Better than buying magic beans (probably)…

Having cut my teeth with a cat who was essentially a small dog, I obviously missed some of the fine points of raising felines. After losing Hershel to a urinary blockage, my slightly obsessed tendency towards doing extracurricular reading and knowing things let me down a number of intellectual rabbit holes. One of those research projects led me to discover that most domestic cats tend not to drink enough and hover constantly near a state of dehydration. It explains at least some of what makes male cats so damned prone to urinary tract issues.

Knowing something, having the information, is only worthwhile when it leads to improved decision making, I’d always kept Hershel on high quality dry food. While that most likely wasn’t the outright cause of his demise, it could easily be a contributing factor – and something I’d done unwittingly because at the time I lacked better information.

Now, with a bit of upgraded knowledge, Anya and Cordelia have their own filtered water fountain as well as access to the other strategically placed water bowls around the house. I’ve also opted to augment their kibble with twice daily wet food. They seem to enjoy it and the extra moisture is supposedly to their advantage. Aside from what feels like an absurd price for big boxes filled with three ounce cans, I’m reasonably satisfied it’s better for them overall than the way I use to do things. I will, however, refrain from naming specific brands here because the internet is an utter shitshow of people who want to dive in and criticize every choice and brand if it’s not precisely how and what they do themselves. That’s mess enough on Reddit that I won’t invite the same kind of engagement here.

In any case, the gang is eating and appears to be performing all other bodily functions normally so if nothing else, this change in process meets the baseline standard of doing no harm. I may never know if going over and beyond very basic feeding and watering makes a difference. If it does, that’s terrific and I’ve bought Anya and Cordy a marginally improved quality of life. If it doesn’t, I’m only out some money… and I’d have probably just pissed that away on magic beans or something anyway.

An unexpected moment of peace…

I’ll admit it. I’ve been letting the stress back up on me. I mostly assumed it was bleeding over from getting this damned government boondoggle through to the finish line next week. It’s not an unreasonable assumption. I like to think I carry it well, but it’s the kind of thing that wears on a guy as things reach their illogical end.

It wasn’t until I sat down last night and put my feet up after dinner that I realized how much lighter my own living room felt. Last night, with Anya returning healthy to the fold, was probably the first real night of peace I’ve enjoyed since Hershel died.

It was the first night in two months not overwhelmingly weighed down in missing my boy or worrying that the new girl was suffering catastrophic injury or that something would go wrong in surgery or during recovery. Then wondering if I’d ever manage to convince Cordy that under the bed is no place to live your life.

The last two months have been a chaotic mess – or at least what passes for a chaotic mess in my world. I hadn’t realized how much of that I was internalizing just to keep the whole thing plugging along. Now I’m just feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that maybe we’ve turned the flank of our current crisis and bought just a little bit of breathing room.

Last night, despite the racket of two cats periodically bouncing off the walls, was the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I couldn’t tell you when. There will be some other bridge that needs burning probably sooner rather than later, but for now I’m just going to go ahead and enjoy this moment of peace I didn’t know I needed.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 29 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. I’m sure someone could make the case that there’s enough blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 29 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing to deliver for their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) and for continuing to stand in the way like some bloody great, utterly misguided roadblock. No one’s interest is served by their continued intransigence. The elected “leaders” of AFGE Local 1904 should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.

2. Feet. You’ll never make me understand foot fetishists. Feet are, in a word, disgusting. They’re a necessary evil. Mine, however, are doubly annoying because they’re both disgusting and not working properly. I was diagnoses with plantar fasciitis about 15 years ago. The podiatrist ordered me up a set of shoe inserts and I went on about my life. Periodically, though, there’s flare up. There never seems to be a rhyme or reason for when or why it sets in. I’m in the midst of one of these flares as I write this. For the last week or two, some days have been better, some worse. The more time I spend on my feet on any given day, the worse it gets. Given that this week and next are going to be heavy on the standing up and shuffling around for long stretches at a time, I reckon by the end of next week, I’ll just go ahead and collapse and stay wherever I fall… because I’ve spent so much of this week trying to favor my stupid left foot, I’ve gotten my hips, back, shoulders, and neck thrown out of whack and giving off sympathy pains. So yes, feet are entirely disgusting. 

3. The public. One of the many “other duties as assigned” that’s part of my annual party planning fiasco is interfacing with “the public” via email. They’re hopelessly predictable. The most popular question year after year is variations on “Hey, I know your site says tickets are sold out, but can I show up anyway?” or “Oh, I see that you have a list of acceptable forms of identification. I don’t have any of those but I do have a passport from Yugoslavia, will that work?” The best are the people who ask the same question in four or five different ways and then act appalled and surprised when they get the exact same response every time. I have many skills and talents, but I’m simply not built for customer service. Perhaps I would be if the general public were slightly less stupid and obnoxious, but since they’re not, I’ll continue to treat them with barely veiled disdain and disgust.

What we’ve learned…

After three days with Anya closeted away under medical supervision, we’ve learned a couple of things:

My girl is a perfectly happy cat, doing normal cat stuff, right up until the point where it’s time to take her medicine. Drops, pills, or even just generally being held result in adverse consequences for those attempting to make her do what she doesn’t want to do. Otherwise, though, she’s happy to receive the attention of her temporary keepers.

She’s eating, and drinking, and pooping, and getting the meds she needs to get over the hump following her eye surgery. It’s as good a result as I could hope for a few days after surgery.

I’d be lying if I said part of me doesn’t feel just a little vindicated after claiming so many struggles trying to get her through the first 30 days of treatment. I honestly was starting to wonder if I was somehow gaslighting myself about how hard it was to get this animal to take her meds. The professionals, however, have confirmed that she can, indeed, get spicy.

I’m glad to have confirmation that it wasn’t just me somehow being ragingly incompetent. However, it raises other issues. Unless Anya learns a bit more tolerance to handling and being medicated as she gets older, it could be well near impossible for me to single handedly deliver any kind of even slightly involved or complex home care. Sooner or later, it feels like we’ll inevitably run into a situation where following the best possible medical advice simply isn’t feasible because the patient refuses to cooperate.

That’s not an ideal scenario in a cat with FHV who is likely to need some level of treatment periodically throughout her life. In my more pessimistic moments, I foresee a series of hard decisions where we have to weigh treating the illness versus treating the patient. At some point there has to be a compromise between the best possible treatment and what’s physically possible. Now that we’ve addressed what I hope will be her biggest medical problem, I think we’ll be making future decisions based on quality of life overall versus the often simpler calculus of what’s medically possible.

When the time comes, someone please remind me that sometimes the best action is no action at all. I always find that hard to remember when I’m in the moment.

I won’t be home for Christmas…

For 42 uninterrupted years, I woke up on Christmas morning on the western fringes of Allegany County. The arrival of the Great Plague in 2020 changed that. As it stands now, I’ll have only been home for Christmas one out of the last three years.

It’s a combination of factors this year. There’s been non-Covid respiratory sickness for the last two weeks at the old homeplace. Maybe it’s reached the stage of not being contagious, but then maybe it hasn’t. I came back from Christmas last year carrying a bug that unloaded on me on about December 28th… and see no good reason to ask for a repeat performance. Better, I think, to just push the visit out into January or February once everyone involved is healthy.

The second precipitating factor is the appalling weather. At 9:00 this morning, the temperature here was 46 degrees. By 10:00 it had started plummeting towards it’s anticipated low of 9 degrees. It’s not forecast to creep back above freezing for the next four days. Being away from the house for days on end while nature threw some of her worst possible conditions at us, felt like tempting fate unnecessarily. Add in problematic travel conditions enroute and staying put feels like even more of a no brainer.

Finally, and perhaps the most compelling factor, is that a certain feline member of the household came back from the vet earlier this week being diagnosed with a double ear infection. We’re treating it with drops twice a day. He’s just barely tolerating my administration of the drops. I know his normal sitter would have given it the old college try, be she only comes in once a day and there’s no guarantee he’d have been cooperative. Sitting tight ensures he’s getting the full course of meds as scheduled. Even surrounded by the comforts of my childhood home, I’d have inevitably spent the entire visit fretting that I should be doing something more for him.

It’s a disappointment, of course, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not catastrophic. I’ve got a ham to bake and made a trip out yesterday to pick up a few missing ingredients to whip up the appropriate side dishes for a proper Christmas dinner. It’s decidedly “less than” the normal traditions of Christmas, but it still won’t suck. 

On involuntary expulsion and other treats…

I’ve started the last two weeks with some variety of sickness. I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty much over it. 

This morning, I woke up just shy of 3 AM with that undeniable salivating feeling that what had heretofore been in my stomach was about to make an unruly appearance. Working in my favor was that I eat Sunday dinner at the geriatric hour of 5 PM so there just wasn’t that much to work through. Still, twenty minutes later, with sweat beaded forehead, unwashoutable mouth, and a nose dripping blood, the worst of it was apparently over. The rest of the early morning hours passed uneventfully – if given over to a decidedly unsettled stomach. 

As long as I stay away from the heavy-duty peppers, I usually have a cast iron constitution when it comes to food. I have no idea what may have gotten into me yesterday to light this mess off. There was certainly no unusual or suspect food coming out of the kitchen. The culprit will most likely remain a mystery so long as there’s no encore performances. 

I’ve passed most of the day today feeling somewhere between tired and wiped out – not conventionally sick, which was nice – but dangerously close to toppling over the keyboard and sleeping for hours. Mercifully it was Telework Monday so I didn’t need to make the effort to look even marginally presentable but still managed to keep the bits and bobs running smoothly without slagging off the work on someone else… something that definitely wouldn’t have been the case if I had been expected to appear in cubicle hell personally this morning.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling absolutely ravenous… and am probably going to tempt fate by eating something with more heft than three saltines. Wish me luck.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Crud. Whatever standard issue crud I was run down by over the weekend continues to hang on grimly. I’m feeling mostly fine, but I’ve woken up every morning this week with a raw throat and very little voice. It’s not enough to really change anything I need or want to do, but it’s damned annoying. With as many shots as I’ve subjected myself to over the last three years, I feel like having one of them be the cure for the common cold really isn’t that big an ask.

2. Rumors. Having been moved away from my home town for going on 23 years, sometimes I forget how things work there. One thing that hasn’t changed is the rumor mill. Industries rise and fall, people come and go, but rumors fly as swiftly as they ever did. Here’s the thing… if you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right from a friend of a friend of a friend, maybe just pick up the phone or tap that message button and ask someone who would know. That way they can confirm, deny, or tell you to mind your own damned business. Though, I suppose that has significantly less entertainment value.

3. Still waiting. Here we are 7 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published seven weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.

A low-grade crud…

I went from March 2020 to December 2021 without so much as a cough. I can trace my Christmas crud last year directly to the one time I strayed out from normal habits of avoiding people. Believe me when I tell you I was good at avoiding people before COVID. After COVID, I’ve become exceptional… of course that assumes a situation where I exert some level of control over most of the variables. 

I’m in no way surprised that six weeks after “return to the office” I already find myself dealing with a low-grade crud. You wouldn’t be surprised either if you heard the general amount of background hacking, sniffling, and general complaints that “it’s probably just a cold,” floating around the cube farm on any given day.

The good news is that as long as the handy little at home tests can be trusted, it’s probably a run of the mill cold and not the Great Plague. The bad news, of course, is the only reason I’ve got a head full of anything just now is because my corner of the great green machine continues to obstinately cling to the idea that work is a place rather than an activity despite two years of evidence to the contrary.

If you’re wondering when I’ll stop being salty about this world where asses in seats continues to be a more important metric than production, well, I won’t… and I don’t even need this periodic upper respiratory reminder to keep it in the forefront of my mind.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Protests. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember a sign waving, getting in the way of things protest that I’ve ever knowingly supported. The tactics most protesters employ seem almost perfectly designed to guarantee that I’ll either quietly oppose them or openly mock and deride them. The small “r” republican protestors who have been popping up in London this week aiming to disrupt the most solemn state occasion of the late Queen’s funeral are probably exactly the kind of friendless cranks you might expect to engage in that kind of ill-timed, boorish behavior. I’m not saying the Crown should necessarily haul them off to the tower, but if the rest of the populace got together and heaved them directly into the Thames, I’d likely look the other way and then have a good laugh about it.

2. Lindsey Graham. For the last six months every Republican who could find a TV camera earnestly declared that abortion was an issue that should rightly be resolved by the states. That the federal government has gotten too large and overreaching is a reasonable argument. The remedy, of course, isn’t to hand that misbegotten power to the states, but rather return it directly to the people, who are the font of power under the American system, and allow them each to decide based on their own particular light. But then here comes Lindsey Graham, boldly introducing a bill that not only flies in the face of small government orthodoxy, but which will be wildly unpopular with 60% or more of the electorate. It might buy him some votes from the Republican base in South Carolina, but otherwise it makes him look like a fucking moron.

3. Eyes. My eyes suck and have since I was a kid. Take away my glasses and I could probably squint my way through things at very close range, but forget about telling the difference between a car and a cow more than a couple of dozen yards away. I’m headed off to my annual eye exam tomorrow, where I plan to spend my hour griping and complaining that by 8PM, my eyes are shot. It’s a situation that’s beginning to interfere with my evening reading and that obviously can’t be allowed to stand. With the return of wasting hours of the week commuting to the office for reasons that defy logic, but make perfect sense to management on the near horizon, I can’t afford to lose another hour or two in the evening with my eyes running everything together into lines of black smudge. 

I’m pretty sure it’s a racket…

Tomorrow will start the first of a series of various doctor visits and lab appointments that I really had been hoping would somehow magically fall off my calendar. I’m sure they’re all very important and will reveal many interesting and entertaining things, but it’s a level of shit to do and sick leave I don’t want to burn off that’s just uninspiring.

A month or two ago I got myself an endocrinologist, who seems nice enough, but is determined to build her own history rather than just going on the eleven years of records I sent over from Johns Hopkins. So, over the next six to eight weeks, I’ve got multiple appointments lined up for basic blood work, thyroid testing, pituitary testing, a “nutrition assessment,” and one or two other things I’ve got noted as “Endo Appointment – UNK” on the calendar. I assume they’ll tell me what I’m there for. At this point, it only feels like I’m missing tests for color blindness and hearing.

The good news, I suppose, is as far as I know there’s nothing new actually “wrong” with me. The doc didn’t appear alarmed and used phrases like “establish a baseline.” Since I feel fine, my numbers are basically hanging around where they have been for a decade, and they didn’t immediately throw me in the hospital to conduct these tests, I’m proceeding from the assumption that this is either a) standard procedure for bringing a new patient into the practice or b) an unsophisticated scam to bleed me for copays while charging Blue Cross a small fortune. Either one feels entirely possible at this point – and both feel like some kind of a racket.

Now that the bathroom is in spitting distance of being done, I thought maybe this would be the time to get back to the series of dermatologist appointments I paused in the spring. Turns out that was wildly optimistic. Maybe I’ll see him again in November… assuming there isn’t some other ridiculous thing that comes up between now and then.