Object Permanence and Animal Rescue

Why I suck at fostering animals.

Object permanence is typically acquired when human infants are between four and seven months old. At this point, the baby understands that, although she can’t see something, that thing is still there.

I think I may have been absent that day.

Just before Christmas, I arrived home one day to see a new cat peering at me from the vent to the crawl space under my house that the ferals keep knocking out. It looked like a pretty small cat – likely female and less than a year old. It had a pretty little blue and white face and, when it turned, I could see that it had no tail. I thought I’d call it Bob. Except that everyone has a bobtailed cat named Bob, right? So, I called it Les instead.

As you know, I have a feral colony around my house that I have fed for several years. Our Mommie and Twin have been with me for six years now while other cats have appeared and disappeared over time. I see strange kitties on the regular, but I don’t see most of them for very long. Fast forward a couple of weeks. Les was hanging out beside the house when I got home. It meowed at me and I meowed back. That baby lit out at a run towards my feet! “You speak the language!” it seemed to say. Anyway, long story short, it was isolated in the house that night. Turned out, it was a she. I posted her photo all over the place and took her to a local facility to check for a chip. No joy; however, the lady that scanned her had just lost her 14-year-old cat and said that she would take Les if we couldn’t find her people and if she wasn’t pregnant. Several days later, we had her spayed, vaccinated and tested for kitty leukemia and kitty AIDS. (Both tests were negative.) With a clean bill of health, the lady confirmed that she still wanted Les and the dread began to build in my chest.

I have too many cats – five in my house now. I can’t afford any more. Still, I started crying early this afternoon and was literally sobbing just after I let Les go. Her new lady will love her and she will have a great life, I’m confident; however, to me, she just died. I left her and will never see her again; so, for me, she’s dead and I’m grieving that, as silly as it sounds. I did the same thing with O’Malley, a feral kitten my sister and I caught and I socialized and fostered. Both kitties will continue to exist outside my sight. O’Malleywill continue to snuggle in the crook of your arm. And Les will continue to pounce on unattended spectacles and wag her tail stump like a puppy. Both cats will be loved and cared for and will live much better lives that they would have as ferals.

I know that, but I don’t feel that. My heart is just crushed. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this fostering stuff.

Probably not.

Please spay and neuter your animals.

 

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The Burden of Knowing

I’m a cat person. I have been since I was around four years old and (directly against my mother’s instructions) I started feeding the stray cat that showed up at our house. Her name was Missus and she was a beautiful blue cat with a little white badge on her chest that looked pink. She lived outside and let only my dad and me pick her up. She tried to have several litters of kittens but the litters were always really small and none of the kittens ever survived. She would grieve over those lost babies the way I grieved over her when, one day her heart just gave out. I was away at camp and Dad found her by the pump house shed where we put her food. I was eleven or so when she died and I mourned her deeply.

We lived outside the city limits – not in the country, exactly, but certainly not in a neighborhood. Missus had likely been put out or dumped by someone. That happens all too frequently. People can’t keep their pets anymore for whatever reason and they just put them out somewhere. Many go feral. Many die. But, if they are lucky, they find a disobedient four-year-old……or the 51-year-old she grew into.

For several years now, I have had four cats living in my house and, as much as I love them, I will tell you quickly that four cats is two too many. Bodhi and Wallace are great pets, but Link and Lucy are still pretty feral. I keep them because they are too tame to live outside, but they are too wild to be adoptable. I’m afraid that no one else will love them right if I don’t keep them. So, I had four cats.

Had.

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This summer, my sister and I were completing our daily steps when we saw this bedraggled, medium-haired cat approaching us. I could see her mouth moving to make mewling sounds, but no sound came out. After some time of getting to know her, we picked her up and brought her home. My sister and I do some trap, neuter, and release with the ferals in my neighborhood; so, we took this cat to be vaccinated, evaluated and sterilized before we released her back into the area. Except that didn’t happen. Her exam revealed that she had already been both spayed and declawed! She also has a cleft palate and has neither upper nor lower incisors. This cat has no weapons. It’s no wonder she was at half a healthy weight! After months of failing to find her family and of working with her, she has been introduced into my clowder, which now numbers five. Here’s the thing, though – I don’t want five cats.

In recent conversations with both my friend Sean and my dad, I’ve admitted that I don’t want five cats. Both of them suggested that I take her to the pound. Here’s the thing, our shelter is not a no-kill shelter. Tests show that the cat has neither kitty AIDS nor kitty leukemia and they show that her kidney function indicates an age of between 12 and 15 years. I am afraid that if I surrender her, they will kill her and it’s not her fault that she was made defenseless then lost or abandoned. Both Sean and my dad pointed out that it’s not my fault, either, and they are right. Here’s the thing, though: I know. I know she’s old and defenseless. I strongly suspect that a shelter will put her down. I know that the likelihood of a life-ending event is great if I don’t care for her. I know that and I can’t do that to her.

Ignorance is bliss, right?

But, I’m not ignorant. So, Drue is the fifth member of the clowder. She’s a good old lady who, even without claws or incisors, shreds toilet paper like a master. I suspect that I should have named her Magda because she has turned out to be such a Tartar – running the other cats off the bed and away from the food with nothing more than a menacing glare and an imposing hiss. At the same time, the old lady is a snuggler and I often wake to find her curled up by my legs during the night. She is easy to love and I will love her for as long as she has left because I am a Cat Lady and because there is a burden that comes with knowledge. In this case, the burden weighs eight pounds.

What’s She Worth – 2018

In response to the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa, I posted a four-part series of blogs on the value of women in November 2014. These past few weeks have had me thinking more about that series. I’ve seen lots of statistics and percentages bandied about these last weeks; so,  I thought I’d take a look at raw numbers.
While numbers vary a little depending on the source (and I’ve linked to my sources at the bottom), here’s what I found*:
165,465,343 females in the US (US Census)
160,253,836 males in the US (US Census)
In that population:
33,093,069 women have been sexually assaulted (20% – NSVRC)
2,243,554 men have been sexually assaulted (1.4% – NSVRC)
35,336,623 total number sexually assaulted
12,721,184 – estimated number of those assaults that were reported (36% – NIJ)
954,089 – estimated number who were falsely accused (7.5% of reports – VAW)
4,706,838 – estimated number or reports that were prosecuted (37% of reports – Univ KY)
847,231 – estimated number of convictions for rape prosecutions (18% – Univ KY)
63,542 – estimated number of false convictions for rape (7.5% of convictions – VAW)
The catalyst for discussions of sexual assault and rape is a one complicated and corrupted by politics in ways that I don’t claim to understand. I am not commenting on the believability, honestly or accuracy of one side over another. I do not have and will never have the information I need to do that.
What I do have is the experience of a survivor.
I didn’t report my assault because I watch a lot of crime TV and I knew that there was no evidence to support my claim. There were no marks that could not be explained. The reason there were no marks that couldn’t be explained was because he was very strong, there was a loaded gun roughly four feet away, I couldn’t move my legs and I was terrified. I believed that if I hit him, I’d have to knock him unconscious and there was nothing I could reach that would do it. I believed that he would not kill me as long as I didn’t push him too far. I noticed that when I cried out, he hurt me more; so, I stopped crying out. I repeated in my head over and over, “I just have to make it home. I just have to make it home.”
He called me the next day like nothing was wrong because I really think that he didn’t think he had done anything wrong.
I told him that he was never to contact me in any way again; but, we had been seeing each other. He knew where I lived. I was terrified for months that he would come to my house. He never did and I relaxed.
Until recently.
With all the recent television coverage and social media blather, my terror is back – brand new and even larger.
Three weeks ago, a man came into the post office lobby when I was sending a package. We were the only people there and I was instantly terrified. The man didn’t threaten me, talk to me or even acknowledge me; but, I nearly hyperventilated.
This national discussion (which has largely been name-calling, blaming, and party-aligned vitriol, as far as I can see) has done little to foster understanding between survivors and those who have not experienced sexual assault. I have seen blind blaming of these people because belief doesn’t fit a narrative. I have seen blind belief in them because of their genders or because believe does fit a narrative. Blind accusations or belief don’t help us grow.
I have struggled a great deal not to let my own experience color my opinion; but, I believe that it is in the struggle that we make progress. When I struggle, I seek the knowledge and opinions of others. I listen to what they have to say. I take their input, add to it my own thoughts and come up with an opinion or belief that is my own and has a reason for existing other than that I saw it on TV.
If we don’t struggle to understand each other rather than just struggle with each other, we’re never going to get anywhere. And I’m afraid that Nowhere is exactly where these intractable exchanges on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are getting us.
I have waited a little while after the hearings to post this for several reasons, not least of which was that I needed to calm myself down. I needed my own terror to subside a bit and I needed to really think about whether or not I even wanted to talk about all of this.  Turns out, I don’t want to talk about it; but I think that we still have to.
*I used conservative numbers where I saw discrepancies. Some estimates are that 25% of women are raped; I used the more conservative 20%. Some estimates are between 2.1 and 10.9% of rape charges are false; I used a conservative 7.5%. It is to be noted that 7.5% of false accusations for rape is consistent with false accusations and convictions for all crimes.

Grateful for Grief

Gosh, I can’t believe that I haven’t written since May! I write in my head all the time, but I somehow just don’t seem to make it to the keyboard, if that makes any sense. Today, however, my spirit hurts and sometimes the only way to get relief is to let the words flow.

On Saturday, I attended and spoke at the memorial service honoring a very dear friend of mine. I don’t know if we met in 1991 or 1992; but, whichever it was, it was a long time ago. I may not know the year, but I know that it was late spring and early morning. I was working my first flight of the day in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when this pilot from the training department was in my office, asking a bunch of annoying questions and just generally getting in the way. Finally, I looked at him and said, “Captain, they don’t pay me to babysit pilots. Find another place to be.” He did and thus began a very complex, sometimes convoluted friendship.

I hadn’t seen Lance in over a decade, I realized on Saturday, but that didn’t seem to matter. He was never far from my heart and we checked in with each other every couple of months, just as we have done for the better part of 30 years. We were friends through a baby and hurricane (mine), a marriage (his), and jobs and moves for both of us. It is inconceivable to me that he won’t be texting some joke in a couple of months. While he hasn’t been a physical presence in my life for a long time, he’s always been out there and I’ve always known that if ever I needed him, all I had to do was call. I believe he knew the same thing. I certainly hope so.

Lance is my third friend to die. My 82-year-old dad says it doesn’t get any easier to let them go. On the one hand, I think my dad kinda sucks at pep talks; but, on the other hand, grief is the proof of love, I think. If I had not loved Joey, Sandy, and Lance, I would not grieve their absence. Certainly, not grieving for them would have made a few days of my life easier, but not having known and loved them would have made my whole life so much emptier. I am already grateful that the loss of my friendships with Joey and Sandy were worth grieving. Someday I will feel that gratitude about my friendship with Lance.

Someday.

Pleading the 5th on the 4th

My first three cycles of this campaign were not easy; but, I got through them and felt great. My fourth cycle has been an uphill battle and I’m not doing well at all. I have restarted it several times – most recently on Monday, but I’m still not doing it right. However, I believe that I have identified the problem and will start anew. Again.

In my first three cycles, I did several of the tasks every day. For the fourth cycle, I thought I was going to be cute and change it all up. Here’s the problem with that: a habit is a consistent way of doing something. By switching up my exercises, my consistency was lost. That just threw the entire system into chaos – CHAOS, I tell you! I’m not even drinking water like I’m supposed to. In fact, the only habits I’ve kept to are making my bed and taking my medicine.

It doesn’t matter that I’m still watching my diet and am as active as I was when I rode the bike daily, it was the process of actually riding the bike daily that got my brain into the right place. So, I am returning to the patterns that I used in Cycle 3, only adding mowing lawns two days a week and hitting my StepBet active goal of 7322 steps daily.

This is all about developing healthy habits. I lost sight of that and changed (then lost) my foundation habits. My Cycle 4 overhaul was a mistake. I know how to fix it now; so, pardon me while I go ride my bike.

On Long Repeat

I’ve been quiet this week both here and on my Facebook page because….well, because I failed.

I messed up in Cycle 4 and added too much at once. My mind was ready to tackle more and bigger exercises; but, my body wasn’t. My muscles are all sore, which is fine – muscles do that and they get over it. No biggie. The show stopper was my joints. My hips, shoulders and knees all really hurt – especially my knees. And my foot started to act up. Big time. And I’m not trying to end up back in a boot or, heaven forfend, a cast! Nope. Not even a little bit.

One of the first things I did was to start taking Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. That product has worked miracles for my sister, for several cousins, and a few friends who work at physically demanding jobs. I have never really taken it; but, it’s been a lifesaver for so many people I know that I’d be an idiot not to give it a go. I’ve only taken it a couple of times now; so, I don’t see a difference yet. I expect to soon, though. I pretty much expected my knees and hips to bother me. My shoulders were a surprise, though, and the thing that has motivated me to do something about it. Now, I’ve started the collagen and am being an advocate for myself.

I took a few days off heavy exercising to get my joints to stop screaming at me. Now I am rethinking all of the things I added this time and am redoing my Cycle 4 schedule. I have come too far to give up – that’s not even a consideration. I have to adjust my expectations and do what my body will let me do. Cycle 4 will now exclude Tabatas that include jumping jacks or anything jumping, really. While I don’t believe that running in place hurt anything, I’m going to skip that for a little while longer, too. There are other ways to get my cardio in until my body is ready to jump around. I just have to be patient. No problem. That’s totally one of my greatest strengths.

Jillian Anderson eye roll 2

 

 

A Different Kind of Exercise: Positive Affect

All kinds of studies have shown that people with a positive disposition or approach to life  (a positive affect) are generally healthier than people who have a negative disposition or approach (a negative affect). People who are persistently depressed, angry, or stressed are more prone to transient illnesses like the common cold and to chronic and even terminal illnesses like asthma and heart disease. Since my campaign is about losing weight, why are we talking about positive affect? Well, my campaign is only peripherally about losing weight – it’s mostly about being strong and healthy again. Good health – that’s the ultimate goal.

As I’ve shared with you multiple times, I have been treated for depression since my early 20s … so for over half my life now. I take medicine daily to help my endocrine system function correctly in its production and use of the neurotransmitters that are involved in my moods and their stabilization. Like many people with clinical depression and other mental illnesses, from time to time I decide that I don’t really need those medications and I stop taking them. Yeah, well. It turns out that I do need them – every. single. time. I try this bone-headed stunt. Because of my decades-long experience with depression, there are a number of popular sayings that make me roll my eyes:

  • Don’t worry, be happy.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.
  • For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.

Ugh. Bitch, please.

I’m sure that you can add some pithy sayings of your own to that list, particularly if you, too, struggle with depression. As ridiculously simplistic and reductionist as I think those statements are, barring major disorders, I do think that we have some control over our attitudes. There are things we can actively do to be more positive. We are not helpless.

exersiscehappiness.jpgThis week I’ve read several articles addressing happiness and the habits of healthy people. One of those habits is an exercise that I am inserting into this 4th 21-day cycle of my campaign. During November, I often see people make a daily post about something for which they are thankful. This exercise will be similar; but, every day, I will choose one thing that was my favorite thing of that day – whether it’s an event, a feeling, an experience, a song – whatever. I’m going to end my day thinking of one good thing from the day I just finished. I’ll share those things on my Facebook page and I would truly love it if you guys would share your One Things there, too.

I once had a manager who constantly exhorted us to “control the controllables.” (Mike Feldman, I’m looking at you.) That directive was invaluable to me when prioritizing and reprioritizing actions to meet our delivery deadlines. I’m sure Mike would be surprised to hear that now, years later, I still use his advice on nearly a daily basis to address stresses from finances to yard work. In this exercise, there are two controllables. The first is my medication, which I am now in the habit of taking right after I make my bed in the morning. The second is my focus, which I often neglect. I can choose to focus on the person who cut me off in traffic or I can choose to focus on hearing Bohemian Rhapsody and Are You Gonna Go My Way back-to-back on the radio. I can choose to resent having to mow my lawn or be thankful that I have a lawn and that I am physically able to mow it now. I can choose to go to bed exasperated or I can choose to enjoy the feeling of my cat Link snuggling at my feet as I drift off.

12106878_1179470198735299_4750950273050207031_nPositive affect “muscles” atrophy easily, particularly when bombarded by the sludge pumped out by main stream media, social media trolls, and general jerks. This cycle, join me in working for better health by exercising our positive affects.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying that people “are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I still don’t believe that we can be happy just because we chose to, but I do believe that we can be happier.

Let’s make up our minds to be that.