Monday, October 17, 2011

Oh, I have been neglectful...

I had high hopes for myself with this blog, but... well... India intervened.

On May 19, I flew to India, New Delhi to be more precise, and spent the next several days sightseeing with new found friends. I saw all the standard sites: Agra Fort, Taj Mahal, etc., etc. It was an incredible trip and I had a fabulous time.

The one thing I got to see that, honestly, I had hoped I would never see, was the inside of an Indian hospital. Now... like many people, I don't particularly like hospitals. I find doctors a touch... abhorrent. Necessary evils, I suppose, but... yeah.

So when I was injured while in my hotel bathroom in New Delhi, on my last night in India, I was a basketcase. Let me set the scene:

India, for a week, had been hot. Very hot. 112 degrees hot. And dry. I did not drink as much water as I should have so the last day in India was a touch miserable for me. I wanted nothing more than to get back to the really nice, five-star hotel that awaited us in New Delhi. By the time we got there, I hadn't eaten or drunk much all day because I felt so lousy. I headed up to my room to undress and shower.

Before I got to the showering part, though, I passed out.

This hotel, the Eros Shangri-La Hotel in New Delhi, is a beautiful place. The rooms are well-appointed and have rich details such as marble floors, walls, counters, and bathtubs in the bathroom. Their fixtures in there are a nice gleaming silver metal, including the wastebasket.

All of that is beautiful and wonderful and comforting when you're feeling well.

When, however, you're waking up, face down, in a growing pool of blood, on said marble, it's not such a comfort. When I passed out, I apparently hit my shoulder and collar bone on the smooth black marble counter. I further broke my fall by landing, face first, on the edge of the metal wastebasket (how do I know this? Well, beyond the fact that my cheek was cut open down to the bone, the wastebasket had a distinct dent in it where my cheekbone landed. Feel free to cringe in sympathy now). Due to the way my nose is healing, I've come to realize that the wastebasket edge is what also broke my nose.

Yeah. Awful scene. blood everywhere, pain, know that facial wounds like to bleed and bleed and bleed, right? Yeah, they do. Despite all the blood, I got up, managed to *bandage* my face and tried my best to convince myself I didn't need a doctor's attention. I even took a bath, hoping that the heat of the water would warm me up some.

Once I accepted that I had to see a doctor, I called the concierge.

And ended up bawling into the phone that I'd had an accident. Within minutes (fast enough that I was really glad I had already pulled clothing on before calling), the concierge, a hotel security officer and a guest relations person were in my room and then escorting me down to a waiting limo and then to the local hospital.

Oh boy. Indian hospitals. By the time I got there, I had stopped crying and was... laughing. I kept cracking jokes with the medical staff, who didn't seem to appreciate my humor. (Yeah, American humor in an Indian hospital? No wonder my comic routine bombed [and I mean that as in 'failed' not... you know...]).

The Indian doctors ordered every test possible, including an MRI. Sheesh. I dreaded getting that bill.

I'm fading, so I'll shorten this story. The Indian hospital was an experience I don't recommend.

The results of the treatment I received, however, are amazing. The plastic surgeon who did my *surgery* (really, we were in a full-on operating theatre, a team of six people there, all just for me!) wanted to put me under completely and do an 'open reduction' on my nose to correct the displacement. Fearing having an open reduction (doesn't that mean cutting the skin and pulling... yeah, no, not doing that sorry) and fearing not being able to... wait for it... fly to Nepal in another four hours, I cried. The surgeon and I discussed that if he did the reduction, I'd be stuck in India for up to a week. No Nepal for me. After I cried, he agreed not to do the reduction.

Instead, he used high-powered magnifying glasses to stitch up my cheek. He put in two layers of stitches, one for the muscle, one for the skin. I feared I'd end up with a huge, ugly, noticeable scar on my cheek for the rest of my life. Four and a half months later, I know the scar is there but other people rarely notice it. Indeed, yesterday, I caught my reflection and thought, "Wait... right, left..?" I had to feel my cheek to remind myself which cheek had the scar. (It's my right cheek).

I have more stories about this, including how one incredibly kind and generous couple paid my hospital bill, but I'm tired.

The Indian hospital bill? A bit under 40,000 rupees. At the exchange rate I had, that was roughly US$650.

Why is it that, had this happened in the States, I'd be facing a hospital bill a hundred times more expensive?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amber's Frog

Eighteen years ago, I adopted a four-month old 'runt of the litter'. She didn't have a name - she'd just been called "little one" for her first four months. When she came home with me, she was terrified and spent nearly a month living in my closet. Eventually, she learned that I wasn't going to eat her; indeed, she learned that I was there to feed her and pet her and generally just be nice to her. She soon abandoned the closet and took to being my beloved little Amber.

Amber was the best cat ever. I've called AJ that before, but, really, AJ was a second best next to Amber. Amber had a mothering streak in her a mile wide. While she'd been staying in my closet, she had 'mothered' a small stuffed lizard; once out of the closet, she brought her lizard to the bed and could often be found grooming the thing.

In the years between then and her death, that lizard was lost. But Amber adopted other things to mother. One of those things was AJ; Amber doted on the younger AJ all of AJ's life. In later years, on the days when AJ didn't feel like being doted upon, Amber found a stuffed frog (okay, 'found'? not so much... I bought it for her) and would spend hours curled up with it.

It's a totally cute frog; I can't blame Amber for wanting to play mommy to it, particularly since AJ was being a turd about playing kitten. Amber mothered the frog for a few years but as she aged, she found it more and more difficult to move the frog around - it was half her size and her old bones just couldn't handle it.

In 2009, Amber started suffering from congestion in her sinuses; her doctor took a look and found that she had a growth in her nasal passages. She stopped grooming herself and would come to me to have me groom her. I did; it was a daily ritual we had. Shortly after the doctor's visit where he told me about the growth, she started sneezing blood. In May 2009, I had her put to sleep.

She was the first cat I had to do that with. I put her things away and forgot I still had them. Forgot until this past weekend, when I went looking for clothing I thought I'd stashed away. I found her frog in my hope chest and pulled it out to give to Bug and the boys.

I'm glad I did. The boys tend to play rough with each other, but they also groom one another. And now, the littlest one has adopted Amber's frog. He was terrified of it when I pulled it out, but he's gotten over his terror and has taken to licking the frog's cowlick of 'hair' while hugging it to his chest. It helps, I think, that I stuffed the frog's belly with catnip.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sometimes, I Amaze Myself...

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I've already packed for my trip to India. The one that is still a week and two days away.

I've now re-packed my suitcase. Today, I splurged and purchased a new hard-sided carry on bag with fancy little wheels. According to the pamphlet that came with the bag, it's a standard 21 inch carry on bag, certified by the FAA or whoever gets involved in bag measuring to fit in an overhead compartment. It's a small little thing, light-weight, too: only 7.3 pounds when empty. It does have an expansion zipper, which adds about an inch and a half to the capacity.

On a lark, I tossed all of my toiletries, books, hats, general *stuff*, including two large packs of face wipes (both are 80 count size packets!) and my water bottle into one side of the new suitcase; into the other, I packed my clothes and shoes. I still had room in there, so I added a scarf/pashmina (awesome thing to take along: can be used as an emergency blanket, pillow, cleavage or head cover) and some socks. I was able to easily close the case, without opening the expansion zipper. This, for me, is really great news! Since I was able to fit literally everything into the case, including all of the things I intended to carry on to the plane for use during the flight (books, some teeth cleaning things, the scarf), I won't have to load up my purse with stuff. Yay! for traveling light!

Also, for anyone worried about me getting sick in India: the water bottle is a Katadyn water-filtration system that allegedly filters out 99.99% of all viruses, bacteria and microorganisms from the water. Add to this that I just bought five little bottles of anti-bacterial lotion. I'd lay money on the bet that I'm not going to get sick.

I will, however, have a terrible craving for fresh fruits, veggies and salads by the time I come back!

Monday, May 9, 2011


This evening, Bug reminded me just how lucky I am. Somewhere along the line, I banked some really awesome kitty karma.

Bug, who started life as "Frankie", lived in a very small steel cage for six months of his life. He was less than three months old when he was put in the cage; nine months when I took him out of that cage. In the interim, he shared that cage with his brother, Freddie, who was adopted long before Bug was, and then with an adult female who was immensely obese.

When I went to that shelter, I was looking for a female calico who could be a companion to AJ when Amber, who was sick, left us. (Amber was seventeen and suffering with a tumor in her sinuses; Amber and AJ had been together AJ's entire life). The female housed with Bug was a calico, but when I picked her up, she struggled and hissed... plus, she felt pregnant. I know she was just obese, but, gosh, I couldn't see bringing her home if her first response was to hiss at me.

As I put her back in the cage, Bug, still named Frankie at that point, turned those golden eyes on me and put a paw out to touch my hand. I ended up pulling him out of the cage and holding him for a moment.... A moment was all he needed to steal my heart. He rolled around in my arms, purring like no other cat I've ever known, and then head-bumped me. He came home with me that day.

Within three days, he had full run of the house. He was respectful towards Amber and, towards the end of her life, would dash up to her, toss a paw over her neck and groom her head. In those last two months or so, Amber wasn't able to groom herself very well, so seeing him do that... wow.

Bug's treatment of AJ wasn't quite so respectful. Of course, AJ was a Diva and expected he'd treat her that way. He, however, wanted to *play!* And to him, play meant pouncing, tackling, rolling around on the floor, then jumping up and dashing into the bedroom. AJ did not appreciate this sort of play and wasn't shy about letting Bug know that. When AJ got sick, though, Bug adjusted his play and started treating AJ much more gently.

His relationship with me has been exercise in adoration. Just this evening, he demanded space on my lap. He doesn't curl up in my lap the way most cats do; instead, he reclines in my arms, sitting like a small child might, and leans into me. Tonight, he kept looking up at me and reaching up to paw my face, to get my attention (he was sharing time with the laptop). He has me well-trained: each time he did that, I snuggled him closer and kissed his head and face, something he seems to love.

This is a common thing for him. Also, that look of adoration? Hugely common:

Did I mention he's also a complete ham?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

AJ, beloved little AJ

So, yeah, part of this is about the cats. Those two above are Bug and AJ (the black one). AJ was the best kitty. She was old: 16 years old when this photo was taken. And she was a stickler for timetables. If I dared to stay up past "our" bedtime, she'd remind me that it was time for bed. Her first reminders would be gentle: a head butt and a glance at the bedroom door, a paw on my arm and a significant look towards the bedroom, or, perhaps, a wail from the bedroom that was intended to get me up off my duff and into that room. If I ignored those, she'd get more insistent: the paw on my arm would have claws extended, the head butt would turn into a full in-my-face head nudge, the wail would be in my face instead of in the bedroom.

On the opposite end of the night, she'd wake me up, too. Usually right about 5:30am. She would, at least, let me go back to sleep, though. She'd also stay in my bed, curled right next to my pillow with one paw touching me.

Once I added Bug to the mix, AJ's life didn't change much. The big change came when I had her life-long companion, Amber, put to sleep. After that loss, AJ did her best to go join her friend. Her teeth went bad; she ended up with one molar and three fangs. She stopped eating then her kidneys failed. I ended up giving her subQ fluid injections on a daily basis for several months. Eventually, she recovered (something her vet claims usually doesn't happen with renal failure).

But then she went downhill again. She lost weight despite eating voraciously; she lost her fur (ripped it out, actually). After a month of vet visits, a blood test showed that her thyroid was on the fritz. Twice-daily pills brought that under control, to a degree. About a month into that treatment, on a Tuesday, she went blind in one eye; by that weekend, she was bumping into walls and furniture: she was completely blind. That was tough to watch, but she seemed to be adapting. The following Monday evening, though, she suffered a stroke and couldn't figure out how to get out of a corner. It was, still is, heartbreaking.

Bumping into walls was one thing; having her cry in fear and frustration because she couldn't see and couldn't turn to her left, that was another. The next morning, she quietly let me hold her in the doctor's office as we waited for him to take us in back and put her to sleep. She's no longer by my side, but she's forever in my heart.

With her gone, I was left with just the very handsome and very affectionate little Bug.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yes, I packed already. What of it?

The first time I traveled internationally, I overpacked by... well, by a ton. My grandfather had given me an enormous soft-sided piece of luggage (part of a set, actually) when I graduated from high school. The largest bag was... huge. I could have fit two dead bodies in there and had room for more stuff. The use it had seen in the ten years since high school was just as a convenient way to pack my wardrobe when I moved from one house to another. But then came my chance: I was heading to China for a few weeks.

Weeks? Oh my. What about clean laundry? What about... oh, there were so many possibilities and I tried to plan for all of them - which meant that I packed my entire wardrobe. Seriously. My *entire* wardrobe. What did I wear out of that? Well, I did wear quite a few things but the hotel had one-day laundry service for really cheap. I could have packed two pairs of shorts, a few shirts, some nice clothes and would have been fine. Instead, I practically needed a forklift to lift the bag I took.

Since then, I've learned how to pack. 

Currently, I'm preparing for a fourteen day trip to India and Nepal. It's going to be in the 100's in India and in the 80's in Nepal. I've managed to pack a decent wardrobe into my carry-on wheelie bag - and still have room for all the 'extras' like the universal electric converter, the microbacterial water filter and bottle, a pair of fit-flops (world's most comfy flipflops), and my toiletries. I have come a really long way.

What am I taking? Will I look like a bum?

I hope I won't look slovenly. That'd be terrible.

But I'm taking two pairs of shorts, six shirts, a couple of tank tops (for under the shirts), one pair of pants, one dress. Yup. Fourteen days on just that. It'll be good!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the Beginning...

A new blog. Oo, boy.

Why am I doing a blog? Couple of reasons: one, a friend asked me to blog about my cats. Technically, that'd be three reasons - I have three cats. But... a blog focused on my cats? Really? *glances at the two who are nearby* Yeeaaahhh... I like my cats and they will be mentioned here, possibly often enough that this blog maybe should be called something creative like... oh, I don't know... "*CATS!* In Real Life!" or something equally catchy. But, really? Cats sleep fourteen hours a day or least in my household, twenty hours a day, and that'd make for a boring blog. ("Day Thirteen: Little Timmy woke Bug up from his nap just so that Bug would snuggle with him while they both napped." Not happening, folks.)

So, yeah, I rather dismissed that friend's request (sorry, dear friend: I love my cats, but not quite that much; that doesn't mean I don't value your friendship!) but then my co-workers, who are quite a fabulous bunch of people, said that I should do a blog based on my travels. I haven't really been many places but I'm heading somewhere quite 'scary' and 'exotic' (by some people's standards) in a few weeks. Several folks claim to be eager to hear about my adventures and see the photos I take. This is the suggestion that is getting me off my duff to start a blog.

Another suggestion was also made: that I blog about weight loss. *sigh* Weight loss... that's the baggage I carry around. I like food, lots. Many of my travel adventures will be about the food I encounter (for example, in Paris, there was this really divine.... oh, that's a story for later, nevermind). I didn't grow up with a healthy relationship with food and now I'm working to set it right. Some of the entries here will be about food, health, diet. Those terrible things that often sidetrack us from being happy with ourselves and living our lives.  Don't worry, I'll warn you when the post is about weight loss. (And on that note: I lost 3.2 pounds this week! Yay!)

So, we'll see how long this lasts and whether I ever figure out how to post pictures or post from the iPhone or from wherever my travels take me.