This is not a huge shock. Even when I don’t go to bed at what most people consider a reasonable hour, I end up awake around the same time. Most days, my brain knows when it’s time, and *ping* I am conscious. (unless I am ill or brutally exhausted)
As it happens, I did go to bed at a decent hour, meaning before 1 AM. Double win! Awake early-ish and full of energy. But did that beginning develop into a day of big productivity?
Yes! Also NO!
There was shopping. Because toilet paper is good to have. We also needed cat food, since I failed to account how damned much kibble a 15 lb cat could suck down when I set up the autoship for Pippin’s food & litter. We probably would’ve been okay through the weekend, but probably is also called “tempting fate” and the year is due to start with a big storm is. Peace of mind is also good to have, so the expedition began!
Evidently everyone else in Chicagoland went shopping today too. So. Many. People. SO MANY HALF-MASKED PEOPLE. Look, I know it’s hard to keep a mask up over a small, snub nose. But most of the people who don’t fucking do it right aren’t kids nor did they have little button-noses like mine. They just weren’t even trying.
It’s funny how half-masked and half-assed almost rhyme, isn’t it? I think so.
I’m also glad my KF94 and KN95 masks arrived Monday & Tuesday, because yay, better filtration to block out whatever miasma the maskholes are emitting. (Also, the shaped KF94 masks are MUCH easier to breathe through under a cloth covering mask than a surgical mask) Is the filtration really better? Welp, I can’t do a proper qualitative fit test at home, but I can say they fit nice and tight to my face,unlike a surgical mask, and they blocked the smell the overripe bananas on my counter a LOT better than either the cloth or surgical masks did.
Do I need a cloth mask on top? Well, no, but it doesn’t hurt either, since they both fit well and tight (fring benefit, less lens fogging!) And I like the look of patterned cloth more than unrelieved black or white, and that means something too.
But I digress. As always.
Driving and shopping got done, and we returned home victorious with bread, milk, TP, kibble, AND the cat tree we promised Mr Pippin back around Thanksgiving (when he only weighed 13.75 lbs instead of 15.)
Then we put together the cat tree despite much interference from its intended recipient, who seemed to think chasing the unassembled pieces was the point of the whole exercise. As you can see from the pictures below, he was not being shy about claiming it for himself once we got it completed and moved the other furniture to make space for it.
After that, I settled down by the fire for the afternoon and ended up on a wonderful long video chat with bestest of awesome friends Shannon Eichorn. Tales of holidays and wordcrafting and family and pandemic were shared, cats were admired, and muchcatching up conversating was had.
Discord did not play nicely with my phone (It insisted on calling separately for audio and video, so I could not have sound or images, but not both, WTAF) and then it wouldn’t play nicely with Shannon’s laptop, so we ended up on Zoom. (I got to send a meeting invite link to someone, and it worked! Tiny tech victories are victories, right?)
ANYway. The original supper plan was to make split pea soup with the last of the Christmas leftovers, but somewhere in the afternoon I developed a craving for steak, and also I never got around to starting the soup.
Spouseman was agreeable to a change in plans, (easier to make soup on on New Year’s Eve or Day than to get restaurant takeout, or so we rationalized it) so we ordered steak dinners & cherry pie dessert from our fave local steakhouse and enjoyed our impulse celebration supper in front of another movie.
Not another Studio Ghibli. It came to our attention (thanks Netflix) that everyone in America except us had already watched Red Notice. So we watched that. Thumbnail review: plenty of pretty people and a plotline of ridiculous, complicated heisty goodness. A fun way to spend New Year’s Eve-Eve.
Pippin enjoyed surveying the room from his Top Perch for most of the movie, then moved onto my lap just in time to get in the way of me writing this. But ha-HA, I am resting the laptop on him, and am now done.
The year is almost done. I just now realized tomorrow’s post will be the last of the year. WOWZA.
No worries, this isn’t a long, rambling post listing all the people I’m thankful to know, the experiences I’m grateful I’ve had, or all the physical & tangible things I’m privileged to have in my life. I’ll save that post for the alternate reality where I become hugely famous and have to give a thank-you speech in front of a live studio audience after I receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Or something like that.
This is more like a school report on How I Spent My Weird American Holiday Thursday.
Spouseman & hibernate on Thanksgivings. Lots of reasons–for the longest time, we had no other close family in the same state, and/or the day was my single breather between 6 weeks of frantic retail holiday prep and 6 weeks of frenzied retail holiday shopping, neither of us enjoy large gatherings much…the list could go on, but ANYway. It’s just not a holiday we’re comfortable “celebrating. It has a huge identity crisis and a bunch of unpleasant cultural baggage attached. What is the day dedicated to? Pilgrims? Mayflower? Ugh, no, thanks. Gratitude? For what? Everything? <waves vaguely>
Attending mandatory large family gatherings with hefty dollops of guilt & stress, getting excited about overreating, watching NYC parades & regional football games, and plotting huge consumer spending sprees are strange traditions, that’s all I’m saying. I don’t know how most of those things are even related to gratitude, but I suspect television marketing may be involved.
BY THE WAY, DID YOU KNOW THE UNITED STATES USED TO JUST THROW “DAYS OF THANKSGIVING” ALL WILLY-NILLY, LIKE, JUST FOR JOLLIES, WHENVER THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FELT SOMETHING NICE HAD HAPPENED WORTH CELEBRATING WITH A DAY OFF? WE DID!
(Okay, there’s lots more to it, but my point is, “National Day Of Thanksgiving” didn’t start off having ANY association with harvests, bad colonialist propaganda or lies about Pilgrims, much less the whole family, food, & football traditions. Here’s a nice explainer from last year: https://billmoyers.com/story/a-national-day-of-thanksgiving/ if you’re interested.)
But. I. Digress.
In this household, the only tradition of the third Thursday in November is that I cook a lot of food that goes on steep sale this time of year, Spouseman washes a lot of dishes, we eat some tasty treats but not so much we feel sick, we game or read or watch something fun, and then we enjoy not having to deal with any complicated meal prep or food shopping for at least a week. Yay!
Here are some pics from this year’s Kitchen Fun part of the day.
Everything on the plate was from scratch this year. I even made cranberry sauce from scratch for the first time (cranberries were SO CHEAP OMG) I have a soft spot for the canned gelatinous goop, and by ignoring half the recipe instructions I was able to make mine gelatinous & goopy but nicely tart, too. It’s a big win & will be repeated.
I forgot to take a picture of the mashed potatoes in their gallon container, but tbh those don’t present well except on a plate anyway. Spouseman said he liked the rolls best because they were small & cute. They were also a late addition to the menu. It’s the world’s easiest bread recipe, quick & fun to make.
Here’s a pic from the relaxation part of the day.
We’re re-watching Great British Baking Show from the beginning because it’s relatively wholesome & brainfree, and I’m reading Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series, also a book called Naked Statistics that I somehow missed back when it first came out. And I’m playing on the computer, and Spouseman is getting in a lot of gaming time. Today is day two of all that fine action, with a full weekend of more ahead. It’s what we do. Shopping? THIS weekend of all weekends? OH, HELL NO.
And that’s my annual Thanksgiving post. If you’ve gotten this far, I would like to use this excuse to issue thanks in print to all you wonderful people who read my blathering here, who recommend, gift, and review my existing books, and who offer continued patient encouragements to me during this ongoing, glacial, writing-the-next-book phase I’m still slogging through.
(I think that was a proper sentence. I’m not going back to change it. ANYway.)
This isn’t the post I planned to write this week, but it’s On My Mind, so it’s the post that happened.
I could also title it, “An Open Letter to the nice veterinarian I won’t ever visit again.” But it’s mostly a rant dressed up in extra-ness, so if that’s not your thing, best skip to the cat pics at the end.
Hello, there! You seem like a good veterinarian. You have good credentials, you have years of experience, and you appear to be a knowledgeable, personable, and perfectly nice human being who loves animals. This is a great vet practice. I’ve worked with another vet & several techs here and had a phenomenally good experiences with all of them. That’s why I came back.
And yet after the one visit with you, I’ve asked the wonderful front desk staff to put a note in my cat’s file: make sure I am never scheduled with you again. Never. Ever.
Why not? (I imagine you wondering) Why would a brand new patient–patient’s owner, to be precise–so intensely reject you after so little time? Welp, a lot of reasons.
The TL;DR edition: Hi there! Maybe ask a few important questions BEFORE launching into the Clueless Pet Owner” lectures and making one-size-fits-none recommendations? Oh, and while you’re at it, save the nutritional guilt-tripping for someone it won’t emotionally demolish. KTHXBAI 4EVAH
Long-form version follows. (btw, I’m not going to name anyone. It’s an excellent vet practice, and like I said, you seem like good people who love animals, & I don’t want anger directed at ANYone.)
It starts the moment I walk into the practice. Your tech “greets” me with a folder full of vendor promotional materials touting products All Good Pet Parents Must Have, along with a vaccinations & wellness schedule for treatments your records should have shown you were already done.
Flustered & bewildered, I anxiously point out that Pips had already had everything on the vaccinations list, that he’s only there for a wellness check so we can schedule his neutering. The tech’s pivot is NOT to ask any clarifying questions like, “Oh, has he been here, we thought he was a new patient?” or “Were you taking him to a different vet?” Nope. They immediately take out the vaccination schedule and begins going through it as if I hadn’t spoken. When I repeat myself, they move on to asking whether I have any specific concerns about Pip’s health.
Beginning with a simple “Hi, is this your first visit here?” before handing over a mass of “buy this stuff or you’re a Bad Pet Parent” propaganda might have cleared up a lot of confusion. A few active listening questions about my pet’s life so far and/or my history of pet ownership seem like obvious basics to get a conversation going. But no. I was handed a folder, and the tech began explaining the schedule at me.
(Pro tip digression: if you must give out pamphlets, let the reciptient read the material in peace for a few moments in silence. Otherwise it sparks information overwhelm/brain shutdown for many of us.)
At this point in the visit, less than five minutes, the tech taking Pip’s history is neither taking me seriously nor listening carefully. This establishes that my pet is being stuffed into the category of A Case, aka A Bundle Of Symptoms. Mistakes are more likely to happen when that’s true. This is scary.
(Spoiler alert: my fears prove real; either the tech doesn’t accurately repeat what I say about Pips, or you, the vet receiving the report, don’t accurately interpret it. Either way, it’s another red flag. More on that later.)
ANYway. Your associate has eroded my trust before we can begin to build a relationship. I’m now feeling increasingly nervous about how Pips will be handled in the Mysterious Back Room where pets are taken for the real exams these days. But you don’t know any of this because you don’t meet me yourself before examining my pet.
Now, Pandemic times means you need to limit your contact. I get that, and I respect it.
But if you are NOT going to meet your patients’ owners even once before handling their animals behind closed door, you need to recognize that pet lovers will be sick with worry and defensive about the wellbeing of their animals by the time you do meet them. Also, a presentation of “brisk professionalism” will only feed the fear that my animal was getting “Interesting Medical Specimen” treatment rather than empathetic, caring, careful treatment.
The way you went from the barest of hellos into “everything looks good, he’s healthy” (‘m paraphrasing) and then straight into an explanation of how you listened for heart issues since he’s a Maine Coon and might have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy–well. That really grated on me, especially when you added the trivia nugget that most cases of HCM are silent so there’s no way of ruling out later development.
I mean, congratulations, you’ve shown me how knowledgeable you are about the breed. Great job. Pat on the back. But SHEESH. If I wasn’t already knowledgeable about HCM, that would’ve been terrifying.
As it happens, I know Pip’s lineage is clear of HCM, so he’s got as good a chance as possible of avoiding it, AND I’m not breeding him, so there’s no “be responsible about genetics” aspect–but it still jangled my already hyperactive nerves to have it be your main, obvious focus.
It was one more indication that you see him as An Interesting Case more than a furchild.
Next up, you demonstrated you and your tech aren’t communicating by telling me the tech told you I was concerned about my cat’s meow being strange. WTAF. What I said was, Pips makes a weird noise inside his nose when he sniffs at things, something I’ve never had any other cat do, and I was worried it might be a sinus issue.
(I’m still wondering, since you did not address it. Did you even examine his nose or mouth? Are his teeth healthy? He’s teething. It wasn’t on my concern list, but given all the other trust issues, WHO KNOWS IF YOU EVEN LOOKED? I DON’T.)
At this point, I now doubt you’re hearing anything I say, and my anxiety level? Reaching low Earth orbit, propelled there by the way you indulgently brushed off my actual concern as ‘cats make funny noises, it’s pollen & dust season. It sure looks from where I’m standing like you’ve categorized me as Clueless New Cat Mom worrying over nothing. You don’t know me, do you? This is an ASSUMPTION.
Your body language indicates you consider our interaction is wrapping up satisfactorily, with all my concerns allayed by your confidence. Not that you ASKED me if there was anything I might have forgotten earlier. Not that I was in any fit state to remember anything by then.
So to finish up, you ask what I’m feeding him, like it’s a social question rather than the interrogation trap it turned out to be. Once you hear I’m feeding him KITTEN KIBBLE (O, the HORROR) you damn the brand with faint praise and deliver a trainload of unsolicited feeding advice in an “I know better than you because I’m an Expert” tone.
That’s where our possible relationship went full crash-and-burn. When you told me (again, paraphrasing) “You need to be putting him on part or all canned food as soon as possible, and here’s why, according to All The latest Recommendations,” I snapped.
Was it diplomatic of me to flatly turn you down by saying, “that’s not going to happen?” No. Was it confrontational? Sure. Put someone on the defensive for several straight interactions and then gut-punch them with a massive guilt trip, they’re likely to lash out in desperation.
It hasn’t even been 2 months since my beloved Pip’s littermate had to be euthanized due to an incurable, degenerative, congenital condition. I do not have the emotional endurance to deal with owner-shaming.
Did you query why I was so adamant in my disagreement? NOPE. You trotted out All The Usual Phrases in your attempts to bludgeon me into compliance. “Cats are obligate carnivores, dry food has too many carbs,” “cats evolved from desert animals and have a low thirst drive, they need moisture from their food,” and “cats don’t like change, gotta start changes early,” blah, blah, fuckity-blah.
Here’s the thing. You might as well have told me, “I will now use all my Expert Words to overcome your ignorant, I do My oWn rESaRch objections.”
And I understand that impulse. IDMOR objectors are legion. But challenging you doesn’t make me wrong. It means I disagree. You could have asked why. We could have had a discussion. But no. You simply kept listing dire health consequences until I insist I understand and I’ll see how things go, and you begin to realize Things Aren’t Going To End Well.
Maybe free-feeding my kitten dry kibble is sentencing Him To disastrous UTIs, Diabetes, Obesity and Early Death, but was it a necessary part of the evaluation for a 6-month-old kitten who has a great body condition score? I don’t know. I do know it left me reeling from emotional overload.
Look. I am not a veterinarian. That’s why I GO to a veterinarian. But I am neither stupid nor ignorant. I have a degree in biology & 30+ years experience working with kittens & cats in a variety of settings. I research scientific topics as a professional necessity and also for FUNSIES. Yes, I track down primary, peer-reviewed material, check methodology, and investigate citations & related works (among other things) on numerous topics of interest. It’s what I DO.
You bet I’ve done a damned lot of primary journal dives on cat biology and behavior in general, Maine Coons in specific, and medical issues in particular. Expert catchphrases don’t soothe me. They’re like fresh wallpaper. The walls beneath might be great or moldy. It looks the same, and that makes me instantly wary.
I need a professional partner in my cat’s care. Someone who will treat me like the well-read, intelligent, committed caregiver that I am. Part of that is recognizing that questions about diagnostic conclusions and objections to recommendationsare learning gaps to be filled or legitimate differences of informed opinion to be discussed, not ego challenges.
Treating disagreement as an obstacle to be bludgeoned down is not a partnership behavior. It’s bullying.
FFS, I just wanted to confirm Pippin was healthy before getting him snipped & chipped. I was not expecting to get run over by the “You Bad Pet Parent, iF yOu dO NoT Do AS I SAY, YOUR PET IS DOOOOOOOOMED” freight train.
But that’s what happened.
It isn’t my job to teach you how to not accidentally humiliate and emotionally bruise your patients’ owners. It isn’t my job to convince you I’m justified in making educated, needs-based choices that don’t mesh with your “latest research indicates” talking points. I am too old and cranky to deal with this shit, and I will not subject myself or my pet to it again.
But I do wish you well in your work with your other clients now and into the future.
–Sincerely no love, KM
Hello, reader friends! Still with me? Wow, you are dedicated. <blows kisses>. As a reward, have some new pictures of cutie-pie Mister Pippin. Now that I have this vet issue off my chest, maybe I can focus on the WIP or at least a decent post-con roundup. (Gen Con was phenomenal. It deserves a post.)
I’ve been quiet online the last couple of weeks for Reasons.
Happy reason: multiple visitations.
A wonderful good friend & fellow writer stopped by with her husband for an afternoon as they passed through the area on a Vacation Road Trip. Much fun was had, touring the house, watching kittehs play, noshing on cheese & veggies, and talking about life, the universe, TTRPGs, writing, and gardening. It was all so very normal it was surreal.
Right after that through today, there’s been family in town. My brother in law & sister in law made time at the end of a longer trip to stay with us, oh, happy days! Our guest room has had its first post-pandemic occupants, (I still can’t get over the luxury of having A Guest Room, btw) and the kittens have been successfully introduced to overnight newcomers as well as short-term visitors. They are taking in all in stride, of course. More hands to pet them, more people to appreciate their cuteness.
We were mostly homebodies & enjoyed quiet low-key hangout time, but that’s still away-from-desk time for me. Our stroll around the Botanic Garden was a complete delight, plus Spouseman and I got to have dinner with my niece who lives in Chicago proper, so this has been an EXTRA-bonus good time.
And there’s one less-happy reason for my generally distracted absence: Meriadoc the Mellow could use good vibes if you have them to spare. His health isn’t improving. Small upside, it isn’t exactly deteriorating either? He has an okay appetite & drinks water, he tussles with his brother and plays with toys, but, um. BUT.
I’ve handled and owned enough kittens over the decades to know something is off. He’s oddly humpbacked, increasingly splay-legged, has massively cloggy intestines and struggles chewing hard kibble, plus he still sounds congested and acts like his ears bother him despite full runs of antibiotics for infections. In the six weeks he’s been with us, he’s had about six total days of feeling tip-top, and those didn’t come in a row.
This isn’t the best video of his odd way of moving, but it’s the one I have available to upload. He’s on hard floor here, but I assure you, the frogwalking looks just as whacky on carpet, if not more so.
In summary, Merry is clearly a kitty who deserves a serious checkup from a Cat Specialist. And that is what he’s going to get. We talk to a consultant Wednesday to get him scheduled for a full workup. And he goes to his regular everyday vet on Thursday for sure to deal with his uncooperative intestines. (Assuming he continues to avoid Total Digestive Shutdown which would lead to a kitty ER visit even sooner.)
Fingers & toes crossed, everyone!
I would feel that I am talking far too much about my furbabies digestive adventures but I know many new parents of tiny new humans, and I’ve heard and read my share of baby digestion tales. It’s just the way it is.
BTW, if you ever wondered why Baby Pooping and Baby Eating seems to be all new parents ever talk about, there’s a valid reason. Closely monitoring what goes in and what comes out is one of the only ways to accurately track the health of a tiny creature who cannot tell you if anythign is wrong. And when dealing with tiny living beings whose metabolisms are designed to burn fuel like a wildfire eats up a parched prairie, well. A missed meal or two, or a few extra hours without drinking can have disproportionate impacts.
OH LOOK, I DIGRESS. Having a not-thriving baby in the house means I’ve spent far more time than I probably should watching over him while he does totally nothing noteworthy because I’m scared Ill miss some sign that he’s going from Having Problems to Having A Health Emergency.
IT HAS BEEN A LITTLE BIT STRESSFUL I GOTTA SAY.
Spouseman is my rock and my sounding board and has been good about urging me to trust my experience and instincts & not second-guess my concerns–and even reminded me not to downplay issues or badmouth myself as Nervous Cat Mom when I’m talking to the veterinarians. Even if I do feel that way. Which I do, of course.
Anyway. This has been a lot of words to say that I haven’t done diddly on the writing front, but here we are. Ghost Town is still stalled with two pivotal scenes sitting half-done and the final action still to write. Monthly-ish newsletter still lacks a catchy title and still hasn’t been drafted. Meanwhile I surf, doomscroll through cat health information sites and spoil my babies by sitting with them for extra playtimes and making their food enticing and so on.
Anxiety avoidance is exhausting. Better than a full-on meltdown, but definitely not optimal.
That’s all for now. Until later. (except for a pic. Lookit this cutie pie. How can I not worry?)
We introduced a new room to the furbabies on Saturday to celebrate their first successful week with us. Okay, no, that’s a fib. We expanded their range by a room because I wanted to take a bath without hearing sad kittens howl their separation anxiety to the uncaring universe from behind their Kitty Safe Zone wall.
Sir Pippin BigFeels toured the new place, found it uninteresting, and decamped downstairs (galumph gaLUMph THUDthudthudthUDthud) to the basement to pester Spouseman, who was trying to play video games.
Master Merry Slippyfeet was similarly unimpressed. He wandered back to the kitchen to have a nosh and a drink. Me, I brought down my post-bath comfy clothes and started the bathwater. While I puttered about, setting out my fluffy towel and bath sundries, Merry returned to the scene, flopped onto the bathmat, and pretended to fall asleep.
I say pretended because the INSTANT my back was turned to pick out a bath fizzie, he jumped onto the tub ledge and–being nicknamed Slippyfeet for a reason–promptly fell into the half-full tub.
Now, this isn’t my first inadvertent dunking rescue. I’ve had cats most of my life, and several of them were NOT surefooted precision jumpers. It’s why I never add bath fizzies until I’m in the tub and thus obviously on-hand to intervene.
All that is to reassure you, dear reader, that Master Merry fell into clean water, not water full of soap and perfumes that would have to be laboriously rinsed off. Still, it was deeper than his little paws could touch bottom. Much frantic paddling, sneezing and crying ensued.
Like I said, not my first cat-dunking. I reacted fast. Maybe 3 seconds from first splash-and-squeal to scoop, scruff, and a swift water skim-down with both hands. The noise attracted an audience. Pippin arrived to supervise although he wisely watched all the action from the hallway. Spouseman helped by handing me extra towels and taking pictures.
Then it was swoop into the big fluffy bath towel. I cuddled him and rubbed him dry for a minute or two, then let him loose when he was ready to attempt putting himself to rights.
He was dry in 15 minutes and took a nap on a blanket with Pippin. And I admit it was nice seeing him Clean and Fluffy a few hours.
Since that exciting night the kittens have endured their first toenail trimming, suffered through a couple of personal hygiene wipedowns each, and enjoyed a visit from the air conditioning technician. Their Kitten Safe Space became VERY cold while many New and Mysterious Noises happened, but the whole time they were intrigued and curious, not scared. Brave boys, these two.
They’re growing like weeds, too. They were 3 lbs when they arrived, and now they’re both 3 lbs 12 oz +/- an ounce. It’s wild how fast they chow through kibble, and not as thrilling how quickly they produce waste for me to haul away, but that’s all part of the process. BUT THE CUTENESS!
Life has been mostly pets, purrs, cleanup, feeding and Creative Cardboard Construction since their arrival, BUT! I have added 1000 words to Ghost Town, so I don’t feel like I’m losing all forward momentum.
(But mostly pets and purrs. And watering the new plantings.)
Hm. I owe the blog an update about the yard. Perhaps next time. This is enough news for one post.
Oh, right–EXCEPT FOR THESE SHORT WORDS FROM OUR SPONSOR! (Me. It’s more words from me.)
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