Thursday, August 26, 2004

Life and near death in the unSaintly household

I had a scare last week with Good Old Boy, my elderly golden retriever.

He's been more subdued/much less active since the last tumor was removed a few months ago. His legs have seemed weaker and more arthritic, and he's been spending more time just flopped on the floor. I'd been putting the food and water bowl where he could stand on the edge of the dining room carpet to eat and drink, because his legs slipped out from under him on the kitchen tile a couple of times, and he couldn't get up by himself.

Last week, he took a sudden turn downhill and couldn't get up by himself, period. He would just lie on the floor and bark in frustration, his back legs hardly moving at all. I would try to hoist him up, but his legs would buckle. The need to pee stiffened his legs and resolve just enough to stagger out, come back in and collapse.

I was sure this was the time Good Old Boy would have to be put down. I wasn't even sure if I had made the right decision to have that last tumor removed.

A co-worker came over and helped me load Good Old Boy into the car and I took him to the vet. I asked her about something that didn't feel right along his ribs. The vet hemmed and hawed, took an x-ray, said Good Old Boy has a mass along his ribs, which may or may not be pressing on his spine, also, his arthritis is worse. Steroids and Rimadyl might help -- it was a 50-50 shot.

I went ahead and let her give Good Old Boy a large shot of steroids, let their assistant load him in the car, and took him home, feeling pessimistically that I'd have to get him back there Monday to be put down (the vet who made the house calls for Zsa-Zsa was out of town). I managed to get Good Old Boy out of the car, but had to leave him lying on the garage floor for a while -- I just couldn't get him to his feet.

Saturday was no better; he seemed even a bit worse. My back was starting to hurt from hoisting him up. Good Old Boy is a big dog, about 85 pounds when the vet weighed him.

Sunday morning he got up. He came and leaned against my legs, looked up at me adoringly, as if saying, "Thank you for helping me up so much."

He walked around the house. He got up to go out by himself.

Good Old Boy has been stiff and awkward, but he's been getting up and down on his own since then. I don't know if it was the medication, my rather pessimistic prayers and laying on of hands, or a combination of things.

I know Good Old Boy's time is limited. The bony ridges around his eyes have become more prominent and his eyes are more sunken in. He still has that mass. He still breathes hard and looks like he's in discomfort at times, but he seems glad to be alive.

Thank you, dear God.

In the meantime, Jack, or Kitten-zilla, as I call him, is doing great. His face is almost completely healed. His right eye (which had been punctured) looks 100 times better --he should be able to keep it.

Jack is an example of God's artistry at work. He has perfect tabby markings. His coat, a bit rough when I got him (maybe he had been a feral kitten), is now sleek and smooth. He has perfectly-shaped little paws, dove-colored fur on their tops and chocolate pads on the bottoms. His forehead is wide and his chin comes to a neat point. His soft triangular ears are a good size, which according to claims in the James Herriott books, would make him a good mouser -- but I don't think we have any.

What a beautiful creation.

He is a little-monster kitten, attacking my ankles from under the bed, chewing on the dogs' tails, tormenting Elvis the cat. Elvis is starting to get used to him though, and even plays with Jack the Brat a little.

When Jack isn't being a brat, he's curled up in my lap, purring.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Back to normal (sort of)

The wonderful power was back on Sunday evening, and my phone was back to life Monday evening.

Being without, of course, made me appreciate things like cool air, hot showers, TV, radio and lamps.

Being without these things also made me appreciate some Bible verses. After spending a few evenings with hurricane lamps as my light source, I now have a more vivid image in my head of what it means to have a lamp light my way. When deep darkness surrounds me, I must move very carefully. The dependability of the light from a lamp held in front of me is the only way I can navigate around obstacles and past pitfalls.

This is what it means to depend on Christ to lead me through this dark world.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Surviving Charley

Thank you for your prayers {{{{y'all}}}.

We made it through Hurricane Charley okay, except that my home is still without electricity, landline or cell phone service.The power went out Friday evening as the stronger outer bands of the storm approached.

I came into town this afternoon, and I'm using my office computer to make this entry.

From the look of things, I may not have power at my home for another day or two. The hurricane veered more to the east than the last storm track showed before my power went, so we didn't get its full effects. Even just a little distance makes a difference -- I live on the east side of town, and there's a definite increase in damage sustained just miles east of downtown.

The only damage at my home is a tall pine tree down in the yard. It's trunk is resting against my well tank, which it moved a couple of inches. I don't think it damaged anything, but I won't know for sure until the power is back. The pine took out the top of a pepper tree as it came down and is resting on it and some growth from a overgrown hammock area by my property line. A chain link fence runs through the hammock to create a backyard area for the dogs, and the fence looks untouched. So far, so good!

I stayed put yesterday morning. There were so many downed trees and power lines it was dangerous to be out and about, and I knew from past experience some roads would be blocked from downed trees. Officials were asking people to stay home. In fact, I've heard one person in Central Florida was electrocuted by stepping into a puddle with a live, downed line in it.

Yesterday afternoon, though, I went riding around with my boss, talking to people and getting photos of damage -- downed trees limbs and people working to get trees off their homes, power lines balled up in tangles of tree limbs on the roads, transformers resting on the side of the road. Huge, 130-foot water oaks split or uprooted. But amazingly, not many buildings were seriously damaged, and there were no hurricane-related deaths in my area that I know of. Thank you, God.

If it weren't so miserably hot, it might be fun being without power -- it's kind of like camping out -- making coffee on my Coleman camp stove, reading by lamplight and flashlight, having some enforced time of R&R, laying around the house, playing with the animals. It's hot and muggy, though, and no shower. I washed my hair in the sink this morning with stored-up water, then took a bowlful into the walk-in shower and had a really good wash-up. I feel better. Riding around with the car's air conditioner blasting felt great, too.

The thing I've personally suffered from most is lack of communication. I'm used to constant contact by TV, computer, radio, phone, often two or three modes going at the same time. I listen to the TV or radio while I'm online. I sleep just fine with the TV on all night.

I'm a communications junkie missing her fix.

My cell phone went out completely Friday night --tower down. I had home phone service until Saturday morning, then a tree must have fallen on a line. Dead. Still. The stores sold out of D batteries a couple of days before the storm, and I had every other kind -- loads of AA, AAA, 9-volt and one pack of C batteries. My little radio that runs on AA batteries has disappeared from the face of the earth. I have several radios that run on D batteries, but NO BATTERIES!!!!!! FRUSTRATION!!!!!!DON'T THE STORES KNOW TO STOCK UP ON THEM IN HURRICANE SEASON???? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM???? (And why hadn't I checked my battery stash sooner?)

So I had no source of news. No idea what was going on. I sat in my car Friday midnight/Saturday a.m., listening to its radio for news, wanting to be sure the storm had passed.

I found a little radio that runs on four C batteries at the evil mart today (the rudeness of selfish people in the stores at times like these is another rant. I found myself getting very snappy and cranky). Anyway, I bought the radio. At least I can listen to the radio tonight. I won't be so cut off from the world.

Now I'll pray for relief from storms for a while, and that my well works properly when the electricity comes back on.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Waiting for Charley

Charley is bearing down on my little burg in Central Florida. The hurricane was predicted to make landfall farther north and track to the north of us, which would still bring tropical storm weather my way, but now we're in the direct path of the hurricane. Charley is now a level 4 storm, expected to hit here later tonight. Right now, I'm just waiting.

The weather hasn't been bad so far, just very gray all afternoon, and mostly calm, with the exception of one small squall line, but I've heard ominous rumblings the past hour. We've been under a tornado watch all afternoon.

Certain things always happen at the worst times. Like, my air conditioning going out this morning. I wanted to have the house as cool as possible before we lose power, which I'm sure we will. A friend came over and found a fixed the problem, a blown fuse. Thank you!! It's now very cool in here. I can stave off misery through the night, anyway. Tomorrow will be another story.

I expect to be powerless for at least a day, based on past history with these storms. And this looks to be the worst of any I've been through -- so far, we've been very lucky with these storms. I'm saying a little prayer of protection for me and all of us here in Florida.

Just to add a little extra to the day, the water went out while I was taking a shower this morning. Yes, God does have a sense of humor.

I grumbled my way out to the well, turned off the power to it, cleaned the connections of the toggle switch (or whatever you call the little thing that flips back and forth, making electrical connection to run the pump), and it came back on. The water fizzled out again as I washed dishes while ago, and I saw the problem this time -- some tiny, black ants, apparently sensing high water coming, are trying to congregate in the little electrical box. Fried ants keep the switch from making good contact. Oh, well.

I went in to the office for a short time, to help cover up the computers and secure the building. Luckily, I stayed late last night to get things done. We we already planning to close up shop early today.

Now I'm just hunkered in, waiting, and cooking some food (chicken and pork and vegetables) out of my freezer, while I can. I predict the animals and I will gain a few pounds out of this. I also stocked up on snacks in a late-night grocery run on my way home from the office last night. Hurricanes are no time to diet, in my opinion.

I'll post as I can.

:=) Unsaintly Pat, in Central Florida

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A week of kittens, killings and killer storms

Jack the kitten is careening around the house like a miniature dervish, visible to the eye only as streak of charcoal and cream. He's obviously feeling good. His injured eye may have to be removed; it looks unhealthy inside. The vet will make that call. In the meantime, it isn't bothering Jack at all.

I've been working long days covering a murder story. It's the kind that reminds me of how ugly and evil human beings can be, yet I also have seen compassion and God's love working in people.

I don't think my long week will be over for a few days -- now, two hurricanes are barreling down on Florida. I don't expect much from Bonnie today, but my area may see some nasty weather from Charlie, who will be coming through tomorrow afternoon or night. So I'm filling up water jugs. Kind of like the woman at the well in our readings over at Gospel Guy's site, except my well is electric and if the power goes out, I have no water. The power usually does goes out when we get these big storm, so I'm filling up those jugs now! I also need to run to the store and pick up some non-perishable goodies and dog food.

Friday, August 06, 2004

One-Eyed Jack

There's a new man in my life, a younger one. He's a little rough around the edges, a little beat-up. He's lived through danger.

He was a blind date of sorts.

Of course, he's a cat. Well, kitten, about seven weeks old.

The vet called me the first of the week and asked if I'd be interested in fostering this little kitten, who had been mauled by something -- likely, a dog. The vet was getting ready to go on vacation when this little thing showed up on her doorstep. I don't know whether he was dropped there or if the maker of us all simply led him there.

The vet brought him to me Wednesday. One side of One-Eyed Jack's face is pretty well torn up, and one eyeball was punctured and may have to be removed. Hence, One-Eyed Jack. He's not a real pretty sight right now, at least on his right side.

Otherwise, he's adorable. Affectionate, loaded with personality. A perfectly-marked charcoal tabby cat.

So I'm fostering him. I know the vet figures I'll end up keeping him, as a replacement for Zsa-Zsa. A friend from the office wanted to bet me dinner that I'll keep him.

I hope a good home will turn up for him, though. Poor Elvis is distraught. The tormentor of his life is gone and he's been relishing being the only cat. Now this thing arrives.

So, we'll see how it goes. I've taken him to the office with me the past two days. This afternoon and evening, my office mates ended up babysitting him while I went to a crime scene to get a story. I was picked up as a stringer on it for a big-city Yankee paper, so I'll make some desperately needed extra money, too. Not glad for the circumstances, but glad for the paycheck. And I'm glad I work with a crowd of animal lovers!

Anyway, I'd better go give Jack his antibiotics. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Red Alert, Red Alert!

It's looking like the imminent threat of terrorism Tom Ridge told us about Sunday is based mostly on information several years old, confirming some of my nastier thoughts, that this administration is shamelessly willing to use the threat of terrorism it has helped intensify to its own political/reelection ends.

Of course institutions like the IMF and the World Bank are prime targets. Large financial institutions have always been prime Al Qaeda targets. It comes as no surprise that terrorists have been gathering information on them. These potential targets should already have tight security measures in place.

That's not quite the same as making it sound like this is some hot news, just obtained this weekend. Now are we supposed to huddle around the fire and depend on our fearless prez to protect us? This puts Wag the Dog to shame for heartless manipulation.

Everyone who's watched the war in Iraq unfold knows that we're at more danger of terrorism than ever. Just because our major news media have dropped Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, don't think they've been forgotten in the Middle East -- or how this whole war has influenced views of the United States.

I'm sure the names of "National Security" and "the Patriot Act" will be invoked when they help Dubya obtain his political ends.

We are at a heightened threat of terrorism, that's for sure. Would there be a threat anyway? Yes, but it's much worse now, thanks to the prez and co. I won't forget this.