Sunday Coffee – the vacation that isn’t a vacation

Back in Feb 2021, there were so many problems going on with our house that Jason took a week off of work so we could try to get as many done as possible. Then he took a second week off a couple months later for the same reason. He had all this extra vacation time built up because the pandemic canceled all the actual vacations, and since only a single vacation has worked out in the last two years, he STILL has tons of time off built up. A house-issue cropped up this week, and he decided to take off this upcoming week to deal with it.

The situation: Back in Aug 2020, our master bathroom toilet began leaking sewer gas because the connection from toilet to ground had degraded. We replaced the toilet and the connection rings etc, but the new toilet never sat properly because either the tile or the ground under the tile was uneven. I’ve limped this along for almost two years now, but it began leaking sewer gas again a week ago, and no there’s no help for it. In order to get the toilet working properly, we need to rip out the tile, which means ripping off the baseboards, which means repairing parts of the walls…and we decided that with the exception of the tub/shower, we’re just going to fix up the bathroom properly.

(photo from Feb 2021 – the right photo is just about the same as we’re starting)

This means replacing the light fixture that currently runs so hot that there are burn marks in the ceiling. It means patching and painting walls. It means running new wiring. It means ripping up and fixing the floor before we put down new tile. It means pulling the toilet, counters, cabinets, and sink out from the bathroom and leaving it bare as we get it all fixed.

It means I won’t have a bathroom for at least a few days.

Maybe that’s not a problem for most people. You can just use the other house bathroom. Well, for one, the main bathroom in the house is frankly awful. It’s small, cramped, and rarely clean due to the use by two teenage boys. Even clean, it’s wired weirdly, dark, and difficult to use. Secondly, I use the bathroom multiple times in the night – I have diagnosed polyuria – and trying to find my way to the main bathroom without tripping over one of seven cats while also trying to keep them out of my bedroom is just not going to happen.  So I’ve checked into a hotel for the nights that I won’t have bathroom access. It’ll be like May last year, when I needed a vacation so badly that I spent a few nights in a hotel, a situation that ended up being far worse than I expected and very disappointing overall. Hopefully this year’s hotel experience will be better!!

And honestly, other than the sleeping part, I probably won’t spend much time at the hotel. I’ll be helping with the bathroom whenever I can. I’ll also be taking care of the foster kittens, and possibly catching some new** foster kittens. So the hotel just needs to be good enough for the nights.

I do hope this doesn’t end up taking more than a week. We have a few things planned, and the week after that, Jason’s parents will be coming down so that they’ll be here for Laurence’s graduation. I’d like to have a better bathroom situation by then!!

**Shai and Hulud’s three siblings, who are now old enough to be separated from their mom and socialized so they can be adopted out into good homes.

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The Hacienda, by Isabel Cañas

When Rodolfo Solórzano proposes to Beatriz, she jumps at the opportunity to help her family out of their current poverty and dependance on hateful relatives. She travels with her new husband to his country estate with plans to make it a refuge for herself and her mother. Only something in very wrong with this hacienda. Soon Beatriz is left alone to fight the darkness, whether that darkness is in her own mind, or exuding from the walls and rafters of her new home.

As you might have guessed from the description, this is a retelling of Rebecca, set just after the war for Mexican independence. Only in this tale, Rodolfo’s second wife isn’t haunted by the psychological phantom of her predecessor. Oh, no. In this book, evil takes physical form. Curses and ghosts and rot come alive, and they are capable of physical harm. As are the other inhabitants of the hacienda, because not everyone is happy to find that their employer has brought home a new wife to command them.

Add into the mix a conflicted priest who tries to balance his Catholic teachings with his inborn witchcraft, an entire history of family skeletons, and a society stratified by racial castes, and you have one hell of a book! To make it even better, the language is incredibly poetic, and I have to give credit to any author who can casually toss in some of my favorite (but rarely used) words with ease: crepuscular, susurration, hubristic…

Full disclosure: It took me a few chapters to find the rhythm of the writing and thereby connect into the story. I’m not sure why I’m like this, but if I can’t hear the words and rhythm as I read, I struggle to comprehend what I’m reading. Cañas’ writing style was different than I’m used to, but once I fell into the rhythm, I adored it. I was also delighted to see how often native and Spanish phrases/words were used, how they were integrated seamlessly into the prose. (It drives me mad, for example, that the title of this book is The Hacienda, rather than La Hacienda, but maybe that’s just because I grew up in south TX…) Altogether, the complexities of the poetic language and word choice made for such a rich read even apart from the story itself, and the language and story complemented each other so well.

I adored this book. It exceeded my expectations, and my only quibble was an incredibly tiny thing. The word “slick” was used so often, especially in the phrase “slicked [my/his/her] palms” that by the end, I never wanted to hear the word again. Heh. But that’s such a little thing and absolutely did not detract from the overall experience. I highly, highly recommend that y’all check this one out, and if you’re a reader who participates in the RIP reading event, this would be an absolutely perfect choice for it!

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Wellness Wednesday – Medical Catchup

This post will be long and is primarily for my own benefit of keeping all this info in one place as I have WAY too much going on medically right now. Feel free to skip this.

Continue reading

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A Day of Irony

I wrote yesterday about my ambivalence toward Mother’s Day – my ongoing troubled relationship with motherhood, not to mention the strained relationship I’ve had with my mom since her bout with covid, and then there’s that whole canceled vacation thing, etc. This was also going to be the last Mother’s Day I spent with my kids living at home – unless there are surprises, of course – so I tried to make the best of it. We had Plans. Only this is how our day went.

We went out for brunch at a place that I’ve wanted to go back to for over two years, only to find that the wait was 2.5 hours long at the place I wanted to go, which would conflict with our next event scheduled for 3 hrs from then. So instead, we went home and just had a late breakfast at home. Jason made some scones with clotted cream, and I had gluten-full, dairy-full deliciousness knowing that I would likely not feel great over the next few days, but f-ck it.

In early afternoon, we had an escape room scheduled. The place we went to back in 2019 (also for Mother’s Day) closed down during the pandemic, so we’d found another location close to us and chose their hardest room. An evil witch had stolen four people and captured their souls, turning them into voodoo dolls, complete with every awful cringy stereotype you can imagine. Heh. It was silly and way over the top, but that part I didn’t mind. The part that was disappointing was that for their “hardest” room, there were very few puzzles to solve. Most of it was overly simplified – more manual labor tasks than brain work. I think the boys enjoyed a lot of it, though.

After a brief interlude home to feed the kittens, we went out to a mid-afternoon lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant that we really like. Then we came home and had a lazy afternoon until Jason and the boys left to see a movie. (Maybe this seems weird, but them giving me a few hours of quiet time was actually perfect.) I did some photography work (below) and watched crappy SVU reruns and talked with each of my parents. This last part is when the irony of the day comes full circle.

My youngest son has accepted his place at the University of New Brunswick this fall. Jason and I, not considering that Canadian schools might start their semester at a different time than American universities, rescheduled our Alaskan vacation we were meant to be starting yesterday to early September. By then, Ambrose would be done with basic training and off to wherever he goes next, and Laurence would have gone up to Canada in mid-August for school. Ha. Ha. Ha. While I was on the phone with my dad, he asked me when Laurence’s semester started. I didn’t know, so I looked it up…only to find out that it starts smack in the middle of our scheduled vacation.

OMFG.

What is this, like the sixth time we’ve had to cancel and reschedule?? Is this vacation ever going to happen? Literally we’d just booked our flight and hotel the day before, and now we need to cancel everything again. I’m not even sure we’re going to rebook at this point. I’m just…tired.

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Sunday Coffee – Mother’s Day

It’s a strange day. I’m meant to be on a plane to Seattle today, before sailing for Alaska tomorrow, two years and multiple postponements later. Except that I’m not, and this trip is now rescheduled for several months out, again, and today is just another day.

Mother’s Day is complicated for me, because as it turned out, I’m not a big fan of being a parent. I love my kids, but I don’t love motherhood. I always thought that would change one day, maybe as they got older, and while yes, things have gotten easier – all those people who told me I’d change my mind about liking teens better than babies were wrong – I still know this wasn’t the right choice for me. Nothing to do about it now, it is what it is, but it makes the holiday more complicated. Bring into it the horrendous way women are being more and more regulated in the US over the last six years, and it’s overwhelming.

I would have preferred to be on a flight to Seattle, in other words.

Instead, my family has a few fun things planned today that we’ll enjoy. Unfortunately, we’re going through a massive heat wave – over 100 degrees yesterday and likely higher today – so I hope we can keep most of our plans indoors!!

Happy Mother’s Day, complicated or no, to those of you out there who celebrate it. Cheers.

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The Reunion, by Kiersten Modglin (audio)

Cait doesn’t particularly want to attend her 10-year high school reunion, but she also needs to face the things that happened at the end of her senior year, and the people who made her life miserable. Only now that she’s there, not only is she dealing with those old insecurities, but someone seems to think it’s inappropriate that she would attend, and they’re willing to get violent in delivering that message.

This was a recent Audible daily deal, a $4 audiobook that sounded like Carrie meets Bellweather Rhapsody. In the end, it wasn’t quite the winner that such a mash-up would’ve been, but it was a fun afternoon listen and worth the $4 spent on it.

The good things: There are a lot of “people aren’t who they appear to be” thematic elements, while other people really are exactly who they appear to be, even ten years later and supposedly more mature. The narrator isn’t unreliable, though she’s extraordinarily naive to the point of almost breaking believability. There’s no last-second twist in an epilogue where you suddenly discover that the narrator is a raging serial killer in disguise or some such nonsense. A lot of the emotions seemed genuine, if somewhat exaggerated. Security/police respond promptly and correctly to the threats, but are also quick to point out that without more/better evidence, there’s not much they can do. In the end, you get resolution on most things.

The not-so-good things: I got annoyed at how long it took to get to the past’s mystery – it’s okay to hook along a reader for awhile, but it was probably over halfway through before we even found out what kind of scandal Cait was dealing with. Cait only meets a few of her former classmates, and other than the one who was one of her best friends, she spends only a few seconds interacting with them. (For a book about a high school reunion, the reunion was superfluous.) There are, of course, the naivety issues, which I’ll discuss in more detail in the spoilery section below. There was also one sort of weird foray into almost-erotica (which gets interrupted) that felt entirely out of place, like the book was going to be a different genre at one time.

The spoilers (highlight to read): Cait’s ability to see a person’s true character is almost unbelievably lacking. She acts in some ways as if she’s never been introduced to the internet before – posting her location, then getting surprised/scared when people find her. Seeing a familiar person but never trying to figure out why she knows them. Then there’s Sam, her former boyfriend/best friend. Somehow, he’s managed to keep his marriage from her. They’re not in contact much, but their parents are, and there’s no way that would be a secret. Even if it was, you’d think that Sam would recognize his wife’s name when Cait begins to talk about her stalker. Yeah, Anna is a common name, but still. And then it turns out Sam is a scumbag and his wife is a crazy murderer obsessed with him, and that must make him the most naive person on earth too, not to mention the crazy girl obsessed with him definitely would have told Cait that Sam was cheating on her back in high school. I mean, the whole conclusion was sloppy and hard to believe. End spoilers.

So overall, the book was okay, but I doubt it’ll stick with me. On the other hand, it provided a lot of fun entertainment when I needed something light and thrilling to read, and the narrator (Meg Price) did a fairly good job narrating it too. No regrets.

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The Kittens and the Ferals

Obviously, the reason I took April off from blogging and why I’ll be only partly blogging in May is because of the newborn orphaned kittens that we took in on April 1st. It is very hard to raise orphaned kittens. Their systems are immunocompromised without their mother. You have to feed them and stimulate them to use the bathroom every two hours in the beginning. You need to provide warmth because they can’t regulate their own body temperature until they’re about four weeks old. They’re blind and deaf at birth, and rely entirely on their sense of smell to navigate the world.

Thankfully, the most stressful part of these girls’ lives is over. They’re a month old, eating more like 4-6 hours apart, no longer need a heating pad (which got better anyway after Animal Defense League gave us a heating pad that didn’t automatically shut off after an hour!!), and have begun using the litter box. They’re walking, wrestling, pouncing – little drunk wobbles as they gain more coordination every day. Their eyes and ears are open so they’re no longer blind or deaf, and they’re loud, screamie babies as bottle-fed kittens tend to be.

(top row is Hulud, bottom is Shai, from left to right is newborn, 1wk, 2wks, 3wks, and 4wks)

Shai is growing into a huge dilute tortie/tabby mix. At her four-week appointment at ADL, she was already 1.6 lbs, the size of a six-week old kitten. She’s very solid, and I wonder if she shares the same father (or father’s family) with Ghost. Hulud has always been smaller than her sister, but still weighed in at 1.3 lbs for her four-week checkup. She looks just like her father (King), and will probably look very similar to Angus and Gherkin as she grows up. The big difference is that she’ll probably be a longhaired or at least medium-haired cat. Shai is also looking to be medium-haired, but it might be too early to tell.

These girls are going to make the best pets for someone one day. We’ve already signed the surrender papers for ADL, and at eight weeks/two months, they’ll go into the shelter for spay, vaccines, microchips, and adoption. It’ll be sad to say goodbye, but I know we’ll have done everything we can for these two little bundles of joy, and I hope they find the best home!

Meanwhile, I have news about Shai and Hulud’s three siblings. Their mother, Tippy, is a community cat who is part of a pair fed by a woman who lives near us. Just last week, Tippy began bringing her kittens to the porch with her when she was ready to eat, and introducing them to this neighbor as a source of food. They all survived!! That’s pretty astonishing for community kittens, who only have about a 50% survival rate – it’s good that they have a good feeder. (Also, look how chonky they are!! Even more than their bottle-fed sisters!) When they’re six weeks old, the plan is to trap them to socialize them here at our house, so we can also get them care through ADL and have them adopted out. (This was what we were trying to do last year with the four kittens we rescued, but apparently eight weeks is too old. Six weeks is perfect in terms of weaning and socializing time.) We’ll also trap Tippy and get her spayed at that time, so she never has to have kittens again.

This is the other part of this post – the feral cats. We trapped the one we were calling Lady Grey on April 10th and brought her in for spay…only to find out that 1) he was actually Lord Grey, and 2) he was already neutered. He was, however, a feral cat with no microchip, and the vet thinks that someone once TNRed him and either neglected or botched the ear-tip. So he got ear-tipped and returned home, and he’s been happily traipsing around our yard every day since!

(look at that gorgeous ear-tipped boy!)

A week later, we trapped Easter, Tippy’s companion/sister, because the feeder was worried that she was pregnant. She was. We did the spay procedure anyway. (Don’t come at me. It was more humane to do that than to let her have kittens, and later have to re-trap her and her kittens for TNR. I don’t like it any more than anyone else, but we have dozens if not hundreds of unaltered cats in our neighborhood, so this was by far the better solution.) So Easter got returned, kitten-free, to live out her life safely and happily!

(left: Easter; right: Becca)

After that, we put out a call to the neighborhood, and have since then trapped, spayed, and released another cat (Becca) who was a recent mom-of-five. (Her babies were six weeks old and already being cared for by her feeder, and her milk was mostly dried up.) I’ve had about another half-dozen calls for help but so far no one has followed up, and frankly, I’m not sure how many people I can assist. The thing is, there are very limited resources for spay/neuter of community/feral cats in SA – less than 50 slots per week for a city of 2.5 million people – so we’ve been going through our regular vet. They offer a discount for services on community cats, but even with that, we’ve been paying between $250 and $400 per cat!! We’re not made of money, and our primary goal is to take care of the colony that’s right here in our part of our neighborhood. All but one of the calls for help were from people far away enough that I doubt their situation is even related to this colony here.

So rather than continuing to reach out, the plan is to set up a covered, baited trap with a camera behind it triggered by motion. We’ve been using the camera to watch the feeding area 24/7 for the last month or more, and it works well. I get a notification every time there’s movement. We won’t trap overnight when I’m asleep, because the most important thing is to get the trap fully covered so that the trapped cat won’t hurt themselves trying to get out. Hopefully by doing this, we can get some of the dozen or so that we see regularly in our yard – especially the boys!!! If we can get King ( –> ), I’ll be very, very happy!

Hopefully as time goes by, I’ll find a way to raise more funds (right now, we’re just asking for people to donate if they can via Venmo (@keshalyi)) and help more people, or find a spay/neuter solution that isn’t hundreds of dollars. Meanwhile, it’s three cats down, many dozens to go…

PS – If you want to see videos of Shai and Hulud, or any of the TNR vids, I’ve mostly been keeping all my media in one place these days, which is my Tiktok.

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April 2022 in Review

Obviously, it’s been a crazy month. About 90% of that month involved round-the-clock care of two orphaned kittens. I’m going to make a separate post about kittens and the TNR project, because both have been big in April and could overwhelm this post. The other big part of April is that Jason and I had to cancel our 20th anniversary vacation. Again. This time it was my fault, though – I checked that my passport was valid, but apparently I checked before the last time we had it scheduled (Sept 2021) and it expired in October. I didn’t discover this until we were a month out from the trip, and there wasn’t enough time to get it renewed. So once again, plans have been postponed, and our current plan is go in September. We’ll see. Hopefully we’ll have this 20th anniversary vacation in the books before we hit our 25th anniversary, heh.

Reading and Watching
I read four books this month, including one reread, and other than the reread, my favorite was definitely Tiny but Mighty. On screen, this was a heavy TV month with a lot of junk-watching: The Ultimatum (so many red flags!), The Truth About Pam, Temptation Island, and Murdoch Mysteries (silly, but not junky at least). I also saw Everything Everywhere All At Once in theatre with my youngest son, and that was…a bizarre movie.

Goals
The big one: Our tax refund came in and we paid off all the rest of our consumer debt!

House
Jason buried the electrical line out to our night-camera, so that we weren’t just running a long extension cord through the grass. Also, our ice maker broke and splashed everywhere, so we had to replace that. I can’t even remember if this was the month we had to replace the bottom of the kitchen sink cabinet, or if that was March? Jason’s also working on replacing the top railings of our deck, because the ones we put on last year suddenly warped and ripped away from the walls… Most of this has been tucked into corners as we take care of the kittens. It sounds like a lot but most of it was tiny projects.

Health/Fitness
Unfortunately, this was my largest medical month of 2022 so far, including my first minor surgical procedure (a fine-needle biopsy into my parotid gland) which led to the conclusion that while the mass under my ear isn’t cancerous, it may become so, so I need surgery in the fall that will involve slicing through half of my face and neck, and may leave me with a side effect that involves my left external cheek sweating whenever I eat. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this crap. I was also diagnosed with a secondary autoimmune disorder of sjogren’s syndrome, mostly because of this mass on my parotid gland, plus I had another colitis attack that nearly landed me in the hospital again, and I need xrays on my left hip to see if something is broken. Fun! All that combined with hurting my foot on my only hike of the month (April 3rd, above pic), and I was basically down for the count this month. Ugh.

Favorite Photos
I barely touched my camera this month. I took a lot of photos with my phone, especially of the kittens, but I barely left the house and spent almost no time at all on photography. The one exception is finally taking my youngest’s senior photos (you know, a month before he graduates…). So this first picture is the six non-portrait favorites from April, followed by the three favorites of the 15 or so senior photos I kept from our photoshoot.

Top left to right: Shai around 3 weeks old; Lord Grey post-surgery in the very overgrown and very green spring yard; Hulud at 3 weeks old. Bottom, left to right: Lord of the Succulent Garden; post-bottle snuggles and miniature blep at 12 days old; a lady anole – all the lizards are back out in the garden!!

Gotta say, my photography skills (and camera) are much improved from when I took Ambrose’s senior photos on my iPhone…I can only imagine how much better this will get when I finally sit down to learn true editing skills!

Highlights of April
To be honest, because I wasn’t blogging and I think I only opened my computer like five times this month, I entirely forgot to keep track of these. They were there, but I don’t have a true list, so I’m skipping this.

Coming up in May
Not a vacation. Ugh. But that’s okay because we weren’t sure how we were going to deal with five-week old kittens at that point anyway. So this month will be our last month with the kittens, the end of high school for Laurence, the last full month that Ambrose will be with us before he enters the military, another minimal-if-any blogging month, and hopefully enough busyness and kittens to counteract my normal severe May depression/PTSD!

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April Mini-Reviews

Very little reading happened in April, but here are some mini-reviews of the things that got read in the corners of busyness!

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
This is a sci-fi future-world story of a girl who is somehow infected with technology that allows her to kill at will, or kill accidentally when her life is threatened. She’s a young child when this happens, and inadvertently kills her entire village, including her family, when hit by a car. After that, she must make her way alone, growing up as both a pariah and a curiosity. It was a very interesting twist on a coming of age story with a disturbing ending that I’m not quite sure how to interpret.

The Hollows by Mark Edwards (audio)
My previous experience with Edwards was fairly good, so I’m annoyed that this one was sooooooo bad. I thought it was just the narrator, Guy Mott, so I kept listening, because my library didn’t have a copy of the book. And yeah, the narrator wasn’t good (details in a sec) but the book was so poorly written too. The characters were lifeless and flat, and the dialog, especially between the teenagers, was so stilted and try-too-hard that I experienced major secondhand embarrassment. As for the narrator, I’m not sure why he was chosen. Only one character in the book was British, and yeah, his chapters were read first-person, but everyone else was American with POV chapters, and Mott couldn’t do American accents at all. Not only that, but in the 3rd person POV chapters, he would switch around accents for the narration (non-dialog) parts, and one character actually switched from a generic attempt at American accent to a really stereotyped Boston accent in the last third of the book. Wut??

Tiny But Mighty by Hannah Shaw
Subtitled: Kitten Lady’s Guide to Saving the Most Vulnerable Felines
This is the definitive book on kitten care. (As in, shelters across the country use Shaw’s information – from book or the Kitten Lady website – as a resource.) Obviously, I read this book because I needed some guidance on a lot of things as Jason and I began hand-raising two orphaned bottle-baby kittens. This helped a lot, and I highly recommend it for anyone raising young kittens for whatever reason, or for anyone who would like to get involved in fostering, TNR, cat-rescue, etc. It wasn’t just good for this, though. The first two chapters (about 60 pages) are entirely about general information – about community (feral) cats, the cat population, why there’s a kitten season, what to do if you happen to see kittens (it’s not to immediately grab them up!), the true differences between “kill” and “no-kill” shelters (absolute misnomer), etc. There are a LOT of misconceptions about cats, especially community/feral/stray cats, and just these two chapters can really educate people. It’s one of the only things I wish I could assign people as required reading, heh.

*****
Note: I also listened to What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty twice this month. I always listen to this book several times throughout April and May as I deal with PTSD triggers. No need to review, though, as I’ve already done so (above link).

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Necessary Break

Considering my full-time job for the next little while will be these two, I’m letting go of all expectations of blogging, reading books, reading anyone else’s blogs, keeping up with social media, etc. I’ll be back eventually.

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