03 September, 2008
I spent it with friends doing some night shooting at the Sutro Baths. If you're unfamiliar with San Francisco history, the Sutro Baths is a fascinating place. It's interesting enough during the day but has a completely different character at night. And, as my friend Patrick pointed out, different still when you see long exposure night photographs of it. This particular shot was taken from the Cliff House. The rocks are lit by these enormous lights from the Cliff House and they are white because birds hang out there and, well, you know, do what birds do.
So. Fifteen years. I remember my first few hours in San Francisco so well. My friend and her daughter (who I also consider my friend, even if she is young enough to be my daughter) made the trip from Portland with me. We rolled into San Francisco around 11:00 p.m. and I managed to get myself lost in the Mission, trying to find my new flat.
"Pull the car over here and let's just look at the map." my friend urged.
My eyes darted around, taking in the landscape, my very tired brain processing this information so I could make a decision. I looked up at the street sign. "Julianna, I am not stopping this car on a street called SHOTwell!" Julianna sighed and I kept driving. I knew I was close. In fact, I was only a couple of blocks away, but I was turned around. After another 10 minutes or so, I found my street and my flat. I thought I had found a parking space, too, so I pulled over and we unloaded my Hyundai. We were nearly done when a woman pulled up and yelled at me for blocking her driveway. I apologized, said I was new in town and closed up my car to move it. She kept yelling at me the whole time. (For MONTHS after that, every time I walked my dogs by her car I tried to get Reggie to lift his leg on her tires but he wouldn't. Proving once again that, for a dog, he was a much better person than I.)
I did find a parking spot about a block away (I would soon learn that finding parking within a block of your home in San Francisco after 11:00 p.m. is a stroke of bloody good luck), locked up the car and took the last of my stuff to the flat.
When my friends and I went to the car to drive into downtown (yeah, I'd soon learn how foolhardy THAT was, too), my car had been broken into and I had a parking ticket. Luckily my car wasn't damaged and nothing was taken because there was nothing in it. And I learned about street cleaning days.
So in my first nine hours living in San Francisco I had been yelled at over a dubious driveway, been broken into, had my first parking ticket and my first meltdown trying to drive into downtown (not knowing my way around). By the time we got home that afternoon I was in tears wondering how I ever thought I could do this and I was *this close* to packing up the car and going right back to Portland. (I knew that most of the friends and family had figured I wouldn't last six months but I don't think any of them picked 24 hours for the pool.) My friends and my new roommate were so incredibly supportive, reassuring me it was just a rough first day and I'd be all right. But if I really wanted to go back to Portland, that would be okay, too.
I decided to stick it out a while longer. :-)
And I'm glad I did. Living in the Bay Area is not easy, especially if you don't have either 1) a high paying job, 2) several roommates or 3) a support system. There are days when trying to make a living here really kicks my ass and I wonder why I'm killing myself just trying to keep a roof over my head and gas in the car. Hardly a month goes by where I don't spend a day or two wondering if I'd be happier someplace else where the cost of living was a little more reasonable and the pace a little less hectic and the air and water a little cleaner.
But I can't quit this. Or this. And I can't think of a town with an eccentric quite as interesting as Frank Chu. I'd miss my adopted home town too much, too. And the weather here is as close to perfect as I've ever found and, most of all, I now have some really amazing friends here. Also, acquiring enough valium to make any move tolerable for me and the furkids would add several hundred dollars to the cost of the journey.
So I think I'll stick it out a while longer. :-)
(edited to fix some glaring typos 'n' stuff)
11 May, 2008
I love to have fresh flowers in the house and every Sunday, when I make my weekly grocery shopping trip to Trader Joe's, I pick up one of their mixed bouquets. Now, because Simon likes to sample, well, everything, I make sure that the flowers are kept in a place he cannot access and I keep an eye out for wilting flowers so I can slip off the petals before they fall off. Occasionally, a lily petal will fall onto the floor, but Simon has never bothered with them.
I came home from work and noticed some orange lily petals on the floor and picked them up. I didn't think too much about it. I fed Simon and Billie their supper while I got ready to go to the SFlickr meet up. When I got home and was getting ready to crawl into bed around 10:30 p.m., I noticed that Simon had horked up part of his supper. As I picked it up and threw it in the garbage, I noticed the standard hair and a couple of bits of orange somethingorother in it. As I was cleaning off the bed spread and getting it ready to put in the laundry, it dawned on me: Those orange bits must be lily petals.
After consulting the first aid manual, I phoned Bay Area Veterinary Specialists, the emergency clinic in San Leandro, and spoke to them briefly. Part of me really wanted to think that, like the previous incidents with chocolate, Simon would just get away with nothing more than a dickey tummy. After all, he was still acting like his whacko self and was still eating. But something inside me compelled me to get dressed and take him in. So, at 11:00 p.m. we walked through the door to the emergency room at BAVS. A vet tech took him in the back while I sorted out the details at the reception desk. After a while, the veterinarian on duty spoke to me and told me that they needed to give Simon activated charcoal (which is horrible-tasting and must be force-fed) to soak up the toxins and also put him on IV fluids to flush his system. Hopefully, this all would head off any kidney damage (or failure) that can be caused by ingesting lillies. She let me go into the back to say good-night to Simon. My poor baby was absolutely terrified and as soon as I leaned over him on the table, he crawled into my neck, wanting his Mom to protect him. The vet tech had his blanket spread out on the table and said Simon was being a very good kitty and seemed to be somewhat comfortable with him, given the circumstances. At this point, I was crying, my tears soaking Simon's fuzzy little head. "I'm so sorry, baby," I kept saying.
The doctor gently told me that I needed to go to the front desk to sort out the estimate so that they can begin treating Simon, so I kissed him good night. The vet tech, instead of holding Simon on the table, pulled him gently into his lap and soothed him, which made me feel a tiny bit better about leaving him.
The estimate has a low end and a high end and I had to pay the low end as a deposit before they would begin treating him. Both estimates were in the 4-digit range. I said a quick prayer of thanks that 1) the bank had upped my credit limit a couple of weeks ago and 2) that, despite the huge hole it would blow in my savings account, I could still cover the high end of the estimate. Driving home, I nearly had to pull off of the freeway two or three times because I felt so nauseated. When I got home I pulled the rest of the bedding off of the mattress and dragged my down comforter over. I lay awake until the alarm went off at 5:40 a.m. I phoned the clinic around 7:00 and they said he was doing well and that I could call back around 10:30. I asked if I could visit him and they told me to come by any time. As you can imagine, I was an utter wreck at work. I tried hard to concentrate on TASKS, anything to get my mind off of my poor, terrified kitten who was in this situation because of my stupid need to have stupid fresh flowers all the stupid time. I got some critical tasks done and managed to get my trip to Los Angeles rescheduled from Monday to Thursday and then I called the clinic before leaving for the ferry.
I spoke to one of the vet techs (Rita, I think...I wish I had gotten *all* of their names, they all are so wonderful). They were going to send Simon's blood work out for another look-see because the doctor had seen something "a little off" in it. Also, they discovered a rather significant bacterial infection in his bladder, so they put him on antibiotics for that. That last bit of news knocked me for six: Simon had shown no indication, whatsoever, that he had any kind of urinary tract infection. Rita told me to visit Simon any time. So I headed for the 12:15 boat back to Alameda. I dug out Simon's favourite catnip bear, which he had torn a hole in and it was hemorrhaging catnip, and did a hasty repair job so I could bring it with me.
I spent about an hour and a half with Simon Friday afternoon. At one point, he had crawled behind me on the bench and then suddenly reached over and yanked on his catheter, spraying a bit of blood on the wall and dripping some on me as I carried him into the treatment area to tell them what happened. When the techs tried to look at the catheter, Simon got really frightened and peed on me. I cleaned myself off while they replaced the catheter and wrapped the works in the orange smiley face bandage you see in the photo. They brought him back into the room with me for a little while longer and I settled him into his favourite polar fleece jacket where he finally slept comfortably (that's the photo at the top of the post). It was time for him to go back on his fluids, so I left. I came back later in the evening to say good-night and to bring a bag of his food to see if he would eat (he wasn't eating for the vet, which wasn't surprising considering how frightened he was). I didn't have any luck getting him to eat, but he did at least sniff at the kibble I brought, which was encouraging. The tech said he was doing really well and answered my question about the blood work (the vet had noted a low platelet count and that's why it was sent out for another look). Simon didn't really look or act like a sick cat. Scared, but not sick. However, with kidney problems, it can take a while for the symptoms to manifest, so they wanted to keep him hospitalized. Again, I kissed him good-night and headed home to watch Battlestar Galactica, a diversion I so desperately needed along with having my friend Stephanie here.
Saturday, I went straight from my chiropractor appointment to the clinic. When I phoned earlier, they said his blood work came back "unremarkable", which I took as good news, and that he was keeping hidden in his bed (the tech Friday had mentioned that he had been too frightened to come out of his bed to use the litter pan and was peeing in the bed). When they gave him to me, I noticed that his stomach and hindquarters were, uh, damp. I just wanted to cry: my poor little boo was so scared he was peeing himself! This is the same cat who is the litter box champion! He had never, ever, in his life eliminated anywhere BUT the litter box. I was just sick that he was so distressed that he wouldn't leave his bed to pee. I scooped him up in the towels they brought in and tried to clean him off a little. He took over and I just let him sit on the floor and groom for a bit. Then I pulled out the baggie with some of his kibble in it to see if I could get him to eat. He actually ate several bites before some loud children in the neighbouring exam room put him off. I spent a couple of hours with him and he got progressively more relaxed, and even started being the Cheeky Monkey, jumping up on the sink counter, even after I told him he was not allowed up there!
When the vet came in to speak to me, I leaned pretty heavily on her to let him come home. However, she said that, while his blood work was really looking good and he seemed to be doing very well, they really needed to keep him one more night and do one or two more blood tests to make sure his kidney values were stable and to keep flushing his system with fluids. I snuggled with him for a few more minutes before handing him to the tech and promising to come by to say good night.
I returned about 8:00 p.m. but had to wait a while before the visiting room was available, so I didn't see Simon until 8:30. This time the lines were attached to Simon's catheter which was kind of a shock for me to see and it drove Simon nuts to be dragging them around whenever he tried to walk anywhere. But we dealt with it and I just let him do his thing. He groomed for a while, then I put his dish of kibble down and he went at it, which made me so unbelievably happy!
He groomed for a few minutes before deciding that he really wanted me to sit on the floor with the polar fleece jacket so he could climb inside and rest. While we were down there, the vet on duty, Dr. Jones, I think, came in. While I was impressed with everyone I met at the clinic, this vet totally won me over. He not only answered all of my questions (and was very happy to see that I got Simon to eat), but, rather than towering over us while we talked, he crouched, then sat, on that cold, tile floor next to us. When he got up to leave, he said, "Stay as long as you like. He's obviously way happier where he is right now!" About an hour later, the vet tech came in and said it was time for Simon's antibiotic treatment and he should go back on his fluids. I kissed his head and told him we just needed to tough it out for a few more hours and then he'd come home.
On the way to the car, the migraine that had begun percolating hit me with full force. By the time I got home I was feeling very ill and, in desperation, took one of the Vicodin that I got when my back went out last October. I had also gotten a call from my friend who was in the area and figured I could use a hug. So he came over and sat with me and we talked about photography and cats and work while I waited (and waited) for the Vicodin to at least take the edge off of my raging headache. I fueled my friend up with tea for his drive back to the South Bay and, by the time we said good-night, my head was finally clearing up. The Vicodin also helped me to sleep for the first time in a couple of days. In fact, I was still really groggy this morning when I forced myself to roll out of bed so I could call the clinic at 8:40 a.m. to see when I could come get Simon.
"He's ready to go!" said Simone, at the clinic. I tried very hard to not SQUEE with delight, in her ear.
I hurriedly showered and dressed and stopped to get an Americano at the Starbucks inside Safeway and flew down I-880. I now know the way to BAVS like I know how to get to my own apartment! I settled the final bill and waited while they tried to find his carrier and blanket. It turns out the blanket ended up in their laundry, so they sent him home with a sheepskin and promised to call when they found his blanket (which they did, this afternoon).
As soon as Simon came home, I got him to eat some more food and then he wandered over to Billie's dish and made a half-hearted attempt to steal some of her food. But his appetite isn't what it was before his ordeal. Since he does eat (and hasn't horked any of it back up, so far), I'm not too concerned that he no longer inhales food. If his appetite drops off significantly, then I'll worry.
We spent a long Sunday afternoon with Simon napping on my lap while I watched a movie and snoozed. At one point Simon and I got a card and some toy mice from another one of our amazingly wonderful friends. I got him to eat some more supper and discovered he has a new hiding place--inside the box springs of my bed! He's slowly settling back into his home and feeling secure again. I have to give him antibiotics twice a day for a while and he's got some shaved spots on his legs where the catheter was and where they took blood and I'm trying to get him to not worry them so much that I have to bandage them up again. I pray that the only lingering effect of this ordeal is the one on my bank account and that Simon gets back to his regular crazy mouse self fairly soon. I'm still bewildered about the UTI and how I had no clue about it (I always know when Billie gets one because she is a major Drama Queen about it). And as awful as it was that he ate highly toxic flowers, I wonder if, somehow, that action might have saved his life?
It's a lot to think about: Instead I think I'll go snuggle up with Simon and just be so, so grateful that he and Billie are safe at home with me, this Mother's Day.
04 May, 2008
Simon turns seven years old tomorrow and as usual, he's been spoiled silly, though all of the presents he's gotten are ones that Billie can (and does) enjoy as well. He got a new cardboard scratch box (with catnip!) and an "entertainment center" (though most of you out there would refer to it as an aquarium).
I went back and forth on what fish I'd include in the aquarium, but I decided a while ago I'd use live plants instead of plastic ones this time (bought a couple of plants at Petco and my chiropractor gave me a bunch out of the aquarium in her office). As for the fish, I was thinking of having cichlids, but decided to go with guppies and in a week or so I'll add an algae-eating fish. I've never had guppies so I'll have to see if I can keep the population in check. So far, everyone is happy and the guppies have settled into their new environment.
Billie is content to watch the fish swim through the plants, occasionally patting at the glass. Simon, however, wants to take a more "paws-on" approach:
Simon is actually more interested in sampling the fish FOOD, rather than the fish themselves. As glad as I am that he doesn't want to eat his pet fish, it does add several degrees of difficulty to feeding time.
The last thing we did to celebrate Simon's birthday was to donate a bunch of cat food to the Alameda Animal Shelter. When I was in there last week to pay for Billie's license, they told me about all of the adult cats that have been dropped off in the night drop box lately. The officer nearly had me sobbing before I left and there was no way I could go back to see the cats because I already wish I could adopt every last homeless animal there is. What I could do, however, is buy an extra bag and some cans of food. So Simon and Billie and I want to ask our friends to donate a few dollars or an extra bag or can or two of food to your local shelter or rescue organization. If you're a few bob short, you can give your time and volunteer to socialize the animals and take the dogs for walks.
Finally, if you have room in your heart (and in your home), consider adopting an adult cat (or dog). There are a lot of wonderful critters out there waiting for a loving family of their own.
20 April, 2008
I have so many fond memories of my days hanging around PGE Park in downtown Portland (back when it was known as Civic Stadium). My wardrobe was mostly Timber Green and Gold throughout my late teens and I had the honour of interviewing Jimmy Kelly for my school newspaper (a player so popular that he received six write-in votes for the Mayor of Portland). "Timber Jim" Serrill is indelibly etched in my memories of cheering on the boys from the front row of Section 6. Always gracious, generous and humble, Jim is among the Timbers' most passionate supporters (through every iteration of the franchise) and is, in my opinion, the Mayor of Soccer City, U.S.A.
Enjoy your retirement, Timber Jim! You've earned that Lifetime Season Ticket!
|Timber Jim puts down chainsaw|
24 January, 2008
On Monday, I finished off the last two tickets from my 2-week book of ferry tickets, which meant that I had to queue up to buy more tickets Tuesday morning. I saw the line and groaned, silently chastising myself for not taking advantage of the holiday on Monday when the ferry wasn't crowded.
So I finally get up to the register and ask for my usual book of 20 tickets. The deck hand swipes the card. Waits. Nothing. He asks for the card again and gives it another go. Nada. Tries again. We were just at the edge of the Estuary by then so it seemed obvious that we were out of phone signal range but we press on and he swipes it again. Noooooot quite. Finally, fifth try's a charm and out comes the receipt. I sign one copy and stuff the other one in my wallet, take my book of tickets and head back to the upper deck where one of my fellow commuters was watching the rest of my stuff. We were approaching the Bay Bridge, so there wasn't any point in getting comfortable.
Fast forward to around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. I had deposited my medical reimbursement and was going to make a payment on my credit card and nearly swallowed my eyebrows when I looked at my checking account activity and saw FIVE pending charges from Blue and Gold Fleet. For $85 each. I phoned the "customer service" number and, unsurprisingly, spoke to someone who was clearly stationed overseas. I explained what had happened and that only ONE of the charges should count and I could give her the receipt number and all of the other codes on it but please make the others go away, or at least put them on ice until I can sort it out with Blue and Gold. Her solution? Since we couldn't have a conference call with Blue and Gold (being it was 11:00 p.m. at that point), we could just let all five charges go through and file a dispute. In the meantime, $340 of my money is unavailable to me. You can bet if I had deposited a check for $340, they'd put a hold on THAT until the spirit moved them to release the funds to me, but they won't put a hold on $340 of charges that I'm already disputing.
wanting to say "Oh hai, I have something for you! Here's a big steaming pile of I DON'T FUCKING THINK SO, just for You!"
actually saying "I'm hanging up now."
Wednesday morning, as I waited for the Encinal, I phoned the office at Blue and Gold. I got a really nice gentleman called Aidan on the line and he took down all of the particulars and assured me he'd get the right person to look into it for me. Later in the morning Dolores called and said that their merchant bank only found the one charge to my card. She had me fax over a copy of my transaction history showing all of the pending charges and the receipt. She phoned me later in the afternoon and assured me that there really was only the one charge to my card (note to self: NEVER use the debit card for this stuff! Srsly!) and that the merchant bank said the other four pending charges should be gone by that evening, or the next morning at the latest. I thanked Dolores profusely for all of her help and patience.
I checked my account when I got home from work. The one legitimate charge had gone through but the four pending ones were still there. I sighed and went to bed. At lunchtime today I checked again. They were still there. I called the CS number and navigated my way until I could get to an operator. Except, a couple of steps before I could get to a live person, I was held hostage while they played a frackin' ADVERTISEMENT for their wonderous CD savings products, forcing me to either press 1 to learn more or 2 to continue with my business. I was about 16 different kinds of NOT HAPPY by the time I was allowed to speak to an actual person. I explained that I had talked to the very wonderful people at Blue and Gold and that the one charge that went with my receipt had been processed and that the other ones were not legitimate and their merchant bank said they should have disappeared from my account by now. This person demanded authorization codes for the four bad transactions. And if I wasn't able to get them for her right away? The remaining four charges would post to my account. So, not only are they currently holding $340 of MY money in limbo, they'll just hand it over to Blue and Gold, even though they don't have any authorization codes for THOSE transactions (and they never will because, according to the merchant bank they don't bloody exist!).
I phoned Dolores again and may the blessings of Ceiling Cat be upon her because she said she and her supervisor would look into it for me. A short time later, Arlene from Blue and Gold phoned and said she had talked to a very helpful person named Stacy at my banking institution and that if I go look at my account now all of the charges would be gone. And LO! They were! Arlene apologized profusely for all of the trouble but I kept telling her I was just so grateful that they were so helpful and patient helping me get this resolved. They certainly were more helpful than anyone I got in touch with at my bank. Arlene said they were implementing a new procedure for processing cards, based on this experience.
I was damn lucky. I had received a holiday bonus and I hadn't burned through it so, if I had to, I could have covered any outstanding payments (and don't think it hadn't crossed my mind that the bank stood to gain a lot in overdraft fees if I hadn't been able to cover the payments). A year or two ago, I wouldn't have been so fortunate.
So, once again, Blue and Gold staff rock! Everyone from the office staff to the captains to the deck hands are so friendly and customer-focused that I can't imagine commuting any other way.
12 October, 2007
They are Teh Awesome!
That is all.
07 October, 2007
(Hey friends, this is a long post and I don't know why I'm compelled to post the whole story but I am. Read it if you want, but if you don't want the whole saga, then I invite you to skip down to today's Simon Sunday post. K'thxbye!)
I really thought I'd have nothing new to post about my back problems after last weekend. I went for another acupuncture treatment last Tuesday and felt better than I had in several weeks.
I wake up Wednesday morning. The back/hip/leg is stiff and a little sore, but that's been The New Normal so I didn't worry too much about it, even if it was disappointing because I had felt so much better before I went to bed. I went through the morning ablutions, gave the cats some breakfast and went into the bedroom to finish my Chinese herb tea and get dressed while Billie ate her breakfast on my bed. I bent down to put my underwear on when something went horribly, horribly wrong. I don't know if a disc slipped or what exactly happened: All I know is that I was suddenly in the most horrific pain I have ever experienced in my life and I couldn't walk. I was trying so hard not to panic but it was a full-speed freight train coming right at me. I tried to stretch gently and nearly collapsed: I tried to walk it off but I could hardly move. I flopped myself onto the bed thinking that maybe if I just rested it for a few minutes it would be okay and I could get dressed and take the later boat in to work (how fucking sick is that?).
If I moved, even a hair's width, my right side shrieked in agony. I don't know how I did it, but I got up and, with the aid of my Swiffer broom stick (that I had been using as a cane), grabbed an old dress out of the closet and threw it over me, got to the back door and unlocked it so my friend S could get in, put the rest of Simon's breakfast in his dish and got my mobile phone before collapsing on the bed and, very gingerly and painfully, slithering under the covers. I left messages with the acupuncturist (her office was closed Wednesday but I didn't realize that at first) and the receptionist at my office (she said she never got my message, though I distinctly remember hearing her voice mail greeting and leaving a very gasping, panic-stricken message). I shivered under the covers for another hour or two before calling S (got her voice mail) and G (who, thank my stars, picked up). G came over (she has a spare key) and helped me with the cats and brought me water, made sure I was alright and told me to call if I needed a ride to the doctor or anything.
My nerves and muscles in right leg were so ground up that any trip to the bathroom or to the kitchen to get the ice pack left me shaking violently by the time I got back to my bed and it would take me several minutes of flopping (there was no strength in the leg to hold me up to even sit on the bed) slithering, moaning and screaming before I was under the covers again. Simon stayed next to me in bed: Billie stayed in the living room, but I could hear her pitter-pattering feet in the hallway and occasionally she'd meow softly until I answered her. I made an appointment at Kaiser for Thursday afternoon. I spoke to the acupuncturist: She thought she might try to come to my apartment to give me a treatment but she couldn't (not that I could have got to the door to let her in, anyway). She thought I should get a chiropractic adjustment. On one of my herculean efforts to get to the bathroom and back, I detoured to my desk for the blue post-it note pad with the name and phone number of S's chiropractor. I checked in at the office (that's when I was told that the receptionist didn't get my voice mail) and said I was done for the next couple of days, probably the rest of the week but that I'd keep checking in. At that point I was exhausted and my mobile phone battery was running low. I phoned G's a while later and spoke to C who said he or G would stop by in the evening. I managed to find a "least uncomfortable" position and slept fitfully for a couple of hours.
C came over and brought me my ice pack, mobile phone charger and hooked up my old iBook and the Airport Base station so I could at least check in online and then served the cats' food. I think he was on his way to something else and I felt bad that I kept him for so long. I got hold of S a couple of hours later and she said she would be over in the morning (she lives across the back yard from me) to help with the cats and would take me to Kaiser. I hardly slept at all and was exhausted when I had to get up to use the bathroom in the morning. I had it in my head that I HAD to feed the furkids myself so I tried to, though it ended up with me in tears, shaking violently and barely making it back to bed. S came over about an hour later and got the cats fresh water, scooped the litter box (I hated, but hated asking G and S to do that chore for me!) and brought me more water and the bottle of Rescue Remedy she found by the kitchen sink. She said she'd be back in a few hours to take me to my Dr. appointment at Kaiser. I rested as long as I could and I made an appointment with her chiropractor for Friday morning.
I got up again to try to get myself together for the appointment, my wallet, check book, glasses, mobile phone, etc. I collapsed on the bed again for another hour or so before I heard S's footsteps in the back garden. SHIT! I realized I still didn't have underwear on! S came in and I told her my dilemma. She said she needed to pull the car around and she'd get me in a few minutes. So I took out a pair that looked the least challenging to get on and fumbled around--in a great deal of pain--getting them on after about the fifth try. When I stood up, I realized I had put them on wrong. At that point I really didn't give a shit anymore. I pulled my messy matted hair back, put my glasses on and hobbled out front to wait for S. She parked along the street and I very slowly slid into her car but could not reach over to close the door. S needed to run back up to her place for her ID which gave me time by myself to try to settle into the seat. I so did not want to moan and groan the whole trip so I gripped the handle over the door and did deep breathing exercises while I waited for her to return. Once we were underway, she turned on the seat warmer. I don't know why or how, but somehow between the great lumbar support in Subarus and the seat warmer, my back and hip eased and I was actually able to walk (well, limp) through the parking lot and across the street to the medical building.
I had avoided going to Kaiser for the back problems because all I expected was I'd get a cursory look-over, answer a couple of questions and be sent home with a bottle of pills. I underestimated them. After the doctor showed up 15 minutes late (by which time I was in great pain again) I got a cursory look-over, answered a couple of questions, got sent to the lab for a blood test and urine test (she thought, because I had a slight fever, I might have a bladder infection--in fact the blood test she ordered looks like one that is ordered to look at kidney function too--Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot???) and sent me home with THREE bottles of pills (Vicodin, which did nothing, Flexeril, which actually did help but really made me drowsy, and prescription ibuprofen). Whoop-dee-flippin'-doo!
S brought me home and I took a couple of Vicodin which, as I said, did nothing at all. I checked in at the office but had to cut my call short because I was getting very uncomfortable again. I took a Flexeril and went back to bed. The muscle relaxer actually eased the discomfort and I managed to sleep for a couple of hours before getting up to feed the cats. Yes, I was able to actually get up and feed my cats! By myself! (Simon was probably the most relieved by this as he was freaked out by all of the people he didn't know coming into his house and making him hide under the bed.) I lay on the bed while Billie ate and checked in on my regular Web sites for a while. I decided what I really needed was sleep and took another Flexeril before going to bed (at 7:00 pm!). I woke up around 3:00 a.m. feeling sore again, so I got up and took one last Flexeril so I could get some rest. The pill worked, but Simon decided to be Freaky Boy and get into everything knowing there wasn't much I could do to stop him. I reached over and got the blue post-it note pad and the pen I had put on my bed stand and made a shopping list for when S took me to the chiropractor: a heating pad and can of compressed air (the sound stops Simon in his tracks).
I was feeling sore and icky when I got up but I was absolutely determined to not take any more medication before I saw the chiropractor. S came to collect me (I not only had underwear on, but it was on the right way this time! Thank You, Flexeril!) and we were off. The ass-warming seats worked their magic again on the way to the chiropractor, though I had a bit of difficulty hobbling in. The chiropractor visit was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the Kaiser visit. Oh My Stars! She explained a little bit about the way the spine and nervous system work together, then, explaining the function of every set of nerves along the spine, took a detailed health history. Then we went back for x-rays (which Kaiser did NOT do). She analyzed the images and gave me a treatment. Her specialty is the NUCCA technique, which isn't the snappy/cracky/poppy adjustment we tend to associate with chiropractors. NUCCA concentrates on the top vertebrae where the base of the skull meets the spinal column. Essentially, it's getting my head on straight! As I lay there while she applied pressure below/behind my ear, I was a bit skeptical. But I did feel a little better afterward, I had to admit. She took a second set of x-rays to see if the adjustment realigned the Atlas area but we didn't have time to look at them before her next appointment. I certainly wasn't up dancing a polka, but I was feeling a bit better. I made an appointment for Saturday and bought S lunch to thank her for helping me.
I was feeling a little achy in the evening, so I took one of the prescription ibuprofen before I went to bed. Unlike the Vicodin, these actually seemed to smooth the edge off of the pain (with a little help from the heating pad). I was a little bummed about that because I really wanted to detox all of the drugs out of my system, but I also needed to rest. As I lay in bed trying to relax myself to go to sleep, I realized that I had stopped using the old Swiffer broom stick to prop me up. Simon curled up next to me and sighed.
Saturday morning I felt better than I have in a month! I was still stiff and kind of sore, especially in the hip and along the back of my leg, but I felt like I might be able to do a bit more than just function. I got over to Rockridge way early for my appointment with the chiropractor (aw heck, let's just call her Dr. Doyle), so I took a walk around the block. My hip and leg were getting more sore so I stopped in at the store/coffee house next door and got an iced jasmine tea. The guy at the counter referred to Dr. Doyle as the "neighbourhood miracle worker" and said that a few times a year she'll charge patients half-price for treatments and then donate all her proceeds for the day to a charity like breast cancer research, which made me like her even more. I had time so I took another walk around the block, simply because I could (painful thought it was). I went in for my appointment and noticed she was a few minutes behind schedule which is no problem because her regular appointments are short. As she finished with the guy before me, the guy scheduled after me shuffled in. He looked like he was really uncomfortable so I offered to let him switch with me, which he thanked me for but declined. Dr. Doyle and I talked about the second set of x-rays, which showed that I was slightly back in alignment and then she measured my hip and leg alignment and noted that they were off again. She did the adjustment and as we were settling the bill, I saw her fliers for an event later in the month where new patients pay 1/2 price if they bring in groceries to help feed the poor. So, if you're in the East Bay and are looking for a chiropractor without the violent snap and crackle of other chiropractors, let me know and I'll send you the flyer.
Anyway, I felt even better after the treatment, good enough to toodle through Trader Joe's for a few things. I needed to take an ibuprofen this morning and the hip and leg still get tired pretty quickly, but I am amazed that I'm able to sit nearly pain-free and stand up without a painful "hitch" and can do things more easily like clean litter boxes and vacuum the floor. I don't feel so good about having spent over $800 on getting my back fixed, but am thankful that most of that will be reimbursed. I'm thankful to my Internet Friends who, even if they couldn't come over to help (being across the country or in Europe and all that), sent me loads of good wishes and healing vibes. I am also thankful beyond description for friends like S, G & C, who have now seen me at my most crippled and helpless; a state I never, EVER wanted anyone to ever have to see me in. They are my heroes. I do wonder, sometimes, if I'll ever be able to stand up and not have to think about standing up. Or leaning down. Or walking.
And now I really, really, truly hope that this is the LAST post about my damn back!
23 September, 2007
I'm now going into my third week of back (and leg) pain issues. Last week I was virtually crippled with it: I missed work for three days and was effectively house-bound from Friday evening until I went to the acupuncturist on Tuesday. This level of pain--and its duration--is all new to me and has, at times, been terrifying for the cats. They're used to my Donald Duck temper tantrums, but did not know what to do when I'd shriek in agony just trying to sit on the toilet or get into or out of bed.
Last weekend it got to the point where they had to make adjustments to their own habits. I pretty much couldn't bend down to put their food dishes on the floor in their usual spots, so they started eating on higher surfaces: kitchen table for Simon, on top of my bed for Billie. They both had a bit of difficulty adjusting to this (especially since I always shoo Simon OFF of the table when it was time to feed them). Billie still pulls Diva spells where she really doesn't want to be bothered with jumping on the bed to eat, but eventually she will, if sometimes grudgingly.
The other adjustment they've made is not having their litter boxes scooped out quite as often as they're used to. On a good day, I can scoop once in the morning and once in the evening: most days they just get scooped once. The adjustment was made easier thanks to Gwen and Chad, who brought over a fresh bag of litter. I had managed to dump and clean one of the boxes and Chad volunteered to dump the second box, bless him, and he filled both boxes with new litter.
(I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for some amazing friends--near and far--who have volunteered to do shopping and other chores for me and insisting that I quit trying to be macho about getting things done around here. You all know who you are and you all completely, truly and utterly ROCK! Thank you!)
Besides making lifestyle adjustments, Billie and Simon have been first-rate caregivers, at least as much as wee beasties can be. The way they behave is a good barometer for how well I'm doing. I knew last Sunday night that I was in big trouble when Simon AND Billie slept in bed with me and never fought or even growled at each other (conversely, since I've become slightly more mobile and shriek less often, their "cease fire" has lifted and they're fighting more often). Simon has been doing everything he can to keep me comfortable when I'm in bed. He'll curl up on my "lap" when I'm laying on my back and he's been giving me neck and shoulder rubs until his little paws were worn out. He also brings me his toys when he thinks I need cheering up (though I can't get down to pick them up). Billie gives me lots of head and leg rubs of encouragement and greets me cheerily after I get out of bed (which takes me forever and requires a lot of cussing) in the morning.
Thankfully, acupuncture seems to be helping, though it's tiny bit by tiny bit. It's been incredibly frustrating having my life stop and nearly being unable to take care of myself--and the furkids--at all. I've been lucky to have help available (even if I am too humiliated to ask anyone to wash my knickers for me) and to have had the best Feline Care in the world. If only I could teach Billie and Simon to shave my legs for me...
A co-worker and I talked about prioritizing caring for myself last week and he asked me, "gee you think your body's trying to tell you something?"
"Yep." I replied. "Message received!" I'm going to make some big changes to my life: I don't want my family to ever have to endure a month like this one, ever again.
05 September, 2007
(oooh, that heading sounds so dire!)
Once again, I was the last person in the office this evening (and, with more frequency, I'm the first person in the office in the mornings). I dragged myself into Starbucks on the way to the ferry because I really wanted an iced (decaf) Americano. Say what you want about snooty baristas and impatient cashiers, but I have always had great service from the Starbucks at...oh crap, I can't remember the street number but it's the 300 block of Market St. between Beale and Fremont (325?). Anyway, it was just after 7pm and the barista started making my drink and said it was the last drink of the day. I sort of felt bad that I might be keeping them, but I also saw other patrons sitting at a table, so I wasn't sure what time they closed. I made a comment about my fortunate timing and, smiling, the barista said, "hey, you deserve it!" When he handed me my drink, I tried to give him money for the coffee but he wouldn't take it. "We already closed the registers, so don't worry about it. That's what I meant when I said you deserve it!" I put the money in the tip jar instead and thanked him.
That, along with the pretty salmon-pink sunset, was a very nice reward after a long, looooooong day!
22 July, 2007
Six years ago today, a wonderful volunteer from ICRA named Merry pulled this guy out of the cage at Petco and put him in my hands so we could meet. He immediately climbed up my arm and, purring, nestled into my neck.I fell hopelessly in love with him and remained blissfully clueless as to how that little Tribble With Enormous Ears was about to rock my world. Not every day has been easy, but I never have regretted that detour I took into Petco. I'd like to think I've given him a good life thus far, but it's nothing compared to the laughter and love he's given me for the last six years!
05 July, 2007
This, right here is why. It's a People's Parade. There are no fancy floats. In fact, anything that could be remotely considered a "float" is actually a trailer or back of a truck decorated for the parade. There's room for everyone--from the Small Dogs Park to the National Rifle Association-- in the parade. Being an old military town, we have a lot of Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard representation and they are cheered just as passionately as the Peace group and the Alameda Democratic Party float.
Despite my disappointment that our country has lost its way, the parade was a welcome chance to celebrate the things that do make America the place that so many people want to come to. The day was a wonderful celebration of family, friends and community and of all of the things we have in common.
19 June, 2007
No, there's really no news to report from Simon's Head. I just
wanted needed to take a moment to say how amazingly fucking LUCKY I am: My beautiful furkids are healthy, happy and safe.
Our thoughts today are with our friends: G, whose kitty has been missing for a week now, and K whose kitty had surgery today.
13 June, 2007
I have to say, the part of me that is concerned for the environment is horrified by the sight of the balloon floating in the Bay. But, in my artistic opinion, it makes for a damn fine image! Which I was able to get because I was on one of Blue & Gold Fleet's old, slooooowwww, buckets. Word to my fellow Alameda/Oakland commuters: If you miss the 5:20 boat and you see a boat called Old Blue docking for the 5:45/5:50 run, do yourself a favour and go back into the Ferry Building and get yourself a snack and then catch the 6:30 boat. Because, seriously, you would only lose about 10 or 15 minutes by waiting. Oy vey!
Anyway, beautiful day (80 degrees back in Alameda!), nice, if slow, ferry ride and, as always, loads of photo ops!
I LOVE my commute! (In case you hadn't noticed...)
I pulled into the Main Street Ferry Terminal in Alameda this morning and was just about to back into my selected parking space when I looked over and saw a Mama Duck and her two babies in the parking spot next to the one I was about to back into. She hesitated and, when she was certain I was going to wait, led her charges across the parking lot and into the channel for breakfast. One of the kids plopped right into the water and started toodling around, but the one in this photo took more convincing. At last Mama Duck coaxed this one into the water and they swam around picking breakfast out of the mollusks on the pier pilings.
Seeing this sweet little family brought me so much joy this morning, made even better by the gorgeous weather (no jacket needed--not even out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay!).
08 June, 2007
I love my commute!
it's a bird! it's a plane! it's a...
Originally uploaded by Planet Vicster.
cross-posted on VisualCues (with a larger-sized photo).
07 May, 2007
Today was perfect. 80+ degrees (it was in the high 70's at 8:00 a.m. this morning!), sipping an icy drink on the back of the ferry with the bay breeze cooling me off. And YAY the pelicans are back!
Best. Commute. In. The. WORLD.
06 May, 2007
Simon turned six twice this week! The ICRA folks listed his birthdate as approximately 5/1, while the vet's office has his birthday at 5/5. Which is appropriate because Simon is a bit May Day and a bit Cinco de Mayo. And, hell, he won't complain about having TWO birthdays because that means twice as much attention and twice as many treats. Except his Mom abandoned him on Tuesday to go to the Morrissey concert (Simon's more a T-Rex kinda guy). So there was some making up to do for his birthday yesterday. Goat cheese was involved as was a lot of extra play time and snuggles.
Simon has gathered quite a fan club on flickr and got some truly wonderful birthday greetings for which he and I are grateful. To everyone who left a greeting, thank you, thank you, thank you!
(As long as I'm giving thanks...)Thankfully, we've managed to get through the week without Simon getting into any more baked goods. However (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), he still takes particular delight in stealing kibble out of Billie's dish (while she's trying to eat!). He's started this new "thing" where he'll finish eating his food and walk into the living room where I am. He'll have this perfectly sweet, innocent, Disney-cute expression on his face, you know, how cats do that thing where they make their eyes big and round and make their face so soft and fluffy? THAT expression. Then with a sharp "Mow!" he takes off in a full sprint to the bedroom where Billie is eating and manages to grab a mouthful of kibble before I can catch him. Sometimes I think he does this as much for the game as he does for the food: It's simultaneously frustrating and hilarious.
And that, in a nutshell, is life with Simon. There are moments where he is such a tyrant and a thug, but then, in the next moment, he is the most purely sweet and charming creature to ever roam the earth. And funny. My stars, I've never been around a creature with such a great sense of comedic timing! Little did I realize six years ago how fortunate I was about to become as my little fuzzy soulmate was making his way into the world (most likely mewling for his breakfast). Every day I give my thanks to the deity who watches over him (given the amount of chocolate, caffeinated drinks, plants and baked goods he's gotten into over the years, I KNOW he has a guardian angel out there, somewhere).
Happy Birthday, Poo-Poo Kitty!
20 April, 2007
Anyone who's known me for more than 15 minutes knows I'm a HUGE fan of The Who and am never far away from either one of their CDs or my iPod. That said, this is my all-time favourite version of "My Generation" (especially the ending! OMG the brilliant ending!):
This is the finale to Tim Samuels' upcoming BBC Documentary about the elderly in Britain who have been discarded by society. It's a subject very near to my heart* and I hope to be able to watch this documentary when it becomes available in the US (though I'm pretty certain I'll be alternately bawling and throwing things at the screen in frustration at how we devalue the elderly in Western society). This group, "The Zimmers" (a riff on the British colloquialism for walkers, as I recall--and as Shakes just confirmed for me), is a group that Samuels put together of senior citizens, featured in his documentary, who have been shunted off to old-age homes or have suffered from being house-bound and isolated. The lead singer is a delightful 90-year-old named Alf Carretta (a rock 'n' roll name if ever I've heard one!) who takes on Pete Townsend's lyrics with such great style. And there's the windmilling! And the guitar-smashing! And the overturned drum kit! This is beyond wonderful!
Oh, and they have their own MySpace page, too.
The single is due out May 21. The documentary will air in May on BBC Two (for those of you in the UK).
(hat tip to fellow Who fan Space Cowboy over at Shakesville.)
(* Those who have known me a lot longer than 15 minutes know that one of my "Lotto Dreams" is to buy a HUGE farm with a huge house that I'd fill with as many elderly people and older, hard-to-adopt children as I could and we'd all care for rescued horses, dogs, cats, etc.)
25 March, 2007
This morning, just after I poured myself a cup of English Breakfast Tea and sat at my desk, Simon let me know that it was time to play with him. OK, no problemo, I hadn't spent much quality time with him during the week, so we sat down to a rousing game of Stalk The Pipe Cleaner.
Soon, Billie woke up from her post-breakfast nap and was intrigued by our game. She's not too much on "interactive play" but she gives it a go every so often. So she jumped down from her bed and ran over and patted the pipe cleaner with her paw (this is how she "captures her prey", evidently). She'd tap the pipe cleaner then run away before it could...oh hell, I have no idea what retribution she was expecting from a length of fuzz-covered wire.
While this was going on, Simon left us to play, which was kind of nice of him to let Billie have mom-and-me time with me (usually he insists on including himself which drives Billie away). As usual, Billie quickly bored of the activity and wanted to be left alone.
Simon walked past me, turned to look at the pipe cleaner in my hand and headed over to his pot of cat grass. When I looked at him, something didn't seem quite right. On closer inspection, he had a wet spot on his chin. A wet spot that, curiously, was THE SAME COLOUR AS MY TEA. No wonder he was being so kind to Billie: While she had me distracted, he helped himself to my cup of tea! My tea!
Now, I probably should have been concerned that the caffeine and whatnot might be bad for him, but he's gotten into so many bags, bowls, cups and dishes of my food and suffered little to no consequences that I long ago put away the phone number to the emergency vet clinic. And yet, this week pet caregivers have been given a sobering dose of reality that the stuff our furkids are "supposed" to eat can be deadly.
I wonder what kind of testing these pet food manufacturers do on the stuff that goes into the food they make. If they do perform quality and safety tests on food, would it have even picked up on the rat poison in the imported wheat? Incidents like this and the horrible spinach/e-coli contamination are a frightening reminder that our food supply is terribly insecure. It gives me pause every time I pour kibble into Simon and Billie's dishes, wondering if the corn used in their kibble has been contaminated with a deadly mold, or, when I prepare my own supper, I wonder if I've washed the greens in my salad sufficiently. The truth is, we've become so disconnected from our food supply that we have no idea what all is in our food and whether or not the meal we're sitting down to is going to make us sick. Or worse.
It's something to think about while shopping and preparing a meal, but not something to dwell too long on. But I give my thanks every day that I have Billie around so that maybe one day she'll be comfortable playing interactively with me (and, dare I hope, Simon). And I'm grateful for every mischievous deed Simon does; even if it means I have to make a new cup of tea.
21 March, 2007
The answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. Also the number of candles on my virtual birthday cake.
Unlike last year, this was a very good birthday (even though I went to work today). I had a couple of hiccups early on: a dream where my alarm went off and I switched off the alarm but did not turn on the radio (as I do every morning to listen to the news). I sort of started waking up and suddenly wasn't sure if it really was a dream or if my alarm really did go off, so I jolted awake and looked at my clock. 3:16 a.m. Feh! I went back to sleep.
Then Specialty's didn't have any chocolate breakfast cake when I stopped on my way to the office. It was 9:00 in the bloody morning, were they waiting to sell breakfast cake for LUNCH? Gah! I haven't had that for more than a year and the one day I really wanted one...
But work was all right. My boss wished me a happy birthday when she got in and then at lunch she brought me the most gorgeous bouquet of tulips, orchids and gerbera daisies. And I got a lot of birthday greetings from my wonderful friends.
Then I met up with two of my most favourite people, Gwen and Pete and we went to visit the wild parrots over in Ferry Park (they're part of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill flock). I had cut up an apple to feed them and we had a good time feeding parrots (except for the BITING part, ow) and taking photos. We hustled for the 5:45 ferry back to Alameda and took Pete to the BART station. Gwen bought me a steak and cheese pub pie and a Black Kiwi (Guinness + Steinlager = YUM) and we had a really nice visit, something we hadn't done in way too long because things and stuff get in the way.
When I got home, my package from Olivia (BFF) was on my doorstep, an absolutely beautiful book called The Philosopher Cat and my kitties were extremely glad to see me, though I suspect that was more to do with them being hungry.
So, all told, 42 is off to a 100% better start than 41 and I really want to believe it's a sign of things to come.
28 January, 2007
It's been a very rough week on my friends and their furkids. One friend had one of her cats mauled by her dogs and G&T's beautiful Miss Kitty had to be euthanized after she developed breast cancer and got suddenly very ill. Another friend is facing the end of the life expectancy for her 2 hamsters and I learned that an online acquaintence had recently had to euthanize his cat after a bout of stomach cancer.
Simon and Billie are having difficulty understanding why mom is hugging them a lot more all of a sudden. I'm just so damn grateful to have these two furkids in my life that I won't even let myself imagine my life without them. That would be just too awful.
Tonight we honour those furry cherished ones who have left our world. Whatever it is that's on the "other side", it will be so much more beautiful for having them. We honour the humans they've left behind and hope that their hearts heal quickly. And we send love and good healing happy thoughts to anyone who is unwell today, whether they're furry, finned, feathered or human.
Love and peace from Simon, Billie and Vicster.