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.