Rest in Peace, Cita.

Today’s post was supposed to be a kitty update post. I had pics of Nenette and Cita all ready to go… Cita’s wounds were healed. She was doing much better and emerging from convalescence. But on Tuesday night this week, things took an unexpected turn. Cita passed away yesterday. It happened so quickly; we weren’t prepared to lose her, never thought there was a possibility that we would any time soon.

 

Cita with me on her last day. (March 23, 2017)

 

Thank you to all who cheered her on, you who knew her, who loved her in person and from afar. I’ll share the details and more pics of her next week.

So much love.

“Instead of destroying our resolve, it gave us the strength to go on.” (#Veterans4StandingRock)

If we’re fortunate, Thanksgiving with loved ones brings joy… but this year, reflecting on the holiday in and of itself, it also brought frustration. Because you can’t think about Thanksgiving without thinking about Native Americans, and it’s unthinkable that our Native Americans are still fighting for their basic rights on the land that was theirs in the first place.

 

talc_imgurstandingrock

 

Those who insist on defending their health and their heritage in the face of threat are justified in doing so. Those who join that defense on behalf of the threatened are justified in doing so. It wouldn’t make sense not to, in one way or another. Defending oneself and one’s people is an instinctual response to an unacceptable trespass. We need accountability from our government, but at its heart, Standing Rock is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue.

It’s a natural response to protest an action that could compromise well-being and desecrate cultural sites. Unnatural answers to this response include violence such as working over crowds of innocent, unarmed people with barrages of rubber bullets, clouds of pepper spray, and blasts of water in subfreezing temperatures.

Health and heritage. We all have a right to them, and it’s our right to demand them from those who are taking them from us.

The happenings at Standing Rock represent a breed of atrocity so perverse in its nature that honestly, I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

I’m one of many veterans outraged by this matter. In fact, thousands of veterans are planning a mission, a “deployment,” if you would (December 4), to Standing Rock to join in the fight.

There is a GoFundMe site to support the

Veterans for Standing Rock #NoDAPL

Please consider contributing to this effort of the Veterans for Standing Rock.

I’ve watched several videos made by vets regarding this matter. There are too many to watch, but I thought I’d share a few.

WARNING for language in this one [skip to the next if language is a concern]:

 

 

Here’s the #NoDAPL video brought to you by Disabled War Vet:

 

 

“Thugs on a payroll,” indeed.

Thank you for reading, watching, and considering offering a contribution to the efforts of the veterans preparing to join the masses at Standing Rock on December 4. “We are United States Military Veterans for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

Nounours: Noon rising. (Kitty updates.)

It’s time for a kitty update, and I don’t know where to begin.

It’s been an emotionally turbulent summer.

We wanted to do everything right for our cats, and in the end, it was recommended that we allow our beloved Nounours to be an Only Cat in a household with no other cats.

But it’s not “in the end.” Because for him, it’s the beginning. It took weeks of gentle encouragement and sometimes bizarre twists and turns as we navigated our confusion to come to terms with this, and I’m still grieving his absence from our lives.

It started in June when I called a Feline Behaviorist to ask one question: “How can we get Cita to stop growling?” We thought there would be a straightforward answer to our straightforward question, but she asked more questions about each cat, which led her to focus on Nounours.

Her questioning took us back to the beginning. Nounours loved his Ronnie James (Wrah-Wrah). Wrah-Wrah had been ill the whole time we had them both, though we didn’t know it until he arrived at his last nine months as a cat.

What we mostly saw – and what we mostly remembered – was Nounours nurturing his brother during that time of advanced illness. We remembered the depth of his grief after Wrah-Wrah passed. We remembered his magical love that he continued to express by cuddling with Wrah-Wrah’s urn. Our hearts broke even more as we saw that Nounours’ heart was broken, too.

Nounours’ boundless love and caring for his brother crowded out other memories. We didn’t remember things like Nounours always trying to eat Wrah-Wrah’s food, and taking over playtime so Wrah-Wrah would be chased out of the game, and pushing Wrah-Wrah aside to make room for himself on our laps, even though there was more than enough love and food and playtime and lap-time to go around.

Our expert consultant explained that these things weren’t the little, petty things we thought they were. They were indicators that Nounours would be happiest in a house with no competition, and we should let him have that chance. She explained how we could enter him into the best no-kill shelter with the best adoption placement program in Arizona.

Both times I had this conversation with her, I sobbed, and both times (and in emails, too), she reminded me that none of this was about us, Callaghan and me. It was about Nounours, and what would be the right thing for him, rather than for ourselves. We had to leave ourselves and our own desires out of the equation.

So Nounours has embarked on a new journey. Sending him off was one of the most difficult things I’ve – we’ve – ever done. I have never done it before, and I never thought that I would.

I wrote my last kitty update post in the middle of July, and the next day, we put Nounours into the arms of a compassionate woman who assured us that he’ll be matched with the perfect family for him. We went to the vet first so we could deliver him with a complete copy of his medical records. We gave a monetary donation to the organization on his behalf. I asked if I could write Nounours’ blurb for his gallery profile, and they told me that I could. I was grateful to be able to do.

Nounours is staying in a new, state-of-the-art cattery, where he has a small room all to himself with a revolving door of volunteers and visitors who go in to lavish attention on him. We were very, very lucky to be able to secure this space for him. He is not in a cage. He is not on death row. He is not unloved or forgotten. But neither is he with us, and selfishly, I wish that that could be different.

Hindsight is the cruelest beast. If we could travel back through time, the one thing we would do differently is we wouldn’t have adopted Nenette. We adopted her for Nounours thinking that giving him another sibling to love would help to ease the pain of his loss. We made the wrong decision with the best intentions. Had we not adopted Nenette, Nounours would be the Only Cat he needed to be. We mistook his despondence for grief and loneliness, but it was just grief. We didn’t know then what we know now.

Unfortunately, life is not a Choose Your Own Adventure book where you can go back to change your decisions if you don’t like the ending you got. You can only go forward.

We always promised Nounours that we would make sure he’s happy and safe. I didn’t think that honoring that promise could ever mean giving him up for adoption. No matter how true it is when someone says, “You have to do what’s right for him,” or “You have to take yourself out of the equation… it’s not about you,” I still feel like we failed him.

We miss Nounours beyond words. We miss our big teddy bear who is such a formidable armful of cuddly love. But now it’s someone else’s turn to hug him, kiss him, and stroke his pink nose. We had our turn, and we have our memories, and we’re grateful.

We’re grateful to have had Nounours for the time that we had him, and we’re grateful for the beautiful facility that took him in. We’re grateful for the Feline Behaviorist whose compassionate wisdom, counsel, and encouragement helped us through this difficult realization and process. We’re grateful for the love and understanding of those of you who already know about this.

This might seem like a silly comparison, but it’s meaningful to me, since I’ll always only have furbabies: As an adopted person, I now have a renewed and stronger sense of empathy, appreciation, and respect for my mother who put me in a foster home when a social worker told her that it would be the best thing for me. I now have an inkling of how she must have felt. She relented to let me have a chance at a better life, and I am eternally grateful to her for having had the strength to allow for that.

I did not feel strong when we took Nounours to see him off. I fell apart.

No one but Callaghan and I can know what we all went through in the making of this heart-wrenching decision. No one can possibly know or understand the complexity of the situation, the extent of it or the history behind it. There’s much more to our story, and it’s too much to recount here.

All anyone can know and trust is that we did as advised to complete Nounours, and that it was tremendously hard, and that we did it with tremendous love.

We requested to have Nounours addressed by others as “Noon” because it’s less confusing and easier to pronounce. He can answer to it. We didn’t want the sight of his name to stymie visitors. But that’s neither here nor there. We were told that with his outgoing personality, Nounours will be adopted, no problem. Socially outgoing cats attract would-be cat parents much more readily than skittish cats who are fearful of humans. Nounours is a lover-boy who adores everybody, and he’s afraid of no one. These traits make him very adoptable.

We’ve also been assured that the adoption placement program’s protocols include the screening of potential cat parents. Nounours will start his new life in a healthy and stable environment; he will not be given indiscriminately to just anyone.

We will be notified when he’s adopted.

Finally, we’re comforted to know that Nounours’ new life will save someone else’s. Nounours is truly magical. His love and purrs have powerful healing properties. Some lucky person or people will hug him and kiss him and snuggle him and bury their face in his fur and come to know that power, and they will have it in their lives to cherish and be grateful for, as we were grateful. As we’ll always be grateful.

 

Nounours-Noon.

Nounours-Noon.

 

Cita’s in da house. (Cat mom blog/kitty update.)

The short story: Our neighbor didn’t care about his cat. We fostered her in our backyard, and we have her inside now because he moved away and left her homeless. That happened on Saturday.

The long story: To be clear, we never took her and put her in our backyard. She came with the house… I mean, the day we moved in, she greeted us on the doorstep. She was the one-cat welcoming party. We thought she was a stray.

We found an old paper plate holding the remnants of cat food next to the house. We assumed it was for her. Maybe someone who used to rent our house abandoned her…?

She looked to be healthy and well-fed for a stray, but it seemed that she occupied the entire block. We thought maybe she ate off of old paper plates at different houses on the street. She didn’t continue to eat off of paper plates at our house, though. We resisted putting food out for her. If she did have a home somewhere, we didn’t want to encourage her to hang out on our property more than she already did.

The few neighbors we got to know said that they often saw her around in their yards, but no one knew if she belonged to anyone. Everyone thought she was a stray. She was “The Neighborhood Cat.”

She was cute and obviously intelligent. I went out of my way – way out of my way – to ignore her the whole first year we lived here, because I know me. I didn’t want to get attached to someone else’s cat. She was always here… in the front yard, at the front door, on the patio, on the side of the house, in the backyard, at the back door. It was hard to ignore her friendly meows and her soft, furry little body winding around my ankles, but I managed to look the other way. For a long time, I never even looked down at her, because I didn’t want to see her eyes.

We started referring to her as Ronnie James’ girlfriend, as she and the Wrah-Wrah fondly gazed at each other nose-to-nose through our living room window. (Our cats never go outside.)

Ronnie James died in the spring. The little black cat kept hanging around. Renters living in surrounding houses came and went. No one knew her, but everyone knew her.

In the late spring, she appeared to be pregnant. Then she vanished for a month, only to reappear looking not pregnant. She had to have been in some house somewhere, we thought.

At the end of the summer, visiting relatives stayed with us for a couple of weeks. When we gathered on the front patio to enjoy the night monsoons, the little cat would be there, too, purring under the hands of our cousins. She was cute, intelligent, and affectionate.

One afternoon I rounded the corner onto our street as I was walking home from work, and she came sprinting toward me with utter glee from the other end. I was taken aback and amazed that she saw me from so far away, especially since I was still in my ignoring-her phase. That was the day I broke down and petted her. How could I not?

Predictably, I started to fall in love with her as I relaxed my guard. The week of Halloween, I kept a vigilant eye out – black cats on the street tend to be more at-risk during Halloween.

Finally, about seven months ago, Callaghan managed to approach the mysterious occupant of the house next door. (Not the various bros in the house on our other side. We knew them, and they knew nothing about the little cat.)

“Oh yeah, that’s my cat,” the neighbor informed Callaghan.

We never knew the guy’s name. We knew that his house had a revolving door through which different people would pass at random times 24/7, but he himself was hard to pin down. “She comes and goes. Sometimes she’s gone for days. There was this one time my friend saw her at the Circle K,” he said, referencing the convenience store/gas station down the street.

We couldn’t believe that anyone could be so nonchalant about his cat roaming around outside, eating off of old paper plates at different houses and ending up at gas stations.

He also told Callaghan that he’d had her since she was a kitten. (Me to Callaghan: “WTF! How can you have a cat since she was a kitten and then leave her outside to fend for herself?”)

It’s one thing to let your cat outside. It’s another thing to leave her outside to the point where everyone thinks she’s a stray.

The neighbor went on to confirm that his cat had been pregnant, and he had her spayed after the kittens were born. With this, we had to believe that she belonged to him. (We don’t know what happened to her kittens. We never saw them.)

This last December, the cat appeared in our backyard laundry room on an exceptionally chilly day. What could we do? She seemed hungry and cold. It was too much. Compassion insisted that we drop our demeanor of indifference, neighbor or no neighbor. We lined a cardboard box with blankets, put it against the wall by the dryer, and set out dishes of dry cat food and water. From that day on, she made our property her official home base. She’d go out and make her morning and evening rounds around the neighborhood, and then she’d come back to our house. Always.

At some point, the neighbor acquired two more cats… male cats. He left them outside, too, of course, and they bullied the little black cat, who by then we’d named “Cita.” (If she had a name before, we never knew what it was. The guy never told us, and we never heard him calling for her.)

We habitually chased the other cats off our property when we’d catch them menacing Cita. Ferocious cat fights would wake us up in the middle of the night. One morning, we found her on our back patio with a big, oozing wound on her flank. We were furious. Why didn’t he care?

Recently, I saw her limping after jumping down the fence to get into our yard, so we cut out a little cat door for her at the bottom of the gate. The gratitude she displayed when we showed it to her was heartbreaking.

Cita played with the cat toys we put on the back patio. She used the litter box we put out there, too. Yes, an outdoor cat used a litter box! We spent more and more time with her, just hanging out and bonding. She’d already gotten to know Nounours and Nenette through the windows. I started to tentatively include her in my Kitty Update posts.

Despite everything, we assumed that the neighbor would want her in the end. He didn’t. On Saturday morning, the day after I included her in my last Kitty Update post, he drove off with all of his stuff in a giant U-Haul truck and left her behind. He never came around asking about her. He literally abandoned her.

On the one hand, we were sad for her. On the other hand, we were glad that he didn’t take her away to be neglected somewhere else.

Suddenly, she was officially our responsibility.

We bought her a collar and a tag.

 

Pink and leopard print jewelry for Cita, my cell phone number on the back of the tag being the most important part, of course.

Pink and leopard print jewelry for Cita, my cell phone number on the back of the tag being the most important part, of course.

 

We took her to the vet that same day before we brought her into the house.

 

We agree. Cita is a gorgeous cat, and now she's a vaccinated and microchipped cat, too.

We agree. Cita is a gorgeous cat, and now she’s a vaccinated and microchipped cat, too.

 

Then we brought her home. She’ll never go outside again, because she’s our cat now, and we don’t have outdoor cats.

We thought Cita would rebel and demand to go out, but she didn’t. She politely asked to go out just twice, but she wasn’t upset when we didn’t open the door. It was almost like she was testing us to verify that she wasn’t dreaming.

Cita’s transition from outdoor cat to indoor cat went seamlessly. As for her relationship with Nounours and Nenette… that’s a different story. The first two days went pretty well, but today, Day Three, they took a step (or three) back, which is why this post is late. I’ve spent the morning babysitting, herding, and supervising cats. It will take time. We’ll get through it. We will persevere!

Here is Cita before (outdoors):

 

Cita: "Under my tough street kid exterior I'm really a pampered house cat."

Cita: “Under my tough street kid exterior I’m really a pampered house cat.”

 

And after (indoors):

 

Cita: "See! I AM a pampered house cat."

Cita: “See! I AM a pampered house cat.”

 

Cita’s “before” pic was taken just one week ago! She’s stayed glossy and black since bathing herself for the first time indoors. She’s no longer a dusty desert kitty.

 

Now Cita can bathe without having to lick off layers of desert dust.

Now Cita can bathe without having to lick off layers of desert dust.

 

Here she is after just one night inside:

 

Cita's first morning as an indoor cat.

Cita’s first morning as an indoor cat.

 

It’s wonderful to see her so happy!

 

Nenette and Cita resting together in the dusk.

Nenette and Cita resting together in the dusk.

 

(Don’t let that peaceful picture fool you. It was World War III in here this morning.)

Hopefully, Cita will never have to employ her survival skills again.

Cats are domestic animals. Just because they can survive outside doesn’t mean they should be outside. There are dangers outside! At heart, all cats prefer to be indoor cats. Cita hasn’t looked back.

Skeletons in the closet (Office revamp – the unabridged version)

At present, joyous times are being had with our houseguests (my in-laws) from France, who will stay with us a few more days yet. All manner of general housecleaning needed to be done before they arrived, but I spent the better part of last week taking apart my office, sorting through unwanted miscellany (“garbage,” “recycle,” “Goodwill”), and putting the room back together.

Most of the action took place beneath the surface in the closet and drawers, so the room itself doesn’t look much different now than it did last week. Even so, it’s different to my eyes, which had beheld the spectacle of the room’s innards strewn about on the floor and piled up on furniture over the few days it took me to analyze it all. I felt like a forensics investigator. What has been seen cannot be unseen, as they say. It was a lot of crap.

The terrain of my desk changed slightly when I added a lamp, which makes all the difference. This is now my full-time work environment, so my office needed a desk lamp more than the dining nook did. (Another lamp has taken its place in the dining nook, anyway.)

You knew where this was leading… I’ve got the photographic tour here for anyone who may be interested, such as you fine readers who’d asked about my Table of Death when I mentioned it a week ago. It started as a raucous, dark joke with a friend when I showed her the table and realized just then that a Dia de los Muertos bag hangs in that corner (pure happenstance, which prompted the hilarity – you had to be there). Laughing about it helped to mitigate the somberness of that part of the room, but it helped further when another friend asked to see the table and called it a “Table of Remembrance.” So, yeah. I like pairing that brighter perspective with the dark humor one.

Enough about that. 360 office tour ahoy!

As seen from the doorway:

 

inside left corner (desk)

inside left corner (desk)

 

Desk (top view)

Desk (top view)

 

Desk corner detail: Valentine's Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan "not cal" by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

Desk corner detail:
Valentine’s Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan
“not cal” by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

 

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

 

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

 

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

 

Wall to the right (closet)

Wall to the right (closet)

 

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

 

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

 

This concludes our tour. I won’t be needing to cover a door window in this office, but the door here stays open, anyway.

LA Fitness takes over 24 Hour Fitness in AZ, and AU REVOIR Body Combat.

Last Tuesday, I wrote about my recent psychedelic Body Combat experience at a gym in France.

MEANWHILE, back at home, our own Body Combat classes have been placed on life support, because our gym is no longer our gym. Toward the end of November, our gym got yanked out from under us in the most unceremonious way possible. As in, one day our gym was there, and the next day, it “went out for cigarettes” and we never saw it again. But we know where it went. It went to either Oklahoma or Nebraska.

In the words of French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, Il est parti chercher des cigarettes. En fait, il est parti. (“He went to get cigarettes. In fact, he left.”)

The president of 24 Hour Fitness (our gym) traded his 11 Arizona locations for THREE LA Fitness locations between Oklahoma and Nebraska. 24 Hour Fitness no longer has gyms in AZ, and we’re now members of LA Fitness.

“It’s almost like the president of 24 Hour Fitness lost his 11 Arizona locations to LA Fitness in a game of poker,” Callaghan said. I have to agree.

I doctored up this map from 24 Hour Fitness’ website to create a visual of the development:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-24HourFitness

 

In offering an explanation, 24 Hour Fitness’ president said that “Phoenix was not a market where 24 Hour ever ‘gained the kind of cluster that we ought to see’.”

24 Hour Fitness never “gained a cluster” in Phoenix?

About 4.5 million people live in Phoenix Metro. Oklahoma City Metro has 1.3 million people – roughly a third of our area. We had 11 locations in Phoenix. What kind of “cluster” was he hoping to gain? How does a trade of 11 Arizona locations for three locations in the Midwest make sense?

“Our assessment of (Phoenix) was that it was not a core market for us,” continued 24 Hour Fitness’ president. “At that time, we discussed the possibility of selling that market to a number of players. Ultimately, the only transaction that made sense to us was with LA Fitness… we believe the Midwest offers interesting possibilities for us to make those cities core markets for 24 Hour Fitness.”

Callaghan was outraged. “I call bullshit,” he said. “It was a crazy night at the casino. He lost.”

Rumors about the impending trade filtered through to us less than a week beforehand. If it wasn’t for Facebook’s gossip mill, we would’ve been blind-sided. We got our “Welcome to LA Fitness” email BEFORE we got this email from 24 Hour Fitness, after the trade was finalized:

“After much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to exit the Arizona market, effective November 20, 2015, but we are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement for your membership agreement and your personal training agreement (if applicable) to be assumed by LA Fitness,” read the email. “Thank you for the privilege of being able to serve you. We truly regret any inconvenience that this situation may cause, and we wish you success in your fitness efforts.”

So yes, our gym dumped us and ran off to the Midwest with some floozy, and it waited until after it crossed state lines to send its Dear John letter/”OH BY THE WAY we left Arizona and now you belong to LA Fitness” email. Probably just “business as usual” in the cutthroat world of chain corporations, except it was a big deal to us when 24 Hour Fitness left, because ultimately, Les Mills’ Body Combat and Les Mills Everything Else are leaving, too.

LA Fitness isn’t contracted with Les Mills International, so it’s not supposed to offer Body Combat or any of the other Les Mills group fitness classes. LA Fitness has been allowing our instructors to continue teaching the classes in the wake of the take-over – a temporary arrangement.

I spoke with an LA Fitness corporate rep and was told that the Les Mills classes at the Arizona gyms-formerly-known-as-24 Hour Fitness WILL be replaced by LA Fitness’ own group fitness classes. He assured me that “the classes will basically be the same, but under different names” (i.e. “Bodyworks plus abs”). But we know from some members’ experiences that the classes are actually not the same. Les Mills classes are unique and cannot be replicated. We’ve made phone calls, we’ve sent emails, we’ve started a petition… but there’s pretty much no chance that LA Fitness corporate will contract with Les Mills International merely to provide us with the same classes we had when our gym was 24 Hour Fitness.

So now we’re waiting for LA Fitness to shut down our classes completely. This could happen at any time, since Les Mills has basically been squatting on LA Fitness’ premises.

Still, anything could happen! It never hurts to think positively, right? I like to hope for the best while planning for the worst (could I squeeze any more clichés into this post?), so we’ll see what happens. It seems obvious that Body Combat at our gym is running on fumes, though. There… signing out with a cliché AND a pun. BANG.

Here, enjoy Serge Gainsbourg’s song “Nicotine,” charmingly performed by Jane Birkin:

 

 

Il est parti chercher des cigarettes. En fait, il est parti. “He went to get cigarettes. In fact, he left.”

Nenette – Nounours’ 4th of July kitty

We suddenly have a little girl kitty. To put it more precisely, Nounours suddenly has a new little sister.

We knew we’d eventually have to adopt another cat for Nounours, but if the deciding criteria was going to be me being emotionally ready, I couldn’t see it happening, ever. Losing Ronnie James left an open wound with tattered edges in my heart, and the idea of putting something there seemed excruciating.

But on the other hand, it’s been upsetting to see Nounours so distraught. Nounours would seem okay one minute, then desolate the next. He’d start crying, and we’d rush into the bedroom to discover him rubbing his head on Ronnie James’ urn. Or, on the occasions I’d leave Ronnie James’ urn up on his favorite barstool in the bedroom, Nounours’ yowling-crying would summon us to find him standing on the bed, mournfully facing the urn as if it were an unreachable island barely visible across a vast sea. We’d set the urn back on the foot of the bed, and Nounours would snuggle up to it, quieting down immediately.

We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know how to help Nounours. It got to a point where we started talking more seriously about adopting another sibling for him. I was starting to realize that my own reticence wasn’t fair to Nounours, who had never been an only cat. He was lonely and missing his Wrah-Wrah as much as I was.

Things happened quickly from there.

Saturday morning, the 4th of July, we had the conversation again as we headed to the gym, Callaghan and I. “I’d definitely want to get a girl,” I said, echoing sentiments I’d previously expressed. I thought that a girl kitty would feel less like a Ronnie James replacement; moreover, it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring a strange Tomcat into Nounours’ territory. Callaghan agreed.

So we knew we wanted a girl. We also knew that we wanted her to be a full-grown adult, but one who was younger than 10-year-old Nounours. Nounours has a generous maternal streak, and we thought that allowing him to indulge it would help him to feel less lonely. It seemed that a slightly younger kitty would be a good fit for lovable, cozy Nounours and his penchant for cuddling. “Five at the youngest,” I thought out loud. “Maybe five or six….” Callaghan thought this would be ideal, as well.

But again, we shelved the conversation without making a decision. We got to the gym and went to Body Combat.

Not two hours later, we found ourselves peering into a clear Plexiglas case at PetSmart, where we’d stopped to get more treats for Nounours. Inside the case was a little girl whose tag read that she was six years old. (But she was so small!) Her tag also told us that she’s an Abyssinian/Manx mix. The Abyssinian part explained her beautiful, dark-golden ticked coat. The Manx part explained her lack of a tail.

She looked so sweet and sad. As we held her gaze, her waves of loneliness cut through the Plexiglas to touch us. We learned that she’d belonged to family who’d “run into hard times.” They were being evicted, so they surrendered her to the shelter. She’d been at the shelter for over a month.

When we left PetSmart, my heart had been replaced with a ball of mixed emotions, which I promptly expressed on Facebook. Some of my friends – you know who you are! – were so encouraging and supportive and wonderful, commenting and texting me. The conundrum was that (in accordance with policy) the adoption folks wouldn’t hold her for us for even half a day, even if we paid the fee; if we wanted to adopt her, we had to make the decision and do it tout de suite. It would have to happen quickly, lest someone else swoop in and adopt her!

We went back.

We changed her name. It was funny how we arrived at it: I suggested “Nenette” – we both wanted a French name – and Callaghan replied with, “My Godmother’s name was Nenette!” I hadn’t known that. (Also, we found out later when talking to Maman, Callaghan’s Mom, that “Nenette” had been slang for “chick” in France back in the 60’s and 70’s.) We both loved the name, and it suited the little girl. Nounours et Nenette. We purchased a nametag and fed it to the engraving machine at the front of the store before leaving.

 

She already knows her new name.

She already knows her new name.

 

At home later that evening, we sat in the living room and watched as Nenette explored her new forever home.

Here’s one of the first pics I took of her:

 

Part-Abyssinian, part Manx, Nenette has no tail (a characteristic of the latter).

Part-Abyssinian, part Manx, Nenette has no tail (a characteristic of the latter).

 

Sometimes, the way she moves her head reminds me, comically, of a velociraptor à la Jurassic World, and I want to call her “Blue,” my favorite (kick-ass female) character in that movie. Other times, her shy expression reminds me of Princess Diana, and I want to call her “Lady Di.”

 

Nenette on the small round ottoman in the bedroom (7/6/2015)

Nenette on the small round ottoman in the bedroom (7/6/2015)

 

Her shy expressions remind me so much of Princess Diana!

Her shy expressions remind me so much of Princess Diana!

 

As I post this, Nenette has only been here for about 60 hours, so she’s still getting acclimated to her new home and to the three of us. Nounours started showing interest in her within 24 hours, but his tentative approaches drew soft hissing. Nenette will need some time to develop trust and confidence. We suspect that she’d been either neglected or otherwise mistreated in her past situation(s).

 

Nenette has the uniform, ticked coat of the Abyssinian, with velvety soft fur.

Nenette has the uniform, ticked coat of the Abyssinian, with velvety soft fur.

 

She’s as much an Abyssinian/Manx mix in her personality as she is in her appearance. She’s talkative, but her conversational voice is soft and extremely feminine, and I do mean girly-girl-level feminine, with her quiet mewing and trilling sounds. At the other end of the spectrum, we never heard a cat yowl as loudly as she did in the carrier coming home from the shelter! It was funny to think that such a sound could come from this tiny, adorable little being. This kitty has quite the vocal range. She loves the scratch pads we have all over the house, even though she’d been declawed (to our horror). We’ve also observed that she’s intelligent, inquisitive and playful… and she’s quite skittish. When people come over, she disappears beneath furniture whether the visitors ring the doorbell or not. But overall, she seems to be adapting quickly.

 

We thought this pink heart tag said "Nenette" even before we engraved it, so it was the obvious choice.

We thought this pink heart tag said “Nenette” even before we engraved it, so it was the obvious choice.

 

As of yesterday, she and Nounours have been on nose-touching terms. Those brief touches are a magical balm for Nounours, as he seems to be more at peace now than before we adopted Nenette. We’re looking forward to the day we find him nurturing her!

I wanted to capture an image of Nounours and Nenette together, but it’s too soon for such an opportunity. Last night, when I went into the bedroom to take a picture of Nounours by himself, I found him like this, as usual:

 

Nounours still missing his Wrah-Wrah dearly.

Nounours still missing his Wrah-Wrah dearly.

 

Wrah-Wrah will always be with us, and I like to think that Nenette understands that she has two big brothers to adore her. We love her, too. Nenette has been a blessing for us all. The only promise we can make to her is that she’ll be unconditionally loved for the rest of her life.

The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

Ronnie James will have been gone for five days tonight, and it’s still so hard to walk through the house seeing all the places and things he loved… seeing where he should be or would be, were he still here with us in his furry gray suit, and thinking of what he would be doing. This house without him in it just isn’t right. Callaghan, Nounours and I hope you know how much we appreciate your caring, compassion and concern for the loss of our little lovebug.

Here are the words I wanted to say on Friday, but couldn’t. I just wanted to share with you the events of the week leading up to Ronnie James’ death. I also wanted to write a little tribute to the Wrah-Wrah.

 

Ronnie James the night we brought him home (Monday). Wide-eyed and content.

Ronnie James the night we brought him home (Monday). Wide-eyed and content.

 

We brought Ronnie James home from the hospital on Monday night last week, and the next day, he had an exceptionally good day. With his chest freshly tapped, he was his usual happy and active little self. I took the day off from work to be with him. He ate and drank well, also as usual, and he kept himself close to my side all day… and I do mean even closer than usual. Everywhere I went, he went. Every time I settled on the couch or on the bed, he climbed up on me to snuggle, or he curled up next to me. Callaghan was mostly not here, as he spent much of last week working on-site, but later, when I told him about the day, he was encouraged. We ended the day with the tiniest bit of hope.

On Wednesday, I stayed home with the Wrah-Wrah again – I’d asked for those two days off in advance, as soon as we knew that we were bringing him home on Monday evening – and again, he was happy.

But he also told us that he did not wish to keep his appointment for Thursday’s x-ray/fluid re-check. As heartbreaking as this was to us, it made sense, and it wasn’t unexpected.

I thought I’d seen hints of maybe a miracle the day before. He’s eating so enthusiastically! I thought. Maybe if he eats a lot, he’ll get strong enough for his body to be able to absorb the fluid accumulating in his pleural cavity! Maybe he can be one of those lucky cats who survives chylothorax!

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Deep down, I knew I was kidding myself. They don’t call it “end stage” when it’s not. There’s no turning back from the complication of pleural fibrosis. That was the problem… the pleural fibrosis. And that was what I was afraid of all along.

I called Dr. M., anyway, to talk about the Thursday follow-up appointment. He explained that if Ronnie James had accumulated enough fluid to be tapped, the radiologist would have to insert the needle into each pocket in order to aspirate enough of it to relieve the pressure around the lungs. This would create even more pockets for fluid to fill in the pleural cavity. At the rate Ronnie James had been accumulating fluid in the hospital up until the moment he was released, the likelihood of finding a tappable volume of fluid on Thursday was 99.9%.

Did we want to put him through that again for those kinds of odds? Certainly not… and Ronnie James didn’t want to go back there again, either.

We didn’t want a single minute of Ronnie James’ short time left to involve anything but pleasantness and contentment for him, and getting stuffed into his carrier and carted back to the hospital wouldn’t qualify as pleasant. We didn’t want to “buy him time” for selfish reasons. The reality at that point was that nothing we could do would change the outcome, so we canceled his appointment in order to spare him the ordeal.

I spoke with Dr. M. a second time, and also with his primary care doctor at our main clinic, who referred me to someone she knew who made house calls. Then, with my heart crumpled into something unrecognizable in my own chest, I made the phone call. The house-calling vet had room in her schedule for us for the next evening… Thursday night.

Thursday morning, I woke up planning to go to work, but as soon as I got out of bed, I knew that I had to be with Ronnie James on his last day in this world. His favorite thing had always been me being home with him. That was when he was the happiest, and I didn’t want to deny him that at the end, if I could help it. I asked my supervisor if I could take one more day. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to spend Ronnie James’ last three days at home with him. That time with him was invaluable.

So on Thursday, May 14, Ronnie James got 100,000 more kisses. I got to press my face against his, feel his whiskers on my cheeks, and breathe in the adorable, sweet smell of his kitty breath (a scent that only a cat mom can love, I know). I got to feel his purring on my heart as he stretched out and slept on my chest.

One of the most frustrating things about chylothorax is that it doesn’t lead to a typical, end-of-life decline… a decline that you can see. A decline that makes you feel better about the euthanasia. Ronnie James continued to eat, drink, and use his litter box normally until the very end. Not only that, but he was excited about his meal times and his treats throughout the day. He loved drinking from his water fountain. He loved hanging out in his toy corner. Psychologically, all of this made the decision to euthanize even more difficult. We never observed a diminishing quality of life, so we felt like we were killing him unnecessarily. We had to keep reminding ourselves that the fluid filling up his little chest would soon suffocate him.

With chylothorax, cats and dogs are just fine, until they’re not… and when you can see that they’re not, they’re suffering. You see them struggling to breathe. We didn’t want to take that chance. We didn’t want to end up at the E.R. with him in the middle of the night again. That was not how we wanted his death to happen; that was not what we wanted his last experience to be. When we brought him home from the hospital on Monday night, we promised him that we wouldn’t let him suffer, and honoring that promise became our mission in life for those few days we had left with him.

All day Thursday, the most painful thing was to see Ronnie James being so totally normal. He acted like a normal cat on a normal day. He scarfed up his food and drank water from his water fountain. He came running for his treats. He sat at the window and watched his birdies, chattering at them. He roamed around the house, checking everything out with his usual curiosity, and the only odd thing there was that he did this looking kind of detached, as if he was exploring a house that he’d never seen before. It was like he was patrolling, or doing a military re-con exercise. He investigated the whole place thoroughly and purposefully. It was like he was making sure that everything was okay.

As on the previous two days, he spent lots of time snuggling with me. He spent lots of time snuggling with his beloved Nounours. When Callaghan was home, he spent quality time with him, as well.

The vet arrived that night, and Callaghan, Nounours and I were as ready as we were going to be. Ronnie James was ready, too. He was still behaving normally, but his breathing had started to grow faster in the last few hours, so we knew that our timing was good. Chylothorax parents at the end of the struggle know the nuances to watch for very well. We know how to count our baby’s breaths every four hours to gauge when some kind of action should be taken. We were confident in our decision regarding what action to take this time. At 9:59pm, from the comfort of his own home, Ronnie James entered into a better dimension, leaving his embattled body behind in this world. He died in my arms, with his head in his Daddy’s hands, as he loved that so much, and with his brother Nounours nearby.

My heart was destroyed.

I’m going to reiterate, because I can’t say it enough… it was agonizing to put a perfectly normal-looking and behaving cat to sleep. It wasn’t at all like when I had to put my Frankie kitty to sleep because of kidney failure. Frankie did all of the typical things. He stopped eating. At the end, he pretty much stopped moving. It was visibly clear that he was near death. Looking at the Wrah-Wrah being so normal, we just had to keep reminding ourselves of the Armageddon happening inside his chest. We had to remember that in a very short period of time, he would have started to suffer. Liberating Ronnie James from his earthly body was the only humane thing we could do.

The venomous caterpillar that set off this disastrous chain of events won. We did everything we could to save Ronnie James; the damage was just too extensive. But if we hadn’t rescued him from that woman in Montélimar, he would have continued living in misery before dying horribly on his own, slowly suffocating to death from the inside. That is how Dr. M. described a natural death from chylothorax.

I categorized all of my posts about the Wrah-Wrah’s experience and put the category as a link in my blog’s sidebar to make it easier for people to find. There’s a paucity of information about this disease online, and I hope that my documentation here can be helpful to cat and dog parents who find themselves confronted with this terrible diagnosis for their fur-babies.

The Wrah-Wrah was extraordinarily brave and so strong and so full of life until the very end. His love of cuddles and kisses never abated. He never lost his taste for his favorite treats. His beautiful gray fur stayed velvety soft. He continued vocalizing his conversations with us, and he continued saying “I love you” with long, slow blinks of his wide eyes. No one gave kitty eye-blink kisses the way he did, by the way. He would find our gaze, hold our eye contact, and initiate the gesture, keeping his eyes closed for a few seconds before slowly opening them again, making sure that we didn’t miss it.

Ronnie James was my little soul mate from Day One. As I said to a friend the other day, he was my angel kitty who came and saved me when I was grieving the loss of Detta, my kitty who went missing in the French Alpes. I love Nounours dearly, but the Wrah-Wrah and I immediately formed a bond of a depth and strength I’ve never experienced with any other being. It was only in mid-October 2012 that we brought the two little guys home. When I start to dissolve in anguish over having had such a short time with Ronnie James, I remind myself that I should be grateful for every day that I had with him. And I am. I’m so very grateful for every day that I had with the Wrah-Wrah in the two years and seven months he was with us.

Sometime last fall, when we thought we were just dealing with asthma, I started to feel panicky about Ronnie James. I had an ominous feeling. We would be administering his inhaler asthma medications, and I would suddenly tear up and ask Callaghan, desperately, Can the Wrah-Wrah be Forever? I wanted to hear someone say, Yes, the Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

And you know what? He is. The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

Like his namesake, Ronnie James was a little rock star. Throughout it all, no one could believe how brave he was, how alive he was. Everyone who knew him adored him. He was just such a smart, sweet, and most personable and loving little kitty. Ronnie James will always be my Rainbow in the Dark.

Here is a sampling of some of the pics I took of the Wrah-Wrah in his last three days. I especially wanted to capture his snuggly moments.

On Tuesday the 12th:

 

Curled up on my robe on the couch.

Curled up on my robe on the couch.

 

Curled up against me....

Curled up against me….

 

Laying on my belly, hugging me.

Laying on my belly, hugging me.

 

I couldn't resist taking a picture of it reflected in my laptop screen.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it reflected in my laptop screen.

 

Stretched out on my legs, looking at pictures of himself.

Stretched out on my legs, looking at pictures of himself.

 

On my legs, on the bed. I ruffled his fur to demonstrate his new mohawk.

On my legs, on the bed. I ruffled his fur to demonstrate his new mohawk.

 

On Wednesday the 13th:

 

Sleeping, hugging my legs.

Sleeping, hugging my legs.

 

He jumped up to sit on his favorite bar-stool even the day before he died.

He jumped up to sit on his favorite bar-stool even the day before he died.

 

On Thursday the 14th:

 

He kept eating up until the very end, too.

He kept eating up until the very end, too.

 

Ronnie James fully enjoyed loving on his Daddy, too, when he was there.

Ronnie James fully enjoyed loving on his Daddy, too, when he was there.

 

On Friday, I have a story of Nounours’ to tell, as we’ve been witness to a true phenomenon in his grieving process for his brother.

Thank you again for reading, and for being here with us.

Ronnie James update Number 2 – Out, damned mass!

Sorry… I couldn’t resist the Shakespeare reference.

I’m postponing my March Favorites post until Tuesday, since this morning we had to take Ronnie James (Wrah-Wrah!) to the hospital super early. A lot more has happened since my last post about the Wrah-Wrah… that post, you know, in which we were so relieved and optimistic. In fact, since that very day I updated you guys, something else happened (as you know if we’re Facebook friends), and it’s continued to be an up-and-down kind of situation. The new developments have been relentless, and now, this morning, Ronnie James is going into surgery. The surgeon is going to perform a lung lobectomy to remove one Ronnie James’ lung lobes – the one with the mass, which may or may not be cancer, and which may or may not be causing his chylothorax, either because it’s cancer, or because structurally, it’s creating a blockage of his thoracic duct. In any case, the mass has to go. We consulted with several doctors at two different places, and everyone agrees that we can’t not take a serious measure at this point. He had to have another 150 ml of fluid removed from his pleural cavity the other day. We have to at least try to stop the flow of lymphatic fluid into his chest.

Because other than this, Ronnie James is very healthy, happy and active. He has a great appetite. He’s not at death’s door, so to speak. He’s not saying, Mommy and Daddy, I’m ready to go. He’s just saying, Mommy and Daddy, please stop the coughing. And so we’re going to try. Here are some pre-op pics, starting from late last night:

Ronnie James the night before his big surgery adventure! (4/3/2015)

Ronnie James the night before his big surgery adventure! (4/3/2015)

We've arrived at the hospital. Ronnie James is snug in his carrier, reassured under Daddy's touch. (4/3/2015)

We’ve arrived at the hospital. Ronnie James is snug in his carrier, reassured under Daddy’s touch. (4/3/2015)

Off to get tucked into his cozy hospital bed! Jordan loves the Wrah-Wrah, too. (4/3/2015)

Off to get tucked into his cozy hospital bed! Jordan loves the Wrah-Wrah, too. (4/3/2015)

Ronnie James will likely remain in the hospital under 24/7 care through Sunday. With the exception of the gym on Saturday morning, we’ve canceled our weekend plans so we can spend lots of time visiting him.

Thank you for your kind thoughts, prayers and well-wishes! I’ll post an update next week.

Happy Friday! =)

Update on Ronnie James (for anyone who’s interested), or, Saving the Wrah-Wrah.

As you probably know if you’ve been reading here for a while, we’ve been treating Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah, aka le petit Wrah-Wrah, aka our furbaby, aka our son, for asthma for the last seven months. Well, a lot’s happened in that time, and some of you have been so kindly asking after him, so here’s the latest.

After his initial diagnosis of asthma, Ronnie James’ progress fell into the familiar, frustrating “one step forward, two steps back” pattern. With each step back, we’d return with him to the vet, and each time, his chest x-ray would come out looking different than the previous one. In November, his x-ray showed a collapsed and consolidated lung, conditions that are typically seen as complications of feline asthma. That was disheartening enough, but after a fairly unchanged January x-ray, he suffered further decline and another crisis, and back we went for more imaging. This was in the first week of March, and we found ourselves confronted with an x-ray that was abjectly frightening. It sent us down a rabbit hole of worry and fret. We’re just now emerging from the other side.

Ronnie James’ chest x-ray that day – it was March 4, I believe – was ghostly white, practically opaque. His chest cavity was so filled with fluid that we couldn’t see his heart, and his abdominal area looked the same. His liver was obscured. His stomach was obscured. It was alarming hearing the doctor navigate around Ronnie James’ insides as we stared at the screen. We were basically looking at a cat-body-shaped silhouette filled in with murky whiteness. We were looking at a big question mark.

“Right here is where we should see his heart,” the doctor said, pointing at a section. “Here is where his liver should be. And his stomach would be here – ” She paused as we bent closer to try to see. “This right here,” she said, tapping a small black shape, “is his lung. The black shows that there’s air in there.”

But none of his other vital organs could be seen.

Long story short, more tests were conducted, and two days later, we were relieved to find that things were okay in his abdominal cavity. But the pleural effusion issue – his chest cavity filled with fluid – had to be resolved. All signs pointed to a disease called chylothorax. We were referred to a specialist. Ronnie James needed next-level testing, and he needed to have a chest tap to drain the fatty lymphatic fluid that had no business being there. Our doctor was hesitant to perform a complete aspiration because the fluid had accumulated directly over Ronnie James’ heart.

However, the very next day, of course, was the day we were scheduled to board a plane to France for a week! One extremely long week, from the perspective of a critically ill kitty and his parents.

While we were in France, the doctor emailed with two options for veterinary specialists, animal hospital facilities with state-of-the-art equipment to tackle specific and complicated medical situations for animals, and we couldn’t do anything about it until we got back. We needed enough time and internet access to thoroughly review the two specialists online, and we had to be able to call them with questions before choosing one. I felt like it was a stupidly clichéd race against time, and it was. We’d done our online research into Ronnie James’ condition. We knew that it was critical to drain the fluids from his chest as soon as possible. The timing of the whole thing couldn’t be worse.

So all that week in France, I ran around during the day, cried at night, anxiously exchanged messages with Ronnie James’ beloved Auntie Margaret, who generously, expertly and compassionately kitty-sat and medicated Ronnie James for us, and got little to no sleep throughout. Don’t get me wrong! I still had an awesome, wonderful time and tremendous fun with everyone, but throughout it all, a part of my mind ceaselessly counted down the minutes to getting home and taking the Wrah-Wrah to the specialty hospital.

Back in Arizona, we researched the two facilities, made our phone calls and scheduled Ronnie James for an appointment with the internal medicine specialist at the hospital we chose. We took their earliest available slot, which was for Monday the following week (yesterday). I was beside myself. We’d already waited a week, and now we had to wait another whole week! But THANKFULLY on Wednesday night last week, the clinic called to tell us there’d been a cancellation for the next day, so we were able to get him in on Thursday.

Ronnie James at the specialty hospital, pre-thoracentesis and extensive testing.

Ronnie James at the specialty hospital, pre-thoracentesis and extensive testing.

We were grateful and beyond relieved that with their imaging equipment and many years of experience, the specialists were able to perform a complete thoracentesis on Ronnie James, safely aspirating 120 ml (the equivalent of three large syringes!) of milky-white fluid, chyle, from his chest cavity. Chylothorax was confirmed.

Post-thoracentesis, resting.

Post-thoracentesis, resting.

120 ml of chyle (~1/2 cup!) was removed from the Wrah-Wrah's little chest cavity!

120 ml of chyle (~1/2 cup!) was removed from the Wrah-Wrah’s little chest cavity!

Alleviating the Wrah-Wrah of his pleural effusion was one thing. The remaining critical task was to determine the underlying cause of the chylothorax, if there was one. (50% of chylothorax cases are idiopathic, meaning that there’s no known cause.) We had to get to the root of the problem so we could take some action to prevent his chest from filling up with fluid again! Thursday evening, the internist showed us Ronnie James’ CT scan. Contrast revealed a suspicious 2cm x 1cm mass in his left lung lobe. It was also confirmed that his right lung lobe had collapsed. A biopsy from the mass and more fluid samples were sent out to an external lab for analyses and cultures.

The results wouldn’t be back until Monday, so we settled in to wait again. It was a long wait. As some of you can (unfortunately) attest, the longest wait of all is the one between the words “we found a mass” and the receipt of the lab results.

Meanwhile, we spent the weekend marveling at the Wrah-Wrah’s restored vitality since his chest tap. He was back to his old self! He was alert, active, awake more than asleep; he was talking (wrah-wrah wrah wrah WRAH! Wrahhhhhh!), playing, flirting with us and running around, throwing himself on the floor and rolling over for belly rubs, purring furiously (as if to make up for all the purrs lost during his illness), engaging in his favorite games and raising hell with Nounours again. We hadn’t seen him like that in months! Without the fatty lymphatic fluid crowding everything in his pleural cavity, Ronnie James’ lungs could expand normally again. He was getting more oxygen, and it showed. The difference was dramatic.

Ronnie James returning to his former self over the weekend.

Ronnie James returning to his former self over the weekend.

Late Sunday afternoon, we received a wondrous surprise phone call from a doctor who was working with our internist. She reported that Ronnie James’ labs had come back free of cancer and infection!

This brings us to today. At some point today, the internist will call to report the details of the lab findings – one of the cultures is still pending – and to go over a game plan for the next steps. Part Two of the restoration of the Wrah-Wrah’s pulmonary health will begin soon, and with luck, it’ll be uneventful maintenance from there on out!

We’re hopeful that we can find a way to resolve this for him so he can live out his lifespan with a high quality of life. He’s only 10… he has at least 10 more years to go!

Thank you all for your kindness and support. We feel the love, and so does Ronnie James. We feel blessed, too, to have a wonderful, caring team of doctors between the University Animal Hospital and the VCA Specialty Animal Hospital. They saved Ronnie James’ life, and we can’t say enough how grateful we are to have this precious little guy with us, being his old self!

There aren't enough kisses in the world for the Wrah-Wrah....

There aren’t enough kisses in the world for the Wrah-Wrah….

Thank you all for reading! Please pass this post along to any kitty or doggie parents you may know who might be going through the same or similar medical crises with their furbabies. It would be wonderful if Ronnie James could provide with a little information and hope.

Little Ranch House in the Desert

In my “July Favorites” post (that seems all too recent), I mentioned an on-going adventure that consumed the month. It actually started on the last weekend of June, and the situation changed so frequently from the very start that we just decided not to mention it until the end. That brings us to today. We’re moving!

No need for alarm. We’re only moving down the street this time. Heheh.

We loved our apartment, truly. It was peaceful, and we appreciated the unfettered feeling of renting rather than owning our living space. Having lived in many apartments and owned properties in the past, I’ve always felt more comfortable as a renter than as a homeowner. But over the last few months, several compelling reasons to reconsider welled up.

One, we needed more space. Callaghan used the larger of the apartment’s two bedrooms for his studio, but still, the room overflowed with the accoutrements of his multifaceted craft… plus, we also had to use that space for storage, making it even more cramped.

Two, we weren’t properly set up to host guests, and when your guests mostly come from Europe for longer stays, that’s a big deal. Two of our visitors from France slept on an air mattress we put in the middle of said cramped studio room at night, which wasn’t very comfortable for anyone, and the third – a couple and their daughter – stayed in a hotel (yet somehow, they were the ones who accidentally saw me naked).

Three, I didn’t have an office, and I had been sorely feeling that lack of a dedicated writing space. Obviously, I can survive without one, but I just reached some kind of limit after several years of officelessness. I needed that room of one’s own, to echo Virginia Woolf. Since 2010, I’ve been carving out little office spaces for myself here and there by placing a small desk in the corner of a crowded room, usually the bedroom. I longed for an office again.

Four, nearing the end of our apartment lease, we discovered that our rent would be raised upon re-signing. We had to make a decision.

All of this led to the final thing (and the catalyst for everything) that happened: I was half-joking around one night at the end of June when I filled out a form online. Next thing we knew, we were swept into the eye of the house-hunting storm that defined the months of July and August.

It’s a good time to buy, and looking for a house was fun. The twists and turns of our search initially took us out of our preferred area, but eventually, a house right down the street from our apartment appeared on the market. It happened at precisely the right time, and it happened that we both loved it at first sight, and it happened that our inspector found it to be in excellent condition (unlike the previous house we’d almost committed to buying).

Built in 1958, the house is your standard four-bedroom/two-bathroom ranch-style abode so common here out west. It has everything we need, and nothing we don’t. It was critical to us that we didn’t get more house than we absolutely needed. Most importantly, its location is ideal. The appraiser recorded the house as being situated “1.5 miles from the center of the ASU campus, in a highly sought after area of old town Tempe,” and that’s exactly where we wanted to be.

 

Little Ranch House in the Desert

Little Ranch House in the Desert

 

The house-buying process was almost complete when the universe, in a flamboyant move to confirm our decision – just in case we were having doubts! – hurtled a spectacular monsoon into our apartment neighborhood, knocking out our power, taking down trees and permanently altering the botanical composition in front of our balcony. It’s still lush and green out there, but suddenly, the tree house effect that had so captivated us in the apartment was gone! We were sad for the destruction of the trees on our street, but it was a magnificent storm.

 

Our apartment is the in the upper left....

Our apartment is the in the upper left….

 

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

The storm made quite an impact on our street!

 

I don't think anyone was hurt, though.

I don’t think anyone was hurt, though.

 

It was the one good storm of the season.

It was the one good storm of the season.

 

We got the keys last night, and this weekend will be all about the move. It is, in fact, happening, and I’ll be so glad when it’s over and we’re unpacked and organized! I’ve been fantasizing about an organized life with a place for everything for years, it seems. It’s amazing. I’ll have an office, and Callaghan will have a studio that’s just a studio, and visitors will have a guest bedroom and bathroom, and Ronnie James and Nounours will have lots of running-around space, and there will be no shortage of storage space, either.

So, that’s the story behind this latest move into this latest dwelling, which we see as being a Very Long-Term Situation. It’s sweet. It’s a sweet little house, and we’re grateful to have gotten it. We got lucky, is what we got.

Happy Friday!

Dear Cancer: Get Lost and Stay Lost. Sincerely, Her Daughter.

Today, my Mom sets off on a journey new to her, familiar to many: chemo. We spent the weekend with her and Dad in California, and despite the circumstances, we all had a wonderful time.

Our family has been consumed with the development of her cancer since the last week of October, two weeks before we moved back to Arizona. Since then, in the midst of boxes and unpacking and getting our residential affairs in order and job-searching and holidays, time has speedily hustled us up to this moment, because that is what time does. It moves us forward.

This is actually Mom’s second go-round with cancer, but she didn’t have chemo the first time. What’s happening now was not supposed to happen. The daily Tamoxifen therapy she’d diligently followed after her first surgery proved ineffective… the cancer came back, and this time, it’s different. It’s HER2+. Aggressive cancers need aggressive treatment, so we’re looking at a year of all-out war, all told.

I haven’t talked about this here yet (and I wasn’t sure that I would) because the audaciousness of it simply defies words. The whole thing has been rather bewildering. It’s devastating and scary when it happens to friends and relatives, but to someone in my immediate family? That’s when it exits the realm of thinkability, leaves us looking at it, agape and aghast, from another dimension. This thing, this cancer, it’s like an obnoxious, uninvited dinner guest who just kind of showed up and sat down at the table, elbowing itself forcibly between all of us at once, making space where there wasn’t any to be had. It’s installed itself there like a fifth member of the family, and it’s demanding to be fed. Its hunger is voracious, and it’s rapidly grabbing for whatever it can get its filthy, greedy hands on.

Sure. We’ll feed you. Enjoy your chemo cocktail. And Herceptin. And radiation. AND SO ON. WE WILL NOT STOP FEEDING YOU UNTIL YOU COME APART AND CEASE TO EXIST. AND THEN WE WILL FEED YOU SOME MORE.

We’ll feed it, alright.

Today, the doctors will start slipping poison to the intruder.

Unfortunately, the poison will affect Mom as well as the intruder. I preemptively wrapped her up in a fuzzy warm robe and socks and slippers and a hat, because the Bay Area’s winter chill will increase as her treatment progresses, and she’s tiny. Her armor. Soft armor for a strong woman. She’s still good-naturedly running around accomplishing twenty things at once with her characteristic efficiency; she’s as indefatigable as ever. Callaghan and I couldn’t get her to just sit while we did things. That’s where Dad comes in… Dad is another weapon in her arsenal, maybe the most important one.

She’s well-armed, and that’s reassuring. An abundance of love and lots of prayers from family and friends. A lively sense of humor, a great attitude and a great deal of fortitude. The way I see it, the intruder has no chance. It’s outnumbered.

 

Flying home to Phoenix over southern California

Flying home to Phoenix over southern California

NEWS – You Can Take the Girl out of Arizona, but You Can’t KEEP the Girl out of Arizona.

Yeah, good luck with that!

So. Our move has evolved, rather surprisingly, like this:

Phase One: (planned) Back to the States (June 2013)

Phase Two: (spontaneous) Back to the Desert (November 2013)

Surprise! Surprised?!

That’s right… we’re moving in November, as in, about a month from now. According to the Taoist calendar, I’m in a CHANGE year, which I guess I might have figured out by now, anyway, even if I didn’t know it. We just decided on this move in the last, like, week and a half.

One thing’s for sure – Texas is a fun and interesting place! We agree with our friend who remarked, “Austin is a town to fall in love with.” We’ve been here for four months now. Great times have been had and awesome people have been met and there’s so much to do here, it’s just been crazy-wonderful. Our plan was to stay for a year and then decide what to do after that. We’ve had a few other places in mind, in the case that we did decide to re-locate again. The short list included Lincoln, NE and Denver, CO.

But the longer I’m back in the States, the more I find my thoughts returning to the desert, to the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, aka the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix is situated in a vast desert valley, surrounded, as per definition, by mountains). Callaghan loves Phoenix, too. We talked about it, and then we looked around at The Shipping mostly still in boxes, and we thought, why wait?

We’re going back to the Land of AZ!

It’s not that I think that one place is better than another, because I don’t. This is simply about feeling right somewhere, which is a very personal thing… feeling spiritually connected to our environment can only be a deeply personal thing. Just as some people believe in soul-mates, I believe in soul-places.

I was born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, and the whole 18 years I spent in the Bay Area, I never felt comfortable there… not because of the people, but because I didn’t feel that I belonged. It wasn’t my place. In high school, I plotted my escape planned my departure for the earliest opportunity (hello, U.S. Army!) and never looked back. Now, I’ll go to California to see my family and just to visit, but live there again? Not going to happen. I’m hardly alone in this. It’s a pretty common phenomenon, people growing up and leaving their hometowns. It’s like we have to wander away from the place of our upbringings in order to discover where we really belong. Often, we find our special places by accident. You arrive for one reason – school, a job, a significant other – and before you know it, it’s been decades and you’re still there and you’re feeling that content, rooted belonging feeling, and you can’t imagine being anywhere else.

That’s how it happened with me and Arizona, back in 1991. After the Army, I accepted my then-boyfriend’s (also an ex-soldier) invitation to move to Phoenix. It was August, right when Arizona’s at its feistiest. It was scorching hot, dry, and alarmingly sunny year-round with brilliant blue skies and these ridiculous sunsets you just wouldn’t believe, and alien red rock formations with holes in them and gigantic cactuses everywhere. The sky was enormous. There were haboob (dust storms), and the July-August monsoon season brought the heavy aroma of creosote with the rain and the lightning over the desert. It was magical. With the surface streets laid out nice and neat on an idiot-proof grid system, you can get all over the enormous Valley from one end to the other without ever setting tire on a freeway, but an elaborate and efficient freeway system does exist should you desire to use it.

Next thing I knew, I’d been there for 20 years, longer than I’d lived in California. I never wanted to leave. I loved it. Being there just felt right. It was my place.

Then I met Callaghan. We got married. The plan was for him to live with me in Arizona for a year, but it turned out that he had to be in Europe for his business, so after just a few months, we ditched the plan and moved to France.

By January this year, Callaghan’s business circumstances had changed, so we were free to move back to the States (he has dual citizenship, as you may recall). We both wanted to move, and our adventurous spirits tingled with the possibilities. The question “Where should we go?” carved out an enticing open door in our lives, and there were so many places that could answer it! It was easy to sweep my beloved Arizona under the “been there, done that” rug while scanning the horizon for something new. The United States was like a gigantic candy store, and we were standing in the middle of it with ONE decision to make, to start.

We decided on Austin for all the reasons in this post.

And Austin is truly fantastic! What I didn’t anticipate, though, was seeing Phoenix everywhere I looked! The similarities are real, but I’ve come to realize that the reason I see Arizona all over the place is that I want to see it. I miss it. The saying goes, “East or West, home is best.” Arizona is my home. For me, it is best.

There’s great diversity in the Valley, and I’ve lived all over it… Phoenix’s many suburbs include (but are not limited to) the municipalities of Avondale, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. We’re going to settle in Tempe, because it’s my favorite, and I’m planning to find a job there.

We’ll rent an apartment at first, but we’ll eventually buy a house so when the BIG ONE hits and California falls off into the ocean, we’ll have beach-front property.

I can’t believe it! We’re moving in November!

Here’s a smattering of pictures I’ve taken in Arizona over the years:

 

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

Desert blooms in the springtime make me so happy! This was one of the plants in my front yard.

 

A shot of the sky at dusk

A shot of the sky at dusk

 

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

I miss the giant Saguaro cactuses, too

 

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens...

I love these alien red rock formations near the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens…

 

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

I can smell the creosote in the air just looking at this monsoon season sunset!

 

Stormy monsoon sky!

Stormy monsoon sky!

 

Phoenix's Camelback Mountain

Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain

 

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well... I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture. Pink Floyd's "High Hopes" was playing.

This was my favorite sunset, and I remember it well… I came home from work to my Tempe apartment and went straight out to the balcony to take this picture.

 

Sedona. Enough said.

Sedona. Enough said.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: None of these pictures were photo-shopped, touched-up, color-corrected or otherwise manipulated in any way. Arizona’s a natural beauty.

BIG TRANSITION AHEAD

We’re moving!

In September 2011, The Universe poured us a tall glass of France. The Universe was generous.

Universe: Say “when.”

(fast-forward 17 months)

Us: When!

That was in January. Since then, we’ve been super busy preparing to move. We’re now less than two months away from moving day.

While there are aspects of France I’ll miss, I’d be lying if I said we weren’t excited to be continuing on our amazing journey as a couple living completely irrational lives.

We’re heading across the pond to Austin, Texas. It’s on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, which I love. (Yeah, I was the 22-year-old girl who moved to Phoenix “temporarily” and wound up staying for 20 years. I’m a heat-addict.) Austin has a 100% approval rating from everyone we know who knows it.

Us: Hey Austin – Joe, Holly, Nick, Davey, Eden, Tracy, Christa and the person who wrote that cool book about bats have all told us so much about you!

Austin: Only good stuff, I hope.

Us: Of course! Here we come!

Austin: You seem weird enough. Especially him. Knock yourselves out. Oh, and BY THE WAY we’ve been targeted by that crazy man in North Korea. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Well, okay.

In addition to its obvious advantage of having a legendary flock of bats under a bridge, Austin has a low cost of living and a diverse music and art scene. It’s a state capital and a university town, and it’s on the Colorado River. We’ve never been there, and we’re especially loving the excitement of that! We’re looking forward to exploring a new place together.

As for the transient bats we have with us here in France, well… they’ll just have to carry on without us, those shameless little camera whores.

 

The bat crew

The bat crew

 

Look! They're wearing pants!

Look! They’re wearing pants!

 

Posing for Myspace

Posing for Myspace

 

"Do you seriously think an Austin bat could be a cute as ME?"

“Do you seriously think an Austin bat could be a cute as ME?”