Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's the Opposite of Nesting?

A longtime dream of mine is to live in New York City. In an attempt to finally follow this dream, I am applying to grad school at NYU and Columbia U. More specifically, I am applying for a 16-month accelerated program that starts in January. I envision myself renting a room somewhere in the Big Apple and living like a pauper/college student again. While this sounded romantic and cool when I was 18, it all seems very daunting at the ripe old age of 40. I imagine that I will throw away or sell most everything that I own and keep only what fits into a U-Haul trailer. I will be starting over. Literally.

Recently, I have been feeling a strong compulsion to start getting rid of extraneous stuff laying around my apartment. I have been going through drawers and closets and shelves like a maniac. I'm filling up garbage bags, and I've already started a pile of various items to carry to the public landfill on Saturday. I find myself looking around and mentally pricing belongings for a possible yard sale. This is highly unusual for me, as I am a lifelong pack rat---just ask my mother.

I remember the last time I felt this way.

It was eleven years ago, almost to the day. I was living in Charlotte at the time, and I had returned home from my interview with my current employer. After several previous miserable job interviews, I felt really good about this one. I felt so good, as a matter of fact, that I started to pack that very night. It would be two weeks before the job would even be offered to me, but I felt a strong compulsion to gather my belongings into boxes on the same day as my interview.

I hope this "compulsion" bodes as well as it did last time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hot Damn! Pudge is a Yankee!

Much to my joy and happiness, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was traded to my beloved New York Yankees today! Pudge has been my favorite player for the past 7-8 years or so, and I'm thrilled to no end about him donning the Yankees pinstripes tomorrow as they square off against the Los Angeles Angels...of Anaheim (whatever).

I have been a baseball fan since I was about 10 years old, and I have always had an affinity for catchers. Other than Cal Ripken Jr., my favorite players have traditionally played behind the plate, e.g. Thurman Munson, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Jorge Posada, and Ivan Rodriguez to name a few.

With all due respect to the other position players, I admire the catchers because I believe their position is the most mentally and intellectually challenging. Catchers use a lot of psychology, especially when dealing with their pitchers. They must know each pitcher's strengths and weaknesses, both mechanically and mentally. They must know how to extract the best possible performance from that pitcher. He is a cheerleader when the pitcher is on; he is an encourager when the pitcher is off. The catcher must also be familiar with strengths and weaknesses of the hitters on each of the opposing teams...he must know how to pitch to any given hitter and then call for those pitches.

The position of catcher is, by far, the most physically grueling---you have to be tough to be a catcher. Not only are you squatting up and down for about half of the game, but you are also wearing several pounds of protective equipment while you're doing it. In any given game, a catcher has 100+ balls moving in excess of 90 mph popping into the palm of his hand, which is protected only by a thick layer of leather. A catcher must use his body to block unruly pitches that miss their mark. Perhaps the most physically harrowing aspect of a catcher's list of duties is to block home plate at all costs. Do not let the runner score. This means blocking it with nothing more than your body. Who says baseball is a non-contact sport?

I love how gutsy and passionate Pudge is when he plays baseball. Here is a picture of Pudge blocking the plate during game 5 of the 2003 National League Championship Series in Miami. This is one of my favorite Pudge moments! J.T. Snow of the Giants bowled Pudge over in an attempt to cross the plate. Pudge tumbled head over heels, but he tagged Snow and held onto the ball in the process. This moment marked the end of the NLCS, because the Marlins clinched the game and the National League Championship with this play! I watched it live on television, and when I saw Pudge pop up and show the ump that he still had the ball, it endeared him to me even more.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Concession

Okay. Everyone who bet that I would keep Milo go ahead and collect your chips.

I suppose that anyone and everyone who knows me is not surprised in the slightest to hear this news. As for me, I just figured it out today.

Over the weekend, I found myself in a blue funk. I was a bit weepy, and I didn't feel much like talking to people. I attributed it to a few things...mostly PMS and the fact that Sunday was the 1-month anniversary of Tucker's death. However, it was the thought of giving Milo away that caused me to feel the saddest and the weepiest. I continued to try to convince myself that finding another home for him was the most practical and noble thing to do.

Last night, I noticed how at ease Milo feels here. While very affectionate, he's no longer clingy. He doesn't chase me around as often, meowing frantically, if I leave his sight. When he sleeps, he sleeps deeply; so deeply, that I can pick him up and move him without him waking up---he's completely limp as I carry him. He's more playful, and he's very comfortable with Gus and Jasper. He walks right up to them and sniffs them, and he likes to play with their tails. He and Jasper will sometimes stalk and chase each other.

He was stretched out flat on his back last night while he was sleeping. He looked so content and peaceful, as if sleeping were the best thing in the world. I thought to myself, "He thinks he's home", and I started to experience huge waves of guilt. I also became really weepy. I was becoming emotionally attached to another cat who was going to be leaving my life--albeit under happier circumstances--but it was still a potential loss for me.

I became weepy at lunch today while I was talking with co-workers about finding a home for Milo. My friends asked if I were sure that I didn't want to keep Milo. I said out loud "No, I want to keep him." And then a sense of peace came over me, and I stopped crying.

So--to no one's surprise, I'm sure--we're a 3-cat household again.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flying Monkeys

Is it just me or do the flying monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz" still scare the bejeezus out of you too?

I'm watching this classic on TNT, and the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West is calling out the flying monkeys is on...she's standing at the window yelling "Fly! Fly!" and suddenly, the sky is darkened by the winged primates. To this day, that scene still makes me shudder!

I think I was 4 or 5 the first time I saw this movie. I actually cried at that very scene. I remember feeling the panic and fear surge through my belly.

Many years ago, my parents took me to a theme park on Beech Mountain NC called "The Land of Oz" for my 8th birthday. I remember traveling down the Yellow Brick Road with a group...and our "Munchkin" guide prepared us for the possibility of sighting flying monkeys, and I was terrified! As I recall, I think he told us to duck down, place our hands on our heads, and shout the warning "Flying monkeys!!" Of course, we would see no flying monkeys, but I didn't know that...I was only 8! I cautiously checked the skies about every 15 seconds or so. As we prepared to enter the haunted forest, our guide kindly reminded us that the Wicked Witch would capture anyone wearing red shoes. I burst into tears as I looked down at my bright red Converse sneakers.

Come to think of it...maybe "The Wizard of Oz" isn't appropriate for young children after all? Or maybe I was just an overly-sensitive kid who was too literal and believed everything I was told?

I went on You Tube to see if I could find some footage of the flying monkeys. Instead, I found a family's home movies from a trip to this same park, also in the 1970's (which is when I went...turned 8 in 1975). Even better! So I'm posting it here so that you can see the place. The images are a little fuzzy, but remember the film is 30-some years old.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Update on the Stray Kitten, a.k.a. Milo

Yes, he's still here. But I do have a potential home for him...I'll find out for sure this weekend.

I've started calling him Milo, because he needs a name. I feel bad calling him "the stray" or "that kitten". I've let him stay inside, by the way. I heard him outside last night, meowing and pacing as if he were looking for something or someone. He sounded so lonely and/or scared, I just could not make him stay outside.

Old man Gus seems rather irritated, but I think whippersnapper Jasper is happy to have someone to play with. He and Milo have been stalking and chasing each other.

If this prospective home doesn't work out, then I'll check in with my vet on Monday. He's a great little kitty...whoever gets him is going to be very lucky. He's an affectionate lap kitten. I bought a little collar with a jingle bell for him so that he looks extra handsome. Right now, he's driving himself crazy trying to determine the origin of the jingle bell sound.

I think he misses his mother, so it makes me wonder if perhaps he was separated from her too soon. He likes to curl up on my chest and sleep. Sometimes, as he sleeps, he sucks on my shirt.

I'll keep posting updates until I've found a good home for him.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Do They Find Me??

I have this image in my head of some kind of networking going on out on the streets among stray cats. Apparently, my address is part of this network, as if I run a soup kitchen and shelter for homeless kitties. "Hey kid! Need a place to sleep? Some grub? Some heartstrings to pull on? Let me tell you about this place...."

I came home from work this evening and was greeted by a tiny kitty stretched out on the stairs leading up to my apartment. He's an older kitten, I think. He followed me to my door, meowing and talking along the way. I went inside and closed the door. I could hear him standing outside my door still meowing and talking. He looks very thin, and it's so hot outside so I placed a bowl of food and some water outside for him. He began to devour the meal.

He's really cute and very playful. He snuggles against me when I hold him, and he likes to play with my necklace while he chews on it. To call him affectionate is an understatement. He likes it when I hold him, and he likes to curl up on my lap. I love his huge ears! He looks like my cat, Gus, who is also a tuxedo cat. Here's a photo of Gus from last Christmas:

Now before you start to predict that I am going to end up keeping this cat, let me say that I cannot afford to introduce another cat into my household, regardless of how cute and playful he is. I think that the addition of yet another cat into Gus' territory would be really stressful for him, especially since his brother, Tucker, has died. Plus, I can't take on the expense of having him checked for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus before I introduce him into the household.

So I have a plan. If he's still around in the morning (and I suspect he will be), I'm going to scoop him up and into one of my kitty carriers. I'll stop by my vet's office on the way to work in the morning and see if any of their staff wants a kitten or if they know of any other clients who might be looking for a kitten. If I have no luck there, I'll take him to work and see if I have a co-worker who would like to have a kitten or knows of someone who wants one. I really don't want to take him to the shelter because a large majority of cats who end up in animal shelters are euthanized because they are not adopted. I will do whatever I can to avoid that. Fortunately, it's not cold outside, so I don't feel guilty about not bringing him inside.

I don't feel particularly emotionally equipped to doing this, but I have no choice. I can't let this little guy wander around aimlessly looking for food and affection. He's just a baby, after all. I've set up a little shelter for him right outside of my apartment door, and he has food and water. I'm hoping like crazy that I can find a good home for him tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

International Radio

I found a website today that I find to be quite interesting, and I thought I would share it here.

There is a website called Mike's Radio World that is a gateway to over 5000 radio stations from all over the world that stream live onto the internet. You can listen to live broadcasts from radio stations all over the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with other countries and their languages, their cultures, and their customs. I am loving this website! So far tonight, I've listened to live radio broadcasts from Athens, Greece and Reykjavik, Iceland. Currently, I'm listening to a station in Casla, Ireland that broadcasts in Gaelic and also plays Gaelic music.

Here is the site if you'd like to check it out:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Which Superhero Are You?

Okay, it's time for a little bit of silly fun tonight.

I don't go much for personality quizzes, but when my brother sent me this, I couldn't resist! I'm a geek at heart, and I have always loved superheroes!

I'm posting my results and a link to the quiz at the very bottom of this page.

Just for fun, I think you should take it! Post a comment or sign the guestbook and let me know your results!

FYI, the brother who sent this to me is Superman. His twin brother is Robin. My other brother has yet to take it, but I predict he'll be The Flash.

Here's Your Sign

I've been a social worker with hospice for almost eleven years now. Every then and again, I start to feel tired and weary. I wonder "What am I doing here?" "Am I really making a difference?" "Do I need to do something else?"

And it never fails. Just when I think I have reached the end of my rope, God sends signs to me just when I need them. The people He puts into my path are not-so-subtle reminders that I am where I need to be.

For the past few weeks, I've been feeling worn and burned out. I had hit one of my slides when I start to wonder if my purpose at hospice has run its course. And then it happened.

I was at the grocery store yesterday, and I heard a familiar voice say "Excuse me." I looked up, and it was Bonnie, the wife of a former patient who had died five years ago. She grabbed me and hugged me, and she started to cry. We stood in the produce department for about twenty minutes, and I listened as she talked about her husband and how much she missed him. She was able to recall things that I had done for her husband and her (things that I had forgotten about), and she was very grateful...even after five years.

Today, I went to the funeral of a patient who died over the weekend. His wife, Mary, hugged me. Next thing I knew, her daughter (whom I had never met until today) was hugging me and thanking me for everything I had done for her mother. Evidently, Mary had been talking to her about me. Mary's sister and brother-in-law approached me and hugged me. I had had only a few conversations with them, but apparently, something I did or said meant something to them.

At this same funeral, I ran into the friend of another patient of mine who died several months ago. This lady also knew Mary and her husband. I had only met her once, but she remembered me. She hugged me and said that when Mary told her that her social worker's name was Pam, she told her "you will be in good hands." As I was walking back to my car after the funeral, I said quietly under my breath, "Thank you, God. I needed that."

Tonight, I'm feeling affirmed and re-energized. The funny thing is that I always forget that God does this for me. I never realize that I need it, and I never know to ask for it. Yet He gives it to me anyway. I always think, "Oh yeah! He does do this, doesn't He?"

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Have A Guestbook!

I'm going to be brief tonight...I'm tired and feeling a bit worn out. But the OCD in me won't allow me to skip a day on the blog. I'm convinced that I must/can/will post at least a little something on a daily basis.

Today's post will be nothing more than a shameless plug. I now have a guestbook on my blog, and I would like to invite my visitors to drop a little note and say 'hello' if you feel comfortable doing so. I know it can be a pain to leave "comments" because you have to set up an account, etc. The guestbook is much more user friendly.

Please feel free to sign my cool new awesome guestbook. C'mon...I even found a nifty one that lets you insert cute little smileys. The link is at the top of the column immediately to the left of this post.

C'mon. Do it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mamma Mia! The Movie

I don't usually gush about movies. I love to watch movies (and I watch a LOT of them now, thanks to Netflix), but there are few that leave me gushing. "Mamma Mia!" is one about which I simply must gush.

I knew that I would enjoy it, because I enjoyed the musical. Also, I love ABBA's music! That's right--I said it. I love ABBA. However, when I planned to go see it with Mom on Saturday night, I had no idea that it would leave me feeling happy, giddy, and loving Meryl Streep even more than I already did.

Admit it. ABBA's music is fun and infectious. The actors interacted with each other playfully and looked like they were having pure unadulterated FUN dancing to and singing "Dancing Queen", "Mamma Mia", "Waterloo", and the rest of ABBA's iconic songs from the 70's. I found that to be incredibly endearing, especially regarding Meryl Streep. In addition to marveling at her acting skills, I have always admired her on a personal level. In spite of her success and status as one of the greatest actors of our time, she never takes herself too seriously or considers herself to be above accepting a minor role ( check out the Farrelly brothers' "Stuck On You"...she's not even credited!). She is as talented a comedic actress as she is a dramatic one. Her comedic delivery in "Mamma Mia!" is spot on. And she's just so cute, which might be an odd adjective with which to describe a 59-year-old woman, but it happens to be accurate here; she is girlish and youthful, but not in a contrived or put-on way. Another thing I like about her is that she allows herself to age gracefully. Yes, you can tell that she's not a thirty-something or even a forty-something woman anymore...but her natural beauty is far more beautiful than any "work" I've ever seen on any number of the synthetic-looking faces in Hollywood. And who knew that she could dance and sing!?!?

The dance numbers were fun and uplifting, especially the "Dancing Queen" number. The women and girls of the Greek village were dancing and skipping through the streets (led by Meryl's character, Donna, and her two best friends) singing at the tops of their lungs as they reminded themselves and each other that their free spirits still exist in spite of sometimes feeling covered up by life's responsibilities and burdens. I felt my heart swelling as I watched, and I wanted to watch that scene over and over again.

And you simply must love a movie in which Pierce Brosnan wears a polyester funky disco suit (think Earth Wind & Fire) as he dances to and sings "Waterloo". (HINT: Do NOT get up and leave when the credits start to roll. Stay and keep watching until the screen goes black)

I was actually tempted to suggest to Mom that we buy another ticket and watch the next show. I don't buy many DVDs, either...but "Mamma Mia!" is on my list.

I thought it was a beautiful, sweet, adorable, and fun movie, and I'm already eager to see it again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Cookiegate Scandal of '88

I think "Sesame Street" is an ingenious piece of television. It entertains children without talking down to them, and it educates children without them realizing it. I watched it faithfully as a little girl, and I fully believe that is one of the reasons that I was reading at a 5th grade level at the age of 4. I'm not bragging...I'm just sayin'.

Something else I recently discovered is that the good folks at the Children's Television Workshop also know how to entertain the adults who are watching, be they parents who are watching with their children or are simply grown-ups watching to revisit a happy memory of childhood. Let's face it---"Sesame Street" is damn good television.

This was made apparent to me by this 1988 parody of the Iran-Contra scandal hearings. I watched it as an adult, and I literally laughed out loud throughout the entire 3 1/2 minutes.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Friday, July 18, 2008

From My Travel Journal: My Excellent Adventure in Los Angeles - The Final Chapter

On Sunday, we all took it easy during the day. We were exhausted! Betsy and I sat pool by the pool and had a heart-to-heart conversation while Brooke spent the afternoon with a friend from high school who lives in the L.A. area. This was the day that the wildfires started in Malibu and San Diego.

The Radisson has a bar up on the penthouse floor. It's a marvelous view! Prior to leaving for the Dixie Chicks concert that night, the three of us had a drink there. I had absolutely the best lemon drop martini I've ever tasted. It should be the best for $12. We watched planes landing and taking off, as we were overlooking several runways at the airport. Sadly, we could also see the black smoke billowing from the wildfires in the distant mountains.

We were going to meet Paul and his girlfriend at the Nokia tonight, so we took off for downtown L.A. in our nifty PT Cruiser convertible. One of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants had set up an outdoor cafe at the Nokia, so we grabbed some dinner there. There were lots of people around who were excited about the show, and the weather was beautiful! It was the perfect night for eating, drinking, and hanging out outside. I ate a really yummy Caesar chicken sandwich and several beers. We stood at a table that we shared with 4 ladies who had come all the way from Saskatchewan, Canada to see the show. They were nice and friendly, and we liked them very much. They were there for The Eagles, but they said they enjoyed the Chicks, too. We assured them that the show would be worth their long (and expensive!) trip. We talked a little bit about the war in Iraq, and all four ladies agreed that regardless of whether or not you believe the war is just, the troops should always be supported by their countrymen. We all said "amen", and we drank a toast to the American and Canadian troops.

We met Paul and his girlfriend, and he presented us with our tickets. Sweet! They were even better than last night! We were in row P in the left orchestra. But first, we had to go through security again. The night before, we had to go through a metal detector and have our purses searched. I decided to hide my digital camera in a side pocket on the inside of my purse. I camouflaged it with a couple of tampons, presuming that a male security guard wouldn't dare touch tampons and would look no further. Guess what? I was right. He unzipped the pouch, saw the tampons, and immediately apologized while handing the purse back to me. Later, during a phone call with my brother, I told him this story, and he referred to them as my "campons".

Security personnel were swarming the place and looking for people taking pictures. I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the quality of the pictures and short videos we were able to get. We had to snap 'n duck. We were finally busted towards the end of the show, so we stopped for fear of having our cameras confiscated.

I'm not sure what it was about this night's crowd, but they were extra surly and nasty. Since we were closer to the stage this time, we thought we'd make ourselves a little more visible to the Chicks and let them know that we were there to support them. We decided we were going to stand up and dance during fast-paced songs and during parts of the songs that moved us emotionally. We sat for slower-paced parts of the show, and we thought this was a fair compromise. They opened up with "The Long Way Around" (my personal favorite from the new CD); we got up and cheered and danced. We were on our feet for about 30 seconds, and we started hearing people behind us shouting, "Sit the f**k down!!!" People were trying to get security to make us sit got pretty confrontational. I was stunned at how angry and hostile people became when we would stand up...shouting insults and saying some pretty nasty things. One woman whined, "Some people aren't physically capable of standing up!" We informed her that when The Eagles appeared on stage, she was going to be sorely disappointed because 99% of the crowd would be on their feet for the entire show. It turns out that our new Canadian friends were only a few rows directly in front of us. They stood up and started dancing too. They turned towards us and smiled and waved, giving the thumbs up. We sat down and were perfectly still for much of the show, but we did dance during some of their more powerful numbers. After the Chicks were finished, we left. We just couldn't stand being in such a nasty environment any longer. Plus, we didn't want to sit through The Eagles again (my apologies to any Eagles fans out there).

As we were walking back to the car, we walked past a roadblock that was being manned by several really young policemen (like 20 or 21 years old). We asked if this was the point from where the Chicks would be leaving the theater, and the young guards told us that this indeed was from where the Chicks would be leaving. So we decided to stick around and see of we could catch a glimpse of them. We befriended one of the officers, Rudy, and he agreed to let us know when he received word to remove the roadblock so that the Chicks could get through. A few minutes later he informed us that someone was preparing to leave. We were standing on the corner, and Emily drove her car up and had to stop at a red light. She stopped right in front of us, and she was talking on a cell phone. She noticed us, and she smiled and waved as she pulled away. We waited for a while longer, and nothing was happening. Betsy wanted to walk around to the front of the theater and buy a t-shirt from a vendor. I went with her so that she wouldn't have to walk alone. Brooke stayed behind with a couple of other fans who were hanging around with us. I swear, Betsy and I were gone for not even 10 minutes. We returned only to learn that we had missed seeing Martie leave. Aaarrrrgghhhh. We decided to hang around and see if we could catch a glimps of Natalie leaving the theater. As we waited, we had fun talking with Rudy and his friends. We also were able to witness other goings on in downtown L.A. The Nokia Theater is right across from the Staples Center, and the Lakers were playing a game that night. While we waited for Natalie, the Lakers players were leaving the Staples parking lot (I had a Kobe sighting). There were fans hanging out there and converging on the players' cars as they were leaving the parking garage, practically forcing them to stop and acknowledge them. I don't ever want to be that kind of fan. I would rather never meet the Chicks than to meet them and leave them believing that I'm a lunatic.

Suddenly, we noticed paparazzi swarming around us. I think they were from We asked who they were waiting for, and they said Hayden Pantierre was reportedly going to be leaving via this route soon. Her car pulled past us, too, and the camera flashes started popping! And then the jackasses ran to their cars and started to chase after her. I overheard one of them on his cell phone asking one of his "buddies" for Hayden's address. He apparently got it, and he was off to stalk her at her house, I guess. We also saw Steve Kroft (from "60 Minutes") hanging around outside. This was the last of our celebrity sightings. We waited for about an hour hoping to catch a glimpse of Natalie, but she never came out. We figured that she either sneaked out without being noticed, or she was sticking around for The Eagles' performance. We headed back to the hotel and crashed hard----again.

Betsy had an early flight on Monday, so she was up and out early. We gave her quick good-bye hugs, and then she was out the door to catch the shuttle to the airport. Brooke and I had each scored an afternoon flight, so we slept in a little bit. Then we got up, showered, packed, and checked out. We ran a few errands (went to buy more sinus/allergy medication and cough drops). While driving around and exploring, we found a public beach, so we parked in a residential section and walked down to the ocean. We parked in a space in front of a private home. We had to park close to the car in front of us in order to squeeze in to the space, but this wasn't a problem because there was nothing in front of the other car to prevent the driver from being able to pull away.

We walked down to the beautiful beach, took our shoes off, and walked in the water. It was pretty cold, the kind of cold that makes your ankles ache. But I had never touched the Pacific Ocean before, so it was worth it. We could still see the black smoke and haze hanging over the mountains.

When we got back to the car, we witnessed yet another example of that gracious L.A. hospitality. There was a handwritten note underneath the windshield wiper that said, "You need to be more considerate when you park. You obviously don't live at the beach, thank God!" We were baffled, and we never figured out what our offense was. We walked around the cars to see if we had inadvertently bumped the other car when we were parking; but we ruled that out when we saw there was a good 2 inches between the cars' bumpers. I have no idea what made this person so angry. So I balled up the note and threw it in the his/her yard. Jackass.

We headed over to an In 'n Out Burger joint. This is a west coast franchise, and Brooke had been raving about the cheap yet delicious burgers. At this point, we were running way behind schedule, so we got the food to go. We sped to the airport, and we made it to the Alamo Rental car return area with 2 minutes to spare. It was a beautiful day, so we had a picnic lunch sitting outside of the Alamo Rental office (the burger WAS yummy!). Shortly after we ate, we boarded the airport shuttle bus with our luggage, and we headed out to catch our flights. We got to my terminal first, so we gave each other a quick hug and said 'good-bye' before I got off of the shuttle.

The flight from L.A. to Atlanta was uneventful. The flight wasn't full, and I actually had an entire 3-seat row to myself. Ah, I felt like I was in Heaven. I was able to spread out a little bit. I read my "Newsweek" magazine, watched episodes of "Family Guy" on my iPod, nibbled on my Hershey pretzel bars, and drank tasty complimentary beverages.

The east coast weather was pretty nasty, and it was wreaking havoc with flights flying in and out of Atlanta. We were late landing in Atlanta, and I was hauling ass across the terminal, because I only had 20 minutes until my connecting flight was scheduled to take off. It was originally scheduled to leave at 10:55 p.m. and arrive in Charlotte at 11:55 p.m. The gate number had been changed twice, and I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off and trying to figure out where the hell I was supposed to be. I finally located the correct gate only to find that the flight had been delayed until 11:35 p.m. This was okay with me, because I needed to go to the bathroom, and I really wanted to grab a bagel.

There was already a plane waiting at this gate, and I assumed this was our plane bound for Charlotte. It turns out that this was a flight bound for Indianapolis, and they hadn't even started to board yet! The AirTran employee said that our plane was on the ground, however...we just had to wait for this other plane to take off so that our plane could approach the gate. At this point, it became obvious that we would not be leaving at 11:35 p.m. Oh boy, was the tension high! Travelers and airport employees alike were tired and very frustrated with all of the delayed flights and gate changes. I felt bad for the gentleman working at our gate. People were being really nasty to him and very demanding, as if he had created the weather delays (I thought he did a great job of keeping us informed, and this decreased the stress a lot for me. I told him that before I got on the plane). The flight to Indianapolis finally boarded, and I thought "Great! We're on our way!" It boarded, and then it just sat at the gate. And sat. And sat. And sat. The gentleman from AirTran eventually announced that the plane couldn't leave for Indy yet because---get this---THE PILOTS HADN'T ARRIVED YET! The pilots for this flight had been delayed coming in on another flight, so the pilots weren't even in Atlanta yet! So we sat and sat and sat (and so did the poor people on the plane). The pilots finally arrived, and everyone in the waiting area cheered and yelled as the pilots boarded the plane.

They changed our gate---again---and about 100 people collectively groaned as we gathered our belongings and walked about 40 yards to another gate. We got boarded, and we finally lifted off around 12:35 a.m. I was seated with the cutest young couple. They were both around 19-21 years old, and they were both Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in CA. They had been married for about 7 months, and they were 6 months pregnant with their daughter, Janelle. Dominique (the wife) was from Louisiana, and Chris was from VA. They were on leave and headed to VA because Chris' grandmother had died that day. They were both so sweet and innocent and open and friendly; I suspect that neither of them had been to Iraq or Afghanistan yet. Dominique wore braces (making her look younger), and she smiled constantly, calling me "Miss Pam"---making me feel like I was about 80 years old. But I still appreciated her manners and kindness. The nastiness of some of the passengers continued on the plane; some of them were being really crappy to the flight attendants who were obviously physically and mentally exhausted. Dominique and Chris also noticed this, and Dominique was offended. She said loudly enough to be heard by the jackass in front of us who was giving the flight attendant a hard time, "I'm so glad the Marines taught us to be respectful towards other people no matter what's going on around us!" We talked the entire time as we shared snacks. Dominique and Chris looked out for me. After we landed and were disembarking, Dominique asked Chris to retrieve my suitcase from the overhead compartment for me, and he did. And then they scooted me out into the aisle in front of them as the line shuffled along. Chris' mother was waiting for them at baggage claim. Those two introduced me to her, and they both hugged me before they left. Such a sweet young couple. I told them to go and have a happy long life together. I got my big suitcase from baggage claim, caught the shuttle to the parking deck, and I walked into my apartment around 3:30 a.m. Thank goodness I had taken the next day off of work, too.

The End

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From My Travel Journal: My Excellent Adventure in Los Angeles - Part 2

On Saturday morning, we hit the Pacific Coast Highway because we had tickets to go to the Getty Villa, which is an educational center and museum in Malibu. Brooke is an art history major, and she particularly is interested in ancient cultures. She has wanted to visit this museum for quite some time, and she was excited at the prospect of going. Initially, I tagged along mostly because it was so important to her; but I had no idea how much I was going to love it! The museum building itself is modeled after a first-century Roman country house. The displays there consist of ancient statues and artifacts from Rome and Greece. Some of them date back to before Christ was born. It's quite mind-boggling when you're actually there in front of them. Additionally, they were statues and artifacts that were created in honor of the Roman and Greek gods/goddesses/deities. Roman and Greek mythology has always been a great interest of mine, so I really enjoyed that aspect, too. We were there for a couple of hours, and I still didn't get to see everything. If I'm ever in the neighborhood again, I'd like to spend an entire day there.

The Getty Villa exterior

The Roman god, Zeus. This statue is made of marble. It was found in Italy, and it dates to 1-100 A.D.

One of the beautiful Villa gardens.

Remember Paul from yesterday's post? The high roller? He has talked often of his good friend, Pete. Pete lives in Malibu, and he also makes his living from gambling. He is apparently very good at gambling, because he generates a substantial income from it. According to Paul, Pete lives a larger-than-life lifestyle, but he's a "really nice guy". Pete invited all of us to stop by the Malibu beach house and have lunch after we finished at the museum. Brooke, Betsy, and I were a little bit skeptical about the legend of Pete, but we were mostly curious. Curiosity won out, so we followed Paul (he came to the museum with us) to a beach house where Pete was staying. Well, it turns out that Pete is indeed a really nice guy. He's in his late thirties, the son of Italian immigrants (his father worked as a cab driver in NYC), and he still has a thick Queens accent. He was remarkably funny, and he was very generous. He was quite open and friendly, and we learned a lot about him. Pete greeted us warmly as if he'd known us forever, offering beer and wine to us all. I'm going to give some details about his lifestyle, but I first want to stress that he was not bragging or name-dropping when he was telling us these stories. He's extremely down-to-earth. He was just very casually telling us about things going on in his life. It just so happens that his life consists of a big things and celebrity friends.

So I ended up spending that Saturday afternoon in a $17.8 million beach front house in Malibu. It consisted of three stories, and it was beautifully decorated. But it was not a $17.8 million house. I suspect, however, that the land it's sitting on is a $17.8 million piece of real estate. The house actually belonged to Pete's girlfriend, Betsy, who happened to be out of town this weekend (Pete's own beach house was nearby). According to Pete, Betsy is worth about $250 million (again, he wasn't bragging, but he was very proud of her and the success she's created for herself). She is a self-made business woman; she sniffed out an untapped market, and she practically created an industry. Pete gave us a tour of the house, and we saw that Betsy is quite the clothes horse. We saw her "black room", which contains all of her black clothes, accessories, and shoes. She had a lot of those, as black seems to be the color of choice if you want to be cool in L.A. We saw the master bedroom which contained a new, trendy, and expensive-looking piece of exercise equipment; I asked him about it, and he casually mentioned, "Yeah, Stevie Nicks turned us on to that." I asked, "You know Stevie Nicks?" He non-chalantly replied, "Yeah, my girl's manicurist also does Stevie's nails, and we became friends through her."

I noticed that Pete was intently watching the Kentucky-Florida football game on TV. He couldn't take his eyes off of the screens (there were plasma TVs in every room of the house). I said "You're watching this game very intensely; who are we rooting for?" He said he had some money on Kentucky, but that it was "only a few thousand, so I'm not sweating it too much." He mentioned that he lost about $40,000 on an earlier game, but he wasn't really worried about that one either.

Pete had menus from a nearby restaurant called "Marmalade" waiting for us. He asked us to look over them, circle what we wanted, and then he called the order in. He went to go pick all of the food up himself, and he treated us to a delicious lunch. We ate out on the patio and stared at the Pacific Ocean. We also stared at the next door neighbors. The houses are literally inches apart. I could have been on the neighbor's patio in one step. Look at how close they are:

I had some really yummy rigatoni cooked with marinara sauce, Italian sausage, and meatballs. When we left, Pete gave us all heartfelt hugs and pecks on the cheek. What a nice guy! For a few hours, I got to see how the "other half" lives. While I'm not necessarily impressed by the lifestyle (though I did find it very interesting!), I will say that I would love to have a house on the Pacific Ocean. I mean really...look at it.

Brooke, Betsy, and I headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Dixie Chicks concert. Paul was going to pick us up in an SUV around 6 p.m., so the three of us had about an hour to get ready. Paul and his girlfriend arrived in a rented Suburban, and we all headed to the brand new Nokia theater in downtown L.A. Since we weren't sure how heavy security was going to be, we decided to go without cameras this night. The plan was to observe the security measures and assess what we could get away with the next night (if anything).

The crowd was pretty much there for The Eagles, which is understandable. The trouble is that many of them were pretty rude to the Chicks and to the Chicks' fans. During their performance, people were coming in late and strolling around the theather. We heard some nasty remarks from the people around us about the Dixie Chicks, but we didn't say anything. We decided we'd let them watch the show and see for themselves. We were in orchestra right, row PP. The brand new theater is very intimate---seats only 7100. It's a nice place, but I really don't see what all the buzz was about. It was no nicer than other venues I've visited. The seats did have cup holders, however, and that was nice. I didn't have to hold my cup of wine all night long. The Chicks sounded phenomenal as always. They're wonderful in person...they sound fantastic, and they really connect with their audience. They're natural entertainers, especially Natalie---the lead singer. She catches a lot of flak and gets called a "loud mouth" by Chicks bashers, but she really is quite funny and entertaining. They dedicated "White Trash Wedding" to Britney Spears, which made me laugh. My favorite moment was during their song, "Not Ready to Make Nice". I don't know how familiar you are with that song, but there's a powerful musical and emotional crescendo in that song. When she reached the climax and sang out "or my life will be over" with her arms raised in the air, the place went nuts, even the Eagles fans! Just about every one of those 7100 people were on their feet, cheering with arms raised. It literally sent chills up my spine and my arms. They got about a 2-minute standing ovation when the song was over. After they finished and left the stage, the people around us who had made the snide remarks had changed their tune. A lady next to us vowed that she was going to go out and buy their most recent CD. The guy behind us who had made some pretty mean remarks ended up saying, "Wow! They're really good! The violin player is beautiful! If it had been just them playing tonight without The Eagles, it would still have been worth the trip!"

After a short break, The Eagles took the stage, and the place pretty much went crazy. People were on their feet for almost the entire show, which lasted about 2 1/2 hours. The Eagles may have gotten older, but they still know how to turn it out on stage. They sounded really good, too. The played a few new songs, but then they played all of the classics. The show ended with the 2nd encore...Don Henley singing "Desperado". It was pretty amazing to be there and witness that. Joe Walsh is still crazier than bat sh*t.

After the show, we went back to the hotel and crashed. Once again, I slept pretty hard as my body was attempting to adjust to the time change.

End of Part 2

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From My Travel Journal: My Excellent Adventure in Los Angeles - Part 1

I've been flipping through the travel journal that I keep, and I found a few trips and stories that I'd like to share.

This one is from October of 2007 when I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles to see my beloved Dixie Chicks in concert. It's a little long, so I'm breaking it down it's a trilogy.

The old saying is true. Los Angeles---or whatever place you're discussing--- is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. The city's personality just doesn't mesh with mine. The natural beauty (when you can find it) is breathtaking, but there's not much else there that's beautiful in my eyes. There's no beautiful architecture, nothing historically significant (unless you're a movie history buff, which I'm not), no beautiful skyline, etc. I've been to other big cities, and while it's true that people in those cities aren't what I would describe as "friendly" (in Southern standards, anyway), L.A. is the first city I've visited in which people went out of their way to be shi**y. I'll explain more about that later. That being said, I wouldn't change anything about the 3 days that I spent there.

Some background: I am an avid Dixie Chicks fan, and I have been since 1998. I love their talent and music, and I deeply admire them on a personal level. For about a year prior to this trip, I had been regularly reading and posting messages on a Dixie Chicks blog that was authored by an embedded reporter. He was touring with the Chicks, and he posted background stories and pics as he traveled with them on their 2006 Accidents and Accusations tour. There were several regular posters there, and I became good friends with two of them. Brooke lives in NYC and Betsy is in Minneapolis. We learned that the Chicks were going to be playing with The Eagles for six nights in L.A. as they christened the brand new Nokia Theater. We discussed this, decided "Why not?", and we started planning our pilgrimage to L.A. Neither of us has much disposable income to toss around, so we decided this had to be an economical trip. Our plan was to attend one show and to sit in the cheap seats. Betsy's brother was a general manager with a major hotel chain, and he was kind enough to arrange for us to spend three nights at the LAX Radisson free of charge. Needless to say, that took a significant chunk out of our expenses. Each of us managed to find good deals on airfare, so we decided we were going to make this happen!

Now this is where it gets interesting...we had another acquaintance from the same website named Paul. Paul lives in Las Vegas, and he is a professional gambler. Betsy and Brooke met him in December of 2006 when they all met in Dallas on a whim to see the Chicks play their final show on the Accidents & Accusations tour (I couldn't get the time off, dammit!). Paul has lots of connections, and he seems to be financially quite comfortable. As a treat, he gave front row seats to Betsy and Brooke for the show in Dallas. There were no strings attached, no expectations----just a genuinely altruistic gesture on Paul's part.

So when the concerts in L.A. were announced, Paul came into the picture and learned that Brooke and Betsy were planning to attend a show. Brooke informed him that another blogger (me) would be coming, too. Paul said he loved our adventurous spirits, and he thought we should be rewarded. So he treated all 3 of us to orchestra seats for two of the L.A. shows. We protested (albeit mildly), but Paul insisted, and we accepted. Now before you call me naive, let me tell you that I was guarded prior to meeting Paul. It's not that I didn't trust Brooke and Betsy's judgment, but it just sounded too good to be true. I went armed with cash in case I had to buy a ticket at the last minute from a scalper. I asked that we rent our own car and pay for our own hotel (he offered to pay for those, too) so that we could maintain some control of our situation. Long story short----he is not too good to be true. He's genuine, down-to-earth, and a really nice guy. He truly seemed to enjoy making us happy.

So there's the background.

I got up reallllllllllly early on Friday, Oct. 19th to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Atlanta. The 45-minute flight was very choppy due to rain and thunderstorms---the plane dropped and dipped the entire time. They even
cancelled beverage service and the seat belt light stayed on for the entire flight. Maybe I was in denial, but the motion of the airplane was soothing to me, and I slept for most of the flight.

The 5-hour flight from Atlanta to L.A. was uneventful, and I was fortunate enough to sit with people whose company I enjoyed. Louise is a Jewish sixty-something reading teacher from Washington, D.C., and we talked for much of the trip. She was warm and open. Her husband was a nice man, but he was pretty quiet. I think he was grateful that his talkative wife found a distraction. They were heading to L.A. to visit their son and daughter-in-law. We were talking about all of the places we wanted to visit, and she said she had always wanted to visit Santa Fe ever since she was a little girl. Immediately after she said this, the pilot said over the intercom---I swear---"Folks, just to give you an update of our trip, we are now flying over Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we'll soon be flying over The Painted Desert in Arizona." Our mouths dropped, and I pointed out the window and said, "Well, Louise, here you are."

I landed at 11:15 a.m. (L.A. time); Brooke and Betsy's flights landed earlier that morning, so I called them as soon as I touched down. They were in the process of picking up our rental car, and Betsy said they'd pick me up outside of baggage claim in about 15 minutes. I grabbed my suitcase from the conveyor belt, and I
headed outside. Brooke and Betsy were there, waiting for me in our silver PT Cruiser convertible(!!). Brooke and Betsy are both tall with long legs. I'm about 5'3" with short legs. Therefore, I was relegated to the backseat for the entirety of the trip. But you know what? I had the best seat in the house! I stretched out, wind whipping around me, and I took in the sunshine and the sights.

We ate lunch at a great place called Paco's Tacos. Brooke says that Mexican food served in CA is "real" Mexican food as opposed to what you find in other parts of the country. Brooke is originally from CA, so she knows of what she speaks. I had a huge delicious cheese enchilada, drank a couple of Mexican beers, caught a good buzz, and then off we went to the hotel.

The hotel was nice, but it always pisses me off that the "nicer" the motel, the more they charge you for amenities. It was $13/day to park there (Motel 6 lets you park for free!). Anyhoo, our room was on the 9th floor, and the hotel was right next to the airport. We had a great could see planes landing and taking off, but you couldn't hear the loud roar.

It seems that what I have heard about the air quality of L.A. is indeed true. It stinks. I was eating sinus/allergy medicine like it was candy. My sinuses burned and ached for the entire trip, and I had numerous sinus headaches, a sore throat, and a persistent cough. When I blew my nose, my mucus had noticeable tinges of black soot. My apologies to the reader for not having photos of that.

We got settled and unpacked, and then we hit the town. Each of us was pretty exhausted (we'd all caught early morning flights), so we knew we wouldn't be able to hit the town too hard. We walked up and down Hollywood Blvd, which has a very Myrtle Beach-y feel to it. I wasn't all that impressed, to be honest. But we did see the Walk of Fame, and I saw all of the stars on the sidewalk. Did you know that Kermit the Frog has one? I had a yummy vanilla ice cream soda at the Disney Ice Cream Shoppe.

While on Hollywood Blvd., we ate dinner at Verte, a Franco-American restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck. It was casual, so we were comfy popping in while wearing our jeans and capri pants. I had the best steak I have ever had in my life! And I mean this quite literally. I also had a really good apple martini.

We drove back to the hotel, got into our p.j's, and talked. By the time I crawled into bed, I had been awake for over 25 consecutive hours. I fell asleep in about 2 minutes, and I slept the hardest I had in a while.

End of Part 1

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feist Appears on "Sesame Street"

Nothing endears an artist to me more than when he or she (or they) appears on "Sesame Street" to sing and dance with the muppets.

Feist performs a parody of her song "1 2 3 4" (you guessed it...the parody is a song about counting) flanked by monsters, penguins, and chickens.

I love it!

A Little Bit of Closure

Tucker's urn arrived via Fed Ex last Friday. It's really quite pretty yet doesn't look like an urn, which is just the look I was going for. It simply looks like a pretty wooden box with Tucker's picture on it.

I cried as I opened it, especially when I pulled out the little engraved plaque that was to be affixed to it. The tears continued to flow as I set it up and transferred his cremains. And then I found a really nice spot to keep it, placed it there, and the tears dried up. It helps to see a little reminder of him each time I look around the living room.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Harsh Reminder

When this "war" in Iraq began way back in 2003, I was acutely aware of America's presence there. CNN and other news channels were filling the airwaves for seemingly 24 hours a day with news and images of the violence there. American flags and yellow ribbons were prominent. My baby brother was in the US Marine Corps, and he subsequently served two tours there. I was sending care packages to him, as well as to troops whom I knew weren't receiving packages of their own. I had a yellow ribbon magnet on my car that read "Protect My Brother". I could not get enough news about the what was happening there...I was watching CNN constantly. I eventually had to take a break from CNN because I found myself becoming agitated, depressed, and suffering from nightmares as a result of Iraq news overload. How could I not be caught up in the "support the troops" fervor?

As this conflict now drags into its sixth year, I find that my thoughts and attention are rarely focused on Iraq. My brother has since then been transferred to a training squadron---a non-deploying squadron. My family has a temporary reprieve from the constant threat of his return to Iraq. My yellow ribbon magnet was removed in a celebratory nature when my brother came home; I think it might be somewhere in my trunk right now...? CNN no longer gives Iraq their full attention. I haven't sent a care package in about a year now. Embarrassingly, I must confess that I have become entirely too accustomed to the situation in Iraq...and the troops who remain there have been drifting further and further from my mind.

I received a subtle yet powerful reminder last weekend when I traveled to Jacksonville NC to visit my brother, who is now stationed at Camp Lejeune, and his wife. I'm a history buff, and I love to visit monuments and statues. My sister-in-law knows this about me, and she offered to take me to see the Beirut Memorial in Jacksonville. Up until the moment she asked me, I had no idea that such a memorial even existed. I eagerly accepted her invitation. The monument consists primarily of a wall, referred to as "The Other Wall", in which the names of each of the troops who died in Beirut in 1983-84 are etched. There is also a beautiful statue of a Marine in his combat gear.

Also on display at this same park is something that I was completely unprepared to see---a steel beam from one of the NYC twin towers that crumbled to the ground on 9/11/01. As I drew closer to it, suddenly all my memories of that horrible day came flooding back in full force---the moment I realized that the plane crashes were part of some sinister plot rather than freakish accidents...watching live feed from CNN and watching the two towers collapse and wondering how many people just died right in front of my eyes...wondering where the next plane would fall. I examined the beam closely, and the extent of the impact and damage that had obviously been inflicted upon it was mind blowing. As I was taking photographs from various angles, my sister-in-law discovered two sets of military dog tags that were hanging from one of the warped rivets. We were initially perplexed as we bemoaned how foolish it was to leave your dog tags in a public place since they clearly contain your social security number, and wouldn't it be easy to steal this person's identity, yada yada yada...and then the sad realization dawned upon both of us at the same time----the owners of these dog tags were probably dead. We looked at each other sadly and wondered aloud about the intended meaning of hanging the tags at this particular site.

Though no discernible connection has been established between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, I think that 9/11 does serve as a symbol of our troops' presence in Iraq. I suspect that these dog tags belonged to a couple of Marines who died there, and someone quietly memorialized them by hanging the tags from the WTC beam.

This was a sobering moment for me, and I felt ashamed for having all but forgotten about the men and women who continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Regardless of how we might feel about the "war" itself, it is imperative that we remember the men and women who are serving there. They are there out of a sense of pride and duty; but they are also hot, exhausted, homesick, and witnessing violence that most of us could not imagine even in our worst nightmares. We must also remember the military families who are left behind and who, in my opinion, make just as big of a sacrifice as the troops themselves. We must remember the troops who are coming home with horrible injuries, disfigurements, and scars---not only the physical ones, but the emotional ones as well.

Here are some ideas about how we can put "support the troops" into practice:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Letter

In my previous post today, I mentioned the letter I wrote to friends and family about Tucker. I am posting here the actual letter. I'll tell you what I told them---thank you for reading it.

"If you notice me being out of sorts for awhile, then you'll know why. I'm heartbroken, and I don't know that I've ever felt sadness quite to this depth before. I took today off of work because I'm an utter and complete mess, and I'm not able to do anything for anybody today. This has completely debilitated me today, physically and emotionally. I've cried so much that my eyes are swollen. The skin around my eyes is raw and red from all the wiping and rubbing. I've cried so deeply that there are times I feel like I'm not going to be able to catch my breath. I've cried so loudly that I wonder if I worry the neighbors.

I got home from work last night, and everything was fine. Tucker met me at the door, as he's done everyday for the past 14 years. His behavior was completely normal until around 7:45 p.m. I heard a strange noise and realized that it was Tucker struggling to breathe. He was panting rapidly, making a LOT of noise while he was doing it, and his tongue was hanging out. He couldn't stand up, and he was crawling around on his belly, struggling to find a comfortable position. It came on so suddenly, I figured something was caught in his throat. I swept his throat with my finger, but there was nothing. I scooped him up, and I hauled ass to the After Hours Emergency Vet Clinic in Hickory. He was yowling and thrashing around the carrier. He was terrified and obviously in great physical discomfort.

I hurried into the clinic, and the technician behind the desk smiled and asked if she could help me. I put Tucker on the countertop, and I said (with tears forming), "About 30 minutes ago, my cat had a sudden onset of respiratory distress...I think he's in a lot of trouble." She took one look at him, and the smile dissipated from her face. She grabbed him up and hustled immediately to the treatment area---no questions, no "fill out these forms", etc. She came out a few minutes later and told me they put him on some oxygen while awaiting an examination room. I then filled out the forms and gave his medical history, which was very brief. He had just had his wellness exam a couple of months ago, and he got a great report, as always. His docs have always marveled at healthy he was, especially for a kitty his age. While I waited in the lobby, I checked my credit card balances so that I could see how high I could go before I had to start bargaining for a payment plan.

They called me back into a room and Dr. Ewing told me that she could hear a lot of fluid in his chest, and she suspected he was in congestive heart failure. His blood pressure was low. She tried to listen to his heart but she couldn't hear it because of all the fluid. She asked if he had a heart murmur or any history of heart trouble, and I told her no...that he had just recently gotten a good report from his vet. I told her how suddenly the problem came about, and she was puzzled since the symptoms of CHF usually develop progressively. They gave him some Lasix (a diuretic) and placed him in an oxygen chamber. The plan was to wait until they got some of the fluid off and got him a little more stable, and then they would get a chest x-ray to have a better idea of what was going on. Dr. Ewing said that though they could probably resolve this episode of CHF, they couldn't fix his heart, and it would be a terminal condition. He'd probably have to be on Lasix for the rest of his life, but that was fine by me...I'd learn to give him his pills, no question about that. She let me go back and visit him for a few minutes. He looked better...she said she was pleased with his response to the oxygen chamber. He was no longer panting or breathing through his mouth. He wasn't using his hindlegs yet, but he was able to pull himself up. He was meowing because he wasn't happy to be there, but we were feeling more optimistic about his chances. Dr. Ewing suggested that I call back around 11:30 p.m. for an update; hopefully, they would have a chest x-ray by then. I hugged him and kissed him, and then I left.

On my way home, I prayed out loud for God to be with Tucker and to please get him through this, because I wasn't ready to lose him yet. But, if that wasn't part of the plan, I asked that He make it known to me when it was time to let Tucker go, because I didn't want him to suffer because of any selfishness on my part. I called around 11:30 p.m. They hadn't done the chest x-ray yet, but only because they were crazy busy. The tech said, however, that Tucker was resting comfortably in the oxygen chamber. I told her I'd call back in a couple of hours, and she said that would be fine. During this time, I had been Googling cats and CHF on my computer so that I could start educating myself about how I'd need to care for Tucker from now on.

About half an hour later, my cell phone rang, and I could see that it was the vet clinic. My gut
started to scream. It was Dr. Ewing. She said that Tucker had apparently thrown a blood clot, and it had cut off the circulation to his hindlegs, which were now permanently paralyzed. He panicked when he could no longer feel his legs, so they sedated him to keep him calm. She said
that when it got to this point, she recommended that he be euthanized. Out of desperation, I asked if there was a way to dissolve the clot. She said she could,but his heart was functioning so poorly, he'd just keep throwing them. She said he was experiencing pain now in his front legs, and that "this is really no kind of life for him." Of course, I knew she was right. I realized that this was God answering my prayer...He was making it known to me, just as I had asked. I wept and wailed and cursed after I hung up, and then I got dressed.

I drove the 20-minute drive back to the clinic. I was crying off and on, though I was also struggling with trying to grasp the reality of what was happening. It was feeling surreal at this point, and there were moments when I literally wondered if I were dreaming. It didn't seem real. I walked into the clinic, and a very sad-looking tech asked if I was Tucker's mommy. I told her yes, and she said she would let the doctor know that I was there. I sat down in the lobby and started to cry. They called me back to a room, and I signed to authorize the euthanization. The very kind technician asked if I wanted to take Tucker home afterwards or to have him cremated. Since I have no place to bury him, I told her that I wanted to have him cremated and that I wanted the cremains to be returned to me. I have no idea what I'm going to do with them, but I know that I need to have them back. This happened so quickly that I've had no chance for any kind of closure. I had no idea that my last time holding him was going to be my last time holding him. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving that place and that being it---no connection with him ever again. I never thought that I'd be a person who would keep their pet's cremains, but now I fully undertand why people do it. I don't know if I'll keep them or maybe sprinkle them somewhere.

After all of that was worked out, they brought Tucker in so that I could tell him good-bye. Seeing him then confirmed for me that euthanasia was the only alternative. This was not the same cat I had seen 4 hours earlier. He was awake and responsive, but I could see that he was already dying. He was yowling in pain and trying to stand up. He had "the stare". It wasn't a "i'm doped up on sedatives" stare. It was a stare that I've seen thousands of times since working at Hospice. It's the stare that a dying creature develops when he or she is mentally disconnecting from the environment. His hindlegs were motionless, and the paw pads were dark blue. The insides of his ears had a bluish hue, as did his lips. He was starting to pant again. I realized that now he was out of the oxygen chamber, he was growing increasingly uncomfortable and that I shouldn't drag this out. I hugged him and kissed him, and I told him it would be okay...that this was going to end soon. And I thanked him for everything. I told him that I loved him very much. Dr. Ewing came in and asked if I had any questions. I wrapped my arms around him, and he rested his chin and front leg on my forearm (which is something he has always liked to do). Dr. Ewing injected him, and I felt him go limp literally about 2 seconds after she started to push it. This confirmed for me that he was already dying...he didn't need much help to leave this world. Before she euthanized him, Dr. Ewing cradled his face in her hands and said "You look like you've had a very good life." It was nice to receive that validation from an objective 3rd party. Dr. Ewing was wonderful. At the bottom of my invoice, she wrote "We are so sorry for the loss of your companion and friend."

In spite of everything else, the Lasix had been effective in pulling much of the fluid from around Tucker's heart. Dr. Ewing said she could hear no heart murmur, so she doesn't think the
primary diagnosis was CHF. Because of the sudden onset, she thinks something went terribly wrong with his heart suddenly and with no warning. We suspect he had what's called a Saddle Thrombus ( blood clot) in his descending aorta. It had apparently kicked loose and started to move when Tucker's symptoms started. Sometime between 11:30 and midnight, the clot manifested itself when it became lodged in the branching vessel into the femoral arteries and blocked the flow of blood to those arteries. All circulation to his hindlegs was cut off, and they became paralyzed. Everything went downhill from there. It's my understanding that a Saddle Thrombus usually forms as a result of some kind of underlying heart disease that is often undetectable.

The routine things have been very hard today. Tucker has always followed me to the bathroom...always. In the past 14 years, I think I've gone to the bathroom alone maybe 3 or 4 times. Tucker has always shown up. He sat on the edge of the tub keeping me company, or he sat between my feet---looking up at me, chirping and purring. It became routine for us. No matter where I've lived, I've always always always kept the under-sink cabinet door open. For some reason, in every apartment we've lived, Tucker has always adopted that space as his own. He was terrified of thunderstorms, so the under-sink cabinet also served as his safe place during storms. So the rule has always been that the cabinet door remains open so that Tucker can enter and exit at will. When I'd have friends check on the cats for me while I was out of town, part of my direction was that this cabinet door should remain open at all times. For the first time in 14 years, I shut the cabinet door this morning, and I cried. I cry everytime I go to the bathroom; I find myself putting it off until I absolutely have no choice but to go. I haven't been able to bring his kitty carrier from the car yet; it's still in my backseat with a piece of tape on it from the clinic that says "Tucker Adams". I wept the whole time as I was feeding Gus and Jasper hurts to only be filling 2 bowls today. All day long, I've had moments when I allow myself to be distracted, and then I suddenly "remember " that he's dead, and I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach, and I cry. I really really miss him.

I've been trying to think of things for which to be grateful. Obviously, I'm very grateful to have had such a wonderful little guy in my life for the past 14 years. He truly had one of the gentlest and sweetest souls I've ever encountered in any living being. I'm grateful that his suffering was minimal. The clinic staff got him comfortable very quickly, and they kept him there. I'm grateful that his death occurred only hours after the onset of his illness. I'm grateful that I was able to come home to two affectionate kitties rather than to an empty apartment. Gus is starting to figure out that something's wrong...he's anxious and sniffing around a lot...and pacing. He's been pretty clingy with me, and he looks at me and taps me with his paw the way that he does when he needs something from me. Jasper seems a little bewildered everytime I start to cry.

I'm attaching some of my favorite photos of Tucker. The one of him on the loveseat is my
favorite. His facial expression shows the essence of Tucker.

All of this being said, I do want you to know that I'll be okay. I think all of this is a process that I have to go through. I guess it's part of the deal when you love a creature whose life expectancy is
markedly less than your own. The depth of my sadness is the same as the depth of my love for him.

Thank you all, again, for reading through all of this. Mostly, thank you for all of your support and your encouragement.