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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oliver's Passing

I had to put Oliver down this morning.  He got sick very suddenly and I took him to the vet yesterday.  He had sudden abdominal pain.  Didn’t eat or drink for 24 hours.  They could have kept him for a few days (but that would have stressed him out) to do diagnostics, but she was quoting thousands of dollars just to find out what was wrong, let alone treat.  If he were younger, I may have considered it.  But he was 19.  He didn't come out from under the bad for 24 hours and was whimpering even with pain medication.       I lost two friends since April.  Ted and Oliver.  He had been curling up next to my ear for the last several days, purring in my ear.  He was trying to tell me something...he had lost weight and was dehydrated.  I feel awful for not seeing it sooner.
 I’m re-posting this is his honor.

Oliver's Outing

I named Oliver, my cat, for Joe Oliver, who played short-stop for the Seattle Mariners one season.  I was told later to never name your pets after players due to the fickle factor. Better to name them for a ballpark.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but Safeco seemed undignified for him and every other animal on the planet, domesticated or otherwise.  I’m not even sure if Safeco is a good name for a ballpark.  At any rate, since Oliver was also a famous orphan, I figured the name suited him.  I rescued him from an animal shelter after he had been caught roaming Bell Town, a distinctly unwise part of town to roam for cat and human alike.

We fell in love instantly.  He, with his sleek gray/black tiger-like markings, loving disposition, emerald green eyes, and me, with my bowl of food.  Don’t let him fool you. In spite of his tough-guy look, he is no longer one to trip the light fantastic.  And since we now are best buddies, I would naturally know if something were wrong.  You know, little things only a mom would notice, like pee on the bathroom floor. It happens very infrequently, but since male cats can die soon after becoming ill with a urinary tract infection, I brought him in for a checkup just to be sure, and $80 later found out that he was fine. They put him back in his carrier, which was just one of those cheap cardboard jobs.  However, if put together correctly, they work just fine.  At least, it had always worked for me.

Well, it wasn’t put together correctly, which I didn’t notice until the unthinkable happen.  I walked outside, opened my car door, and bam!  He broke out of the side of the box and made a mad dash under my car.   Heart racing, I ran into the clinic yelling for help.  More concerned about me than the cat, three people immediately responded and at that point, Oliver was still within catching distance.  But not for long.

Realizing he was being chased, he darted around the corner and down (luckily) the quieter of two streets.  The main street would have killed him instantly.  He continued to foil all of us, and eventually ran into a someone’s wooded backyard which was full of all sorts of places a cat could hide in fear or have a good time, depending on the kitty’s point of view.  There was a reflecting pond, plenty of foliage, shrubbery, trees, fencing and little statuettes.  Behind their property, there were more trees, more houses with more shrubbery.  Mother nature was everywhere — paradise compared to the little apartment I live in with just a few trees to gaze at from the top of my couch.  Heck, I wanted to live there.

I figured he had found Nirvana.  I figured I would never see him again.  I figured I would throw a rock through the window of the vet clinic at 3 the next morning for not securing his carrier.  Man, I was stressing, screaming at all the people from the clinic, telling them it was their fault.  I had gone mad. 

Luckily, the people who lived in the house where Oliver ran were the nicest people on Earth.  They let me hang out at their house for many hours that evening, and 13 hours the next day.  Carol, the woman of the house, brought food and water out to me and let me join the family for dinner that first night.  She crouched behind fences and darted through the woods as if it were her own dog, Stanley, who was missing.  In fact, she kept Stanley, a bulldog, in the house the whole next day which couldn’t have been easy for Stanley. 

My spinal tumors and subsequent pain make traipsing through the woods unwise, so I spent most of the time just laying flat on a little patch of lawn, bits of kibble on my chest, calling plaintively for the elusive Oliver.    I caught a glimpse of him early the next morning and was within grabbing distance, but he would have none of it.  Later that day, he was literally eating out of my hand but was still fairly freaked and wouldn’t let me touch him.  I cried. Hard. I sobbed, screamed, cursed and generally bawled  myself to sleep that night. 

I got up at 4 a.m. the next day and a very, very dedicated friend picked me up at 4:30 to go back to the scene of the crime.  The people at the vet had recommended I come at dawn, stating with authority that he would come only to me. The night before, they suggested I leave my T-shirt (luckily, I had a sweatshirt on over it) with my scent and he would come for sure.  They pretty much kept telling me he would come.  He didn’t come. In fact, after two hours that pre-dawn day I hadn’t spotted him at all, and left for home, dejected, sad and exhausted, saying a prayer and leaving an offering of a chewed-up, soggy, cat-nip filled mouse.  Earlier, the people at the vet clinic put up signs everywhere, and brought over protective gloves for me to wear once I found him, warning me not to let Oliver see them or he’d get scared.  Hello?  Who am I, Doug Henning? 

Finally, around 5 p.m. the third day, just when I had mentally let him go, sending a prayer that he’d be safe, the vet called telling me he had been found by a neighbor.  It had been over 48 hours, and Christina, the neighbor was able to cage him.  I figured he was so exhausted, he didn’t care who caught him. I was glad I had spent so much time introducing myself to everyone in the neighborhood and basically being a pest.  EVERYONE knew who he was by the time he was caught.  He was exhausted, dehydrated, wheezing, but basically okay and I think, happy to be home.  But that’s my point of view.  Of course, by the look he was giving me, I could only assume he had thoughts of his own:

Where have you been, you idiot?  Man, there I was, minding my own business, when suddenly I was scooped up and thrown into a cardboard box posing as a cat carrier.  And all because I peed on the bathroom floor instead of my litter box.  At least it was in the bathroom  Geeze, you’d think I had threatened you with an Uzi.  But no, you totally freak out and decide I need medical attention, taking me to this stranger who stuck something up me to extract urine and test it for who knows what.  It hurt.  I only weigh 12 pounds.   I am tiny and I was scared.  I meowed really loud to let you know but you didn’t care, you just let those mean people do their thing. 

And then they didn’t even close my carrier (if you could call a cardboard box a carrier) correctly and you were too stupid and too trusting not to double check so of course, I did whatever any red-blooded kitty would do.  I bolted in fear.  I didn’t know what I was doing, I was in survival mode.  I ran and four people, one with a net, came chasing after me. What would you do if someone with a white coat and a net came chasing after you? 

I ran into all these trees behind some strangers lawn.  It was real pretty back there, but very scary.  There were crows, squirrels, strange cats and all sorts of other unknown creatures.  I ran up a tree and stayed there late into the night, until the coast was clear.  I came out and no one was around, so I skulked around looking for food and water. I was really scared, hungry and thirsty.  And you, my owner, the person who supposedly loves me, apparently went home for the night. What the heck, you could always get another cat.  Me, on the other hand, could only hope to be found by someone who would take pity on me, feed me, and with any luck, take me in. 

Incidentally, the water in that stupid reflecting pool you think is so pretty is filthy.  I would never in a zillion years drink out of it.  If I did, I’d probably get parasites.. But hey, don’t worry about me.  My toys were no where to be found, my litter box gone too.  I had to poop and pee in the great outdoors, but I was so scared, I could hardly go. I realized I  was now thoroughly domesticated.  How embarrassing.  You finally came back the next day and chased me with some other strange woman, and now I was really freaked. 

You were acting like a nut, crying and screaming, sobbing and calling my name.  I figured you had lost your mind, and was trying to decide if maybe life wouldn’t be better away from your craziness.  But, I missed my food, my clean water, my warm sleeping place and my litter box.  Still, you were freaking me out, so I hid a second day, till finally I was so tired, hungry and thirsty, I dragged my ragged and beaten body up on a nice lady’s porch and she put me in a carrier and took me back to the vet, where you finally showed up.  Geeze, what was the big deal? 

Can’t a guy go on vacation for a couple of days?  Okay, okay,  once I was home I got brave.  I never want to go through that again.  Of course, minutes after I was safe at home I cried at the screen door to go out.  I can’t help it, my brain is the size of a filbert. Humans are the ones who wanted us for household pets.  We don’t know how to survive out there anymore, and it’s your fault.  Now I still can’t pee right.  I’m afraid of my litter box.  But I figure if I act a little crazy you will worry about me, give me special treats, and I can stretch this out for a long time. You are so easy to manipulate it’s frightening.  I have always wanted to see Egypt, the birthplace of my ancestors.  Maybe I’ll go there next time.  Anyone know where I can get a cheap flight?

Stray Cat Strut

Saturday, December 28, 2013


My body is a playground for the pain today.  It’s bouncing up and down my legs and has turned me into a backyard trampoline.  Oh well.  I was reading this article online at CNN about people who have overcome challenges and found their calling.  One of the people was Noah Levine, who is the son of one of my favorite writers on meditation, Stephen Levine.

Another featured participant was this woman whose calling is communicating with the other side.  She makes 1,000 bucks an hour helping people.   I don’t deny her a living, but something about it makes me think “charlatan” even though she might be perfectly legitimate.  There are so many of the “take the money and run” kind of authors on this subject, I guess I feel mad and a bit jealous because before I started taking all this crap for the pain, I could do that as well.  Really.  I’ve written about it here…”My First Encounter” I think was the name of it.  I have that search engine on my site but I used it to find something the other day and the thing I was looking for didn’t pop up.

At any rate, I still can do it just for myself; I communicate regularly with people who have passed.  Not as actually voices, just as thoughts that belong to them.  And no, I’m not crazy.  They aren’t actual voices and no one tells me to hurt myself or anyone else.  In fact, if anything, they keep me grounded.   That’s not to say I’m not challenged, for I am, big time.  I just peek into the abyss and occasionally sit at its edge, feet tangling inside as I peer down.  But I’m not jumping.  Not yet.

My nephew was just here and showed me great pics that he took in Belize with his parents and sister.  I want a virtual reality headset so I can visit all these places…as well as Paris, Rome, etc.  Sigh.  Perhaps it will be available before I check out.

But not today.  A friend called but I’m in too much pain to have anyone else over today.   I hate saying no to people, but I’m normally not much fun….today I’m really wiped.   And the backs of my knees feel like knives are stuck in them.

Back to breathing…one second at a time…no past, no future, just now, now and now.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Still Here

My gastrointestinal problems have resurfaced with a vengeance.  It had settled for a while; but apparently, I have been eating too much, which my normal standards, is not enough.  But my belly can’t handle too much of anything.  I’m also in a fair amount of pain today.  And I can’t believe its Christmas the day after tomorrow.  I miss talking to Ted.  It’s been nine months since he passed and I still think about him a lot.  We shared so much; our pain, our challenges, our stories….sometimes with a heavy heart, sometimes laughing ourselves sick at our situation.   I’m glad his trial is over.  He hated this time of year.

What can I write that I haven’t already?   The abyss starts to close in and panic ensues. I need to find a way to stave it off.  How to walk away from it instead of around it.  How to find peace where none exists.  It’s a challenge.  Mornings are the hardest, especially this time of year.  Our shortest, darkest day just passed, but it will be a while before there is more light than dark during the day.  Living in this dark, wet, dreary climate isn’t the best of choices, but I’m not going anywhere at this stage.

Anyway…..Happy Holidays to you all…

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bumps of Beauty

I decided to re post this after reading an article about a young woman in Nova Scotia, Canada with NF.  She had a facial reconstruction and it will be on a station that I unfortunately, do not get.  I searched in my own blog for this post and could not find it, so I'm re posting it in her honor.  Sarah, you go girl!! (she bravely made an online video of the bullying she endures)

Bumps of Beauty

Airbrushed beauty beaming up from the pages of magazines and down at us from billboards marching proudly on our city streets, brightly lit at night so that we won’t miss the larger-than-life smiles filled with too-white teeth, straight as the light bulbs that shine on them, the abundant, radiant hair that glimmers too, the creamy white, black or brown skin flawless and blemish-free even though we know it’s not true, we believe it so we buy the soap, the toothpaste, the clothes and once upon a time, the cigarettes but that’s all over why is there not a law against the rest of it?  We know it’s not true, because we see each other on the streets, in the workplace and at school every day and we see the imperfections we are all born with save the few who make it to the pages of those magazines who still, even with the born perfections, must have more perfection airbrushed into the lines and creases to make sure that perfection doesn’t get by us mere mortals.

We know it’s not true, as we stare into the plate-glass windows of the stores that hold our fondest wishes; the things we covet and believe we can’t live without yet behold!  We still live. The things just out of reach but will never be ours and even if we get them they somehow leave us feeling empty which should be a lesson.  As small children we played in and around the boxes that held the toys rather than with the toys themselves but then of course, we got older and that wasn’t enough and the airbrushed bodies that hold the goodies we now want but most times cannot have start to look good, so we begin to covet them and continue to do so forever unless we learn it’s not true, oh my.

We know it’s not true when we are born with the most imperfect bodies even more imperfect than the normal overweight, blemished, lopsided smile, crooked-nosed, large-jawed, legs to short, arms too long, hair not right, neck to long, butt to big human being.  And here we are, with bumps that cover our bodies in numbers too many to count that send us into the shadows in shame or to the operating table alongside the ones with the tumors inside, large and small that run up and down our legs and arms, in our chests, our organs or crawl up our spines leaving us in mind-numbing pain or confined to our wheelchairs or beds far away from the billboards of beauty.  But it’s okay, because we know it’s not true.

And if that’s not enough there are those who can’t walk, can’t see, can’t hear but miraculously, somehow, overcome all those obstacles and emerge more whole than the airbrushed beauties the smart ones know to ignore.

What a miracle it is to be born whole and how unlikely is it, really, for that to happen given all that could go wrong in the cell dividing process of becoming human.  The culprit, thanks to science is identified in genes 17 and 22 on that ladder of life, DNA.  That twisting, turning  Escher-like double helix , the tell-tale spell binding truth of who we are, what we are likely to become. 

We wait for the time-bomb of our NF to go off; will it be soon, while we are young? or will it skulk around in our bodies, dashing about or hiding behind organs, tissues, nerve-endings, tiny, meaningless until — until something, who knows what, ticks it off and poof! they grow, these tumors, these parasites, pushing about like bullies on the playground, growing faster, bigger then the rest of whatever else is in there and soon, like the bully, it pushes on the nerve-endings too much and the host body is racked with pain as the doctors scratch their collective heads wondering what in the world is wrong, have you seen a psychiatrist?  An MRI? Well, okay and we slide into the cigar-like tube with earplugs to dull the sound of the thud-thud-thudding and the cluck-cluck-clucking like the coconuts used to make the sound of horses running in  Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I laughed so hard in the first of my 30 or so MRI's that they had to stop and start again but it turned out not be funny at all. 

So my first surgery was at 40 which is late, so I’m told and according to that first MRI at age 36 when there were so many tumors one neurologist who didn’t know me assumed I was in a nursing home but was, miraculously, living my life just fine thank you. So this was quite the shock to learn that I could be paralyzed from the neck down if I didn’t have the surgery and maybe even if I did.  It all depended on if the tumor was sitting there like a grape or wrapped around the nerves (which wouldn’t be good) but it was like a grape and I am not paralyzed though sometimes with fear, I am.

 So now it’s back, the pain though this time in my lumbar spine and the pills I am on to stop the pain could put out my entire apartment complex though my body has become accustom to them and they practically don’t work, which means trying different pills oh heavens this is too much I just want to be normal, whatever the heck that is.

Somewhere in our hearts we know it’s not true, all the hubbub at the Oscars, the Emmys the Grammy’s, all that glitter and perfection all gathered together so we can gawk and wish we were there, or them or both.  If this NF of ours teaches us anything it should teach us that it is not true; not the billboards, magazines, movies, television, awards — none of it.  None of it is true.  We are true.  We with our imperfections, our bumps, our tumors, our disfigurements teach us this truth.  We are the truth because one must search deeper to find our beauty and any treasure hunter will tell you that the find  makes the dig worth it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Patch Me If You Can

I haven’t slept at all for two nights.   Don’t know why.  And yesterday was horrible pain wise….and this has never happened, but I had it in my head my patch day was Sunday, but it was Saturday.  I went five hours past the time I was supposed to change it.  Boy, I found out the hard way what happens when you don’t change it on time.  I have all these safeguards in so that won’t happen, and it never has; I write it down, I put the patch in the bathroom the night before….but somehow, I missed it all.  I’ll have to now program a reminder in my computer so it pops up. 

In the meantime, my left eye is twitching, my hip is throbbing, my stomach is growling and my head is spinning.  It’s very entertaining: twitching, throbbing, growling and spinning.  A real carnival on the couch.  I almost got up in the middle of the night to write something that was on my mind but I wanted to give sleep a chance.  And now, of course, I have no clue as to what it was that seemed so important at 3 a.m.   Reminds me of the time when I smoked weed recreationally and we always thought we had such profound thoughts….then we’d write them down and in the morning, what we thought was so insightful were musings about the color orange. Oh well.

I actually attempted to do something I’ve always wanted to do when the pain reaches the stratosphere.  And that is, separate my body from my mind to see if the pain lessens.  It worked a tiny bit, but forgetting to put on a new patch for just over five hours probably was the reason it didn’t work very well.  I will attempt it again when it gets bad.  It’s scary for me to do because I sometimes fear I won’t be able to get back.  But the drumming exercise works because the drumbeat changes at the end of 30 minutes and draws you back.

That experience of forgetting was frightening because of how quickly I started going into withdrawal.  I will NEVER be able to get off this merry go round.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I’ve had a much needed and blessedly appreciated break from the non-stop pain…it’s actually been about a 5 or 6 on the 1-10 scale for about four days…that’s a record, I assure you.  Even though the temp outside is below freezing (very, very rare for Seattle but then, the rest of the country is experiencing weather-related horrors as well) the sun has been out and high pressure outside means less pressure in my body.  I know, I know, why not live somewhere sunny?   Well first, even when the sun was out this summer it was also humid so I still was in pain.  And dry climate or not, I want to be where I am.

So when this happens, I start to really lie still and pay attention to my body; where does it hurt, what is the intensity, what changed to make it better or worse, etc.  Stress obviously makes things worse.  And my M, W, F caregiver quit on me Monday.  She said she’d stay until they found someone else, and they did, right away.  It wasn’t personal; it was family issues.  She had a bit of an angry aura about her and I questioned whether I wanted her around, so I guess it always turns out the way it’s supposed to, right?  So whether I am aware of it or not, stress pays a huge factor in the pain game.  And knowing they are planning on lowering my dosage is very stressful

But I also wonder about my interpretation of the pain.  When it’s tolerable I try to really feel how it feels so that I can compare it when it’s zipping passed 10 on the pain scale.  But when it is zipping passed 10, I’m in no mood and have no ability to compare or even remember what it felt like before it went into the war zone.  So it’s tough.  The only thing I can do, the only thing any of us can do, is live in the moment.  And that’s tough when the moment is filled with burning pain.

Like the rest of the country, it’s very cold (way below freezing) here right now.  Seattle isn’t used to this kind of cold.  My car won’t start much of the time and I’m going to have to get out there and start it again.  And my poor hummingbirds; their feeder was frozen solid so I brought it in and warmed it up then changed the water. That was two hours ago and the top half is frozen again.  The sun might warm it up a bit, I hope.  
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