Loose Ends

Loose Ends

the creative impulse gone awry

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's always hard to say goodbye to a friend

Well.  So.  Then one of our cats died.  oh, how to start this story... you know, I feel like I'm sitting here trying to explain to you why it was so hard.  Grief is what it is for you, at the time, at that moment.  It changes, it's okay, then it's terrible, it's manageable, then it isn't.  But along with my migraines, and this pesky super-wart I have on the bottom of my foot that is making it hard for me to exercise (boo, i miss my endorphins), Monkey's death created this depression vortex for me.  I got sucked into it, (actually I probably just tossed myself in there... wheeeee!) and then all sorts of other things happened that made it easy to stay there.  But let's just say that losing Monkey was the beginning of some hard times for me.

But Monkey was the beginning of a lot of things for me.  She was certainly at the beginning of my adult life.  So let's just go back down memory lane for a little bit, shall we? 

Wasn't she cute?  Those were the days.  When I graduated from college I moved up to Providence (really Pawtucket) to be with Josh.  We were getting married in August.  I took a few weeks to get my shit together - I was starting work at The Mathworks at the end of June, and planning to take the month of August off for wedding/honeymoon.  On my list of things to get done was to acquire cats.  I've always had cats - except for college when they weren't allowed and I've, frankly, never been much of a rule breaker.  So the week before I was going to start work I needed to get the kitties.

I was super impulsive back in the day (oh lord my 20s.  I only speak of them tentatively) and once I had something in my head it had to happen.  So I went and got the paper (no petfinder then...) and looked for ads for kittens.  We called one place and they had exactly what we wanted (2 that got along, preferably one nutball, one mellow kitten, black & white) and so we (really I) decided to go get them.  They were in south county, it was dark, incredibly stormy, and my cell phone lost its charge at the end of our drive, we got a bit lost.  Um, it was not the most fun trip.  But when we got there - Kittens!  Monkey was at that precise moment scaling the pant leg of the man of the house playing with his shoestring while he watched tv, and Boodles was sleeping.  I almost talked Josh into the orange kitten they also had, but he has always been the voice of reason so we brought our two little guys home.   Their mother cat had died, somehow, we didn't know the details, and Monkey and Boodles were bottle fed until they could be adopted.  I don't actually recall purchasing all of the supplies we would need - I'm pretty sure we took them both home in a cardboard box.

We of course, being the people we were gave them Japanese names.  Monkey's original name was Hikaru - after a bonkers adorable character in an anime series we both loved: Magic Knight Rayearth.  Boodles name was Udon named after Josh's Mom's cat Noodles, because they resembled each other so strongly.

It was the first time I had cared for anything besides myself.  We were ridiculous, conscientious kitty parents.  Newly cohabitating after 6 years together, setting up house, getting married.  They were insane times, really.  I remember taking the day off of work when she was sterilized, sitting with her on my lap on a pillow while the anesthesia wore off.  She took my wedding band as a toy for a few days and returned it.  She ate holes in my favorite sweater, my first cable knit sweater, a pair of elbow length cashmere gloves I had just knit (I got to wear them once), the first pair of socks I knit.  Luckily the wool eating was something she grew out of (which gives me hope that maybe Bob will one day stop eating plastic bags?) But not before she had destroyed several of my favorite things.

She taught me so much about how to love something, to be responsible for another creature, to let go of physical things for the sake of another creature.  When I think about my early married life and just how much growing (also therapy) I did to turn into the mostly nice and functional person I am today... The lessons that caring for those cats taught me really stick out.

She gave as much as she got - we used to call her Dr Monkey because of the way she would always sleep with us when we were sick.  She taught the girls how to be good kitty mommies, how to play gently.  I'll never forget how gently she taught Clara that cats could be sharp.  I was in the kitchen doing kitchen things and heard 18 month old Clara screaming and crying and when I went into the living room I saw she had a thin read line running down her forehead, skipping her eye, and onto her cheek.  One claw, partially extended, as if to say, "Do you see where this leads?" 

So fast forward to this past August, on the last day workers were in our house for the Kitchen.  Just after my "I can also make pie, asshole." moment.  Monkey had thrown up a couple of times that day - which was honestly not that unusual.  There were no signs earlier in the week that she was sick at all.  She even stole cantaloupe (her favorite food) off the table the previous day.  But Wednesday night she was sick several times during the night and Thursday morning I couldn't interest her in any cantaloupe.  I put her on a pillow in the kitchen, in a sunbeam, and worked on the cabinets that  morning.  But she was obviously sick, and I was worried, so I made an appointment at the vet.  They kept her for bloodwork and would call.

The girls and I went to the shop to hang out while they poked  her and when they called - the news was terrible.  Kidney failure.  I wasn't able to think properly.  I was physically ill.  Naomi, being the kitty godmother that she is, talked to the vet, tried to talk to me.  I called Josh and he came home, we went to the vet to take her home for the night and they really didn't want to let her go.  The wanted to put her down immediately.  Which was just not something we could manage.  We told them we understood she was dying and that we needed one more night with her.  Our plan was to see how it went, to try to get someone to come to the house to put her down the next day.  She prepared us for how unpleasant the end may be and we took her home to say goodbye.

That night was one of the hardest nights of my life.  Helping the girls say goodbye, trying to say goodbye, and it was all just so fucking SUDDEN. We were able to let all of the cats come and sniff her so they would understand.  We all spent the night up on the third floor, Josh and I on the guest bed, Clara on the futon, and ZoĆ« on her spare mattress on the floor.  We just didn't want to leave her alone.  Josh brought her onto the bed and she purred once.  She put her paws on top of my hands, like she had always done when we were going to sleep.

Damn, to go to sleep not knowing if she would still be alive when we woke up was just terrible.  But the morning came and she was still with us.  We took lots and lots of pictures of her, with the girls.  We knew, though, that we needed to let her go.  I found it strange that it was hardest to make the phone call to the vet.  The drive there wasn't so hard, but saying goodbye to her and leaving the room - I just couldn't stay, Josh did and said that the end was swift and kind.  But leaving her in that room has to be the hardest thing I've ever done.

The next few weeks are kind of fuzzy.  I developed a stress related intestinal issue that was unpleasant and painful.  We both saw her out of the corner of our eye for weeks, which just sucked.  School started (don't worry, I have pictures, we'll get there)  I tried my best to keep working on the kitchen.  But grief is just hard.  I tried not to hide it from the girls.  We were sad together, and I'm just now starting to feel better (oh, right, there is actually more than just Monkey, but we'll get to that soon, okay?)  In general, I try to just model what being a "normal" human is to the girls - not to hide the less savory parts of being human... and they got to see the grief up close.  I have not been the best version of myself but I'm trying to remember that that's just okay.  Sometimes people are dealing with stuff and it sucks.  One day, they will suffer a loss (or 4) and maybe they will give themselves permission (as I did) to be sad, and then to eventually be happier.

I admit, I phoned it in a lot.  I was doing my best to play the part of Mom, but honestly I was acting most of the time.  And there was just SO much going on, school, preschool, work, kitchen, then even more sadness, it felt pretty endless, and I'm (really really really) glad that I'm on the other side climbing back up again.  Because, shit, there is so much going on, always, and momma can't keep phoning it in or the world falls apart- no one has any clean underwear, there are no cookies, and no one can find their boots.

So that happened.  I'm still mad/sad that we only got 13 years with Monkey.   It is one of the many things that just doesn't seem fair.  But we loved her so much and so damn well while she was here.  So goodbye* Monkey-Anne Furrsandpurrs.  (her full name)  I miss you so much.

 taken on her last morning

happier times

*Hi.  So this is the part where I ask you a rather delicate favor.  It may not have been totally clear up until this point, but I'm an atheist.  So, for me, when Monkey died, it was really and truly goodbye.  I do not believe that I will see her again in any sense, ever.  Her death, in fact, has forced me to really evaluate how I understand the universe in this way.  I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about this, and, who knows (certainly not me) I may be totally surprised upon my death to realize that I have been wrong and there is a spirit world that I will have to learn all about.  But it is my choice to not believe that particular group of stories about how the universe may work.  For this and other reasons, talking about seeing her in heaven, or the "rainbow bridge" and other talk about an afterlife is particularly hard for me right now.  If you could keep that in mind when making any comments**, here, on fb, or in real life, that would be greatly appreciated.  I know that your world view may give you comfort under these same circumstances, but it actually just reminds me of how permanent this goodbye is for me. 

** edited to say, don't muzzle yourself about all spiritual stuff, you know.  You can tell me all about how much you love Jesus, and how awesome reincarnation is and in your past life you were Shirley Temple.  I am well and truly fascinated about how you all see the universe and your place in it.  It's just the "I bet you can't wait to be reunited with Monkey in heaven!" comments that make me want to cry.  a lot.  (and I'm really tired of crying)

PS. I know this brings up all sorts of other questions about me, religion, the kids, rituals, hypocrisy, things we can't explain, etc.  I know, I KNOW.  I would love to talk about that with you, later, when the string of deaths in my life is a little further away and I have a bit more perspective on the whole thing.  right now, I'm trying to have fewer thoughts about philosophical things and focus on the living part of life.  It is helping me climb out of my depression vortex.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Kitchen Continues

I have to apologize for my silence, for reasons I'll get into, I'm sure, things have been stressful recently.  But we did actually build a kitchen and I'm realizing now how much I'm in love with it. 

When last we spoke I just showed you a blurry picture of my gutted kitchen.  One thing that we were surprised about - I'm not sure why we end up having such communication issues with the contractor folks, is it me?  anyway we thought that they were going to leave the weird ugly linoleum and subfloor since we weren't having them refinish the floor, but they took it!  So we ended up with a floor that had 60 year old linoleum (?) tiles on it, disintegrating.  So we ended up scraping them all off - which was the hardest most terrible work.  We were sore and exhausted and it still took 3 days of working basically non-stop to get the floor down to bare wood.  Are there easier ways than just scraping and washing?  I'm sure.  Are there tools we could have rented that would have made it easier?  Probably!  But, we just elbow greased the whole thing.

While we were getting the floor scraped up and cleaned up the crew was making us some updated electrical outlets, and walls, walls!!!!

Installing the cabinets was actually the easiest part.  When we purchased the cabinets for the peninsula we basically got the instructions that came in the box with each cabinet.  Which is to say, the classic Ikea instructions that are hardly useful.  When we purchased the rest of the cabinets we got all of these glossy posters with step-by-step instructions fully illustrated.  This, frankly, would have been exceedingly useful when I was installing the damn peninsula, but it worked out okay, so bygones.  The most exciting part was realizing just how much our kitchen floor sloped to the center of the house.  Honestly, the counter is an inch farther from the floor on the left than on the right - but the counters are level! 

I started with the corner by the stove - the instructions told me to start in a corner, how nice of them!  It was really straight forward, and putting in the base cabinets really made it start to look like a kitchen. Before we did all of the cabinets though, I thought I would leave a little gift for the next renovators and let the girls go hog wild with some paint on the walls behind the cabinets.

I was concerned with how I was going to fit the base cabinet for the sink over the water pipes... they come up through the floor - not through the wall.  Yay, 1950s technology (which, don't get me wrong, this house is SOLID, it just needs updates.  Don't be mad at me house, you really were built with the best technology of the time!  smooch!  I must be really falling in love with this house finally since I'm having imaginary conversations with it...) 

In the end I just used the jig saw to cut a rectangular hole in the bottom of the base cabinet.  This, with just the right amount of wiggling and a very strong assistant, let us slide the thing on top of the pipes.  Not too shabby.  When that was installed I started working on the other corner - with the space next to the sink cabinet reserved for the dishwasher...

Once we got all of these in, it was time to get counters in so I could get my sink back.  I had been washing dishes in a large plastic storage container and, frankly, that gets old. One of the many decisions we made to economize on our kitchen was to get the cheapest countertops that we could - since they are relatively straightforward to replace when we have a larger budget for such things.  So we got the boring laminate counters from Ikea, gray on one side, white on the other.  Cheap enough that if we screwed them up, we could replace them, but attractive enough that I don't hate them.

There was a bit of drama with cutting them to size.  I had specifically asked at the Home Depot for a new blade for my circular saw that would make cutting these things super easy.  I installed the blade, and couldn't cut the counter tops.  We pushed, we smoked, the countertop was catching on fire from the friction, and it just wasn't cutting.  I thought, hm, maybe I installed the saw blade in reverse?  It was the only thing I could think of to explain why the heck the thing wasn't cutting.  So I went to change the blade - only I hadn't waited long enough and burned the tip of my finger on the hot hot hot, so stinkin' hot circular saw blade.  ugh.  I had to ice my finger for hours, hours, I tell you.  I had an ENORMOUS blister on the tip of my ring finger on my right hand.  Which basically put me out of commission and into teacher mode as I got Josh up to speed on working the power tools and doing the things that I usually do during home projects.

Fortunately, I married the most awesome guy in the world and he just stepped up and took my place, handled all of my frustration at my uselessness and cut our counter tops.  Was it pretty?  no, not even slightly.  The blade was so weird that it was impossible to cut, so we were cutting them half way and finishing with a hand saw.  (Later in the project for the other pieces of counter top I switched to my old circular saw blade and it was, once again, easy to cut.  We must have just gotten a bad blade, grumble, grumble.)  We were upset, thinking that we were going to need to get a new piece of counter - because the seam was intended to be in the center of our sink and it being wonky would not do... but I had the (genius) idea of turning around both sides and using the factory edges to meet in the middle of the sink, leaving the wonky edges at the ends by the wall where we could caulk up any differences.
We traced the sink outline (re-using our sink, to economize again!) and cut a hole with the jig saw and voila!  After that we had some serious screwing, lining up, screwing some more, and caulking, but having counters really made it seem more like a kitchen...

Once we got the sink into the hole, the next thing was plumbing it... I had never done such a large job before.  I'm used to replacing things that already exist - toilets, sinks, faucets, you know.  But for this I had to take a hole in the floor and two pipes and make it work.  So exciting!  I had spoken extensively with the guys at Ace Hardware.  I brought in the piece of old plumbing that I was trying to replace.  I got all of the pieces, plus extras.  I got a little explanation of how the pvc cement works.  I lined it up, and marked everything and (after several trips back to the home depot and the ace hardware when my dry fit showed problems) boom!  Water! I could do dishes!!!

That part of the project took roughly a week.  The rest was just putting on the cabinet doors, putting together the drawers and installing them, installing the dishwasher (which I had done before so was not a huge deal for me.)  Smaller things that I could do a piece at a time, in the evenings.  The kitchen was functional again, and for that I was thrilled.  We still had to deal with the floor, and painting, and oh dear, there is STILL lots to do to "finish" it - including phase 3 and possible more.  But I could cook dinner for the hoards, and that was the most important part.

A few days later the guys came back in to re-frame the casement window (which is just something I did NOT want to do)  I have to say they were impressed with my work - as was I.  I was working on making dinner, and a pie, talking about how fun the plumbing was and the guy says, "Who says women can't do anything?"  To which I replied, "Obviously not me."  I mean, I'm sure he can plumb a sink, but I can also make a fucking pie, so obviously I win. I still look around and can't believe I took a shell of a room and turned it into this: (photos I took about two weeks after, we have done even more since then, which I will talk about soon)