Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Looking back at blog entries and Facebook posts, I came to a grim realization:

2012 sucked big time.

There were a couple of high points, only one of which was really big. The big one was my husband's promotion, so much earlier than we expected it to be. The other high points: visiting my family in April (slightly marred by the TSA abuse), and selling one of my stories to the Ravaged anthology.

But sitting here, I remember exactly a year ago we brought Asuka home from the vet after her leg amputation. I am still grateful for the year we got to have with her following that event, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't color the rest of the year. Everything just went downhill from there.

I still ache when I think of my precious fur babies in heaven. I still have dreams about them, still go through pictures of them, still cry every once in a while. I think my strong emotions have drawn Daisy closer to me, as she seems to feel the need to protect me. She often curls up under the covers with me or stretches out along my back. I had a strange dream last night where she turned into a bird, but I didn't know it was her. She'd land on my fingers or my shoulder. Then Asuka pounced, and she turned back into a cat and hissed. Dusty sat nearby and just watched, licking his chops. I can usually interpret dreams pretty well, but I'm not sure what to think of this one.

Anyway, 2013 needs to kick 2012's ass. So I am restarting Write 1 Sub 1 with every intention of surpassing my achievements in 2011. I'll be teaching a lot of classes, which will keep me busy and tired. I think 2013 will definitely go down as a year to remember, and in a much better way.

The world may not have ended this month, but I think the world will change in big ways.

And I want to enjoy the ride.

Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you the granting of many wishes, the realization of many dreams, and the wit and presence to notice. ;) I'm going to look up some story ideas now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Hole Engulfs the House

Three weeks to the day after losing Dusty, last Friday Asuka followed him to the light. Her breathing had been getting heavier, and early Friday morning she had a fit where she was fighting to breathe and panicking a bit. At first we thought she was still doing okay, because she demanded breakfast, but she had another fit a couple of hours later.

I told Logan how she hadn't gone upstairs on her own in several days, she was wobbly when she walked or when I set her down on her feet, and seemed to be going downhill faster. She could barely even purr anymore. We found out later that she weighed only about three pounds, so she'd lost weight she didn't have to lose. The vet would be closed until Monday, and I was scared she would have more, and worse, fits over the weekend. It seemed the line between living comfortably and suffering had been crossed. When Logan saw her having the second fit, we agreed that it was time to take her in.

Both of us were looking for reasons not to, of course. After making the call, I spent the rest of the day with Asuka sleeping in my lap. My mind shrieked at me the whole time, telling me it was too soon, that maybe she would get better, that maybe a miracle was lying it wait.

But I knew it wasn't. She had cancer, and it was in her lungs. Just like my grandmother, who came home to die after learning that.

The visit was much like what happened with Dusty, except that the office was very busy. We sat on the exit side in two isolated chairs away from everyone else. A lady showed us into a small room we'd never been in before, and put the table down. I kept Asuka in my lap as she gave her the sedative shot. I petted her and repeated how much we loved her.

The vet assistant returned with another lady. If I weren't so upset, I would have found the pair amusing, like the Two Stooges, dropping cotton balls and whatnot.

I lifted Asuka up on the table and cried as she was given the final shot. We were told she might convulse, but that she wouldn't feel anything. Nothing like that happened. She merely stopped breathing. And then she was gone.

They left us alone with her to say our goodbyes. I asked her to please give our love to Dusty when she saw him. We petted her, I kissed the top of her head on her little orange spot, and we hugged each other and cried. We wrapped her up in the blanket they'd given us, and quietly left.

When we receive her ashes, we'll set the box up next to Dusty's on the shelf above the window. In the summer, we'll decide where we want to sprinkle them, so that they will always be together.

I don't think I've ever been this seriously depressed. I am having an extreme crisis of faith. I prayed for them both, every single day of their entire lives. These two cats were the first ones I'd ever had as indoor cats, and I was always impressed how much longer indoor cats lived, even into their twenties. So why was it not to be with these two? We did everything we could to keep them healthy and happy. I feel like I failed them somehow, like I didn't try hard enough, I didn't do the right things.

My conscious mind tells me how ridiculous that is, that we did more for them than most people do for their pets, that we gave them peaceful deaths with dignity. And I am grateful that we were able to give Asuka a year that she wouldn't have had with us otherwise. But I can't seem to convince myself. I feel like I will collapse under the weight of guilt.

Daisy seems to be at a loss. I swear she roams around upstairs expecting the other two to pop out at her.  Every once in a while, I hear her meow up there, like she's calling for them. She follows me around a lot more now. She's lying on the table next to the computer as I type this.

I keep thinking I see them sitting on the stairs, or on the futon, or on the bed.

I have cried every single night before going to sleep.

We've decided not to adopt any other animals for now. But we are seriously considering fostering homeless animals that are rescued from shelters before they can be euthanized. One such group has adoption clinics at Petzoo every once in a while, and I asked about it. We had adopted Daisy from another such rescue group almost two years ago. That way I can help as many animals as possible without becoming the local Crazy Cat Lady.

In the meantime, I'll grieve and grapple with the guilt and the pain. I have many friends doing their best to comfort me, and I am extremely grateful to them for their kind words and love.

Asuka had found us in June of 2003, perching herself on the porch railing of my in-law's house and waiting patiently for us to come out and welcome her. Dusty found us a few months later the same year, announcing his arrival on the deck during feeding time with a mighty thump. They gave us nine years of love, friendship, and much purring. I suppose that they both left us in the same year is fitting, but it should have been years from now.

Please hug your loved ones tonight, and tell them how much you love them.

"You know, someone has said that we should live each day as if it were the last day of our lives."

"Augh! This is the last day! This is it! I only have twenty-four hours left! Help me, help me! This is the last day! Auuuuuuuugh!"

" ... Clearly, some philosophies aren't for all people."

Got that right, Sally. Maybe I need a new philosophy too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Hole in The House, Nanowrimo Bust, and No Snow

November was just a bad month all around. In fact, most of this year has just been sad, what with the cats' health and not writing and gradually getting exercised to death.

The worst part was that Dusty's health did not improve. He started slipping back down the health hill, getting weaker and not eating. I made an appointment for the doc to see both Dusty and Asuka and get his opinion on options.

He told us the straight, bleak truth: Dusty wasn't going to get better on his own, and most of the options were not comfortable ones. Things like feeding tubes and subcutaneous fluid shots, etc. And none of it would necessarily help. He said that at some point you have to decide when you're doing it for the health and well-being of the cat, and when you're doing it for yourself. That struck a chord with both me and Logan.

When he examined Asuka, he noted her breathing was a bit heavier than usual, which I had also noticed. He told us that he didn't recommend any more surgeries to remove lumps because it had likely metastasized to her lungs now anyway. He did suggest a steroid that would help her appetite and help her general health. Then he left us alone to discuss options.

I told Logan that I couldn't bear the thought of putting Dusty through any more pain, but that I also could not stand the idea of bringing him home and watching him die slowly. I had watched several beloved cats die because we couldn't take them to the vet when I was growing up. Logan agreed: we were both there to love him and pet him as we said goodbye, and he could go to sleep without any pain. As for Asuka, we decided to get the steroid.

When he came back, the vet gave Dusty a sedative. He fell asleep in Logan's lap. A little while later, the vet returned with an assistant to give him the final shot. He said that Dusty was gone so fast, he was probably on the way out with the sedative. We knew that he must have been a very sick kitty indeed.

They left so we could say our goodbyes. Then the assistant returned to make a print from his paw to craft an ornament with his name and paw print on it. We decided to have him cremated, since the ground is frozen, and we wouldn't be able to bury him sufficiently with our shallow ground. That way, we could keep his ashes until the time Asuka passes, so we can release their ashes somewhere together, maybe on one of our favorite hikes.

I am extremely grateful to our vet for being straightforward with us, instead of leading us on with promises that make money but don't help. He truly cares about animals and wants them to be happy as much as we do.

Asuka is doing well on the steroid. She's eating like crazy and still seems pretty healthy despite the huge lumps and the breathing. She's even demanding people food, like meat and cheese, which she never had before. She sits by my side and I feed her little bits of meat from my stew as I'm eating. At this point, she can eat whatever she wants. I still give her the Life Gold on her evening food. She's sleeping in my lap as I type this, purring.

There's a hole in the house without Dusty here. It feels so wrong. I keep glancing up, expecting to see him sitting at the top of the stairs. Without him as a buffer, Daisy and Asuka have not been getting along so well. But I know Dusty's in a better place, healthy and fluffy. The gold tin with his ashes sits above the window with his Stuffed Dusty toy and the paw print ornament. I have no idea how much longer Asuka will be with us, but I intend to keep her as happy as I can for as long as I can.

This all pretty much spelled disaster for Nanowrimo. I attended one writing meeting, and wrote a little over one thousand words. Then I never even so much as glanced at the website or tried to write another word. I felt sucked dry of imagination, inspiration, and drive.

Part of that is also due to the fact that I'm working my butt off at the club. We lost three instructors over the summer, and two more with pregnancies. One of those instructors is back, but the other instructor carrying the club with me is going on vacation this month. I'll be teaching fourteen hours a week until middle of January, fifteen hours a week a couple of those weeks. And that's only if no one else asks me to sub for them.

I'm happy to be able to help people out, but I tell you what, I'm tired. This is my last two-day weekend for a while, and I'll probably spend it sleeping.

To top it all off, there's no snow here! We got two brief little spits, but the wind blew it all away almost immediately. The winds have been awful, this current blast being the worst of all. Once, when climbing into the car in a store parking lot, I couldn't close my door. I pulled with all my strength, with both hands, and with one foot braced. I guess the gusts have been up to eighty-five miles an hour in some places. It sure feels like it. I hope we have it before Christmas rolls around. I even prefer the below zero temps to this wind. At least that gave us some beautiful frost.

So, generally depressing. But I'm trying to find some bright spots. We still have Asuka, and she still seems to be enjoying life. Daisy, Bruno, and Uffda all seem happy. I talked to some people with Alaska Cat Adoption about the possibility of fostering in the future. Logan got a promotion to a position he was hoping to get. And all this exercising keeps me looking hot. :)

Since 2012 was almost nil in writing production (I did sell one erotic story, and I'm still waiting to hear on another horror story), I plan on restarting my commitment to Write 1 Sub 1 for 2013. I hope to make it a better year than 2011 was for my writing.

That is, as long as the world doesn't end on December 21st. ;)