Blog for Choice
January 22nd is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade stating that women have the right to decide when they become a parent. I’ll be writing more about my thoughts for choice on that day as part of the Blog for Choice Day activities.
New Year's Resolution: Express ALL the Rage
I’m generally not a very angry person. I get angry. I express it in my own muted and reserved way, but I’m not all THAT angry. I’m generally happy about that, in no small part because of the “angry feminist” stereotype that gets projected onto me and I like dispelling that.
But I’m kinda angry. This year hasn’t started off well for women. There is the story of the woman and her friend who got onto what looked like a city bus but where her friend was knocked unconscious and she was raped for hours while the bus drove around town. The rape happened in India, but she died in a hospital in Singapore.
Then there is the story, uncovered by Anonymous (a group of online hackers), about a teenager who was raped repeatedly by several members of a Steubenville, Ohio high school. Her attacks were filmed, posted online, talked about in online videos, tweeted about, bragged about, and more. I honestly can’t stomach reading all there is to read about the story. I’ve BEEN there. I’ve got family that LIVED there. And the police are covering it up. The Prosecutor is the mother of one of the young men who is being accused of being involved. The coach of the football team sure seems to know more than he’s sharing. But despite all the evidence the story is being investigated by online geeks and seemingly not by the local police, or the semi-local police
Then there is the Violence Against Women Act. You’d think people would be able to say “Violence against women is wrong, I’m okay with their being an act that helps women get out of abusive relationships and provides funds for investigation and prosecution of people who abuse women.” But several members of the GOP decided they had problems with the rights being extended to immigrant women (cause we don’t want immigrant women, legal or non-legal, to be able to press charges against non-immigrant men)*, with the rights being extended to LGBT women (because if we say that their relationships are equal when it comes to abuse then they’ll want to get married legally and stuff)*, and to Native American women on reservations (because it should be okay for men who don’t live on reservations to abuse women who do live on reservations)*.
And then today, someone posts a pledge to ask tech-dudes to agree to not join a panel if there are no women on the panel. And the tech-dudes I know and respect are all “Hey, sure. I can do this.” And then some jag-off who has written books with horrible cover art says that he doesn’t even want to look at anyone who would do something so “stupid” as to not join a panel because it’s all-dude. Seriously? And to state that publicly? Well, not that I’m planning a tech-conference anytime soon, but if I did he wouldn’t get invited, let alone allowed to speak.
So, I’m angry. And I’ve done no justice to any of the serious issues I’ve raised above. Not a drop. But they’ve all made me angry. Like sick to my stomach and unable to take deep breaths angry. Like get up from the computer and storm away to make another cup of tea angry. Screw up and sew all my fabric together backwards angry. Rage—I haz it!
So watch out. Seriously. Cause if I’m angry enough to read a 19-page Congressional Research Service report, then you know I’m fired up.**
*Oversimplified, snarky, and not-entirely-true. But I’m proving anger here. If you don’t like what I’m saying then go read stuff somewhere else.
**Being angry never feels good to me. I don’t like the physical effects it has on me. But I’m angered and I gotta let it out. That’s why people blog, right?
Boos: August 1997 - December 2012
How do you eulogize a cat? I have so many stories about this guy, both good (his sweet breathy meow when I would rub his cheeks just right) and bad (his passive-aggressive refusal to pee in the litter box when he was angry). But how do I choose the right one to give anyone who didn’t know him as I did the ability to understand or care about him. I don’t think I can, even though my desire is high.
He was the most emotionally complicated cat that I have ever had. He was very demanding, but he was also terribly gentle and painfully sweet and loving. I think he truly did love me, or at least the cat-equivalent of love. His favorite time, especially the last several months, was to just be curled up in a ball on my lap, even while I slept. It made both of us happy, even as it occasionally made my legs fall asleep.
I’m going to miss him. We’d been through so much together. And even when we were mad at each other, it was still obvious we cared about each other. It’s a lesson I learned with him that I have been able to carry over to other relationships. I’m grateful for what he taught me about patience, and limits, and acceptance, and even love.
I wish I’d made more time to just sit still with him on my lap or by my side. I wish his last few years hadn’t been haunted by the specter of Rocky the Impossible Kitteh lurking around every corner with rage in his eyes. But he came to tolerate him, and in the end, Rocky came to care for him. He let him eat first, he let him have the catnip, he licked his forehead, he would just check in on him on occasion. It was sweet and heart-warming to see a fondness grow between them, even if it was too little, too late.
But in the end, Boos’s kidneys failed him. He lost all interest in eating and drinking. He grew emaciated and at the end seemed to be in pain. And it was the recognition of his pain that made me make the call for that final vet appointment. I loved him, and I wasn’t ready to lose him, but I also recognized that I had no right to make him live in pain when I had the power and ability to stop that.
At the vet, as we laid him on towel and began petting him, he purred. He’s never purred at the vet. In fact, he had a sticker on his folder that always made the vet tech walk in with falconry gloves. My sweet, gentle guy turned into a whirling dervish of rage that required him to be gassed to have his blood drawn. But at the end, he purred. My human need to emotionalize everything makes me want to think he knew what was going on and he was happy to be ending things. My rational brain thinks that the initial shot to relax him was such a relief that he purred because he was no longer in pain. The first thought makes me happy, the second thought makes me feel guilty for letting him feel any pain at all.
And in the end, that is how the end has been for every pet I’ve had to make this choice for. And it just leaves me with questions. Was there pain? Was I really loved, or was it just a fondness for supplying food and shelter? Is there understanding that the end is coming and what that means? Is my guilt justified? And there are no answers to these questions. Or at least no answers I’ll get in this lifetime. Maybe in the afterlife, or the next life, or whatever awaits us when our body stops working and our minds go dark.
But what I do know is that I still miss him terribly. Falling asleep without him on my lap is hard. Watching Rocky search the house for him and call out for him is hard. Occasionally calling, or hearing Andrew call, Rocky by the wrong name is hard. Thinking about how I can now have floor rugs again, and I don’t have to hide organza or crinkly plastic is even hard.
I’m still mourning and grieving. But I’m fortunate to have had him. He was my friend. He became my grumpy old man. But he started out my shy and skittish kitten with a golf-pencil of a tail who was weaned too early and was far more anxious than I would have liked. I loved him. And I honestly think he knew that.
Finding the Perfect Laptop Bag
I’m a huge fan of the CreativePro.com website and have been very grateful for the information I’ve learned over the years from reading the site. So I was thrilled when the opportunity to write an article for this community arose. The article I wrote is about choosing the laptop bag that works best for you and is titled: Finding The Perfect Laptop Bag.
I received some great feedback and a few additional questions so I thought I’d answer them now.
Why is it so hard to find a good and stylish laptop bag for a larger laptop?
In order to make a profit on a design, bag manufacturers will have to know that they can sell a minimum number of bags. The design to prototype to production process is expensive and they’re not going to go through that process unless there is a large enough market to sell their bags. Since the larger laptops tend to come in a variety of sizes, it is hard to create a general laptop bag. This is why it is often easier to get “stylish” bags listed specifically for Macs than for a PC. The range of sizes for Macs are few, and if you can fit a Mac then you can fit a wide range of PC laptops in the same bag. And if Apple comes out with a new laptop that is slightly smaller or thinner then many laptop manufacturers change only their packaging that tells you which laptops it will fit. This is why I suggest a test drive of the bag.
The fabric on my laptops wears out quickly. What kind of fabric will be better?
Owning a bag made from leather, heavy-duty canvas with a wax or other coating, or many vinyl-like fabrics will last longer than a general purpose cotton canvas. However, if your bag fabric is wearing out first, the problem may not be the fabric, but how you wear the bag. The best way to wear a bag is so it is tight to your body. I see many people wearing the bag low enough to hit their hip or even their upper thigh. As they walk the bag swings and rubs and the fabric will wear through. To cause the least amount of stress on your shoulders, your back, and the bag itself, I would highly suggest wearing the bag higher and tighter to your body. The idea is to keep it from moving as much as possible. And wearing it higher will also make the bag seem lighter due the difference in how the weight is distributed.
What is the best bag brand to get?
Mine, of course. I’m biased, honestly. And my bags don’t suit everyone. And I can’t make a bag for everyone who carries them. So I suggest trying on a number of bags until you find one that feels right.
I want a messenger bag with a flap and another zipper or other closure to keep things more secure.
That is an understandable concern. And there are bags with these options, but they are in the minority for a couple of reasons. They’re more expensive to make and fewer people seem to want them. The convenience of a messenger bag is being able to get things into and out of it quickly. Adding another zipper makes that harder. If your concern is water-tightness, you can look for a bag that folds over at the top to prevent water from getting into the bag. If security is your concern, then a zipper is really your best bet and either getting a custom-made bag or looking for “messenger bag zipper top” on Google may be helpful.
Kidney failure, a cat, and a fear of needles
This is Boos. He’s my sweet and yet grumpy old-man cat. We’ve had him since August 17th 1997. I got him when he was around 6 weeks old. He was very, very tiny. He had that chubby, puffy kitten body with a furry golf-pencil for a tail. He was timid and shy and had ear mites and worms. And I think I fell in love with him the first time I picked him up. And I’ve never stopped loving him. Even when he has angered me profusely. He’s not the snuggliest cat. His emotions tend to be very Germanic. Lots more scowls than wide grins. But he’s my buddy.
About 2 years ago, after he was fighting bladder infections that had been recurring for several years, we got an additional diagnosis of Stage 1 renal failure. This meant that his tender and fragile kitty kidneys were slowing shutting down. We were instructed to put him on wet food and trick him into drinking more water and bring him back in 6 months.
He abhors wet food. My attempts at making food for him from scratch resulted in his attempting to bury it. I tried tricking him by sprinkling water on his food. He announced his displeasure with an upturned nose and a refusal to eat. For days. Thanks to a kind pet store owner, I was able to walk through trying a wide variety of foods until I found something that he would eat and that would be mostly vet-approved. I gave him the food for 6 months, took him back in for another levels test, and we received gleeful word that his numbers hadn’t worsened at all. I felt like we’d found something that worked and I had every intention of sticking with it forever and ever and ever.
But I’m not Cinderella and neither is Boos. So beginning in February of this year, he began having trouble urinating and there was blood in his urine. So we got him to the vet, they tested for crystals (if your cat struggles to pee and is only able to get out a few drops and seems to be in pain, get it to a vet immediately) and he came up clean. We assumed it was an infection. It wasn’t. We had x-rays which came back inconclusive. Our vet assured us this wasn’t necessarily related to his kidneys, and suggested we give him pain killers to permit him to pass urine, valium (the 1950’s house-wife branded kind) to keep him calm, and some medication to lower his blood pressure which might result in better bloodflow through his kidneys.
We received a diagnosis of ideopathic urinary cystitis. This means that he has a tendency to grow cysts somewhere in his urinary tract (most likely his bladder based on the x-ray) and they have no idea what causes it. It’s not common, but it’s not unheard of. And since cats are pretty uncommunicative at the vet (unless you consider growls and hisses a language), it’s hard to figure out what is going on with them. So we embarked on a plan to get him through the rough patch he was in, and find ways to just not stress him out.
And we were doing pretty good until August hit. In August we were out of town for 3 weekends in a row. Even though we have a great cat-sitter, Boos refuses to get close to him and prefers to sleep on his jacket or bag instead. Unfortunately, us leaving is what causes Boos’ main anxiety, so his bloody bladder thing popped up again. To round out the month, Rocky The IMPOSSIBLE Kitteh managed to reach his paw between 2 kitchen cabinet bases and wiggle out a black plastic box that contained rodent poison. Then he managed to wiggle a thin and delicate plastic bag full of pellets out of the box. Then he, and or, Boos managed to consume almost every pellet in the bag.
So we woke up early, rushed to the vet, and spent some time freaking out wondering what was going to happen. It turns out that Vitamin K1 is an antidote for feline beasts who consume rodent poison. So they’re both taking that for the next 4-5 weeks. Thankfully, neither of them have developed a symptom. But when I woke up on Monday morning and found a puddle of urine that was as red as my hair, I grew very worried, convinced myself he was bleeding to death from the inside-out, and cancelled plans with friends so I could spend the last few hours of his life napping with him.
It turns out that it wasn’t poison-related. It turns out that his anxiety worked him up into a tizzy and he got another bladder infection. It turns out, I’m prone to jumping to conclusions and anxiety myself. (At this point Andrew is smirking.) We visited a new vet at the vet office we’ve been visiting for more than 15 years now. (Boos’s file is HUGE, by the way.) This new vet was very calming, clear, and was even able to get Boos, who turns into a growling, spatting, curl of a shrimp when at the vet, to uncurl and let her see his stomach. She assured me he was not affected by the poison. Said she’d run tests on his urine, gave him a steroid shot to help with the inflammed cysts, and said she’d want to give him some fluids. This meant 2 shots and Andrew wasn’t with me to take over.
I have a major fear of needles. I have passed out and been caught as I’m falling off things by very kind nurses who do their best to laugh after they leave the room. I see a needle in a movie on TV and my head starts to get that draining bathtub feeling. I see a needle in person and it’s like a sudden dump of blood and over and out I go. I’ve been at the vet several times when they’ve needed shots so I’ve just done my best to hold the cats head and say cooing things while looking NOT AT THE NEEDLE. And it has mostly worked. I’ve only started to feel pale a few times. This time, the vet decided she would have me help with the cat restraining while she gave a shot. She saw me go pale and immediately called in a tech.
Then she turned to me and said “I think you need to administer giving him fluids at home. It’s great that he’s drinking a lot of water, but we can practically double his water intake which means he’ll eat more and gain weight. And it really isn’t that hard. Are you willing to do it?”
I sat down and nodded. To her credit she didn’t have any reaction. She left the room, whispered to the sweetest, most patient vet tech I’ve ever met as I took deep calming breaths and convinced myself I could and would do this because the alternative was having a cat who wasn’t well. And I loved him. I’d want him to get over his fears to help me. (Cats are selfish, I know. I have no allusions this could happen.)
The vet tech came in the room, smiled and said “I’ll help you get through this. It looks scarier than it really is.” She waited for my wan smile before hanging the IV bag up and showing me how to put the IV tube onto the bag. And how to put the needle onto the tube. (Side note: There are so many tiny, plastic parts on these things. It’s worse than a packaged Japanese snack.) She then showed me how to pinch his fur in the right place to get a dimple of skin. She showed me how to slide the needle gently and firmly into his skin. She showed me how to feel that the needle was in his skin as she turned the fluids on.
It took 2-3 minutes of me stroking Boos’s cheeks and chin and making those embarrassingly cutesy cooey voices we make when our furry family isn’t happy. It felt like forever, and I admit to not looking at the needle that was hanging out of his skin. But after 100 mL of fluids had been transferred from the bag to a bubble on the back of his neck, she pulled out the needle. Said “That’s it.” And she smiled the most encouraging smile I’ve seen since learning to ride a bike.
And then I came home the next night. Dread lingering in my belly because I knew what I had to do. So I took a nap first. And I procrastinated. And then I grew resolute and decided I had to do this and so I would. So I conned Boos into getting comfortable on the sofa. And we got the bag out. And I pulled the green cap off the needle. And I pinched his skin to create a dimple, and I slid the needle in and felt it go through his skin and end up between my fingertips. He protested very slightly. And then I made him sit still for the 2 minutes it took for the water to transfer from the bag, to below his skin. And then I removed the needle, put the safety cap back on it, and watch him run away from me.
I have no doubt that the next time I need a shot, or to give blood, I’m going to get pale and pass out, or come close. I have no doubt that the knowledge of needing to have a shot will cause me intense anxiety. I have no doubt that watching needles on screen or at the vet will still cause me to go woozy. But the satisfaction I feel at giving my cat a dreaded medical treatment involving a needle in my hand is intoxicating. I feel a bit invincible, admittedly. I feel good. And my hope, is that with this most recent bout of antibiotics, this oral supplement named Cosequin (the lining of a cat’s bladder is made of the same stuff as the lining of their joints, so the hope is that this reduces inflammation in both), and fluids every 2-3 days will make Boos feel better. I’m not looking for a Forever and Ever ending this time. But more time and less pain seems like a reasonable goal. And I think I can get both of us there thanks to my new-found fear-reducing superpower.
I have a tendency to always focus on what I don’t know. To always look at all of the things that exist that I know nothing about and feel small and uninformed in comparison to all these things that exist that I want to know and do and experience. So it is refreshing on occasion, to have to step back and help someone who is where I was with a skill years ago. As I prepare to teach them, show them, guide them, it makes me realize how much I’ve learned. How much I’ve picked up and absorbed and has become second nature for me. It makes me realize how much of my own knowledge I take for granted. I’m good at what I do for a living. There is a lot I want to learn and a lot I need to learn since this industry is changing dramatically and will for at least the next few years until some new standards are accepted. It’s intimidating looking at everything that I will need to learn. But it seems less daunting and more exciting after looking at everything I have learned.
11 years, and what have I learned
It is incredibly hard to believe, but 11 years ago I wrote my very first blogpost. At the time I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with it, so it was a Blogger setup that was actually hosted on Andrew’s site. But after I started to get a bit of a following, and I decided I wanted to run 2 separate blogs (one about all my crafting ventures), I decided I needed my own site.
But when I first started my blog, it was named “Did you know . . .” and everyday I would post random tidbits of things that I learned. Article links I’d read, bits I’d gleaned from reading the books from the company I work for, snippets in magazines, and the more than occasional “I wonder where that came from”.
Eleven years later and my focus on this blog is very different. Almost nonexistent, honestly. I no longer have time to sit and read hours and hours of blog posts. I don’t find myself getting OH SO ANGRY as much anymore. And I don’t get quite as excited about sharing little nuggets if info that I learn. Although I think Andrew would appreciate it if I returned to writing them online instead of my often frequent “Heh? Did you know that the fat of conventionally raised pigs is harder than the fat of free-range/acorn-fed pigs? This means it is easier to make charcuterie with reliable results when using conventionally raised pigs.”
But today I got an email completely out of the blue from someone on the design team at MastersDegree.net who created a graphic about ocean exploration. And it is so very cool, that I thought you may wish to see it as well.
Created by: MastersDegree.net
And this got me thinking about this site, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve changed my thinking. When I first started working at this company, I honestly looked at the text as the most important part of the textbooks we produce. But during my time here, and during my time meeting some fantastic graphic designers, I’ve learned that is not true. It is quite possible to learn more information in a graphic than in several paragraphs of text. We are all visual learners, some more than others admittedly, and a well-created graphic (like the one linked above) can provide a great deal of information in a short time and if it is created well, the information packed into that graphic can be retained for longer than the same information written in prose. Knowing when prose is more important and when an image is more important isn’t easy. But learning visually, graphically, is easier for many people. I thank and admire people who are capable of taking very complex issues and expressing them visually to make it easier to remember and relate to.
The love Carrie aka Carrieoke fixed my TextPattern update that I bungled last night and permitted me to be able to log back into my blog.
While poking around, I came across a few entries that I wrote over the last 6 years that were supposed to be public and ended up being saved as draft instead. So I’ve gone ahead and published them. I expected them to publish under the date/time when I last saved them as draft, but I realize that TextPattern doesn’t work that way.