Thanksgiving 2017

On Vale’s first Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the usual (though no less significant) –

Good health

Good weather

Good food

Good beer

Faithful feline furbabies who tolerate my child

My wonderful husband who always has my back

My forever friends who are constant and steadfast

But this year, most of all, I am thankful for the new little family we’ve created

 

A Snapshot of the Last Days

The last week of my time off was not perfect. The hives continued to be horrible, and also appeared on my arms and hands, though with less ferocity, so I decided I would just stay in bed all day and do nothing for a couple of days. This was the best decision ever, and bed was a magical place where I enjoyed holding Vale in bed while different versions of La Vie En Rose played on my Billie Holiday Pandora station (Louie Armstrong and Edith Piaf), and watching her sleep while I ate breakfast (cooked by Dad) in bed.

 

 

I propped my laptop on my breakfast-in-bed table from Ikea, answered some emails, surfed the web, blogged, cuddled with Vale, and took it easy for two full days. Fiona, my faithful feline friend, joined the party and insisted on crowding up against Vale in my lap, or hovering underneath the table like she did when I was in law school. I was reminded of how she’d accompany me for hours while I read law school assignments and studied for the bar. She (and Ophelia) were our babies first, and turned 10 years old in a flash.

While in bed, I contemplated the importance of family, slow moments, and the little pleasures in life. I texted my mother frequently, and thought of how difficult it must have been for her and my dad to be half a world away from their family for decades.

Hello, World

Hello, world.

My name is Vale. I am a few days past five weeks old. Like all babies, I eat, poop, and sleep a lot. These constitute my primary activities in any given 24-hour period. I am a serious baby and frequently have contemplative expressions on my face, or look at people out of the corner of my eyes suspiciously. I don’t smile much, I frown a lot, and occasionally I am prone to a smirk here and there. I will probably be sarcastic as an adult.

I laugh and smile in my sleep, and also coo and make grunting noises. I rarely cry for unexplained reasons, and have never wailed for any extended period of time. When I do cry heartily, Mom calls me “ugly fetus face” because my whole face scrunches up into a big mess of wrinkles. I sleep through extremely loud noises and social gatherings, and have been sleeping in 5-6 hour stretches already. Mom and Dad (perhaps too optimistically) hope this will continue.

I don’t mind baths too much. The first time I was plopped in a tub, I thought I was going to cry, but then decided it was not so bad. I don’t like clothing, and spend most of my days just wearing a diaper. Mom takes me out in public like so and sometimes people say, “Ooh, a naked baby!” I guess other babies usually wear clothes. I like to cuddle with Daddy the most. I love to eat. Eating is great. I could…I mean I do do it all day and night.

Mom makes me listen to Arcade Fire, Billie Holiday, Elliot Smith, and other hippie crap during the day. We go for walks sometimes with grandpa, because I am supposed to get some sun every day, but I hate having sun in my eyes. Mom is training me to pee and poo on cue to eventually stop relying on diapers. Mom and Dad started this process by doing a whistle every time they change my diaper. The whistle is Rue’s whistle from the Hunger Games. Don’t ask me how they decided on that one; my parents are weird.

I have two cat sisters who do not pay me much mind. I think they resent me, but they are not particularly unfriendly. They always like to be close by to Mom and Dad, even if I’m around. Sometimes I disrupt their slumber at night and they grow irritated and leave the bed. Fiona steps on me when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe one day we will get along better.

Little V Meets the Kitties

Our cats have been our babies for over 10 years now, and we were a bit concerned about what their reactions would be to a new mini member to the family. As soon as we arrived home from the hospital, we made efforts to pay attention to them and encourage them to be nearby.We predicted Fiona would be jealous and Ophelia would be anxious and depressed, but so far, things are much better than expected.

They both purposely avoided her initially. Neither would approach her and Ophelia seemed to abhor even the scent of her on my hands; she cringed and shrank from my attempts to pet her the first couple of days. The first day, Fiona worked up the courage to come close enough to sniff Little V’s head, but appeared to be repulsed by the scent, and quickly turned and ran. Eventually, habit got the better of Fiona. She wanted to continue her cuddling routines, so she tolerated the new presence, along with the occasional fussing and screaming at night and stayed curled up close unless the screaming grew too prolonged and loud (which didn’t happen too often). On the second or third night, curiosity set in and she actually tried to climb into Baby V’s cosleeper on 5 occasions. Although I doubt babies or cats are dumb enough such that accidental smothering is any significant risk, it seems a universal rule to prohibit cats from sleeping with babies, so we redirected Fiona’s attentions to be safe.

 

Ophelia has not taken to Baby V as well, which is unsurprising. She has not been as anxious or depressed as we feared, though she is still a bit distant. She hides under the bed more than usual, but of course will still emerge when treats are presented. In the past, my little glutton has actually been depressed enough to turn down treats, so I consider the present state a win. Sometimes, she even seems perfectly content sprawling out in the sun, and after a week, she no longer shuns pets (probably has gotten used to the smell of Little V). As is always the case with poor, sensitive, Ophelia, these things will take time. It looks like Fiona and Little V may eventually be good buddies though.

Week 40

My mind is tired, perhaps because I did not sleep well the night before, or maybe just general fatigue from feeling like a really fat old person, huffing and puffing up hills and “ohhhhh my bones.” I did some yoga on Monday, followed by triceps dips and wide squats with a 20 pound weight.

Packed 3 conference calls in on Tuesday. I may schedule some things tentatively for after my due date in the (likely) event Fetus is late.

8/24/17

Thursday, while on a conference call at 5:00 p.m., I felt some a sudden onset of low back pain and tightness and thought I’d better wrap a couple of things up in case I was going into labor. It was better by the time I got home, so I did some light yoga to stretch things out, and then we walked the hill across the street a couple of times. Some variation of this sensation continued throughout the night, but with less intensity (woke up a few times but slept through most of it).

8/25/17

When I woke up in the morning I thought I better not go into work and just do some work from home instead. I had just one major thing to finish up, but I felt it would be just fine quickly wrapping it up from the comfort of home. Of course as soon as I sent out an email saying I was working from home, I stopped feeling anything for 2 hours, remote access to my work computer failed to initiate, and I found myself twiddling my thumbs (writing this) at the kitchen table with a cat glued to my lap. Very good use of time.

So I dumped Yona off my lap, swept the floor, took out the trash, and put away some dishes. On my way back from the dumpster, our neighbor gave us some cat toys that his cat did not happen to fancy, so I came back and entertained Yona with them.

I ended up putting in a full day of work, and we did some hill walking at night.

Weekend

The weekend was a bit of a blur. I started to have sort of minor contractions, that felt like a combination of cramps and back pain, which woke me up a few times at night, and then started happening every 20, then 10 minutes. I used this as an excuse to be lazy. We took a really brief walk on the beach and did some meditation.

When Your Cat Seems To Be Training You For Children

Our cat Fiona has always taken it upon herself to train Kyle for having babies by waking him up at odd hours, making strange noises, and demanding food at ungodly times. Recently, she has really upped her game. Today, Kyle was gone for work but she must have pestered me for food five times after I returned home from work.

I wrapped a present for a baby shower for the next day, set it aside, only to return several minutes later to find Fiona had made a small tear in the pretty wrapping paper, and was sitting her ass on the present. That was not enough mischief for the night, though.

I turned on the hand steamer, set it down on the kitchen counter to heat up, and turned my back for not 30 seconds to grab a snack. When I glanced back to check on the hand steamer, I practically had a heart attack when I saw Fiona had her whole face pressed into the holes where the steam is supposed to come out. I yelled at her and she quickly retreated, exactly 3 seconds before hot steam came streaming out. I thought she was going to burn her eyeballs off! I think this is the first time I encountered a cat safety hazard while engaging in domesticity. I thought she needed to blow off some energy, so I played with her, but when it came time to use my computer, this was happening:

When I finally got to use my computer, she crawled into my lap like the spoiled thing she is and pretended she was totally innocent.

ADDENDUM: The next morning, she attempted to drag me out of bed at 6:50 am and pestered me to no end. She even bit my face at one point. I am a firm believer in not giving in to such antics, but although I ignored her bad behavior, I was not able to go back to sleep. I still refused to get out of bed until 8:00 and then went downstairs to have coffee before yoga class. To top it off, as I was headed out the door, Ophelia circled my legs, blocked me on the stairs, and clung to my leggings as I was trying to leave. I texted Kyle and let him know the cats are extra neurotic when he’s gone.

Being Preggo: The Good Parts

Doctor’s Appointments

Ultrasounds are fun! It’s amazing what medical technology has done for humanity. Just a couple of months in, you can see your little fetus bouncing around and waving her hand inside your belly. It’s neat-o. She looks like a little alien and sucks her thumb. By the time of the anatomy scan around 20 weeks, they have the ability to scan the entire fetus organ by organ, to ensure everything is in its right place and in developmental order. But don’t think for a minute this has eroded my rabid support for abortion and reproductive rights.

Friends

People are quite supportive and friends you may not even have been very close to will periodically check in on you, which is very sweet and thoughtful. Also, the bar is considerably lowered for you in terms of life. You will be praised for doing mundane things like actually wearing heels and not looking like a total slob when leaving the house, and people will ask if you are capable of a 15-minute walk. You will feel like a champion just for getting through the bare minimum requirements of life. Just kidding. This is actually not entirely a good thing.

I am also incredibly fortunate in that I have many friends who are pregnant at the same time as me (it’s an “we’ve hit the early thirties” thing). They are there to share experiences and advice, give good book recommendations, and be positive when I’m not feeling so sure (or to reaffirm that they are not so enthusiastic about the same things, either!). I have 5 other friends having babies this year, so I feel less alone in this. This kind of support is priceless.

The Angst

This was on the complaints list as well, but there’s an aspect of this I suspect I have missed, and I somewhat welcome its return. It’s nice to have a head full of thoughts and ideas, however disjointed, nonsensical, and fleeting they are. I had two moments, one involving Donald Trump, and the other involving a lost cat that incited in me a uncontrollable word-vomiting in the form of angry blog posts. It’s not the best in terms of emotional regulation, but having been dry on ideas for some time, it was refreshing to be reinvigorated again.

I entered two poetry contests for absolutely no reason. I do not even write poetry but my husband’s cousin posted a link of random free writing contests for the month of March and one thing led to another. Since I can’t blog about beer anymore, I flipped through journals from 12 years ago and sorted through my thoughts and words from what seems like a lifetime ago, to turn them into blog posts. It was like a 20 year old me left behind pieces of a puzzle for 32 year old me to put back together. If I really want to keep this up I have 12+ journals worth of junk to sort through, but we’ll see what whims strike next.

Refugee Family Reunites With Lost Cat After Epic Journey

I consider myself emotionally balanced most of the time, though I am prone to sentimentality over cats and rage over matters involving violations of human and civil rights. I think pregnancy has slightly magnified these tendencies of mine and today, I came across a moving story that encompassed both of these issues. Cats, human rights violations, and pregnancy were a trifecta that really pushed me over the edge in this case.

The Guardian shared a story of an unfortunate refugee family who had to flee Iraq due to circumstances of violence. They could not imagine parting with their family pet, a beautiful white cat (though I am partial to black ones), so a mother, five children, and their beautiful white cat named Kunkush left Iraq and headed to Greece together in November of 2015.

100,000 refugees arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos that month, and according to The Guardian video (below), “Kunkush was scared and got separated from his family.” This statement is written in big, unmistakable letters in this compelling video of human and animal resilience. The family had to move on, since Greece was merely a brief stopover point, and they did not yet know where there final destination would be, as is often the case with victims who are displaced by war.

Kunkush was located in a village nearby several days later, and was picked up by a veterinarian. After two months, a volunteer traveled with Kunkush to Berlin, and a search for his family began.

It turns out, his family had relocated to Norway, and in February, Kunkush was reunited with his family. This video (you have to watch it) is so incredibly touching, as it shows the loving reunion between Kunkush and his family after a long and seemingly impossible journey. The mother can hardly wait to get him out of the carrier, and once he is in her arms she cries, “Kunkush, my life! My darling!” as she kisses him. I almost fucking cried at work watching this damn thing.

There is nothing more beautiful than a happy ending like this; a family forced from their homes under tragic circumstances finds a new home, and their beloved cat makes it home to them under the most improbable of circumstances. You can read more here.

Yet, for every miraculous, beautiful moment, there is some ugly, vile, person with cow shit in the place of where their heart should be to tear it down. The story was posted by And My Cat on Facebook:

While many enjoyed the story and shared positive thoughts, many of the comments were imbecilic, egregiously ignorant, and reprehensible.  For instance, Exhibit A, Rita Maji DeLisi, a royal cunt who enjoys Ohio sports commented, “Sad…pathetic owners leave pets behind. Get yourself a statue next time. You don’t deserve the love pets provide.” Another equally cunty Facebook user apparently agreed with her and liked her garbage post.

 

Not to be outdone, Exhibit B, Corrina Peacock Ashley stated, “They shouldn’t have left him!!!” and Exhibit C, Bettyann Brunette Lilley called the family “pieces of crap” and “fools” for leaving their fur baby. That’s right; in reaching an unprecedented low, Lilley actually called children fleeing from war “pieces of crap” and “fools” because they lost their cat. It is truly un-fucking-believable.

First, maybe if Rita’s military was not bombing the shit out of Iraq and murdering civilians over there, this poor family probably would not have had to fucking flee to begin with. It’s easy for compassionless, disgusting north Americans to judge a family under these circumstances while stuffing themselves full of Doritos and Pizza Hut in the safety of their own homes, which have never been damaged, destroyed, or even threatened with foreign bombs or troops.

Second, it’d be nice if these fucking idiots would do the world a favor and learn to read. The video clearly indicates the cat was scared and ran off. He was not abandoned for fuck’s sake. If they were capable of reading even at a second-grade level, they would have learned from the video that Greece was not this family’s final destination. In all likelihood, they did not have legal status to stay in Greece indefinitely as undocumented aliens and search aimlessly for their runaway cat. Rita is possibly the type of American who supported Trump and his abominable wall and seethes with hatred at illegal immigrants, but she somehow expects this family to overstay their legal welcome in Greece to search for a fucking cat. Does this make any goddamn sense?

Even if the poor cat were in fact abandoned, is it too much to ask to have a bit of sympathy for a family literally fleeing for their lives? Let’s not forget that refugees drowned in Turkey and even Lesbos, where this family landed, and cats are not known to be the best swimmers. Maybe at that point, the family was relieved Kunkush had at least run away on land and not died. It’s easy to judge another human being, but no one really knows what they would do if forced into the same situation of war, violence, and displacement. But I suppose that’s far too beyond the mind of North Americans living their revoltingly militaristic and supercilious lives, marked by extraordinary obesity in both a metaphoric and literal sense – the overindulgent, masturbatory corpulence of the self-righteous American manifests itself both mentally and physically.

In sum, fuck these people.

A Tail Of Two Cats, And A Lot Of Beer Part II

Ophelia

It’s Friday night. It’s Friday night! Again! Friday nights are always like this. The strangers arrive in waves, and the incessant doorbell chime grieves me. I wish they would stop coming. The weekend always comes again so quickly, and the people appear and here it is again, loud noises, slurring speech, drunken mess in the living room and I can’t get Mum or Dad’s attention for hardly more than a minute the whole night. It’s frightening and crass, these weekend nights. Everyone makes me so nervous, though I don’t know about what. I just cannot relax on these weekend nights.

Mum and Dad forgot to give me the Buspar (anti-anxiety medication) today! That’s what drinking does; it causes rational people to forsake their sense of decency and responsibility, though to be completely fair, I don’t like the medication anyway. But the point stands, as I quite dislike drunkenness, and cannot stand the presence of so many people at such high volumes, so I sit upstairs and watch silently from behind the safety of the banister. I wish Mom or Dad would just come up briefly and say “hi.” It agitates me to no end – oh my, does Mum really need another IPA? Does Dad really need to have that Porter? My god, this is interminable!

When they stay at home, they raise hell all night and grate my nerves for hours until I wonder if I’m indeed an American house cat, or a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. When they go out to bars or clubs, they come home so late, at an ungodly hour, and follow me around the room trying to pet me with their grubby drunken hands. I cannot stand it. They make a big deal out of their variety of craft beers, but I do not believe this is a worthy or proper endeavor of any sort. Grown people voluntarily drinking this abominable stuff, and growing loud and silly. And they think I’m the one with the mental problems. It should not be permitted. Lord have mercy on the individual who invented this devil-juice.

Oh, my god! What was that? Oh, only the doorbell… again….  I just don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. My sister is not supportive at all. She is transparently obsequious, taking interest in the different types of their sinful drinks, making her way from one friend to the next, peering at everyone coyly, nuzzling up to the boys.

She’s disgusting. She’s a disgusting, cheap, little slut, and she’s cruel to me. Her antics have been a severe source of apprehension and even oppression for me. The humans don’t see through her sly charm, but oh but how she torments me heartlessly when they are not around! She’s claimed certain parts of the bed as “hers” and becomes aggressive if I approach, as if she owns the place! Dad originally came to the animal shelter for the sole purpose of adopting me. She was a mere afterthought. He happened upon her and she of course easily deceived him with her saccharine ploys, so he ended up coming home with two cats. Immediately after we arrived at our lovely new abode, she set to work claiming laps, chairs, spaces as “hers.” It’s almost painful to think about it… I know Mum suspects Sister is this way when no one is watching, but alas, it is hard for anyone to conceive of this, as she is so small and delicate, while I’m larger – a bit overweight (yet another source of constant angst for me!)

How they all clearly love my sister, as she moves from one lap to the next. Oh, I’m not at all bitter because that’s not my nature, but it hurts! She lingers in the lap of the boy she likes a lot. She conjures up quite a bit of her malicious charm for him. The blond one turns itchy and red near my sister, but one plaintive look from that brazen trickster and the blond one reaches out to gently scratch her wretched cheek. I don’t understand any of this. Aside from my vulgar sister, honestly, who likes being molested by strangers? Oh, I could die right now. When does it end? 

Blast the IPA’s, porters, and Belgians. I’m going to go hide in the bedroom for the rest of the night.

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A Tail Of Two Cats, And A Lot Of Beer Part I

Fiona

It’s Friday. Mum and Dad’s friends are coming to get drunk and I love it. Mum has an IPA in hand, and I watch her when she answers the door because I want to see which friends are coming. I love the men. They are strong and beautiful and I could watch them and brush by them gently, purposefully, all night. Mum always moves so quickly. She runs to the door sometimes like they haven’t had a visitor in years. I’m watching but it often looks like I’m staring or glaring; my eyes have that kind of intensity, like maybe I am trying to bore a hole into your dark soul with my gaze.

I don’t think she believes in reincarnation, but…well, I’m fairly certain she does not believe in reincarnation, though some people do. It could be that dead is dead, and my little bones and organs will be forgotten, decomposed matter in the ground, ashes floating in the wind. But if Mum did believe in reincarnation, I think she’d want to be me in her next life. I think she’d find herself rather happy being me.

She thinks she is happy now. She and Dad are always talking and laughing. They go out drinking with friends on the weekend and if they go out they come home late, just when I am starting to think they might not be back at all. Their friends start out at our place, drinking lots of craft beers (Coors and Bud are not permitted in this house, unless for beer pong or other drinking games). Sometimes Mum is talked into shots of tequila or whiskey. They go out downtown to clubs and bars, come home loud and inarticulate, and sometimes cook food at 2 in the morning. Their friends pass out on the couch, and everyone wakes up incredibly late.

The next morning they complain about headaches and watch internet videos and eat bacon. Usually, Mum and Dad will give me a small piece of bacon too, though they make me do tricks to earn it. I find this inordinately humiliating, as I don’t see why people should have bacon for breakfast as a matter of course, while my sister and I should be subjugated for that small morsel of heaven. It’s particularly difficult for me. My sister is such a sad creature she could not possibly be further degraded beyond her pathetic state in any event, so I doubt it’s any any skin off her back.

If Mum and Dad go out, she always wears small, tight dresses, and I’m not sure how all that beer fits. If drinking at home, she likes yoga pants and T-shirts. Her favorites are a shirt with the Beatles on it and another one featuring a George Orwell quote – “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” Her outfits can be simple, but her closet’s quite obscene. She has several suits for work, more dresses than any woman needs, and certainly more shoes than necessary. Her accessory collection spans an armoire and two large troves. She also has an entire trunk full of costume material. If she was reincarnated as me, she wouldn’t have to be so preoccupied over clothes. She thinks she enjoys it, but I think secretly, she’d be equally happy with just a black coat of fur, a red collar, never having to worry about outfits, color detail, and accessorizing for the rest of her life.

If she were a pretty black cat like me, life would be simple, like she likes it. She could sit and stare out the big glass windows all day without responsibility of any sort, cast her golden, crystal eyes on the lawn as birds dance up and down. She could throw tantrums and look cute doing it. She can’t do that now; no one appreciates a grown woman throwing a fit.

There are about 8 people here now, and Mum’s lighting up the hookah. She was sipping on Inversion IPA again. She’s been drinking that one a lot lately, though it’s one of many of her favorite beers. It was probably on sale at the grocery store. The beers come and go quickly with the conversation. Dad’s favorites are Belgians, but the only Belgian style beer in the beer fridge currently is a Trippel by New Belgium. The blond one loves IPA’s, but recently, she’s on a Porter and Stout kick. She’s having Black Butte Porter, brewed by Deschutes. I cause her to have allergic reactions and itch and sneeze, but she’s still nice to me, perhaps because I am simply that charming.

Dad’s brother also loves IPA’s, but he is currently drinking the Hoppy Lager by Sierra Nevada (from the “Beer Camp” series). The girl with Mum’s same name has brought a 22 ounce of Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point and is sharing it with Mum. Her husband doesn’t drink. He’s a dentist. Maybe he thinks beer rots your teeth. The boy I like a lot used to drink IPA’s along with the rest of them, but he only drinks scotch now. I like him a lot because when he used to live here, he spent a lot of time on the couch, and provided very reliable lap space for my naps. In general, I love all the boys. They have the biggest, warmest laps.

My sister is silently observing us from the second floor, staring down at us from behind the banister like a creeper. She has some certifiable mental problems, that one. She loves to cling to Mum and Dad, but as soon as people come, she hides away like a scared little mouse. She is terribly socially awkward and bores me to tears, so I don’t even pay her mind anymore if I can help it.

They’re all loud and happy now. I wonder if I could have some beer. It smells so delicious, and seems to be some magic elixir of contentment.

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Stay tuned for part II.