I am 37 years old today.
I don’t feel 37, but I don’t know how old I feel either. If you are only as old as you feel, how do you know how old you feel? Rhetorical question…
Anyway, I am not at work today. I have a personal policy of never going to work on my birthday unless it is completely unavoidable, and this policy has never steered me wrong. (I have tomorrow off as well, since it didn’t make much sense to take a Thursday off and then go back in to the office just for Friday.)
John and I celebrated my birthday by going out to dinner last night at The Oakwood Club, which is another one of Dayton’s classic supper clubs/steakhouses. It was extremely good. When comparing it to The Pine Club (as was inevitable) I think that it works out to a draw. The atmosphere at both places was excellent – lots of burgundy leather and dark wood. No clear winners there. The food at The Pine Club is slightly better … or maybe that is just because we both love their bone-in rib-eye so much and The Oakwood Club didn’t even have rib-eye on the menu. However, The Oakwood Club gets the edge in the convenience factor, as they actually take reservations and credit cards, while The Pine Club still (at this point in the 21st century) accepts neither.
John also made me a pineapple upside-down cake. We had that for dessert (along with pineapple martinis) for dessert when we got back from the restaurant.
My plans for today are pretty simple… I do have a few things on my to-do list… an errand or two I must run, and an appointment to get my hair cut. But I am also going to go out to the arboretum with my camera. And then spend a substantial chunk of time on the back deck with a book.
That’s a pretty full schedule. So I suppose that I had best get on with it.
This is Ravenna.
She came to us with that name and I think that we will keep it, but as it is a pretty big name for a little cat, we call her “Vena”, or just “Baby Girl”, for short.
And she is practically a baby, at just over a year old. The rescue group that we adopted her from think that her mom was dumped while she was pregnant (and I don’t really want to think about what kind of terrible person would dump a mother cat and tiny newborn kittens) and they were all found and brought to the rescue when Vena and her siblings were about a couple of weeks old.
- The little plastic ring that you get on milk and juice jugs.
- A string on a stick
- The milk-jug-ring combined with the string on a stick. This is the best cat toy ever.
- The very top perch of the cat tree
- Kitty treats
- Did I mention food?
She is seriously food motivated, and if you are preparing food or eating something, then she wants to share. At least until she figures out if what you have is something she likes or not. This has included pasta, pasta sauce, butternut squash soup, bacon, cheese, bread, crackers (with and without spread) salmon, chickpeas, spinach, rice, barbeque pork… and most of what she tries, she likes. According to the vet, although she is in good health and up-to-date on all shots, she is underweight, so we are pretty much letting her eat whatever she wants, and as much of it (within reason) as she wants.
- Being picked up
- Being pursued. She prefers to come to you, she isn’t always comfortable being approached
- Any cat toy that we spend money on. As opposed to milk jug rings, crumpled bits of scrap paper, hair ties, and the pen that I am trying to write with. You would think that we would have learned this particular lesson with Percival
- Catnip. What the hell, kitty? I thought that all cats went gaga for the ‘nip
- Having her feet touched. Sorry little girl, but you are going to have to get used to us handling your feet and clipping your nails
She follows me from room to room a lot. When I come home, she runs up to the door to great me.
She has a little bit of separation anxiety, in that if I am at home, she doesn’t like to be separated from me, and closed doors between me and her seem to stress her out. If I go to the bathroom or go to take a shower, she is guaranteed to be sitting right outside the door waiting for me to emerge.
She sleeps on the bed with us, but waits until after we are asleep to join us.
She is not very cuddly yet. She will jump in my lap and demand attention by head-butting whatever I happen to be holding, and shoving her head under my hand. But she is still pretty skittish and is not quite at the point where she is relaxed enough to just curl up in my lap for long periods of time. I can, however, occasionally persuade her to sit on my lap if it is mid-afternoon on a weekend, and no one else is around. (She doesn’t like to stay on my lap if John joins me on the couch.)
She and Percival get along just fine.
She is doing a good job of settling in and getting used to us. She’s a good little girl.
She is a very good girl, and a little sweetie… but she doesn’t make me miss Merlin any less. I still miss Merlin a lot, every day. And Vena is in no way a replacement for Merlin. She is just herself, and that’s good enough.
John and I aren’t observant… we don’t observe Easter (or any other religious holiday), but we do celebrate it. If a holiday has delicious food associated with it, then we will celebrate it. It is all about the delicious food.
We are having roast turkey for dinner. Not just because roast turkey with my Grandma’s stuffing and roaster vegetables is a delicious meal, but also because we are out of stock. We intend to render down the carcass at the end of the day and replenish our supply. Let me tell you… home-made turkey stock is way richer and more flavorful than the best chicken stock.
Anyway, we have a 20 pound turkey. For the two of us. This is the biggest that we have ever had. It turns out that if it is not Thanksgiving or Christmas, there isn’t much of a selection available in the turkey bin at the grocery store, and this bird was the smallest that they had available. It barely fits into our roaster. We will be eating off of this bird for days – turkey pot pie, turkey quesadillas, curried turkey, turkey noodle soup… Yum.
Dessert will be coconut bread.
There are no eggs (dyed, hard-boiled, or otherwise) or Easter candy (other than one fancy bar of Vosges salted bacon and milk chocolate). We just weren’t feeling the eggs or excessive sweetness today.
Coconut Bread Recipe
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
- Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.
Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.
I had resolved to read all of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett in order… and I have finished.
40 books in just over two and a half months. 81 days exactly. Which works out to a book every 2.025 days.
I thought that this seemed like a reasonable rate. John thought that I read almost inhumanly quickly.
2013, and in particular the past couple of weeks, has been pretty rough at our house.
On January 29, Merlin had what we thought was a stroke. She lost all use of her right front leg, couldn’t (and didn’t really want to) stand up or move around, and was obviously in pain. We took her to the urgent care clinic where she received a tentative diagnosis of heart disease and a blood clot, an appointment the next day for a specialist down in Cincinnati to confirm the diagnosis, and (most important) painkillers for Merlin so that she could rest comfortably.
The next afternoon, the specialist ran a number of tests, among them x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound, which revealed that while Merlin’s heart itself was structurally sound, but that there were masses in one of her lungs and in her abdomen near her heart. So not heart disease, but cancer. And the episode the night before was a neoplastic embolism… a little chunk of tumor breaking off and entering her bloodstream. Pretty advanced cancer. I was crushed. We were crushed. We left the specialist with a handful of medications and the gentle instructions to take a few days to “consider our options”.
We had already pretty much made up our minds that we were going to go the supportive/palliative route only. At Merlin’s age and condition, surgery and/or chemotherapy would have been pointless torture, and we just wanted to keep her as happy and comfortable as we could, for as long as we could. In addition, the specialist warned us that Merlin could have another neoplastic embolism at any time, and that the next one would almost certainly be the last one.
In hindsight, the start of this was not what happened on January 29, but earlier, just after New Year. Merlin had suddenly started limping on a hind leg, and when I brought her in to our vet, they found a lump on her back leg. They said that it could be a bad infection of inflammation, and gave her an antibiotic and a steroid injection. They also told me that they wanted to keep an eye on it, and that I should bring Merlin in again after a few weeks, and that if the lump was still there, they would have to start thinking about testing for cancer.
It seems obvious now that the first neoplastic embolism was in early January, and the second was on January 29.
We thought about our options (while continuing to give Merlin painkillers) and after a couple of days went to see our vet to go over what we needed to know for Merlin’s care. We started her on steroid pills (2 a day, along with 1/4 a pepcid pill) which might shrink the tumors and would certainly ease any pain she was in and kept her in the painkillers (the vet told us that as long as she was limping, she was in pain). We set up food, water, and a litterbox for her in our bathroom. She started to get a little bit better, though she wasn’t venturing much outside of our bedroom, our bathroom, and John’s office. Occasionally she would come downstairs and sit on my lap in the evening.
Then we found out that John’s Grandfather had had a bad fall and broken his hip. And I found out that my Grandma was in the hospital with pneumonia.
John’s Grandfather’s fall and broken hip exacerbated some existing health issues (to the point where the broken hip was actually the least of everyone’s worries) and he ended up going into hospice care.
On Thursday morning, February 7, John’s Grandfather died peacefully.
My Grandmother did end up getting out of the hospital, but in this case, unfortunately, “out of the hospital” does not equal “doing just fine now”.
We went up to Kalamazoo that weekend. Because of the logistics of Merlin’s medications and several other factors, we brought her with us. She seemed to be doing better, but she wasn’t eating much. (This worried me a lot, since “not eating” was one of the things that our vet had told us to keep an eye out for.) She handled the ride up to Kalamazoo like a champ, she didn’t mind being confined to the spare room where we were sleeping. She slept in bed with us, she purred, she got a lot of petting.
And then she didn’t do well at all on the ride home, and started sliding downhill that evening.
Sunday was also when (as far as I can tell) she stopped eating. She was refusing her wet food, and treats, and tuna, and bits of cheese. All favorite foods.
She stopped purring, and didn’t seem to care if we were petting her. She cried when we picked her up. It looked like she had given up.
Tuesday evening, February 12, we brought her to the vet for the last time. It was a hard, hard choice, but I couldn’t stand for her to be in so much pain.
And I miss her so much. The house feels empty without her here. I keep expecting to see her on the bed, or the back of the couch, or sitting on my desk chair…
And at night when I can’t sleep, my brain plays the “what if” game. What if we realized what the problem was in early January? What if we started her on medications sooner? What if there was something else I could have, should have, done? Could her last days have been made better somehow? Did I give her enough of a chance? Would she have improved any if I had decided to wait another day or two? Was she really ready to go? What if what if what if? Was I as good an owner as I should have been? Did she know how much she meant to me? I know that I shouldn’t beat myself up or dwell on things like this, but I can’t help it… because she was my companion for 18 years, and now she is gone, and there is a hole where she used to be.
John’s Grandfather, as per his wishes, was cremated and was interred next to his wife, John’s Grandmother, in a private ceremony.
Merlin was also cremated. John made the arrangements, because I wasn’t able to. He brought her home again on Friday, and we put her urn on the mantle in the living room, where she can keep an eye on things.
You were my pet for 18 years, just about half my life.
It is going to be a long time before I stop looking for you around the house, before I stop expecting to feel you jump up on the bed when I am getting ready to go to sleep, before I stop listening for your voice, before I stop wanting to pet you until you close your eyes and start to purr.
I miss you.
One of the things that John and I got for Christmas was three of the Terry Pratchett “Diskworld” books. I tore through them pretty quickly since, even at 250+ pages each they were not exactly difficult reads. And now (because I can be crazy/obsessive like that) I feel compelled to read all of the Diskworld books. In order. Since there are (according to Wikipedia) 39 of them, this could take some time.
I am already four books into the project (not counting the three that were presents…I have not yet decided if I will reread them or not when I reach their places in the series). I had not previously read the very early DIskworld books, and I find it really interesting that I can tell, in these books where he is still finding his voice as a writer, that Terry Pratchett was hugely influenced by Douglas Adams.
This is not the first time that I got onto a reading jag like this. When I got into my mid-century detective kick, I read all of the Nero Wolf books (in order) and tried my best to do the same with Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot books (mostly in order). And currently I am listening to the audiobook versions of Ian Flemming’s James Bond books while I work out. In, of course, order.
The warm spell was short-lived, and the temperature is now back in the 20s and 30s, and I am back in jeans and sweaters instead of shorts and tshirts.
All reports and rumors of global warming and climate change are obviously a liberal conspiracy. (<sarcasm>)
We now return you to your regularly scheduled winter.
Well, the 2-and-a-half-week long winter is over with, and it is now 62 degrees. It rained all yesterday and this morning, and the last of the snow from the Boxing Day storm is now gone excepts for bits of dirty white scum on the sides of the road.
I remember last March when it was in the 90s, and I wonder if that will happen again this year.
It just feels wrong to be wandering around barefoot and in shirtsleeves in the middle of January.
So… time now for the 2013 to-do list.
I can’t keep doing the thing where I correlate the number of items on my list to the number of the year anymore. It is just going to be too unwieldy. So I think that I will go with 9. 9 seems like a nice, manageable number. I would like to stack the odds in my favor a bit here since some of the list items are on the large side, and I would like to be able to make better headway on this year’s list than I did on last year’s.
- Finish the project where I photograph, identify and catalog my collection of china and glassware
- Recode AQalloys. I haven’t done a thing with Brian and Kevin’s company site since I set it up several years ago, and it could really use an overhaul. Not necessarily a design overhaul, but I really should get in and tinker around under the hood a bit. Modernize the code, make it responsive, stuff like that.
- Design and code work on this site. The perpetual project….
- Garden 5.0. We got the Burpee Seed Catalog in the mail yesterday, and I got all excited about the different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and everything else that we can plant in the spring. I think that we will put in an order and try to start the garden from seeds again. (Reserving the right to just chuck it all and go to Home Depot and Loews to get seedlings if the whole “starting everything from seeds” plan goes sideways again.)
- Get this house in order. We do a pretty good job with maintenance and upkeep, but there are a couple of repair and upgrade projects that I think that we ought to knock out. The downstairs bathroom needs some work, there are a lot of patches of drywall that need to be patched up (mostly on corners that get knocked into), paint that needs to be re-touched, and other little things of that nature. And there are some bigger projects… for instance, I think that this is the summer where we need to do something (replace? clean? repair?) about the siding.
- Artwork update. I haven’t refreshed the photos that we have hanging in the house in years. I should replace some of the older photos with more recent ones, and I also need to re-frame some of the paintings from my Grandfather. Maybe I should think about getting a digital picture frame?
- Downsize. This goes along with the perpetual project to weed out the library. Really. We have a lot of stuff. We don’t need all of it, and the closets and storage spaces are bursting. We need to get rid of some of it.
- Get organized. A subset of the downsizing item, actually. If we have less stuff, then it will be easier to organize logically, store, and then find (and use) when we need it. Do we really need two junk drawers in the kitchen alone? I think not. Lets do something about that.
- Learn how to cook Indian food, especially curries. John and I both like Indian cuisine, and yet (other then a couple of semi-successful experiments) have not tried making it ourselves. How hard can it be? Other than the really long and intimidating lists of spices that every dish requires, of course…
And with everything else, I shall simply keep on keeping on: exercising, photography, reading, fencing, relaxing, playing with the cats, spending time with John, staying in touch with family and friends, visiting family and friends, and just enjoying life.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!