Dying, Death, and Life

I’ve been having problems holding my seams together. It’s no surprise really. I’m pretty sure I know how I got here. But I think I can see the path forward.

Rascal had a tough past year and a half. After three seizures last June, an initial diagnosis of hypereosinophilic syndrome, then downgraded to small cell lymphoma, a battle with prednisone induced diabetes, and then rapid weight lose over the past couple of months, it was actually really impressive how friendly he still was.

In the weeks before last week, Rascal hadn’t been doing well.  But The ManBeast and I had a conference in Knoxville to attend.  I couldn’t stay home.  So I made the hard choice of boarding him with the vet.  I couldn’t with any peace of mind ask my friend, who normally watches the cats, to deal with Rascal’s issues.  He was up to twice weekly Leukaran for the lymphoma, an appetite stimulate every three days, and a twice daily irritable bowel medication.  Not easy to deal with.

So the Friday previous I dropped Rascal off at the vet.  I’ve been mourning for him for a long time, but it was still hard.  We were off to Knoxville the next morning to return sometime Thursday night.

We hit the Beltline in Madison at about 5:30 Thursday night and I made the joke that we should go get Rascal and save the $16 on boarding him for an extra night.  But we both decided we were tired and to just put it off to the next morning as originally planned.  

45 minutes after getting home I got a call from the vet that Rascal likely wouldn’t last the night.  

He had had a stroke the day before, and likely another one that morning, and the vet told me he was fading fast.  He was dead by the time we made the (racing) 15 minute drive over there.

I knew this could happen at any time, and that I got more time with him than we had originally thought was possible.  But I’m not sure it’s made it any easier.  Rascal was my friend for the past 7 years.  I got him the year I lived in Capitol Hill.  He moved with me once in DC, and then made the move here to WI when I came for grad school. I often reminded The ManBeast that Rascal had been with me before he came along.

I am thankful that I did get to see his body.  But I can’t help thinking “if only the vet had called me sooner” or “if we’d just stayed on the Beltline a few more exits”…  I would have gotten to see him one more time.  It breaks my heart.  I feel like I’ve been falling apart at the seams.

A wise friend told me a few years ago that one of the things she dealt with with her father dying was people simply not saying anything to her.  How it shocked her that some people just didn’t say anything to her.  It’s something that’s stuck with me for a long time.  So when bad things happen to people I know, I try to at least say something so that they know I’m there for them.  I rarely know what to say, but I’d rather say something awkward than nothing at all.

The hard part I’m having in all this is that I’m not sure how to let people be here for me.  I honestly don’t feel like talking to anyone about any of this.  And frankly, much of the world isn’t well set up for grown adults mourning the death of a pet.  So if you see me, know that I’m doing the best I can right now to keep it together.  And if you hug me, don’t be surprised if I burst into tears.  And if we’re in public, I probably won’t let you get too close.

The ManBeast and I have been talking for quite some time about what we would do when Rascal died.  One thing we never talked about was how Thor would react.  As a cat, I can’t tell you how he’s doing.  Sometimes he seems like his normal aloof self.  Other times, I’d like to think that his behavior is indicative of him missing Rascal.  But only he knows the truth.

The thing The ManBeast and I did talk about what getting another cat.  He was of the opinion that the next one needed to be named Loki.  It would pay homage to Rascal, and would be a good name match for Thor.  Last Saturday, we went to an adoption event held by the group that I got Thor from.  They didn’t have anyone we were interested in, but when we were done, I really didn’t feel like coming home.  So I dropped The ManBeast off and went down to the Humane Society.  And I met Loki.

Long story short, Loki, a four month old kitten, is now home with us.  And Loki is his name; we didn’t have to rename him. He has an upper respiratory infection and is supposed to be kept isolated from Thor until his symptoms clear.  I’m hoping that is soon because I really think the two will have fun together.  I’ll pictures of him soon, but if you find me on FaceBook, I did post a video there the other day of him.  He’s a cutey.  I hope he gets better soon.

I am glad that I can now give a home to a cat who might not otherwise have gotten one. Loki was a surrendered kitten to our local humane society whose previous owners might not have been up to dealing with a feline upper respiratory infection. While keeping him isolated is hard, only having to give him one pill a day is a walk in the park.

It really helps that he’s a cuddler. A cuddle with your face cuddler. Even in the midst of tears, he makes me laugh. And for that, I am grateful.

Now a misnomer

My head just feels full these days.  Like the idea of keeping an open mind will mean that things might start falling out.  Full with school (just how do I get that PCR to work?).  Full with thoughts of my cats (will putting Thor back on the duck/pea food re-cure his fur pulling?).  Full with personal projects (why do I actually feel that way about that person?).  Full with general to-do projects (just what does go into conditioner?).  But also full with thoughts of food.  

Around the time of my last post I was contemplating what it would take to finally get tested for celiac disease.  I’d already talked to my doctor, and she had placed the order for the tests.  But having been gluten free for almost 9 years, we were unsure of how much gluten I’d have to eat for how long to get an accurate test.  Unfortunately, the medical literature is pretty much lacking in that area.  The best I could find was that 10 grams a day (about two slices of bread) for three weeks was insufficient in one group of patients to significantly alter the various celiac blood tests.  So I knew I had to shoot for more than that and longer.

December 21st I took the plunge.  With an awesome donut from a local bakery.  Ok, so I had two.  And I’ve been eating gluten since then.  

Shockingly, my symptoms have not been nearly as bad as I thought they would be.  But boy, the one severe beer hangover I had a few weeks ago was SEVERE.  Not just the hangover, but the glutening symptoms that went along with it.  

But more oddly, the symptoms that I expected would come back with a vengeance, haven’t.  While I wouldn’t call my bowel movements normal for me, they are hardly anything that would be cause for concern.  I haven’t had a single migraine like I used to.  But I have had some acid reflux.  And it’s the occasional bad flare of acid reflux, where it’s so bad I can feel that tightening in the back of my throat, that concerns me a bit.  Nine years ago my throat was so bad I brought myself to the ER one night and learned the next morning from the ENT doctor that my gagging sensation was actually stomach acid burning the back of my throat.  But other than that, I’d almost wager to say I’ve been fine.  Other than the 15 pounds I’ve gained in the past two months.  Which all leaves me befuddled.

So the week before last I finally went in and got the tests done.  I figured two months of eating gluten pretty much every day, and a reasonable portion every day.  The doctor ordered a celiac panel: a general IgA test to make sure I’m not IgA deficient, and the tissue transglutaminase and anti-gliadin tests.  I also requested gluten and wheat allergy tests, both of which were IgE based, figuring that I was there, why not.

My results?  

All normal.  

And now I’m left completely confused.  And frustrated.  I no longer seem to know how to eat (which at least partly explains the 15 pound weight gain).  I no longer feel like I know who I am.  Being gluten free was a large part of my life and being told I’m (likely) not celiac, it feels like a huge part of my identity has been ripped from me.  Have the last 9 years been a waste?  All that time and money I poured into being gluten free.  All the heart ache.  And frustration.  For this?

But mostly I don’t know how to eat.  I don’t know how to eat like a normal person because the last time I did, I was in my very early 20’s, and not eating like a normal person any way.  I no longer seem able to say no to treats (which again, likely explains some of the 15 pound weight gain).  I’m quite cognizant that I could still be celiac, and the test just didn’t pick it up for whatever reason.  But for the time being, I’m not convinced that I need to return to being obsessively gluten free.  But I’m not sure what else to do.

Even most of my screen names revolve around the one I use here, gfpumpkins.  Gluten Free pumpkins.

I know this isn’t an issue I can solve tonight.  But I’ve been sitting with it for two weeks now and I still feel like I’m stuck in the same spot of utter confusion and disbelief.

Bailey’s Irish Cream – an update

Turns out my post from last year on Bailey’s Irish Cream is my top viewed post. So for the sake of my curiousity, I thought I’d revisit the topic to see if Bailey’s is/was still off limits.

Courtesy of their “Product and Company Information” page, we get this gem:

So for the time being, it looks like Bailey’s is currently gluten free.  However, I really wish our various food, beverage and alcohol groups/advisory boards/congressional groups would get with the program.  Make alcohol producers put ingredient labels on their products, just like for every other product we consume.  And I really wish companies would cut the shit out with the ‘consult a medical professional’ bullshit.  How the hell is my doctor going to know what is in your product when I don’t?  This line in particular galls me: “Your doctor can then contact us for a more detailed list of component ingredients if required.”  I should be able to hold a consumable product and know what is in it.  Neither I, nor my doctor, should have to contact anyone to know what is an a product that is meant for human consumption.

This is NOT what democracy looks like

This is NOT what democracy looks like.

Yesterday when I left work on the 5:30 bus, things on the political front were kind of quiet. But I arrived home to a fire storm. Yesterday, our senate republicans created a new committee, it met, voted on a modified version of the budget repair bill, and then the senate voted on it. In an afternoon. No 24 hours notice as per open meetings laws in Wisconsin. No discussion. Nothing. Just a BUDGET repair bill, stripped of most things fiscal, and then voted on with less than a quorum of senators.

What really interests me at this point is, who do these senators look at themselves in the mirror at night after days like this? How have their families been treating them? I’d really LOVE to know what the thought process is that goes on in their heads when they pull bullshit like this.

When local elected officials need to leave amidst heavy police presence to cries of ‘shame’ and ‘you lied, you lied to Wisconsin’ and lots of booing, to me that says they should really know that what they are doing is WRONG.

What can you do?

Rather than sit and needlessly argue with idiots on the internet about things that we in the end agree about, I thought I’d come up with a constructive list of things people can do rather than needlessly arguing on the internet. To keep it shorter, I’m going to make it specifically about the issues here in Wisconsin, but the basic principles apply to any community in the US.

This list is in no particular order.

1. Go vote in the next election. And then the one after that. And the one after that. If you live in Wisconsin, you can go to the State of Wisconsin Voter Public Access Site to find your polling location, who your current elected officials are, and a sample ballot for the next election. Our next election is April 5th. This is a democracy people, and if you don’t like the people in office, do your civic duty to get them out and someone else in there.

2. Contact your current elected officials. Think they should know what you think about an issue? Think they aren’t doing a good job representing you? Think they are doing a fabulous job representing you? Call, email, or snail mail them and tell them so.

It took me less time to write that email than it will for me to write this post. Hopefully it will bring a smile to someone’s face and it lets Senator Risser know that I think he rocks!

3. Talk to your friends, families, and coworkers about the issues. I’m surrounded daily by people who think pretty much the same as I do on the problems Wisconsin is currently facing, but they aren’t always up to date on what is happening or what has happened. Take the time to talk about the facts. And encourage people to talk to their families about it too.

4. Speak with your wallet. This can be a few different things. Donate to groups doing work you agree with (ACLU, Democratic party, etc). This can also be supporting businesses that support what you believe in. This doesn’t have to be a lot of money. While $5 might barely effect your finances, $5 from a bunch of people adds up. Of course, if you can give more, go for it. This also means avoiding places that are openly against what you believe in (Menards, Walmart, I’m looking at you).

5. Pay your taxes. Seriously. Yes it sucks that some rich assholes think they are above the law and it means the rest of us have to shoulder a bit more burden then we really should have to. Hopefully karma will be a bitch to them. But in the mean time, if you are caught not paying your taxes, it is you who will pay the consequence for that action. Besides, your taxes support things like teachers, snow plow drivers, police, and all those things people are up at the capitol chanting about having funding taken away from.

6. Follow the law. Just like 5, yes it sucks that certain people (Republican senators and representatives I’m looking at you) think they are above the law (and yes, Walker, I’m looking at you too), but much like taxes, if you don’t follow the law and you get caught, it’s you who will pay the price, not the others. Want to rally and march around the Capitol Building? Great, file for permits. Want to be heard at a public hearing at the Capitol? Great, put your name down and stand in line. Don’t be an ass just because you think you have a right to be one.

7. Volunteer. Whether this is volunteering with a political campaign or to be legal observer with the ACLU. You could also help out the groups that are looking to recall Walker or the recall the 8 Wisconsin Republican Senators.

8. Really don’t like how things are going? Well, you’ve essentially got two options left then. Move out of the country, or run for office and we’ll see how much better of a job you do.

If I missed something, let me know and I’ll add it in.

For your viewing pleasure

As a fan of Jon Stewart, I hate to say it, but he did a shitty job covering whats happening in WI. And who ever does his research needs to do a little better of a job. Our senators left because they CAN’T FILIBUSTER.

Last week the state assembly tried to pull a fast one and vote on the bill not only before the democrats arrived (on time no less) but before any amendments had been discussed. Rep. Baraca did a great job ripping into them. This was before Gordon Hintz ripped state assembly republicans a new one too.

Rachel Maddow, who I had not watched with any seriousness before, has been doing a great job covering whats been happening here. Walker did this all before as Milwaukee Co executive. He FIRED union security guards at County buildings, and then replaced them with a private FOREIGN company. A company that doesn’t have the greatest reputation. You should just watch. I can’t do this one justice:

Riots in Madison ;)

There are a couple of videos up on youtube that I think really speak to what is going on here in Madison.

This passionate plea from Representative Gordon Hintz gives me chills. To hear that the Republicans aren’t even following the rules of democracy makes me sick. Eight Republican senators are currently eligible for recall and I truly hope the voters in those districts will see fit to recall them. These senators have made a mockery of democracy and a mockery of their constituents.

Did you know we’re rioting here in Madison?

The Ed show has also reported live from Madison and does an awesome covering our riots.

Even Jesse Jackson is here.