Monday, March 31, 2008

Lion? Lamb? Guess it Depends Where You Are

I know that Spring officially arrives on the 20th or 21st day of March. But any date that begins with the word March doesn't really seem to count as an official spring day. Especially here in New York this year. It has been a downright chilly month. As I type this, it is 45 gray, raw, rainy degrees. The weekend was clear, chilly and windy. April will open much the same, though we might flirt with 60 degrees. I guess you could say March came and left much the same....nasty!

All that aside, yesterday was opening day for Major League Baseball, and nothing says Spring quite like those two little words bellowed for the first time, "Play Ball!" The Washington Nationals vs the Atlanta Braves in Washington's new stadium. What I really like about the stadium is that it seemingly has not (yet?) sold its naming rights. It is Nationals Park. I really hope it stays that way, though that is probably naive. An opera singer belted out the National Anthem, a capella. There were fireworks, but no flyover. I was not impressed. She was flat, her inhales were loud and raspy. And did I mention No Flyover? I felt cheated. President Bush ascended the mound to a loud, raucous chorus of boos to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. I found that somewhat surprising. The Nats won their home opener. The Yankees open their season today against Toronto at The Stadium in the rain, and my Mets kick it off in Florida against the Marlins.

My nephew, Nikko, wound up extending his stay through this morning, though we didn't see much of him from Thursday night onward. We went out for Thai food that night. Christopher loves it, and Nikko found that he could take it or leave it. He also learned the importance of actually reading menu items completely. He ordered a red curry dish with squid. He wanted it spicy, but didn't realize it contained coconut milk. He doesn't like coconut. Other than that, Nikko, how was dinner ;) He then went over to his other aunt's house for a few days. Brian picked him up last night, and took him to the airport this morning. Yep, Brian's Hotel and Airport Service, open for business.

We had Christopher's friend Connor with us Friday, and the boys worked it out that he would sleep over. Brian went to his buddy's house, so I had 2 twelve year olds to myself. Well, let me tell you, when you have 2 twelve year old boys around, it is a never ending preadolescent dick joke fest. You can't say ANYTHING about round spherical bouncy objects without them dissolving into paroxysms of giggles. Complete fascination with their genitalia. OY. Be gone, boys, and YES, for the love of GOD you can play your video games!! But really, they were great. I just laughed, poured another glass of wine, and watched Grey's Anatomy reruns.

Saturday afternoon, we took a drive out to Oyster Bay. I used to work in that hamlet from November 1999 through August 2004. It is a lovely little town, just not very accessible by public transport...a vestige of Robert Moses' planning that is very difficult to change. I took the Long Island Rail Road two hours each direction to get to work. It was a stunning train ride. It was like running away from home every day, such a different dynamic than commuting into a bustling urban megalopolis.

We visited Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, where I used to walk nearly every day, and drove up to Sagamore Hill. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived, so we didn't take the tour. But we did make it to his grave site at Youngs Memorial Cemetery. It is a very interesting grave yard. Some of the stones are absolutely unreadable, long lost to the unrelenting wind. The slave graves are unnamed, but marked with wooden crosses. It is a cemetery for several Oyster Bay families dating back to the 1650s, including the Youngs, Bakers, Popes, and a few others I don't recall right now. It is difficult to find information on the cemetery itself, without it being completely coopted by the fact that TR is interred there. I'd like to go back and have a more leisurely walk around, when there is less wind, and more daylight left.

We drive home, had supper and I got ready for birthday/bon voyage party for a friend of ours. This is a woman who just turned 37, and is off for a two week sojourn in Kenya. She is a very down to earth media and film studies Fordham graduate, working the last 8 years as a Web producer for a HUGE accounting services company. For a long time she worked as a film extra, model, clown and production assistant for major network series. I wonder if, when we were sitting cross legged on the floor of her student housing room 20 years ago, this was the life she imagined she'd be living. She is one of only 5 people I have known my entire adult life. I was at her house the week before for a short visit, just catching up. Though I've known her for so long, there was much I found I didn't know about her life before I met her--it was as if we met, and assumed we were hatched at that point in life, with no past at all. I think that was probably born of some not so great pasts to recall. I just recently met her mother and step brother, and felt honored to have spent some time with them, if even in a party setting (the one on the Ides).

I can't wait to see the pictures she brings back! I also can't wait to see the paparazzi shots Connor took! He did come along with his parents to the party, and was charged with taking some of the photos. I saw a few of them, and they were interesting to say the least!

Well, I've been all over the map in this post, literally and figuratively. Guess I should get my butt back to work.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Running into the Sun But I'm Running Behind

I am behind on blog entries, and blog visits. I'll get there, I promise. In the meantime, here are some of the goings on in my part of the world that do not center around a certain member of the feline nobility.

Good to be Back!

The Ides of March were not nearly as ummm, unfortunate for me as they were for Caesar. Quite the opposite, in fact. We attended a birthday party for the friend with whom I have had minimal contact for the last 6 months or so, and had a wonderful time. More importantly, we came a step closer to getting to bottom of the problem that has placed us in this apparent standoff. We have only emailed back and forth a few times since, which is fine. It gave me some time to think about how I would respond to this knowledge.

The crux of the issue is a blog entry I wrote in a fit of pique on the heels of a horrible experience last summer. A mutual friend at the center of the incident, to whom I had given my blog address, went looking to see if I had written anything on the event. Upon finding that I did, she became incensed and passed the entry on to my friend, who was also tremendously upset about it. Note to self: Keep thy blog address to thyself if you wish to remain able to freely express thyself. But I digress. I have since gone back to reread what I wrote, and stand by it.

Initially, I thought I'd mount a defense. I have since had time to reconsider, and don't think I will. I think I will, when the opportunity presents itself, tell my friend that I am tremendously sorry that she took offense, none was intended. I will not take responsibility for anything that I am not responsible for, but I will acknowledge that words published in a public forum such as this might be stumbled upon, characters, though names withheld, might be recognized, and as such, it would appear that I was talking out of school. Or to put it more succinctly, what I expressed was truthful and accurate as I saw it, but how I chose to express it caused pain which, in retrospect, I regret.

It was a good party. Lots of new faces...amazing how much changes in half a year! I decided to kick out my left leg while holding onto my boot heel, nearly dislocating my hip in the process. No exercise for the next week nursing THAT back to health. No one left in a huff. No arguments. The kids all behaved. And not once did I feel the urge to get involved in clean up. My job was to ensure that there were always uncorked bottles of wine available. That I can do. When I am feeling out of place or uncomfortable, I clean. So if Rebecca is not cleaning, Rebecca must be content. This is a good thing!


Chris and his buddy have been off since the middle of last week for Spring Break. For the first time, Chris got all his assignments taken care of within the first few days, freeing up the rest of his time to just have fun. He has had sleep overs, play dates, trips to the park, all kinds of fun!

To top it off, this past Monday, our 18 year old nephew flew in from Ohio for a visit (he's on Break, too). It is his first trip to the City unaccompanied. It has been a joy having him around. He and my son play like boys...yes, my nephew is 18, has had serious love interests, is a varsity athlete in several sports, and wanted to go out on his own to tromp around Manhattan at night (which we allowed, shhhhh, don't tell his mother), but he and Christopher were still chasing each other all over the house with nerf rifles, giggling like kids. They also played a few games of chess together. It just made my heart smile, music to my ears and eyes as well. Almost enough to make me regret only having had one child, although I do recognize the harmony would be so much more short lived! The boy leaves to go home tomorrow, unless the weather is bad enough to ground his flight.

She works hard for the money, so hard for it honey!

So, all week, I have been walking on eggshells here at work. I have been nervous because I have seen my personnel file sitting on my boss's desk for WEEKS now. I figured that it was just for him to review my time off, or any other notes that might be relevant to my annual performance review. My anniversary came and went in February but zip, zilch, nada. No mention of a review. No pay increase. What I did have was a memo from the office manager informing me that my portion of my health insurance premium was going to increase by 13%. Holy moly!! So, no review, no raise, nope, a pay cut. GREAT. Just what we need in our household. Brian not working for 2 months now, and less money starting March 31st. Fantastic. Nope, no resentment here. None.

This week, my boss took off for a trip to the West Coast. Tuesday afternoon sometime around 4:30 he asked me what time I was coming in Wednesay. I told him I'd be in by 7:45, since it was not a yoga morning. I was a little leery of that, as the last time I told a boss I'd be in early, I wound up fired shortly thereafter. But, gotta let that go, right? I wound up getting here at 7:45. As sure as God made little green apples, my boss walked through the door at exactly 7:45. I was stunned. I don't think I have ever seen him in that early! After about 10 to 15 minutes, he called me into his office. I went in bringing my Venti with me. What was awaiting me was my performance review. And a nice raise--woo hooo! He was gone by 9am to catch his flight.

Man we needed that. Should more than offset my increased health insurance premium. And if Brian can't manage to keep this job without us going broke putting Chris in a summer program of some sort, fine! Now, all I need to do is interact more with my clients. Oh, and maybe not blog so much during my work day....Yeah, right!


So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

We might have been a little premature in hailing the return of a mended Sir Jeffrey. I am not sure if he is reblocking, or perhaps suffering kidney issues, but I do know that he has picked up the pace of urinating in inappropriate places. Understandably, this is causing quite a strain in our household. It is to the point that Brian does not want us to spend any more money on treatment for the animal, as we may very well be left with intolerable behaviors, and over a thousand dollars the poorer for it. Not to mention prescription food for the rest of his life. If I insist that the cat is treated regardless, it appears as if I chose the cat over my husband. Yeah, strained is a good word here. It is a heavy burden to decide the fate of another living creature. Neither of us wants to be responsible for the ultimate decision, as it is rife with grief, and the potential for blame and resentment.

Interesting enough, I have a good friend going through something similar--her cat has something akin to irritable bowel syndrome. He poops everywhere, and there doesn't seem to be a food or treatment to make it better. Her husband is pretty tired of dealing with the issue, too. I don't think the men are unsympathetic, they just have much different attachment levels to the critters. And in our house, I had my son to consider. I explained the situation to him honestly. We agreed that Daddy needed permission to deal with the situation in any humane way he needed to, and so now has it. Sir Jeffrey Underfoot's days in residence are numbered, one way or another.

I made a promise to myself that I would treat Jeffrey more kindly, and with more patience than I did before he became ill. He should not know fear or pain at my hand, and mine is the only one I can truly control. So, he gets lots of pets, and several good brushings. Good kitty. Nice kitty. Oh, poor kitty!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Strike Up the Band

Sir Jeffrey Underfoot comes home today, tra la, tra la. I am so happy to have to leave the office early and pick him up. He had his catheter removed yesterday, and has since urinated on his own. That he hasn't eaten much, and ergo hasn't moved his bowels, was a source of some concern for the vet, but a final round of blood work indicates that he is free of urinary toxins. He is, however, a little anemic, but that might be due to the fact that he hasn't eaten for a week or more.

So, now we embark on a new path. We will be much gentler with our big ole kitty. He needs a new diet as well. We were told he has to slim down, lest he become diabetic. And he needs food that reduces the likelihood of new crystal formations, and future blockages.

I wonder how my other cats will receive him back home. He's going to smell bad in their opinion, so they will probably hiss at him. But they have been mighty clingy with me since Jeffrey has been gone, so I know they've missed him.

Jeffrey was the vehicle for a profound lesson for me. I really must sit with it a while. Hopefully with him on my lap, purring, kneading and shedding all over the place.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sir Jeffrey Underfoot, Lord of the Wind

Near the corner of 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard, there used to be a small family-owned pet shop. They carried the usual supplies, as well as tropical fish, small reptiles, birds and hamsters. Occasionally, they also had kittens or puppies that someone needed to give away. The deal was that the animal was free, as long as you purchased thirty dollars worth of supplies for it. Christopher loved to visit that store. For him it was a mini trip to the zoo.

One Saturday in the middle of October 2003, Christopher and I were out running errands. The sun was playing peekaboo with the clouds, and there was a chilly wind blowing. I don't remember what we had set out to accomplish, but Chris asked whether we could stop in the pet store. We we were there a few days earlier, and there was a litter of kittens cavorting in an over sized cage. When we went back that Saturday, all but one of the kittens had been adopted. The last remaining kitten was fairly large for his age, vocal and very playful. We heard him long before we saw him.

The kitten that was left was gray and white, with a half pink, half black nose, bright green eyes and a half mustache. He practically climbed through the cage to make sure our hands could reach him to pet him, and be nibbled on. Christopher immediately thought this poor guy was lonely for his buddies, as did I. He looked up at me with bright wide eyes and asked, "Mom, can we keep him?" Now, I knew that my husband would have a conniption if I brought home an animal without asking him. He had said under no uncertain terms that he did NOT want another animal in the house. We had 3 cats at that time already. So naturally, I gathered up thirty dollars worth of supplies for our new kitten and walked him home.

Brian was faced with a new adorable kitten, and a son who desperately wanted to keep him. It was an unfair situation I put him in, to be sure. Actually, it was unfair to both my son and my husband. But I am a sucker for a small, lonesome animal and large round 8 year old eyes. My son promised to not only take care of the new cat, but all 3 others as well, taking over feeding, watering and scooping the cat boxes. For the most part, Christopher has honored the deal for all 4 years that we have had this kitty.

We named the new kitten Sir Jeffrey Underfoot, Lord of the Wind. He is Jeffrey, because that is what Christopher chose. Underfoot because he has a foot fetish, and will trip you while he does figure eights between your legs as you walk down the hall. Lord of the Wind because he was a farter. We call him Jeffrey for short. Or UnderFOOT when we are nearly felled. He is a big, dumb affectionate beast. At nearly 20 pounds, he dwarfs our two remaining cats (the third one died two years ago, of old age). He wants to be a lap cat, happily kneading the flesh of anyone who pets him. He is persistent, too. It doesn't matter how many times you push him off, he will jump back up to your lap for some loving.

The one problem we encountered with Jeffrey is that he sometimes peed on the furniture. It wasn't the first time we encountered this behavior. Tilly, a cat we adopted just before Christopher was conceived, would pee on his stuff. She was really not happy to share mommy with a baby. But, eventually, she stopped. I think Jeffrey smelled Tilly's marking and wanted to make sure everyone knew HE was alpha in our household. Cats, unlike dogs, do not recognize humans as alpha. We wound up disposing of two pieces of furniture because of Jeffrey. We thought that if we removed his, and Tilly's old marking places, we would solve the problem once and for all. Apparently, we were wrong: two weeks ago, Jeffrey peed on the couch. He also peed on my bed. And Christopher's bed.

Brian has always believed that if you rub a cat's nose in his own urine while smacking his butt, you will train the animal that the behavior is unacceptable. That I disagree has always been immaterial. When Jeffrey peed on our bed, with me in it, I stopped him, and tossed him unceremoniously out of our room. I was incensed, to say the least. When Jeffrey peed on the couch, Brian was outraged, in full fury. Did you know that anger can be contagious? That you can take on and amplify your partner's anger? Or maybe it is that you become angry at the source of your partner's anger. In that instance I helped my husband capture and punish Jeffrey. Thank God this was far from my son's sight.

We, at that point, resolved to surrender the cat to a no kill shelter. We told Christopher what was happening and why, packed up the cat, and wound up driving him all over town for the entire morning. No room at any shelter for an adult male cat. We took the cat back home, purchased some keep away stuff, and decided to cover the couch with a plastic drop cloth every time we leave the house.

Last Sunday, a week later after we tried and failed to surrender him, we noticed Jeffrey wasn't moving. At all. He was breathing, but he could not move. I saw him literally drag himself out of the bathroom to the hallway just outside the bathroom door. It was heart wrenching. We were terrified that we caused Jeffrey some injury that just then became manifest. We picked Chris up from his buddy's house where he had had an overnight, and trundled off to the vet. The vet painted a very grim picture for us, without providing a definitive diagnosis. Basically told us we could spend all the money, and still wind up having to put Jeffrey to sleep. He recommended that we bring him to the Humane Society of New York for more affordable treatment. Christopher was inconsolable. He begged us not to put his cat to sleep. We promised to do whatever we could, but if Jeffrey was suffering, and that suffering could not be abated, we would have to put him down.

The vet at the Humane Society whisked Jeffrey away, saying, "He's blocked!" Urinary blockage is fairly common in male cats. I have never had a cat that suffered it, but knew several people who had cats that did, and they all had to be put to sleep. I was not overly hopeful, as the vet took blood, and told us that his blockage had damaged his kidneys, and he had built up a near fatal level of several toxins. But we did admit him, a catheter was inserted to drain his bladder, and IV inserted to rehydrate him, and flush the toxins out. We took a much relieved child out of school to visit his cat on Monday afternoon. Jeffrey purred when we pet him, curled his hands in a kneading motion. Even sat up a little for a drink of water. Today, he had his urinary catheter removed, and if he pees on his own, we can take him home to complete his convalescence. If he cannot, we face some difficult and expensive choices.

I can't begin to express my heartbreak at Jeffrey's predicament and my own appalling lack of compassion. Most likely, that last week of urinating in inappropriate places was just the symptoms of Jeffrey's impending condition. I am ashamed of myself for treating him so harshly. I truly don't like what I became in dealing with this situation. I lost my empathy. I allowed anger to feed anger. I was mean, more probably cruel. I generally don't allow such unbridled anger to overtake me to the point that I commit acts for which I am forever scarred with shame. I have lost control on a few occasions, both with my son and with my pets, and remembering any one of those occasions makes me cringe.

I truly hope that Jeffrey fully recovers, and that we have a second chance with him. He is a wonderful, loving animal. I know that he will forgive me, as his memory of the event is probably limited. It will take much more time for me to forgive myself, as well as to find and heal the place from which such poisonous anger originates.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

What a Week!

One the one hand, it hardly seems possible that an entire week has gone by since I have last written in this space. On the other...only a week??

To begin with, Daylight Savings Time really did a number on me this year. While I remembered to reset the clocks before going to bed Saturday night, I was completely discombobulated all day Sunday. I woke up late. The sun rose too late, and set too late. I am one of those people who approximates time by the position of the sun and color of the sky. Needless to say, I was off all day. Combine that with having a cold, and forget about it. Supper was late Sunday. Bedtime was chaotic. Oh, well. I figured it wasn't the end of the world.

When I left the house Tuesday morning at 6am, it was still completely dark. When I came out of the subway at 6:40, it was still completely dark. I never gave much thought to walking the 4 blocks and one avenue from the train to the studio, but I did Tuesday. That neighborhood seems completely different, and a little seedy when unlit. We are supposed to gain about a minute of daylight each day until the equinox, or maybe the solstice, I am not sure. So, sometime in the next 2 to 3 weeks, it should be nearly daylight at that time of morning. Not a day too soon. I miss watching the sun come up. I go to class in the dark, come out to full on daylight.

Since last Thursday night I have been nursing a cold. I think it is the fourth one I've had this season. I swear the common cold is going to kill me in my old age. I cough with an intensity and frequency that is just scary. If I were hooked up to heart monitors and a blood pressure cuff, doctors would probably freak out watching the spikes. Nothing, and I do mean nothing relieves it. Some minor relief happens when I overdose on Robitussin Long Acting cough syrup. But man, that leaves you with a don't operate heavy machinery hangover that lasts deep into the day. My poor husband has been up for hours in the night along with me while I hack away.

Christopher's report card was sent home on Friday. Not only did he perform well academically, his conduct and effort grades were really good, too. No Ns (needs improvement) or Us (unsatisfactory) anywhere! Woo Hoo. He earned a Certificate of Merit this trimester, and participated in the awards ceremony. So, last weekend was a do whatever Chris wants to do weekend, pretty much. We had dinner out that night, and father and son went to the movies, while I took up residence on the couch to convalesce.

The only thing that clouded Chris' triumph was the prospect of getting rid of his kitty. Jeffrey is a 4 year old alpha male cat who decided to pee on the couch. And our bed. And Christopher's bed. Brian put the cat into his carrier, and carted him all over town looking for a no kill shelter to take him in. No dice. Every single shelter is completely booked up. Jeffrey and Chris had a reprieve. We purchased some keep away stuff for the furniture. And just to be safe, we put a drop cloth on the couch when we leave. Meanwhile Jeffrey and Brian walk wide circles around one another. Hopefully, detente can be, or has been reached.

Now, my cold is waning, the springtime is waxing. Chris is succeeding. My Mets are doing well in Spring Training. I was able to do a head stand today (harder than it sounds, believe me). Life's trials seem relatively minor these days. Or at least manageable. Or maybe I'm just too tired to overreact. Either way, fine by me!!


Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's All About Perspective

I spoke to my brother over the weekend. He was fine, but anxious about some impending test results. Test were performed on his son who is 5 years old because his head start teachers were concerned about some behavioral difficulties. I am always leery when I hear that. I know that some teachers just cannot deal with a child that does not fit into a cookie cutter mold, or color inside the lines. I also know, as the mother of a nearly 12 year old, that time does work magic on kids. The grow into and out of behaviors their entire lives. That which you would kill (or medicate) them for today will be replaced in 6 months by something else. I told my brother this, but it did little to allay his fears.

The call came Monday. Dakota has defiant disorder, anger issues, shows signs of obsessive compulsive disorder, possibly has Aspergers Syndrome, and last, but not least, ADHD. Man, it seems everything but the kitchen sink. Needless to say, my brother was pretty freaked out. He said he felt completely unprepared, that he didn't know if he could deal with all this. It was understandably impossible for him to take a step back to gain any kind of perspective. I asked him whether a: he had confidence in the information imparted (yes) and b: whether today was really any different from yesterday in terms of the actual child that stood in before him, other than the fact that big scary names had been attached to him. I think that helped him calm himself for the moment. He will need a lot of support, as will his wife and two daughters. My brother was a behaviorally challenged child himself; I know exactly what kind of strain that puts on a family. But there is so much more information available today to help him wade through this, and be an effective advocate for his son.

Also on Monday, my husband called my office to tell me that a couple with whom we used to be very close until an unspecified event last summer was coming to dinner that night. I had seen these people only once in the intervening six months, and that was two weeks ago at a mutual friend's birthday party. Bygones were set aside, and we had a good visit, both at the party, and around my table. I still don't know what the breakdown in our friendship was, and I find myself really needing to know in order to get past it. As Alanis Morissette says:

"The only way out is through
The only way we'll feel better,
The only way out is through,
The sooner we're in the better,

I believe this to be true (actually that whole album speaks to the theme of personal growth and recognition). My natural tendency when faced with a difficult discussion where I am even fractionally at fault is to run and hide. My fear is not of my own mistake per se, but another's judgment of it or me. In this instance, the mistake, problem or misunderstanding is six months old and I don't know what it is. That said, I really do want to face this head on. The friendship I lost hurt me to the core. If facing the truth of it can resuscitate it, I have to step up and face it, no matter how unpleasant. Likewise, she has to face my truth of it as well. It will take time and courage, but we took this first step. My prayer is that it was not in vain.

For these six months, my husband and I both absented ourselves and were excluded from activities and/or parties that involved the entire group of friends. That, too, seems to be resolving as time goes on. I want to ask what changed, but am not sure I will. Most of this group are more casual friends, only with one or two did I see myself in a rocking chair on some porch in thirty years.

Needless to say, I went into Tuesday morning's yoga class tired and spent. Naturally, it was one of the most vigorous ones I've attended thus far. I felt completely outclassed--that I had absolutely no business among such accomplished practitioners. I judged myself harshly when I could not reach poses, or fell out of them. I was in pain. My hip joint would not cooperate at all. I haven't had such negative thoughts about my physical being in a long time. My sense of post-yoga peace with which I normally face the day was shattered.

A glass of wine, and some much needed sleep brought me to a somewhat better place Wednesday, so I went to the gym to exorcise my demons. Felt good enough about it to wake up early and go back to yoga again, for which I was rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. I'm on my third Starbucks of the day, but that's just fine. I don't feel like I am going to cry, tear someone's head off or crash, so it is a good day.

And spring is coming. It is a balmy 45 degrees here in New York. Sun is shining. Daylight Savings time begins this weekend, and opening day at Shea is less than a month away. Life, while it smacks me up beside the head pretty good some times, is in fact very, very good.