Y’all know I generally spend my vacation volunteering someplace. This year I decided instead to treat myself to something decadent just for me: the Labyrinth Masquerade Ball.

Labyrinth invitation scroll


I’d started following this Los Angeles event while I was still working for ThinkGeek, but the timing usually made it fall on the opening weekend of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It’s the sort of event where this is in their FAQs:


I cannot wait to get there, except that I have a week’s worth of crafting left and only one day in which to do it.

But most of you probably already knew that.

Wish me luck.

Y’all know I’m trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and one of the strong contenders is working in animal rescue. So I decided to make July the month of saying “yes” to everything rescue that came my way.

Yes to 12 hours volunteering at the spay/neuter clinic (nothing new there). Yes to 2 weeks with a feral kitten in my bathroom, spending 2 hours a day minimum with her so she wouldn’t be put back out for being too wild. (By the time I was done, she loved watching cows on Dr. Pol.) Yes to TNRing a colony of 7 cats that a crazy elderly French lady who’s being evicted was feeding (both trapping and then escorting them to and from the vet). Yes to kicking a possum out of a trap at 2 a.m. (and again at 4). Yes to trapping a momma cat for family who needed help from a rescue organization in 100 degree heat.

I drove a cat to Manassas to get fixed before 8 a.m. this morning. It feels a lot like work, only I’m lucky because it’s at my own choosing and pace. Which is good since my allergies flared over the past month. A lot.

As a result of all the cats, I had angioedema three times, twice in my lips and once in my eye. At one point I had scalp-to-soles-of-feet hives so severe that it hurt to lie down, which was fine because I was itching too much to sleep. By the time I went in begging for Prednisone, I was on 4 24-hour Allerest, 1 Zyrtec, and 12 Benadryl a day.

Cat in a box

Nobody wants to see a picture of my hives, so here’s Disney exploring the latest expansion to Disneyland, which originally contained an air purifier.

Which leads to this tangent: when I was a teen, I remember laughing about the “heavy machinery” warning on medications like Benadryl. I’d like to apologize about that, because now I get it. If you have a labor-intensive job like driving a forklift, chances are either you don’t have great benefits or any at all. And when you have angioedema, you don’t get to sit on the couch and blog about it because you gotta save that sick day for when your kid gets ill. So you gotta go to work, and when your boss tries to put you on the forklift, you need that warning on the bottle to back you up. I get it now.

Back to the self-centered bit. 12 Benadryl is too many. Fortunately, I’m now almost halfway through my allergy shot series. I am blessed to have insurance that covers it and the ability to head to the doctor in the middle of the day multiple times a week. Unemployment is good that way.

And also good in that it’s letting me discover things I should not do for a living, like being on the front line in animal rescue. Maybe behind a desk someplace. We’ll see.

Thought I’d report back on how that whole not-working thing is going. So far, it’s amazing. I’ve gotten to catch up on so many things I’ve been needing to do, including 4 doctor’s visits, a dentist, and a vet (Disney’s super, thanks for asking). And I’ve gotten to do things I wanted to do. Such as getting professional help with my makeup from Mac.

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/juxtapose/latest/embed/index.html?uid=c92c7646-26a5-11e9-9dba-0edaf8f81e27 [Warning: WordPress doesn’t allow unfiltered HTML, so depending on your setup you may be sent to a HUGE image of my face. Sorry about that.]

I hadn’t thought about it, but previously I honestly had one day off every other week, the Sunday there wasn’t a clinic. All but two days a month, I had someplace to work for at least 4 hours. It’s like I went from no days off to all the days off. And it’s fab-u-lous.

Which has been great for my nap game. Which, in turn, means I get to be more social, because I can recover afterward. Disney’s been very chatty about the whole thing. She’s a fan.

So we’ve all seen this meme, yes?


It made me giggle. And then it made me pause. I saw it about a year and a half ago for the first time, and I thought, “You know what? 15 is a big milestone for a cat. Why NOT celebrate it?”

At the same time, I realized that this fall you guys will put me past the $10,000 mark in contributions to my annual Strut Your Mutt campaign. That’s a lot of money for the animals at Best Friends, and it seems like it deserves a little extra thanks.

And that’s how Disney’s Quinceañera came to be. Rented Gazebo 1 at Occoquan Regional State Park for the day for a totally reasonable rate and invited folks who’d given over the years. And a few dozen of them showed up!

Set out 6 dozen sparkly pink cupcakes from Bellash Bakery. Added some gluten-free and vegan snacks from Pixie Delights Vegan (who is also a cat rescuer). Washed it down with lemonade, grapefruit Italian soda, and champagne ice cubes, as well as nugget ice pre-made by the Opal (much needed since it was 90° that day).

Since it was Disney’s party, I honored her wishes and didn’t make her hang out with a bunch of strange humans. Mom put some tulle and flowers on a “proxy” statue of Dis. Got a portrait of her made for the event by an Etsy artisan and created a selfie station with Disney-on-a-stick ($3 at Kinko’s).

Other fun stuff: my friend (and donor) Karl DJed for us. We had a pre-battered Michael Vick piñata which spilled forth dog and cat treats, wedding-sized bottles of catnip bubbles, and goodie bags that included little lint rollers.

Bottom line? It was a lot of fun. Big thanks to everyone who came out and made the party a success.

Spent last week in Kanab, Utah, enjoying my sixth trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary despite the universe trying to foil my intentions (HUGE thanks to Claire and Robert without whom the vacation literally wouldn’t have been possible). Some highlights:

Me and MauryMaury caught a mouse while we were out walking! I was stunned. First I thought, “Oh, it’s a toy” when I saw the fuzzy thing he’d pounced on behind the strollers. Then a little leg poked out. Maury was disappointed when I made him let it go, but like any good New Yorker, he knew there are always more.

I went a day earlier than normal so I could see the Parelli demo, and I spent my first shift volunteering in horses. It was hard work in 90 degree weather, but I got to see parts of the sanctuary I never would have seen otherwise, like an underground lake that the Anasazi knew about.

Turns out, I am really bad at cat herding. At Benton’s, one of the employees equipped me with treats so she could weigh cats. My job was to distract all the cats in the room except the one we were trying to weigh. I have newfound respect for herding dogs.

The subject line is from Thursday’s lunch. The hooved-things-not-horses department was so successful adopting out that they reached out to a rescue to take some of their more complicated goats because the barn was nearly empty. Awesome problem to have.

I added more anecdotes to many of the photos’ descriptions. To see all 47 shots I took at the sanctuary, check out the album on Flickr.

Best Friends Trip 2016

It’s probably more appropriate to call these “hypotheses” instead of “observations.”

This second one started percolating when I just put on a headband with cat ears and freaked Disney out to the point of hissing and puffy tail. She was all, “Who are you and what have you done with Regan?” I thought back to Temple Grandin’s book Thinking in Pictures, and realized Dis had no file photo of Regan with points on her head. To greatly oversimplify, Grandin suggests that animals (and autistic individuals) have a set of images associated with each concept. Give them an image they don’t have in their file, and they find it difficult to process.

Disney keeps me company in the bathroom. Cat owners will be familiar with this phenomenon. One of my favorite things is to soak in the tub and read The New Yorker. I always thought Disney’s discussion with me when I got in was about me not drowning, but now I think she’s chiding me for being about to disappear. You see, she stays with me up until I shampoo my hair, at which point she goes to hide in her safe space. And I think it’s because Regan has abandoned her and been replaced by someone who smells funny and has a white foamy head. Once I’ve dried off (and presumably start to smell less like “clean”), she comes over to sit with me on the couch. But until then, I think she’s wondering where I’ve gone. It all must be very confusing.

(Also, I’m typing this on my Qwerkywriter. Score.)

I’ve had a few thoughts percolating that I thought I’d share, mainly because I took a lower dose of anti-depressant today, so I can’t stop myself. Enjoy!

Here’s the first thought, which struck me while I was listening to The Bloggess‘s first book. I have never been able to remember people’s faces or names when they’re properly introduced to me. I have always assumed it was because I was an introvert, which is correct, but now I get the why behind it.

My amygdala takes over. That “fight-or-flight” response kicks in. I suspect it’s because my brain is less worried about the person I’m being introduced to eating me and more because it’s afraid I’m going to have to take a nap, and it’s trying to figure out how to extricate me so I can be useful for the rest of the day.

A friend at AOL tried to teach to remember names by using them in three sentences immediately after meeting the person. Only the sorts of sentences my limbic system puts together look like this: See Spot. See Spot run. Run, Spot run. Even better, I can only access those sentences when I go back into fight-or-flight mode, which means that unless the room is on fire the next time I see the person, I am unlikely to remember the person’s name. (On the other hand, it’s really useful for folks I only see at trade shows, because my amygdala runs the show there.)

We had two employees start at the same time. Eric and… the chick who’s helping Chris Parrish. I learned Eric’s name by asking, “Who’s that guy?” and pointing across the room. The other person was properly introduced. Rachel, maybe? I can tell you her dogs’ names.

And the next percolating thought is about pets. But you’ll have to wait until the next time my serotonin bottoms out.

As of this past April 8th, half of my life has passed since Dad’s accident. Every day from here on out, I will have spent more of my life with head-injured Dad than with pre-injury Dad, which is a jarring milestone for me. I worry that I’m losing memories of who he was before. But you know how you occasionally have dreams where you have conversations with dead people from your life and your dream self doesn’t acknowledge that they don’t exist anymore in the real world so it feels just like it did when they were alive? I occasionally have dreams with pre-injury Dad, and they’re the best. Even when we argue. I’m going to guess that folks with loved ones with Alzheimer’s have a similar phenomenon, wherein you have dreams of a person who’s still alive but no longer present.

In other news, folks with toddlers who ride in carseats and realize 5 minutes into the trip that they have to use the potty? I feel your pain. Take off the transfer belt, braces, shoes, tuck Dad in. Go to turn the fan on and come back to find him trying to get out of bed. Reverse procedure, take him to the toilet, and then repeat. Are we there yet?

Also, I think I gave Roxanne (Mom and Dad’s cat) a really lovely vitamin B deep conditioning treatment today for her fur.

Basically, it’s your standard weekend, only now in HD, which I plan to rant about later if I don’t get distracted.

For some reason, putting things in order makes me happy. Does this mean I’m an organized person? No. My place is a series of small piles of detritus. (Disney discovered a new tunnel through some laundry this morning. I was impressed.) However, being able to put tiny sections of my life in order floods me with dopamine.

Take, for instance, my nail polish collection. It now lives in a set of medicine cabinets on the living room wall. One day when I was buying a polish, the best friend said, “You have that shade.” I denied it. We were both right. I did have that shade. Only from a different company. Witness my favorite blues. All but Gumball by Orly (the middle one) are basically very slightly different versions of the same aqua.


Now I swatch every color I buy. Useful in a few ways:

  1. I get to see the polish against my skin, which is good because I take beta carotene, and occasionally I accidentally turn Michael-Kors orange and colors that seem normal look weird on me.
  2. I can hold different colors up against each other to see what goes well together.
  3. I could theoretically take my palette with me when I go shopping so I don’t buy the same shade again. This never happens. That would require a level of organization I’m not yet ready to commit to. Also, I really, really like that blue.

If you also need this kind of dopamine in your life, I get mine from TransDesign. They have a dozen different options.

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 in 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.