and neutered, the cat not my husband (his only demand) and he became an indoor cat and never seemed to mind leaving his freedom of the outdoors behind for a full belly, warm bed, and a family that loved him.

      As the year’s end came and my husband would soon be returning to the States, we packed and moved back to Florida, me, my son, and Butler.  That’s when the real fun began.

      Butler slept in the bed with me.  Actually, Butler did everything with us.  He would watch from the toilet seat as I bathed my son, he would lie in the toddler bed with Bear during nap time; he rode in the stroller with our son around the house.  The most important thing was that he became my hero for killing all of the giant cockroaches in the house because they are the only things I am afraid of to the point of paralysis.  He even tried saving me from the terrible water by latching on to my big toe with his teeth and pulling me out of the tub when I was bathing.

      When my husband first returned, Butler didn't like him at all.  He would sit at the end of the hall crying for me at night and I would have to get up to sleep in the guest room with him for six weeks before my husband put his foot down and Butler had to learn to share the bed.

      The jealousy went on for years.  If my husband dropped his clothes on the floor Butler would spray them showing dominance so my husband had to learn to put them in the hamper and not leave them on the floor, but not before threatening to toss him back on the street.

      We moved from base to base over the years and Butler learned to adapt.  Sort of.  We learned he had severe separation anxiety where I was concerned and he had to ride in my lap in the car.  He usually christened each new home by urinating on something my husband owned and always giving my husband what he referred to as his “plotting to kill me in my sleep” stare.  Where my son and I were concerned, we were his family and the usurper could leave at any time, preferably immediately.

      My husband, ever indulgent of whatever I wanted, put up with it until the day Butler started calling me Momma.  If he was asleep on the sofa and we went to bed, he would wake up alone and start yelling, “Momma!”  If he just wanted to know which room I was in, he called for me.  Dinner time, snack time, nap time, didn't matter.  He called for me specifically and it drove my husband nuts.

      We added to our family by adopting a dog and another cat, but Butler knew he reigned supreme and was never jealous because he never believed he was an animal.  My husband on the other hand believed as bread-winner, he should hold the title of Master of our household.  Butler did everything he could to show him otherwise.

      If my husband came into a room I was in, just to talk, Butler would sit in my lap or on my chest.  If my husband talked to me on any subject, Butler always interrupted and need to be picked up and held while we conversed.  My husband swears he was sneered at with squinty eyes from the demon cat, but I just laughed it off.

      If my husband tried to get into bed with me, Butler would run around the edge of the mattress trying to prevent him from lying with me and he would even steal his spot in the middle of the night if my husband got up to use the bathroom.

      Eventually they both came to realize that neither would be moving out and had come to accept each other.  They would even nap together on the sofa and it always melted my heart to see them pretending to hate each other while my husband would pet him and Butler would purr.

The Beginning

      Butler was what we termed our “problem child”.  If a suitcase came out he’d stop eating and drinking.  He went through a phase where he started ripping all the hair off of his forearms.  We had him on kitty Valium for a while, but it didn't help.  If a door that was usually open was shut, he would freak out and start screaming.  He didn't like to be locked in anything.  A room, a cat carrier, didn't matter; he would bloody his face trying to escape.  We once tried a pheromone plug-in to try and calm him down, but the only thing that ever worked for him, was my staying home with him.

      When we moved from Utah to North Carolina, he spent five days riding in my lap because he didn't want to be without me in times of stress.  It made for interesting stops for fast food along the way.

      We all grew older, my son too busy as a teenager to care much for a cat and my husband always deploying to parts unknown, but Butler and I depended on each other to get through the long nights, the depression, the stress of our family’s constantly changing structure as well as location.

      Butler had been a part of our lives for fifteen years before I noticed something wasn't quite right.  He was getting thin and I was worried.  My husband told me to stop worrying about the cat that always ate people foods (deli meats, boiled chicken, and cheeses, not to mention ice cream).

      “He eats better than I do; besides, he’s the Anti-Christ and will never die.” He always complained.

      It made me laugh because I knew no matter how much he complained, there had to have been a part that cared after all these years or Butler wouldn't still be part of the family.

      Family.  That’s what we were.  I had a terrible health scare that led to the fact that we couldn't have any more children after our son, so our furry adopted pets became the children I couldn't have.  So when I suspected something might have been wrong, I took him to the veterinarian.

      We found out he had a heart murmur and I knew he had one canine left in his mouth that I was worried needed to be removed because I had been told once by a former veterinarian that anesthesia after the age of ten was dangerous for a cat, especially one with a heart condition.  He was a few months shy of fifteen at this time.

      The heart murmur had me crying because the man doing his residency at the clinic scared me half to death with his animal illness jargon.  I called another specialist for a second opinion and after reading the notes from Butler’s file was told that the stress from the ultrasound and forcing him to take medication daily would be more stressful than helpful for something that isn't significant enough to worry about at this time.

      That was good enough for me.  Butler once had a urinary tract infection for a year because we couldn't get the medicine in him.  He was getting older and we accepted that, like us, he had good days and bad.  Some days he slept more than others, but then I was usually napping with him on those days so I wasn't concerned.

The Decline

      We had been through a rough patch in our lives, one of which was my car being destroyed in a hail storm, leaving me from driving my beloved SUV to a small car that stressed me out to shop with because getting groceries out of the back of that thing required the help of a magician to call forth the bags so that I could even reach them.

      I returned from the grocery one day and after putting all the bags away I had two eager faces patiently waiting to see what kind of goodies I had purchased for them.  Our dog, Darby an Australian Shepherd wagged his tail when I finally stopped to notice them.  Our other cat Comet, a Maine Coon, just meowed and that’s when I knew something was wrong.  Someone was missing.

      Going to the store and the rustling of plastic bags always brought Butler in first because he knew as I purchase new things, in order to clear out the fridge to make room; they got lots of deli meats.  I spoiled them this much.

      Butler didn't come when I called so I went on the hunt.  It wasn't completely unusual for him not to be there if he was in a spot of sun on the carpet and didn't want to give it up so I searched for him.  After the usual places were found empty I went into the guest room and he was curled up in the blankets.  He was so spoiled my husband began sleeping in another room so that he could have the other half of the king-sized bed I slept in, so he was curled up in the unmade bed.

      “Hey, Sweetie!” I greeted him as I walked in the room. His eyes half open, his barely audible mew reached out to me.  I dropped to my knees for a closer look.  His fur was unkempt, he was frothing at the mouth a bit and although I have no other way to describe it, he smelled like death.  Like puppy breath to some, the sweet smell of his fur was something I never got enough of in my life.  He would sometimes share a pillow with me and I would bury my head in his side and breathe deeply and get a calming effect from it.  Now something was wrong.

      He tried to stand up and fell over before getting his legs under him.  I carried him into the kitchen and set him down.  I opened the fridge and got out some deli turkey, the good kind that costs ten dollars a pound.  I dished some out to all of the pets keeping an eye on Butler.  He looked and sniffed at it, then slowly walked away.

      While he did this, my mind was transported back to the day before when he turned down the ham I put out for everyone’s afternoon snack.  Flashes went through my mind like snapshots rapid-fire and a sick feeling came over me.  I have two cats that eat out of the same bowl so how would I know how long it’s been since he ate?  At least two days I can pinpoint.  I remembered a time when he squinted his eyes, he pawed at his cheek while he tossed his head side-to-side like it was that tooth.  That last canine, was all I thought.

      I called my husband at work, hysterical and crying, while I laid my head next to my baby on my bed.  He told me not to worry; he probably just isn't feeling well, but I told him it wasn't that, something was terribly wrong and he told me to call the veterinarian for peace of mind.

      I called the vet and explained every detail to the desk clerk. I said he needed a tooth extracted immediately.  I was told they would do blood work the next day and if need-be, the tooth would be pulled the day after.  That was not good enough for me.  I didn't know how long it had been since he had eaten and I wasn't waiting another two days to watch him get sicker.

      We have an emergency animal hospital in town that opens after hours and I was waiting in the parking lot with my precious kitty ten minutes before they opened.  I was crying and I was broke, but I would have sold my soul to help out the one that has helped me through everything that has ever gone wrong in my adult life.  In my head while the seconds ticked by I added up what jewelry I had, anything I could sell, credit card balances, any amount of money I could come up with.

      When the door opened, I rushed in and went through the whole process of explaining his symptoms and actions.  Paperwork had to be filled out.  Paperwork always needs to be filled out in a crisis and I barely remember signing anything, but as long as Butler was saved, I didn't care the cost.  The ER veterinarian came in and we went through the process, blood work needed, yes, his mouth was obviously tender, probably x-rays, definitely needed fluids, and so on it went.  I was told it would take about an hour after they took him back.

      While I cried in the lobby, my husband showed up.  Never expecting to see him there, we held each other and waited four hours for a prognosis.  We paced, we cried, we sat in silence, but all the while, we prayed.  Something he always does and something I never do, but if I was ever willing to find God and beg forgiveness it would be for Butler.

      He had a part of his heart enlarged, a toothache, was malnourished and dehydrated, crystals in his kidneys, but overall nothing they wouldn't expect in a cat that was fifteen and a half years old. In the end, they hydrated him, gave us antibiotics, and told us after a few days of the medication, we should take him to his regular veterinarian for a tooth extraction.  I was relieved and exhausted from the stress of it all, but still managed little sleep as I watched his steady breathing all night long.

The Week

      That was a Tuesday night and the following Monday, he had surgery.  Everything from the ER was faxed to our usual vet and they took care of him right away and by two in the afternoon he was resting peacefully at home, while I was given stronger antibiotics for him.

      Monday he didn't eat, but I wouldn't either if I just had a tooth pulled.  He seemed to be drinking normally so we weren't too concerned.  Tuesday he wouldn't eat.  I tried everything we had in the house: turkey, ham, chicken, canned cat food, and tuna.  He took a bite of tuna and left to go sleep.  Wednesday I bought baby food and tried that, but he just sniffed it and walked away, again I tried everything we had, but nothing would tempt him so I pulled out my last stop.  Shrimp.

      Once we had a big birthday bash and boiled shrimp as we lived on the Gulf Coast and we could get it fresh.  Forty pounds went further than we thought and the leftovers were in the refrigerator.  I woke up the next morning to find the refrigerator door wide open and what looked like a million shrimp heads all over the house.  I don’t know if it’s because it was the first real food he ever ate, but shrimp was his all-time favorite food.

So I defrosted some shrimp, broke the tails into tiny pieces and he ate maybe a half of one.  My husband said, “He’s hurting, give him time.”

      And I tried.

      Friday night we both laid on the kitchen floor hand-feeding him raw chicken because we discovered that not only was that the only thing he would eat, but whenever he had taken a bite of any foods that week, he’d thrown it up immediately and for some reason the raw chicken stayed in him so I would take whatever I could get as long as he ate something.  He ate maybe half a tender’s worth, drank some water, and then slowly eased himself onto the pet bed next to ours in the bedroom.

      We originally bought the pet bed for our dog, it’s a giant orthopedic foam mattress from the pet store, but all three of them liked it and Butler’s favorite red fleece blanket was folded on half and he curled up on it and went to sleep.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

      The night before I mentioned to my husband I felt like a pimple was coming on my chin under my lips so I put extra cleanser on it before bed.  When I woke up Saturday morning, my face felt funny and I rushed out of bed, before getting to the bathroom he asked,

      “What’s wrong?”

      “Something’s not right!” I told him in a panic.

When I looked in the mirror, half of my mouth and cheek were swollen and I told him, “We have to get to the ER.  NOW!”  We left a note for our son and left in a hurry.

      My prognosis was some sort of bacterial/staph infection, two different kinds of antibiotics, and Benadryl.  I should expect my face to swell worse and if it gets too bad I’ll have to see a plastic surgeon to have what he thought was a boil lanced on my face.  Not feeling all that hot, we came home and in the darkened bedroom, Butler was lying on a pillow on our bed.  I smiled at him, murmured an “awww” and walked into the bathroom to check on my face.

(My husband calls me Reg, short for Reggie)

      “Reg, something’s wrong with Butler.”

      I came to him quickly to assess what he meant and I saw it.  He was covered in blood.

      “Oh my God! Oh my God.  Do you think it’s his tooth?” I begged more than asked.

      “I don’t know, maybe he busted it open”, was his guess.

      I got a wet cloth and started to wipe his paws while my husband turned on the light and then I could see it.  It was everywhere.  The blood.  The bed, the pillow, as well as his fur.  It was coming out of his mouth, his nose, and even leaking from his right eye that was half closed by his inner eyelid.  I started to panic and my husband calmed me down,

      “We’re taking him to Emergency, can you carry him or do you want me?”

      I wouldn't let him go no matter what, we wrapped him in his favorite red fleece blanket and we got in the car and drove as fast as early morning traffic allowed.  Butler studied every detail outside of the window flying past while I tried to keep him calm talking to him, assuring him he would be fine, over and over again as tears rolled down my face from staring into his bloodied one.

      We got into a room immediately at the Emergency care and I was inconsolable.  We tried to explain everything from the past two weeks that had happened and the lady veterinarian took it all into account.  My tears never stopped flowing and we tried to stay outwardly calm as Butler laid next to me on a bench.

      She said just by looking at him and the symptoms he’s had, and that is when all the horrible words you never want to hear came out, cancer, leukemia, and other things that I blocked out.  They brought in an outrageous estimate on what this visit would cost and my husband didn't blink.  Whatever it would take.

      “I love him, too, you know,” he choked out as I cried harder.

      We had been left alone in the room to discuss whether we would treat at their price, which wasn't even an option because we felt we would and I was on my knees with my forehead on Butler’s telling him how sorry I was.

      I was so sorry I didn't pay closer attention.  I was so sorry he was in pain. I was so sorry for whatever was wrong now.  I said it over and over and over again.

      “I’m so sorry, my love, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  Mommy loves you so much!”

      I could hear my husband sniffing behind me and I knew he was hurting too.  For Butler, for me, didn't matter, his heart was breaking and I was so grateful.  Not that he hurt, but that he could have an inkling of understanding of my distress, my own pain.

      “I love you, Butler, I love you so much. I love you, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Oh God, I’m so sorry,” I wailed.

      My husband was on his knees next to me now, we stroked his head, his body while we cried and he could barely move.  When the nurse came back I asked her to get the vet.

I looked at my husband, “Even if it’s only 50-50 we’re going for it, I can’t lose him,” as tears continued to roll down my face.

      The vet came in and I told her, “It’s not the money, we have that, but before you poke and prod and hurt him more for days you have to tell me, what are his chances?  Fifty-fifty?” I was hopeful for the worst at this point.

      She looked me straight in the eye and told me, “He’s very sick, there is a very slim chance he will make it.”

      We always swore we wouldn't allow our pets to suffer, that we would calmly weigh the quality of life issue if faced with it, but now I couldn't do it.  I started to tell her to euthanize but it came out in a moan more like this:

      As I looked to my husband, “Oh God I can’t, I can’t say it.  You have to, you have to do it. I can’t. I can’t.”

      He rushed to me and held me hard and they gave us time to deal with our situation.  When they asked if I wanted to be there when they did it I cried so hard I couldn't see any more, everything was a white hot light because I couldn't do it.  I couldn't be there when they took my heart from me.  My husband held me and told me he would be with him.

      They left to make arrangements as we said our good-byes.  All the love I had, all the pain I felt, everything that ever went bad in my life didn't compare to the pain I was in.  They took him away to set up an IV while I stumbled down the hall to throw up, sobbing and uncaring who saw me or heard me.

      In the end, I couldn't leave him.  Our entire life together he never left my side and I wouldn't leave his.  While my husband took care of billing, Butler and I sat in a room with a living room setting to it.  He lay on the sofa and around the lump in my throat, I read to him a book on Cat Heaven.  I kissed him repeatedly, told him over and over how much I loved him.  How much I loved him, again and again.  My husband joined us and said his good-byes and the doctor came in and matter-of-factly, injected him.  As he drifted off to sleep forever, I whispered to him, “If I only have nine lives, let me spend them all with you.”

      And he was gone.

      Then the real pain began.

The Pain

      Grief is a funny thing.  It’s like a crack in your soul that allows everything inside you to leave and you are left an empty shell.

      We came home and had to explain to our son that Butler was gone.  I’m grateful he didn't see him in the end because it would have hurt him more.  There was blood all over the house and I was grateful that my husband took care of that as well.  I refused to get out of bed or even change the shirt that I was wearing.  It was covered in blood and hair, but it was a part of Butler and I wouldn't give it up, I had already lost so much.

      I curled up with Butler’s red blanket and refused to let it go.  My husband came in and out and held me as I cried.  We stayed up late into the night tried to talk about all the funny and quirky things that Butler did over the years, but in the end, the image of him lying next to me face-down was all I could see.  It was haunting me.

      The dog wouldn't sleep on the pet bed and the other cat searched all night room to room, for Butler.  It broke what was left of my heart.  We’re left now with choosing an urn for when we receive his remains.  The grieving will start all over again when that happens.

      We plan on building our final house in three years and it wouldn't be a home without Butler.  I’ll take him there and bury him where he will remain with me in more than just thought or spirit.

       I've lost many people in my life, but losing Butler has been the hardest, the tears still flow and the lump still remains in my throat. I remember all the times I was there for someone else when they lost a loved one.  Telling them it’ll be fine, that time will heal their wound, they’re in a better place now, or it was their time and it’s not your fault.  None of that nonsense consoles me.  None of that erases my guilt, my pain, or my sorrow.

      Our family tried to remember all of those little things that made us laugh and what we will carry of him for the rest of our lives as we laid in bed together, all of us holding each other, we told our favorite Butler story and tried to smile knowing he didn't like to see us sad, but in the end it wasn't enough for me and the tears fell again.

      He touched a part of me I didn't know existed. Although my period of  mourning and grief will be a long one, I will eventually heal from the support of what’s left of my family and from the unconditional love I once had from this scrawny little stray that once ate a donut and made me whole when I didn't know I wasn't.

      In the meantime I keep asking myself: How long before I breathe again?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some Religions Are Crazier Than Others

Xenu was the dictator of the "Galactic Confederacy" who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of his people to Earth in a DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and killed them using hydrogen bombs.

Xenu was the ruler of a Galactic Confederacy 75 million years ago, which consisted of 26 stars and 76 planets including Earth, which was then known as "Teegeeack".  The planets were overpopulated, with an average population of 178 billion. The Galactic Confederacy's civilization was comparable to our own, with aliens "walking around in clothes which looked very remarkably like the clothes they wear this very minute" and using cars, trains and boats looking exactly the same as those "circa 1950, 1960" on Earth.

Xenu was about to be deposed from power, so he devised a plot to eliminate the excess population from his dominions. With the assistance of psychiatrists, he summoned billions of his citizens together under the pretense of income tax inspections, then paralyzed them and froze them in a mixture of alcohol and glycol to capture their souls. The kidnapped populace was loaded into spacecraft for transport to the site of extermination, the planet of Teegeeack (Earth). The appearance of these spacecraft would later be subconsciously expressed in the design of the Douglas DC-8, the only difference being: "the DC8 had fans, propellers on it and the space plane didn't". When they had reached Teegeeack/Earth, the paralyzed citizens were unloaded around the bases of volcanoes across the planet. Hydrogen bombs were then lowered into the volcanoes and detonated simultaneously. Only a few aliens' physical bodies survived.

The now-disembodied victims' souls, called thetans, were blown into the air by the blast. They were captured by Xenu's forces using an "electronic ribbon" ("which also was a type of standing wave") and sucked into "vacuum zones" around the world. The hundreds of billions of captured thetans were taken to a type of cinema, where they were forced to watch a "three-D, super colossal motion picture" for thirty-six days. This implanted what is termed "various misleading data"' (collectively termed the R6 implant) into the memories of the hapless thetans, "which has to do with God, the Devil, space opera, et cetera". This included all world religions, specifically attributing Roman Catholicism and the image of the Crucifixion to the influence of Xenu. The two "implant stations" cited were said to have been located on Hawaii and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.

In addition to implanting new beliefs in the thetans, the images deprived them of their sense of personal identity. When the thetans left the projection areas, they started to cluster together in groups of a few thousand, having lost the ability to differentiate between each other. Each cluster of thetans gathered into one of the few remaining bodies that survived the explosion. These became what are known as body thetans, which are said to be still clinging to and adversely affecting everyone except those who have performed the necessary steps to remove them.

A government faction known as the Loyal Officers finally overthrew Xenu and his renegades, and locked him away in "an electronic mountain trap" from which he still has not escaped. Although the location of Xenu is sometimes said to be the Pyrenees on Earth, this is actually the location given elsewhere for an ancient "Martian report station". Teegeeack/Earth was subsequently abandoned by the Galactic Confederacy and remains a pariah "prison planet" to this day, although it has suffered repeatedly from incursions by alien "Invader Forces" since that time.

In 1988, the cost of learning these secrets was $6,500. This is in addition to the cost of the prior courses which are necessary to be eligible for OT III, which is often well over US$100,000. Belief in Xenu and body thetans is a requirement to progress further along the Bridge to Total Freedom. Those who do not experience the benefits of the OT III course are expected to take it (and pay for it) again.


This is the doctrine for Scientology. While writing it, Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and science fiction writer, wrote to his wife saying, “I'm drinking lots of rum and popping pinks and greys."  


And thus not only answers another question I’ve carried in my head, but given me a hearty laugh, and have subsequently filed it under “kooky cults” with a few other religions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Best Sleeping Bags Ever!

Sleeping bags are never something you look forward to.  That's why they invented air mattresses.  But if you have to have one, if camping with the family is a must, then this is the way to go:

Who doesn't want to reenact Jaws?  This is hysterical!

A fan of the vampire craze?  Now you can sleep like one in this coffin bag!

A slice of pizza and a cushion crust?  If they add smell I'd be in Heaven!  Plus there's room to roll for tossers like me.

By far my favorite.  Zips all the way to the mouth so only your eyes are peeking out.  Why be afraid of bears?  Be the bear!

So now camping is more fun, if we can just get coordinating tents......

Monday, November 12, 2012

Christmas Enthusiasm Going Too Far?

I love Christmas.  On Thanksgiving day, when the table gets cleared from dinner, the Christmas centerpiece takes it's place.  But in my defense, before and during dinner, we have turkey decorations on the table and fall/turkey decorations around the house.  Every holiday deserves it's due time.

So the fact that my neighbors have had their Christmas decorations up and burning bright for the past two weeks is enough to send me into a rage.

I understand how stores want the jump on consumer's money and put their wares out before Halloween and I've even been guilty of purchasing some things at this ridiculously early time.

Mostly because I've learned that if you wait, it will be gone so if you want it, buy it when you see it, but to use them or to light up your house is nuts to me.  I put it in the garage until it's the proper time.

Tradition used to be to decorate your tree on Christmas Eve.  I can't imagine the anxiety my neighbors must feel all year waiting to put out their garish designs.  It must eat at them because every year their celebration gets earlier and earlier.

I love Christmas, too, and I want every second of celebrating it.  I will buy our live tree the week of Thanksgiving, usually the first school day off, the day before Turkey Day.  We put it in water in the garage because it's the same tree you'd buy a week later, only lasts longer because we put it in water sooner.  Not to mention the better selection of shape and size.

That's logic, not insanity.  The tree doesn't go up before Thanksgiving....

Look at that.  That's not pretty, that's crazy and a little bit on the tacky side.  Ok A LOT on the tacky side.  Where's the door?  ONE inflatable is acceptable in my eyes (I don't own any), unless it's a multi-inflatable display, like a Santa AND reindeer.  

I have decorated my house entirely in white once and it lit up like an NFL stadium in the neighborhood so I toned it down the next year.  I even did Christmas in November many years ago because my husband came home from year-long deployment in that month rather than December so we celebrated Christmas early.  Also an acceptable excuse and I did not decorate outside.

So please, respect other holidays and wait your turn.  Christmas IS coming, no sense rushing it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Worst Year Ever: Looking Forward To 2013

Unless a bunch of Negative Nellies get in on the year-"13"-being-unlucky craze.  That just might push me over the edge of sanity...

The year started and nothing seemed to go right.  Couldn't stick to my diet and gained twenty more pounds.  Got into a huge row with my husband and smoked two cigarettes after quitting for years.  The guilt made me nuts as well as the cravings for months afterward.

Not to mention what my marriage went through for those months.

The doctor diagnosed me with a heart problem in April.  Along with a thyroid issue and confirming full-blown menopause.  I can't take hormones because I'm allergic to estrogen, which occurred during my last pregnancy and led to my hysterectomy.  Also adding about a gazillion more pills to my morning buffet of medications.

May:  A freak hail storm dropped racquetball sized hail in our subdivision only, destroying my car (blew off the side mirrors and not one panel left undamaged) the day after I paid it off. We needed a new roof and all the gardens were destroyed.

My Butler, that I've had since he was a kitten, got sick.  It took a trip to the emergency room, followed by surgery, followed by another trip to the emergency room, followed by his funeral to resolve his issues.  I can't express how hard that one was on me, I have never had a connection to anyone or anything like I did him and I took it harder than most.  Not to mention in cleaned out our savings, but he was family and we had no choice.  He would have been sixteen November 1st.

I went into the ER with some weird staph infection that had boils popping out on my face and neck.

My car was repaired after forty days and ready to be picked up the day after my cat was put down.  I left it for three days.

My mom fell and broke her leg which was a crazy tale and I felt bad (I'm an only child), but my dad was with her so I didn't worry.  The next day, my dad fell and broke his hip.  That had me frantically cooking/freezing meals for my family so I could go take care of them.

They have a farm so I was up every two hours all night administering medications, emptying bedpans, then breakfast at seven, work on the farm until eleven, make lunch, work more, make dinner, get some house cleaning and laundry done in between and I think I ended up with two hours sleep a day.  For thirty seven days.

I shot (get over it PETA) six poisonous snakes around their house, weed-whacked one, found two mice floating in the toilet, and there were two snakes mating under the sofa.  INSIDE THE HOUSE!!  A seven foot and eight foot (FEET) rat snakes.  Thank you, 9-1-1!  I didn't sleep at all, or even turn off the lights the rest of the remaining weeks.

When my parents were back on their feet well enough, I came home, 800 miles away, to pick up the mess I knew awaited me here.

The morning after getting back, I burned down my kitchen.  Burned.  It.  Down.  First time I've ever set my house on fire and it was, to say the least, upsetting.

My husband deployed in July (yes it's only July) and I went to my doctor where he immediately put me on antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and meds to help me sleep.  While telling me he's never had a patient with so much go wrong in so short a time.

Something my husband invested our build-our-retirement-home savings tanked (yes, dear, still complaining about it) and we are left penniless. Then my usual fall-winter job fell through, along with his, and we haven't had any money or been able to catch a breath.

Against everyone's wishes in this house, I adopted another cat.  He had been abused and shot and terrorized then put on death row and lived in a cage most of his life...  although we didn't know when I signed the papers for him, he needed surgery to repair the damage that had been done to him by the hands of someone I'd like to abuse and shoot and terrorize.

Then my oldest started driver's education after getting clearance final from his neurologist, but classes started at six thirty in the morning so my day started even earlier than usual for six weeks.  Throw in it's graduation stuff time, like class rings, etc. and I was just about to throw in the towel.

Then.  Well, then, I fell and broke off my front tooth below the gum line.  My front tooth.  They did a temporary fix just to fill the hole, but it will need extensive treatments, that are going to take months, include words like extrusion and orthodontics, and will cost me the low-low price (that's sarcasm) of $2200.  Six weeks before Christmas....

All in all, I can say I've cried out my stress more this year than any other and I've still got some time left before the calendar changes.

Some days I'm not sure how I can still laugh and carry on with the kids, sing, dance, and act silly.  I can tell you that when the lights go off, I stare into the dark for hours and sometimes the tears do silently flow.

The good news is since my mouth is still only temporarily fixed I can't eat anything I have to bite or chew so maybe I'll lose those twenty pounds.  Of course, I can still suck on a cookie and milkshakes work, too, so maybe not.

Thank you Hallmark for bringing the Christmas, make-you-feel-good movies early.

Thank you moronic neighbors for putting up your Christmas crap two weeks before Thanksgiving and giving me something to focus my anger on.

And lastly, thank you Brady (our new kitten that will turn one December 3rd) for coming into my life and bringing me the only joy I've had all year.

My Zimbio
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