Tomorrow’s the 21st anniversary of Dad’s accident. For those of you who don’t know, my father was in a motorcycle accident right after I got my Bachelor’s degree. He was hit by at least one car. He broke everything. His lungs were shredded. But the worst bit was that he had a stroke which resulted in the loss of a large section of his brain. Most brain function recovery happens in the first 5 years. 21. Now that we’re all on the same page….

Yesterday the annual recap post would have been different. But today the pharmacist managed to give Mom’s flu shot, on her shoulder straight through her muscle and into the bursa. Result? Mom has Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA). She can’t lift her arm. She’s in horrific pain. I finally gave her morphine an hour and a half ago, and she’s fallen asleep.

Mom has a really high tolerance to pain, so when she does have it, she freaks out. And she deserves to. But when Mom freaks out, Dad loses control of his bowels. Fortunately, he’s in diapers 24×7 at this point, so this isn’t as unpleasant as it could be. Somehow, she’d managed to clean him before I even got to their place from work.

Move forward several hours. I got Mom upstairs in bed and Dad downstairs and fed. When Mom’s pain got severe again, I decided I’d run get some lidocaine from my apartment and feed my cats. I asked Dad, “You need to pee?” “Huh?” “Do. You. Need. To. Pee?” “No.” “Okay. I’ll be back in an hour. Don’t get up.” 

Naturally, he got up. He needed to check on Mom. He’s still that good guy he was 22 years ago. On the plus side, he didn’t fall, because Mom had to come downstairs to walk him back to his chair. Someone has to be holding on to him at all times when he stands because he loses his balance and forgets how feet work. You know how toddlers have that stage where they go limp when they don’t want to do something? Now imagine a 180 lb. man doing that. We have a transfer belt on him whenever he’s awake. It’s made dealing with it easier.

It’s sweet that he loves her. It’d be better for her if he’d listen. Or remember. But I can’t get mad at him for either of those because he can’t. 

At times, he reminds me of a toddler. Other times, he reminds me of a petulant teenager. His oxygen saturation is always low, but when it drops below 89, he’s particularly prone to peeing on the floor instead of in the toilet or falling over. So we sometimes use a pulse oximeter on him before we let him walk. Sitting incoherent Dad is easier to deal with than standing incoherent Dad, heading for the Earth at 9.8m/sec. And he gets in these phases where he says, “No!” and flings the pulse oximeter across the room. Fortunately, these spells are few. But it reminds me so much of a teenager’s “You can’t make me” attitude. It’s got to be hard for a 70 year old to obey his 40 year old daughter.

How do you deal with that? With a petulant toddler, you can manhandle them out of a situation when they’re not yet reasoning properly. With a teenager, you can let them go and assume they’ll learn the hard way whatever it is you’re attempting to protect them from. We can’t reason with Dad. We can’t manhandle him. And he doesn’t have the ability to learn. So I really have no idea what to do. Maybe folks dealing with parents in dementia have advice?

I was reading a book about folks with dementia, and the doctor pointed out that every time your loved one has an incident, you reset the bar, only you put it a little lower. You continue to lower your expectations and cheer at the smaller and smaller achievements. And the only way out of that cycle is death, the patient’s or the caregiver’s.

Mom takes care of Dad 24x7x365. I come over many Saturdays to do the morning routine and give her a 6 hour break from babysitting and bodily fluids. Fortunately, my friend Dawn convinced me to get her to hire caregivers, so we have 3 or 4 folks trained now who can give her time off during the week. This is good for me because it means I don’t have to ask off of work every time Mom wants/needs to leave the house. And I get to go to the Renaissance festival. But I still don’t know how she does it. 

This is the annual State of the Brain Injury address. Nobody asks for this. My folks didn’t ask for kids, and they still changed my diaper for years. I can return the favor. I’m not looking for applause. I just know that reading the honest accounts of others affected by brain injury has been useful for me. So here’s mine.

It doesn’t get better. You learn to deal with it better. And then you lower the bar, adjust, and move forward.

Hotel room viewFor folks who haven’t met me, I like to spend my vacations with Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, the location of the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States. So last week I flew into Vegas to kickoff the annual escapade. Spent the first night at The Cromwell, which is part of the Caesar’s chain. The decor was posh. The location was perfect. I’d recommend it for the service, their driver, and the free espresso, plus the easy in-and-out. It isn’t the best place for folks who want to try out different restaurants in their hotel, since there’s only one.

Before leaving Vegas, I got to grab a fancy burger and catch up with an old friend, as well as stock up on bath bombs from Lush, because a soaking tub is a nice touch when you’re covered in cat spit and allergic to it. And the new place in Kanab, the Canyons Boutique Hotel, had a room with a tub that had my name on it. (And a fireplace, too, but it’s September. Also, they have a restaurant downstairs, which I ate at once. It was nice. Hot breakfast would have been nice if I’d managed to get up early enough to enjoy it, but I was always scraping in just under the 8:15 check-in wire at Cat HQ.)

Got into Kanab in time to go on the tour and take a spin around the gift shop. Drove out to Zion that evening, which is just 20someting miles away. Then I realized that pretty as the rocks were, I’d rather be back in the hotel getting some sleep. Which was much needed. My Fitbit told me I averaged 6 1/2 hours of sleep each night that week. I could be doing relaxation wrong.

Quincy Room 2: Where the boys are

Quincy's lobby greeter, SnowflakeSpent my first day volunteering in Quincy Mo, catching up with some of my lobby favorites like Snowflake and Duke. When I was ready to clean, a caregiver suggested I try out Room 2, which is chock full of alpha male cats. They’re a little more feisty with each other than most rooms, and you have to make sure everybody who wants attention gets it, but mostly they’re big ol’ loverboys. After I’d been in there a bit, I was trying to identify one of the cats and looked up at the board and saw… a card I’d sent after my visit in 2009 – a photo of three boys who are no longer in the room. Whichever caregiver picked Room 2 for me obviously chose well.

After lunch, I went back to help out with dishes and laundry and just generally spread the love around. When there was one more thing to attend to than there were caregivers, I got to step in and feed Duke, which was a wonderful, messy experience. Duke’s a kitty with cerebellar hypoplasia who lives in the lobby. For folks who remember him from my previous visits, he’s still just as independent, but now he’s happier and yells at you less when you try to help him. I also fell in love with Spud, a blind, neurological kitty who “oversaw” my laundry folding. (I had no idea he was blind until a caregiver told me. He died while being neutered and suffered some brain damage after being revived.) So yeah. Quincy and its magnificent kitties will remain on the Must Do list for the foreseeable future.

Silva Battista hosted that evening’s Welcome Wagon, which focused on their Katrina rescue efforts. It was amazing to hear about it all from a witness. It hadn’t struck me that street signs would be underwater, so it was interesting to hear the logistics of how they’d direct the boats in New Orleans by using satellite maps back in Utah.

Bent on Benton’s

Me & MauryI have a special place in my heart for Benton’s House, another of the special needs buildings, so that was Thursday’s agenda. While the caregivers were doing meds and special feedings, Maury and I went out for an hour long walk. You’d never know he couldn’t use his back legs when he got to the sanctuary. I think he would have stayed out all morning, staking out lizards, if I hadn’t finally toted him back to the lobby.

Got to do a stint as Dilly’s maid and meet all the new cats in Niblet’s. Last time I visited, we’d managed to get shy Grover (nee Attila) down from the rafters with some Temptations. He’s a little old man now, but his posse of “huns” still loves him, and he can still be persuaded with promises of plunder (treats).

After lunch, Chauncy and Slidell monitored my dish washing skills. (Their advice? Moar pettins, plz.) I got to clean a bit more but mostly spent the time socializing with some shy cats in each of the rooms. Went back to say goodbye to Dillymonster, who didn’t have to swat or growl at anybody the whole time I was in there. Good to see everyone’s giving the diva the respect she deserves.

Brain Trust

After finally meeting an imaginary friend, I spent my final shift picking the brain of Mike at Colonel’s, whom I’d met on my very first volunteer shift back in 2008. He had some great advice on handling feral cats for my Sunday shifts volunteering at the spay/neuter clinic (chiefly: do it as little as possible). I learn all sorts of new things every time I work at Best Friends, and sometimes months later I realize I’m putting them into practice. These I’m putting into place next Sunday.

The landscape is beautiful; the people are wonderful. There’s something special about being in a space where everyone’s there to make the animals’ lives better that makes Best Friends a magical, unforgettable experience.

Best Friends Trip 2015Check out the album on Flickr

Neko Zamurai


Tama-No-JyoBack in April, I started seeing ads for a new season of a TV show coming out in Japan: Neko Zamurai. I snagged what’s probably an illegal sub off of Amazon. Finished the first season last weekend, and I adored it.

First off, it’s a period comedy, something we don’t really do in America. Well, maybe something like Happy Days qualifies. But it reminded me of Three’s Company. It’s set when samurai were falling out of favor and our hero, Kyutaro Madarame, is a ronin who can’t find work. A guy who’s basically Mr. Furley hires him to kill a cat he thinks is possessed. No big spoiler here since this is the premise of the series: our hero can’t do it and instead takes the cat in as his own.

There’s a Janet who lives next door, who’s sweet but obviously not a romantic interest, who is in on the plot and helps hide the rogue cat. There’s sort of a Chrissy character, too, except she’s wise. She’s the local cat expert and also in on it. Also? Madarame has his own theme song which he occasionally sings to himself. You’ll be singing along by the end of the season.

Also, Disney approves of this show. Three different cats play Tama-No-Jyo, and occasionally when one would talk Disney would sit up and respond to the TV set. So apparently she speaks Japanese. Who knew?

You can find the first episode on YouTube. I’m putting a link to one I found here, but it’ll probably stop working since I’m sure it’s not supposed to be up there. If it sounds interesting, feel free to ask me to borrow the Season One DVDs. I’ll be getting Season Two and the movie when I can find them!

Stacie got me a copy of China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station for Christmas. The fact that a month after I finished I’m still passionate about it says something. Especially with fiction, I often treat it like food. It’s an enjoyable experience, possibly worthy of a Tweet, but basically I consume and move on. Not so much with this book.

I’m usually more of a fan of cold and dry futures (melancholic). Cyberpunk-style. This future is warm and moist. Organic. Squalid. Stinky. It took me a bit to settle in to it, but it’s so rich, it will work its way into your brain if you like world-building.

Miéville really loves language. He calls forth the perfect word for any situation. Tip for those who plan to read it: if you come across a word you don’t know, look it up right then. You’re going to see it again. And you’ll think to yourself, “Now what did that mean again?” And then when he hits you with it the third time, you won’t even slow down. This reminds me that I need to contact my condo association about the desquamating paint on my balcony.

But the ending was unsettling. The only other novel I can think to compare it to is Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, where I finished the book and then spent some time just sitting, assessing my feelings about it. And then assessing my feelings about those feelings. Anybody else who’s read Perdido and knows what I’m talking about, come talk with me. You can give me a shout-out, but don’t discuss it here. Want to avoid spoilers for anyone who’s been meaning to pick it up. Let them feel those same raw feelings we felt. That’s a worthwhile part of the experience of this book.

OccoquanThis is my new favorite spot in Occoquan. Obviously this picture was taken a few months ago. I’ve started a new blog entry at least half a dozen times since summer, but I haven’t gotten around to hitting the Publish button.

Annnd that’s because of how busy my August through November is. The end of August starts the Maryland Renaissance Festival, where I am every weekend except the one in September where I’m volunteering for Strut Your Mutt. Right before Halloween the festival closes, and I’m in last minute costume preparation mode. Come November, I start sliding like a quarterback, and then work tackles me hard, despite the fact that I’m already down, because, you know. Retail. Holiday. Man, that’s gonna leave a mark.

And in December, I get to surface again. So here are some stream-of-consciousness updates that I might have made over the past few months, if I had things a bit more together.

  1. September 15th this year was the 20th anniversary of my dad’s motorcycle accident. At some point in the next year, I will have lived with post-injury Dad for longer than pre-injury Dad. That makes me wistful, but I don’t know why. Post-injury Dad and I get along better than pre-injury Dad and I did, which makes me even more sad. (For other daughters of brain-injured fathers,
    He Never Liked Cakeby Janna Leyde was really valuable for me, reading about her working through her relationships with her pre-injury dad and post-injury dad.)
  2. Sometimes I have “if I’d only” moments, which I know are pointless. Everybody has these. I read something in The New Yorker earlier this year that struck me profoundly. When you’re in a situation where you believe you’ve experienced the worst possible outcome, ANYTHING you could have done would have been better. Sure, if you’d left work 15 minutes earlier, that horrible thing might not have happened, but, by the same token, if you’d juggled geese, it also might have improved the outcome. Which is ridiculous and reveals the flaw in this sort of logic. Hopefully. I figure if it might help anybody a little with a downward spiraling thought process, it’s worth sharing.
  3. Got to see Henry IV parts 1 and 2 in repertoire at the Shakespeare Theatre. I adore the Henriad (also, I like saying “Henriad”), and I’ve always thought that IV Henry 2 was my favorite of the bunch. Seeing them back-to-back made me realize that 1 is all action and 2 is all thinking about the repercussions of the action. Seeing all 3 in one day would probably kill the actors, but it’d be quite spectacular. On a related note, it was lovely to see Stacy Keach as Falstaff and appropriate considering his Richard III at the Folger ensconced my love of Shakespeare almost 20 years ago.
  4. This came up in my brain again last weekend, because The Walking Dead is using “The Parting Glass” in one of their commercials. I am all about using the word “joy” in the chorus in almost all contexts, but these are Hershel’s girls. They learned the version with the word “God” in it, I promise.

Okay. I think that’s it for now. Did I miss anything?



disflowersWe’ve had a lot of snow days this winter. One of the nice things about the copywriter job is that it doesn’t require me to be in the office, so those work out nicely for me. I generally spend the day on the couch in pajamas with a cat. My day-long distraction looks something like this.

Work still pays the bills. Got addicted to Attack on Titan because of it. I figure if I have to write copy for the same franchise a bunch of times and see only more of its products coming in to the warehouse, I should probably do my homework. Except for MLP. Robert Jordan fans – Wheel of Time is next on the list. On a related note, I wonder how many households record both Sister Wives and The Walking Dead on Sunday nights at 9.

Went to the Spurs vs. Wizards matchup a few weeks ago. Definitely got my money’s worth. Two overtimes. More Tim Duncan than any other game this season. ;) Seats were interesting. I won’t get them again, but they weren’t horrible. They were right behind the Wizards’ media section in the corner. spursgame14Was surrounded by Wizards loyals who got a little annoying, but they weren’t too mouthy because there were a lot of Spurs fans in the house. The shot is Tim taking a free throw. You can see John Wall on the far side with Bonner behind him in the new mask. Not a great shot. Mostly in there just so y’all can figure out vaguely where I was. And yeah, the zoom’s on.

Planning a very Shakespeare birthday. Going to see Richard III on birthday night, and then a friend is taking me to see Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead performed in repertory on Saturday. And, yes that may be in here just so I can use the phrase “in repertory.”

o hai!


TreesRead an article on the death of the blog the other day (as a result of social media). It made me realize that this has become a place where I basically talk about my vacations (since pictures of cats have gone to Facebook and pics of food/theater outings went to Twitter). Also, it made me remember that I took a picture back in October or November which I thought would make a good blog post, but I never had the time to post it. Here: have a tree. And here’s the last few months of 2013 in a nutshell:

  • Got ejected from the buyer job right after signing off on the pre-production samples of the two products I created from scratch this year, but fortunately the creative team saw me plummeting and swooped in and grabbed me as a copywriter. Went from the busiest time of the year on one team to the busiest time of year on the other. Wrote copy for almost 600 products in 3 months; I’m very grateful I can keep Disney in the kibble to which she has become accustomed.
  • Dad fell. Hip replacement was last year’s news, but he keeps falling during his recovery. Somebody has to be with him at all times now, and generally 165 hours a week that’s Mom and 3 hours a week it’s me.
  • Made it out to the Maryland Renaissance Festival 9 times this year, I think. Caught the Victorian Music Hall and Hack & Slash’s farewell show.
  • Got to see Holly.
  • Went as Plava Laguna for Halloween.
  • On some sort of game theory kick in books. Read Ender’s Game, then Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, and now in the middle of Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep, which is being serialized in Analog.
  • DragonVale

  • In cat news, raised money for and volunteered at Best Friends’s Strut Your Mutt Baltimore event. Went to as much as I could of Alley Cat Allies’s conference.
  • Addicted to DragonVale, which is basically FarmVille but with dragons. To the right you see the island to which I relegate all ugly dragons so I don’t have to see them all the time.


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