Monday

26 October 2020

Oddz-N-Endz # 1,033,283^2x99.1

Max is doing pretty well today, and basically has been since last Wednesday. Tuesday was the last really bad day that he had. Between the two meds he's on, he's not nauseated and he has enough of an appetite to make me satisfied. Not super happy because my heart wants him to eat more than is probably physically possible, but well enough. 

Hell, I left 3 plates of food in his room last night (usually only 2) and each had 3 ounce of wet food...and the Spouse Thingy reports that he ate nearly all of it. He was given 3 ounces for breakfast and finished it all by 10 am. He's only nibbled since then, but given how much he's had since last night, that doesn't worry me.

I'm out of his favorite gravy food, so I suspect he's holding out. I'll run to the store in a bit.

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My riding plan for October was to rack up a minimum 150 for the American Cancer Society's Breaking Away for Breast Cancer virtual, and I looked forward to it because 150 miles in a month is not difficult at all, and the cause is worthy. Heck, I even dyed my hair neon pink the way I would if I'd gone to an in-person event.

But then Real Life smacked us in the face and October has been consumed with sick cats and loss, and until this last weekend I have not felt comfortable leaving Max alone for very long. I managed a short ride on Saturday (would have been longer but I had weird noised coming from my drive train and spent time trying to sort that out) and intended to do 20 yesterday...but the wind hit.

I'll ride on a breezy day, even if it's a stiff breeze, but this is gusts of 45-50 mph, so...nope. 

I've got around 40 miles for the month and unless this wind dies down, that might be it. I'll make up the miles, though, doing some longer rides specifically meant to go toward the ACA ride.

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The last time I really wrote anything other than blog posts and on Facebook was the last draft of the last Wick shorts book. I took an intentional break, but I didn't think it would be this long, but I'm starting to feel like I'm ready to get back to work. There are copious notes for (what for now is) The Blackshear Academy and with NaNoWriMo coming, I may jump into it.

I think I've done NaNo every year since 2006 or so, usually as a way to info-dump whatever story I've had brewing in my head. Several have made it all the way through the publishing process, a few wound up being strictly for my own amusement and will never see the light of day. 

It'll be a while before I decide whether the manuscript I'll begin in earnest on November 1st will come out as mine or Max's. Maybe continue with both. I just have no idea.

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I've been on the fence about Halloween: hand out candy, or not? We rarely get more than 4-5 kids as it is and I'm pretty sure the city is discouraging trick-or-treak this year though I don't think it's been outright banned. Initially I thought it was a good excuse to shut the lights off and not do anything. But... 

It's not like I'm going to lick any kid coming to my door. I've never touched a kid when handing out candy. Not even close. So I ordered a couple boxes of SweeTarts, movie sized ones, and if we don't get kids, I have candy. I'll wear a mask, I'll be super careful about contact, and what the hell, I'm handing out candy.

It seems lower risk than grocery shopping, and kids have already lost so much this year.

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My brain had more but I'm easily distracted and whatever it was...it's gone.

Sunday

25 October 2020

Just a couple weeks after losing Buddah, Max was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma. It's a slow growing type, typically, and rarely spreads, but it is what it is, and what it is...cancer. There's no sugar coating it at this point. Max has cancer.

We spent the couple of days leading up to his vet appointment and biopsy tied in knots and I know most of that was fear that the answer meant saying goodbye to him that day. But there's a kindness in his diagnosis; we have time, however little or much it might be. We count his good days measured against his bad, and when the scale tips, we will let him go with the grace he is owed.

It sounds simple, but I know it won't be. It might break me. It will break me.

We're still gutted from losing Buddah. I still feel somewhat blindsided by his lymphoma and how quickly we went from what do we do for him? to placing those last kisses on the top of his head. I am hyper aware of how integrated he was in those soft, day to day moments that are easy overlooked but are also so important. There are so many moments in each day where I feel his absence in routine things that I do: I buttered a slice of toast and made sure I left a glob of butter on the knife and set it on the counter, right where he always looked for it. And when I realized...I tossed the toast into the trash. I couldn't eat it.

I realized that I listen for the sound of his feet as he scrambles across the bookcases, racing to get to the Spouse Thingy's lap as he first sits down in his chair after waking up.

I miss him.

When the vet began telling us of Max's diagnosis, I presumed that I would fall apart right then and there, in the parking lot--because COVID has turned it into a waiting room--but I felt something else.

Gratitude.

We didn't have to say goodbye to him just two weeks after losing Buddah. We have time; it might only be weeks, but it could be a couple of months, but it's time that feels like a gift.

He's 19; we've half expected him to die for the last 8-10 months. Certainly since July, when it seemed as if he was headed there sooner rather than later, so this reprieve is painted with relief.

I'll be broken when it happens, I know that. So I'll spoil him while I can.

Before this, people (in the guise of their cats) asked what would happen to Max's work--would Wick continue? Would something new come out in his name?

I don't know.

I think Wick will go on, but whether under his or mine, I have no idea. I don't know what people will accept. I don't know what they want. But there will be nothing new; I cannot fathom launching anything new under his name now. it doesn't feel fair. It might be the end of my career, given that I stopped writing under my own name several years ago.

I'm okay with that.

Right now, all that matters is Max, keeping him fed and comfortable, for as long as we have.

Wednesday

7 October 2020


I don’t think I could have picked Buddah’s voice out of an audio lineup the first few years of his life. Eerily quiet, he didn’t say anything unless he felt some sort of annoyance or indignity, which was a bit of a relief given how vocal Max has always been. In the last few years, though, he began speaking more—complaining usually—and I settled in with the idea that I could tell which cat was bitching from across the house, and react accordingly, to whatever degree of distress it seemed they were feeling.

The two cats just didn’t get along. I honestly think that if Max had not gotten so sick when we brought Buddah home that it would have been different, but those were the cards we were dealt. Max was constantly annoyed, and Buddah was forever the mischievous little boy, looking to make trouble when he could. I thought it would never end, Buddah always picking on Max, who was basically defenseless as he got older, and we began relying on Feliway diffusers to curb the worst of it.

But somewhere along the way in the last year, they seemed to make their peace with each other. Buddah still picked on Max, but not nearly to the degree he did. Max stopped running at the sight of Buddah. He was careful, always, but not scared.

On September 24th, Buddah began vomiting. He’s always had a touchy tummy so I didn’t think anything of it, but it continued through that weekend, along with the realization that he hadn’t pooped. That was notable, given that for the last couple of years he’s used a puppy pad near the litter box, but not the litter box itself. That habit made it easy to see who was doing what, so once we got over the irritation, we relied on it. But still…he was throwing up—by Saturday it was just yellowish foam—and he wasn’t eating, and wasn’t pooping.

That Monday the vet was called and despite not having open appointments for a couple weeks out, they got Buddah in. Based on the symptoms, they did x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound, which showed a thickening in his small bowel, causing a partial obstruction. The next step was an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy, but after three tries the doc couldn’t get a good enough sample, and he wasn’t putting Buddah through a 4th attempt.

It was pretty clear that he had more going on than his small bowel being thick; I knew going in he had symptoms of lymphoma, and the vet agreed. It was likely that or a tumor, and we were not keen on putting a 15 year old cat through invasive exploratory surgery when the end result would be the same. We opted to treat him for lymphoma since that was the most likely culprit, and brought him home.

We had high hopes of getting a few comfortable weeks for him. But he just couldn’t bounce back. He had zero appetite, though some nausea meds helped, as did an appetite stimulant. Still, the best he could do was nibble, and his best day I think he took in 2 ounces of food in a 24 hour period. He began stumbling a bit, and I could see his entire upper body pulse with each heartbeat…and then he began nibbling a bit more which abated those symptoms, and my hopes went high.

It was a roller coaster of “yay, he’s eating” and “he pooped!” with “he stopped eating” and “he hasn’t pooped again.” Two days ago he ate about an ounce and a half, and then just stopped doing more than nibbling.

Last week I felt bad when I had to take UP away from him; his favorite place in the house was on top of the TARDIS, accessed by 8 foot tall bookcases. I felt guilty as hell about it, but he’d gotten up there and realized he was too weak to get back down, so stood at the top crying for help, and I didn’t see any other choice, not until he was better.

The guilt was compounded by the thought that Max’s interview with Buddah had just been released, and in it Max promised we would always keep UP for him because he needed it so badly. But…it was no longer safe. He needed UP like breath, but all I could see was him falling 8 feet to the floor.

Today he lounged on top of a recliner, struggling to get comfortable. And then suddenly, he was on the floor, a little stunned. We were terrified, but after a moment he got up and wandered away, dignity intact. But I told the Spouse Thingy then, it was time to take the cat trees away. If he got to the top of one of those and fell…?

I knew then what was going to happen, but it took me a few hours and an agonizing trip to Costco to refill his medications before I could say the words. He’d hidden under the bed while we were gone, and when we got home we tried to tempt him with food he really likes; he sniffed it like he really wanted it but couldn’t make himself take a bite, and then went into the living room to sit on the Spouse Thingy’s lap.

It was 4:30 by then, but through some tears I managed to say what we were both avoiding. We have to let him go.

I knew there was a line that I'd been looking for, one that divided what was good for him and what was good for us, and we were pressing up against what was good for us. Could we have gotten a little closer? Maybe. But it risked him being more than uncomfortable and unsteady; it risked deep pain.

I firmly believe in Better a week too soon than a day too late, but I think we made the decision at the right time, and at roughly 5:40 today, Buddah exhaled his last breath and headed for the Bridge.

I keep thinking that this was never supposed to happen, that Buddah was the baby and was supposed to be here long after Max. It happened so fast, so unexpectedly, and feels more than unfair. I feel like he was owed more years than he got, even though he made it to 15. But he had a great life, I know he did.

We spoil our pets, there’s no question.

But I feel like he was owed more.

Max is in the front room, in my line of sight, curled up by the front door on his special perch, one Buddah left alone. I don’t know if or when he’ll notice that Buddah isn’t here, and if he does I don’t know how it will affect him. He has his own issues that have consumed our lives since July…and that might be why I feel Buddah was owed more. He didn’t lack for time and attention or affection, but we have been distracted and catering to Max.

And there’s the sad reality; Max is 19 and very frail. Today is not one of his good days, though yesterday was decent. Tomorrow might be all right. We just never know.

This year just blows.

And I already miss that furry little pest.

Saturday

26 September 2020

300 miles done.

$2800 raised.

Major, major thanks to y'all for your support.


 

I did 30 miles yesterday; 25 in the morning (5 miles, stop, 5 miles stop, 5 miles...I stopped 5 miles to early LOL) and yesterday afternoon picked up this pretty little bike, and did the last 5 on it.

It's a single speed with a flip flop hub, so I can give riding a fixed gear bike a try later. Now, I didn't get the itch for something new again (well, I always have that itch) but I'm about to put a few hundred miles on it in order to review it. Hence, the brand name is obscured, and if you can figure it out, please don't comment on it.

Heading out for the last 5 miles...
 Those 5 miles were fun. This is the first time riding a single speed since I was 12 or so, and the first time I've ridden with bullhorn bars. I think I'm going to really like both. Well, until I encounter a hill, whereupon I might be walking that sucker up since I don't really have the legs to climb.

Next up...150 miles to benefit the American Cancer Society in their Breaking Away for Breast Cancer ride. 

After doing 300 in September, I am far less concerned with getting these miles in, so I might do them on the new single speed for a bit more of a challenge. 

At some point I'll get back to work...but after getting Max's last 2 books out, I kinda want a break. And I might as well take that break on a bike.

The only downer right now is that the smoke has returned and I can't ride outside today. And tomorrow is supposed to be stupid hot. So, hopefully, Monday.

Thursday

24 September 2020

Oddz n Endz #8,109,268^62 x 99.410^3 + 42

As of right now, I’ve ridden 270 of the 300 miles I set as a goal for the Great Cycle Challenge. With nearly a week to go, I’ll probably hit 330 or more, but I gotta tell you…I am not going to make a habit of this, at least not the way I’ve done it. In the last week I’ve chewed up a bunch of miles by doing 25 mile rides, and while I enjoy the actual riding, I’m not enjoying how much time it takes.

I’m on the slow side and I have to stop more often than most (I presume)—and I’m generally fine with that—just to make sure I’m as all right as I think I am. Am I overheating? Do I feel like my blood sugar is about to tank? A I hydrating enough? And mostly…holy fork, my asterisk is on fire. I still have not found the holy grail of bike seats, and I accept that because of my delicate self, I may never. That’s okay.

But yeah, I stop a lot. Passing out on a bike will instill that fear in you. It's not a thing I wish to repeat.

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Max is doing well. Well enough, in any case. He eats, he drinks, he uses the litterbox, he sleeps. What he’s not doing is spending much time outside of his bedroom, which is fine. If we go in there he’s happy to see us (especially if we have food) and he accepts being petted, but he’s not getting into my lap the way he used to. It’s fine. He’s fragile and has little muscle mass on his back end so I imagine it’s not terribly comfortable for him.

Main thing…he’s happy. Buddah leaves him alone for the most part now, respecting the territory of Max’s room, and Max does move around in the room and can still get to the back of the sofa, his favorite place to lounge. He also wanders out a few times a day to glare at me, and he still sings at night after dinner.

A month ago if you’d asked me, I wouldn’t have thought he’d be here toward the end of this month. Now…who knows. As long as he doesn’t lose any more weight, he could be here a while.

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A while back I tossed my name into consideration to do an article on a specific line of bikes, mostly because the gig came with a free bike. They were looking for 10-12 writers with some riding experience but not hard-core roadies, and a friend who’s friends with the guy looking for writing riders gave him my contact info, along with a few others we mutually know.

Most of us got the gig. And the bike.

The bike arrived in a box, needing assembly, which takes all of half an hour. BUT…since we get to keep these bikes, we were warned that if we wanted the warranty on it, we had to take it to a bike shop and have it professionally assembled, and then submit proof.

This is where I got a bit annoyed. I’m no bike mechanic but I could do this easily. Local bike guy quoted $80-120 to do it, depending on the bike. Nope. Bike shop I usually go to quote $60. I still wanted to nope out of it, but…basically for $60 I’m getting a brand new bike with a warranty. So fine. I wanted the warranty.

But now I have to wait for it, because there’s a line of people ahead of me.

Deep down I am 8 years old, and I want to play with that bike.

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Max’s newest book, Interview With a Pest, came out a couple of weeks ago, and I finally got to see a print copy. This might be my favorite cover of all the books we’ve done, especially in print.

You know how sometimes you pick up a book and it just feels good in your hands? This is one of those. It’s got a matte cover instead of glossy, the size is right for its length, and it just has that awesome-book feel.

One thing…if you have the digital version, somehow an extra blank page was inserted at the end of the interview, which makes it look like it’s over. There’s an afterword by Buddah, written the night before the book went to print. It puts a nice ribbon around their relationship; if you missed it, go back and read it.

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I have been asked multiple times if Max will have another book. The answer…we hope so. Another volume of poetry has been in the works for a while, but the material so far is a bit, well, deep, and what we wanted was something lighter and funnier. He’s done deep, it’s time for light and fluffy and happy. Maybe for once…not making people cry. That would be a first.

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Typical conversational topic these days: So, how ya doing with the whole quarantine, stay at home thing?

You know, if you’d asked me that a week or two ago, I think I would have said it hasn’t been an issue. And it hasn’t felt like one. Our lives have not been overwhelmingly impacted, because we’re introverts who don’t really socialize. Other than not seeing the kids--and right now my biggest wish is for normalcy to return so we can see them, have dinner out or something--it doesn’t feel all that different. We both miss going places just to go, dinner with a drink or two would be nice, and I don’t like taking the cats to the vet and having to wait in the parking lot, but for the most part, life has seemed normal.

But.

Looking around the house, the state of it says something different. I’ve never been a great housekeeper because cleaning is my least favorite thing to do, but now it’s slid past the point of lazy housekeeping to what the fuck is wrong with you? It’s like I didn’t even see all this stuff building up around me. You show up at my house now, I’m not even opening the door, even if your plan was to stand on the porch.

Nope, you show up, you better stay on the driveway and text me.

So, that’s my weekend. Make a list, and take it room by room.

At least, that’s the plan. I’m pretty good at screwing up plans. Like, really good. Maybe I’ll write a book instead.