Happy 18th Birthday, Kitty

Kitty has been with me longer than any human being, including my parents. In 18 years, the longest amount of time we have ever been separated is a time span of 3 nights.

I’m not sure how much longer we have together. It’s hard watching his decline. Although his health is currently stable on medication, I will honestly be surprised if he makes it to 19. It’s possible this is his last birthday.

Kitty has literally been by my side through everything, even when no one else was. When we didn’t have anyplace to live and were living in the car, Kitty always kept a look out & would alert me to anything weird going on while I was sleeping.

When they were little both Kitty and Kip (deceased a few years ago) would go camping with me. They are leash trained, and were perfectly fine outside at the campsite and walking the trail.

I was thinking that if Kitty had been with me on that camping trip from hell, that he would have protected me. Kitty has spunk. He will walk right up to a dog and start a fight. Then, I think, Kitty 10 or 15 or maybe even 5 years ago would have done that. But Kitty today is so old and frail that although his fighting spirit is still alive and well, there is absolutely nothing he could do physically to intimidate or protect like he used to do.

Kitty snuggles my head as we sleep each night. The past few months have been hard. As his health has declined, he has not been able to control his hind nails like he used to, and his back claws are almost always out. I notice it because now when he snuggles me, I’m constantly getting scratched. I guess I took for granted for 17 years that when he slept with me, he kept his hind claws retracted out of courtesy.

He has a hard time getting comfortable. I notice this in the way he plops himself down now. He has to lay on a side and cannot just lay straight on, which I’m sure is due to the tumor in his intestines.

It’s hard watching my best friend go downhill. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, but I don’t want him to hang on just for me.

We had the discussion a few weeks ago, in which I told him that if he needs to go (pass a way), I understand. He’s given me the very best of himself his entire life, and he deserves to rest free from pain.

But, he’s a fighter. Kitty is still fighting. I can tell he’s not ready to go yet. As long, as he’s not in pain, that’s okay. I know I’m going to lose it when the time comes.

Kitty and I grew up together. He picked me out at the animal shelter when he was 4 months old. We’ve been together for half of my life, and pretty much all of his.

Losing Kitty is going to be harder on me than losing anyone else in my life.

But for today, he is stable. He looks happy, and he is definitely still showing that fighting spirit that says, “I’m here. I love you, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Happy 18th Birthday to my son, my best friend, the one who grew up with me, who taught me to adult, and through it all, made me a better person. I wouldn’t be who I am without you in my life.

I love you, Kitty. It’s wishful thinking, but here’s hoping for a few more birthdays.

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No More Matching

People who know me well know that I have a small obsession with lingerie, particularly Victoria’s Secret. It’s an indulgence where no matter what I am wearing clothing-wise, only I know what I am wearing underneath and it gives me a sense of empowerment.

For example, when I was finishing my bachelors degree, my “advisor”, whom I called the Dragon Lady on the 4th Floor, called me white trash and said I would never do as well at my 4-year school as I did at community college. For the record, I was valedictorian at my community college, and # 6 of 2,000+ at my 4-year university graduating Summa Cum Laude. But while she was berating me about how much of a lowly scum I am, I knew that underneath my $9 outfit I had gotten from Salvo, that I was wearing a $5 pair of Victoria’s Secret panties with a bunch of apples on them that also said “Bite me.” My underwear was appropriate to the situation.

My underclothes almost regularly cost more than my outfit. About 95% of my wardrobe is second hand, but I truly believe (for sanitary reasons) that my underclothes should be new. If I’m going to buy something new, then I want the good stuff, or if not good, then I at least need to be having fun as I kiss my money goodbye.

So generally, my bra and panties are matching, even of I’m having trouble getting my outfit to match. My excuse is that I’m legally color-blind (which is true, according to my paperwork from when I tried to join the Navy back in the 90s). So, gosh darn it, my socks may not match, but my underwear does. You gotta take what you can get sometimes.

Now, it is well known by anyone and everyone who has a hankering for horror movies that the girl being terrorized, hurt, maimed, or killed in such flicks is most usually wearing a matching bra and panty set.

I have never understood why this is the case. I just figured it to be a costuming snafu or some sort of elaborate Hollywood joke. Maybe its some well-placed, subliminal advertising. At any rate, I’ve always thought horror movies were pretend.

That is, at least, until I took the vacation that made Freddie and Jason look like a daydream.

I took my worst vacation in 20 years this week. It was the first time that I have ever come home early from someplace. I came home a day and a half early. In fact, I was gone less than 24 hours.

Things went to hell in a hand basket fast, and now I am starting to think there just may be something to this matching bra & panty gig that Hollywood perpetuates.

I refuse to end up in a body bag, so from now on, I will not be matching my bra and panty sets. From now on, when I get dressed in the mornings, I will do so with an abandon that makes a 3-year old dressing themselves look like executive level material.

Why have I decided to stop matching and have this linked to matching panty sets? Let me set the scene ….

So Monday left to go camping in an area of the Adirondacks that was brand-new to me. The spot I had chosen was about an hour to the north and east of my usual haunt. The place I go camping in August, I’ve been going to for 15 years. This trip this week was a new experience.

The drive was gorgeous, the directions easy. I arrived with high expectations for some relaxation. The first maybe 6 hours were great, and then everything changed into a horror flick. Damn Hollywood and matching panties.

Hindsight is 20/20, and now after the event, I realized what happened was this: I went hiking through the campsite to locate showers, garbage, bear prevention accommodations, etc. when I passed some guy on a bicycle. I said hello, as I normally do to other campers. Later, I passed this same individual on foot. So, he parked his bike, right? I thought nothing of it.

That night as I was tending the fire, I noticed the wood truck went by several times. I do mean several. It slowed down next to me quite a few. The guy was wearing a hat. In retrospect, it was the same guy from earlier. When I left the campground, I found out that this location does not offer wood service. It was NOT in fact, a wood truck, but some creep-o stalker dude.

At the time, I thought it was the wood truck.

After properly distinguishing my camp fire at about 10 pm, I was in my tent by 10:30. The purpose of staying in a tent is to reset circadian rhythms.

At about 11:30, I woke up due to some rustling in the brush. I have seen chipmunks, squirrels, ducks, deer, and even a bear once while camping. I am quite familiar with woodland animal sounds. The interesting part is that at this camp site, I had not seen any animals earlier, and the sound was not entirely familiar. Also note that I was told at check-in that the ranger station closed at about 11-11:30 pm.

I looked outside the tent and saw nothing. I went back to sleep.

I was once again awakened, this time at 1:30 am. It was a human sound. Directly outside my tent. I have spent enough time running trails when I train for my marathons, that I know the sound of sneaker on dirt. Especially when the sound is close to my head. I have been camping enough over the past 20 years to know it was not an animal sound. I have been homeless before and know from living on the streets what it sounds like to be laying down with people walking by you.

This was a human sound, and suddenly I was scared as hell. Now, most normal people know better than to walk through other peoples camp sites. They most certainly do not do this at 1:30 am.

Not knowing the intentions of the person, who said nothing and ran off, I then spent a very uncomfortable night in half of the backseat of my car. The other half was taken up by the cooler.

I finally got to sleep at 4 am, only to be awakened at 6 am by some extremely loud children 4 sites away (4 sites!) screaming their heads off. I taught preschool for 11 years, and I have no problem with groups of children being loud when having fun. But these kids were screaming to be assholes.

I left the camp site and reported my experience to the ranger station. They seemed to know the exact person I was referencing, but were not concerned, as that person is “harmless.” When its someone you don’t know standing right outside your tent at 1:30 am, it does not seem harmless.

I came home from vacation less than 24 hours after I left. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to that location again.

When I returned home, I ended up sleeping 15 hours recovering from my ordeal. I also set the tent up in the yard to be sure it was dry and swept before putting it away again. The “harmless” individual had left a bodily fluid on the side of my tent. I’m glad I came home when I did.

I spent the last day of my vacation having a beach day at Lake Ontario. Some vacation. It was not the relaxing reset I had been envisioning.

So now I am just continuing to trudge on until my week off in August. Lets hope that trip goes off without a hitch. If I have another experience like this one, I’m pretty sure I will lose my mind. I have had plenty of experiences like this pretty much every time I had ever visited New York City, but this was the first time I ever had anything like this happen to me upstate.

I can tell you right now, I won’t be wearing matching bra and panty sets anymore. Freddie and Jason can just keep their Hollywood starlets, thank you very much.

I’m just going to keep hoping I get the break I need in August. And I’m never going to match my clothes again.

Escape

As much as I have tried to create a life I don’t need to escape, sometimes we need to take a step back in order to view situations objectively. When we are enmeshed and really “in” something, we are much more likely to make poor choices because we just can’t see out or around the situation in which we are living.

An expression I said almost all the time during the last few years I spent working on my bachelors degree was, “I keep pushing the escape button, but I’m still here.” I spent 15 years working on that degree, and sometimes, I just wanted a break from the constant flow of work, home, and school.

I will be getting a break next week, and am extremely fortunate in that not only will I be getting a break in July, but one in August as well. This is going to be the first time in my life I have gotten two breaks in one year.

Some things are beyond our control. As much as I have tried to slow down, I cannot control a family members illness or the stress that brings, or certain other life events that just kind of “happen” to us. The only person you can control in this life is yourself. We do not always have control over anything around us.

Next week, I’m going camping, and I am really looking forward to having a break. As much as I love my ill family member, I just feel like I need a break from them and the situation. I feel guilty saying that, because this disease is their everyday reality, but its hard sometimes to hold it all together.

My camping trip next week is in a location completely new to me that I have never been to before. My August trip will be to my usual spot, but for July, its someplace new.

It’s pretty sad when you have to drive yourself to the middle of nowhere to a location with no cell service, no internet, no electricity, and no water just to escape your own life. Unfortunately, in today’s technological society, sometimes that is the only way to completely unplug.

Away from glowing screens, email notification dings, and the noise of an overly congested and poorly planned small city, I will be reconnecting to nature. Camping off the grid is time to listen to body, mind, and soul and align all three with the universe. You can’t hear that “still small voice” when constantly surrounded by noise.

So yes, I will be escaping next week. I also think there is a difference between an escape and running away. Sometimes we need to escape our situations momentarily to take a step back in order to view things objectively. Escaping allows us to return renewed and refreshed, perhaps with a different perspective and brighter outlook on how to tackle a challenge.

Running away, on the other hand, entails leaving the situation and either avoiding it completely, with no intention of return, or returning to the situation with the naive idea that it had changed in your absence, even though you have done nothing about it.

Running away and escaping are two profoundly different situations.

So while I strive to create a life I don’t have to escape, I have come to realize that I do not have total control, and sometimes we need the escape to take a step back in order to face uncertainty with more clarity.

Here’s hoping my camping trip to this new location next week brings me peace, rest, and refreshment. It’s the ultimate adult time out when you come to realize that you are so burned out, that you need to recenter yourself before you reach out and slap someone.

Hopefully by making the effort to take better care of myself, I can be better for those around me. How do you escape when you need some objectivity and refreshment?