December 2007 Archives

Living well

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Did you know that Kirsten Dunst was born like six months after me, in Point Pleasant? I'm watching Drop Dead Gorgeous on Comedy Central and for some reason that surprised me.

(Is it just me, or is it nearly impossible to watch a movie on TV without IMDb'ing it?)

I don't really believe in New Year's Resolutions. Usually people make a half-hearted effort at change, a valiant two weeks of dieting or an aimless attempt to quit smoking (until they go out). I'm no better on this front, and I can't think of a single resolution I've made at New Year's that has actually stuck for the whole year or any appreciable length of time.

Usually I think when people are ready for change in their lives, they make it. I've feebly dieted for years and always thought I needed to lose weight, but when I actually put my mind to losing 30 pounds, I just started doing it, on a random Sunday in February (should get back to that). When Eric quit smoking, he just did it, stopped, and didn't start again.

I think it's better to set a theme for the year and try to focus on that.

So my only resolution for New Year's (or any time) is this: Live Well.

I realize this means eating healthier, exercising, working on my career, nurturing my relationships, learning to manage stress, getting my finances under control, pursuing my interests, traveling, and on and on. I don't want to obsess over the details right now. I just want to focus on living well, in all its aspects.

Today I achieved a major goal (that I can't talk specifically about yet), which I've been struggling with for years. The enormous weight lifted off my chest is astonishing, and I am absolutely thrilled to have made such a big step in living well.

While I usually dread New Year's as a holiday (cause, yknow, a fresh chance to screw up), I think 2008 is going to be a good year, the Year of Living Well. Finally.

Packages (no, not that kind)

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UPS sucks. This is no mystery, and I'm quite sure I've bitched plenty about them, but ugh.

I'm in New Jersey right now. And one of my big Christmas presents for Eric? Is sitting outside of my apartment, if it hasn't already been stolen by now.

(You've seen this on the news, right? About people following UPS and FedEx and stealing the packages they leave outside houses and apartments?)

Yeah so we've had no less than 6 packages stolen since September, and we've filed claims and had our building flagged every time, yet still one of our jackass UPS guys persists in leaving packages outside our apartment. And when the packages are signature required, he writes "FRT Door" as the name, as if our front door has somehow signed for them.

I very nearly got in my car and drove to Brooklyn this afternoon when I saw today's package marked as "delivered" and once again signed for by my buddy, Mr FRT Door.

I'm counting on a little Christmas magic here, that maybe the packages will still be there when I get there tomorrow.

One can always hope, right???

Oh man

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Cluny died.

I just got off the phone with my mom.

She said he wasn't looking well and he wouldn't eat this morning. She spent a long time petting him and trying to make him comfortable. She put him on a soft pillow, curled up with a blanket, and he laid down to take a nap. She opened the shade to let a beam of light shine on him, and he went peacefully in his sleep.

A little later she found him, and he looked like he was just sleeping. I don't think he suffered at all.

If it was just his time, I am kind of comforted that he spent his last morning with family, getting pets, knowing how loved he is, and sleeping in the sun. I wished for a quiet, peaceful end for him, and it seems like the universe gave him the gentleness and warmth he deserved.

But God, I'm gonna miss my kitty.

Yay Christmas meme!

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As promised, I'm full of the inane now, so I've decided to tag myself from Lauren's meme, continuing the uhh, self-tagging trend. (Aren't all memes really self-selective anyway?).

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. I worked just long enough in retail to be an absolute goddess of gift-wrapping. I'm talking perfectly creased edges, symmetrical folds, the works. This backfires because my umm, modesty, precedes me and my brother, father, and boyfriend all ask me to do their wrapping for them. I am hopeless with gift bags though - I cannot achieve a comfortable balance of tissue nonchalance and structural integrity to save my life. I fuss with it until the whole situation is a wrinkled mess. Give me a gift bag, and I'll find a way to spill it, tear the handles off, and somehow expel a bodily fluid in the five seconds of transfer.

2. Real tree or artificial? Real, even though I'm quite sure I'm allergic. I like to tell myself that my seasonal "Christmas flu" which mysteriously ends exactly at the Epiphany is caused by germs, not that delicious evergreen goodness (which yes, I huff).

3. When do you put up the tree? Generally a week or two before Christmas, since my mom likes to keep it up through January 6 (see below). My parents put theirs up this weekend, and though Eric and I kind of meant to get a table-top tree or something, we forgot. I put a wreath up yesterday, on my side of the door (we're not allowed to have anything in the hall).

4. When do you take the tree down? Sometime after the Epiphany, on January 6.

5. Do you like eggnog? Oh hell yes. Eric had to tell me to stop buying it every time I went to the store after Thanksgiving, that it's a seasonal treat and not like, a November-December replacement for milk.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I gotta say, I got some pretty awesome gifts as a child, Santa was always pretty good to me... but the one that actually stands out most is my first 35mm SLR camera, when I was 14 and a freshman in high school.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? My mom does, and I keep meaning to make one. I've never really had Christmas for myself (when do you start doing that anyway?), so uhh I don't have any of the stuff.

8. Hardest person to buy for? I finally got my immediate family to make lists, plus I ventured out a bit on my own. So I'd have to say Eric's mother and brother and whoever my secret Santa person happens to be that year.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Well I want to say myself, but I guess that doesn't really count. My mom's pretty easy, as is Eric (it's another matter altogether if they actually like what I give them).

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever got? A punch to the back of the head, last year. Otherwise I'd have to say clothes that were too small, since yknow, way to feel bad about yourself.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I used to write and mail my mom's cards. This year Eric and I had grand plans of dressing the cats up in Santa hats and an elf costume (or at the very least working some Photoshop magic) but umm, we forgot.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I'm gonna say It's a Wonderful Life. As a subcategory, I'm answering Favorite Christmas Cartoon, which is the Grinch.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I start thinking about it around August, make a bunch of lists of stuff I want to make, gather supplies, then run out of time. I realize this about a week or two after my birthday, so I'll say mid-November, unless I'm busy with school (which I always am), so early to mid-December. I'm almost done now.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I was going to fib on this, since I was sure I had, but then I really couldn't remember ever doing so. I have, however, held onto gifts for over a year out of intense guilt, then made my mom give them to charity.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Rice croquets, a fantastic family recipe. Oh also,everything.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? My entire childhood I looked forward to the day when I could get my own tree and have tasteful white lights (I was quite a snot), but by now I'd really go with colored. BTW, these LED Forever Lights look pretty awesome for the outdoors.

17. Favorite Christmas song? This is tough. I really like this one that goes "Mamá cita, dondé está Santa Claus?", and "Little St Nick" by the Beach Boys. Also this 80s song that my Dad sings along to and, umm, all of the Mormon Tabernacle choir record and Handel's Messiah, and well, I like a lot of Christmas music. I may be the only person who actually loves the Chipmunks Christmas song. I can say there's one Christmas song I definitely hate, above any other song I've ever heard: "Dominick the Donkey." And after working in one of those mall Christmas stores, I cannot stand to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" ever again.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel to my parents', where it's kind of like home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yep. I think people who say they can't are just trying to be blasé.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? We always had an angel, and I like all that symbolism, though I'm also a pretty big fan of stars. Can't really go wrong I guess.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning. My mom would cue up "O Tannenbaum" and we'd rush down the stairs to unwrap gifts in our jammies. My father would take forever because he'd have to make coffee, take the dogs out, feed the cats, and so on, so he always ended up with a backlog while my brother and I anxiously shoved gifts in his face.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Final papers, projects and exams, the disaster that my apartment becomes, and the fact that usually by now I've been out of clean underwear for close to a week (not this year, somehow).

23. What I love most about Christmas? Being with my family and pets around the warmth of the fire and the beauty of a lovely tree. (And if I'm being honest, the fact that I am out of classes and can breathe right again!)

Now you go!!!

I'm done

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I just, and I mean just finished writing what turned out to be a 26-page (with illustrations) tome on early Christian and medieval gardens. It's the kind of paper that traveled from Mesopotamia and the 3rd century BC to about 1000 CE, picking up little details of geometry and architecture along the way.

Also, I know nothing about architecture. I spent a serious amount of my research time learning it for this paper. Who knew there was so much architecture in a stinking enclosed garden?

I think the trouble with this paper is that I had an absolute glut of research done before I even began to process it. I had to cut out like, multi-page sections on castles and Islam and Sicily and all this other stuff just to squish it into some kind of manageable length.

All things considered, when I look back on the scantly researched, barely substantiated papers (you know the kind, where you have like three legitimate sources and a bunch of flaky vagaries that you try to piece together with lengthy paragraphs of repetitive analysis?) I've written in my day, they were much preferable to the marathon of footnotes I've just created. I think I put a paragraph-long reference on nearly every sentence for the first five pages. Too, too much!

There were a lot of interesting things I learned along the way, but I'm not even going to attempt to recap them just now, since my eyes are currently melting out of my head and I can't specifically remember the last time I slept.

The anxiety is not over with having emailed my paper, however, because when my professor agreed to accept it by email, I was supposed to send it on Friday, not, yknow, today (today being the day after the last calendar day of the semester). And if it were going to be today, I'm quite sure he wanted it earlier than 8:15 at night, which if we're being honest, basically makes it tomorrow (do professors check their email after 5pm?).

I don't know why I feel the need to unwind from marathon writing with, umm, more writing, but there it is.

My bed has never looked so good.

Before I go, I must apologize for my constant insanity and whining lately. I'm sure it's obvious how stressed I am (considering I haven't told y'all the half of it), but I didn't have to turn this blog into a personal grief repository these past few days.

I'll do my very best to cut it out, from now forward, and stick with just run-of-the-mill melodrama about like shoes and pop culture and stuff.

I really have to get a grip

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Know what's awesome?

Breaking down into hot gulping sobs in the middle of the library when you're just trying to do your stupid medieval garden architecture research because you have to read about the beautiful cloisters of the abbey of Cluny and the unparalleled architecture of Cluny III. Cluny, Cluny, Cluny. Let's just rub it in my face all damn night.

I'm sorry to whine incessantly to the internet about this. I would ordinarily be whimpering in Eric's arms and hiding from the internet. As much as I tell Iggy and Smokey about my feelings, they just look at me alarmed because I'm blubbering to cats about cats and actually saying out loud "Sorry guys, I shouldn't bother you with this."

It's not just about Cluny, I'm pretty sure of that. I haven't been able to stop my hands from trembling or my legs from wobbling all day. As I frantically finished my photocopying within minutes of the library closing, my entire body was shaking like a leaf.

On the walk home, the wind whipped a cluster of dried leaves scattered on the sidewalk into a perfect cyclone with me at the center. Raising my hands to keep my hat on, I thought to myself "Just another leaf, at the whims of the winds." I closed my eyes and let tears run down my face and wished for a moment I could float away and dissipate into nothingness, ash on the breeze.

(Don't think it hasn't occurred to me that if I can't cope with the death of a pet, I'm never going to survive the death of my grandparents or aunts and uncles and cousins and friends or God, my parents).

The universe is feeling like a cruel and indifferent place lately, and I don't like it. I know it's just this time of year, but I haven't got anything left. I don't think it's a coincidence that exactly a year ago I found myself in the hospital because I'd worn myself down so badly and neglected my health until it became an emergency room situation.

Fortunately my only malady now besides the trembling is an inability to stop crying, which I'm quite certain is an hysterical rather than medical problem. I have to write this stupid paper already and put this semester behind me and just shut up for a while.

Some things I have to accept

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I can't control that Cluny is dying of something. Just because my mother is making him comfortable doesn't mean he's going to turn around and live seven more years. I got caught up in hope that I probably shouldn't have.

When talking about having to board the dogs on our vacation to Hawaii, it was on the assumption that Cluny would be dead by the time we leave, or that he'd die while we were away.

Knowing he probably has so little time left, I can't make myself just finish my damn work and get down there.

Even though I absolutely couldn't care less about the topic, and every time I start reading my eyes well up thinking of my kitty, doesn't mean my paper isn't way overdue and must be handed in as soon as possible. I can't fail a class because I'm sad.

Subconsciously (or well, overtly now), I don't really want to go down to my parents' even though I'm missing all the festive parts of Christmas and driving myself crazy alone up here. I think I'm afraid to see Cluny weak or suffering and I can somehow protect myself from how much this hurts if I don't have to be there in person seeing things I can't unsee.

I don't want to be there when he dies, and I don't want to have to say goodbye.

(I know he deserves better than that).

Sometimes I'm just not good enough and my best wasn't enough. What I consider arbitrary rules and requirements exist to weed out the people who aren't good enough. And right now, I'm one of them. Lots of people need contingency plans in life, and no, I'm probably never going to like having a job. That doesn't mean I won't need one, soon.

Just because I'm disgusted by the problems money (or the lack thereof) cause, doesn't mean I don't have to deal with them, soon.

Lamenting time I wasted or mismanaged doesn't bring it back. It just spends more.

Eric is probably right: most of the time when I cry, I am just feeling sorry for myself. I really miss him terribly already, but I feel guilty for that. If he were here, I'd just take him for granted some more anyway.

I am completely out of control of my life and don't know how to fix it. That doesn't mean I don't have to try.

Cluny update

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Though I'm not breaking down in tears as often when I think about him, I'm still pretty upset and preoccupied with Cluny's health. When my mind wanders, I think about him, and it consumes my dreams, in heartbreaking ways.

My mother is in a similar mindset, and as she works from home, she's his primary caretaker and support now. Last week he kind of took a turn for the worse, getting shaky and so weak he could barely stand or sit up. My mom said it looked like a deer trying to stand on ice, as his legs just kept falling out from under him.

She took him back to the vet (for clarity's sake, this will be the Assy Vet) and started him on a second medication to compliment the prednizone (which I've been spelling and pronouncing wrong). My mother had researched this drug and asked her why he wasn't already on it. Assy Vet said she wasn't planning to prescribe it because it tastes bitter and sometimes makes cats over-salivate. Is that seriously a reason to withhold treatment?! My mom was kind of astonished and glad that she insisted on the second medication. She and I talked about how humans must be their own health care advocates and in this case, she is Cluny's advocate.

She researched online and found a story of a cat who had gotten as emaciated and weak as Cluny, then with successful treatment of his IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) by this combination of meds, the cat got healthy and actually chubby, living many more years. We both raised our hopes that Cluny could get back up to a healthier weight, and my mother kept feeding him the nutrient goo and kitty Ensure.

This afternoon he was looking really rough again, and he'd lost interest in food. She was coaxing him to eat cooked chicken, then eventually got him to eat raw chicken and more of the nutrient stuff (which is supposed to give a day's calories in like a squirt), but he just seemed terribly weak and not himself. Basically, he's been starving to death, and she didn't know what to do anymore.

She thought enough was enough and researched a new vet, heretofore known as Awesome Vet. Awesome Vet was able to see her right away and best of all, said that Assy Vet is full of crap. Awesome Vet said that the "mass" that the Assy Vet felt was actually just Cluny's swollen intestines, a characteristic of the IBS.

You see, Assy Vet had us setting up kitty hospice, and Awesome Vet said no way, this is not a cat you send home to die. She saw his bright eyes and tenacious spirit and said no, no, no, we can do more.

She started him on a prescription weight-gain food to increase his strength and muscle mass. (I like to think of him doing his best Cartman impression and yelling "Beefcaaaake!"). She said there is no blockage or obstruction or enormous cancerous mass, so things should keep moving along in that respect.

Cluny's not out of the woods. Awesome Vet did bloodwork and found his red blood cells are really reduced, which could be from a lot of causes. It's possible he does have a cancer (though not a mass), lymphoma, or a systemic disorder... but under Assy Vet's supervision, he was starving to death. At least now, he will have a fighting chance at regaining his strength and health.

An aspect of this experience that is very frustrating is that Assy Vet was basing her medical opinions on a friend's cat, who had had an intestinal loop, which is quite different from Cluny's situation. The surgery for that was really painful and the cat was never itself after, so Assy Vet has extrapolated it to a condemnation against any and all intestinal surgeries for any cats. My mother still does not want to put Cluny through surgery or treatment he probably wouldn't survive, but at least now we can make this decision in confidence and not, frankly, stupid conjectures by someone who should know better.

Though Awesome Vet may not be any more successful in helping our little guy, I feel a lot better that she's taking an aggressive and active role in his treatment. She gave my mother a syringe to force-feed the prescription food because cats notoriously turn their noses up at it, but thankfully Cluny wolfed down half a can as soon as she opened it.

When I last spoke to my mother, she said he looked a lot less wobbly and was sleeping peacefully, breathing comfortably, and seems more like himself again. He's still very weak and I'm still really worried, but I think that if this new medication and the prescription food can help him put on some weight, he'll have much, much better chances of surviving whatever else is going on.

Something my mother said the other day that has really stuck with me is that if anyone thought of this part, they'd never want to have a pet. It's just heart-wrenching. But she always reminds me that as we love them when they're sweet, young, and healthy, we must especially love them when they're sick or in decline. I think Cluny knows how loved and cared-for he is, and I really hope with all my heart that this treatment works for him. Something in the brightness and clarity of his eyes makes me feel he's not ready to cash in, that there are still many more sunny afternoons and sleepy cuddles for him yet.

The weather outside is frightful...

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(This post has almost nothing to do with the weather).

Once upon a time, on a slightly intoxicated evening as an undergrad pulling an all-nighter in my studio, I made the following list.

Places That Really Should Deliver (at 3am):

Bakeries - cheesecake especially, but chocolate éclairs would do. Cinnamon buns in the morning.

McDonald's - I want 27 chicken nuggets and I want them now.

Diners - I know they're open 24 hours, but what if I want them to bring stuff to me?? Also, you should be able to order bacon by the pound.

Liquor stores - So you don't have to drink and drive.

Bars - Seriously, a margarita, like right here? In a lidded container with a straw? Oh yes.

CVS - When you're really sick, like so sick you have to miss class or work, how come you have to drive there to get your NyQuil? And what if you really needed Imodium?

Dunkin Donuts - Breakfast sandwiches should always appear like magic at your door (this was illustrated with a little flying sausage and cheese croissant with a halo and rays of light).

Nine West - Some brand new high heels would be perfection right now.

At the end of the list, I had also scrawled "Diet Coke in kegs." I have always been a dreamer.

I stand by every one of these suggestions, and sometimes I fantasize about reasonably priced concierge websites to fulfill my every whim and desire. With the weather being what it is at the moment, I think it would be wonderful to be able to give someone money to bring me things.

All this is to say that today was my last official class of grad school, and I'm pretty damn stoked. Yes, I have papers to write still and things to drop into mailboxes, but the end is in sight!

Giftmas anxiety

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Typically I forget about Christmas until a week or two before, when suddenly the semester has ended and I recognize the date as existing in December already. Dazed, I look around at all the decorations and sales and think "Whoa, how did I miss all this?" Nose to the grindstone and all that, I guess.

This year, though, it's haunting me. I woke up at 6 this morning from a terrible, panicky dream about it (who knew that purple yarn could traumatize and offend so greatly?). I think about it whenever I go grocery shopping or check my email. I worry about shipping times, I fret about whether I'll completely miss the mark. It just goes on and on.

I have a pathetic inferiority complex when it comes to gift giving - I always have - and I tend to drive people crazy with apologies or offers to exchange things for them. Because I wanted to give them stuff they really wanted, I've been nagging my parents and brother to put wish lists online since October... and predictably now I want to go off-list for what I give them.

For the gifts I'm knitting (the first time I've ever done this), I started planning in August, and I've actually made quite a bit of progress on some of the projects. I spent literally months agonizing over the specific items, the yarn choices, colors, how to package and present them, and on and on. It's a labor of love, certainly, but it's a lot more time- and thought-consuming than an Amazon gift certificate.

Compounding my anxiety is our new family tradition among the adults on my mother's side. Instead of everyone giving small gifts to the whole family (which usually meant like, a candle for each couple), we now do a Secret Santa exchange where everyone gives one person one really nice gift (with a suggested $50 and up price range). The idea is that we'd get to know our person a little better and invest the time to make it a truly thoughtful, well-appreciated gift.

Only it's not working out that way so much lately.

We don't know each other well (I've discussed this a little before) and it seems we're uniquely talented at being offended. This year my brother and I both have relatively new family members whom we've literally spoken to maybe once or twice. We've both been pestering my mother to spy a little and find our their interests, hobbies, favorite colors, or just anything to go by (predictably, neither have online wish lists anywhere we can find).

My recipient? Wants an Old Navy gift card.

I'm going to give it to her because that's what she wants, but I feel crummy about it. In my thinking, it's even more impersonal than if I just gave her a pair of gloves or scarf or some generic feminine gift, which at least I'd have picked out myself with her in mind.

I understand her thinking because I get terribly squeamish thinking of other people trying to shop for me (I hate causing anyone the kind of anxiety I feel). Personally, I told my mom and the exchange organizer that I really really wanted a set of DVDs that just so happen to cost something like $43 (so with shipping, it's on the nose). Yes, I do want them, but I also thought this would help my Secret Santa avoid having to pick out clothing or a personal item or having to speculate about my taste. And maybe they will learn that I am a big fat nerd who watches Blue Planet for relaxation and inspiration.

This whole process, though, is totally unnerving and strange. I kind of liked the small gifts people picked out for me, even if they gave every female family member the same thing. I was looking forward to thinking about my recipient and coming up with a package full of unexpected goodies, but now it feels like the stupid gift card is her "main" gift and anything I make by hand or pick out specifically with her in mind is sort of the trim.

Argh, I know Christmas isn't just about gifts, and I know that I have a lot of other things I should be thinking about, but this has been driving me crazy.

Next year? Hand prints in plaster of Paris and macaroni pictures all around. Or maybe just a few checks with "Merry Christmas" in the memo line. Gah.

For those about to rock

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To assist in productivity (somehow), Eric helped me set up small speakers for my laptop so I may blare music as loudly as I want and hear it all over the apartment. (Sometimes my astronaut headphones hurt my ears).

I think he immediately regretted this decision.

Also, just so you know, it doesn't matter how much bologna one has in her mouth at a given time, it is always appropriate to sing along as loud as possible. Just saying.


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First I must thank you all for your kind and heartfelt comments about Cluny. I'm no longer falling apart when I think about it, and in fact I'm regarding the whole situation with cautious optimism. My mother kind of reminded me that he's still the same cat he was before the diagnosis and, as always, all we can do is love and care for him.

That notwithstanding, I'm still a mess. I have this awful amorphous floating anxiety which has been hovering in every cell of my body for a few weeks now. It's not quite at the panic attack level yet, but I am damn close.

The reality is finally setting in that this is my last week of classes for these degrees. Or I should say, was. Time's up, and I am consumed with regret and guilt for all the things I meant to do differently, or better, or just at all. I think I'm supposed to be excited at the sense of completeness or accomplishment, but all I can think about right now is the inordinate amount of tasks I've left for myself in these next few days.

How about a list? Always therapeutic.

  • learn French for exam on Monday, when I haven't been to most of the past three weeks' classes and oh, I can't register for thesis if I don't pass (more on this below)
  • research term paper for Medieval Art, which was actually due almost two weeks ago
  • research summary paper from Venice, which was due in... September (I'm deeply embarrassed about this one)
  • massive amounts of reading and studying for Medieval Art final exam on Wednesday morning
  • same amount of reading and studying for Chinese Landscape Painting final exam on Wednesday afternoon
  • research paper and/or creative project for my liberal arts class

Those are the things that if I don't do, I won't pass or get credit for classes.

Other commitments:

  • make a DVD of slide scans that I promised to a professor (also the department head) over a year ago
  • sort out my entire financial situation
  • set up internships, assistantships, and probably a job for next semester so that I can, yknow, not be homeless while I do my thesis

Here I will interject with a note about the French situation and how it severely impacts every aspect of my life. If I don't pass the class and exam (which is an increasingly precarious "if") I'm not allowed to register for thesis in the spring, as per department policy. If I am not doing thesis, I'm not considered a full-time student anymore, and not only am I not eligible to take out further loans but my current ones would come due. This would mean I'd have to get a full-time job instead of the assistantships and internships I'm trying to put together, the odds of which are exceedingly unlikely, considering I don't have my degrees complete. While I know that I need to start supporting myself imminently, I'm not presently in a financial situation where I will have any real breathing room to speak of, so yeah, this would be a terrible terrible thing.

With all this resting on it, have I prioritized French in any meaningful way? Of course not. I am incredibly bad at it, and I haven't retained a single thing all semester. Effectively, I'm relearning it this weekend, while also writing papers and a hundred other things. Awesome.

I also, in the back of my mind, have this nagging feeling that I'm supposed to submit the written component of my MFA thesis before the end of this semester. I'm not sure from where I've derived this expectation, but it's lurking and I can't shake a vague memory of the department head saying something about "one calendar year or two semesters from the start of thesis" as a deadline for statement submission to the library. Yes, I could whip something together at the last minute (as with everything I'm doing this semester, apparently), but I feel like a jerk for wasting the entire MFA experience already, so I should at least write something worthwhile or like, bother making slides. Ugh.

I think generally this is the source of my anxiety. Once again, I feel like I've blown an entire degree. Or well, two this time. Granted, unlike undergrad I'm doing it with a really great GPA and straight A's in art history, but I know inside that I haven't done all I should have. I don't even know anymore if it's reasonable to be so disappointed in oneself, or if it's simply become habit, but it's certainly a lousy feeling.

On the domestic front, I'm also incredibly stressed by things that are happening with Eric. And again, for no good reason. He's leaving in a few days for a month-long trip to Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and a couple other places. I don't know why this stresses me out so much, apart from it being the busiest few days of the semester right now, but I know that I can't give him my time or attention as I'd like to, and it's making me feel awful.

He's also been having a trauma with his car, which unexpectedly wouldn't start the other day. I have no idea what's wrong with it, but he insists he can't get a jump or even try to turn it on because of something with the radiator? I don't know. He also keeps getting into these frustrating ordeals with Progressive roadside assistance, who say they'll come tow it at noon, then don't show for three hours, then say it'll be a half hour, then don't show for another hour and so on, until it gets past the time when repair shops are open.

To compound this situation, they're repaving our street this morning (where his car has been parked since Tuesday), so he's been going back and forth since 5 trying to intercept the tow trucks, which were scheduled to start at 6. And once again, the roadside assistance won't come tow until he can give them the exact address they're towing to, nor will they simply move the car to a legal parking spot or somewhere outside of a repair shop.

Basically, I have never been happier that I no longer have my car in the city, but I feel awful for him to have to deal with all this. He has to get his car up to his mother's house in the next few days so he can keep it there while he's away, and this is apparently becoming an increasingly difficult and expensive proposition. Which, for some reason, I've vicariously involved myself in.

I apologize for the sincerely boring and tedious post, but it helps me from time to time to whine and ramble about the messes I've made for myself and make half-assed stabs at how I could possibly get out of them.

I wonder if there will ever be a time in my life when I stop procrastinating, figure out how to manage my time, accomplish tasks to a satisfactory level, and can feel good about myself in any way at all?

I really hope so, because right now that sense of place in the world feels miles away.

It occurs to me now, as I have to get ready for Chemistry class, that I haven't slept more than an hour since Wednesday, which was actually just a few hours of crying punctuated by dozing in the early evening. If I'm able to, I think it would be wise to sleep when I get home from chem, or my body will do something really cute like develop the flu or a sudden intestinal infection so I can get hospitalized again. Nothing like holiday traditions.

My little fur person

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I've been really sad since yesterday afternoon when my mother gave me some bad news about my childhood kitty, Cluny. He has been losing weight rapidly for a while and now, according to the vet, dying.

He's fourteen years old and still energetic, strong, friendly, warm-spirited, purrs like a machine, and has a fantastic appetite.

The trouble is, he's not getting nutrition from his food. He's had an irritable bowel condition for the past few years, which they've been treating with the steroid pregnezone. In recent months despite doubling his dosage, his weight plummeted down to 6.5 pounds, which is nearly half of what he used to weigh.

He has very little muscle mass now, but he is still surprisingly strong, able to jump up on the counters, run, and move comfortably. Apart from being so skinny, it seems like there is nothing wrong with him; he's every bit himself.

All this time, I've been wanting to find out what exactly is wrong, why he can't gain weight (although he's no longer losing weight).

Tuesday at the vet, they found a mass in his abdomen. My mom says it's about 4 inches long, a half inch in diameter, and feels like a coiled rope. They haven't determined if it's inside or outside of his intestines, but at his weight and age it's extremely unlikely he would survive surgery and if he did, he would be weak and in pain the rest of his life.

The vet's grim prognosis is that he will continue to be skinny as he is now, then if the mass grows, it will eventually completely block his intestines and necessitate euthanasia. I think this is the part that keeps making me fall apart into a mess of tears and shivers - she told my mom that he won't die a quiet, peaceful death in his sleep. It will be painful and unpleasant with a lot of vomiting and we're going to have to make the decision to "put him out of his misery" when it gets to that point.

She said it could be a matter of weeks, months, or even a year, but she has no reason to believe it will improve.

Obviously I'm not handling this well at all, and I'm going through all kinds of disastrous thoughts. I love this cat so much. Our first cat was an outdoor cat named Lizzy, and she was a ferocious hunter. She had to become an indoor cat when she caught feline leukemia, and her death was upsetting, but mercifully she died in her sleep without too much suffering.

Cluny has always been an indoor cat, a mushy marshmallow-hearted lovey ball of warm fluff, with an abundance of personality and affection. We adopted him when he was a kitten, from a pet shop in Atlantic Highlands. We'd been walking home from a movie at a theater down the street at night, and he literally threw himself against the store window, compelling us to stand and fawn over him. We knew we absolutely had to have him, and my mom gleefully called the store the next day to ask "How much is that kitty in the window?" They'd given him the run of the store because he was so friendly and sweet, and of course we were thrilled to have him.

I developed a major bond with Cluny right away. When I'd come home from school, he'd materialize next to me, frequently laying on my chest to take naps together. He has a knack for knowing when a person's tired, and he'll usher you somewhere warm and comfortable and purr until you fall asleep. I can't count the amount of times I've woken up holding him, but I'm thankful for every one. I'm pretty sure Cluny is the reason I love cats so very much, and he's had that affect on everyone who meets him.

I don't like admitting this, but the reason I got Smokey is because I missed Cluny so much while I was at college. After spending so many years with such a sweet, loving kitty companion, I felt empty and lonely without one. I don't think it's by accident that when Smokey came to live with my parents over the summer and for my final semester at school (when I moved back into a dorm), he and Cluny got on famously. Cats, like people, have a way of recognizing the good in each other I think.

I'm all torn up because I know that Cluny has had a long and happy life. He's spent his days in sun-filled windowsills, chasing milk-caps, and sleeping with doting humans. My mother gives him a saucer of milk in the mornings and pieces of chicken, venison, pork chops, or whatever meat she has, as much as he will eat. She's also been giving him Ensure, a nutrient ointment, and therapeutic abdominal massage (such is the advantage of a licensed massage therapist).

She and I are holding hope against hope that this new mass is just undigested food or a giant hairball or something that massage can move along, seeing as there was no trace of it at his examination three weeks ago. It does seem like a coincidence that since putting him on higher steroids and making a conscientious effort to feed him lots more people food, he would suddenly develop a mystery mass. Maybe I'm being crazy and grasping for straws, but I really really want the vet to be wrong. I want the mass to be something innocuous and we can all feel stupid for worrying so much about a big hairball or a lump of impacted cat food.

Ugh, I know that every living thing must die, but it doesn't make it any easier to think of losing your childhood pet. I realize I'm pretty fortunate that I'm 26 and we still have him with us, but I just really don't want him to suffer or come to a violent, scary end. He deserves the kind of soft, gentle peace he has always brought to the world, and if God is as kind and fair as I want to believe, he could have it.

I have to go cry some more.

Cheese-filled Crescent Rolls

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This morning was a little tough... Eric's car wouldn't start and it was freezing cold out. Like, wind whipping down the streets and howling in your ears, drawing tears involuntarily in streams down your cheeks kinds of cold.

While he was outside waiting for a jump from his roadside assistance (meanwhile also trying to avoid a parking ticket), I thought about how cold he'd be when he got home. I'd only been outside a few minutes and I was chilled to the core, so after more than an hour without gloves or a scarf, the poor guy would be a fudgesicle.

Then I had a stroke of genius, prompted by hunger.

We had a tube of crescent rolls and some shredded Cheddar cheese in the fridge. My fat little brain whispered salaciously, "Hey, wouldn't it be delicious if you put the cheese in the crescent rolls??"

Being a subscriber to the belief that any food can be vastly improved by the addition of cheese, bacon, or chocolate, I immediately agreed.

So now, a recipe. Of sorts. Okay really a technique. With pictures. On how to add fat to your rolls.


Cheese-filled Crescent Rolls


- one can of crescent roll dough

- a few ounces of sharp Cheddar cheese or any cheese, either shredded or crumbled into small pieces


Follow dough package directions as far as preheating oven, etc.

Unroll triangles of dough and lay flat on baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese at wide end of triangle. Challenge yourself in a game of cheese acrobatics to see how much you can fit without toppling the pile.

Roll toward narrow end of triangle, attempting to shove the pieces that drop back inside. If you're not dropping pieces, you really haven't added enough cheese. Shape into crescents with point side down and arrange on sheet.

If you really love your boyfriend, try to make his initial in cheese.

Bake as per package directions (in my case it was 12 minutes at 375), or until golden brown.

Serve while hot, melty, and crescent fresh.

I reckon this recipe could also include other things like, say, cream cheese and jalapeños. Or ricotta and roasted red peppers. Caramel sauce. Fudge. Eric was particularly insistent that the next round should include bacon. In this instance, the only limit to your frozen pastry glory is your own imagination.


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(It's strange to have left a post up for more than a day. It's good to no longer have that "Crap I haven't blogged today!" anxiety though).

I have been having this recurring dream lately, and while I'm not completely sure on the details, it always ends up with a mouthful of seashells, crunching in my teeth and little bits stuck all over my tongue.

Anyone who's had a sandwich at the beach can probably understand the horrible sensation of accidentally biting down on a piece of shell. Extrapolate that to a mouthful, and perhaps you can understand why this is such a ghastly dream to keep having.

(Is this just me? I wake up wanting to scream from this dream).

Today, Eric had another wisdom tooth out. He is surprisingly and almost alarmingly nonchalant about the whole thing.

I had four wisdom teeth out my senior year of undergrad, and it was a miserable experience. They were impacted and the upper ones were obtruding into my sinuses. They gave me an IV of sodium pentathol and multiple additional injections because I kept waking up singing Radiohead songs. I was on Percocet and a liquid diet for a week or two afterwards, and I was in total agony.

Eric took the subway to the surgeon, administered nitrous to himself, took the subway home, and is strangely chipper with only a Tylenol or something to ease the pain. Though he has a prescription for Vicodin (I think) he prefers the sugar-free fudgesicles and corn soup I got him.

I may be particularly sensitive to tooth things, as a holdover from constant mouth and jaw pain while I wore braces. I've never had a cavity or root canal or really anything except orthodontial work, and if I'm being perfectly honest, I don't even like getting my teeth cleaned (I do it, but God, I hate it). Even thinking too much about teeth gives me terrible chills and the desire to crawl out of my own skin.

Eric? Asked to keep his extracted tooth, and he keeps trying to show it to me. Shudder.


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I've seen a lot of cute advent calendars and ways of celebrating advent lately. (This one is especially cute.) I vaguely meant to make a calendar, but December 1st really sneaked up on me.

Every year my aunt sends us Advent Boxes, which contain twenty-four little gifts, one to open each day of advent. It's a lot of fun to get to open a present every day!

Today's gift was this adorable salt and pepper shaker set.

I don't usually like Christmas decorations, having worked my first part-time job in one of those crazy mall Christmas stores and still occasionally recoiling in horror at the first notes of "Jingle Bell Rock," but this Santa's face is just too cute! He actually makes me like Christmas again.

Maybe I will start working on Eric about hanging my wreath...

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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