Back To My Normal

Everything I want to write about deserves so much more time and attention than I have to give at the moment.  Fingers crossed I make it back soon to give topics justice…

We had a house guest…two weeks?…ago?…and I forgot to ask him how I might refer to him here (if he felt comfortable with being named at all).  A friend from years and years ago.  I couldn’t (and therefore didn’t) take time off for his visit, but he relaxed and entertained himself and we did manage an afternoon trip to see some of the nature sites the upper peninsula of Michigan has to offer.  There was also good beer and a camp fire.

I couldn’t take time off because I had already scheduled a week off, starting the day he left, to join some of my dearest friends at The Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota.  This is the first trip our non-profit, Animal Warriors, has managed to coordinate remotely.  Three people flew in from Tampa, one New Mexico person arranged work travel in such a way she was already in MN, and I drove over.

We worked our asses off together over the weekend, and then each day we lost a worker to the real world until Wednesday (yesterday) when I drove the last person to the airport and headed home myself.

Actually, we were the second and third to the last people.  Kath, my beloved AT companion in 2012, will be there for a month to help with a gap in the intern scheduling.  She is the one who coordinated this trip having done month-long stints at the sanctuary last year.  I am already scheming how I might manage another weekend away while she’s there.

In four days, we finished the top and bottom of a brand new enclosure, as well as helped with the last touches on another habitat.  I am sore, sore, sore.  And happy, happy, happy.  These project-specific trips can be so useful for rescues and animal organizations once they realize the skills and experience we can offer.

Tom was jealous of my trip, but so extremely supportive.  He held down the fort here including taking Markey the Sheltie to his first post-op checkup to remove staples and examine the pin site.  All is going as expected on that front and Markey’s personality inside the house is really blossoming.  Outside is he still frightened and skittish.

Things are still in limbo with the tree situation.  I’m not sure where the neighbors stand in submitting a claim to Wisconsin Public Service for their garage repair and I’m pretty sure Tom has not heard back on our claim for the increase in the tree service needed after the fall.  But the huge log of white pine has been removed by someone who needed it and paid for it (pine would not be good for an indoor fire and we already have plenty of wood piles for outdoor-only).  The other tree that fell, the oak, is slowly being carved and split by Tom to keep us warm this winter.

As an added bonus, the right someone finally read our craigslist ad about free hay for mulch.  Even after creating a hay bale garden, adding some to our mulch pile, and using hay to fill in an old stump depression, we had about 20-30 bales leftover from winter insulation.  It was wet and decaying and not good for much of anything.  The strings had mostly rotted off so moving them was difficult and a huge pile ended up right in front of the living room windows which was not at all ugly to look at every single morning.  Such a relief it is gone.  Tom is putting up some sort of insulating board over the foam insulation in the crawlspace gaps so we will not have a repeat of hay-gate next spring.

I just got up to look out at those living room windows and there is a bright red leaf stuck in a baby pine.  When I drove through town on my way home yesterday, I noticed the streets were distinctly less crowded.  Our humming bird feeder, which sat almost untouched since spring, has been emptied twice in three weeks.  Fall is just around the corner.  It has been a satisfying, exciting, busy summer.  I know I should not look forward to a slow season and slow sales at The Hiker Box.  But right now a little catch-up time sounds wonderful.

No one has ever accused me of being Julie Andrews

I have a few posts in the works…my running post was nixed for a while because I developed shin splints and could barely hobble.  Yes, I know that did not hinder my ability to TYPE.  But it is depressing to try and write about how much you kick ass when you feel like you are on the other end of that phrase.

After playing with various variables, I think I have finally figured out that it was my cute-but-thin running socks.  They allow my feet to move too much inside my shoe so my orthotics doesn’t hit my foot right.

I’d make some “gee, orthotics I must be old” joke but I’ve been wearing them since I was 21.  I’ve been your grandma since I was legal drinking age.  The orthotics go nicely with my gray hair.

(I was with a friend recently who pointed out I was the youngest of our group.  “Yes, the youngest but with the most gray hair!”  And I think that statement holds true even if I wasn’t also the laziest and cannot be bothered to get my dye on.)

I’ve also made some huge changes to my diet.  I’m “juicing” (making my own fresh vegetable and fruit juice, usually replacing lunch or dinner with just juice) and in general eating a shit-ton of produce.  But the plan is to do this for a month to see if it has the desired effects so I’m still in research mode.  Except I will share that today my fridge is filled with collard greens, kale, kiwi, granny smith apples, cucumber, carrots, celery, red onion, oranges, ginger root, and a lemon.  Not to mention the big bag of salad, half
an avocado and 2 cups of broccoli I finished off yesterday.

Having a fridge full of fruits and veggies is one of my favorite things.  And whiskers on kittens are pretty neat, but they have nothing on the fact that today I *finally* *finally* cleaned the new girl tiger who is angry and scared of the whole world with out her charging, roaring, and leaping onto the cage wire.  I even took my lunch out there and sat in her eye sight and by the time I was done she was peaking out of her den.  I could see the tail flicking behind her, just ready to show me how big and bad she is if I made the wrong move.

In fact, today was pretty much full of my favorite things.  I got up and exercised early.  (No running again yet, but I did sweat buckets on the elliptical with my orthotics and 1980s puffy gym socks)  Had my usual blueberry/green smoothie. (Although I made it with collard greens instead of spinach because a friend mentioned she liked it that way.  Collard greens are definitely NOT one of my favorite things and will not be making an encore performance in the In Progress kitchen.)  Got my shit together and out the door on time.  Started the Roomba too and it actually cleaned today instead of pouting by the cat litter.  Had a good time cleaning/ not being mauled at the sanctuary.  Ran 6,497 errands on the way home and had them all play out exactly how I imagined.  Took a shower.  Vegged in front of the computer knowing I had accomplished so much I could goof off the rest of the day.  There is nothing better than that feeling.

My mom flies in tonight.  Part of the reason for the 7,892 errands.  She’s just tagging along on my regularly-scheduled Gma trip this week.  Everything is very up in the air about Gma’s condition.  But she’s feeling pretty normal right now and it is awesome that Mom will get to visit and see her.

But for now, I have to go juice some kale.  Do you know how much protein is in kale?  A lot for something that resembles grass.  Wait.  How much protein is in grass?  Anyway, kale has definitely become one of my favorite things.

Neutral

Not a very inspiring title, but since I went through the trouble of googling it for correct spelling it stays.

I have been getting tons accomplished (see: one less cat in my bathroom).  But I am getting a little worn down by it.  Yes, I have the flexible hardly-a-job-at-all-really schedule.  But this has allowed for me to try a few things here and there that seem so easy to fit into a few hours a week.

These days I’m stuck with a few hours in the afternoon where I sort of sit and drool until my PM activities take up.

I’m trying hard to not do that (sit and drool).  I’m trying to make time to sit at the computer and research stuff and do “work”.

Did you know that amazon.com is “work”?  (And you thought I was using quotes incorrectly!)

The sanctuary still takes up a big part of my week.  Or at least my week days.  Week days I’m in town.  I really only have 3 flexible days in my schedule and I do my best to volunteer all of those days in order to make the hourly requirements for my volunteer level.

It’s not the same.  I can’t remember how much I divulged when I left my paid position there, but suffice to say if there had been management/benefits/career advancement worth staying for then Gma would have had to suck it up and deal.  I made the decision to leave when many things were up in the air.  And now that the dust has settled…it’s not the same.  (And no one ever says that when the “not the” part is better than the “same”, do they?)

Yet I stay.  In part because at first I was concerned I needed more structure to my work week than 4 hours in the car, sixteen billion worried nosey questions, and some Jack Daniel’s.

And now?  Now I don’t know.  I suppose I stay because it’s a place where I am still an important person.  And I don’t have anywhere else that’s true.

But I am tempted to change that.  Tempted to look for another place where I am needed but not reminded of how it used to be.

In the middle of all that is the fact Tom and I want to do this hike.  We will do this hike.  It will be awesome or horrible or both.  Definitely not neutral.  I am toying with the idea of doing some housekeeping around here, adding some password protection on a few posts, and then outing myself to friends and family in order to use this blog to journal the hike.

So do I hang on to this sorta schedule?  Too busy or too bored and always too tired?  Or do I dump everything and charge headlong into a new project only to say, “Can you hold that thought?  I gotta go walk 2,200 miles”?

Marching Onward

I guess I really should update more than once a month, huh?  At the very least, my frugality should kick in and decide paying for this site means I actually use it.

I miss writing daily.  Like many things, it’s habit.  Once broken, hard to fix.  I have the time now to do so – I no longer work at the sanctuary and Tom travels for work every week so I have my evenings to myself.  But somehow I never think to write.

I turned 35 this month.  It happened with little fanfare, as I wished.  I guess I might have wanted a bit more trumpet blowing if I thought I were healthier, wealthier, and wiser than I was at 30.  But alas, I don’t think that’s the case.

I’m getting there though.  Before fixing this writing habit, I’m trying to fix a few healthy habits that fell by the wayside.  Hate to throw him under the bus, but it is so much easier with Tom gone most of the time.  As someone who was paid for physical labor over half his life, he has a hard time convincing himself to sweat without dollar signs attached.  He also had a HUGE change in his eating habits when we merged – no red meat?  What’s this green stuff?  And while that was great for him, it was a step backwards for me and my 8-a-day.

The wealthier is a bit harder to manage.  I am currently drawing a small salary from my grandmother.  It became evident last fall that she needed extra help around the house.  I couldn’t provide more support without making her my “job”, and so we agreed that’s what was best for now.  I drive up to Gainesville once a week to spend 2 days with her.  I also do things for her throughout the week that don’t require her presence – buying a toaster, getting rid of old items we’ve stashed in my trunk, etc.

I am enjoying this extra time with her immensely.  Thankfully, Tom comes from a large, tight-knit family.  He’s incredibly supportive of this departure from my having a “real job”.

While leaving the sanctuary as the IT Manager wasn’t something I was seriously considering at the time, several changes happened that made this decision easy for me.  GM, (aka friend, mentor, big brother, hero, cohort who made the impossible challenges of working there bearable) had/has some pretty awesome opportunities in the works for him.  Whether higher ups felt threatened by that, or were making a preemptive strike on his leaving, he wasn’t being treated well.

I wasn’t being treated well either, come to think of it.  Several of us that helped build up much of the infrastructure were put down and negated on many changes that started to happen.

Since then, changes having been occurring at a rapid fire pace.  I am still a volunteer, and still a volunteer coordinator.  I hope that things will slow down and the dust will settle.  But there are a lot of hurt feelings and I’m not sure the outcome of that yet – even for myself.

And the wiser part?  Well, perhaps leaving the paid position at the sanctuary and returning to volunteer-only status is a big step in that direction.  It gives me freedom and distance from some of the people out there while allowing me more time with the cats.

Other than that, I kind of feel like I’m back where I was when I left my software engineering job.  Blank slate.  It feels a bit silly to be here yet again.  But I’d rather be here than stuck in another unhappy situation.  I can only move forward from here.

Staring Contest

I blink.

And my world is upside down.

The vague unease I felt being part of something big I wasn’t sure I deserved to be a part of is replaced by the vague unease that I am part of something I’m not sure deserves me.

But the truth is, on paper, if I push on I doubt anyone but myself will look back and think that.  Myself and the few others who are thinking the same thing right now.

I blink again.

A person who raised me and made sure I got exercise and ate my vegetables (I can only remember once hiding them underneath my booster seat), now relies on me to see the restroom signs, the street signs, the xs marks the spot.

She gave me metallic sticky stars for pooping when I was constipated at age four.  Now I look the other way and pretend I don’t understand when she mentions difficultly collecting a urine sample.

Blink.  Blink.

Is it all right side up again?  Have I won?

So…Yeah.

That’s pretty much my answer to everything these days.

I started to login to write and then thought, “Does anyone even read here anymore?”  Then I remembered that handy sitemeter thingy I so dearly loved three years ago.  And yes.  Four people do still read here.  Assuming two of you are not exes who can get facebook updates on my current mental and Mafia Wars status, I figured I’d stop by.

I also figured with several posts about my grandparents, I’d pop back in here before that one really sad post.  Grandma’s health is deteriorating.  She could live a few more years and I’m not trying to shovel any dirt on her, but my grandparents were so active.  Two or three foreign trips a year.  Dinner out at least twice a week.  Houses in three different states for different seasons and connections.  Now if my grandmother gets “off campus” (the hip way to refer to leaving the retirement home grounds), it’s a major occassion.

I know she thinks life is pale and stupid without my grandfather.  That’s just not the kind of person who is looking to stretch her minutes here.  I don’t blame her, and I know she finds joy where and when she can.  I hope to be a help in this final journey of her life, as she was such a help in mine.

Tom and I are inching along.  In a few months, I will have been married to him longer than my first husband.  I still feel that tug.  I am not cut out for this marriage crap.  But he is still the king of awesome and inappropriateness and putting up with my sorry ass.  So I guess I’ll keep him around.

The sanctuary…has been through many changes.  And is continuing to change.  Something I love telling guests is how we never feel we’ve got it perfect – we’ll always searching for ways to make the lives of the animals better.  So, when you say shit like that you kinda have to shut your mouth when change occurs.  They are for the best, but damn do the growing pains hurt.

For me specifically, I feel comfortable enough to say that the IT portion of my position has grown and pushed every limit of my knowledge.  It’s difficult to balance it with animal care, volunteer coordinating, and the other more mundane aspects of my paycheck.  Some days I feel like nothing more than a gopher.  Some days I feel like a queen.  And some days I feel like a failure.

Today, I felt like a failure.  So I’m shooting for at least gopher tomorrow.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do.

Living the Dream

Holy Fuck, life has been rough.  Inappropriate, excessive swearing rough.

And then of course, we still have our house, can afford to stay in it, do not have to give our animals up because we can’t buy food, and loosely-speaking, still have our health.

Still.

I’ve been very unhappy with my schedule lately.  Doesn’t shock a lot of people.  10-14 hour days?  6-7 days a week?  How can you not love it?

Well, I do.  Usually.  I love feeling like I’m making a difference and getting dirty (and bloody) and being part of a solution.  I love helping people and animals and most days I feel like I’ve done both.

Lately though, Tom’s schedule has been just as much shit as mine – including shift work which means I end up not sleeping a full night either.  And our animal woes have not stopped.  Three, THREE, urinary tract infections.  One on a cat who’s been surgically altered to have much less tract to resolve this exact kind of thing.  One a cat who has to be sedated for the most simple of exams.  (The last is just on a plain ole regular cat.  Albeit a fat, old, and needy one.)

I’ve been really wishing I had a more 9-to-5 deal, so I could do a better job taking care of everyone.  And maybe some weekends off to catch up on everything else.

The thing is, I really hate wishing that.  I am not made to be selfish and me, me, me.  It pisses me off.  And I’m horrible at it.  My boss has even less time off than me – how do you ask for more?

I really hope this is a phase.  I really hope we get a handle on our pet and personal life and I go back to feeling gunho about my schedule.

Holy Shit

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the amout of time I spend at the sanctuary precludes much of a social life.

That includes a religous social life.

Today was the first day since I sprained my ankle I resumed even semi-normal animal care activities.  As it was my Sundy to coordinate the volunteers, I was head honcho.  No one could tell me no.  So I gimped around 6 cages, filled water bowls, picked up extra meat, picked up the result of not-extra meat, and cared for the animals.

This is the best fucking day I’ve had in so fucking long.

I have mentioned to friends here or there that I believe to some extent I am completing a higher power’s will by caring for these animals.  What I don’t think I mention is why I feel that way.  That the fulfillment I get from dirty legs and latex gloves is something I can only hope for others.

Thank God.

Christmas

It’s 6:07am here in Tampa.  I think it’s going to be about 82 degrees today.  I’m struggling to wake up while the overnight french toast bakes.

I’ll be at the sanctuary by 7:30am, breakfast for the volunteers in hand.  If the rest of the week is any indication, I will get the honor and privilege of picking up poo and left over meat from our 3 new cats (2 tigers and a liger).  They are still on quarantine and most haven’t even gotten a glance at them yet.  Of course, even with cleaning and feeding them this week I’ve only really seen 2 of them.  I hope they get over the transport trauma soon and learn we are there to help them.

Once cleaning and feeding is done, I’ll come back to the condo to pack up for Gainesville.  If everyone is lucky I will take a minute to shower.  Two hours of driving, a little food with the family at Grandma’s, some present-opening, and then a two hour drive back.

I’ve been averaging about 3-4 hours sleep a night for maybe two weeks now.  So maybe I’m just delirious.  But right now I feel so blessed and lucky for a Christmas like this.

I hope where ever you are, whomever you are with, whatever you do, you feel the same way.  Merry Christmas.

Dude

I mean…dude.

I’d love to be more eloquent about the past month, but I just can’t.

The fundraiser, while a huge success from a logistics standpoint of that evening, did not garner quite the bucks people hoped for.  I can’t help it, I take it a little personally since I had such a role in several aspects of the planning.  More specifically, I see things that can definitely be improved and feel I might not get the chance to implement said changes.

The same week as the fundraiser, I got a call from GM while on a remote part of the sanctuary property stating a dauchand needed rescue that day – he was on death row.  Of course I called Tom, who of course said YES!, and of course the dauchand turned out to be a 45 lb weird basset hound/dauchand/rotreiller mix.  He’s way too big and energic for our household.  Luckily, I only signed up to foster him (with everyone thinking we’d fall so much in love that we’d “fail” and keep him).  Alas, we love him but don’t attend to fail.  It’s been very stressful and I am thankful that (fingers crossed) he appears to be going to a new mommy this Sunday.  What’s even better?  She lives in my condo complex!

A few days after that, we took Roark in for X-rays and got confirmation on what his blood work hinted at.  Cancer.  Lymphomas all through his body, including one impinging on nerves in his front left leg.  Chemo and radiation just sound cruel for a 14 year-old cat so it’s been a ton of drugs daily to keep him comfortable, bandaging the leg as it’s prone to swellings, force feeding at times to keep weight on him, and many many vet visits.

Perhaps the only reason I can write about it is that yesterday for the first time I found him downstairs and ready to eat with the rest of the pack.  I know it doesn’t mean anything – he’ll be leaving us soon – but it was such a joy to get that one memory of the cat he used to be.

Other than that, I’ve been sick.  Ill.  Coughing.  Hacking.  Sweating.  I can’t believe I got through the stress of the fundraiser only to have a complete physical meltdown.  I thought I’d finally get back to eating right, exercising, and wow my in-laws at Thanksgiving.  Now I’ll just be lucky if I can say hello to all my in-laws without leaving chunks of lung on them.