Lightroom! Why??

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I’m going to go ahead and apologize in advance – I just spun up the hard drive with my photo archive only to find that my Lightroom catalog for said photo archive had disappeared. So I’m making myself feel better by going through old pictures and admiring them in their natural beauty. Here’s a pretty one, taken in 2009 with my friend Stephl’s camera. It was pretty cold out.

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Here’s Jake passed out on my parents’ old couch. I think this was the first time I ever used a 50mm lens.

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The infamous “beauty” sign near the Produce District in Chelsea… I loved it so much I got it tattooed on my left calf. No picture I could ever take would match the splendor of the real thing. It’s gone now. They painted it over.

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This is my mom’s Nativity set. My sisters and I used to get so excited if we got the Baby Jesus, and super bummed out if we got a big ugly camel.

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I don’t know what this is. But it looks pretty tripped out.

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Uff, God, and now I just got into newer pictures that I did a lot of editing work to, and I kind of want to die again. So to close it out, here’s Totoro. Because nobody can want to die after looking at his sweet face.

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How having a cat changed my mind about everything.

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It was senior year of college – Syracuse University studying at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. It was the first day of first semester, and my film business class was going around the room introducing themselves. Saying what they wanted to do with their lives. There were an unsurprising number of aspiring producers and directors – it WAS a film BUSINESS class and all – so it kind of threw everyone for a loop when I said I wanted to be a mom. “A mom?” I could almost hear them all thinking. “I mean, why is she even HERE then?”

But I did, I really wanted it.

That stayed with me through graduation, through my first job, through my marriage. More than ten years of the tumult that is life, just waiting for the day I’d hold my own baby in my arms. And then, of course, everything changed. You might think it was the going crazy, or the going broke that did me in. Or, surely, the divorce? The divorce must have been the nail in the coffin.

Nope.

It wasn’t the Bin, it wasn’t the cash, and it wasn’t the men or my own poor decisions – It was that goddamn Jake that finally made me realize I might not want to have children. That goddamn Jake and his liver disorder (or whatever it was) that nearly killed him last summer. I mean, I’m usually able to accurately describe most feelings with words, but I have no language for how awful it was to sit by and watch him suffer. This poor sweet creature, just so sick and so sad. It literally hurt my heart. It broke me. And I thought: what if this was my child? What if this was my own child I had to hand over to others, what if it was MY kid that was being poked with needles and force-fed pills, knowing that he hated every second, not knowing if he’d even make it to the other side? I don’t think I could bear it. I truly don’t think I could.

Watching someone you love suffer is the worst pain of all. We want our children to be happy, but life, intrinsically, is the most painful wish you could grant. As the Buddha teaches us: life is suffering. I find that to be the noblest truth.


That Jake Rises

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That Jake has a history of jailbreaks. There was awhile where Katsu and I used to take him out on a leash, and that was really fun until he wriggled out of it and jumped the fence. Katsumi found him three doors down, in a tangle of old bike parts. Then there was the other time when he clawed his way out the window and our friend found him, shivering in the rain, much later on that night. So he’s intrepid. He’s a street cat. He does his thing.

But, I mean, he HADN’T. Not since we got him snipped. So B! and I were pretty surprised to find him on the other side of the window the other morning in the middle of a torrential downpour. Somehow he’d slipped out while B! was taking the garbage downstairs, and he’d been out all night in the most horrible weather. You’d have thought that would teach him a lesson, but tonight, just after I typed that last sentence, he escaped again and burrowed underneath the back porch.

In the meantime, he’s taken to defecating in the bathtub. So there’s that.

This is like a superhero movie where everything turns dark all of a sudden. Like Spiderman 3, but with whiskers and fur. And let me be the first to tell you, if the pissing comes back, I’m ready to get all Sandman on his shit.


Is having a problem over here.

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So I’m writing this essay for this contest, and it’s about my personal journey from sickness to health. Well, I mean, it could be about anyone’s journey to any old place, really, but for me it’s about that. There’s a cash prize, also, so I’m especially motivated to make it a good read. And, as usual, I’m fine with talking about my depression, my anger, my marriage, my stay in the Bin, but it is SO HARD to describe how I got well. The journey from there to here is impossible to relate, and, in some ways, more painful to remember than my days in despair.

I mean, how do you describe how your husband left you, and you were living in the apartment alone with a cat who pissed not just everywhere but EVERYWHERE, and you barely had heat and you slept on the pull-out couch, but how during that time the Universe saw fit to give you amazing friends, shiny fun toys, and a brand-new lease on life? How do you describe how you were actually GRATEFUL to your husband for leaving, and how much sorrow you felt about how everything turned out? And then, if you can manage all that, how do you convey the beginning with B! – how a phone call from an old friend turned into capital L-O-V-E in a matter of weeks? Like, crazy fast but it was gravity, and the realization hit like a crash-test dummy faced with 65mph of brick wall.

Maybe it’s hard because those last days with Katsu were so hazy and strange. Maybe it’s because the months after were stranger yet. Maybe it’s this way because I’ve yet to figure it all out. I never want to come at my story from a position of being totally well – I mean, I’m still amazed by each day without utter catastrophe – but it’s true that my mind is much better now. Regardless of whether I win or not, regardless of how I tell the story, the essay will bubble up here eventually. It’s good to have things to rely on.


Feels like a grown-up

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My bed has been killing me lately. Not physically, I mean I don’t have backaches or anything, but it pops, it sags, and the frame has fallen apart no less than three times. I made B! drill it together with wood screws at 3am last April, and it seems lately that the wood screws are about to give way. It was the bed I shared with my husband and the bed that our friends (now married with child) shared before that. It just drives me totally insane. And this Saturday, I decided it was high time to do something about it.

B! and I marched our way down to the neighborhood Sleepy’s, blazed through the double doors, and were assaulted by a sea of headboards and mattresses. Greeted by a heavily-makeupped woman of indeterminate middle age, I made no compunction about our need for a cheap bed. “On the lower end of the price range,” was how I delicately phrased our requirement.

Mind you, we are in no shape to be purchasing anything on any end of the price range. My computer’s hard drive died on Thursday, and the repair is a cool three hundred dollars. Jake’s medical bills? Please, let’s not even think. My OWN medical bills? I have a payment plan with my providers. But the bed was wrecking my life, and at thirty-two years old, I mean, why should I have to live like that?

Zero percent financing. No money down. Delivery, assembly, AND disposal. A thousand-dollar mattress slashed to nearly half its original price, with a nice brand name and a five-year guarantee. I signed on the line three times and, just like that, became the owner of my very first self-purchased brand new bed.

Anyone remember the Mr. Rogers “Proud of You” song? It’s kind of been in my head all weekend. Like, I’m singing it to myself.


Which life is it now, Jake?

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Huh? Which? Because I was TOTALLY CONVINCED YOU WERE DYING THERE.

Cholangeohepatitis? Pancreatitis? Or the infamous FIP? You were doing so well, it seemed, and then so poorly – my heart just hurt every time I looked at you. Poor little thing, so tired and sick, I wondered whether it would be kinder to just let you go. The vets were no help, I mean, of COURSE they are in favor of treatment. Liver biopsy? Another ultrasound? I just didn’t have the money or the heart to put you through that again. But I’ve grown damn attached to you, Jake, and part of me was willing to do whatever it took to make sure you got well.

I was on the phone with a PET THERAPIST, JAKE. A pet therapist. At EIGHT-THIRTY in the morning. And I wept, oh yes. Sure did. And I wrote her a thank-you note. Via email. But someday I’ll write her a real one. But today I want to write notes to our vet and the lab tech and the girls in the pharmacy and everyone behind the cashier’s desk (except that one chick who double-charged us for your meds) because YOUR LIVER LEVELS ARE GETTING BETTER, Jake, and I am SO happy!

Like, freaking two thousand dollars later.

JAKE.


Where what’s mine is ours, unless it’s yours.

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That Jake is a man of mystery. At first, he was no-one’s, except maybe this guy back in Eastie, who described the cat as having a “proud set of balls”. Technically, this was incorrect – That Jake only had one descended testis – but the one that promoted itself was proud indeed. Until last fall, when we cut it off. Ah, life.

So first he was no-one’s: a street cat. Presumably he’d been owned at some point, since he knew how to use a litterbox, but when we took him in he was looking pretty feral. Then he was ours, by which I mean mine and Katsu’s, by which I mean Katsu’s. I didn’t want him, remember, and washed my hands of him once the pissing started. When we went to the vet, it was Katsu’s last name on the intake sheet.

Once Katsu and I started the dance of martial distancing, I was left alone with That Jake for the better part of five months. We grew close during that time, believe it or not, and I started to think that maybe he had a soft spot for me after all. I’d sleep on the pull-out couch, and Jake would be right there next to me. I mean, it probably helped that our heat was broken and it was December, but whatever. I thought it was sweet.

When I moved home, of course, That Jake could not come with, so he became Katsumi’s cat again until last October, when B! and I moved into our palace in Revere. I felt bad taking Jake away from Katsu – the two were thick as thieves – but his parents had had enough of the pissing.

Cut to last month. We take Jake to the vet for a theoretical UTI, the vet says he’s jaundiced, and the next day B! is signing him in at the pet hospital. At work and panicked, I email my husband to let him know the state of things. It seemed like a life-or-death situation, and, for all the strife and separation and water under the bridge, we’d been a little family for a time. Katsumi, of course, came down straightaway.

So there we all were in the waiting room, my boyfriend, my husband, and my cat (in a very sorry state, emerging, as he was, from anesthesia), and the nurse comes in and is like, “Jake? Jake [insert B!'s last name here]?”

Hello, awkward.

Whoever’s he was, Jake had always had Katsu’s last name. Even when I thought of Jake in my head, it was always Jake [Katsu's last name]. It felt, for a moment, like we were really divorced, and I’d gone ahead and re-named our child.

The moment passed, and we turned our attention to more important matters (bilirubin levels, kidney function, proper procedure for administering subcutaneous injections), but it kind of echoed in my head for awhile. So whose cat IS this, anyway?


Dear The Internet, Thanks for Nothing.

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So B! and I have officially become slave nursemaids to our eldest cat, That Jake. We are giving him liquid antibiotics four times daily, injecting SQ fluid once nightly, and generally monitoring his progress while he recovers from what sounds like some kind of liver failure. He explains it very well on his Facebook page, a few scrolls down… I don’t really understand it, though. That Jake is so damn smart.

Bottom line is that we have to do all this crap, and we don’t know how, and that doctor at the hospital last Friday only showed us once and I was too scared to watch. And I feel all the time like I’m doing everything WRONG, because he practically foams at the mouth every time we give him an antibiotic (which, remember, is 4x/day), and you can just imagine how he feels about my piercing him with a hollow needle. Every night. For the next eight nights. He’d yowl in the most pitiful way, we’d force in a meager .5ml, and he’d squirm his way out of our grasp. The whole thing leaves me lightheaded, honestly – I seriously hate needles.

In despair one night, I turned to the only teacher I could find that didn’t charge an exam fee: The Internet.

The problem is, The Internet is a liar.

Like seriously? LOOK at this cat.

THAT DUDE IS ONE-HANDING IT! Like, he’s not even holding the cat DOWN! Wtf, Jake would be out of there so fast, and he’d probably take a couple of your fingers and half your shirt with him.

That’s just the kind of badass he is. And he reminds us. Every. Night.


At least the maze rats get cheese or whatever.

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Last week sometime, B! was informed that his debit card had been used to make some small purchases in Europe. The card was subsequently cancelled.

Just around the same time, I lost track of my own debit card. But I’m lazy about weird things, so I didn’t call to report it. “It’ll turn up,” I figured. “They usually do.”

Then, Jake started peeing again. Peeing like he used to, which is to say : everywhere. Off to the vet with him, then, and my Discover card for payment.

Midafternoon, a call from B!. Card was declined. The vet was more expensive than I’d anticipated. “Tell them we’ll pay them tomorrow,” I suggested, trying to be helpful. “What are they going to do, keep the cat as collateral?” B! met me at work, I gave him a check which he gave to the vet, and everyone was happy.

Until this morning.

Test results in, the general consensus is that I “have a very, very sick cat” that “needs emergency treatment”, like, yesterday. How perfectly timed.

“I’ll write myself a check!” I thought. “That’ll do the trick!” (Except for how I’d just used my last check for my psychiatrist’s exorbitant copay.) (It’s not her, it’s my health insurance.)

“I’ll go to the bank!” I decided. “Get a replacement card, pull out a few hundred dollars, order new checks”.  (Except for how it turns out my driver’s license is expired, which makes it ineligible for use as a form of identification.)

“Get your passport!” shrieked the customer manager at the bank, afire with inspiration. (Except for how the last time I saw my passport was also the last time I saw my friend Stephanie’s D80.) (Dammit!!)

After ransacking my apartment for the elusive passport, I found my debit card wedged between a Staples receipt and a gift card to Chili’s, so off to the hospital I went, brandishing cash borrowed from my parents.

More tests! An ultrasound! I’ve never spent so much money so quickly with so little pleasure. Next thing you know, they’re wanting to keep him overnight for observation and I’m seeing my meager financial goals melt like ice in a warm pond.

Eight hundred and something dollars later, we are all home. We have a bag of saline, three kinds of antibiotics, all-new kitty toys, and one very tired Jake. We also have needles for the subcutaneous hydrating saline solution. We are supposed to hold him down and stick these needles into his skin. This, I calculate, will save us nearly $300/day. Even still, I’m not at all sure that I can do it. Not really that sure at all.


Nobody tells you these things in the baby manuals.

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So we got this kitten. She’s pretty cute.

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She weighs less than a half-full Miller High Life (or so it seems) and she seems to be warming up to That Jake, even though he’s made a practice of pouncing towards her as though she were the Mammoth Maine Coon and he the Tiny Tabby. B! and I decided, nearly a year ago, that we would name her Mozambique and call her Mozey for short. “With a “Z”!” I trilled happily, flush with kitten fever.

And now I kind of fel like the parent of a newborn, all glowy and  gushing, brandishing blurry pictures on my iPhone to anyone with one good eye. But I’m kind of grossed out, too. That Jake is, like, always smelling her butt. And today he used her litter. And then she sniffed the litter he used, and used it again.

It made me feel weird.


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