RIP Mali

Tuesday evening was the third day that Mali had chosen not to eat her wet food nor any kibble.

She'd been eating voraciously since moving outside.

She was, however, taking cold cuts. Turkey and Ham.

So Tuesday night we fed her some ham. She ate some from Michael and later took one piece from me then wouldn't eat anymore. I made a vet appointment.

We had hopes that she had a messed up tooth or jaw and this was an easy fix. We also knew that she was long past when anyone thought she would live. I knew that her next crash was likely to be her final 'small, lumpy kidney' (vet's words a long time ago) no longer functioning.  I knew what that would mean.

I spent Wednesday (yesterday) trying not to dwell on Mali's condition. I've been preparing myself for a long time to have to make this decision. The odds of me having to decide on her life were pretty high given her ongoing medical conditions. I knew for sure that I could not put her through another round of medication and sub-q fluids.

That question didn't come up.

Yesterday Michael called me at work and let me know Mali looked really bad and I needed to come home and get her to the vet. I packed up early and left. I made it home in about 15 minutes, came in, grabbed her carrier, and ran out again. I listened to her sounds. She yowls a lot in the carrier; but her yowling now sounded more like desperation and pain and sadness and wanting to go....

I'm pretty sure I knew.

The doctors were aware of her long ongoing special needs. The doc did a minor physical exam and then had the techs draw blood. This is a good vet, albeit expensive, they have a lab in the office. We had her bloodwork back 20 minutes later rather than 3 days. That was a good thing; Mali was in acute and total kidney failure. Her BUN was orders of magnitude higher than the highest within range level. Her creatanin was incredibly high. Her white blood cell count was incredibly elevated with neutrophils when in the past it had been easonophils. I didn't look at her ALT or Pancreas functions - no need to. Her only kidney was gone.

There's not much medical science for this. Transplants come iwth a 95% rate of failure and a minimum $15,000 medical bill, and the adoption of a stray - and the organ donation is highly controversial since, well, guess what? Animals can't consent. Not to mention months of intensive care, dialysis, etc.

With Mali's other organs also in bad shape getting her qualified for the surgery would have been impossible anyway. And she needed a solution now - she was cold, she was suffering, and she was hurting desperately.

She constantly tried to drink water. She was snorting it. She kept pawing at it to move it and drink it.  It was instinct, not will. I wanted to believe it was play.  Play meant hope. It wasn't and there wasn't.

I asked the vet to prepare the euthanasia shots. There are two. The first one is a serious sedative that makes the cat sleep. The second one stops the heart.

I spent many minutes with Mali still alive. I had the water removed so that Mali wouldn't be drawn to it- her sticking at the water bowl was instinct, not choice. Once the water bowl was gone Mali laid in my lap - no energy at all to move (her legs were collapsing under her this whole time). She purred. I asked the vet what it meant: cats purr in pleasure and also as self-comfort when sick.

An eternity later - maybe 5 minutes - Mali was asleep in my arms. I could feel her heartbeat. I buried my face in her side and told her I loved her and kissed her and then the vet came in. I moved her to the table and cuddled her best as I could knowing these were her final moments and knowing, too, that I had to be with her for this as I had been for everything else.  

The doctor shaved Mali's forearm and found the vein. Needle went in and she pulled back and confirmed blood draw - the needle was in that tiny little vein. The vet asked if I was ready.

I never would be. I said yes.

So she pushed the final, fatal drug in. I had my hand on Mali's chest and was petting her head, doing my best to comfort her. I felt her heart rate slow down under my hand. I felt her heart stop beating. I told the doctor. A few seconds later the doctor checked with the stethoscope - no heart beat. Mali was gone.

There is no feeling I have experienced as heartbreaking as feeling her life fade away under my hands. Nor as devastating as signing the paperwork to end her life, no matter how necessary it was. I'm not God and I don't want to play one on TV or at the vet. This is the third time I've been involved in such a decision and the first time I had to make the decision on my own, with my own penmanship. The other choices were no harder or easier; this was closer and more personal. The other times I was across the country; this time I was in the room, with my hand on her chest, feeling her heartbeat fade away....

The doctor offered to give me a few minutes with her; I had had those minutes when Mali was alive. I told the doctor that body was not Mali and the doctor took her away.

Somewhere earlier in there while waiting I had already paid. I didn't have to deal with that while in tears. It's a good vet, did I mention that?

The doctor covered Mali's shell up with the towel and took her away. I'll get some of her fur and a paw print. She'll be cremated.

Last night I sat with my partners. I didn't do anything of the things I had planned. I was on a lot of Benadryl from having been in such close, face to body contact with Mali. I kept thinking I heard her. I remembered her flying from the fireplace to the kitchen counter. I wondered if she was over the rainbow bridge playing with Kayne and the rest of our menagerie.

Mali was the first animal in my direct care that I had to choose whether she lived or died. The choice, as it were, was a foregone conclusion; but I had to sign the paperwork. I had to make the decision to end her suffering.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Mali and I fought for her life for a decade. I did more to keep that cat healthy, alive, and with a good quality of life than many could or would and I'm grateful I had the resources to do so and that she and I both had the will and drive to keep trying.  She had far more than 9 lives.... they just weren't infinite.

I'm sure she would have kept trying to fight if her body had the organs to do so. The blood work was conclusive - there was no fight to have. No amount of persistence or will to live could overcome having no kidney function at all.

Last night I slept. I didn't wake up to her normal 4am yowling. I dreamt her. I don't remember the dreams. This morning she's not out there waiting for food with the dogs. She won't trot ahead of me to her feeding castle waiting for her morning lovings and food. She won't again have to dodge the dogs and she won't curl up on my chest, shoulder, or lap for lovings and huggings. I miss her terribly.

Soon I will go out and visit and feed the dogs. Elka knows something is wrong - she looked for Mali last night; but it was not the first night Mali was gone overnight. I don't know if the dogs will grieve; I suspect they will. I know I am.

Mali, my polkadots.... I love you. Thank you for being my first cat. Thank you for saving my life at Smith and for being with me through 4 moves including a cross country move. Thank you for your purring and your yowling and your loving. Thank you for chasing the dogs and keeping them warm at night. I love you and I miss you.

-Lisa, 2014-10-30, Comment

Introversion and connection

I lived alone for a Very Long Time.

I never had a problem having alone time.  I love alone time.  I'd occasionally miss having someone to socialize with or snuggle with; but it wasn't a primary issue in my life nor one i gave much thought to.  My career was on track, I had plenty of time and money to do the things I wanted to do, etc.  Those things had no need to include other people most of the time.  

I had reached my goal: a fully independent, autonomous, successful adult.

I had also gotten up to 260lbs, was sitting on a couch working with the TV on in the background.  I'd walk and play with the dogs and do training but I rarely went out and socialized.  When I got Milton I even stopped taking the dogs to the dog park where I had made a few "dog park friends."

Then one day I stepped on the scale and it says 258.6.  I wasn't willing to let it get to 260.  

A year later I was down by 60lbs.  I was doing Crossfit and getting closer to doing an unassisted kipping pull-up with my actual goal being a dead hang pull-up. Because momentum is for suckers.

Anyway.  I lost the weight, I got fitter, I was eating healthy, I was emotionally balanced, happy, and confident.  I started dating.

Many years later I now live with two of my partners and have a wonderful, loving long-distance partner who I don't see nearly enough.  

What does this mean?

I don't get much time alone at all and that is a huge struggle. Cohabitation does not come naturally to me at all.  I'm having a hard time finding ways to make room for myself and my needs, to find time to exercise, to skate, to swim, to play with the dogs (that was much easier when they were indoor dogs. :(  I miss that.) and to snuggle with Mali (same thing).  However I have constant human companionship and love even during difficult times as we grow and learn each other and how to live together.

My partners want time with me, they want to connect, they love me.  I love them and want to spend time with them and connect.  I need more hours in the day to meet all these needs!

My needs for immense amounts of alone time have not disappeared.  It has felt like a big disconnect. It's one we talked about before we first moved in together and at first I didn't need all that time alone.  It was new and special and awesome to always hang out.  To sit on the couch with the laptop reading away while my partners did their own thing was like heaven.  It was Cohabitation NRE.

It didn't last.  I imagine that over time it ended up feeling to others like a bait and switch.  That probably sucked and still sucks for them and all of the friends I withdraw from when I'm over-stimulated, depressed, and need a time out.  A long time out.

Over time, though, disconnects happened.  Someone would want to watch a show while another would want to write and another would want to game or go out, or blah-de-blah.  We didn't mesh as well.

When I started working in an office my ability to handle visual stimuli outside of the office diminished rapidly.  I'm no longer nearly so eager to look at monitors outside of the office.  I played 7 minutes of WoW and wanted to claw my eyes out.  My partners love cartoons; I am at best ambivalent if not downright bored and uninterested in most cartoons.  If I am going to watch TV I'd rather watch HGTV and The Food Network.  We don't have Cable TV.

Most importantly I haven't proactively taken downtime for myself. I have not fed my introvert. I end up spending a lot of time alone because I blow up for whatever the latest reason du jour is when at its heart I've come to believe my volatility comes from trying to share space while still needing a lot of "hermit time" and not taking of that need.  I don't want to hurt or reject my partners; at the same time, I can't connect with anyone when I don't connect with myself.

So, yesterday I sent a long email about this weekend and needing to retreat but also made sure to recognize their needs to connect.  And 'lo and behold, there was no breakdown, no meltdown, no fighting or arguing.  There was support.  There was love.  There was consensus and agreement and compromise and understanding.  I'm not the only one that needs some time to retreat right now; I may need it more frequently in longer gaps than others in my family; but apparently this weekend I'm not alone in my need to be alone.

That feels damn nice.  And so this weekend we are all taking care of our own needs.  I'll have the house entirely to myself for a few hours on Sunday as my partners go out on a lovely sounding date doing things that are of nearly no interest to me.  Oh how I adore that part of polyamory. *winks*

Friday and Saturday I'll be retreating into my room.  My plans are around quiet - maybe some ambient, quiet music - and very low visual stimuli if anything.  Perhaps total darkness if I can arrange it.  However, I will be pulling out my canvases and paints and my journals, colored pencils, and normal pencils and pens.  I'll spend time reflecting using pure thinking, writing, and art with minimal light if I can manage it.  Mostly I intend to look inside myself and reconnect with me.  Some parts in here are a stranger to me now; and I need to find those.  After all, if I'm not open to myself how can I be open to others?  Without openness, how can we connect?

Hopefully this weekend will help me push through some of my own barriers and walls in the solitude that I have come, through a lifetime, to know and love so much.

... and it feels fucking amazing to be supported in this endeavor. To know that I'll have this large gap of time that is solely mine where I can get lost in my head and not worry about missing an opportunity for connection with someone other (though I often feel "other" to myself these days).

-Lisa, 2014-10-23, Comment

The joys and sorrows of home ownership

Last week was exhausting.

I went to two conferences. Delight 2014 and FutureStack 2014. I went straight from Delight to the airport to go to California Tuesday and got back late Thursday. I worked Friday but admittedly it was not my best work.

Over the weekend and last week it became apparent that the house has some sort of hobo spider invasion. It's mostly impacting one person in our family: the engineer who does most of the work around the house. Go figure.

Between that and mold remediation needed in the attack I started searching for a house. Found a nice one for $459k on Terwilliger It's on 1/2 an acre and 6 bedrooms so quite the upgrade. It'd be a harder commute (yay I205) but it's much bigger than this house.

But the fact is - financially I'm not ready to move and emotionally I don't know where or what I want to do next. I mean, in my ideal little world I'd like 40-100 acres within a 30-45 minute drive to work. But even if that exists (dubious at best) I can't afford it.

In another ideal world I'd move to SE and be in the middle of Portland amongst the artistic, free-thinking types instead of the conservative redneck types in my neighborhood. Or Eugene. But that's a 2 hour (minimum) commute.

Between that and a lot of life transitions: trialing of new meds, what is essentially still a new job (not yet 4 months in), and some remaining concerns and fears about the future: I'm not willing to make that kind of investment.

So while I'll be actively looking for a new place to move to (something I've done nearly every week since I bought this house) the reality is: this is the house that I, at least, will live in for at least another year or two.

That means putting even more money into the house; and I'm not so happy with that either, given that I'm well over the invested amount that the neighborhood can support and am well aware of how real estate values, comps, and investments work.

Quite frankly it's making me rather unhappy: the entire situation. But I don't know what to do with that, and staying where I am gives me the most financial security of the all of the options unless I was/am lucky enough to find a house that was awesome and lower financial value than this one. This house: a house that was too big for me when I bought it, is too small for my family, and yet I feel quite trapped there.

It's a beautiful house in a decent neighborhood close enough to work and on a good size lot. It's not my top choice for style of neighborhoods (young families and retirees) and that may be part of my discontent. Where I'd like to be looking is far too far away from work for a commute and I doubt working from home 100% of the time is on the plate unless I start my own business.

... and even then, that would require something much different than what I have in mind. A separate building as an office or some such, probably. I don't know.

And that's the problem, I just don't know.

In any case, I'm at work today. I'll call some spider specialists and see what they can do - hobo spider bites are nasty;  hopefully more protective gear can help there too. The mold remediation is at least a grand. Sealing the crawlspace is a lot. Finishing the attic after the remediation so the mold doesn't return is also a huge investment but at least one that'll add actual square footage to the house. The crawlspace is dead space and my only intent is to seal it - it's a waste of time and money to finish it.

A home equity loan is about 3% and adds a payment.  Yippee.

Between that and replacing the brakes on the car and all of the festivals I chose to attend and travel and other shit... well, yay. I knew home ownership came at an ongoing price, so does car ownership. I am grateful I don't have payments on top of all of that. The question is: did I bite off more than I can chew with this money pit of a house? I won't tell you how much it took to remedy the deferred maintenance from the previous owners - and that was in the first year of ownership - now I have ongoing maintenance to do. And it's not a small house, making the maintenance $$$$. If I could turn back time, I'da stayed at a much lower budget for the first house and even upped my initial offer on the first house that I offered on. But I can't, this is what I have committed to dealing with or cutting my losses and running.

Blorgh. What a choice. At least I have some, that's something to be grateful for.

-Lisa, 2014-10-13, Comment

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