The (feline) state of affairs chez nous.

Once again, I come to you with kitty news; while I don’t have an intention to always post fur-baby reports on Fridays, that’s how it’s been working out lately! Last weekend, we celebrated Nenette’s third week with us. We got her a new scratch pad. This one is for my office, since she’s taken to hanging out near my desk while I’m working, and she loves to lounge on scratch pads. She spends a lot of time on the ones in the living room.

In Nounours news, he’s still grieving the loss of his brother, and it’s painful to see. As I was telling a friend, he displayed an incredible show of longing for Wrah-Wrah last Sunday night.

He was lying on the bed with Wrah-Wrah’s urn, and I was doing the things I normally do to get ready for bed. One of those things is taking the urn from the foot of the bed and returning it to the dresser on the opposite wall.

When I did this on Sunday night, Nounours suddenly cried out, jumped up, and half-climbed onto the foot-board of the bed, stretching out his neck and leaning forward toward the urn, looking from it to me with a pleading light in his eyes. I was stunned. His vocalization, body language and expression articulated his desire so clearly that I quickly gave Wrah-Wrah’s urn back to him, placing it on the foot of the bed. He spent a few seconds head-butting the urn and rubbing his face on it before snuggling back down.

“Did you see that?” Callaghan asked, standing there in the same shock I was in. Neither of us could believe it. It was utterly heart-breaking.

Nounours watched over Ronnie James’ urn all that night. For the first time, I left it on the foot of the bed while we slept.

 

This is still a common sight.

This is still a common sight.

 

Then, a few nights later, I went out into the living room and found Nounours like this:

 

Stretched out where Wrah-Wrah used to rest.

Stretched out where Wrah-Wrah used to rest.

 

He usually doesn’t even sit on the couch, much less in that corner.

That striped cushion was the cushion on which Ronnie James spent a lot of time curled up next to me in the last few days of his life. It was always lying flat, and he loved it. On Wednesday night, Callaghan leaned it up against the back of the couch for the first time since Ronnie James’ death, and this was Nounours’ response. We took one look at him and knew from his demeanor that he was deep in a place of sadness and missing his Wrah-Wrah.

 

Nounours snuggling with Wrah-Wrah's cushion.

Nounours snuggling with Wrah-Wrah’s cushion.

 

Poor Nounours.

We all need more time, and there may never be enough time. Ronnie James’ presence in our house is so real, it’s like he’s here, but invisible.

On her part, Nenette did the following this week:

She read some books…

Nenette with "As I Lay Dying," one of my favorite works of literature.

Nenette with “As I Lay Dying,” one of my favorite works of literature.

 

…she played. A lot.

 

Not tired yet, Mommy!

Not tired yet, Mommy!

 

She discovered catnip…

 

What's this?

What’s this?

 

…and hugged her toys…

 

Mine! All mine!

Mine! All mine!

 

…tentatively kept company with her brother…

 

Nounours and Nenette hanging out in my office.

Nounours and Nenette hanging out in my office.

 

…and introduced herself to houseplants Jerome and Barclay.

 

Nenette getting up close and personal with Barclay the plant.

Nenette getting up close and personal with Barclay the plant.

 

I’d say she’s coming along pretty well, overall!

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.

Vehement boxing gloves – cruelty-free to animals, but not necessarily to your opponent!

As many of you know, I’ve been steadily working on switching over to cruelty-free cosmetics and other such products, as this was my primary New Year’s resolution for 2015. I also resumed my vegan eating habits back in April, which didn’t involve much of a change, as the only animal product I was consuming was a little dairy here and there. After three years, I’m finally back to my pre-France lifestyle, and I feel physically fantastic! Although I’m still floundering in the sleep department (a secondary-though-not-less-important New Year’s resolution was to “get more sleep” – still working on that one), I’m enjoying much more energy now.

After making the cruelty-free commitment with my personal care products and returning to 100% vegetarianism (aka dietary veganism), it made sense to extend the latter choice in the direction of classical veganism, beginning with examining the materials of the things I use and wear. I found that there were a few leather items left in my life at that point, the main one being out in the garage: my pair of boxing gloves. My boxing gloves were made of leather. I started researching to find an alternative. I only felt a little bit guilty springing for some new boxing gloves when a). I’m in financial recovery mode (from Ronnie James’ medical ordeal), and b). I had a beautiful, fairly new pair already (given to me for my birthday last December). But I’m passionate about animals, passionate about combat sports, passionate about my New Year’s resolution, and, before he died, I promised Ronnie James that I’d re-dedicate myself to our favorite cause.

Some of you might be thinking, But Kristi! Boxing gloves are made for hitting people. Why worry about hurting animals in the making of something intended to cause pain to others? I know it seems counter-intuitive. I know. But engaging in combat sports with adult human beings who know they’re going to get hit is not the same thing as taking something cruelly from non-consenting beings. I’m just going to leave my reasoning at that brief statement and get right to the point:

I stumbled upon Vehement, a company that makes boxing gloves, MMA gear and other combat sports equipment and apparel. This is all they do, and they do it very well… without harming animals, humans, or the environment.

 

"Sustainable." "Vegan." "Sweatshop free." What the label doesn't say, but could: "HARDCORE" and "KICK-ASS."

“Sustainable.” “Vegan.” “Sweatshop free.” What the label doesn’t say, but could: “HARDCORE” and “KICK-ASS.”

 

Vehement is a German company, but their international shipping rates are reasonable ($13.00 to the States), and the combat sports gear they make is extremely well-engineered and on point. When you go to their web site, you’ll find a statement that reads:

DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES, NOT YOUR PLANET.

Our hand sewn, sweatshop-free fight gear is made of 100% Battleskin™, an extremely advanced artificial leather: sustainable, durable and vegan. We won several awards for our innovative boxing gloves, MMA gloves and shin guards.

The Wolfheart X2 gloves that I purchased (I chose 12 oz) are a superb all-purpose pair of boxing gloves. Also, did I mention that this conscientious company’s logo is a beautiful wolf face? This is because Vehement shares their profits with the Wolf Conservation Center NY (WCC). That’s right… when you purchase gear from Vehement, you’re contributing to a great cause! From the Wolf Conservation Center NY site:

The WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. The WCC accomplishes this mission through onsite and offsite education programs emphasizing wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves and other large predators, and the current status of wolf recovery in the United States.

 

Vehement Wolfheart X2 all-purpose boxing gloves (12 oz)

Vehement Wolfheart X2 all-purpose boxing gloves (12 oz)

 

I love the design and fit of Vehement's Wolfheart X2 boxing gloves.

I love the design and fit of Vehement’s Wolfheart X2 boxing gloves.

 

Vehement sells hand wraps, shin guards, MMA gloves and two types of boxing gloves, as well as clothing and water bottles. If you or someone you know is interested in combat sports gear, I highly recommend this company! Check them out, explore the goods and read their blog posts and announcements: http://vhmnt.com/

In case you’re short on time, I’m pasting in this description of the gloves that I got:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-VehementWebSiteText

 

I’m extremely happy with the fit, feel and performance of these vegan boxing gloves. I honestly can’t say enough about these gloves – they’re simply the best boxing gloves I’ve ever had (and I’ve owned pairs from both Title and Everlast). Two Battleskin-encased thumbs up!

[NOTE: This post is not sponsored by Vehement]

Lost in Translation: L’Etat des Restos de Montréal.

Have you ever experienced an amusing “lost in translation” moment?

Let me preface mine with the assertion that I’m NOT making fun of Callaghan’s French accent. Honestly, I don’t even notice his accent most of the time, especially since some of our French friends’ accents are so thick that Callaghan’s is comparatively nonexistent (to my ears, at least). But there are times, usually when we’re with other people, when I realize that, yes, he does have an accent. Someone might ask him to repeat something, for instance, or something he says might be misinterpreted. This was the case when we went to my friend’s wedding last month.

We were sitting at a table with a few of my co-workers, as the bride was a friend from work. Callaghan wasn’t the only one with a foreign accent… we also had accents from Australia, Germany, and Ethiopia at our table. Such is the beauty of the States, right? So anyway, as conversation flowed lightly along, Callaghan mentioned that he’d heard about a new law up in Montréal. (It’s not uncommon for Montréal to come up in conversations with work friends, since our department maintains a strong historical, collaborative relationship with our Director’s former unit up there. It’s like our sister unit.)

“Apparently, in Montréal, they passed a law,” Callaghan told us. “Now it is illegal for a terrace to be across the street from a restaurant.”

Maybe it was the abruptness of his announcement that threw us off, along with the strangeness of the news and the quirkiness of his English as a Second Language syntax thrown into the mix… or maybe it was his pronunciation. Probably, it was a combination of all of the above that resulted in momentary confusion. On my part, while I thought I understood what he’d said, I was hesitant to believe it. Others at the table either didn’t hear him, didn’t understand him, or couldn’t grasp what he’d said. What ensued was a bombardment of demands for a repeat of the statement. We all needed clarification.

“Terraces can’t be across the street from restaurants in Montréal anymore,” Callaghan said.

There was a pause, and then, at the same time someone exclaimed, “I thought he said ‘terrorist’!” another person blurted, “WHAT? Montréal passed a law making it illegal for TERRORISTS to be across the street from a restaurant?”

Cue hilarity.

“No more terrorists across the street from restaurants in Montréal!!” exclaimed Callaghan. The rest of us were cracking up along with him.

“Calling all terrorists! You can no longer be across the street from a restaurant!” One guy boomed to an imaginary crowd of terrorists clamoring to get across the street from a restaurant in Montréal.

We couldn’t stop laughing, none of us, including me, and that was a blessing.

Because the date was May 16, and my beloved Wrah-Wrah hadn’t even been gone for 48 hours. When Callaghan and I walked into that wedding an hour earlier, I was in the worst possible place mentally and emotionally, utterly devastated and absolutely not in the mood to go anywhere or see anyone… but I wasn’t about to miss my friend’s wedding. She and I had been talking excitedly about her big day for a year, and there was no way I was going to fail to show up!

To complicate things further, Wrah-Wrah’s ashes had been brought to our door as we were getting ready for the wedding, so minutes before leaving, I was standing in the middle of the living room with his little urn held close to my heart, thinking, How am I going to get through a social event right now?

The answer was in the question. It was the social event that got me through the rest of the day, and that absurd and perversely funny “lost in translation” episode was a big part of it. I found myself reflecting on the keen truth of the cliché that laughter is the best medicine. A few moments of bubbling mirth that evening had granted me a much-needed respite from emotional pain, if only fleetingly.

It was also a blessing to be able to sideline my grief while focusing on the celebration of someone else’s pivotal life event, and sharing the experience with a fun group of people helped tremendously. I mean, it’s impossible to not smile and laugh while holding hands with others and running through the room during the Mexican wedding dance, let me tell you! Mexican weddings are good fun, and it was just a joy to see my friend looking so radiant and happy.

And what of that strange new law in Montréal? It turns out that Callaghan wasn’t remembering it correctly, anyway… the crux of the law is actually the space on the sidewalk between the terrace and the street, which Montréal says should be a meter and a half to allow for wheelchair passage. We had a case of a telephone game mix-up merging with linguistic misinterpretations! And that’s how you get from wheelchair sidewalk access to “no terrorists allowed in front of restaurants in Montréal.” Human communications can be a riot when there’s a glitch in the lines.

Speaking of terraces, Callaghan (being French) refers to our back patio as a terrace (la terrasse); the other day, we rearranged our small signage collection out there and hung our handy zombie warning sign prominently in the center of the main wall (with a nod to my zombie experience last week):

 

It should say, "TERRASSE INTERDITE AUX ZOMBIES" (NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED ON THE TERRACE)

It should say, “TERRASSE INTERDITE AUX ZOMBIES” (NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED ON THE TERRACE)

 

Like this:

 

To match the "NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE GRASS" sign beneath it.

To match the “NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE GRASS” sign beneath it.

 

I’ve always enjoyed this sign, but I have a whole new appreciation for it now.

Ronnie James’ paw print, healed (and while I’m at it, here’s a look at some of my other tattoos).

One month ago last night, my heart disintegrated. It shattered into the ether, and the fragments fell and settled into an urn, the dust of my heart together with Ronnie James’ ashes. Well, Ronnie James is my heart. They are the same, and they are in a little box, and I still haven’t figured out how to navigate myself from here.

Our three hearts are broken… mine, Callaghan’s, Nounours’. I took a picture of Nounours last night at exactly the time of his brother’s death:

 

Nounours with Ronnie James, one month later.

Nounours with Ronnie James, one month later.

 

It’s like that urn is alive with Ronnie James’ pulse. We all feel him; his spirit and love are so strong.

Meanwhile, my tattoo of Ronnie James’ paw print has healed. I thought it was beautiful before, but now I can see that it’s an exquisite work of art. It’s smudgy and unevenly pigmented, looking, in other words, perfectly real – like Ronnie James left it there, himself. I’ll always be able to see the paw print of my (precious-angel-baby-bunny-dragon) Ronnie James, my petit Wrah-Wrah, my son who could never get enough cuddles or kisses.

 

My new tattoo has healed and transformed into an incredibly realistic imprint of Ronnie James' paw.

My new tattoo has healed and transformed into an incredibly realistic imprint of Ronnie James’ paw.

 

I’ve never loved a tattoo more, and that’s saying a lot, because I have a lot of tattoos that I love. My collection of tattoos spans three decades; I had my first one done on my 18th birthday in 1987 (it was before tattoos went mainstream, a “bad girl” thing to do at the time, but I didn’t care what anyone thought), and this last one was done three weeks ago. 90% of my ink is on my back, though, where my eyes can’t reach. Every once in a while, I stand at an angle in the bathroom and admire what I can see in the mirrors.

I’ll show them to you, while I’m on the subject. I took the ones of my arm – may I just remark how awkward it is to take a selfie of one’s arm? – and Callaghan took the pics of my back. All of the pictures were taken yesterday, and they’re just of my arm and back. (Not pictured: pelvis tattoo, anklet tattoo.)

 

While the wind blew! Here's a string of outlined hearts spiraling up my left upper arm. Callaghan drew them, and then I had them inked over by the tattooist.

While the wind blew! Here’s a string of outlined hearts spiraling up my left upper arm. Callaghan drew them, and then I had them inked over by the tattooist.

 

The inside of my lower left arm... and now you know one of my favorite numbers.

The inside of my lower left arm… and now you know one of my favorite numbers.

 

I took those at lunch. We did the rest when I got home from work. This selfie was the last picture I took as the sun was setting (the window is behind me):

 

I took this by fading daylight in my home office. As usual, I did nothing to the picture... the alignment of the string of lights on my hair was a total fluke that I discovered after the fact.

I took this by fading daylight in my home office. As usual, I did nothing to the picture… the alignment of the string of lights on my hair was a total fluke that I discovered after the fact.

 

And here are the back tattoo pics Callaghan took before that (I put on my very lowest-rise jeans for this, since the tiger at the bottom goes quite low):

 

It looks like a single piece, but I added to the work over time, starting in 1988 and ending in 2010.

It looks like a single piece, but I added to the work over time, starting in 1988 and ending in 2010.

 

My poor mother strongly disapproves of all of this ink. Close your eyes, Mom!

 

Here's a clearer view. The Sanskrit script at the base of my neck reads, "om mani padme hum," my favorite Buddhist mantra.

Here’s a clearer view. The Sanskrit script at the base of my neck reads, “om mani padme hum,” my favorite Buddhist mantra.

 

The dragon was my second tattoo (1988), and the first one to be done on my back. It was touched up by a different tattooist in 2010.

The dragon was my second tattoo (1988), and the first one to be done on my back. It was touched up by a different tattooist in 2010.

 

A talented friend designed my horse, which represents freedom and fortitude to me. I wanted the horse to be facing forward while looking back.

A talented friend designed my horse, which represents freedom and fortitude to me. I wanted the horse to be facing forward while looking back.

 

I’m kind of fascinated by how my phone’s camera managed to pick up little beads of sweat on my spine!

Happy Friday, All.

Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding (instagram series)

Just over a year ago, I took a picture of Callaghan and the Wrah-Wrah together in a companionable moment, and I instagrammed it with a b&w filter. I shared it on Facebook, and people loved it. Over the course of the year, I did this six more times. That first photo was taken before Ronnie James started coughing. The last one was taken on the 14th of this month, the day he died… four days shy of the one-year anniversary of the first.

All along, I had no idea that I was capturing the last year of Ronnie James’ life.

Last night marked two weeks since good-bye. I wanted to share these pictures here today, together as a collection. There are only seven. I’d taken many more, but I’d carefully selected the images for this series with certain qualities in mind. Above all, the photos show the special bond between Callaghan and Ronnie James, each one spontaneous and now extra precious in its memorializing the enormous and profound love our feline son carried in his strong little lion heart.

I’ll say it again: Ronnie James loved like no other. He lived from cuddle to kiss, from nuzzle to hug. He measured his days in snuggles, rather than in minutes. He loved to be picked up and carried. He loved to be held, and, unlike most cats, you could hold him until your arms got tired, because the urge to get down never overcame him. He always had to be touching us, including with the unique way he had of flicking his butt to the side to brush against us when walking by. (We thought this quirk of his was so funny and cute.)

The Wrah-Wrah loved all three of us so much, Callaghan, Nounours, and me… and his love was such a huge, constant and present force in our lives that now, the emptiness where he used to be is just crushing. It is to me, at least. I’m having a difficult time with the absence of our “little lovebug” who was actually the greatest source of love I’ve ever encountered in a being, believe it or not. In that sense, he is divine. He’s with us somehow, I know… but still, when I walk through the house and see his favorite places, the realization of his physical goneness sucks the breath out of my own lungs, and I hinge forward under the weight of it.

It’s been rough, friends. Really, really rough. I don’t think that time could help me to miss him less, but it may help me to adapt, eventually.

Without further ado, here are the seven pictures in the “Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding” series. At the end, I tacked on a pic of me with the Wrah-Wrah (and Callaghan’s leg!), and another of the Wrah-Wrah with his beloved Nounours, both from instagram, as well.

“Callaghan and Ronnie James, bonding”:

 

May 17, 2014. The first photo in the series. Ronnie James hanging out with his Daddy in bed, each of them doing their thing.

May 17, 2014.
The first photo in the series. Ronnie James hanging out with his Daddy in bed, each of them doing their thing.

 

June 2014. Ronnie James often kept his Daddy company in the studio (Callaghan would place the second bar-stool there just for him). This was still back in our old apartment.

June 2014.
Ronnie James often kept his Daddy company in the studio (Callaghan would place the second bar-stool there just for him). This was still back in our old apartment.

 

August 2014. Looking up attentively at his Daddy, probably asking for more belly rubs. He loved his belly rubs!

August 2014.
Looking up attentively at his Daddy, probably asking for more belly rubs. He loved his belly rubs!

 

November 2014. Ronnie James was never happier than when being snuggled by me, Callaghan, or Nounours.

November 2014.
Ronnie James was never happier than when being snuggled by me, Callaghan, or Nounours.

 

December 2014. He loved to drape himself over us. Look at his paw on Callaghan's arm! He loved to touch us.

December 2014.
He loved to drape himself over us. Look at his paw on Callaghan’s arm! He loved to touch us.

 

March 2015. Ronnie James and Callaghan sharing a moment right before we went to France for a week.

March 2015.
Ronnie James and Callaghan sharing a moment right before we went to France for a week.

 

May 14, 2015.  Last photo in the series, almost a year since the first. This photo was taken the day Ronnie James died... just hours before he died, in fact.

May 14, 2015.
Last photo in the series, almost a year since the first. This photo was taken the day Ronnie James died… just hours before he died, in fact.

 

And here are the two extras:

 

August 2014. Ronnie James with Callaghan and me. I remember the ferocity of his purring, he was so happy.

August 2014.
Ronnie James with Callaghan and me. I remember the ferocity of his purring, he was so happy.

 

March 2014.  One of many photos of Ronnie James and Nounours cuddling together.

March 2014.
One of many photos of Ronnie James and Nounours cuddling together.

 

Poor Nounours is so forlorn without his Wrah-Wrah. He still seeks out and cuddles with his brother’s urn and collar.

We will get through this. On Monday, Callaghan left for France suddenly because of an urgent family situation, so he’s preoccupied with the goings-on over there. I’m here with Nounours, doing my best to nurture him through his grief as I work through my own. I value this time to bond more with Nounours. We’re helping each other.

We love you, Ronnie James. As I often used to sing to him: Precious-angel-baby-bunny-dragon-Ronnie-James!

The Wrah-Wrah’s paw print.

Why good morning, friends. As of three days ago, I have a new tattoo, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s a small one, but of all my tattoos, this one is the dearest to my heart.

Right after Ronnie James died, I suddenly, desperately wanted to apply ink to his little paw pads and press his paw onto paper. It wasn’t a thought I’d taken the time to formulate beforehand. As much as I’d tried to prepare myself, his passing was harder for me than I’d imagined it could be, and in the aftermath, I wanted something of him that would stay with me forever.

Since it was a last-minute decision, we were ill-prepared. The inks in Callaghan’s studio yielded fuzzy prints, but we thought we could work with them. They were certainly better than nothing. My idea was to have his paw print indelibly inked on the inside of my wrist, where I could see it all the time. I wanted a permanent, visual remembrance of how Ronnie James loved to touch me, and of how comforting and sweet his touch had been.

 

The Wrah-Wrah's first fuzzy little prints. The one I chose didn't come from this set, but we're going to have this sheet framed.

The Wrah-Wrah’s first fuzzy little prints. The one I chose didn’t come from this set, but we’re going to have this sheet framed.

 

When our house-calling vet brought the Wrah-Wrah’s cremains home to us two days later, she surprised us with another sheet of paper on which she’d stamped some lovely, clear Wrah-Wrah prints, a thoughtful gesture that touched us deeply. I vacillated between my two favorites before deciding on this one:

 

Getting an idea of how it would look....

Getting an idea of how it would look….

 

Callaghan loved it and decided to get the same tattoo. We went to the Club Tattoo down the street here in Tempe to make an appointment with the person who’d done my last (spiral of hearts) tattoo. We made our double appointment for Saturday afternoon.

 

Ronnie James' paw print realistically done in four shades of black/gray.

Ronnie James’ paw print realistically done in four shades of black/gray.

 

The same tattooist did that spiral of hearts around my arm in 2011, right before the move to France. (In case you're wondering, no, I don't lift weights. I just do Body Combat 3x / week. I do want to get back in the garage to work out, though... it's been a good couple of months.)

The same tattooist did that spiral of hearts around my arm in 2011, right before the move to France. (In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t lift weights. I just do Body Combat 3x / week. I do want to get back in the garage to work out, though… it’s been a good couple of months.)

 

I explained to our tattooist that I wanted the tattoo to look smudgy and real, as if Ronnie James’ inked paw had been pressed directly onto my wrist. He expertly used four shades of black/gray to achieve the effect with shading. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. I absolutely adore it.

 

Now I'll always have the Wrah-Wrah's paw on me.

Now I’ll always have the Wrah-Wrah’s paw on me.

 

And here’s a bad selfie, just for fun. (How do people take mirror selfies, anyway? It never worked out the few times I tried it. It must be an art form.)

 

Thwarted by lighting! Useless selfie attempting to show my freshly bandaged wrist... but you can see Callaghan in the background getting his tattoo done, so there's that.

Thwarted by lighting! Useless selfie attempting to show my freshly bandaged wrist… but you can see Callaghan in the background getting his tattoo done, so there’s that.

 

Callaghan loves his tattoo, as well. He asked to have the print altered just a tiny bit, and we wanted ours angled slightly differently, and he positioned his further down his wrist than mine, and he has his on his left wrist, while mine is on my right… so our Wrah-Wrah prints aren’t exactly identical. The Wrah-Wrah loved us both, but differently. He touched us both, but differently.

The Wrah-Wrah is Forever.

Phenomenon: Nounours with his beloved Wrah-Wrah.

(First things first for you English-speakers:  Nounours is our other cat, as many of you already know, and his name is pronounced “Noo-NOO’orse.” I’m afraid that’s the closest approximation I’m going to achieve in writing. The second two parts – the vowels – flow together quickly, pronounced as one syllable. “Nounours” is French for “teddy bear.”)

In the wake of Ronnie James’ departure, Nounours has been grieving along with us this past week. We feel badly for him. We’ve been trying to console him, giving him as much love as he can handle. He and the Wrah-Wrah were extremely close. They were attached close.

 

Two proverbial peas in a pod, Ronnie James and Nounours.

Two proverbial peas in a pod, Ronnie James and Nounours.

 

Nounours holding Ronnie James' hand. Now, we believe that Nounours knew things we didn't know.

Nounours holding Ronnie James’ hand.
Now, we believe that Nounours knew things we didn’t know.

 

Nounours took such good care of his  brother.

Nounours took such good care of his brother.

 

Nounours always nurtured Ronnie James.

Nounours always nurtured Ronnie James.

 

Easy-going Nounours is a big goofball, and a lovable goofball he is, too. We often affectionately joke that he isn’t “the sharpest blade in the drawer,” but there are different types of intelligence. Nounours’ intelligence, it turns out, is other-worldly.

For instance, Nounours is the lone feline in the house now, but he doesn’t lie by the front door anymore, as he was wont to do when Ronnie James was away in the hospital. (That, in itself, was indicative of Nounours’ sixth sense. He otherwise never planted himself by the front door.) The reason? He knows that this time, Ronnie James isn’t coming home. He knows that his brother will never come through that door again. Nounours was with us when Ronnie James died. He was there and he witnessed the whole thing, and then he approached and sniffed the Wrah-Wrah’s lifeless little body. He understood. He knew.

However….

Two days after Ronnie James’ death, his cremains came through the door. His ashes came home to us in an urn – a small, locked box – last Saturday afternoon, hand-delivered.

 

A little padlock hangs  beneath the heart name-tag, and there are two keys for it taped to the underside of the urn.

A little padlock hangs beneath the heart name-tag, and there are two keys for it taped to the underside of the urn.

 

And somehow, Nounours understands this, too, at what seems to be a very deep level.

There’s a large, flat cushion lying in the inner corner of our sectional couch, a relic from the love-seat we had when we were living in Austin. We brought the love-seat with us from Texas to our apartment when we moved back to Arizona, then donated it when we moved into this house and got a new couch. We kept this one cushion, though, along with the matching ottoman. The two pieces add a touch of muted color to the beige-on-beige thing we’ve got going on in our living room.

In the last weeks of his life, Ronnie James loved to rest on the cushion when I was sitting next to it… and only when I was sitting next to it. It started because he would sit near me along the top of the backrest couch cushions. One day, when he was up there by my right shoulder, I set this oddball cushion down in the corner. He came down and arranged himself on it immediately. He wanted to be near me at all times, if not actually touching me or lying on me.

The cushion became Ronnie James’ special spot when I would sit on this section of the couch, and it’s still there today.

 

Stretching out on the cushion and touching me with his head and hands. He loved to be in physical contact with me, and he never touched me more than he did in those last three days of his life.

Stretching out on the cushion and touching me with his head and hands. He loved to be in physical contact with me, and he never touched me more than he did in those last three days of his life.

 

Nounours, on the other hand, never paid attention to the cushion. Its purpose was always decorative, so no one ever sat on it but Ronnie James once I set it down in that spot a few weeks ago.

 

Ronnie James sleeping next to me on his cushion on May 14 - his last day in this world.

Ronnie James sleeping next to me on his cushion on May 14 – his last day in this world.

 

We were steeped in grief when Ronnie James’ urn came home on Saturday, but we were grateful to have it so soon. It’d been less than 48 hours since his death. We received the urn and then left to attend a friend’s evening wedding – a welcome distraction, focusing on someone else’s happy occasion! When we got home, we sat next to each other on the couch. I was in tears again. Ronnie James’ cushion was terribly vacant next to me. Without really thinking, I set his little urn and his collar on it.

Then Nounours came out from the bedroom and went directly to the corner of the couch.

Nounours appeared when I set the Wrah-Wrah’s urn and collar on the cushion, and we couldn’t believe what happened next.

Nounours, who isn’t a cat who does things deliberately, like Ronnie James did (they were opposites… actually, Ronnie James was like me, whereas Nounours is like Callaghan), walked straight to the corner of the couch and jumped up to Ronnie James’ cushion. He found his brother’s collar. He found his brother’s urn. We’ve never seen him so curious, interested in or focused on anything.

 

First, Nounours discovered the Wrah-Wrah's collar. He pulled it close to him before turning his attention to the urn.

First, Nounours discovered the Wrah-Wrah’s collar. He pulled it close to him before turning his attention to the urn.

 

We couldn’t believe it.

 

Watching this, our hearts broke all over again.

Watching this, our hearts broke all over again.

 

Rubbing his face on the urn...

Rubbing his face on the urn…

 

Flipping it over...

Flipping it over…

 

He seemed to be confused and almost frantic trying to get the box open.

He seemed to be confused and almost frantic trying to get the box open.

 

Callaghan and I were floored, to say the least.

 

It looks like Nounours is reading the label on the bottom of the urn. It's printed with the Wrah-Wrah's name and the date of his cremation.

It looks like Nounours is reading the label on the bottom of the urn. It’s printed with the Wrah-Wrah’s name and the date of his cremation.

 

After pawing at Ronnie James’ urn, hugging it, rubbing his face on it, turning it around and flipping it over twice, he pushed and nosed it into the corner of the couch and rested his face against it. He seemed sad at first, but then he started to purr.

 

Resting his head on the Wrah-Wrah's urn, purring.

Resting his head on the Wrah-Wrah’s urn, purring.

 

Callaghan and I were dumbfounded by this astonishing and obvious display of recognition. Nounours somehow knew that his brother had something to do with the urn. I picked my jaw up from the floor as I reached for my phone to catch a few seconds of Nounours purring with his brother’s ashes.

Apologies for the bad quality of this video… I don’t have the equipment or the experience to make good videos… but here it is, nonetheless:

 

 

Last night, I captured a second recording of Nounours snuggling with his brother’s cremains. He does it every day, no matter where we’ve placed the urn. In this video, they’re on the futon in my office.  (Please excuse not only the bad filming, again, but also the airplane noise cameo at the end! We’re in downtown Tempe, near the Sky Harbor flight paths.)

Also, it just so happens that Ronnie James died one week ago in this exact spot.

 

 

We’ll often find Nounours sitting or lying with the Wrah-Wrah’s urn, hugging it or just touching it. Or, we’ll find him curled up with his brother’s collar, or actually holding the collar in his paw.

He misses his Wrah-Wrah so much.

A second phenomenon is that Nounours has taken on some of Ronnie James’ traits since Ronnie James died, including cleaning himself more, talking more, giving us eye-blink kisses the way the Wrah-Wrah did, walking near us to brush our lower legs with some part of his body, and occupying spaces and places in the house that Ronnie James used to occupy.

 

Poor Nounours.

Poor Nounours.

 

He looks so sad.

He looks so sad.

 

Sometimes, we find Nounours lying on or next to the cushion, arm outstretched, paw resting on his brother's urn.

Sometimes, we find Nounours lying on or next to the cushion, arm outstretched, paw resting on his brother’s urn.

 

And sometimes, we find Nounours just sitting protectively over his brother, like he used to.

And sometimes, we find Nounours just sitting protectively over his brother, like he used to.

 

It’s not just the cushion, either. Nounours will find and snuggle up to Ronnie James’ urn and collar no matter where they are.

 

When I placed the Wrah-Wrah's urn and collar at the foot of the bed, Nounours went to them. We found him like this, holding the Wrah-Wrah's collar close to him.

When I placed the Wrah-Wrah’s urn and collar at the foot of the bed, Nounours went to them. We found him like this, holding the Wrah-Wrah’s collar close to him.

 

This is the last picture taken of Ronnie James and Nounours together:

 

Ronnie James absolutely adored his Nounours. This picture was taken the day he died.  It was the last time Nounours got to nurture his brother.

Ronnie James adored his Nounours. This picture was taken the day he died. It was the last time Nounours got to nurture his brother.

 

Last night marked one week since Ronnie James’ death.

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.

Operation: Spoil Wrah-Wrah Wrotten

Ronnie James stayed in the hospital for three more days after I last updated here. We brought him home yesterday, after work.

It was a long weekend of worry and wait. We continued to visit the little guy twice a day, and we called the hospital every four hours to ask about the status of his pleural effusion. The volume of the fluid in his chest did decrease significantly from where it’d been earlier in the week, but hovering around the 8-10 ml range (down from 20-30!), it was still too much to warrant removing his chest tube.

So yesterday afternoon, Ronnie James underwent anesthesia again, and Dr. M. and the radiologist performed a lymphangiography. This procedure allowed Dr. M. to see whether we’d have a shot at the one last surgical option available for chylothorax: cisterna chyli ablation. The study results showed that the surgery would be irrelevant, since the problem was not leakage from the thoracic duct. The thoracic duct ligation surgery had been effective. The fluids were coming from somewhere else, likely from the pleura, as a result of pleural fibrosis. We are out of options.

The good thing about being out of options, though, is that the Wrah-Wrah is now home with us. He’s home, and we’re enjoying him, loving him and spoiling him with attention while we’re waiting for the next thing to happen.

Ronnie James is just the toughest little guy! His spirits are high. He’s happy and active, eating and drinking. But his little body is showing signs of wearing down. For one thing, despite eating well, he’s losing weight. We’ve stopped feeding him the prescribed low-fat diet. We’ve halted attempts to force him to take the loathed rutin. There’s no longer any point to these chylothorax medical management strategies. We’ve more or less entered a hospice phase here at home, and in this phase, we’re going to give him anything and everything he wants.

Dr. M. sent Ronnie James home with us last night so we could spend a good few days with him while he’s happy and alert. Freshly tapped, it will take maybe 48-72 hours for the increasing volume of fluid in his chest to slow him down again. I’m staying home with him today and tomorrow, because it’s out of the question that I’m not here to spend his last few days with him.

On Thursday, we’ll take him back to Dr. M. for an x-ray to see where we are with the fluids. We’ll probably have to make The Decision at that time… for real, this time.

Of course, I’ve got a slew of pics from the weekend.

From Friday:

 

Ronnie James got all the cuddles!

Ronnie James got all the cuddles!

 

Sleepy Wrah-Wrah.

Sleepy Wrah-Wrah.

 

"I can't even with this long underwear!" ~Ronnie James

“I can’t even with this long underwear!” ~Ronnie James

 

Ronnie James, our little dragon.

Ronnie James, our little dragon.

 

The Wrah-Wrah can chill with the best of them.

The Wrah-Wrah can chill with the best of them.

 

The Dude Abides.

The Dude Abides.

 

Here’s me on Saturday wearing my paw earrings just for the Wrah-Wrah:

 

Going to see my baby! Paw earrings required.

Going to see my baby! Paw earrings required.

 

On Sunday, many pictures were taken:

 

Mother's Day at the hospital!

Mother’s Day at the hospital!

 

"Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!" ~Ronnie James

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!” ~Ronnie James

 

Ronnie James moved into a larger kennel on Saturday. More room for rolling around!

Ronnie James moved into a larger kennel on Saturday. More room for rolling around!

 

I got to hold him!

I got to hold him!

 

Daddy scritches are the best.

Daddy scritches are the best.

 

And on Sunday night, we got to spend an hour with him in a private room.

 

Wrah-Wrah cuddles in progress!

Wrah-Wrah cuddles in progress!

 

"I can spend forever in Daddy's arms." ~Ronnie James

“I can spend forever in Daddy’s arms.” ~Ronnie James

 

Snuggling with my baby on Mother's Day. Gratitude.

Snuggling with my baby on Mother’s Day. Gratitude.

 

A miracle could still happen, right? A miracle, an inexplicable turn-around, whatever you want to call it… it could still happen. But Ronnie James will tell us. He’ll tell us what he wants to do, and when he wants to do it. Our job is to listen. At the moment, I’m only hearing his happy “I see birdies!!” sounds as he watches the front yard through the living room window, and I’ve never heard anything more precious.

Ronnie James’ complicated case.

Ronnie James did not come home yesterday, as planned. He’s still in the hospital.

 

Ronnie James recovering in the oxygen chamber the evening of his surgery. (Thoracic duct ligation and pericardectomy)

Ronnie James recovering in the oxygen chamber the evening of his surgery.
(Thoracic duct ligation and pericardectomy)

 

His surgery went well, and he did well, like last time. Dr. M. said that once again, he came through it “like a champion”! The chylothorax seems to be resolved – there’s no more chyle leaking where it doesn’t belong. The Wrah-Wrah is happy and alert, loving all the cuddles and pets he’s getting. He’s eating with good appetite. His disposition and attitude are fantastic!

So what’s the problem?

His chest cavity just keeps filling up with fluid.

As I said, it’s not chyle. Rather, we’re looking at some sort of nondescript, inflammatory-ish fluid, and at this point, no one can say with certainty what it’s all about. A little bit of such fluid could be normal following a surgery. It could be caused by the chest tube, itself, even. But the amount of fluid we’re talking about here is well out of range. Ronnie James’ case is a complicated one, and it’s tough. We’re still battling the ripple effect of his contact with that venomous Pine Processionary caterpillar.

This current iteration of pleural effusion could be a fluke, as in, maybe a “pocket” of fluid resulting from the surgery just released all at once over the night (that was Wednesday night). Or, it could be something scarier, such as his pleura lingering in a self-perpetuating cycle of emitting fluid. Whatever the case, we can’t bring him home until the pleural effusion stops, since his chest tube needs to stay in place in order to drain the excessive fluids.

On his part, Ronnie James is totally oblivious to the danger he’s in, as he’s been busy in pursuit of Dr. M.’s heart (which he successfully captured, might I add). During morning rounds yesterday, Dr. M. found himself engaged in a Wrah-Wrah love fest. The Wrah-Wrah had been rolling around, asking for belly rubs, until he ended up on his back in Dr. M.’s arms, purring furiously as he got his belly rubs with two hands.

“Isn’t he cute?!” I asked Dr. M. when he told me about this.

“Oh, he’s adorable!” he answered the same second the question was out of my mouth. Exact words. Then, later, he said, “He HAS stolen my heart!”

Dr. M. has been Wrah-Wrahed. It happens.

Several other doctors and some of the technicians and staff have also fallen in love with the little guy. This is what the Wrah-Wrah does best, just being himself… his affectionate, smart, happy, interactive, funny, sweet, sweet self. Everyone who spends any time with him at all loves him!

Because Ronnie James’ two-part modus operandi in life is:

  1. Find all the hearts.
  2. Stealz them.

 

Ronnie James the day after surgery, off oxygen and resting in a kennel in the ICU.

Ronnie James the day after surgery, off oxygen and resting in a kennel in the ICU.

 

As I write this, we don’t know what today will bring. I’m going to work, as usual. But will Ronnie James come home tonight? We can’t say. We don’t know. We hope so. We miss him, and so does his Nounours.

 

Poor Nounours! He misses his brother.

Poor Nounours! He misses his brother.

 

I’ll keep you posted. Thank you for reading, and for keeping Ronnie James in your thoughts and prayers.

Happy Friday, All! =)

The Wrah-Wrah Wrollercoaster (or, the WrahWrahCoaster).

Ronnie James goes in for another surgery today. We’re dropping him off in about two hours, at 7:30am.

This development resulted from yesterday’s trip to the vet, when it was found that fluid has filled his pleural cavity again. His chylothorax persists with an aggression that’s frightening. A chylothorax-specific surgery might be able to stop the process; it’s actually a combination of procedures: Thoracic duct ligation plus pericardectomy. This is our next step, and it’s our last.

We were told that the success rate for this surgery is 80% for cats, which is encouraging… but we’re not sure if the Wrah-Wrah will have a chance to try for those odds. We won’t know until Dr. M. opens him up today and examines him. If the developing pleural fibrosis (a complication of chylothorax) is still mild enough to be survivable, Dr. M. will move forward with the surgery. If the pleural fibrosis turns out to be beyond-hope bad, on the other hand, he’ll drain Ronnie James’ chest for the last time and close him up. We’ll have the “end of life” discussion. It will be time to address the details of The End.

 

Callaghan with Ronnie James at yesterday's appointment.

Callaghan with Ronnie James at yesterday’s appointment.

 

Thing is, Ronnie James has been doing so well outside of his bizarre, catastrophic emergencies. You literally only know half of it, because I haven’t yet written about the other half. I will, at some point soon. It’s just… the other day, I joked to Callaghan that “Wrah-Wrah is going to outlive us both long after he sends us into cardiac arrest with his near-death episodes.”

We’ve been on the WrahWrahCoaster going 500 miles per hour for months, and sometimes, it’s like we’re barely strapped in. The relentless and extreme ups and downs have been exhausting.

 

With the Wrah-Wrah at home, after our appointment.

With the Wrah-Wrah at home, after our appointment.

 

So today, we’re trying for this final possible solution.

We’re glad that Ronnie James had such a good weekend this last weekend. He looked better and seemed to feel better than we’d seen him since, well, maybe ever. All weekend, we enjoyed an unusually alert and active Wrah-Wrah, who was everything a healthy Wrah-Wrah should be – he was hungry and thirsty, playful and talkative, and just as flirty and affectionate as ever. He stayed close to us, wherever we were. He’s our bright little lovebug, and we’re going to give him every chance at survival we’re able to give him… and we’re so grateful that we’re able to give him these chances.

Here are some pics from the weekend:

 

The Wrah-Wrah looking so alert! You can see the wheels turning in his head, too.

The Wrah-Wrah looking so alert! You can see the wheels turning in his head, too.

 

The Wrah-Wrah's poodle-like cut is growing out. When the fur on his back is ruffled, it looks like a mohawk from this angle.

The Wrah-Wrah’s poodle-like cut is growing out. When the fur on his back is ruffled, it looks like a mohawk from this angle.

 

Now that his fur is growing out from his last surgery, he’s cultivating kind of a faux-hawk on his left side. Depending on where they shave him this time, we might bring him home with a full-blown ‘hawk!

What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Some levity is in order around here, right? Conveniently, it’s May now, so I can rave about some of the Little Things that helped to make April enjoyable!

For one thing, we saw a phenomenal movie…

 

1). Ex Machina (film)

 

The movie poster in the theatre lobby....

The movie poster in the theatre lobby….

 

You know I love a good, well-crafted sci-fi thriller, and it’s been a while. I was just barely coasting along on the spectacular fumes of Pacific Rim when we walked into Ex Machina. I was almost skeptical going into it, but I knew that Luc Besson had nothing to do with this one, so I had high hopes that it wasn’t going to be another disappointment like last summer’s Lucy. We used the movie pass that Callaghan had gotten as a gift (thank you, friend!) and found ourselves stunned and in awe as Ex Machina dimmed the lights on its eerie, final scene. Certainly, the combination of elements made this film superb, but overall, I think it was the restraint used in its making that made it brilliant.

 

2). Mad Men (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-madmenS7

 

We’re having the same experience as most everyone who watches this series, I think: Mad Men’s last set of final season episodes isn’t striking us as being as purposeful as those in previous seasons. Whatever. Mad Men is back, and we’re loving it. The set! The hair, makeup, wardrobe! Mad Men is still my favorite period piece in television, and they’re killing it more than ever now that they’ve taken up solid residence in the 70’s. I almost don’t even care what happens at this point; I’m just there for the eye candy.

 

3). American Crime (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-AmericanCrime2015

 

Here’s a powerful new series that got right down to business and grabbed us by our throats. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s almost too ugly and depressing to watch… but it’s smashing.

 

4). Nurse Jackie (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-NurseJackie

 

We’re late arrivals on the Nurse Jackie train, but like the critic said, “You just want to keep on watching.” Yep. We plowed through the first three seasons in such a short period of time, I’d be embarrassed to say how long if I could remember when, exactly, we started watching it. We just started season four, I can tell you that much! The hilarious short (half-hour) episodes make this dark dramedy especially easy to binge-watch. It goes well with popcorn, too.

 

5). It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

This is an old favorite! Since we’ve now got ourselves on a strict budget because of Ronnie James’ medical costs, I went digging around in places where I store things I haven’t used in a while, and I happily re-discovered It’s a 10. And guess what? This brand meets my recently established criteria for beauty products! Because of expenses, I’d been procrastinating on the hair care part of my 2015 New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free with cosmetics and such, so I was pleased to find that I’d stashed away this pricier gem of a hair care item that just so happens to have not been tested on animals.

Shopping my home supply for forgotten favorites is the best.

 

6). Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil (The Body Shop).

 

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

 

My search for a gorgeous cruelty-free fragrance finally led me to The Body Shop and its array of perfume oils. Back in the 90’s, I’d used the one called “Ananya,” which was finally, recently discontinued. I still have a little bit left in my last old bottle, but it’s been a while, and it’s not what it was when I’d purchased it… its potency has faded, and the scent is slightly off. So I went back to The Body Shop and happened upon their Madagascan Vanilla Flower, and I am in love. I’m not usually drawn to vanilla scents, but this one is different… it’s a deeper, more exotic vanilla with its warm, ambery-floral heart.

 

7). Earrings from Target.

 

Current favorite earrings - sparkly cluster studs from Target.

Current favorite earrings – sparkly cluster studs from Target.

 

This was just one of those silly impulse Target purchases, you know, when you run in to get some almond milk and you come out with three bags full of random crap. I’m proud to say that I’ve stopped with all of that this last month – somehow, and I know that many of you can appreciate the self-control I’m having to employ in this effort, haha! – but not before I found these earrings on clearance (back in March, I believe). Over the last month they’ve become my favorite uniform earrings to wear to work on days I don’t go to the gym. They’re just round studs made of little sparkly clusters. I think they’re perfect.

 

8). Arizona Yellow Bells.

 

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

 

Our Arizona Yellow Bells are all in bloom, and they are splendiferous! Callaghan surprised me with a vase full of them on my desk one day, where they perfumed my entire office with their rich, sweet fragrance. Arizona Yellow Bells are native to our desert, but I never experienced them until we moved into this house. There are two robust Arizona Yellow Bells bushes in our backyard, and they attract many a hummingbird, which we also adore.

While I’m at it, what would an Arizona spring flora favorite entry be without a shot of my favorite cactus blooms?

 

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

 

 

9). Rositas’ salsa.

 

Salsa from Rosita's.

Salsa from Rosita’s.

 

I have several favorite restaurant salsas around here, and this is one of them. Yesterday, I decided to pick some up on my walk home from work, and we had it for dinner. I love salsas that aren’t sweet, and this one is satisfyingly tangy and bold on the cilantro and onion… just the way I like it!

 

10). April Favorite pick for Ronnie James and Nounours: Bench & Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats (at Trader Joes’).

 

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

 

Kitties’ Auntie M. gave them these treats for Christmas, and the little guys went nuts for them. The day we ran out was a woeful one, indeed. What’s more, we couldn’t find the treats anywhere, and Ronnie James and Nounours wouldn’t eat any other kind. Catastrophe. Finally, we asked a sales person at PetSmart. They didn’t have the treats there, but she looked up them up and told us that they could be found at Trader Joe’s. Yes! We went to get them, and happiness has been restored.

“With added vitamins and minerals,” it says. “OMEGA 6:3 Enriched” and “with Menhaden Oil,” it says. Ronnie James and Nounours just say, “MOOR PLEEEZZZ!!!!”

The thing is, while we were medicating the Wrah-Wrah to heck and back, these treats were the only consolation prize we could offer him. They got us all through and ended the sessions on a happy note.

 

That about wraps it up for this favorites list – Happy Friday, All! =)

The Wrah-Wrah and the Rutin. (Help!)

Hmm… I’m thinking it might be a good idea to create a “Cat Mom Blog” category so I can file these Ronnie James posts in one place….

Today, I have a question that I hope someone can answer: How do you get a cat to eat something he loathes?

This is a life-or-death problem we’ve been having, and we’re feeling like we’re out of options.

Ronnie James needs to take rutin. Rutin is not a medication. It’s a dietary supplement, and it’s evidently the only thing that cats can take with any degree of effectiveness for chylothorax. It can potentially stop or at least slow down the flow of chyle into the pleural cavity. It also tastes horrible, and Ronnie James will have none of it.

 

It smells like paint thinner.

It smells like paint thinner.

 

We’ve tried everything. We had Diamondback Drugs, our compounding pharmacy, formulate it into a liquid flavored with chicken. They warned us that he probably still wouldn’t like it, but we might have more luck mixing it into his food that way.

We mixed the chicken-flavored rutin into the Wrah-Wrah’s favorite wet foods, including his current most favorite of all (which, oddly, is one that was prescribed by his primary care physician), and he refused to eat it.

After his surgery, we tried again, to no avail. Finally, in desperation, we returned to the direct approach and injected the rutin into his mouth with the plastic syringe. He threw it up, along with his antibiotics and everything he’d eaten. He was abjectly miserable. We felt awful. We stopped trying and went back Dr. M. in defeat when it came time to remove Ronnie James’ stiches.

The following week brought us to Thursday night and our harrowing trip to the E.R. No one could understand how so much fluid had filled up Ronnie James’ little chest cavity so quickly. He HAD to take his rutin. While there was no guarantee that it would work, it would at least give him a chance at survival if it did. We had to try to give him that chance, and we had to somehow do it without stressing him.

Another order for rutin had been called in to Diamondback Drugs – tuna-flavored, this time. We were hoping we’d have better luck with the tuna, since Ronnie James loves tuna; we figured that strong-smelling fish might mask the rutin flavor well enough if we mixed them together.

Diamondback Drugs was closed on Sunday, so yesterday, Monday, Callaghan picked up the rutin. He stopped by my office on his way back to pick me up for lunch. We got home and went straight for the can of herring waiting on the kitchen counter. Operation Rutin was back in effect!

Two little plates of herring were prepared for the kitties’ lunch: Ronnie James’ contained the rutin. He tentatively sniffed his plate of herring, and then he walked away.

I knew that walk. It was the “I know there’s rutin in that food and I’m outta here” walk. It wasn’t that he didn’t like herring, or that he just wasn’t hungry, either. He went to Nounours’ plate and ate some of his herring. Nounours’ rutin-free herring.

We were beside ourselves. What was it going to take to get Ronnie James to eat the rutin?

Meanwhile, he needed something for lunch, so I fixed a clean plate of his normal, favorite food. (The other issue we’re having is that he’s not drinking enough water, so we’re giving him his favorite wet food at every opportunity.) I set the good stuff down in front of Ronnie James. He looked at it askance, then walked away again.

This time, it was the “I strongly suspect you snuck rutin into that food and I’m outta here” walk. He hadn’t even gotten close enough to smell it thoroughly! He was just convinced that the rutin was in there. We were now having trust issues.

I thought for a minute, then looked over at Ronnie James. He was sitting in the hallway at the kitchen entrance, watching me. Exaggerating my motions and holding his gaze with my eyes, I took an unopened can of his favorite food, waved it before me, and said, “Let’s open a brand-new can!” I reached for another fresh kitty plate, took a clean fork from the drawer, and brought everything to the kitchen entrance where he was sitting.

He kept his eyes on me as I made a big production of holding up the can and opening it, garnishing my actions with a little dramatic flair. He watched attentively as I scooped out a generous forkful, tapped it onto his plate, and set it down in front of him.

He started eating immediately.

He didn’t even sniff it first. He just knew that there wasn’t any rutin in it, because why? Because this cat is a brilliant genius. And we are screwed.

After the rutin-laced fish failure, Ronnie James had looked warily at the clean plate of his untainted favorite food and refused to touch it. But when he witnessed me opening a new can of the same food and filling his plate, he dug right in. He saw that the can was unopened, he saw that I transferred food directly from it to the plate that he saw was clean, and he saw that I put it down without adding anything to it… and the neurons in his brain made all the connections and arrived at the conclusion – food is safe – instantly. Callaghan was as astonished as I was. We’d known that we had an exceptionally smart kitty on our hands, but still, we were floored by this display of cognitive agility and capacity for comprehension.

 

Ronnie James is on to you!

Ronnie James is on to you!

 

It might seem like I’m just letting my proud cat mom colors show here, but really, I’m more just very concerned that there’s no way we’re ever going to get Ronnie James to eat his rutin. Even if we get it down his throat, he throws it up. We can’t outsmart him. Actually, we sniffed the rutin in its bottle, ourselves, and it doesn’t even smell like tuna. It smells like an industrial chemical! It’s atrocious. It literally smells like poison. I’d think that any sane, smart cat would instinctively reject it.

Isn’t there a better way? Has anyone ever had to give rutin to a cat?

We would greatly appreciate any suggestions or advice you could offer. Meanwhile, I’m going to call Diamondback Drugs again to ask if there’s any other way they could compound this stuff….

The Wrah-Wrah goes to the E.R. (and proves once again that he has more lives than the average cat.)

Well, that was a night.

Ronnie James is back in the hospital. After a few days of observing him, calling the hospital, making appointments and then canceling them as he’d seem not-fine one minute and then much better the next, not knowing what his new “normal” is supposed to look like after his surgery (like all cats, Ronnie James is incredibly skilled at hiding the extent of his discomfort), we knew last night that he needed to go to the E.R.

A technician triaged Ronnie James the minute we got there, then immediately took him to the ICU and put him on oxygen. It was scary – scary enough for the doctor to come in and warn us that the Wrah-Wrah might not survive the thoracentesis that had to be done – but the little guy made it through. He was looking much better when we kissed him goodnight before coming home. He was alert and active in his oxygen chamber, being his usual flirty, affectionate self. He’s unbelievable! We were cautioned that he’s not “out of the woods” yet, but he’s looking just as spry as ever!

We shouldn’t have been surprised by this development, as Dr. M. had clearly warned us that Ronnie James would likely require one or two more thoracentesis (chest tap/draining) procedures following his surgery. We were prepared for this likelihood. We just weren’t prepared for the situation to arise in such a dramatic and scary way. I mean, we truly almost lost him last night.

The E.R. doctor, who was wonderful, showed us Ronnie James’ x-rays and said, “Look at this… I don’t know how he was still alive!”

The Wrah-Wrah is a miracle kitty, that’s how.

His x-rays showed nothing but white. On a normal chest x-ray, dark areas of a healthy size and shape would be visible. Those would be the lungs with air in them.

In this one view of Ronnie James’ chest, there’s no dark area to be seen at all:

 

Thursday, 4/23/2015 - Wrah-Wrah's chest cavity is completely filled with fluid. No lung is visible.

Thursday, 4/23/2015 – Wrah-Wrah’s chest cavity is completely filled with fluid. No lung is visible.

 

And in this view, the side view, you can see a small, grayish area with rounded edges “just kind of floating there.” That’s the Wrah-Wrah’s lung. It was surrounded by so much fluid that it was barely functioning. It’s like a ghost lung.

 

Thursday, 4/23/2015 - That faint, ghostly dark roundish area in the center, just below his spine? That's his "lung." That's all he has left, and with all the fluid crowding it, it was barely working.

Thursday, 4/23/2015 – That faint, darker gray area in the center, just below his spine? That’s his lung.

 

The doctor talked to us carefully and made sure that we understood the precariousness of the situation before he performed the thoracentesis. The procedure was extremely high-risk because Ronnie James’ condition was life-threatening. But everything went well. 300 ml of chyle was aspirated, and that wasn’t even all of it!

 

Thursday, 4/23/2015 - This is the fluid that was taken from Ronnie James' chest cavity. It's 300 ml (a cup and a quarter), and it's not even all that was in there. The doctor didn't want to try to drain all of it, because it would have been too risky. The fluid is chyle (chyle can either be cloudy or pink).

Thursday, 4/23/2015 – This is the fluid that was taken from Ronnie James’ chest cavity. It’s 300 ml (a cup and a quarter), and that was just some of it. The fluid is chyle (chyle can either be cloudy or pink).

 

There’s still “quite a bit” of chyle left in the Wrah-Wrah’s pleural cavity. The doctor said that it was too dangerous to try to get it all, but enough was removed to allow for more normal breathing. They might try to remove a little more sometime this morning.

Now, we wait to hear from Dr. M. when he comes in, examines Ronnie James, and reviews the whole situation. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s at least comforting to know that what has happened so far had been anticipated… and the E.R. doctor said that he’s hopeful. Also, most importantly, the Wrah-Wrah isn’t suffering continuously.

 

Thursday, 4/23/2015 - Ronnie James felt better after his thorocentesis. He was wide-eyed, active and heart-meltingly lovey-dovey when we went to visit him in his oxygen chamber before we left.

Thursday, 4/23/2015 – Ronnie James felt better after his thoracentesis. He was wide-eyed, active and heart-meltingly lovey when we went to visit him in his oxygen chamber before we left.

 

Look at those wide, bright eyes!

We’re keeping our thoughts positive.

Ronnie James has a new nickname: Cat Squared (he has 81 lives, apparently)

I wanted to thank you all again for thinking of us and taking part in our journey to better health for Ronnie James with your kind well-wishes and interest in his story. I didn’t mean to tease in my last post. I just didn’t have much time for writing last week! Also, I wanted to talk to our doctor again before I sat down to scribble this out.

This is the short story:  Ronnie James was sick and gradually dying when we rescued him in the fall of 2012, but we didn’t know anything was wrong until he started coughing about 11 months ago. We now know that he’s been evading death for years, somehow surviving a thing that would have killed most mammals. We are in awe of him.

 

Ronnie James, Sunday night, 4/12/2015. Angel kitty with his halo of lights!

Ronnie James, Sunday night, 4/12/2015. Angel kitty with his halo of lights!

 

The detailed story goes like this:

In the operating room on Friday, April 3, Dr. M, our surgeon, opened up Ronnie James and found his left cranial lung lobe in a state of semi-decay; he said it almost looked like it was “rotting” in his chest. The mysterious mass seen on the CT scan turned out to be a mushroom-shaped (“pedunculated”) object that oozed a “weird, thick mucus-like material” when the stem broke off.

Dr. M tried to describe what he saw in the center of the mass, but he couldn’t quite find the words. I got the impression that he’d never seen anything like it before.

He told me, “It looks like it might be something of an infectious nature,” but he seemed to be baffled. He suggested that the mass might be a remnant of an old infection that Ronnie James’ body had tried to wall off. As he spoke, I envisioned an oyster protecting itself from grains of sand by coating the foreign material with its own bodily secretions.

But the bulbous, sickly pearl inside Ronnie James almost killed him. At first, its point of origin wasn’t obvious; it appeared to be attached to the bottom of the left cranial lung lobe. Actually, it seems to have grown off of one of the bronchi, clogging it and causing the lobe to collapse and consolidate. It’s possible that the mass ultimately caused blockage of Ronnie James’ thoracic duct, either directly or indirectly, as it was on the same (left) side. We’re hoping that this was the case, because if it was, then it answers the question of “What caused his chylothorax?”

Chylothorax, the filling up of the chest cavity with chyle, was the chronic issue we were aiming to fix, the problem we had to solve in order to save Ronnie James’ life. If the mass was causing it, well, problem solved! The mass is gone now.

Our surgeon said, “Until the labs come back, we can’t rule out cancer. I’ll tell you what, though… this doesn’t look like any cancer I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what this is.”

All along, Ronnie James’ labs have consistently tested negative for cancer. Dr. M had to say that he couldn’t rule out cancer until the labs came back, but the fact was, no one really thought that it was cancer.

Whatever it was, it was weird.

The weirdest thing was that standing before our kitty’s exposed insides, Dr. M and his team were still more or less flummoxed. Nothing was adding up or making sense, but he went ahead with the planned lung lobectomy, which was absolutely what had to be done, and removed “the entire mass and left cranial lung lobe as well as a small amount of an adherent adjacent lung lobe.” Samples of everything were sent to the lab for analyses and cultures.

While Dr. M was working in Ronnie James’ chest cavity, he also did an ultrasound on the second, smaller mass the CT scan had detected in Ronnie James’ neck.

 

Ronnie James' left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lobe, and the mass were removed. The mass seemed to stem from one of his bronchi.

Ronnie James’ left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lobe, and the mass were removed. The mass seemed to stem from one of his bronchi.

 

When the lab results came back a few days later, they showed that the inside of the lung mass was comprised of fat necrosis (dead fat). Necrotizing tissues and edema were also found throughout the lung lobe. There was “scattered mineralization.” We were indeed looking at decaying organic matter and an old infection, an infection with a history… and it was chronic.

Considering all of this, it’s miraculous that we didn’t lose Ronnie James to something like sepsis or cardiac arrest. Other than his intermittent episodes of coughing and his more recent bouts of prolonged lethargy, he had seemed just fine. He’d initially been diagnosed with asthma, which he may or may not actually have.

But what could have caused Ronnie James’ ancient infection? He’d tested negative for Valley Fever. He’s been an indoor cat since we’ve had him, anyway. We couldn’t stop thinking about it… we were faced with a medical mystery that had to be solved so we could take the best next steps toward complete recovery. It was maddening. What could have wreaked all this havoc in Ronnie James’ pleural cavity?

Then we thought back to the first time we ever took Ronnie James to the vet, when we were still living in France, and we remembered the cause of that problem. It was the Chenille Processionnaire, and it explains everything.

 

Chenille Processionnaire, or Pine Processionary.

Chenille Processionnaire, or Pine Processionary.

 

In October 2012, soon after we adopted 8-year-old Ronnie James from an impoverished woman in Montélimar in southeastern France, we noticed that he was having trouble eating. We took him to the veterinary clinic closest to us, which was down in Bourg de Péage. (In France, our home-base was in the Alpes, about 100 miles from the recent plane crash. I’m sorry to be able to use the location of that awful event as a point of reference, but there it is.) We thought that dental problems might be causing him pain, but when the vet opened his mouth, he simply remarked that Ronnie James had experienced some sort of contact with a Chenille Processionnaire (“Pine Processionary” in English), a venomous caterpillar common in southern France. The tip of Ronnie James’ tongue had been “burnt off,” and it was this disability that impeded his eating. Our vet immediately recognized the characteristic chenille processionnaire damage to Ronnie James’ tongue; there was no question about it.

I’d never heard of anything like it. The Pine Processionary doesn’t exist in the United States. According to Wikipedia, it’s only found in southern Europe and in parts of Asia and Africa.

From what we can understand, animals such as dogs and cats are harmed by this caterpillar either because of poisoning from its venom, or because of an allergic reaction to it, or both, in any case being potentially – even often – fatal. Incidentally, I found some disturbing images of dog and cat tongues either burned, like Ronnie James’ tongue, or amputated at the tip (due to contact with this caterpillar).

 

Les Chenilles Processionnaires (Pine Processionary caterpillars) are often seen traveling end-to-end. They're common where we lived in the Alpes and all over the French Riviera.

Les Chenilles Processionnaires (Pine Processionary caterpillars) are often seen traveling end-to-end. They’re common where we lived in the Alpes and all over the French Riviera.

 

The caterpillar’s venom is released when its tiny hairs break off, or when the caterpillar ejects the hairs in self-defense. The toxins are in the hairs. Dogs and cats suffer when they have direct interaction with the caterpillar, or when they come into contact with pine needles or other organic matter on which the caterpillar’s hairs had fallen. Ronnie James could have licked the caterpillar, or he could have stepped on the hairs while walking around outside, or, more likely, knowing him, he might have played with the caterpillar with his paws, batting it around. Whether he walked on the hairs or played with the caterpillar, the toxic hairs would have stuck to his paws (they stick to whatever they touch), and Ronnie James’ tongue would have been burned when he went to lick his paws, as cats do.

At the same time, a venomous hair or two could have traveled down into Ronnie James’ lungs.

It happens. It happens to dogs and cats who roam outside in areas infested with the Pine Processionary.

Dr. M, who had (along with the rest of his surgical team) noticed the unusual damage to Ronnie James’ tongue when they were prepping him for surgery, agrees that more than likely, this is what happened to him. Though we didn’t witness the caterpillar encounter, we can all look at the evidence before us and do the math. In this case, 2 + 2 = Pine Processionary caterpillar damage in the Wrah-Wrah’s lungs. It would also account for the smaller mass found in his neck, lodged in his throat area, as the way that was presenting also matched the type of damage that could be done by the Pine Processionary.

Everything we can see points to this caterpillar.

Two things are for sure: Ronnie James survived an inordinately long time after his encounter with the caterpillar, and he was certainly dying by the time the surgeon removed the dead lung and surrounding infected areas. And we’re not finished yet. One of his lab cultures came back positive; the infection is alive.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-pineprocessionarycaterpillar

 

One for the “WTF, Nature?” archives, if you ask me.

We’re so proud of Ronnie James. He’s been such a good sport throughout this ordeal, and he did extremely well in surgery. Everyone was surprised when he didn’t need oxygen therapy to transition out of anesthesia, as dogs and cats typically do after surgery. He started breathing on his own again as soon as they unhooked him! We credit this bit of badassery to the fact that the Wrah-Wrah had long since learned to get along without that nasty old lung.

So that’s what happened. Years ago, Ronnie James inhaled or ingested toxins from a caterpillar. And to think that I’d blamed myself for bringing him here, back when we thought he’d developed asthma from being in the dusty desert! The whole time, he’d been suffering the effects of an environmental hazard that doesn’t even exist in North America. I can’t believe we brought this demon caterpillar venom back from France with us, embedded in the Wrah-Wrah’s lungs. That was more baggage from France than we’d bargained for.

Now that we know the root of the problem, we have a better idea of what to do for Ronnie James. We’re going after the remaining infection with an aggressive, extended course of antibiotics. We’re also continuing him on his asthma treatments, as he’d shown slight improvement on them (the steroid inhaler was helping to hold the infection at bay, and the bronchial dilator inhaler was helping to open up his airways).

Tomorrow, the Wrah-Wrah goes back to Dr. M to have his stitches removed, and he’ll be checked for need of further thoracentesis (chest tapping/draining). We were cautioned that it wouldn’t be unusual for him to need to have his chest drained one or two more times following the surgery. Our hope is that after a month or so, he’ll no longer have to deal with chylothorax and all the treatments it necessitates.

We’ve had a couple of scary episodes with coughing and vomiting in the last few days, but he checked out fine at the hospital; the episodes aren’t surprising given that his insides are adjusting to the changes, and he’s still recovering. Overall, the Wrah-Wrah continues to do much better. He’s happy and more active now than we’ve ever seen him. He is exponentially better, in fact. He’s next-level Wrah-Wrah!

A happy kitty is a kitty without dead lung tissue rotting in his chest with a weird, bulbous, rotting-fat-filled mass. We still have a long road ahead of us; Ronnie James’ long-term prognosis depends on how he responds to treatment from this point on. Anything can happen, but we’re optimistic!

 

Sleepy Ronnie James. He just woke up from his evening nap. (4/13/15)

Sleepy Ronnie James. He just woke up from his evening nap. (4/13/15)

Frankenkitty Comes Home!

Or, shall we say, the FrankenWrahWrah.

Ronnie James, one week post-op. (4/10/2015)

Ronnie James, one week post-op. (4/10/2015)

The results of Ronnie James’ surgery are unbelievable, better than anyone thought possible.

Friday, 4/3/2015, Day Zero: Our first sight of Ronnie James after his surgery, about five hours post-op. Still coming out of anesthesia, heavily medicated.

Friday, 4/3/2015, Day Zero: Our first sight of Ronnie James after his surgery, about five hours post-op… still coming out of anesthesia, heavily medicated.

Hello, Wrah-Wrah!

Hello, Wrah-Wrah!

He’s half hairless. He’s got a five-inch-long incision with about 20 stitches, plus a few stitches closing up the hole where his chest tube had been. He’s minus his left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lung lobe, and a mysterious mass, and he’s breathing much easier now!

Poor Nounours missed his brother so much, he literally waited at the door for him to come home (when he wasn't wandering around the house crying).

Poor Nounours missed his brother so much, he literally waited at the door for him to come home (when he wasn’t wandering around the house crying).

We were all kind of confused going in, but the truest story of the Wrah-Wrah could be seen when our surgeon opened him up and looked inside. The phone call I received at work after the surgery was bizarre because what the surgeon found was bizarre. It fact, it was so bizarre, I have to save the story for the next post.

Meanwhile, here are some pics of our little warrior!

Saturday, 4/4/2015, Day One: The day after his surgery, we went from the gym directly to the hospital to visit Ronnie James. We were allowed to hold him. He was so out of it and scared!

Saturday, 4/4/2015, Day One: The day after his surgery, we went from the gym directly to the hospital to visit Ronnie James. We were allowed to hold him. He was so out of it and scared!

Sunday, 4/5/2015, Day Two: When we brought him home on Sunday night, Wrah-Wrah went straight to my office to rest, relaxed on his pain meds.

Sunday, 4/5/2015, Day Two: When we brought him home on Sunday night, Wrah-Wrah went straight to my office to rest, relaxed on his pain meds.

His fur had been shaved so precisely for the surgery, it looks like he's wearing half a coat! That spot in the center is where his chest tube had been.

His fur had been shaved so precisely for the surgery, it looks like he’s wearing half a coat! That spot in the center is where his chest tube (for drainage) had been.

That is quite an incision there, little guy.

That is quite an incision there, little guy.

Monday, 4/6/2015, Day Three: Pain-killers in full effect! The kitties' toy area in the living-room has been one of Ronnie James' favorite hang-out spots since he's been home.

Monday, 4/6/2015, Day Three: Pain-killers in full effect! The kitties’ toy area in the living-room has been one of Ronnie James’ favorite hang-out spots since he’s been home.

So many toys! Too many decisions.

So many toys! Too many decisions.

Tuesday, 4/7/2015, Day Four: We had a rhythm going with Ronnie James' after-care. Between his different meds and his compress treatments, there's something to be done six times each day. He's doing so well!

Tuesday, 4/7/2015, Day Four: We had a rhythm going with Ronnie James’ after-care. Between his different meds and compress treatments, there’s something to be done six times each day.

He's spent a lot of time snuggling up to me in my office at home.

He’s spent a lot of time snuggling up to me in my office at home.

Thursday, 4/9/2015, Day Six: Breathing so much easier now!

Thursday, 4/9/2015, Day Six: Breathing so much easier now!

We’re so grateful to everyone involved in the Wrah-Wrah’s medical journey (which isn’t quite over, but we’re certainly off to a great start!) and well-being, from the doctors and staff at our two clinics to all of you who’ve been keeping him in your thoughts and prayers. Next week I’ll fill you in on What the Heck the Surgeon Found. 

Happy Friday, All!

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.

What I’m Digging Right Now – February Favorites

February – the month of Valentine’s, Callaghan’s birthday, new-to-me discoveries and other things I want to share with you!

Usually I start with entertainment, so let’s change it up and get right into it with food this time.

 

1). Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (cereal).

 

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds (with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

Kind Healthy Grains Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds
(with assorted fresh berries and almond milk)

 

Since the beginning of February, this cereal has been my go-to evening snack on the evenings I want one, and I always have it just the way you see it in the picture… a third of a cup (one serving) covered in fresh berries and moistened with almond milk. We just picked up another bag. I like it because it’s not too sweet – in fact, it’s just barely sweet – and it’s super crunchy. This is a favorite that’s going to be a favorite for a while, methinks.

 

2). Mediterranean chopped salad (with added tofu) at True Food Kitchen.

 

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.  I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

Mediterranean chopped salad at True Food Kitchen.
I remembered to take this pic after I ate maybe a quarter of it. SO GOOD.

 

Here we have my official new salad obsession, guys, and I don’t use the word “obsession” lightly! This salad is a flavor stand-out as well as a nutritional powerhouse with its greens, cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, feta, sprouted almonds, and lemon oregano vinaigrette. (You can ask them to hold the feta if you’re going for a vegan option. For me, it’s a rare vegan exception.) I add tofu to boost the quinoa’s protein, and it’s out of this world. One of the principles of True Food Kitchen is to use what’s in season, so the last time we went (Sunday, when I took the picture) there were green beans in the salad, as well. IT IS SO GOOD. So, so, so good. I can’t even tell you. If you ever find yourselves in the vicinity of a True Food Kitchen, go there and try this salad. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve raved about food, let’s move on to entertainment!

 

3). Better Call Saul (T. V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-bettercallsaul

 

AT LAST! The series Breaking Bad fans have been waiting for finally aired its premiere, but you don’t have to have watched Breaking Bad in order to get it. The story of Saul Goodman’s legal career and persona evolution tells itself with no reliance on the BB laurels. We’re enjoying it even more than we’d thought we would.

 

4). Kingsman: The Secret Service (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-kingsmanthesecretservice

 

As in January, we only went out to the movies once in February, and only because there was a particular movie whose impending release kept us on edge for ages, it seemed. We went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m thrilled to say that it handily exceeded our expectations, offering up a caper of magnificent exuberance and cloaked in strategically overwrought, finely-sharpened darkness featuring great characters played by a great cast. Kingsman was action-packed, absurd in the best of ways, hilarious and just all-around entertaining in exactly the fashion you want your comic book action flick to be. The writing was terrific; many of the lines of dialogue surprised us. I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, so you’ll have to go see it for yourselves, if you’re into that sort of thing!

This brings me to a random favorite of the month:

 

5). The 4th workout.

 

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it's finally found a wall on which to hang.

My woman cave! That South Korean flag was handed down to me by my Tae Kwon Do master before he moved out of state many years ago. After traveling all over the place with me, it’s finally found a wall on which to hang.

 

Awesome “little thing” number five is the fourth workout I’ve incorporated into my weekly routine.

I’ve been enjoying the training area we carved out in our garage, and in February, I made sure to get in there at least once a week (I aspire to adding another day somehow, but this is a good start)! Being the creature of habit that I am, it quickly became a Sunday thing. If you’ll remember, it all sprung from the arrival of the WaveMaster heavy bag that Callaghan got me for Christmas. I think I started working out here toward the end of January, having been delayed due to illness, but it really took off as a regular thing in February.

Every week, I look forward to my training session in the garage as much as I look forward to our three Body Combat classes at the gym. Though I mix it up and never do the same workout twice, the main elements are always cardio, stretching, abs, shadow boxing, and bag-work. As for the particulars of what I do, I just go with whatever I feel like doing. I don’t go in at the same time every Sunday, and I don’t time my workouts… sometimes I do a short session (20-30 minutes), sometimes longer (up to an hour). I have goals for the year, though, one of which is to find someone who can hold pads to come over and train with me!

Moving on to another totally random favorite thing:

 

6). Overseas, online pharmacy: InHousePharmacy.vu

 

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

Our latest delivery for Ronnie James (aka the Wrah-Wrah) from InHousePharmacy.com

 

I may have mentioned this pharmacy before, in passing, but I want to provide details now because we’re so happy with the service we get from it!

When we started treating the Wrah-Wrah for his pulmonary health challenges, I researched pharmacy options and found 4CornersPharmacy.com, which recently became InHousePharmacy.vu. The “vu” domain stands for Vanuatu, the country from which the medications are shipped. Yes, we get Ronnie James’ Albuterol/Ventolin inhaler and his steroid inhalers from a tiny island in the South Pacific. Online pharmacies can be sketchy, so I first vetted it as thoroughly as I could online, then we asked our vet about it, and then we showed her the goods once our first order arrived. She approved.

InHousePharmacy.vu’s customer service is outstanding; they’re extremely efficient and professional, and they offer FREE SHIPPING to the United States (and maybe to other places… I don’t know). We’ve been using this pharmacy for about five months now, and we’re very satisfied with it, so I figured I ought to share!

On that note, I’ll finish this list with a few of the new cosmetic and skin-care products I’m loving that aren’t tested on animals, since transitioning to cruelty-free beauty products was the biggest of my New Year’s resolutions….

 

7). Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème).

 

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

Milani Color Statement lipstick in 26 (Nude Crème)

 

I’ve never been a nude lip color person – I’ve always gravitated toward deeper red and berry shades, or darker neutrals – but on my quest to try all new things for the sake of the animals, I thought I’d venture out of my colorful comfort zone. Milani’s 26 (Nude Crème) is the lightest shade in their Color Statement line, and it’s the only nude lip color I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing. Callaghan was the first to give his approval (very important!), and then I got some compliments on it from friends at work, so I’m convinced! I love the lipstick’s formula, too. It feels nice, it wears well, and it also reapplies well, so it gets bonus points for that. I like it so much that I’ll probably pick up a few of my more typical colors at some point. I find Milani products at CVS.

 

8). Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero).

 

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil (in zero)

 

I can’t believe it took a New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free for me to find my Holy Grail lower-lash eyeliner. I’d been using one by Stila, which had been better than the Revlon one I’d used for years before that, and I just figured it wasn’t possible for eyeliners to wear really well under the eye for extended periods of time. Then I made this resolution and sprang for Urban Decay’s 24/7 eye pencil in the color “zero” (black), and wow! I’m so impressed. It’s creamy and easy to apply, and it literally wears the same ALL DAY. On the downside, it’s Urban Decay, so it’s pricey, and its creaminess means that you have to sharpen it often (it wears down quickly). I just repurchased it, even though I’m not done with the first one yet. It’s one of those things that’s worth the cost. I like an intense eye, anyway, so it’s worth it to me!

 

9). Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral).

 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral) (Black negligee from Victoria's Secret)

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer (in light neutral)
(Black negligee from Victoria’s Secret)

 

(I couldn’t resist using my black negligee as the stage for Urban Decay’s “naked” concealer. Just work with my sense of humor here.

Aaand yeah, while I was at the Urban Decay display, I picked up this (gulp) ridiculously expensive concealer. This whole high-end cosmetic stuff is atypical of me, by the way. I’m a drugstore makeup kind of person, but after successfully replacing 95% of my cosmetics with outstanding, inexpensive drugstore cruelty-free products – I think I might focus an entire future blog post on the glories of e.l.f. – I was once again just down to the eyeliner and the concealer. (Usually when I splurge on expensive stuff at Ulta, it’s for eyeliners and concealers.)

This concealer goes on as a silky liquid, but as soon as you pat it in, it somehow vanishes while covering what it needs to cover. It’s an invisible concealer that actually conceals, and the formula is simply magic. I can’t describe it. I’m not a beauty blogger. But I can tell you my opinion: this concealer is worth the expense.

(Yes, I know that Urban Decay’s parent company is L’Oreal, indisputably the worst offender in the cosmetics animal-testing industry, but Urban Decay products themselves are not tested on animals. Urban Decay makes the Leaping Bunny list of cruelty-free brands.)

And finally, we have a skin care product!

 

10). Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin).

 

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

Acure Day Cream (for normal to dry skin)

 

I’m pretty much there with cosmetics, but I’m nowhere near the point of finding all the good, affordable cruelty-free skincare items I need to find. However, it’s only March. I’m taking my time. I have a year to fulfill my resolution (I still have to find cruelty-free hair products, too)! I did discover this moisturizer, though, and I really love it. It wears well under my sunscreen, and it has a fresh, natural citrus scent.

Some text on the packaging:

“gotu kola stem cell + 1% chlorella growth factor – firm, hydrate, restore – clinical collagen + hyaluronic support”

And the text on the box further informs that the moisturizer is organic, vegan, and free of silicone, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, gluten, petroleum and PEG. It’s cruelty-free, it won’t clog pores, and it’s 100% biodegradable.

I’m not going to question any of that. I’m just going to go with it. This moisturizer can be found at Target, so it’s affordable, and there are other products in the same line, so I predict (I hope!) you’ll find other Acure favorites here as the year goes on!

That’s it for February! Thank you for reading, as always!

Nighttime Routine on the Fast Track.

No matter what I do, Callaghan is always in bed before me, and it’s perplexing. Granted, my nighttime routine is a bit more involved than his, but even when I start getting ready long before he does, he’s ready first, and I just have no idea how. It is one those Great Mysteries of Life.

It’s not like I drag my feet, either. I hurry through my routine as much as possible.

The other night, I was SO SURE I was going to be ready for bed first. When I was brushing my teeth, he was just then putting eye drops in his eyes and taking out his contacts. For once, I was ahead! I’m light years ahead, I gloated inwardly… not that it’s a race or anything, of course.

Somehow, he still got to bed before I did, and by the time I got there, he was looking all relaxed, as usual, which flummoxes me even more. It’s as if he’d been waiting there for a while. It doesn’t help that he has a look on his face like he’s swinging in a hammock with a Piña Colada in his hand, whistling and whiling away the time while I’m getting ready. Womp, womp.

Finally, I decided to look at both of our routines in detail to see if I could pinpoint where I’m falling behind. Here they are – they’re roughly sequenced, but you get the general idea:

My Nighttime Routine

1). Take medication.

2). Bring a full glass of water to set on my nightstand.

3). Plug in my phone and set the phone’s alarm for the next morning.

4). Pee.

5). (Sunday and Tuesday nights only) Pack gym bag and set it by the front door.

6). Remove make-up (unless I already took a shower – see #9).

7). Floss.

8). Brush teeth and put in retainers.

9). Take a shower or wash face. (It depends. On gym days and some other days, I take a full shower earlier in the evening or at bedtime. If I don’t take a shower, I just wash my face and then shower in the morning. We’re generally night-showerers, though.)

10). Put on eye cream.

11). Mist face with water.

12). Put on night cream.

13). Pee again.

14). Put on lip balm.

15). Go around the house and turn out whatever lights are on.

16). Drink the water I’d set on the nightstand. (Water does magical things to your skin, so I drink a lot of it, including that all-important bedtime glass for hydration during sleep. I can’t be the only weird person who does this, right?)

COMPARE TO:

Callaghan’s Nighttime Routine 

1). Prepare coffee and set it on a timer for automatic brewing in the morning.

2). Put in eye drops.

3). Remove contacts.

4). Clean contacts and put them back in their case.

5). Floss or use the water-pick (it depends on the day).

6). Brush teeth.

7). Take shower.

And that’s it.

Okay, I’m sure he uses the bathroom at some point before going to bed, too, because who doesn’t? No one enjoys being woken up by a full bladder at 2:30am. I empty mine as much as possible before drinking that last glass of water, and I can coast through a full night of sleep until the alarm goes off.

Anyway, I can see from these written-out routines that a). Callaghan’s routine has half the number of steps than mine, and b). I do a lot of running around as I’m getting ready for bed. Start in the kitchen (meds), then go to the bedroom (water/phone/alarm), then go to the hallway bathroom (remove make-up), then go to the master bathroom (dental routine), then go back to the hallway bathroom (wash face) OR stay in the master bath and take a shower, then go to my office (night moisturizing routine – I do my make-up in that room, so that’s where all that stuff lives), then go back to one of the bathrooms (pee), then go back to the bedroom (lip balm), then go to the front of the house (turn out lights), then go back to the bedroom (crash).

See the difference? MYSTERY SOLVED.

Me:

Kitchen –> bedroom –> hallway bathroom –> master bathroom –> hallway bathroom –> my office –> one of the bathrooms –> bedroom –> living room/dining room –> bedroom.

Callaghan:

Kitchen –> master bathroom –> bedroom.

And I didn’t even include all the extra running around I do after Ronnie James, who, during this whole process, enjoys leading me back and forth between his food area in the kitchen (where he gets special nurturing and kisses while he’s eating) and the master bathroom (where he gets on the sink and asks me to turn on the faucet so he can drink from the running water while getting cuddled. Such are the benefits of being The Wrah-Wrah).

Here’s a handy visual that Callaghan gleefully prepared:

 

Callaghan had way too much fun with this.

Callaghan had way too much fun with this.

 

If I had one of those fitness tracker bracelet things, it would probably show that I clock in 10,000 paces every night, just getting ready for bed. If I had to summarize my nighttime routine in four words, it’d be “racing around the house.” It actually IS a race, and no matter how early I start or how quickly I get ready, I will always lose.

To end on a pleasant note, here’s a picture of me this morning, being happy that it’s FTS Friday:

 

Friday morning selfie with the Wrah-Wrah!

Friday morning selfie with the Wrah-Wrah!

 

Happy Friday, All! =)

Mammogram machine vs. my armpit; plus, BONUS! MMA kitties.

This week went fast! It wasn’t without its adventures. For one thing, I went to the V.A. for a couple of appointments. My first stop was at the women’s clinic for a mammogram, and man, let me tell you.

My armpits have always annoyed me, but they’ve never drawn the consternation of a medical technician before. This was a first. The Phoenix V.A. Medical Center is equipped with a new, state-of-the-art 3-D mammogram machine, and it is excellent, but even it works best with armpits that are less ridiculous than mine.

The mammogram was going just fine until we got to the part where you turn to the side and stretch your arm out laterally to grip the apparatus. The technician positioned my arm precisely, returned to her picture-taking station, and promptly came back, shaking her head while maintaining her cheery demeanor.

“Let’s see what we can do with your skinny arm!” she exclaimed, gently re-configuring my upper arm. “And your armpit. That’s the problem, actually. This position has nothing to do with the breast. It’s all about the armpit, and your skinny armpit is creating a black hole.”

Of course I knew what she meant. It was just funny how she said it… or, rather, it was funny how I heard it. Your skinny armpit is creating a black hole. She really did emphasize those last two words.

I thought, Wow, my armpit can swallow anything in the universe! And nothing can escape.

Shaving my uncooperative armpits has always been an exercise in tedium. I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the shaving technology universe, there’s a prototype armpit floating around, and women’s razor blades are designed to fit it. The flatter, broader plains of typical female armpits and legs can easily accommodate these razor blades that are embedded in thick plastic frames. If there’s a prototype of a deeper, narrower armpit, I haven’t found the corresponding blades yet.

Actually, no, I have. They’re in the men’s shaving section. Men’s razor blades are more streamlined and agile at navigating around the variable terrain of a face. I used to steal my ex-husband’s use the Mach 3 men’s razor for my underarms. It worked pretty well. I should start using one again.

Anyway, I don’t happen to have a picture of my armpit, but I DO have some pics of our cats post-MMA take-down! Here’s Ronnie James caught in a triangle choke hold:

 

*&(^$^%$....

*&(^$^%$….

 

No problem, I can get out of this. WATCH ME.

No problem, I can get out of this. WATCH ME.

 

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. (Mom, why are you just standing there holding a camera and laughing? HELP ME!)

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. (Mom, really?! You’re just going to stand there and laugh?)

 

*sigh* Whatevs. I'm tired.

*sigh* Whatevs. I’m tired.

 

Happy Friday, All!

Long-Overdue Yoga Fix Ahead!

Since we’re still on Christmas break at my work, I’m seizing the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. My schedule is pretty well packed during normal life hours, so this is what’s happening this non-normal morning: I’m going to spend 90 minutes twisting my non-flexible self into the various poses prescribed by Bikram, I’m assuming, in a room designed to accommodate the activity (heated to a high enough degree to assist your body with said positions).

This will be my first yoga class in almost 10 years, and I’m looking forward to it. I have a brand-new yoga mat that I purchased last year with earnest intentions, but have yet to use. The day has arrived!

I’m pretty sure my body’s going to hate me within 24 hours of this Bikram yoga class, and it will probably start plotting its revenge faster than you can say “shavasana.” I’m expecting it, hence my plan to pick up some Epsom salts on my way home. I already have the essential oils I’m going to add to the hot bath I’ll take tonight. I just want to be able to give 100% in Body Combat class tomorrow morning, and being able to walk without soreness would help with that. I’m counting on this yoga class to make me feel muscles I’d forgotten I had. Bring it.

Although… here’s a little secret… in the past, I’ve powered through Body Combat class while in pain. I’ve literally hobbled through the parking lot thinking what the hell am I doing, then getting to class and forgetting all about it, feeling nothing but the awesomeness. The secret is adrenaline. Adrenaline is what drives me through Body Combat because mentally I flip into training mode, which my brain is hard-wired to link to my “fight or flight” response. This is the up-side of PTSD. It’s a great natural painkiller. (Yes, I know Body Combat is a cardio class, but as far as I’m concerned, if I’m kicking and throwing punches, I’m training… so I know I’ll be able to get through the class tomorrow, regardless.)

I’m still picking up Epsom salts for a hot bath later. My muscles, tendons and ligaments will deserve it! Plus, I’ll enjoy it. Yeah. I don’t need an excuse!

10 years is a long time, though; I feel like I might as well have never done yoga at all. I remember that my first yoga class ever was at Arizona Combat Sports back in 2002… there was an advanced student there on the Brazilian Ju-Jitsu side who was also an advanced yoga practitioner and instructor. They added a Saturday morning yoga class to the schedule with him teaching it, so I figured I’d try it for a few sessions. I thought it balanced out my Muay Thai training well, so I was inspired to try yoga at other places. I enjoyed it, though I never felt like a “natural” in any yoga studio. For one thing, as I said, I’ve never been particularly flexible.

Random: My favorite long-term effect from yoga is my affection for Deva Premal, who sings Hindu and Buddhist chants so beautifully. It was only because of yoga that I discovered her.

Okay, I’m off to get ready for this yoga class… Happy Friday, All! =)

 

Kitties with their Christmas stocking stuffers! They do yoga every day.

Kitties with their Christmas stocking stuffers! They do yoga every day.

 

Merry Christmas from Arizona!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

Because even if it’s chilly outside (it was between 58-60 degrees in these two pics), the sun-rays are warming.

I took the picture of Callaghan yesterday when I went home for lunch. We inherited this old lawn chair when we bought the house, and yesterday, we discovered that it’s broken. I didn’t post the pictures that happened while I was laughing.

As for me, I avoid actually laying out in the sun, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much sun. I love being outside. Sunscreen is my friend, and I do mean tons of it.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Hummingbirds, like this little guy...

Hummingbirds, like this little guy…

...drinking his nectar.

…drinking his nectar.

Callaghan took these pictures yesterday, as well.

We have four hummingbird feeders – two in the front of the house, and two on the back patio. They draw lots of customers, and this is enchanting for someone coming from a country without hummingbirds. (That should be the name of a novel: “A Country without Hummingbirds.”) Callaghan’s enjoying all kinds of special moments mixing the hummingbird nectar and feeding these little guys! He’s a good hummingbird Daddy.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Festive Wrah-Wrah! This wreath was leaning here waiting to be hung up when I caught this photo opp.

And:

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Festive Nounours! Seriously, isn’t he even shaped like the tree?!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Downtown Tempe at night. It never gets old. I took this picture coming home from the gym last night.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Bringing the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in.

First we hung our wreath on the front door, all traditional-like, but on second thought, we brought it inside and decorated it instead of a tree. Works for us.

And finally, it wouldn’t be an Arizona Christmas without…

Tamales!

Tamales!

We’re picking ours up today!

It’s traditional here to eat tamales on Christmas Eve. There was one year I went to my friend Mary’s house to make Christmas tamales with her… we had so much fun, and the fresh, homemade tamales were amazing. I’ve never attempted them on my own, so now I do like thousands of other ‘Zonans and order my tamales from one of the many Mexican places that make them special for the holidays.This year, I ordered tomatillo chicken, chipotle pork, red chili beef and (meatless) green corn. There’ll be something for everyone. =)

Merry Christmas, All!

The State of the Wrah-Wrah.

Good morning! The purpose of today’s post is to update you on the state of the Wrah-Wrah.

For those of you who are new here, Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah, is the elder of our two little boy cats. We adopted them in France and moved them with us to the States, and now, after being here for about a year and a half, they’re both meowing in English… well, this is true for Nounours. Ronnie James does not actually meow. He talks. In English. He often says, wrahwrahwrahwrahwrah, wrah-wrah!

One More Thing you should know about the Wrah-Wrah is that his namesake is Ronnie James Dio:

 

Ronnie James with my headphones on the left. Ronnie James Dio with his mic on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James with my headphones on the left. Ronnie James Dio with his mic on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

One More Thing #2: in addition to talking to us, the Wrah-Wrah loves cuddles, kisses, being held and being with us – as in, physically right next to us – more than any kitty I’ve ever known.

Now for the update!

A few months ago I’d talked about how Ronnie James was diagnosed with asthma. His condition has been worsening despite his inhaler treatments, so the day after we returned from California over Thanksgiving break, we took him back to the doctor. A second chest X-ray revealed shadowy areas on his lungs that completely obscured his heart, whereas in his X-ray of three months ago, his heart was visible. This latest X-ray looked worse than bad. It looked horrible, and I spent the weekend talking myself back down from the edge of despair. But I kept hearing the doctor’s voice. It looks like it could be something attached to his heart, she’d said. Or growths….

It goes without saying that you never want to hear the word “growths” come out of the doctor’s mouth when looking at your baby’s chest X-ray.

So we were relieved to hear the official X-ray analysis and Ronnie James’ diagnosis two days later. He has “collapsed lung and consolidated lung,” a complication of his asthma, apparently. His right lobe is collapsed, along with part of his left lobe. The consolidation aspect means that there’s something in his lungs other than air – indicating, likely, fluid. While none of this is happy news, it’s certainly better than “something attached to his heart” or “growths.”

I don’t have the pictures of his insides to show you this time, so here are some recent photos of him on the outside:

 

Le petit Wrah-Wrah!

Le petit Wrah-Wrah!

 

Wrah-Wrah in his favorite dragon stance on his Mommy's foot.

Wrah-Wrah in his favorite dragon stance on his Mommy’s foot.

 

Oh, yeah… Ronnie James is a dragon.

 

Ronnie James on the left. Night Fury from "How to Train Your Dragon" on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James on the left. Night Fury from “How to Train Your Dragon” on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

Ronnie James on the left, Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Ronnie James on the left, Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

We were told that Ronnie James’ lungs will never be normal again. I read online that kittens and very young cats can have their collapsed lungs re-inflated in special chambers, but the Wrah-Wrah is ten, so that is not an option for us. What we’re doing is we’re minimizing the trauma with diligent, increased application of his inhaler treatments, and at the moment, we’re also going after any infection that might be present and causing the consolidation of his lungs. The day of his diagnosis, he received an antibiotic injection, and we launched a 14-day course of other antibiotics. I placed a double order of Fluticasone inhalers for his daily dosages (now twice daily), and he has his Albuterol inhaler for rescue situations.

We are lucky. We have a wonderful doctor at the University Animal Hospital, which is the best clinic in town. We have a wonderful overseas pharmacy that offers free shipping. Ronnie James has a wonderful Auntie to take care of him when we’re out of town (which we minimize as much as possible). And Callaghan working as a freelancer means that he’s able to be home with the Wrah-Wrah all day, which is a blessing because the Wrah-Wrah is the happiest when he’s with us, and if he needs his rescue inhaler, his Daddy is here with him.

One more thing… Ronnie James’ blood-work came back showing that his thyroid counts are even higher than before. He hadn’t tolerated his liquid thyroid medication well, so we had our local Diamondback Drugs –another amazing pharmacy! – compound his medication into a gel that we rub onto the inside of his ear once a day. This method of drug administration for kitties is revolutionary, friends, which you can imagine if you’re at all aware of the difficulties of giving kitties their oral meds.

That’s it for the update… thanks for reading and for your support. Ronnie James says “wrahwrahwrahwrah!!”

Happy Friday, All!

Question: What’s left in the brain after a week of Mondays?

Answer: Nothing.

I had an idea, and then I didn’t. Then I thought I would wake up early this morning with that same idea or some other idea circulating through my brain, but alas, it didn’t happen. The waking-up early part almost-but-not-quite happened, but the idea part didn’t, and that, unfortunately, was the critical part. I’m idea-less. It’s been a long week, and ALL THE IDEAS have left the building. I got nothing.

Or so I thought. One thing I did want to mention is that Ronnie James’ girlfriend has returned, to our relief. You see, she’d disappeared sometime early Halloween week, and you know that long-rampant (albeit probably untrue) rumor about how so-called devil-worshippers swoop through the neighborhoods around Halloween and abscond with outdoor cats – particularly the black ones – to use for “rituals”?  So I’d been a bit nervous for her, she who roams the ‘hood with no fear. By Wednesday last week, Ronnie James (le pauvre petit Wrah-Wrah! as we like to call him) could be observed at any given time draped forlornly over the table in front of the window, his dragony yellow eyes half-closed and scanning the street horizon in search of his little lady. And finally, two days ago, she made her first post-Halloween appearance.

She returned just as spry and adorable as usual. We wondered whether her Mommy or Daddy (we believe that she’s someone’s kid, and not just a stray) deliberately kept her in during Halloween week, a thought that warms my heart. Even if those black cat rumors aren’t true, there’s a lot to be said for peace of mind. I mean, anything could have happened. She could have been hit by a car or something.

So that’s the report from the neighborhood, folks. All is well.

For a flourish of a finish today, you get a couple of kitty grams:

 

What? I'm the Wrah-Wrah.

What? I’m the Wrah-Wrah.

 

CAPTION ME.

CAPTION ME.

 

Happy Friday, All!

Halloween Festivities!

HELLo! This image-centric post is brought to you by one of America’s favorite holidays, Halloween, which is TODAY. Yay!!

This is just to say Happy Halloween, and here are a couple of pictures I took of creepy sights around town, and here’s another one of Zombie Callaghan, and here’s one of our jack o-lantern (not in that order), and hey, here are a couple of pics of the cake I made last night – the cake that I’m bringing to our Halloween potluck at work today, because I love my co-workers so much!

As for this evening? After celebrating Halloween pretty much all month, Callaghan and I are going to enjoy a low-key night at home. We’re going to watch this week’s episode of American Horror Story and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. THAT IS THE PLAN, STAN, and we’re sticking with it. =)

Let’s start with home…

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-halloween2014jackolantern

We decided to go with a fake jack o’lantern this year.

 

Then to the Melonhead Foundation’s Drag Bingo charity bash!

 

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

Remember when I was escorted to Drag Bingo by a jovial French zombie?

 

I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (a pathological fear of clowns), but still…

 

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

Earlier in the month, I spotted a random clown tucked into a hallway near the entrance of a Wal-Mart.

 

And in our neighborhood, this house always catches my every-horror-tuned eye…

 

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of "The Amityville Horror" is going to be called "The Tempe Horror." It's the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

The sequel to the sequel to the sequel of “The Amityville Horror” is going to be called “The Tempe Horror.” It’s the windows under the peaked roof that do it.

 

And for work today, I made this cake, a tradition I’ve done for Halloween potlucks for years:

 

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

The return of the litter box cake, just for my co-workers!

 

 

Ronnie James approves.

Ronnie James approves.

 

Happy FRIDAY Halloween, Everyone!

200th Post! Le Deux Centième!

Well. Today marks a milestone for this blog, because today, exactly one month short of two years since my first post, I’m writing here for the 200th time!

 

Capture200

 

*throws confetti*

Of course, I got to feeling reflective as this milestone approached.

This blog began, in part, because I missed LiveJournal, which I’d more or less abandoned several years earlier. Facebook eventually replaced the social aspect of it, in a sense, but I wanted to journal again. Moreover, I was living in France, in limbo, not working, and I could feel my brain cells disintegrating while my writing muscles atrophied. I did write some poems. I also intermittently worked on a big writing project, but fiction really isn’t my forte… I missed writing creative non-fiction. And when I tentatively returned to writing in LiveJournal, it just didn’t feel the same. For me, the old LJ magic had left the room (but that had happened before I’d quit, which was why I’d quit). Something had to be done!

I went to create a WordPress account, and I was promptly reminded that I already had one. I’d just never used it. How convenient! I named it “That Asian-Looking Chick,” bought the domain and jumped in with the goal of posting two or three times per week. It’s been hella fun, and rewarding, and instructive. I never missed a week, but it wasn’t until March of this year that I fell into a twice-weekly schedule that stuck. By April, it’d evolved into a Tuesday/Friday thing, and eight months later, I’m still comfortable with that.

Surprisingly, getting settled in a regular posting schedule coincided with going back to work. In the same month, Callaghan and I established a consistent routine at the gym. It was interesting how once I was anchored at a job, other things like blogging and working out sort of fell into place. It was like a “structure begets more structure” kind of thing.

I typically just glance at my blog stats and search engine terms, since the superficial layer is right there before my eyes, but in honor of my 200th post, I took a more in-depth look. Some fun facts include:

–Since Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black in June, hundreds of views have resulted from searches for the Asian girl who plays a character in those episodes, as I’ve already mentioned. Yes, the OITNB Asian girl madness continues to rage on today! It’s been five months now. (I still wonder whether Kimiko Glenn has any idea of the scope of her popularity.)

–WordPress stats include visitors’ countries. I did a country count and found that, as of yesterday, people have read this blog from exactly 100 different countries. I’m ashamed to admit that a couple of the places on the list are countries that I hadn’t even realized were actual countries. This blog has opened my eyes to the world, and that is fabulous. (Also, if I needed any proof that English is a language spoken, or at least read, world-wide? I’ve got it.)

–You’re mostly a silent crowd on my posts, except for when I wrote about the casting in the film Jack Reacher.

–A few of you have commented with helpful tips in response to my posts, and your sharing has been wonderfully beneficial. For instance, thanks to your awesomeness, we’re hooked on The Following (T.V. series), and I found my favorite Korean facial sheet masks – the Epielle ones I’ve raved about several times – at Big Lots! For an amazing price!

 

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

 

–Because of the search terms, I also know that I’m far from the only one looking for that old (1970’s) Charleston Chew candy commercial, the one featuring King Louis. I trust that if anyone finds it, they’ll come back here and share it.

So, as I reflect back to the beginning, I wanted to thank you for reading and hanging out here with me over the last 200 posts/23 months, or however long you’ve been here. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where all that time went!

Those of you who’ve been here the longest remember when I was an American ex-pat in France who had no clue that she’d move back to the States. You were here when I was an Arizona girl in Texas who had no clue that she’d move back to Arizona. You spent two birthdays with me, you share my “Little Things” (monthly favorites) joy with me, and you’re privy to my enthusiasm for pop culture and martial/fighting arts. You tolerate my kitty blather and pics (mostly Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah) and “NOT UNLIKE” comparisons. You read about Callaghan’s shenanigans, and you read my embarrassing stories. You follow my occasional cultural comparison observations. You hear me out when I feel the need to rant. You’ve been there during more personal moments, too, such as when my Mom set off on her journey to fight cancer (she’s doing really well, by the way)! And you laugh with me, which I love.

Some things I want to do here in the future? Well, I’d love to get more active as a blogger, reading more of other people’s blogs. I’d also like to mix it up more, spend more time writing about topics that matter to me profoundly. While my routine is fixed, time is actually a constraint (as it is, I’m usually up at around 5:00am to write here). I’d still like to find time to carve out for non-blog writing projects, as well – I currently have a prose piece in the works, and I’d love to pick up on the poeting – so we shall see what transpires over the next two years!

 

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

 

And who knows… I may yet divulge the story of My Most Embarrassing Moment.

This and That

I have nothing to give you today, due to the fact that the saga of my new computer took up every last second of time between Friday and 11pm last night (when we weren’t gallivanting at Drag Bingo or working out in Body Combat class or doing laundry or actually working, that is). Guys, to give you an idea… a new episode of Homeland is available, and we haven’t watched it yet! That is our NUMBER ONE show this season, we’re utterly enthralled, and it’s been driving us crazy that there’s an episode just sitting there, unwatched. But we’re going to watch it tonight after grocery shopping (didn’t even get that done over the weekend) after work, so I get to look forward to it all day.

I’m extremely happy – I would even say thrilled – with my new computer (and this is the second one since the saga began – I had to take the first one back because of major issues), but I haven’t really used it yet. My amazing brother remoted in from California last night to help me set it up, and since then, I’ve been busy sleeping (a scant five hours) and showering, and now I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee and Callaghan next to me and the lights on in the deliciously dark early fall morning and the sound of the sprinklers on the lawn and kitties running around.

Speaking of kitties, have I mentioned that Ronnie James has a girlfriend? She’s an outdoor neighborhood kitty, and she’s adorable. She comes and sits on the table under the window, and she and the Wrah-Wrah gaze and bat at each other.

Aren't they a cute couple?

Aren’t they a cute couple?

Also, here’s a photo from Drag Bingo, which many of you have already seen on facebook. This was actually taken right before we left the house:

Callaghan and I didn't quite coordinate our outfits for the soiree.

Callaghan and I didn’t quite coordinate our outfits for the soiree.

Have a great Tuesday, All!